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

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    Artist rendering of the New Horizons probe approaching Pluto and one of its moons. Image by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute (JHUAPL/SwRI)

    Artist rendering of the New Horizons probe approaching Pluto and one of its moons. Image by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute (JHUAPL/SwRI)

    Two days after briefly losing communication with the New Horizons spacecraft as it sped toward the dwarf planet Pluto, the probe’s operators say they understand the root cause of what happened and have taken steps to resume full operations.

    “We hit a speed bump,” said Principal Investigator Alan Stern. “New Horizons is operating flawlessly. So are all the instruments in the payload.”

    New Horizons is in the home stretch of a nine and a half year journey across the solar system en route to Pluto, 3 billion miles from Earth. Traveling at a relative speed of 31,000 miles per hour, it’s on course to execute a close flyby of Pluto and Pluto’s five known moons on July 14.

    The anomaly occurred just before 2:00 p.m. ET on Saturday afternoon as the spacecraft’s computer systems were multitasking on two different jobs — loading the main flight plan for the flyby onto the primary computer and also compressing a complicated set of science data for storage to be downloaded later.

    This new image shows Pluto and its largest moon Charon seen from New Horizons on July 1, 2015. The inset shows Pluto enlarged; features as small as 100 miles across are visible. Image by NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

    This new image shows Pluto and its largest moon Charon seen from New Horizons on July 1, 2015. The inset shows Pluto enlarged; features as small as 100 miles across are visible. Image by NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

    “We were doing multiple things on the processor and on the computer on the spacecraft at the same time,” said Project Manager Glen Fountain. “The two were more than the processor could handle at one time. “

    The overload triggered a pre-programmed safeguard that put the spacecraft into what is called “safe mode,” he said. That means the computers stop what they are doing, turn the spacecraft’s antenna toward Earth, and wait for ground commands.

    Within about 90 minutes, mission controllers established contact with the spacecraft’s back-up computer – and were able to diagnose what happened and come up with a plan to recover operations. On Sunday the fight plan was successfully loaded onto the primary computer, and will start running on July 7. Operators do not expect the problem to recur, as they do not anticipate that they will need to load a major software program and compress a large dataset at the same time again.

    But Alan Stern did say that a limited number of science operations did not happen as scheduled due the glitch, and the subsequent recovery activities.

    “When the spacecraft goes “safe,” the instruments are turned off,” he said. “The science we were doing was suspended.”

    No science data was gathered after the incident occurred on Saturday, nor on Sunday or Monday. Observations will resume on Tuesday.

    In all, they were not able to conduct 30 planned observations from the suite of seven onboard science instruments. That’s about 6 percent of the observations planned between July 3 and July 16, when the Pluto close flyby activities will conclude.

    “These observations very far away are not nearly as important as those in the Pluto system, where we’ll be about 100 times closer than we were this weekend, Stern said. “And so our assessment is that the “weighted” loss is far less than 1 percent.”

    Stern expressed no second thoughts at all regarding the decision to stand down science operations while the engineers worked to resume normal fight operations.

    “That was a command decision which I made and which the team was in complete agreement with at the beginning of the recovery operation. It’s much more important to focus on getting ready for the flyby than to collect science 8 or 9 million miles from the target when the target is small.”

    And he said the quality of the data gathered so far as New Horizons approaches Pluto has more than met expectations.

    “I can tell you every day when our science team meets, the room is full of smiles,” Stern said. “We came a long way to explore Pluto and all the early indications are that Pluto is not going to let us down.”

    The post Mission to Pluto hits a speed bump, but resumes its stride appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry  meets with foreign ministers of Germany, France, China, Britain, Russia and the European Union during the Iran Talks meetings at a hotel in Vienna, Austria July 7, 2015. A dispute over U.N. sanctions on Iran's ballistic missile programme and a broader arms embargo were among issues holding up a nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers on Monday, the day before their latest self-imposed deadline. Photo by Carlos Barria /Reuters

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with foreign ministers of Germany, France, China, Britain, Russia and the European Union during the Iran Talks meetings at a hotel in Vienna, Austria July 7, 2015. A dispute over U.N. sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile programme and a broader arms embargo were among issues holding up a nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers on Monday, the day before their latest self-imposed deadline. Photo by Carlos Barria /Reuters

    VIENNA — Iran nuclear talks busted through their second deadline in a week Tuesday, raising new questions about the ability of world powers to cut off all Iranian pathways to a bomb through diplomacy. The talks, already in their 12th day, were prolonged until possibly Friday.

    “We knew it would have been difficult, challenging, and sometimes hard,” said Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief. She said the negotiations would continue despite hitting some “tense” moments, and the State Department declared the current interim nuclear arrangement with Iran extended through July 10.

    As the latest target date arrived for a deal setting a decade of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and other top diplomats huddled in Vienna in search of a breakthrough.

    All had spoken of deep differences remaining, and there was no public indication they had resolved disputes ranging from inspection rules on suspicious Iranian sites to limits on Tehran’s research and development of advanced nuclear technology. Still, no one was speaking yet on Tuesday of a long-term extension.

    “The last, difficult, political issues, we have to solve,” Mogherini said.

    And as he left the talks for an economic summit at home, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said fewer than 10 major differences needed to be ironed out, including access to Iranian sites for international monitors. He said questions related to the easing of sanctions on Iran had been decided, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported. Lavrov said he could return to the talks later in the week.

    Diplomats had extended their discussions by a week when they missed their goal of a pact by June 30, after passing previous deadlines in July 2014 and last November. For Kerry and his team, pressure is increasing from skeptical U.S. allies and members of Congress. If the accord isn’t sent over to American lawmakers by Thursday, their month-long review period would be doubled to 60 days, hampering the ability of the Obama administration to offer speedy economic benefits to Iran for nuclear concessions.

    In Tehran Tuesday, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization declared it had reached a “general understanding” in parallel talks with the U.N. nuclear agency on “joint cooperation.” The Iranians have made similar claims previously, and it was unclear if any process was established for the International Atomic Energy Agency’s long-stymied investigation of past nuclear weapons work by the Islamic Republic — a demand of Washington and its partners in negotiations in Austria’s capital.

    There, in a baroque, 19th-century palace, Kerry gathered early Tuesday with the foreign ministers of Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia. The larger group was to meet with Zarif at some point later in the day. Russia’s Lavrov and China’s Wang Yi had to leave for a gathering of emerging economies in the Russian city of Ufa starting Wednesday, and the EU’s Mogherini said different ministers were likely to depart and return.

    “We are taking these negotiations day to day to see if we can conclude a comprehensive agreement,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement, adding that Kerry would remain in Vienna.

    “We’ve made substantial progress in every area, but this work is highly technical and high stakes for all of the countries involved,” Harf said. “We’re frankly more concerned about the quality of the deal than we are about the clock, though we also know that difficult decisions won’t get any easier with time. That is why we are continuing to negotiate.”

    The U.S. is in a tough spot. President Barack Obama has expended significant political capital on finalizing an agreement that has prompted suspicion from Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia, outright hostility from America’s closest Mideast ally, Israel, and deep ambivalence even among Obama’s Democratic allies in Congress. They’re concerned that the accord would leave Iran’s nuclear infrastructure largely intact and compel the West to provide the leading U.S.-designated state sponsor of terrorism with potentially hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of economic relief from international sanctions.

    To ease their concerns, Obama and Kerry have vowed to hold out for a “good deal” that verifiably keeps Iran at least a year away from a nuclear weapons capability for at least a decade. Current intelligence estimates put the Iranians only two to three months away from amassing enough material for a nuclear warhead, if they pursued such a course. As part of the guarantee, the administration has repeatedly threatened to abandon negotiations if they prove fruitless or appear as an Iranian stall for time.

    On-and-off talks with Tehran have been going on for more than a decade, though this incarnation has come closest to any resolution. The latest effort began in secret a couple of years ago and gained speed after the election of moderate-leaning Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in 2013. By November that year, Iran and the six world powers clinched an interim nuclear agreement and began the process for a comprehensive accord.

    Over the weekend, a cautious Kerry told reporters that talks on the final package “could go either way.”

    Republicans hostile to compromise with Iran have been urging the U.S. to pull back from the talks. Their refrain has been that Obama and Kerry want a deal more than the Iranians do, and have let red lines erode on Iranian enrichment capacity, inspections and providing limited sanctions relief. The president and his top advisers vehemently reject such claims.

    Iran has its own red lines, defiantly outlined in recent weeks by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the nation’s supreme leader. They include a quick easing of sanctions, and rejection of any inspections of military sites or interviews with Iranian nuclear scientists.


    Associated Press writer George Jahn contributed.

    The post Nuke deal remains elusive after deadline, but talks continue appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    After many strong reactions from Republican presidential candidates to Donald Trump's controversial statements regarding Mexicans, the party's top donors issued a letter calling for candidates to stay on the “civility reservation.” Photo by Dominick Reuter/Reuters

    After many strong reactions from Republican presidential candidates to Donald Trump’s controversial statements regarding Mexicans, the party’s top donors issued a letter calling for candidates to stay on the “civility reservation.” Photo by Dominick Reuter/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Worried about “Republican-on-Republican violence,” top party donors are taking action, with one firing off a letter calling for more civility and another seeking to block businessman Donald Trump from the debate stage altogether.

    Foster Friess, a Wyoming-based investor and one of the party’s top 20 donors in the last presidential contest, issued a letter to 16 White House prospects and the Republican National Committee late last week calling for candidates to stay on the “civility reservation.”

    “Our candidates will benefit if they all submit to Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment, ‘Thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican,'” Friess wrote in a letter sent to Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus. A copy was obtained by The Associated Press.

    In the dispatch, Friess cites the backing of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts. “Would you join the effort to inspire a more civil way of making their points?” Friess wrote. “If they drift off the ‘civility reservation,’ let’s all immediately communicate that to them.”

    The call for calm comes as the sprawling Republican field shows signs it could tip into a bare-knuckles struggle for the nomination — a scenario that the party’s elite donors see as a distressing echo of four years ago.

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Monday charged that Republicans don’t need Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s “lectures.” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker repeatedly dismisses Republicans in Congress as doing little. And Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul regularly jabs his Republican opponents by name.

    Yet no candidate has injected more provocation into the 2016 Republican presidential primary than Trump.

    While few party officials see the reality television star as a credible candidate, he has lashed out at a growing number of Republican critics who have condemned his recent description of Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists. Trump over the weekend posted a message from another user on his Twitter account charging that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush “has to like the Mexican illegals because of his wife,” Columba, who was born in Mexico.

    The call for calm comes as the sprawling Republican field shows signs it could tip into a bare-knuckles struggle for the nomination. Campaigning in New Hampshire over the weekend, Bush said he “absolutely” took the remark personally. Trump has not apologized, but said Monday evening “somebody else” retweeted the message and “I don’t know anything about it” even though it was under his account.

    Trump stood firm on his comments about immigrants, saying earlier Monday “the Mexican government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States,” and “criminals, drug dealers, rapists” are among them. He said “many fabulous people” come from Mexico and the U.S. is better for them, but this country is “a dumping ground for Mexico.”

    Republican donor John Jordan said Monday that GOP leaders should take steps to block Trump’s access to the first presidential debate in early August.

    Debate organizers at Fox News Channel, backed by the Republican National Committee, have released guidelines saying the top 10 candidates in national polling will be allowed to participate. Trump would qualify under the current terms, while contenders such as Ohio’s two-term Gov. John Kasich would not.

    “Someone in the party ought to start some sort of petition saying, ‘If Trump’s going to be on the stage, I’m not going to be on there with him,'” Jordan told the AP on Monday. “I’m toying with the idea of it.”

    “It’s something I feel strongly about as somebody who not only cares about the Republican Party, but also Latinos,” Jordan said.

    Even as the other candidates say they’re trying to avoid intraparty backbiting, however, they can’t seem to avoid it.

    In an interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Cruz refused to condemn Trump’s comments, saying he’s not going to perpetrate “Republican-on-Republican violence.” Christie, who entered the presidential race last week, wasn’t having it.

    “I find it ironic, right, that Ted Cruz is giving lectures on Republican-on-Republican violence,” Christie said on Fox News, accusing the Texan of sponsoring hardball ads against Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander in the 2014 primaries. “I mean, all due respect, I don’t need to be lectured by Ted Cruz.”

    The Republican National Committee has dramatically reduced the number of primary debates before the 2016 contest largely to avoid the kind of attacks that bloodied their 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney.

    As the last GOP nomination heated up in January 2012, Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich got particularly nasty. Gingrich joined Obama supporters in attacking Romney’s business background, calling him a “vulture capitalist.”

    Donors remember those exchanges well and fear a repeat of primary vitriol would lead to another general election loss. “Ninety-nine percent of leading donors saw the candidates carve each other up in the 2012 primaries and come out weaker for it and are determined not to let that happen again,” said Fred Malek, who has helped raise money for GOP presidential candidates for four decades.

    Responding to Friess’ letter, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee wrote he plans on “becoming the nominee by playing a better game, not by breaking the legs of my rivals.”

    “I hope that we don’t commit fratricide again as a party,” Huckabee wrote, according to a copy of his response obtained by the AP.


    Associated Press writer Jonathan Lemire in New York City contributed to this report.

    The post As Republican infighting grows, donors call for calm appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Dylann Storm Roof appears by closed-circuit television at his bond hearing in Charleston, South Carolina June 19, 2015 in a still image from video. A 21-year-old white man has been formally indicted on nine counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder in connection with an attack on a historic black South Carolina church. Photo provided by Reuters

    Dylann Storm Roof appears by closed-circuit television at his bond hearing in Charleston, South Carolina June 19, 2015 in a still image from video. A 21-year-old white man has been formally indicted on nine counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder in connection with an attack on a historic black South Carolina church. Photo provided by Reuters

    Prosecutors formally indicted Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old man accused of killing nine worshippers at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, on several counts of murder and attempted murder on Tuesday, The Post and Courier reported.

    A grand jury filed 13 charges against Roof, who is white, for the June 17 killings inside the Emanuel AME Church, a historically black church. Prosecutors presented three additional attempted murder charges for each of the three survivors of the shooting, on top of the previous nine counts of murder. Roof also faces one count of possessing a weapon during a violent crime.

    Scalett A. Wilson, Charleston County’s prosecutor, has yet to decide whether to seek a death penalty in the case. Calling Roof a “person filled with hate,” South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said weeks ago that the accused shooter deserved the death penalty.

    Following the shooting, photos emerged of Roof posing with the Confederate battle flag. Federal investigators are also looking into a racist manifesto, possibly written by Roof, that embraces white supremacist ideology to help determine the motivation for the Charleston attacks. The Justice Department is investigating the shooting as a hate crime.

    Roof’s association with the Confederate flag also reignited debates over the history of racial violence in the U.S. Since the shooting, several retailers stopped selling Confederate flag merchandise, and the South Carolina Senate voted Monday to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds.

    The post Dylann Roof, suspect in Charleston shooting, formally indicted on murder charges appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Cultura RM via Getty Images

    Photo by Cultura RM via Getty Images

    Actor and comedian Bill Cosby testified in a 2005 civil lawsuit that he acquired Quaaludes “with the intent of giving them to young women to have sex with” and admitted to giving the sedative to at least one woman, the Associated Press reported Monday. Here’s a brief look at the drug and its history.

    What are Quaaludes?

    Methaqualone, or brand name Quaalude, is a central nervous system depressant that acts as a sedative and hypnotic. Hypnotics are drugs that induce sleep.

    Methaqualone’s sedative quality was first noted in the 1950s and researchers found it could fight malaria, but it wasn’t patented until 1962. In the 1960s, the drug was prescribed as a sedative mostly in Britain and later caught on as a sleep aid in the United States in the 1970s.

    The drug was manufactured in the United States under the name Quaalude with the number 714 stamped on the tablet. Quaaludes became popular for recreational use in the late 1960s and 1970s in discos — where they were known as “disco biscuits” — and in juice bars.

    Its effects include drowsiness, and reduced heart rate and respiration. An overdose of the drug, which is highly addictive, can cause coma and death.

    How do they work?

    Most sedatives, including alcohol and Valium, work by binding to gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors (GABAA) in the central nervous system, resulting in an increase in inhibitory signals in the brain. Quaaludes bind to a different segment of the GABAA receptor, but have similar sedative effects.

    Are they legal?

    Not anymore. Congress banned domestic production of the drug and its sales as a prescription, and President Ronald Reagan signed the legislation into law in 1984.

    Can you still get them today?

    The legal production of the drug ended in the United States in the 1980s, but underground labs in Mexico continued to manufacture the pill, and it is still used in South Africa and India under different names.

    Cosby has not been charged with a crime in connection to allegations that he drugged women in order to have sex with them. His lawyers have denied all allegations.

    Catherine Woods contributed to the reporting.

    The post What are Quaaludes, and how do they work? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Businessmen shaking hands across coffee table in lobby. Photo by Getty Images

    Nick Corcodilos offers advice to a retired man, who after moving to a new town, finds himself in need of work. If you want a job, Corcodilos suggests, go where the employers are. Photo by Getty Images

    Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

    In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees—just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


    Question: We moved to a rural area to set up retirement. A company offered me a job there. After we moved in, the company said, “We don’t need you any more.” That is, they lied. I’m looking for work. I get NO answers from job board listings. Overqualified, I expect. Then I got a new surprise, a diagnosis of a disease that rhymes with “answer.” Crap. I have tried to network, but I don’t know the area well. I also think ageism is working against me.

    I don’t know what to try next. Sympathy is out. Don’t want it. I DO want advice about how to formulate a new attack plan. Unique challenges, eh?

    Nick Corcodilos: Unfortunately, your challenges are not unique. What you’re experiencing is very common. (I’m sorry to hear about the worst of it—your diagnosis.)

    What you’re asking for is a complete job search strategy, and I can’t do that in one column. Please check these articles: Ask The Headhunter In A Nutshell: The short course; Skip The Resume: Triangulate to get in the door; and Too Old To Rock & Roll?

    What I teach the candidates I work with is no secret. Here it is in a nutshell: Be ready to walk into a manager’s office and demonstrate how you’ll contribute to the bottom line. Managers love to hire people who can do that.

    Obviously, a lot goes into demonstrating that, and it starts with picking the right company and cultivating the right contacts. I know age can be an obstacle, but I find that good companies look past age when they can clearly see how a candidate will make their business better. They ignore the grey when they see the green.

    Start with meeting people connected to the companies you’d like to work at. So if you want a job, don’t go where the jobs are. Go where the employers are.

    If you go where jobs are—job boards, newspaper classifieds, job fairs—you’re just encountering competition! Go where the competition isn’t. Figure out where employers hang out and join them.

    Try, for example, a local chamber of commerce meeting. I love these for scoping out a town or a city. Then find industry and professional events as nearby as you can. Attend, mingle, don’t ask for jobs—get to know people. I know it’s a lot of work, but so is waiting for job boards to deliver.

    The big benefit to this approach is that you will meet a lot of people and that’s where you will get referrals. You will face a lot of NOs, but you need only one YES. It sounds trite, but it’s true about many things in life.

    Don’t know who to talk to? Check “Meet The Right People.” You’ll be surprised who can lead you to an employer, but you must put in the effort.

    So many Americans face what you face now in the job market, and it’s so bad that it borders on criminal. There’s a whole industry trying to sell the idea that you can pay for a job by using all these goofy online services. Americans need to “go around” and use their wits to find jobs—not these lame systems.

    I hope your health issue can be treated successfully. I wish you the best.

    Dear Readers: What other paths can this “senior” reader take to go around the competition? Employers are crying that there’s a “skills shortage.” Do you agree?


    Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “How Can I Change Careers?”, “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

    Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

    Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

    The post Ask The Headhunter: Retired and in need of a job? Don’t go where the jobs are appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    birth control pills

    Most health insurance plans began offering free birth control on Aug. 1, 2012, or Jan. 1, 2013. Photo by Getty Images

    Women are saving a lot of money as a result of a health law requirement that insurance cover most forms of prescription contraceptives with no additional out-of-pocket costs, according to a study released Tuesday. But the amount of those savings and the speed with which those savings occurred surprised researchers.

    The study, in the July issue of the policy journal Health Affairs, found that the average birth control pill user saved $255 in the year after the requirement took effect. The average user of an intrauterine device (IUD) saved $248. Those savings represented a significant percentage of average out-of-pocket costs.

    “These are healthy women and this on average is their No. 1 need from the health care system,” said Nora Becker, an MD-PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania and lead author of the study. “On average, these women were spending about 30 to 44 percent of their total out of pocket (health) spending just on birth control.”

    The study looked at out-of-pocket spending from nearly 800,000 women between the ages of 13 and 45 from January 2008 through June 2013. For most plans, the requirement began Aug. 1, 2012, or Jan. 1, 2013. So-called “grandfathered” health plans, those that have not substantially changed their benefits since the health law was passed in 2010, are exempt from the mandate, as are a small subset of religious-based plans.

    Becker said that while making birth control substantially cheaper may not increase the number of women who use it, the new requirements could well shift the type of birth control they use to longer-acting, more effective methods like the IUD. “If prior to the ACA a woman was facing $10 to $30 a month for the pill but hundreds of dollars upfront for an IUD and now both are free, we might see a different choice,” she said.

    Researchers also found that while out-of-pocket spending dropped dramatically for most types of prescription contraceptive methods — “the majority of women were paying nothing by June 2013” –spending barely budged for the vaginal ring or hormonal patch.

    That could be because under the original rules, many insurers declined to make the ring or patch free, since, like pills, they are essentially hormone delivery methods. Earlier this year, the Obama administration issued a clarification saying that while insurers do not have to offer every brand of every method, they do have to cover at least one product in each category, including rings and patches.

    Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

    The post Under health law, women save hundreds each year on birth control, study finds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Handguns are seen for sale in a display case at Metro Shooting Supplies in Bridgeton, Missouri, November 13, 2014. The store has reported an increase in gun sales as the area waits for a grand jury to reach a decision this month on whether to indict Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot and killed the 18-year-old Mike Brown, who was black, on Aug. 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

    A relative of a Charleston shooting victim along with other gun control activists will be on Capitol Hill Wednesday. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A relative of one victim of the mass church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, and other activists from the city are coming to the Capitol on Wednesday to try doing what others have failed to achieve before: Pressure lawmakers to approve gun control legislation.

    The visitors are planning a news conference with lawmakers and leaders of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence at which they will press Congress to vote on legislation expanding required background checks for firearms buyers at gun shows and online.

    Their chances of success seem bleak. Similar bills have gone nowhere in Congress, despite repeated lobbying by victims’ families from the 2012 slaying of 26 children and educators in Newtown, Connecticut, and by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was badly wounded in a 2011 shooting that killed six.

    So far, the Charleston killings have prompted little serious activity in Congress related to firearms restrictions.

    The group from Charleston is coming exactly three weeks after Dylann Storm Roof allegedly murdered nine black parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church. Roof, who is white, faces nine counts of murder and other charges.

    The visitors will include Andre Duncan of Charleston, nephew of Myra Thompson, 59, a member of a bible study group that was meeting at the historically black church when the nine were slain.

    The shooting and pictures of Roof with Confederate flags have prompted some lawmakers to move toward restricting public displays of the banner in Southern states.

    On Tuesday, the South Carolina Senate voted to remove the Confederate flag from a pole in front of the Statehouse. The measure still must be approved by the state House.

    The city council of Mobile, Alabama, voted Tuesday to remove the Confederate banner from the city’s official seal.

    In 2013, just months after the Newtown killings, the Democratic-run Senate fell short of approving a bill expanding background checks and imposing other gun curbs. The Republican-run House never took up such legislation.

    The post Charleston activists to visit Congress to push for gun control legislation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Omar Pérez is a Cuban poet, translator, essayist, editor, ordained Zen Buddhist monk and the son of revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara. He graduated from the University of Havana in 1987 with a degree in English and then went on to study Dutch and Italian. He lives in Havana. Photo by Frank Carlson

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, a profile of a most unusual writer, a man Jeff met on his recent trip to Havana for the series of reports on the Cuban Evolution.

    Here’s our look.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Omar Perez is an artist, a musician, and a poet.

    OMAR PEREZ, Poet: It’s very much in the culture. There’s no difference between a song and a poem. The brain gets active when you listen to a melody. So that’s exactly what happens with poetry, too.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And Perez has another claim to unusual fame. He is the son of revolutionary Che Guevara. His mother was a student at the University of Havana in the 1960s. Both she and Guevara were married at the time of their affair, and Perez grew up unaware of who his father was.

    OMAR PEREZ: When I was 25 years old, I was already a human being, and then somebody told me, did you know your father is Che Guevara? I said, no, I don’t. What am I going to do now? I’m 25 years old, I’m a writer, I’m a poet, I’m a translator. Should I change now?

    What should I become? Should I become something different? I didn’t want to become anything different. I was — that’s what I wanted to be, a poet.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Generations of Cubans have lionized Che Guevara, the Marxist revolutionary from Argentina who, alongside Fidel Castro in the 1950s, overthrew Cuba’s government. His image is still seen all over Havana.

    Omar Perez lives in one of the once elegant, now crumbling buildings alongside the city’s famous seawall, the Malecon. For his part, he doesn’t seem to hold on to a romantic view of Che Guevara or the Cuban revolution.

    You have grown up through the period of the revolution in Cuba. What’s your sense of where it’s at now? Is it alive? Is there…

    OMAR PEREZ: The revolution?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    OMAR PEREZ: The revolution has been dead for years, for decades.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For decades?

    OMAR PEREZ: Yes, sure.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes?

    OMAR PEREZ: Yes, everybody knows that. And revolution for its own nature must be a very brief moment of human existence.

    I remember, when we were school, every year, we had to say, this is the year of industrialization, this is the year for agriculture, this is the year of whatever. And then slowly, slowly became year 30 of the revolution, year 33 — it was like a clock moving, moving nowhere.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Perez says he’s not political, but he is an observer of the times.

    OMAR PEREZ: I try not to write about social issues, but it comes back all the time. I can’t stop now writing about social issues, but not as a sociologist or a politician, but more like an anthropologist.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Tell me what you see in society then as an anthropologist of Cuban life now.

    OMAR PEREZ: Confusion, not in a bad or in a good sense, just confusion, a lack of social organization, in the sense that the community itself is not very well-organized. It is very fragmented, and the state is also very fragmented.

    They are both moving without really knowing where they are moving.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Omar Perez lives simply, creating art from recycled parts, often from the cracked walls of his own home.

    OMAR PEREZ: These materials, sometimes, they are coming out.

    JEFFREY BROWN: He thinks normalization of relations with the U.S., the money it could bring, the changes that will come, could cause kind of an identity crisis for Cubans.

    OMAR PEREZ: What you have now is the farcical attempt to represent transformation in society through the economic, commercial values.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But I would think many Cuban people would want that for a better life.

    OMAR PEREZ: I don’t know what Cuban people want. If you’re not thinking clearly, whatever comes from your mouth adds also to the confusion. I want a car, I want a five-year American visa, I want to open a shop, I want to have another car, I want blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But people do want those things.

    OMAR PEREZ: Yes, OK. Congratulations. If that brings happiness into their lives, it’s OK with me, you know?

    JEFFREY BROWN: What’s the role of a poet in a society like Cuba today?

    OMAR PEREZ: To observe, to have fun.

    JEFFREY BROWN: To observe and have fun?

    OMAR PEREZ: Yes, to observe and have fun with what you’re observing, and then to propose ideas. You don’t even need to write. You can paint. There are so many ways to express what you want to say. This is what art is about.

    JEFFREY BROWN: From Havana, Cuba, I’m Jeffrey Brown for the PBS NewsHour.

    The post Che Guevara’s son on Cuba’s coming identity crisis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: For generations, scientists have had to undertake long voyages across the sea to try to better understand the mysteries of volcanic activity and the oceans themselves. But now scientific advances and technology have changed the game.

    Hari Sreenivasan has our story.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What if a volcano erupted and nobody knew about it? That used to be the case 300 miles off the coast of Oregon and Washington for undersea volcano known as Axial Seamount.

    But two months ago, when it started spewing lava, these scientists knew instantly.

    You have 25 sensors sitting on the lip of a volcano, and it’s all feeding information back here.

    JOHN DELANEY, Oceanographer, University of Washington: That’s right. It’s really exciting.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: University of Washington oceanographer John Delaney is the director of a groundbreaking research project called the Cabled Array, also known as the Cabled Observatory, that has, in effect, turned Axial Seamount into the world’s first wired volcano.

    JOHN DELANEY: Well, we’re standing in our control room that allows folks that are here on campus at the University of Washington to actually interact with the instruments that might be as much as 400 kilometers, 300 miles offshore.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: On the day of the eruption, a network of sensors on the volcano started measuring more than 8,000 small earthquakes, and the seafloor dropped seven feet.

    DEBBIE KELLEY, University of Washington: We have been waiting our whole lives to have that kind of information come in.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Debbie Kelley was one of those closely watching the eruption data. She’s a chief scientist on the team who studies underwater volcanoes.

    This volcanic ridge is like thousands of miles of ridges that circle the Earth beneath the oceans. It’s also a spot where two tectonic plates pull apart, making it an ideal location to study. Kelley says that the Cabled Observatory, which will eventually send back real-time data and images anyone can access, will finally give scientists, and the general public, insight into a complex world they know very little about.

    DEBBIE KELLEY: It will let us have new eyes into the ocean. It’s really expensive to go to sea. And now we’re looking at an international laboratory, where anybody could have access to these data and it doesn’t cost them anything.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Here’s how it works: An array of sophisticated sensors, moorings and cameras are connected by cables to large hubs called primary nodes.

    Those in turn are connected to a fiberoptic Internet and power cable stretching from the volcano 300 miles back to shore.

    JOHN DELANEY: The game changer is that fiberoptic cable. Fiberoptic cables became the centerpiece of how we could do science throughout entire volumes of the ocean without actually being there.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The $150 million system took six years to design, build, and implement. And it will cost at least several million a year, maybe more, to maintain over its 25-year lifespan.

    The Cabled Observatory is part of an even larger National Science Foundation-funded project called the Ocean Observatory Initiative that aims to study the oceans in a more comprehensive way than ever before.

    The National Science Foundation is an underwriter of the NewsHour.

    Canada has developed a similar network. The observatory equipment off the West Coast has now been operating, about a mile down, for nearly a year. Deep-sea creatures seem to have adjusted to their new neighbors, but there have been some challenging moments. During an initial voyage to map the system’s main cable, the team discovered a section had actually been laid on top of a boiling hot hydrothermal vent, not an ideal place for a delicate cable, and it was later moved.

    Debbie Kelley specializes in those vents and the exotic, largely unstudied life forms that surround them. She says this project will help scientists understand some basic science about an ecosystem that may in fact produce a window into the origins of life on this planet.

    DEBBIE KELLEY: Seventy percent of the volcanism on the planet occurs underwater. And so there’s many questions that arise because we’re never there at the right place at the right time.

    We think that there’s massive blooms during an eruption where you have billions of microbes streaming out of the seafloor. And this is probably the — the most extreme environment on Earth. And now most people think that’s where life started.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: These hardy microbes may hold the key to new chemical compounds or pharmaceutical drugs.

    DEBBIE KELLEY: We know so little about these microbes, and it’s clear that they have phenomenally different metabolisms than most people think about. And so there’s interest in perhaps, as our bodies become more resistant to tetracycline or penicillin, that maybe we could start getting medicines from the sea through these microbes.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: From volcanic eruptions to intense deep-sea pressures and near-freezing temperatures, the observatory equipment has had to operate in a very challenging environment. So, how has it fared?

    DANA MANALANG, University of Washington: The system has worked amazingly well, but, as you would expect in this environment, there has been some attrition.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Dana Manalang is a senior engineer in the Applied Physics Laboratory at the university, where much of the Cabled Observatory equipment was designed and built and where fragile sensors are thoroughly tested before being deployed.

    While some parts of the system are intended to be traded out every year, other parts, including the main cable, are expected to last for 25 years.

    And what’s with all the high-voltage stuff?

    Manalang gave us a tour of some of the key components the team is working on before a summer research cruise to make repairs and check on the equipment.

    What are these big, huge metal containers?

    DANA MANALANG: Well, so, these are big titanium housings. Titanium won’t corrode under the high-salinity conditions in the ocean.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So everything’s got to be sealed super tight?

    DANA MANALANG: That’s right. Seawater and electronics don’t mix.

    (LAUGHTER)

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Right.

    And she showed us a first-of-its-kind sensor that’s already sending back data from the volcano.

    DANA MANALANG: This is a homegrown system for measuring the diffusion of high-temperature fluids out of vents on the volcano. So, there are 24 different temperature sensors on here.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: One of the first priorities for the team this summer is to replace video cameras on the seafloor that stopped working recently. And they are awaiting a new software system, also funded by the National Science Foundation, needed to capture and organize all the data coming in. For now, the information is being archived at the University of Washington.

    Despite those few setbacks, John Delaney, who first came up with the idea of a Cabled Observatory more than 20 years ago, says the project is going to fundamentally change our understanding of the oceans.

    JOHN DELANEY: As a society, we are dependent on the ocean. And if you want to understand the complexity of all the processes that operate in the ocean, you have got to be in the ocean. You have got to be making the measurements in real time and looking at things that are short-term, long-term.

    We can’t do that from land. We can’t do that with just the odd ship time to time. We have got to be there in the ocean 24/7, 365, for generations. That’s the key.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Over the coming years, Delaney and his colleagues hope to expand the Cabled Observatory, and hope that this charts a course for other countries to build their own observatories as well.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Hari Sreenivasan in Seattle, Washington.

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    Actor Bill Cosby speaks at the National Action Network's 20th annual Keepers of the Dream Awards gala in New York April 6, 2011.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS HEADSHOT) - RTR2KWH5

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now a closer look at those new revelations in the Bill Cosby story.

    Documents were released yesterday that found the comedian admitted in court back in 2005 that he gave sedative-type drugs to women he wanted to have sex with. More than two dozen women have accused Cosby of rape in cases that go back decades, and others have said they woke up after blacking out following use of drugs and alcohol.

    Cosby’s alleged use of drugs has been central in some of those allegations.

    Jeffrey Brown picks up the story from there.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Cosby’s own words came from a deposition in a case brought in 2005 by an employee of Temple University. She’d accused Cosby of drugging and molesting her. That case was settled and the testimony sealed, until the judge released it yesterday to the Associated Press.

    There were immediate public repercussions and potential future legal consequences.

    We’re joined by AP reporter Maryclaire Dale, who broke the story, and NPR’s television and culture writer, Eric Deggans.

    Maryclaire Dale, start first and remind us, if you would, a little bit about the case that this came from and the particulars of the deposition.

    MARYCLAIRE DALE, Associated Press: Sure.

    This case dates back 10 years, when a Temple University employee accused Cosby, as you said, of drugging and molesting her at his home, where she had gone to a dinner seeking career advice. She worked for the basketball team, and says that, after dinner, she took three pills from Cosby, which he said was herbal medication for stress.

    In his deposition, parts of which were unsealed yesterday, he said that the drug was Benadryl. Her lawyers don’t believe that, and asked Cosby about other drugs and prescriptions he may have taken over the years. And he admitted in the deposition that he used quaaludes and obtained them in the ’70s for the purpose of using them to have sex with women.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And then — but then he stopped short of saying that he did it without their consent, right? I mean, there’s a point in the deposition where he gets asked that and his lawyer steps in.

    MARYCLAIRE DALE: That’s right, and that’s the key point here. We really do only have small portions of the deposition.

    What happened was Cosby’s lawyers were objecting and interfering, according to the woman’s lawyer, as she questioned Cosby, so she stopped the proceeding and went to court and asked the judge to compel him and his legal team to cooperate. And that’s called the motion to compel. That, along with the sanctions motions she filed, is what the judge unsealed yesterday.

    So, again, we see some excerpts, but oftentimes we see the question that was asked, such as, did the women knowingly take these drugs? Cosby didn’t answer. I believe he didn’t answer that question entirely, and he didn’t say how many women he would have given the quaaludes to.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And one more question to you on the particular deposition, because it’s very interesting to see the way the judge framed this in unsealing it.

    He pointed very specifically to Bill Cosby’s public role, and he said: “The stark contrast between Bill Cosby the public moralist and Bill Cosby the subject of serious allegations concerning improper and perhaps criminal conduct is a matter to which the AP and, by extension, the public has a significant interest.”

    MARYCLAIRE DALE: Right.

    Cosby’s lawyers had argued that privacy was at issue here and that, even though he was an entertainer, he was entitled to some degree of privacy. But the judge apparently believed he had gone somewhat beyond that, accepting the AP’s argument that he wasn’t just a normal entertainer, but somebody who had spoken out about family life, education, morality in our public life.

    And the judge said he therefore had somewhat a lesser degree of privacy, and that the public had an interest in seeing what his sworn deposition testimony was and how that compared to his moralizing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so, Eric Deggans, let me bring you in here. These charges of course have been around for some time, but this particular — the deposition becoming public seems to have had immediate impact, right, including on supporters of Cosby.

    ERIC DEGGANS, NPR: I think so.

    Before this, we had many women coming forward, as many as 40, to say that they felt that they had been drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby in various ways. But these are words that presumably came from his own mouth.

    And we saw, for example, Jill Scott, an R&B singer who’s well-known, she had defended Cosby in October and November, when the public first really started to take a look at these charges or these allegations. And now, since this deposition has been released, she has recanted that support and said that she just needed to see some kind of proof, she called it.

    And for her, seeing Cosby admit that he had obtained quaaludes for the purpose of having sex with women was enough. And I think for some people who were on the fence about some of the allegations that have been made about him, that may pull them off the fence to say, maybe he didn’t sexually assault these women in the way that he’s being accused of, but something happened here that’s counter to the image, the wholesome image that Bill Cosby’s always had.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Because, I mean, in the larger arc of this, Eric, there has been a sense and some criticism that Cosby may have gotten a — too much of a pass, right, from people in the entertainment world and the media.

    ERIC DEGGANS: Certainly.

    And, as was pointed out, this was a lawsuit from 2005. The allegations, I think, surfaced in 2004. And — but people didn’t really take a close look at this, I think, in the wider world until just last October. We saw a stand-up comic, Hannibal Buress, include in his act, you know, criticizing Bill Cosby for moralizing, when he has these allegations in his past.

    And it was almost the voice of young black comedy saying, you know, how can this guy be an elder statesman for comics and morality, when he has this in his past? And it caused, I think, a groundswell, where people looked at these past allegations, more women came forward, and then we saw NBC and other showbiz entities sort of step back and end their associations with him.

    And I think that’s going to continue in the wake of this latest revelation.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, Maryclaire Dale, just briefly, if you would, what about the legal consequences here in terms of how the deposition becoming public might play out?

    MARYCLAIRE DALE: Right.

    Some women — three women who are suing him for defamation in Boston, saying that when he said that — denied their accusations, he basically branded them liars, they believe this will bolster their claims that he had defamed them.

    And I don’t think any criminal charges will ensue, necessarily. Many of the claims are too old to be brought criminally, but I know there are a few — also, in California, Gloria Allred is bring a civil sex assault case. And she is hoping that the courts will uphold that. Cosby of course is trying to get that thrown out of court.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Maryclaire Dale and Eric Deggans, thank you both so much.

    MARYCLAIRE DALE: Thank you.

    ERIC DEGGANS: Thank you.

    The post Bill Cosby’s prior Quaalude confession may have legal repercussions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    People gather for a candlelight vigil against gun violence in the Englewood neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois, United States, July 3, 2015. Extra police patrols and long shifts were not enough to prevent nine deaths and about 50 injuries from gun violence in Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend, when homicides jump almost every year. Chicago, with 2.7 million people, is the most violent large city in the United States, with poverty, segregation, dozens of small street gangs, and a pervasive gun culture all contributing to the problem. Picture taken July 3, 2015.   REUTERS/Jim Young   - RTX1JA3N

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    GWEN IFILL: Against the backdrop of high-profile tragedies in Charleston, Baltimore and other cities, additional troubling statistics have come to light, a spike in day-to-day gun violence in a number of cities across the nation. That’s led to double-digit jumps in Saint Louis, in Baltimore and in Chicago, where 10 people were killed over the Fourth of July weekend.

    There are as many theories of why as there are people tasked to address the problem.

    We talk to them now, three of them. Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is the mayor of Baltimore, which has struggled with a surge in violence this summer that predated the high-profile death of Freddie Gray in police custody. Mitch Landrieu is the mayor of New Orleans, where shootings are down this year. And Gary Slutkin is the founder and executive director of Cure Violence, a national initiative to stop violence in 10 cities, including Chicago, New Orleans, and Baltimore.

    Welcome to you all.

    Gary Slutkin, we heard about the incredible rash of killings this weekend in Chicago, and you have studied it there, as well as other places. What’s going on?

    GARY SLUTKIN, Founder and Executive Director, Cure Violence: Well, I think what’s usually missing in the conversation around violence is its epidemic nature itself, in other words, its contagious nature.

    We know a lot more about violence now than we knew 10 or 15 years ago, and you never really know what gets something going. And in the U.S., now some of the cities are going up and some are not. But when it gets going, it perpetuates itself to a certain extent. And that’s what’s happening.

    But what is most relevant is whether you can get the right things into place to cool this epidemic, this type of epidemic down. And this is being done in Baltimore in some of the neighborhoods, in New Orleans in some of the neighborhoods, in Chicago, and also in several other cities.

    (CROSSTALK)

    GWEN IFILL: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I wanted to ask Mayor Rawlings-Blake about that, pick up the point you just made about what’s happening in Baltimore.

    A lot of attention on Baltimore this year, mostly having to do what some people call a riot, some call an uprising in your city streets. But this problem was there already. What’s going on in your city?

    MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE, Baltimore: The problem of violence predates me and it has been part of Baltimore’s history for decades.

    And Dr. Slutkin is right. It’s an epidemic. It’s an epidemic of gun violence. And it requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. We know that we — under my administration, we have been able to get the homicides down to the lowest number they have been since the ’70s, but still — Baltimore is still a much too violent city.

    And we did that by employing some of those same Safe Streets, Operation Ceasefire, community policing. We have seen success. And we have seen an uptick in homicides and violence since the unrest that we had in the city. We have also seen an uptick in arrests, and we know that we’re not going to be able to arrest our way out of it. It’s going to take the focus like Safe Streets, Ceasefire, the community policing, but also addressing some of these underlying issues that impact not just Baltimore, but cities across our country.

    GWEN IFILL: Mayor Landrieu, you use the term culture of violence. Some people call it a culture of guns, a culture of police overreaction.

    Explain to me what you mean by a culture of violence.

    MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU, New Orleans: Well, I think that we have a national epidemic in the United States of America that people walk by every day.

    We’re seeing the uprisings in Ferguson and Baltimore and the unsettling nature of the relationship of police and the community, which is real, by the way, and has to be fixed. But even when that’s gone on across America, pretty much every day, we’re going to lose 40 Americans.

    Since 1980, we have lost 680,000 Americans on the streets of America to some kind of violence. And so that’s what I call the culture of violence, a behavioral pattern that has developed over time that looks like when there’s a minor disrespect or a beef, the way that those individuals are resolving that problem is through violence, usually at the end of a gun.

    And I think it’s epidemic. I think you see it all around the country. And, of course, it spikes from time to time. Statistically, we don’t know why murders go up and shootings go down, or vice versa. And Dr. Slutkin can give you more information about that.

    But one of the things that we know is that you can’t just police your way out of this, although police are an important part of it. That’s why community policing is important. That’s why the interruption is important.

    And if you think about it from more of a public health perspective, as well as a criminal justice perspective, you get a sense of, as Mayor Rawlings-Blake said, the all-hands-on-deck approach that we have to take to really reduce the level of violence on the street that, in my opinion, has become a cultural behavioral pattern.

    GWEN IFILL: Gary Slutkin, I seem to remember having part of this conversation this time last year, when there was another wave of Fourth of July violence in Chicago. So, what’s the answer to the question about what underlies this and what communities should be doing about it?

    GARY SLUTKIN: Well, what the communities have at their hands now that they didn’t have before is much more of, as Mayor Landrieu said, the health approach.

    So now we can put into place interrupters and other types of health workers in order to treat it like we treat Ebola. And as far as Chicago goes, for example, we just had this very, very awful Fourth of July weekend in Chicago. But there were zero killings, in fact, even zero shootings, in the Englewood neighborhood, which is notorious, because a large number of health workers were trained to interrupt and to prevent spread and to keep events from happening.

    The same thing happened last year on Memorial Day in four neighborhoods in Baltimore. When the city itself was having a big outbreak, the four neighborhoods in Baltimore that were using Safe Streets, which is also a Cure Violence adaptation, had zero.

    And in Baltimore, there were four neighborhoods that had — two neighborhoods had over a year without a killing using the health approach. Adding this health approach is really shifting the response of the epidemic in a different way.

    GWEN IFILL: Mayor Rawlings-Blake, why don’t you jump in here.

    MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: And that’s exactly what I was about to say.

    Yes, we had one community that was very violent when I was coming up in Baltimore called Cherry Hill in South Baltimore. They have been over 400 days without a homicide, and that is — growing up in Baltimore, you would know that neighborhood, and that statistic would even be more remarkable.

    So, I agree it’s important that we expand that public health approach. The challenge is to make sure that, not just in Baltimore that we get it right, but everywhere where you take that public health approach, you have to have the public health workers trained and the right ones that can make it work.

    And that’s what we are doing in Baltimore with our expansion of Safe Streets to make sure that we have the right community associations, the right health — the right interrupters that are out there in our street teams that can be helpful.

    We have seen progress, but, just as Mayor Landrieu is saying, we continue to see spikes in some areas. And my hope is that I will have an opportunity, as president of the Conference of Mayors, with my second vice president, Mayor Landrieu, to bring national attention to the issues that are facing our cities, so we can look at not just at the models that can help us to reduce violence, but also to develop a national agenda for cities, so we can take a look also at the resources that have really been cut off from the federal government.

    The Congress has scaled back support for cities for decades, and I don’t think it’s a surprise that the violence and the — particularly the gun violence has had an inverse, you know, that while the investments have gone down, the violence has gone up. And my hope is that, over this year, we will develop an agenda that will help reverse that trend.

    GWEN IFILL: Mayor Landrieu, I’m not sure that there is an end to this argument.

    MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU: Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: But I think that the president brought it up in his remarks last week or a couple weeks ago in Charleston, and that’s the roots — the root causes of gun violence. Not — the violence we’re talking are shootings, not stabbings, not anything else.

    Do you think that there is a specific approach that needs to be taken there? Or does that get us into a political…

    MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU: No, not — it’s not necessarily that it’s a political fight or not a political fight. And guns are certainly a part of it, but they’re not the only answer to it.

    The issue gets to be how and why our young people are resolving their differences through violence and how that happened over time. One of the things that Mayor Rawlings-Blake just mentioned ago — just the — just the amount of funding that used to come from the federal government to make sure that our national security was protected.

    And national security is what happens overseas, but it’s also what happens on our homeland, has been cut, for example, just for the COPS program, by 88 percent since 1966. And police departments are stretched, and when they’re stretched, they don’t do nearly as much community policing.

    On the issue of guns, that’s an important component, but if you talk to the people who are involved in this business, these young kids are telling you, hey, Mayor, it’s either kill or be killed. It’s tough out here.

    And I’m just and Mayor Rawlings-Blake are trying to call attention to the fact that we are losing 40 lives on the streets of America every day. And what Dr. Slutkin is saying is, the shooter today is the kid that is killed tomorrow, which is why the violence interruption has to come into place.

    So this has to be a holistic approach. There’s a public safety approach to it. There’s a public health approach to it. There’s a personal responsibility approach it to. But make no mistake about it. This is clearly a national epidemic. And it’s not just one city. It’s all over America and it’s in specific neighborhoods, which I think that, if we spent time on, we could target and do really well with and save American lives.

    GWEN IFILL: Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore, and Gary Slutkin, the founder and executive director of Cure Violence, thank you all so much.

    MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU: Thank you.

    MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: Thank you.

    GARY SLUTKIN: Thank you, Gwen.

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    GWEN IFILL: Now another look at Greece, this time how its strained economy is affecting its people.

    For the first four months of 2014, the budget for Greece’s 132 hospitals was $735 million. This year, that number dropped to $50 million, a precipitous decline that has placed predictable stress on the nation’s medical system. Now psychiatrists and other medical practitioners warn that deepening poverty will lead to an increase in suicides and preventable deaths.

    NewsHour special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports from Athens.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: It’s a letter that no one should have to read. The suicide note left by 77-year-old pharmacist Dimitris Christoulas is now a treasured possession of his daughter, Emmy.

    EMMY CHRISTOULAS, Daughter of Suicide Victim (through interpretor): “If one Greek was to take up a Kalashnikov, I would be the second. But since I am too old to react actively and physically, I find no other solution than that of a dignified exit before I begin searching through the garbage for my food. I believe that, one day, because the younger generation have no future, they will take up arms and hang the traitors of the nation, just as the Italians did in 1945.”

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Christoulas shot himself beneath this pine tree in Athens’ Syntagma Square, where opponents urged Greek voters to reject the international austerity program in last weekend’s referendum.

    One of the first on the scene was doorman Panos Kyriakopoulos

    PANOS KYRIAKOPOULOS (through interpreter): Everyone who works around here was dreadfully upset, as well as those who were passing by. It was so unexpected, a man blowing out his brains in Syntagma Square. It was terrible, just terrible.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: It’s been three years since the suicide, and Emmy Christoulas has come to terms with her father’s motive. Dimitris wasn’t depressed. He was a left-winger. And his death was a political act.

    EMMY CHRISTOULAS (through interpreter): Look, at a personal level, the loss is always tremendous because here we are talking about a relationship which was exceptionally good, a very strong relationship throughout all the years of my life based on a really strong and rich emotional foundation.

    But, yes, the fact that my father decided to break the silence of our own social suicide, of our own society doesn’t ease the pain but, it does make me proud.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: This is Greece’s suicide hot line. Callers who are so depressed that they are considering killing themselves can be connected to an on-duty psychiatrist elsewhere in the country, who will attempt to convince them that life is worth living.

    Since the crisis, suicides have increased by roughly 50 percent. Recently, though, numbers went down. But Aris Violatzis, chief psychologist of the Klimaka Suicide Prevention organization, warns the upward trend could return.

    ARIS VIOLATZIS, Chief Psychologist, Klimaka Suicide Prevention: If things will get worse, if Greece and its partners won’t find a solution, if the other European countries, our partners won’t help the situation to become better, then what — and we have more unemployment in the future, that is going to bring probably more suicides than we already have. Now, this is something that must be taken into account by the other European countries.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: The strain of austerity is everywhere. This taxi driver, who didn’t wish to be identified, developed what his doctors say is a stress-related rash after he paid nearly $200,000 for his cab and operating license, and its value went down by two-thirds.

    The collapsing medical system, like the increase in suicides, are both symptoms of the impact of austerity on Greece.

    DIONYSSIA MICHAELIDOU, Retiree (through interpreter): I have no insurance. I have no pension. I have nothing.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Pensioner Dionyssia Michaelidou has come with her unemployed daughter, Depsina, to Athens’ Elpis Hospital, where they know they can obtain vital medication for free.

    According to the director, the hospital is currently acting illegally, because it is serving people who don’t have state medical coverage. At the start of the crisis, the hospital’s annual budget was over $20 million. Now it’s down to about $8 million.

    The director, Theo Giannaros, is on a mission to save lives.

    THEO GIANNAROS, Director, Elpis Hospital: With this problem, the next months, even the insured people are going to have — aren’t going to have the proper treatment. The new therapies, they are very expensive.

    So, like other countries in the Balkans, if they have a very strange disease, they are getting aspirins. But aspirins cannot save their lives. So, if we don’t have any money, our treatments are going to be aspirins, or with red peppers, like in Africa, et cetera.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Isidoros Tsagas is in remission from an aggressive thoracic cancer, only because he was able to receive free medication and treatment from Elpis Hospital.

    ISIDOROS TSAGAS, Cancer Patient: This hospital saved my life. Otherwise, I was dead, except for a miracle, except for the God. We are a country, a member of European Union. So, all the political governments have to care about that and have the health in first priorities.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: European charities gave the hospital a mobile intensive care unit to treat patients who couldn’t leave their homes, but Greek bureaucracy prevented the ambulance from being registered, and it has not been used for 18 months.

    As Greece teeters on the brink, drug supplies are running low. The pharmaceutical companies are owed more than $1 billion and haven’t been paid since December. In the past, the companies have refused to supply drugs because of unpaid debts. But for the time being, they have promised to maintain the flow of medicine.

    THEO GIANNAROS: What is happening here is a crime against humanity. And for these things, some Yugoslavs, for example, in the war of Yugoslavia went to the — they have been brought to the International Court for Human Rights for crimes against humanity because they killed some hundreds. Here, some thousands are going to die or died already.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: The impact of austerity on the medical system is just one of many reasons why Greeks voted to reject the European Union’s latest bailout offer and its strict conditions. The victory of the no-campaign uplifted Emmy Christoulas.

    EMMY CHRISTOULAS (through interpreter): A person who has lived to the age of 77 with a collective vision, and not the egocentric, egotistical and personal way of life, and has fought many battles in especially difficult times, because Greece has been through an exceptional number of trials and tribulations throughout history, who decides not to express this vision in an egotistical way, but by sacrificing his own life to relay the message of this collective vision, we can only consider his death as a non-selfish act, and probably the most humane act of his life.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: But, as Europe decides whether to cut off Greece’s financial lifeline, a symbolic act beneath an old pine tree three years ago resonates louder than ever.

    For the PBS NewsHour, this is Malcolm Brabant in Athens.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The precise numbers of suicides in Greece are very hard to determine, although an estimated 12,000 Greeks have their lives since the onset of economic austerity.

    Klimaka, the suicide prevention organization Malcolm visited in that report, attributes underreporting to cultural stigma and the difficulty in having a Christian funeral after a suicide in such an overwhelmingly orthodox nation.

    The post Why the Greek crisis is a matter of life and death for some appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry  meets with foreign ministers of Germany, France, China, Britain, Russia and the European Union during the Iran Talks meetings at a hotel in Vienna, Austria July 7, 2015. A dispute over U.N. sanctions on Iran's ballistic missile programme and a broader arms embargo were among issues holding up a nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers on Monday, the day before their latest self-imposed deadline.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria  - RTX1JDBM

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The latest deadline to reach a nuclear weapons agreement with Iran came and went today, with no deal to show for it.

    Iran, the United States, and five other major world powers will keep negotiating for a long-term agreement that tackles some of its most contentious issues. No new formal deadline has been set.

    And at the White House today, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said there won’t be a deal until the sticking points are resolved.

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: The president will not accept any sort of an agreement that falls short of the political commitments that were made back in April. And as Secretary Kerry himself said back on Sunday, we have never been closer to reaching a final agreement than we are now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on the Iran nuclear talks, we turn to Indira Lakshmanan of Bloomberg news.

    She is in Vienna, and I spoke to her a short while ago.

    Indira, welcome.

    So what is the significance of missing this? The Americans wanted this deadline. The Iranians really didn’t.

    INDIRA LAKSHMANAN, Bloomberg News: Well, I mean, this is the fifth deadline that diplomats have missed in these Iran talks over the last two years.

    I say deadline, but, in effect, they’re really self-imposed target dates that the six powers in Iran have set for each other, trying to reach some aspect of agreement at each point. Now, we have missed this deadline. What they have done in the meantime is extended until Friday the interim agreement that gives temporary limited sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for freezing their nuclear program where it is now and stopping the most sensitive nuclear work they do.

    But diplomats have made clear to us on both sides that even though they’re trying to get this deal by Friday now, there is no guarantee that will happen, that talks could continue after Friday or they could simply fail, we have been told.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what are the main unresolved issues? What’s known about that?

    INDIRA LAKSHMANAN: Well, we heard from the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, today that the arms embargo on Iran imposed at the United Nations remains a really big sticking point. Iran wants this lifted, and the U.N. and its negotiating partners have insisted that it cannot be lifted.

    They are also saying that they want to maintain restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program, although they’re not getting into the details of whether some aspect of that missile program may be allowed. We were talking earlier about the significance of missing this deadline.

    And I just want to point out that, if they don’t get a deal by this Friday, then it automatically doubles the amount of time that the U.S. Congress will have to review this deal. If they get it by Friday, Congress only has 30 days to give the thumbs up or the thumbs down. If they don’t get it by Friday, then Congress automatically has two months to go over it and pick over every single detail of the deal.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Indira, what are you hearing about the atmospherics, about how it’s going behind closed doors?

    INDIRA LAKSHMANAN: Well, it’s incredibly tense and exhausting, as you can imagine.

    This is 22 months of negotiations. A senior American official told us tonight that they calculated that they had taken 69 trips across the Atlantic. This is the second Fourth of July that the team has spent in Vienna. It’s been 100 degrees, unseasonably hot. The air conditioning in Vienna is really not up to snuff for that kind of weather.

    And we heard from a senior Western diplomat that there was quite a heated exchange last night between Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the other six foreign ministers. Apparently, no actual slamming of doors, but some tempers really flared as they pressed him to make concessions that he didn’t want to make.

    So I think, at this point, everyone is getting a little bit to the end of their rope. But the Americans have told us again and again that, no matter how tired they are, they’re not going to settle for a deal that, as the president said, is less than what they agreed to in April in Lausanne, and that if they can’t get that good deal, then there will simply be no deal.

    An American official told us that they felt that it would be a tragedy if we had gotten this far and we couldn’t get a deal, but at the same time, they are not willing to accept a substandard deal that, first of all, wouldn’t even make it through Congress’ muster, for that matter.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, finally, what are the expectations, that they will come together in the end? And is the U.S. and its allies, the countries it’s negotiating with across the table from Iran, are they sticking together?

    INDIRA LAKSHMANAN: So far, from what we understand, they are sticking together, which is interesting because there is certainly a lot of tensions between the United States and Russia, to say the least, over Ukraine, Syria, and other issues.

    But what we’re told by the Americans and the Russians is that, despite their other differences, they have stood together on this along with the Europeans and the Chinese, and really have a solid position that they’re coming to Iran with.

    One little development that we heard today is that the access issue for U.N. atomic inspectors, looks like that is something that they may be in the process of resolving or it may be resolved. Of course, as the Americans always say nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. It’s like a Rubik’s Cube, and every piece has to fall into place.

    I think, if you ask me, that it’s more likely than not that they will get a deal by Friday, but they have prepared us for the possibility that, if Iran doesn’t make the so-called tough political decisions it needs to, that these talks could, in fact, collapse, and then we would be in completely new territory, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Indira, you and the rest of the press corps and the rest of the world continues to wait. Thank you.

    INDIRA LAKSHMANAN: Thank you.

    The post Tense and fatigued, negotiators extend Iran nuclear talks past deadline appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Afghan security forces walk past a burning car after a group of insurgents stormed a compound used by Afghanistan's intelligence agency in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 7, 2015. Taliban insurgents raided the compound used by Afghanistan's intelligence agency, a police spokesman said, killing one security guard and wounding another.  REUTERS/Omar Sobhani  - RTX1JDVF

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The government of Afghanistan confirmed today that it has opened direct talks with the Taliban. It’s their first formal face-to-face encounter since a U.S. coalition ousted the Taliban from power in 2001. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the goal is to change this meeting into a process of continuing talks. Officials said the talks are taking place in Pakistan’s capital city, Islamabad.

    GWEN IFILL: U.S. strategy to defeat the Islamic State came in for heavy criticism today from Senate Republicans.

    John McCain, chairing the Armed Services Committee, challenged the president’s policies on ISIS at a hearing.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: There is no compelling reason to believe that anything we are doing currently will be sufficient to achieve the president’s long-stated goal of degrading and ultimately destroying ISIL, either in the short-term or the long-term. Our means and our current level of effort are not aligned with our ends. That suggests we are not winning, and when you’re not winning in war, you are losing.

    GWEN IFILL: Defense Secretary Ashton Carter conceded only 60 Syrians have been trained to fight Islamic State forces so far.

    ASHTON CARTER, U.S. Defense Secretary: This number is much smaller than we’d hoped for at this point, partly because of the vetting standards. We make sure that they, for example, aren’t going to pose a green-on-blue threat to their trainers, that they don’t have any history of atrocities. These are all things that are required of us, and that they’re going they’re willing to engage in the campaign in a way that’s compliant with the law of armed conflict.

    GWEN IFILL: Meanwhile, inside Syria, Kurdish fighters, backed by U.S. airstrikes, recaptured 10 villages from Islamic State control. The Kurds have been advancing toward the militants’ de facto capital.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Yemen, fighting has flared again, and with it, the number of deaths. Local residents and Shiite rebels say nearly 200 people were killed yesterday. Many died in airstrikes by Saudi Arabia and its allies.

    Today, air assaults badly damaged the rebels’ political offices. The group has Iran’s support, while the Saudis back Yemen’s government in exile.

    GWEN IFILL: Violence also surged again in Nigeria, where a bomb blast killed at least 25 people. It targeted civil servants at a government building on the outskirts of Zaria, in the northern part of the country. Attacks by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram have killed several hundred people in recent days.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This was a day of remembrance in Britain, marking 10 years since the terrorist attacks in London on July 7, 2005; 52 people died when four suicide bombers attacked London’s transport system. Victims’ relatives, politicians and royalty marked the day at a service in Saint Paul’s cathedral in London. Flower petals drifted down during a nationwide minute of silence. A separate service brought relatives and survivors to Hyde Park.

    Emma Craig was 14 years old at the time of the attacks.

    EMMA CRAIG, Attack Survivor: Quite often, people say, it didn’t break us. Terrorism won’t break us. The fact is, it may not have broken London, but it did break some of us.

    Sometimes, I feel that people are hell-bent on trying to make a point about terrorism not breaking us that they forget about all the people that got caught up in it. Not for my sake, but for those who were killed on that day and their families, they are the people we are here today to remember. May we never forget.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Britain is currently on its second highest alert level, severe. That’s mainly because of the threat posed by Britons who’ve become Islamic State fighters.

    GWEN IFILL: Eurozone leaders today called a final summit on the Greek crisis for Sunday. That came after they came away empty-handed from a meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Instead, the parties spiraled closer to a so-called Grexit, a Greek exit from the Eurozone.

    Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News reports from Brussels.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: Alexis Tsipras, supposedly under pressure to present a new reform plan for serious talks to begin, but this relaxed-looking Greek bears no such written gift today, his unspoken message, perhaps, that he won’t sign a bad deal just because the Germans want him to.

    And the row over Greece’s future is now perilously close to dividing its European creditors. Francois Hollande of France fearful of Grexit and desperate for compromise.

    PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, France (through interpreter): We want Greece to stay in the Eurozone. That is our aim. But to achieve this, we expect Greece to make some substantial and real proposals. We wait for them.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: Yet the word forgiveness, forgiveness of more Greek debt, is not in Chancellor Merkel’s vocabulary. And she won’t sign a bad deal for Germany just because Grexit is the alternative.

    CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL, Germany (through interpreter): It’s not about weeks here anymore. It’s about a few days.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: After more than five months of often acrimonious negotiations with the Greeks, confidence in Athens is at a very low ebb here. All day, we have heard senior European government officials saying that they are waiting for serious and credible proposals for Greek reform.

    Instead, it seems that the Greeks have turned up with no concrete proposals at all. But the new Greek finance minister, Euclid Tsakalotos, was giving nothing of his game plan Away, in stark contrast to his outspoken predecessor, who was sacked yesterday to help pave the way for a deal. “Here’s Looking at Euclid,” as one Irish newspaper put it today.

    The closest to concrete proposals: some bullet points apparently written on hotel note paper, though a written document is expected to be delivered here tomorrow.

    Latvia’s finance minister telling me he could scarcely believe how little the Greeks had told him.

    JANIS REIRS, Finance Minister, Latvia (through interpreter): We were very surprised and shocked by what we saw. We were expecting more. We have been waiting for over five months. We have been waiting over the past two days to get a response to see what the Greeks are ready to do in order to save their own country and to help themselves, but we haven’t received that.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: And talk of Greece leaving the euro now out in the open.

    MAN: Minister, can we understand that you don’t exclude Greek exit from the table?

    PETER KAZIMIR, Finance Minister, Slovakia: I would like to be honest with you, so I cannot exclude.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: So, tonight, Mr. Tsipras has been talking to a German chancellor who has said there is no basis for negotiations. And so Greek exit is more a probability than it was only yesterday.

    GWEN IFILL: The Greek leader also spoke by phone with President Obama. The White House urged Europe to try to reach a resolution that promotes growth and stability in Greece.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, there’s a news report that the U.S. Army plans to cut 40,000 troops from its ranks in the next two years. And 17,000 civilian workers will also be laid off. According to USA Today, the plan is to be announced this week. It would leave an Army of about 450,000 soldiers. Some of the downsizing has been expected, as U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan wound down.

    GWEN IFILL: The man accused in the mass shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, was indicted today on additional charges. Prosecutors added three counts of attempted murder against Dylann Roof. He’d already been charged with murdering nine people at a historic black church.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the presidential campaign, Democrat Hillary Clinton went after Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans on immigration. She told CNN that the GOP should have condemned Trump for remarks on Mexican migrants that drew widespread criticism.

    HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), Presidential Candidate: I feel very bad and disappointed with him and with the Republican Party for not responding immediately and saying, enough, stop it. But they are all in the same general area on immigration.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Clinton said she favors a path to citizenship for migrants, while the Republican hopefuls do not.

    GWEN IFILL: Heroin abuse in the U.S. has risen dramatically over the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today the number of users grew by nearly 300,000 people over the 10-year period between 2002 and 2013.

    Use of the drug doubled among white Americans, even as it leveled off in other racial groups. The increase was driven in part by the falling price of heroin.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The World Health Organization is urging more countries to hike taxes on cigarettes. The U.N. health agency reported today that the tax needs to be more than 75 percent of the retail price before people are deterred from smoking. Agency figures show around six million people die each year from tobacco-related illnesses.

    GWEN IFILL: And on Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 90 points to close above 17775. The Nasdaq rose five points, and the S&P added 12.

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    Tasmanian cave spider on the hand of biologist Peter Michalik of the University of Greifswald, Germany Photo by Christian Wirkner.

    Tasmanian cave spider on the hand of biologist Peter Michalik of the University of Greifswald, Germany Photo by Christian Wirkner.

    Male spiders have a bad reputation in the bedroom. Their arachnid genitals have been described as “numb” and as haphazard as an “elongate, elaborately formed fingernail” trying to perform a complex task in the dark. This is because it was long thought that male spider genitals had no nerves.

    This assumption might be wrong, according to a new study from Germany that, for the first time, found nerves in the genitals of male spiders, using X-rays and other scans.

    Male spiders don’t have penises. Instead, they possess two stubby appendages called pedipalps that they use to store sperm and copulate with female mates. Scientists have examined these sexual organs — called palpal bulbs — for at least a century without being able to spot nerve tissue inside.

    In 2010, Smithsonian Institute biologists William Eberhard and Bernhard Huber described male spider mating as “sensorily blind” and made the fingernail analogy above. Many species of male spiders, they note, struggle to dock with female genitalia, conducting exploratory humps that have been described by scientists as “scraping”, “stroking”, “rubbing”, “scrabbling”, “beating”, “poking”, “slapping”, “fumbling”, brushing” and “flubs.”

    The case seemed closed until today, when a new report released in Biology Letters outlined the presence of two clusters of neurons in the palpal bulbs of Tasmanian cave spiders (Hickmania troglodytes).

    “I’ve been working with sensory structures of arthropods for a while, so I am experienced with identifying nervous tissue; however, in the end we were just lucky to find this nervous tissue inside this spider,” said evolutionary biologist Elisabeth Lipke of the University of Greifswald, Germany in an email. Lipke co-led the study.

    The team started by dissecting the palpal bulb, slicing the tissue into thin sheets, and placing those onto glass slides. They then used three types of microscopes to make the discovery. A “transmission electron microscope” spotted the architecture of a small nerve, consisting of long branches called neurites and empty sacks called vesicles that house neurotransmitter chemicals.

    A male Tasmanian cave spider, Hickmania troglodytes, hangs in its natural habitat. The white arrow points to one of its sex organs, a pedipalp.  Photo by  M. J. Ramırez/Courtesy of Elisabeth Lipke.

    A male Tasmanian cave spider, Hickmania troglodytes, hangs in its natural habitat. The white arrow points to one of its sex organs, a pedipalp. Photo by M. J. Ramırez/Courtesy of Elisabeth Lipke.

    The scientists also found two glands in the palpal bulbs that appear to be connected to the nerves. Next, with an X-ray microscope and a light microscope, the team built a 3-D reconstruction of the palpal bulb.

    Three-dimensional model of the male copulatory organ and some  structural details, such as  nerves (yellow), cuticular tube that houses seminal fluid (green) and glands (red and purple). Photo by Lipke E, Hammel JU, Michalik P. Biol. Lett. 2015.

    Three-dimensional model of the male copulatory organ and some structural details, such as nerves (yellow), cuticular tube that houses seminal fluid (green) and glands (red and purple). Photo by Lipke E, Hammel JU,
    Michalik P. Biol. Lett. 2015.

    In general, male spiders have evolved an array of skills to succeed at reproduction. Some species are equipped with complex pedipalps that lock onto the female genitals, called the epigynum, like an anchor. Other males break off or
    bite off their own pedipalps or produce secretions in order to physically plug the epigynum, preventing future suitors from mating with a female. However, male Tasmanian cave spiders aren’t thought to plug their mates.

    The team suspects that the nerves in Tasmanian cave spider might sense physical stress on the palpal bulb as it inserts and expands during copulation, though their study didn’t directly measure whether these neurons react to sexual strain.

    3-D model of where strain might occur in with the copulatory organ of male Tasmanian cave spiders. The big grey arrows indicate the directions that the stress load might be applied during sex, while the colors red, yellow and blue indicate areas where high, medium and low levels of strain might be felt. Photo by Lipke E, Hammel JU, Michalik P. Biol. Lett. 2015 (modified).

    3-D model of where strain might occur in with the copulatory organ of male Tasmanian cave spiders. The big grey arrows indicate the directions that the stress load might be applied during sex, while the colors red, yellow and blue indicate areas where high, medium and low levels of strain might be felt. Photo by Lipke E, Hammel JU, Michalik P. Biol. Lett. 2015 (modified).

    Alternatively, male Tasmanian cave spiders might use sensory nerves to guide copulation, while yet another hypothesis is that the neurons control unknown sexual secretions from those palpal glands.

    Lipke thinks it’s possible that this new discovery could extend to other spider species.

    “We would not be surprised if more spider species have evolved copulatory organs that are able to perceive sensory input,” Lipke said.

    The post Male spider genitals have some nerve appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Pentagon

    The Army plans to reduce the active-duty force from 490,000 soldiers to 450,000 within two years.

    WASHINGTON — In the midst of a war against the Islamic State that the Obama administration says will last many years, the Army is moving ahead with big troop cuts. And they could grow even larger unless Congress and the White House find a way to stop further across-the-board spending reductions this fall.

    Army leaders were notifying members of Congress Wednesday with details of how they intend to reduce the active-duty force from 490,000 soldiers to 450,000 within two years. The size of the reduction was announced months ago, but congressional delegations have been waiting for word on how the cuts would be distributed and timed; troop reductions can inflict significant economic pain on communities reliant on military base populations.

    If a new round of automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, goes ahead, the Army says it will have to reduce even further, to 420,000 soldiers.

    Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, has said he can accept the planned reduction of 40,000 soldiers over the next two years, which the Army plans to implement by trimming the size of numerous units. The biggest cuts would be to an infantry unit at Fort Benning, Georgia, and an airborne infantry unit at Fort Richardson in Alaska. Each would shrink from about 4,000 soldiers to about 1,050, defense officials said Wednesday. Those details were first reported Tuesday by USA Today. The full plan for specific cuts is expected to be made public by the Army on Thursday.

    In Odierno’s view, being forced to shrink the Army is not the hardest part of coping with years-long budget wrangling between the Congress and the White House. Even more difficult, he says, is the uncertainty for military planners and the nation’s soldiers.

    “The thing I worry about is it has put a lot of turbulence in the Army and brought a lot of angst to our soldiers,” he told reporters May 28. As he nears the end of his tenure as Army chief, Odierno said the only thing that could push the service off its course toward modernization is more budget uncertainty.

    “The unpredictability is killing us,” he said.

    Defense Secretary Ash Carter agrees.

    “We’ve been going one year at a time budgetarily now for several years straight, and it’s extremely disruptive to the operations of the department,” Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. “It is managerially inefficient, because we’re in this herky-jerky process.”

    It may not get any smoother anytime soon. Congressional Republicans are proposing to give President Barack Obama the extra billions he wants for defense in the budget year starting Oct. 1. But Obama says he can’t accept their plan because it maneuvers around spending caps in a way that does not also provide spending relief in non-defense areas of the budget. This portends a September showdown between Congress and the White House.

    The Army says it needs to start moving ahead with planned troop reductions, although most will be accomplished through attrition and forced retirement of officers rather than layoffs of enlisted soldiers.

    Members of Congress generally oppose shrinking the size of the military, especially if the cuts might affect bases in their states or districts. But they also have opposed other forms of savings proposed by the Pentagon, including reforming the military health care or retirement systems, eliminating older weapons systems or closing bases.

    Sen. Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska, told Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at Tuesday’s hearing that he was opposed to shrinking the size of the 4th Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division, an airborne infantry unit based at Fort Richardson, Alaska, because he wanted to save the Army from a “strategic blunder.”

    Dempsey told Sullivan that Congress has been “telling us ‘no'” to money-saving changes that could reduce the need for troop cuts.

    “We have $1 trillion — that’s a T, not a B — a trillion dollars less in budget authority over 10 years. We’ve said from the beginning, it’s a disaster,” Dempsey said.

    The post Army cuts could grow even bigger if budget impasse persists appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An explosion rocks the Syrian city of Kobani during a reported suicide car bomb attack by militants of the Islamic State on October 20, 2014 in Sanliurfa province in Turkey. Photo by Gokhan Sahin and Getty Images

    An explosion rocks the Syrian city of Kobani during a reported suicide car bomb attack by militants of the Islamic State on October 20, 2014 in Sanliurfa province in Turkey. Photo by Gokhan Sahin and Getty Images

    While ISIS only became known to Americans in the past year or so, the group has actually been around for years, and its roots are deeper than you think.

    “This is a long term campaign,” President Obama said this week while giving an update on the U.S. campaign against the group. “ISIL is opportunistic, and it is nimble. It is dug in in many places in Syria and Iraq, in many cases in civilian populations.”

    For this week’s Shortwave, we look at just where the Islamic State comes from, and where it might be going. And we talk to Cole Bunzel, one of the world’s foremost experts on the Islamic State and a postdoctoral candidate at Princeton University, who has translated hundreds of pages of Islamic State’s founding documents from the original Arabic.

    The post You can’t understand the Islamic State until you know its past appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Lesbian, Gay, Same-sex Wedding/marriage. Photo by Getty Images.

    Timothy Chi, CEO of WeddingWire, explains how the Supreme Court’s historic decision to legalize same-sex marriage will impact the wedding industry. Photo by Molly Landreth and Getty Images.

    On June 26, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right. Now, the thirteen states that had bans on gay marriage—Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio, and Tennessee—must recognize these unions.

    What can we expect from this decision? For one, more weddings and more cake.

    Hoping to be the go-to source for a new flood of customers is WeddingWire, a wedding-planning company based in the DC metro area. Just a few weeks before the monumental decision, WeddingWire purchased GayWeddings.com, a service site for gay couples planning their weddings.

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman spoke with Timothy Chi, CEO and co-founder of WeddingWire, about his company’s acquisition of GayWeddings.com, as well as the impact of the Supreme Court’s historic decision on the wedding industry.

    The following text has been edited and condensed for clarity and length. You can also watch last Thursday’s Making Sen$e segment on how legalization of gay marriage will likely create a financial boost for the wedding industry and the broader economy.

    Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor

    [Watch Video]

    Paul Solman: Can you tell me about the decision to acquire GayWeddings.com in June?

    Timothy Chi: So the acquisition of GayWeddings.com really started four years ago when we partnered with GayWeddings.com. We partnered with them simply because we felt like it was the right thing to do. Kathryn Hamm, the president of GayWeddings.com, came to us and said, “Guys, I’ve been working on this for a really long time. Let me tell you about my journey.” We told her that we’d love to partner with her and help bring GayWeddings.com to a more national platform. Why wouldn’t we do this? Marriage equality is something we have believed in and have been involved with since starting the company. And having a partner, advocate, and thought leader four or five years ago was key to helping us understand how we as an organization could better support the LGBT community.

    In purchasing GayWeddings.com, we were thinking about how we could be an integral part of the LGBT community. I think it’s one thing to stand there and say, “we support it, we support it.” It’s another thing to put your money where your mouth is and say, “No, we support it in a very meaningful way.”

    Paul Solman: Was the timing of the acquisition just serendipitous or was it intentional?

    Timothy Chi: The timing of the acquisition was serendipitous. We had been talking for a while about ways we could continue to work closely together. June ended up being the time when an acquisition made the most sense. Obviously, we didn’t know this was happening at the time of the transaction. And quite frankly, it didn’t matter to us. It was the right move for both parties. So whether the Supreme Court ruled one way or another, it wouldn’t have changed our rationale for getting closer with GayWeddings.com.

    Paul Solman: Do you see the Supreme Court decision changing or impacting this business going forward?

    Timothy Chi: We’ve generally found that the wedding marketplace spoke about two years ago. We often look at general consumer sentiment for the support of same-sex marriage, which is currently around 60 to 70 percent. We also looked at the sentiment for engaged couples and their support for same-sex marriages, which is in the 70 percent range. The one that was really neat for us was the support for same-sex marriage among marriage professionals. Just to give you a little more background, in March of 2011, when we first forged the official relationship with gayweddings.com, there were about 20,000 wedding professionals that opted in and said, “I support same-sex marriage.” That number today is over 120,000, and over 86 percent of WeddingWire vendors have stated that they are ready and willing to serve same sex couples. And so, we think the market spoke two years ago, and it was probably more closely tied to when DOMA was overturned. The ruling last week was just a further underscoring that the marketplace has spoken.

    Paul Solman: Have wedding ceremonies been going on for quite a while in these states where same-sex marriage is now newly legal?

    Timothy Chi: In the states where bans were in place, same-sex couples have been forging marriage by traveling out of state or by just waiting. I think it’s a combination of both. Is there pent up demand for marriage in certain states? There probably is. There must be many couples who have been disenfranchised with this idea that they have to go out of state to be married. Now they are able to make it happen in state.

    Paul Solman: What is the process of spending and planning on a wedding? Does it differ very much between same-sex or hetero couples?

    Timothy Chi: We’ve conducted some surveys recently around same-sex marriages in relation to non-LGBTQ weddings. What we’ve found is that the general framework around which a wedding gets planned is actually very similar. Everyone needs a budget. The timeline, the way that event itself gets planned and executed, lines up really well across the board. Where the differences come in is among traditions, trends, and rituals. And that is where the difference manifests itself right now. If you are a straight couple getting married, while you want your wedding to be a unique, personalized, bespoke celebration, you might enter with the mindset that tradition is your framework. The bride walks down the aisle, for example. Same-sex couples didn’t have tradition to rely on. And because of that they needed to forge and create their own ways of expression. And it’s that individual expression of two people coming together without having tradition as a backdrop where we’ve started to see a lot of new and cool trends emerge. On one hand, there is a lot of similarity on the wedding-planning side, but what actually happens on the day of the ritual can be very different and unique.

    Paul Solman: What are some of those trends that you’ve seen? And do you see them spilling over?

    Timothy Chi: Yeah, we’ve started to see some of these trends spill over. From a research perspective, one of the things historically that I’ve always seen is that you have your bride party and your groom party. Today, we’re seeing a lot more mixed bridal parties, where it might be both men and women on either side. Also, same sex marriages tended to be a little larger with more people participating. I think we’re starting to see a little bit of that bleed over too.

    One of our favorite stories recently was of a couple who were both soccer fans. They were trying to decide whose last name to take. And because they were both soccer fans, they had both families play a soccer match the day before the wedding to see which family won and whose name they would take. Spoil alert, it ended up in a 1-1 tie, and they left the decision to another day.

    Paul Solman: More than 86 percent of your vendors say that they work with same-sex venders. Will there continue to be the option for vendors to say, “I don’t work with same-sex couples?”

    Timothy Chi: The way the participation works right now is that vendors can opt in. And it’s great to see that the overwhelming majority of wedding professionals already raised their hands and said, “I support same sex marriage.” It’s not something that we’re forcing on anyone at this point. The way that things are shaping up, in terms of who supports same-sex marriage and how it is happening, is still at the state level. So there is still a lot of work to be done on that front. For us, at the end of the day, WeddingWire is about inclusivity across the board. One of the reasons why we have been able to grow so fast and pair with gayweddings.com is that we’re laser focused on the core mission of helping engaged couples plan that special day independent of sexual-orientation, religion, race and faith.

    Paul Solman: Kathryn continues to be the publisher of GayWeddings.com, as well as an education specialist for the company. What kind of education is there to be done for vendors working for same-sex couples?

    Timothy Chi: In 2011, we had our first annual WeddingWire world conference. Last year alone probably 1,300 to 1,500 wedding professionals came to join us for a day and a half of learning. The education work that needs to be done is very important, and we’ve always wanted Kathryn Hamm on the main stage providing that education.

    So what is that education? Just because the bans have lifted doesn’t mean that a photographer is best suited to shoot a same-sex marriage. There needs to be education about how to best do that, and Kathryn has actually written a book about just that. If you’re entering with the mindset that it’s just like shooting a straight-couple wedding, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Who walks down the aisle first? How do you pose two groom parties? There’s a lot of considerations to be made. Ultimately, it’s about educating wedding professionals to truly understand how to address the needs of two individuals without tradition as a backdrop.

    Paul Solman: Do you see there continuing to be two separate wedding marketplaces?

    Timothy Chi: Right now were very glad that GayWeddings.com is a separate entity. It’s a very tailored and customized site for LGBTQ audiences. However, that’s not the ultimate goal. The goal is inclusivity across our entire platform. We’ve made many strides in the past four or five years around that. For instance, today, even in signing up for weddingwire.com you can choose your avatar as groom-groom, bride-bride. The way that our tools are set up for budget planning are very customizable. It doesn’t presume you’re going to spend in a certain way. We will continue to invest in our platform in a way that really speaks toward inclusivity across the board.

    The post Why same-sex marriage is good for business appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FIFA Women's World Cup champions

    U.S. players celebrate as they receive the FIFA Women’s World Cup trophy after defeating Japan in the finals Sunday. The women will be showered with ticker-tape once again in New York City on Friday. Photo by Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports

    New York City will host one of its famous ticker-tape parades on Friday to celebrate the U.S. women’s national soccer team, who won their third FIFA World Cup title on Sunday.

    Throughout history, ticker-tape parades have been reserved for milestone moments: the moon landing, the first trans-Atlantic flight, the ending of World War II. Until the 1970s, ticker-tape was used in ticker-tape machines as a reader of stock market prices. Stock brokers would chuck the tape out their windows to the midst and thus the name stuck even after ticker-tape was replaced by electronic stock tickers.

    But not only has ticker-tape been less frequent, so have the parades themselves. Of New York City’s 205 ticker-tape parades, 130 occurred from 1945 to 1965 the New York Times reported. And only four have occurred in the last 15 years, typically being reserved for the successes of local sports teams, like the Giants’s Super Bowl parade in 2012.

    It has been more than half a century since the praise was awarded to a female athlete and never before has a women’s team been highlighted.

    With their World Cup title, the U.S. women’s team will finally end that drought.

    The announcement comes on the heels of criticism of the harsher field conditions and significantly lesser earnings on the women’s side of the ball.

    Alongside their victory, the 25.4 million viewers of the World Cup final on Fox was a record for any English-language soccer match televised in the U.S., exceeding the amount who watched the FIFA men’s World Cup final in 2012.

    Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer acknowledged the historical significance in his letter requesting the parade to Mayor Bill De Blasio.

    “New York City has a strong history of honoring sports achievements in the Canyon of Heroes, but has never held a parade to honor a women’s team,” Brewer wrote. “Our newest soccer champions represent an opportunity for New York to recognize that heroes and role models come in all genders, and I hope you will work with me to make this parade a reality.”

    The first ticker-tape parade occurred in 1886 to celebrate the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty.

    The post World Cup champs become first women’s team to get NYC ticker-tape parade appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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