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

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    U.S. President Barack Obama (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping at a press conference in Beijing, China, after the 22nd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders conference, on Nov. 12. Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Today’s deal, of course, also has broader implications for the often tense relationship between the U.S. and China.

    For more on that angle, I’m joined by Susan Shirk. She was a deputy assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration and now chairs the 21st Century China Program at the University of California, San Diego. And Gordon Chang, he’s an author and attorney who practiced law in Hong Kong for 20 years. He’s also a contributor to Forbes.com.

    Welcome back to the “NewsHour” to both of you.

    First off, apart from substance, Gordon Chang, how significant is it when you put together today’s deal on climate change, yesterday’s deal on trade, given the state of relations between the U.S. and China?

    GORDON CHANG, Forbes.com: Well, certainly, I think yesterday’s deal on tariffs on information products is very, very important. This is going to affect American business in a very direct way.

    And if it indeed is implemented in the WTO’s information technology agreement next year, this is a major win. I’m not so sure about climate change deal, though, because China’s commitment was pretty vague in the White House fact sheet. And also the Xinhua news agency in their release didn’t talk by a climate cap in 2030.

    So I have got to make sure, we have got to make sure that there really is a deal here. And, indeed, doing nothing for 16 years, as Mitch McConnell says — and I very rarely quote Mitch McConnell — but doing nothing for 16 areas is politically unsustainable, not only in the United States, but in other countries as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Susan Shirk, asking you the same thing, put this in the context of the overall state of U.S.-China relations. How significant are these two agreements?

    SUSAN SHIRK, University of California, San Diego: Well, I think it’s very significant.

    This was a good day for U.S.-China diplomacy. Both governments have demonstrated that they have the will to cooperate, despite the growing rivalry between them. And, you know, this climate commitment is very significant. And China has already begun to take major efforts to move toward renewable energy and to reduce emissions and clean up their local environment.

    The information technology trade deal, China had been the one holdout. Now that China was motivated to make the compromise necessary to move this agreement forward, I’m quite sure that it will move forward and the benefits for the U.S. economy will be substantial.

    And, third, there is also a very important military-to-military agreement, because for years China had resisted our efforts to develop a code of conduct about the maritime and air encounters around their periphery. But now they have agreed that we’re going to develop that kind of code of conduct. So I think because Xi Jinping was hosting this big show and the spotlight was on China, he was very motivated to compromise at this point.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, both of you talked to us earlier today about the role that internal political pressures may have played on President Xi.

    Gordon Chang, how do you see that affecting what happens coming out of this meeting, this summit, and the possibility of future connections, relations between the U.S. and China?

    GORDON CHANG: It’s going to be very important to see how China implements the agreements that it reached.

    And I actually think that the political system now is in distress. Everyone says that Xi Jinping has quickly consolidated control in Beijing. But there are too many symptoms of problems, including the failure to dispose of the issue of Zhou Yongkang, the former security czar, and also these continuing series of loyalty oaths on the part of flag officers, which seem to be a symptom of disagreements in the People’s Liberation Army.

    So, Xi Jinping, I don’t think has the consensus to be able to deal with the international community on an acceptable basis. And we saw this in that really deplorable handshake with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, where Xi Jinping just breached one diplomatic protocol after another. I think that that shows that there’s problems in the Chinese political system that they can’t deal with a neighbor in an acceptable fashion.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And that raises another interesting point.

    But, Susan Shirk, I do want to get your sense of the internal pressures and how they’re playing out on Xi and how you think this relationship moves forward between the U.S. and China.

    SUSAN SHIRK: Well, I do think that Xi Jinping has been very much focused on domestic threats to his power and maintaining the Communist Party in power, despite the dramatic changes in society and economy over the last 30 years.

    So you see this contrast between what looks like a very confident Xi Jinping and confident China on the world stage with a very nervous Xi Jinping in China about the potential for domestic unrest. But I think Xi did well for himself by handling this meeting so well, looking like, you know, enhancing China’s status as a responsible big power.

    And that’s going to resonate domestically as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just quickly, a quick answer from both of you on this, the fact that President Obama referred to what is going on in Hong Kong, President Xi was asked about that, about domestic unrest, if you — in Hong Kong.

    Gordon Chang and then Susan Shirk, how much pressure, how much influence does the U.S. really have, if any, in this?

    GORDON CHANG: Well, it can have a lot of influence if it decided to use it. We have enormous trade leverage over China, which has become increasingly dependent on exports to the U.S., now that investment and consumption in the U.S. are stagnating.

    And, basically, if the United States wanted to exercise leadership, it could.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Susan Shirk?

    SUSAN SHIRK: Well, I think that the United States really has and the international community more broadly has limited impact on China’s human rights policies and its policies toward Hong Kong.

    And, you know, it has some impact. Certainly, China doesn’t want the reputation of being a police state. Even North Korea is concerned about its reputation on the human rights front, we have seen recently. So it can have some marginal impact. But, by and large, my own experience, having served in government in the Clinton administration, is that we have limited impact, and the demand has to come from within China.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Susan Shirk, Gordon Chang, we thank you.

    SUSAN SHIRK: Thank you.

     

    The post Could the climate deal be a turning point for improved U.S.-China relations? – Part 3 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    copingwithclimatechange

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    GWEN IFILL: We look more closely now at President Obama’s China meetings in two parts.

    First, secret talks began months ago that led to that historic agreement between the two countries on cutting greenhouse gases. But, today, there are still plenty of questions about how it will play out here, in China and globally and whether either side will be able to deliver on its pledges.

    Michael Oppenheimer is one of the many authors of the U.N. reports on climate change and a professor of geosciences and international affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

    Welcome back to the “NewsHour.” 

    MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER, Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs, Princeton University:  Thanks for having me.

    GWEN IFILL: How big a deal is this deal?

    MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER: This huge, as far as I’m concerned. And there are basically three reasons.

    One, the science. The science tells us that to have a chance of avoiding the climate danger zone, we have got to get the world’s emissions turned around — that is, going down, instead of going up — some time in the 2020 to 2030 time span. The Chinese benchmark here of 2030 is consistent with that objective.

    The second reason is that if you get China and the U.S. in the room, you have about 45 percent of global greenhouse, global warming emissions. If you add in the E.U., which is already on the downward direction in terms of emissions, you have got about 60 percent of the emissions. Think about the leadership factor involved in that.

    Other countries will have a harder time avoiding dealing with climate change with the three 800-pound gorillas together. And the third reason is if China in particular is going to do this, and also the U.S., they’re going to have to go big into the renewable energy markets, where they have already staked out a position. That is going to help expand the markets, bring down the price of renewable energy, make it easier for everybody else to do this.

    GWEN IFILL: How did China come around on this? Was it domestic pressure, was it international pressure?

    MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER: With China, it is primarily domestic pressure. It’s a realization, number one, they have a terrible air pollution problem, which has become a political issue. They have to do something about that.

    At the same time, they have got exposure to the climate change problem. And they’re worried about their energy security issues. So they have been looking to diversify their energy sources. And, as part of that, that means getting off the fossil fuels, which have been so dominant in the Chinese economy, for instance, coal.

    GWEN IFILL: So these two presidents shaking hands, it was kind of essential in that one cannot do it without the other.

    MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER: They really need each other if they are going to deal with climate change.

    And I think it’s very interesting that they have decided that among the panoply of issues that they could reach agreement on, this is one where they have enough of a common interest and enough of an intention that they are serious about moving forward.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, there certainly are a lot of issues on the table. And this is one where something happened.

    But how hard is it for either country to meets these targets they have set for themselves, especially — let’s start with China. How hard is it for China to meet these, for instance, peak emission targets?

    MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER: For China, it’s ambitious. There’s no doubt about it. But China has shown an ability to move quickly on energy.

    Over the last 10 or 15 years, they have taken over the global production of photovoltaic cell solar energy and they have taken over virtually the global production of wind turbines. And in that way, they have helped other countries, particularly Germany, drive down their own emissions because they have been able to sell these products cheaply. So they can make a decision, and then they can implement it.

    So I have no doubt that if this remains a political priority, China will be able to meet this goal.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, talking about political priorities, let’s come back here to the United States, where already we have heard Republican Senator Mitch McConnell saying today this is not going to work. China is getting the deal. We’re going to get — we’re going to get caught on the short end of that stick. Can the political will fall short here?

    MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER: I think that that’s getting it backwards. Namely, for China, this is going to be tougher than it is for the U.S.

    For the U.S., what it means is staying the course on the regulations and the laws that are already in place and then stretching those laws a little further to implement some new regulations. So we’re already on the downward glide path. This means staying focused. And we can do it with technologies and measures that are already known and available.

    GWEN IFILL: But what if the political winds shift the other way, which it looks like many people want them to, away from staying the course?

    MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER: It could happen. One could envision the election of a president that isn’t as friendly to doing something about this issue as Obama is.

    GWEN IFILL: Or a Congress, as just happened.

    MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER: Well, it already happened.

    But you have to realize that once we set a national priority to move emissions down, the public is in favor of it. Every survey indicates that the public is in favor of strong action. They’re waiting for leadership. And on top of that now, we have got China and the U.S. having mutually agreed to do this. It won’t be easy, no matter who the president is, to back off a deal that they have made with China, when there is a whole constellation of issues that we are reaching agreement on with China.

    GWEN IFILL: And a whole constellation of countries watching this action. Which ones would you be watching most closely?

    MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER: I would watch India.

    They are the next big developing country that hasn’t really taken much of an interest in this issue. They’re critical because their emissions are expected to grow quite a bit in the future. If this agreement is actually implemented, it will go a long way to dragging India in, or maybe pulling them in with a little help, into doing something about climate change.

    And then beyond that, we have looked at countries like Brazil, Indonesia, et cetera.

    GWEN IFILL: Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton, thank you very much.

    MICHAEL OPPENHEIMER: Thanks for having me here.

    The post Why U.S. and China agreed on climate change action – Part 2 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrap_ebolanurses

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    GWEN IFILL: The Ebola death toll in West Africa has now surpassed 5,100, out of more than 14,000 cases. The World Health Organization announced the new figures today. Meanwhile, nurses in parts of the U.S. staged rallies and strikes, demanding better protection for medical workers. The National Nurses Union organized the effort.

    It came as the secretary of health and human services asked a Senate panel for emergency funding.

    SYLVIA MATHEWS BURWELL, SECRETARY OF Health and Human Services: We have trained over 250,000 people. What we need to do now, and that’s part of what this request is about, is to make sure that that training continues and extends, and we need to measure it. We are working with the manufacturers. They are producing 24/7 right now and we are working with them and working with the states to make sure that those who have the greatest need and we will most likely treat get that equipment.

    GWEN IFILL: Also today, relatives of Thomas Eric Duncan reached a settlement with a Dallas hospital where the Liberian man was initially sent home and later died. The family’s attorney said Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital will pay an undisclosed sum, and establish a charitable foundation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A blast of early winter pushed farther south and east today, sending temperatures tumbling. Readings fell more than 30 degrees overnight in Illinois, dropping from 58 yesterday to 26 today. Parts of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula were buried under three feet of snow, with more still to come. And freeze warnings were issued as far south as Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

    GWEN IFILL: The federal agency that oversees the National Weather Service has been hacked. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said today four of its Web sites were hit in recent weeks. The Washington Post reported Chinese hackers were behind the cyber-attack. It said NOAA had to seal off data on disaster planning, aviation and shipping.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: NATO charged today that Russia has moved tanks, troops and equipment into Ukraine in recent days. The alliance’s supreme commander, U.S. General Philip Breedlove, confirmed reports by international observers. He said — quote — “There is no question any more that Russia’s military is operating inside Ukraine.”

    GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE, NATO Supreme Allied Commander: What worries me the most, I have said before, is that we have a situation now where the former international border, the current international border of Ukraine and Russia is completely porous, it is completely wide open. Forces, money, support, supplies, weapons are flowing back and forth across this border completely at will.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Russian Defense Ministry denied the claim, but Ukraine’s government said it’s redeploying troops amid fears that Russian-backed rebels will launch a new military offensive.

    GWEN IFILL: In Iraq, nearly two dozen people died in a wave of suicide attacks and car bombings in and around Baghdad today. The targets were mainly security forces and police. Iraqi officials blamed Islamic State militants.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: U.S. airstrikes in Syria have killed more than 700 Islamic State fighters, but they have also killed 50 civilians. The figures came today from a Syrian human rights group based in Britain.

    Meanwhile, Kurdish fighters in the town of Kobani, near the Turkish border, said they have cut a supply route to Islamic State forces besieging the town.

    GWEN IFILL: The United States, Britain and Switzerland fined five major banks more than $3 billion today over manipulating foreign exchange markets. The settlement includes Citibank, J.P. Morgan Chase, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, and UBS. Regulators said their employees gamed the system at the expense of clients.

    MARTIN WHEATLEY, Chief Executive, Financial Conduct Authority: We expect firms to put conduct and their consumers at the heart of their business. Firms need to take responsibility for fixing the cultural weaknesses that have led to the problems from the sales floors to the trading desk. And we’re playing our role in trying to improve standards across financial services.

    GWEN IFILL: In a related probe, the U.S. comptroller of the currency fined J.P. Morgan/chase Bank of America and Citigroup another $950 million.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A harrowing scene played out today at the brand-new One World Trade Center in New York. Two window washers had to be rescued from 69 stories up. Firefighters smashed a glass panel to bring them inside after they’d dangled for more than an hour. A building spokesman said one of the cables on the large scaffolding broke and left it hanging at a sharp angle. One World Trade Center replaced the buildings that were destroyed in the 9/11 attacks.

    GWEN IFILL: Wall Street mostly ran out of steam today after a series of record closings. The Dow Jones industrial average lost two points to close at 17,612; the Nasdaq rose 14 points to close at 4,675; and the S&P 500 dropped a point, finishing at 2,038.

    The post News Wrap: U.S. nurses rally for improved Ebola protections appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    US-china_climatechange

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The announcement from Beijing today captured the attention of scientists, diplomats and lawmakers alike. China and the United States agreed on a fast-track effort to pump less carbon into the atmosphere.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is an ambitious goal, but it is an achievable goal.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It was an unprecedented announcement from the world’s two biggest economies and carbon polluters. President Obama promised that, by 2025, the U.S. will cut carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by more than a quarter, below the levels of 2005.

    BARACK OBAMA: It puts us on a path to achieving the deep emissions reductions need by advanced economies that the scientific community says is necessary to prevent the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. was already on track to meet an earlier goal of lowering emissions 17 percent by 2020. China, in turn, agreed today to cap emissions by 2030. It was a first for Beijing, although President Xi Jinping referred to it just once.

    PRESIDENT XI JINPING, China (through interpreter): We published a joint statement about dealing with climate change and together announced our individual action goals for after 2020.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It remained unclear exactly how each country will achieve the goals, but the announcement set the stage for negotiations on a new global climate pact next year in Paris.

    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon lauded the agreement during a visit to Myanmar.

    BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General, United Nations: I urge all countries, especially all major economies, to follow China and the United States’ lead and announce ambitious post-2020 targets as soon as possible.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On the other hand, the head of the U.N.’s panel of climate scientists said the deal will not be enough to avert the worst of global warming.

    And, in Washington, soon-to-be-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell charged the president’s plan will mean higher energy prices and fewer jobs.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, Minority Leader: I was particularly distressed by the deal apparently he’s reached with the Chinese on his current trip, which, as I read the agreement, requires the Chinese to do nothing at all for 16 years, while these carbon emission regulations are creating havoc in my state and other states around the country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. and China also reached agreements on trade and military cooperation this week. But tensions remain over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, as well as cyber-security and human rights.

    Some of the contention came through at today’s rare joint news conference. On pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, President Obama called for freedom of expression and fair elections. But Xi condemned the demonstrations, and warned they’re no one else’s business.

    XI JINPING (through interpreter): Hong Kong affairs are exclusively China’s internal affairs, and foreign countries shouldn’t interfere in those affairs in any form or fashion.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: At another point, New York Times reporter Mark Landler pressed Xi about restrictions on American news organizations in China.

    MARK LANDLER, The New York Times: In the spirit of these visa — reciprocal visa arrangements that you have agreed to this week with businesspeople and students, isn’t it time to extend that sort of right to foreign correspondents who seek to cover your country?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Xi initially ignored the question, even removing the earpiece feeding him translation. Later, he blamed the restrictions on unfavorable coverage of China, and he said the party which started the problem should be the one to resolve it.

    From Beijing, President Obama flew to Myanmar to meet with leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. We will explore the ins and outs of the climate agreement and of broader U.S.-China relations after the news summary.

     

    The post U.S.-China pledge on carbon emissions draws cheers, jeers and skepticism – Part 1 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON -— The Supreme Court says same-sex marriages can go ahead in Kansas.

    The court on Wednesday denied the state’s request to prevent gay and lesbian couples from marrying while Kansas fights the issue in court.

    A federal district judge last week blocked the state from enforcing its ban, saying it was in keeping with an earlier ruling by the federal appeals court that oversees Kansas that struck down bans in Oklahoma and Utah.

    The judge’s ruling was supposed to go into effect Tuesday, but Justice Sonia Sotomayor (SOHN’-ya soh-toh-my-YOR’) temporarily put it on hold while the high court reviewed the case.

    Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas would have sided with the state.

    The post Supreme Court lifts hold on same-sex marriage in Kansas appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A volunteer from the non-governemental organzation gets an injection of an Ebola vaccine called ChAd3 as part of trials on November 4, 2014 at the CHUV hospital in Lausanne. Most of the 120 volunteers will receive the experimental vaccine made by Britain's GlaxoSmithKine, which is based on a genetically modified chimpanzee adenovirus, but some of them will receive a placebo. Photo by Richard Juilliart/AFP/Getty Images

    A volunteer from the non-governemental organzation gets an injection of an Ebola vaccine called ChAd3 as part of trials on November 4, 2014 at the CHUV hospital in Lausanne. Most of the 120 volunteers will receive the experimental vaccine made by Britain’s GlaxoSmithKine, which is based on a genetically modified chimpanzee adenovirus, but some of them will receive a placebo. Photo by Richard Juilliart/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — A top U.S. health official says long-anticipated clinical trials of a possible Ebola vaccine will start soon in West Africa, as the global response to the outbreak took on added urgency with new cases in Mali and reports that the death toll has surpassed 5,000.

    Results of an initial U.S. safety study proved promising enough that next-step testing should begin in Liberia and Sierra Leone by January, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health told a Senate committee on Wednesday.

    If those new studies go well, “we could know by the middle of 2015 whether or not we have an effective vaccine,” said Fauci, director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

    The news came as the Senate Appropriations Committee began evaluating the Obama administration’s request for $6.2 billion in emergency aid to fight Ebola.

    While the number of infections is slowing in some parts of West Africa, the World Health Organization said cases still are surging in Sierra Leone. Worse, nearby Mali on Wednesday reported three deaths linked to Ebola and mobilized to stop the virus’ spread.

    “That cluster has to be controlled or we’re going to have another front,” warned Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    The spending request includes $4.64 billion in immediate money to fight the epidemic in West Africa while at the same time shoring up U.S. preparedness. The domestic work includes such things as continuing training so far given to 250,000 nurses and other U.S. health workers on how to safely handle any future patients, designating hospitals capable of handling Ebola or other serious infectious diseases, and creating a national stockpile of protective equipment.

    Some of the money also would go to setting up health systems in other vulnerable countries so they could spot similar outbreaks early and avoid a crisis.

    Included in the funding request is $238 million for the NIH for clinical trials of experimental vaccines and treatments. The vaccine question aside, Fauci said NIH brought together doctors who had cared for the nine Ebola patients treated in the U.S., to look at records of experimental treatments they received.

    If those new studies go well, “we could know by the middle of 2015 whether or not we have an effective vaccine,” said Fauci, director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “It was clear we had no idea what works or what doesn’t work,” he said, calling that a “strong argument” for clinical trials.

    The aid package also would earmark $1.5 billion for a contingency fund to deal with any unexpected developments.

    Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who chairs the Appropriations Committee, said lawmakers would move rapidly on the request. “We need to contain the disease and we need to eradicate it,” she said.

    But some lawmakers questioned whether the Obama administration was taking enough security measures against Ebola.

    “Why not take the extra conservative step” of quarantining returning health care workers like the Defense Department decided to quarantine troops sent to help in West Africa, Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., said.

    Health officials said the military made an operational decision to deal with a large group of people, while the CDC’s guidelines are tailored to whether a returning health worker is at high or low risk of infection. While everyone must monitor for early symptoms such as fever, only some are advised to restrict their movements.

    “In Ebola, there is no carrier state. You cannot make other people ill unless you yourself are ill,” Frieden said.

    The post Clinical trials of possible Ebola vaccine to start in West Africa appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Flickr user Judy **.

    Former World Bank vice president Ian Goldin worries that national governments are giving up on the international organizations needed to mitigate the risks of globalization. Photo by Flickr user Judy **.

    Editor’s Note: The last remaining American with Ebola may have just been released from the hospital, but spread of the disease hasn’t abated everywhere. As reported on the NewsHour this week, cases have increased this month in Sierra Leone, while Mali has reported a second larger outbreak. “As long as the disease is spreading in West Africa, it’s likely we’re going to see more cases in the U.S.,” CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said this week.

    The Buttterfly Defect bookjacket

    This year’s Ebola outbreak illustrates what former World Bank vice president Ian Goldin calls “The Butterfly Defect.” His new book of the same title, co-authored with University of Vienna assistant professor of finance Mike Mariathasan, explores the systematic risks that come with globalization, like the international spread of contagious diseases.

    The outbreak in West Africa has caused paranoia and infection far away in the United States and Spain. In short, local risks now have international repercussions. And it’s not just contagious diseases that transcend geographic and disciplinary borders, but climate change and financial crises, too.

    The problem, according to Goldin in the following column on Making Sen$e, is that globalization’s systemic risks are not being managed, in large part because the intergovernmental and international institutions that would do the managing aren’t getting enough support from nations already wary of their existence.

    Goldin knows of what he speaks. Before his tenure at the World Bank, he worked for the Development Bank of South Africa, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and he has also served as an adviser to former South African president Nelson Mandela. He’s now the director of Oxford’s Martin School. His other books include “Divided Nations: Why Global Governance Is Failing and What We Can Do About It.”

    Simone Pathe, Making Sen$e Editor


    Globalization has delivered immense health benefits, enabling more people than ever to live longer, healthier lives. But globalization is also leading to a number of escalating threats to health. Ebola is just the latest example.

    Ironically, though, in an era when we’re all more connected internationally, national support for international organizations, like the World Health Organization, has waned, limiting our ability to mitigate the systemic risks and spill-over effects of globalization.

    The spread of disease and its potential economic impacts are just a few of the effects of globalization. And even though non-communicable diseases, like diabetes, now take the greatest toll on life and strain already stretched health budgets, infectious diseases and pandemics continue to pose the greatest threat to humans in a globalized world.

    Yes, we’ve come a long way in containing the spread of disease. But the recent successes in containing Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), H1N1 (“swine flu”) and H5N1 (“bird flu”), and the fact that we have not seen a globally devastating pandemic in recent decades, are not excuses for complacency.

    Already this outbreak of Ebola has killed more people than all previous episodes of Ebola. Infection rates exceed 13,000 total cases as of the latest World Health Organization update on Nov. 7. In September, with the number of cases doubling every 20 days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that without additional interventions or changes in community behavior by Jan. 20, there could be up to 1.4 million cases of Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone alone.

    Peter Piot, the director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who co-discovered the Ebola virus in 1976, has emphasized that the threat requires a far greater all-out effort to prevent Ebola from becoming endemic in West Africa, which would create a reservoir for its spread to other parts of Africa and beyond.

    Since no reliable vaccine exists, and because Ebola has an incubation period of over two days, individuals can escape detection and isolation before the symptoms are identified and they are contagious. Nigeria and Senegal have demonstrated that the combination of effective intervention by local health officials, adequate resources and support from the local community, can contain Ebola. That the worst outbreaks and least effective responses to the crisis have been in the West African countries ravaged by decades of civil war and with the most under-resourced health systems is no coincidence.

    Like Any Positive Force, Globalization Has an Equal and Opposite Force

    When it comes to health, the higher levels of connectivity and integration between societies highlight the fact that globalization does not only lead to the spreading of “goods,” such as economic opportunity and vaccines, but also to the spreading of “bads,” such as diseases, financial crises and cyber attacks. Short-sighted policy making in business, as well as in politics, is an unintended consequence of globalization that has made the management of these “bads” more difficult.

    Globalization and its related health risks have put resources in greater demand, and yet budgetary and accounting pressures are making them even scarcer. National health systems have had to reduce their stockpiles of resources, while international agencies and pharmaceutical companies have reduced investments in research and development on infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance.

    With private research concentrated in the hands of fewer companies, whose business models rely on a handful of blockbuster patented drugs, the development of antibiotics as well as vaccines for infectious diseases, especially those that afflict poor people in developing countries, is lagging further and further behind the needs of our societies. This widening gap is not being closed by the public sector at either the national or international level.

    “Even before the Ebola crisis, national governments kept the WHO and other global institutions on financial drip-feed. Hand-to-mouth budgets don’t allow these organizations to prevent, let alone respond to, crises.”

    In the age of austerity, the WHO and its regional and national counterparts, which are critical to the control of pandemics, are being starved of funds. A breakdown or absence of public health infrastructure is the driving factor in over 40 percent of infectious disease outbreaks internationally (see page 30 of hyperlinked report).

    Even more important than dealing with the immediate threat is ensuring that this Ebola outbreak encourages greater levels of preparedness against the future spread of infectious diseases, of which the threat is growing rapidly with rising population density and international travel.

    Systemic risks propagate along the arteries of globalization. As our economies become more interconnected, we also become more vulnerable to disruption. Ebola is an example of how that disruption can go global, and how the economic impact compounds the immediate health consequences.

    Economic Impact of Ebola

    For Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, Ebola has already proved an economic as well as health disaster. The severing of airline links and closure of borders, together with quarantines and school closures, threaten the economic as well as human life of West Africa.

    Up to a quarter of the government budgets in these countries now needs to be spent on health (compared to around 8 percent previously). And just when expenditures need to be ramped up, tax and other revenues are declining sharply due to the Ebola-induced economic shock. Production and transportation of crops have collapsed as workers are told to stay home and vital routes are closed. Food prices are spiking and are already 150 percent higher than before Ebola struck. Malnutrition is rising and incomes are collapsing in both rural and urban areas. For a region that is trying to shake off the legacy of a series of terrible civil wars, the shock of Ebola is a particularly devastating set back.

    The United States and other advanced economies, like Spain, where Ebola has now been transmitted, are unlikely to suffer the same widespread outbreaks. But because of globalization, infectious diseases pose a real economic threat to developed economies.

    There is a significant probability that a pandemic could strike major financial centers, such as London and New York, which, due to the 40-plus daily flights between them, are among the most connected metropolises in the world. The spread of disease, followed by panic, quarantine, the collapse of secondary services (transport, energy, food, information technology) and other unanticipated consequences could lead to a sharp collapse, followed by the seizing of financial markets, with subsequent cascading and amplifying effects for production, consumption and services across all economies.

    Regulation in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse has been oriented toward preventing the financial system from repeating past mistakes. But we can’t just look backward. We need to understand that, in a globalized world, systemic risks won’t be constrained to one area, like health; they can jump across our disciplinary and organizational boundaries and easily cascade into another area, such as finance.

    Over the past 25 years, the opening of global markets and the physical and virtual integration of the global economy have coincided with the most rapid rise in incomes and population in history. The financial crisis was just the first demonstration of the new forms of risk that have been unleashed by technologically enhanced globalization.

    The Importance of Global Cooperation

    Yes, globalization expands opportunity, but it also exacerbates risks, and as those opportunities and risks are increasingly distributed in an unequal way, divisions within societies widen. People and societies that fail to get on the turbo-charged globalization train are left further and further behind. That’s a spill-over effect of globalization that, unless managed, threatens to overwhelm our political institutions and national economies.

    It’s not just inequality that poses a systemic risk to the economy. As individuals and societies get richer, they become closer, both physically, through population growth, urbanization and travel, and virtually, through the Internet. Simultaneously, as the consumption of food, energy and medicines rises, the externalities, or spill-over effects, of individual choices grow. The integration and connectivity of global systems widen the range and amplify the impact of antibiotic resistance, climate change, pandemics and financial crises. These issues, which may compound each other, transcend national and organizational borders. A pandemic, flood or cyber-attack could provoke a global financial crisis or a political crisis. The vectors of our connectivity – such as cyberspace, financial markets, airport hubs or logistics centers – have become the source of “super-spreading” of both the positives and the negatives of globalization.

    Growing interdependencies require more coordination than previously was the case, within countries and between them. Yet, politics is pushing in the opposite direction and becoming more fractious. Countries are becoming less cohesive as a result of rising inequality, making it difficult to make tough decisions, especially in some of the democracies that are turning their backs on regional and global institutions. In the United Kingdom, for example, there’s been a rapid growth in support for the UK Independence Party (UKIP), which favors withdrawing from the European Union and supports much tighter immigration controls. Increased support for the National Front in France and similar parties across Europe, as well as the political gridlock in the U.S., poses similar challenges.

    Even before the Ebola crisis, national governments kept the WHO and other global institutions on financial drip-feed. Hand-to-mouth budgets don’t allow these organizations to prevent, let alone respond to, crises. And because national governments have stymied vital reforms of the WHO, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and UN Security Council, these institutions increasingly lack the leadership, legitimacy or capability to manage the spill-overs of globalization or emergent threats.

    National governments attempting to wrest power back from what they think are mysterious, distant institutions will only compound the problem. If we don’t address globalization’s risks, expect to see the spread of more threats like Ebola. In order to harvest the “goods” of globalization we need to invest in the institutions that manage the “bads.”

    The post Ebola outbreak is latest example of globalization’s risks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Cowboy and Indian Alliance, CIA, a group of ranchers, farmers and indigenous leaders, set up camp on the National Mall in Washington, District of Columbia, U.S., on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. Photo by Pete Marovich/Bloomberg

    The Cowboy and Indian Alliance, CIA, a group of ranchers, farmers and indigenous leaders, set up camp on the National Mall in Washington, District of Columbia, U.S., on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. Photo by Pete Marovich/Bloomberg

    WASHINGTON — A political gambit by an endangered Senate Democrat broke loose long-stalled legislation to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline as the lame-duck Congress returned to a Capitol where results of last week’s GOP blowout are still sinking in.

    The move by Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu came as some conservatives were spoiling to drag must-pass spending bills into their battle with President Barack Obama over his planned executive action on immigration, raising at least the possibility of a government shutdown next month or next year.

    Landrieu is an underdog to win a fourth term in a runoff next month with GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy. She’s a supporter of the Canada-to-Texas pipeline but was unable to win a vote on it, which has been a flash point in her race. Cassidy’s version recently passed the House and GOP leaders immediately scheduled another vote on it for Thursday.

    The Keystone XL issue was an unexpected addition to a lame-duck agenda focused on keeping the government running past a Dec. 11 deadline.

    Preventing a government shutdown is a top priority of GOP leaders like House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. McConnell said the other big items for the lame-duck Congress are renewing expired tax breaks for businesses and individuals, more money to fight Ebola and renewing Obama’s authority to arm and train opposition to Islamic State militants in Syria, which expires next month.

    “This will require cooperation from both sides of the aisle, from both sides of the Rotunda and from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue,” McConnell said as the lame-duck session opened. “The actions of the next few weeks could help set a positive tone for the work of the next Congress. It’s a tone that will depend largely on the administration’s willingness to respect the message sent last Tuesday.”

    Republicans and several moderate Democrats insist that construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline would create tens of thousands of jobs. Environmentalists maintain that the project would have a negative impact and contribute to climate change.

    Keystone XL supporters say Senate action is needed to end years of delay by the Obama administration on whether to approve the project.

    Senate passage of the bill as early as next Tuesday would force President Barack Obama to either sign it into law or veto the measure just weeks after a Democratic drubbing in midterm elections.

    While the White House stopped short of directly threatening a veto, spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama takes a “dim view” of legislative efforts to force action on the project. Earnest reiterated Obama’s preference for evaluating the pipeline through a long-stalled State Department review.

    Senate passage of the bill as early as next Tuesday would force President Barack Obama to either sign it into law or veto the measure just weeks after a Democratic drubbing in midterm elections. Both Republican and Democratic leaders signaled that Landrieu would get her vote, but it hardly seemed to begin a new era of cooperation. Pure politics was at play as Democrats sought to boost Landrieu’s bid and Republicans favoring the pipeline were in no position to block a vote now.

    “This is for the runoff that’s coming up in Louisiana, trying to spin it and play it,” said Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb.

    Meanwhile, McConnell again warned Obama that issuing an executive order on immigration would be a “big mistake” but promises there won’t be a government shutdown next month.

    That task may have gotten more complicated as more conservative GOP voices such as Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama promise to take every step at their disposal to try to block Obama on immigration, including using their control of the government’s purse strings.

    Sessions and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah are among those arguing to use an upcoming must-pass spending bill — either in December or next year — to try to block Obama from taking unilateral action to protect millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally from deportation. At the very least they want to pass a short-term funding bill that punts major decisions on spending and other policies into next year when Republicans control the Senate.

    Whether to do a short-term spending bill to prevent a shutdown or an omnibus for the full fiscal year has yet to be determined and will be a topic for intra-GOP discussions this week. GOP leaders like Boehner are pressing for a longer-term solution, but it remains to be seen what the rank and file would like.

    “I don’t know where that’s headed,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “I’ll have to wait and see.”

    The post Immigration, Keystone top first day of lame duck appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Arnold Abbott. Photo by Sun Sentinel.

    Arnold Abbott was issued two citations for feeding the homeless in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Photo by Sun Sentinel.

    UDPATED at 11:40 a.m. EDT on Nov. 13 | By now, you might have heard about Arnold Abbott — a 90-year-old chef from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who set the public ablaze last week when he was issued two citations for feeding the homeless.

    On Wednesday night, Abbott received his third citation when he was asked to “cease and desist” from serving meals to roughly 75 homeless people.

    The World War II veteran and longtime advocate for the homeless now faces 60 days of jail time and a $500 fine, but that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to defy the law that got him in trouble in the first place.

    The city passed a measure on Oct. 22 that restricts people from feeding their homeless neighbors. In Fort Lauderdale, the legislation will require feeding sites to sit 500 feet away from each other, and from residential properties. Additionally, only one feeding site per city block will be permitted.

    In 1999, Abbott sued the city of Fort Lauderdale to win the right to feed the homeless on a public beach. For 15 years, he’s done just that every Wednesday.

    Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler offered to provide Abbott with two indoor locations to move his feeding site to, but he refused, calling the proposal “a stopgap temporary measure.”

    According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, this type of legislation has been passed in 21 cities since January 2013. But Abbott’s citations have brought about national outcry and questioning of the ethics behind such laws.

    Seiler told the Sun Sentinel that “the media’s ignoring the fact that there are daily feedings taking place in the city of Fort Lauderdale in full compliance with the law.”

    Seiler insists that the law is meant to act as a structured rule for feeding the homeless.

    That hasn’t stopped a slew of civil disobedience acts from occurring around the city. As recently as Monday, homeless advocates set up a feeding station outside of city hall.

    Furthermore, it has not deterred Abbott from carrying on with his mission.

    “We will continue as long as there is breath in my body,” he told the Sun Sentinel on Sunday.

    The post Why was a 90-year-old WWII veteran cited for feeding the homeless? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Barack Obama shakes hands with Myanmar President U Thein Sein on the second day of the ASEAN summit on November 13, 2014 in Naypyidaw, Myanmar. The capitol of Naypidaw is hosting the 25th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit as world leaders including Obama, Thai Premier Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Indian Premier Narendra Modi will be in attendance. Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

    President Barack Obama shakes hands with Myanmar President U Thein Sein on the second day of the ASEAN summit on November 13, 2014 in Naypyidaw, Myanmar. The capitol of Naypidaw is hosting the 25th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit as world leaders including Obama, Thai Premier Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Indian Premier Narendra Modi will be in attendance. Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

    NAYPYITAW, Myanmar — President Barack Obama received a hero’s welcome two years ago during his historic visit to Myanmar, whose rapid rebirth after decades of repression was a source of hope for the region and beyond. Yet as he meets Thursday with President Thein Sein in the nation’s sparkling new capital, Obama is carrying a far grimmer message as he seeks to reverse a worrisome backslide in the country’s march toward a freer and fairer society.

    A nationwide cease-fire with armed ethnic groups has yet to materialize. Myanmar’s pro-democracy opposition figure, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, is banned from next year’s pivotal elections. Scores of Rohingya Muslims are fleeing for fear of violence at the hands of Buddhist mobs, while roughly 140,000 more remain trapped in camps under dismal conditions.

    This was not the Myanmar that Obama had hoped for when he made U.S. engagement with the nation, also known as Burma, a centerpiece of his efforts to promote human rights and expand U.S. influence in Asia. This was not the Myanmar that Obama had hoped for when he made U.S. engagement with the nation, also known as Burma, a centerpiece of his efforts to promote human rights and expand U.S. influence in Asia. “The work is not yet done,” Obama said after meeting with members of Myanmar’s parliament.

    After speeding along an empty eight-lane highway, Obama’s limousine passed over a moat and pulled up to an oversize presidential palace, where beams of light cycled through red and blue and purple as they lit up a resplendent bay of fountains shooting water high into the air. Inside, gold carpet and furniture accentuated the white marble of the palace as Thein Sein greeted Obama and his delegation at the start of their meeting.

    Despite the grandeur of the welcome, all eyes were on how aggressively Obama would push Myanmar’s leader to get his country’s transition back on track. Having staked part of his legacy overseas on Myanmar’s success, Obama is facing tough questions about why he’s rewarding Myanmar with a second presidential visit when the progress Thein Sein promised has, in many cases, been slow to emerge.

    To be sure, the country has made great strides. But the optimism that once radiated here has faded, tempered by the realization that, to transition successfully away from five decades under a military junta, Myanmar needs more than just the right words from its leaders and high-profile visits from an American president.

    “It’s a very fluid situation right now inside of Burma,” Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, said Thursday before the meeting. “We have significant concerns that there has to be further follow-through.”

    Obama’s meeting with Thein Sein, himself a former member of the junta, offered Obama his first major opportunity to address Myanmar’s state of affairs since he set off Sunday on a weeklong tour of Asia and Australia. But in China, on the first leg of the trip, Obama treaded lightly on human rights issues and other areas where pushing a firm stance could have upset his hosts.


    On his first full day in Myanmar, Obama announced the U.S. would start sending Peace Corps volunteers there in late 2015. The White House said the volunteers would train for three months to learn Myanmar’s language, culture and technical needs, then serve at sites in Myanmar for two years.

    Obama’s first encounter with Suu Kyi during his visit came Thursday at a sparsely equipped building in Naypyitaw, a city whose very existence is an ode both to Myanmar’s aspirations for democracy and its challenges in making it work. Carved from scratch out of scrubland in the early 2000s, Naypyitaw has the lush hotels and grandiose public buildings of a modern capital, but its vast empty spaces and eerily empty multilane highways have led to its reputation as a ghost town.

    At the Parliamentary Resource Center, a hub for aid organizations, Obama told Suu Kyi and her fellow parliamentarians he was heartened by their determination to move ahead with the transition. He said in some ways, the questions facing Myanmar echo those that Americans have faced, like how to include minorities or prevent institutional discrimination.

    “There are times when we’ll offer constructive criticism about a lack of progress,” Obama said. “But our consistent aim and goal will be to see that this transition is completed so that it delivers concrete benefits for the people”

    Soe Thane, and former high-ranking junta leader now in Thein Sein’s government, said in an op-ed Thursday that Myanmar was determined to confront its challenges, including ending armed conflict with a groups, holding fair elections and addressing the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine state, home to the Rohingya people.

    “All people in Myanmar, regardless of ethnicity or religion, deserve the same fundamental rights and freedoms,” he wrote in The New York Times.

    White House officials said Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya was high on Obama’s agenda for his meeting with Thein Sein. Another key U.S. concern is the need for constitutional reforms, such as the elimination of a rule that is keeping Suu Kyi off the ballot because her sons hold British citizenship.

    In a sign of Obama’s high regard for the opposition leader, when Obama called Thein Sein late last month to lay the groundwork for the visit, he placed a call the same day to Suu Kyi.

    And when Obama flies Friday to Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, he’ll not only meet with Suu Kyi but hold a joint news conference with her and visit the Secretariat, the infamous building where her father, Gen. Aung San, was assassinated.


    AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace in Naypyitaw and AP writer Grant Peck in Bangkok contributed to this report.

    The post Obama returns to Myanmar as country struggles with democratic transition appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    College textbooks for sale in a school bookstore. Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

    College textbooks for sale in a school bookstore. Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Time to stock up on the ramen noodles. The average cost of attending college crept up again this year, the College Board said Thursday.

    The average sticker price, with room and board included, for undergraduate students attending a four-year college or university in their home state was $18,943. Out-of-state students at those schools paid, on average, $32,762. At two-year public schools, in-state students paid an average $11,052.

    The cost to attend a private, four-year nonprofit college: $42,419, on average, including housing and meal plan.

    For-profit schools cost about $15,230, but housing figures weren’t available.

    Books and transportation costs can add more than $2,000 to the cost of attending college, and that rises even more for commuters.

    The highest rate of increase of 3.7 percent was among private, nonprofit colleges. And even though the increases across higher education outpaced inflation, the rates of increase were lower than those students saw five, 10 or 30 years ago, the College Board said.

    When adjusted for inflation, students are paying more than triple what students paid 30 years ago to attend a public, four-year institution and about 2.5 times more to attend a private nonprofit or two-year public one.

    “The price increases are actually quite moderate this year, but still, what people are paying, and this is before financial aid, is the accumulation of many years of price increases,” said Sandy Baum, a co-author of the nonprofit College Board’s annual college pricing report. “So, if the price goes up just a little bit this year, people aren’t really going to breathe a sigh of relief because the price is already high from their perspective.”

    Baum said during tough economic times, college costs tend to go up because public institutions receive less in state dollars and private ones see a decrease in endowments and in giving. Other contributing factors are wide ranging from the increasing costs of technology to health insurance for university employees.

    Only the wealthiest of Americans are seeing their incomes rise, so most students feel the tuition upticks more, Baum said.

    The number of full–time undergraduate students increased by 16 percent in the three years leading up to fall 2010 to 13.7 million, but then declined to 13 million in fall 2013. The number of students taking out student loans and the amount taken out, on average, by students has been declining, the College Board said. It said about 60 percent of students who earned a bachelor’s degree in 2012-2013 from public or private, nonprofit schools from which they began their studies graduated with debt, borrowing an average of $27,300.

    The breakdown in pricing:

    • Sticker prices, on average, for in-state tuition and fees at public four-year schools increased to $9,139 this school year — a 2.9 percent increase over the 2013-2014 school year. The average out-of-state price tag was $22,958, an increase of 3.3 percent increase. Room and board was $9,804.
    • Public two-year schools had a $3,347 published price on average for tuition and fees— an increase of 3.3 percent. Room and board was $7,705.
    • Tuition and fees at private, nonprofit schools rose 3.7 percent to an average of $31,231. Room and board was $11,188.
    • For-profit schools saw a 1.3 percent increase in tuition and fees.

    Published prices don’t necessarily reflect what students actually pay because they don’t include grant dollars provided by institutions or government aid such as Pell Grants, the GI Bill and tax credits. This school year, full-time students received an average of about $6,110 in aid at public four-year schools, $5,090 at public two-year ones, and $18,870 at private colleges.

    The average in-state prices at four-year schools ranged from $4,646 in Wyoming to $14,712 in New Hampshire.

    For out-of-state students, the most affordable tuition of $9,910 was in South Dakota. On the other end, the most expensive was $34,331 in Vermont.

    The post College prices continue to inch higher appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Immigration reform groups march outside the White House calling on President Obama for immigration reform and to stop deportations on July 16. Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

    Immigration reform groups march outside the White House calling on President Obama for immigration reform and to stop deportations on July 16. Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

    After promising to take broad actions on immigration by the end of the year, President Barack Obama is expected to announce a plan that would protect up to five million undocumented immigrants from deportation, The New York Times reported.

    Citing administration officials, the Times reported that the order, which could come as soon as next week, would allow millions of undocumented immigrants to apply for work permits and grant wider protection from threat of deportation.

    While details have yet to be sussed out, the officials said Obama’s order would also include opportunities for high-skilled immigrants and policy changes to the Secure Communities program, which allows federal immigration agents to identify deportable immigrants in jails.

    With the perpetual stalling of immigration overhaul, the Hispanic community questioned the president’s repeated promise to address reform on the issue. And although the Republicans’ recent takeover of the Senate seemed to all but halt progress on the major national policy issue, Obama has vowed to move on immigration following the outcome of the midterms.

    Obama is expected to return from his days-long Asia tour on Sunday.

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    demographics-congress

    With all but a few midterm elections settled, the demographic sketch of new incoming members of Congress arriving on Capitol Hill for orientation this week remains mostly white, Republican and male.

    Nearly three-quarters of incoming representatives and about 90 percent of all new senators will be Republican in the 114th Congress. In both the House and the Senate, about 80 percent of newly elected politicians will be men, and the new group’s average age will be 50 in the House and 51 in the Senate.

    In the Senate, all of the new incoming members are white.

    In the House of Representatives, the youngest member-elect is Elise Stefanik, a 30-year-old Republican representative from New York and a former White House staffer during the George W. Bush administration. The oldest is Alma Adams, a 68-year-old grandmother, teacher, former North Carolina state legislator and Democrat from Greensboro.

    Since Adams won a special election for a vacant seat, she joined Congress immediately, becoming the 100th woman to serve in this Congress. Most of the remaining new members of Congress will take their oaths in January 2015.

    About one-fifth of these representatives-elect will have served in the military, compared to one-third of incoming senators, according to data from the advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

    That includes Republican Senator-elect Tom Cotton, a Harvard Law graduate who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan before defeating incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor, son of former governor and U.S. Senator David Pryor, in Arkansas. At 37, Cotton also is the youngest of the incoming senators.

    The post Who are the incoming members of Congress? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Amazon and Hachette Book Group ended months of publishing dispute by agreeing on a multi-year deal on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014.

    Amazon and Hachette Book Group ended months of publishing dispute by agreeing on a multi-year deal on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014.

    Hachette Book Group and Amazon today announced their multi-year agreement to solidify the terms for print and e-book sales, ending months of public publishing dispute.

    Representatives from the book publisher and the online retailer both expressed satisfaction with the deal, which allows Hachette to set prices of its e-books.

    Until Thursday morning, Hachette and Amazon were at odds over book pricing. Amazon wanted a bigger share of the profits and to sell Hachette’s e-books at $9.99 and below. Hachette wanted to set prices higher; Michael Piestch, chief executive of Hachelle, told the New York Times that Amazon was just “trying to make more money.

    During the negotiating standoff, which began in the spring after Hachette’s contract expired, Amazon toyed with Hachette books. It increased prices, delayed shipping and removed the pre-order button for many Hachette titles.

    The battle pitted the publisher’s authors and hundreds of other writers, including Philip Roth, Salman Rushdie, and Ursula Le Guin, against the online retail store. They also demanded the Justice Department to investigate Amazon, accusing it of illegal monopoly practices.

    With the agreement on the new deal, Amazon has promised to stop punishing Hachette titles. Authors published by the company include Malcolm Gladwell, James Patterson and J.K. Rowling.

    Hachette wasn’t the only big publisher to duke it out with Amazon this year. Simon & Schuster reached a similar deal in October in which Simon & Schuster can generally set the prices of its e-books while still allowing Amazon to discount titles in certain situations.

    The post Hachette and Amazon end publishing dispute appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Philae comet

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The historic landing of a European-made probe on a comet yesterday is still making news. It turns out that it was a bumpier ride than initially thought and now there are questions about what it may mean for the lander’s mission.

    We begin with this report by Alok Jha of Independent Television News.

    ALOK JHA: Unsecured, positioned precariously, but communicating. The Philae lander sent pictures today of its new home on a comet 500 million kilometers from Earth.

    One of its feet is in the corner here. In shadow, Philae is surrounded by what looked like sheer rocky cliffs. This was taken by Philae less than a minute before it touched down. Here, we see the lander on its seven-hour fall dwarfed by the comet. Philae ended up about a kilometer from its intended target. The cross is where it was meant to land. The box is where it is now.

    MATT TAYLOR, Rosetta Mission Scientist: There’s just something emotional within the context of having some manmade feature in the foreground of some alien landscape. And that just really gets you. And that’s what is getting people now. This is where the emotion is. This is a massive technological feat.

    ALOK JHA: Philae landed just after 4:00 p.m. yesterday, but the equipment designed to anchor it failed. That caused the lander to bounce back up off the surface of the comet by about a kilometer and along by a similar amount.

    Then, after about two hours, it came back down on to the comet again. But once again, it bounced off, eventually settling back on to the surface five minutes later. Scientists now know that Philae is lying on its side, two of its feet on the ground, one pointing into space.

    ANDREA ACCOMAZZO, Rosetta Flight Operations Director: We don’t know very well where it is on the surface of the comet, but we have no doubt it is on the surface. We don’t exactly which attitude is which respect to the surface, but it is working marvelously. It’s transmitting data continuously. We don’t lose data. It’s doing all the operations we command it to do, so it’s perfectly working.

    (APPLAUSE)

    ALOK JHA: The man who co-discovered the comet 45 years ago came along to congratulate the mission scientists.

    KLIM CHURYUMOV, Astronomer: It is a great, great win. And I am very happy.

    ALOK JHA: Philae’s arrival at the comet has been a hair-raising, imperfect adventure, but it’s in one piece and can now start its scientific work.

    The post Anchor failure puts Philae lander in a precarious position – Part 1 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Hagel And Dempsey Testify At House Armed Services Committee Hearing On ISIL

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    GWEN IFILL: Now for a closer look at the administration’s strategy to defeat the I.S. group inside Syria, we turn to former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey. He’s now a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. And Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

    Ambassador Jeffrey, is our strategy, such as we understand it to be, the same for defeating the Islamic State as our strategy in Syria?

    JAMES JEFFREY, Former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq: No, it’s quite different.

    First of all, as both secretary Hagel and General Dempsey said, we have an Iraqi-first strategy, but importantly Dempsey underlined it is not an Iraq-only strategy. And, therefore, for example, we have put considerable resources into stopping ISIS in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani.

    Nonetheless, dealing with Assad is very, very difficult because he’s entrenched in power. He’s one of the generators of this entire conflict and the growth of ISIS. Yet we don’t have any capable allies as we do, to some degree at least, in Iraq. Thus, we’re starting in Iraq trying to push against ISIS, and there’s been several offensives to the north of Baghdad and the south as well that have been pretty successful.

    So I think that this is a smart approach to first start in Iraq, and then we will see how the situation develops in Syria, where we have multiple enemies.

    GWEN IFILL: Phyllis Bennis, is our strategy correct in that respect?

    PHYLLIS BENNIS, Director, Institute for Policy Studies: No, I don’t think it’s correct.

    It’s correct to not be trying again to carry out regime change in a country where we are not appreciated, where we are not being asked for regime change by everybody. There are some, clearly, who are asking for direct U.S. military engagement, but if we look at our history of regime change in that region, it’s not a model that I think anybody’s going to want.

    Do people want to end up like the situation now in Libya or in Iraq, where you end up after regime change with more violence, more chaos, more extremism, not less? So that part I think is true, is correct.

    I just don’t think that we should be saying that that’s the next stage. I don’t think the military approach here is going to work at all in either Iraq or Syria.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, let me ask Ambassador Jeffrey about that.

    Is there a bad track record for the U.S. in engagement in the kind of countries that Phyllis Bennis mentions? And should we be thinking of a different approach? Is that what the White House is doing now?

    JAMES JEFFREY: Absolutely. She’s absolutely right, and I have been involved in some of those bad approaches.

    But that doesn’t mean that you simply sit back and walk this thing. Secretary Hagel said today that there is no purely military approach. I would add a corollary to that. There is no political approach at this point with a foe like ISIS that doesn’t have a military component.

    GWEN IFILL: And a foe like Assad?

    JAMES JEFFREY: And a foe like Assad, you also need a military component, but somewhat differently.

    The president’s mission to the U.S. military is to destroy ISIS. He hasn’t given the same mission to destroy Assad. What we need to do there is to provide credible support to an opposition which is not some people in Syria. It’s basically the entire Sunni population, with a few exceptions — to stop Assad from winning this thing.

    If you can generate a stalemate, then we can get back to Geneva, where we failed twice, and get some kind of political resolution. I think that’s goal he’s looking for.

    GWEN IFILL: Phyllis Bennis, finish — you can respond to that. Then I have another question for you.

    PHYLLIS BENNIS: Sure.

    I think that the question of negotiations is crucial. There was a failure twice in a row in Geneva, but the failure had everything to do with the restrictions that were put on the nature of these talks. When we have talks that start with Iran can’t be at the table, we’re guaranteeing failure because Iran is a major player, whether we like them or not.

    When we start with a criteria that says everyone at the table has to start by acknowledging that Assad must go, that says that Russia and Iran are not going to be there, let alone the regime itself, so that whatever is agreed to is only going to be agreed to by one side.

    GWEN IFILL: Except that allies like Turkey, sometimes allies like Turkey, asking for no-fly zones, seem to be quite unhappy with our current policy.

    JAMES JEFFREY: They are. And, in fact, the Russians did show up in Geneva, but the question whether Iran should show up or not is a very tough one because of exactly what you said.

    That is, the Sunni Arab states in the region and Turkey see Iran as much of a threat as they do ISIS. So, therefore, again, we have multiple enemies in the Syrian front.

    PHYLLIS BENNIS: This is not an enemy.

    If we’re serious about diplomacy — and I think we have to be — number one, every bomb that we drop drives some people into the arms of ISIS. When we look at Iraq, if we’re talking about — the ambassador mentioned the need for an inclusive government, the new prime minister is saying some of the right things, but who does he appoint as the minister of interior?

    The head of the Badr Brigade, one most sectarian Shia militias in Iraqi — in recent Iraqi history. That wasn’t a good message to the Sunnis of Iraq. So that’s one part of it. The other part of it is we’re looking at a scenario where we have to be serious about diplomacy, not as a subset of the military, but instead of the military.

    If we really want to solve the problem, we can’t bomb extremism. We bomb cities. We bomb people. We kill people. We don’t bomb extremism. Sometimes, we hit extremists. Sometimes, we don’t.

    GWEN IFILL: Just seems to be a unique set of circumstances. We’re not talking about one country that — where we’re talking about a regime change in. We’re talking about a region and we’re talking about allies who are not necessarily on the board in the way that maybe they have been in past incursions.

    So, I wonder what the — if you had to give the administration advice about what the one thing they should be reconsidering at this stage, what would it be?

    JAMES JEFFREY: It would be move a bit faster on putting advisory teams out with these Iraqi units. I think they’re going to need them, from my experience there.

    But, again, the administration is not just looking to the military, as, again, Hagel and Dempsey pointed out today. They have a broad program, and they understand you can’t defeat extremism with bombs. But you can defeat people in gun trucks and in tanks and artillery with bombs.

    GWEN IFILL: Briefly.

    PHYLLIS BENNIS: But I think that we can’t expect that this is going to work. If we are serious, we have to do diplomacy that is not bound up with the military.

    We heard about $5.6 billion more to pay for the military. We didn’t hear about any additional funding to pay for more diplomacy. That’s what we need.

    GWEN IFILL: Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies and Ambassador Jim Jeffrey of the Washington Institute for Near East Studies, thank you both very much.

    PHYLLIS BENNIS: Thank you.

    The post Should the U.S. change its Islamic State strategy in Syria? – Part 2 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    IS_defiant_message

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    GWEN IFILL: Now to the Islamic State group.

    Earlier today, a defiant message from its leader was distributed, as lawmakers here in Washington took aim at the president’s strategy to take down the group.

    Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports.

    MARGARET WARNER: It’s the first time the Islamic State leader has been heard from since Iraqi officials claimed he’d been wounded or even killed in airstrikes a week ago. The 17-minute recording vows I.S. will never surrender the fight, calls for attacking the rulers of Saudi Arabia, and taunts the U.S.-led coalition.

    ABU BAKR AL-BAGHDADI, Islamic State leader (through interpreter): Soon, the Jews and crusaders will be forced to come down to the ground and send their ground forces to their deaths and destruction. Here is Obama, who has ordered the deployment of 1,500 additional soldiers under the claim that they are advisers because the crusaders’ airstrikes have not prevented the Islamic State’s advance, nor weakened its resolve.

    MARGARET WARNER: It’s unclear when the recording was made, but it surfaced as Pentagon leaders told a House hearing there’s been steady and sustainable progress against the Islamic State, also known as ISIL.

    Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel:

    CHUCK HAGEL, Secretary of Defense: This pressure is having an effect on potential ISIL recruits and collaborators, striking a blow to morale and recruitment. We know that. Our intelligence is very clear on that. And as Iraqi forces build strength, the tempo and intensity of our coalition’s air campaign will accelerate in tandem.

    MARGARET WARNER: But California Democrat Loretta Sanchez questioned the faith in Iraqi troops. She noted to General Martin Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs, that the previous effort to train Iraqi forces clearly failed.

    REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ, (D) California: What are you doing to change that so that these men actually do take the fight to ISIL and our men and women don’t have boots on the ground?

    GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff: One of the important assumptions about this campaign is that the Iraqi government does establish its intent to create a government of national unity. I can predict for you right now, if that doesn’t happen, then the Iraqi security forces will not hold together.

    MARGARET WARNER: Dempsey left open the possibility that in special circumstances American troops, now called trainers and advisers, might have to more actively involved in the field to assist Iraqis.

    GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY: There are some places along the path that I think will be fairly complex terrain for them, including, for example, Mosul and eventually as they need to restore the border between Iraq and Syria. I’m not predicting at this point that I would recommend that those forces in Mosul and along the border would need to be accompanied by U.S. forces, but we’re certainly considering it.

    MARGARET WARNER: The hearing also focused on an ongoing dispute within the coalition over U.S. strategy in Syria. Partners like Turkey and Saudi Arabia say Washington’s focus on airstrikes and training moderate Syrian rebels to fight Islamic State forces is unrealistic, that it does not take on President Bashar al-Assad. And some members of Congress agree.

    But Secretary Hagel today defended the administration’s Iraq-first strategy as the most urgent and realistic.

    CHUCK HAGEL: When you look at what ISIL dominates now, the swathe of the control they have, Eastern Syria, much of north and western Iraq, you could change Assad today and that’s not going to change all the dynamics quickly, certainly in Syria.

    MARGARET WARNER: Later today, Syrian opposition leaders said Islamic State and al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, the al-Nusra Front, have agreed to stop fighting each other and work together. If true, that would deal a further blow to the moderate opposition.

    The post Islamic State releases defiant message as U.S. lawmakers criticize strategy to defeat the group – Part 1 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: President Obama and Republicans in Congress moved closer to confrontation today over immigration reform. There was word the president will issue an executive order as early as next week.

    The New York Times reported he plans to shield up to five million undocumented immigrants from deportation. Many could receive work permits.

    That drew fresh warnings from the top House Republican, Speaker John Boehner.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER, Speaker of the House: We’re going to fight the president tooth and nail if he continues down this path. This is the wrong way to govern. This is exactly what the American people said on Election Day they didn’t want.

    GWEN IFILL: The top Senate Democrat, Harry Reid, said he urged the president not to act on immigration before Congress approves spending bills to keep the government running.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Congress also moved closer to crucial votes on expanding the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. House debate began today, with the final vote expected tomorrow. The legislation would approve construction of the huge project, ultimately transporting oil from tar sands in Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast. A Senate vote is set for Tuesday.

    GWEN IFILL: The balance of power in the new Congress will change, but the people at the very top won’t. Senate Republicans today reelected Mitch McConnell as their new majority leader. And Democrats chose Harry Reid to continue, this time as minority leader. In the House, Speaker John Boehner retained his position. And next week, Democrat Nancy Pelosi is expected to be returned to her post as minority leader.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The president of Liberia lifted a state of emergency today, citing progress against Ebola. The measure was imposed earlier this month. It banned large gatherings, closed schools and markets and restricted citizens’ movement. The Ebola outbreak has killed 5,100 people in West Africa, more than half of them in Liberia.

    GWEN IFILL: President Obama urged Myanmar’s government today not to backslide on reforms after decades of military rule. He’s in the former Burma for a pair of regional summits. While there, he pressed President Thein Sein to improve treatment of minority Muslims and lift obstacles to fully free elections, but he also offered support.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We recognize that change is hard and it doesn’t always move in a straight line. But I am optimistic about the possibilities of Myanmar. All those who are sincere in pursuing reform will always have a strong ally in the United States of America, and we look forward to working together.

    GWEN IFILL: Mr. Obama holds talks tomorrow with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Under Myanmar’s current constitution, she is barred from running for president next year.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Turkey, twelve nationalists were released today after being detained for an attack on three U.S. sailors in Istanbul. Footage posted to the Turkish Youth Union’s Web site showed the assault yesterday. Members of the group called the sailors murderers, threw paint at them, and tried to put hoods over their heads. The suspects may yet face criminal charges.

    GWEN IFILL: A doctor in India was under arrest today in the deaths of 13 women he sterilized. Doctor R.K. Gupta acknowledged conducting 83 procedures in six hours on Saturday. But he insisted he did nothing wrong, and suggested the women were given tainted medication. The sterilizations were part of a government effort to reduce India’s birth rate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, a federal grand jury indicted a mining company executive today in a disaster that killed 29 coal miners in West Virginia. Don Blankenship was CEO at Massey Energy when the company’s Upper Big Branch mine exploded in 2010. He is charged with conspiring to violate safety and health standards and to impede safety officials.

    GWEN IFILL: An internal review blames a major White House security breach on a series of failures. A man jumped the fence September 19 and made it deep inside the executive mansion. A New York Times report says the review found Secret Service alarms and radios failed to work properly and an officer with an attack dog failed to react because he was in his van talking on his cell phone.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And in Washington, hundreds of federal contract workers walked off the job for one day. U.S. Capitol employees rallied for better benefits and a $15 federal minimum wage. Employees from the Smithsonian museums and the Pentagon joined in.

    GWEN IFILL: Wall Street managed small gains today on positive news about corporate earnings. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 40 points to close at 17,652; the Nasdaq rose five points to close at 4,680; and the S&P 500 added a point to finish at 2,039. On the oil market, the price of crude fell below $75 a barrel, a new four-year low.

    The post News Wrap: Liberia lifts state of emergency appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt are making a teen zombie movie and raising funds for the project on Kickstarter.

    Watch the full report from Thursday night’s NewsHour:

    And in a behind-the-scenes moment, they told the NewsHour’s Mike Melia that after they become famous they won’t forget the people that matter.

    The post Meet Sam and Mattie, two inspired zombie teen movie makers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Coast Project pipeline in Prague, Oklahoma, U.S., on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Gulf Coast Project, a 485-mile crude oil pipeline being constructed by TransCanada Corp., is part of the Keystone XL Pipeline Project and will run from Cushing, Oklahoma to Nederland, Texas. Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Coast Project pipeline in Prague, Oklahoma, U.S., on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Gulf Coast Project, a 485-mile crude oil pipeline being constructed by TransCanada Corp., is part of the Keystone XL Pipeline Project and will run from Cushing, Oklahoma to Nederland, Texas. Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Updated 1:52 p.m. EST 

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican-controlled House passed legislation Friday approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, setting the stage for a Senate showdown that mixes energy politics with a fight over Louisiana’s Senate seat.

    The vote was 252-161 in favor of the bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., in an effort to boost his chances to take Louisiana’s Senate seat away from Democrat Mary Landrieu. The two are headed for a Dec. 6 runoff and have been touting their energy credentials in their oil and gas-producing state.

    Landrieu, who is facing an uphill battle to retain her seat, successfully pushed the Democratic-run Senate to hold a vote on the measure next week.

    The bill was supported by 221 Republicans, and not a single GOP lawmaker voted against it. Thirty-one Democrats also backed the bill, while 161 rejected it.

    “This will make it easier for the Senate to do right by the American people and finally vote on building the pipeline,” Cassidy said in a statement after the vote, which marked the ninth time the House had passed a bill to speed up the pipeline’s construction.

    The project has been stalled by environmental reviews, by objections to the route it would take and by politics for six years. But the latest bid by House Republicans has the best chance of reaching President Barack Obama’s desk. While the White House has issued veto threats on similar legislation before, it had yet to do so Friday.

    Advocates say it will create thousands of jobs and aid energy security, but environmentalists warn of possible spills and say the pipeline will expedite development of some of the dirtiest oil available.

    The State Department said in a Jan. 31 report that the project would not significantly boost carbon emissions because the oil was likely to find its way to market by other means. It added that transporting it by rail or truck would cause greater environmental problems than if the Keystone XL pipeline were built.

    House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said it was time for the president to listen to the American people, especially after Republican gains in last week’s midterm elections, and sign the bill.

    “The president doesn’t have any more elections to win, and he has no other excuse for standing in the way,” Boehner said.

    Senate supporters said they were confident they would have the 60 votes needed for passage come Tuesday. All 45 Senate Republicans are expected to back the legislation, but supporters have yet to publicly identify all of the Democrats who they say will vote for the measure.

    Obama, questioned about the issue while traveling on the other side of the globe, said the administration’s long-stalled review of the project cannot be completed before knowing the outcome of a legal challenge to the pipeline’s route through Nebraska.

    “I don’t think we should short-circuit that process,” he said at a news conference in Myanmar.

    The 1,179-mile project is proposed to go from Canada through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines to carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast.

    The post House sends bill approving Keystone oil pipeline to Senate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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