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

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    CHINCOTEAGUE, VA - JULY 29:  Wild ponies are herded into the Assateague Channel during the annual pony swim event from Assateague Island to Chincoteague on July 29, 2015 in Chincoteague, Virginia. Wild ponies were rounded up on the national wildlife refuge and herded across the channel to be auctioned off by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company during the 90th annual event. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

    Wild ponies are herded into the Assateague Channel during the annual pony swim event from Assateague Island to Chincoteague on July 29, 2015 in Chincoteague, Virginia. Wild ponies were rounded up on the national wildlife refuge and herded across the channel to be auctioned off by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company during the 90th annual event. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

    Thousands of spectators gathered today to watch the annual pony swim, now in its 90th year, from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island on Virginia’s eastern shore.

    The ponies are descendants of ancestors that came to Assateague more than 300 years ago and live on Assateague Island, according to the National Park Service. Each July, a volunteer group called the “Saltwater Cowboys” shepherds the ponies to Chincoteague Island for an auction to benefit the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which cares for the herd year-round. The auction is set for tomorrow. On Friday, the rest of the herd will return to Assateague.

    Marguerite Henry’s 1947 novel “Misty of Chincoteague” celebrated the rite. It also has a practical purpose: to limit the pony population on Assateague, which is limited to 150, according to a National Park Service rule.

    See more images from the pony swim below.

    CHINCOTEAGUE, VA - JULY 29:  Wild ponies come ashore from the Assateague Channel during the annual pony swim event from Assateague Island to Chincoteague on July 29, 2015 in Chincoteague, Virginia. After crossing from the national wildlife refuge, some are auctioned off by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company during the 90th annual event.  Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

    Wild ponies come ashore from the Assateague Channel during the annual pony swim event from Assateague Island to Chincoteague. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

    CHINCOTEAGUE, VA - JULY 29:  Spectators pet wild ponies after they swam across Assateague Channel during the annual pony swim event from Assateague Island to Chincoteague on July 29, 2015 in Chincoteague, Virginia. After crossing from the national wildlife refuge, some ponies are auctioned off by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company during the 90th annual event. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

    Spectators pet wild ponies after they swam across Assateague Channel. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

    CHINCOTEAGUE, VA - JULY 29:  Seven-year-old Carlin Makibbin of Ocean City, Maryland, kisses a wild pony after ponies swam across the Assateague Channel during the annual pony swim event from Assateague Island to Chincoteague on July 29, 2015 in Chincoteague, Virginia. After crossing from the national wildlife refuge, some ponies are auctioned off by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company during the 90th annual event. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

    Seven-year-old Carlin Makibbin of Ocean City, Maryland, kisses a wild pony after ponies swam across the Assateague Channel. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

    CHINCOTEAGUE, VA - JULY 29:  Wild ponies are herded toward the carnival grounds after they swam across Assateague Channel during the annual pony swim event from Assateague Island to Chincoteague on July 29, 2015 in Chincoteague, Virginia. After crossing from the national wildlife refuge, some are auctioned off by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company during the 90th annual event.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

    Wild ponies are herded toward the carnival grounds, where they will be auctioned on Thursday. after they swam across Assateague Channel. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

    The post Photos: Thousands turn out for 90th annual Chincoteague pony swim appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    amgrad

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    Editor’s Note: The full name of the National History Day program that Josh Slayton was selected for is called Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom Albert H. Small Student & Teacher Institute.

    GWEN IFILL: Earlier this week, we showed you a national history program that teaches high school students about World War II and D-Day by having them follow the life of a U.S. service member from their own community to the American Cemetery in Normandy, France.

    Tonight, the NewsHour’s April Brown has the story of how one of those students’ research projects united families from two continents. It’s part of our American Graduate series, a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    APRIL BROWN: Just a few months ago, Judy Shumaker of Meadville, Pennsylvania, had no idea she had French family members longing to connect.

    JUDY SHUMAKER: I’m so happy.

    APRIL BROWN: Decades after losing touch, relations on both sides of the Atlantic met at the American Cemetery in Normandy to honor a World War II soldier killed in action just after the D-Day Invasion of June 6, 1944.

    ANNOUNCER: Six o’clock, D-Day, landing time for the first beachhead boats.

    APRIL BROWN: Though he was born a Frenchman, Pierre Robinson died a sergeant in the U.S. Army. He was the adopted son of Shumaker’s grandfather, John Robinson.

    JUDY SHUMAKER: He was very quiet and very mannerly.

    I heard that grandpa loved him very much. He said that. I heard that he was killed and grandpa was very sad and never really got over that. I often wondered over the years if any members of the family on his side were still alive.

    APRIL BROWN: There were. And they were interested in their American family.

    GILLES GROSDOIT-ARTUR: I’m Pierre’s second cousin. So, Pierre’s mother, Blanche, was my grandmother’s sister.

    APRIL BROWN: Gilles Grosdoit-Artur had been trying to reach out to Pierre’s American family for years.

    GILLES GROSDOIT-ARTUR: I had always heard about Pierre from my grandparents. I had always heard about my grand-uncle and my grand-aunt, lived in Meadville.

    APRIL BROWN: But the families never connected until a Meadville-area high-school student, Josh Slayton, began looking into the soldier’s life and death.

    JOSH SLAYTON: Through all these months of research, you really do feel like you know this person.

    APRIL BROWN: In March, before heading to France, The Meadville Tribune profiled Josh and his efforts to find out more about Pierre.

    And that led to meeting Judy Shumaker.

    JUDY SHUMAKER: I went, yes, finally. Finally, somebody recognizes an ordinary man with an extraordinary story.

    APRIL BROWN:
    Pierre was born in France in 1914. His birth father would die just two years later, killed in action during World War I. His mother, Blanche, remarried in 1920, and her new husband was Judy Shumaker’s grandfather, John Robinson, an American soldier still stationed in France after the war.

    Robinson adopted Pierre and moved to Pennsylvania, where Pierre would spend the rest of his childhood. In 1941, Pierre enlisted in the U.S. Army and, by 1944, Sergeant Robinson became one of thousands of soldiers taking part in Operation Overlord, the code name for the Allied invasion of France.

    JOSH SLAYTON: This morning, we went to Omaha Beach, and that was really amazing, because that is the beach that he actually came in on, on June 6, 1944, D-Day.

    It was just really amazing to feel like we were there with Pierre.

    ANNOUNCER: Through the cloud gaps, the airborne spearheads saw something of the invasion armada.

    JOSH SLAYTON: You have seen all of the pictures, all of the ships and landings crafts all out in the channel. And just to see how much things have changed, but still you can just imagine how massive this invasion was.

    APRIL BROWN: Pierre had made it back to France, but would never again meet his French family. At his grave site, with the French and American families together after so many years, Josh delivered a eulogy to Pierre.

    JOSH SLAYTON: Pierre survived the initial landing, but on the afternoon of June 7, 1944, the 3rd Battalion was facing strong opposition just below Vierville-sur-Mer. While out on patrol, Pierre was killed by a rifleman. In the reflective words of Pierre’s adopted father, John Robinson, “I couldn’t have had a better son if I had one of my own.”

    APRIL BROWN: Pierre’s mother, Blanche, requested her son be buried in a permanent American cemetery in France, the one nearest to where he gave his life.

    JUDY SHUMAKER: War can take away things that can never be given back. It can break families.

    APRIL BROWN: The American and French families began to lose touch after Blanche’s death three years later. Now they are finally reunited.

    GILLES GROSDOIT-ARTUR: There is a sense that there’s more to it than American students. It’s kind of too beautiful to be true.

    APRIL BROWN: These cousins are now in regular contact with each other, as well as Josh and John. And they all plan to keep in touch, making sure Pierre’s story lives on.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m April Brown in Normandy, France.

    The post Disconnected by war, family reunites through student history project appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    medicaid

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Health spending in the U.S. grew by 5.5 percent last year to more than $3 trillion. And new projections show spending will keep rising by nearly 6 percent a year over the next decade.

    This comes after several years of a slowdown in spending growth. And it potentially has major implications for Medicare and Medicaid, which together cover about one of every three Americans. By 2024, nearly four out of every 10 health care dollars will be spent on enrollees in the two programs. The latest warnings comes as both programs are celebrating their 50th anniversary.

    Before President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law in 1965, with President Harry Truman by his side, the country’s social safety net left many seniors living in poverty in their retirement years.

    FORMER PRESIDENT LYNDON JOHNSON:
    There are those alone in suffering who will now hear the sounds of some approaching footsteps coming to help.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Fifty years later, the programs cover tens of millions more people and are deeply woven into the fabric of the American health care system. Nearly one in six Americans, or about 53 million people, receive coverage through Medicare.

    Medicaid, which provides care for low-income and disabled people, has grown even larger. It covers nearly one in four Americans, 71 million in all.

    The success of both programs was hailed by President Obama at a recent White House event.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:
    When Medicare was created, only a little more than half of all seniors had some form of insurance. Before Medicaid came along, families often had no help paying for nursing home costs. Today, the number of seniors in poverty has fallen dramatically.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But new projections underscore worries over long-range solvency. Among them, 10,000 people become eligible for Medicare each day. Medicare’s growth rate is below that of the private sector, but the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will run out of money by 2030, and only be able to cover 86 percent of costs, unless there are more changes, such as higher costs for beneficiaries, raising taxes or cutting benefits.

    Choice of doctors and providers has shrunk in recent years, as payment rates decline. Beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket costs are rising. People enrolled in Medicaid have a harder time finding specialists and dentists willing to treat them. Nearly a third of beneficiaries reduced their use of dental, vision and hearing care.

    Medicaid, which has expanded through the federal health care law, remains the focus of major political battles around the country.

    I sat down recently with two former secretaries of health and human services, who oversaw the programs, Kathleen Sebelius, who served under President Obama until last year, and Dr. Louis Sullivan, who served under President George H.W. Bush.

    Welcome, Secretary Sullivan, Secretary Sebelius.

    And, Secretary Sebelius, let me start with you.

    What difference have Medicare and Medicaid made in this country?

    KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, Former Health and Human Services Secretary: Well, I think they have made an incredible difference in the lives of about 120 million Americans and counting.

    So, seniors were the poorest group of Americans when Medicare was passed 50 years ago. They were going bankrupt because of medical bills. They couldn’t afford the care they needed. And to have that guarantee once you turn 65 or are so disabled that you qualify early, that you have a set of benefits, and you don’t have to be qualified by health, you qualify by age, has made a huge difference in this country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:
    And, Secretary Sullivan, what about Medicaid?

    DR. LOUIS SULLIVAN,
    Former Health and Human Services Secretary: Medicaid has also contributed greatly to improving the health and access to health care for our citizens.

    For example, 50 percent of the births in the country are paid for by Medicaid, most of the care for HIV/AIDS patients, poor patients and families. So this is really the safety net for the health system. So I think Medicaid, along with Medicare, are two successes that we can all congratulate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:
    At the same time, we know that so many more people in this country depend on these programs than was ever envisioned. The costs have skyrocketed to the government at the federal level, and, in the case of Medicaid, also at the state level.

    Secretary Sebelius, how sustainable are these two programs?

    KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: Well, I think that the cost issue is something that this administration particularly has taken head on.

    And part of the framework around the Affordable Care Act was really to look at government spending on health and whether we’re getting the best bang for the buck. The good news, Judy, is in the five year since the president signed the ACA into law, health costs have risen at the lowest level in 50 years. And, in fact, Medicare was supposed to be insolvent by 2017. When I came in with the president, that was what the trustee report said. It’s now 2030.

    And each year, years are added onto that solvency, because costs are going down, in spite of the fact that we have 11,000 people a day turning 65 in this country. We have a baby boom increase in Medicare, but the costs are lower than they have ever been.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: At the same time, Secretary Sullivan, there is still concern about the long-term financial viability of these programs, isn’t there?

    DR. LOUIS SULLIVAN: Oh, yes. And that’s a fair question.

    I think all of us want to be sure that we do a better job in holding back the increases in health care costs. But one of the features in the Affordable Care Act that I’m very pleased with is a greater emphasis on prevention. I believe that the 21st century really will be the century in which we improve health literacy of our citizens and have them play a more active part in remaining healthy, staying out of the hospital, coordinating care better than we have been able to do it in the past.

    So there a number of things that can be done to help ameliorate the increase in costs, while seeing that our patients and our citizens get access to care.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How does that happen, Secretary Sebelius, in the long run?

    And we already — we know many doctors are saying they won’t accept patients who come to them saying they depend on Medicaid. And, in some cases, Medicare physicians are saying they won’t see them.

    KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: Well, it is still about 70 percent of the doctors, less than 100, but 70 percent take Medicaid patients. And almost 95 percent of doctors accept Medicare patients.

    So we still have the vast majority of providers. But I think, again, it’s reasonable to look at what their payment is. Are they being compensated enough? And, as Dr. Sullivan said, what we don’t do very well is pay doctors for keeping their patients healthy in the first place. That payment system is changing rapidly within the government.

    Paying for outcomes, paying for health, paying for people to actually have less contact with the hospital system is a new way of actually using the trillion dollars that the government spends every year to try and drive health and wellness, and not wait until somebody comes into the acute care system, goes into the hospital, does more tests, does more prescriptions. It’s really about health and wellness at the outset.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary Sullivan, what else needs to be done?

    We know there are proposals out there to cut benefits, to raise premiums, to make it harder for people at various income levels to access Medicare. What do you think needs to be done to make these programs sustainable?

    DR. LOUIS SULLIVAN: Well, I believe there are a number of things that we can do.

    For example, the 20th century was a tremendous growth in the scientific community, with many advances that really were miracles. We have developed vaccines of all kinds. When I was a medical student, I took care of patients with paralytic polio. In the mid-50s, when the polio vaccine was introduced, overnight, polio almost disappeared from our country.

    But we have a misunderstanding with some of our citizens about the value of vaccines, where people have misunderstandings, so they’re not using these advances that have been made properly. So, that’s why I say we need to improve the health literacy of our citizens, have them understand the value of these scientific advances.

    And they have to be partners with the health professionals to see that they get the care that they need. The 21st century is going to be a century in which our citizens play a more active role in maintaining their health, working with their health professionals. But we also need to have new kinds of health professionals.

    We don’t need doctors or dentists in every town or hamlet. We have developed physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners. They are valuable members. In dentistry, we are developing dental therapists, mid-level dental providers. We can get care to citizens at less costs.

    So there are a number of things we can do to change the way we provide care and keep our costs under control.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just quickly, what would you add?

    KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: Well, I think he’s right.

    And I think the notion that people need more information, they want to stay healthy, they don’t know exactly what to do, but that, in the long run, focus on prevention and away from acute care, having a real health care system, not a sick care system, is really what I think the goal is in the long run.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary Louis Sullivan, we appreciate your being with us on this 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid. Thank you.

    KATHLEEN SEBELIUS:
    Nice to be here


    DR. LOUIS SULLIVAN:
    Thank you. And happy anniversary, Medicare.

    The post After 50 years, how do we ensure Medicare and Medicaid longevity? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    jamestown

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    GWEN IFILL: But, first, a new discovery at the historic Jamestown settlement. The remains of four important residents and a mysterious religious relic have added new insight and raised new questions about life at the nation’s first permanent English colony.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The men were leaders in the colony, and as seen in this 3-D animation of the settlement site, they were buried in a long-vanished church some 400 years ago.

    Inside one of the coffins, that of Captain Gabriel Archer, was a silver box containing what appear to be Catholic relics, a striking finding in the Anglican settlement. Digging has gone on at Jamestown since 1994. These remains were uncovered by archaeologists in 2013, and just made public after two years of research by the Smithsonian Institution and the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation.

    The president of the latter group, and himself an historian, James Horn, joins me now.

    And welcome to you.

    JAMES HORN, President, Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation: Well, thank you. Pleasure to be here.

    JEFFREY BROWN: First, set the scene for us briefly here. This is the first colony, dire straits, almost coming to an end very quickly, right?

    JAMES HORN: Yes, that’s right.

    It’s the first English colony, first permanent English colony in America, the first beachhead of what was to be a great English empire in the New World. And the first two, three years are some of the most challenging the colony ever endures, a combination of starvation, food shortages, Indiana attack, and disease really decimates the numbers of settlers.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, the discovery of these four men, how did it come about? Did you know you were looking for them in particular?

    JAMES HORN: We didn’t.

    What we were looking for, what we hoped to find was the original church, the 1608 church, which is the first English church, Protestant church in America. So, we went looking for that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And so Captain Gabriel Archer, Reverend Robert Hunt, Sir Ferdinando Wainman?

    JAMES HORN: Wainman.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Did I say it right?

    JAMES HORN: Mm-hmm.

    JEFFREY BROWN:
    And Captain William West.

    JAMES HORN: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What do we know about them, and why is it important to find their remains?

    JAMES HORN: Well, we know a good deal about two of them.

    And if we start with the Reverend Robert Hunt, first Anglican minister at Jamestown, he’s responsible for ministering services, Church of England services to the settlers, but also to begin the long process of preaching to local Indian peoples.

    We know a little about bit about his background, where he was from. But he plays a very important role in founding the Church of England in Jamestown.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Can you — you’re confident about their identity because of a lot of forensic research, right? This is high-tech stuff that you are applying.

    JAMES HORN: High-tech stuff and low-tech stuff.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Uh-huh.

    (CROSSTALK)

    JAMES HORN: Yes, a combination of different methods, including the archaeology, obviously, then the forensics, and documentary research, genealogy, and even high-tech — involving some high-tech processes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, the small box found in the coffin of Captain Archer, with items identified as Catholic relics, this was a surprise? How much do we know? What do we not know at this point?

    JAMES HORN: Well, it certainly was a surprise, for two reasons.

    Objects found in graves are rare, in the English context, at least. So we were surprised to find any artifact. But this artifact is a real enigma, because it wasn’t clear to us who placed it there, what it is doing there. Is it a Catholic reliquary? Is it a Catholic reliquary that was repurposed for Anglican uses, retranslated for the new church in the New World?

    We have got a lot of questions to answer and what we will be working on — on this for some time to come.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But it complicates this early history of religion in the New World, right, although it goes back to — from Tudor history, right?

    JAMES HORN: Yes. Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I know that the fight is still going on at the time in England over Catholicism, hidden, right, vs. the new church, the Church of England.

    JAMES HORN: Well, yes, and in Europe, of course.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    JAMES HORN: So Europe is really split in two.

    There’s a great contest between Protestantism and Catholicism. And that struggle shifts to a New World theater. And Virginia gets caught up in that early. Jamestown is part of that. And so what we have now is the possibility of perhaps an organized Catholic cell in place in Jamestown, at Jamestown, in the first years. And that was — I don’t think we anticipated finding that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, briefly, what happens next? Where do you go from here?

    JAMES HORN: More forensics, because we are not — we cannot be 100 percent certain of the identification at this stage. We have not done DNA.

    And so we are confident in our analysis so far. But we want to follow up with DNA. And we’re doing that right now. And then much more research on the English backgrounds of these four men, and particularly Archer. He is the real mystery in this.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, James Horn, Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, thanks so much.

    JAMES HORN: Pleasure.

    The post A Catholic enigma found in a grave at Jamestown appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    breedlove

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    GWEN IFILL: General Breedlove, thank you so much for joining us.

    GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE, NATO Supreme Allied Commander: Oh, thanks for having me.

    GWEN IFILL: I want to start by talking about Turkey. How significant is it that Turkey has allowed us to start using Incirlik for a basing to attack ISIS?

    GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE: Those things that we are working at now to use bases like Incirlik and Diyarbakir, those will be very important to our ability to prosecute a joint campaign with Turkey as a part of our coalition.

    GWEN IFILL: How far does that buffer zone go and how far do we go into it?

    GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE: We’re not creating any specific zone.

    What we’re talking about is bringing Turkey into an arrangement where, as a part of the coalition, they cooperate in our counter-ISIL campaign in the north. And that’s the real key to this.

    GWEN IFILL: So, it’s not a no-fly zone, per se, is what you are saying?

    GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE: That’s correct.

    GWEN IFILL: I want to take you to Ukraine, especially Russia’s role. The new incoming nominee to be — for Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joe Dunford, said at a congressional hearing last week that he saw Russia as our chief global threat. Is that something you agree with?

    GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE: I have testified to the same thing in the past.

    GWEN IFILL: Why?

    GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE: Well, clearly, there are lots of threats out there, for instance, ISIL.

    But I think what you hear from numerous leaders is that Russia is a different case. This is a nation that for 20 years we have tried to make a partner. And in the last few years, we have seen that they’re on a different path. So now we have a nation that has used force to change internationally recognized boundaries. Russia continues to occupy Crimea.

    Russian forces now are in the Donbass in Eastern Ukraine. So this nation has used force to change international boundaries. And this is a nation that possesses a pretty vast nuclear inventory, and talks about the use of that inventory very openly in the past. And so what I think you see being reflected is that we see a revanchist Russia that has taken a new path towards what the security arrangements in Europe are like and how they are employed.

    And they talk about using, as a matter of course, nuclear weapons. For that reason, these senior leaders, I believe, see that as a major threat.

    GWEN IFILL: Secretary Kerry has not said that. And I wonder if the distinction there is between the diplomatic approach to dealing with Russia on things like Iran and the military concerns.

    GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE: So, Russia can and we hope in the future will be a great partner. There are many places where our needs and requirements match.

    But, again, in Europe, they have established a pattern now, Georgia, Transnistria, Crimea, Donbass, where force is a matter of course. And that’s not what we look for in partners in Europe.

    GWEN IFILL: So NATO has talked about providing training and artillery and some sort of support against this force you describe, this Russian bear on the border. Is that enough?

    GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE:
    Well, NATO nations are offering some assistance to Ukraine, as is the United States. Many nations now are coming along to be a part of helping Ukraine to defend themselves. They have the right to defend themselves.

    GWEN IFILL:
    But is it enough?

    GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE: I think that question is yet to be determined.

    We believe that there is a diplomatic and a political solution. So when you ask, is it enough, the question is, is it enough to set the conditions so that we can get to a political and a diplomatic solution?

    GWEN IFILL:
    What about the Baltics? There is a lot of nervousness that Russia is going to expand its view of aggression in that direction as well, and they will be entirely unable to defend themselves.

    GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE:
    Both NATO, as an alliance, and the United States have come to great measures of assurance for our Baltic nations.

    We have U.S. soldiers alongside British and other soldiers inside of these countries now, exercising, doing training, to assure those allies that NATO is there and will be there. I was privileged to sit in the room at Wales when the leaders of 28 nations, including our president, were rock-solid on Article V, collective defense. And that includes the Baltics.

    And I think that Mr. Putin understands that NATO is different.

    GWEN IFILL: There is a lot of nervousness, however, that this option, if this doesn’t take hold, is war.

    GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE: Well, the best way not to have a war is to be prepared for war. So, we’re in there now, training their soldiers.

    As you know, we are looking at and have decided to preposition stops forward. We have heavy equipment that we train with in these nations now. And so we need to be prepared, so that we can avoid.

    GWEN IFILL: Is there a line between preparation and provocation?

    GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE:
    Absolutely. I believe there is.

    We do defensive measures, and in, I think, very easily defined defensive stances in our forward bases. We’re not putting big forces into the Baltics. Right now, there is a company of U.S. soldiers in each of the three Baltic states. That is well below a proportional issue.

    GWEN IFILL:
    If it is possible for there to be a diplomatic or a political solution to head off any future conflict, what would that look like?

    GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE: We always talk about a European land mass whole, free, and at peace.

    To get to that, we need to have a partner in Russia, not someone that we are competing with. The Russian energy…

    GWEN IFILL: Do you see a partnership that I don’t see?

    GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE: No, no, I’m saying we have to have one in the future.

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE: If we really believe we’re going to get to whole, free, and at peace and prosperous, then we need a partner in Russia.

    GWEN IFILL:
    Well, give me an example of one way to get there, especially if the person who has to be your partner is Vladimir Putin, who doesn’t show any indication, other than being helpful at the Iran nuclear talks, of being the partner you envision.

    GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE: So first, it’s communication. We need to reestablish those lines of communication.

    You have seen our secretary of state, undersecretary of state reaching out in several forums. Mil-to-mil communications need to become routine again. They are not routine now, where they were once before, communication first.

    GWEN IFILL: I guess I hear what you are saying, but I don’t see how you get there.

    GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE: Its’ not going to be an easy road. And it’s not going to happen quickly. This business with Russia is a long-term thing.

    I have said in testimony in other places that this is global, not regional. And it is long-term, not short-term. But we have to start down the path.

    GWEN IFILL: Assuming for a moment there is a diplomatic-to-diplomatic impasse or president-to-president impasse, is there a military-to-military way of forging that kind of agreement?

    GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE:
    There is.

    It is important also that, even if our countries are not getting along, when you are flying airplanes in close vicinity, when you are sailing ships in close vicinity, when you have soldiers on the ground exercising sometimes just on the other side of borders, military men and women have to be able to communicate in a very matter-of-fact way to preclude anything ugly from happening.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, and we hope nothing further ugly happens.

    NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Philip Breedlove, thank you very much.

    GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE:
    No, thank you very much.

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    GWEN IFILL: The role of the U.S. military in Europe has shifted since the start of the Ukraine conflict. Along with other NATO countries, American forces now have a sizable presence in the region.

    Today, the dispute was once again on view, at its center, Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

    Just over a year ago, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-17 crashed in a field in Eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board, most of them Dutch, were killed. The government in Kiev and in many other Western countries said Russian-backed separatists shot down the plane with a surface-to-air missile. It’s a claim Moscow still denies.

    Now Malaysia, along with the Netherlands, Ukraine and others, wants to set up an international criminal tribunal to prosecute those responsible.

    LIOW TONG LAI, Malaysian Transport Minister: An international tribunal will be best place to deliver justice to the families of all victims.

    GWEN IFILL: The U.N. Security Council took up the proposal this afternoon, but Russia vetoed it.

    VITALY CHURKIN, Russian Ambassador to United Nations (through interpreter): What are the grounds to be assured of the impartiality of such an investigation? Can it resist the aggressive propaganda backdrop in the media?

    GWEN IFILL: There have been 15 months of heavy fighting in Eastern Ukraine, known as the Donbass, between separatists backed by Russia and the kin military. More than 6,500 people have been killed.

    The fighting there followed Russia’s March 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. But even beyond that conflict, there’s been a spike this year in Russian air incursions near NATO countries, including the United States. Last month, American fighter jets intercepted Russian TU-95 bombers off the coasts of Alaska and California.

    In response to Russia’s actions, NATO countries have stepped up military exercises in Ukraine and across the Baltic states. In a visit to Estonia last fall, President Obama made the U.S. commitment clear.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: An attack on one is an attack on all. So, if, in such a moment, you ever ask again, who will come to help, you will know the answer, the NATO Alliance, including the armed forces of the United States of America, right here, present, now.

    GWEN IFILL:
    The U.S. has been training Ukrainian forces. So far, it’s limited to instructing national guard units, but the State Department said last week that the mission will be expanded to include regular military forces later this year.

    The man overseeing U.S. operations in Europe and serving as NATO supreme allied commander is General Philip Breedlove. He visited Ukraine last week. And I spoke with him today at the Pentagon.

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    Mullah Omar of Afghanistan's Taliban regime is shown in this undated U.S. National Counterterrorism Center image. Afghanistan said on July 29, 2015 it was investigating reports that Mullah Omar, leader of the militant Taliban movement behind an escalating insurgency, was dead. Photo by National Counterterrorism Center/Handout via Reuters

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the future of Afghanistan after a longtime enemy of the United States is reportedly dead.

    Earlier today, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s intelligence agency confirmed the death of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. According to the agency, the reclusive figure died two years ago at a hospital in Pakistan. So far, the Taliban has not publicly commented on the claim. But as recently as two weeks ago, the group was issuing statements in his name. He had not been seen publicly since 2001.

    Jessica Donati is covering the story for the Reuters news agency. She’s in Kabul. And I spoke to her a short time ago.

    Jessica Donati, welcome.

    So, tell us more about what these reports say and how solid are they?

    JESSICA DONATI, Reuters: Well, we’re not getting a lot out of the reports, other than that the Afghan intelligence agency has said that they confirmed that Mullah Omar is dead.

    And we have the Afghan government saying that they have reason to believe that the reports are credible. But from the Taliban side, we don’t have anything.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:
    And in terms of he died two years ago in a hospital in Pakistan, any more information than that about why he died, how he died?

    JESSICA DONATI: There isn’t a lot of detail.

    We have been speaking to some commanders who suggest that he might have died of tuberculosis. And there are different rumors about different illnesses that he may have had. And it’s not clear where he died or what he died of. I think the question really is, why is it coming out now, about two days before there was supposed to be another round of peace talks scheduled to take place somewhere on Friday?

    So the question is, why are the reports now? Because it’s possible that they would weaken — make the Taliban appear more weak. So there are a lot of questions being asked as to who is behind these reports.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there a theory about who is behind them? And you’re saying the Taliban would be weakened because their leader would be gone?

    JESSICA DONATI: Yes, and that would suggest that there is more of a split, which would put them in a more difficult position if they were going to be bargaining with the Afghan government.

    On the one side, there seems to be a group of commanders who are in favor of going ahead with the peace talks. And on the other side, there are commanders who are saying, well, look, the paramilitary foreign forces have left and we’re making progress this year in the fighting season. So, this is not a good time for us to be negotiating.

    So it is not really a good position for them to be in without leadership. And that could be why they aren’t commenting either way.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:
    So how strong is the Taliban seen to be right now in Afghanistan?

    JESSICA DONATI: At the moment, they have — they’re coming out stronger this year than last year.

    First of all, the Afghan security forces are on their own. The — most foreign forces have left and there is only a limited amount of air support, along with the training mission. So the casualty rates are higher. They have taken over tens of villages in the north. They have captured a couple of district centers which are quite symbolic.

    They have threatened a major city in the north, although they haven’t really come close to recapturing it. So they are making progress. On the other hand, they also have to face the fact that there is an Islamic State threat that is rising and is getting attention and perhaps competing for young fighters.

    So, this might not be such a bad time for them to negotiate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And how far along are the talks between the Taliban and the Afghanistan government seen to be?

    JESSICA DONATI: At the moment, we aren’t even entirely clear how official these talks are. There were talks taking place in early July between the Afghan government, the Pakistani government. There were American and Chinese officials present and several Taliban.

    But it is not clear who these Taliban leaders were representing and whether they had authority from leadership — the leadership. So we have statements from the Afghan and the Pakistani side saying that these were the first round of official peace talks and that the next time, they would be talking about an agenda and a possible cease-fire.

    But the Taliban never said anything about whether these talks were official or not. So you could say that they’re not very far ahead at all.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, one more twist in, I guess, an endless set of twists and turns.

    Jessica Donati with Reuters in Kabul, we thank you.

    JESSICA DONATI: Thank you.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In other news, the Turkish military unleashed a powerful new barrage of airstrikes on Kurdish rebel targets in Northern Iraq overnight.

    They pounded Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, sites in six areas. The pro-Kurdish political opposition demanded an end to the attacks today, charging a political motive by President Erdogan. But in Ankara, Turkey’s prime minister warned that peace will only be achieved if rebel fighters stop all their attacks.

    PRIME MINISTER AHMET DAVUTOGLU, Turky (through interpreter): Our might is enough to simultaneously fight not just three terror organizations, but 33. And we will show that might. Within this framework, we will continue to take our precautions and this process will continue until terrorism elements lay down their arms and until they get out of Turkey and until public order is absolutely restored.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Also today, Turkey’s cabinet officially approved an agreement to allow the U.S.-led military coalition to use its Incirlik Air Base to launch strikes on the Islamic State.

    GWEN IFILL: In Washington, the military’s top brass joined the secretary of state on Capitol Hill to defend the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.

    Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Republican John McCain insisted he can’t make an informed decision without all the facts, and that includes documents Iran negotiated with international nuclear inspectors.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: We agree, all of us, I believe, that we should see those instruments of verification. Otherwise, how can we make a judgment as to these — this agreement can be enforced and verified with a country that has a long record of cheating?

    GWEN IFILL: The nuclear deal’s lead negotiator, Secretary of State John Kerry, again played down any talk of secret agreements between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: We have relied on the IAEA for years and years. And, historically, the IAEA always creates what’s called a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, a CSA, which they negotiate with a country. And we don’t get that exact — it’s not shared with the world.

    And their reasons that it’s confidential have to do with what you can get out of that country, but we do get briefed on it.

    GWEN IFILL: After a 60-day review period, the House and Senate will vote on the Iran nuclear agreement in September.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The House of Representatives late today approved a three-month funding extension of the Federal Highway Trust Fund. The fund, which funnels federal money towards bridge, road and transit projects is due to run out of money at midnight this Friday. The Senate plans on taking up the $8 billion bill later this week.

    GWEN IFILL: Democratic Congressman Chaka Fattah was indicted today on federal racketeering and bribery charges. The longtime Philadelphia congressman allegedly paid off a campaign loan with charitable donations and used campaign money to pay down his son’s student loan debt. Charges ranged from bribery to bank and mail fraud to money laundering. In a statement, Fattah said he’s never participated in any illegal activity or misused taxpayer dollars.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Federal Reserve Board opted today to keep interest rates unchanged, for now. In its latest statement, the Central Bank said it’s still waiting to see further economic recovery and higher inflation before it will raise them. Today’s Fed statement caused stocks to close higher on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 121 points to close at 17751. The Nasdaq rose 22 points and the S&P 500 added 15.

    GWEN IFILL: Outrage grew around the world today over the death of a famous lion in Africa. Minnesota dentist Walter J. Palmer paid Zimbabwe hunter Theo Bronkhorst to go on the trophy hunting trip that ultimately led to the lion’s killing.

    Bronkhorst left a courtroom in Zimbabwe with his lawyer today, charged with failing to prevent an American from unlawfully killing Cecil, the country’s most well-known lion.

    QUESTION: How do you feel?

    MAN: Terrible.

    GWEN IFILL: Earlier this month, the beloved Cecil was allegedly lured out of his sanctuary at a national park into unprotected territory, where he was shot with a bow and an arrow. The man behind the bow and arrow was American Walter J. Palmer, who has killed wild animals before, like this lion in 2008. He admits he killed Cecil, but said he thought the hunt was legal.

    Cecil, one of the park’s oldest lions, didn’t die right away, but he had to be shot days later, when he was also beheaded.

    PRINCE MUPAZVIRIHO, Zimbabwe Environment Ministry Permanent Secretary: If we had not been having strong conservation efforts in terms of protecting the animals from poachers, it wouldn’t have gone to that age of 13 years.

    GWEN IFILL: Amid a social media backlash, Palmer is now being sought on poaching charges, and the public has turned his dental practice in Minnesota into a makeshift memorial to the dead lion. For now, the office remains closed.
    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pledged today to assist officials in Zimbabwe in whatever manner is requested.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady vowed to fight his four-game suspension by the National Football League for his involvement in deflating footballs during last year’s playoff run.

    In a statement, Brady also denied allegations made by the NFL that he destroyed his cell phone to hide information. The NFL Players Association filed a motion in federal court in Minnesota today challenging the league’s decision to uphold Brady’s suspension.

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    University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing's body camera shows driver Samuel Dubose pulled over during a traffic stop in Cincinnati, Ohio July 19, 2015, in a still image from video released by the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office on July 29, 2015. A University of Cincinnati police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man has been charged with murder after a grand jury investigation, the Hamilton County prosecutor said on Wednesday.  REUTERS/Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office/Handout via Reuters FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTX1MBHI

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    GWEN IFILL: A white police officer was indicted today for killing a black motorist during a traffic stop in Cincinnati. Ray Tensing is accused of murdering the driver, Samuel Dubose, when he was pulled over near the University of Cincinnati campus on July 19 for not having a front license plate.

    Tensing said he was dragged by the car and forced to shoot Dubose. But footage from the body camera he was wearing revealed a different sequence of events, as the car rolled away only after Dubose was shot. We’re not showing the moment the gun fired.

    After reviewing the video, Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters said there was no doubt in his mind it was murder.

    JOE DETERS, Hamilton County Prosecutor: Could you imagine the outrage you would have if this was your kid or this was your brother over a stop like this? And he didn’t do anything violent towards the officer. He wasn’t dragging him. And he pulled out his gun and intentionally shot him in the head.

    GWEN IFILL: The victim’s family pushed authorities to release the body camera footage today. Dubose’s sister, Terina Allen, said it was crucial to show what really happened.

    TERINA ALLEN, Sister of Victim: He didn’t have a gun. He didn’t do anything to that officer. No one deserves this. So, I’m angry, but I’m as pleased as I can be that we’re actually going to get some kind of justice for Sam, but I don’t think we would be getting it — to get back to that, I just don’t think we would without the camera.

    GWEN IFILL: Tensing turned himself in this afternoon and was processed on charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter. He has a court appearance scheduled tomorrow morning.

    For more on this, I spoke a short time ago to Sharon Coolidge of The Cincinnati Enquirer.

    Sharon Coolidge, thanks for joining us.

    Tell us, what new details emerged today after the announcement by the prosecutor?

    SHARON COOLIDGE, The Cincinnati Enquirer: Well, we haven’t — I think the biggest surprise came when the prosecutor actually had his press conference today.

    Judging from what we heard from the police chief and the city manager this week, we were expecting an indictment, but nobody was expecting the prosecutor to say the word murder. And so that really has kept — I mean, put people — we were propelled out from there today.

    GWEN IFILL: So it was the video that changed the course of what you saw happen today, the actual showing of that video?

    SHARON COOLIDGE: Oh, definitely. We had all really been clamoring to see the video. And The Enquirer, we filed a lawsuit for the video last week. We have believed it’s public record all along. And the prosecutor did finally release it today. And seeing the video really made things a lot more clear in this case, I think, for the American public.

    GWEN IFILL: Now, how did what we saw on the video differ from we had known or what the officer had said had happened before?

    SHARON COOLIDGE: I’m working through that right now, and I have had the opportunity to see a second video this afternoon.

    You know, the officer — and we have not spoken directly to that officer, only to his attorney, Stewart Mathews — is insisting that the officer was dragged and knocked down during what — during the incident. And we just have not seen that on video yet. Definitely, the video released by the prosecutor today doesn’t show that.

    The second video which was attached to a body camera from another officer arriving at the scene does show officer Tensing on the ground, but it doesn’t show what lead up to the officer being on the ground.

    GWEN IFILL: So, all we know right now is that that gun was discharged. The car rolled away. And the question is what happened between those two moments.

    SHARON COOLIDGE: That is correct.

    The prosecutor is insisting that nothing happened between those two moments. And the video really, it just doesn’t show something happening. It shows a peaceful, you know, conversation where, you know, the person — where Samuel Dubose says — asked a couple of questions about why he is being pulled over, but it’s very civil, it’s very respectful.

    And it’s just a couple of questions. And we just — we don’t see a reason on any of the video for a shooting. And I think that’s what led to the murder charge.

    GWEN IFILL: Joe Deters was — talked pretty tough today, the prosecutor. Was that unusual for him so, or is that what you have come to expect covering him?

    SHARON COOLIDGE: Joe Deters does tough — he has tough talk for criminals in this town. And he’s known for that.

    But in police officer cases, he’s typically been more reserved. And we have never, of course, seen something like this. This really is, I think, is a first in the country. But in other cases where there is an officer-involved shooting, he doesn’t talk like this. Those cases are reserved really for what we — he can see in videos in different kinds of cases, not in officer cases.

    So to hear him talk today like he did in a case involving a police officer was really stunning to me.

    GWEN IFILL: Was there a distinction between the fact that this was a university police officer and not a city of Cincinnati police officer?

    SHARON COOLIDGE: Well, there definitely is a distinction. And the city police have been reminding of that all week, because they are completely different police forces. And I think that’s been made clear. But they are still police officers.

    They are trained. They’re part of a union. These are police officers protecting our citizens, our students. So, in this, there is no difference. This was a police officer.

    GWEN IFILL: And so far, what do we know about community reaction, especially in the wake of the family’s statements today?

    SHARON COOLIDGE: Community relations in Cincinnati, I would say, are — it’s tense. People wanted to see the video. No one is quite sure what to expect tonight because it was handled so well within — this wasn’t a case where people will think, oh, this officer was undercharged.

    So I’m expecting there to be a peaceful march, where people will make their voices heard, but do it in a respectful manner. And certainly the family is calling for that.

    GWEN IFILL: OK, Sharon Coolidge of The Cincinnati Enquirer, thank you for taking time from a breaking story today to talk to us.

    SHARON COOLIDGE: Thank you very much.

    GWEN IFILL: We will have more on this story online, including the community’s response from a member of The Enquirer’s editorial board, Byron McCauley. That’s at PBS.org/NewsHour.

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    Congress must act this week to meet a Friday deadline, when authority for the Department of Transportation to process aid payments to states expire. Photo by Bret Hartman/Reuters

    Congress must act this week to meet a Friday deadline, when authority for the Department of Transportation to process aid payments to states expire. Photo by Bret Hartman/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Facing a Friday deadline, the Senate is on track to shore up federal highway aid and veterans’ health care, leaving a raft of unresolved issues for a jam-packed congressional agenda in the fall.

    The Senate plans to take up a House-passed bill on Thursday that would extend spending authority for transportation programs through Oct. 29 and replenish the federal Highway Trust Fund with $8 billion. That’s enough money to keep highway and transit aid flowing to states through mid-December.

    Authority for the Transportation Department to process aid payments to states is slated to expire at midnight Friday.

    Just before leaving for its August recess on Wednesday, the House overwhelmingly approved the three-month extension on a vote of 385-34.

    Lawmakers said they were loath to take up yet another short-term transportation funding extension — this will be the 34th extension since 2009. But Republicans and Democrats don’t want to see transportation aid cut off, and they are eager to pass an amendment to the extension bill that fills a $3.4 billion hole in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ budget. The money gap threatens to force the closure of hospitals and clinics nationwide.

    The three-month patch puts off House action on a long-term transportation bill, adding one more messy fight to a fall agenda already crammed with difficult, must-pass legislation.

    The three-month patch puts off House action on a long-term transportation bill, adding one more messy fight to a fall agenda already crammed with difficult, must-pass legislation. Twelve annual spending bills face a Sept. 30 deadline but are being held up by a clash over the Confederate flag. Congress must also decide whether to approve or disapprove President Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, and whether to pass a contentious defense policy bill that faces a veto threat from the White House. Another fight is certain over raising the nation’s borrowing authority.

    Spending authority for the Federal Aviation Administration expires Sept. 30. Since long-term bills to set aviation policy have yet to be introduced in either the House or the Senate, lawmakers acknowledge they will have to pass short-term extensions there as well.

    “I think it will be an extremely active fall with the potential for either terrific accomplishment or a train wreck,” said Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a member of House Republican leadership.

    Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was more sanguine. “We’ll manage our way through this,” he told reporters at his weekly news conference. “This is part of the legislative process. Frankly, it’s nothing new. A little more pronounced these days, in 2015, than it would’ve been 10 or 15 years ago. But listen, it’s the legislative environment, and legislating is hard work.”

    The Senate had been ready to pass a $350 billion, long-term transportation bill that would make changes to highway, transit, railroad and auto safety programs, but only provide enough funds for the first three years of the six years covered by the bill. The bill also would renew the Export-Import Bank, which makes low-interest loans to help U.S. companies sell their products overseas. The bank’s charter expired June 30 in the face of opposition from conservatives, who call it corporate welfare.

    Senate GOP leaders had hoped the House would pass the long-term bill and send it to the White House before the recess. But their Republican counterparts in the House have made it clear they won’t be hurried into accepting the Senate measure.

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    French gendarmes and police inspect a large piece of plane debris which was found on the beach in Saint-Andre, on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, July 29, 2015. France's BEA air crash investigation agency said it was determining whether it came from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which vanished last year. Picture taken July 29, 2015. Photo by Prisca Bigot/Reuters

    French gendarmes and police inspect a large piece of plane debris which was found on the beach in Saint-Andre, on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, July 29, 2015. France’s BEA air crash investigation agency said it was determining whether it came from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which vanished last year. Picture taken July 29, 2015. Photo by Prisca Bigot/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Air safety investigators have a “high degree of confidence” that aircraft debris found in the Indian Ocean is of a wing component unique to the Boeing 777, the same model as the Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared last year, a U.S. official said Wednesday.

    Air safety investigators — one of them a Boeing investigator —have identified the component that was found on the French island of Reunion in the western Indian Ocean as a “flaperon” from the trailing edge of a 777 wing, the U.S. official said.

    Given that there are no other missing 777s, if the piece is confirmed to be from such an aircraft, it would almost certainly have to belong to Flight 370, which vanished on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board while traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

    A discovery of debris from the missing plane would confirm the prevailing belief based on satellite data that the plane turned south into the Indian Ocean after vanishing from radar, and put to rest other theories that it traveled north, or landed somewhere after being hijacked.

    The piece itself could also help investigators figure out how the plane crashed. But whether it will help search crews pinpoint the rest of the wreckage is unclear, given the complexity of the currents in the southern Indian Ocean and the time that has elapsed since the plane disappeared.

    A French official close to an investigation of the debris confirmed Wednesday that French law enforcement is on Reunion to examine a piece of airplane wing that was found. A French television network was airing video from its Reunion affiliate of the debris. U.S. investigators are examining a photo of the debris.

    The U.S. and French officials spoke on condition that they not be named because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly.

    If the part is from Flight 370, it would be the first debris found from the vanished airliner. A massive multinational search effort of the southern Indian Ocean, the China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand has turned up no trace of the plane.

    The last primary radar contact with Flight 370 placed its position over the Andaman Sea about 370 kilometers (230 miles) northwest of the Malaysian city of Penang. Reunion is about 5,600 kilometers (3,500 miles) southwest of Penang, and about 4,200 kilometers (2,600 miles) west of the current search area.

    At the United Nations, Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told reporters that he has sent a team to verify the identity of the plane wreckage.

    “Whatever wreckage found needs to be further verified before we can ever confirm that it is belonged to MH370,” he said.

    The discovery is unlikely to alter the seabed search, said Australian Transport Safety Bureau Chief Commissioner Martin Dolan, who is heading up the hunt in a remote patch of ocean far off the west coast of Australia. If the find proved to be part of the missing aircraft, it would be consistent with the theory that the plane crashed within the 120,000 square kilometer (46,000 square mile) search area, 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles) southwest of Australia, he said.

    “It doesn’t rule out our current search area if this were associated with MH370,” Dolan told The Associated Press. “It is entirely possible that something could have drifted from our current search area to that island.”

    Dolan said search resources would be better spent continuing the seabed search with sonar and video for wreckage rather than reviving a surface search for debris if the part proved to be from Flight 370.

    It was well understood after the aircraft disappeared that if there was any floating debris from the plane, Indian Ocean currents would eventually bring it to the east coast of Africa, said aviation safety expert John Goglia, a former member of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. But the debris is unlikely to provide much help in tracing the oceans currents back to the location of the main wreckage, he said.

    “It’s going to be hard to say with any certainty where the source of this was,” he said. “It just confirms that the airplane is in the water and hasn’t been hijacked to some remote place and is waiting to be used for some other purpose. … We haven’t lost any 777s anywhere else.”

    Robin Beaman, a marine geologist at Australia’s James Cook University, said there is precedence for large objects traveling vast distances across the Indian Ocean. Last year, a man lost his boat off the Western Australia coast after it overturned in rough seas. Eight months later, the boat turned up off the French island of Mayotte, west of Madagascar — 7,400 kilometers (4,600 miles) from where it disappeared.

    “I don’t think we should rule anything out, that’s for sure,” Beaman said. “The Indian Ocean is a big ocean, but the fact that a boat can go that distance and still be recoverable on the other side of the ocean … the possibilities are there.”

    Beaman believes experts could analyze ocean currents to try and determine where the plane entered the water, though given the time that has elapsed and the vast distance the debris may have traveled, it would be very difficult.

    If the part belongs to Flight 370, it could provide valuable clues to investigators trying to figure out what caused the aircraft to vanish in the first place, said Jason Middleton, an aviation professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. The nature of the damage to the debris could help indicate whether the plane broke up in the air or when it hit the water, and how violently it did so, he said.

    The barnacles attached to the part could also help marine biologists determine roughly how long it has been in the water, he said.

    A comprehensive report earlier this year into the plane’s disappearance revealed that the battery of the locator beacon for the plane’s flight data recorder had expired more than a year before the jet vanished. However, the report said the battery in the locator beacon of the cockpit voice recorder was working.

    Investigators hope that if they can locate the two recorders they can get to the bottom of what has become one of aviation’s biggest mysteries. The unsuccessful search for Flight 370 has raised concern worldwide about whether airliners should be required to transmit their locations continually via satellite, especially when flying long distances over the ocean.

    Over the past 16 months, hopes have repeatedly been raised and then dashed that the plane, or parts of the plane, had been found: Objects spotted on satellite imagery, items found floating in the sea and washed ashore in Western Australia, oil slicks — in the end, none of them were from Flight 370.

    The most infamous false lead came in April 2014, when Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said officials were “very confident” that a series of underwater signals search crews had picked up were coming from Flight 370’s black boxes. The signals proved to be a dead end, with no trace of the devices or the wreckage found.


    McGuirk reported from Canberra, Australia, Hinnant reported from Paris. Associated Press writers Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, Nick Perry in Wellington, New Zealand, and Edith Lederer at the United Nations and Colleen Shalby of the PBS NewsHour contributed to this report.

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    The US flag flies above the Camp Delta maximum security area in December 2006 on the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Image by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

    The US flag flies above the Camp Delta maximum security area in December 2006 on the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Image by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — A federal judge has rejected a legal challenge from a Guantanamo Bay detainee.

    Muktar Yahya Najee al-Warafi has said his detention was illegal in light of President Barack Obama’s statements that active hostilities in Afghanistan had ended.

    The Yemeni was captured in Afghanistan in 2001. Courts have upheld his detention on grounds that he likely aided Taliban forces.

    His lawyers argued that his detention was unlawful under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which provided the legal justification for the imprisonment of foreign fighters captured on overseas battlefields. The Supreme Court has said such detention is legal as long as “active hostilities” continue.

    U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said in a 14-page opinion issued Thursday that it was clear that hostilities still persist.

    The post Federal judge rejects legal challenge from Guantanamo detainee appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    [Watch Video]

    It was a sunny Friday in June when our three-person PBS NewsHour production crew was tagged to go aboard a nuclear-armed submarine on active patrol in the Pacific Ocean. Things didn’t go exactly as planned.

    Jamie McIntyre, our correspondent, had flown 2,500 miles from Washington, D.C., to Honolulu along with me, the series producer.

    To videotape this portion of our news report on the Navy’s most deadly ship — an Ohio-class submarine armed with up to 24 Trident D-5 nuclear missiles — we teamed up with an award-winning cameraman, Jay Olivier, who came in from Austin, Texas.

    Former CNN Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre, Al Jazeera America’s national security correspondent on assignment for the PBS NewsHour, recording a stand-up the day we embarked on the USS Pennsylvania. Photo by Dan Sagalyn

    Former CNN Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre, Al Jazeera America’s national security correspondent on assignment for the PBS NewsHour, recording a stand-up the day we embarked on the USS Pennsylvania. Photo by Dan Sagalyn

    We arrived at Pearl Harbor Naval Base before the sun rose. There at the dock, we filmed men loading the Malama, a 110-foot personnel transfer vessel, with fresh fruits and vegetables, parts and supplies that were going to be delivered to the sub. We would then ride on the Malama to a secret meeting point in the ocean to rendezvous with the warship.

    Personnel Transfer Vessel Malama at Naval Base Pearl Harbor. Photo by Dan Sagalyn

    Personnel Transfer Vessel Malama at Naval Base Pearl Harbor. Photo by Dan Sagalyn

    We set sail about an hour later, navigating the open ocean and making a beeline for our meeting point. An hour and a half later, as we eagerly awaited the USS Pennsylvania to emerge from the depths of sea, we finally saw its tall conning tower far off in the distance.

    The USS Pennsylvania is a ballistic missile carrying submarine. Here it is approaching the Malama, a Personnel Transfer Vessel. Photo by Dan Sagalyn

    The USS Pennsylvania is a ballistic missile carrying submarine. Here it is approaching the resupply ship. Photo by Dan Sagalyn

    But then the Navy hit a snag that doomed our day on the sub.

    Our uniformed public affairs escort told us that due to an operational concern that had arisen — one entirely outside our control — we could not go on board the sub that day. (Because of the highly secretive nature of nuclear-armed submarine operations, we were asked not to reveal any information we learned about why we were not able to board.)

    Luckily that turned out to be a hiccup. The Navy gave us a second shot at a rendezvous two days later. Our daylong ride allowed us to shoot up-close video of operations aboard the Pennsylvania, the focus of our story on ballistic-missile submarines which airs Friday.

    But our first attempt at boarding the sub on that bright day allowed us to watch a rarely seen resupply of the U.S. warship.

    It was a choreography at sea.

    Submariners emerging from inside the submarine USS Pennsylvania. Photo by Dan Sagalyn

    Submariners emerging from inside the USS Pennsylvania. Photo by Dan Sagalyn

    First, the submarine cruised toward the transfer ship. Just before reaching the Malama, it slowed while the resupply ship was allowed to approach.

    Sailors on the submarine, wearing life jackets and harnesses, emerged from a hatch. Two sailors toward the front and two toward the rear “rolled the cleats,” which meant flipping up horn-shaped devices that are used for securing ropes.

    A diver stands ready to jump into the ocean if anyone accidentally falls off the submarine. Photo by Dan Sagalyn

    A diver stands ready to jump into the ocean if anyone accidentally falls off the submarine. Photo by Dan Sagalyn

    A sailor uses a tool to secure a cleat for rope ties on the submarine. Photo by Dan Sagalyn

    A sailor uses a tool to secure a cleat for rope ties on the submarine. Photo by Dan Sagalyn

    Two sailors on the resupply ship threw ropes up, one for each of the cleats, to tie the ships together.

    Then the crew on the resupply ship extended a ramp onto the sub, allowing for a few senior sailors to board the resupply ship.

    Next came the transfer of supplies. A crane on the Malama lifted huge nylon bags, each about the size of a Smart car. Two were hoisted at a time onto the crest of the submarine. Two sailors then untied the bags from the crane and dragged them toward the hatch, where sailors took boxes of food and supplies out of the bags and passed them down a line of sailors, one to another, and ultimately into the submarine. We watched as nearly a dozen resupply bags were transferred.

    Crain on Malama transferring two bags filled boxes of food and supplies to submarine. Photo by Dan Sagalyn

    Crain on Malama transferring two bags filled boxes of food and supplies to submarine. Photo by Dan Sagalyn

    Sailors on the top side of the USS Pennsylvania dragging bags with food and supplies towards the submarine hatch. Photo by Dan Sagalyn

    Sailors on the top side of the USS Pennsylvania dragging bags with food and supplies towards the submarine hatch. Photo by Dan Sagalyn

    Eventually, the men on the sub disconnected the lines that kept the two ships together.

    As the distance between us grew, we saw the last sailors enter the sub through the hatches and the Pennsylvania disappear beneath the waves and into the dark water.

    Two days later, we set out on our second rendezvous. This time, we were able to go inside and talk some of the 180 men who sail the world under the sea, accompanied by the most deadly weapons in existence.

    This report was produced in partnership with The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

    The post How to resupply a nuclear submarine appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Mixed race man paying bills in living room. Photo by Jamie Grill/ JGI/ Getty Images

    Despite an improving economy, more millennials are living at home. Photo by Jamie Grill/JGI/Getty Images

    Despite an improving economy, more millennials are living at home. According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, 26 percent of young adults reside with a parent or relative, up 4 percent since 2007 — the year before the Great Recession.

    Back then, a reported 71 percent of millennials were living independently. Unsurprisingly, that rate fell in the Great Recession, and has kept falling through the recovery. It now sits at 67 percent.

    Independent Living Has Not Recovered, as More Young Adults Live in Parents’ Home

    Education does not seem to play a role in the trend of millennials living at home. In the past five years, the number of young adults living independently declined by 2 percent among not only high school-educated millennials, but also college-educated millennials. (The findings exclude currently enrolled full-time college students.)

    Today, the economy is improving, especially when it comes to employment. The unemployment rate has finally dropped to 5.3 percent, according to June’s jobs report. For adult ages 18 to 34, the unemployment rate now stands at 7.7 percent, down from a peak 12.4 percent in 2010. Additionally, there are modest increases in wages and full-time work is up.

    But as the graph shows below, the data don’t show a direct relationship between employment and millennials living on their own.

    Labor Market Has Improved for Young Adults, Yet Living Independently of Family Has Declined

    So if the economy is improving, why are more millennials living at home?

    While job prospects have improved, wages for millennials have not returned to pre-recession levels, student debt hangs overhead and the memory of the worst of the Great Recession is all too fresh.

    As the Pew Research Center reports, earnings for millennials still aren’t back to where they were in 2007. For the college-educated, median weekly earnings are now $951, versus $966 in 2007. For those with only high school degrees, earnings stand at $500, versus $527 in 2007.

    As for debt — especially students loans — it’s increased dramatically. In 2001, 26 percent of young adults had student loans. In 2010? 40 percent.

    In a recent paper, Federal Reserve economists Lisa J. Dettling and Joanne W. Hsu note the correlation between this debt and young adults living at home: “Our results indicate that increases in indebtedness — as measured by larger account balances, declines in credit scores, and delinquency on accounts — are associated with statistically significant and economically meaningful increases in the likelihood an individual will move into parental co-residence in the following period.”

    While Pew’s data and Dettlings and Hsu’s data are not directly comparable due to different methods of collecting and analyzing data from the Current Population Survey, both sets depict similar trends. For about a 30-year period, the authors note, the percentage of young adults living with their parents held steady at around 31 to 32 percent. Around 2005 — three years before the Great Recession — the rate began a steady climb. In 2013 — three years after the recovery began — it reached a historic high of approximately 36 percent, according to their figures.

    At the same time, the amount of money young adults owed in student loan debt also began to rise.

    Seven in 10 graduates of public and nonprofit colleges in 2013 had student loan debt, which amounted to an average of $28,400 per borrower. Of those students who attended for-profit colleges in 2012, 96 percent took out student loans.

    With lower incomes and higher debts, saving money looks like a no-brainer. And housing is a good place to start. Millennials spend between 30 to 50 percent of their incomes on rent. If you could save 30 to 50 percent of your income and start putting a dent in your massive debt, wouldn’t you?

    Maybe moving back in with Mom and Dad doesn’t sound too bad.

    The post One key economic factor is forcing millennials to move back home appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Humanoid robot for automotive assembly tasks in collaboration with people and LWR robot, using haptic teleoperation with force feedback Safety in human-robot cooperation Industry, Tecnalia Research, San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain. ntry, Spain Photo by Javier Larrea/ Getty Images

    Jerry Kaplan warns of the hidden dangers of our robotic rivals. Photo by Javier Larrea/ Getty Images

    Technology has been displacing human jobs since the Industrial Revolution. But as researchers come ever closer to artificial intelligence, it’s worth asking how such advances in technology will affect our jobs. What happens when artificial intelligence replaces manufacturing and sales jobs? Our caddies? What happens when it replaces our stock brokers?

    Letting nature take its course — like it did during the Industrial Revolution — is a dangerous gamble, says Jerry Kaplan, author of “Humans Need Not Apply: A Guide to Wealth and Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.”

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman sat down with Kaplan to discuss how robots of the future will compete for our jobs. Tune in to tonight’s Making Sen$e segment for more on the topic. Below, in an adapted excerpt from his book, Kaplan warns us about the hidden dangers of our robotic rivals.

    Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor


    For a glimpse of the future, consider what happened the lazy afternoon of May 6, 2010. By that time, the percentage of securities trades initiated by computer programs had ballooned to an astonishing 60 percent. For all practical purposes, machines, not people, populated markets. Your innocent E*Trade order for 100 shares of Google was a mere snowflake in this perpetual blizzard, executed mainly as a courtesy to perpetuate the illusion that you can participate in the American dream.

    Starting at precisely 2:42 p.m., the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged more than 1,000 points in a matter of minutes, nearly 10 percent off from its opening that day. Apple’s stock price inexplicably soared to more than $100,000 per share, while Accenture crashed to the bargain basement price of 1¢ per share. Over $1 trillion in asset value had disappeared by 2:47. That’s real money — your and my savings, retirement accounts and school endowments. The stunned traders on exchange floors around the world could hardly believe their eyes. It was as if God himself had taken a hammer to the market. Surely this was some sort of horrible mistake?

    It wasn’t. It was the result of high-frequency trading programs doing exactly what they were designed to do — furiously grind away shaving fractions of a cent off the momentary market inefficiencies caused by their slower-moving biological rivals: human traders. The problem was, there were too few patsies left to exploit, since the electronic cardsharps had grown to dominate the market. And once they started feeding on each other, all hell broke lose at a pace incomprehensible to mere mortals.

    In a moment as dramatic as a Hollywood cliffhanger, a single unassuming party saved the day with a simple action. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange simply stopped all trading for a fleeting five seconds. A flash to you and me, but an eternity for the rampaging programs brawling as ferociously as they could. That was sufficient time for the markets to take a breath and for the programs to reset. As soon as the mayhem ended, the usual market forces returned and prices quickly recovered to near where they had started just a few short minutes ago. The life-threatening tornado evaporated just as suddenly and inexplicably as it had appeared.

    While the story may seem to have a happy ending, it does not. Confidence in the institutions we trust to shepherd our hard-earned savings is the bedrock of our financial system. No blue-ribbon presidential panel or SEC press release can restore this loss of faith. The threat that it might happen again hangs over our every spending and savings decision. The sorry truth is that our fate is in the hands of the machines — not just for financial markets, but in many other important arenas where people and programs cohabitate and often compete, such as in computer network security, credit card fraud, even waging war.

    New hazards arise as machines increasingly intrude into domains that were formerly the exclusive province of humans. We frequently rely on a hidden assumption of a level playing field to allocate resources in a reasonable way. However, this simple principle is often violated when we permit electronic and human agents to compete unsupervised.

    Take event tickets, for instance. When Ticketmaster first went online, it greatly increased consumer convenience. But soon after the service was available to the general public on the Internet, scalpers began using programs to scarf up online tickets the moment they became available. Lacking a regulatory framework to address the problem, Ticketmaster has attempted technological fixes, such as requiring you to interpret those annoying little brain twisters known as CAPTCHAs, to little effect, because the scalpers simply employ armies of live humans, mostly in third world countries, to decode them.

    The problem here has nothing to do with whether you use an agent to purchase a ticket. It’s fine for you to buy a ticket on behalf of a friend or to pay someone else to do it. The issue arises when we permit electronic agents to compete for resources with human actors. In most circumstances, it violates our intuitive sense of fairness. That’s why there are separate tournaments for human and computer chess players. It’s also why allowing programs to trade securities alongside humans is problematic, though I think we would have a hard time putting that genie back in the bottle.

    Lines and queues are great cultural equalizers because they force everyone to incur the cost of waiting, spending his or her own personal time. That’s why it somehow seems wrong when lobbyists pay people to hold their place at congressional hearings, squeezing ordinary citizens out of their chance to attend. Variations of this problem are about to invade many aspects of our day-to-day lives. For instance, how will you feel when your neighbor sends her robot out before you wake up to snag the last Sunday Times, or to claim the cabana closest to the surf?

    This same principle, appropriately generalized, can apply to just about any circumstance where mechanical agents compete with humans—not just to lines. Do the participants differ in their ability, or the cost they pay, to access the resource? This question needs to be answered on a case-by-case basis. For instance, suppose I send my robot to move my car every two hours to avoid a parking ticket, or instruct my self-driving car to re-park itself by a yellow curb at precisely 6 P.M? Will we judge that cost sufficiently equivalent to doing it myself to consider it fair to those without a robotic driver or car to spare? Should the answer be different if it costs the same to send the robot as it would to send a human administrative assistant?

    Many of these conundrums are easy to identify when they involve physical resources or actions, but are challenging to detect when the damage is confined to cyberspace. For instance, who’s to know if someone uses a clever program to reserve an entire row of camping spots at Yellowstone Park while you’re still waiting for the web page to load? As of now, electronic agents can operate unfettered because the intangibility of the Internet shrouds transactions in a darkness that permits all manner of skullduggery. But soon these injustices will become painfully clear, as these systems — embodied in the form of robots — invade our coffee shops and parking lots. Their appearance will force us to confront complex social issues that are already affecting our social order in unexpected and deleterious ways. To maintain a just and equitable society, the arrival of intelligent agents — whether tangible or incorporeal — will compel us to extend our principles of fair play in new and unfamiliar directions.

    Adapted from Jerry Kaplan’s new book, “Humans Need Not Apply: A Guide to Wealth and Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence,” Yale University Press, Aug. 4, 2015

    The post The hidden dangers of our robotic rivals appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The J. Edgar Hoover Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) building crest is seen in Washington, D.C., U.S., on March 18, 2011. Photo by Rich Clement/Bloomberg

    The rescued 600 kids from sex trafficking situations this past year. Photo by Rich Clement/Bloomberg


    Each year, tens of thousands of American children are sexually exploited. Every night, the FBI believes hundreds are sold into sex.

    According to a new report from the BBC, the bureau rescued 600 children last year. But the FBI says the amount of child sexual abuse in the U.S. has reached an “epidemic” level.

    Perhaps not surprising, poverty and neglect are deemed two of the biggest factors that contribute to sex trafficking.

    The BBC spoke with several women who are former sex workers. One was 14 years old when “a guy I thought I liked” kidnapped her. She returned two years later.

    “The level of paedophilia is just unprecedented right now,” the FBI’s Joseph Campbell told BBC’s Ian Pannell.

    The post FBI rescued 600 kids from sexual abuse last year, calls level of trafficking ‘epidemic’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    bbs2

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now our regular feature Brief But Spectacular.

    This week, we hear from artist Marina Abramovic, who tonight shares her thoughts about performance and interactions with audiences.

    MARINA ABRAMOVIC, Artist: To me, the performance is one of the most transformative forms of art.

    If the performance is good, it can really change your life. And if it’s bad, you just want to run away from it. I like to work with the audience. I like to push them. I like to take them out of their comfort zone and to bring them new experience.

    If you want really to connect with the public, you have to show your true self. And any human being is not perfect. And every human have the parts they like to hide, especially the parts they’re ashamed of. A human being doesn’t need too much. A human being just has to understand his own purpose in this planet.

    We are so interested in new gadgets and are so interested to sit in the front of the computer, Twitter, or be busy with Facebook, that we don’t realize that maybe sitting at the volcano, or in the front of waterfall, or just in the ocean, or just sitting in the chair quietly and looking out through the window sometimes is more important, more reflective and more vivid to the conscience of your own existence.

    “The Artist Is Present” was a very simple performance, where I had a retrospective in MoMA and I wanted to really be present for the entire performance, for the entire exhibition, which is three months, a total of 716 hours and 30 minutes just sitting there. And it was very emotional work. And it changed everything. After I stand up from this chair, I was different.

    My name is Marina Abramovic. This is my Brief But Spectacular take on art, life and beyond.

    GWEN IFILL: You can see our other Brief But Spectaculars — I can’t say it the way she does — on our Facebook page.

    The post Marina Abramovic on performance art that can change your life appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    rio sewage water

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: Rio de Janeiro may sound quite appealing as the host site of next year’s Summer Olympics. But a new report out today finds athletes could be swimming and boating in waters that are highly contaminated, polluted by sewage, viruses and fecal matter.

    The investigation by the Associated Press suggests athletes could become ill as they compete.

    William Brangham has the story.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Rio’s polluted waters are the result of decades of neglected or nonexistent sewage infrastructure, so, in the coming weeks, as trials and test runs begin for the 2016 Olympics, some athletes will be competing in waters that contain over a million times more contamination than levels allowed in U.S. waters.

    Bradley Brooks is the bureau chief for the A.P. in Brazil. He co-wrote this new investigation, and he joins me now from Rio.

    So, Bradley Brooks, how did these waters get so polluted?

    BRADLEY BROOKS, Associated Press: William, these waters have been polluted for decades.

    And basically what happens is that Rio grew so fast since the 1960s, that the infrastructure of the sewage system simply could not keep up with that growth. So what you have are poor communities, slums, that cling to these steep hillsides and have no sewage. And so what happens is, all the sewage runs downhill and drains into the basin, bowl that is Rio de Janeiro and flows into the streams and into the oceans and into the lake.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Here in the U.S., people are familiar with the idea that when bacteria levels get to a certain level, they close the beaches. How do the levels that you found in Rio compare to what we might be familiar with here in the U.S.?

    BRADLEY BROOKS: They’re astronomical. Even the bacterial levels are much, much higher than you see in the U.S.

    The A.P. study went further. We searched for viruses that are specifically linked to human sewage. Those numbers that we found are off the charts, astronomical. Scientists that we spoke with in the U.S., and Brazil and in Europe said that they are numbers that they have never seen anywhere else. Here in Brazil, the difference is, however, that they don’t close the beach.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: What does this mean for the athletes? They obviously have to get into these waters. What are the chances that athletes competing in these events are going to get sick?

    BRADLEY BROOKS: The U.S. expert who looked at our data, she ran a risk assessment and she said that, based on our data, there’s a 99 percent chance that athletes will be infected by one of these viruses if they ingest three teaspoons of water.

    I should underscore that just because they are infected, that doesn’t mean they will get sick. If they fall ill, that depends on a number of other factors that are just unknown until they actually ingest the water.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Is there anything that an athlete can do to protect themselves? If they have to get into the water, is there anything they can do in advance to protect themselves?

    BRADLEY BROOKS: Well, there’s no protective gear, per se.

    Some people have suggested wearing masks, so that they don’t have to inhale the water, inhale droplets. One of our experts in the U.S. suggested that the athletes show up in Rio much earlier than they expected to simply expose themselves to the viruses and, in essence, to make themselves get sick several times, so that, by the time the Olympics rolls around, they might not be sick, they might have built up immunities.

    But most health experts say that that’s impossible. It takes years and years to build up immunities to these viruses.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Has the International Olympic Committee said anything about your findings? Are they going to do anything about this?

    BRADLEY BROOKS: The IOC and Brazilian officials told the Associated Press today that they will not change the way that they evaluate the health of the water, meaning they will continue only to look for bacteria.

    They will not look for viruses, despite the fact that our study showed astronomical numbers, levels of viruses in the water. In addition to that, the Brazilian officials blasted out at the AP. They questioned our data. They questioned the integrity of the scientists who carried out our data, and they questioned the university that he is attached to.

    They did all that, instead of simply answering the question of whether or not they’re going to look into this question of viruses in the water.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Bradley Brooks of the Associated Press, thanks so much for being here.

    BRADLEY BROOKS: Thank you. I appreciate it.

     

    The post In Rio, Olympic athletes will swim in sewage-contaminated water appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    infrastructure

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: As we reported earlier, after much debate, Congress today passed a short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund. But years of cutbacks in federal and local transportation funding are being felt in communities around the country.

    The NewsHour’s Cat Wise takes a look at some of the key transportation issues facing Portland, Oregon, and the surrounding region.

    CAT WISE: Early one morning this week, as thousands of commuters drove overhead, Oregon bridge inspector Joel Boothe hoisted himself 100 feet up in the air and got to work.

    Boothe was doing a routine inspection of one of the state’s busiest bridges, the Marquam Bridge built in 1966. It carries about 90,000 vehicles a day on Interstate 5 over the Willamette River near downtown Portland. Unlike some of the other bridges in Portland, it’s in fairly good shape, but it’s still got some issues.

    JOEL BOOTHE, Bridge Inspector: So, question, on both sides of the location of those general hanging locations, we have had problems.

    CAT WISE: Issues that are being closely monitored by the state’s chief bridge engineer, Bruce Johnson.

    BRUCE JOHNSON, State Bridge Engineer, Oregon Department of Transportation: They found some pack rust, so we have got some corrosion going on. We’re losing some section in our steel. The other issue, this bridge has had a lot of fatigue cracking.

    And, of course, we have mitigated the cracks by doing repairs, but we’re concerned about the performance of our repairs and how the cracking is going.

    CAT WISE: Johnson says that maintaining bridge safety is a huge task for the state.

    BRUCE JOHNSON: Well, in Oregon, we have an old inventory of bridges. We haven’t been funded to systematically upgrade and renew our infrastructure. So, in a lot of cases, we have been patching together and trying to keep old bridges operational and safe. But also in Oregon, we’re vulnerable to a very, very large Cascadia Subduction Zone. And when that happens, unfortunately, we’re not prepared.

    CAT WISE: The Cascadia Subduction Zone is a fault line off the coast of the Pacific Northwest that scientists believe is capable of producing a major 8.0 or larger earthquake in the next 50 years. When the big, big one hits, many of the bridges in the state are expected to collapse, including the Ross Island Bridge in Portland and the Interstate Bridge, an important artery for the region connecting Portland to Vancouver, Washington.

    The price tag for seismically upgrading Oregon’s bridges is hundreds of millions of dollars, money, Johnson says, the state doesn’t have.

    BRUCE JOHNSON: In Oregon, because of reduced state funding, we rely heavily on federal funding to do the majority of the serious, the heavy work, the major rehabilitation and replacement of our structures.

    CAT WISE: Repairing and doing seismic upgrade to the bridges here in Portland and around the state is a top priority for local officials. But Oregon, like many states around the country, has a long list of much-needed transportation projects, projects that in recent years have been impacted by cuts to federal spending.

    The cutbacks in transportation funding are being felt in the town of Newberg, which sits on a major route from Portland to the Oregon coast. Traffic backups here are notorious. A new bypass for the area has been in the works for years, but the state’s original plans for a four-lane, 11-mile highway, were scaled back several years ago to a two-lane, four-mile road. Not enough federal funding.

    ALI MCLEOD, Carpentry Apprentice: Traffic is always on everybody’s minds.

    CAT WISE: Twenty-six-year-old Ali McLeod is a carpentry apprentice who grew up here and was hired to work on the project. She says many in the local community are worried the shorter bypass won’t actually solve the traffic problems.

    ALI MCLEOD: They’re all pretty upset about it. Knowing a lot of people from the area, everybody’s just like, well, we will see if it works or if it doesn’t work.

    CAT WISE: The cost of the $175 million project has been shouldered by the state, and that’s meant some creative financing, according to Tom Fuller with the Oregon Department of Transportation.

    TOM FULLER, Communications Manager, Oregon Department of Transportation: Normally, the federal government pays for about 90 percent of the construction projects. The state pays for about 10 percent. There just isn’t any federal money for us to do projects like this, so the state has got to get very creative.

    So we do things like selling bonds, using lottery money, even coming up with entirely new ways of charging people for driving on the roads. We have got to do something, because the need is not going away, even though the dollars aren’t there from D.C.

    CAT WISE: But federal transportation dollars aren’t just used to build new freeways. They also trickle down to the local level, where they’re needed for much more basic projects.

    So, no sidewalk here, I see.

    LEAH TREAT, Director, Portland Bureau of Transportation: Right.

    CAT WISE: And this is a very busy, fast-moving street.

    Leah Treat is the director of Portland’s Bureau of Transportation. She took me to a neighborhood she says highlights the need for more funding, from pedestrian improvements to road repair.

    LEAH TREAT: We can replicate this situation in dozens of areas around the city, where we have 300 miles of missing sidewalks in the city. So, we have close to 5,000 lane miles of roadway in the city of Portland, and with our limited resources, we are only able to do preventative maintenance on 100 miles a year.

    CAT WISE: The city also wants more federal funds for innovative projects like the new South Waterfront neighborhood, developed with a mix of federal, state, local and private funds, and which offers people a variety of transportation options. The country’s first-ever bridge open only to bikes, pedestrians, and transit, not private cars, will open in September.

    Jennifer Dill, who studies national transportation issues, says there’s a need for more such projects.

    JENNIFER DILL, Portland State University: And there’s a lot of cities in the U.S. right now that really want to invest in more multimodal systems, more pedestrian infrastructure, bike infrastructure, more innovative types of infrastructure. And the feds have been lagging a little behind on that.

    CAT WISE: Oregon transportation officials say the temporary highway funding deal worked out in Washington this week is a good step, but they’d rather have a long-term, consistent source of funding from the federal government.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Cat Wise in Portland, Oregon.

    The post States struggle with needed transportation fixes after years of cutbacks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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