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

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    Migrants look out of a window on the Medecins Sans Frontiere (MSF) rescue ship Bourbon Argos as it arrives in Trapani, on the island of Sicily, Italy, August 9, 2015. The Mediterranean has become the world's most deadly border zone for migrants. More than 2,000 migrants and refugees have died so far this year in attempts to reach Europe by boat, the International Organization for Migration said last week. Photo by Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters

    Migrants look out of a window on the Medecins Sans Frontiere rescue ship Bourbon Argos as it arrives in Trapani, on the island of Sicily, Italy, August 9, 2015. Photo by Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters.

    More than 40 migrants died in the hold of a fishing boat off the Italian coast on Saturday, after reportedly suffocating in the cramped and water-filled space, Italy’s Navy reported.

    The captain of the fishing boat told Italian state television that the migrants died of suffocation from diesel fumes when the ship’s hold began taking on water, Reuters reported.

    More than 300 survivors were rescued from the boat, but Italian Navy commander Massimo Tozzi told reporters that his men found the migrants who died in the hold, “immersed in water, fuel and human excrement.”

    More than 100,000 migrants seeking asylum have arrived in Italy alone this past year.

    Chart shows the cumulative migrant deaths from crossing the Mediterranean in 2015. Updated August 6, 2015. Image by RNGS/Reuters

    Chart shows the cumulative migrant deaths from crossing the Mediterranean in 2015. Updated August 6, 2015. Image by RNGS/Reuters

    Maritime tragedies on the Mediterranean like this one have become alarmingly common throughout the past year.

    In April, 800 migrants drowned when their vessel capsized off the coast of Libya. In early August, 200 more died under similar circumstances, according to the International Organization for Migration.

    Just this week, 60 migrants drowned when extreme heat caused their rubber dinghy to deflate during the passage.

    The IOM estimates that rescues on the Mediterranean have averaged 1,000 migrants per day this summer, and in a report released Friday the agency calculated that close to 250,000 migrants who crossed the Mediterranean have sought asylum in Europe in 2015.

    Migrants often pay large sums of money to traffickers who promise to smuggle them into Europe, most often via Italy or Greece. Lack of political stability in Libya has made the North African country the default departure point for these journeys, which carry migrants largely from Eritrea, Nigeria, and Somalia.

    Italian officials have called on the international community and the European Union in particular to act to help curb the crisis, but so far in 2015, the numbers of migrants choosing to make the dangerous journey has already surpassed totals for 2014.

    The post Dozens of migrants die crossing the Mediterranean in escalating crisis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    College Chairs

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Turning now to Florida. This week, The Tampa Bay Times published an investigation of five elementary schools in low-income, predominantly black neighborhoods of St. Petersburg, in Pinellas County. The newspaper labels the schools “failure factories” and blames, in part, racial resegregation over the past eight years.

    Among the findings: last year 95 percent of the black children failed standardized reading and math tests, and 52 percent of teachers asked for a job transfer.

    Reporter Michael LaForgia co- wrote the story. He joins me now.

    So, you know, let’s inoculate some of the basic reservations that come up when we talk about stories like this, that this is a poverty problem — and you report this is not. Why?

    MICHAEL LAFORGIA, TAMPA BAY TIMES: That’s right. From our reporting, we looked at any measure that you can think of — any socioeconomic measure that you can think of — of a neighborhood. We looked at the levels of poverty, median household income, rates of college graduation, rates of single-parent homes.

    And by any measure, we could find, Pinellas County, Florida, falls dead in the middle of the pack of all Florida counties.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But it’s still producing these failure factors.

    Another reservation is people are going say, you know what? It’s the parents’ problem. The kids weren’t ready to start school. When they got there, they were already behind.

    But you found out —

    MICHAEL LAFORGIA: That’s right. That’s right. And that’s probably the most common thing you hear when you’re doing a story like this.

    And what we did is we analyzed a batch of kindergarten-readiness data, tests that kids take when they’re coming into kindergarten to see how prepared they are showing up for school. And what we found was that our kids in these schools were no less prepared than children in scores of other schools across Florida but it was only after a few years in these five schools that they were falling dramatically behind.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And these five schools were not always that way. You trace is back to something that happened eight years ago. Why do you think that resegregation is leading to these problems?

    MICHAEL LAFORGIA: Well, I mean, this absolutely was a recent phenomenon. Eight years ago, schools were about average. Kids were performing much better, and then our school board voted for a plan that effectively resegregated the schools. It ended integration efforts and created a situation where children in predominantly black neighborhoods were suddenly going to predominantly black schools.

    They knew that this was going to happen when they made this decision. And in order to make it go down easier, they promised that these schools would be flooded with money and resources —

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Did that happen?

    MICHAEL LAFORGIA: — social workers, counselors, that type of thing.

    No, that never happened.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what did happen as a result?

    MICHAEL LAFORGIA: Well, as a result, the schools got a little bit worse academically, and a little bit more disordered and chaotic year after year after year. Teachers fled. Kids began not to feel safe in class, and we got to the situation where we are today.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Your reporting also highlights that there are other counties in Florida that might be statistically worse off but are having better outcomes because they’re doing things that this county is not.

    MICHAEL LAFORGIA: That’s right. You see in Broward County, for example, they created an office dedicated slowly to raising the achievement levels of black males. They track their students’ progress in real time. Orange County has a similar office that targets minority achievement. Deval County is paying teachers $20,000 a piece in incentive pay to work in high-risk schools. Pinellas County hasn’t tried any of those things.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Michael LaForgia of The Tampa Bay Times — thanks so much for joining us.

    MICHAEL LAFORGIA: Thanks for having me.

    The post Florida schools get failing grade due to re-segregation, investigation finds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The official death toll from the inferno and massive explosions that devastated a warehouse and container port in the northeastern Chinese city of Tianjin has climbed to 104, with hundreds injured and an unknown number of people unaccounted for in the smoldering wreckage.

    Vehicles are seen burning after blasts at Binhai new district in Tianjin municipality, China, August 13, 2015. Photo by Reuters

    Vehicles are seen burning after blasts at Binhai new district in Tianjin municipality, China, August 13, 2015. Photo by Reuters

    The increased death toll came on the heels of the revelation that the toxic chemical warehouse where the blaze started was only 2,000 feet from a high-rise residential complex despite regulations requiring hazardous materials facilities to be at least 3,200 feet away from such structures.

    A man wearing a mask walks past overturned shipping containers near the scene of the explosions. Photo by Reuters

    A man wearing a mask walks past overturned shipping containers near the scene of the explosions, August 13, 2015. Photo by Reuters

    The disclosures added to accusations of criminal negligence on the part of the warehouse owner and suspicions of a cover-up by Chinese officials, who have sought to suppress information about the disaster and seemed unprepared for questions about the proximity of a hazardous materials storage facility to the nearby Vanke Port City residential development.

    Rescue workers wearing chemical protective suits walk at the site of the explosions, August 14, 2015. Rescuers on Friday pulled one survivor from the wreckage, a city official told reporters at a briefing. Photo by Jason Lee/Reuters

    Rescue workers wearing chemical protective suits walk at the site of the explosions, August 14, 2015. Rescuers on Friday pulled one survivor from the wreckage, a city official told reporters at a briefing. Photo by Jason Lee/Reuters

    The development, along with everyone within a roughly two-mile radius of the site of the blaze, has been evacuated indefinitely due to concerns about toxic chemicals found near the disaster site, including roughly 700 tons of toxic sodium cyanide.

    China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported that “Out of consideration for toxic substances spreading, the masses nearby have been asked to evacuate,” according to The Guardian.

    An injured man evacuated from the residential area near the explosion site looks towards pluming smoke, August 13, 2015. Photo by Damir Sagolj/Reuters

    An injured man evacuated from the residential area near the explosion site looks toward pluming smoke, August 13, 2015. Photo by Damir Sagolj/Reuters

    The disaster began late Wednesday night when a small blaze at the Rui Hai warehouse quickly ballooned into massive explosions and an inferno that subsumed surrounding areas, injuring firefighters and nearby onlookers. According to Chinese media reports, shockwaves from the blasts — one of which reportedly had the explosive force of 21 tons of TNT — could be felt miles away.

    Burnt cars are seen near the site of the explosions, August 13, 2015. Photo by Damir Sagolj/Reuters

    Burnt cars are seen near the site of the explosions, August 13, 2015. Photo by Damir Sagolj/Reuters

    The developers of Vanke Port City told The New York Times that they were unaware that the nearby warehouse contained hazardous materials, and that when they started construction on the development in 2010, they were told that the facility handled only “common goods.”

    Students and teachers stand around lighted candles which form into Chinese characters "Tanggu be safe" and a heart shape, during a candlelight vigil for victims of the explosions at a school in Zhuji, Zhejiang province, China, August 13, 2015. Tanggu is a name for the affected portion of Tianjin. Photo by Reuters

    Students and teachers at a school in Zhuji, Zhejiang province, China stand around lighted candles which form Chinese characters saying “Tanggu be safe” during a candlelight vigil for victims of the explosions, August 13, 2015. Tanggu is a name for the affected portion of Tianjin. Photo by Reuters

    At least 21 of those killed by the blaze were firefighters, more than 1,000 of whom were dispatched the scene of the accident.

    Firefighters take a break after trying to put fire down at the explosion site, August 13, 2015. Many of those killed in the disaster were firefighters. Photo by Damir Sagolj/Reuters

    Firefighters take a break after trying to put fire down at the explosion site, August 13, 2015. Many of those killed in the disaster were firefighters. Photo by Damir Sagolj/Reuters

    The post Death toll rises from massive warehouse explosion in Tianjin, China appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio in the Gulf of Oman, February 4, 2009. The USS San Antonio has been used for the transportation and interrogation of suspected militants, a practice that is facing legal challenge in the case of Ahmed Abu Khattala. Photo by U.S. Navy handout/Reuters

    The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio in the Gulf of Oman, February 4, 2009. The USS San Antonio has been used for the transportation and interrogation of suspected militants, a practice that is facing legal challenge in the case of Ahmed Abu Khattala. Photo by U.S. Navy handout/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — After a suspected militant was captured in Libya last year to face charges for the deadly 2012 attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya, he was brought to the U.S. aboard a Navy transport ship on a 13-day trip that his lawyers say could have taken 13 hours by plane.

    Ahmed Abu Khattala faced days of questioning aboard the USS New York from separate teams of American interrogators, part of a two-step process designed to obtain both national security intelligence and evidence usable in a criminal prosecution.

    The case, still in its early stages, is focusing attention on an interrogation strategy that the Obama administration has used in just a few recent terrorism investigations and prosecutions. Abu Khattala’s lawyers already have signaled a challenge to the process, setting the stage for a rare court clash over a tactic that has riled civil liberties groups but is seen by the government as a vital and appropriate tool in prosecuting suspected terrorists captured overseas.

    “I think they view it as important to show that terrorists can be prosecuted in U.S. courts, and this is an attempt to find a compromise between using people they capture as intelligence assets and prosecuting them in U.S. courts,” said David Deitch, a former Justice Department terrorism prosecutor. “It’s a very hard balance to strike – and may not be possible.”

    The administration has turned to questioning in international waters as an alternative to past practices in which suspects were sent to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or secret CIA prisons. The process ordinarily begins with questioning from a specialized team of interrogators who collect intelligence that can inform government decisions, such as for drone strikes, but cannot be used in court. Then a team of FBI investigators starts from scratch, advising the detainee of his Miranda rights, such as the right to remain silent, and gathering statements that prosecutors can present as evidence in a trial.

    Some legal experts expect the hybrid interrogation technique to survive legal challenges. But defense lawyers are concerned that such prolonged detention can be used to wrangle a confession or amounts to an end-run around the government’s obligation to promptly place a suspect before a judge.

    “Basically by holding the suspects on a ship and delaying their presentment in federal court, they’re able to get a leg up in interrogations,” said Seton Hall University law professor Jonathan Hafetz, who has handled terrorism cases.

    Abu Khattala is facing charges in Washington in the Sept. 11-12, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Following his June 2014 capture by U.S. special forces, he was placed aboard a Navy ship that his lawyers say made its way to the U.S. as slowly as possible to allow maximum time for interrogation. They say Abu Khattala was questioned for days by representatives from the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, then for another stretch by FBI agents.

    The prosecution is likely to unfold as former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pursues her Democratic presidential bid and as a special House committee seeks answers about the attack. Clinton is scheduled to testify before that committee in October.

    One early point of contention in the court case is the onboard interrogation. Abu Khattala’s lawyers submitted court filings this month contending that the government held him “captive on a military ship – without the protection of and in spite of constitutional guarantees – for the explicit purpose of illegally interrogating him for almost two weeks.”

    Federal prosecutors have yet to respond.

    Whatever a judge decides, the case taps into a broader legal debate about the prosecution of terrorist suspects and presents a rare opportunity for a possible ruling on the admissibility of statements gathered aboard a military vessel.

    A similar approach was used in the case of Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a Somali citizen accused of helping support and train al-Qaida-linked militants. His guilty plea – soon after he arrived in the U.S. via Navy ship – averted a trial at which his statements might have been used against him. His lawyers say they never filed a motion to suppress his statements.

    It also came into play in the case of Abu Anas al-Libi, once one of the FBI’s most wanted terror suspects. He was arrested in Libya in 2013 and brought to New York to face charges in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. His lawyers fought to keep the statements out of the case. Al-Libi died of complications from cancer before trial, making the issue effectively moot.

    Matthew Waxman, a Columbia University law professor and former Defense Department adviser on detention issues, said in an email that while there’s limited court precedent, he thought most judges would generally back the two-phase interrogation and would be “reluctant to create practical barriers to criminal prosecution of such terrorism cases.” But he said each case relies on its own facts.

    “Even if these issues get fully litigated, no single case will resolve the controversy,” Waxman said. “It will take a long time for the court system to provide clarity on the limits of the government’s authority to hold and interrogate terrorism suspects.”

     

    The post Benghazi militant case draws scrutiny of U.S. interrogation strategy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A National Security Agency data gathering facility is seen in Bluffdale, near Salt Lake City, Utah, May 18, 2015. New documents, released by Edward Snowden, detail the extent of the cooperation and information sharing between AT&T and the NSA. Photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters

    A National Security Agency data gathering facility is seen in Bluffdale, near Salt Lake City, Utah, May 18, 2015. New documents, released by Edward Snowden, detail the extent of the cooperation and information sharing between AT&T and the NSA. Photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters

    New documents released by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden show that telecommunications giant AT&T was for years the most cooperative and prolific provider of Internet and phone data to the NSA.

    While it was previously known that US telecommunications companies provided the NSA with information, the new documents detail the particularly close working relationship between AT&T and the intelligence agency, which one of the leaked documents described as “highly collaborative,” according to joint document review by The New York Times and ProPublica. Another described AT&T’s “extreme willingness to help.”

    According to the documents, which cover a period from 2003 to 2013, AT&T shared billions of emails and phone records from its domestic networks with the spy agency.

    The document review also shows that in addition to sharing information from its own networks, AT&T gave the NSA access to other the company’s networks: AT&T’s “corporate relationships provide unique accesses to other telecoms and I.S.P.s,” one document from 2013 states, using the acronym for “Internet service providers.”

    One particularly striking revelation from the report is that, starting in 2011, AT&T began sharing 1.1 billion cellphone calling records per day with the NSA.

    After Snowden’s original disclosures, intelligence officials told the press that, for technical reasons, most of the records of Americans’ phone calls that the NSA gathered were from land lines, according to the report.  The newly-released documents appear to refute that assertion.

    The documents also shed light on the voluntary nature of the information sharing. Because U.S. wiretapping laws do not apply to emails sent between citizens of foreign countries, telecommunication companies handed them them over to the NSA voluntarily, rather than in response to court orders, the report said.

    It is unclear whether AT&T and other companies continued the practice of voluntarily handing over such information.

    In 2013, AT&T refused to share with stockholders information about its cooperation with U.S. intelligence services, saying it was not required to disclose what it did with customers’ data.

    In a letter from the period, sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission, AT&T said that it protects customer information and complies with government records requests “only to the extent required by law.”

    “We do not voluntarily provide information to any investigating authorities other than if a person’s life is in danger and time is of the essence,” Brad Burns, an AT&T spokesman, told The Times and ProPublica in response to recent inquiries.

    The post Snowden documents: AT&T cooperated extensively with NSA appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A sign calling for the closure of the U.S.-run Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba is seen at a rally next to the White House in Washington D.C. on May 23, 2014. The Defense Department is looking at alternatives to Guantanamo Bay as part of the Obama administration's push to close the prison.   Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

    A sign calling for the closure of the U.S.-run Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba is seen at a rally next to the White House in Washington D.C. on May 23, 2014. The Defense Department is looking at alternatives to Guantanamo Bay as part of the Obama administration’s push to close the prison. Photo by Larry Downing/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Defense Department is taking another look at the military prison in Kansas and the Navy Brig in South Carolina as it evaluates potential U.S. facilities to house detainees from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, part of the Obama administration’s controversial push to close the detention center.

    Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said a team was surveying the Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth on Friday and will do a similar assessment at the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston later this month. Davis said the team will assess the costs associated with construction and other changes that would be needed in order to use the facility to house the detainees as well as conduct military commission trials for those accused of war crimes.

    The closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center has been a top priority for President Barack Obama, who pledged on his first day in office to shut it down. But that effort has faced persistent hurdles, including staunch opposition from Republicans and some Democrats in Congress and ongoing difficulties transferring out the dozens of detainees who have been cleared to leave.

    Officials have to identify countries to take the detainees and must get assurances that they will be appropriately monitored and will not pose a security threat.

    About 52 of the 116 current detainees have been cleared for release, but Defense Secretary Ash Carter and his predecessors have made it clear they will not release any detainees until they have all the needed security assurances. The remaining 64 have been deemed too dangerous to be released.

    The latest surveys come a week after a draft Pentagon plan to provide potential locations for the detainees was stymied when the administration said the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois was off the table, according to officials. The draft plan had focused largely on Thomson and Charleston, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

    The officials said that early versions of the Pentagon report had made it clear that Thomson and Charleston were the most viable choices based on costs and the timeline needed to renovate the facilities to the maximum security levels required. Officials have acknowledged, however, that there were divisions within the Pentagon and across the administration over which military and federal facilities to highlight and how many options to assess and include in the report.

    At the Aspen Institute’s recent national security conference in Colorado, Lisa Monaco, Obama’s homeland security adviser, said the administration wants to move out the 52 detainees. But, she added, “That doesn’t mean just unlocking the door and having someone go willy-nilly to another country. … It means a painstaking establishment of security protocols that would govern the transfer of that individual.”

    Davis said that there are other sites, in addition to those in Kansas and South Carolina, that the team will visit. Although previous surveys and reviews have been done of many of the prison facilities, Davis said the latest visits are aimed at getting consistent evaluations and establishing a baseline of information.

    He said the assessments will cover a range of factors, including the costs associated with holding the additional detainees, holding the military trials, engineering and construction, force protection, housing for troops and security. Transportation and other operating issues also are factors.

    The assessments, he said, will help determine which facilities can be considered potential candidates to house the detainees.

    While the team is looking first at some military detention centers, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons is also identifying potential civilian facilities.

    Congressional opposition has been fierce.

    Both the House and Senate versions of the 2016 defense policy bill maintain prohibitions on transferring detainees to U.S. facilities. The Senate legislation, however, states that the restrictions could be lifted if the White House submits a plan to close the facility and the plan is approved by Congress. House and Senate negotiators are working to reconcile the two bills.

    Lawmakers from Kansas on Friday quickly denounced the survey.

    In a letter to Carter, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said he has consistently objected “to the idea of moving these terrorists to the mainland, and more especially to Kansas. I will continue to be a vocal and staunch advocate against closing our current detainment facilities due to the high security risks and economic waste doing so would cost the American public.”

    He said Leavenworth is not the right location because it sits on the Missouri River, “providing terrorists with the possibility of covert travel underwater and attempting access to the detention facility.”

    Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said, “Terrorists should not be living down the road from Fort Leavenworth – home to thousands of Army soldiers and their families, as well as military personnel from across the globe who study at the Intellectual Center of the Army.”

     

    The post Defense Department looking at alternatives to Guantanamo Bay appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Update (Aug. 15, 2015): 10 days after the wastewater spill that turned the river orange and saw large portions of the waterway closed to the public, the Animas River has been reopened for recreational use. In a statement released Friday, Colorado health officials said that analysis of sediment from the river shows contaminant levels are below a level that might pose a threat to human health. Despite giving the green light for recreational users to use the river as normal, the statement cautioned those who come in contact with river water or sediment to use the following four “prudent public health practices”:

    1. Don’t drink untreated water from the river
    2. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after contact with the sediment and surface water.
    3. Avoid contact in areas where there is visible discoloration in sediment or river water.
    4. Wash clothes after contact with sediments and surface water.

    The statement warned agricultural water users that irrigation ditches that draw water from the river were still being flushed out and that they should wait until the process was complete before using the water to water crops.

    New Mexico has also lifted a ban on drinking water from wells in the Animas River Valley downstream from the spill site.

    The announcements followed the Environmental Protection Agency’s admission that it underestimated the volume of wastewater released in the accident. The agency’s revised estimate says that 3 million gallons of water were released. The initial estimate was about 1 million gallons.

    Original post published on Aug. 8, 2015: The Environmental Protection Agency took responsibility Friday for a massive wastewater spill that contaminated a Colorado river Wednesday, and warned locals to avoid the polluted waters. According to a statement by the agency, an EPA cleanup team accidentally caused the spill while excavating the entrance to the Gold King Mine, an abandoned mine near Silverton in southwestern Colorado that had been leaking pollution.

    While the crew was excavating, they breached a debris dam that had held the water inside the mine, allowing around 1 million gallons of toxic mustard-colored sludge to gush out of a mine tunnel and into the nearby Animas River, staining the river a bright yellow-orange color.

    Agency officials reported that samples of the water contained heavy metals, including lead, aluminum, arsenic, iron, copper, cadmium and calcium, in addition to sediment. With testing still underway and heavy metal concentrations currently unknown, officials said Friday that it was too soon to know whether the waste poses a health risk.

    Long-term exposure to lead and arsenic can be lethal to humans, though the toxins’ effects depend on concentration.

    No drinking water contamination had been reported as of Friday evening, according to The Associated Press, and at least seven water utilities shut down their intakes in anticipation of the advancing plume.

    EPA has warned people along the Animas to avoid contact with the contaminated water, and to keep pets and livestock out of the river. Portions of the river, which is a popular recreational destination, have been closed off by law enforcement, and officials warned agricultural users to shut off water intakes along affected portions of the river.


    Officials also released extra water from a reservoir in order to dilute the pollution.

    As of Saturday morning, the river had begun to clear up near the spill site, but contaminated water has continued downstream into northern New Mexico.

    Even after the water has cleared, heavy metals may remain on the river bottom and may linger on beaches.

    Water continues to seep from the mine, though more slowly than during the initial spill Wednesday. EPA says it is constructing settling ponds to hold and treat the water that is still flowing from the mine, and that it expects construction to be completed tomorrow morning.

    The post After turning orange from EPA spill, Animas River reopens in Colorado appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Family and friends of Christian Taylor, the 19-year-old unarmed black man killed by a rookie white police officer in Texas last week, celebrated the life of the late Angelo State University student-athlete at his funeral on Saturday.

    An overflow crowd of more than 1,000 people filled Koinonia Christian Church in Arlington, Texas, the Dallas Morning News reported.

    Taylor was killed on August 7th during a confrontation with police who responded to a suspected burglary call at a car dealership. Video footage later released showed Taylor at the dealership breaking a car windshield before police arrived.

    The Arlington Police Department confirmed Taylor was shot four times by Brad Miller, a 49-year-old white officer in training with no prior police experience. Miller has since been fired from his position.

    The interaction between Taylor and Miller is not documented by video footage since Arlington officers are not equipped with body cameras.

    By Friday evening, #ChristianTaylor was already trending on Twitter as communities began to raise questions regarding the shooting. Outraged advocates nationwide demanded accountability and further transparency as Taylor’s case is further investigated.

    Arlington police chief Will Johnson has asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation to help in further investigating this case, Reuters reported.

    The post More than 1,000 attend funeral for Christian Taylor in Texas appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The exterior of Camp Delta is seen at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, March 6, 2013. The facility is operated by the Joint Task Force Guantanamo and holds prisoners who have been captured in the war in Afghanistan and elsewhere since the September 11, 2001 attacks. Photo by Bob Strong/Reuters

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Reporter Jess Bravin has been covering issues related to Guantanamo since 2002 and covers the U.S. Supreme Court for The Wall Street Journal. He is also the author of “The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay.” He joins me now from Washington, D.C.

    First let’s talk about the class of detainees that this individual falls into. He’s supposed to be one of 52 who have been cleared for transfer. What does that mean? Who cleared him?

    JESS BRAVIN, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, most of those 52 men were cleared in 2009 and 2010 by a task force of military intelligence and law enforcement officials who the president appointed to review the situation at Guantanamo Bay. A few of them were cleared more recently by what’s called a Periodic Review Board that’s supposed to reexamine the detainees’ cases from time to time to see if they are a threat to U.S. security.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, it seems on the one hand you have the U.S. State Department who wants to get on with this and transfer them away to other countries. And then on the other hand, you’ve got the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense fighting to keep them there, or apt least not to have a rule imposed to make them move.

    JESS BRAVIN: Well, right. There’s a very — there are many, many contradictions you could say in America’s Guantanamo policy. And this is just one of them.

    Yes, he is someone who the U.S. government has said should be transferred more than five years ago. In other words, there’s no justification really for holding him in Guantanamo Bay. The reason he’s there is because the U.S. government, for its own political or diplomatic reasons, hasn’t been able to find a place to send him that it considers secure enough. So, that’s not really his fault.

    So he has been on hunger strike for eight years, and he has filed what’s called a habeas corpus petition in federal district court. That’s a legal process by which any prisoner can challenge what they consider to be illegal detention.

    So, he has this legal action going. The government has decided to oppose him, even though, as you say, the State Department recommended dropping the opposition because that would help clear the way to get him out of Guantanamo Bay.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, I’m assuming that other prisoners and their lawyers are watching this and perhaps this is — the precedent being set if this habeas corpus was handed down, if he was I guess compelled to be transferred, that is what is the Department of Justice and Department of Defense does not want because every other detainee would line up.

    JESS BRAVIN: Well, they don’t want to encourage other detainees to persist in hunger strikes, although they don’t really need a lot of encouragement. Many have been on hunger strike for a long time. They don’t like to be told who to do.

    However, as a binding legal matter, it’s not precedent in that sense. In other words, just because the government chooses not to oppose his petition does not mean that any other prisoner who files a similar legal action automatically gets the same treatment. They can choose to oppose or not oppose each petition individually, and it does not create a binding legal precedent.

    But in general, the Defense Department, the Justice Department, aren’t in the business of acquiescing to what prisoners want. If they are going to transfer this detainee, they want to do it on their terms, not because there’s a court order that’s hastening the way.

    The State Department feels that the court order would remove a number of obstacles that Congress imposed on detainee transfers after President Obama took office, and it would make it somewhat easier to get this guy who now weighs about 75 pounds out of detention and into some other country.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And let’s talk that. I mean, he’s being kept alive through forced feeding. Describe this process. I mean, he can’t be a healthy human being at 75 pounds.

    JESS BRAVIN: Well, that’s about half of his typical weight, or his normal weight, according to the Defense Department. I mean, the only information we have on his condition is from the government. It’s a daily process where you’re strapped to a chair and a feeding tube is inserted in your nose and a sort of Ensure-like liquid is pumped into you.

    Actually, right now, there is a court action that’s been filed by a number of news organizations, including “The Wall Street Journal,” that is seeking to have videotapes of the force feeding process of a different detainee released so the public can see for itself how humane this process is. Detainees say it’s not. The government says that it is.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Jess Bravin of “The Wall Street Journal” — thanks so much.

    JESS BRAVIN: Of course.

    The post U.S. blocks release of hunger-striking Guantanamo Bay detainee appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets attendees at the Iowa State Fair during a campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, August 15, 2015.  REUTERS/Jim Young   - RTX1ODW2

    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets attendees at the Iowa State Fair during a campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, August 15, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young – RTX1ODW2

    DES MOINES, Iowa — As Hillary Rodham Clinton walked among the booths of funnel cakes and corn dogs at the Iowa State Fair, trailed by a massive pack of media and onlookers, Donald Trump’s helicopter circled the fairgrounds in the air above.

    That’s as close as Clinton and Trump’s massive entourages came at the state fair, a rite of passage for any presidential candidate. The respective Democratic and Republican front-runners each drew large crowds of gawkers as Clinton sampled a pork chop on a stick and Trump gave rides to children on his helicopter emblazoned with his famous last name.

    “Nice to be here!” Clinton said as she started an hourlong stroll across the fairgrounds. Former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, who endorsed her this week and wore a straw hat to shade him from the blazing sun, accompanied her. Everywhere Clinton walked, large crowds followed her to get a photograph, a handshake or a quick hello.

    Trump later made a grand entrance, landing his helicopter in athletic fields about a mile away and offering rides to children before he came onto the grounds. Almost immediately Trump was crushed by massive crowds seeking photos, handshakes and yelling encouragement. The pandemonium followed him around for roughly an hour – and during a stop for a pork chop on a stick.

    “This is beyond what I expected. This is amazing,” Trump said. “It’s been a day of love.”

    Both Trump and Clinton avoided getting up on The Des Moines Register’s “soapbox,” a place where candidates can deliver remarks and take questions from fairgoers. A candidate can be cheered or jeered, depending on the mood of the crowd and whether supporters or opponents are on hand. In 2011 Republican candidate Mitt Romney declared from the soapbox that “corporations are people, my friend,” a line that dogged the former private equity executive.

    The front-runners weren’t the only ones seeking Iowans’ support. Vermont Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has become Clinton’s chief rival and has drawn tens of thousands to his rallies, pitched his policies to counter economic inequality from the soapbox. Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, another Democrat, told voters from the soapbox that the main justification for the Iraq War was “all a hoax.” Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a Republican, donned a red embroidered apron to flip pork burgers over sizzling grills.

    When a helicopter flew overhead during Sanders’ speech, he was quick with a joke. “There’s Donald Trump. What can we do?” Sanders said. “I apologize. We left the helicopter at home.”

    The state fair typically draws around 90,000 people daily during its 11-day run every summer, giving presidential candidates the perfect opportunity to meet potential supporters for Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses.

    In the Agriculture Building, Clinton walked past plates of carrots, beets and large cabbages and peered at a pair of the fair’s famous butter statues – a cow and a tribute to the board game Monopoly. As she walked around the building, children sat on their parents’ shoulders, and people cheered from the rafters above the expo.

    When the pack reached Grand Avenue, the fair’s main drag, Trump’s helicopter buzzed overhead as Clinton walked past stands selling funnel cakes, corn brats and lemonade.

    “There’s Trump!” shouted one man.

    Before wrapping up her visit, Clinton sampled a pork chop on a stick and a lemonade. Minutes later, she boarded a black SUV and was whisked away.

    Trump took questions from reporters before he came to the fairgrounds and aimed barbs at fellow candidates while touting his place atop the Republican polls. He said he was rejecting campaign contributions and was prepared to spend up to $1 billion on his campaign.

    Trump has been criticized for not detailing his policy positions, but on Saturday he said he would soon release a policy paper on immigration.

    “You are going to love me in terms of immigration and illegal immigration. We’re building a wall. Nobody is going through my wall. Trump builds walls, I build walls. We’re building a wall. It’s going to be strong, it’s going to be solid, it’s going to be policed,” he said.

    He added: “We’re going to have a big door for people to come in legally. We’re going to have a big, beautiful door for people to come in legally.”

    Trump also said that, so far, he has not made any political missteps.

    “Every time somebody said I made a mistake, they do the polls and my numbers go up,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve made any mistakes. I’m sure I will at some point. But so far you have to say, hasn’t worked out badly, right?”

    During his time at the fair, Trump inched through the main concourse. “We’re going to straighten out this mess,” he called out to the crowd at one point. People pushed aggressively to reach out to Trump. At one point, a man yelled, “Biggest crowd ever is for you!”

    After sampling a pork chop on a stick, Trump hopped on a golf cart and was driven away. People chased him on foot cheering.

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    Julian Bond, the late civil rights activist, photographed in Washington, D.C., on June 21, 2011. Photo by The Washington Post / Contributor.

    Julian Bond, the late civil rights activist, photographed in Washington, D.C., on June 21, 2011. Photo by The Washington Post / Contributor.

    FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. — Julian Bond, a major figure in the 1960s civil rights movement who served as a longtime board chairman of the NAACP, died Saturday night, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. He was 75.

    Bond died in Fort Walton Beach, Florida after a brief illness, the SPLC said in a statement released Sunday morning.

    “I don’t know if you can possibly measure his imprint. It’s extraordinary. It stretches his entire career and life in so many ways,” said Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney in Birmingham who helped Bond when brought students to Alabama to visit civil rights sites.

    “That was, I think, his real calling in his later years was to make sure that history stayed alive so that people could understand the connection between 50 years ago and today.”

    “You can use the term giant, champion, trail blazer — there’s just not enough adjectives in the English language to describe the life and career of Julian bond,” Jones added.

    The Nashville, Tennessee, native was considered a symbol and icon of the 1960s civil rights movement. As a Morehouse College student, Bond helped found the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and as its communications director, he was on the front lines of protests that led to the nation’s landmark civil rights laws.

    Bond later served as board chairman of the 500,000-member NAACP for 10 years but declined to run again for another one-year term in 2010.

    The SPLC said Bond was a “visionary” and “tireless champion” for civil and human rights.

    “With Julian’s passing, the country has lost one of its most passionate and eloquent voices for the cause of justice,” SPLC co-founder Morris Dees said in a statement. “He advocated not just for African Americans, but for every group, indeed every person subject to oppression and discrimination, because he recognized the common humanity in us all.”

    Bond also served in the Georgia state legislature and was a professor at American University and the University of Virginia.

    “Very few throughout human history have embodied the ideals of honor, dignity, courage and friendship like Dr. Julian Bond,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “Quite simply, this nation and this world are far better because of his life and commitment to justice and equality for all people. Future generations will look back on the life and legacy of Julian Bond and see a warrior of good who helped conquer hate in the name of love. I will greatly miss my friend and my hero, Dr. Julian Bond.”

    Bond is survived by his wife, Pamela Horowitz, a former SPLC staff attorney; his five children, Phyllis Jane Bond-McMillan, Horace Mann Bond II, Michael Julian Bond, Jeffrey Alvin Bond, and Julia Louise Bond; his brother, James Bond; and his sister, Jane Bond Moore.

    “A voice that has been silenced now is one that I just don’t think you can replace,” Jones said.

    The post Julian Bond, former NAACP chairman and civil rights leader, dies at 75 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Julian Bond and President Barack Obama during The 36th Annual NAACP Image Awards in Los Angeles. Photo by Jesse Grant/WireImage).

    Julian Bond and President Barack Obama during The 36th Annual NAACP Image Awards in Los Angeles. Photo by Jesse Grant/WireImage).

    EDGARTOWN, Mass.– President Barack Obama says the late civil rights activist Julian Bond was a hero and friend.

    Obama says he and first lady Michelle Obama have benefited from Bond’s example, counsel and friendship.

    Obama’s offering prayers and sympathy to Bond’s wife, Pamela, and family after Bond died Saturday night in Florida after a brief illness. He was 75.

    Bond was a major figure in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. He was a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and a founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    Bond also served in the Georgia Legislature and was a longtime NAACP board chairman.

    Obama, vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachussetts, adds that Bond helped changed America for the better and “what better way to be remembered than that.”

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    U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks regarding the nuclear deal with Iran at American University in Washington, D.C., August 5, 2015. Though many view passage of the deal in Congress as a standoff between Obama and Washington legislators, a congressional vote of disapproval would not necessarily prevent Obama from taking actions to implement the deal on his own. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks regarding the nuclear deal with Iran at American University in Washington, D.C., August 5, 2015. Though many view passage of the deal in Congress as a standoff between Obama and Washington legislators, a congressional vote of disapproval would not necessarily prevent Obama from taking actions to implement the deal on his own. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The September vote on the Iran nuclear deal is billed as a titanic standoff between President Barack Obama and Congress. Yet even if lawmakers reject the agreement, it’s not game-over for the White House.

    A congressional vote of disapproval would not prevent Obama from acting on his own to start putting the accord in place. While he probably would take some heavy criticism, this course would let him add the foreign policy breakthrough to his second-term list of accomplishments.

    Obama doesn’t need a congressional OK to give Iran most of the billions of dollars in relief from economic sanctions that it would get under the agreement, as long as Tehran honors its commitments to curb its nuclear program – at least for now.

    “A resolution to disapprove the Iran agreement may have substantial political reverberations, but limited practical impact,” says Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “It would not override President Obama’s authority to enter into the agreement.”

    Lawmakers on their summer break are deciding how to vote. A look at the current state of play:

    What will happen in September? 

    With Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress, the House and Senate are expected to turn down the deal.

    Obama has pledged to veto such a resolution of disapproval, so the question has turned to whether Congress could muster the votes to override him, in what would be a stinging, bipartisan vote of no-confidence against the president. And Obama would forfeit the authority he now enjoys to waive sanctions that Congress has imposed.

    But Democrats and Republicans have predicted that his expected veto will be sustained – that opponents lack the votes to one-up Obama. More than half of the Senate Democrats and Independents of the 34 needed to sustain a veto are backing the deal. There is one notable defection so far – New York’s Chuck Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate and the party leader-in-waiting.

    In the House, more than 45 Democrats have expressed support. Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California has spoken confidently about rounding up the votes to save the deal. Ten House Democrats have announced their opposition.

    What can Obama do on his own? 

    The president could suspend some U.S. sanctions. He could issue new orders to permit financial transactions that otherwise are banned now. On the financial sector, Obama could use executive orders to remove certain Iranians and entities, including nearly two dozen Iranian banks, from U.S. lists, meaning they no longer would be subject to economic penalties.

    Only Congress can terminate legislative sanctions, and they’re some of the toughest, aimed at Iran’s energy sector, central bank and essential parts of its economy. Still, experts say Obama, on his own, can neutralize the effect of some of those sanctions, too, and work with the Europeans on softening others.

    “Obama can give most of the sanctions relief under the agreement through executive order,” said Mark Dubowitz, a leading sanctions proponent with the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

    If Obama and the Europeans erase the Iranian banks from the sanctions list, those institutions would regain access to the global financial system.

    What are some of the questions being discussed in Congress?

    The September votes won’t be the final word.

    One looming question is whether Congress should try to reauthorize the Iran Sanctions Act, which authorizes many of the congressional sanctions.

    Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., have introduced legislation to renew it. Menendez says that if administration is serious about reimposing sanctions if Iran cheats, there has to be something to “snap back to.”

    Iran could interpret a U.S. move to reauthorize the law as a breach of the nuclear agreement. Administration officials won’t say whether it is or isn’t, only that it’s premature to address it.

    Should Congress push for a different deal? The administration says renegotiating the agreement is a nonstarter.

    In a webcast, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told members of the Jewish Federations across North America and the Jewish Council of Public Affairs that trying to renegotiate the deal was “about the riskiest strategy” he could imagine. “I just don’t think that’s a credible Plan B.”

    Schumer and others opponents think the administration should go back to the bargaining table.

    Over history, Congress has rejected outright or demanded changes to more than 200 treaties and international agreements, including 80 that were multilateral.

    The post A Congressional veto would not necessarily kill the Iran deal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Hampton, New Hampshire, August 14, 2015. Trump's foreign policy platform would put troops on the ground in the fight against the Islamic State, and demand money from Middle Eastern countries supported by the U.S. Brian Snyder/Reuters

    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Hampton, New Hampshire, August 14, 2015. Trump’s foreign policy platform would put troops on the ground in the fight against the Islamic State, and demand money from Middle Eastern countries supported by the U.S. Brian Snyder/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is outlining a foreign policy in which the United States would put ground troops in the fight against Islamic State militants and demand money from Middle East countries supported by the U.S.

    In a wide-ranging interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the billionaire businessman and former reality TV star says he would consider shutting down the federal government over funding for Planned Parenthood. He says he isn’t sure whether he has donated money to the organization in the past but adds that he would oppose providing federal funds if it continues providing abortion services.

    Trump says he would ask nominees to the Supreme Court about their views on abortion and would take their views into consideration as he made a decision on whom to nominate. He says he opposes abortion except in case of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother.

    Calling the nuclear agreement forged between Iran and world powers including the U.S. “a bad deal,” Trump says that Iran will have nuclear weapons and take over parts of the world. “And I think it’s going to lead to nuclear holocaust,” he said. Instead of tearing up the deal, he said he would “police” it, and he called Secretary of State John Kerry “incompetent” for negotiating the agreement.

    On defeating Islamic State militants, Trump said the key is to take away their wealth by taking back the oil fields under their control in Iraq. Told by “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd that such a move could require ground troops, Trump responded, “That’s OK.” He said the Iraqis should be given “something” from their oil fields but, in an apparent reference to Iraq War veterans, “we should definitely take back money for our soldiers.”

    “We’ve had soldiers that were so badly hurt and killed,” he said. “I want their families to get something. Wounded warriors all over the place. They got nothing. And they can’t even say we had a victory.

    Trump in the past has accused Saudi Arabia of being the world’s biggest funder of terrorism. On Sunday, he said the Gulf nation should be paying the U.S. because it wouldn’t exist without American support. And, Trump said, the only reason the U.S. supports Saudi Arabia is because it needs the oil.

    “Now, we don’t need the oil so much,” he said in an apparent reference to U.S. oil and gas production. “And if we let our people really go, we wouldn’t need the oil at all. And we could let everybody else fight it out.”

    Trump said Saudi Arabia is going to need help fighting against the kinds of militants who have targeted neighboring Yemen. He said he would assist the Saudis in that event, albeit reluctantly and for a price.

    “We defend Saudi Arabia. We send our ships. We send our planes. Every time there’s a little ruckus, we send those ships and those planes. We get nothing. Why? They’re making a billion a day. We get nothing. And this is the problem with the world,” he said.

    Ask who he talks to for military advice, Trump said he watches the news shows and cited former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton (“a tough cookie”) and retired Army Col. Jack Jacobs (“a good guy”) as two examples of people who impress him.

    On other issues, Trump said he:

    -Wants to end birthright citizenship, rescind President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration and deport those in the U.S. illegally while providing an expedited return process for “the good ones.”

    “We have to make a whole new set of standards. And when people come in, they have to come in legally,” he said.

    -Is “fine” with affirmative action. “We’ve lived with it for a long time. And I lived with it for a long time. And I’ve had great relationships with lots of people. So I’m fine with it.”

    -Doesn’t think a private company should be able to fire an employee for being gay.

    -Wants to keep the minimum wage at current levels. “I want to compete with the rest of the world. What I do want to do is bring in jobs so much so that people don’t have to live on minimum wage.”

    -Would ban lobbyists from his administration for three to four years after they’ve left lobbying firms; he called President Barack Obama’s effort to impose a ban on lobbyists “a pretty good idea.”

     

    The post Trump’s foreign policy plan includes boots on the ground against ISIS appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The mother of a missing Trigana Air Service flight attendant is seen at the airlines office in Jakarta, Indonesia on August 16, 2015. 54 people are missing from the crash, and it is still unclear if there are any survivors in the wreckage. Photo by Antara Foto/Reuters

    The mother of a missing Trigana Air Service flight attendant is seen at the airlines office in Jakarta, Indonesia on August 16, 2015. 54 people are missing from the crash, and it is still unclear if there are any survivors in the wreckage. Photo by Antara Foto/Reuters

    Search and rescue teams were heading into a remote and mountainous region of Indonesia, on Monday, after villagers alerted local authorities that they saw a plane crash into a mountain in Papua, the country’s largest province.

    During a press conference, Indonesian Air Transportation Director General Suprasetyo confirmed wreckage of Trigana Air flight IL267, which was carrying 49 passengers, including five children and five crew members, was found by villagers.

    The flight went missing on Sunday 33 minutes into the 42-minute flight from Jayapura to Oksibil, the ministry said. It is still unclear whether anyone survived the crash.

    Trogana Airlines has been banned from the European Union since 2007 due to safety concerns and a lack of adequate oversight from their authorities, the European Commission says. This crash marks at least the third flight to go missing in Asia in the last 18 months.

     

     

    The post Officials search for Indonesian airliner that crashed into mountain carrying 54 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos discusses his company's new Fire smartphone at a news conference in Seattle, Washington June 18, 2014. Bezos unveiled a $200 "Fire" smartphone on Wednesday equipped with a 3D-capable screen and an ability to recognize music and TV shows, hoping to stand out in a crowded field dominated by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics. REUTERS/Jason Redmond  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS TELECOMS) - RTR3UIDN

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: After two decades in business, Amazon.com is the world’s largest Internet retailer, with a stock value that has increased tenfold since 2008. That success is driven by a work force motivated by data-driven managers who stick to principles laid down by company founder Jeff Bezos.

    That’s part of the takeaway from today’s New York Times story, “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace.” Based on more than 100 interviews, the story depicts a corporate culture where employees are pushed to the limit.

    David Streitfeld is one of the authors. He joins me now from San Francisco.

    So, what is the culture that you found?

    DAVID STREITFELD, The New York Times: It is a very intense culture, a very hardworking culture, a culture where people feel they want to push themselves as far as they can, and they do.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So far, none of that, what you just said, sounds like a bad thing for a company.

    DAVID STREITFELD: No, it’s a great thing for a company.

    If you have a company of type-A performers, and they’re always performing at the limits of what they can do, you can do amazing things, which Amazon indeed has.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What do you find unique about what’s happening inside Amazon’s work culture?

    DAVID STREITFELD: The unique thing was just how well they maintained that culture of endurance and excellence.

    Start-ups do that sort of thing. They work all the time. And people are completely devoted to the company, and the rest of their life falls away. The unique thing with Amazon is, they had preserved, to a large extent, that start-up culture, to a company that was employing tens of thousands of people. And that’s a remarkable thing to do. And I don’t know of many other companies, if any, that have managed to do it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Some of the anecdotes you write about are almost in direct opposition to the other stories about tech life that we hear, that Netflix has a yearlong maternity or paternity leave policy that they want to institute, and Google has fabulous free food everywhere.

    That’s not what you get when you walk into Amazon’s offices.

    DAVID STREITFELD: That’s true. Amazon is much more severe.

    It in — it has a lot of technology, but, in some ways, its self-image is not of a tech company. Its self-image is as a retailer. And in the retail business, margins are very thin and benefits are comparatively less.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And you describe a situation at the — what is it, the end of every year, where they essentially cut back their employees, depending — or their lowest performers?

    DAVID STREITFELD: Yes, Amazon uses a technique which was relatively widespread in corporate America maybe 10 years ago — and some companies, other companies still use it now — called — the crudest name for it, which companies do not use, is rank and yank.

    You decide where everyone fits, and those at the bottom, those that rank the lowest, you either encourage to leave or you could just release them.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What did Amazon say to this as you were reporting?

    DAVID STREITFELD: Amazon has always prided itself on being a very tough place to work.

    They have said this from the very beginning. As Jeff Bezos said very early on to new employees, it’s not easy to work here. And without it being — without those high standards, you probably never would have heard of Amazon. It — it would not exist now.

    The question is, for employees who are diverted by crises, what happens to them?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: David Streitfeld, one of the co-authors of the piece from The New York Times, thanks so much.

    DAVID STREITFELD: Thank you.

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    DES PLAINES, IL - MAY 12:  The AT&T logo is seen atop a phone bill May 12, 2006 in Des Plaines, Illinois. The US National Security Agency began collecting information from phone records of millions of AT&T (until recently known as SBC), Verizon, and BellSouth customers shortly after the 2001 terror attacks. Questioning the legality, Qwest refused to comply with the agency's request for records.  (Photo Illustration by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: For two years, secret documents leaked by former national security contractor Edward Snowden have yielded a steady stream of news reports about U.S. government spying on terrorism suspects, foreign leaders, and American citizens.

    Now another chapter has been revealed: how telecommunications giant AT&T demonstrated a — quote — “extreme willingness” to help the NSA.

    An article jointly published by The New York Times and the investigative nonprofit ProPublica reports AT&T forwarded a million e-mails a day to the NSA, handed over a billion cell phone records a day to the NSA, and assisted the NSA in wiretapping Internet lines at the United Nations headquarters.

    This is according to documents provided by Snowden, who remains in Russia to avoid U.S. prosecution for espionage.

    Joining me now to discuss this is reporter Jeff Larson from ProPublica.

    You and a few of your colleagues at ProPublica and The Times published this. So, how did you prove that this partnership exists?

    JEFF LARSON, ProPublica: Well, it was a long slog trying to prove that Fairview was AT&T, right?

    We went through the documents with a fine-tooth comb looking for things like internal acronyms that AT&T used. We also combed FCC reports trying to find the cable landings that corresponded to the Fairview programming.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: When Fairview was sort of a code name, that you hadn’t figured out that that was AT&T.

    JEFF LARSON: Exactly. And it’s been out before. There’s been sort of mentions on Brazilian TV about Fairview. But no one had put two and two together and actually put it together. So, starting in February, we — we looked through all the documents, trying to prove this partnership.

    And what we were struck by is that it’s an extremely close partnership. AT&T engineers work hand in hand with the NSA to enable spying and in some cases, in many cases, the — AT&T actually does the filtering on behalf of the NSA in their own facility.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So they’re not actually just handing all the information; they’re sorting it out before it goes to the NSA?

    JEFF LARSON: Right. But it’s a large portion of it.

    So, when you talk about the cell phone records that you have mentioned, for example, those cell phone records are pretty bulky. And they — they include domestic ones. This is sort of — in 2013, it came out that Verizon was handing out them. But the U.S. government had always sort of said that it was only landline and not cell phone records.

    So, what is exactly — what is new here is these cell phone records that AT&T is handing over.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And the idea that a million e-mails a day to the NSA, I mean, how do you sort through that and where do they get access to that? Is that people just using AT&T.com e-mail? No.

    JEFF LARSON: So, it’s actually not AT&T.com e-mail. It is the Internet backbone itself.

    So, AT&T provides the big pipes of the Internet, for much of the Internet. And they also provide those big pipes to corporate partners that AT&T has, so, you know, places like at Level 3 or at Comcast, if you have home Internet, it largely will go over AT&T networks at some point when it transits the United States.

    Largely, with the NSA’s — because it’s a foreign intelligence agency, they are interested to foreign-to-foreign e-mails, so a large portion of that will be people outside of the United States. And that’s not necessarily covered by United States law. That’s fair game as far as the NSA is concerned.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And when you look through these PowerPoints, you actually see instructions from the NSA to behave nicely when they go into AT&T offices.

    JEFF LARSON: Right. They say this is a collaborative relationship, right? There’s no — that it’s — that there’s this extreme willingness to help on AT&T’s behalf, right? Shortly after 9/11, there were two telecoms that went to the NSA and said, how can we help, right?

    One of them, we know now, is AT&T. So, this is — you know, AT&T sees this as sort of a patriotic duty, I think.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And what does AT&T say about this when you ask them?

    JEFF LARSON: AT&T gave us a sort of surprising response, which is, we don’t comment on national security matters, right?

    And then, later — and then, when we circled back to them, they said, we comply with the law essentially, right? So, we don’t willingly do this. We only comply with the law, which is sort of at odds with what’s in the documents.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And does that mean that, essentially, at this point, they are being compelled?

    JEFF LARSON: We don’t know.

    Because the documents are so old, we don’t — I mean, are 2 years old, we don’t know how things have changed after Congress passed the USA Freedom Act. We also don’t know necessarily what happened in the two intervening years. We knew — know that Verizon did try and challenge some things in court. But we really have no idea if the program is exactly the same as it was in 2013, before the Snowden revelations.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Right. Jeff Larson from ProPublica, thanks very much.

    JEFF LARSON: Thank you very much.

    The post Inside AT&T and the NSA’s ‘highly collaborative’ partnership appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Presidential hopefuls flocked to the Iowa State Fair over the weekend in hopes of connecting with voters by shaking hands, posing for selfies and and scoring $7 grilled pork chops on a stick.

    Large crowds swarmed the pack of candidates, including Democratic and Republican frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, both of whom declined to speak from The Des Moines Register’s soapbox.

    At the fair, which as become something of a rite of passage for candidates trying to rouse support ahead of Iowa’s early primaries, Trump made good on his promise to offer free helicopter rides, and Clinton could be seen greeting fans, lemonade and pork chop in hand.

    The Iowa State Fair, which runs for 11 days, typically draws about 90,000 people daily.

    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (L) campaigns at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, August 15, 2015.  REUTERS/Jim Young   - RTX1ODWD

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton campaigns at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, August 15, 2015. Photo by
    Jim Young/Reuters.

    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush (2nd R) shares a laugh with attendees at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, August 14, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young  TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX1OBBS

    Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush shares a laugh with attendees at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, August 14, 2015. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters.

    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump eats a pork chop at the Iowa State Fair during a campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, August 15, 2015.  REUTERS/Jim Young   - RTX1ODUB

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump eats a pork chop at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, August 15, 2015. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters.

    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush throws a baseball as he campaigns at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, August 14, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young   - RTX1OBCX

    Bush throws a baseball as he campaigns at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, August 14, 2015. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters.

    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former Senator Tom Harkin (C) pose for a photo with an attendee at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, August 15, 2015.  REUTERS/Jim Young   - RTX1ODVD

    Clinton and former Senator Tom Harkin pose for a photo with an attendee at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, August 15, 2015. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters.

    Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, August 15, 2015. Sanders was mobbed by supporters upon arrival. Photo by Joshua Lott/Reuters

    Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, August 15, 2015. Sanders was mobbed by supporters upon arrival. Photo by Joshua Lott/Reuters.

    The post Politics with pork chops: Presidential candidates flock to Iowa State Fair appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    solarpanels

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    MIKE TAIBBI: They’re everywhere on Oahu: on the roofs of businesses, libraries, and one house after another.
    The amount of rooftop solar now accounts for 12 percent of the electric utility’s users. That’s more than 20 times the national average. It’s by far the highest penetration of individual rooftop solar in the country.
    But in this tropical state, where the combination of sky-high energy prices, abundant sunshine, and federal and state tax credits makes going solar a no-brainer, the very popularity of these panels has become a problem.

    MIKE TAIBBI: So we drive up and you have these lovely solar panels on your roof. How’s that workin out for you?

    CARLTON HO: It’s not!

    MIKE TAIBBI: Not working out because by the time aircraft mechanic Carlton Ho joined the rooftop solar parade in September 2013, there were so many people in his area that had installed panels that the local utility company told him ‘don’t turn on that switch yet.’

    MIKE TAIBBI: So it’s just a question of turning the switch on and you have juice.

    CARLTON HO: Yeah.

    MIKE TAIBBI: From your own roof.

    CARLTON HO: And everything is awesome!

    MIKE TAIBBI: But it’s not that simple.
    When you install solar panels, you’re still reliant on the local utility. When it’s dark or when the sun isn’t shining, you need the grid to provide electricity. Even so, solar customers have a fundamentally different relationship with the utility. Because when the sun is shining any extra energy their panels generate is supplied back to the grid. That earns a credit, further reducing their electric bill.
    But in areas of Oahu, with so many homeowners going solar, the utility said the safety and reliability of the grid could be threatened and slowed to a crawl the approval of new systems.
    COLTON CHING: We’ve made a lot of progress but we know there is still a lot to do as we increase rooftop solar.
    MIKE TAIBBI: Colton Ching is Vice President for Energy Delivery at Hawaiian Electric Company or HECO as the utility is known.
    COLTON CHING: What was happening was that power, which normally flows from the grid to our customers was now beginning to flow back into those substations. Substations which were not 30, 40 years ago designed to operate in that manner.

    MIKE TAIBBI: In addition, HECO had a hard time measuring all that solar.

    COLTON CHING: Right now we don’t know exactly how much power rooftop solar is producing at any given moment.

    MIKE TAIBBI: So you can’t see at all what 10 to 20 percent of your customer base is producing?

    COLTON CHING: We cannot. We cannot see that.

    MIKE TAIBBI: But while HECO studied the problem, homeowners like Carlton Ho were left waiting. It had been a year and a half that his system had sat unused.

    MIKE TAIBBI: It’s got to be frustrating.

    CARLTON HO: Yes. Like you come home, you look at the panels on your ceiling and you know you can’t do anything with it. The bill comes every month. You know you’ve got two bills because I still have my financing. I have to pay for that. I have my electric bills. So.

    MIKE TAIBBI: Ho was left paying his regular electric bill: about $150 a month. Plus another $240 a month in payments for the $23,000 solar panels he’d bought but couldn’t use.

    COLTON CHING: Hawaiian Electric needs to and has taken steps to work with our customers to find solutions that work for them and work for the grid. And we haven’t been perfect. It hasn’t been a perfectly smooth process.

    MIKE TAIBBI: There have been some ugly moments, frankly.

    COLTON CHING: There have been some very very tough moments. It’s been learning moments for us within the utility.

    MIKE TAIBBI: And for the solar industry which took a big hit when the utility slowed new approvals: There were hundreds of layoffs and stockpiles of solar equipment.

    But those solar customers waiting to turn on their systems or even get permission to start construction knew that going solar would still be a good deal— a system up and running would reduce their energy bills dramatically.

    In the meantime, non-solar customers– still the majority– were paying much more to maintain the public grid than those with their own panels on the roof– a disparity HECO suggested could be unfair.

    HECO PROMOTIONAL VIDEO: it makes sense that everyone who uses the grid should pay their share to maintain and improve it because everyone benefits from it.

    MIKE TAIBBI: HECO says that non-solar customers have in a sense been subsidizing those with rooftop solar when it comes to keep the grid humming. A cost shift estimated at more than $50 million dollars.

    All these problems – delays, questions about grid reliability, and fairness – could soon be seen all across the country as the penetration of rooftop solar continues to increase. Solar panels are no longer just for sunbelt states…even the White House had panels installed last year.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA [MAY 2014] : Over the past few years, the cost of solar panels have fallen by 60 percent. Solar installations have increased by 500 percent.

    MIKE TAIBBI: But rooftop solar on a massive scale has consequences still being measured.

    MARCO MANGELSDORF: States on the mainland will eventually be having to deal with some of the issues that we’re dealing with here.

    MIKE TAIBBI: Dr. Marco Mangelsdorf is a solar contractor who also teaches energy politics. Hawaii has been called a “postcard from the future” because of how much rooftop solar is already out here.

    MARCO MANGELSDORF: We are on the new frontier in Hawaii as far as trying to come up with a practical, safe answer to a very, very difficult question which does not have a definitive answer.

    MIKE TAIBBI: Namely, how much rooftop solar can the grid accomodate. And while delays for rooftop solar customers have angered many in Hawaii, Mangelsdorf argues that the caution shown by the utility is warranted.

    MARCO MANGELSDORF: You cannot allow a free for all, anybody and everybody to connect to a utility grid without any type of requirements or monitoring. Just as you can’t have anybody and everybody get on a freeway with a bicycle with a horse, with a buggy, with a moped. I mean the utility grid is a public good, public infrastructure that must be maintained.

    MIKE TAIBBI: But some say delays in approving rooftop solar are less about prudence and more about profit and about preserving the utility’s century old business model as a monopoly.

    ROBERT HARRIS: The problem is that they inherently don’t want to see more of this rooftop solar, and yet they are also arbiters of what power can come on or what’s reliable and what’s safe.

    MIKE TAIBBI: Robert Harris is director of public policy for SunRun, another solar contractor. He says utilities are cautious by nature, but that they can’t ignore the changing landscape around rooftop solar.

    ROBERT HARRIS: The comparison would be, for example, the typewriter industry trying to stop computers because they want to preserve their own business model. And here you could argue that there’s a better model out there that’s going to be cheaper and cleaner. You know, we need to be working hard and trying to make that work better, not just trying to stop it.

    MIKE TAIBBI: Did HECO fail in some fundamental way to see the future?

    COLTON CHING: I don’t think we failed. I do, in hindsight, believe that we could have seen it sooner. We are undergoing a literal transformation process as we speak. It is this change in relationship, the change in the compact between the utility and its customers. It’s no longer the monopoly that’s making all of the decisions and passing it down to its customers.

    MIKE TAIBBI: HECO has rooftop solar moving again, approving the majority of solar customers who were waiting for installation. The number of solar system permits in Hawaii is up, compared to a year ago, and HECO says it hopes to triple rooftop solar capacity in 15 years. But HECO may not be in a position to decide that. It is being sold to NextEra, a Florida-based utility giant.

    MIKE TAIBBI: If the deal with NextEra does go through, Hawaii’s electricity consumers will be serviced by a company that says it is committed to renewable energy sources.
    But that commitment has come under scrutiny from Hawaii’s Governor, energy organizations, and the state’s consumer advocate.

    They say Next Era has not yet shown how it plans to fulfill the state’s initiatives to move toward 100-percent renewable energy by the year 2045.
    To hit that target, state regulators have approved construction of four new utility-scale solar farms in Oahu, with three more farms proposed.

    Hawaii may lead the nation in small-scale rooftop solar installations, but large solar farms in other states produce more renewable energy across the country.

    Still the old model though: a utility producing all the power, just using a different source, and selling it virtually as a monopoly. That is not the Hawaii way or at least the way many here have said they insist on going: to have a choice.

    CARLTON HO: Once we get this thing powered, yeah. A year and a half of frustration, we’ll get over it.

    MIKE TAIBBI: For Carlton Ho and his family that day finally arrived after a year and a half of waiting, this Spring, they received permission to turn that switch on and his solar panels are now up and running.

    The post Switched on: Rooftop solar is on the move again in Hawaii, but for how long? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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