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

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    GWEN IFILL: Finally tonight, a different look at the oil industry.

    As we see record lows in crude prices, small oil companies are looking for big opportunities.

    Leigh Paterson of Inside Energy, a public media collaboration funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, focusing on America’s energy issues, has the story.

    LEIGH PATERSON: During the fracking-induced drilling frenzy of the last few years, U.S. oil production has skyrocketed. And a lot of natural gas comes up as a byproduct of drilling for oil. That gas could be used to produce energy

    HANS MUELLER, CTO, EcoVapor Recovery Systems: What we’re trying to do here is capture any of the gas.

    LEIGH PATERSON: But, sometimes, producers just get rid of it.

    HANS MUELLER: It would get burned in those four combustors right over there. We would get to breathe it.

    LEIGH PATERSON: Instead, Hans Mueller wants to use that gas. His company, EcoVapor Recovery Systems, works with oil producers to separate out the natural gas and sell it.

    HANS MUELLER: Wherever there is a flare that is burning gas and that gas isn’t being used for anything else, to me, it just seemed like an opportunity, and essentially using every part of the buffalo.

    LEIGH PATERSON: Mueller says the value of the captured gas, once sold, can be three times greater than the cost of an EcoVapor unit. That’s a strong sales pitch.

    With oil prices so low, oil companies are looking for ways to cut costs quickly with little investment up front. And so some energy start-ups are pitching their products as ways to save money during the downturn.

    MAN: LiquiGlide is a truly revolutionary product.

    LEIGH PATERSON: At a recent energy conference, energy start-ups were hawking their wares. They pitched everything, from a product that makes anything less sticky, including crude oil, to wearable tech, and thermoelectric power generation.

    MAN: As a result, you save fuel.

    LEIGH PATERSON: At the IHS CERAWeek Conference, Alphabet Energy CEO Matt Scullin sees opportunities in the downturn.

    MATT SCULLIN, CEO, Alphabet Energy: Oil and gas companies are now investing in efficiency, and we fit squarely into that bucket.

    JOHN HESS, CEO, Hess Corporation: What’s good for shale is good for the U.S. economy.

    LEIGH PATERSON: John Hess, CEO of the oil giant Hess Corporation, agreed that there is a greater role for small innovators to play.

    JOHN HESS: I think the low price of oil is creating a great opportunity for young people to build careers as entrepreneurs.

    LEIGH PATERSON: Representatives from big oil companies are also looking to crowd-source ideas for new environmental and economic projects.

    Bill Maloney, an executive vice president at Statoil, says that means asking for pitches online from think tanks, start-ups and regular people.

    WILLIAM MALONEY, Executive Vice President, Statoil: And we hope the greater folks of our planet can come up with solutions that we can utilize in our operations.

    LEIGH PATERSON: One solution already in place is downhole technology, a set of instruments which can help producers collect detailed data on their wells.

    MAN: This is the inside of one our downhole gas sensors.

    LEIGH PATERSON: WellDog is a Wyoming company that makes these sort of underground sensors. And CEO John Pope says, since the downturn, its sales have tripled, largely because WellDog can help oil companies get more out of the ground.

    JOHN POPE, CEO, WellDog: In boom times, optimizing can lead to increased profits. In challenging times, optimizing can lead to the difference between profits and no profits.

    LEIGH PATERSON: Adoption of these technologies has helped oil companies bring spending down, way down. IHS, a consulting company, predicts well costs will decrease more than 30 percent by the end of this year.

    But according to IHS analyst Chris Robart, oil companies have managed much of that by squeezing savings out of their service companies, demanding they lower their prices on things like trucking, drilling, and equipment.

    CHRIS ROBART, IHS Energy: But that’s kind of a one-time event, one-time occurrence. They can only really get that much pricing out of the market and out of their wells in 2015, this year. After that, then they will have to get back focused on things like operational efficiency, optimizing their wells, just getting more production out of their wells at the same costs.

    LEIGH PATERSON: And many of those operational efficiencies on the table today could make oil and gas better neighbors. Innovations that would cut emissions, save on fuel, and reduce the use of resources would also minimize the impact on nearby communities.

    For example, G.E. and Statoil’s project to reduce the amount sand used in hydraulic fracturing would also reduce the number of trucks bringing sand to drill sites. And that means less traffic in communities near oil and gas development.

    But industry analyst Carl Larry is deeply skeptical that big oil will get smarter, because he says it doesn’t have to.

    CARL LARRY, Industry Analyst: Fossil fuels, it is a simple project. We drill, we get oil, we refine it, that’s all we need to do is make money on that. Coming up with newfangled ways, it’s expensive. And right now, there’s not a lot of margin for error to take a chance and put in a new technology.

    LEIGH PATERSON: Making substantial changes in the way that we drill, Larry says, requires vision.

    CARL LARRY: We need a Steve Jobs in oil and gas. We need somebody who is going to go out there and take a chance. Big companies aren’t. They’re just going to keep their budgets going doing what they do right now and making money. But the ones who take the chances are the small businesses, the people who have the guts to take it out and try something new.

    LEIGH PATERSON: And as the price of oil hits new lows, the big ideas for oil’s future may be coming from the little guys.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Leigh Paterson in Wyoming.

    The post Oil innovators see opportunity amid record low prices appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, the volatile issue of immigration continues to spark debate in the 2016 presidential campaign. The latest round centers on babies born in the U.S. to parents who are not American citizens.

    DONALD TRUMP Republican Presidential Candidate: I will use the word anchor baby. Excuse me. I will use the word anchor baby.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Donald Trump started this latest furor over a term that immigration advocates view as derogatory. He complained of children born in the U.S. who immediately gain American citizenship and become the means for entire families, here illegally, to stay.

    Fellow Republican Jeb Bush weighed in as well.

    JEB BUSH, Republican Presidential Candidate: There ought to be greater enforcement. That’s the legitimate side of this, greater enforcement, so that you don’t have these anchor babies, as they’re described, coming into the country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: By yesterday, an exasperated Bush was trying to douse criticism for using the term.

    JEB BUSH: You give me the name you want me to use, and I will use it. How about that?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Moreover, the former Florida governor insisted that, unlike Trump, he wasn’t talking about Latinos at all.

    JEB BUSH: What I was talking about was the specific case of fraud being committed, where there’s organized efforts. And, frankly, it is more related to Asian people coming into our country having children in that organized effort.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Bush campaign aides call the practice birth tourism, with foreigners arriving legally just in time to have a child.

    Numbers are hard to come by. The nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute estimates some 230,000 children are born in the U.S. each year with at least one parent here illegally, while the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors stricter rules, estimates 36,000 births a year by women who come to the U.S. to have a baby, then leave to go back home. Others say that number is smaller.

    Meanwhile, the issue has now become part of the broader immigration debate.

    To help explain the background on this, I’m joined by Doris Meissner, senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute and a former top official at the Immigration and Naturalization Service under President Reagan and its commissioner under President Clinton. And, Susan Berfield, she’s a reporter with Bloomberg Businessweek.

    We welcome you both to the program.

    I think it helps to have everybody first understand that we appear to be talking about two different practices here, first children born in the U.S. to parents, one of whom — at least one of whom is here illegally.

    Doris Meissner, what are the typical circumstances there?

    DORIS MEISSNER, Migration Policy Institute: Well, the typical circumstances are people who come to the United States without legal status, generally across the Southwest border with Mexico. They’re coming to the U.S. because there are jobs here.

    Most of them have been here for many years. A large share of that 11 million that are in an unauthorized status in the United States have been in the country for many years. They’re younger workers. They form families in the United States. And because they are unauthorized themselves, they are not United States citizens, but their children born here are U.S. citizens, although they may also have children in the family that they brought with them who are not U.S. citizens.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you said they’re typically from south of the border, from Mexico, from Central America?

    DORIS MEISSNER: Typically from Mexico and Central America. The largest share of the authorized population has been Mexico. That is now changing. That is less the pattern. More typically, the fact is Central Americans, but we’re basically talking about a Latin American population.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Doris Meissner, these are parents or families who hope or want to stay in the United States. Is that right?

    DORIS MEISSNER: Well, they typically come here to work. Many of them think that they will earn enough money to be able to go back to their country at some point. That generally is not the case, because they are most typically in lower-wage jobs. They’re in the service sector, they’re in construction, they’re in tourism.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, Susan Berfield, the reporting you did for Bloomberg Businessweek had to do with foreign nationals who come into the United States for the express purpose of having a baby before they go home.

    Tell us about that. Who are these women?

    SUSAN BERFIELD, Bloomberg Businessweek: Right.

    So, the women that I looked at were all from China. They were well-off. They came here with tourist visas, and also with the intent to give birth. And once they did give birth, they got passports for their kids and then they returned to China. So they, you know, may at one point may want to send their kids back here for education, but their main purpose is to get a U.S. passport and all of the freedom that that affords around the world.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This is a practice that’s been called maternity tourism. And there are organized groups that are sponsoring this that these women pay in order to have this happen.

    SUSAN BERFIELD: There is an underground economy. It’s largely based in California, when we’re talking about Chinese families, and — though in China, it’s out in the open. And these services advertise. They hold orientation meetings. There are blogs and lots of social media about the phenomenon, about the practice, rating the services.

    So, they provide women with apartments in the U.S. and recommend doctors that they can go to, hospitals where they should give birth. And, you know, where this becomes, I guess, controversial or more controversial is, what kind of coaching are these companies giving the women in terms of their visa application and also when they arrive in the country? Are they being forthright about their intent?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, again, these are middle-class women. These are women who can afford to pay tens of thousands of dollars to these brokers, in effect, to be able to come into the U.S. and do this.

    SUSAN BERFIELD: Yes. The women I spoke to spent, on average, $50,000. They stayed in the U.S. for about four months.

    And so, yes, you know, they expected a certain amount of service, but they also all expected to return to China after the four months.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Doris Meissner, help us understand, what laws are being broken here? These sound like two different sets of practices.

    DORIS MEISSNER: They are two different sets of practices.

    The case of tourism that is being described, this is visa fraud. This is a misuse of the immigration system. It’s a misuse of the visa system. It is, as was pointed out, coaching people what to say. There’s possibly fraud on hospitals for not totally paying the bills. There’s possibly fraud in terms of the companies themselves that are not reporting income. It’s illegal.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And a different kind of illegality, though, with regard to parents, families who are here illegally, undocumented, having children who decide to stay.

    DORIS MEISSNER: Who decide — and who are staying and who are in the labor force. They didn’t come here to have a child here.

    They came here to work. Life happens. They’re here for a longer period of time, they form families. That’s different from coming here to get a U.S. passport and leave.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Susan Berfield, how much enforcement, how much — how much is there an effort to go after these companies, these firms that are offering these services that you’re describing mainly on the West Coast?

    SUSAN BERFIELD: Homeland Security began an investigation more than a year ago that led to raids on several of these companies and the apartment complexes where the women were housed in March, in the Los Angeles area.

    And that case is ongoing. It’s in the court system now. I think, for Homeland Security, as Doris is suggesting, it’s an issue of visa fraud. They focus their efforts, though, on the companies that are operating in the U.S. and have been accusing them of visa fraud, as well as not paying taxes and potential money laundering.

    The women who were caught up in those raids in particular are being held as witnesses, but they haven’t been charged with anything.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, bottom line, Doris Meissner, we want to say, once again, this term anchor babies, which is a derogatory term thrown around, one has to be very careful not only about the term itself, but about the different practices that we’re talking about.

    DORIS MEISSNER: That’s absolutely right.

    And it is a very pejorative term. It suggests that people are coming here in order that these children born here have a way of allowing their parents to be here legally. That is not the case. A child cannot sponsor a parent or a family member for immigration until the age of majority, 21 years of age.

    So it’s pretty unlikely to imagine that people who come here for work purposes and also have children in the United States are actually doing so for the purpose of 21 years’ wait in order to then be — have a petition for immigration status.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it’s a subject that’s become front and center certainly in the political realm.

    And we thank both of you for helping us understand this part of it today.

    Thank you, Doris Meissner and Susan Berfield. We appreciate it.

    The post How widespread are U.S. births by foreign tourists and undocumented migrants? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A migrant child is seen through a bus window as the Eleftherios Venizelos passenger ship is reflected on it following its arrival at port of Piraeus near Athens, Greece, August 25, 2015. Greece said on Monday its infrastructure was insufficient to cope with the waves of refugees flowing into the country in one of the worst humanitarian crises Europe has faced since the World War Two.  REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov       TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX1PLP9

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    GWEN IFILL: European Union officials say that the number of refugees and migrants fleeing to Europe reached a record high of more than 107,000 last month.

    The surge has reached Hungary’s southern border, where more than 2,000 people, most from Syria, crossed into the country yesterday and today, even as the government erected a border fence to stop the flow. They are coming by boat, by foot, and even by special trains, in an effort to reach Northern Europe. Germany alone is expecting as many as 750,000 asylum-seekers this year.

    Joining me now to discuss the dilemma facing those fleeing and the countries they are escaping to is former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, now president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee.

    Thank you for joining us, Mr. Miliband.

    Why — how did European countries get so overwhelmed so quickly?

    DAVID MILIBAND, Former British Foreign Secretary: Good evening. It’s good to be with you.

    I think that the European crisis is a refugee crisis, fundamentally. Over 90 percent of the people who’ve arrived in Greece, which is in the front line of this crisis, have come from Syria and from Afghanistan. And the simple fact is that, when civil wars become long-term crises in countries like Syria and Afghanistan, people are going to flee for their lives, which, after all, is the definition of a refugee.

    I’m afraid Europe’s attention has been on the euro crisis and also on the crisis in Ukraine with Russia, and this refugee crisis has crept up on them. Just this month, 50,000 people have arrived in Greece. And we have got teams from the International Rescue Committee on Lesbos, where 2,000 people or so are arriving every day, and, frankly, the authorities are being overwhelmed.

    And that’s why they need help from humanitarian organizations. And so there’s a massive…

    GWEN IFILL: Pardon me.

    Can we talk definitions for a moment? Because you’re using the term refugee. Some people call them migrants and some people term them asylum-seekers. Is that an important distinction?

    DAVID MILIBAND: it’s very important.

    In your introduction at the head of the show, you used the phrase that other European leaders have used, which is a migrant crisis. And I would dispute that. A refugee, defined by the international conventions established after the Second World War, is someone who is fleeing a persecution. They have a — quote, unquote — “well-founded” fear of persecution.

    A migrant is someone who is seeking a better life basically for economic reasons. And I think it’s very important to continue to uphold the distinction between the two. The asylum-seeker that you refer to is really a refugee who is applying for asylum in a country in which they land.

    So the fundamental distinction is between refugees, on the one hand, who are fleeing persecution and have very significant rights under international law, and those who are economic migrants who are seeking a better life.

    GWEN IFILL: Can we talk about how these European countries have handled this? In Hungary, a fence went up. And we saw what happen. It didn’t end well, hundreds, thousands perhaps of people trying to get across, many of them coming from Syria.

    And now we saw today Germany, on the other hand, is saying that Syrian asylum-seekers can come into the country. How are European nations handling this, not all the same way?

    DAVID MILIBAND: Let me put this into proper context.

    Last year, there were about 20 million refugees in the world. The United States, so far from the Syria conflict, has taken less than 1,000. In Europe, we have got, as you said in your introduction, German officials expecting 750,000 people to arrive. And we know from the studies that have been done, that 300,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe just this year. And that’s primarily from Syria and from Afghanistan.

    So that gives you a bit of a sense of the relative proportions here. The European Union, it is an agreement of 28 nation-states that constitute about 500 million people. So that gives you a sense that, although this has become a political crisis, it’s not yet an economic or social crisis that outstrips the wealth or the history and traditions of the European Union.

    And I think it’s very significant that two leading German politicians today, the vice chancellor of Germany, Sigmar Gabriel, the foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, they fundamentally condemned the European response as being, in their words, inadequate. And they have set out a plan both for increased European diplomatic activity upstream in things like the Syrian conflict, which has suffered terribly from the lack of international diplomatic attention, but also a more coordinated European action to share out the European burden across the 28 states of the European Union, which I think is well-merited as well.

    GWEN IFILL: Should the — should Britain follow suit and do what Germany has done?

    DAVID MILIBAND: Britain should certainly be a part of a fair distribution of the European refugee burden.

    Britain, alongside many other European countries, has an extraordinary and rich tradition of being open to people from around the world who are fleeing persecution. My own family has benefited from that during the 20th century. And I think it’s very important that, when one looks at the scenes in Calais, there’s quite a dispute or discussion going on between Britain and France over 3,000 to 5,000 people who are currently camped in Calais and are resorting to extraordinary measures to get into the U.K.

    GWEN IFILL: Trying to go through this tunnel between the two — trying to get through the tunnel, which we have reported often, yes.

    DAVID MILIBAND: Exactly, to try to get through the tunnel.

    One has got to see that in the context of the fact that have got 300,000 people crossing the Mediterranean. And I do want your viewers to get a sense of the absolute horror that is confronting the aid workers from the International Rescue Committee and elsewhere.

    We have just this — today helped seven people who had been swimming for seven hours because their boat sank in the Mediterranean as they crossed, tried to cross into Greece. Five of the people who left the boat with them died on the way.

    The degree of trauma and horror that is occurring on your shores is something that I think generations of Europeans felt and hoped that they had put behind them. This refugee crisis is something that obviously Europe needs to contend with, but, frankly, it needs a wider international response, given Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria as the prime sites from which people are fleeing.

    GWEN IFILL: Can we talk about what the European Union’s responsibility should be, when you talk about these countries standing shoulder to shoulder? Is it settlement? Is it sanctioning smugglers? What should be the first steps? And how do you get them all agree to do the same thing?

    DAVID MILIBAND: Well, I think there are two things that are absolutely vital here.

    One is action upstream, if you will, which is partly the diplomatic effort to make sure that peacekeeping in Somalia is properly done, that there’s a proper diplomatic effort in Syria, but also upstream, that neighboring states, so the neighboring states to Syria, in other words, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, they get proper humanitarian help there, so that there’s proper dignity and support for refugees in those countries, ditto for refugees in Africa fleeing from the Somalia conflict in Kenya and Ethiopia.

    If you don’t tend to the problem upstream, the flow will overwhelm downstream. Downstream, the second thing the European Union needs to do is properly to share out the burden, properly to assess who are the refugees, as opposed to the economic migrants, and properly to ensure they uphold the most basic standards of humanity and dignity for those who are fleeing literally for their lives.

    GWEN IFILL: Do those countries that these refugees are traveling through to get to their ultimate goal, do they have the resources to provide the resettlement, help, absorb the flow?

    DAVID MILIBAND: It’s a really good point, and the short answer is no.

    I was recently visiting Niger, which is one of the transit states in Central Africa through which people pass from Nigeria and elsewhere to get to the North African coast and then travel to Europe. Those — the neighboring states for the great conflicts of the world, the neighboring states of Syria, the neighboring states of Somalia, the neighboring states of Nigeria, the neighboring states of Afghanistan, none of them are getting the kind of humanitarian intervention and help that can help insulate them from the problems.

    U.N. appeals — just to take cash as one example, U.N. appeals are getting 35 percent to 40 percent funding. And there is a very simple reason for that. The world has never known a situation where there are 20 million refugees, 40 million internally displaced people from civil wars that seem to have no end.

    And it’s high time that the scale of disorder that is convulsing significant parts of the world gets not just political and diplomatic attention, but also a much greater humanitarian effort, because, frankly, there is a moral imperative to save people fleeing for their lives. But there’s also an instrumental one as well, that these problems wash up on our shores if we don’t deal with them at root.

    GWEN IFILL: David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, thank you very much.

    DAVID MILIBAND: Thank you very much.

    The post How should Europe deal with its deluge of refugees? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Empty lots are seen scattered throughout the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood of New Orleans, Louisiana, August 25, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman - RTX1PM2X

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    GWEN IFILL: The sight of New Orleans residents perched on rooftops signaling for help as floodwaters rose became one of the iconic images of Hurricane Katrina. Many of those stranded lived in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward.

    After the storm, as people waded through the wreckage, the Lower Ninth Ward became more than a disaster area. It also became a symbol of societal failure, including persistent poverty, crumbling homes and streets, and racial tension.

    Ten years later, we went back to the Lower Ninth Ward, where the recovery that has boosted much of the city has been slow to arrive.

    William Brangham has our report.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Every morning, Burnell Cotlon sets up tables outside his Lower Ninth Ward market to provide a gathering place for the customers he hopes will come. His small corner grocery is one of the few businesses that have opened in this heavily damaged neighborhood of New Orleans.

    BURNELL COTLON, Grocery Store Owner: When we first purchased the building, believe it or not, this is what it looked like.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So you looked at that building in that condition and thought, I’m going to buy that and I’m going to build a business there?

    BURNELL COTLON: As crazy as it may sound, yes sir.

    (LAUGHTER)

    BURNELL COTLON: I’m a visionary.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Cotlon and his wife, Keasha, invested their entire life’s savings five years ago to start this business, even though the population of the Lower Ninth Ward is just half of what it was before Hurricane Katrina.

    BURNELL COTLON: The major box stores said they’re not coming back to the Lower Ninth Ward because there’s not enough people. And the people that want to come back to the Lower Ninth Ward say they’re not coming back because there’s no stores.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It’s the classic chicken-and-egg problem that affects virtually every aspect of life here in the Lower Ninth Ward. With so many residents still gone, can this neighborhood ever bounce back?

    REV. WILLIE CALHOUN, Baptist Minister: Look around you and you see, there’s no economic development. There’s no way to sustain this community whatsoever if you don’t generate business back here.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Reverend Willie Calhoun showed me what once had been a major commercial thoroughfare.

    REV. WILLIE CALHOUN: This used to actually be a drug store. On the corner, we had a cleaners. Next to the cleaners, we had the church.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Right here, boom, boom, boom?

    REV. WILLIE CALHOUN: Right.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: He says, even as the city touts its economic revival downtown and in other neighborhoods, officials just haven’t done enough to create jobs here.

    REV. WILLIE CALHOUN: You come back here, and you’re trying to figure out, how can you survive if you don’t have any work? You can’t.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Ten years after the storm, the Lower Ninth Ward is a checkerboard of development. New and rebuilt homes stand right next to boarded-up ones. There are over 100 of Brad Pitt’s Make It Right houses, and some 30 community gardens.

    But on many blocks, the only thing that’s returned in full are the weeds. Many roads are filled with potholes. Abandoned cars and trash still litter the landscape. There is a brand-new $20 million rec center, a new firehouse and a rebuilt K-12 public charter school.

    Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who, earlier this month held one of his many community forums, this one in the Lower Ninth Ward, says more than $500 million of public and private money has been spent on the neighborhood.

    MITCH LANDRIEU (D), Mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana: What we want to do in Lower Nine and in every neighborhood is to build strong foundations and institutions that can lift people up and begin to create great opportunity and generational wealth. It takes a long — it takes a lot of time and a lot of money. And the Lower Ninth Ward is wanting in both of those areas.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, what do you say to the residents who say that, if that neighborhood had been whiter and wealthier, that it wouldn’t look the way it does today?

    MITCH LANDRIEU: Well, there’s really no answer to that. If a neighborhood that got hit was wealthier and had insurance and had the resources to stand itself back up, it would be doing better. There’s no — there’s no question about that.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But there are some people who do believe that the city just didn’t — that the political will from the city, the state, wherever…

    MITCH LANDRIEU: Well, that’s not — that’s not — that’s not accurate. Every part of this city got fair treatment. Every part of the city got investments that they deserved and that they needed.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: One thing the city is doing is providing tax breaks to developers who are willing to build in the Lower Ninth. But even that exposed tensions.

    KIM FORD, Community Organizer: This is another aspect of gentrification. Developers, they’re marketing these to people who are not from this community, white people primarily.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Kim Ford is a Lower Ninth Ward resident and community organizer. She says the new development projects will drastically change the neighborhood, which, prior to Katrina, was comprised mostly of African-American working-class residents.

    So, this used to be a school before Katrina?

    She took me to a particularly contentious site, the old Holy Cross school grounds. Since Katrina, they have been sitting abandoned and unused, but they were recently purchased by a New Orleans condo developer.

    KIM FORD: Two high-rise condo complexes between this building and the levee right here towering six stories above the single one-story homes that exist in this neighborhood.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And isn’t that a good thing? Don’t you need people moving into this neighborhood?

    KIM FORD: We want people that are vested into our community, single-family homes, just like what has historically been in this community. We don’t want to increase the taxes on our community that we can’t afford to live here anymore.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Wow. That’s how high the water came in here.

    Just around the corner, still in the Holy Cross section of the Lower Ninth Ward, Kiff Magor and his girlfriend, Mary Aaroe, are in the midst of renovating a small brick house they bought three years ago. Originally from Indiana and North Carolina, the two met when they were volunteers with Common Ground, a non-profit group that has rebuilt homes in the Lower Nine. The two fell in love with each other, and the neighborhood, and decided to make it their home.

    KIFF MAGOR, Lower Ninth Ward Resident: I have met people who lived in the neighborhood. I have connected with them.

    MARY AAROE, Lower Ninth Ward Resident: There’s just a ton of folks that came down and recognized this area as what the people who have lived here for generations and generations have always known, that it’s a beautiful space. And there’s strong people here, super resilient. Everybody that’s here wants to be here in this neighborhood. We love it.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: There are some people in this community who feel that it should stay a historically black neighborhood.

    KIFF MAGOR: I can totally understand where those people are coming from. I just think it’s a matter of respecting what it was and not coming in to try and radically change anything. But in order to get the things the neighborhood needs, we need people to move in.

    KEISHA HENRY, Co-Owner, Cafe Dauphine: We have a shrimp and a grilled chicken.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Keisha Henry certainly agrees with that. Three years ago, she and some family members opened Cafe Dauphine, the only upscale restaurant in the Lower Ninth Ward. They serve traditional New Orleans fare. She says business has been up and down. She hopes they will soon see a profit.

    KEISHA HENRY: The ultimate goal is to have people who will come down here and see how nice the neighborhood is. And they can enjoy it and they could be like, boy, I never thought of this neighborhood in this light. Maybe I will consider moving over here.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, you would like this place to be a magnet to bring people to the neighborhood, not just to eat, but to live?

    KEISHA HENRY: To live, yes. And our neighbors next door who are from Canada, they came to the restaurant and talked to me. And it was like, Keisha, you know you’re one of the reasons why we bought the — bought the house.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But Henry, who’s a single mom, and who lives just across the street from her restaurant, is quick to say what she doesn’t like to hear.

    KEISHA HENRY: It’s offensive to people who lived here a long time when they say, “I’m here to save this neighborhood.”

    My family has been in this neighborhood almost 90 years, and it is offensive to hear people, “Oh, I bought because I want to save you all.”

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Have you heard that from people?

    KEISHA HENRY: Oh, I have heard it.

    RICHARD CAMPANELLA, Tulane University: Depending on what your baseline is, you could describe New Orleans as either the fastest shrinking or the fastest growing city in America.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Tulane University geographer Richard Campanella says New Orleans is enjoying a renaissance of sorts, in large part because of the influx of newcomers. Campanella says he knows the Lower Ninth Ward is still struggling. And while he appreciates the deep historical ties longtime residents feel for the place, he hopes those feelings don’t block new migrants from coming.

    RICHARD CAMPANELLA: It flies against not only most of the human story, but most of the New Orleans story. Newcomers have arrived here in various waves for 300 years.

    And the Lower Ninth Ward itself was populated by people who moved from the areas on the other side of the canal. So to artificially draw a line in the chronology of the city and declare everyone before that line to be the true denizens or residents and everyone out after that line to be kind of this unnatural and artificial intrusion is to ignore all of history.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Some residents, like Reverend Willie Calhoun, say they know change is inevitable, but they don’t think enough was done to bring the original residents of the Lower Ninth Ward back.

    REV. WILLIE CALHOUN: The design of this was never to bring this neighborhood or this community back all the way. The political will to do things and to make sure that this community thrives and prospers wasn’t there, is not there.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Grocer Burnell Cotlon says people like him, people who, despite the challenges, have made this their home, it’s up to them to build a new community.

    BURNELL COTLON: New Orleans is changing, and you have to move forward. You have to move forward. So, I know some people want to keep the same old New Orleans. But Katrina changed that. You have to embrace the change. You have to move forward. You have to move forward. You can’t stay in the past.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: From the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, I’m William Brangham for the PBS NewsHour.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And tune in again tomorrow night, as a new state-of-the-art hospital opens. We look at the new opportunities and the challenges facing health care in New Orleans. You can follow our series, “Katrina: 10 Years Later” online at PBS.org/NewsHour.

    The post Are newcomers a mixed blessing for the Lower Ninth Ward? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: There was more political uncertainty today within one of America’s key allies in the fight against Islamic State.

    Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan announced late yesterday that new parliamentary elections will be held later this fall. This came after his ruling A.K. Party lost its majority in the June election for the first time since 2002. Efforts since then to produce a coalition government failed.

    Today, he asked his prime minister to form an interim cabinet and government until November 1. But already two opposition parties have refused to take part. This comes as Turkey is now letting the U.S. use its military bases in the campaign against ISIS. Critics charge that Ankara’s own efforts against extremism focus too much on attacking Turkey’s militant Kurdish group, the PKK, and not nearly enough on ISIS.

    To help us understand the latest developments and what they mean is our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner.

    Margaret, hello.

    MARGARET WARNER: Hello.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So this is just two months after the last election. What do we make of it all?

    MARGARET WARNER: This is so complicated, Judy. So, let’s just start with the pure politics.

    Bottom line is here, Erdogan succeeded. His party, with its Islamist roots, the A.K. Party, has ruled with a total majority in Parliament ever since coming to power. So, suddenly, he was faced with having to make a coalition government. And I’m told by people close to the negotiations that he never really empowered his prime minister to give away anything.

    So, if he was inviting another party to join, he wouldn’t even give them the head of a ministry. Well, who would want to join a coalition like that? So, meanwhile, he renews this shooting war with the PKK, this terrorist group — the U.S. calls terrorists. It’s Kurdish militants who fought a civil war with Turkey for years and years. That’s been renewed.

    And the analysis is that Erdogan hopes that now he will be seen as this wartime president against not only ISIS, but the PKK, that it will enhance his stature enough that he might win the next election and in fact enough get this supermajority he wanted of 60 percent, which would let him rewrite the constitution and be a powerful, powerful president.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But wasn’t it a major surprise back in June in the elections that a Kurdish party got enough votes to win seats in the Parliament?

    MARGARET WARNER: Absolutely. That was the big, big surprise. It was a pro-Kurdish party, but they attracted a lot of younger, liberal and just sort of independent-minded voters, who were so alarmed by Erdogan’s grab for power, because he made no secret of why he wanted the 60 percent.

    These are some of the same people who turned out, remember, to protest Erdogan’s plan to bulldoze that park in downtown Istanbul. They joined with this pro-Kurdish party. And they got 13 percent and that is what made it impossible for Erdogan’s party to get 60 percent.

    Erdogan was so alarmed by this, that he wouldn’t even let his prime minister negotiate with the Kurdish party in search of a ruling coalition. The two of them together could have put one together. So, again, the Erdogan calculation is now that they have got a renewed fight with the PKK, which is pretty much a terrorist group, that maybe some of these liberals and middle-class voters will peel away from the pro-Kurdish party.

    There are no polls out yet, obviously, but analysts I have talked to, Turkish analysts, think that could be wishful thinking on his part, but there are months and months to see.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meantime, what is at stake truly here for the United States?

    MARGARET WARNER: Oh, well, Judy, the big issue for the United States is getting and maintaining Turkey’s cooperation in the coalition against ISIS.

    Turkey, as we know, had been very reluctant to get drawn in. And then, all of a sudden, this summer, remarkably, it says, oh, we will let you use our bases. And these are key bases all over Turkey, not just the Incirlik Air Base, but some of the Kurdish region, that make it so much easier and faster to launch bombing runs into both Syria and Iraq.

    In other words, so the fighter jets don’t have to come all the way up from the Gulf. So there is that. And then the United States wants to also preserve a working alliance it has with some Syrian Kurdish militants in Syria who are proving really effective against ISIS there and are serving as spotters for bombing runs.

    MARGARET WARNER: I guess what I’m told is that, as long as Turkey will allow the U.S. those two things, Turkey is — Washington’s willing to look the other way if Erdogan uses the cover of joining this coalition to really go after his real enemies, the Kurds.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, it sounds like you’re saying this is a marriage of convenience, but the interests are not always aligned between the two.

    MARGARET WARNER: Not at all. That’s exactly the word, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Margaret Warner, our chief foreign affairs correspondent, thank you.

    MARGARET WARNER: Always a pleasure.

    The post What new Turkish elections mean for the fight against extremism appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A pumpjack brings oil to the surface  in the Monterey Shale, California, April 29, 2013. The vast Monterey shale formation is estimated by the U.S. Energy Information Administration to hold 15 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil, or four times that of the Bakken formation centered on North Dakota. Most of that oil is not economically retrievable except by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a production-boosting technique in which large amounts of water, sand and chemicals are injected into shale formations to force hydrocarbon fuels to the surface. Picture taken April 29, 2013.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENERGY BUSINESS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTXZ5IT

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: Only a year ago, crude oil was trading at more than $100 a barrel. But prices have plunged, down more than 60 percent from its peak. Much of that drop has occurred in just the past few weeks.

    Increased supply and declining demand for oil, plus the ongoing slowdown in China’s economy are part of what’s been fueling turmoil in the financial markets, and for some of the major oil-producing countries as well.

    Russell Gold covers this as the senior energy reporter for The Wall Street Journal.

    Thank you, Russell, for joining us.

    The price of crude oil, as we just said, is down so much since 2014. What’s the basic reason?

    RUSSELL GOLD, The Wall Street Journal: Well, the basic reason is that the supply continues to grow.

    The United States, which has sort of been the big story over the last few years, has been pumping more and more oil. It’s barely flattening off, even as prices come down. Everyone thought the U.S. production would fall off a cliff and that hasn’t happened. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has been increasing production, something you wouldn’t expect from them at these oil prices.

    And everyone thought, well, what will save the day is Chinese demand, growing Chinese demand will sop up all that extra oil. That hasn’t happened. And then over the last week, as we have seen, there are a lot of questions about whether there is going to be any Chinese demand over the next year or so.

    GWEN IFILL: Why hasn’t there been any incentive to cut back in production as a way of driving the price back up?

    RUSSELL GOLD: Well, there’s been a lot of incentive if you sort of look at the big macro level across the entire industry. But if you’re a producing country, there is no incentive to cut back, because what you’re doing is, you’re waiting to hope that somebody else cuts back first.

    If you are the one who cuts back, well, that’s going to dry up your revenue. And if you’re a company, then you’re not going to be able to pay your workers. And if you’re a country, you’re not going to be able to fund social programs.

    GWEN IFILL: Where is all this oil coming from, especially in the U.S.?

    RUSSELL GOLD: Well, in the U.S., there has been an incredible boom brought about by fracking. It’s mostly coming from Texas and North Dakota.

    We’re producing more oil than we have since the early 1970s. It’s been a really just remarkable turnaround.

    GWEN IFILL: And as a result of this — these low prices, what’s happened to consumption? Are Americans saying, well, prices are low, I will just keep going as I go? Or are they doing what Americans do, which is buying more?

    RUSSELL GOLD: Well, that’s a great question.

    Back in 2007, there was what some analysts call peak gasoline consumption in the United States, we’d hit the maximum that we were going to hit because the cars were getting more fuel-efficient. Well, that’s starting to actually turn around. People are buying less fuel-efficient cars and they’re driving further.

    So, you know, you’re out there, you’re seeing the $2.50 gasoline prices in a lot of places in the country and people are beginning to drive more. So, demand in the U.S. is going up. Globally, it’s flat.

    GWEN IFILL: And so the USA, they’re buying big trucks, for instance?

    (CROSSTALK)

    RUSSELL GOLD: We’re starting to see that coming back, yes, absolutely.

    GWEN IFILL: So, let’s talk about those other countries. You mentioned Saudi Arabia. But what about oil production in places like Iraq, or Venezuela, Nigeria, Russia?

    RUSSELL GOLD: Well, Iraq is also — like Saudi Arabia, has really ramped up its oil exports.

    They’re sort of part of the reason behind this glut. But if you look at a place like Venezuela, they have got triple-digit inflation rate now. The IMF sees the economy contracting by 7 percent. They’re sort of right now at the leading edge of oil-producing countries that are in a lot of trouble economically. Russia also is having trouble. They’re believed to be in a recession right now because of low oil prices.

    When you’re a producing nation and that’s your primary economic output in a place like Venezuela or Nigeria, this is just a really bad scenario for them.

    GWEN IFILL: OK. Well, let’s go back to China. We have watched this incredible turmoil in the Chinese markets. Which is the chicken and which is the egg, or does oil play a role in this at all? Is oil driving any of this, or are the markets driving the oil prices?

    RUSSELL GOLD: Well, I think right now it seems to me like the markets are driving the oil prices.

    When you see the Chinese economy begin to really slow down or at least the signals are very clear now that it’s slowing down, then, all of a sudden, you don’t have the big growth in demand that, up until a couple of weeks ago, everyone was expecting. The International Energy Agency earlier this month put out their big monthly report saying, we’re going to see a lot of growth in demand at the end of this year.

    Well, that’s really a question mark now. And if you’re a producing company now, just a couple — let’s say two months ago, the Kansas City board of — Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank put out a survey and asked producers, well, what do you think the oil price is going to be at the end of the year? And the answer was $63. I think they are going to be ecstatic if they get to $63 by the end of the year.

    GWEN IFILL: And, finally, let’s talk about little bit. We talk a great deal on this program about the Iran nuclear deal. And of course there is oil involved and there are questions about oil production involved in that as well. Does that change the nervousness about that deal at all? Does this have an effect?

    RUSSELL GOLD: Well, I think what the impact it could have is that, if the deal goes through, that’s just one more weight on oil prices, because Iran wants to come back and double their production, add another million barrels a day of export on to the market.

    So if you’re sort of looking long-term and thinking to yourself, well, when do oil prices rebound, if the Iran deal goes through, then that’s just one more bearish sign really for oil prices.

    GWEN IFILL: OK. Well, we will be watching all of these. There’s so many factors which will drive the outcome.

    Russell Gold of The Wall Street Journal, thank you very much.

    RUSSELL GOLD: Thank you.

    The post What’s driving the global glut of oil appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: U.S. financial markets battled all day to recoup its losses from yesterday, then collapsed under the pressure. At one point, the Dow Jones industrials were up more than 440 points, helped by an interest rate cut in China. But the gains evaporated in the final minutes of trading, making it the sixth losing day in a row. In the end, the Dow dumped another 200 points to close below 15670. The Nasdaq fell nearly 20 points, and the S&P 500 slid 25.

    GWEN IFILL: There was no letup in the stock sell-off in Shanghai, amid gathering gloom over China’s economy.

    Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News reports from Hong Kong.

    JONATHAN MILLER: Red numbers are bad, the market down nearly 8 percent again today, calamitous for small individual investors, of which there are tens of millions, like 73-year-old Mr. Gao.

    “The situation in China is much worse than anywhere else,” he says. “It just keeps falling. Ordinary people cannot afford this.”

    Many ordinary people have had their life savings wiped out. Today, the Chinese government pulled another lever in an effort to end this financial carnage, cutting interest rates in a bid to boost the economy and encourage investment.

    Mr. Wong is a Hong Kong fund manager who is scathing of how Chinese communist leaders have handled this crisis.

    ALEX WONG, Fund Manager: The real problem is that they get in too early. They should just let it fall a lot more first and then make your intervention more effective.

    JONATHAN MILLER: But they have lost about $140 billion already.

    ALEX WONG: Yes, but if you compare with the level last year, actually, we are still much higher than last year’s level.

    JONATHAN MILLER: Viewed like that, the great fall of China more of an adjustment really. Listed companies optimistically were overvalued. The market had shot up 150 percent in 12 months.

    China’s credit squeeze, one of the symptoms of downturn that alerted inverts all wasn’t well. Then, further rattled by new data confirming this, the sell-off ensued. With 40 mainland countries listed on the Shenzhen, Hong Kong investors were very exposed.

    Many investors here, both institutional and individual, have been badly burned. Until this past week, there were basically two kinds of investors in Hong Kong, those who believed in China as an indestructible economic powerhouse and engine of global growth and those who didn’t. Now most don’t.

    Astrologers have warned that the Year of the Goat held risks for financial affairs. For goat people, the lucky direction is north, but, right now, it’s still all heading south.

    GWEN IFILL: The sell-off in China has put even more pressure on oil prices, now at their lowest since the recession began. But in New York today, oil managed a small comeback, closing back above $39 a barrel. We will explore the oil production boom and price bust after the news summary.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office has scaled back its economic outlook for the United States. Its projection released today calls for growth of 2.3 percent for this year. In January, the CBO had forecast growth to run 2.8 percent for the year. The CBO also lowered its federal budget deficit forecast to $426 billion. That is the smallest since 2007.

    GWEN IFILL: The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency promised today that its checks of Iran’s nuclear activities will be the most robust anywhere. The U.N. agency is supposed to verify Iranian compliance with a nuclear deal.

    IAEA chief Yukiya Amano spoke in Vienna today, and said Iran turned over substantive information on its program this month. It’s unclear if any of the new information is new.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: More than 180,000 people are homeless in Bangladesh after floods, landslides and a cyclone inundated the country. The Red Cross and Red Crescent made an appeal today for nearly $1 million to give people temporary shelter. The region was hit hard by Cyclone Komen at the end of July, that on top of flooding that began back in June.

    GWEN IFILL: More than 46 million people worldwide now suffer from dementia. What’s more, the group Alzheimer’s Disease International estimates that number will double every 20 years. A new report out today says more than half of dementia victims now live in developing countries, and the numbers are growing fastest in East Asia and Africa.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And that symbol of reliability, London’s Big Ben, is finally showing its age. Officials say the famed clock tower at the British Parliament has been running about six seconds fast. So, mechanics had to fine-tune it by placing pennies on the pendulum. A clocksmith for Parliament says it’s to be expected. After all, he says, it’s like running a car for 24 hours a day 365 days a year for the last 156 years.

    The post News Wrap: China’s great economic fall burns investors appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The National Zoo's giant panda Mei Xiang is shown in this Giant Panda Cam image released in Washington, DC August 22, 2015. Giant panda Mei Xiang gave birth to a cub at the Smithsonian?s National Zoo today.   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. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTX1PB01

    The National Zoo’s giant panda Mei Xiang is shown in this Giant Panda Cam image released in Washington, D.C., August 22, 2015. Giant panda Mei Xiang gave birth to two cubs at the Smithsonian?s National Zoo on Sunday. Photo by Smithsonian’s National Zoo/Reuters

    The National Zoo is reporting that the smaller of two panda cubs born Sunday night has died.

    The zoo announced the news on Twitter Wednesday afternoon.

    In a press conference held over Periscope at 4pm, the zoo explained that they would regularly swap the cubs out between an incubator, and spending time with Mei Xiang, their mom. When they switched the cubs out this morning they noticed the smaller cub had not gained any weight, seemed weaker, and was possibly having respiratory problems. Despite keepers administering antibiotics and providing respiratory support, the cub’s condition continually declined, until it passed away.

    The cubs were born Saturday evening, one cub at 5:35 p.m. EDT and the other at 10:07 pm. Zoo keepers began switching the cubs out when they noticed that Mei Xiang did not seem to be able to care for both cubs at the same time. This was only the third pair of panda cub twins born in captivity, and keepers have repeatedly stressed that the cubs are in a “high risk” period.

    Keepers have reported that the other cub was still doing well — eating, drinking, and defecating normally without signs of respiratory distress.
    The zoo said Tuesday that Mei Xiang had refused to allow zoo keepers to swap out the cubs since Monday afternoon. The keepers reported that the other cub was still doing well — eating, drinking, and defecating normally without signs of respiratory distress.

    The post Smaller of two panda cubs at National Zoo has died appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Video produced by Frank Carlson.

    How do you choose a favorite muppet? Actor Sonia Manzano, who has played Maria on Sesame Street for more than 40 years, has some thoughts. Manzano, who recently announced she would not appear on the show’s next season, sat down with PBS NewsHour’s chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown to talk about her path to Sesame Street.

    In her new memoir, “Becoming Maria,” Manzano talks about growing up in the South Bronx as the daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants. She told the NewsHour that she struggled to find representation of people from her neighborhood in the media, and hoped her role would help other children who felt the same way. “There is a connection that I found comforting in television,” she said.

    Having appeared alongside other muppets for years, Manzano knows which one is her favorite. Check out her answer above, and watch more in a report by Jeffrey Brown tonight on the NewsHour.

    The post Sesame Street’s Maria picks her favorite muppet appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Senior woman frustrated with Social Security.  Photo by PeopleImages.com/Getty Images

    Social Security’s mistakes with retirement benefits are notoriously difficult to set straight. Photo by PeopleImages.com/Getty Images

    Every day, these days, it seems like another frustrating Social Security story comes my way.

    Today, I had two.

    Social Security’s mistakes with retirement benefits are notoriously difficult to set straight. Below, you can learn from other people’s frustrating tales.

    Talking to Social Security can cost you big time

    My first story for you involves a widow I’ll call Jamie, who appears to have fallen victim to precisely the malfeasance that Social Security whistleblower, John McAdams, wrote us about.

    Jamie took her widow’s benefit at age 60 and has waited 10 years to take her own retirement benefit at its highest age-70 level. But when she filed for her widow’s benefit at age 60, the Social Security staffer told her to call the office when she reached 62.

    GOT SOCIAL SECURITY QUESTIONS?

    Pose Your Questions to Larry Here

    She had no idea why, but did as she was told. She asked why she was asked to call, and the person she spoke with said he didn’t know, and they hung up. However, that person appears to have initiated Jamie’s early retirement benefit.

    Now this is Jane’s recollection of what happened eight years ago. Jerry Lutz, the former Social Security Technical Expert, who reviews my columns tells me that Jamie would have had to verbally agree to file for her retirement benefit over the phone for this to have happened. Jerry said that there are a string of questions that Social Security needs to ask over the phone or in person before they can file someone to collect their retirement benefit.

    Here’s what Jerry wrote me:

    In order to become entitled to RIB [Retirement Insurance Benefits] at 62, Jamie would have to have filed an application. This would require answering a series of questions, and either signing or attesting over the phone that the information given is correct. Granted, she should have been advised not to file for RIB if it was disadvantageous, but she could not have been signed up for RIB based on a very short phone call as she describes.

    I can’t tell you how many times I had similar cases when a widow could get an extra $100 a month or so at 62, and insisted on filing even though I explained how much better off they’d be if they waited until age 70. If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “I’ll probably be dead before then,” I could have retired much sooner.

    Regardless of what precisely went down eight years ago in that phone call, Jamie was, from what she tells me, signed up for her age-62 retirement benefit.

    But since her age 62 reduced retirement benefit was less than her age-60 reduced widow’s benefit, she continued to get the same check, namely just her widow’s benefit and had no idea that, internally, Social Security was calling her check the sum of her reduced retirement benefit plus her excess widow’s benefit (equal to the difference between her reduced widow’s benefit and her reduced early retirement benefit). She is still today getting this same total payment, leaving aside the annual cost of living adjustments (COLAs). But she would be getting far more had it not been for that errant telephone call.

    Why? Because Social Security is claiming she intentionally and willingly took her retirement benefits early (even though there was nothing to gain financially and a heck of a lot to lose), she can’t collect her 76 percent higher age-70 retirement benefit that she’d now receive had she had never filed.

    To truly understand this, let’s assume Jamie’s age-60 reduced widow’s benefit was $1,001 a month and her reduced age-62 retirement benefit was $1,000. (These numbers aren’t too far off from the actual ones.) So apart from the annual cost of living adjustments, Jamie’s been receiving $1,001 a month for ten years. She thought this $1,001 reflected one thing only: her age-60 application for her widow’s benefit. But since age 62, it’s reflected her age-62 reduced retirement benefit, which she never actually requested, of $1,000 plus $1 in excess widow’s benefits.

    What she thought she’d be able to collect, now that she has just turned 70, is $1,760 per month, that is, her highest possible retirement benefit — her full retirement benefit inclusive of four years of delayed retirement credits. So thanks to the secret behavior of one Social Security staffer eight years ago, Jamie is facing the prospect of spending the next 30 years (if she makes it to 100) receiving a check each month that is $1,001 per month instead of $1,760 per month.

    Of course, all of this comes from my conversation with Jamie, but if it is indeed as she says it is, it is deeply troublesome.

    I’m having Jamie contact Social Security to procure in writing a statement as to when they initiated her retirement benefit and the amount of that benefit. But if what Jamie told me is correct, every widow(er) in the country between the ages of 62 and 70 who thinks they are getting just their widow’s benefit and are waiting till 70 to collect their own higher age-70 retirement benefit, should head over to their local office and check that Social Security hasn’t started their retirement benefit for them without their knowledge. If they have been treated like Jamie, they should contact their members of Congress to help correct this injustice. If they haven’t been treated like Jamie, they should have the Social Security staff at the local office provide a written confirmation of their stated desire not to start their retirement benefits until age 70 as well as an acknowledgment that no one in Social Security is authorized to file for them without their express written permission.

    Don’t assume that a receipt from Social Security for a repayment will be honored

    Here’s an email that came today from someone named Mark. As you’ll read, Mark took his retirement benefit early last January at age 64. He then very quickly found a job and went back to the office and withdrew his retirement benefit. He did so by paying back the one month of retirement benefits he had received. He made his payment with a credit card and received a receipt. But Social Security cannot, it seems, correctly process credit card transactions. Read on and wince.

    Mr. Kotlikoff: I saw your recent NYT Op-Ed and wanted to tell you about my own Social Security nightmare that would be interesting to any of the millions of Americans who pay into the system and could be snagged in a similar trap someday. Please see the appeal letter below, which I have sent to the Social Security Administration, along with a check in the hopes of escaping the quagmire. Thank you. – Mark

    To Whom It May Concern:

    This letter is to appeal your decision to resume paying me monthly Social Security benefits.

    This decision by you is the latest in a series of mistakes by the Social Security Administration that has been costly for me and threatens to penalize me financially for years to come. The program that I have paid into my entire working life, that should be offering me some peace of mind and security as I age through my 60s instead has manufactured a Kafka-esque nightmare that I’m pleading with you to stop.

    It started shortly after I requested payments from SSA when I thought I was retiring in January 2015 at age 64 — before full retirement age (my birthdate is Oct. 1950, so my FRA is 66). Almost immediately I withdrew my request because I was soon employed again. I withdrew my request well within 12 months. (http://www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire/withdrawal.html)

    I received one check for $2,200 from SSA before payments were stopped.

    On March 16 I was sent a letter saying I had to reimburse SSA $4,512 for two checks. Almost immediately I received a second letter saying SSA was able to stop the second check, but I still owed $2,820. (A copy of the letter is enclosed here.)

    When I pointed out in a phone call to SSA that the amount was about $500 more than I received, I was told I had to also pay SSA for the amount of taxes that were taken out.

    On April 13, I went to the SSA office in Newark, N.J., and paid the $2,820 on my AARP VISA credit card (on the assumption that at tax time I could recoup the $500 in taxes.) A copy of the receipt for that payment – number 15103188002 is also enclosed.

    After about six weeks when the bill didn’t show up on my AARP VISA credit card statement, I called SSA and was told I should wait about three months to see if it would appear on my bill. Three months later, I called again and during that call your representative informed me that the letter dated August 4 reinstating my payments was on its way to my house. He told me the payments were being reinstated so they could deduct the $2,820. He said there was no record of my April 13 payment, even though I gave him the receipt #.

    By reinstating my payments now while I am 64, SSA will significantly reduce the amount I will be able to collect each month when I do finally retire in a few years at FRA. I will also be heavily taxed for 2015 on the payments as I am currently employed full-time and earning a salary.

    I have already tried to pay SSA $2,820 and now I am being penalized after SSA has lost track of my payment.

    Enclosed is a check for $2,820 to settle this account. Can we please get this cleared up immediately?

    I want SSA to accept this check for $2,820, acknowledge that my request for benefits before FRA was withdrawn within 12 months and cancel/take back any benefits sent to me after I paid back SSA on April 13. According to your website, I did everything necessary to properly withdraw my request for benefits before FRA, so that I can start the clock fresh when I reach FRA as if I never requested benefits in the past. Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.

    Mark did the right thing here by sending Social Security a written letter of his situation along with a copy of the receipt and the check. In addition to this, Mark should also contact his members of Congress to ask them to help.


    Today’s Social Security puzzler — collecting on your ex while your hubby collects on you

    Here’s an interesting case that recently came my way. It involves an age 67-year-old married woman, I’ll call Mary, who got married after age 60. Her ex to whom she was married for more than 10 years recently died.

    Her husband is now 66, that is, at full retirement age. Mary’s ex was a very high earner, and Mary’s retirement benefit, even if she waits until 70 to collect it, will never exceed her divorcee widow’s benefit. How can Marry collect a divorcee widow’s benefit if she’s remarried? The answer is that she remarried after age 60.

    Mary’s husband, who I’ll call Joe, earned more than Mary, but less than her ex. What should Mary do? She could have Joe file and suspend his retirement benefit, permitting her to collect a full spousal benefit on his work record equal to half of his full retirement benefit. And then at 70 she could start her own retirement benefit.

    But doing this would forego receiving her divorcee widow’s benefit. So Mary should definitely take her divorcee widow’s benefit. But what else can she and Joe do to maximize their lifetime benefits?

    Tic Toc, Tic Toc… OK, time’s up.

    Mary should file for her retirement benefit. Doing so won’t mean a penny more in benefits ever. But by filing for her own retirement benefit, she’ll permit Joe to collect a full spousal benefit on her work record while waiting until 70 to collect his highest possible retirement benefit.

    Hence, Mary and Joe’s best strategy involves have Mary collect on her dead ex and have Joe collect on Mary.

    Bonus Social Security puzzler — How can state and local governments that are exempt from Social Security help their workers collect more Social Security benefits without costs to themselves?

    Suppose you work for a state or local government that doesn’t participate in Social Security and that you will receive a pension from that government. But also suppose you worked enough in covered employment (jobs that do withhold Social Security FICA taxes) either before, during or after working in non-covered employment to qualify to collect Social Security retirement benefits. You’ll receive a Social Security retirement benefit, but it will be significantly reduced by what’s called the Windfall Elimination Provision.

    Furthermore, whether or not you qualify for your own retirement benefit, suppose you have a spouse or a living ex to whom you were married for 10-plus years. In this case, you may be able to collect a spousal benefit (or a child-in-care spousal benefit if you have a child under 16 or a disabled child who became disabled before 22 and remained disabled after age 22) or a divorcee spousal benefit. These benefits will be significantly reduced and potentially totally wiped out by the Government Pension Offset provision.

    So what can your state or local government do to help you avoid the WEP and GPO?

    Tic Toc, Tic Toc… OK, time’s up.

    They can let you take your non-covered pension later, but at a higher value to compensate you fully for waiting to collect and for the fact that you may die before you collect or shortly thereafter. The cost to the state or local government of actuarially increasing your benefit to make you whole is zero when calculated on an actuarial present value basis. That’s what an actuarial increase means. Yes, the government has to pay a higher benefit to you when you finally start collecting, but it makes out by getting to delay the payments to you and by the prospect of your dying before you collect or soon thereafter.

    Now, for the rest of the story. Neither the WEP nor the GPO take effect until you actually start collecting your non-covered pension. So, if you, for example, were able to take your non-covered pension starting at 75, you could start your Social Security benefit at 62 and not be WEP’d or GPO’d for 13 years!

    The post Social Security mix-up? Here’s what you should do appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Members of the Patel community climb a police vehicle as they attend a protest rally in Ahmedabad, India, August 25, 2015. Thousands of the community members on Tuesday held the huge protest rally to demand reservation for their community, local media reported. REUTERS/Amit Dave - RTX1PL0V

    Members of the Patel community climb a police vehicle at a protest rally in Ahmedabad, India. Thousands of the community members on Tuesday held the huge protest rally to demand reservation for their community, local media reported. Photo by Reuters/Amit Dave.

    Riots broke out in Gujarat in West India Tuesday and today after 22-year-old Hardik Patel — the man responsible for a protest movement — was detained by police.

    Patel’s movement is trying to change the reservation system, the world’s oldest affirmative action quota system.

    The reservation system is intended to fill spaces in public jobs, publicly funded colleges, and elected assemblies for less dominant castes. The system was put in place to level the playing field. But Patel is demanding the Patidar community, or Patel caste — one of the most affluent and advantaged groups — be given “backwards” status, which would result in more government and college access.

    On Tuesday, Patel had over half a million supporters come out (There’s a great picture of this by the AP you may want to consider adding) to hear him speak of the injustices that face his caste.

    “If you do not give us our right, we will snatch it,” Patel reportedly said to the large crowd. “Whoever will talk of Patel interests will rule over Patels.”

    Later that night, Patel was detained by police after announcing a hunger strike and a 48-hour ultimatum.

    Local outlets are reporting at least five dead and over 100 injured as Gujarat’s riots have turned violent after news broke of Patel’s detainment.

    Patel supporters began throwing stones, destroying private and public property, and set fire to cars and three police stations.

    The Gujarat government deployed army and paramilitary forces, and ordered the first curfew since 2002. Internet and mobile services have also been suspended to stop the circulation of campaign messages.

    Schools and colleges remain closed for the second day.

    The post How a 22-year-old is sparking deadly riots in India appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 30:  Actress Sonia Manzano performs with 'Big Bird onstage during the 36th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards at The Orpheum Theatre on August 30, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by John Shearer/FilmMagic for ATI)

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: As she announces her retirement, an icon of children’s television looks back at her life and how she got to “Sesame Street.”

    Jeffrey Brown has that story.

    GROVER: Here we have it, the part of the body we are going to talk about today, the head.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s a show woven into the childhood memory of generations. And for much of her life, Sonia Manzano was a major part of “Sesame Street” as one of its writers and as the actor playing the character of Maria.

    SONIA MANZANO,
    Sesame Street: Cookies and cupcakes are good sometimes, but I want everyone to realize that treats like this can be tasty, too.

    COOKIE MONSTER: Oh, Maria.

    SONIA MANZANO: Oh, come on.

    COOKIE MONSTER: This very disappointing.

    SONIA MANZANO: Oh, come on.

    JEFFREY BROWN: She was a beloved figure who taught the basics of reading and math.

    SONIA MANZANO: Tube of toothpaste.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But also complicated life lessons about love, marriage, sickness and death.

    SONIA MANZANO: Don’t you remember we told you Mr. Hooper died? He’s dead.

    BIG BIRD:
    Oh, yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For many viewers, she was also the first Latina they saw on television.

    So, how much of Maria was you?

    SONIA MANZANO: She’s all me. She’s a better Sonia. She’s a kinder Sonia. She’s a more patient Sonia, but it’s all — I went exactly from myself.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And yet the safe, comforting world where Maria lived and worked was very different from the one Manzano grew up in, a story she’s now telling in a new memoir, “Becoming Maria.”

    SONIA MANZANO:
    When I started thinking about leaving “Sesame Street,” I wanted — I started to think about my journey there and I wanted to examine where I went right and where I went wrong and how is it possible that a girl from my background could end up on this iconic television show.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Manzano grew up here, in the working-class tenements of the South Bronx, born to Puerto Rican immigrants. She describes her father, who worked as a roofer, serenading her with Puerto Rican ballads on the guitar.

    But he was also an alcoholic with a violent temper, a chaotic presence who beat her mother, destroyed objects around the house and generally terrified Manzano and her siblings.

    SONIA MANZANO: In order to escape like what was going on inside the apartment, I used to look outside the window. I used to comb my hair, do my nails, read by the streetlight, sort of trying to find the furthest place, like being on that — at the end of the boat.

    ACTOR: Beaver, Beaver, don’t eat so fast.

    JEFFREY BROWN: She sought refuge in television of the era, in shows that depicted serene family life, as in “Leave It to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best.”

    WOMAN: Lost my husband in November.

    JEFFREY BROWN:
    And in “Queen for a Day,” a game show that invited down-and-out women to share stories of misfortune in order to win appliances.

    SONIA MANZANO: I thought my mother could have a good spot on that, on “Queen for a day,” and we would get something out of being miserable.

    But the other shows were in suburban environments. And so I didn’t see the neighborhood that I lived in reflected on television or people. And I have to say that, on some level, I wondered where I was going to fit into this society that didn’t see me, what my contribution was going to be.

    I decided, no, that’s it. I’m going to stand up for myself.

    JEFFREY BROWN: At school, Manzano found little relief from her chaotic home life, at this junior high school, getting into an early fight to prove herself. She says merely showing up was often enough to pass.

    SONIA MANZANO:
    I think I just lost myself in whatever books I could find. I had a feeling that there was something better than this. I just couldn’t believe that this was life.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And then came a revelation. When Manzano was 11 years old, a teacher took her to see the film “West Side Story,” set in a place she knew all too well, but one suddenly cast in a whole new light.

    SONIA MANZANO: I saw banal things that I saw every day in my neighborhood beautiful, exalted. All of a sudden, the schoolyard fence that I had wanted to climb over was like a painting. The graffiti was like something you would see in a museum. Like, I couldn’t articulate this, but I think that gave me strength.

    JEFFREY BROWN:
    A drama teacher encouraged here to audition as an actor for Manhattan’s High School for the Performing Arts, and she was accepted. She struggled in a suddenly rigorous academic environment, but her acting helped her gain entry to Carnegie Mellon University in 1968.

    One year later, an idealistic new television show designed to reach inner-city children debuted on public television.

    SONIA MANZANO:
    I never saw these cheerful, attractive, black, friendly people in this environment that was recognizable to me with the stoop and the tenement doors. And I said, what’s my stoop doing on television? It was thrilling to see a show like that.

    JEFFREY BROWN:
    In 1971, Manzano auditioned and, at age 22, landed the part of Maria, a role she would inhabit for the next 44 years.

    So, having written the book to figure out how you got from here to there, did you figure it out?

    SONIA MANZANO: No.

    JEFFREY BROWN: No? No?

    (LAUGHTER)

    SONIA MANZANO: No, no, I think that there is something — there is a connection that I found comfort in television and that I ended up providing comfort or wanting to provide comfort for children who were watching television, that I love theater and I love stories.

    People say, oh, she overcame a terrible childhood. I say, I didn’t overcome my difficult childhood. I say that I used it. I made something of it. I never forgot it. I remembered myself watching “Father Knows Best” and “Leave It to Beaver.” And so I remembered myself doing that and I kept that sensibility in my heart while I was doing “Sesame Street,” with the knowledge that there is another kid out there looking for that sanctuary.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In retirement, Sonia Manzano will continue that pursuit. Among other things, she’s now working to establish a children’s museum in the Bronx.

    And from the South Bronx, I’m Jeffrey Brown for the PBS NewsHour.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:
    Just after Jeff spoke to Sonia Manzano, “Sesame Street” announced that it will move to HBO. New episodes of the program will air there first and then on PBS stations nine months later.

    The post For this beloved Sesame Street role model, it wasn’t always ‘sunny days’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    20150826_Smartcane

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    GWEN IFILL: Now an innovation that may help the blind become more independent.

    It’s a new take on the familiar white cane that the visually impaired have been using for decades.

    The NewsHour’s April Brown reports from the northeast region of France for the latest in our Breakthroughs series on invention and innovation.

    APRIL BROWN: Lysiane Perney doesn’t see the world the way most people do. In fact, she doesn’t see much of it at all. Perney, who lives in the city of Nancy in Northeastern France, suffers from retinitis pigmentosa. Photoreceptor cells in her eyes, the rods and cones, have been dying. And that causes the gradual loss of everything but central vision, and also the ability to see colors.

    LYSIANE PERNEY, Visually Impaired (through interpreter): When you move around in a city when you are visually impaired, it is very stressful, knowing where you are, having some landmarks, knowing this is the right bus line.

    APRIL BROWN:
    Nevertheless, Perney is a busy, independent woman, an elected city council member and an advocate for the disabled. She moves around with the help of a few smartphone apps and a white cane, the kind the visually impaired have been using for decades to avoid obstacles.

    But, soon, she may be able to buy a new kind of cane, one that will tell her a lot more about her surroundings.

    FLORIAN ESTEVES,
    Co-Founder, Handisco: You can have real-time information during your walk, like you can have information about public transportation, about the shops, public places. You can have at what time the shop opens.

    APRIL BROWN:
    Florian Esteves and Mathieu Chevalier are engineering graduates turned budding entrepreneurs who are developing an intelligent white cane. They have created a high-tech box that fits on a traditional white cane and uses infrared and ultrasonic sensors to detect obstacles, triggering the handle to vibrate.

    FLORIAN ESTEVES: Just by pressing a button, you can hear the light is green, the light is red, you can cross, be careful about maybe a car, wait a minute.

    APRIL BROWN: Their cane also incorporates GPS technology to determine a person’s location, and will share data from the city of Nancy and elsewhere that will be relayed through a Bluetooth headset.

    COMPUTER VOICE: Tramway stop. Next tramway five minutes.

    APRIL BROWN:
    The idea for the intelligent white cane was hatched while Esteves and Chevalier were students at the University of Lorraine. They entered Le Defi Cisco, a contest designed to inspire technological innovations to solve social and environmental problems.

    MATHIEU CHEVALIER,
    Co-Founder, Handisco: We just observed that these people only use a simple stick every day to work in the city. And we had all the same reaction. With all of the current technology and the current objects, we can do better.

    APRIL BROWN: And their better stick won. The contest sponsor, Cisco France, awarded the team the top prize and 70,000 euros, about $77,500.

    REMI SEDILOT, Director of Commercial Distribution, Cisco France: For the contest, what we are trying to choose is projects that are touching the life of people.

    APRIL BROWN: Remi Sedilot is the company’s sales and marketing director in France. He now mentors Esteves and Chevalier as they try to grow their new company, Handisco, and get the intelligent cane ready for the market.

    FLORIAN ESTEVES: LED for night visibility and some buttons to interact.

    APRIL BROWN:
    As trained engineers, Esteves and Chevalier admit they can use Sedilot’s help on the business end.

    REMI SEDILOT:
    I’m just trying to help them to identify the right contacts or the right things to do to be ready, to have a good market study, what is the pricing structure they should have to have a chance to sell.

    APRIL BROWN: But, before they can sell, they have to refine their prototype. The pair has been working closely with the city of Nancy to pursue additional funding, and find a way to get existing data about transportation schedules, accessibility and other services into a computer program that works with the cane. Esteves and Chevalier are also collaborating with eventual users of their product.

    MATHIEU CHEVALIER: They tell us all the problems they can encounter in everyday life, so that’s really helped us to build our functionality around their problem.

    APRIL BROWN: Like the problem of portability. Since the box fits on an existing white cane, it folds and unfolds just as easily.

    Is that something that blind people told you was necessary?

    FLORIAN ESTEVES: Yes.

    MATHIEU CHEVALIER: Yes. It’s very, very important.

    APRIL BROWN: That kind of insight has come from a partnership with Association Valentin Hauy, a French organization supporting the visually impaired.

    MARIE-JOSE DIEUDONNE, Association Valentin Hauy (through translator): The stick is a marvelous object because it provides with all that their eyes can’t give them; 75 percent of all information comes through vision.

    APRIL BROWN: Marie-Jose Dieudonne has been working with Nancy’s visually impaired for years and runs the association’s office there. She believes there is a ready market for the cane, even at an expected cost of 500 euros.

    MARIE-JOSE DIEUDONNE (through interpreter): I think 30 percent of the visually impaired would go for such a product, so all the people between 30 and 75. With the baby boom, there are more and more seniors, and they will opt for a connected stick. It is an age group that is already connected.

    APRIL BROWN: Meanwhile, Lysiane Perney has been testing the weight of the prototype, and wishes it could be a bit lighter. And she is looking forward to playing a role in the next stage of the cane’s development, taking it for a real trial run as soon as the computer programming is finished.

    LYSIANE PERNEY
    (through interpreter): I was a bit skeptical about something new coming onto the market. But I wanted to test it, because the best ones to try it out are us, the end users, visually impaired people. I rejoiced in discovering that it could bring us something more.

    APRIL BROWN: And the hope is the cane will give the visually impaired more information and more confidence to successfully navigate the world on their own.

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

    The post Smart cane may help visually impaired navigate more terrain appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Protesters stand on a sidewalk outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Vista, California August 3, 2015. Planned Parenthood will be the focus of a partisan showdown in the U.S. Senate on Monday, as abortion foes press forward a political offensive against the women's healthcare group over its role in fetal tissue research. Congressional Republicans are trying to cut off Planned Parenthood's federal funding, reinvigorating America's debate about abortion as the 2016 presidential campaign heats up.     REUTERS/Mike Blake - RTX1MWIP

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, first, the battle over Planned Parenthood is heating up this week, as opponents of abortion rights released more undercover videos and held weekend protests. Meantime, Planned Parenthood itself launched a lawsuit against the state of Louisiana’s attempt to cut its funding.

    All of this is having an effect in the race for the White House.

    Political director Lisa Desjardins reports.

    And a warning: It contains some graphic images.

    WOMAN: Today, we are standing in solidarity.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Early morning Saturday, an hour when only the devoted would gather, and opponents of abortion rights have nearly 200 of them here in nation’s capital, protesting against and praying at this upcoming Planned Parenthood clinic, banners up, battle-ready, this scene repeated across the country this weekend from Portland, Maine, to Las Vegas, Nevada.

    All told, organizers say tens of thousands turned out, many of course motivated by recent controversial videos on YouTube.

    REV. PATRICK MAHONEY, Christian Defense Coalition: These videos were not made up. These videos are so powerful.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Planned Parenthood’s opponents mean these videos, undercover videos by anti-abortion activists posing as businessmen trying to buy fetal tissue. Critics say these show Planned Parenthood as a heartless organization motivated by money.

    CECILE RICHARDS,
    President, Planned Parenthood: I’m Cecile Richards.

    LISA DESJARDINS: In its own video, Planned Parenthood denied that, saying it cares for millions of patients. The organization points to edits in the undercover videos that left out their worker clearly saying they do not sell fetal tissue.

    Whatever you make of them, the videos are a lit match in a heated campaign year. Republicans are eager to be anti-Planned Parenthood.

    SEN. RAND PAUL
    Republican Presidential Candidate: There is absolutely no need for any public funding of Planned Parenthood. There is no excuse for it.

    CARLY FIORINA Republican Presidential Candidate: There is no excuse. Planned Parenthood must be defunded.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Jeb Bush caused a stir yesterday at a Colorado town hall when he turned to say this:

    JEB BUSH, Republican Presidential Candidate: I for one don’t think they should get — that Planned Parenthood ought to get a penny, though, and that’s the difference, because they’re not actually doing women’s health issues.

    (APPLAUSE)

    LISA DESJARDINS: Planned Parenthood’s annual report shows the bulk of their services are women’s health, things like STD testing, cancer screening, and that abortions are only 3 percent of their services.

    Democrats are jumping to be pro-Planned Parenthood and in the same breath anti-Republican.

    HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON Democratic Presidential Candidate: I think it is regrettable that Republicans are, once again, trying to undermine, even end those services that so many women have needed and taken advantage of.

    LISA DESJARDINS: In other words, both sides are winning, by firing up their bases.

    David is the anti-abortion activist behind the undercover videos that are building crowds on his side. Abortion politics and protests are not new, but he believes his videos have sparked a new shift in the debate.

    DAVID DALEIDEN,
    Anti-Abortion Activist: It’s completely changing the way that we talk about abortion and unborn children in America. I think that — I think it’s really causing a sea change in how that conversation happens, and that’s a good thing, because it’s a conversation that’s needed to happen for a long time.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Go to Planned Parenthood’s offices in Washington and vice president Dawn Laguens will tell you they also feel a wave of momentum their way.

    DAWN LAGUENS, Executive Vice President, Planned Parenthood: People are dropping off boxes of doughnuts and bundles of flowers to our health care providers to say, thank you for what you do every day. And so that’s what we see. I mean, the irony of these attacks on us is, they actually tend to get more people saying, oh, I didn’t know this was at risk, I care a lot about this, and I’m going to stand up for it.

    LISA DESJARDINS:
    You are seeing donations going up?

    DAWN LAGUENS: Everything is going up.

    DREW HALFMANN, University of California at Davis: Abortion became sort of a key litmus test both in the Republican Party and in the Democratic Party.

    LISA DESJARDINS:
    Drew Halfmann, a professor at the University of California at Davis, studies abortion politics. With these videos, there’s another factor at work, he says. The videos touch the American middle ground.

    DREW HALFMANN:
    You have had people who were very supportive of abortion rights, on the other side, people who are very anti-abortion, and then in the middle a large number of Americans, the majority of Americans, who support the right of abortion, but you know, have some issues with abortion.

    LISA DESJARDINS:
    Enter risk for Republicans like Texas Senator Ted Cruz who are hard-charging against Planned Parenthood.

    SEN. TED CRUZ Republican, Presidential Candidate: And I call upon the United States Congress right now today to stand up and lead and to defund Planned Parenthood.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    LISA DESJARDINS: Cruz has held rallies on the issue and announced last week that he would push the U.S. Senate to defund Planned Parenthood in September. The federal government funds over $500 million or 41 percent of Planned Parenthood’s budget. By law, that money cannot pay for abortions.

    Cut that funding, and you would potentially cripple Planned Parenthood. That’s no problem for Republicans. What is? Other numbers. A recent Reuters poll showed that some 54 percent of Americans overall support funding Planned Parenthood. But now look at a key swing state, Florida, which could decide the primary and the election. In a Quinnipiac poll this week, Florida Republican voters overwhelmingly said they want to defund Planned Parenthood.

    But ask all the voters in the state, and the majority switches. Most want to keep the funding. Polls in Ohio and Pennsylvania show the same potential risk, Republicans go one way, general election voters the other.

    DREW HALFMANN: I think it’s interesting to watch the Republican candidates try to outdo each other. So, it may provide some leverage for Senator Cruz, for example, who’s the — really sort of the most radical on this issue. I think it can definitely benefit him with the base, the people who vote in the primaries.

    In terms of the general election, you know, I think this could really advantage Hillary Clinton.

    WOMAN: It’s enough to just defund Planned Parenthood, but we need to defeat Planned Parenthood.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Back at that morning protest in Washington, ask organizer Lauren Handy about the risk of losing the White House if Republicans push too hard to close Planned Parenthood, and she will give you a direct answer.

    LAUREN HANDY, Protester: If that costs your election, then that costs your election. And sometimes we do have to take the consequences that follow with being bold.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Both sides are gearing up for a hot September. Planned Parenthood is considering a national bus tour and a new series of ads. Meantime, their opponents have planned a Capitol Hill rally. It’s an issue hitting Congress that could also loom large in the presidential elections, both primary and general.

    Lisa Desjardins, PBS NewsHour, Washington.

    The post Planned Parenthood funding fight fires up the campaign trail appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Walmart is raising its minimum starting wage to $9 an hour. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Walmart will stop selling assault rifles in the coming weeks. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Walmart will stop selling assault rifles within the next few weeks. The store claims that falling consumer demand — not politics — prompted the decision.

    It is being widely reported that the store — the world’s largest retail chain — will stop stocking AR-15s and other sporting rifles. Instead, as the stores phase out summer stock for fall merchandise, they will replace assault rifles with shotguns and similar weapons. The store has also pointed out that they currently only carry assault rifles in less than a third of their stores.

    Walmart previously faced considerable pressure to remove assault rifles from its stock. Gun safety groups, including Moms Demand Actions, called for the store to remove the rifles in the wake of mass shootings across the U.S.

    Additionally, an Episcopal church with shares in the store sued to require Walmart to let its shareholders vote on a proposal for the tighter oversight of firearms. In April, the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed a ruling in favor of the church. The church has now declared it will consider dropping that suit.

    Walmart plans to sell its remaining inventory of assault rifles, in some cases providing a steep discount on the merchandise.

    The post Walmart to stop selling assault rifles appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - AUGUST 24:  The Mercedes-Benz Superdome stands (Top R) downtown near the abandoned Charity Hospital (Lower L), which was flooded during Hurricane Katrina and never re-opened, on August 24, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Superdome site was used as a 'shelter of last resort' during Hurricane Katrina. The tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which killed at least 1836 and is considered the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, is August 29.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: The future of patient care is only one of the concerns casting a shadow over the Crescent City 10 years later.

    A new report out today has a sobering assessment of other problems plaguing its majority African-American community. Among its findings, in 2005, 44 percent of black children in New Orleans were living in poverty. That number has gone up to 51 percent. And the earnings gap between black and white families has increased by 18 percent. African-American households bring in roughly $25,000 a year, white households $60,000.

    The National Urban League study on these and other disparities was released today in New Orleans.

    I sat down with CEO Marc Morial to talk about it when I was in the city earlier this week.

    Marc Morial, thank you for joining us.

    MARC MORIAL, President, National Urban League: Thanks, Gwen.

    GWEN IFILL: You are the son of a mayor, former state senator, former mayor of New Orleans. And now, as head of the Urban League, you have come out with a report in which you have taken stock of what’s happened in the 10 years since Katrina. It reads like a tale of two cities.

    MARC MORIAL: It is a tale of two cities.

    New Orleans has long been, like many American cities, a tale of two cities. And I think it’s clear, as you take this snapshot 10 years later, after this tragedy of Katrina, that it’s still a tale of two cities, yes, with great physical rebuilding, yes, a city that survived a tremendous challenge. But that’s why I think we have to look at this as a commemoration and a continuation, and not a celebration.

    GWEN IFILL: There’s been so much conversation over the years about bouncing back. You talked about resilience, about the ability of New Orleanians to recreate what had been washed away.

    But let’s talk about the issues one by one. Education, what does your report find?

    MARC MORIAL: So our report finds certainly that you have got a higher high school graduation rate. But our report also finds that, when it comes to children, there are more children in poverty today than there were before Katrina, and that when it comes to education, while you see signs of progress, there are new schools, there’s improvements in schools, the truth is, is that it’s a school district with fewer students.

    It’s true that these reforms have come at a tremendous cost to the city, and that cost was the layoff of some 7,000 mostly African-American unionized teachers almost 10 years ago. And that’s left, if you will, a scar and pain on the effort to reform the schools. Now, it’s all about what’s doing best for kids. But I think it’s important for people to be measured. At this point, it’s like halftime.

    GWEN IFILL: As I drive through the city, I see new construction, houses with solar panels, along the riverfront, new levees. This all speaks to an incredible rebirth in the housing market. Yet a lot of people say they can’t afford it.

    MARC MORIAL: What happened is that, literally, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of units were either substantially damaged or destroyed, and that there’s been a great rebuilding that we need to applaud.

    However, there isn’t enough housing in the city, quality housing in the city, to accommodate what is now a growing population. And that is indeed the case. So the signs of physical rebirth are everywhere. And I absolutely applaud that. But what New Orleans needs today is an effort to build more work force housing, more affordable housing, more housing that people can both rent and own in terms of where we are.

    So that speaks, Gwen, really to this point that this — in this 10th year, the focus should be on what needs to happen in the next 10 or 15 years. And building more work force and affordable housing I think is a must, or — or the recovery a and the rebuilding will stall because it will simply be just too expensive for people to be able to afford a decent home.

    GWEN IFILL: So, apply that future-looking orientation to something like unemployment, where especially — black teen unemployment is high everywhere, but it’s especially grievous here. How can that be? How has that been overlooked, or has it?

    MARC MORIAL: I think it has not had the emphasis. I think the issues of equity have not been center stage in the recovery.

    Let’s just go back just for a minute. At the very beginning after the hurricane, there was a Dallas plan. I call it a Dallas plan, because it was actually written in Dallas by certain business leaders for New Orleans that would have decommissioned, turned certain historic neighborhoods, middle-class and working-class and poor African-American neighborhoods into lagoons, and not only African-American neighborhoods, but neighborhoods like St. Bernard Parish, which were completely devastated, and which happens to be a neighborhood made up of mostly working-class white people.

    So these decisions that were made stalled the recovery.

    GWEN IFILL:
    You mentioned St. Bernard Parish, where recently they voted against raising taxes to pay for the maintenance of the new levees. Every house in St. Bernard Parish flooded. Isn’t there some personal responsibility that the residents need to take for that recovery?

    MARC MORIAL:
    Absolutely.

    I think, when people vote against taxes, in this part of the country, it sometimes is also a reflection of the reality of people believing they can’t afford to pay. But no doubt local governments — in New Orleans, taxes have risen a number of times over the last 10 years to pay for many, many things.

    Remember, you have got a smaller population base in the city today than you had pre-Katrina.

    GWEN IFILL: As you read the results of this report and as a son of New Orleans, do you, 10 years later, feel more optimistic or less optimistic about where the city is headed in the next 10 years?

    MARC MORIAL: I’m optimistic, Gwen. Let me tell you why I’m optimistic.

    I stood on the Ninth Ward levee a week after this hurricane, and I questioned, in my — in the depths of my heart and my soul, whether the city would ever be able to stand on its two feet again. New Orleans could have been — become a modern Pompeii, a modern Herculaneum, a city lost to Hurricane Katrina.

    The fact of the matter is, is that the city’s uniqueness, its music, its culture, its standing, its people said, absolutely, this city must be rebuilt. So, against that backdrop, I’m optimistic.

    But I realize it’s a very long journey, and what our report seeks to say is, look, we’re all happy to be here at year number 10, as New Orleanians and as certainly champions of urban communities and champions of fairness and equity in America. However, the work that has to be done in the future, and the emphasis that needs to be placed on these issues in the future has to be greater than it’s been in the first 10 years, if, in fact, this rebuilding and this recovery is not only going to be complete, but is going to be something we can all be proud of.

    GWEN IFILL: Marc Morial, CEO of the National Urban League, thank you very much.

    MARC MORIAL: Thanks, Gwen. Thanks for having me.

    GWEN IFILL:
    Welcome home.

    MARC MORIAL:
    Thank you.

    The post Why New Orleans recovery is a continuation, not a celebration appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: Now we turn to our weeklong series on how New Orleans is faring after Katrina 10 years later.

    The floodwaters that rose after the storm trapped hundreds of patients in the city’s hospitals. More than 140 of them died in a slow-motion evacuation that took days. Things went from bad to worse when officials declared the much-loved state-run Charity Hospital unfit to reopen.

    A major new hospital was dedicated in New Orleans today, a crucial part of a reimagined health care system. But worries remain that some will still be left behind.

    Special correspondent Jackie Judd has our report.

    JACKIE JUDD:
    Hurricane Katrina and all that the winds, the rain, the flooding destroyed or disabled allowed for a reimagining of what a modern health care system in New Orleans would look like. This is the centerpiece of that reimaging.

    NARRATOR: University Medical Center New Orleans is a place to heal, teach and discover for generations to come. UNC New Orleans, the future of health care is here.

    JACKIE JUDD: University Medical Center was a decade in the making, at a cost exceeding $1 billion, most of that from the federal government. The doors recently opened to a high-tech trauma center, expensive artwork and what’s promised to be hurricane-proof windows and internal systems. Some early reviews are in.

    GLYNN JAMES, New Orleans: Much, much better place, inside, clean.

    MAN: It’s what New Orleans needs. They need a good hospital here. Charity was a good hospital now. Back in the day, when I was growing up, it was a good hospital, but this is way better.

    DR. PETER DEBLIEUX,
    University Medical Center New Orleans: It’s actually built out for redundancy for one patient in case something…

    JACKIE JUDD: In case of a storm?

    DR. PETER DEBLIEUX:
    In case of a storm, if you will.

    JACKIE JUDD: Dr. Peter Deblieux, who worked at Charity Hospital, then in makeshift tents, a converted department store and finally the interim hospital, is proud of what the city has built. This hospital’s aim, he says, is twofold, serve the poor, as Charity did, and those who pay full freight.

    DR. PETER DEBLIEUX: The vision of this hospital is not to be solely an indigent care or solely a safety net hospital. That’s a vital portion of what we do, but sustainability of this hospital will be directly linked in our ability to attract all payers. What’s new and what is exciting is building destination services, so services that allow us to compete with a Houston or a Birmingham to keep regional patients here at home.

    JACKIE JUDD: From the windows of the new hospital, what came before is in clear sight. Charity Hospital holds a storied place in the city’s history, because it’s where generations of residents came for care regardless of their ability to pay, and, for many, the measure of success at the new hospital is whether that tradition will continue.

    SILVINA HENRY,
    New Orleans: And we took that together long before the order changed.

    JACKIE JUDD:
    This was in Charity?

    SILVINA HENRY: This was in Charity, yes.

    JACKIE JUDD:
    Silvina Henry worked there as a nurse’s assistant and healed there as a patient.

    SILVINA HENRY: Every time I pass there, I look at Charity, because it’s the only thing — and people in New Orleans know it’s about Charity.

    JACKIE JUDD: The new hospital is run by a nonprofit private company, adding to concerns that Charity’s mission to serve the public no matter the cost will be lost.

    University is required to have at least 20 percent of the uninsured in its patient mix, considerably less than what Charity saw. But officials promise to give care to those who need it.

    Community activist Jacques Morial organized a lawsuit to get Charity back up and running.

    JACQUES MORIAL,
    Community Activist: Working poor people trusted Charity to take good care of them. And reassembling all of that intellectual capital, that understanding of patients, with teamwork and the know-how, is not like assembling LEGOs. It takes lots of time, lots of work and lots of money.

    JACKIE JUDD: Dr. Deblieux, who once argued for the old hospital to reopen, now says that the quality of care at Charity has been romanticized and that concerns about the new hospital are unfounded.

    If you are so convinced of the success of this model, why did you fight hard to try to keep Charity open?

    DR. PETER DEBLIEUX: So, what I tried hard to do was to keep open a facility that would meet on the safety care needs of our population. And I would continue that fight today if we walked away from that mission. We’re not. That’s as strong as it’s ever been.

    JACKIE JUDD:
    The other half of the reimagining is an extensive network of community health centers. The clinics dot poor and working neighborhoods throughout the city and provide primary care.

    Dr. Karen DeSalvo worked at a pop-up clinic here near the French Quarter. Later, as the city’s health commissioner, she drove the effort to build permanent clinics where people live.

    DR. KAREN DESALVO, Former New Orleans Health Commissioner: Because the health care infrastructure went down, it caused many of us to literally stand on the street and look and say, we can do better, we can come up off our knees and build a system that’s going to meet the needs of this community.

    Looking at the evidence and listening to people that what they wanted was the front-line access to preventive care, primary care in neighborhoods.

    JACKIE JUDD: Charity’s emergency room had been a principal source of primary care, but habits and services are slowly changing.

    Silvina Henry’s primary care doctor, Keith Winfrey, is the chief medical officer at a clinic in New Orleans East, a community of African-American and Vietnamese residents.

    DR. KEITH WINFREY,
    Chief Medical Officer, New Orleans East Community Health Center: Prior to Katrina, it was more the traditional physician-patient interaction and the population wasn’t different. But it was more the physician-patient interaction. Since Katrina, there has been a total transformation in primary care, where it’s more of a team-based model of primary care, the patient-centered medical home.

    JACKIE JUDD:
    Henry, whose home on the banks of Lake Pontchartrain was badly damaged by Katrina, fled the city. She was cut off from her doctors, her medication, her medical records, charting chronic ailments, including high blood pressure and diabetes. She later returned to an entirely different experience, including electronic medical records that will survive a storm.

    SILVINA HENRY: Every time I go, they get on the computer, and they can tell me everything that is going on. And when I go to see the doctor in the room, the doctor has a record that they can open, paper record that they can tell me what is going on.

    MAN: Now, it’s my understanding that you have been sent to see me by your primary care doctor.

    JACKIE JUDD: Mental health services are woven into the clinic services, and throughout the city, mobile vans offer on-the-spot support, but it is widely acknowledged here that far more is needed.

    The police department’s Cecile Tebo has long worked with the mentally ill who have had run-ins with the law. She is incensed that the new hospital currently has just about a third of the psychiatric beds that Charity once held.

    CECILE TEBO, New Orleans Police Department: We’re standing in front of Orleans Parish Prison. This is our largest mental health hospital in our community, which is so sad, because this is not where treatment is going to happen.

    JACKIE JUDD: The great uncertainty in sustaining the new hospital and the clinics is money. Governor Bobby Jindal didn’t expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and so many uninsured patients still need free care. As part of the law, the federal government is reducing the dollars it sends states for that care.

    CECILE TEBO: I think we still mostly have questions in the area of how we’re going to finance this system long-term that is going to be affordable for everyone.

    JACQUES MORIAL: I think it’s going to take a lot of vigilance, a lot of advocacy and a lot of demand for accountability for all of this to work.

    SILVINA HENRY: And she can get my medicines for me.

    JACKIE JUDD:
    Still, for people like Silvina Henry, the progress here is real. A far more robust health care system is in place to care for people than the very fragile system that Katrina washed away.

    For the PBS NewsHour, this is Jackie Judd in New Orleans.

    The post Will reimagined New Orleans hospital meet the needs of its most vulnerable? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Amelia Boynton Robinson, 97, an Alabama activist, is photographed while speaking to visitors at a National Parks Service facility in Tuskegee, Alabama, January 9, 2009. Robinson, who was jailed, beaten and often risked her life to push for voting rights in the racially segregated South said she is still fighting for equal treatment of all. Barack Obama's election as the first black U.S. president has rekindled interest in the U.S. civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s at a time of continuing wide disparities in income, education and health care between whites and minority groups. Picture taken January 9, 2009.   REUTERS/Andrea Shalal-Esa          (UNITED STATES) - RTR23BM6

    Amelia Boynton Robinson speaks to visitors at a National Parks Service facility in 2009. Photo by Reuters/ REUTERS/Andrea Shalal-Esa.

    Amelia Boynton Robinson, a noted civil rights activist who helped lead the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” march in Selma, Alabama, has died at the age of 104. She passed away early Wednesday morning, after being hospitalized earlier this summer following several strokes.

    Boynton Robinson was a pioneer in the voting rights movement. She was one of several people to be severely beaten by state troopers as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in a march that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday”. A newspaper photograph featuring Boynton Robinson, unconscious, drew attention to the movement. Fifty years after that march, President Barack Obama held her hand as she was pushed in a wheelchair across the bridge during a commemoration of the event.

    Boynton Robinson helped organize the event by asking Martin Luther King Jr. to come to Selma and mobilize the community to participate in the civil rights movement. She also worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to plan the event. When the Voting Rights Act passed, President Lyndon Johnson invited her to attend the signing.

    In addition to being active in the civil rights movement, Boynton Robinson was the first black woman to run for Congress in Alabama. Although she lost, earlier this year she was invited to attend President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., as a guest of Rep. Terri Sewell — Alabama’s first black congresswoman.

    The post Civil rights activist Amelia Boynton Robinson dead at 104 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An investor looks at an electronic board showing stock information of Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index at a brokerage house in Beijing, August 26, 2015. Asian shares struggled on Wednesday as investors feared fresh rate cuts in China would not be enough to stabilise its slowing economy or halt a stock collapse that is wreaking havoc in global markets. REUTERS/Jason Lee  - RTX1PNY9

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We turn now to two people who follow events in China closely.

    Nicholas Lardy is an economist and a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. He has written a number of books on China’s economic growth, including, most recently, “Markets Over Mao: The Rise of Private Business in China.” And Evan Osnos, he’s a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a writer for “The New Yorker” magazine. He was based as a reporter in China for eight years.

    And welcome to both of you.

    EVAN OSNOS, The New Yorker: Thank you.

    NICHOLAS LARDY, Peterson Institute for International Economics: Thanks.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Nick Lardy, let me start with you. You wrote in The New York Times today that all this talk about China being in an economic and a financial meltdown is just wrong. Why do you believe that?

    Nicholas Lardy: Well, the evidence doesn’t really support it yet. They could be heading in that direction over the next several months or quarters, but the economy is actually growing reasonably well.

    It’s growing at about 7 percent. Consumption demand is fairly strong. Incomes are growing. Wages are growing up at about 10 percent per year. The service sector is the big driver of its growth, so it doesn’t look like an economy that’s kind of going over the cliff, as some people have anticipated.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you think is happening right now?

    NICHOLAS LARDY:
    Well, I think what’s happening is mostly a major correction in equity prices. The prices got way ahead in the year to the peak. The peak was in June six weeks or so ago, and in Shanghai, prices were up 150 percent.

    In the Shenzhen markets, they were up by even more. And so prices were in the stratosphere. There was a lot of leverage. People had borrowed money to buy stocks. A small price correction required a lot of those people to start selling those shares, or the brokerages sold them for them, and so you had a big, big downward, sharp decline in equity prices.

    But the equity — you know, price-earnings ratio, which is a very common measure, is still way ahead of what it would be in the U.S. In the Shenzhen market, it’s about 39, for example. So this was just an overheated market that was going to correct sooner or later.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:
    And it’s still going on.

    Evan Osnos, as we said, you were based there for eight years. You still stay in close touch with folks in China. How do they see what’s going on in their own country?

    EVAN OSNOS: Well, I think one of the things Nic hit on, which is that we’re so used to economic growth, both those of us over here and also of course people in China, that when we see this kind of turmoil as we have seen over the last few weeks, it feels radical.

    And that’s really what we’re seeing. We have to separate in some sense what we’re seeing on the stock market from what’s going on in the broader economy. And in the broader economy, we’re in the midst of a major transformation. And it’s a really hard thing to do. As I think the report mentioned in the lead-in, China for 30 years, they succeeded on a certain recipe, which was exports, sending things to us over here, and also building things at home, infrastructure.

    That recipe has run its course. And what they’re trying to do now is to move into an entirely different economic chapter, build up Chinese companies, a Chinese Apple, a Chinese Google, for instance, something that can unleash creative power, while also putting money into the hands of ordinary people. Doing that is very, very difficult and we’re seeing a lot the turmoil that generates.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:
    Why has it been so hard for the leadership to get it right?

    EVAN OSNOS: Well, there are short-term reasons to want to go slowly. For instance, if you’re one of the people that succeeds under the current system, let’s say you’re a big state-owned enterprise, for instance, or you’re a provincial government that builds a lot of bridges, you have a lot of reasons to want to put the brakes on reform.

    And so we sometimes assume the Chinese leadership is one monolithic group. There are a lot of different voices in there and there are a lot of people are able to say, well, let’s try slow down, let’s see, let’s stop to stop the market from collapsing, for instance.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:
    Nick Lardy, how do you see what is going on in the leadership and whether — to what extent have they made a decision to try to turn this monolithic economy which is in transition around and move toward some reforms that you have written about?

    NICHOLAS LARDY:
    Well, in principle, they have made decisions to change to a new growth model, as Evan has said. In practice, it’s very difficult to carry out.

    They have made progress. Consumption has become a more important driver of economic growth, as just — as opposed to building more property and infrastructure. And more money is filtering into the hands of people. And you see a huge increase in expenditures on services. People are spending a lot of money on education, health care, entertainment. Travel has become a big part of the economy, so we’re moving away from the industrial-based growth that was so important for so long, towards this more consumption-driven model.

    But it’s challenging. And they have made some progress over the last few years, but there is still a substantial way to go.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:
    What is it thought, Evan Osnos, that the leadership really wants? How far do they want to go? And how do you know for a fact that that’s what they want? Because there was a lot of speculation last week and the week before, no, this was just an effort to shore things up in the short-term, that it’s not at all clear they’re committed to reform.

    EVAN OSNOS:
    Well, the man at the top, and he’s a very powerful figure, Xi Jinping, who is the Chinese president, head of the party, head of the military, he has really staked his name and his reputation both internally and abroad in saying I’m going to transform the economic model.

    And one of the ways that you know that he’s encountering resistance is that he says I am encountering fierce resistance. He uses the abundant powers of the state media to say we are in a fight.

    And that tells us on the outside is that there are serious conflicts going on inside Chinese politics, people who say, well, let’s not move too fast or we’re going to undermine all the things that we have.

    So I think what you’re seeing today is less second thoughts among the leadership than it is a real war within to try to figure out how fast and how far you can go.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:
    How does that play itself out? If this really is an internal debate, and there is every evidence that it is, Nick Lardy, how do you see this moving forward?

    NICHOLAS LARDY:
    Well, I agree with Evan. It’s a conflict between those that want to maintain a great deal of state control and those that want to reform and rely more on the market.

    And so that’s the tussle. But I think the evidence is, as they have relied more on the market over the last decades, their economy has been growing strongly. And I think as they debate this, they are not always going to go for control over the market. At the end of the day, the party needs to have reasonably strong growth to remain in power. And they recognize ultimately that the market is what’s going to deliver that growth, not traditional state enterprises and a heavy-handed government intervention in the markets.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:
    So, Evan Osnos, what’s going to be driving the thinking of the leadership of China in the coming months? You have got Xi’s visit, as you just said, next month.

    EVAN OSNOS: Sure. Yes, Xi Jinping of course is coming next month. They want to make sure that things are going as stably as they can be when he comes.

    We sometimes think that the Chinese government is impervious to its own public opinion, because of course it’s an authoritarian government. It doesn’t have elections of the kind that we have. The truth is they’re very sensitive to public opinion. In fact, they’re — in some cases, they are very afraid of public opinion. They know that a dissatisfied public is a precursor to political and social unrest.

    And so what they look — they can look over the horizon and they say, if we continue on this economy path, we are going to stall economically, we’re going to get trapped in what is known as the middle-income trap, meaning that we’re not going to be able to make that final leap to being a fully highly advanced country, and that is the real risk for them over the long term politically.

    And so, in a sense, there’s the short-term political instability that they’re trying to avoid by having a stock market collapse. But at the very top, they know that the bigger risk is actually falling short of making the reforms they need to make.

    JUDY WOODRUFF:
    Well, fascinating to watch. And we thank you both for helping us understand it a little bit better.

    Evan Osnos, Nick Lardy, thank you.

    NICHOLAS LARDY: Thank you.

    EVAN OSNOS:
    Thanks very much.

    The post Is China in the midst of major economic transformation? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An investor takes a nap in front of an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Beijing, August 26, 2015. Asian shares struggled on Wednesday as investors feared fresh rate cuts in China would not be enough to stabilise its slowing economy or halt a stock collapse that is wreaking havoc in global markets. REUTERS/Jason Lee  - RTX1PNY1

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: As we said, Wall Street finally broke its losing streak today, ending with a better than 600-point gain.

    But back in China, another volatile day led to big swings between stock gains and losses, as worries mounted over the state of the world’s second largest economy.

    That’s our focus tonight.

    And we begin with this report from Paul Mason of Independent Television News.

    PAUL MASON: The Shanghai stock market ended down last night, and has now lost a quarter of its value in five days, and nearly half since June. That is the money of the Chinese middle class, poured into shares after the property bubble burst and because the government encouraged it.

    Now the Chinese government is throwing everything at the problem. It’s spent $485 billion buying shares to keep the prices up. It devalued its currency, and yesterday’s quarter-percent interest rate cut was the fifth this year. But nothing is working.

    JAMES MEADWAY, New Economics Foundation: It’s just extremely difficult for any government, the Chinese government to, in this case, try and torque up a market, when there’s people desperately trying to leave from the thing. And that’s with them chucking $485 billion at least into directly buying shares and trying to persuade people that they will stand behind the market at this point in time.

    PAUL MASON: You can see China’s growth strategy from the skyline, billions of dollars’ worth in cheap loans used to fund tall buildings, public money for massive infrastructure spending.

    The plan was that the middle class, flush from property and stock market gains, would now take over driving growth. But it’s not happening. Now Chinese people face the double nightmare of a slowing real economy and a financial meltdown.

    The post China’s boom years lead to financial crisis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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