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

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    newswrap

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    GWEN IFILL: Worries about Ebola, and Europe, and the U.S. economy sent Wall Street to new extremes today.  Stocks plunged sharply at the open, and at one point, the Dow Jones industrial average had lost 460 points.

    But a late-day rally brought the market part of the way back.  The Dow ended with a loss of 173 points to close at 16,141; the Nasdaq fell nearly 12 points to close at 4,215; and the S&P 500 dipped 15 to 1,862.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Kurdish fighters in Syria claimed gains today in the battle for the town of Kobani.  They said they have pushed back Islamic State forces with the help of stepped-up airstrikes.  U.S. warplanes launched 18 more strikes in and around the town on the Turkish border.  That followed nearly two dozen sorties the day before.

    At the Pentagon, Rear Admiral John Kirby said Islamic State forces are taking heavy casualties.

    REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, Pentagon Press Secretary: The more they want it, the more resources they apply to it, the more targets we have to hit.  And part of what we’re trying to do is put pressure on them, and these strikes against them and their positions in and around Kobani allow us to do that.  And as I said, we know we have killed several — several hundred of them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Also today, the Pentagon announced the official name for the U.S. air campaign against Islamic State forces.  It will be called Operation Inherent Resolve.

    GWEN IFILL: Egypt has stepped up its attack on Islamist militias in neighboring Libya.  Egyptian officials today reported new airstrikes in Benghazi.  They said Libyan authorities asked for the operation.  One Libyan lawmaker said the planes are being rented from Egypt and flown by Libyan pilots.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong braced for new trouble tonight after the worst violence in more than two weeks of demonstrations.  Riot police severely beat one man last night, dragged others away, and arrested at least 45.

    John Sparks of Independent Television News reports from Hong Kong.

    JOHN SPARKS: Meetings of the Hong Kong Social Workers Association are usually relaxed affairs, but there was nothing tranquil about this gathering.

    They met in a park, then unfurled a banner, and began to paint angry slogans about the police.  “Shame,” said one.  “Repressors,” said another, as one man wiped away his tears.

    And here’s the reason why.  Their colleague Ken Tsang was carried off by police last night after a pro-democracy protest turned violent.  The officers involved, two inspectors and five constables, dumped him in an isolated corner.  Then it’s alleged that several lashed out with feet and fists.  A number of others stood guard.  They probably thought they were out of sight.

    That video went viral.  And, tonight, several hundred social workers took to the streets determined to make their views known.  Upon reaching police headquarters, they held up signs and waved their fists and shouted, “Police shame, police shame.”

    There’s a big crowd here, a boisterous crowd, and they have now surrounded the local police station in this district.  And they are clearly very angry about what has happened to Ken Tsang.  And the risk for the authorities and the police is that their outrage further fuels the protest movement.

    A battered-looking Mr. Tsang was released from custody tonight.  He’s been charged with unlawful assembly and obstructing officers.  Several hundred social workers are continuing their sit-in.  And many have filed into the station house to make complaints about police brutality.  And a movement that was losing momentum has found itself a brand-new rallying cry.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Beijing, China’s central government intensified its criticism of the protesters.  The newspaper of the ruling Communist Party said in an editorial, they are doomed to fail.

    The post News Wrap: Kurdish fighters make gains against Islamic State in Kobani appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    ebola1

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The appearance of another new Ebola case in Dallas sent fresh tremors through the health care system today.  They radiated all the way to Washington and the White House.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We are going to be monitoring carefully the health status of the other health care workers in Dallas.  And, obviously, they’re concerned.  We understand that many of them are scared.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president had planned to fly to the Northeast for campaign fund-raising, but he called off the trip to meet with top health and national security aides on Ebola.

    BARACK OBAMA: If we do these protocols properly, if we follow the steps, if we get the information out, then the likelihood of widespread Ebola outbreaks in this country are very, very low.  But I think what we have all learned over the last several weeks is that folks here in this country and a lot of non-specialized hospitals and clinics don’t have that much experience dealing with these issues.

    And so we’re going to have to push out this information as aggressively as possible.  And that’s the instructions that I have provided to my team.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The meeting came hours after a second nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas was diagnosed.  She was identified as 29-year-old Amber Vinson, a co-worker of Nina Pham, who’s also infected.  Both nurses cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who was treated at the hospital and died of Ebola last week.  It’s not yet clear how either woman caught the virus.

    DR. DANIEL VARGA, Texas Health Resources: We’re looking at every element of our personal protective equipment and infection control inside the hospitals.  We don’t have an answer for this right now, but we’re looking at every possible angle around this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: To make matters worse, the CDC announced that Vinson took a Frontier Airlines flight from Cleveland to Dallas on Monday night, when she already had a slight fever.

    The agency head, Dr. Tom Frieden, says she should have used controlled movement, not a commercial flight.

    DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: That can include a charter plane.  That can include a car, but it doesn’t include public transport.  We will from this moment forward ensure that no other individual who is being monitored for exposure undergoes travel in any way other than controlled movement.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Frieden says there’s a very low risk to other passengers on that Frontier flight, but officials are asking them to call a hot line for monitoring.  The airline says the plane was cleaned afterward, consistent with CDC standards.

    And the nurse’s relatives in Kent, Ohio, are being asked to self-monitor for 21 days.  As for Vinson herself, she’s being transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.  It’s one of four facilities nationwide with specialized isolation units to care for Ebola patients.

    Back in Dallas, emergency crews started decontaminating Vinson’s apartment before dawn, much to the concern of neighbors.

    SAM ROUNTREE, Neighbor of Amber Vinson:  Woke up about 7:00 this morning, you know, just from hearing the helicopters and all that.  I saw a text message from my roommate saying that there might be a case of Ebola down the street from where we live, so I kind of woke up, freaked out, came outside.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All of this as the Ebola death toll in West Africa rose again to almost 4,500, out of nearly 9,000 cases.

    We will return to Ebola and the growing challenge to the U.S. health care system after the news summary.

    The post Obama meets with top health, security aides on Ebola after second U.S. nurse infected appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user Lindsay Eyink

    The EPA Wednesday approved use for the use of a new herbicide for genetically modified plants. Photo by Flickr user Lindsay Eyink

    The Environmental Protection Agency today gave the green light to an herbicide designed for use with new genetically modified corn and soybeans.

    Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist Duo contains a new formulation of 2,4-D, a weed killer that’s been around for decades. Last month, the U.S. Agriculture Department approved new corn and soybeans to be used in concert with the new herbicide.

    The new products come in the face of an increase in weeds that have become resistant to glyphosate. Monsanto introduced “RoundUp Ready” seeds in the 1990s that were engineered to resist glyphosate. Farmers could spray their fields kill the weeds, but not the crops.

    But today, some 70 million acres of farmland contain weeds that have grown to resist glyphosate. The problem is worst in southern states, but has quickly crept north into the nation’s corn and soybean belts. Mike Owen, a weed expert at Iowa State University, told NewsHour he estimates 70 to 75 percent of Iowa’s soybean fields contain a resistant weed called waterhemp. Farmers have complained they lack the tools to contain the problem.

    Environmental groups and public health advocates vehemently opposed the approval of the new Dow products. They say the new products will greatly increase the use 2,4-D and point to research showing a correlation between pesticides and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease and reproductive problems. Opponents also argue the herbicide could drift and harm other crops, and could lead to a new generation of herbicide-resistant weeds. The Center for Food Safety has threatened legal action to stop the sale of the products, which could hit the market early next year.

    The EPA, which received more than 400,000 comments, announced it was placing “first time ever” restrictions on the products. They include requirements for close monitoring by Dow, buffer zones and spraying restrictions in windy conditions. EPA will also review its decision in six years instead of the usual 15 years, and has only approved the products for use in six states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin). Ten more states could gain approval pending a comment period that ends November 14.

    Dow AgroSciences today applauded the decision and estimates the new products could double earnings for the company in the next five to seven years, according to Bloomberg News.

    The post EPA gives go ahead to new weed killer for genetically modified soy and corn appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch the Maine State Chamber’s Gubernatorial Forum, Wednesday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. EST. Featuring incumbent Gov. Paul LePage (R), Rep. Mike Michaud (D), Eliot Cutler (I). Live stream courtesy WCSH 6/WLBZ 2.

    A few weeks ago, it looked like the candidates vying to inhabit Maine’s governor’s mansion would not meet face-to-face before the November elections.

    But over the course of the month, the three contenders will spar a handful of times, including at their first televised debate tonight.

    Incumbent Gov. Paul LePage (R) will face off against two challengers, Rep. Mike Michaud (D) and Eliot Cutler (I) from the Augusta Civic Center in Augusta, Me., at 7 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, Oct. 15.

    The Maine State Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring the event as part of its Annual Meeting. Pat Callaghan, an anchor with WCSH, will moderate.

    Last week, the three candidates met for two separate, non-televised forums focused on education and the economy.

    Debates are likely to play a critical role in bringing out voters, the Bangor Daily News has reported, and could make all the difference in a fiercely-fought race.

    Incumbent Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) will debate challengers Rep. Michael Michaud (D) and Eliot Culter (I) in a gubernatorial debate Wednesday

    Incumbent Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) will debate challengers Rep. Michael Michaud (D) and Eliot Cutler (I) in a gubernatorial debate Wednesday

    Polls have widely shown a close contest between LePage and Michaud, although a recent survey suggests Michaud may be pulling ahead. Some analysts believe the result will come down to Cutler’s showing. Democrats believe Cutler, who finished second to LePage in 2010, will drain votes from their candidate, but that Michaud can win if Cutler does not exceed 15 percent of the total vote.

    LePage rode into office on a wave of Tea Party support. As PBS NewsHour’s Morning Line team has reported, he is among the most vulnerable of incumbent governors, in part because of his far-right ideology.

    If Michaud wins, he would be the country’s first openly-gay governor.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Maine gubernatorial debate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch Colorado’s gubernatorial candidates debate at 9:30 p.m. EDT (7:30 p.m. MDT) on Wednesday, Oct. 15, featuring incumbent Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) and Bob Beauprez (R). Live stream courtesy KKTV 11 News.

    The two candidates for Colorado governor will face off for the fifth time this election cycle at a debate on Wednesday in Colorado Springs.

    Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper will meet Republican challenger Bob Beauprez at 9:30 p.m. EDT (7:30 p.m. MDT) on the campus of the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

    The Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Springs Business Journal and UCCS host. Don Ward, an anchor with KKTV 11 News, moderates.

    Beauprez has consistently led in the polls, but a new poll from Quinnipiac University shows that Gov. Hickenlooper has substantially narrowed that gap in the last month.

    Bob Beauprez (R), Gov. John Hickenlooper (D)

    Bob Beauprez (R) and Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) are in a heated battle for the Colorado governor’s mansion. Images courtesy Wikimedia.

    In light of these new numbers, tonight’s debate is sure to get heated. In past debates, the candidates have sparred over the usual suspects, including education and the economy, as well as issues more specific to the Rocky Mountain State: marijuana, domestic oil drilling, and a controversial statewide “personhood” ballot initiative. That measure would define life as beginning at conception, which would effectively ban abortion in the state. Both candidates oppose this proposed amendment, but Beauprez identifies as pro-life.

    Colorado is also the site of one of this season’s most competitive Senate races between incumbent Sen. Mark Udall (D) and Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

    The post WATCH LIVE: Colorado governor’s debate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Peptides are frozen with liquid nitrogen as part of research for potential new drug candidates for testing against a part of Ebola that is vulnerable to drugs, at the University of Utah on October 14, 2014 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Dr. Michael Kay says this breakthrough if proven to be effective, won't help the current outbreak of Ebola but he hopes it will be able to prevent the next one in the coming years on all the strains of Ebola not just one. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

    Peptides are frozen with liquid nitrogen on Oct. 14 as part of research on potential new drug candidates for Ebola at the University of Utah. President Obama has canceled campaign events this week to focus on Ebola response efforts. Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

    The Morning Line

    Today in the Morning Line:

    • Obama off the campaign trail
    • He was scheduled to be in seven states before Election Day
    • All about 2016? Obama’s not the only one — Rick Perry cuts short Europe trip

    Obama cancels campaign events because of Ebola crisis: The president hasn’t been on the campaign trail much. Republicans are trying to make it all about him. And the key elections are being held in mostly red states. Now, just as the president was about to make a string of stops in states more friendly to Democrats, he’s off the trail again… because of Ebola. After a second health care worker came down with Ebola, the president nixed trips to the Northeast Wednesday and Thursday in New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York. “The key thing to understand about this disease is that these protocols work,” Obama said Wednesday. “But we have to make sure that, understandably, certain local hospitals that may not have that experience are walked through that process as carefully as possible, and we’re going to make sure that this rapid response team can do that.” It was an acknowledgement that not everywhere is equipped or has the training in place to deal with an Ebola outbreak. The president is also creating Centers for Disease Control “SWAT” teams to be deployed when or if there is a new case reported.

    Trying to calm nerves: The New York Times notes: “The ramped-up response inside the White House came as a second nurse, Amber Joy Vinson, tested positive for Ebola in Dallas after helping treat a Liberian patient, raising new concerns about the protocols for containing the spread of the deadly virus and heightening fears among the public.” The president tried to allay those fears. “I shook hands with, hugged and kissed — not the doctors, but a couple of the nurses at Emory because of the valiant work that they did in treating one of the patients. They followed the protocols, they knew what they were doing, and I felt perfectly safe doing so.”

    The final campaign stretch; Rick Perry cuts short Europe trip: The AP reported Wednesday that the president was set to campaign in seven states to help out Democratic governors, all in places he won — Connecticut (canceled), Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. By the way, the president isn’t the only politician canceling events because of Ebola. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who’s in Europe, is cutting short his trip there to deal with the crisis happening in his state. Perry, who is thinking about another run for president in 2016, gave a speech in London, is traveling to Poland and was set to make a speech in Ukraine. The New York Times notes that “the trip was widely seen as a way for Mr. Perry to burnish his foreign policy credentials in the event that he decides to make another run for president in 2016.”

    Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 2002, President George W. Bush signed a congressional resolution that authorized war against Iraq. Who was the lone Republican senator to vote against the resolution? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. No one guessed Tuesday’s trivia: What did Eisenhower say, “was one of the greatest disappointments of my life, maybe my greatest”? The answer was: failing to make the baseball team at the U.S. Military Academy.

    LINE ITEMS

    • Speaker John Boehner is calling for the president to ban flights from West African countries that are currently dealing with Ebola outbreaks.

    • Wednesday night’s Florida gubernatorial debate got off to a bizarre start, when Gov. Rick Scott initially refused to debate former Gov. Charlie Crist because he was using a fan, which Scott said was not agreed upon in the debate rules.

    • Thanks to last minute donations, Republicans in key Senate races matched or outraised their opponents in the third quarter, according to FEC filings released this week.

    • Both parties are making very calculated decisions for the final three weeks about which seats are winnable and which seats to give up on.

    • The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee may have pulled out of the Kentucky race, but Hillary Clinton went all in for Alison Lundergan Grimes Wednesday, telling the crowd at a Louisville rally, “let’s put another crack in the glass ceiling.”

    • Meanwhile, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Steve Israel is frustrated that most of the money from Democratic outside groups has gone to Senate races. “I still have 20 days,” he said Wednesday, pleading for a late cash infusion.

    • In the Colorado Senate race, GOP Rep. Cory Gardner leads Sen. Mark Udall 47 percent to 41 percent among likely voters in a Quinnipiac poll released Thursday.

    • In the hotly contested North Carolina Senate race, Sen. Kay Hagan has been able to hang onto a small lead over state house Speaker Thom Tillis, and at least some of that can be attributed to her focus on education.

    • From Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District to the Connecticut gubernatorial race, Democrats around the country this cycle have capitalized on the outsourcing attack adapted from President Obama’s 2012 slings against Mitt Romney.

    • Carter may be the most famous name in Georgia’s gubernatorial face-off, but the race is much more a referendum on incumbent Nathan Deal’s administration than it is on the Carter legacy.

    • The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the state’s voter ID laws, saying they went beyond what Arkansas’ state constitution required to vote.

    • In endorsing Virginia Sen. Mark Warner for reelection, the Washington Post writes that Republican Ed Gillespie has the potential to be a “bipartisan player in the Senate,” like Warner, but his “opposition to any new taxes — read: any compromise –” disqualifies him.

    • A “network of interlocking campaign accounts,” some with no contribution limit, has funded a near permanent ad campaign in New York that has made Gov. Andrew Cuomo invincible. Cuomo, meanwhile, published his memoir this week, but unlike the crowds for a certain other New Yorker’s memoir, there were no long lines at Wednesday’s Union Square book signing.

    • 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.

    TOP TWEETS

    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:

    The post Now it’s Ebola that benches Obama from the campaign appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A view of gloves and boots used by medical staff, drying in the sun, at a center for victims of the Ebola virus in Guekedou, on April 1, 2014.  Photo by Seyllou/AFP/Getty Images

    A view of gloves and boots used by medical staff, drying in the sun, at a center for victims of the Ebola virus in Guekedou, on April 1, 2014. Photo by Seyllou/AFP/Getty Images

    NEW YORK — Individual Americans, rich or not, donated generously in response to many recent international disasters, including the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and last year’s Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. The response to the Ebola epidemic is far less robust, and experts are wondering why.

    There have been some huge gifts from American billionaires — $50 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, $11.9 million from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s foundation, and a $25 million gift this week from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. Their beneficiaries included the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.

    But the flow of smaller donations has been relatively modest.

    The American Red Cross, for example, received a $2.8 million share of Allen’s donations. But Jana Sweeny, the charity’s director of international communications, said that’s been supplemented by only about $100,000 in gifts from other donors. By comparison, the Red Cross received more than $85 million in response to Typhoon Haiyan.

    “After the typhoon, we got flooded with calls asking, ‘How do I give?’” Sweeny said. “With this (Ebola), we’re not getting those kinds of requests.”

    Why the difference? For starters, it’s been evident that national governments will need to shoulder the bulk of the financial burden in combatting Ebola, particularly as its ripple effects are increasingly felt beyond the epicenter in West Africa.

    Regine A. Webster of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, which advises nonprofits on disaster response strategies, said the epidemic blurred the lines in terms of the categories that guide some big donors.

    “This is a confusing issue for the private donor community — is it a disaster, or a health problem?” Webster said. “Institutions and individuals have been quite slow to respond.”

    Officials at InterAction, an umbrella group for U.S. relief agencies active abroad, see other intangible factors at work, including the video and photographic images emerging from West Africa. Joel Charny, InterAction’s vice president for humanitarian policy, said it was clear from the imagery out of Haiti and the Philippines that donations could help rebuild shattered homes and schools, while the images of Ebola are more frightening and less conducive to envisioning a happy ending.

    “This is a confusing issue for the private donor community — is it a disaster, or a health problem?” said Regine A. Webster of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

    “People give when they see that there’s a plausible solution,” Charny said. “They can say, ‘If I give my $50 or $200, it’s going to translate in some tangible way into relieving suffering.’ … That makes them feel good.”

    “With Ebola, there’s kind of a fear factor,” he said. “Even competent agencies are feeling somewhat overwhelmed, and the nature of the disease — being so awful — makes it hard for people to engage.”

    Gary Shaye, senior director for emergency operations with Save The Children, suggested that donors were moved to help after recent typhoons, tsunamis and earthquakes because of huge death tolls reported in the first wave of news reports. The Ebola death toll, in contrast, has been rising alarmingly but gradually over several months.

    Like other organizations fighting Ebola, Save the Children is trying to convey to donors that it urgently needs private gifts — cherished because they can be used flexibly — regardless of how much government funding is committed.

    “We need both — it’s not either/or,” said Shaye. He said Save the Children was particularly reliant on private funding to underwrite child-protection work in the three worst-hit countries — Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — where many children have been isolated and stigmatized after their parents or other relatives got Ebola.

    By last count, Shaye said, Save the Children had collected about $500,000 in private gifts earmarked for the Ebola crisis.

    “We’re proud that we raised $500,000 — but we’re talking about millions in needs that we will have,” he said.


    Another group working on the front lines in West Africa is the Los Angeles-based International Medical Corps, which runs a treatment center in Liberia and plans to open one soon in Sierra Leone.

    Rebecca Milner, a vice president of the corps, said it had been a struggle to raise awareness when Ebola-related fundraising efforts began in earnest in midsummer.

    “It took a while before people began to respond, but now there’s definitely increased concern,” she said.

    Thus far, Milner said, gifts and pledges earmarked for the Ebola response have totaled about $2.5 million — compared with about $6 million that her organization received in the first three months after the Haiti earthquake.

    Among the groups most heartened by donor response is Doctors without Borders, which is widely credited with mounting the most extensive operations of any non-governmental organization in the Ebola-stricken region.

    Thomas Kurmann, director of development for the organization’s U.S. branch, said American donors had given $7 million earmarked for the Ebola response, a portion of the roughly $40 million donated worldwide.

    “It’s very good news,” Kurmann said. “There’s been significantly increased interest in the past three months.”

    Doctors Without Borders said this week that 16 of its staff members have been infected with Ebola and nine have died.

    A smaller nonprofit, North Carolina-based SIM USA, found itself in the headlines in August and September, when two of its American health workers were infected with Ebola in Liberia. Both survived.

    SIM’s vice president for finance and operations, George Salloum, said the missionary organization — which typically gets $50 million a year in donations — received several hundred thousand dollars in gifts specifically linked to those Ebola developments.

    Even as the crisis worsens, Salloum said nonprofits active in the Ebola zone need to be thinking long-term.

    “At some point, we’ll be beyond the epidemic,” he said. “Then the challenge will be how to deal with the aftermath, when thousands of people have been killed. What about the elders, the children? There will be a lot of work for years.”

    The post Why do donations to fight Ebola remain modest? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    africanvoices

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight:  Amid terror and tragedy in Africa, another side of the continent that we see less often told through its writers.

    Jeffrey Brown is back with a report from his recent trip to Kenya.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A lovely fall day on the grounds of the Nairobi National Museum in Kenya, and the sixth annual Storymoja Festival is in full swing. Storymoja — the name means one story — is a four-day celebration of books and ideas bringing thousands of readers together with leading writers and thinkers from all over Africa.

    There are master classes, poetry performances, theater, and music.

    But one year ago, there was also this, an attack on the nearby Westgate Mall, an upscale shopping center, by gunmen from Al-Shabab, the Somali Islamist terror group. The siege lasted four days, shocking this nation.

    Poet Clifton Gachagua:

    CLIFTON GACHAGUA, Poet: I just remember that day going home and feeling, like, a complete sense of nothingness.

    JEFFREY BROWN: When it was over, 67 people were dead, among them Kofi Awoonor, a 78-year-old Ghanaian poet and diplomat known throughout the continent.

    Nigerian novelist Teju Cole remembers meeting Awoonor the day before.

    TEJU COLE, Writer: I was so moved and awed and impressed, the way one is when you meet a name, a person you only know as a name in a book, in a school syllabus, and here he is. He is real. He exists. He was very warm and he was very congenial. The day after I met him, he was shot dead by terrorists in Nairobi.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Cole says the massacre inspired writers like himself to return to the festival this year.

    TEJU COLE: Coming back here is an act of solidarity with Kenya, but also an act of solidarity with Ghana, an act of solidarity with African literature.

    JEFFREY BROWN: As Kenyans marked the anniversary of the attack with a vigil outside the mall and a memorial in a nearby park, the mood was anxious and the security tight.

    But in the tented village of Storymoja, there was a new sense of purpose, to remember Kofi Awoonor and to celebrate a new African literature that the older masters say is flourishing, even amid a growing threat from extremist groups like Al-Shabab here and Boko Haram in Nigeria.

    WOLE SOYINKA, Writer:  Just by being writers, for being noticed, by flooding the bookshops with our works and pushing their works in the face of these throwbacks, these religious throwbacks, that is already an engagement.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Eighty-year-old Nobel Prize-winning poet, playwright and novelist Wole Soyinka came of age with Kofi Awoonor in the 1960s, a decade shaped by the hard-won struggle for independence.

    Both were forced into exile for their activism. Half-a-century later, Africa still struggles with war, poverty, and disease, now the Ebola outbreak. But a new generation of writers is exploring new themes.

    WOLE SOYINKA: The younger generation feels liberated from the burden of independence, from the burden of literally creating contemporary society from scratch. They feel they can move in any direction they want.

    JEFFREY BROWN: At 27, Clifton Gachagua finds inspiration in the many contributions of his hometown, Nairobi, Kenya’s capital and largest city, a city with so much crime its nickname is “Ni-robbery,” but also a deeply religious place, with traffic and more traffic, but also quiet family Sundays in the park, and with dire poverty, but also new wealth, including foreign investment from China.

    Gachagua, an editor at a literary journal, says these contradictions have freed him from Western stereotypes of African literature.

    And so what voice do you want?

    CLIFTON GACHAGUA: I want to write in my own African voice. It’s a voice that has been influenced by so many sensibilities, some of them global, some of them local. And it’s a voice that understands that he has a million and one choices.

    JEFFREY BROWN: At the Storymoja Festival, Gachagua shared a panel with another rising literary star, 26-year-old Okwiri Oduor.

    OKWIRI ODUOR, Writer: People think of African writing think of it in a narrow sense. I know people who write romance stories or science fiction or graphic novels, we don’t think of these people, or even comics, we don’t think of those as forms of African writing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But for many young Kenyans, discovering literature of any kind remains nearly impossible, because books themselves are so hard to come by.

    Just 2 percent of Kenya’s elementary schools have libraries. We visited the Five-Star Academy, a ramshackle building in Kangemi, one of Nairobi’s largest slums, children living in great poverty, surviving on the obvious enthusiasm of its students and the energy and optimism of head teacher Charles Oduor, who grew up here and knows every family.

    CHARLES ODUOR, Five Star Academy: The parents, I know them. I walk to their houses. I see what they do, how they live. And, actually, sometimes am I shedding tears. And that’s what put me in the spirit of helping these kids.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Storymoja has stepped in to help as well with books. Today, the school has a dozen storybooks for its 250 students, and they’re thrilled.

    Do you like reading the storybooks?

    STUDENT: Yes, I do.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You do?

    STUDENT: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Why?

    STUDENT: Because the storybook are very — have helped the school and helped I, myself, to write a better composition and to speak a good English.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The Storymoja project also brings writers like Wangari Grace to schools to share the joy of reading. It’s a small but important effort in this country where a year after the terror siege, the Westgate Mall sits empty. No one has been convicted in the attacks. The trial of the four suspects is stalled indefinitely.

    And more recent smaller attacks have put Kenya on edge. Writers like Clifton Gachagua say it all remains hard to process.

    CLIFTON GACHAGUA: I find myself really, really unable to write about terror and Westgate. And maybe when I’m writing about other things, I’m writing about terror. It’s probably that I don’t know.

    JEFFREY BROWN: At Storymoja this year, remembering Westgate came in a moment of silence for the victims of the attack, including one of its own. A new collection of Kofi Awoonor’s poetry, published posthumously, is titled “Promise of Hope.”

    It’s a sentiment shared here, as well as this one from writer Teju Cole.

    TEJU COLE: Something about that encounter last year also gave me a new understanding of the urgency of literary work. You don’t know when your last day is.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A peaceful fall day, a clear urgency to read and write a new story for Kenya and Africa.

     

    The post Literary festival celebrates African writers as Kenya marks an anxious anniversary appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    thennow

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: a look back at a movement some historians believe profoundly changed American culture, politics and education.

    “NewsHour” special correspondent Spencer Michels reports has the story.

    WOMAN: We’re going to start off by playing a little speech some of you may remember.

    MARIO SAVIO, Free Speech Movement: And I will tell you something. The faculty are a bunch of employees, and we’re the raw material.

    SPENCER MICHELS: The sounds of a familiar past blared over Sproul Plaza on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley. The voice, from 1964 was that of the late Mario Savio, the most famous leader of the free speech movement, the first big on-campus student movement in the country.

    MARIO SAVIO: And you have got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, pile on the apparatus, and you have got to make it stop.

    SPENCER MICHELS: These were 20-somethings in the ’60s, civil rights activists who were protesting a university policy forbidding political activity on campus.

    Now they were back to keep the past alive and relate it to the present.

    JACK WEINBERG, Free Speech Movement: The most significant student movement of our era is taking place in Hong Kong.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    SPENCER MICHELS: Graduate student Jack Weinberg sparked the rebellion 50 years ago, when he was arrested for refusing to take down an organizing table.

    JACK WEINBERG: They made the mistake of bringing a police car onto campus. This give me five, 10 minutes to stand up, to draw a crowd, make a speech.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Weinberg spent 32 hours in the car as the crowds swelled to 6,000 and the movement was born. The university eventually eliminated the restrictions on political activity.

    JACK WEINBERG: It was a turning point and sort of helped set the stage for what became the anti-Vietnam War movement, women’s equality. Other liberation movements were all sort of set in motion by the activities in Berkeley in 1964.

    SPENCER MICHELS: For years, the university tried to downplay what happened here in 1964 and afterwards. The administration wanted no part of the 25th anniversary of the free speech movement.

    WOMAN: Fifty years ago today.

    SPENCER MICHELS: But, today, the university has embraced the free speech movement as its own. In 1997, the administration even named the steps on Sproul Plaza after Mario Savio, whom it expelled in the ’60s.

    His widow, Lynne Hollander Savio, took part in the movement as well.

    LYNNE HOLLANDER SAVIO, Widow of Mario Savio: The free speech movement had very limited goals. It was totally nonviolent. It had a very high level of intellectual discourse.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Today, students flock to the on-campus Free Speech Movement Cafe, where they essentially ignore the reminders of the past that surround them.

    In Sproul Plaza, where the movement began, a few tables, some political, some selling donuts, try to attract a share of the 35,000 students who attend Berkeley. For the most part, the students skirt the tables on their way to class and to careers. But this semester, even for them, it was hard to ignore the events of 50 years ago.

    RAMSES PRINGLE: Sure we have free speech, but no one is listening.

    SPENCER MICHELS: In dozens of classes this semester, students are studying the free speech movement, reading a biography of Savio, trying to find its relevance to the present.

    SHANNON MCDONALD: The whole ability to exercise your free speech in the Occupy movement is because of what Mario Savio and the others were doing for the free speech movement in the ’60s.

    RAMSES PRINGLE: Our main issue is the ubiquity of free speech, because it’s too much.

    WOMAN: There can be too much free speech.

    RAMSES PRINGLE: Too many voices…

    WOMAN: Too many voices makes for drowning out of any message.

    RAMSES PRINGLE: Yes, of any actual message.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Visiting Professor Robert Cohen, who wrote Savio’s biography, is teaching 80 students about the movement.

    ROBERT COHEN, Savio Biographer: You read a bunch of Mario’s speeches and also Reagan’s speech.

    SPENCER MICHELS: He brought a group of former free speech members to his class.

    JACKIE GOLDBERG, Free Speech Movement: We were called communist dupes. That was the big expression, dupes.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Cohen is convinced that Ronald Reagan, who ran for California governor in 1966, attacked the free speech movement to garner votes.

    RONALD REAGAN, Republican Gubernatorial Candidate: And it began a year ago, when the so-called free speech advocates, who in truth have no appreciation for freedom, were allowed to assault and humiliate the symbol of law and order of policemen on the campus. And that was the moment when the ringleaders should have been taken by the scruff of the neck and thrown out of the university once and for all.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    ROBERT COHEN: The electorate in California was so hostile to the student movement. People saw this as like disorder and chaotic and disobedience, and the administration is being too permissive.

    SPENCER MICHELS: A few of those who took part in demonstrations years ago have turned their backs on the movement or what it became and are speaking out on the anniversary.

    In New York, conservative writer Sol Stern, who was a radical in ’64, wrote articles this fall calling the FSM the un-free speech movement.

    SOL STERN, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research: It was free speech for our views, but not free speech for your views. The movement should have been over, but it just branched out into all sorts of other radical objectives.

    SPENCER MICHELS: John Searle, as a graduate student, helped lead protesters in a march through the campus. Today, at 82, he is a well-known philosophy professor at Berkeley.

    JOHN SEARLE, University of California, Berkeley: We created a model for what people thought they should do on a university, and that’s a big mistake, to think the way to change, the way to run the university is through mass demonstrations.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Large-scale demonstrations have mostly faded on this campus and elsewhere. Instead, some students use a different kind of activism.

    Caitlin Quinn is vice president of the Associated Students.

    CAITLIN QUINN, Vice President, Associated Students of the University of California: I think the way that we have perceived campus activism has definitely changed. It takes on a lot of different forms now. There are lots more social media campaigns. There are a lot more online petitions and kind of more tech-driven social activism.

    SPENCER MICHELS: Anthropology graduate students analyze why today’s students aren’t as active as their predecessors, even if they want to be.

    ANTHONY WRIGHT, Graduate Student: Many students have a lot to lose, and they don’t have much of a buffer to fall back on. They are taking out a huge amount of loans just to stay in college. And so in a sense, they have to be careerists. And that stifles freedom of speech.

    SPENCER MICHELS: The free speech movement anniversary drew just a few hundred onlookers. But word of the old movement’s resurrection and new respectability doesn’t obscure the fact that what came down here in ’64 remains a point of contention.

    The post Hearing echoes of Berkeley in student activism today appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by National Guard

    National Guard troops, seen here responding to Colorado flooding in Sept. 2013, have been authorized to be used, if needed, for Ebola response. Photo by National Guard

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Thursday authorized the Pentagon to call up reserve and National Guard troops if they are needed to assist in the U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

    Obama signed an executive order that allows the government to call up more forces and for longer periods of time than currently authorized. There is no actual call-up at this point.

    The U.S. has committed to send up to 4,000 military personnel to West Africa to provide logistics and humanitarian assistance and help build treatment units to confront the rapidly spreading and deadly virus.

    Obama also notified top congressional officials of his move.

    Nearly 4,500 people have died from the Ebola outbreak, most of them in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The White House has said the troops will not be providing direct health care aid.

    Separately, Obama placed phone calls to House Speaker John Boehner, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to discuss the administration’s response to the disease.

    He also called Ohio Gov. John Kasich to discuss steps the administration took after a Dallas nurse traveled to the state over the weekend before being diagnosed with Ebola, a Kasich spokesman said. The nurse was one of two health care workers who became ill after treating a Liberian man with Ebola at a Dallas hospital.

    Obama was meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Thomas Frieden and top White House officials to follow up on the government’s actions. He also was consulting with heads of state about the Ebola outbreak.

    Obama canceled a Thursday campaign trip to stay at the White House and focus on Ebola. It’s the second day in a row he nixed a planned trip because of the outbreak.

    White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama will also hold a conference call with health care workers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    The post Obama authorizes use of National Guard, if needed, for Ebola response appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    invisiblefront

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    GWEN IFILL: Now: to one military family’s painful battle with death and depression.

    Jeffrey Brown has more.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Two brothers dead within months of one another, one in combat in Iraq, the other a suicide. Jeff and Kevin were the children of Carol and then Colonel, now retired Major General Mark Graham.

    And the story of this family and a larger story of pain and trauma within the U.S. military is told in the new book “The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War.”

    Author Yochi Dreazen is a journalist who covered the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for The Wall Street Journal and is now managing editor of “Foreign Policy” magazine.

    And welcome to you.

    YOCHI DREAZEN, Author, “The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War”:  Thank you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It is the different responses to these two deaths that is kind of the starting point and a way into the larger story you tell, right?

    YOCHI DREAZEN: That’s right.

    When Jeff Graham died, he was treated as a hero. The Kentucky state legislature had the flags at half-mast. They passed a resolution in his honor. Thousands of people lined the road to the cemetery, full military funeral with a folded flag.

    Kevin, his younger brother, who had killed himself, there was nothing. The family itself was divided about whether it should take place in a church. They thought this was a sin. He took his own life. To Mark and Carol, it was as if Kevin’s life and death never happened. The way they were seen by the public, people just pretended Kevin never existed, whereas, for Jeff, he was a hero given every possible honor.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The hero, we know how to deal with, the suicide, something altogether different.

    YOCHI DREAZEN: That’s right. We don’t know whether to think of them as weak, as wounded, as flawed, as sick. We as a society don’t know that. We as a military don’t know that either.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Kevin was in ROTC at that point, right, and he had gotten off his antidepressant drugs because he thought he would be seen as being weak if he was on them.

    YOCHI DREAZEN: That’s exactly right.

    He was about to be commissioned into the Army. His feeling was, if they tested him and found that he was taking Prozac, which he was then taking, they would kick him out right then and there and the career would end before it started.

    His father by that point had been in the military for 20 years. They saw that kind of service as the highest possible service you could do, and to them the Army was all. And he thought, I won’t make it to the Army. They will kick me out. I will embarrass my family. My career will end. I can’t take the risk.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, the parents fall into a spiral of grief, of course, with the two sons — losing two sons in a short time, but then they realize that they have to do something positive or something has to come out of this.

    And the father is in a position to do something, although, as a military man, he’s been part of this culture, right?

    YOCHI DREAZEN: That’s right.

    He’s been part of this macho culture that says if you are feeling depressed, if you come back from war different, you’re flawed. You’re not worthy of the wearing the uniform.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It has to be you, right, the individual, not — you can’t be a military man and…

    YOCHI DREAZEN: Exactly. And it’s not us as a military.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Right.

    YOCHI DREAZEN: It’s you, the individual soldier, who is flawed. We’re not doing anything wrong.

    And for a long time, the suicide rate in the military was lower than the civilian world. And the military would say, see? Sure, we have suicides, but you civilians have more of them. 2009, which is when I first met the Grahams, was the year that that passed. That was the first year more soldiers by percentage killed themselves than civilians did.

    By this point, Mark was at command of Fort Carson in Colorado. At that point, they had one of the highest suicide rates in the country. By the time he left, it had one of the lowest. And what he did there in many ways is kind of at the heart of this book.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, before I get — ask you what he did, why is this — this is something we have covered a lot on the program, I know you have covered in your years as a journalist before the book.

    Why this sort of epidemic of suicide? Do we know why it’s happened, what — even within this culture in which it is so stigmatized, the idea of being depressed or weak, if you use that word?

    YOCHI DREAZEN: We think about post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, as it’s — as the acronym is, that kind of shock has existed since humans went to war, the feeling that if you commit violence, you’re changed. If you see violence, you’re changed.

    Now you have people serving two, three, four, five tours, where the people that they’re killing are often dressed like civilians. That takes a toll. When you’re living in Iraq and all you hear are explosions one after the other after the other, that takes a toll.

    The other difference is an actual physical injury, traumatic brain injury, TBI. The two are linked. PTSD and TBI are very closely linked. And they’re linked to suicide. TBI comes from exposures to explosions, from concussions. This war is marked by those kind of explosions. It’s marked by trauma to the head and brain.

    So, you have the combination of multiple tours, the combination of injuries to the head leading to suicide.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, you said Mark Graham, the father, as you tell in the story, he was able to take some action at Fort Carson. What specifically did he do and what kind of impact do you think it has had on the military?

    YOCHI DREAZEN: The first thing he did will seem like an obvious thing, but it wasn’t. He told his own story.

    And when he talked about his sons…

    JEFFREY BROWN: Let me stop you there, because it does seem obvious. But why is it not obvious?

    YOCHI DREAZEN: Because it’s so rare, as you know, in the military to see generals show emotion. You just don’t see it.

    And when he first got to Fort Carson, he called in the officers beneath him, talked about his two sons, and started to cry. And some of the people I spoke to for the book said they’d never seen that before. They’d never seen a general cry.

    And generals were always afraid of being seen themselves as weak or as soft. And when Mark Graham spoke about his sons, he was a father first and a general second. And they hadn’t seen that. And so that was a bit of a cultural change. In terms of how the base operated, the single most important change he made was picking a doctor assigned to a specific unit.

    So, when that unit deployed, they would know the doctor. When they came back, they would know the doctor. The issue there was oftentimes a soldier would come back, sit across from a civilian psychologist and feel, how could this man possibly understand what I have been through? How can I possibly open up to him? How I can talk to him?

    This was a way around that. This was a way to build trust.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Let me ask you finally about — part of this is personal for you. You experienced PTSD yourself.

    YOCHI DREAZEN: When I came back, I would have flashes of anger. If I was asleep and I heard a noise, I would wake up immediately and not be able to fall asleep. I had very vivid nightmares.

    And at the time, I thought, I’m a tough guy, I’m a war correspondent, I will just deal with this on my own. It took a while, until a military friend said to me one day, you have PTSD, not as a question. And I started take counseling and ultimately taking medication to help with it.

    But the kind of issues Mark has wrestled with, the kinds of issues where in a military culture people are afraid to say, I need help, I’m not strong enough to deal with this on my own, I faced that. I went through it. And if I hadn’t had gotten the help, my life would have been very, very different. And I’m grateful that I did.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The new book is “The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War.”

    Yochi Dreazen, thank you so much.

    YOCHI DREAZEN: Thank you.

     

    The post In ‘Invisible Front,’ military family’s losses propel battle against mental health stigma appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    risingabove

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. Department of Education recently released data that showed there were more than 1.2 million homeless students enrolled in public schools last year, the highest ever.

    As the nation’s educators continue to struggle with the problem, the “NewsHour”‘s April Brown tells the story of one Washington, D.C., teenager who defied the odds and may well inspire other kids in similar situations.

    This story is another in our American Graduate series funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    APRIL BROWN: In many ways, Rashema Melson is a typical Georgetown University freshman. She graduated top of her high school class last year and now makes it a point to come early every day, so she can sit in the front row.

    But Rashema’s path toward success has not been an easy one. Her father was killed when she was 7 months old, and she spent much of the last three years in a Washington, D.C., homeless shelter with her mother and two brothers, facts that she kept mostly secret while in high school.

    RASHEMA MELSON, Georgetown University: It was nobody’s business. And if it was, I didn’t want to be pitied, I didn’t want to be looked down upon as if I couldn’t do it, because I’m a strong person.

    CHISA PERRY, Anacostia High School: She was always smiling, very bubbly, very friendly, always the good morning or the hello.

    APRIL BROWN: One person she eventually told was Anacostia High School teacher Chisa Perry, who was Rashema’s track and field coach. But for a long time, Perry didn’t know. And she says, regardless of what was happening at home, Rashema always remained upbeat and focused at school.

    CHISA PERRY: The best way to describe Rashema would be determined. Anything she sets her mind to do, she will do it.

    WOMAN: Rashema Melson!

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    APRIL BROWN: That grit and determination was on display last June, as the 18-year-old gave her valedictorian speech at Anacostia High, a school that sits in one of the poorest sections of Washington.

    RASHEMA MELSON: Life is not fair, but despite that harsh reality, you must keep striving for success.

    APRIL BROWN: Rashema began taking classes at Georgetown this summer after receiving a full scholarship to the nation’s oldest Catholic university. She moved out of the homeless shelter and into student housing.

    The homeless shelter where Rashema lived during the last few years of high school is only a few miles away from Georgetown, but the atmosphere could hardly be more different. That’s why she spent five weeks of her vacation here in a program designed to help ease the transition.

    DENNIS WILLIAMS, Georgetown University: Schools like Georgetown, elite schools, sometimes, we need to remind ourselves that terrific students can be found anywhere, and to give ourselves the mechanism, the means to find them, bring them in and make sure that they are OK. And that’s what this program does.

    APRIL BROWN: Dennis Williams, the associate dean of students at Georgetown, runs the summer bridge program that Rashema took part in. Known as Community Scholars, the program offers students tools to help them make it all the way to graduation.

    These types of programs have become relatively common in universities across the country, particularly for students like Rashema, first-generation college-goers. Rashema has thus far been adjusting well academically. But Williams warns it can take a bit longer to adjust to some things outside the classroom.

    DENNIS WILLIAMS: What’s unusual in Rashema’s case is that she is local, and so that she is from a part of the city that most Georgetown students know very little about, and that the part of the city where her high school is, most of the people in that neighborhood know very little bit about Georgetown. So it really is two separate worlds within the same — within the same city.

    APRIL BROWN: Rashema is taking the transition in stride, but is skeptical of one label that many have already given her: role model.

    RASHEMA MELSON: When people say I’m a role model, I tend to — I don’t mind. I don’t mind. I just don’t want anyone to put pressure on me, like, you have to be this way because people are watching you.

    People are always going to watch me, but I’m always going to be myself, because if I’m not myself, you know, then who am I?

    APRIL BROWN: Despite the fact her story has spread across the nation, Rashema says she hasn’t been paying much attention to the media coverage.

    RASHEMA MELSON: What is funny is, I don’t even know where these articles are.

    APRIL BROWN: For now, Rashema is focused on becoming a forensic pathologist and moving her family out of the shelter for good.

    RASHEMA MELSON: I still see that picture in my head of me having my own house, and having my degrees on the wall, having a job to go to from 9:00 to 5:00, having a consistent paycheck, paying my own bills, and just being — being the woman that I always — I always wanted to be.

    APRIL BROWN: Rashema says she has also started a scholarship foundation that she hopes will one day help students like her.

     

    This story and PBS NewsHour education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    The post ‘Terrific students can be found anywhere’: One scholar’s path from homeless shelter to halls of Georgetown appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    gamergate

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    GWEN IFILL: Next: GamerGate. It’s a story about sexism in the world of video gaming, with all the elements of a Hollywood script, romance gone bad, alleged corruption and, ultimately, death threats against women who speak out.

    Hari Sreenivasan has the story.

    A warning:  Some of the images may be disturbing to some viewers.

    ANITA SARKEESIAN, Feminist Frequency: These women and their bodies are sacrificed in the name of infusing mature themes into gaming stories. But there is nothing mature about flippantly evoking shades of female trauma.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In her video blog series, feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian has condemned stereotypes and abuse of women in video games, such as “Dragon Age: Origins.”

    ACTRESS: Let go of me. Stop, please.

    ACTOR: It’s a party isn’t it? Grab a whore and have a good time.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In other games, depictions of women are simply too graphic to show on television.

    ANITA SARKEESIAN: It ends up sensationalizing an issue which is painfully familiar to a large percentage of women on this planet, while also normalizing and trivializing their experiences.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Sarkeesian, in turn, has drawn heavy criticism from some gamers, and even threats of violence that led her to cancel a speech at Utah State University.

    But Sarkeesian’s case is only one part of a broader online assault on women in the gaming industry in recent months. It goes back to August, when an ex-boyfriend of video game designer Zoe Quinn posted an online blog. In it, he accused Quinn of sleeping with a reporter to get a positive review on one of her games.

    That sparked a campaign that came to be dubbed GamerGate, highlighting perceived corruption among video game journalists. From there, GamerGate has grown to include outright harassment of women like Quinn and Sarkeesian who work in or critique the industry. Threats on Twitter even forced Brianna Wu, another game developer, to leave her Boston area home after her address was made public.

    Now another campaign, Stop GamerGate 2014, is trending. It calls for the harassment to end.

    And Brianna Wu joins me now to talk about these issues and the problem of harassment. She is owner and head of development at Giant Spacekat, one of the country’s few female-owned video game studios.

    Now, Brianna, our audience is not nearly as connected to gaming as you are, and it seems that GamerGate has different definitions for different people. How do you define it?

    BRIANNA WU, Giant Spacekat: I think, very generally speaking, GamerGate is a war on women in this industry.

    You know, ostensibly, it’s about journalistic corruption. But if you actually look at who’s being targeted, it is almost all women. They have gone after my friends in the industry one by one. They took out Samantha Allen by the exact same playbook. They took Zoe Quinn down by it.

    They have gone after my friend Jenn Frank, Mattie Brice. They have gone after Leigh Alexander. They have gone after Anita Sarkeesian. And now they’re after me.

    So it’s really reached a point where women — yes.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Tell us about this playbook. What is the playbook and what have you been living through in the past few days?

    BRIANNA WU: It’s — it’s literally been the worst thing I have ever experienced in my life.

    The idea is to basically terrorize women in the game industry. So it doesn’t just stop with rape threats or death threats, which, sadly, being a woman in this field, I have been dealing with for a while now. You know, it’s literally escalated to the point that I have had to get the FBI involved. I have had to get local police involved to hunt these people down.

    They have targeted my financial assets of my company. You know, they have set up fake accounts to impersonate me online, with me saying just horrible, horribly discriminating things against people in an effort to destroy my professional reputation.

    You know, they have actually set up burner accounts with fake, you know, stories about my life and have sent them to prominent journalists, who, frankly, just slander me behind the scenes.

    So it is every single tactic they can use to terrorize women in this field and get us to be quiet.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, is this a possibly maturing moment for the industry? I mean, what had been tolerated as puerile and juvenile behavior by a group of young boys playing on the Internet or as artistic expression, I mean, is this a moment where people start to rethink the impact?

    BRIANNA WU: I deeply hope so.

    You know, one of the most frustrating things about this entire ordeal is, the video game industry is overwhelmingly male. The developers are overwhelmingly male and game journalists are overwhelmingly male.

    And what you have had is the overwhelmingly male games press has sat completely silent throughout much of this. So, the women I know in this field have been suffering because they just don’t want to get involved. But it’s really reached a boiling point this week.

    And you saw Giant Bomb and Patrick Klepek finally come forward. I think people are finally starting to take notice that this isn’t something we can just ignore any longer.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: One group that did take notice was Intel. Earlier in — they just announced that they are withdrawing their support for a particular gaming site.

    Does that help or hurt getting visibility to this and having economic consequences occur?

    BRIANNA WU: It devastates us.

    They were going after my friend Leigh Alexander’s job with that. So what you have are these people that terrorize anyone that speaks out about what’s happening to women, just like Leigh did. And they tried to get her fired. They went after her employer’s advertisers. It’s a literal mob that will stop and do anything in their power to silence women in this field.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Brianna Wu, thanks so much for your time.

    BRIANNA WU: Yes.

    The post #Gamergate leads to death threats against women in the gaming industry appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    hbounplugged

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: If you have been looking for a reason to cut the cord to your traditional cable TV, HBO may have just provided it.

    The longtime cable giant, producer of shows like “Game of Thrones” and “True Detective,” fired a big shot across the media landscape yesterday when it announced it will offer a stand-alone online streaming service next year.

    Then today, CBS, home to audience favorites like “The Good Wife,” announced a smaller, but similar move of its own. For about $6 a month, viewers will be able to stream CBS stations live in 14 markets. Live sports, however, are not included.

    It’s an important moment for the industry.

    Sharon Waxman is the editor in chief of TheWrap.Com. It’s a news website that covers the business.

    Sharon Waxman, welcome.

    So, how important a moment is this?

    SHARON WAXMAN, TheWrap.Com: I think it’s one of those pivotal moments where you have HBO, CBS both announcing streaming services.

    And there was another streaming service announced on Sunday. Starz, a smaller premium cable network, announced an international streaming last Sunday, which kind of slipped under the radar, and all of this at the same time as Netflix announced their earnings this is week, which is, of course, the biggest streaming service out there, and their growth has kind of slowed, which is to be expected because they have become this massive company, and their shares took a big hit.

    So, clearly, there’s going to be important new entrants, important new entrants to the streaming marketplace, and they all seem to be these legacy content creators.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, why are they doing this and why right now?

    SHARON WAXMAN: Well, I think they have resisted coming to the digital revolution and adopting — I mean, to back up, look, any one of these companies, the big media companies probably should have bought Netflix five or six or seven years ago, when that company was able to be bought. And none of them chose to do that.

    And that was a discussion that was had within Hollywood at that time. And there was a certain presumption that things are going to change a bit, but they’re not going to fundamentally alter the business models that drive the way people consume entertainment.

    Well, guess what? Netflix showed, with its explosive growth over the past three years, that, in fact, people are changing the way they consume entertainment. And particularly young people, millennials, right, kids in their 20s, are not subscribing to cable. They are not cord-cutters. They are cord-nevers.

    (LAUGHTER)

    SHARON WAXMAN: They don’t ever — if they use HBO Go now, they’re probably using their parents’ subscription number to access it. So, HBO is, I think very smartly, looking at that market, knowing it’s going to grow, and saying, we need to make those people our customers somehow.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, sports, as we said, live sports not included, but is this the beginning of the end of cable television?

    SHARON WAXMAN: I think — well, you know, we have announced the beginning of the end of a lot of things here in media, and it’s turned out to be premature in almost every case.

    What we’re seeing is a variety, is a fragmentation, is more diversity of ways to consume content on the media landscape. So I don’t think it’s the end of cable by any means, which is a massive part of the country, and most people are still going to be having cable subscriptions for a really long time.

    But I do think that it’s a significant moment, where we’re starting — where you have the main content-creating companies CBS, HBO, which is part of Time Warner — Showtime is also looking at this, which, of course, is owned by the CBS, Starz — are starting to understand that they have to start monetizing their content directly through digital, and not just selling is through via Netflix or even through Hulu, which is — of which FOX and NBC are owners. But it’s a streaming company that again is an intermediary, and not a direct — not them directly providing their content to consumers.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, just quickly, less than 30 seconds, what do you think the main changes are going to be for consumers?

    SHARON WAXMAN: I think, again, it’s going to be a diversity of choices. They’re going to have a broad array of choices.

    They can decide whether they’re going to go a la carte on cable, whether they’re going to get a great big cable package, or they’re just going to have their laptop and a device that is going to push it to their big screen TV, because there’s lots of different ways to do that now, and just choose individually what their entertainment choices are going to be.

    And, increasingly, I think the a la carte way is where people are going to be getting their entertainment, and not just embracing a single model, a single cable package. That’s where I think we’re going.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Sharon Waxman with TheWrap.com, we thank you.

    SHARON WAXMAN: Thanks, Judy.

    The post HBO offers streaming service as viewers shift to TV à la carte appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    US-HEALTH-EBOLA-PROTEST

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    GWEN IFILL: Late today, the Centers for Disease Control reported that it is expanding its Ebola investigation to include passengers on a second flight flown by one of the nurses since diagnosed with the disease. And the airline is notifying passengers who may have flown elsewhere on the same jet.

    As new details emerge, and as today’s congressional hearing showed, domestic concerns over Ebola are skyrocketing. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll finds 41 percent are very concerned about the outbreak, 36 percent are somewhat concerned. And 45 percent say they are avoiding international travel.

    A separate poll by the Harvard School of Public Health found that more than half of adults are concerned that there will be a large outbreak of Ebola inside the U.S. within the next 12 months.

    It’s a good time to ask, how worried should we be? And how should we assess any level of risk?

    We turn to Dr. Eden Wells, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan. And Valerie Reyna, a Professor of Human Development and Psychology at Cornell University.

    Welcome to you both.

    Dr. Wells, when do we begin to think that this is a legitimate fear and when is it paranoia?

    DR. EDEN WELLS, University of Michigan: Well, that’s an excellent question, but one that’s difficult to answer, in that I think anybody who has a concern has — is justified to have that concern.

    And, therefore, we need to address that with good information. Paranoia is probably too strong of a term. I would say that the concerns people have after all of the news cycles that we have been seeing in the last week or so, they’re coming from my own family, my colleagues, my friends, and, in all, at the end of the day, we can say today that this virus has not changed.

    The risk is still low for those of us that are not involved in health care, like these two heroic nurses that were really intimately involved with the care of Mr. Duncan, and, unfortunately, became infected.

    GWEN IFILL: Let me follow up with you on one more piece of that, which is, I wonder to what degree the language matters. When are these isolated cases and when is it an outbreak?

    DR. EDEN WELLS: That’s a very good question.

    I would say that we right now have two cases that were involved in the direct health care of this patient. We do know that this virus transmits from direct bodily contact with the person or the fluids of that person. An outbreak to — in my mind, would really mean that if the virus begins to occur beyond what we say is the secondary transmission that we’re seeing right now, the fact that these nurses became ill, that if we began to see cases that were occurring in other people in the community, that in my mind would be an outbreak.

    Again, that risk for an outbreak is really very low. This has not changed in what we have been saying about this virus in the past six months.

    GWEN IFILL: Valerie Reyna, how do people manage this risk, especially emotionally, psychologically, make the difference between worrying about the present and worrying about the future?

    VALERIE REYNA, Cornell University: Well, there’s a great deal of psychological science on this topic.

    And it’s very understandable that people would be concerned about the risk from an Ebola outbreak. People think really in terms of — in two ways about risk. They think about possibility vs. impossibility, and, of course, we have gone over that barrier psychologically. People were initially told that transmission was essentially impossible.

    They were told that in good faith. And then it happened, and it happened twice. So now, psychologically, people have shifted from, this is an impossibility to, not only is it a possibility, but it’s one that’s increasing. And the human mind is keenly attuned to change, to increases in risk, as well as changes from impossible to possible.

    GWEN IFILL: So, is part of the problem as you see it that by saying, for instance, in trying to calm the public last week, Dr. Frieden saying or Dr. Fauci saying this will be stopped in its tracks in the United States? Was that part of the problem in changing expectations?

    VALERIE REYNA: Well, I’m not sure that that’s part of the problem. I think it’s good to reassure people that there are measures in place.

    I think that the human psychological response to risk is — has multiple components. It has an emotional component to it, threat and alarm. That threat and alarm can make sense sometimes. And that’s where risk communication comes in. Whenever we have an epidemic like this or a natural disaster or an incident that has to do with terrorism, risk communication becomes a key between officials and the public.

    It’s often something we take for granted. It’s a kind of invisible force, but it’s the kind of thing that connects the safety of people to the resources that we can bring to bear.

    GWEN IFILL: Dr. Wells, how does the risk factor for Ebola, as you understand it, compare to risk factors for other diseases which have caused this kind of great widespread fear with — I think of AIDS in the early days or SARS or avian flu.

    DR. EDEN WELLS: Oh, yes.

    First off, I would like to say that I absolutely agree with our other speaker here this evening. And it’s very well said about risk communication. And we have to address the fact that this is a disease. As Ebola has been known since the mid-1970s, it’s a scary-sounding disease. It has a known high fatality rate.

    It is rather gruesome in how people suffer from it, especially when they become greatly ill, if not die. And this has been in our collective consciousness, if you will, since it was first discovered in 1976.

    But as it compares in terms of risk, even though this is difficult to communicate because, right now, everybody is worried because of what we’re hearing about the recent news, but, as far as risk, when I think about the diseases that we have seen transpire, HIV, avian influenza, if we think of fast scares, you know, polio, the Spanish flu, this is less transmissible, thank goodness, than many of the diseases that we speak about.

    It does require the direct contact with an infected person or their body fluids. So the risk is less than the avian flu, the SARS that we have dealt with in the past. But, again, we have to be able to relay that risk in a way that people can feel more comforted, given that this is a concern, and the recent changes have increased the concern, as my fellow speaker said.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, Valerie Reyna, briefly, how do you calm the fear without underestimating the risk?

    VALERIE REYNA: Yes, I think that that’s very important.

    I think that we really have to be open and transparent. We have to explain to people the nature of the transmission. Now, this is a very difficult challenge. You have technical information that has to get out to a wide range of people with different kinds of knowledge backgrounds. But that’s the challenge of risk communication.

    There is science available that can facilitate that. People have to know how this happened, why it happened. If there’s uncertainty, and we don’t know certain causes, we have to be open about that. I think people can be reassured when they’re given information. There’s elements in here, too, that have to do with trust in government. And I think trust is fostered to the degree that we’re candid with people.

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    Valerie Reyna of Cornell University, and Dr. Ellen — Eden Wells of the University of Michigan, thank you both very much.

    VALERIE REYNA: Thank you, Gwen.

    The post Separating legitimate Ebola concerns from unnecessary fear appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrap

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The head of the Transportation Security Administration, John Pistole, announced his retirement today, effective at the end of the year.  Pistole has led the agency since 2010.  He’s drawn fire for the use of full-body scans and pat-downs, but the trusted traveler program has won praise for speeding low-risk passengers through screening.

    GWEN IFILL: On Wall Street, stocks avoided a big slide, as oil prices rose and unemployment claims hit a 14-year low.  The Dow Jones industrial average lost 24 points to close at 16,117; the Nasdaq rose two points to close at 4,217; and the S&P 500 gained a fraction to 1,862.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Syria, fresh reports from the besieged town of Kobani said Kurdish fighters have gone on the offensive against Islamic State militants.  The turnabout came as coalition planes carried out a new wave of airstrikes in the town near the Turkish border.  Kurdish officials also appealed again for bigger and better arms.

    IDRIS NASSAN, Deputy Minister, Kurdish Administration, Kobani: Some weaponry which are effective, more effective against the heavy weaponry of ISIS, tanks, cannons, mortars, armored vehicles, we need this weaponry.  Just we have simple weaponry like Dushkas, like automatic guns.  And they are not enough to destroy ISIS on the ground.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Syrian activists said today that nearly 700 people have died in the battle for Kobani.

    GWEN IFILL: A wave of attacks in Baghdad has claimed at least 50 more lives, as Islamic State forces seek to sow panic in the Iraqi capital.  Bombings and mortar fire rocked mostly Shiite districts.  The worst attack involved a double car bombing that targeted Iraqi soldiers and Shiite militiamen.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hong Kong’s leader, Leung Chun-ying, appealed again today for protesters to end sit-ins that have paralyzed parts of the city.  He offered to hold talks next week, but demonstrators stayed in the streets through the night.  They are demanding free elections, but the mainland Chinese government insists that it will screen all candidates.

    GWEN IFILL: Search teams in Nepal have found more bodies after a series of blizzards and avalanches in the Himalayas.  The death toll rose to at least 27 today.  Rescuers also found 64 more foreign hikers who’d been stranded.  But about 70 people are still missing some 100 miles northwest of Katmandu.  JUDY WOODRUFF: Hurricane Gonzalo barreled closer to Bermuda today with winds of 145 miles an hour, forcing the island’s international airport to close.  Satellite imagery captured the storm, slowly plowing north in the Atlantic.  Forecasters said the eye could pass within 30 miles of Bermuda tomorrow night.

    GWEN IFILL: On the West Coast, 10 million Californians took part in a major annual drill to prepare for the next big earthquake.  The Great ShakeOut instructs people how to drop, cover and hold.  Emergency responders had their own full-scale exercise.

    GWEN IFILL: The director of the FBI, James Comey, stepped up his warnings today about data encryption in smartphones.  In a Washington speech, he said tech companies’ new efforts to protect user information will impede criminal investigations.  He argued that murder cases may be stalled and suspects could go free.

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    ebola1

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    GWEN IFILL: Major federal health agencies were called to account today for mistakes in handling Ebola.  Lawmakers from both parties fired off criticism and questions at a hearing in Washington.

    REP. FRED UPTON, (R) Michigan:  People’s lives are at stake, and the response so far has been unacceptable.

    GWEN IFILL: Growing anxiety over the prospect of Ebola’s spread in the U.S. brought a House committee back from campaigning and put the nation’s top health officials on the firing line.

    Michigan Republican Fred Upton:

    REP. FRED UPTON: We’re going to hold your feet to the fire on getting the job done and getting it done right.  Both the U.S. and the global health community have so far failed to put in place an effective strategy fast enough to combat the current outbreak.

    GWEN IFILL: The complaints were bipartisan.

    Democrat Diana DeGette of Colorado:

    REP. DIANA DEGETTE, (D) Colorado: It would be an understatement to say that the response to the first U.S.-based patient with Ebola has been mismanaged, causing risk to scores of additional people.

    GWEN IFILL: The hearing came amid suggestions from House Speaker John Boehner and others that limits be placed on travelers coming into the country from West Africa, where thousands have died of Ebola.

    Republican Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania chaired the hearing.

    REP. TIM MURPHY, (R) Pennsylvania: This is the question the American public is asking.  Why are we still allowing folks to come over here and why, once they’re over here, is there no quarantine?

    GWEN IFILL: But the head of the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Tom Frieden, argued a travel ban could backfire.

    DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:  If people were to come in by, for example, going over land to another country and then entering without our knowing that they were from these three countries, we would actually lose that information.

    GWEN IFILL: At the White House, a spokesman said banning travel is not under consideration.

    But passenger screenings have started at major international airports in New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Newark, New Jersey, and Washington.  The process includes taking temperatures and handing out questionnaires to travelers from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

    At Washington Dulles Airport, some passengers felt reassured, some less so.

    ERIC MORENO: Any screening in or out, I’m all for, whether it’s security for terrorism or whether it’s for health issues.  Obviously, I don’t want anything brought in.

    RAMYA SINGH: I don’t know how effective they will be, quite honestly, because you know where you’re coming from, but you don’t know where you have been before.

    GWEN IFILL: In Dallas, questions continued about how two nurses got infected after treating a Liberian man, Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

    A top hospital official appeared at today’s congressional hearing via video.

    DR. DANIEL VARGA, Chief Clinical Officer, Texas Health Resources: Unfortunately, in our initial treatment of Mr. Duncan, despite our best intentions and a highly skilled medical team, we made mistakes.  We didn’t correctly diagnose his symptoms as those of Ebola.  And we are deeply sorry.

    GWEN IFILL: One of the nurses, 29-year-old Amber Vinson, has now been moved to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.  The other nurse, Nina Pham, is being sent to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

    Later, President Obama called key congressional leaders, met with top administration officials, and authorized a call-up of the National Guard and Reserve troops if needed to help deal with the outbreak in West Africa.  We will have more on the response to the Ebola threat after the news summary.

     

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    Former Florida Gov.  Charlie Crist waits next to an empty podium for Gov. Rick Scott who delayed his entry onto stage for a televised debate due to a dispute over an electric fan. Scott and Crist face off in the governors race. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist waits next to an empty podium for Gov. Rick Scott who delayed his entry onto stage for a televised debate Wednesday due to a dispute over an electric fan. Scott and Crist face off in the Florida governors race. Candidates are entering the final stretch, and it’s packed with debates. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    The Morning Line

    Today in the Morning Line:

    • Obama opens door to Ebola czar
    • In for a wild last two weeks of the campaign
    • Stay cool, man, especially when you’re in Florida

    Here comes the czar? Ebola, final-stretch campaigning, and “fan-gate.” It was all part of another wild week in politics. President Obama on Thursday opened the door to appointing an “Ebola Czar,” as “anxiety grew over the air travel of an infected nurse,” the New York Times notes. “Schools closed in two states, hospitals and airlines kept employees home from work, and Americans debated how much they should worry about a disease that has captured national attention but has so far infected only three people here.” The president also said he has no “philosophical objection” to shutting down flights to and from West Africa, but he isn’t calling for that now. Check out the Times photo (on the story linked above) of the protester in front of the White House in full Hazmat suit, calling on the president to “Stop the Flights.” #stoptheflights has become a thing now as well on Twitter. A Reuters/Ipsos poll showed 80 percent of Americans concerned about the Ebola outbreak, so much that almost half (45 percent) are avoiding international air travel and people who had recently traveled to Africa (47 percent), as well as washing their hands more (57 percent).

    The final stretch: Candidates are in final-stretch mode with LOTS of debates. There’s another one tonight in the Wisconsin governor’s race between incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democrat Mary Burke that we are livestreaming on our website here. One of the stand-out moments from a debate this week was Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is in a tough spot in a state that went overwhelmingly for Mitt Romney, refusing to say who she voted for in the 2012 presidential election. That capped off a bad week of PR for Grimes, running against Mitch McConnell, the man who would be majority leader. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee confirmed it hadn’t spent any money in a month for Grimes and wasn’t going to do so through Election Day. VoteVets is up with a $440,000 ad buy today for her.

    Searching for clarity: With two-and-a-half weeks to go, it’s not at all clear how Election Night will shake out at this point. A Republican majority is maybe a good bet given their strength in Colorado and Iowa right now. But then there are the Kansas and South Dakota wild card and Democrats making strong push in Georgia, having opened, as promised, the “Mitt Romney Playbook” on David Perdue, who has not handled it adeptly. As our friend Reid Wilson at the Washington Post in his “Read In” morning note writes this morning, “If we’d told you six months ago that at this point Democrats would be contesting Senate races in Georgia, South Dakota and Kansas, the logical conclusion would have been that a Democratic wave had developed. If we’d said Republicans would be leading public polls in Iowa and Colorado — and not just one survey but a significant number of them — the logical conclusion would be that a Republican wave is sweeping back the Senate. Today, both premises are true, but neither logical conclusion has been proven.” Still, if Iowa, Colorado, and North Carolina are Democrats’ “firewall” states, and they’re losing in two of them, that’s a bad sign for Democrats. Make sure to tune in tonight to NewsHour for Mark Shields’ and Michael Gerson’s take on it all.

    Airing it out: And finally, there is the bizarre Florida governor’s race. It may be the most expensive race in the country, but the only thing most people will remember about this race is “the fan.” Incumbent Gov. Rick Scott, R, protested the first five minutes of his debate Wednesday night with former Gov. Charlie Crist, D, because Crist had a plugged-in black floor fan on stage. After booing from the crowd, Scott eventually took the stage. Neither candidate looked good in the situation. Scott looked like he wasn’t focused on the important things, and Crist’s fan became a meme. Buzzfeed listed 25 photos spotting the fan with Crist in public campaign and TV interview appearances. The fan even has its own Twitter handle. So will “fan-gate” make a difference with Florida voters? Hard to say in a state that has “Florida Man.”

    Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1978, President Jimmy Carter officially restored the full citizenship rights of former Confederate president Jefferson Davis. What job did Davis hold before becoming the president of the Confederacy? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to anjaroo ‏(@thatdudeanjaroo) for guessing Thursday’s trivia: Who was the lone Republican senator to vote against the congressional resolution that authorized war against Iraq? The answer was: Sen. Lincoln Chafee.

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

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    A Kurdish refugee from the Syrian town of Kobani washes her hands in a camp in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province. Photo by Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

    A Kurdish refugee from the Syrian town of Kobani washes her hands in a camp in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province. Photo by Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Dusty and remote, the Syrian city of Kobani has become an unlikely spoil in the war against Islamic State militants — and far more of a strategic prize than the United States wants to admit.

    Perched on Turkey’s border, the city of about 60,000 has been besieged for weeks by IS fighters. Kobani is now a ghost town: the U.N. estimates that fewer than 700 of its residents remain as its people flee to safety in Turkey.

    The Obama administration has declared Kobani a humanitarian disaster, but not a factor in the overall strategy to defeat the Islamic State group.

    “Kobani does not define the strategy of the coalition with respect to Daesh,” Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Cairo earlier this week, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group. “Kobani is one community, and it’s a tragedy what is happening there, and we don’t diminish that.” But, Kerry said, the primary U.S. military focus is in neighboring Iraq.

    But this week, the U.S. dramatically upped its air power strikes against IS in and around Kobani, including 53 strikes over the last three days alone. Several hundred IS fighters were killed, the Pentagon said.

    “The most important thing about Kobani now is that if it falls to the Islamic State, it would be seen as a defeat for the Americans,” said Robert Ford, former ambassador to Syria. Now, the U.S. cannot afford to lose Kobani, said Robert Ford, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria. That means the city’s fate is tied, in part at least, to the success of the U.S.-led strategy against the Islamic State.

    “The most important thing about Kobani now is that if it falls to the Islamic State, it would be seen as a defeat for the Americans, and thus would touch on the credibility of the American policy to contain and degrade the Islamic State,” said Ford, now at the Middle East Institute in Washington.

    “We have made a real effort to help the defenders in Kobani by targeting various Islamic State assets,” he said. “And if it falls nonetheless, then it makes it looks like the U.S. military couldn’t contain that, and that’s how it would be seen in the region.”

    Said Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s spokesman on Thursday: “We never said Kobani didn’t matter.”

    Here is a look at why Kobani matters:

    A KURDISH APPEAL

    Despite the barrage of airstrikes, the U.S. so far has been unable to help Kurdish defenders break the siege. The U.S. and its allies have said that airstrikes alone will not be enough to beat back the extremists. That requires ground troops, both in Syria and Iraq.

    Since President Barack Obama is adamant that American troops will not join the fight on the ground, the U.S. has been working to help arm, equip and revamp training programs for national and Kurdish Peshmerga security forces in Iraq and moderate rebel fighters in Syria. The Peshmerga and other Kurdish forces have been key in containing — if not defeating — IS across much of northern Iraq. Making sure they keep up that front is a top priority for the U.S.


    Irbil, the Kurdish capital in Iraq, asked the Obama administration to increase airstrikes in Kobani, said Mahma Khalil, a Kurdish lawmaker from northern Iraq. While there’s no formal link between the government in Irbil and the Kurdish population in Syria, both dream of an independent nation for ethnic Kurds.

    “The current level of airstrikes are not enough to stop the terrorists from seizing Kobani,” Khalil said this week. “The U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Kobani and Iraq should be accelerated more and more” to avoid the extremists from reclaiming areas they were pushed from earlier this summer, he said.

    A U.S. military official confirmed Khalil’s account and noted that maintaining good relations with Irbil is an important part of Washington’s strategy against the Islamic militants. The official was not authorized to discuss the diplomatic issue by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Publicly, the Pentagon and State Department say the reasons for the increased airstrikes at Kobani are twofold: The city has become an easier target in recent days due to an influx of Islamic State fighters who have gathered there. And the strikes serve as a humanitarian relief mission to protect the city while Kurdish fighters reorganize their front.

    WHERE’S TURKEY?

    Kobani also has become a symbol of Turkey’s reluctance to fight the Islamic State — even in a city right across its border.

    If Kobani falls, the Islamic extremists will have a border way-station for militants to slip in and out of Turkey. Already, Turkey is grappling with how to tighten its borders against thousands of foreign fighters, mostly from Western and Eastern European nations, who have traveled through Turkey to join the insurgency.


    The U.S. has tried for months to coax Turkey into providing more assistance, including border security, to the global coalition against the Islamic State group. So far, Turkey has provided sanctuary to an estimated 200,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and recently agreed to train and equip moderate Syrian rebel fighters trying to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad from power.

    But Turkey is not expected to send troops or aid to the Kurdish fighters who are defending Kobani due to a decades-long dispute it has waged against a Kurdish guerrilla group linked to the city’s defenders. The fighters in Kobani are affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which both Turkey and the U.S. consider a terrorist organization.

    Turkey has openly said it is blocking Turkish Kurds from joining the fight in Kobani. And neither Turkey nor the Syrian Kurds are enthusiastic about joining ranks if Turkey sends army troops to Kobani.

    Further complicating the issue, the U.S. said it has begun talking directly to the Kurdish fighters’ political wing in Kobani — a diplomatic move that is likely to anger Turkey.

    Obama administration officials concede that Kobani is a messy intersection of U.S. military and diplomatic interests. But retired Marine Gen. John Allen, the U.S. envoy coordinating the global front against IS, said Turkey is “focused with laser-like quality on the issue.”

    “They’re very concerned about ISIL for a whole variety of reasons,” Allen said, using an acronym for the Islamic State.

    THE PROPAGANDA BATTLE FOR KOBANI

    The U.S. isn’t sure why IS is fighting so hard for control of Kobani, a city with few resources and far removed from any capital. But like the U.S. with Kobani, a loss to a ragtag group of Kurdish fighters would be a propaganda loss for IS.

    Much of the daily fighting in Kobani is caught on camera, where TV crews and photographers on the Turkish side of the border have captivated the world’s attention with searing pictures of refugees, black plumes of smoke from explosions, and the sounds of firefights on the city’s streets. In video after video, refugees just across the border can be seen and heard cheering as U.S. airstrikes pound the extremists.

    Last week, in pictures and Tweets, the militants’ supporters declared Kobani as theirs, and changed the city’s name to Ayn al-Islam, or Spring of Islam. The online jeering has quieted considerably after the airstrikes of the last several days.

    The Islamic State relies on its global online propaganda machine, run largely by supporters far from the battle, to entice fighters, funding and other aid to the front. If the militants’ victories begin to ebb in such a public forum, U.S. officials believe, so too will their lines of support. That alone makes the battle for Kobani a must-win fight for the U.S. strategy.

    And that is not lost on Washington. “What makes Kobani significant is the fact that ISIL wants it,” Kirby said.


    Associated Press writers Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad and Desmond Butler in Istanbul contributed to this report.

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  • 10/17/14--07:38: Obama names Ebola ‘czar’
  • A member of the CG Environmental HazMat team disinfects the entrance to the residence of a health worker at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who has contracted Ebola. Photo by Jaime R. Carrero/Reuters

    A member of the CG Environmental HazMat team disinfects the entrance to the residence of a health worker at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who has contracted Ebola. Photo by Jaime R. Carrero/Reuters

    Updated at 10:40 a.m. EDT | President Barack Obama has named Ron Klain, a longtime Washington aide who has worked in the both the Obama and Clinton White Houses, to coordinate the administration’s Ebola response, a White House official confirmed.

    The announcement comes a day after the president said he was open to the possibility of naming an Ebola “czar.”

    Klain will report to the president’s homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco and National Security Adviser Susan Rice. Klain will be tasked with ensuring “that efforts to protect the American people by detecting, isolating and treating Ebola patients in this country are properly integrated but don’t distract from the aggressive commitment to stopping Ebola at the source in West Africa,” a White House official said in an e-mail.

    “Given [Monaco’s and Rice’s] management of other national and homeland security priorities, additional bandwidth will further enhance the government’s Ebola response,” the official added.

    Klain most recently served in the White House as Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff, helping to oversee the stimulus. Klain, currently an attorney at a firm in Washington, D.C., was well known for his previous work as Vice President Al Gore’s chief of staff. Klain was the point person for the Gore campaign’s response to the Florida recall that decided the 2000 presidential election.


    WASHINGTON — Facing renewed criticism about the U.S. response to Ebola, President Barack Obama is conceding that it may make sense to have a single person lead the administration’s effort. But he says imposing a travel ban from disease-ravaged West Africa, as Republicans have demanded, would be counterproductive.

    In Dallas, the epicenter of Ebola in the U.S., officials took a tougher approach toward monitoring dozens of health care workers who were exposed to the virus while treating an infected patient who later died. The health care workers were asked to sign legally binding documents agreeing not to go to public places or use public transportation.

    Those who break the agreement could face undisclosed sanctions.

    The move came after two nurses who had treated Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital were diagnosed with Ebola and the disclosure that one of them had flown roundtrip between the Dallas area and Cleveland before her diagnosis.

    Self-monitoring was extended Thursday to people who took the same outbound flight as nurse Amber Vinson; it had been imposed earlier for passengers on the return trip. Another group being contacted: shoppers at the Akron bridal shop Vinson visited that Saturday.

    Both nurses have been transferred from the Texas hospital where they treated Duncan and became infected. Nina Pham was transferred on Thursday to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and Vinson on Wednesday to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. The two facilities are among four in the United States that have specialized isolation units.

    The chief clinical officer at the hospital, Dr. Daniel Varga, said the hospital was caught short when Duncan came to the institution “with non-specific symptoms.”

    “I think we all in the health-care community underestimated the challenge of diagnosis,” he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Friday.

    He also said the two nurses who contracted the disease had followed standard hospital procedure. “We have no indication that Nina or Amber had any break in protocol. We were working with the best information we had,” Varga said.

    A video released by Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital showed Pham in her hospital isolation ward before her transfer, speaking to her physician, Dr. Gary Weinstein. At one point Pham begins crying, and Weinstein, dressed in full personal protection gear hands her a tissue. “I love you guys,” she says. “We love you, Nina,” responds Weinstein.

    The two nurses have been the only cases of transmission in the U.S. Duncan was exposed to the virus in Liberia and was diagnosed after traveling to Texas.

    The magnitude of the Ebola outbreak continues to grow in Africa; the World Health Organization forecast the death toll would surpass 4,500 by the end of the week. Government officials said early Friday that a Dallas health care worker who handled a lab specimen from Duncan is on a Caribbean cruise ship where she has self-quarantined and is being monitored for any signs of infection. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement that the woman had shown no signs of the disease.

    The government is working to return the woman and her husband to the U.S. before the ship completes its cruise. When the woman left the U.S. on the cruise health officials were requiring only self-monitoring, Psaki said.

    The magnitude of the Ebola outbreak continues to grow in Africa; the World Health Organization forecast the death toll would surpass 4,500 by the end of the week.

    In Geneva, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, paired the Ebola outbreak and the Islamic State group as “twin plagues” that will cost the world many billions of dollars to overcome, and the United Nations made an urgent appeal for more money to fight the disease.

    Canceling a campaign fundraising trip for the second straight day, Obama met into the evening with top aides and health officials. The White House said Obama also placed calls to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven to discuss the need for an international response to the outbreak in West Africa.

    Obama authorized a call-up of reserve and National Guard troops in case they are needed. His executive order would allow more forces than the up-to-4,000 already planned to be sent to West Africa, and allow for longer periods of time. Speaking to reporters at the White House, Obama said several people leading the government’s Ebola response also have other priorities.

    “It may make sense for us to have one person … so that after this initial surge of activity we can have a more regular process just to make sure we are crossing all the T’s and dotting all the I’s,” he said.

    He said he had no “philosophical objection” to imposing a travel ban on West Africa if it would keep Americans safe but had been told by health and security experts that it would be less effective than measures already in place.

    Earlier in the day, during a contentious congressional hearing, Republican after Republican demanded that Obama impose a travel ban.

    When federal health officials stressed the importance of stopping the outbreak at its source, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., responded, “You’re right, it needs to be solved in Africa. But until it is, we should not be allowing these folks in, period.”

    “People’s lives are at stake, and the response so far has been unacceptable,” declared Upton, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. A handful of congressional Democrats also have endorsed the travel ban that’s mainly been pushed by Republicans.

    About 100 to 150 people fly into the U.S. each day from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the three nations hit hardest by Ebola.

    Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., said the “American public loses confidence each day” — a result of the failure to protect the two nurses and other mistakes.

    Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told lawmakers that the investigation into how the nurses became infected with Ebola was ongoing.

    Even as he urged calm, he said the nation’s hospitals must watch for people who might have been infected in West Africa. He said the CDC has fielded more than 300 calls from concerned doctors and public health officials, with no new Ebola cases uncovered.


    Associated Press writers Emily Schmall and Nomaan Merchant in Dallas; Erica Werner, Jim Kuhnhenn, Josh Lederman and Matthew Daly in Washington; and Ann Sanner in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.

    The post Obama names Ebola ‘czar’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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