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

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    Health worker prep the Ebola vaccine in Guinea's capital, Conakry. Here, the outbreak continues with two new cases of Ebola being reported last week in the nation’s largest city. Photo by Caleb Hellerman.

    Health worker prep the Ebola vaccine in Guinea’s capital, Conakry. Photo by Caleb Hellerman.

    Of the roughly 13,000 Ebola survivors, The Associated Press reports that many are experiencing lingering effects even after beating the deadly virus.

    While some survivors have shown eye troubles, others complained of hearing issues, fatigue and other physical and emotional pains.

    After the biggest Ebola outbreak in history, medical professionals are still trying to figure out what kind of after-effects survivors will experience, the extent of the problems some may suffer and how to control these symptoms.

    “If we can find out this kind of information, hopefully we can help other Ebola survivors in the future,” Dr. Zan Yeong, an eye specialist involved in studying survivors in Liberia, told the AP.

    Vision seems to be one of the most common effects seen in Ebola survivors. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that visual problems affected approximately 50 percent of the Ebola survivors in Kenema, Sierra Leone.

    WHO reports that if these vision maladies are left untreated, they become progressively worse and could result in blindness.

    The Liberia-U.S. clinical researching partnership, PREVAIL, has launched a study of Ebola survivors to hope to better understand the long-term health effects. The study will take place at various sites in Liberia and is expected to enroll around 7,500 people, including 1,500 people who survived the disease, and 6,000 of their close contacts.

    Nancy Writebol, who announced she would be returning to Liberia after being the second American to contract the disease, reported fatigue and joint pain after recovering.

    Writebol who is part of the Serving In Mission (SIM) Christian organization, is helping a survivor clinic in Liberia, and told the AP she is seeing many people with vision problems and more.

    “One of the greatest complaints that we see is joint pain. And you can tell just by the way people are moving that they are suffering.”

    To date, the epidemic has claimed about 11,300 lives, according to WHO. Since January of this year, West Africa saw a significant drop in cases, and Sierra Leone’s last known patient left the hospital today, but as medical experts are now finding out, the fight may be far from over.

    The post Ebola survivors experience lingering ailments appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    South Korean soldiers walk by barricades at a checkpoint on the Grand Unification Bridge which leads to the truce village Panmunjom, just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, August 22, 2015. South Korea stands ready to respond to further provocations from North Korea, the presidential Blue House said on Saturday, as an ultimatum loomed for Seoul to halt anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts by late afternoon or face military action.   REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji - RTX1P5HM

    Before South Korean and North Korea reached an agreement, South Korea stood ready to respond to further provocations from North Korea. Photo of South Korean soldiers walking by barricade last Saturday at a checkpoint on the Grand Unification Bridge. Photo by Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji.

    According to The Associated Press, South and North Korea have come to an agreement to defuse the stand-off at their border. Under the settlement, South Korea has agreed to stop broadcasting propaganda at the border, and North Korea has expressed regret over the wounding of two South Korean soldiers by a North Korean land mine.

    The stand-off began earlier in August after a land mine blast maimed two South Korean troops. Following the blast, South Korea installed loud speakers broadcasting anti-North Korean propaganda at the border. North Korea then positioned troops at the border, and said they were prepared to attack if South Korea did not stop.

    Talks between the two countries began shortly after the Saturday deadline. They were adjourned for a bit Sunday morning, but resumed in the afternoon. Talks ended officially early Tuesday morning in Korean time, with North Korea agreeing to a military de-escalation. Both sides also agreed to hold talks in Seoul or Pyongyang in the near future to improve their ties.

    The post North and South Korea come to agreement appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    One of the giant panda cubs born on at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, DC is being examines by veterinarians in this image taken on August 22, 2015. A artificially inseminated giant panda took U.S. zoo officials by surprise on Saturday when she gave birth to twins - more than four hours apart. Picture taken on August 22, 2015.  REUTERS/Smithsonian's National Zoo/Handout     FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.  THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY - RTX1PB2O

    Watch Video

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Our next story is one that’s generated a lot of excitement, not just in Washington, but all over the country.

    The National Zoo is now home to new twin panda cubs. But the first weeks are critical, we know, and sometimes risky, and zoo officials said last night was a challenging one.

    Jeffrey Brown has that story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It was a celebratory weekend for giant pandas and all who love them.

    At the National Zoo in Washington, Bao Bao marked her second birthday with a frozen cake of juice and fruit. And her mother, Mei Xiang, surprised zoo staff when she gave birth to not one, but two cubs.

    LAURIE THOMPSON, Smithsonian National Zoo: I heard her make a similar sound that she had made earlier in the day before she had given birth, sort of a grunting sound. And I looked over at the camera and out popped the cub. So, we immediately jumped into, OK, what do we do now?

    JEFFREY BROWN: About half of panda births result in twins. The cubs are nearly hairless, very fragile and just the size of a stick of butter.

    And two at once can present a challenge for the mother. So the zoo’s panda team quickly stepped in to help.

    LAURIE THOMPSON: She was really struggling. She was trying, but she wasn’t able to pick up both of the cubs. So, we did go in and at the right moment, we were able to go in and grab one of the cubs and take it out safely, when Mei Xiang wasn’t really close to it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That will be the drill for a while, the panda mother caring for her newborns one at a time, while veterinarians swap them in and out of incubators to monitor each cub’s health.

    And with only 1,800 pandas in the wild and 350 in captivity worldwide, each successful birth is critical to the long-term protection of the species.

    The twin births in captivity are a rare thing. This marks just the third time that giant panda twins have been born in the U.S. And the odds of both surviving have not been favorable historically.

    Dr. Pierre Comizzoli is the reproductive physiologist who has performed artificial inseminations on Mei Xiang every year since 2004. He’s with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

    Welcome to you.

    And I think the first question has to be, how are they doing now?

    DR. PIERRE COMIZZOLI, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute: Well, they are doing extremely well. Last time I saw them was early in the afternoon, and they were squealing and wiggling, and they were doing OK.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Why is it so hard for a panda to become pregnant, that — I was reading about an exceedingly narrow window, right?

    DR. PIERRE COMIZZOLI: Yes, yes, because the female has a really short opportunity to conceive. It’s a period of time that varies between 24 and 36 hours. And that happens only once a year.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Once a year?

    DR. PIERRE COMIZZOLI: Yes, once a year.

    So you don’t want to miss that window of opportunity.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And I have seen you referred to as — I have seen it as the personal gynecologist to Mei Xiang. So, you are very aware of that narrow window.

    DR. PIERRE COMIZZOLI: Yes.

    And the reason I was given this nickname is because we are closely monitoring the female to know exactly when the window of opportunity is going to start and then going to end. So we have different ways to monitor that, through hormones, behavior, and so we know exactly what we are doing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And these cubs are born through artificial insemination?

    DR. PIERRE COMIZZOLI: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But I read that you don’t know who the daddy would be.

    DR. PIERRE COMIZZOLI: Not yet. We’re going to do genetic testing to figure this out.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The possibilities are — you have got — the sperm comes from?

    DR. PIERRE COMIZZOLI: The sperm comes from two different males.

    And the odds are that, you know, both cubs could be from the same father, or one cub could be from one father and the other one from the other one.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so you have the wonder of the two born, but then also history tells us how difficult that is for any to survive, right?

    DR. PIERRE COMIZZOLI: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Why is it so hard for panda cubs to survive?

    DR. PIERRE COMIZZOLI: This is really challenging for the mother to take care of two small cubs that need a lot of attention and that need to nurse on a regular basis.

    So we don’t know in the wild exactly how the mothers are doing that, but what we know is probably that at some point they abandon one of the cubs and then they do not really rear really the two cubs. But, in captivity, we can definitely maintain the two cubs alive for — until the adult age.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In the wild, you’re saying the mother would often pick one, to make sure of the survival of one?

    DR. PIERRE COMIZZOLI: Yes. Yes, or — but this is — again, those are really assumptions. We don’t really know exactly how it works in the wild.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so what do you do or can you do now?

    DR. PIERRE COMIZZOLI: Well, now, to really maximize the chances for both cubs to nurse properly and to bond with the mother, what we do is that we remove one of the cubs.

    It stays in an incubator, at proper temperature and humidity, while the mother is taking care of one cub, nursing one cub. And then after that, we change, we swap. And it comes, you know, really easier for the mother to take care of one cub at a time.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, I cited the small number of pandas, giant pandas around the world. Is the situation — what is the biggest threat to them. And is the situation getting better because of the kind of work you’re doing, for example?

    DR. PIERRE COMIZZOLI: Of course.

    But what you have to realize is that the biggest threat, of course, is the appearance of the natural habitats, the bamboo forests in Central China. But this is getting better and better because there’s a lot of measures to protect the natural habitat of those animals.

    But what we do in captivity is also extremely important, because we provide, you know, extra animals that we can reintroduce in the natural habitat.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Let me ask you, briefly, finally, have you figured out why they’re so beloved, why people just love these animals? Is it merely — is it only the way they look, or what?.

    DR. PIERRE COMIZZOLI: Yes, I think they have this wonderful, you know, appearance. And they look so cuddly and fuzzy.

    And I think, you know, it refers to really teddy bears. And they look like toys. And — but they are not. They are carnivores and they are wild animals, but I think they are fascinating.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, well, I know everyone is wishing you good luck over there.

    DR. PIERRE COMIZZOLI: Thank you so much.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Pierre Comizzoli, thank you so much.

    DR. PIERRE COMIZZOLI: Thank you.

    The post National Zoo helps a panda mom juggle care for twins appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    VP Joe Biden

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Vice President Joe Biden continues to weigh a potential entry into the 2016 race, Bernie Sanders in South Carolina trying to reach beyond his base, and how is Donald Trump causing the GOP candidates to adjust?

    It’s a perfect time for Politics Monday.

    I’m joined by Tamara Keith of NPR and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

    Welcome back to you both.

    So, we’re standing — sitting next to…

    AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Joe Biden staring at us.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: He’s watching us.

    AMY WALTER: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The stories continue every day. He’s seriously taking a look, The Wall Street Journal today, Amy, saying he’s leaning toward it. He met over the weekend with Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. What is that all about?

    AMY WALTER: Right.

    Elizabeth Warren, of course, is so very popular among the liberal progressive base of the Democratic Party. To get her endorsement, if Joe Biden were to get that, that would be a huge coup. And it would give him some traction in a race where, right now, there is no obvious lane for him.

    You know, there is nothing that really sets him apart in this race of Hillary and Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, in that he’s older than Hillary Clinton is, he’s a white man, he doesn’t have a natural constituency in the way that Hillary Clinton does among women and among African-American voters.

    So he’s got to try to find the place there. An Elizabeth Warren endorsement certainly would help that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But what would she bring?

    Tamara, what is it about her? We know she has got her own following.

    TAMARA KEITH, NPR: And I have say that Hillary Clinton actually also met with Elizabeth Warren back in February, when she was considering getting into the race.

    So, everyone is going to Elizabeth Warren, meeting with Elizabeth Warren, in part because a lot of people wanted Elizabeth Warren to run for president. And she brings that sort of progressive credential that a lot of people are looking for.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, would she — is it possible he was asking her is she has completely ruled out running herself?

    TAMARA KEITH: I have no idea.

    (LAUGHTER)

    TAMARA KEITH: And here’s the thing. Like, his people won’t even officially confirm that it happened. They say they’re not confirming it.

    So it’s — this is just one of very many things that show that he is seriously thinking about it. He is having the conversations that a candidate who wants to be a Democratic candidate needs to have.

    AMY WALTER: And that’s a great point, because I don’t know that Elizabeth Warren is going to endorse. To be very clear, I don’t think that this meeting meant that she is going to come out and endorse him.

    But it says — it is a sign of seriousness on his part.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You were saying it’s a tougher path for him. What would be the Joe Biden path, Amy?

    AMY WALTER: Well, that’s a very good question.

    There is a lot of talk within the Biden campaign about, we would reach out to that constituency that is comfortable with Joe Biden, the more blue-collar, working-class Democrats. He would also go to a place like South Carolina, where he’s well-known and well-liked, especially among the African-American community.

    However, when you look at the constituency right now — I feel like I say this every time we come on here, but the Hillary Clinton constituency is still very supportive of her and they’re very big. When you look at her support among women, among non-white voters, it’s significant.

    And the only way for Joe Biden to break into that is to go after her and after those voters. I don’t know that that’s something he’s going to want to do.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That’s still a lot of ifs, Tamara, even with all the e-mail controversy.

    AMY WALTER: Yes.

    TAMARA KEITH: Big ifs. There are big ifs about whether Joe Biden really wants to get into this or ultimately will get into this.

    His stock is very high right now. And because of the e-mail controversy, there is this angst among some Democrats that I’m sure Joe Biden is hearing. People, especially establishment Democrats in South Carolina, are very concerned. And I have been told that he’s hearing from them.

    So I think that’s part of what’s going on. But, yes, there is a giant if, if Vice President Biden wants to go through this again. He’s run twice before.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of South Carolina and speaking of the Democrats, the other big name is Bernie Sanders.

    Amy, he was in South Carolina over the weekend. You know, we described it as reaching beyond his base. The point is made that the crowd who turned out for him was a largely white crowd. South Carolina Democrats are majority African-American.

    What is his path in the states where blacks make up a significant part of the Democrats?

    AMY WALTER: Well, and that’s what he did this weekend is he went and he went and spoke to groups and communities, saying, I’m going to learn about this, I’m going to do a lot more reaching out to the African-American community.

    Part of the problem with Bernie — for Bernie Sanders is he doesn’t have a relationship, not just in South Carolina, but with the African-American community writ large. Everybody knows who Hillary Clinton is. Everybody knows who Joe Biden is, and they have long, deep relationships.

    Bernie Sanders is starting from scratch. He’s a senator from Vermont, not exactly the most diverse state out there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But he’s started to make some policy statements.

    TAMARA KEITH: Yes, absolutely.

    Bernie Sanders came out with a pretty strong statement on criminal justice, something that the Black Lives Matter movement wanted him to do, and they’re now praising him for doing that. He has had a meeting in South Carolina with Black Lives Matter activists and others. So, he’s making the movements. He’s trying, he’s working on it, but the people that showed up for his rally didn’t look like the Democratic voters of South Carolina. They looked like the Democratic voters of New Hampshire.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, no political discussion is complete these days without a question about Donald Trump.

    And he’s now been, Amy, in this race long enough for us to begin to try to get a handle on the effect he’s having on the other Republicans running. What are you seeing? Is anything shaping up?

    AMY WALTER: I think it’s definitely true. There’s been a Trump bump, and candidates have reacted to that and some have been helped and some have been hurt by this.

    I think the person most hurt by this has been Scott Walker. He was the candidate who, going into the summer, was considered the front-runner. He was the conservative. He was the outsider. That’s been taken away by Trump.

    Jeb Bush has been helped in some ways because all the oxygen has been taken away from his other rivals, whether it’s Walker, Marco Rubio, the other conservatives. It’s all on Trump now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you see of the effect on the others?

    TAMARA KEITH: So, a colleague of mine interviewed someone at the Iowa State Fair who said about Scott Walker that he sort of blanded himself off the map.

    Meanwhile, standing right next…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: New verb.

    TAMARA KEITH: Yes, blanded.

    Standing right next to Donald Trump, who is anything but bland. I think that one thing with Donald Trump is, those of us who live inside of the Beltway have tried to figure him out based on sort of the party lines that we understand. And I think Donald Trump is sort of breaking through the traditional party lines. And, in reality, probably a lot of voters and a lot of people who support him don’t actually fit clearly into a Democratic bucket or a Republican bucket.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Which is not only a challenge for political reporters. It’s a challenge for the other candidates…

    AMY WALTER: That’s right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … running against him, trying to figure out what space is left for them.

    All right, it’s Politics Monday. It’s Amy Walter and Tamara Keith.

    It’s great to have you both. Thank you.

    TAMARA KEITH: Thanks.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: See you next Monday.

    The post What a Warren endorsement would mean for Biden appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Jesmyn Ward

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    GWEN IFILL: Survival is a running theme in every discussion of Katrina, whether in prose or poetry or music.

    Tulane Professor Jesmyn Ward, who grew up along the coast in Mississippi and rode out the storm with her family there, used her experience to tell that story through the eyes of the rural poor who could not escape. Her subsequent novel, “Salvage the Bones,” won the National Book Award.

    I met her this week on the Tulane campus.

    Jesmyn Ward, thank you so much for talking to us.

    When you wrote this book, “Salvage the Bones,” you chose to tell the story of Katrina by not telling the story of Katrina, by telling the story of people whose stories are not normally told. Why?

    JESMYN WARD, Author, “Salvage the Bones”: Because those are the kind of people that I come from.

    My family has been poor and working-class for generations. And we live — I live in this really small community in Southern Mississippi, where you don’t evacuate, and you have never evacuated because there are too many people in your family to evacuate.

    GWEN IFILL: Tell me about your experience with Katrina.

    JESMYN WARD: So, I was at my grandmother’s house, because my mother lives in a double-wide trailer. And, of course, in a hurricane, you can’t take shelter in any kind of manufactured homes.

    I remember I was barefoot. We had made these pallets in the living room. And that’s where we were sleeping. And then I looked down at my feet. And the water was filling up my footprints, right, as I’m walking along on this carpet.

    And water had never come into my grandmother’s house, right? We didn’t know how far the storm surge was going to rise. And so we actually went out into the middle of the storm. I mean, we didn’t swim. We were wading, but, I mean, the water was at least like up to my waist, and watching trees snap — snap in half.

    And I’m thinking the entire time, we’re going to die. And so we watched, right, and the — until the water went down a little bit. And then my step-dad, who was driving, we were in his truck, he deemed that it was — had gotten low enough for us to try to get across.

    GWEN IFILL: It seems to me that an experience that you just described is so scarring and so shaping that it gave you the language to write a book like this.

    I’m going to ask you to read a portion of it, where you describe Katrina in words that it seems to me only a Katrina survivor, overcomer can do.

    JESMYN WARD: “I will tie the glass and stone with string, hang the shards above my bed, so they that will flash in the dark and tell the story of Katrina, the mother that swept into the Gulf and slaughtered. Her chariot was a storm so great and black, the Greeks would say it was harnessed the dragons. She was the murderous mother who cut us to the bone, but left us alive, left us naked and bewildered as wrinkled newborn babies, as blind puppies, as sun-starved newly hatched baby snakes.

    “She left us a dark gulf and salt-burned land. She left us to learn to crawl. She left us to salvage. Katrina is the mother we will remember until the next mother with large merciless hands committed to blood comes.”

    GWEN IFILL: Ten years later, are you optimistic or not about where this region has come from and to?

    JESMYN WARD: That’s a really hard question to answer.

    On one hand, I can say, you know, I had many family members — I had many people in my extended family who left right after Katrina, who relocated to different cities, right, Houston, Atlanta. Right? Most of them have come back.

    So, like, when I think about my family specifically, right, and my community, it makes me optimistic, because I can — because I see that, you know — that, yes, we scattered a bit after the storm. And it was hard for us to rebuild, you know, to come back to sort of reclaim our lives.

    But we did it. But then when I look at, like when I think about you know the [INAUDIBLE] when I think about what is has become and how it’s changed since Katrina, and how it’s still really difficult for people to get work, I think about how the economy on the coast has changed, how, you know the kind of industries that we had before a lot of them aren’t here anymore, how the casinos, right, have basically sort of taken over the economy and are, like, the only source of employment that a lot of people that I know, you know, have access to.

    That makes me pessimistic, right, because I — I see how hard it is, you know, for the kind of people that I wrote about in “Salvage the Bones,” you know, for the poor, members of my family, for the people in my community to live here, make a living here, attempt to, you know, have some sort of future here, it’s — I think it’s become especially difficult after the storm.

    And I’m not even, you know, talking about, like, housing costs, right? Those have skyrocketed, right? And I think that has displaced a lot of people. I think that some people want to come home, but then can’t because they won’t be able to afford a place to live here.

    GWEN IFILL: And displacement became permanent for so many people.

    JESMYN WARD: Yes. Yes. Yes.

    GWEN IFILL: Jesmyn Ward, thank you for talking to us and sharing your story.

    JESMYN WARD: Thank you for having me.

    The post Writer Jesmyn Ward reflects on survival since Katrina appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Katrina

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    GWEN IFILL: Now to Katrina 10 years later.

    William Brangham launches our series with a look at how the city of New Orleans has rebuilt its defenses in areas like the hard-hit Lower Ninth Ward, in preparation for the next storm, when and if it hits.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: By most accounts, 10 years after suffering a near mortal blow from Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is blooming.

    The economy is thriving, with tourists and new businesses and new residents all flocking here.

    Mitch Landrieu is New Orleans’ mayor.

    MITCH LANDRIEU (D), Mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana: We have a completely new redesigned education system, completely new redesigned health care system, and a levee protection system that nobody thought you could ever have. And it’s one of the great turnaround stories that the country’s seen in a very, very long period of time.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But 10 years on, is New Orleans safe from the next storm? If another big hurricane came charging up the Gulf, would the city’s new hurricane defenses hold up?

    COL. RICHARD HANSEN, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: The system that existed around the city prior to Katrina, the hurricane protection system, was a system in name only.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Colonel Rick Hansen runs the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ office in New Orleans. He’s overseeing the construction of the city’s defenses.

    COL. RICHARD HANSEN: What’s been built now represents the best level of storm reduction that the city has ever had in its history.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In the past 10 years, taxpayers have spent roughly $14 billion to rebuild and strengthen the ring of hurricane defenses around the city.

    The Army Corps has built flood walls, the kind that failed so catastrophically 10 years ago. They have installed new pumps and floodgates. They have upgraded the large earthen levees that ring much of the city. And they built this. It’s known as the Great Wall of New Orleans, a two-mile-long structure on the eastern edge of New Orleans.

    It has got massive closeable gates to block surging storm waters and they, like to boast, it has got enough steel inside to build eight Eiffel Towers.

    RENE POCHE, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Well, this is the first line of defense for the risk reduction system now. We’re taking the fight to the storm, rather than the storm coming to us.

    COL. RICHARD HANSEN: There’s 133 miles of integrated levees, flood walls, pump stations and gated structures. And it’s designed to defend against a 100-year storm surge event or a storm surge environment that has a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: These new protections have been tested by several lesser hurricanes, those under the 100-year standard, including Hurricane Isaac three years ago. And the system held up well, with no major flooding inside the city.

    But some, like historian John Barry, point out that the standard to which all of New Orleans’ protections were built is considered quite low.

    JOHN BARRY, Historian: The city has got an good system that will provide the protection that’s promised, which is so-called 100-year protection. The problem is, that standard sounds great. It’s really an Orwellian phrase. It’s the lowest standard in the developed world.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Barry wrote the critically acclaimed book “Rising Tide” about the 1927 Mississippi flood and recently served on the board overseeing flood protections in much of metro New Orleans.

    He says that 100-year standard isn’t really enough protect the city.

    JOHN BARRY: Flood experts pretty much everywhere and certainly inside FEMA and in the Corps of Engineers agreed at the time that any densely populated areas, certainly like New Orleans, would require at least 500-year protection.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But 500-year protection, which means building defenses to guard against much more severe storms, even worse than Katrina, was never mandated by Congress.

    And there is another concern when it comes to New Orleans’ long-term storm protection. For 300 years, New Orleans has been buffered by the vast wetlands, swamps and forests along coastal Louisiana. They span the length of the state and go up to 50 miles inland.

    But this line of defense is crumbling into the sea at an alarming rate. A football field of land disappears every hour. Over a year, that’s as much land as Manhattan gone.

    Denise Reed is one of Louisiana’s top coastal scientists. She and took out to those wetlands to explain why they’re vanishing. She said that the first thing to know is that, over thousands of years, the Mississippi River built the entire coast of Louisiana.

    DENISE REED, Coastal Scientist: What happened during that period of time is the Mississippi River, like a very big muddy hose pipe, gradually moved from one part of the coast to another part of the coast, to another part of the coast, and gradually built up this delta that we now live on.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Just basically spraying dirt, more or less, left to right across the coastline.

    DENISE REED: Yes, weaving its way across.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The Mississippi River, by naturally flooding freshwater and dirt over its banks, built up these marshes over the centuries.

    But as humans moved in and built levees and walls to stop those floods, the marshes were starved of the sustenance they need to survive. On top of that, oil and gas companies carved tens of thousands of miles of canals through the wetlands to get at the energy underneath.

    These canals allowed in more saltwater, which off more land.

    DENISE REED: And what you end up with is kind of a recipe for disaster in terms of the wetlands.

    We have massive loss, hundreds of square miles of wetland changed to open water during the 20th century. And what that means now is that we’re right close to New Orleans, right close to the airport. And what have we got? We have got open water. That’s not really a good situation.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: How bad is it? Look at this map.

    This shows the coast in the 1930s, when our impact on the area really began. Here’s what’s it looks like today. That grayish area, that is roughly 2,000 square miles of land lost into the Gulf.

    Fifty years ago, the land behind you was a thick, old growth cypress forest full of big trees and marshes and grasses. And you can imagine that, as a hurricane came through the area, all of that land would have slowed the energy of the storm down and slowed the storm itself down.

    But now that that land is gone, the storm can sail right through.

    Denise Reed says it’s not totally helpless. Scientists and engineers have figured out a way to rebuild the wetlands. And they do it by replicating the old Mississippi floods. Engineers cut huge gates into the levees along the river at certain spots, like this big concrete structure here.

    That allows freshwater and dirt to flood out into the weakened marshes along. Denise Reed showed me some brand-new land created by one of these manmade funds.

    DENISE REED: We starred to have these islands like this pop up. And to begin with, they were just mud. And now look at what we have got here, something quite special.

    This is the kind of thing that shows us that there is a sustainable future for coastal Louisiana. This is a solid piece of land. It’s probably the newest land in the United States.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The state of Louisiana would love to construct dozens of projects like this. The state drafted an ambitious master plan to rebuild parts of its coast, but its $50 billion price tag has barely been funded and it could end up costing double that.

    The state and the federal government has already put millions in, and the BP settlement will add several billion more. But the plan is still unfunded. So, the question is, to restore the coast and protect the city, who is going to pay? There’s plenty of blame to go around.

    JOHN BARRY: The politicians in the state of Louisiana all like to tell their voters, we’re going to get it from the federal government. That is…

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We will fix the coast, and the feds are going to pay?

    JOHN BARRY: The federal government is going to pay for it, which is,, frankly, politically not a — it’s a fantasy.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Mayor Mitch Landrieu argues that the whole nation has enjoyed the fruits of Louisiana’s coast, from its seafood, to international shipping and especially its abundant oil and gas.

    But that’s come at an environmental cost, and now, he argues, the whole nation ought to help fix the damage that’s been done.

    MITCH LANDRIEU: It’s not engineering that’s the problem. It’s resources that are the problem. And it’s the political philosophy of somehow that we can destroy your land, we can put an entire city at risk. That’s not really going to work.

    And so Louisiana is willing to drill, but we ought not do it if we don’t restore. And the oil and gas companies and the federal government and everybody ought to be really aware of that, because it’s literally an existential threat.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: This week, as New Orleans commemorates those lost to Katrina and celebrates the city’s revival since then, its residents take some comfort that their flood protections are far better than the ones they had 10 years ago. But to their south, the land between them and the Gulf of Mexico continues to slip away.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m William Brangham in New Orleans.

    The post Are New Orleans’ post-Katrina flood defenses strong enough? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The reflection of migrants is seen in a puddle of muddy water on a road after they crossed the Greek-Macedonian border into Macedonia, near Gevgelija August 24, 2015. State authorities and aid agencies threw up tents and scrambled to supply food and water to thousands surging through the western Balkans, their numbers swelling since Greece began ferrying migrants from its overwhelmed islands to the mainland. The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said more than 7,000 had reached Serbia from Macedonia between Saturday and Sunday, many of them having spent three desperate days on Greece's northern border after Macedonia halted their passage saying it could take no more.   REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski - RTX1PFGQ

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Following last week’s tear-gassing of migrants at the Greek border, Macedonian authorities have begun allowing those seeking safety to pass through the country again, as they travel north to Serbia and beyond.

    Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News caught up with a group of migrants on that journey. She reports on their stories as they rode the rails.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: Night falls, but they keep on walking. Only a few more yards, and they will have left Greece behind. They will be in Macedonia. By morning, they’re still walking.

    Word has traveled back down the line: Go to Gevgelija station. Some have spent the night here. They have seen worse places on their odyssey. It’s dirty, but they do their best. The Macedonians have managed to put order into chaos, despite the swelling numbers. Syrians and others with small children are given priority. Extra trains have been laid on to take them to the next border with Serbia.

    It’s 110 miles away, a four-hour journey, easy compared to what they have been through before. They have paid 10 euros per ticket, like any other passenger.

    Where are you from?

    MAN: I’m from Syria.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: From Syria? From which place?

    MAN: Aleppo, Afrin.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: From Aleppo and Afrin, from Afrin.

    The U.N. High Commission for Refugees says 7,000 traveled to Serbia this past weekend. Many people on this train are going from Syria to Germany, so they’re about halfway through their journey. And this is the point where they’re full of hope. They’re on the move. They think they have left the worst behind them.

    Germany has said it will take 800,000 people this year. That’s a lot, but there are many more trains behind this one. They can’t take everyone and there are thousands more people on the way. Some are fleeing Aleppo and Bashar al-Assad, others Raqqa and Da’esh, the Islamic State. What difference does it make?

    MAN: Hard situation in Syria, no power, no water, no Internet, no any help for us. We can’t stay in Syria. The — Bashar al-Assad attack us every day, morning, every time, our baby so afraid of light and sound.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: Of the bombs, of the sounds?

    MAN: Of bombs and of the guns every day, every day. So we left.

    MAN (through interpreter): Da’esh, beheadings. They cut off hands for any reason. They will always find an excuse to kill any human being. They have no problem in killing even children. Young children have been slaughtered, flogged, even women. Da’esh has no mercy at all. They have nothing to do with religion or Islam or humanity.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: It’s the sleep of total exhaustion, born of weeks on the road and years of war, dreaming, maybe, of the way life used to be, before the bombs and the men in black masks, when you could live and work and bring up your children in Syria, dreaming of the way life could yet be if Germany makes good on its promise or Austria lets them in.

    Not every traveler is from Syria. Vida’s here with her brother. She presented a TV sports program back home in Afghanistan, until the death threats from those who hate women became too much.

    WOMAN: One day, I saw very, very bad things. They came and fight, fight. Even, they want to kill me with knife.

    MAN: I’m just on a transit. That’s why I’m on this train.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: The Nigerians lost their jobs as cleaners in Istanbul, so they’re moving on. Economic migrants, that’s what they will be called, bottom of the hierarchy of desperation.

    Refugees, migrants, European politicians call them a burden. But maybe there’s another way to look at it.

    Why do you think Germany should agree to let you come in?

    MAN: Because — I don’t know — because they have a lot of old people, and maybe they need young people, I think.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: We’re there, but not quite, still another mile or so walk to the border. It’s hot, but they keep going, even the kids,

    MAN: Idlib.

    LINDSEY HILSUM: Idlib, Idlib.

    The border is somewhere in the field. No one knows when they have crossed it. But on the other side of the hill, the Serbian police are waiting. They’re polite and welcoming; 23,000 people have entered Serbia this way in the last two weeks, 90,000 this year.

    But this is just a way station. There’s a long road ahead through Hungary, where the welcome is not so warm. It’s the summer of mass migration. Those whom geography condemned to war have come to Europe, as European politicians have turned away.

    The post Thousands of migrants journey through Macedonia, Serbia en route to Europe appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Traders exit the trading floor after the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange August 24, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid  - RTX1PIT3

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: As we reported, the markets plunged early today and late. Investors were on a wild ride, not just here, but globally. Trillions of dollars of value have been wiped out in the past few weeks.

    The swings of this day, like several others, started in Asia.

    It began with a stunning sell-off in China, where the main financial index plunged 8.5 percent.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): How can markets drop everyday like this? What we earned is all taken away by the markets.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The rout rippled across Europe, sending the French and German markets down about 5 percent. And from there:

    MAN: The Dow is — the Dow is down 1,000 points.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The opening bell on Wall Street triggered a frenzy of selling.

    MAN: I don’t — this is — I got to make some phone calls.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The market spent the next hours clawing its way back, as the White House urged calm.

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: What I would encourage people to evaluate is the ongoing strength and resilience of the U.S. economy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the end, though, the losses deepened again. The Dow is now down almost 11 percent so far this year.

    Let’s try to get some further intelligence and analysis into what’s happening and why the markets are so volatile of late.

    Mohamed El-Erian is chief economic adviser at Allianz. It’s a multinational financial services company. He’s a columnist for Bloomberg View. And David Lampton is director of the China studies program at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.

    And we welcome you both.

    Mohamed El-Erian, let me start with you.

    So the Dow was down 1,000 last week, another almost 600 today. What is driving this?

    MOHAMED EL-ERIAN, Bloomberg View: Two things.

    The market is trying to get to terms with, first, lower global growth, particularly out of emerging markets and China. And, second, the market is worried the central banks have run out of ammunition. So put these two things together, and then investors are repricing the market lower.

    Once you start moving lower, then you trigger of all sorts of things. You trigger people who have to sell because they’re over-levered. So they sell their winners and their losers. They’re just trying to raise cash. So, what you then get is spreading malaise throughout the global markets. And that’s what we’re seeing right now, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Mohamed El-Erian, staying with you, haven’t investors known for some time that China’s economy was in trouble? Haven’t they had time to get prepared for this?

    MOHAMED EL-ERIAN: You always think that markets will get prepared, but people like staying in the trade. Why?

    Because, for years, now, we have been able to sustain asset prices well above fundamentals, because central banks have been the markets’ best friends. So markets have started to rely on central banks always coming in.

    This shock is different. It’s not something out of Greece and Europe, where the European Central Bank can intervene. It’s not concerns about the Fed or the U.S. economy. It’s concerns about emerging markets, and, therefore, investors have less faith that the central banks of the U.S. and Europe are going to be able to intervene.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, David Lampton, let’s talk about what’s going on in China. We have been watching ups and downs over there. What is happening? People are used to seeing the government of China control everything. What’s happened now?

    DAVID LAMPTON, Johns Hopkins University: Well, I think you have got a number of things.

    First of all, the Chinese market has had an almost unbelievable year, and it’s gone up 130 percent on one exchange, 170 on another, over 200 percent on another. And so, common sense, ultimately, is going to prevail. Pricing-earning ratios are anywhere from 32 to 80, where they might be 13 to 16 in the U.S.

    So I think the Chinese market was just unbelievably overpriced. Secondly, bad numbers started coming into the Chinese. Exports and imports dropped 8 percent in July. This not only panicked Chinese exporters and people in the import business, but also all of China is the biggest trade partner for many countries in Asia.

    So I think China has pricked the bubble. Also, I think there is something very fundamental going on politically. And that is all the news over the last couple of years with the new leader, Xi Jinping, has been about how strong he is, how much he’s like the kind of power that Mao and Deng Xiaoping had in the system.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    DAVID LAMPTON: And I think people are now beginning to see that governing China in the 21st century is different than 40 years ago, when reform — and I think they’re beginning to ask, how capable is this leadership with dealing with a much more integrated, interdependent economy?

    And so part of this, I think, is a reduction in — somewhat in confidence in the leadership.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Mohamed El-Erian, if that’s the kind of uncertainty — if there’s that sort of uncertainty about what’s happened in China and what the leadership is capable of, what does that mean investors should think? Does that mean we’re going to see even more volatility in the days to come?

    MOHAMED EL-ERIAN: We are certainly going to see more volatility, because the market has to adjust to a new paradigm, a new reality, and it’s doing this with less liquidity.

    So, the reason why have got these wild swings you referred to this morning, during the day, Judy, just to give you a context, we traveled back and forth 5,000 points on the Dow. That’s an enormous distance to travel in one day.

    And the reason why, there isn’t enough liquidity. So, every time a buyer comes in, you rally. Then some sellers come in, you go the other way, and I think that type of volatility is going to continue for a while, until the market finds its footing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what does that say, though, or does it say something about the underlying strength of the U.S. economy?

    MOHAMED EL-ERIAN: So the biggest threat — and I think it’s a risk scenario, not a baseline — is that the spillover from weak global growth to the market then spills back to the U.S. Why?

    Because people get more cautious, they worry about their 401(k), they spend less. So, that’s the big risk. I don’t think it’s going to happen just yet, but the U.S. has to cope with a slower global economy. We are going to be selling less goods to China and to other American countries.

    It’s not just China, Judy. It’s China, it’s Brazil, it’s Indonesia, it’s Turkey, it’s Russia. There is a generalized slowdown in the emerging world.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, to the extent China is a factor here, Dave Lampton, how are we to understand that? Who’s pulling the strings? Who is making decisions? What should we be looking for out of China?

    DAVID LAMPTON: Well, I think one of the problems is, is the current leader, Xi Jinping, has actually centralized policy to a rather extensive degree.

    And whereas before, when we wondered what was going on in the Chinese economy, we might talk to Zhu Rongji, who was the premier, there were people to talk to in the system. We had confidence. Now he’s put in a new team. We’re not entirely sure who many of these people are. In the economic realm, we know more of the actors than in the political realm.

    But in general, I would say the Chinese leadership is less transparent, we have less confidence how they’re making the decisions, and their initial response to the dramatic fall last week in the stock market was really quite reversion back to the kind of planned economy measures you would see.

    So they seemed to have an impulse towards reform, but when things get tough, they fall back on the more planned economy, non-market features that they have. So non-transparency and inconsistent policy, I would say, is the fundamental problem.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: If that’s the case in China, Mohamed El-Erian, how are investors everywhere to read that?

    MOHAMED EL-ERIAN: So, they worry about corporate profits. They worry about the ability of companies to continue to buy back their stock, and they reprice the market.

    And this is an issue, Judy, that is related to the fundamental aspect, which is, for years, now, markets have been valued well above what’s warranted by fundamentals. And by that, I mean what’s warranted by the ability of the global economy to grow.

    Prices have been up here. The economic conditions have been down here, and the difference has been the liquidity injected by central banks. And now we’re getting a convergence of prices back to what would be validated by economic conditions.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Speaking of central banks, I can’t let you go, Mohamed El-Erian, without asking you. There has been all this expectation that the Federal Reserve is going to raise interest rates starting in September. How does all this affect that?

    MOHAMED EL-ERIAN: I think it means that it’s very unlikely that the Fed will raise interest rates in September.

    It’s a very big risk to take right now to fuel financial instability further. So they will wait. By December, there will be clarity on one of two things. Has this financial instability really impacted consumer spending and, therefore, caused a headwind to the economy? Or, alternatively, let’s not forget that part of the sell-off is in the commodity complex.

    It’s pushing interest rates lower on government deals. So the other side of this is that the economy benefits from lower oil prices and lower interest rates. So the December question is still on the table because of these competing forces on the U.S. economy, but I think, for September, it is highly unlikely that the Fed will raise interest rates.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, and, quickly, David Lampton, are you looking for stability to come in China or the other…

    DAVID LAMPTON: I think, on this day of such volatility, it’s wise to remind ourselves that there still there are some very positive fundamentals in the Chinese economy.

    They have another 300 million people urbanized. And wages are going up. And people are getting employed. And so the Chinese economy hasn’t had a meltdown as severe as today’s numbers might suggest.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, keep looking for those positive signs?

    DAVID LAMPTON: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David Lampton, Mohamed El-Erian, we thank you both.

    The post Why China sent the global markets spiraling appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 7.06.54 PM

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: They cheered the closing bell on Wall Street today, out of relief that the day was over. The major U.S. indexes fell 3.5 to 4 percent, mainly driven by market chaos in China. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 588 points to close near 15870. The Nasdaq fell nearly 180 points and the S&P 500 dropped 77. U.S. oil prices also dropped sharply again, closing near $38 a barrel. We will take you through this dizzying day after the news summary.

    North and South Korea pulled back today from the brink of armed conflict. After three days of high-level talks, the North expressed regret for a land mine blast that killed two South Korean soldiers. In turn, the South announced that it would halt propaganda broadcasts near the border. The two sides had a brief artillery duel last week.

    Three Americans were awarded France’s highest honor today for stopping a gunman on a train bound for Paris. U.S. airman Spencer Stone, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos and their friend Anthony Sadler tackled the man Friday night. Today, in Paris, President Francois Hollande pinned the Legion of Honor medals on them and on a British man. He said they prevented a veritable carnage.

    PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, France (through interpreter): In the name of France, I want to thank you for what you did. Since Friday, the entire world admires your courage, your calm under pressure, your spirit of responsibility.

    This solidarity allowed you, with bare hands, to subdue a heavily armed man and ready to do anything. Your heroism must be an example for all and a source of inspiration.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The suspect, a Moroccan man named Ayoub El-Khazzani, remains in custody. His lawyer says he only intended to rob the train, and not to kill the passengers.

    The president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, today called for new elections after talks on forming a governing coalition failed. The vote could come on November 1. Erdogan’s A.K. Party has held power since 2002, but it lost its majority in elections in June. That left Turkey in a kind of political limbo, as it battles both Kurdish rebels and Islamic State militants.

    And in Syria, there’s word that Islamic State forces have blown up a Roman-era temple, their latest such attack. Syria’s antiquities chief says it happened Sunday in the city of Palmyra. U.N. officials condemned the destruction.

    Krishnan Guru-Murthy of Independent Television News has a report.

    KRISHNAN GURU-MURTHY: The ancient city of Palmyra is one of the world’s most important cultural sites. And the Baalshamin Temple was one of its most well-known buildings. Parts of it date back to nearly 2,000 years.

    Its destruction follows the killing last week of the site’s world renowned curator, Khaled Al-Asaad. The 81-year-old had refused to reveal where some of Palmyra’s ancient treasures had been hidden for safekeeping. He was reportedly beheaded in a local square before his body was hung on public display.

    I.S. occupied Palmyra in May, and has set about destroying ancient artifacts in Iraq, as well as Syria. In February, they ransacked the museum in the Iraqi city of Mosul, toppling statutes and destroying artifacts. In March, they bulldozed Nimrud, considered one of Iraq’s greatest archaeological treasures, and days later destroyed ruins at Hatra.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Islamic State militants have defended their attack on ancient ruins, saying they promote idolatry.

    Meanwhile, in Lebanon, a garbage crisis turned into violent clashes overnight in Beirut. Dozens of police and protesters were hurt when anti-government protests devolved into chaos. With that, the army took up positions around the capital. Initially, the demonstrations were over trash that had piled up for weeks. Now the crowds are calling for the government to resign.

    Back in this country, a giant group of fires in Washington State is now the largest in that state’s history. The so-called Okanagan Fire’s complex had burned across more than 400 square miles by today. And despite some gains over the weekend, the fires are just 10 percent contained.

    TODD PECHOTA, Incident Commander: We do continue to make progress, but, again, as I said earlier, these fires, the only way to deal with them is like eating an elephant, one bite at a time. And there’s still a lot to eat.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: With resources stretched thin, officials have called on more than 4,000 volunteers. And fire crews from Australia and New Zealand will be joining the fight.

    General Motors’ fund to compensate victims of faulty ignition switches has rejected 91 percent of the claims. A spokeswoman said today that about 400 claims were approved. She said others had no clear connection to the switch problem. Families with successful claims will receive at least $1 million.

    President Obama is taking new steps aimed at making it easier for people to invest in renewable energy. The executive actions and other initiatives are part of an effort to cut carbon dioxide emissions by up to 28 percent over the next decade. They include financial incentives for households to install solar panels and new funding for renewable energy research.

    Editor’s Note: In Monday’s news summary we incorrectly reported that two South Korean soldiers were killed by a land mine earlier this month. They were maimed. We regret the error.

    The post News Wrap: North and South Korea pull back from conflict appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    16th March 1940:  English economist John Maynard Keynes (1883 - 1946), 1st Baron Keynes, at his desk. Original Publication: Picture Post - 361 - Mr Keynes Has A Plan - pub. 1940  (Photo by Tim Gidal/Picture Post/Getty Images)

    English economist John Maynard Keynes (1883 – 1946) at his desk. Original Publication: Picture Post – 361 – Mr Keynes Has A Plan – pub. 1940. Photo by Tim Gidal/Picture Post/Getty Images

    Note: Keynes, perhaps the 20th century most eminent economist, wrote the below in 1936. Its relevance, save for the newspaper beauty contest, was too striking to resist. Yes, algorithms are doing the bulk of stock trading now instead of individuals, but ask yourself: who wrote the algorithms?

    Paul Solman, PBS NewsHour Economics Correspondent


    It might have been supposed that competition between expert professionals, possessing judgment and knowledge beyond that of the average private investor, would correct the vagaries of the ignorant individual left to himself. It happens, however, that the energies and skill of the professional investor and speculator are mainly occupied otherwise. For most of these persons are, in fact, largely concerned, not with making superior long-term forecasts of the probable yield of an investment over its whole life, but with foreseeing changes in the conventional basis of valuation a short time ahead of the general public. They are concerned, not with what an investment is really worth to a man who buys it “for keeps”, but with what the market will value it at, under the influence of mass psychology, three months or a year hence. Moreover, this behaviour is not the outcome of a wrong-headed propensity. It is an inevitable result of an investment market organised along the lines described. For it is not sensible to pay 25 for an investment of which you believe the prospective yield to justify a value of 30, if you also believe that the market will value it at 20 three months hence.

    Thus the professional investor is forced to concern himself with the anticipation of impending changes, in the news or in the atmosphere, of the kind by which experience shows that the mass psychology of the market is most influenced. This is the inevitable result of investment markets organised with a view to so-called “liquidity”. Of the maxims of orthodox finance none, surely, is more anti-social than the fetish of liquidity, the doctrine that it is a positive virtue on the part of investment institutions to concentrate their resources upon the holding of “liquid” securities. It forgets that there is no such thing as liquidity of investment for the community as a whole. The social object of skilled investment should be to defeat the dark forces of time and ignorance which envelop our future. The actual, private object of the most skilled investment to-day is “to beat the gun”, as the Americans so well express it, to outwit the crowd, and to pass the bad, or depreciating, half-crown to the other fellow.

    This battle of wits to anticipate the basis of conventional valuation a few months hence, rather than the prospective yield of an investment over a long term of years, does not even require gulls amongst the public to feed the maws of the professional; — it can be played by professionals amongst themselves. Nor is it necessary that anyone should keep his simple faith in the conventional basis of valuation having any genuine long-term validity. For it is, so to speak, a game of Snap, of Old Maid, of Musical Chairs — a pastime in which he is victor who says Snap neither too soon nor too late, who passes the Old Maid to his neighbour before the game is over, who secures a chair for himself when the music stops. These games can be played with zest and enjoyment, though all the players know that it is the Old Maid which is circulating, or that when the music stops some of the players will find themselves unseated.

    Or, to change the metaphor slightly, professional investment may be likened to those newspaper competitions in which the competitors have to pick out the six prettiest faces from a hundred photographs, the prize being awarded to the competitor whose choice most nearly corresponds to the average preferences of the competitors as a whole; so that each competitor has to pick, not those faces which he himself finds prettiest, but those which he thinks likeliest to catch the fancy of the other competitors, all of whom are looking at the problem from the same point of view. It is not a case of choosing those which, to the best of one’s judgment, are really the prettiest, nor even those which average opinion genuinely thinks the prettiest. We have reached the third degree where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be. And there are some, I believe, who practise the fourth, fifth and higher degrees.

    If the reader interjects that there must surely be large profits to be gained from the other players in the long run by a skilled individual who, unperturbed by the prevailing pastime, continues to purchase investments on the best genuine long-term expectations he can frame [THINK WARREN BUFFETT OR KEYNES HIMSELF, WHO WAS QUITE THE INVESTOR IN HIS DAY], he must be answered, first of all, that there are, indeed, such serious-minded individuals and that it makes a vast difference to an investment market whether or not they predominate in their influence over the game-players. But we must also add that there are several factors which jeopardise the predominance of such individuals in modern investment markets. Investment based on genuine long-term expectation is so difficult to-day as to be scarcely practicable. He who attempts it must surely lead much more laborious days and run greater risks than he who tries to guess better than the crowd how the crowd will behave; and, given equal intelligence, he may make more disastrous mistakes. There is no clear evidence from experience that the investment policy which is socially advantageous coincides with that which is most profitable. It needs more intelligence to defeat the forces of time and our ignorance of the future than to beat the gun. Moreover, life is not long enough; — human nature desires quick results, there is a peculiar zest in making money quickly, and remoter gains are discounted by the average man at a very high rate. The game of professional investment is intolerably boring and over-exacting to anyone who is entirely exempt from the gambling instinct; whilst he who has it must pay to this propensity the appropriate toll.

    The post John Maynard Keynes on the stock market this past week appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Barack Obama holds hands with his daughter Malia as the Obama family disembark Air Force One upon their return to Washington after a two-week vacation on Martha's Vineyard August 23, 2015. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    President Barack Obama and the first family disembark Air Force One upon their return to Washington after a two-week vacation on Martha’s Vineyard Sunday. Today, the president will announce executive actions on green energy. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    LAS VEGAS — Pushing back against fossil fuel interests, President Barack Obama is pressing to give ordinary Americans more power to choose what kind of power they use.

    The president, in a speech at a clean energy conference in Las Vegas on Monday night, planned to announce new executive actions and other efforts aimed at making it easier for homeowners and businesses to invest in green energy improvements that in the past may have been impractical or unaffordable.

    The moves are designed to build on the clean power plant rules that the president announced earlier in the month to cut carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants by a third. They all feed into Obama’s goal of cutting overall U.S. emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent over the next decade to combat climate change and encourage other countries to do likewise.

    Monday’s actions are focused on giving families and businesses more say in what types and how much power they rely on. That could mean rooftop solar panels, once largely the province of committed environmentalists, or other renewable energy innovations.

    Housing Secretary Julian Castro said the plan “hits the sweet spot” by making clean energy more affordable for people and protecting the environment. He said people too often have been “riced out” of clean energy options.

    Obama’s speech, at an annual energy conference hosted by Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, was aimed at countering fossil fuel and utility interests that have been working at the state level and elsewhere to undercut clean energy policies with arguments that the matter should be left to the free market.

    The Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank that denies manmade climate change and gets money from the billionaire Koch brothers was among groups co-sponsoring a simultaneous “affordable energy summit” in Las Vegas as a counterpoint to Reid’s gathering. The organization, which previously received money from ExxonMobil, maintains that Obama’s policies promote wind and solar power at the expense of conventional energy and “will inevitably cause skyrocketing electricity prices while providing little if any net environmental benefits,” according to the summit’s website.

    Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, said Obama’s energy policies were leveling “increased costs and decreased choices on all Americans and especially the most disadvantaged communities.”

    Among the steps being announced by Obama:

    –New guidance from the Federal Housing Administration that could dramatically expand the use of so-called PACE loans that allow homeowners to install energy improvements and pay back the costs over time. So far, use of Property-Assessed Clean Energy financing has been constrained by regulatory obstacles.

    –Making $1 billion in additional loan guarantees available from the Department of Energy to encourage innovation in technologies that give Americans more flexibility in choosing renewable energy options.

    Obama also was announcing the approval of a transmission line to support a planned 485-megawatt solar plant planned for Riverside County in California. The Blythe Mesa plant is expected to produce enough renewable energy to power more than 145,000 homes.

    The Wilderness Society’s Chase Huntley called the project a good example “of how we can meet our clean energy goals with limited impact to wildlands and wildlife habitat.”

    While in Nevada, Obama also planned to attend an evening fundraiser benefiting the Nevada State Democratic Party.

    The post Obama pushing for more clean energy choices for consumers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 24:  A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on August 24, 2015 in New York City. As the global economy continues to react from events in China, markets dropped significantly around the world on Monday. The Dow Jones industrial average briefly dropped over 1000 points in morning trading.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

    As the global economy continues to react from events in China, markets dropped significantly around the world on Monday. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    After a midday recovery, U.S. stock markets dove once again. At close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had lost nearly 600 points, and the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ lost roughly 4 percent. This follows a rough day of trading on Friday, during which the the Dow lost 531 points.

    Stock markets had plummeted at opening this morning, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling more than 1,000 points, or 5 percent.

    The market had rebounded and made back most of its gains by noon, but the recovery didn’t last long as the volatile trading continued.

    Today’s upheaval comes after stocks nosedived in China Monday. By close, the Shanghai Composite Index lost 8.5 percent, erasing all gains they had made in the past year.

    Global markets have been on a roller coaster ride for weeks, presumably over fears that China, for years the driver of global economic growth, was now going to be a drag on it. China abruptly devalued the yuan two weeks ago to make its products cheaper abroad, but that spurred further anxiety about the state of the country’s economy. And in June, after rising steeply in the past year, China’s stock market began to swoon, prompting the People’s Bank of China to step and try to support prices. It didn’t work, and the Shanghai Composite Index has lost nearly 40 percent since June.

    “In came the fear that the Chinese government can’t control the market as well as they thought they could,” Scheherazade Rehman, professor of international finance/business and international affairs at George Washington University, explains. That uncertainty crept into the market, and says Rehman, the U.S.’s talk of raising interest rates to slow the American economy didn’t help.

    On Thursday and Friday, investors continued to sell. “[The Chinese government] intervened and tried to stop the crisis, and when they could not, it just fueled the fire,” Rehman thinks.

    Clearly, investors worldwide are worried. Not only does China’s devaluing currency spur concerns of a currency war (in which countries competing with China’s exports devalue their currencies to boost their own exports), but China had been the main driver of global economic growth since the Great Recession. China still claims a healthy 7 percent annual growth rate, but many economists wonder if it’s not much lower. And if China’s growth is stalling, global growth may as well.

    The uncertainty about China’s economy has made its way into markets worldwide, including America’s. Of course, for all the opinionating about the whys and wherefores, no one ever really knows what drives markets, besides the dynamic duo of greed and fear. But why greed one month and fear the next? Or why greed this morning, when the Dow-Jones Industrial Average rallied by nearly 900 points, and fear this afternoon, when it shed 400 or so? Don’t ask. Or, if you insist on asking, don’t bet too heavily on the answers you get.

    The post Tumultuous day of trading sends stocks on roller coaster ride appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Fox News host Megyn Kelly, center, at the first official Republican presidential candidates debate in early August, regularly has been a target of criticism by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters

    Fox News host Megyn Kelly, center, at the first official Republican presidential candidates debate in early August, regularly has been a target of criticism by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters

    NEW YORK — Fox News chief Roger Ailes said Tuesday that Donald Trump owes the network’s Megyn Kelly an apology for an unprovoked Twitter attack that “is as unacceptable as it is disturbing.”

    The Republican presidential front-runner-turned-TV-critic had welcomed Kelly back from a vacation Monday night by tweeting that he liked her show better while she was away. Trump said Kelly “must have had a terrible vacation” because “she’s really off her game.” He retweeted a message that referred to her as a bimbo.

    “Megyn Kelly represents the very best of American journalism and all of us at Fox News Channel reject the crude and irresponsible attempts to suggest otherwise,” said Ailes, the Fox News Channel chairman. “I could not be more proud of Megyn for her professionalism and class in the face of all of Mr. Trump’s verbal assaults.”

    Trump has been attacking Kelly ever since her tough questioning of him during the first GOP presidential debate, seen by 24 million people on Fox on Aug. 6. A day after the debate, he said that Kelly had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

    It led to a private, clear-the-air conversation between Trump and Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes, which hasn’t resulted in peace.

    Trump repeated his contention that Kelly, host of a prime-time Fox show and one of the network’s biggest stars, was sent on an unplanned vacation. Monday night was her first show back after being away. Fox said her time off had been scheduled long before the debate. Trump also tweeted that Kelly was afraid to confront a guest, Dr. Cornel West, and that she had “no clue” on immigration.

    Fox had no immediate response. Brian Kilmeade, a host on the morning show “Fox & Friends,” said Tuesday that Trump was “out of control” and his comments unwarranted.

    “That actually bothers me personally,” Kilmeade said. “And we are all friends with Donald Trump, but he is totally out of bounds reigniting that fight. I don’t know if he’s trying to get ratings out of that or poll numbers, but he’s not going to be successful.”

    The post Fox News chief says Trump owes Megyn Kelly apology appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    George Peck began riding unicycles around Seward, Alaska, in the 1980s. Eventually moving on to riding the ultimate wheel — a unicycle with no seat — on mountains and beaches, Peck pioneered the sport of rough-terrain unicycling and began a family tradition carried on by his children, Kris and Katie Peck.

    Rough-terrain unicycling is closely tied to the culture and topography of Alaska. Beaches, mountains and trails make up most of Seward, where the family lives. “In Seward, rough-terrain unicycling comes out of necessity,” Katie said.

    The art of unicycling benefits the participants by forcing them to focus on the moment, according to Peck. “You’re not thinking about anything else,” he said.

    Video by Hanna Craig. Music by Starship Amazing. Archival Footage courtesy of Kris Peck. Photos courtesy of Carol Griswold. Local Beat is an ongoing series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation. 

    The post WATCH: Family of ‘off-roading’ unicyclists savor Alaska’s rough terrain appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Job interview presentation

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

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


    JenR writes: I have always gone to a job as prepared as I can with information about the company and how I would fit into the job that I’m applying for… I have been on both ends of the interview process and couldn’t agree more that changes are needed. Some of the questions during interviews make me wonder who they really want. And candidates not being prepared when coming into an interview amaze me. [A comment from “How to put an end to stupid job interviews.”]

    Nick Corcodilos: You’ve hit on an important point. Employers interview too many of the wrong candidates to begin with. They let unprepared applicants show up for interviews. This can be avoided with a phone discussion from the hiring manager prior to any in-person interview.

    I’m sure you know how most phone screening interviews go: They’re without substance. “So, tell me about yourself.” That’s childish. I have a different kind of phone screen. This is what the hiring manager should say to a candidate who appears to be worth inviting for a full interview:

    “Hi. I’ve reviewed your resume carefully, and I’ve spoken to some people about you. It seems it’s worth our time to meet with you. I just want you to know that we don’t conduct traditional interviews. We’d like you to come meet our team, ready to show us how you’d do the job and how your approach will pay off. (See “Kick the candidate out of your office.”)

    “I realize you might need some information to prepare for this meeting — and I know it’s a lot of work to get ready. So please feel free to call John Smith, Linda Jones and Ed Black on my team, to ask any questions you might have. They won’t tutor you, but they’ll answer your questions and tell you anything you need to know about our business, our department and about the job.

    “If you’re willing to do this level of preparation, we’d like to meet you next Friday. Would you like to come show us what you can do for our business?”

    That’s an adult job interview with a clear agenda. What agenda do your interviews usually have? (See “Don’t conduct junk interviews.”)

    Note that I said the hiring manager should make this call. It should not come from HR. (See “Get past the guard.”) Would you be surprised if a manager called you with such a suggestion? Or, if a manager let you talk with others on the team in advance of your face-to-face meeting? Would you be willing to prepare for such a presentation?

    I think it’s insane when employers handle interviews any other way. The prevalent interview protocol yields low success rates because it’s childish and irresponsible. Employers usher unknown candidates in to meet managers who have failed to set a bar. Even kids know to expect standards of performance. (See “Raise your standards.”) Perhaps worse is how much candidate time employers waste on tire-kicking meetings that have no agendas. That’s irresponsible.

    I tell managers that this phone call will eliminate 90 percent of even the best applicants, because most will not be motivated enough about the job to do the hard work of preparation. (They just want to show up and tell you about their history.) And that’s good. Who wants to waste time with any candidate that’s not willing to do this kind of work?

    On the other hand, a handful of truly motivated applicants will be grateful for the promise of a meeting with a meaningful agenda that they know how to prepare for. Those are the only applicants worth meeting.

    In “How to put an end to stupid job interviews,” we discussed the problem of unprepared applicants. But they’re only half the problem.

    This approach requires employers to stop recruiting stupidly. To conduct truly intelligent, effective interviews, hiring managers must put their skin in the game:

    • The manager must personally review all applications and make the first cut. (Aha, suddenly you don’t want 5,000 resumes from job boards, do you? Learn to solicit applications selectively!)
    • The manager must personally call candidates to schedule interviews. Just see how candidates light up when you treat them with respect.
    • The manager must help candidates prepare for interviews, like they help employees do their jobs. Make interviews an open-book test. You want applicants to succeed, so you can make a hire and get back to work — right? Then don’t let HR do it.
    • A manager must invest his or her team’s time to cultivate applicants. Team members help one another, right? Help your next hire! If they’re not worth coaching, why are you even interested in them? (Don’t be a tire kicker!)
    • Show the applicant how to put their best foot forward. Don’t make interviews a cat and mouse game. Know exactly what you want in applicants and tell them!
    • When the interview happens, the manager should know the applicant’s resume and credentials by heart — interviews are not for reading resumes!
    • The manager should know the job inside and out — be ready to talk shop in interviews! Don’t waste time on “So what’s your greatest strength?”
    • If a candidate doesn’t do well in an interview, it’s on the manager to say so promptly and to end the process. Don’t leave it to HR. Don’t hide. (See “Open the door.”)

    Managers should be 100 percent involved in building their teams — that’s their main job, whether they realize it or not. The only place for HR in this process is typing up job offers. (See “The Recruiting Paradox.”) Hiring managers need to grow up and make sure hiring is done responsibly.

    Employers that raise their standards (for themselves as well as candidates) during the recruiting, selection and interview process will hire the best candidates faster. Managers who don’t — they need a crash course, or a demotion.

    Dear Readers: If you’re a manager, do you take ownership of hiring? Do you help your best candidates succeed? If you’re a job seeker, would you work harder at being the right candidate if employers approached you this way?


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

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

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

    The post Ask the Headhunter: Employers, interview responsibly! appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    SHOW ME THE MONEY monitor capitol dome White house money
    Providing political ammunition to both parties, Congress’ official budget analyst projected Tuesday that this year’s federal deficit will drop to $426 billion, the lowest shortfall of Barack Obama’s presidency.

    But the annual summertime update by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office also contained words of warning. It cautioned that without action by lawmakers, a graying population and growing health care costs will push annual federal deficits upward again later this decade, spiking back above $1 trillion in 2025.

    That would push the government’s total debt, accumulated over decades, to $21 trillion by 2025, or 77 percent of the country’s projected economic output that year. Economists say such amounts could drive up interest rates, boost government debt costs and hinder lawmakers from using tax and spending changes to ease the impact of future recessions.

    “The growth in debt is not sustainable,” budget office chief Keith Hall told reporters. “You can’t predict tipping points, but at some point this becomes a problem.”

    The budget office released its figures two weeks before lawmakers return from a summer break steering toward a budget clash. The Republican-led Congress has approved a blueprint that uses spending curbs on Medicare, Medicaid and other programs to claim a balanced budget in a decade, a plan Democrats have derided as harsh and unrealistic.

    “I would caution those who would use this report as an opportunity to take these short-term savings and push for more spending,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. He said “real, substantive budget reforms and savings will have to be on the table during any spending negotiations.”

    Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said the report shows that Congress has made “important progress on rebuilding our economy and reducing our deficit.” He said Congress should make “necessary investments” in education and other programs and said serious negotiations will be needed to avoid a government shutdown this fall.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has repeatedly said partisan spending clashes will not lead to a government closure. But it could be hard for GOP leaders to win conservative votes for spending bills unless they cutting federal payments to Planned Parenthood. Secretly filmed videos have shown the organization’s officials discussing how they provide fetal tissue to medical researchers.

    In March, the budget office projected a $486 billion deficit for this fiscal year, which runs through Sept. 30. The analysis said the $60 billion reduction was largely because collections of individual and corporate taxes have been higher than expected.

    Annual deficits peaked at a historic high of $1.4 trillion in 2009 as the Great Recession reduced federal tax revenue and drove up government costs for helping low-income and jobless people. Deficits have dropped since then, falling to $485 billion last year.

    This year’s $426 billion projected deficit, if realized, would be the government’s smallest since it was $161 billion in the red in 2007.
    It would also mean that this year’s shortfall would be 2.4 percent the size of the overall economy, a proportion that many economists consider acceptable. On average over the last 50 years, annual deficits have been 2.7 percent of the economy’s size. The record 2009 deficit was 9.8 percent the size of the economy.

    The budget office report lowered its projection for 2015 economic growth to a modest 2.3 percent, down from its 2.8 percent forecast in January and reflecting a weak first quarter performance by the economy. But it said the economy “is now on firmer ground,” and projected that growth will return to around 3 percent annually in 2016 and 2017 before dipping again.

    The analysis also said even though the government has reached the legal limit of money it can borrow, the unforeseen extra revenue means the Treasury Department should be able to use accounting maneuvers to free up cash and avoid breaching that limit until mid-November or early December.

    Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told Congress last month that he can take steps to prevent breaching the borrowing limit until late October or early November. Treasury can use bookkeeping maneuvers such as temporarily taking cash out of certain federal pension funds, money that is restored once Congress enacts a new debt ceiling.

    Congress has fought frequently over extending the debt limit, with an unprecedented federal default a potential consequence should the parties deadlock.

    The post Congressional budget analyst predicts drop in deficit appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 25:  Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on August 25, 2015 in New York City. Following a day of steep drops in global markets, the Dow Jones industrial average rallied over 300 points in morning trading.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

    We asked Nobel Laureate Robert Shiller to help make sense of the U.S.’s volatile stock market. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    Editor’s Note: U.S. stocks rallied today after a turbulent week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 1,000 points, before recovering briefly and eventually settling at a loss of 588 points for the day. On Friday, the Dow had lost 531 points.

    We asked Nobel Laureate Robert Shiller to help make sense of the U.S.’s volatile stock market. While a number of economists and investors point to China’s slowing economy to explain the volatility, Shiller does not. What we saw, he argues, was the bursting of a speculative bubble.

    Shiller, a Sterling Professor of Economics at Yale University, predicted the most recent housing bubble burst and developed the CAPE Index, which measures the price of a stock to its earnings over a 10-year period. Shiller has written widely on financial markets, macroeconomics and behavioral economics, most recently in his new book “Phishing for Phools.”

    Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor


    What happened to U.S. stocks in the past week?

    I would say that we saw the bursting of a speculative bubble, as it has been defined in much discourse and which has happened many times in history. But one must remember that the word “bubble,” if taken as a metaphor, can be misleading. A speculative bubble does not burst irrevocably or all at once as a soap bubble does. It may go on in a number of steps down, interrupted by upswings. I would say that a speculative bubble rises upon investor enthusiasm, and when it becomes too big, many people begin to have their doubts and contemplate selling, but don’t have clarity enough to actually do it. But when they see the market dropping, they begin to fear that others have the same doubts, and so many of them hurry up, trying to sell before the others do. So, the downswing can be surprisingly fast, recalling the bursting of a bubble, even if it is not quite as sudden as that.

    Is this a reaction to what’s happening in China? If so, why?

    I cannot imagine the news from China could provide a rational explanation for the drop in world markets. The news from China is too subtle, not that dramatic and sudden. But the story has been put forth by the news media as if it were suddenly extremely important, as part of a general pattern of news media and investor advice hype. In our new book “Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception,” George Akerlof and I use the word phishing more broadly than usual to describe such behavior. A phool is someone, who may be highly intelligent, but who does not see that he or she is a phish. A lot of people who bid up stock prices to such high levels were phools.

    For those of our readers who don’t know your CAPE Index, can you explain what it measures and its importance?

    CAPE stands for Cyclically-Adjusted Price-Earnings. It is a modification of the traditional price-earnings ratio to smooth out the cyclical or irregular jumps in earnings that occur from time to time. My colleague John Campbell of Harvard University and I developed it in the late 1980s, after we discovered that it really does help forecast long-term returns on investments, if not short term. We found that when CAPE was high, stock market investments don’t do well over the next 10 years or so.

    What was you CAPE index today, and what does that number suggest? Are we seeing the deflation of a bubble?

    In July, the CAPE index stood at 27, higher than at any time around 1929, 2000 and 2007. As of Monday, August 24, the CAPE ratio stood at 24. That is still quite high by historical standards. The average CAPE from the years 1881 to 2014 was only 17. This means that the stock market is still pricing quite high and likely to disappoint long-term investors, even if we cannot say what it will do tomorrow or next week.

    What would you tell everyday investors who are suddenly seeing their life savings fall?

    It is an occasion to look over their portfolio carefully, to see that it is properly diversified. If the portfolio is heavily into stocks, this might be the time when one has the emotional energy to take a careful look at it and maybe adjust the exposure down. I believe that it is important even for investors with only modest portfolios to seek out the help of a financial adviser. I would ask friends to recommend an adviser, who have had experience with someone who is trustworthy. In one’s portfolio there may be subtleties, and not just about speculative bubbles, including as well such things as taxes or retirement or estate planning that one can easily miss.

    Is there any way to tell what will happen next?

    The future is always uncertain. No one can forecast what will happen to the stock market tomorrow.

    Is there anything else that you think we should be paying attention to or should know?

    I have since 1989 been calculating a Stock Market Valuation Confidence Index that you can find on the Yale School of Management website.

    I ask participants in my surveys, both individual and institutional investors, whether they think that the stock market is too low, too high or about right. The confidence index is the six-month average of the percent of them who do not think it is too high. As of last month, the index is at its lowest since around the time of the big 2000 to 2003 stock market crash. So, we can see that people indeed have been extremely doubtful lately about the market. It is only just now that many of them are selling. Why did they continue to hold if they were so doubtful? That must have something to do with human psychology and human nature. Most of us postpone considering difficult decisions until we think there is a sudden emergency.

    The post Nobel Laureate Robert Shiller says human nature, not China, explains market volatility appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    UNITED STATES - MARCH 9: Carol Berman, of West Palm Beach, Fla., speaks with pedestrians about the need for policymakers to protect Medicare Advantage benefits during the Coalition for Medicare Choices' Medicare Advantage Food Truck stop on North Capitol Street in Washington on Monday, March 9, 2015. Seniors shared cookies, coffee and personal stories about  Medicare Advantage while standing outside of the food truck. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

    A new study finds that 97 percent of counties that offer Medicare Advantage health plans had highly concentrated markets. Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

    Editor’s Note: Journalist Philip Moeller, who writes widely on health and retirement, is here to provide the Medicare answers you need in “Ask Phil, the Medicare Maven.” Send your questions to Phil.


    Good morning class. Today, we are going to learn about something called the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index, or HHI. Gesundheit, you say? Me, too. Anyway, put down your smartphones for a few minutes, and listen up. Of course, if you’re reading this on your smartphone, then keep at it with both thumbs blazing.

    The HHI is a statistical method for evaluating whether a market for goods of services is highly concentrated, moderately concentrated or non-concentrated. A study released today by the non-profit Commonwealth Fund calculated the HHIs of Medicare Advantage (MA) health plans offered in more than 2,900 counties around the U.S. It finds that 97 percent of these counties had highly concentrated Medicare Advantage markets.

    Looking just at the 100 most populous U.S. counties — those with the most beneficiaries and the largest numbers of available Medicare Advantage plan — 81 were highly concentrated, 18 were moderately concentrated and only a single county was non-concentrated. The good people of Riverside, California may now stand up and take a bow.

    Medicare Advantage plans are roughly 10 years old in their current form. The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, which created prescription drug coverage under Medicare, also triggered changes that have allowed private insurance companies to expand and improve their Medicare plans under the Medicare Advantage label.

    From a very modest beginning, more than 30 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries subscribe to Medicare Advantage plans today. The other 70 percent use what’s called Original Medicare, which includes Part A for coverage in hospitals and other inpatient facilities and Part B for coverage of doctor, outpatient and medical equipment expenses. Many Original Medicare beneficiaries also buy Medicare supplemental policies, often called Medigap plans.

    You’ve probably seen recent news reports about the agreed-upon mergers among four of the nation’s five largest health insurers. Aetna and Humana have agreed to combine, as have Anthem and Cigna. The largest health insurer, UnitedHealthcare, reportedly was interested in more than one of these other four companies at some point during this summer’s health insurance mating rituals.

    With these mergers, perhaps you are not surprised about these findings from the Commonwealth Fund’s study. But your eyes might open just a wee bit wider to learn that the study was based on Medicare Advantage plan activity in 2012 – fully three years before these latest mergers! Now, there is not a whole lot of room above 97 percent for further concentration in local markets. But I bet these mergers would get us most if not all of the way there.

    The Commonwealth Fund’s study echoes a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation that looks at more current data — 2015 Medicare Advantage plan enrollments. “Six firms or BCBS [Blue Cross Blue Shield] affiliates account for almost three-quarters (72 percent) of the market.” Kaiser said. “Two firms, UnitedHealthcare and Humana, account for almost four in ten Medicare Advantage enrollees.”

    In a third of the states, Kaiser said, three insurers had market shares of 90 percent or higher. And in 15 states, a single firm controlled 50 percent or more of the Medicare Advantage market.

    The popularity and profitability of Medicare Advantage plans was widely cited as a driver for this summer’s health insurance merger deals. But the near-certainty that these mergers would further reduce what little competition there is among the plans has sparked a considerable backlash against them.

    The question of the day, of course, is whether market concentration actually does permit or encourage noncompetitive business behaviors that either reduce the quality of health insurance provided by a plan, raise its prices and profits or both.

    Traditional antitrust analysis would say it does. The Commonwealth Fund study, for example, notes that the HHI is used by antitrust regulators at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. And there is a widespread expectation that approvals of an Aetna-Humana deal, as well as the Anthem-Cigna deal, will hinge on the companies having to dispose of or perhaps discontinue offering Medicare Advantage plans in a number of local markets around the country.

    As Medicare deficits grow, so does pressure to find ways to change the long-term trajectory of rising federal health care deficits. One approach popular with conservative critics of Medicare would be to institute a “premium support system” that would limit or cap federal Medicare spending. These support payments would be given directly to Medicare beneficiaries, and they in turn would shop for health coverage from private insurers. Doing so, supporters say, would work in part because the private market is more competitive and efficient.

    However, that premise just doesn’t hold up to the data in the Commonwealth Fund report, according to economist Stuart Guterman, one of the report’s three authors who is now doing research at AcademyHealth [CQ], a Washington non-profit. “There’s an assumption that if you rely on private markets you will get competition,” he says. “People who say that Medicare should be less regulated are ignoring the fact that the private market does not have much competition anyway.”

    At the same time, direct measures of Medicare Advantage plan concentration do not tell the whole story. Medicare regulations are being used to produce competitive behavior even among the concentrated pool of Medicare Advantage insurers. For example, the agency is now basing its payments to Medicare Advantage plans on the quality of their coverage and services, as measured by Medicare’s star ratings system. Many plans have responded with notable quality improvements, and low-rated plans have left the marketplace.

    The post Is private-sector Medicare becoming a monopoly? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Iran nuclear deal
    WASHINGTON — Supporters of the Iran nuclear deal see growing momentum on their side in the Senate, raising the possibility they’ll be able to block a disapproval resolution and protect President Barack Obama from having to use his veto pen.

    Such an outcome — which looked all but inconceivable in the days after the deal was signed July 14 — remains a long shot. It would be a major victory for Obama, who is staking his foreign policy legacy largely on the agreement struck by the U.S., Iran and five world powers to dismantle most of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions in sanctions relief.

    It would take 41 senators to block the disapproval resolution scheduled for a vote next month; only 34 lawmakers would be required to uphold an Obama veto of such a resolution.

    Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., on Tuesday, became No. 29 on the list of Democrats and independents who have publicly announced their support of the deal.

    “This is not a perfect deal, and there are several elements I would like to be stronger,” Murray said. “But after working my way through the details and the alternatives, losing a lot of sleep, and having a lot of good conversations with so many people, I am convinced that moving forward with this deal is the best chance we have at a strong diplomatic solution. It puts us in a stronger position no matter what Iran chooses to do, and it keeps all of our options on the table if Iran doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain.”

    Two Senate Democrats — New York’s Chuck Schumer and New Jersey’s Bob Menendez — have announced that they will vote against the agreement. But supporters feel confident that they can get to 34 votes, and some have begun to say in private that 41 votes may even be within reach.

    Many caution it remains a remote possibility with Republicans unanimously opposed and Israeli officials arguing vehemently against a deal they say could empower enemies sworn to their destruction. And yet predictions that Republican opponents and the powerful-pro-Israel lobby would use Congress’ August recess to make the deal politically toxic have not come to pass.

    Although polls register significant public concerns about the agreement, undeclared Democratic senators have increasingly broken in favor. In addition to Murray, who’s a member of the Senate’s Democratic leadership, Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada announced his support over the weekend, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan followed on Monday.

    “We feel good about the fact that after two-thirds of the Democratic caucus has committed that we have substantial support for the president with only two dissenters,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who’s leading the whip operation in favor of the deal, said in an interview. But Durbin declined to predict success, saying, “We continue to work it.”

    Reid told reporters in Las Vegas attending a clean energy conference Monday that he expects to see a couple more “yes” votes in the next couple of days.

    “I know it’s a long shot, I hope that it can be done,” he said of prospects for blocking the disapproval resolution. “We’ll just have to see. Because right now, it’s based on a whole lot of uncounted votes.”

    The possibility that Democrats could filibuster the disapproval resolution angered some of the deal’s opponents.

    “Harry Reid wants to deny the American people a voice entirely by blocking an up-or-down vote on this terrible deal,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said in a statement. “He is obstructing because he is scared.”

    Several key Democratic senators have yet to announce their position. One of the most-watched is Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, who is the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee and whose position could influence colleagues.

    Congressional aides say they’ve rarely seen the White House work an issue so hard, with Obama making personal appeals to undecided lawmakers.

    “We’ve been leaders in nonproliferation, which is part of the reason why I am so insistent that Congress not block a historic diplomatic effort when it comes to making sure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon,” the president said Monday at a fundraiser in Henderson, Nev.

    The disapproval resolution is certain to pass the House, though Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has declared that Democrats have the votes to sustain an Obama veto. Two-thirds votes are required in each chamber to override a presidential veto.

    The post Supporters of Iran agreement gain momentum appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A new report shows that blacks made up 55 percent of students suspended in certain Southern school districts, even though they made up 24 percent of the students in these schools. Photo by Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker

    A new report shows that blacks made up 55 percent of students suspended in certain Southern school districts, even though they made up 24 percent of the students in these schools. Photo by Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker

    Black students are suspended and expelled at significantly higher rates than white children in 13 Southern states, according to a new analysis of federal data.

    During the 2011-2012 academic year, 1.2 million black students were suspended from public schools. More than half of those suspensions took place in the states covered by a new report from the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.

    The report includes suspension and expulsion rates for black students in most school districts in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

    Although, black students were only 24 percent of the students in these Southern school districts, they were 55 percent of students suspended and 50 percent of students expelled.

    Within the 13 states, Louisiana and Mississippi expelled the highest proportion of black students. Black students comprised 74 percent of suspensions from public schools in Mississippi, which was the highest proportion among the states.

    “This was a phenomenon that persisted by size and locale” said Shaun Harper, associate professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania and the executive director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education who co-authored the analysis.

    Harper said implicit biases in school discipline trends leads to the disproportionate rates at which black students are disciplined.

    “Teachers and school leaders, like the rest of us, consume media that consistently criminalizes black people,” said Harper.

    In a 2002 study done by the Equity Project at Indiana University, researchers found that white students were more frequently disciplined for objective offenses like “smoking, vandalism, leaving without permission, and obscene language.” On the other hand, black students were more likely to be disciplined for more subjective reasons, such as “disrespect, excessive noise, threat, and loitering.”

    Research clearly shows, Harper said, students who are suspended and expelled are more likely to end up in criminal justice than their peers who are not disciplined in school. The Washington Post reported on a 2011 study done in Texas that showed 23 percent of students who were suspended even once were later involved with the juvenile justice system. Just 2 percent of students with no school disciplinary records ever came in contact with the system.

    “That makes this incredibly consequential for the future of young people’s lives,” said Harper.

    In a recent Education Next poll, only 19 percent of people said they support instituting school district policies to even out suspension and expulsion rates across racial groups. One fundamental goal of the University of Pennsylvania report is to raise the nation’s consciousness about how enormous of an issue disproportionate discipline is, especially for black children.

    PBS NewsHour education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    The post Study finds higher expulsion rates for black students in South appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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