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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: How we choose to deal with the end of life and the decisions patients and families face are difficult subjects that are often hard to discuss. But there are moments when they capture headlines and spark a national conversation.

    We have recently heard from a number of voices grappling with these tough questions.

    Tonight, Jeffrey Brown looks at a high-profile case in the Northwest.

    BRITTANY MAYNARD: I can’t even tell you the amount of relief that it provides me to know that I don’t have to die the way that it’s been described to me that my brain tumor would take me on its own.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Brittany Maynard’s video has thrust the issue of end of life decisions back into the national spotlight.

    The 29-year-old has terminal brain cancer, and, last spring, doctors gave her six months to live. Instead, she’s decided to die on her own terms, November 1.

    BRITTANY MAYNARD: I hope to enjoy however many days I have left.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And her online video has been viewed more than seven million times since last week.

    BRITTANY MAYNARD: I will die upstairs in my bedroom that I share with my husband, with my mother and my husband by my side, and pass peacefully with some music that I like in the background.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Maynard and her husband moved from California to Oregon to utilize the state’s death with dignity law. It allows her to take lethal medication prescribed by a doctor.

    The Oregon law, which calls this aid in dying, has been around since 1997, and since then, more than 750 people have used it to end their lives. All told, only Oregon, Washington and Vermont have laws allowing the practice that’s sometimes referred to as doctor-assisted suicide.

    Court decisions in Montana and New Mexico have also authorized it, but those rulings have not yet been codified into law. The nonprofit group that posted Maynard’s video, Compassion & Choices, is working to expand the option of death with dignity in more states.

    Maynard’s husband and other relatives also appear on the video supporting that right.

    DAN DIAZ, Maynard’s husband: Between suffering or being allowed to decide when enough is enough, it just to me makes — it provides a lot of relief and comfort that, OK, that option is there.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But there’s also opposition. Last week, three disability groups issued a joint statement against new legislation. They argued that — quote — “Not every terminal prognosis is correct. Not everyone’s doctors know how to deliver expert palliative care.”

    The debate comes just weeks after an Institute of Medicine report found there is not enough open dialogue about end of life care in the United States.

    And we have our own conversation now with Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion & Choices, the group dedicated to expanding end of life options that is now working with Brittany Maynard. And Dr. Ira Byock is director of the Institute for Human Caring of Providence Health and Services, a palliative care physician, and author of the book “The Best Care Possible.”

    Barbara Coombs Lee, let me start with you.

    Why do you think the case of Brittany Maynard is resonating with so many people? What’s the key to this for you?

    BARBARA COOMBS LEE, Compassion & Choices: The key is how Brittany has made dying real, made the tragedy of decline, the inhumanities that people suffer often before their disease takes their lives.

    I think there was a lot of denial — there is a lot of denial in America. Americans find it hard to believe they will die. And if they will die, they find it hard to believe it wouldn’t be peaceful like it is in the movies.

    Brittany is bringing that reality home to people. Gee, this could be me, it could be my mom, my dad, my daughter who has a horrible diagnosis. We’re all grief-stricken. And what this disease will do to her, could do to her before she dies may be just too much for her to bear.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, Ira Byock, you argue that people are taking the wrong message from Brittany Maynard?

    DR. IRA BYOCK, Providence Institute for Human Caring: Well, we’re in a situation in which, as the Institute of Medicine says, there’s truly a public health crisis that surrounds the way people are cared for and the way people die.

    My heart goes out to Brittany Maynard. It’s a heart-wrenching story. But I want to assure the — our people watching that she could get excellent whole person care and be assured of dying gently in her bed surrounded by her family.

    It’s ironic that we know how to give extremely good care, not only comprehensive medical care, but tender, loving care. But it shows — as the Institute of Medicine report shows, we’re just not doing it in this country. And it really is a national disgrace.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But, Dr. Byock, why not give her that power to do it herself?

    DR. IRA BYOCK: You know, are I think that we know that there are serious deficiencies. The Institute of Medicine in 1997 documented some of the same deficiencies it just reiterated.

    Doctors aren’t being trained. They are demonstrably, as a group, not well-skilled in communicating with patients, in treating their suffering. We know that our hospitals and our nursing homes are poorly staffed and skilled in hospice and palliative skills.

    And so we could fix this situation. We know how to do that, but we’re not doing it. And giving doctors now authority to write lethal prescriptions fixes really nothing, none of the deficiencies in practice or medical training. It’s really a socially dangerous thing to do.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Barbara Coombs Lee, a socially dangerous thing to do. In other words, it might work in one individual case for Brittany Maynard, but, expanded, it doesn’t make sense, is the argument.

    BARBARA COOMBS LEE: It makes sense for a lot of people.

    And I think that I agree with Dr. Byock. And he knows that I do. Hospice and palliative care is the gold standard. It’s wonderful. But it’s not a miracle. And it cannot prevent the kind of relentless, dehumanizing, horrific decline that Brittany faces, where her disease will cause unending seizures and headaches and nausea and vomiting and pressure in her brain, and the loss of every bodily function, including thinking and moving.

    Brittany is achieving an enormous amount of comfort and peace of mind right now. You can see it in her face. She has that peace of mind because the disease has controlled her since January. And now she will control it. No palliative care, no terminal sedation or promise of effective palliative care can give Brittany the thing that she treasures now, the hope of gaining control over her disease before it takes her life.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, Dr. Byock, when you do get to an individual case, whether it’s Brittany Maynard or any individual, in Oregon, I understand that there are protocols, right? There are — there are — there’s a system set up to make sure that it’s done correctly, that the person is cognizant and so on.

    Are those not enough?

    DR. IRA BYOCK: They’re certainly not enough.

    And they’re just the beginning. You know, Oregon’s law was modeled after Holland and Belgium. And in Holland and Belgium these days, people are being euthanized, by their own volition, of things like depression or ringing of the ears, not just pain.

    You know, Compassion & Choices actually sold to the public the legalization of physician-assisted suicide because of unremitting pain. But we can control pain. What’s happening now is that over 85 percent of people who use Oregon’s law and end their life do so because of existential or emotional suffering, feeling of being a burden to their families, feeling the loss of the ability to enjoy life, feeling the loss of meaning.

    Well, once those become criteria, there are a lot of problems and human suffering that then becomes open to assisted suicide and euthanasia. It’s an undeniable fact that the slippery slope exists.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, let…

    DR. IRA BYOCK: So, I think that doctors are proscribed from killing patients for protection of vulnerable people and the public. And that’s a good principle to maintain.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Let me ask Barbara Coombs Lee that.

    That is the clear slippery slope argument, and it raises the question of who decides. Who has the ultimate decision here?

    BARBARA COOMBS LEE: I think anyone observing this story understands — and it is clear — Brittany is in charge. And Brittany is emblematic of every person who has used the Oregon law and will use the Oregon law.

    Yes, she has emotional issues. Her emotional issues are her sense of being trapped and being a victim of her disease. And she’s overcoming those emotional issues by gaining control. She also has medication that she could take to ensure a peaceful, a humane death for herself and, yes, a peaceful experience for her family as well.

    Her family wouldn’t have to watch her seizing or stand at her bedside for weeks on end while she is in a semi-comatose state or stuporous and dying very slowly.

    You can call those emotional issues and denigrate them as though they don’t seem important. But they’re really about the very tender, bittersweet, poignant moments and intimacy between Brittany and the people who she loves at the most important time of her life.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right.

    BARBARA COOMBS LEE: I agree with the question. What does it harm? Why not give her that hope? It helps her and harms no one.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Very brief last word, Dr. Byock, please.

    DR. IRA BYOCK: I think — I think Brittany could have that — those same poignant movements and tenderness with hospice and palliative care.

    I think, unfortunately, while not being coerced, she’s being exploited by Compassion & Choices, as well as by the media’s insatiable appetite for sensationalism. And I think that’s a tragedy.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right.

    DR. IRA BYOCK: I worry what will happen is she — her life still feels worth living on November 1. Will she then feel compelled to end her life in order to meet the public’s expectations?

    I really worry for this woman who is vulnerable and going through a wrenching time in life. And I — frankly, I wish her all the best.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, a very large discussion.

    Thank you both very much. Ira Byock and Barbara Coombs Lee, thank you both.

    DR. IRA BYOCK: Thank you.

    BARBARA COOMBS LEE: Thank you.

    The post Should terminally ill patients be able to choose when they die? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    ELECTION 2014  monitor COLORADO

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    GWEN IFILL: We turn now to the rapidly approaching midterm elections.

    If you want to understand why the Senate Democratic majority is in danger, you need look no further than the Rocky Mountain state of Colorado.

    At first blush, it may seem that Colorado’s Senate race between incumbent Mark Udall and Congressman Cory Gardner has boiled down to two men fighting over women’s issues.

    NARRATOR: Congressman Cory Gardner’s history promoting harsh anti-abortion laws is disturbing.

    REP. CORY GARDNER, (R) Colorado: That’s Senator Udall’s campaign. And Senator Udall’s a social issues warrior. He wants to talk about nothing else. It’s something that they campaigned on four years ago when Michael Bennet was running in Colorado. It won then. They did it again in 2012, and so they think that same playbook will win again in 2014.

    SEN. MARK UDALL, (D) Colorado: He’s saying that I’m a social issues warrior. In fact, he is. I’m an economic issues warrior. You talk to women, this is about economics. It’s also about respect. And Colorado’s fiercely independent. We’re libertarians. And we respect our freedoms. And we think government, above all, shouldn’t be involved in these really private decisions.

    GWEN IFILL: But the critical Election Day question may be:  Which women are they speaking to? Are they speaking to women like Cathy Alderman, who’s been campaigning against an anti-abortion ballot initiative?

    CATHY ALDERMAN: They can vote for somebody who supports women and supports women’s ability to access the health care services they need, vs. somebody who’s willing to limit that access and has spent an entire political career trying to limit that access.

    GWEN IFILL: Or are they appealing to women like Briana Johnson, a mother of three who describes herself as pro-life?

    BRIANA JOHNSON: It’s hard when a group of women is going on and claiming to speak for the entire population of women, because, yes, I don’t — I don’t relate to that. They say you know Cory Gardner’s too extreme for women of Colorado. Well, that’s not what I believe, and that immediately alienates me.

    GWEN IFILL: Sixty-four-year-old Udall, who is just completing his first term in the Senate, is one of a handful of Democratic incumbents under sustained political fire this year.

    His nemesis? A 40-year-old two- term congressman who says the country, and Colorado, are due for a midterm midcourse correction that only a Republican Senate majority can deliver.

    REP. CORY GARDNER: Are you ready to make to make Harry Reid a footnote in history?


    GWEN IFILL: Udall’s predicament is especially perilous because of Colorado’s reputation as a notoriously unpredictable state. President Obama has won twice here, but many of the state’s voters see themselves as outliers who are as likely to legalize marijuana as expand oil exploration.

    SARAH HOWER: I think the people of Colorado are very independent. And I think as soon as they feel like they’re getting pigeonholed or labeled as more Democratic or more Republican, they’re going to switch. They’re going to move. They don’t like being told who they are.

    SEN. MARK UDALL: It’s time to get the vote out.

    GWEN IFILL: For voters throughout the West, the name Udall is a known quantity. Mark Udall’s father, Morris, was a senator from Arizona, and he also has two cousins in the Senate now, Utah Republican Mike Lee and New Mexico Democrat Tom Udall.

    SEN. MARK UDALL: I’m a mountain climber. You all know that. You don’t schmooze your way up a mountain. You don’t trash-talk your way up a mountain. You just climb the doggone thing. So this is a mountain we’re climbing. Let’s go climb it. I’m proud to be your United States senator. I look forward to a very successful election night.

    GWEN IFILL: But Gardner treats Udall’s political history as a liability.

    REP. CORY GARDNER: He is the Senate. Eighteen years in politics, and he has got two cousins who are senators too.

    GWEN IFILL: Ads like this have transformed Udall’s reelection bid into a bitterly contested toss up.

    REP. CORY GARDNER: My dad, well, he sells tractors.

    GWEN IFILL: Last week, Gardner won the surprise endorsement of the state’s biggest newspaper, which derided the incumbent for running what it described as a one-issue campaign.

    SEN. MARK UDALL: You stand up for people’s privacy.

    GWEN IFILL: Udall shrugs off the hometown rebuke.

    SEN. MARK UDALL: If the Denver Post doesn’t think women’s reproductive rights are important, that’s their decision, but that’s an important part of my campaign.

    GWEN IFILL: Norman Provizer, a political science professor at Metropolitan State University in Denver, says Gardner has another advantage: a more affable approach to conservative politics.

    NORMAN PROVIZER, Metropolitan State University:  He’s one of the more conservative members of the House. But he comes across as kind of a Tea Party member without the steam. And instead of steam, he has a smile. So he’s kind of put a kinder, gentler face on some policies that many people think of as very harsh.

    GWEN IFILL: Thomas Unterwagner, who stopped off at a weekend farmer’s market in the midst of a 40-mile bike ride, is supporting Udall. He thinks the senator is in a tight race because of where he works, Washington.

    THOMAS UNTERWAGNER: I think most basically the problem is, I think they blame whoever’s in office currently, the incumbent, and whether they, whether they feel — whether they’re economically doing well or not, they still blame the incumbents, for some reason.

    GWEN IFILL: Adding to the uncertainty this year is this new twist. Colorado is joining Oregon and Washington State in sending every voter a ballot to cast by mail, a shift that could determine the outcome, as well as what it means to get out the vote.

    Both parties say the campaign ground game, door-knocking, phone-calling, debating, could make the difference in an election when the polling place comes to you.

    WOMAN: Put two first-class stamps on the ballot and send it back in the mail.

    GWEN IFILL: But voter after voter we talked to said they are exasperated by the tone of a campaign that has cluttered the airwaves with negative advertising, paid for by the candidates and by outside groups who support them.

    NARRATOR: Udall hasn’t changed Washington. It’s changed him.

    LEO SCHETTLER: They go after one another’s personalities, and so sometimes I tend to tune out, you know, to some degree at this time of the year.

    MICHELLE JESKE: I already know what I want and what I think is right. So they’re just aggravating.

    GWEN IFILL: This Rocky Mountain election also features a running debate about the four E’s: education, energy, the environment and the economy.

    But central to the choice between Udall and Gardner, who cleared the Republican field when he decided to enter the race, is whether the victory will tip control of the Senate to the GOP.

    Is your campaign about defeating Mark Udall, who is the incumbent senator, or trying to get that majority?

    REP. CORY GARDNER: I felt that the one way that we could really change the direction this country was heading wasn’t by staying in that safe Republican House seat sending out fancy press releases about legislation that would never see the light of day because of Harry Reid, but it was about changing the majority, about becoming number 51, so that we could actually do something to move this country forward for the people of this nation.

    SEN. MARK UDALL: Well, in the end, this is about Colorado and what I have delivered for the state of Colorado.

    GWEN IFILL: And yet this could, the outcome of this race could determine the control of the U.S. Senate.

    SEN. MARK UDALL: It certainly could, but my focus has been on making the case to voters here as to what I have done for the state, what I will do in a second term when I’m rehired.

    GWEN IFILL: But for many Colorado voters, the problem is neither Udall nor Gardner. It’s Washington itself.

    JUDY BROWN: I think, Congress is such a mess that I don’t think anybody is getting what they really want, and I don’t really know how to fix it.

    GWEN IFILL: Does that mean that you might not vote this time?

    JUDY BROWN: Oh, no, I will vote. I always vote.

    GWEN IFILL: The candidates meet in their fifth and final debate on Wednesday.

    You can watch my full interviews with Mark Udall and Cory Gardner on our Rundown.


    The post Independently minded Coloradans make Senate race unpredictable appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    iraq isis

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: As we reported earlier, President Obama met with the defense ministers of 20 nations this afternoon to figure out how best to stop the Islamic State group. Despite coalition efforts, the militants continue to push ahead and make further gains in some areas.

    Tonight, we take a closer look at where I.S. is in control and what areas they are threatening.

    Ned Parker is the bureau chief with the Reuters news agency in Baghdad, where earlier today 23 people were killed in a suicide bombing in a Shiite neighborhood. I spoke to him a short time ago.

    Ned Parker, welcome.

    First of all, what is known about who was behind this suicide bombing?

    NED PARKER, Reuters: Well, the attack has been claimed by the Islamic State on Twitter.

    They say it was a deliberate strike on the Shiite area of Kadhimiya to assassinate a member of parliament, a Shiite parliamentary member named Ahmed Khafaji, who also had been a deputy interior minister in the past.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What is the feeling there in Baghdad?   What do people say when you talk to them?   Is there a sense that Islamic State is right on the edge of the city?

    NED PARKER: Well, I think what one has to realize is that even before Mosul, the city, was surrounded, and at the very beginning of the year, wars started in Anbar and Fallujah, so that immediately brought the war to the edges of Baghdad, what we refer to as the Baghdad belt.

    So even in April, you had the Islamic State in the area of Abu Ghraib that’s outside of the airport. So the city has been under siege, if you will, for some time, a loose siege, but definitely there’s been a battle going on pitting security forces and militias against the Islamic State.

    What maybe is different now is that the state of play since Mosul fell in June has really been a stalemate. And the Islamic State has been able to consolidate ground, despite U.S.  airstrikes in parts of the north. And in Western Anbar province in the last month, we have seen the Islamic State have a series of victories in the Euphrates River Valley.

    All of this perhaps is allowing the Islamic State to lose more of its fighters around, and even in the summertime in July, there was always talk of sleeper cells in Baghdad that could potentially carry out an attack, seize a Sunni neighborhood.

    So all of that has been here and continues to be, even though there has been U.S.  airstrikes. And that leaves Iraqis feeling frustrated, worried about the future and genuinely scared. But it isn’t because suddenly the Islamic State is at the doorstep. They have been at the doorstep for many months.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, overall, the sense is that the Islamic State is growing in its presence and the territory it holds in the country?

    NED PARKER: Right now, there is this — a new sense of alarm or panic.

    But when you look at it, the biggest change in the battlefield in terms of momentum is Anbar province, where you’re seeing towns fall and where potentially you could soon have the Islamic State having the border of Qaim all the way to Ramadi.

    Now, if that happens, it really gives them a muscle and a corridor all the way from Syria to Baghdad’s doorstep. It will really allow them to mobilize their foot soldiers and have a real propaganda victory. Maybe that changes things more, but I think the point, the point is there were suicide bombings in Iraq last December, last spring.

    The security situation has been unraveling for some time, and really the Islamic State has been surrounding the province of Baghdad for seven or eight months. And right now, it’s a time where people feel uncertain in par because the Islamic State is not going away. It’s not disappearing and the efficiency of the U.S.  airstrikes is limited just by the fact that the advisers who are calling in the strikes are limited in the Green Zone in Baghdad and in Irbil.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, just finally, what happened, Ned Parker, to the sense when the new prime minister was named, Mr.  Abadi, that he was going to pull the country together, that there was going to be less sectarian strife?

    Because, meanwhile, we’re hearing about Shiite militias attacking Sunnis across the country, while at the same time Islamic State is wreaking the havoc you’re describing.

    NED PARKER: Prime Minister Abadi came in at a moment when really all control on the ground by the government was lost.

    Mosul, the fall of Mosul shattered the idea that the state could enforce any form of law and order. And the state that he inherited is a very corrupt one. It lacks efficiency. And when you look at the ground, Sunni areas are not controlled by their politicians who are in government. And many Sunnis are still playing it on the fence, because when they look at Baghdad, they say, well, the government for the last four years, we found it oppressive. Militias are out now fighting alongside the Iraqi army. So, what is better, the Islamic State or the militias and this weak government?

    And for Prime Minister Abadi, for him to suddenly wave a magic wand in the middle of a hurricane, it’s impossible to expect that suddenly he could reverse things that are so entrenched on the ground. It’s a very tough job.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A long way to go and a tough job indeed.

    Ned Parker, we thank you very much.

    NED PARKER: Thank you. Great being with you.

    The post On Baghdad’s doorstep: Islamic State militants gain ground in Iraq appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Walking with PBS NewsHour anchor Gwen Ifill on a hiking trail near his home in the Colorado foothills last weekend, Senator Mark Udall pointed out the beauty of the Rocky Mountain landscape. The Senator, known for his love of mountain climbing and the outdoors, is finding that this year’s political path back to the Senate is a tough trail to navigate. In one of the closest political races in the country, Udall, a Democrat, faces Republican Rep. Cory Gardner in a fight that could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

    “It’s one of those years,” Udall told Ifill, “the electorate is concerned about the direction of the country, and we were prepared for a very competitive race.”

    The post Full interview with Colo. Sen. Mark Udall appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Colorado Congressman Cory Gardner knows he’s not in his small rural hometown anymore.

    Striding into a large crowd of cheering supporters in a Denver suburb, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate recently marveled, “I’m from Yuma Colorado and there are more people in this room then in my high school.”

    In fact, Gardner is front and center in a senate race watched across the country as one that may determine the control of the U.S. Senate. This weekend, PBS NewsHour anchor Gwen Ifill spoke with Representative Gardner about his reasons for getting into the race and why he believes he’d make a better leader for Colorado.

    The post Full interview with Colo. Senate candidate Rep. Cory Gardner appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    GWEN IFILL: In recent days and weeks, the financial markets have been even more impossible to predict, swinging from record leaps to sudden drops. While the Dow Jones industrial average was nearly flat today, it’s been anything but recently, dropping 10 times in the last 12 days, a decline of 4 percent, or more than 670 points, in three days straight, and swing five days in a row by 100 points or more. Plus, the S&P 500 dropped this week to its lowest point since the fiscal cliff showdown of 2012.

    So, what’s happening here?

    Eswar Prasad, an economist at Cornell University and the Brookings Institution, is here to answer your and our questions.

    What’s happening here?

    ESWAR PRASAD, Cornell University: It’s a combination, Gwen, of uncertainty, the Federal Reserve, as always, and fear, uncertainty because the U.S. economy seems to be on the right track. It’s generating pretty good growth. The recovery is strengthening.

    But the rest of the world is weakening. Everywhere you look around the world, China, Japan, Europe, even countries like Germany that were doing well, are looking very weak. So, the question is whether the U.S. can sustain the global recovery on its own back.

    The Federal Reserve looked like it might start having to tighten policy, raising interest rates, because the economy was doing well. But now there are uncertainties about when the Fed might attack, because, again, the U.S. economy is doing well, generating jobs. Also, there is a fair amount of slack left in labor markets.

    But now the world environment is weakening, so there’s uncertainty there. And, finally, the Ebola epidemic raises the potential that so far, the economic impact has been very limited, but there’s real fear it could become something bigger.

    GWEN IFILL: Let’s separate what’s happening globally from what’s happening domestically.

    First, globally, we’re talking, what, $1.5 trillion in global equities wiped out in a week. What kind of weakness is that telling us, is that signaling?

    ESWAR PRASAD: It’s telling us that really the policy-makers in the rest of the world have no room to move, because what we have in Europe, for instance, is the core economies, like Germany and France and Italy — these are the biggest economies in Europe — these were doing pretty well until recently, although the other (INAUDIBLE) economies were not doing so well.

    The one certainly arose from debt crisis. Now even Germany has stalled. So have France and Italy. The central banker, Mario Draghi, has said he will try to act, but there’s no room on fiscal policy because there’s a huge amount of debt and other reforms to labor and product markets not working well.

    So, the reality is that monetary policy may turn out not to be very potent. The same is true in Japan. And in China, growth is slowing. So, around the world, the U.S. remains the one bright spot.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, let’s talk about the domestic issue, because the one thing we watch, as you heard those numbers, is the ups and the downs and the ups and the downs in Wall Street. And we’re loathe to say what drives them.

    But is there any — at the very least, let’s just look about the fact of the ups and downs, the volatility itself. Is there something underlying all of that?

    ESWAR PRASAD: I think it’s really concern, a sense of foreboding about the future, because, remember, stock markets reflect not what’s happening today, but what might happen in the future.

    Right now, the picture in the U.S. actually looks pretty good, because this economy has an unemployment rate under 6 percent. It is generating more than 200,000 non-farm jobs per month. The economy grew in the second quarter at a 4.6 percent annual rate. So the numbers look pretty good.

    Falling oil prices are a pretty good thing for the U.S. Inflation is contained. But — and the big but is that the global remains weak, and the U.S. alone cannot sustain itself. Right now, every currency in the world almost, other than the Chinese renminbi, is weakening against the dollar. How long can the dollar hold on against this background?

    GWEN IFILL: But the dollar is pretty strong right now. Is that enough to stop investors from fleeing the market, or are they just moving their money around, taking advantage of opportunities?

    ESWAR PRASAD: Actually, a lot more money is coming into the U.S. because the U.S. looks like the one country still growing well.

    But it will have an effect on exports, it will have an effect jobs. And I think this is what was making investors skittish. On the one hand, they see good news. But they see the prospects of this becoming a recovery that is very difficult for the U.S. to sustain.

    GWEN IFILL: Right. If you’re an average investor, a small-bore person like you or me maybe, what is safer right now, your job or your portfolio?

    ESWAR PRASAD: I think ultimately the U.S. stock market is a pretty good place to invest.

    And, remember, the stock market, despite the recent decline, is still slightly ahead of where it was at the end of last — end of 2013. I think employment growth is picking up, but there’s a large portion of the population that is still not seeing the benefits either in terms of their portfolios or in terms of job growth.

    So, it’s still a very, very uncertain recovery at some level.

    GWEN IFILL: And that’s the nervousness that you’re talking about that we see everywhere.

    ESWAR PRASAD: That’s exactly right.

    GWEN IFILL: Eswar Prasad from Brookings Institution, thank you a lot.

    ESWAR PRASAD: My pleasure.


    The post What Wall Street’s wild swings say about the global economy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    In his new book “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution,” Walter Isaacson outlines the most crucial inventions of the digital age. Judy Woodruff spoke with him recently and he explained how many of the greatest breakthroughs during the modern computer age came into being through a collaborative effort of government, universities and private corporations. Isaacson argues that this partnership is threatened today because of the underfunding of university and government research.

    He weaves together the life stories of individuals whose greatest discoveries and ideas gave birth to the Internet. Starting as far back as 1830, Isaacson examines everyone from obscure nineteenth century mathematician Ada Lovelace, to beloved industry behemoth Steve Jobs. He traces the evolution of entrepreneurial drive, business culture and individual hubris that led certain companies to succeed while others failed. He tells NewsHour that he remains optimistic when looking at the digital future because “our moral sense tends to keep up with our technological advances.”

    Watch the full interview on tonight’s PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The death rate in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has hit 70 percent. The World Health Organization updated its count today to nearly 4,450 fatalities out of 8,900 cases. The agency also warned that there could be 10,000 cases a week within two months.

    Meanwhile, the Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola issued a statement, saying she is doing well.

    And, in Atlanta, Dr. Thomas Frieden, who heads the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, announced more aggressive measures.

    DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: We’re increasing our education and information to health care workers throughout the U.S. We’re also initiating an immediate response team from CDC to any future case of confirmed Ebola in the U.S., so we will be there, hands-on, within hours helping the hospital deal with the situation if there is another case.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, President Obama said the U.S. health care system makes an Ebola epidemic here highly unlikely. He also complained again that the world as a whole is not doing enough to contain the threat.

    Also today, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, donated $25 million to the CDC Foundation to help fight Ebola. Last month, the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation donated $50 million.

    GWEN IFILL: The U.S. coalition sharply intensified airstrikes today in a bid to stop Islamic State forces from capturing a key Syrian town. Kurds trying to hold Kobani, near the Turkish border, reported strikes throughout the day. The U.S. military said there’d been 21 in two days, the most yet.

    The air campaign accelerated as the president met with coalition defense ministers at Joint Base Andrews just outside Washington.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Obviously, at this point, we’re also focused on the fighting that is taking place in Iraq’s Anbar province and we’re deeply concerned about the situation in and around the Syrian town of Kobani, which underscores the threat that ISIL poses in both Iraq and Syria. And coalition airstrikes will continue in both these areas.

    GWEN IFILL: Turkey attended today’s meeting, but has so far refused to help the Kurds in Kobani. That’s prompted deadly riots by Kurds in Turkey, and news reports say Turkish warplanes attacked Kurdish militants yesterday in Southern Turkey.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And in Iraq, Amnesty International reported Shiite militias are retaliating for Islamic State attacks by killing Sunnis. The human rights group charged today that the Shiite-led government has been unable or unwilling to stop the militias. We will take a closer look at Islamic State gains across Iraq later in the program.

    GWEN IFILL: Shiite rebels who captured Yemen’s capital last month seized more of the country today. The rebels, known as Houthis, took control of the Red Sea port of Hodeida, as well as a southern province. The group already controls swathes of the country’s north.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Up to one million people in Afghanistan are going with less food due to lack of funding. The U.N.’s World Food Program reported today it faces a gap of about $30 million.

    The head of the agency’s Afghan operations said other needs are competing for the money.

    CLAUDE JIBIDAR, Country Director, U.N. World Food Programme in Afghanistan: Just to name a few, the needs for Ebola, what’s happening in Syria, in Iraq, in Central African Republic, in Sudan. I mean, all of those emergencies, of course, are all having a toll on the capacity of the donors.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The World Food Program feeds about 3.7 million Afghans, 10 percent of the population.

    GWEN IFILL: Back in this country, a federal grand jury in Washington indicated an accused ringleader in the Benghazi attack on 17 new charges. Some carry the death penalty. Ahmed Abu Khattala was captured and brought to the U.S. in June on a single conspiracy count. The attack in Benghazi in 2012 killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

    Word from the White House today is that President Obama will wait until after next month’s election to announce his pick for attorney general. A number of Senate Democrats sought the delay to avoid making the nomination a campaign issue. Attorney General Eric Holder announced last month that he’s stepping down after six years.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Wall Street’s day was less volatile, but stocks struggled again, amid continuing concerns about the global economy. The Dow Jones industrial average lost about six points to close below 16,315. The Nasdaq rose 13 points to close at 4,227. And the S&P 500 added just three to finish at 1,877.

    And on the oil market, crude prices in New York dropped below $82 a barrel. That was for the first time in more than two years. We will delve more into what’s been roiling the markets in just a moment.

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    Photo of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas by Mike Stone/Getty Images

    Photo of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas by Mike Stone/Getty Images

    Updated at 8:15 a.m. EDT with quotes

    The Texas Department of State Health Services said Wednesday that a second hospital worker who had been caring for the first diagnosed Ebola patient in the United States has tested positive for the virus.

    The health care worker reported a fever on Tuesday and was immediately isolated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, the department said in a statement.

    The worker had been caring for Thomas Eric Duncan after he was diagnosed with Ebola. He later died.

    The first hospital worker diagnosed with Ebola after treating Duncan was Nina Pham, who is reported to be “clinically stable.” She and others attending to Duncan after his diagnosis were wearing protective gear.

    The second worker, who hasn’t been identified, was interviewed quickly to identify any contacts or potential exposures. Those in contact with the individual will be notified and monitored for possible symptoms of the virus.

    “We want to deal with facts, not fear,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings at a Wednesday morning press briefing. “It may get worse before it gets better, but it will get better.”

    At the briefing, it was revealed that the second diagnosed worker is a woman.

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    Iran nuclear deal

    VIENNA — An Iranian nuclear agreement is the Obama administration’s grandest foreign policy objective, a legacy-defining endeavor that holds the prospect of ending the gravest potential threat to Israel and the Middle East and reintegrating Iran into the world community.

    But reaching a deal is no easy matter. And as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry plunges back into talks Wednesday with Iran’s foreign minister, many challenges beset the diplomacy.

    Iran is maintaining a tough line on much of the nuclear infrastructure that it says is for peaceful energy production, but which world powers worry may be designed to develop atomic weapons. President Barack Obama’s negotiators are offering the Iranians permanent relief from economic sanctions, yet are struggling to convince an unruly U.S. Congress to cooperate.

    With impatience rising in both countries, a Nov. 24 deadline for an accord looms. Washington and Tehran each have spoken vaguely about a second extension of the talks in four months. Neither side wants the alternatives: fast-developing Iranian nuclear advances, more crippling U.S. economic pressure and, with Israel vowing to stop Iran by any means, maybe even a new Mideast war.



    After more than a decade of stop-and-go negotiations, diplomacy with Iran heated up after last year’s election of moderate-leaning President Hassan Rouhani.

    Within months of Rouhani taking office, Iran and world powers reached an interim agreement imposing strict limits on Iran’s enrichment of uranium and halting work on a heavy water reactor that would potentially produce plutonium. Both materials can be used in nuclear warheads.

    In exchange, the U.S. granted Iran eased trading conditions and access to funds frozen in foreign accounts — some $7 billion in combined relief.

    The plan was for a permanent deal by late July. But the U.S., its five negotiating partners — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — and Iran failed to build on the early promise of the talks. The deadline was pushed back a further four months.



    Iran has won tacit acceptance of its biggest priority: recognition of its right to enrich uranium.

    After years of demanding an end to all such activity, the U.S. and its partners now speak only of limiting the amount of centrifuges Iran can have in operation and the amount of material Iran can stockpile for enrichment. A compromise could be to cut the number of centrifuges in half from their current level of about 9,000. Other technical safeguards also are being considered.

    The interim deal’s stepped-up monitoring of Iran’s nuclear activity would surely be continued, and likely expanded. Negotiators have spoken of creative options for redesigning Iran’s heavy water reactor project so it cannot produce plutonium.

    The United States has promised to scrap its “nuclear-related” sanctions on Iran in the event of a deal. Those could include global restrictions on Iranian oil, banking and manufactured trade.

    A final pact would lock in place the conditions for each side for several years, though the Americans and their partners are pushing for a longer duration than the Iranians.



    The devil of any deal is in the details. Fearful the Iranians could inch toward weapons production despite the nuclear restrictions, Washington will be looking for as many safeguards as possible.

    Iran needs to know what economic measures the U.S. will lift from an overlapping set of sanctions targeting the nuclear program as well as Iran’s human rights record, alleged terror links and development of ballistic missile technology.

    Domestic pressures in Tehran and Washington could prove deal-breakers.

    Any pact needs the blessing of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose support has been ambiguous. Other Iranian hardliners have strenuously objected to any concessions.

    Obama, meanwhile, needs Congress to agree to permanently scrap any sanctions. Opposition runs deep among Republican and Democratic hawks. And a potential Republican takeover of the Senate in 2015 could make significant U.S. concessions more difficult.



    Asked about the deadline in Paris on Tuesday, Kerry wouldn’t make a prediction. “I don’t believe it’s out of reach but we have some tough issues to resolve,” he said.

    One of his key partners, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, was more optimistic. “I’m sure a compromise is possible,” he said. Still, he said the deadline was “not sacred.”

    Iran’s Rouhani said this week he believed a deal “can be achieved.”

    The post What’s at stake in Iran nuclear talks? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Pro-democracy protesters clash with police officers in Hong Kong on Oct. 15. Photo by Alex Ogle/AFP/Getty Images

    Pro-democracy protesters clash with police officers in Hong Kong on Oct. 15. Photo by Alex Ogle/AFP/Getty Images

    Hong Kong police armed with riot shields and pepper spray battled pro-democracy activists for control of an underpass overnight Wednesday, sparking the worst violence yet in the two-week protests.

    Police arrested about 45 people as they cleared the main road of barricades that the protesters had erected in the Chinese-controlled city. Footage of police beating one protester went viral, angering some lawmakers. Authorities said the police involved in the beating would be suspended.

    Meanwhile, Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, Asia’s richest man and chairman of property developer Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd, called for the protesters to go home.

    “Since the handover, the ‘one country, two system’ formula has protected Hong Kong’s lifestyle,” he said. “I urge everyone not to be agitated. I urge everyone not to let today’s passion become the regret for tomorrow.”

    The clashes occurred after protesters blocked a four-lane tunnel on Tuesday night, halting traffic in the Admiralty district near government headquarters. Police cleared away the concrete barriers from the tunnel and another major road in the district.

    The main protest area outside government headquarters was still covered with tents.

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    11 U.S. governors are in jeopardy of losing their seats, in addition to Governor Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, pictured here in 2010, who lost in the primary. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

    Eleven U.S. governors are in jeopardy of losing their seats, in addition to Governor Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, pictured here in 2010, who lost in the primary. These could rank as historic losses. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

    The Morning Line

    Today in the Morning Line:

    • Focus so far has been on senators, but don’t miss what could happen with governors
    • The list of governors’ losses back to 1960
    • Three reasons why a record number of governors could lose
    • Pot politics… in Louisiana

    Record losses possible for governors: Our friends over at First Read noted Tuesday that as many as 11 governors are in jeopardy of losing, in addition to Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who lost in the primary. We dug a little further to see where this could rank historically. In fact, if 12 incumbents lose, including Abercrombie, that would be the most since at least 1960. The most incumbent governors to lose in the last 54 years was 11 in 1962, according to data compiled by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. Since 1996, just 12 governors have lost TOTAL. Imagine just how big it would be if even HALF of those governors lost. In the last 20 years, an average of less than two governors have lost per cycle. The most incumbent gubernatorial losses in the past 20 years were four each in 1994 — the year of the Contract with America and the Republican Revolution in the House — and 2002. Here’s a full list back to 1960:

    Number of incumbent governors who lost bid for reelection:
    2012 – 0
    2010 – 2
    2008 – 0
    2006 – 1
    2004 – 2
    2002 – 4
    2000 – 1
    1998 – 2
    1996 – 0
    1994 – 4
    1992 – 0
    1990 – 6
    1988 – 1
    1986 – 2
    1984 – 2
    1982 – 5
    1980 – 3
    1978 – 5
    1976 – 2
    1974 – 5
    1972 – 2
    1970 – 7
    1968 – 4
    1966 – 7
    1964 – 2
    1962 – 11
    1960 – 6

    What accounts for this — ideology, economy, and sheer numbers: There are a few possible factors for what we’re seeing with governors: (1) Ideology. Being a governor has, in the past, been a good launching pad for the presidency, because they are seen as people who get things done, not ideological crusaders. But in many places, ideology matching the national parties has crept into state politics. When that happens, governors are more susceptible to being tied to the national mood. And there is a national climate of dissatisfaction. In the latest polls, about two-thirds of people said the country is off on the wrong track or they are dissatisfied with the direction of the country. In many instances this cycle, there are governors who have governed ideologically and find themselves vulnerable — Sam Brownback in Kansas, Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania, Paul LePage in Maine, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Rick Scott in Florida (though he, of late, has tried to move to the center on some issues). That will be another Election Night story — it will be something of a referendum on tea party governance…

    The economy in many of the states is not great, and there’s a record number of governors running for reelection: (2) It’s the economy… Pocketbook issues often drive voter disenchantment, and in six of the 11 states, the state unemployment rate is higher than the national average; (3) The numbers: Most governors running in the past half century. There are 28 governors seeking reelection. That’s the most since AT LEAST 1960. Of the 28 seeking reelection, 22 are freshmen, first-term governors elected in 2010. It’s hard to oust an incumbent, but even harder to beat one who’s been around a while. Like senators and House members, governors are traditionally reelected at high rates — at an average of 75 percent since 1960, and in the past 20 years, at a whopping 88 percent clip.

    Surprising answers on medical marijuana in Louisiana Watching the Louisiana Senate debate Tuesday night, NewsHour’s Lisa Desjardins reports: Big buildup. Sky-high stakes. But in Louisiana last night, the state’s first Senate debate of the cycle managed to make startlingly little news. All three candidates — Democratic incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu, Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy and Republican Rob Maness — devoted their energies to avoiding mistakes and restating their main campaign phrases. But it was worth waiting until the end for an unexpected set of answers to a yes-or-no question. Moderator and Louisiana Public Broadcasting President Beth Courtney asked if the candidates would support legalizing medical marijuana. Republican Cassidy, who is also a medical doctor, paused and responded “Yes.” Maness, known for his Tea Party support, answered, “No.” Then from the left, Democrat Landrieu gave her answer: “No.” In a closely watched, toss-up race, Cassidy and Landrieu each moved across the middle and against party stereotype on medical marijuana.


    • Three weeks before Election Day, President Obama is hitting the campaign trail — mostly for gubernatorial candidates and Michigan Senate candidate Gary Peters.

    • The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has gone off the air in Kentucky, pulling its ads for Alison Lundergan Grimes. This is the time of the cycle when both sides decide when and where is worth the investment. The DSCC has just made a $1 million buy in Georgia.

    • Grimes will get a boost from Hillary Clinton in Kentucky Wednesday.

    • The National Republican Senatorial Committee has launched its first ad in the newly competitive race in South Dakota. The ad tries to tie Democrat Rick Weiland and Independent Larry Pressler to each other.

    • A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday shows Iowa Republican Joni Ernst’s lead over Democrat Bruce Braley has narrowed to 2 percentage points (47 to 45 percent), down from a six-point spread a month ago. The pollsters note that Independents have shifted toward Braley.

    • From hog castration to biscuits. Ernst is up with a new ad Wednesday. “When I was working fast food,” she says, “I learned the key to a great biscuit is lots of fat. Problem is, Washington thinks the same thing about our budget.”

    • Republicans have an edge among likely voters heading into the November midterms with voters saying they prefer Republicans over Democrats for Congress 46-44 percent, according an NBC/WSJ poll.

    • In Colorado’s Senate race, GOP Rep. Cory Gardner leads Sen. Mark Udall 50 percent to 46 percent in a CNN/ORC poll of likely voters released Wednesday.

    • House Speaker John Boehner is expected to report record fundraising numbers Wednesday — nearly $8 million in the third quarter of this year, which would bring his total for the cycle to about $98 million.

    • The Libertarian running in Iowa’s Senate race died in a plane crash Tuesday.

    • Dan Balz looks at Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s influence on his party.

    • Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and GOP candidate Bruce Rauner sparred over the African American vote in their second debate Tuesday night.

    • The Supreme Court Tuesday night blocked a Texas law that had significantly cut the number of abortion clinics in the state.

    • A second health worker in Texas has tested positive for Ebola. As fear spreads, Republicans like Scott Brown and Thom Tillis have been drawing a link between Ebola and America’s unsecured borders.

    • Is the U.S. prepared for Ebola? What you believe depends on your political stripes.

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


    For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

    Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

    Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Rachel Wellford at rwellford-at-newshour-dot-org.

    Follow the politics team on Twitter:

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    GWEN IFILL: Finally, an unconventional look at big ideas and how they lead to unintended and transformative consequences.

    That’s the subject of a new book and PBS series that debuts tonight called “How We Got to Now.”

    The host is a popular science writer, author and theorist, Steven Johnson.

    Here’s a clip from an episode about what air conditioning set into motion after Willis Carrier designed the first modern system.

    STEVEN JOHNSON, Author, “How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World”:  In 1951, Carrier’s company introduces an air conditioning unit that is miniaturized and affordable for a mass market.

    And that’s when A.C. starts to go crazy. Now, just see what this does to where people are living. Tucson, Arizona, grows 400 percent in 10 years, Phoenix 300 percent, Tampa, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, population double, triple. And it’s the same story everywhere you look. Carrier’s invention is circulating people, as well as air, changing lives, changing America.

    But then something even more interesting happens. You see, people moving to the hot states are older and tend to vote Republican. And the growing population in the conservative South means more Electoral College votes there. So, check out what happens to the political map of America. Between 1940 and 1980, Northern states lose an incredible 31 Electoral College votes, while Southern states gain 29.

    GWEN IFILL: Hari Sreenivasan sat down with Johnson recently in our New York studios.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The book is called “How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World.”

    Steven Johnson, why did you pick glass, cold, sound, clean, time, light? What is it about these innovations?

    STEVEN JOHNSON: Well, we didn’t want to just have stories about the things that we think of as high technology today, right?

    So there’s no chapter on the smartphone or something like that, right? What I was really interested in is basically objects and innovations that are so ubiquitous now that we don’t even think about them as technology or a scientific breakthrough.

    And I also wanted to have things that have had a really interesting history and that involved kind of characters that were interesting and that had interesting stories, and that led us to a series of unanticipated consequences once they got unleashed in the world.

    And so there was the long process of trying to figure out what to include. But we ended up with these six.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, draw — connect the dots for us between Gutenberg’s press and the selfie.


    STEVEN JOHNSON: Yes, right.

    Well, everybody — you think you know the story of Gutenberg, right? He invents the printing press, books get into circulation, there’s this revolution in theology and science because of this.

    But there’s this other funny side effect of the printing press which no one really talks about, which is that, as soon as people started to read in large numbers, as soon as literacy become — became a part of kind of European life, all of a sudden, all across Europe, people started to say, I can’t read this because I’m farsighted. I can’t actually like make this out on the page.

    And it was a problem that people basically just hadn’t had before. They hadn’t noticed it, because they didn’t have any need to kind of look at small little forms on a page. And so, because of this, all across Europe, people started making spectacles. And lens making becomes this very important craft.

    And because of this expertise with lenses, all of a sudden, people started thinking, hey, we could put these two lenses together, and we could make a telescope or we could make a microscope. And then you have this amazing scientific revolution because of this lens making. So Gutenberg actually leads to, in this very indirect way, because of glass, because of lenses, he leads to the scientific revolutions in astronomy and biology and health.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Right. And then eventually even mirrors become more common in the Renaissance, and really those are the first kind of selfies that we see, right?

    STEVEN JOHNSON: Well, there’s an explosion in self-portraiture that happens in the Renaissance.

    Basically — and it’s funny to think about this now — mirrors really didn’t exist in their kind of modern form, where you could see a very clear image of yourself, until right at the beginning of the Renaissance. So, most people just walked around their entire lives never really catching a full glimpse what they looked like as a person.

    And then all of a sudden, you get — these advanced mirrors get created. And artists embrace it completely. People like Rembrandt do endless self-portraits, the kind of early selfie. But it also — people get — the culture gets more introspective. And the idea of selfhood becomes important to art and to philosophy. And I think the mirror is part of that story.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, in your chapter on cold, you draw basically a line between our ability to control the cold or refrigeration and Reagan’s electoral win. How is that?


    It seems crazy, but there’s a direct line. So, air conditioning gets invented in the — in the beginning of the 20th century. There’s a printing shop in Brooklyn that’s trying to do these high-quality magazine prints. And in the summer, the humidity is so bad that the ink is smearing.

    And so they hire this young engineer named Willis Carrier, who goes on to found the Carrier Corporation. And he solves this by dehumidifying the air, but it has this side effect, which it also makes the air cooler. And so everybody in the printing shop was like, I’m going to have my lunch there, where the — like, it’s really — the air is really nice in there.

    And so he decides to build this whole technology. And about 50 years later, it gets popularized in terms of home air conditioning, the small window units and then home central air. And it triggers one of the single largest migrations of human beings in the history of the United States, where everybody moves to the Sun Belt, everybody moves to Florida, people move to Vegas and Phoenix and places that basically just weren’t inhabitable without air conditioning.

    And that triggers a huge swing in the Electoral College, about 50 or 60 votes that swing towards the South. And that Sun Belt coalition is crucial to Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980. Now, it’s possible that Reagan could have gotten elected without air conditioning, but he would have had to have built a completely different political coalition to do it. So A.C. is absolutely a part of that story.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, there’s a quote in here that sort of summarizes an idea that you keep coming back to in the book, is, when we think of ideas, we tend to constrain ourselves by the scale of the original invention.

    So, what you’re doing is really saying — looking at these concepts and all these ripple or what you call hummingbird effects.


    When we tell history, right, we tend to tell the story of great men and women or great social movements or great kind of military conflicts. And that’s an important part of our historical story. And we need to tell those stories.

    But what this book and the show we have is trying to do is to basically show how these objects and these ideas in a sense had a life of their own. And so someone is trying to solve this one problem, but that ends up creating all these unintended consequences in all these other fields. And that’s a big part of who we are now.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Steven Johnson.

    The book is called “How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World”:

    Thanks so much for joining us.

    STEVEN JOHNSON: My pleasure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you can watch “How We Got to Now” tonight on most PBS stations.

    The post Did air conditioning play a role in Reagan’s election? Searching for ripple effects of history-making tech appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts (R) is fiercely defending his seat against Greg Orman (I) in one of the most closely-followed Senate races this cycle. Photo by Stephen Koranda, KPR

    Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts (R) is fiercely defending his seat against Greg Orman (I) in one of the most closely-followed Senate races this cycle. Photo by Stephen Koranda, KPR

    Editor’s Note: In an election season when party control of the U.S. Senate is on the line, the GOP is facing a surprisingly challenging battle for Kansas. What was supposed to be an easy November win for incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts has turned into the race of his career against independent challenger Greg Orman. As Roberts’ campaign tries to paint Orman as a Liberal Democrat in disguise, Orman has won support campaigning against Roberts as a Washington insider and part of the problem in Congress. KPR’s Stephen Koranda highlights the sparring on the campaign trail.

    At a campaign office in Topeka, Senator Pat Roberts is meeting with dozens of supporters. His decades of campaigning show. He’s jovial, and polished when speaking with people and shaking hands.

    At events like this, Roberts’ main message is that this isn’t just about Kansas. He has called this a “national campaign,” and he says electing him will help solidify a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.

    “With a Republican majority, we can repeal Obamacare, we can stop amnesty, open the Keystone pipeline and grow the economy,” says Roberts.

    Roberts mentions his experience and accomplishments at stops like this, but those aren’t his main focus.

    He’s been criticized for his decades in Washington, especially in the primary, with claims he’s been there too long.

    After a tough primary fight and falling behind in some polls, Roberts has been working to shore-up his Republican base. He’s even brought in some big name Republicans to help him campaign.

    “We’ve had everybody from Jeb Bush to Sarah Palin. It shows you that every segment of the Republican Party is united behind my race,” says Roberts.

    “What does Pat Roberts stand for? You’ve seen it. A constitutional conservative, a fiscal conservative, a social conservative,” says Tom Coburn, a conservative Republican senator from Oklahoma who is joining Roberts at this campaign stop.

    Coburn repeats the second main point Roberts is pushing: the claim that independent Greg Orman isn’t really so independent.

    “He’s a liberal Democrat cloaking himself as a moderate independent, and he’s anything but that,” says Coburn.

    In Roberts’ ads and speeches, he mentions President Obama and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid repeatedly.

    He says a vote for Orman is a vote for President Obama’s agenda and he points out that Orman has given money to several Democrats. But Orman is firing back.

    “Some of the contributions he’s failed to talk about are my contributions to Republicans,” says Orman.

    Orman says he’s been both a Republican and a Democrat, he’s donated to both parties and he’s been dissatisfied with both.

    He touts his business experience as a successful entrepreneur and says that has required him to fix problems on a daily basis.

    “If you want to look at how my history defines me, my history defines me as a fiscally responsible, socially tolerant businessman who really just wants to solve problems,” says Orman.

    Some of Orman’s business dealings haven’t helped him in the race. The Roberts campaign points to lawsuits against him and connections to someone jailed for insider trading.


    Greg Orman (I) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R). Photo of Orman courtesy Orman for Senate; photo of Roberts courtesy Bob Nichols/USDA.

    Speaking after a recent debate, Orman took aim at Roberts’ argument that a Republican majority would end gridlock in the Senate.

    “After 47 years in Washington, he’s telling us that he’s the solution to the gridlock in Washington. I want to know how someone who didn’t talk about working together up there, spent all his time talking about fighting, how that person actually is able to move into an environment where we solve problems,” says Orman.

    Orman says he would likely caucus with whichever party has a clear majority in the U.S. Senate. If neither has a majority, he’ll choose the party that is willing to take up his ideas.

    Orman doesn’t have the campaign experience of Roberts, but he has a bright smile and youthful charm on the campaign trail.

    He also has a lot of money, a personal fortune and impressive campaign donations for an independent candidate. That’s helped him hit the airwaves.

    “As an independent, I won’t answer to either party, I’ll answer only to the people of Kansas,” says Orman.

    “This has been a bizarre election,” says Fort Hays State University political science professor Chapman Rackaway.

    He says Roberts has experience and a voting record that should appeal to many Kansans, but there’s some anti-incumbency feelings in the air that could be stirred up by touting his experience.

    “And that’s exactly the tightrope that Senator Roberts walks,” says Rackaway.

    Rackaway says Orman’s outsider angle helps him. He says political outsiders like Orman can make promises about what they’ll do if elected, but without a past record of political experience it’s hard to judge those promises.

    “There’s no record of their performance to run on, and so it ends up being very much a measure of their personality,” says Rackaway.

    No matter who is elected, Rackaway says this is the first time since Ross Perot ran for president in 1992 that an independent candidate has made such a major splash in Kansas.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, those were the days, from the man who created “All in the Family,” “Maude,” “The Jeffersons,” and so much more on and off the TV screen.

    Jeffrey Brown has our look.

    JEFFREY BROWN: “In my 90-plus years, I have lived a multitude of lives,” so writes Norman Lear about a life that’s including bombing emissions over Europe in World War II, the founding of a leading political advocacy organization, and the consideration of some of the most seminal programs in television history, most famously “All in the Family.”

    CARROLL O’CONNOR: What are you kicking about? Ain’t you your wife always telling me that coloreds and whites ought to work together?


    ROB REINER: Not to stop Puerto Ricans from moving next door!


    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s all captured in a new memoir, “Even This I Get to Experience.”

    Norman Lear joins me now.

    Welcome to you.

    NORMAN LEAR, Author, “Even This I Get to Experience”: Thank you. I love being here.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You had been writing television from the ’50s on. Were you dissatisfied with what television was doing? Did you want to blow it up in some sense?


    NORMAN LEAR: No, actually, I was writing for live television. And I said to myself, someday, soon as I can, I have got to do a situation comedy.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And when did you decide though that it had to be a different kind of situation comedy, something that was tackling something really not seen before?

    NORMAN LEAR: I don’t ever recall making such a decision.

    I read about a British show called “Till Death Us Do Part” about a father and son not unlike Archie and Mike. And I said, my God, that’s me and my dad. I have got to write about this.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, that’s what comes out of the book. Many of us grew up about Archie, but he is in part based on your dad. Right?

    NORMAN LEAR: He is. That’s right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Your dad used words like meat head and…

    NORMAN LEAR: My dad called me meat head dead from the neck up.

    CARROLL O’CONNOR: I’m tuning you out, meat head.

    NORMAN LEAR: And he used to yell at me that he was — I was the laziest white kid he ever met. And I would say, why would you put down a race of people to call me lazy? That’s not what I’m doing. You’re the dumbest white kid I ever met.

    JEFFREY BROWN: We laugh now. And you turned it into a kind of humor. It couldn’t have been funny then for you.

    NORMAN LEAR: No. But I think somehow I got a sense of the foolishness of the human — my favorite phrase, the foolishness of the human condition.

    You know, he went to prison when I was 9 years old. And then the night that he was taken away, there were a ton of people at the house, and somebody puts a hand on my shoulder and says, you’re the man of the house now, Norman, 9 years old. I’m the man of the house.

    Somehow, I got it. You know, this fool is funny.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You know, you describe in the book here about the battles you had with the network officials and what’s called the program practices department, a wonderful name, right?

    NORMAN LEAR: Euphemism. Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, of course.

    Give us an example of one where you were up against the officials and you decided you sort of couldn’t back down, right?

    NORMAN LEAR: Well, the very first “All in the Family.”

    Mike and Gloria were alone in the house on a Sunday morning when the elders were at church. And he decides to take her up stairs again. They go up the stairs. The door opens, and Archie needed to come in early because Archie disliked the preacher and the sermon.

    And so they come in bellowing at each other. The kids hear them and start to come down the stairs. And Archie guesses what was happening, and he says:

    CARROLL O’CONNOR: 11:10 of a Sunday morning.


    NORMAN LEAR: And they want that out. Well, that battle continued to within a half-hour of the show’s going on the air in the east.


    NORMAN LEAR: And they insisted on taking it out.

    JEFFREY BROWN: They wanted the reference — There was no sex in it, but there was the reference to what was probably going on, on a Sunday morning.

    NORMAN LEAR: Right. Right.

    And I said I would if they — they could, of course, have cut it in New York. It was a simple cut. It wasn’t that I couldn’t live without that line. I could. But I saw very clearly in that instant that if that silly little — you know, if I lost that silly little battle, I would never win another one.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Is it interesting for you now to think about what’s happened with television, where a line like that is so tame in a sense now? Is television as radical as, I don’t know, dangerous, to use one word, as it was when you were doing that?

    NORMAN LEAR: I don’t think — I think what’s dangerous is 24 hours a day, 335 channels, or whatever the hell there is. Too much is too much.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Why is that dangerous?

    NORMAN LEAR: Because people have other things to do.

    And if there was a sense of — a bigger sense of responsibility in the various leadership positions in our country, things would be not as grotesquely overly done as they are now.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Meaning…

    NORMAN LEAR: I think we have become a — much more a nation of consumers than citizens.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And media is part of that, you mean, too much television, too much everything?

    NORMAN LEAR: And media and the companies that support media, not alone, because it takes all of those companies that are advertising on media.

    But they are the ones who dictate. I get a kick out of the fact that people will pick on the writers in California for being responsible for the content. The people seriously responsible for the content are the people who buy it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Multitude of lives, right, that’s the line you use at the beginning of the book that I quoted.

    What caused that? What drives that?

    NORMAN LEAR: I like getting up in the morning, and I like better having something to do when I get up in the morning.


    NORMAN LEAR: And — and I care.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right.

    The book is “Even This I Get to Experience.”

    Norman Lear, thank you so much.

    NORMAN LEAR: Thank you, sir.


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    GWEN IFILL: Now to a looming deadline in one of the most significant and controversial foreign policy initiatives of the Obama administration, a nuclear deal with Iran.

    Those talks resumed again in Vienna yesterday. Earlier today, Secretary of State John Kerry held discussions with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. This round follows a week of unproductive negotiation sessions on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York last month.

    Joining me with an update on the hurdles ahead of the November 24 deadline for a deal is our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner.

    Thank you for joining us and reporting on this.

    What has happened since this last deadline expired?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, Gwen, very little happened since the July 24 deadline expired, and disappointingly little.

    The expectation had been that they had gotten close enough on a lot of the major points that this six months would be enough to cement a deal. And, instead, really, it has come down to a kind of stalemate over the number one thing that the U.S. and the West want, which is very sharp limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment capability.

    And that is to assure the world that Iran really means it when it says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, and to make the so-called breakout time to a weapon long enough that the world would still have time to react with military action if needed.

    And going in at least to these meetings yesterday and today, they were at loggerheads over the demand by the P5-plus-one, the six powers, that the number of operating centrifuges in Iran has to be sharply cut back.

    GWEN IFILL: So, what specifically is the U.S. asking for to get to that long-term goal?

    MARGARET WARNER: The U.S.’ point is, look, what — you have got 9,500 operating centrifuges — I don’t want to get lost in the weeds of this — – out of your 19,000. And you are going to have to dramatically cut those back. That is way more than you need for medical isotopes or electricity purposes. And the world knows that.

    Iran is telling — the Iranian negotiators are telling the U.S., look, we can’t give on that number of centrifuges. It’s a point of national pride. It’s kind of a red line.

    Now, is that a negotiating tactic or not? I mean, they’re saying — President Rouhani, the new president of Iran, who got elected promising to get sanctions lifted in return for putting some limits on the nuclear program, he can’t afford that against the more conservative voices, including the supreme leader. That is the number one sticking point.

    There are other ones having to do with duration, how long this agreement would extend, but that’s — that’s the number one thing.

    GWEN IFILL: Are there any areas of agreement they can build on?

    MARGARET WARNER: There are many, many things.

    But one senior U.S. official said to me, look, it is a Rubik’s Cube. It’s the old rule of negotiations. Nothing is agreed until everything’s agreed.

    And if you can’t get down to an agreement on enrichment capability, everything else falls apart, or nothing else goes into effect.

    GWEN IFILL: Now, there’s some new variables since last time they met, and that is the rise of the Islamic State threat. Does that put any kind of damper over these negotiations?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, there was a lot of speculation about that, Gwen, and during the U.N. General Assembly week.

    Both the U.S. and the Iranians are saying, no, we’re separating it. Foreign Minister Zarif said, publicly and privately, our plate is already full.

    That said, there are some voices in Iran who are saying, you know, President Obama, since this started a year ago, he’s got a lot more problems on his plate, Ukraine and the I.S. threat. And he really needs us.

    And so there is one school of thought that that’s one reason the Iranians are playing hardball now. Now, that said, Gwen, these talks in Vienna went longer than expected today. As far as I understand, they’re still going on. U.S. officials said they took that as a good sign, that Zarif and Kerry went back in for more talks.

    So, you never know. Negotiations are like this, and sometimes both sides hold back until almost the deadline. Of course, the question is, even if they agreed on all the major issues, could they still technically do it by November 24? The Americans say yes. The Iranians are talking about an extension.

    GWEN IFILL: So, if for some reason, this all fell apart and the U.S. walked away from the table or Iran walked away from the table, does the president have any other choices, any other fallback positions?

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, Gwen, he goes back to the really unpalatable choices he had. Let’s go back last spring of 2013, when IAEA, the Atomic Energy Agency, said Iran was proceeding with its nuclear program. The U.S. had slapped the fourth round of sanctions on Iran. It looked pretty bad.

    Then Rouhani got elected in June on this promise, as I said, that he was going to change the whole approach. Before that, the president was thinking about, is Israel going to take military action, or have I promised I will essentially take military action to a prevent nuclear weapon, Iran from having nuclear weapons capability?

    So, if the whole thing were to fall apart, the president would be faced with those unpalatable choices again, and this time in a world that is far more complicated, and he has far more crises on his plate than he did at a year and-a-half ago.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, as far as we know, they’re at least still talking tonight.

    Margaret Warner in New York for us tonight, thank you.

    MARGARET WARNER: My pleasure, Gwen.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now a previously untold story of the Iraq war.

    American soldiers on the ground were tasked with destroying thousands of rockets and artillery shells left behind by Saddam Hussein’s regime. Some of those weapons contained chemical or nerve agents like mustard gas, remnants of the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s.

    That wasn’t known, however, to the American troops who were assigned to destroy them. The New York Times has now published an investigation into the chemical weapons and the injuries sustained by some of those soldiers, which had not been publicly known.

    We start with an excerpt of a short documentary The Times produced. In it, we see the destruction of mustard gas shells. We hear from some of the soldiers wounded by exposure.

    And a warning:  It contains some graphic images and details.

    C.J. CHIVERS, The New York Times: Footage taken by the infantry on the perimeter shows the destruction of the chemical shells. Exposure symptoms soon appeared.

    SGT. PHILIP DUKETT: We got out. We washed our hands. We didn’t think much of it. When we were driving back, my knife was on my leg on my right thing. And it was irritating me, so I thought it was my knife. I went to bed and woke up that morning with a small blister.

    C.J. CHIVERS: Sergeant Dukett’s blister grew to the size of his fist. The medics acted quickly. He and another soldier were rushed to a military hospital, then flown to Germany.

    By then, the blister covered his upper thigh. His medical records are explicit. He had been exposed to mustard agent. None of this was known to the Sergeant Duling’s team as they began suffering on another base. The clinic where they sought care seemed unprepared to treat them.

    STAFF SGT. ERIC J. DULING: I actually had one doctor say, well, if you’re not defecating on yourself or foaming at the mouth, there’s nothing we can do for you. And I said, that’s great, because, if we were like that, it would be nerve agent and we would be dead.

    SPC. ANDREW T. GOLDMAN, Former Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician, U.S. Army: The next day, I wake up. I looked like I had a complete body sunburn, just red in places that have never seen the sun. The first — the first doctor I saw told me that I haven’t — I wasn’t hit with mustard agent, and she said because I wasn’t throwing up or I wasn’t sick or showing severe blistering and stuff like that.

    C.J. CHIVERS: For two weeks, the wounded soldiers received only minimal treatment.

    SPC. ANDREW T. GOLDMAN: The blister on my butt cheek had gotten a lot bigger. And I had also had blisters forming on my thighs. They were large up top and they started getting smaller as they went down.

    STAFF SGT. ERIC J. DULING: Some other people in the unit were like, this is not right, these guys should be looked at. So we took pictures of Goldie, wrote down our symptoms, and we sent through back channels back to the States.

    C.J. CHIVERS: At last, the military’s medical system woke up. Sergeant Duling’s three-man team was flown from Iraq, but told not to discuss the incident.

    SPC. ANDREW T. GOLDMAN: When we got to Walter Reed, we were there a few days and they — they called us in and said, you have been exposed to mustard agent.

    STAFF SGT. ERIC J. DULING: And all of us came up positive for having H.D. mustard, distilled mustard in our blood streams.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We’re joined now by Christopher “C.J.” Chivers. He’s the New York Times reporter who wrote that story and narrated the clip we just saw.

    Welcome to the “NewsHour,” Chris Chivers.

    First of all, where did these nerve agents come from and other chemical agents?

    C.J. CHIVERS: Well, the nerve and the mustard agents had been made in Iraq during the 1980s, when Saddam Hussein had a chemical weapons productions program that was creating munitions for use against Iranians in the Iran/Iraq War.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And was there a U.S. role in all of that?

    C.J. CHIVERS: Well, it’s interesting you ask that, because the first information that came to us was that these rounds were American-made.

    And we ultimately concluded that there wasn’t evidence for that. Some of the shells, many of the mustard shells were an American design. And they had been knocked off by European firms and sold to Iraq empty and filled in a West German-made chemical production plant in Iraq.

    And so by the time the shells came to be used and improvised explosive devices were found out on the battlefield in caches, they had sort of a complicated parentage and had had roots in many different countries.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But these were not the weapons of mass destruction that President Bush had talked about as the rationale for going into Iraq; is that right?

    C.J. CHIVERS: These rounds were all left over, as near as we can tell and according to everyone who we talked to who was involved — and we have talked to the majority of the — the people who collected the majority of them.

    They were all manufactured before 1991. This is remnant stock. This is leftover, abandoned weapons from an old program that had ceased operating in the early 1990s.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, you — you wrote that the troops repeatedly encountered these contaminated weapons, parts of weapons. What were they supposed to do with them when they found them?

    C.J. CHIVERS: They often didn’t find them while looking for them. They found them while looking for something else or dealing with another problem.

    One of the features of the Iraq war was that improvised explosive devices or makeshift bombs became the primary cause of wounds for the American troops. And so there were groups of people whose mission primarily was to try to counter those weapons. And they would be working and they would go to scenes where bombs had been detonated or bombs had been found or where they thought bombs were being made, parts of bombs were being stored.

    And they would try to disable and destroy them. Almost all of those weapons were conventional, but it was a sort of sad feature of the lottery system that every now and then, one of those weapons or some of those weapons would be leftover chemical shells. And they were, visually, virtually identical in many cases.

    So the soldiers, in the sort of capacity of trying to disable a — what they thought was a conventional bomb, would go forward and destroy a chemical bomb, and then be exposed by it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you identified 17 U.S. troops, seven Iraqi soldiers who were exposed. Do we think — or do you think that’s all there is, because the military isn’t saying?

    C.J. CHIVERS: We think there’s more. We have had a lot of other people contact us. We haven’t verified all of their incidents.

    The military’s told us that there are at least some more. They have also told us they don’t have an accurate count, so they don’t know. And there may have been people who were exposed and didn’t realize they were exposed. So whatever the official numbers are, they may be small.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why did the military tell you that these troops needed to be quiet about this, not talk about it?

    C.J. CHIVERS: Well, the military hasn’t given us a clear answer for that. The various participants have said that their local commanders or visiting officers, colonels, or in one case a general, had told them not to disclose it.

    But what happened with these incidents is they were all classified secret in real time, and they sort of got lost, it seems, in the system and not shared. And so, as this was going on, it’s the habit of secrecy that we have sort of seen. And we see it all the time in the military.

    What we don’t know is why the military, which has done a lot of analysis on these and has a number of reports assembled on these, has not declassified the documents since the war or didn’t declassify the documents late in the war. And that’s a puzzle we can’t answer. We have filed multiple Freedom of Information Act requests. We have had those requests denied.

    We have had very limited disclosure of some heavily redacted documents. But we’d like to see the rest of the documents and we would like to what they say.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We did hear in that report, we know from your — from the story you wrote, the injuries that these men suffered, experienced. What’s happened to these men today?  How are they doing today?

    C.J. CHIVERS: Some are still on active duty. Some are out. They’re veterans now. Some are doing quite well. Some aren’t.

    Some complain of chronic respiratory distress, or shortness of breath, and lingering headaches. One has some issues. He believes it was — he was exposed to sarin, and he believes he’s had some short-term memory loss and some reading comprehension difficulties. But many of them are doing, it seems, OK.

    But that’s an interesting question, because the military has treatment guidelines and an order that mandates that these patients are supposed to be followed for life. And in the main, they have not been followed at all. They’re simply not enrolled in any systematic tracking.

    So, it’s kind of hard to say how they’re doing as an aggregate or whether the things they complain of — and many of these conditions can have more than one father, but — so the things they complain of, whether that’s directly related to their exposure or not, because there hasn’t — there hasn’t been a comprehensive tracking.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And last thing, do we know what’s happened, how many more weapons may still be in Iraq and who has control over them?

    C.J. CHIVERS: I don’t know how many are still there.

    There are some reports that there could be as many as 2,500 rocket warheads in one particular bunker out on Al Muthanna state enterprise, the old production facilities, which are largely ruins now in Iraq. And — but that area’s out of the government control. It’s now controlled by Islamic State.

    Whether they have actually got access to the rounds or not, I’m not in a position to tell you. They certainly have proximity to the remains.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Chris Chivers, great reporting.

    Christopher “C.J.” Chivers with The New York Times, we thank you.

    C.J. CHIVERS: Thank you.


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    GWEN IFILL: Today was the day the Obama administration decided to draw attention to some good economic news for a change. It announced the federal deficit has declined to $483 billion, the lowest level since 2007. The deficit had exceeded a trillion dollars each year during the president’s first term.

    But as that news was breaking, the markets embarked on another roller-coaster day, and new polls showed many Americans are skeptical that any economic recovery has trickled down to them.

    That was the setting as I sat down this morning with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Budget Director Shaun Donovan.

    Secretary Lew and Director Donovan, thank you both for joining us.

    You have some good news for a change today, the deficit down and continuing to go down to, what, 2.8 percent?

    JACK LEW, U.S. Treasury Secretary: Correct.

    GWEN IFILL: To what do you attribute that?

    JACK LEW: Look, I think that if you look at where we were six years ago, we had an economy that was collapsing, we had unemployment, 700,000 jobs lost a month, and we had markets in chaos.

    The president came into office and took tough action. He stabilized the economy. He put in place an economic program to create growth. He put in a program to reform our financial markets and over a period of years worked with Congress on a bipartisan basis to put in place a balanced set of measures to reduce our deficit, starting with the Affordable Care Act, which reduced the deficit, as well as providing a guarantee of health care coverage, and then doing spending reductions and revenue increases that came by making our tax system more fair.

    It’s an enormous amount of progress to have seen the deficit drop by, you know, roughly two-thirds, and to reach a point where it’s — we’re now in a 10-year period, looking ahead, of sustainable fiscal policy, which is good for the economy. It means that the economy can not worry about crisis to crisis, and the economy can continue to grow. That’s a very good thing.

    GWEN IFILL: Director Donovan, you said today that this represents a return to fiscal normalcy. A lot of people don’t feel like their lives are very normal yet again.

    SHAUN DONOVAN, Director, Office of Management and Budget: Well, it’s one of the things that I think it’s important for people to recognize.

    As Jack said, we made a lot of progress. We’re now not only below 3 percent of GDP, which is a standard many use as a critical milestone, but we’re actually below the 40-year average for our deficit.

    So when I say we have returned to fiscal normalcy, we have reached a point where we have really stabilized our deficit in an important way. And I think it shouldn’t be lost on the American people that this happened in a year where we moved away from reckless austerity, manufactured crises that had happened on Capitol Hill, to a place where we have been able to have more predictable investments in the economy.

    Job growth is growing faster, over 10 million new jobs over the last 55 months. So we have made real progress through the president’s strategy of investing in key things, but we also recognize we have to do more and we have to continue to invest, continue to do that. And that’s what I’m going to be focused on as we go into our budget next year.

    GWEN IFILL: But the Congressional Budget Office is — which is nonpartisan, which is the gold standard in many respects, at least in this world of partisan accusation, they say — they projected the deficit may start to head back up again in 2016.

    JACK LEW: Well, I think if you look at projections over the remainder of this decade, it — we’re in a pretty stable place in terms of the foundation that we have built.

    It doesn’t mean there’s not more work to do in terms of both growing our economy and investing in the things that we need to do in this country, whether it’s education or infrastructure, to have a strong economic future. And the difference is, we are in a stable place right now, and that is good for the economy.

    And what we need to concentrate on now is making sure that we maintain the momentum in our economy, so that we don’t return to policies that shortchange the present and the future.

    SHAUN DONOVAN: We shouldn’t ignore the fact that the president has been focused on key strategies for the long-term deficit.

    Jack mentioned the Affordable Care Act. Health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in more than 50 years. You used CBO’s numbers. CBO now projects that in the year 2020, Medicare and Medicaid spending is going to be almost $200 billion lower than they were projecting just a few years ago because of the progress we have made on health care.

    GWEN IFILL: If the news is so good, then why is it that everywhere I travel this election year, every poll that I read tells me that people don’t feel it, they don’t trust it, they are still so deeply worried?

    You’re telling them in Washington, things are better, and they’re saying, not in my life.

    SHAUN DONOVAN: Well, you know, Gwen, every night, the president reads letters that come from Americans around the country, and he is getting letters from people who have gone back to work because the economy is getting better.

    Those more than 10 million new jobs that we have created have made a real difference in people’s lives. I think what you’re hearing as well and the president hears is that, while we have made a lot of progress in our economy, wages aren’t rising, particularly for the middle class, in the way that we would want them to see.

    GWEN IFILL: Exactly.

    SHAUN DONOVAN: And that’s why we need to make further investments.

    The president has been focused like a laser on the minimum wage and what we can do to increase the minimum wage, to make…

    GWEN IFILL: But many of the people who are affected by these wage problems aren’t earning minimum wage. They wouldn’t be affected by that.

    SHAUN DONOVAN: But they’re certainly affected, whether they’re construction workers who could increase their wages with new infrastructure projects, whether they could go back and get trained with the investments the president’s proposed, so that they could get a higher-paying job, whether it’s starting with pre-K for kids to make sure that they have the skills to get those higher-paying jobs a generation from now.

    He’s thinking both in the short term and the long term about all the key things we can do to create a stronger economy for the middle class.

    GWEN IFILL: Another sign of instability, volatility, whatever you call it, is what we have seen happening in the stock market in the last couple of weeks. And just this morning, the market opened 300 points down almost immediately. By the end of the day, we will see whether it rebounded.

    But does that also makes your job a little bit tougher?

    JACK LEW: You know, I think that we focus constantly on, what’s the core economic conditions of the United States.

    And I think it’s a mistake to look at hour-by-hour movements in markets to get a picture of where the core is. You know, we have seen over the last half-year almost every economic indicator indicating the kind of progress we’re talking about, whether it’s job growth or the growth of the economy and confidence.

    I think that we’re on a trajectory that is very strong in terms of maintaining U.S. core economic growth. Obviously, there are challenges in any day of any year that are outside of your control. You know, the president’s policy in 2009, ’10, ’11 is a large part of the reason why the United States is now looked at by the world as the economic engine of the world.

    And, you know, one thing I will say in terms of the question you asked about the kind of public sentiment, the conditions in 2009 were really bad, and it leaves some bruising that takes some time to get over. I think right now, we have been in an extended period where Washington hasn’t been getting to the brink of a crisis, where they’re seeing the economy begin to grow.

    And our job is to continue that, which is why it’s so important that Washington do its job in an orderly way and that we continue one step after another to make the right decisions.

    GWEN IFILL: Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew and Director of the Office of Management Budget Shaun Donovan, thank you both very much.

    JACK LEW: Thank you.

    SHAUN DONOVAN: Thank you.


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    Photo by Wikimedia user Mangoman88

    Photo by Wikimedia user Mangoman88

    Editor’s Note: Voters in Colorado this fall are contemplating a “personhood” amendment, legislation defining life as beginning at conception. Such measures would outlaw abortion, but advocates on either side of the issue argue whether they also have further-reaching impacts on contraception, in vitro fertilization, and women who miscarry. Megan Verlee of Colorado Public Radio reports on Colorado’s Amendment 67.

    What’s in a nickname?

    Both supporters and opponents of Amendment 67 call the measure on this year’s ballot “personhood.” But they disagree sharply on what it actually does.

    Reproductive rights groups argue A67 falls right in line with 2008 and 2010’s failed personhood measures, which were designed to ban abortion by extending legal rights to life from the moment of conception.

    But backers say that while their measure does recognize every stage of a pregnancy as a legal person, its scope is far more restricted than in past years, and won’t affect abortion or any other medical procedures.

    The measure is explicitly limited to the Colorado Criminal Code and Colorado Wrongful Death Act, where “the words ‘person’ and ‘child’ … must include unborn human beings.”

    “When a pregnant woman is killed, [Amendment 67] will essentially allow for two homicide charges, one for the mom, one for the baby,” says Susan Sutherland with the Yes on 67 campaign.

    Susan Sutherland, of the Colorado Personhood Coalition, asks for petition signatures during the Colorado Republican State Assembly and Convention at the Ritchie Center in Denver in April 2012. Photo by Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post)

    Susan Sutherland, of the Colorado Personhood Coalition, asks for petition signatures during the Colorado Republican State Assembly and Convention at the Ritchie Center in Denver in April 2012. Photo by Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post)

    No charges for fetal death

    The human face of A67 is Longmont resident, Heather Surovik. Surovik was more than eight months pregnant with a son she’d named Brady when her car was hit by a drunk driver in July of 2012. She survived, but the fetus did not.

    The driver, Gary Sheats, was charged with vehicular assault, but at the time Colorado law didn’t allow for any extra charges in the death of the fetus.

    “On top of dealing with the death of my son, I find out that the man responsible for taking Brady… was not being charged with it, because the law says that Brady was not a person,” Surovik says in a video for the 67 campaign, which calls itself A Voice for Brady.

    In response to public outcry, state lawmakers passed the Crimes Against Pregnant Women Act. The 2013 law created a new class of assault charges when a perpetrator unlawfully terminates a woman’s pregnancy. But it doesn’t describe the crime as homicide because Democrats were worried that could be a slippery slope toward granting rights to fetuses and embryos.

    For supporters of Amendment 67, that law falls woefully short.

    “It has to be … homicide,” said Brenda Rastrelli as she participated in a small pro-67 demonstration in Denver earlier this year. “This was a baby, this was a person. As much any human being walking around, these babies should have the same right. And they have nobody to speak up for them except us.”

    Opponents to the personhood amendment -- Amendment 67 -- rally at the state Capitol in Denver, Colo. on July 22, 2014. Photo by CPR/Megan Verlee)

    Opponents to the personhood amendment — Amendment 67 — rally at the state Capitol in Denver, Colo. on July 22, 2014. Photo by CPR/Megan Verlee)

    Backdoor abortion ban?

    Abortion rights groups don’t buy the argument that Amendment 67’s affects would just be limited to criminals.

    They say if Amendment 67 becomes law, any medical procedure that ends a pregnancy or destroys a fertilized egg, would be considered homicide. Those procedures could include abortions, some forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization as it’s currently practiced.

    “Amendment 67 is written in language that tries to trick us,” Christina Aguilar, head of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, told the audience at a No on 67 rally in July at the state Capitol. “It would criminalize women and outlaw all abortion.”

    At least one of the groups supporting Amendment 67 seems to agree with that interpretation. On a webpage of talking points about the measure, Colorado Right to Life states that “the Brady Amendment 67 makes abortion a criminal offense.”

    For some opponents, the measure goes beyond medical matters to fundamentally degrade women’s rights.

    The national group Advocates for Pregnant Women has identified hundreds of cases in recent decades where pregnant women were arrested or confined for everything from substance abuse to refusing to have a caesarian section. Many of those cases relied on laws very different from Amendment 67, but the group’s director, Lynn Paltrow, says measure would set a bad legal precedent.

    “As soon as you empower state actors and others, including physicians and husbands, to act as if the fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus is already outside of the woman’s body, they can do almost anything they want to her,” says Paltrow.

    A question of enforcement

    So what would the real world effect of Amendment 67 be?

    Mississippi College Law School professor Jonathan Will, who’s studied personhood efforts nationally, says it all depends on how it’s enforced.

    As Will sees it, Amendment 67 as written does make abortion a homicide. But that violates the constitutional protection of abortion rights guaranteed by Roe vs.Wade. So any prosecutor who tried to use the law to keep a doctor from performing abortions would be setting themselves up for a very lengthy legal battle.

    “One option would be that it just wouldn’t be enforced in connection with abortion because it violates the federal constitution,” says Will. “Another option would be that it’s attempted to be enforced and it’s immediately challenged.”

    According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 38 states already have some sort of fetal homicide law. But unlike Amendment 67, many of those laws explicitly exempt abortion.

    Because A67 lacks any exception for abortion, its passage would mean that if the U.S. Supreme Court ever reversed its decision in Roe v. Wade, Colorado would automatically have an abortion ban in place in the state constitution.

    Will believes both sides in the Amendment 67 debate are being somewhat disingenuous in their arguments: supporters for saying the measure has nothing to do with abortion, and opponents for suggesting it would immediately ban the procedure. The legal reality, he says, is likely to be much more ambiguous.

    The post Colorado’s ‘personhood’ Amendment 67 more ambiguous than partisans say appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Second Texas Healthcare Worker Tests Positive For Ebola

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: From the president on down, the federal government sought to tamp down any anxiety over additional Ebola cases in the U.S., while at the same time it adjusted and increased its response and delivered some disturbing news of a second nurse who contracted the disease just after she flew commercially.

    Laurie Garrett, who has long written about infectious diseases and international health, joins us from New York. She’s a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

    Laurie Garrett, welcome back to the program.

    Administration officials have been saying for some time that the U.S. knows how to stop Ebola, the protocols are in place, but clearly something has gone wrong. Is it clear what’s gone wrong?

    LAURIE GARRETT, Council on Foreign Relations: I don’t think precisely what happened with each of these nurses.

    But the nurses unions have been releasing some distressing photographs showing gaps in the protective gear, in particular the neck completely exposed, and the top of the protective suits were open, much as my collar is here. That wouldn’t be sufficient protection for Ebola contact exposure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the administration, we listened to the Centers for Disease Control news conference, or I should say telephone news conference today. And they said that the protocols are now in place, that any mistakes like this that happened are not going to happen again. How much confidence should we have that that’s the case?

    LAURIE GARRETT: I think our biggest challenge in the United States is hubris. We have consistently heard and said — and, by the way, it’s not just the government saying this. It’s been all the public health associations, the American Medical Association, all the major physician groups and so on — for quite some time saying, look, what’s going on over there in Africa is the result of inadequate health systems, poor hygiene and so on. It wouldn’t be like that here in America. We know how to do this.

    And I think it is kind of a smug attitude. And it’s very similar and reminiscent to a similar smug sense of self-assurance that dictated the response Canada had to the arrival of SARS in the Toronto hospital system in 2003.

    When you contrast how quickly Vietnam in its poverty managed to control SARS in 2003, compared to how long — it just kept coming back again and again in the hospital system in Toronto — it shows that there’s a certain arrogance that happens with technology. We sort of think, well, we have this high-tech equipment, we can stop it.

    But there’s a lot more to stopping the spread of a virus than just high-tech equipment.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, clearly, Americans now are looking for some reassurance, without getting overly alarmed about what’s happened.

    For example, Dr. Frieden, who is the head of the CDC, said today that, going forward, all the individuals who All right, exposed to anyone with Ebola clearly knows they need to be monitoring themselves, they need to stay away from any sort of public forms of transportation. Again, how confident should we be? That message has gone forward.

    The president just today reinforced the idea of these SWAT teams that are going to go to hospitals within 24 hours if there are new cases. Should we be confident that all this is going to happen?

    LAURIE GARRETT: Look, I think the bottom line here is that what really matters in disease control is the way in which you have organization and rules of the road for all the various people that are players in the system.

    Starts at your local hospital and your small town. Do people know what to do in an emergency room? And does the whole set of chain of events of calls and notification up the ladder proceed smoothly, accurately, in a timely fashion? Is everybody on board, and do they know what they’re supposed to do?

    This is not technology. This is, do you know your job and do you know who to call if you’re suspicious, if there’s something wrong? And let’s go back and remember that Mr. Duncan told, we now know, three different times told people, I have been in Liberia. And, somehow, the knee-jerk response of the hospital was, does he have insurance or not? Let’s get him out of here. He sits in the waiting room, we now know, for hours, potentially exposing God knows how many people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, based on the reporting you have been doing, the conversations you have been having with public health officials throughout the country, is it your sense that they are now at least working to convey guidelines, protocols in a way that will be followed going forward?


    I think everybody is awake now. The alarms are ringing, and there’s a lot of distress and there’s a lot of trying to come up with better, smarter algorithms. What are the questions you ask at intake? Who do you call, how do you respond, what kind of equipment can be brought to bear?

    And also some more thinking about how to get better compliance in that 21-day window for, not only people that are around the Duncan case, but for all those who go overseas to be involved in the Liberia and Sierra Leone outbreak and then return, what are the appropriate protocols for them, for the news reporters that were with the NBC crew with the one individual who got infected and is now in care?

    How can we make everybody on board in a much more coherent and clearly understood said of rules of the game?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally and quickly, Laurie Garrett, any new information, any — what is your understanding right now of whether progress, there is a sense of progress being made in these West African countries that, of course, have a much worse problem at this point with Ebola?

    LAURIE GARRETT: Well, Judy, of course, we all know the only way you are going to have 100 percent for America is to stop the epidemic at its source.

    And there, unfortunately, we have some very bad news. Today, for the first time in WHO’s situation — daily situation report assessing how things are moving along, they had to concede they had no data from Liberia. It’s gotten so bad and so extensive that nobody really can even come up with numbers to put forward.

    So the numbers you led with, roughly 9,000 cumulative cases and roughly approaching 5,000 deaths, everybody now admits these numbers are not even close to providing a reflection of reality, that it is almost certainly well over 22,000 cumulative cases at this point and approaching 15,000 or 16,000 deaths.

    And as this keeps going out of control, it gets harder and harder to even have a glimpse of the reality of the size and scope of the problem. So while we’re very focused here in America on two cases, let’s keep in mind safety for us is stopping something that is orders of magnitude bigger overseas.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Laurie Garrett, we thank you.

    LAURIE GARRETT: Thank you.


    The post Is the U.S. overly confident about Ebola control? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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