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

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    At a campaign office in Charlotte, North Carolina, Sunday, Thom Tillis, The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, told a group of volunteers that he was recently at a televised football game where, after long delays between plays on the field, he joked with a friend, “They’re probably playing all our commercials now.” He might have been right. So far, 90,000 television commercials about North Carolina’s Senate race have hit the airwaves, and as one of the closest U.S. Senate races in the country, many more are on the way.

    PBS Newshour co-anchor Gwen Ifill talked to candidate Thom Tillis last weekend about the issues at stake in North Carolina.

    Watch that interview above and see Gwen’s interview with Tillis’ competitor, Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan.

    The post Full interview: Gwen Ifill with U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Everywhere she goes in North Carolina, Sen. Kay Hagan asks her supporters to repeat the same refrain: “Collectively say with me,” Hagan said to a packed room in Durham’s Convention Center Sunday, “Our state is not for sale.” And while that may be true, the price tag of this hotly contested U.S. Senate race has become the highest so far in political history.

    Over the weekend, the Democratic Senator sat down with PBS NewsHour co-anchor Gwen Ifill to talk about why North Carolina’s election has generated so much interest, attention and money.

    Watch that interview above and see Gwen’s interview with Hagan’s competitor, Republican Thom Tillis.

    The post Full interview: Gwen Ifill with Sen. Kay Hagan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo courtesy Fellow Robots

    Lowe’s Innovation Labs developed a robot sales associate, which will debut at the end of November. Photo courtesy Fellow Robots

    Lowe’s newest employee is its most groundbreaking power tool yet. Say hello to OSHbot the robot sales associate.

    At the end of November, OSHbot will be wheeling around an Orchard Supply Hardware in San Jose, Calif., guiding shoppers to specific screwdrivers or saws.

    The lightbulb innovation came from Lowe’s Innovation Labs. They collaborated with Singularity University and Fellow Robots to create OSHbot in under a year.

    Customers can hold a conversation with OSHbot, a five-foot-tall white bot, in English or Spanish. The robot is outfitted with front and back touch screens that also respond to hand gestures.

    Photo courtesy Fellow Robots

    The retail robot can read hand gestures and help customers find old or broken items that need to be replaced. Photo courtesy Fellow Robots

    Even if customers can’t express exactly what they’re looking for, OSHbot knows the drill. Its head is equipped with a 3D scanner. Customers can bring in a burned out lightbulb or rusted nail, and OSHbot will lead them to new, purchasable counterparts.

    Is OSHbot hammering another nail into the human worker’s coffin? According to Kyle Nel, executive director of the Innovation Lab, the robot will give human employees more time to help customers plan home improvement projects.

    “What our sales associates are amazing at doing and what they love spending time on are consulting and helping customers with their projects and solving their problems,” Nel told Ad Age. “We can let the robots answer questions like, ‘where are the hammers?’”

    The post The newest addition to Lowe’s toolkit: a robot sales associate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: a very different take on the Federal Reserve Bank from the perspective of a con man looking to steal billions.

    Jeffrey Brown has our book conversation.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Robbing a bank without touching any gold in the vault, and not just any bank, but the biggest one going, the Federal Reserve. It’s a heist that hinges on, yes, monetary policy, told in a new thriller about a Washington lawyer who can’t shake his criminal past.

    “The Directive” is a sequel to the bestseller “The 500.”

    And author Matthew Quirk joins me now.

    Welcome to you.

    MATTHEW QUIRK, Author, “The Directive”: Oh, thanks for having me.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, you were thinking where is the biggest — what’s the biggest heist I could concoct, what’s the most money around?


    You quickly come to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It has about $250 billion worth of gold in the basement. And what was really interesting for me was at the New York Fed, the real money is upstairs. And there’s a trading desk there that is not very well-known.

    And it acts almost as the Federal Reserve system’s gas and brake for the entire economy.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You say the real money, because there’s the gold and then what you’re talking about is information in a way that’s being traded.

    MATTHEW QUIRK: Right. Right.

    That trading desk has balance sheet of $4.5 trillion. And it backs the value of all of our currency. The dollars in your pocket are Federal Reserve notes. And so when the Fed, acting on behalf of the government, decides to speed up or slow down the economy, they actually send orders to that trading desk, called the Directive, and they go out and sort of drive the economy where the Fed wants it to be.

    So, if you were privy to that information, you could stand to make a killing without actually having to go in and put on the turtlenecks and grappling hooks and all that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The Federal Reserve, which we of course cover all the time on this program, but it is so famously opaque, right?


    JEFFREY BROWN: I remember William Greider wrote a book called “The Secrets of the Temple.”  We think of it as this sort of secretive temple.

    Alan Greenspan famously would say things that were intended to not be understood, right?


    JEFFREY BROWN: So how did you find your way in?

    MATTHEW QUIRK: Well, I did a lot of research and reporting on it.

    I used to be a reporter. And that’s the best way to procrastinate when you’re writing a book. So I called around. I spoke to some people who worked at the Fed and on the desk. And I worked with for the heist these security experts. And they’re called red teams or penetration testers.

    And it’s a really interesting profession, because their job is to attempt to break into secure corporate or government facilities and…

    JEFFREY BROWN: To figure how it can be done.

    MATTHEW QUIRK: Right. So, it was great, because I said, help me break into the Fed. And they gave me all these tricks of the trade.

    And it was very different than what I thought it would be, a real 21st century heist. And it revolved a lot more around essentially confidence games and gaining people’s trust.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, I mean, that’s the interesting part, is you are dealing with the digital world, you’re dealing with information that milliseconds matter, right, and yet so much of it goes back to, when you are writing about a heist, social context, social networks, human interaction.

    MATTHEW QUIRK: Yes. Right, and just confidence and seeming like you belong.

    So, at the end of all that, I went up to the Fed really just to do some firsthand research and to take the tour. But I was waved through some of the mantraps, these sort of security gates at the front.

    And I found myself on an elevator full of employees. And I said, well, I will give this stuff a try. And there was no key control on the elevator. And I press nine, the floor with a desk, which I was very interested in. And I found myself rising up to the heart of the Fed.

    So, it was one of those moments where I said, oh, this is great. And then I said, what am I doing?  This isn’t in a novel. And I sort of poked my head out and looked around and then went back to where I…

    JEFFREY BROWN: And it didn’t look like probably the most exciting place where all these billions of dollars…


    It’s so funny, because they really — they control the monetary supply there. And it’s eight to 10 guys. And they’re just sitting quiet office. And it’s really the heart of how the Fed can keep the economy on a steady course.

    But, yes, it’s a quiet place. And once you get past all the gun and the mantraps, it look like any other office or bank.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, there’s the technology, there’s the social interaction, but then there’s just old-fashioned picking of locks, right, which you get into.

    MATTHEW QUIRK: Yes. Yes. I learned to pick locks for the book from some of these…

    JEFFREY BROWN: You learned?


    And it’s remarkably easy. It’s scary easy. As soon as I ordered the picks — and anyone can buy them — I just opened the front door of my house in a few seconds.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Really?

    MATTHEW QUIRK: Yes. It was really scary.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, be careful what you find out as novelist.

    MATTHEW QUIRK: Right. The research is a lot of fun. And it comes in handy sometimes, too.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Let me just ask you finally, what is it about the heist that continues — in books, in thrillers, in movies that continues to grab people?  It seems they just — they continually come before us.


    JEFFREY BROWN: And, somehow, people remain interested.

    MATTHEW QUIRK: It’s such a great genre. It has a set formula. And you’re guaranteed action. And there’s always a little bit of technology and some colorful characters and some close calls.

    And with this one, I was really glad that I could do a heist and get the suspense that I love in these sort of books, but also touch on something larger and hopefully leave readers with a few things they might not have known before about the Fed and how that system works.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, the new book is “The Directive.”

    Matthew Quirk, thank you.

    MATTHEW QUIRK: Oh, thank you.

    The post New thriller breaks into the Federal Reserve appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A U.S. postal worker loads up his truck with mail for delivery from the postal station in Carlsbad, California on Feb. 6, 2013. Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

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    GWEN IFILL: As worries grow about technology, surveillance and privacy, it turns out the government is watching your snail mail too. A new report from The New York Times finds the U.S. Postal Service approved nearly 50,000 requests from law enforcement agencies last year to monitor mail.

    Reporter Ron Nixon has been digging into that for more than a year. And he joins me now.

    Fifty thousand requests, how many of those actually were satisfied by the feds?

    RON NIXON, The New York Times: That’s just it. We don’t know a whole lot about this program beyond the numbers.

    The Postal Service and the Postal Inspection Service, their law enforcement wing has been very secretive about this program.

    GWEN IFILL: Did the program arise after 9/11 or had it previously existed?

    RON NIXON: No, this program actually has been around since about the late 1800s. So, it’s a centuries-old program.

    What they have done is added the technical prowess to the program, but mail covers as a whole is this very old law enforcement technique.

    GWEN IFILL: You call it mail covers.

    RON NIXON: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: Describe what that — what you mean by that, because that’s not actually opening your mail and looking at it.

    RON NIXON: No, it’s not actually opening your mail, then into it.

    What this is, is basically metadata of snail mail. They copy everything that’s on the outside of the packages and letters. And that lets me know who you’re communicating with, your banking information, credit card, that kind of thing. So, — but it is not opening the mail. You need a warrant for that.

    GWEN IFILL: So, it seems pretty low-tech in some respects.

    RON NIXON: It is.

    But they also have very high-tech — they have massive banks of computers that take pictures of every single letter and package that comes through. And they do utilize that for law enforcement purposes at times as well.

    GWEN IFILL: Is that the reason they take — they record everything, or is just the side effect of what…

    RON NIXON: It’s a side effect. You have this technology that can do this thing, so they use it in limited ways for law enforcement purposes.

    But the main purpose of, it is actually to deliver the mail, process and deliver the mail.

    GWEN IFILL: So, explain to us how it works.

    RON NIXON: So, say I’m a law enforcement agency and I’m investigating you. I go to the Postal Inspection Service saying, hey, I have reason to believe that Ms. Ifill is guilty of something or illegally running drugs.

    I send a request to the Postal Inspection Service. They look at it. They look, say, yes, there’s legitimate reason. They sign off on it and then they start to take down all the information on the letters and packages that you are both sending and receiving so they can track who you’re communicating with and again, as I mentioned before, banking information, property, that kind of thing.

    GWEN IFILL: Has it successfully curbed illegal activity in ways that you can cite me some examples?

    RON NIXON: Yes.

    There’s been a number of examples that I have written about before. They have busted a prostitution ring. They have busted drug rings. They have found fugitives. So it’s a legitimate law enforcement tool that everybody from the FBI to the Arlington County police would use.

    GWEN IFILL: So, why — you spent couple years almost working on this.

    RON NIXON: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: Why was it so difficult to get to the bottom of it?

    RON NIXON: Well, because it’s a program that is — they didn’t want to talk about a lot.

    We filed several Freedom of Information requests to find out the scope of this, and they still have not released to us how many times the FBI has requested mail covers, for instance. So, it’s a program that they don’t talk about a lot. And they have actually…

    GWEN IFILL: In the interest of national security?

    RON NIXON: In the interest of national security, but also because it’s a law enforcement technique. And they don’t want to reveal exactly how it works.

    GWEN IFILL: OK. Let’s do the flip side.

    There are things that they have stopped or they have been able to find out about.

    RON NIXON: Right.

    GWEN IFILL: Are there ways that this program has been misused?

    RON NIXON: Yes.

    We did find couple of examples where the program apparently appears to be misused. There was — in Maricopa County, Arizona, there’s a sheriff and a local county attorney who…

    GWEN IFILL: Joe Arpaio?

    RON NIXON: Joe Arpaio…

    RON NIXON: … and the local county attorney there launched an investigation of various council members.

    And one of them was Councilwoman Mary Rose Wilcox. And she just got a million-dollar settlement for what the — a panel for the Supreme Court, state Supreme Court there said appear to be a politically motivated investigation.

    They used mail covers to track who she was doing business with and then invaded the business.

    GWEN IFILL: So, for political purposes, it was used to target someone, allegedly?

    RON NIXON: Allegedly.

    GWEN IFILL: Allegedly.

    RON NIXON: Allegedly, right.

    GWEN IFILL: Now, here is once again — and I’m going back and forth because I’m curious about the most famous incident of Postal Service — illegal things happening through the Postal Service is anthrax or any kind of substance being sent to public officials. We spent a lot of time talking about that.

    RON NIXON: Right.

    GWEN IFILL: Is this something which is also used for that purpose?

    RON NIXON: Yes, there’s a program that they call the mail isolation tracking control system that was used to find Shannon Richardson, the actress had sent ricin-laced letters to President Obama and former New York Mayor Bloomberg.

    They used this to track her mail specifically to a facility that she had mailed it from, and she had tried to blame it on her husband. And they were able to prove based on when she sent the letters that it was her, in fact.

    GWEN IFILL: So this is — this is — obviously, there are pluses and there are minuses.

    RON NIXON: Right.

    GWEN IFILL: Is there some way in which this compares in any way to the NSA surveillance techniques we talk so much about?

    RON NIXON: I think, in terms of scope, it’s much, much smaller in scope, in that it can’t scoop up as much information as the NSA does, of course, because we use the phones much more than we use letters.

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    RON NIXON: And, as mail has declined, we are using it less and less. But, still, law enforcement officials consider this a very important tool.

    GWEN IFILL: Ron Nixon of The New York Times, thank you.

    RON NIXON: Thank you. Thanks for having me.


    The post How the Postal Service is helping law enforcement monitor snail mail appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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    GWEN IFILL: Most of our coverage about Ebola is focused on the human toll, particularly in West Africa, where it’s killed nearly 5,000 people, about half of all infections.

    But there have been other repercussions as well, as the outbreak slows economic growth on the continent. One export that’s produced near affected countries?  Cocoa.

    Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman, sought to understand how those market forces are working, part of his ongoing reporting on Making Sense of financial news.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Prepping for Halloween, 2014, in New York City, where the spiders may be less scary than what they’re liable to snare, the urban cockroach.

    But, quite seriously, there’s an economic menace this season, Ebola in West Africa, which grows most of the world’s cocoa, the main ingredient of chocolate.

    In Times Square, crossroads of the world, in this case, M&Ms’ world and Hershey chocolate world, some confectionery consumers were preparing for a possible shortage. Will this mother stash chocolate for trick or treats because of Ebola?

    WOMAN: Of course I will.

    PAUL SOLMAN: You will?

    WOMAN: Sure.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And all over town, chocolate buyers have been paying an Ebola premium.

    Has the price of this gone up?

    MAN: Yes. Two months ago.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Two months ago.

    So a Kit Kat bar is now a buck thirty five, up a dime, on the sidewalks of New York, and the noisy platforms below.

    Has the price of chocolate gone up?

    MAN: Ten cents.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Up 10 cents here too.

    Meanwhile, at Dante Confections, maker of perhaps the finest truffles in Massachusetts, and surely the finest in North Billerica, president Santi Falcone’s one-year cocoa contract with agribusiness giant Cargill came due in September.

    SANTI FALCONE, Dante Confections: I almost fell out of the chair when I saw it. I thought it was a big mistake there — 26 percent?  In 25 years, I have seen increases, 3 percent, 1 percent, stay the same, but, God, not 26 percent. You know, I mean, that’s a little crazy.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And how much of that price increase did you pass along to your customers?

    SANTI FALCONE: I basically compromised by increasing the price between 9 to 10 percent. And when the candy shop gets a 10 percent price increase, he will have to raise it 20 percent.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So now to the age-old question when markets move so dramatically:  Is the price shock-au-chocolat due to fundamentals, a real change in the cocoa market caused in this case by supply disruption, or market psychology, unfounded hysteria?

    Back in Manhattan, David Martin runs his own hedge fund, has been a commodities trader since the 1980s. This year, he explains, the price of cocoa had been rising and subsiding with the conflicting reports about the seriousness of the Ebola outbreak. It began last spring, when the cocoa market:

    DAVID MARTIN, Martin Fund Management: Rallies up on rumors of Ebola, comes off because they realize that it may not be a problem, and then reported cases come out of Africa, and the market has a huge spike up. People start to panic.

    PAUL SOLMAN: People buying cocoa, that is, for a growing global market, China in particular. And why wouldn’t they panic?  Consider this CDC map of West Africa with, on the right, the Ivory Coast, the world’s foremost cocoa grower.

    DAVID MARTIN: You have the ivory coast here. You have the bordering countries. In dark orange are areas with confirmed and probable cases of the Ebola virus infection. A lot of the people who live in these areas come to work in the Ivory Coast to help with the harvest. If they fall ill or die, they can’t come to work.

    If they do come to work and they’re infected, they infect these people. There’s no one left to pick the beans, deliver them to the port, and make this whole system flow. So the fear is that if you disrupt this commercial activity, this whole supply chain, that’s going to cause the price to skyrocket.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, a rational market response to Ebola, says Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman.

    PAUL KRUGMAN, The New York Times: Of course it’s disrupting the economies of West Africa. Why would you be surprised if the prices of goods coming from West Africa go up?  And if it’s true, that, yes, we don’t yet have a shortage, well, markets are supposed to anticipate that.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But wait. The Ivory Coast remains Ebola-free and is actually ramping up its exports to take advantage of the price rise. And high-end cocoa comes from other places as well. In Africa, maybe, but so what?

    JOE SALVATORE, Chocolate Entrepreneur: Africa is such a big continent.

    Brooklyn chocolate entrepreneur Joe Salvatore.

    JOE SALVATORE: What’s happening in West Africa is not happening in East Africa, what’s happening in Madagascar.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Madagascar, an East African island almost exactly as close to Liberia as Miami to the North Pole, is where Salvatore volunteered for the Peace Corps, and then helped start a business to boost the local economy.

    Madecasse now makes chocolate from start to finish in Madagascar, distributes to the U.S. from Williamsburg. Its face-to-face way of doing business buffers it from the commodities market and all the middlemen between grower and retailer.

    JOE SALVATORE: What we’re doing is, we work directly with farmers. When you take a lot of the middlemen out of that equation, you’re able to actually save money on both sides.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And it’s middlemen who hiked the price to those kiosks in New York and the likes of Santi Falcone.

    Do you think that they were simply passing along to you the price increase that they felt when they’re buying the raw cocoa, or that they were taking advantage of a rise in prices to stick it to people like you?

    SANTI FALCONE: Maybe they are sticking it to the little people. Maybe, maybe not. But, certainly, I don’t like it, and my customers don’t like it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But, again, is the price rise based on reality or imagination?  To veteran cocoa trader David Martin, in the short run, it’s irrational market psychology, not fundamentals, that drives investors.

    DAVID MARTIN: Some sort of hysteria that, I don’t want to buy this bag of raw cocoa beans because it was handled by people that may have the Ebola virus. They see the images on the news of people suffering and dying, and everyone just afraid to even go near them. That’s a pretty emotional story, I think.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And, surely, emotions play a hallowed role in market swings, like those lately in oil or stocks.

    In the end, says Martin:

    DAVID MARTIN: Price movements aren’t about the values of the companies of the stock market. They’re not about the price of cocoa or the price of coffee. They’re about the study of human behavior and how humans react.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So how might Ebola cause humans to react in the cocoa market, now that the winter holidays are coming?  How about Valentine’s Day and Easter?  The price has dropped almost 10 percent, but, says Falcone:

    SANTI FALCONE: The salesperson for Cargill, he feels that the market is still going to go further up, that the Asian market is taking all of the cocoa, which is driving the market up.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But your suspicion is that this was a scare, the Ebola scare, and then speculators jumping in and driving up the price?

    SANTI FALCONE: I would assume that. Wouldn’t you agree with me, or…

    PAUL SOLMAN: Given what we have heard, yes, I guess we would. But, as with all swings, in all markets, how would you ever know?

    I’m Paul Solman for the “NewsHour” in New York.


    The post This Halloween, are the cocoa markets spooked by Ebola? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    GWEN IFILL: Now to Northern Iraq and a growing humanitarian crisis as winter approaches.

    Aid agencies there are struggling to help thousands of families who were driven from their homes over the summer as new waves of Syrian Kurd refugees arrive daily.

    Special correspondent Jane Arraf reports.

    JANE ARRAF: There is a steady stream of traffic across this border from Turkey to the Kurdish region of Iraq, freight trucks and tankers picking up oil, and in the last few days, the latest wave of refugees, Syrian Kurds from the besieged city of Kobani.

    Juma Mohammad and his family crossed through Turkey to get here. Now they finally feel safe.

    JUMA MOHAMMAD, Syrian Kurd Refugee (through interpreter): We have escaped from the battle, from the hunger, everything.

    JANE ARRAF: Some waited for weeks for Iraq’s Kurdish government to open its borders. They’re not sure what’s ahead. “We’re going to Kurdistan. That’s all I know,” says Juma’s son Khalil.

    The men say they will make sure their families are safe and then they will go back to Kobani to fight. But, for now, they are refugees, most with a burning hatred of the Islamic State group.

    SABAH ABDUL RAZAK, Syrian Kurd Refugee (through interpreter): We left because of the women and children, to save them from those unbelievers. They act as if they are Muslim, but they are not. If Islam were like that, we would want to become Christian, I swear.

    JANE ARRAF: Most of them left with only what they would need for the journey or what they couldn’t live without.

    For Zakur, it was his pigeons. He insisted on taking them when his family fled Kobani almost a month ago. Ali tells us his brother, who is 3, was afraid the fighters would kill the birds.

    BOY (through interpreter): He kept crying. Our mother said, “Just bring them with you.”

    JANE ARRAF: For his parents, it hasn’t been easy escaping with four children and three birds in a box.

    KHALIL ABDUL KHADER, Syrian Kurd Refugee (through interpreter):  I threw them away on the road from Kobani, but he went back to get them. He kept crying. I tried to leave them again and he went back to get them again. These are animals, after all, and these animals have a soul.

    JANE ARRAF: The families are sent initially to overcrowded camps. There are more than 12,000 refugees from Kobani and more arriving every day. Displaced Iraqis have it even worse.

    In cities across the north of Iraq, thousands of displaced families, many from ancient religious minorities, don’t have even the walls of a tent. Three months ago, hundreds of thousands of Yazidis escaped from Sinjar Mountain. They walked down into Syria and then back into Northern Iraq. Some were the only surviving members of their families. And when they got here, this construction site was the only places they found to stay.

    With winter coming, most of them are still here; 32 people live in this room. There’s no heat or even mattresses, just a hard concrete floor.

    GOZAY PISO KHALAF, Displaced Yazidi (through interpreter): The roof is leaking from the rain. Our kids are getting sick. We have no cooking gas or heat, nothing.

    JANE ARRAF: On the higher floors, sometimes, children fall from the windows. For these kids, so recently living normal lives, school is a dream. Now they long for windows and doors that keep out the cold and for running water.

    U.N. aid agencies don’t have the funding to solve this problem. The Kurdish government is in an ongoing dispute with the Iraqi government. It is struggling to pay its own bills and to buy fuel. Northwest of Mosul, residents of some villages are trying to return.

    This is near Zumar, an area captured by I.S. fighters, retaken by Iraqi Peshmerga forces, and then lost again. A lot of the villagers here have come back to find their houses looted and their livestock gone. People have come here to get bottled water and other items from aid agencies.

    Caroline Gluck is with the European Commission.

    CAROLINE GLUCK, European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection: Up until now, a lot of the attention has focused on the camps and Kurdistan region of Iraq. There are substantial unmet needs. Many communities who fled are trapped in between different zones of the conflict.

    JANE ARRAF: There’s still no electricity here and no clean water. But a lot of the people who fled these surrounding villages to live in schools and overcrowded shelters in the city were desperate to return.

    Just a few weeks ago, this was the front line. More and more people are coming back now. They say they don’t feel entirely safe and there’s not much here. But the main thing is, they’re back on their land. People in the village say they’re grateful for the water, but what they really need is kerosene. They’re now cut off from their supply from Mosul.

    A lot of Iraq is too dangerous for even Iraqi aid agencies to operate in and much too dangerous to transport fuel.

    Badal Humda, a Syrian Kurd married to an Iraqi, has named her eldest daughter Yasmin al-Shami, Syrian Jasmine. She says she wants to thank President Obama for the airstrikes she believes have helped save their home. But many worry that this coming winter could be almost as deadly as the fighting.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tonight’s “Frontline,” airing on most PBS stations, focuses on the group causing the displacement we just reported on, the Islamic State.

    The post Winter coming, displaced families fleeing Islamic State must improvise basic shelter appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And in North Carolina, the libertarian on the ballot could help tip the result. Across the country, in at least 10 races, both parties are wondering what effect independent and third-party candidates will have.

    Where do they have a chance at winning and where are they just spoilers?  And what does it say about our politics when so many of these candidates are getting significant support in the polls even without campaigning?

    Well, here to help answer some of those questions is Jonathan Martin of The New York Times, who’s been reporting on many of these candidates.

    Welcome back to the NewsHour, Jonathan Martin.

    JONATHAN MARTIN, The New York Times:  Thank you, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, which states are we looking at, are you looking at when it comes to third-party or independent candidates?

    JONATHAN MARTIN: Well, the most important one is Kansas, Judy, where you have got Greg Orman, who is an independent running against longtime Senator Pat Roberts out there, who is Republican.

    And this race is very competitive. And it’s crucial, I think the most crucial race involving a third-party candidate, because if the Democrats do lose six seats, which would ostensibly give the GOP a majority, but Senator Roberts loses his race, then control of the Senate could be in the hands of Greg Orman, who is a businessman who has never served in office before who could decide the fate of the Senate.

    He has not said, Judy, which party he’s caucusing with. He has said that he will not support Mitch McConnell or Harry Reid, the two Senate leaders. So, if we have a result next Tuesday where this comes down to one state where a third-party candidate could be really crucial, Kansas is the one to watch.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Could make a big difference.

    So Kansas is one. But there are some other states where you have libertarian candidates, North Carolina, where Gwen was.

    JONATHAN MARTIN: Yes, there are. Which is a very important one.


    JONATHAN MARTIN: The others are where there are more spoilers, I would say.

    North Carolina comes to mind when you have got a libertarian there who looks to be taking about 5 percent right now in the polls. That could be really important in a close race, and especially depending upon where those votes come from. Are they coming from the conservative side or the more liberal side?

    The other one to watch is the Florida governor’s race, again, one of these really competitive races. People don’t like either candidate, quite frankly. Is there some kind of a protest vote, where they just go with a third-party to sort of stay a pox on both your houses?

    And then last one I would is the Maine governor’s race, where you have got a pretty significant third-party candidate running there who is taking votes mostly from a Democrat, who I think otherwise would be in command of this race.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, it’s not — in every case, it’s not one party that is suffering from these candidates. It varies.

    JONATHAN MARTIN: That’s exactly right. It sure does.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, tell us why — you wrote a few weeks ago. I saw story you wrote. And you said there is an unusually large number of these candidates this year. Why is that?


    Well, I think it’s because people are so fed up with Washington and with politics right now that they want to go out on their own. Some of them doing it because they have ideological passions. But I think others are doing it because they truly are unhappy with the two-party system. Now, it’s politics. There is also opportunism. And so I think some folks see that there is a better path to win or a path to be viable if you’re not sort of tagged with either party label.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Talk about how the major parties are dealing with — I was just…


    JUDY WOODRUFF: … Rand Paul, who is beloved by libertarians, has been in Kansas, which we were just talking about, appealing, saying he’s voting for Pat Roberts, who is the Republican.

    What are the Republicans doing and what are the Democrats doing?


    Well, the Republicans are trying to sort of water down some of these libertarian candidates who they fear would take votes from the Republican candidates in the states. And they’re doing that by deploying people like Rand Paul, who have a following with libertarians, doing both retail campaign events in the state, also airing TV ads where sort of Rand Paul tries to appeal to libertarians.

    In Maine, Republicans are even airing an ad which touts the third-party candidate, because they know the better he does, the more votes that takes from the Democrat. So, there’s a bit of trickery going on. The Democrats, it’s a little bit different. I think right now, they’re trying to be careful in Kansas, because while they that Mr. Orman, the independent, would caucus with them, they don’t want to come out too hard for him, because that would sort of make him more the de facto Democratic nominee. So, they’re being quiet there mostly.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, is there a sense, Jonathan Martin, that these races — if, say, Kansas were to go to the independent, how much difference does that make in the Senate?


    It just depends upon how big of a night the Republicans have next week. Are they going to pick up eight seats next week?  Is Georgia going to a runoff?  There are so many unanswered questions that we don’t know yet, but here is where it could be really crucial.

    If the Republicans do not have that big of a night, if they pick up some seats, but it’s not a wave-type year, then the Kansas race becomes really crucial, because then the question is, well, is the Senate 50-50?  Is it 51-49?  And if it’s that kind of scenario where Joe Biden could break the tie or if you could get a party switcher, then somebody like Mr. Orman in Kansas becomes really crucial.

    And in some ways, there’s a bit of poetic justice to all this, because at a time when people are so unhappy with American politics and so unhappy with the two parties, you could have an independent empowered to really come to Washington and try to shake things up.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, as you mentioned, in couple of states, these independent or libertarian candidates could throw this — throw the races into a runoff, delaying whether — if we know how the Senate…

    JONATHAN MARTIN: That’s, Judy, the key factor in the Georgia Senate race, where you have got a libertarian on the ballot who won’t probably get more than 7 percent on Election Day. But that could be a heck of a lot of votes and force that race in to a runoff, which, by the way, wouldn’t be until January, after the next Congress begins.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The week of New Year’s.

    JONATHAN MARTIN: Overtime.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Jonathan Martin of The New York Times, we thank you.

    JONATHAN MARTIN: Thank you, Judy.

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    Gwen Ifill reported from Colorado

    Gwen Ifill reported from Colorado earlier this month. Join our team of politics reporters and producers for a viewing Wednesday of PBS NewsHour’s 2014 election stories.

    Throughout the 2014 campaign season, PBS NewsHour has been reporting on some of the most exciting races directly from the field. With a week left until Election Day, revisit some of our favorite segments alongside the producers and reporters who made them happen and experts who will tell us more about what’s at stake in these contests.

    This Wednesday, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m. EDT, PBS NewsHour will host a special live chat and live stream of four field reports from this midterm season. These segments focus on some of the most contentious races. Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill report from the ground in Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa and Georgia.

    Log on to watch the live stream here to join the event, hosted by OVEE, a social video platform. Once the screening starts, you’ll be able to chat with other viewers, as well as political producers and reporters from across the country.

    PBS NewsHour’s politics team will be on hand, including Domenico Montanaro, Senior Producer for Politics; Mary Jo Brooks, Producer; Rachel Wellford, Politics Reporter/Producer; and Simone Pathe, Economics Web Editor.

    Plus, we’ll be joined by two award-winning journalists who can speak to the state of the races we’re covering. Craig Gilbert is the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Washington Bureau Chief and author of “The Wisconsin Voter” blog. And Kay Henderson is the News Director at Radio Iowa and a featured reporter and commentator on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press.”

    Follow our ongoing politics reporting on our Politics page and on Twitter and on Facebook.

    And don’t forget to tune in to PBS NewsHour for our special Election Night coverage, starting at 6 p.m. EST Nov. 4.

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    North Carolina Politics

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    GWEN IFILL: Early voting has already begun in key states that could determine the balance of the Senate and the direction the nation may be heading in the final two years of the Obama presidency.

    One of those states is North Carolina, where a Democratic senator is defending her seat in a race the latest polls show could go either way.

    For most North Carolina voters, this is what next week’s Senate election has boiled down to.

    MAN: Kay Hagan enabled President Obama’s worst ideas. She refuses to clean up his mess.

    NARRATOR: Tillis is a hypocrite, covering up that The Charlotte Observer called on him to resign for missing critical votes.

    MAN: Senator Kay Hagan says she puts voters first. But she votes with Obama 96 percent of the time.

    SEN. KAY HAGAN, (D) North Carolina: Speaker Tillis should be ashamed for running an ad that says I would let our soldiers die in vain. That is outrageous.

    GWEN IFILL: Ninety thousand ads, up to $100 million spent, and clashing messages from incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan…

    SEN. KAY HAGAN: North Carolina is not for sale.


    GWEN IFILL: … and from challenger Thom Tillis, the Republican speaker of the North Carolina House.

    THOM TILLIS Republican Senate Candidate: We need independent leadership that will stand up to your own party when you disagree with it.

    SEN. KAY HAGAN: We’re going to win. We’re going to with your help.

    GWEN IFILL: The high-stakes political duel has prepared Hagan, who was first elected the year President Obama won North Carolina, and Tillis, who came to power in 2010 after Republicans took over the Statehouse for the first time since Reconstruction, into a genuine final week dead heat.

    Mac McCorkle teaches at Duke’s Stanford School of Public Policy.

    MAC MCCORKLE, Duke University, Stanford School of Public Policy: Turnout is going to be key for Hagan for her in order to win. There’s not going to be a turnout like there was among minority voters and younger voters for Obama in the presidential years. But she’s got to get some of that vote.

    GWEN IFILL: This is not 2008.

    MAC MCCORKLE: This is not 2008. This is not even 2012. This is a smaller, whiter, older, richer, electorate. It’s not an Obama electorate. But she’s got to get some of that vote out.

    GWEN IFILL: At this weekend’s state fair in Raleigh, the voters we talked to had already made up their minds. Sara Berth is for Tillis.

    SARAH BERTH: Well, as in all campaigns, there’s always a lot of mudslinging going on, unfortunately, which doesn’t interest me. I want to know what the candidate is going to do, what they’re not going to do, their beliefs, what they stand on.

    GWEN IFILL: Andy Jones and his friends are sticking with the Democrat.

    ANDY JONES: I like Kay Hagan. I like that she has experience. I think that the amount of money that is poured into this race, television ads, is just kind of silly. It’s become kind of a very hateful, people just throwing mud at each other and seeing what sticks, and I think that’s kind of silly.

    GWEN IFILL: It’s taken a lot of talk and a lot of money for this campaign to go boil down to a simple choice between a Democrat who would rather talk about education and equal pay and a Republican who is anxious to link his opponent to national issues like Ebola and ISIS.

    The recurring disagreement was on display as we sat down with both candidates this weekend.

    SEN. KAY HAGAN: Speaker Tillis has put forward the most disastrous legislative record we have seen in North Carolina. He is taking our state backwards. What did he, he gave tax cuts to the wealthy and has balanced the budget on the back of everybody else, the middle class. He’s rigged the system against small business, but he has gutted public education.

    THOM TILLIS: I think if it’s about the truth about education, we have the edge there too. We have given a 7 percent raise, the largest raise in about a generation. So if all Senator Hagan has are statewide issues, and nothing to point to at the national level that she’s proud of, other than rubber-stamping President Obama 96 percent of the time, I think she’s in trouble with the citizens of North Carolina.

    GWEN IFILL: Tillis mentions Mr. Obama by name in virtually every sentence, never missing the opportunity to link an unpopular president to the state’s incumbent Democrat.

    THOM TILLIS: Senator Hagan knows that President Obama’s policies, he said a couple weeks ago, all of them are on the ballot.

    GWEN IFILL: Does the president hurt your campaign?

    SEN. KAY HAGAN: You know, this election is about the people of North Carolina. And with the president, I support increasing the minimum wage.

    I support — I supported his very first bill, my very first bill, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. But I have also opposed the president on things that weren’t good for North Carolina.

    GWEN IFILL: Replacing President Obama on the stump in tight races like this one, Hillary Clinton.

    HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, Former U.S. Secretary of State: Elections come down often to who’s got more money, who’s pedaling more fear, and who turns out. And there is nothing more important for Kay than who turns out.

    GWEN IFILL: Tillis too has attracted national support, including this visit from GOP Chairman Reince Priebus.

    REINCE PRIEBUS, Chairman, Republican National Committee: I know that if we work really hard together, that we can get Thom over the finish line, not for the party, not for the majority, for power. We have to do this to help save this country.

    GWEN IFILL: Both candidates are getting a tremendous boost from outside groups on the right and the left. From the Koch brothers to Planned Parenthood, they have kicked in more of $70 million, two of every three dollars spent on television advertising.

    CECILE RICHARDS, President, Planned Parenthood: North Carolina very well made determine the future of the United States Senate. And this race between Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis has been a focus for months for us at the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. It is the most important race in the country.

    GWEN IFILL: To add to the uncertainty, a third candidate, libertarian Sean Haugh, could tip the balance, even if he gets a small percentage of the vote.

    MAC MCCORKLE: The dynamic is, I don’t want to vote for the incumbent, and so I’m looking who I vote for. So, to the extent you vote for a third party, you don’t vote for the challenger.

    GWEN IFILL: Thousands of North Carolinians descended on Lexington for the annual Barbecue Festival this weekend.

    Thom Tillis supporter Deric Brady was among them.

    DERIC BRADY: With the federal government, the spending has got so out of control. It needs to be brought down. I’m one that thinks that states, local governments should have more control of the money that they have, instead of sending it to Washington and then having to do stuff to get it back.

    GWEN IFILL: And William Mciver is one of the thousands of volunteers working the state for Hagan.

    WILLIAM MCIVER: When we went canvassing, my wife and I, we found that they were like, thank the lord, hallelujah, you showed up. We’re here. We’re glad to see you. We didn’t think you cared about us.

    GWEN IFILL: But the money, the finger-pointing, the hostile television advertising leaves many voters perplexed.

    BRYAN DEITZ: It kind of depends on how you view politics. Some people view it as a sport, right?  So, it’s my team vs. your team. So, whoever has the most money can have a better ground game, because now you need money for television, print, social media, everything else.

    PATRICIA BALDWIN: There’s a lot of money spent, but it’s the same thing. It’s — one, it’s about Medicaid. The other ones are about abortions and birth control and college funds. And it seems like one is for the rich one is for the middle class and the poor.

    GWEN IFILL: Then there is this last wild card. New voter I.D. laws that Republicans call protection and Democrats call suppression could affect turnout in a state that both national parties now see as their key to the South.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And a great report.

    The post N.C. voters consider clashing messages in high-stakes Senate race appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: From President Obama today, a new call for caution in the response to Ebola.  He urged states not to enforce policies that suggest the U.S. is shying away from the fight.  The warning came as another Dallas nurse was declared free of the deadly disease.

    Amber Vinson was all smiles at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital this morning.

    AMBER VINSON, Ebola Survivor: As a nurse, and now as someone who has experienced what it’s like to be cared for through a life-threatening illness, I am so appreciative and grateful for your exceptional skill, warmth and care.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The 29-year-old Vinson is the second of two Dallas nurses to be cured of Ebola.  They caught the virus from Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who died at a Texas hospital.

    Dr. Bruce Ribner oversaw Vinson’s care at Emory, but he concedes, there are still unanswered questions.

    DR. BRUCE RIBNER, Emory University Hospital: OK.  We are not aware of the specific details of what occurred in the Dallas facility or how transmission occurred in that environment.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Equally unclear, just how Vinson recovered so quickly.  To that, the doctor said, “The honest answer is, we’re not exactly sure.”

    Another nurse, Kaci Hickox, was back in Maine today after being held in an isolation tent at a Newark, New Jersey, hospital.  She treated Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, but has shown no symptoms herself.  Authorities in Maine said she will remain quarantined at home, but her attorney insisted no such arrangement is in place.

    Leading health officials have warned that quarantines may deter doctors and nurses from going to West Africa to help.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: America cannot look like it is shying away because other people are watching what we do.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: At the White House today, President Obama said the medical volunteers should be applauded and supported, but he also defended the decision to quarantine U.S. soldiers who serve in the Ebola zone.

    BARACK OBAMA: Well, the military is in a different situation, obviously, because they are, first of all, not treating patients.  Second of all, they are not there voluntarily.

    It’s part of their mission that’s been assigned to them by their commanders and ultimately by me, the commander in chief.  So, we don’t expect to have similar rules for our military as we do for civilians.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In addition, the Pentagon said the Joint Chiefs are recommending that all service branches quarantine their troops who serve in West Africa.

    Overall, the World Health Organization estimates 10,000 people have been infected there, but the head of the U.N. Ebola mission warned today the true number could be far higher.

    Anthony Banbury told the Associated Press: “Unfortunately, we don’t have good data from a lot of areas.  We don’t know exactly what is happening.”

    In the face of that uncertainty, the president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, appealed anew for outside help.  She said the world must recognize that Ebola poses a global threat.

    President Obama plans to meet tomorrow with public health workers who’ve been to West Africa or plan to go.

    GWEN IFILL: Thousands of mourners in Canada paid respects today to Corporal Nathan Cirillo, the soldier killed in last week’s shooting attack in Ottawa.  Crowds lined the streets of Hamilton, Ontario, as throngs of military personnel somberly escorted Cirillo’s coffin to the funeral service at an Anglican cathedral.

    There, Prime Minister Stephen Harper joined in remembering the soldier’s life and sacrifice.

    PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER, Canadia: Our hearts are broken at his loss, but our spirits are grateful for his memory.  Corporal Cirillo knew what all those men and women who died before him also knew.  The only values really worth living for are those worth dying for.

    GWEN IFILL: Corporal Cirillo was one of two soldiers killed in separate attacks last week by what police said were Islamist radicals.  The funeral for the other victim, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, will be Saturday in Quebec.  Secretary of State John Kerry met today with Prime Minister Harper to convey American condolences.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: One week after the attack in Ottawa, security is being increased at U.S. government buildings.  The Homeland Security Department said today it is a response to calls by terror groups to attack American interests and to what happened in Canada.  The move affects unspecified sites in Washington and other cities.

    A college friend of the accused Boston Marathon bomber was convicted today of lying to FBI agents.  A federal jury found Robel Phillipos guilty of not telling the truth about being in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s dorm room three days after the bombing.  Two other friends of Tsarnaev removed a backpack containing evidence.  Phillipos faces up to 16 years in prison.

    GWEN IFILL: Kurdish Peshmerga fighters from Iraq are now headed to Syria, hoping to slow the advance of Islamic State forces.  The Kurds deployed today from Irbil in Northern Iraq.  They will cross Turkish territory en route to the besieged town of Kobani just inside Syria.

    A large convoy with heavy weapons was seen driving through Irbil today.  Kurdish officials in Syria said the force also includes about 150 fighters.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Yard by yard, a slow-moving stream of lava closed in on homes today on Hawaii’s Big Island.  The molten rock began oozing from Kilauea volcano in June.  The flow has consumed roads and burned vegetation along its way, and, today, it crossed onto residential property in the village of Pahoa.  Evacuation orders have gone out, and officials plan to close several schools.

    GWEN IFILL: On Wall Street, stocks racked up new gains on the strength of improved corporate earnings and consumer confidence.  The Dow Jones industrial average was up nearly 188 points to close at 17,005.  The Nasdaq rose 78 points to close at 4,564.  And the S&P 500 added 23 to finish at 1,985.

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    An unmanned commercial rocket carrying supplies for the International Space Station exploded shortly after lift-off at 6:22 pm EDT Tuesday over the launch complex at Wallops Island, Virginia. NASA’s live feed shows the rocket bursting into flame.

    NASA TV reports that all personnel are OK and uninjured, and the launch team reported no problems on takeoff.

    The Cygnus cargo ship was carrying 5,000 pounds of gear for the six astronauts on the ISS. NASA reports it was the third Cygnus ship bound for the space station in the last year. This is the first disaster for the cargo ship line.

    Since the retirement of the Space Shuttle program, NASA has paid Virginia-based Orbital Sciences and California-based SpaceX for ships to resupply the space station.

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    Bryony's Wagon, 2010. Photo by Iain McKell

    Bryony’s Wagon, 2010. Photo by Iain McKell

    Imagine a country road, a single lane winding past farms and tractors. Now, picture a line of cars backed-up, crawling at 15 mph behind a horse-drawn wagon. Most would blame the wagon or the slow-moving traffic. But Peter Delaney, a member of the UK’s Horsedrawn, a group of nomads who live with their families on wagons, sees it differently. If it weren’t for the cars, he says, there would be no traffic.

    Photographer Iain McKell spent the last 10 years closely documenting UK’s Horsedrawn “tribe.” His images are on display at New York’s Clic Gallery and collected in the 2011 book, “The New Gypsies,” which was re-released this fall. But the project really started 25 years ago.

    Every year, on the summer solstice, a special breed of travelers make their way to Stonehenge to watch the sunrise. In the 1960s, they were typically called hippies, but by the mid-80s, this so-called “peace convoy” had evolved. McKell described it as a “post-punk-meets-hippie-kind-of culture.”

    Del. 2003. Photo by Iain McKell

    Del. 2003. Photo by Iain McKell

    In 1985, Margaret Thatcher was prime minister and a new English counterculture was brewing. At that year’s solstice festival, hundreds of travelers were restricted from entering the prehistoric monument, many violently. But the Battle of the Beanfield, as it is now known, failed to deter travelers the following year, the year McKell covered the event for The Observer.

    The photographer was immediately drawn to the dichotomy between “the punk and the landscape.”

    “You think that punk is something maybe urban, but I like the fact that it was anarchy and beauty together.”

    Fifteen years later, in 2001, he decided to revisit the solstice festival at Stonehenge.

    Stonehenge, Summer Solstice, 2006. Photo by Iain McKell

    Stonehenge, Summer Solstice, 2006. Photo by Iain McKell

    “You’ve got Druids, you’ve got hippie culture, people near farms, and, you know, a man and his daughter that lives in a local village going up to Stonehenge to see the sunrise. It’s quite democratic, actually,” he said. “There’s a lot of diverse people there.”

    And after all those people departed, several rustic wagons remained: the Horsedrawn. The group kept McKell enchanted for the next decade. He continued to return to the Horsedrawn, and over time, he built friendships. He watched the group’s children grow.

    “It’s like a lifetime project, really,” he said.

    Stonehenge, Winter Solstice, 2007. Photo by Iain McKell

    Stonehenge, Winter Solstice, 2007. Photo by Iain McKell

    The photographer says the group’s origins are rooted not in religion, but rather in contemporary culture and the world of music festivals. They evolved from the older bus culture of vintage VW buses and the open road.

    That bus travel, however, turned into horse travel because, according to McKell and the Horsedrawn, living on a bus just isn’t practical. And practicality is at the heart of everything they do.

    Buses break down, especially the “good-looking” vintage VW ones.

    The Delaney Family: Pete, Rachel, Hazel, Bryony, and Judah, 2001. Photo by Iain McKell

    The Delaney Family: Pete, Rachel, Hazel, Bryony, and Judah, 2001. Photo by Iain McKell

    Instead, the Horsedrawn travelers move freely from grassy public land to grassy public land, stopping to let their horses graze before packing up again to find the next plot.

    “They want to be out there moving like authentic travelers,” McKell said. “There’s this rhythm to life and the practicality to it that’s entwined with traveling.”

    There’s also an obligation to care for the horses.

    “What separates the Horsedrawn from the vehicle travelers is you’re living with horses, and relationships are formed with horses. It’s a completely different mindset. You can’t suck on heroin in a hedge somewhere if you’ve got responsibility… it has got this almost biblical anthem to it, that they kind of passionately believe in the horse, really passionately believe in it.”

    Pete, 2006. Photo by Iain McKell

    Pete, 2006. Photo by Iain McKell

    The Horsedrawn may be back-to-basics with their transportation, but they aren’t strangers to modern living. They have cell phones and laptops. They’re on Facebook. Its 18th century meets 21st century, McKell said.

    It’s those contemporary forms of communication that helped the photographer find them each weekend. And, even though McKell lived and worked in the city, he could still move seamlessly in and out of their world.

    “They took me in. They could see that I’ve got that kind of hardy edge. You’ve got to be a bit hardy. You earn your colors that way.”

    Ebony, 2006. Photo by Iain McKell

    Ebony, 2006. Photo by Iain McKell

    The photographer describes the patch of land where they travel and park as a “little verge that runs round the country between the people who own land and the public highway.”

    Occasionally, the group contends with violence. One morning, McKell woke to find Dave, one of the travelers, had been hit. A few months ago, someone came after him with a shovel and landed him in the hospital with a broken arm and two broken ribs. Another time, he heard about family who was attacked while they were sleeping. Someone came and lit the canvas covering their tent on fire. The father had to jump out, cut the ropes, and pull the canvas off their home. Everyone was okay.

    Beanie with rag doll, 2007. Photo by Iain McKell

    Beanie with rag doll, 2007. Photo by Iain McKell

    They’re not overtly political, but they live in a sort of silent protest all the time. According to McKell, it’s a protest against a culture of excess and consumerism. And an embrace of a simpler, more sustainable way of life.

    “When I first met them, everybody (went) back to work after sunrise at Stonehenge. People had jobs to go to. The ravers are gone, the druids are gone, the hippies are gone. But what’s left is people who don’t need to go anywhere because they’re already at home,” said McKell. “That was the first thing that really struck me, that the journey was the home.”

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    The bright light in the lower right region of the sun shows an X-class solar flare on Oct. 26, 2014, as captured by NASA's SDO. This was the third X-class flare in 48 hour. Image by NASA/SDO

    The bright light in the lower right region of the sun shows an X-class solar flare on Oct. 26, 2014, as captured by NASA’s SDO. This was the third X-class flare in 48 hour. Image by NASA/SDO

    The giant spot on the face of the sun has scientists scratching their heads.

    By the time it rotated into our view, it was already 80,000 miles wide, big enough to fit all of Jupiter, big enough to lay 10 Earths, side by side, across. It is the largest spot the sun has harbored in 24 years.

    But while most erupting sunspots lob chunks of plasma outward in events called coronal mass ejections, this one’s keeping its plasma close to the surface.

    To rewind, a sunspot is a darker, cooler area on the sun’s visible surface that stores intense magnetic energy. (Note: Cooler, in this case, means roughly 7,500 degrees Fahrenheit, down from about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.)

    A close-up of AR12192 takenon October 21, 2014 from Langkawi Nagtional Observatory, Malaysia. Image by Karzaman Ahmad and shared at spaceweather.com

    A close-up of AR12192 taken on Oct. 21, 2014, from Langkawi Nagtional Observatory, Malaysia. Image by Karzaman Ahmad and shared at spaceweather.com

    The sun is not a solid body. It’s a ball of hot, hot gas called plasma that’s threaded with magnetic field, created by charged particles moving around. The sun spins faster at its equators and the result is that some of that magnetic field drags, getting twisted and knotted up in the process. As this happens, these knots of magnetic field gain energy, pressure and buoyancy, and some of them float to the surface, and penetrate it, popping out.

    “It’s kind of like having a rubber band that you twist and twist, and it starts to knot up,” said C. Alex Young, associate director for science at NASA Goddard’s Heliophysics Science Division. “The same sort of thing is happening with magnetic fields. They become more twisted, they get more concentrated, and eventually you have to get rid of that energy.”


    The result: a spewing forth of ionized gas.

    Releasing this pent-up energy typically takes two forms: a solar flare or a coronal mass ejection, and this is key to what makes the behavior here unusual. A coronal mass ejection is made up of balls of gas ejected from the sun’s outer atmosphere, consisting of charged particles and magnetic field. The fastest CME’s travel up to 93 million miles a day, or millions of miles per hour. A solar flare is a burst of x-rays and energy, typically smaller and shorter-lasting than a CME, and rather than being launched out into space, they are caused by material accelerated back into the sun.


    This latest sunspot is producing lots of flares — really, really, big ones — but hardly any coronal mass ejections. (Though it did produce one single CME before it rotated into our field of view.)

    “I can’t remember ever seeing a sunspot producing so many solar flares and so few CME’s,” said Michael Hesse, director of NASA Goddard’s Heliophysics Science Division, the team that stares at the sun 24 hours a day. “It wants to get rid of this energy, but we don’t understand why it does it through a flare and not a CME.”

    But it’s produced 10 major solar flares, Hesse said. Six of these were rated X-class, which is equivalent to 100,000 times the amount of energy produced by humans in one year. Also, a billion Hiroshima-sized nuclear weapons.

    A view the full-sun observed by SDO/HMI from Oct. 16-22, 2014

    About 20 percent of all of the X-class flares produced so far in this 11-year solar cycle have come from this sunspot, said Dean Pesnell, a project scientist with NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which takes about 100,000 pictures of the sun every day.

    When a solar flare erupts, it lights up the side of the Earth that’s facing the flare, and heats up the Earth’s upper atmosphere, or ionosphere, which can temporarily change its properties. Solar flares pose less danger than CME’s, but they can affect short-wave radio communication used by pilots and ships, since the radio waves are bounced off the upper atmosphere.

    Sunspots, first seen through a telescope by Galileo, are classified by how complex they are. Similar to a mole, a clean, round sunspot is of less interest to sun watchers.

    “Imagine the doctor says you’ve got a nice little round mole,” Young said. “But when it starts to break up into pieces and change color and get jagged and complicated, that’s when you start to become concerned.”

    Likewise, a more complicated structure means a sunspot contains more potential energy. And as this sunspot goes, it’s a funky one, large and complex, slightly surpassing in size the two spots that existed in fall 2003.

    That was a time of extreme solar activity, known as the Halloween Storms. And those 2003 spots produced the biggest flares we’ve seen in modern times, Young said.

    But this spot has its own mystery, and Hesse expects it to feature prominently at upcoming science conferences.

    “The fact that this sunspot has been nicely in front of the sun where we can watch it gives us an unprecedented opportunity to study this question: How can we have flares and no CMEs,” Hesse said. “We don’t know that at all. We can look at the sunspot and see that there’s energy stored in it. We can see the complexity and know if it’s more likely to produce eruptions. But we don’t know when the eruptions will occur, and we don’t know what they will look like. And we have no clue as to whether it will produce a flare or a CME. We simply don’t understand this.”

    The post There’s a giant spot on the sun, and it’s acting weird appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Medical staff wearing protective suits work at the Carlos III hospital in Madrid on October 10, 2014. California is now instating its own 21-day quarantines for travelers arriving from an Ebola-affected West African country who have also had contact with anybody carrying the virus. Photo by Curto de la Torre?AFP/Getty Images

    Medical staff wearing protective suits work at the Carlos III hospital in Madrid on October 10, 2014. California is now instating its own 21-day quarantines for travelers arriving from an Ebola-affected West African country who have also had contact with anybody carrying the virus. Photo by Curto de la Torre?AFP/Getty Images

    Passengers who arrive in California from an Ebola-stricken West African country and have had contact with an infected patient will face a 21-day quarantine, state health officials said Wednesday.

    “This order will allow local health officers to determine, for those coming into California, who is most at risk for developing this disease, and to contain any potential spread of infectious disease by responding to those risks appropriately,” said Ron Chapman, the state’s public health director, in a statement.

    Chapman added that travelers who have been in the affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, but not come into contact with the virus, will not be considered high risk and won’t be quarantined.

    Anyone who doesn’t comply with the quarantine guidelines could face misdemeanor criminal charges, the Los Angeles Times reported.

    The post California orders 21-day quarantine on travelers from Ebola-afflicted countries appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by  Flickr user Nina J. G

    More than 2,000 Chinese pharmacist candidates were caught cheating during a national licensing exam. Photo by Flickr user Nina J. G

    China was shaken earlier this month by an elaborate cheating scam, involving high tech methods and more than 2,000 pharmacy students.

    The South China Morning Post reported that proctors first detected abnormal radio signals in seven testing locations within China’s Shaanxi province, where 25,000 aspiring pharmacists were taking a national licensing exam. When investigated, 2,440 candidates were caught with an earpiece receiving answers in code, with 700 caught in one location alone.

    The organizers behind the scam entered false candidates into the tests, which took place on October 18 and 19, to quickly memorize questions. The scammers left imminently, worked out the answers, then transmitted them for a fee of $330.

    “It is the worst scandal over the past few years,” said Du Fangshuai, chief of the Shaanxi testing authority. He claims those caught must wait two years before being allowed to repeat the test.

    The post More than 2,000 Chinese students caught cheating on national pharmacist test appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images

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    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight: the iconic musical group that became the very definition of Southern Rock. The Allman Brothers band is moving on.

    Jeffrey Brown helps them close it out.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Last night in New York was the last night for the Allman Brothers, a group that’s been around in various forms for 45 years, famed for its live performances.

    Two years ago, Gregg Allman told me it started when he and his brother Duane brought together the music they each loved.

    GREGG ALLMAN: He sort of leaned toward the country blues, which is unelectrified, like Robert Johnson, Elmore James. And I was really into Bobby Bland, James Brown, you know, people like Curtis Mayfield.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The sound they created with two lead guitarists and two drummers made rock ‘n’ roll history.

    Anthony DeCurtis is a contribution editor at “Rolling Stone” magazine.

    ANTHONY DECURTIS, Rolling Stone: But they had this amazing kind of twin guitar attack. You know, Dickey Betts and Duane Allman really defined a kind of beautiful harmonic sound that was simultaneously tough, but really lyrical. And they were based in the blues, but this was a hardcore rock ‘n’ roll band that just came tearing out the South and kind of took over.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Duane Allman, acknowledged as one of rock’s all-time greats guitarists, died in 1971, exactly 43 years ago today, in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia. It was just as the band was starting to gain some commercial success.

    GREGG ALLMAN: At first, I screamed and yelled and shook my fist at the sky and yelled, shortchanged.

    JEFFREY BROWN: After that, Gregg Allman told me the band members debated whether to continue.

    GREGG ALLMAN: I told them, I said, we’re going to either wind up a bunch of street junkies, or we can forget all that crap and go back to business as usual. And it was pretty much a landslide.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But, just a year later, bass player Berry Oakley died in another motorcycle accident. And their deaths, as well as the drugs, alcohol, broken marriages, and lot and lots of money, took their toll.

    ANTHONY DECURTIS: These were, like, hard-living, tough guys, but through it all, you know, the Allman Brothers kept restoring themselves and reviving themselves.

    And this latest version of the band, you know, with Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks on guitar, was one of the strongest lineups that the band had had since the very beginning.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Warren Haynes, in fact, has been involved with the band for 25 years and a regular for last the 15 as a lead guitarist and singer.

    This afternoon, by phone, I asked him what had been the key to keeping the band alive and thriving?

    WARREN HAYNES: Incorporating the original spirit allowed the band to have a good springboard for where to go in the future, and I think we were all pleasantly surprised at the chemistry of the new band, and the — the sky was the limit.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Haynes says band members began talking three years ago about the right time to quit and go out on a high note.

    WARREN HAYNES: This isn’t a band that can just go through the motions. This isn’t a band that can just walk on stage and play its hits. This is a band that’s created a legacy of playing a completely different show every night, breathing new life into the old songs on a nightly basis, allowing improvisation to be the lifeblood of the music.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Anthony DeCurtis says that legacy will live on at concerts around the country.

    ANTHONY DECURTIS: And they became more important as time went on. They — in addition to inventing Southern rock when they started out, they were a band that invented the jam band scene, pretty much. I mean, they’re icons on that scene and have influenced all of the bands from the world.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And going forward, the music will also live on in the various solo projects band members have planned.

    The post After many regenerations, the Allman Brothers Band goes out on a high note appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s turn to some concerns being raised all over again about the privatization of the U.S. space program.

    This follows the explosion last night of a rocket that was scheduled to go to the International Space Station. Seconds after launch, the rocket exploded at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia owned by Orbital Sciences Corporation and contracted through NASA. It was supposed to deliver 5,000 pounds of supplies and experiments to the space station.

    NASA reported no problems just before the launch. Now there are many questions about what went wrong and whether old engines are to blame.

    Our science correspondent, and resident space expert, Miles O’Brien joins us from South Carolina tonight.

    So, Miles, welcome back.

    Problems with the engine. What’s known about what happened?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Well, we can’t say for certain, but all roads lead to suspicion about the engine.

    You have to ask yourself, what is operating at that stage of flight? First, you know, 10 seconds, give or take, is the first-stage engines, which are these 40-year-old engines. And we’re not talking about 40-year-old technology. These are actually engines that go back to the Soviet era, were put in a warehouse, and were purchased by Orbital Sciences, refurbished, and put on this rocket.

    So, these were old engines, old designs. And you see the rocket kind of lurch, almost stop in its tracks. You see something falling through the plume. You see a discoloration in the rocket plume. And then very shortly thereafter, things go bad very quickly. Not long after that, they pushed the red button, which terminates the vehicle, as they say, the destruct button.

    So the suspicion is focused squarely on the engines.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Was there reason to suspect these engines ahead of time?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Well, they have had some difficulty with them on test stands, a couple of incidents, as they tested them, where they actually blew up with fuel line problems, and other issues. They date back to the Soviet effort to go to the moon with the giant N1 rocket, which had multiple launchpad failures.

    So these rockets have had trouble, but all rockets have trouble. This is a very difficult business going from zero to 17,500 miles per hour in the span of about 8.5 minutes. So, if you have the tiniest little leak or a turbo pump that goes awry, you’re going to have problems. Things have to work perfectly.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Miles, how typical is it that engines that old are being used in spaceflight?

    MILES O’BRIEN: I don’t know of any other scenario where that has occurred, Judy. This is — this is unusual.

    And this is — says a lot about overall policy. Orbital Sciences, when it came time to pick an engine, didn’t have a lot of places to go. There were no homegrown U.S. engines available to them. The Russians make another type of engine called an RD-180, a much bigger engine, but that engine was being purchased en masse by a consortium of Boeing and Lockheed Martin called the United Launch Alliance.

    And they were precluded from purchasing those engines. So they really didn’t have any place to turn. This idea of taking these engines that were sitting in a warehouse, refurbishing them, and using them seemed to be the only alternative. And I think we can all agree it’s probably better to build your own engines if you can.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I noticed the Russians had a successful takeoff of one of their own rockets shortly after this — after this explosion and failure.

    Miles, just quickly, no safety issue with regard to the space station?


    And that launch points it out. There’s plenty of paths to the station. That Russian Progress freighter is on its way. California-based SpaceX is on the docks to launch in December and February. The station — nobody on the station is going to go hungry.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, commercial space travel, does this raise a question about its viability in the future? Or is this considered a one-off?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Well, it should raise questions, and rightly so. If you have an accident and you don’t ask questions, you’re never going to learn.

    The real question is, you know, NASA never has built a rocket on its own. It’s always used contractors, Boeing and Lockheed Martin and their predecessor companies. What’s different now is the way they do the contracts. They’re not on the factory floor, as it were, watching how every bolt is turned and so forth.

    Instead, they’re sort of, instead of being on the floor where the Ford is made, they’re purchasing the car in the showroom, but with setting some parameters. And working out the right balance there, how to set the safety standards and how to fine-tune the level of scrutiny, is kind of a work in progress.

    And this will be one of the things that will come out of this investigation is, has the bar been set properly both on safety and the level of scrutiny that NASA is applying to these commercial entities?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, again, thankfully, no loss of life, no injuries.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Yes. Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Miles O’Brien, we thank you.

    MILES O’BRIEN: You’re welcome, Judy.

    The post Rocket explosion raises questions about commercial space travel safety appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A fragment believed to be from Amelia Earhart's plane may bring researchers one step closer to solving her mysterious disappearance.

    A fragment from Amelia Earhart’s plane may bring researchers one step closer to solving her mysterious disappearance.

    After 77 years of searching, researchers announced they are one big step closer to knowing where aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart and her plane ended up. An aluminum fragment found in 1991 on a remote, uninhabited coral atoll in the Pacific island nation of Kiribati appears to be from her lost aircraft.

    Researchers with the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) said this particular aluminum fragment was patched onto Earhart’s twin-engined Lockheed Electra during a stop in Miami and is as unique as if it was an individual’s fingerprint.

    The group recently visited a team in Newton, Kansas who have restored an Electra similar to Earhart’s. A forensic imaging specialist compared historic photos of the riveted patch to the rebuilt plane, leading them to conclude it comes from her plane.

    The entrance to the lagoon on Nikumaroro in Kiribati, where researchers believe the remains of Earhart's plane might lie.

    The entrance to the lagoon on Nikumaroro in Kiribati, where researchers believe the remains of Earhart’s plane might lie.

    Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan set out in March of 1937 to circumnavigate the globe. One theory suggests they ran out of fuel somewhere near their target destination of Howland Island and crashed into the Pacific Ocean. This finding would debunk that theory. Researchers from TIGHAR have been testing the alternate theory that the pair landed on Nikumaroro, survived for awhile but finally died.




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    GWEN IFILL: Today marks two years since Superstorm Sandy slammed into the East Coast, leaving enormous damage in its path.

    As is the often the case, the Red Cross was at the center of major relief activity, but its efforts and its coordination at the time are now the subject of new scrutiny.

    Howling winds and sheets of rain pounded New Jersey and New York when the storm made landfall late on October 29, 2012. Millions of people lost power, as water poured into streets, flooding subways and tunnels. When it was over, ocean-front communities lay devastated, with thousands of homes damaged or destroyed, and 182 people dead. The Red Cross helped lead the relief effort with endorsements coming from the highest levels.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The Red Cross knows what they’re doing. They’re in close contact with federal, state, and local officials. They will make sure that we get the resources to those families as swiftly as possible.

    GWEN IFILL: But, today, a report released by NPR and ProPublica painted a starkly critical picture of the agency’s actions.

    JUSTIN ELLIOTT, ProPublica: In many cases after Sandy, the Red Cross just didn’t show up to the most devastated areas until weeks after the storm.

    GWEN IFILL: ProPublica reporter Justin Elliott says internal documents and interviews with current and former Red Cross staffers found some decisions were dictated by appearances.

    JUSTIN ELLIOTT: Several Red Cross officials who worked on the Sandy effort complained at the time that emergency response vehicles which are used to deliver relief items like blankets and also food were diverted by headquarters to be backdrops at press conferences, as well as at photo-ops with celebrities.

    GWEN IFILL: The report says logistical problems and communication snafus led to wasteful spending and unmet needs.

    JUSTIN ELLIOTT: There was a lot of wasted food in the aftermath of Sandy in the Red Cross relief effort, partly because the Red Cross was failing to get intelligence about where victims where, so they were making meals that they couldn’t find people to distribute them to.

    GWEN IFILL: The Red Cross today defended its performance and called the report distorted and inaccurate.

    For more of the response, we turn to Suzy DeFrancis, the chief public affairs officer for the American Red Cross.

    Thank you for joining us.

    SUZY DEFRANCIS, American Red Cross: Thank you, Gwen.

    GWEN IFILL: One of the things that this ProPublica-NPR report cites is a lessons learned memo, a recording of some minutes of a lessons learned meeting in which it said — in which Red Cross officials themselves said that multiple systems failed.

    SUZY DEFRANCIS: Well, Gwen, after every major disaster, we take a look at everything, and we want to know what went wrong and what went right.

    What’s wrong with this report is, it doesn’t show any of the good work that the Red Cross did. As you showed, this was a massive disaster with huge challenges in getting food to people and relief to people. And yet the Red Cross, we were able to distribute about 17.5 million meals and snacks.

    We had seven million relief items that we distributed, and not just the typical cleanup kits. We were distributing gloves and hats, because, as you remember, there was a snowstorm on top of it. We had 17,000 people deployed, and most of them were volunteers.

    GWEN IFILL: I guess isn’t the question they’re raising what didn’t get done, not what did get done?

    SUZY DEFRANCIS: Well, Gwen, as I said, we look at all these things after a disaster.

    And we know that a disaster, by definition, something is going wrong. And you’re pulling together a whole bunch of volunteers who may not have always worked together. But you’re trying to get food and relief to people. And, of course, there are going to be problems. But the reason that you look at it is so you can find them and fix them and make sure they don’t occur again.

    GWEN IFILL: Let me ask you very specifically about some of the findings in this report.

    One of them is that, for instance, when we thought that Hurricane Isaac was headed to Tampa, that the Red Cross deployed a lot of folks to Tampa. The hurricane never hit, and the people never moved.

    SUZY DEFRANCIS: Well, I wish weather forecasting could be — hindsight is 2020.

    We were following the cone, the hurricane cone that the National Hurricane Center puts out. And we have to move people five days in advance. We can’t wait until everybody know where’s it’s going to land. Tampa is a very vulnerable area, has a lot of seniors. It was prone to flooding. And, yes, we put our people there because that was the right thing to do. We had an agreement with local officials in Tampa that we would staff about 100,000 people in shelters.

    GWEN IFILL: But not move them once the…

    SUZY DEFRANCIS: Well, you can’t move people right away if the storm is going up the coast, because we don’t want to put our volunteers in harm’s way.

    GWEN IFILL: What about the charges or the findings that so much happened because of public relations purposes, trucks were deployed to back up press conferences, for instance?

    SUZY DEFRANCIS: Well, this one, I have to really smile at, because I’m the chief public affairs officer at the American Red Cross. And I don’t tell anybody where those emergency response vehicles go.

    That’s the job of the disaster responders. That’s the lens through which it is done. And the example that ProPublica cited, that was a staging area where we were sending relief trucks, primarily at the request of the borough president from Staten Island, because they had huge needs in Staten Island.

    Those trucks were full of food. They were — they were delivering food. So when the cameras went away from a press conference, the Red Cross was still there delivering food.

    GWEN IFILL: How about the food that wasn’t delivered, the meals that were wasted, that went to the wrong place, the people who remained hungry even after the effort?

    SUZY DEFRANCIS: Well, as I said, we served 17.5 million meals and snacks. At one point, Gwen, if you took all the people in a sold-out Yankee and Giants stadium, we were reaching all of them every day for weeks.

    Now, there’s also going to be in that much food some waste, but certainly nothing along the lines that was reported by ProPublica.

    GWEN IFILL: So what did you mean then, just coming back full circle, to multiple systems failing? What was that admission?

    SUZY DEFRANCIS: Well, I don’t — can’t comment on multiple systems failing.

    What we saw was a very effective response that served millions of people when their help was urgently needed. And we learned some lessons from it that we continue to apply and we continue to improve. We haven’t been a response organization for 130 years without making some changes to get better.

    And we will be there at the next response, and we will be even better.

    GWEN IFILL: Suzy DeFrancis of the American Red Cross, thank you.

    SUZY DEFRANCIS: Thank you, Gwen.

    The post Red Cross defends response to Hurricane Sandy two years on appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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