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

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    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, September 9, 2015. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler - RTS8NX

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    GWEN IFILL: Joining us now to talk about that push and pull, and the announced proposal today to help remedy the crisis, is the European Union’s ambassador to the United States, David O’Sullivan.

    Welcome.

    DAVID O’SULLIVAN, European Union Ambassador to the United States: Thank you.

    GWEN IFILL: So let’s talk about the proposal put forth today to take — to accept 160,000 of these migrants and refugees and spread them somehow among different countries in the E.U. How feasible is that?

    DAVID O’SULLIVAN:
    I think it’s eminently feasible.

    I mean, you need to understand, of course, that this is basically a proposal designed to relieve the immediate pressure on the front-line countries in Europe who’ve had to bear the brunt of the increased wave of refugees, particularly Italy and Greece coming from the Mediterranean, and now Hungary through the route of the Western Balkans.

    It’s clear that these countries, enormous efforts though they have made — and the Italians and Greek people have been extremely generous in their reaction — it is more that they can cope with, so we do need a redistribution of people already on European soil across all of our member states, so the burden can be shared more equitably.

    But this is not the only action which is being proposed, of course. We’re also looking at stepping up action across the borders. We are the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to the refugees in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

    But, as your report has shown, the system there is at breaking point, and this is part of the push that the international community will also need to address.

    GWEN IFILL: A lot at the breaking point, including emotions.

    DAVID O’SULLIVAN: Indeed.

    GWEN IFILL: I want to talk about the 160,000, though, because you’re saying that is a baseline, that’s where you begin, not where you necessarily end.

    And you’re talking about enforcing by putting in place, mandating quotas, certain countries have to accept a certain amount. How do you enforce that?

    DAVID O’SULLIVAN: Indeed.

    Well, this would be adopted as European Union legislation, which means that then this is what member states have to implement, because the member states will adopt this legislation. Enforcement of European law is not a problem. The challenge will be — I openly admit — actually to get member states to agree to impose upon themselves legally mandatory quotas.

    But I think that this is the challenge which President Juncker of the European Commission has laid down, and Vice President Mogherini speaking publicly, have all said that this immediate challenge is a challenge to our common European commitment to human rights, to humanitarian values and of course to our international obligations to welcome refugees in decent conditions.

    I emphasize this is not to be confused or conflated with the more general problem of migration or freedom of movement across the European Union. This is a very specific problem linked to people fleeing persecution and war.

    GWEN IFILL:
    If you’re the government of Denmark or of Hungary, as we just saw, and you’re not necessarily on board with this, how do you persuade them to vote for this? They are members of the E.U. in good standing. How — why would they do this?

    DAVID O’SULLIVAN: Well, I think you make the argument as to why Europe has a moral responsibility in this situation to live up to our international commitments to treat refugees decently, to hold them in conditions, decent conditions while they are processed and their request for asylum is assessed.

    And this is not easy to do in the conditions which you have seen in Hungary, in the conditions which we know exist on some of the Greek islands, which are literally overrun not with vast numbers of people, seen as a proportion of the European population, but for these countries and these specific municipalities and towns, it is more than they can reasonably be asked to cope with.

    And I think it’s absolutely reasonable to expect that all of Europe, all 28 member states, show solidarity with our member states who are struggling and with these refugees who are generally fleeing persecution and war. But, of course, this is not the only element.

    The European commission has proposed a comprehensive approach. It involved, as you know, search-and-rescue in the Mediterranean. We have rescued many hundreds of thousands of people in the Mediterranean. We are looking at the origins of this problem, the crisis in Syria, the crisis in Libya. We’re looking at…

    GWEN IFILL: Which I want to get to in a moment, but I want to go back a — backward a little bit. How did it get so bad, and why does it seem like it took the E.U. so long to act in a unified way?

    DAVID O’SULLIVAN: Well, I would contest your second observation.

    I don’t think it has taken us very long, because I think we have been extremely active already for several months. I mean, we produced our first proposals back in May, and we increased the search-and-rescue activities in the Mediterranean and have saved many thousands of people in the interim.

    Why is the situation becoming so critical? I think there are two reasons. One is the breakdown of law and order in Libya, which allowed it to become a transit state without any control over the exit of refugees, particularly into the hands of smugglers. And, secondly, as I think your very interesting and frankly heartrending report from the camp in Lebanon showed, the Syrian refugees are now nearly four or five years in camps in Lebanon, in Jordan, and in Turkey.

    Those countries are doing their best, but a country like Lebanon, as we know, has its own problems, and to be asked to deal with one million or more refugees is more than you can ask of them. So then the conditions for these refugees have become increasingly difficult. And, of course, they are despairing and anxious to try and escape to a better life, which they hoped for in Europe.

    GWEN IFILL:
    And, finally, is there a greater responsibility that goes beyond the E.U.?

    We saw today the U.S. was talking about 5,000 settlers being allowed here. Are other countries shirking their responsibilities, or is there more than they could be doing?

    DAVID O’SULLIVAN: I think there is more that the international community could do.

    I think the Gulf states, the Arab states also have a responsibility to help the situation in Jordan and Lebanon and Turkey. This is a global problem. The E.U. is not seeking to shirk its responsibilities. I think we will step up to the plate and do what is needed, and more than what is needed.

    But, frankly, the dimension of this problem is such that we will need a global response, as indeed the secretary-general of the United Nations has called for.

    GWEN IFILL: Ambassador to the U.S. from the E.U. David O’Sullivan, thank you very much.

    DAVID O’SULLIVAN: Thank you very much, indeed.

    The post Will EU proposal relieve pressure on those bearing the brunt of the migrant crisis? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    ITN3

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    GWEN IFILL: The surge of Syrian refugees arriving in Europe may be relatively new, but the displacement caused by the war has spilled over into neighboring countries for more than four years.

    Perhaps nowhere is that more pronounced than in neighboring Lebanon, where one-quarter of the country’s residents are refugees.

    Alex Thomson of Independent Television News reports from Beirut, where many displaced Syrians, particularly the marginalized, are contemplating a new life in Europe.

    ALEX THOMSON: The next wave is already coming to Europe. Living on the edge in Lebanon, there is only so much any human being can take.

    WOMAN
    (through interpeter): You come in and see for yourself. It’s really bad.

    ALEX THOMSON: So we did. In through the stinking, flooding passageway, yet three floors over our heads, the entire building is collapsing, bomb damage, too dangerous for human habitation, say the authorities.

    Officially, the entire block is too dangerous to live in. Down below, Ftaym Arafat, single mom, five children, pays $130 a month for one stinking, damp room, which could collapse any time.

    FTAYM ARAFAT, Refugee (through interpreter): Definitely, things are getting much worse here. My son was studying in Syria. Now he has to work. I feel bad for him.

    ALEX THOMSON:
    Every time there is a problem with the water, and that is often, they have to come up to the roof to sort it out. She says conditions are so bad living here that she wants to go back to her old place. That was an underground garage, where six families were living together and being charged $1,000 a month, better, she says, than this.

    Two floors down, here’s Mohamed from Raqqa, yes, the Islamic State’s headquarters. He says, “I just want to get out of here, any country, please.”

    Across Beirut, across Lebanon, the sense of things breaking down here. To cap it off, an historic sandstorm has descended, the like of which few people here can ever remember. The capital is pockmark with piles of rubbish, on the face of it, a humdrum municipal dispute, but it’s actually about government corruption, the sense of things not working, again today, protests near the parliament.

    So, the Lebanese government has snapped. They have had enough. They’re pushing this exodus out of their country by banning Syrian refugees from working.

    So, come with me to the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp in South Beirut and see the effect of this.

    MAN: I want to go to the England.

    ALEX THOMSON: To England?

    MAN: Yes.

    ALEX THOMSON: Mohamed Sitan, historian, teacher and double refugee, he’s fled from the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Syria, a proud Anglophile, but he has his doubts.

    You like Churchill? You like Margaret Thatcher?

    MAN: Yes. But Mr. Cameron must — no — with us. Mr. Cameron, I don’t understand it.

    ALEX THOMSON: His father, Aisa, fought with the British army in the Second World War from El Alamein to Norway.

    MAN: My father in the army, England fighting Nazis.

    ALEX THOMSON:
    But they can’t take much more of this.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): If possible, just like my husband, I would like to go to Sweden, or England, or even Norway perhaps.

    ALEX THOMSON: She says: “We need $5,000 to try to get to Europe. We’re nowhere near that.”

    So they struggle on here day by day with Osama, their son who has profound learning difficulties, and the daily grind of food, rent, and relentless power cuts.

    On Beirut’s famous Corniche, surface life is normal, but across this country, the gigantic push and pull, the push of a government that cannot cope and wants perhaps two million refugees gone, probably to Europe, and the pull, these refugees in their millions see the E.U. welcome on television, on Facebook, Twitter. They see the welcome. They see the hope.

    The post Desperate conditions push refugees in Lebanon to dream of Europe appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Migrants run against the traffic on a motorway leading to Budapest as they escape a transit camp in the village of Roszke, Hungary, September 7, 2015. Police used pepper spray on a crowd of migrants attempting to break through a cordon at Roszke, on Hungary's border with Serbia, on Monday, a Reuters witness said.        REUTERS/Marko Djurica  - RTX1RIU2

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    GWEN IFILL: European Union Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced new plans today to address the continent’s massive influx of migrants and refugees. They would require countries to absorb a share of 160,000 asylum seekers now flocking to Italy, Greece and Hungary, with mandatory quotas.

    Juncker also pushed for strengthening Europe’s border and Coast Guard, and he encouraged countries to allow asylum seekers to work. We will be talking to the E.U.’s ambassador to Washington in a few moments, but first we take a look at the people on the front lines of the crisis.

    We begin with a report from our own William Brangham near the Serbia-Hungary border.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The steady flow of Syrian and other refugees and migrants coming across Hungary’s borders is the constant focus of Hungarian press.

    These are local news reports. The word on screen there calls this a — quote — “siege.” Here, the words say — quote — “Extremists could be coming.”

    As Hungarians see this constant stream of images of refugees, many of them played up for their scariest possible impact, it’s understandable why some locals in nearby towns are growing concerned.

    In Szeged, the largest town near Hungary’s border with Serbia — that’s the border where most of the migrants here are crossing — we heard several worries about the arrival of newcomers from the Middle East.

    MAN: It’s a different culture. These people will never be an inherent part of our communities.

    GABOR MALINA, Szeged resident: A lot of Hungarians are angry because of the migrants, because they think, oh, my God, we have to pay so much money to take care of these people. We have to give them food, accommodation.

    WOMAN: It’s a bit hard to handle them because there are so many people. And I think that is a problem, that there are so many people and we don’t really have a solution to deal with this many people.

    OLIVER MADANI, Szeged resident: The Syrians themselves should come because they are in trouble. But the refugees that are looking for a better life, maybe they should start making better lives in their country, rather than look for a better one in another place.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But Lenard Lowy, who owns Sun City tattoo shop in Szeged, says, yes, his country is overburdened right now, but if other nations help out, this crisis can be solved.

    LENARD LOWY, Owner, “Sun City” tattoo shop: (through interpreter): We can’t speak only about Hungary here. We are in the European Union, so I would welcome a unified solution. They should use funds to establish refugee camps and reception centers. Police should also receive more support. Europe can tackle this crisis.

    But even Europe is not able to take in millions more refugees, so a line should be drawn somewhere. But the Hungarian government has behaved very ineffectively. The fact that all these migrants are stuck in Roszke is absurd.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, doesn’t seem to share that same belief, warning repeatedly that his nation must defend its Christian traditions against this coming wave of Muslims, the implication being, refugees will inevitably change the fabric of Hungary for the worse.

    Opinion polls have shown very strong support for the prime minister’s position, but it’s not a universal belief. In Szeged today, I sat down with these two Hungarian men. Gyorgy Zimoni is torn over the plight of the refugees, as well as the European nations who now have to grapple with them.

    GYORGY ZIMONI, Szeged resident (through interpreter): My opinion has two levels. On the one hand, I feel sorry for the migrants, as the conditions they’re in are very hard. But I also feel sorry for the whole country. They were not prepared for this, just as all of Europe wasn’t prepared for this wave. We can see no end of this.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: George’s friend of 20 years, Abdul Latif-Zanda, is originally from Libya, but he is now a Hungarian citizen. He’s says he’s living proof that practicing Muslims can integrate into European society.

    ABDUL LATIF-ZANDA, Hungary (through interpreter): I have lived here for 30 years now. I have never had a problem with anyone, neither for political nor religious reasons. Islam teaches that you should lead a decent life, and you should treat others fairly. There are many others, however, who use religion, money, or whatever else to convince poor Muslims to do stupid things. In Europe, you can lead a normal life. And if you are normal, you will be accepted.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Many of the refugees and migrants we met this week in Hungary agreed. Said Halabi, who fled Syria with his wife and three children, said that their arrival shouldn’t be the cause for alarm.

    SAID HALABI, Syrian refugee: We hope that the European people understand that diversity — diversity is good for them. We are looking just for a new life for our children, where they can access schools, where I can get a job, support my family.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Another Syrian refugee, Basel Esa, who we found practicing his rap outside a migrant processing center, says those who think all refugees will simply drain Europe’s public services are wrong.

    BASEL ESA, Syrian refugee: For me, I don’t want the luxury life. I just want to live in a peaceful place, just normal life, peaceful place, like a good job. That’s it. I don’t want anything else. I don’t want to cause any problem for anyone. I don’t want — because nobody causes a problem for us.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m William Brangham in Szeged, Hungary.

    The post On the front lines of the refugee crisis, Hungarians worry about accepting newcomers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    newswrap

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    GWEN IFILL: The United States is moving to take more of the many thousands leaving Africa and the Middle East. The Associated Press reported today the Obama administration will accept at least 5,000 additional refugees next year. Meanwhile, Europe faced a fight over a proposal to relocate 160,000. We will have much more after the news summary.

    In Syria, al-Qaida rebels and others have captured a key air base in a new blow to the Assad government. Their victory means virtually all of a major province is now free of government control. Militants besieged the air base for two years and posed today for victory pictures. State TV confirmed the military abandoned the site.

    As Damascus faces new battlefield losses, there are growing signs of a Russian military buildup backing the regime. Moscow confirmed today its military advisers are on the ground in Syria.

    MARIA ZAKHAROVA, Spokeswoman, Russian Foreign Ministry (through interpreter): Our country has long been supplying arms and military equipment to Syria, in accordance with bilateral contracts. There are also Russian military experts in Syria who are instructing the Syrians on the use of the military systems being delivered. The weapons are aimed at combating the terrorist threat that has risen to an unprecedented scale in Syria and in neighboring Iraq.

    GWEN IFILL: The Russians still deny their forces are actually taking part in combat, and they accused the West of creating hysteria.

    In Washington, a spokesman said Secretary of State Kerry spoke by phone with the Russian foreign minister.

    JOHN KIRBY, State Department Spokesperson: He reiterated our concern about these reports of Russian military activities or buildup, if you will, in Syria, and made very clear our view that, if true and if borne out, those reports would be — could lead to greater violence and more — even more instability in Syria.

    GWEN IFILL: There was also word that Iran is letting Russian planes fly over its territory to Syria, but Iran’s supreme leader rejected discussing the issue with the U.S. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told a group in Tehran: “We approved talks about the nuclear issue specifically. We have not allied with the U.S. in other fields, and we will not.”

    Just yesterday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran was open to talks on Syria.

    Al-Qaida’s leader today dismissed the rival Islamic State group as illegitimate. In an audio statement, Ayman al-Zawahri declared, “We don’t recognize this caliphate,” but he also said his followers should join ISIS in attacking U.S. coalition forces and Shiites in Iraq and Syria.

    Back in this country, the California State Assembly voted to let the terminally ill end their lives with a doctor’s assistance. The bill now goes to the state Senate, which is expected to endorse it. Four states, Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Vermont, have already legalized assisted suicide.

    Thousands of teachers in Seattle went on strike today after failing to get a new contract. The walkout came on what was supposed to be the first day of school and kept 53,000 students home. Seattle teachers have gone six years without a cost-of-living raise.

    President Obama made a pitch today, a fresh appeal to make two years of community college tuition-free for all who want it. The plan has gone nowhere in Congress, but at a community college in Warren, Michigan, the president charged his opponents are badly out of step.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:
    At a time when we should be growing our investments in job training and apprenticeships, we have got Republicans in Congress who are going in the opposite direction. Some are even talking about shutting down the government at the end of the month. That’s what would happen if Congress fails to pass a budget. It would be wildly irresponsible.

    GWEN IFILL: Despite the impact in Washington, the president pointed to half-a-dozen states that are moving to make community college free.

    New York City will be the first in the nation to make chain restaurants add salt warnings to their menus. The city’s board of health voted today for the mandate. It affects dishes with more than the recommended daily limit of 2,300 milligrams of sodium, about a teaspoon’s worth. The average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams a day.

    On Wall Street, an early rally collapsed as oil prices fell sharply on the day. In the end, the Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 240 points to close back near 16250. The Nasdaq fell 55 points and the S&P dropped 27.

    And the National Geographic Society is selling its storied magazine and related TV ventures to the FOX media conglomerate. Today’s announcement said FOX will buy a majority stake for $725 million. Nat Geo said the deal will increase its endowment to nearly $1 billion, and will also help fund science and research.

    The post News Wrap: Al-Qaida rebels capture key Syrian air base appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Stock photo by  Cultura RM/Diana Miller via Getty Images

    Stock photo by Cultura RM/Diana Miller via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Food manufacturers must be more vigilant about keeping their operations clean, according to new safety rules released Thursday by the government in the wake of deadly foodborne illness outbreaks linked to ice cream, caramel apples, cantaloupes and peanuts.

    The rules, once promoted as an Obama administration priority, ran into long delays and much uncertainty and came out under a court-ordered deadline after advocacy groups had sued. Even then, the Food and Drug Administration allowed the Aug. 30 deadline to slip without releasing the rules to the public.

    In all the fatal outbreaks, FDA investigators had found dirty equipment in food processing facilities. Federal inspectors have pointed to unclean equipment, unsanitary conditions and animal feces as likely causes for salmonella, E. coli and listeria poisonings that have sickened thousands in recent years.

    The new rules will require food manufacturers to submit food safety plans to the government to show they are keeping their operations clean.

    Congress passed the rules in 2010, and it took the FDA two years to write the specific requirements. The agency revised that proposal after some opposition to the first version from farmers and the food industry,

    Under the rules, companies must have detailed safety plans that lay out how they handle the food, how they process it, how they clean their facilities and how they keep food at the right temperatures, among other safety measures.

    Mindful of the high cost of outbreaks and recalls, food companies generally have supported the rules. Much of the controversy has centered on developing rules for farmers about how to grow produce in order to keep it safe. Those produce regulations are due in October.

    Proponents have said the new laws are needed after several high-profile foodborne illness outbreaks. While many farmers and food manufacturers already follow good food safety practices, the law would aim to ensure that all of them do.

    The post New federal food safety rules issued after deadly outbreaks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    File photo of a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion patrol aircraft by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    File photo of a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion patrol aircraft by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    ABOVE THE CARIBBEAN SEA — As soon as the aging P-3 surveillance plane rumbles off the island runway, a crew of three agents for U.S. Customs and Border Protection begins hunting with high-tech radar for anything that looks out of the ordinary in the vast Caribbean Sea.

    It could be a fishing boat with no obvious fishing gear. A speed boat in the middle of open water and loaded with more gas cans than passengers. A sail boat that doesn’t quite sit right on the surface.

    “To us, every dot out there is a possible bad guy,” said J.D., a senior agent, describing the faint white dots on his radar screen during a surveillance flight over the Caribbean Sea and South America last month.

    J.D. spoke to The Associated Press on the condition that he be identified only by his initials, because of safety concerns surrounding his work to find and intercept cocaine. He and his colleagues increasingly are finding cocaine smuggled across the Caribbean bound for the United States or points farther east.

    While the eastern Pacific Ocean remains the most popular route for cocaine smuggling, the Caribbean is once again becoming a popular option decades after U.S. authorities all but shut down cocaine smuggling directly into South Florida.

    The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration estimates smugglers have increased shipments of cocaine through the Caribbean from about 60 tons to about 100 tons in the past several years. But it’s difficult to measure how much cocaine gets through the dragnet of surveillance planes, U.S. Coast Guard ships and other detection efforts.

    Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Devon Brennan said his agency is “always taking drugs off the water” in partnership with Customs and Border Protection (CBP), DEA and the U.S. military’s Joint Interagency Task Force South.

    The CBP crews, based out of Jacksonville, Florida, and Corpus Christi, Texas, have much to do with those Coast Guard seizures in recent years.

    Over several weeks in June, P-3 crews from Jacksonville helped tracked down about 114,000 pounds of cocaine, worth what the U.S. government estimates to be more than $1 billion, said Bob Blanchard, the operations director for CBP’s national air security operations center. U.S. law enforcement estimates that a kilogram of cocaine has a wholesale value of about $25,000; prices for the drug will vary from city to city.

    Since the 2006 budget year through April 2015, P-3 missions have seized about 740 tons of cocaine, worth an estimated $100 billion, according to statistics maintained by CBP. Those seizures have been in both the eastern Pacific and the Caribbean.

    In 2014, the Coast Guard seized 91 tons of cocaine in the ocean transit zone. Since 2006 the agency has recovered more than 814 tons of drugs.

    “We’re trying to push our borders away,” said Randolph Alles, CBP’s assistant commissioner in charge of the air and marine operations. “There is still a major flow toward the United States.”

    While Alles and Brennan are eager to promote U.S. triumphs in intercepting drug loads, they acknowledge that significant amounts of cocaine are still being smuggled successfully into the United States.

    “We get some of it,” Alles said.

    The P-3 crews under Alles’ command are workhorses in the drug interdiction effort above the Caribbean and eastern Pacific, contributing about 6,000 patrol hours annually. That’s about 40 percent of the government’s time in the air over the region.

    Each P-3 flight is carefully choreographed by a military-run task force, and intelligence driven.

    When J.D. and his crew are on the hunt, they “sanitize a box” by searching every inch of a designated search area. If they spot a suspect boat, the plane will typically stay high above it, taking pictures of the vessel and its cargo if possible. The goal is to stay in the area, tracking a drug-laden boat until an “end game” can arrive, be it a Coast Guard or Navy ship or authorities from the nearest partner country.

    When there is no end game available, the P-3 pilot routinely will fly closer to the boat, a maneuver that not only startles the smugglers, but routinely causes them to dump their drugs overboard. Even in a case when no one is arrested, a mission is considered a success if the cargo gets tossed overboard.

    Drug hunting over the ocean can be a monotonous effort that Stan Konopacki, a detection enforcement officer who works with J.D., described as a lot like fishing.

    “Hours of boredom broken up by moments of sheer pandemonium,” Konopacki said.

    The post Homeland Security taking to the sky in drug smuggling fight appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch an Aug. 11 PBS NewsHour report about the Black Mambas of South Africa.

    A mostly female anti-poaching unit known as the “Black Mambas” in South Africa won the United Nations’ top environmental prize this week.

    Named for a ferocious snake in Africa, the team patrols the Balule Private Game Reserve in western South Africa at night when poachers come after rhinoceros and other endangered species. They face dangers, not only from poachers hoping for a lucrative catch, but from the park’s other wild beasts.

    “I don’t know when I am going to face a lion,” said one of the Black Mambas Siphiwe Sithole on PBS NewsHour.

    “At first I was scared, but each and every time when you go out, I get used to it, and I’m loving it,” said another member of the unit.

    A Black Rhinoceros calf is named Sari's Son after his mother, who was one of four rhinos killed by poachers in June 2014. He's pictured in his enclosure on Aug. 6, 2014 at the Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary in Laikipia county, Kenya, north of the capital Nairobi. Wildlife rangers patrol the sanctuary to protect the animals against poachers. Photo by Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

    A Black Rhinoceros calf is named Sari’s Son after his mother, who was one of four rhinos killed by poachers in June 2014. He’s pictured in his enclosure on Aug. 6, 2014 at the Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary in Laikipia county, Kenya, north of the capital Nairobi. Wildlife rangers patrol the sanctuary to protect the animals against poachers. Photo by Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

    The team won the U.N. Environment Program’s Inspiration and Action award for its “rapid and impressive impact” countering poaching.

    “Community-led initiatives are crucial to combatting the illegal wildlife trade, and the Black Mambas highlight the importance and effectiveness of local knowledge and commitment,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

    The 26-member unit, established in 2013, has helped arrest six poachers and removed more than 1,000 snares used to illegally capture the animals in the reserve, according to the U.N.

    The post ‘Black Mamba’ female rangers awarded for anti-poaching efforts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Skeleton of the newly discovered Homo naledi. Courtesy of eLife 2015;4:e09560.

    Skeleton of the newly discovered Homo naledi. Courtesy of eLife 2015;4:e09560.

    Paleontologists have discovered an ancient human relative in South Africa thanks to a tricky cave diving excavation that recovered close to 1,550 fossils buried 100 feet underground.

    The fossils were found by recreational spelunkers two years ago who were climbing 30 miles northwest of Johannesburg.

    “In the first half of the 20th century, this region of South Africa produced so many fossils of our early ancestors that it later became known as the Cradle of Humankind,” Jamie Shreeve wrote for National Geographic who broke the story todaywith our PBS sister program NOVA.

    There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

    National Geographic explorer-in-residence Lee Berger explains the discovery in this NOVA/National Geographic video.

    The pair were exploring Rising Star, a popular cave in the region, when they made the fossil discovery. After squeezing through two narrow crevices, the cave divers — Steven Tucker and Rick Hunter — stumbled upon a massive collection of well-preserved bones.

    They notified Lee Berger, a paleoanthropologist at South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand, who has spent two decades hunting for fossils in the region. Berger assembled a team ultrathin climbers to excavate the bones.

    The hands of Homo naledii. The proportions of digits are humanlike.

    The hands of Homo naledii. The proportions of digits are humanlike.

    In a Facebook ad that Berger posted in October 2013, he wrote: “We need perhaps three or four individuals with excellent archaeological/palaeontological and excavation skills for a short term project that may kick off as early as November 1st 2013 and last the month if all logistics go as planned. The catch is this – the person must be skinny and preferably small.” National Geographic tracked the progress of the dig from its inception.

    Following a two-year excavation, Berger’s team has named the new species Homo naledi, meaning “Star Man”, which pays homage to the site where the bones were found. Based on the pristine skeletons, Homo naledi was just under five-feet tall and had a very small relative to humans. The team’s findings were released today in the journal eLife.

    As such, it’s unclear how this new species fits into the evolution of humans and humanlike species. It “appears most closely related to Homo erectus (“Upright Man”), a human predecessor species that lived in Africa and Asia within the last 2 million years,” Dan Vergano wrote for BuzzFeed.

    There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

    Paleoartist John Gurche recreates the face of humans’ new long-lost cousin. It took Gurche close to 700 hours to reconstruct the head from bone scans.

    However, the age of this new species remains a mystery to the public, as the team hasn’t reported radiocarbon dating for the fossils. Such info could help explain whether Homo naledi is a human ancestor, a species that split from humans and lost its size or one of the many humanlike primates that coexisted during the same time as early man and woman.

    Given the number of bones in this stone chamber, Berger’s team suggests that Homo naledi may have intentionally climbed into this cave to deposit the remains, in a pseudo mass grave. That would be a rare behavior for a primate species with such a small brain.


    Watch NOVA’s full-length documentary on the new species, Homo naledi.

    The post Cave divers uncover new humanlike species in South Africa appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Movie icon James Dean (1931-1955) and co-star Corey Allen (who later went on to direct 'Star Trek: The Next Generation') in a scene from the Warner Brothers movie 'Rebel Without A Cause'.   (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

    Movie icon James Dean in a scene from the Warner Brothers movie “Rebel Without A Cause.” Steve Quartz suggests that a change in consumerism in the 1950s played an elemental role in our shift from a hierarchical society to a more pluralistic one — one with different routes to status. Photo by Keystone/Getty Images

    Editor’s Note: When cracks began to emerge in Steve Quartz’s anti-consumerist beliefs, the professor of philosophy and neuroscience at the California Institute of Technology turned to what he knew best: neuroscience. By developing a new study that he called “consumer neuroscience,” Quartz began to better understand why we consume. What he found led to a book of surprising conclusions.

    Below, Quartz, the co-author of “Cool: How the Brain’s Hidden Quest for Cool Drives Our Economy and Shapes Our World,” suggests that a change in consumerism in the 1950s played an elemental role in our shift from a hierarchical society to a more pluralistic one — one with different routes to status. Tune in to Thursday’s Making Sen$e segment for more, and check out his latest article here.

    Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor


    The 1950s high school conjures up images of neatly-dressed students navigating what can only be described as a rigid social hierarchy. Boys wore blazers or letterman sweaters, potent symbols of where they stood in the school’s pecking order. Girls, whose status depended largely on their associations with boys, wore skirts, blouses and pearls, according to the rules laid out in Betty Cornell’s “Teen-Age Popularity Guide.”

    As James Coleman recounts in his classic 1961 work, “The Adolescent Society,” athletics was almost the only route to status for high-school boys of that era. Having such a limited route to status, perpetuated by the social organization of schools and the limited numbers of spots available on sports teams, created a status dilemma as schools grew larger and competition for limited status intensified. As sociologist William Bielby chronicles in detail, a response to this status dilemma was for boys to find a new route to status. Thus came to life the teenage rock ‘n’ roll band. Since then, the routes to status in high schools have increasingly diversified, particularly for women, who, unlike their 1950s counterparts, can participate in athletics and school leadership. As sociologist Murray Milner details, today’s high schools have much more complex status relations and are typically more pluralistic than hierarchical.

    The evolution of high-school social structure in many ways mirrors larger social changes since the 1950s, particularly a shift from a hierarchical society to a more pluralistic, fragmented one, due in part to growing gender equality and diversity. Consumer researchers have documented an explosion in the number of lifestyles over this period, as a relatively monolithic culture fragmented into more and more diverse ones. This shift from social hierarchy and its limited routes to status, to pluralism and the proliferation of lifestyles is a major reason why nations become happier as they undergo these changes, as documented by Ronal Inglehart of the World Values Survey over the last four decades. Similarly, economic historians, such as Benjamin Friedman, point to economic growth as a powerful progressive force, driving political and social liberalization, including greater opportunity, tolerance of diversity, social mobility, fairness and commitment to democracy.

    But what drove these titanic social changes? I suggest that a shift in consumerism and the motives driving it — our status and rebel instincts — played an elemental role.


    Most societies throughout history incorporated hierarchical status systems, often thousands of years before the advent of agriculture. Hierarchical societies seem to emerge whenever there are scarce defensible resources for people to inherit. Picture a pyramid with fewer and fewer positions the higher you go. The only way to ascend is to knock someone above you out of their spot. Thorsten Veblen’s theory of conspicuous consumption is the prototypical example, and many contemporary consumer critiques retain the same basic logic. Because high status rank is so limited in a clearly ordered social hierarchy, only a few people can have it. The overwhelming majority are destined to be frustrated and unhappy.

    The fact that most societies have been hierarchical points to the centrality of our status instinct. Humans are not naturally egalitarian. Although existing hunter-gatherer bands are often romantically portrayed as naturally egalitarian, their egalitarian social structure is actively maintained by collectively sanctioning members who try to over-assert their authority. Because of our status instinct, we find being deprived of status emotionally aversive.

    Epidemiologist Michael Marmot’s landmark study of British civil servants found that our social standing dramatically affects our health and longevity. Losing status affects every system of the human body. Brain signals in response to status threats flow to glands of the endocrine system, including the pancreas, thyroid, pituitary gland, adrenal glands, ovaries and testes, which in turn release hormones that regulate growth, metabolism, reproduction and responses to stress and injury. This can even lead to cognitive impairment, suppressed immune function, hypertension, elevated levels of stress hormones and decreased fertility. Chronic low status impacts the developing brain’s structure, impairing language, memory, social-emotional processing and cognitive control.

    This strong, innate aversion to low status creates what I call a rebel instinct. Like the status instinct, it is etched into our brain’s emotional circuitry. It fuels our anger, frustration and resentment when we sense that other people are trying to dominate us. Combining the results of over 100 studies that included people from virtually all parts of the world, researchers found that members of subordinate groups strongly dislike hierarchy. This suggests why traditional, hierarchical societies ruled by elites are often ruthlessly authoritarian in a bid to limit access to status, as Taliban rule in Afghanistan so starkly revealed. It also indicates why people in more hierarchical societies are not as happy as people in less hierarchical ones.

    Consumption began to take an oppositional form, driven by the rebel instinct, as consumers began to rebel against status quo values. Their consumption was no longer fueled by emulation of higher-ups.

    Beginning in the 1950s, a shift in the psychological motivations underlying consumption helped unleash the titanic change in the nature of American society and its status system. Consumption began to take an oppositional form, driven by the rebel instinct, as consumers began to rebel against status quo values. Their consumption was no longer fueled by emulation of higher-ups. Rather, the architects of “rebel cool” — such as Jack Kerouac and Norman Mailer — appropriated the values of those that had been marginalized at its bottom. The anti-status quo values of rebel cool seamlessly and rapidly aligned with consumption and has since spread globally, as the omnipresent hipster, from Brooklyn to Jakarta, illustrates. As the historian Christopher Gair notes, even among the counterculture of the 1960s, increases in absolute wealth and its discretionary spending made their alternative lifestyles involving music, travel and drug experimentation possible. These economic changes allowed the first generation in history to turn from worrying about an economy that feeds stomachs to one that feeds lifestyles. For consumers, it meant they no longer had to emulate the family next door. They could create new status groups that embodied views that were antithetical to the values of the Joneses. By the 1980s, rebellious imagery made its way into virtually all realms of consumption. Consider, for example, what Advertising Age considers the greatest ad ever made: Apple’s introduction of their Macintosh in 1984, which likened IBM to Big Brother and their customers to Orwellian proles.

    These titanic social changes remind me of a process of divergence we see in nature. Darwin witnessed divergence in action when he visited the Galapagos Islands. In particular, he kept encountering birds that looked similar but had all sorts of beak shapes that allowed for different diets. They were various finch species — a dozen in all — and they were unlike others anywhere else in the world. Darwin would go on to theorize that a single species likely came to the islands from the mainland. The islands, Darwin continued, featured new niches containing different types of nuts, that weren’t available to them on the mainland because other species already filled those niches. Rather than compete for the same resources, the species diversified — not purposefully, but through mutation. Darwin would call this process of divergence adaptive radiation.

    My suspicion is that the proliferation of lifestyles that consumerism makes possible similarly allowed us to stop competing for the same limited resource: status in a hierarchical society. Emulation consumption drives us to want similar things. Oppositional consumption, in contrast, drives us to want different things because our value pluralism links our consumption patterns to different social norms. Oppositional consumption’s adaptive ingenuity is that it diffuses competition for social status. It does so by supplying increasing dimensions of esteem through the proliferation of lifestyles. Increases in absolute wealth help create the lifestyles, niches and brand communities that supply the status we seek. In short, status diversification expands the status pie and so reduces the intensity of our status comparisons and makes relative comparisons along broad dimensions like socioeconomic status less salient.

    The rise of oppositional consumption also reveals another often underappreciated fact about consumption. Consumption is not some asocial, highly individualistic endeavor. It is a highly social enterprise tied to social norms. Conspicuous consumption, for example, only brings esteem when there’s a broad consensus that displays of wealth is a valued social norm. When other social norms govern consumption, such as Yankee thriftiness, conspicuous consumption brings disesteem. Yet consumerism has come to be regarded as inevitably hyper-consumption of frivolous luxuries. It’s worth noting that this image of U.S. hyper-consumption is largely a myth: careful studies of the overwhelming majority of household spending patterns reveal that increases are due to rising costs of essential goods and services, principally housing, education and healthcare. Consumerism prescribes no necessary level of consumption.

    Consumerism, at its most basic, is simply arranging economic activity around consumer preferences. Because those preferences are shaped by social norms, changes to them — what brings esteem and what brings disesteem — will alter patterns of consumption. There’s good reason to believe this is occurring for conspicuous consumption, which appears to manifest itself primarily in relatively early stages of economic growth. As social norms change, then, so too does consumption.

    These economic changes allowed the first generation in history to turn from worrying about an economy that feeds stomachs to one that feeds lifestyles.

    Consider, for example, the rise of fair-trade, sustainable consumption, localtarianism and “conspicuous conservation.” The strong sales of the Toyota Prius is due in part to its being a potent prosocial signal of one’s commitment to consuming less. In drought-stricken California, removing your lawn has quickly become such a potent social signal of one’s commitment to water conservation that consumers used up a $340 million government “cash for grass” program in the first six months of its existence, shocking officials.

    Aligning consumption with more norms that produce social benefit clearly remains an incomplete project. Yet, the link between our consumer motivations, norms and social esteem should cast doubt on such claims as those by Pope Francis and anti-consumers that view consumerism as irrevocably immoral. Indeed, it is ironic that most of history’s most influential moral philosophers have built morality on our desire for esteem, including David Hume, John Locke, Adam Smith, Immanuel Kant and Voltaire, along with American founders like Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Thomas Hobbes put it bluntly when he said, “few except those who love praise do anything to deserve it.” Beyond these moral foundations, psychologists confirm that our desire to be esteemed, respected and accepted by others is among our most basic, universal needs and motivations. Neuroscience has pinpointed the brain regions that expanded during evolution to give rise to this need and along with it our social life. Anthropologists confirm that this is the origin of our moral life among hunter-gatherers. Legal theorists reveal that this desire to be esteemed and to follow social norms is the glue of our social order.

    Social norms and non-legal sanctions hold our society together because of their link to status. Without our desire for status, then, morality would have never emerged, complex social life would be impossible and our own society would collapse in short order. Understanding that these same desires underlie our consumption and the complex material culture that we both create and that helps create us, would lead to a deeper understanding of why we consume. Indeed, it would allow us to shape our consumption in ways that help solve, not create, our most pressing social problems.

    The post How the rebel, the beatnik and the hipster became their own status symbols appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: Now to our weekly feature Brief But Spectacular.

    Tonight, Trudy Goodman urges to take — step back and take a deep breath.

    TRUDY GOODMAN, Founder, InsightLA: Meditation is a way to be mindful without mixing it up with other activities, because we’re always doing other activities. We’re on our devices. We’re connected. We don’t ever have to be with ourselves.

    That sense of both all the time in the world and the urgency of what we need to do right now, they can peacefully coexist and they can come together. The trouble with explaining this work is that it is so simple that we don’t want to believe it.

    Mindful walking. Mindful eating. Mindful listening. What activity wouldn’t be helped or enhanced by bringing more focus and care and attentiveness to it, as well as lessening the grip of ego of our investment in everything we do, because that is the biggest source of stress.

    It’s like building muscle with repetitions at the gym. Each moment that we do this, each moment that we are here for it and stay with it builds the strength to endure moments that we might not have any choice about enduring.

    We become aware that we’re operating through this frame of expectation and comparing what is to what should be. And the awareness of that itself seems to just sort of polish and clean the lens, and that polishing of the lens, the light-gathering device, helps us appreciate what is here, instead of longing for what isn’t.

    My name is Trudy Goodman, and this is my Brief but Spectacular take on mindfulness meditation.

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  • 09/10/15--15:20: Why we crave what’s cool
  • Young man with briefcase telephoning in front of conference centre

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    GWEN IFILL: You probably heard quite a bit during the last 24 hours about the latest cool new products from Apple, iPads and iPhones, that in some circles quickly become the latest must-have gadget. But what exactly makes a product cool?

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman, a pretty cool guy himself, has been exploring that.

    Here’s what he found, part of our weekly series Making Sense, which airs every Thursday on the “NewsHour.”

    PAUL SOLMAN: An MRI machine at the California Institute of Technology, where scientists are helping pioneer the study of neuroeconomics, how the brain makes economic decisions — the key brain structure that distinguishes us from fellow primates, the medial prefrontal cortex.

    STEVE QUARTZ, California Institute of Technology: It’s a part of our brain that’s tracking our social status or our perceived social status.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In 2005, Steve Quartz and his Caltech colleagues were surprised to find that this chunk of gray matter is activated not only when thinking about our status, but also by looking at status symbols, products from certain brands we tend to think of as cool, Apple, Scion, Chuck Taylor’s, also activated, a more primitive brain structure called the ventral striatum.

    STEVE QUARTZ: The central reward structure that is involved in literally every form of addiction.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, this MacBook Air, let’s stipulate that that’s cool. If I look at it, it’s going to stimulate the same part of the brain as if I won at gambling or took some cocaine?

    STEVE QUARTZ: Absolutely. It’s anticipating how much social reward we would get.

    PAUL SOLMAN: What converted Quartz to the consumerism he had formerly condemned? Discovering the biological basis of brands perceived as cool and seeing them touch both the deepest, most primitive parts of our brains, and our highest, most socialized selves.

    To illustrate, Quartz took us to nearby Colorado Boulevard, on New Year’s Day, the route of college football’s Rose Bowl Parade, the rest of year, Pasadena’s main shopping drag, including the Tesla showroom.

    STEVE QUARTZ: One of our needs in a very complex society, where we encounter more people every day than probably our ancestors encountered over their whole lifetime, is our need to very rapidly evaluate other people.

    And one of the most potent ways of doing that is through our automobiles. So, a car isn’t just a thing. It’s a set of symbols and associations that we have to figure out in order to understand how we navigate our social worlds with that car.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Owning a Tesla says, I’m a well-heeled environmentalist, a Volvo, I care about safety.

    ACTOR: Were the Wright brothers insane? Bill gates, Les Paul, Ali.

    STEVE QUARTZ: Cadillac last year had an ad campaign where they made sure people recognize the car is an American car.

    ACTOR: It’s pretty simple. You work hard, you create your own luck, and you have got to believe anything is possible.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Ford’s response?

    ACTRESS: You work hard, you believe that anything is possible, and you try to make the world better. You try.

    STEVE QUARTZ: Am I, by owning a Cadillac, someone who endorses kind of individualistic values of America? Or am I, by owning a Ford, someone who appreciates more of the community that I can build with my car ownership?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Or are my tastes somewhat edgier? Consider the least expensive Mercedes. You, too, can now afford the good life and the status of belonging to a distinctive community of cool.

    To Quartz, the idea of cool, now the title of his new book, propelled the proliferation of separate but equal status groups.

    STEVE QUARTZ: Cool began in the 1950s as rebel cool. To be cool wasn’t to conform, not to be integrated into mainstream society. The biggest sin for the cool rebel of the 1950s was to sell out.

    PAUL SOLMAN: He argues that what began as a look, the rebel without a cause, was a blessing, neuroeconomically speaking, for 1950s Americans and the rest of us thereafter.

    STEVE QUARTZ: What happened in the 1950s was that, as we began to increase our standard of living, in a hierarchical society, it really created what we can think of as a status dilemma. There just wasn’t enough status to go around. And what people began to do, especially kids began to do, was create alternative status systems.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Create them through brands.

    Take Apple, which positioned itself as rebel cool as early as the first Macintosh, which so famously debuted in 1984.

    ACTOR: We shall obey.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Apple may have gone overboard, as it were, with a follow-up ad suggesting users of rival IBM P.C.s were lemmings.

    ACTOR: You can look into it, or you can go on with business as usual.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Its rebel identity was established, though, even if today’s lemmings may well be Apple devotees.

    RICK EISENLORD, Apple customer: I have the Apple Watch. I have got the Apple iPad, the iPhone.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Rick Eisenlord is a Pasadena pastor whose flock buys as he does.

    RICK EISENLORD: So, they have Apple stuff too. And, you know, we get together and we — especially when something new comes out, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s like, oh, you got an Apple Watch, you got the new iPhone. And so there’s an excitement and there’s kind of a feeling of camaraderie.

    STEVE QUARTZ: It came to really an enormous surprise and shock to me to find really, as we look more inside the brain for why we consume, how all this stuff gives us an opportunity to create social networks, to create friendships, to create alliances. All the things we do daily, when we interact with other people around in a lot of ways our consumer choices.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Not for everyone, of course.

    What, if anything, do you think being an Apple user — and I’m one, too — says about you?

    SERGIO BAZ, Apple customer: Nothing.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Nothing?

    SERGIO BAZ: Nothing.

    HALEY JACOBSON, Apple customer: I know a lot of people that use Apple. But I know a lot of people that don’t use Apple, too. So, it doesn’t really make a difference to me.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But aren’t we being manipulated by advertisers and their brands? Just look at teenagers. As Amy Heckerling put it in her 1995 film, “Clueless”:

    ACTRESS: I mean, come on. It looks like they just fell out of bed and put on some baggy pants with a backwards cap. And, like, we’re expected to swoon?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Blame biology, says Quartz.

    STEVE QUARTZ: We all know that, as soon as our kids become teenagers, they become obsessed with their social life. They become extremely concerned about how they are doing in their social group. It’s because this part of the brain is coming online, and it’s making their social environment much more important to them.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, as that part of the brain develops, that’s where peer pressure comes from?

    STEVE QUARTZ: That’s right.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And so is this why teenagers are so brand-conscious?

    STEVE QUARTZ: That’s right, because a brand is an extension of themselves. They’re still trying to figure out what their self is, so the brand helps them kind of develop that self.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Quartz recalls s his own adolescent obsessions growing up in Toronto.

    STEVE QUARTZ: In Canada, we have shoes that had two stripes called North Stars. And you wore them when you were 8 or 10, let’s say. But in high school, you wore Adidas that had three stripes. And so I recall, actually, with my mother, a standoff in a shoe store holding out for the third stripe, because, for that — a kid, having that third stripe meant all the difference between being cool or not cool.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And when, if ever, did you get over that?

    STEVE QUARTZ: I think we all still continue throughout our whole life to be sensitive to these kinds of processes.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And, in the end, that was the epiphany of Professor Quartz’s brain research.

    STEVE QUARTZ: We need to really reconsider whether our consumerism is a bad thing or a good thing, specifically around our need to give each other status, to feel valued in the community and to create value within groups.

    PAUL SOLMAN: This is economics correspondent Paul Solman in Pasadena, reporting by way of my long-since-mature medial prefrontal cortex, for the PBS NewsHour.

    GWEN IFILL: See, I told you Paul was cool.

    The post Why we crave what’s cool appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Fossils of a newly discovered ancient species, named "Homo naledi", are pictured during their unveiling outside Johannesburg September 10, 2015. Humanity's claim to uniqueness just suffered another setback: scientists reported on Thursday that the newly discovered ancient species related to humans also appeared to bury its dead. Fossils of the creature were unearthed in a deep cave near the famed sites of Sterkfontein and Swartkrans, treasure troves 50 km (30 miles) northwest of Johannesburg that have yielded pieces of the puzzle of human evolution for decades. The new species has been named 'Homo naledi', in honour of the "Rising Star" cave where it was found. Naledi means "star" in South Africa's Sesotho language. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko - RTSG71

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    GWEN IFILL: Researchers announced a fossil discovery today that some consider one of the greatest in the last 50 years, and one that could provide an important link in the family tree for all humans.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The bones were found in a deep cave 30 miles northwest of Johannesburg. And the way they were found and then gathered is another incredible part of the story.

    In all, 1,500 fossil remains were brought up and contained remains of 15 individuals of all different ages. Scientists named the new species Homo naledi and created this rendering.

    The quest is chronicled in the new issue of “National Geographic” and in a special documentary airing on “NOVA” next week called “The Dawn of Humanity.”

    Here’s a short clip.

    NARRATOR: As the analysis goes on, the bones from the Rising Star cave are finally ready to be presented to the world.

    MAN: We have got a new species of early human in the genus Homo, and that’s tremendously exciting.

    We have never had anything in that transition period between the late Australopithecus and the earliest members of our genus in any kind of abundance, and, boy, we have it in abundance now.

    NARRATOR: To members of the team, the fossils suggest a creature unlike anything ever found before.

    MAN: We are looking at creatures that are humanlike in their feet, humanlike in their hands, humanlike in their teeth. Everything that interacts directly with the environment is Homo, and everything that’s sort of central, you know, the trunk, the architecture of the vertebral column, the brain, those sorts of things are more primitive. It’s like evolution is crafting us from the outside in.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And joining me now is Jamie Shreeve, executive director for science at “National Geographic” magazine. He’s been involved with this project almost from the start. And Becca Peixotto is a member of the team. She was one of the so-called primary excavators who slipped through the caves’ narrower spaces to reach the fossil chamber.

    Very interesting, very cool stuff, huh.

    JAMIE SHREEVE, National Geographic: Very cool.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Start with Jamie Shreeve .

    Set the scene for us. This was an accidental finding.

    JAMIE SHREEVE: Yes, pretty much.

    A couple of cavers were exploring the cave site that’s been looked at. People train in it. It’s very well known, and they came across a little opening that’s only eight inches wide in some places. One of them took a step down, took another step down, and realized it just kept going down.

    So they dropped into this cavern that had never been explored for, you know, who knows how long, and they found the floor of this cave littered with bones, with hominid bones.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, Becca Peixotto, that’s where you come in. Is it true that you were brought in through a social media? There was a call for small people who could do this kind of work?

    BECCA PEIXOTTO, Excavation Team Member: There was an ad put out on Facebook, of all things, to find archaeologists, people who were qualified as archaeologists…

    JEFFREY BROWN: That’s mind-blowing right there, right, from Facebook to this kind of a find. But go ahead.

    BECCA PEIXOTTO: Exactly, yes.

    So, small archaeologists who had some technical skills in climbing and caving. And that’s an unusual skill set, to have excavation skills and be comfortable working in a cave.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And this is not your usual area.

    BECCA PEIXOTTO: It’s true. I am normally an historical archaeologist, so I work on things from the last 500 years, and not things that are in the order of millions of years old.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so describe this scene for — the setting in the cave and the small chamber. What was it like to climb down there?

    BECCA PEIXOTTO: Well, you drop down through a chute. You climb through a chute.

    As Jamie said, it’s about seven or eight inches wide at its narrowest bits, which is quite skinny. And it’s a complicated climb. And there is a small landing zone, where we took off our shoes, and we entered the fossil chamber actually barefoot, because there is so much fossil material on the floor of the cave that, being barefoot, we were more conscious of where we were stepping to help find where the fossils were on the ground.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And was it hard work? Was it — what was it like?

    BECCA PEIXOTTO: We were working with toothpicks and paintbrushes, so toothpicks, real toothpicks.

    And it’s very tedious work, exciting work, but you’re moving the soil away almost grain by grain in an effort to free the fossils from the matrix that they’re encased in without damaging them.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, Jamie Shreeve, what do we know so far about Homo naledi, as we just heard in that clip, humanlike from the outside, primitive on the inside?

    JAMIE SHREEVE: Right.

    We know this is a really bizarre thing. It’s nothing — nothing like it has been found before in the fossil record. It has a — this strange mix of characteristics that are very much like us.

    For instance, the foot is virtually identical to a human foot, and yet the shoulder is more like an ape. Brain is a little pinhead brain. So, it’s a complicated equation that is proposed by this fossil.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Researchers don’t yet know the age of it, I gather.

    JAMIE SHREEVE: No, that’s the big question mark that’s outstanding, because once you have an age, you can really start telling the story of how this fits in with the story of human evolution.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, when you say the feet are humanlike, does that suggest it was standing upright?

    JAMIE SHREEVE: Oh, there is no doubt that this was an upright biped, and not only an upright biped, but one with — had long legs and feet constructed for probably a very efficient striding gate like ours, so it was definitely walking upright.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The cave, I gather, is thought potentially to be, just by the sheer number of bones there and other remnants, to have been a burial site?

    JAMIE SHREEVE: Well, the researchers don’t like to use the word burial.

    JEFFREY BROWN: OK.

    JAMIE SHREEVE: Because it has connotations of ceremony and an afterlife.

    But it does seem to be that the most likely explanation for how these bones got into such a remote place was that they put there by other Homo naledi individuals, deliberately disposed of. Now, whether they had some intention of an afterlife or whether they were just getting rid of these bodies, nobody knows.

    And, in fact, we really don’t know that’s the explanation, but that seems to be the best so far.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You were in this place, whatever it was. What did it feel like to see? I mean, the astounding number of bones is unheard of, I gather, from just in one place like this, in Africa, certainly?

    BECCA PEIXOTTO: Absolutely.

    We excavated an area that was less than a meter square and about 15 centimeters deep, and from that area, we got more than 1,000 individual fossil specimens. And the density of that assemblage is really dramatic and it’s really unusual in fossil sites anywhere.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You — we were talking about the small skull, right? You held the skull?

    BECCA PEIXOTTO: I did, yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What was that like?

    BECCA PEIXOTTO: Nerve-racking.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You’re taking a deep breath as you say it, right, a big sigh?

    BECCA PEIXOTTO: Yes. Yes. It was nerve-racking to be there when the skull was coming out of the ground, coming out of the soil, and very gently trying to place it into some packaging to bring it to the surface without it falling apart, because these fossils are so fragile, particularly when they are first excavated.

    I take a deep breath now because I think I held my breath the whole time we were working on the skull.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You have a sense of the age of what you were holding, right?

    BECCA PEIXOTTO: Yes, definitely, and the uniqueness of it, that here we were with all of these fossil specimens and were coming out with a very large fragment of a skull, which helps build a picture of what this creature was.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so, Jamie Shreeve, when you try to think of the importance of this finding, you were saying we still have to learn a lot more to see how it fits into our own evolution, but how would you gauge the importance right now?

    JAMIE SHREEVE: Well, I think it’s arguably, you know, one of the most important finds in the last 50 years since Lucy.

    And the reason for that is because we do have so much of it. Most of the time, when you find a new hominid fossil, you find a jaw, or a skull or a leg bone. Here, we found 1,500 bones. So you actually know a great deal about this creature that you couldn’t possibly know from just a fragment.

    So, there will be a lot of analysis still to come. And the date is extremely important going forward to knowing how this fits. But it seems to be something that is near the beginning to have the Homo lineage, so it may help us inform this sort of black box of how our genus evolved from this more primitive form called Australopithecus.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, very briefly, I understand there are thought to be many, many more bones left in the cave, right, so there is a lot more to do.

    JAMIE SHREEVE: Yes, it is littered with bones, if I’m not mistaken, right?

    BECCA PEIXOTTO: It certainly is.

    We went back a second time for another round of excavation in March of 2014, and recovered a couple hundred more fossil specimens. And we were able to recover some fossils that we were hoping to get, but we certainly did not exhaust the fossil supply in that chamber.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, amazing.

    Becca Peixotto and Jamie Shreeve, thank you so much.

    JAMIE SHREEVE: Thank you.

    BECCA PEIXOTTO: Thank you.

    GWEN IFILL: It is amazing.

    The program “Dawn of Humanity” is streaming right now on PBS.org. And it will air next week on “NOVA.”

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    GWEN IFILL: But, first, as the school year begins and college campuses spring back to life, one state is starting what could be the first of many experiments with free community college.

    President Obama has been making the case for it on the road this week.

    Special correspondent Yasmeen Qureshi went to Tennessee to see how campuses are handling the experiment.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: Every year, more than 10,000 students pour into Tennessee’s community colleges.

    WOMAN: We want you to come, so that you can get kind of an understanding, a feel for campus.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: This year, community colleges in Tennessee are anticipating record enrollment as a part of a new statewide program called Tennessee Promise.

    Here in Nashville, Tennessee, the governor is implementing a new program that guarantees community college to students for free for two years. Some experts say it could be a game-changer in higher education. And Tennessee is the first state in the country to give it a shot.

    CEDRIC GREGORY, Student: I’m going to make sure that I’m keeping school my number one priority. I really just want to graduate and make sure that my life is on the track that it needs to be.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: Cedric Gregory will be a freshman at Volunteer State Community College as a part of Tennessee Promise. Before the program started, he wasn’t planning on going to college right out of high school.

    CEDRIC GREGORY: I’m already stressing out about it. I already know it’s going to be tough, but as long as I keep my head on straight, I think I will be able to do it.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: He will work part-time to support himself and help his mom out at home and sees college as a way to avoid the pitfalls in his small rural hometown north of Nashville.

    CEDRIC GREGORY: Using the kids who drop out and constantly mess up their own life, I use them as an example. Like, this is not what I want to be. I want to do something with my life.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: To take part, students had to fill out the federal application for student aid, meet with a volunteer mentor and do eight hours of community service. More than 22,000 students met the final August deadline for eligibility.

    GOV. BILL HASLAM (R), Tennessee: I think, to me, the most rewarding thing is you go into a room where we have mentors working with students.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: The requirements, Governor Bill Haslam says, were simple by design.

    GOV. BILL HASLAM: There really is an income gap that has been created in this country. And I think at the heart of that is a difference in educational opportunities.

    And so for families that either can’t afford it or just don’t think they can afford it, we had to do something to change that. And, selfishly as a state, we had to be able to say to employers out there, you’re looking for a trained work force and you need more skills training than they have had before, we can provide that in Tennessee.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: In fact, Haslam says, the country as a whole is lagging behind when it comes to education.

    GOV. BILL HASLAM: I think, as recently as 10 years ago, the United States ranked second in the world in the percentage of its population with a degree beyond high school. I think now we have slipped to 10th, 11th, or 12th. Forever, one of the competitive advantages we have had as a country is that had better post-secondary education than anyone else ever did. But that is changing.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: The U.S. is slipping. As more and more jobs require an education beyond high school, the portion of adults with a college degree or certificate has stalled.

    Earlier this year, President Barack Obama unveiled his own proposal for a federal free community college program. It’s modeled in part on the Tennessee approach, but under president’s plan, the federal government pays 75 percent of the student’s tuition and the state pays 25 percent.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Community colleges should be free for those willing to work for it, because, in America, a quality education cannot be a privilege that’s reserved for a few.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: Students in Tennessee are showing up. Volunteer State is enrolling about 500 more students than last year, increasing the total student body by 6 percent. Emily Short leads student services and enrollment for the campus.

    EMILY SHORT, Volunteer State Community College: I think that in the state of Tennessee, with the inception of the Promise program, that we in higher education — during my 24 years in higher education, I think that we have been more encouraged by the state, by our governing board of Tennessee Board of Regents to be more innovative in what we do.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: But keeping students enrolled is another challenge. At Volunteer State, just 16 percent of students graduate and 11 percent transfer to another school.

    EMILY SHORT: A lot of our students are first-generation, meaning that their parents never completed a college degree. And so they really just don’t have a strong support network to encourage them to go to college, because I don’t think that sometimes they understand the importance and the benefit behind it.

    EDITH LESTER, Volunteer State Community College: So, what I want you to do now is, before, we looked at multiplication and division of the fractions, algebraic fractions. Do a quick review right here.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: That’s why Vol State and other colleges are giving students new supports to help them stay in school. One of them is a summer program that gives students who have low test scores a chance to improve their math and English skills. The three-week courses review crucial high school material before the school year starts.

    STUDENT: To make it like Y-squared.

    EDITH LESTER: How am I going to make it Y-squared?

    YASMEEN QURESHI: Edith Lester is a professor at Vol State. She has seen the toll that starting behind can take on students academically.

    EDITH LESTER: Many of them are coming out of high schools not as prepared as we need them to be. If they can bridge those gaps, they come in to college at the same level as a student who doesn’t have those gaps, and that’s fair, because if they don’t bridge those gaps, it’s kind of like they’re already at a losing end.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: Still, not everyone in Tennessee thinks the colleges can deliver on the promise they’re making to new freshmen.

    Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen helped launch a scholarship program in the state that students can also use at four-year colleges. He says that’s a big advantage, when you take graduation rates into account.

    REP. STEVE COHEN (D), Tennessee: Only 13 percent of the students who start at community colleges end up, within four years, graduating community college. So you’re taking and putting monies into an 87 percent failure program.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: And, Cohen says, community college is already free for needy students who qualify for federal grants.

    REP. STEVE COHEN: The people that get the most money out of this are going to be, basically, folks who’ve got higher incomes and didn’t accomplish. Slackers.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: But the governor says it’s not about who gets the tuition money. His goal is simple: getting as many Tennessee students as possible to enroll in college.

    GOV. BILL HASLAM: Free gets everybody’s attention. And the reason we have record numbers of kids applying for financial aid, the reason we have record numbers of kids applying to go to school is the Tennessee Promise has gotten their attention.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: And the campaign seems to be working. Free tuition is what brought Cedric and his friend Nicholas Tays to campus.

    CEDRIC GREGORY: My mom is single, so I would be paying for most of my stuff. So I would have to work a couple years just to save up enough money for tuition, for even just a couple years, so…

    NICHOLAS TAYS, Student: And by the time all that happens, we’re already stuck in a working lifestyle, and it’s too hard to get out of it.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: To keep receiving Promise dollars, they will have to maintain at least a C average, be enrolled full-time and do more community service each year. Gregory knows what will keep him motivated.

    CEDRIC GREGORY: I will be the first to finish college, yes, out of my whole family. So, the fact that I can do that is — it’s pretty cool just to have the title in my family first to graduate.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: If the state’s experiment goes as planned, many more Tennessee students will be claiming that title.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Yasmeen Qureshi in Nashville.

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    A United States Park Ranger walks through the newly opened Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, September 9, 2015. The new $50 million visitors center at the heart of a national memorial created out of the crash site will be formally dedicated on Thursday, a day before ceremonies mark the fourteenth anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on American soil.  On September 11, 2001, one of the four planes overtaken by al Qaeda terrorists crashed into Pennsylvania, killing all 40 passengers aboard.  A 9-11 memorial ceremony will take place on Friday. To match story USA-SEPT11/SHANKSVILLE    REUTERS/Mark Makela - RTSE6E

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    GWEN IFILL: A day before the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is commemorated, hundreds came to Pennsylvania today for the opening of a long-awaited visitors center that honors heroism and grief of Flight 93.

    Hari Sreenivasan has the story.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: A soft rain fell on the gathered crowd as officials and family members dedicated the Flight 93 National Memorial outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

    SALLY JEWELL, Secretary of the Interior: You, as family members, have shared lives richly, richly lived in the photos that you have provided of really everyday citizens who came face to face with evil, but through their courage and their selflessness saved untold lives and protected another sacred and symbolic American site, the U.S. Capitol Building.

    This site is their final resting place, but it is also a place for us to honor what they have given to all of us.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Fourteen years ago tomorrow, United Flight 93 crashed in what was then a quiet field. It was one of four hijacked flights rerouted by al-Qaida terrorists. The others struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but the 40 passengers and crew on Flight 93 stopped their plane from reaching its target.

    GORDON FELT, Brother of Flight 93 Victim: They chose to act. They fought back. They breached the cockpit and fought for control of that flight. And, in doing so, they lost their lives, but, in the process, they saved countless other lives, and, again, they perhaps saved the Capitol Building.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Gordon Felt, whose brother Edward was on board, has been the driving force behind the construction of a memorial visitor center complex that tells the stories of everyone on the flight. It includes answering machine recordings left for loved ones, such as this one from flight attendant CeeCee Lyles.

    CEECEE LYLES, Flight Attendant: Baby, you have to listen to me carefully. I’m on a plane that’s been hijacked. I’m on the plane. I’m calling from the plane. I want to tell you I love you. Please tell my children that I love them very much, and I’m so sorry, babe.

    I don’t know what to say. There’s three guys. They have hijacked the plane. I’m trying to be calm. We’re turned around, and I have heard that there’s planes that have been — been flown into the World Trade Center. I hope to be able to see your face again, baby. I love you.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Outside, a path that follows the plane’s route leads visitors to a narrow break in two 40-foot-high walls meant to mimic the shape of an airplane wing. That leads to a view of another path reserved for families, taking them to the impact site, commemorated with a boulder.

    A long granite wall engraved with the names of the victims was completed in 2011. Today, architect Paul Murdoch described his vision for the whole site.

    PAUL MURDOCH, Architect: The fight for freedom is never completed. Liberty is never assured, but is maintained and reestablished through each generation. And like freedom, this memorial design is open-ended, requiring each visitor to help sustain its legacy through commemoration, commitment and engagement.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Three presidents have visited Shanksville over the years. Tomorrow, President Obama will mark the 9/11 anniversary in Washington.

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    VLADIVOSTOK, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 4:  Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during the Eastern Economic Forum September,4, 2015 in Vladivostok, Russia. Some 1500 foreign delgates from 24 countries are in attendance for the forum's first gathering.  (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)

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    GWEN IFILL: So, what are the Russians up to in Syria, and what’s the impact on the ground?

    For some answers, we turn to Pavel Baev, a Russian military scholar and the research director at the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, and Steven Simon, a visiting lecturer at Dartmouth College. He served on the National Security Council staff during the Obama and Clinton administrations.

    Pavel Baev, what do we know of the extent of the Russian involvement right now in Syria?

    PAVEL BAEV, Peace Research Institute Oslo: Very little is actually known for fact, and what is known doesn’t make much sense, because what the Russians are saying is, yes, we are supplying — were supplying small arms, ammunition and personnel carriers and some military advisers and some technical personnel.

    This sort of military weapons do not need any technical advisers and personnel. They’re pretty elementary. So the feeling is that the little increase in Russian military deliveries produced a lot of political spin and that was deliberate.

    GWEN IFILL: Steven Simon, do we think we’re talking about advisory help or combat help?

    STEVEN SIMON, Dartmouth College: Well, we know that the Russians are worried about this — the viability of the Syrian regime right now.

    The Syrians have — that is, the regime has absorbed pretty serious losses over the past year. They had a good year in 2014 — 2015, not very good. They lost Idlib. They lost Palmyra. They’re under pressure in the south and now they’re under pressure in the east at Deir el-Zour.

    They have got a demographic problem. It’s not clear how long they can actually keep up the fight. For the Russians, the viability of this regime is extremely important for a number of reasons, and I seriously doubt they’re going to let it go down.

    I infer from that that the kind of assistance they’re preparing to provide to the Syrians will be military assistance, assistance that will help keep the Syrian regime afloat and on the battlefield at a very precarious moment.

    GWEN IFILL: Pavel Baev, if Steven Simon is right in his inference that there is military support, if not there already, on the way, why now? What is it about are we hearing from Vladimir Putin that would suggest this is necessary?

    PAVEL BAEV: I think, for Putin, the importance of now is very much related to his forthcoming speech in the U.N. General Assembly.

    He wants to make an impression. He wants to deliver a big initiative, and the core of that initiative is that it is time to join our efforts in the coalition against the ISIS and to make President Bashar al-Assad a part of the solution, because, without him, it’s only violent chaos. And so he needs to make Bashar al-Assad stronger, feel, look stronger than he really is.

    And he also needs, one, to make an impression that Russia is really preparing something serious. And impressions matter. Even a virtual military intervention could become a real political factor.

    GWEN IFILL: Steven Simon, what does Moscow get out of this?

    STEVEN SIMON: It gets a number of things out of it.

    First of all, Putin’s foreign policy is militarized in many respects. This is just another one. He’s quite inclined to put a stick in President Obama’s eye, and this serves that function. It puts down a trip wire to U.S. military action that might be directed against the regime.

    The U.S. can no longer be assured that if they hit regime targets, they won’t kill Russians, and that’s an escalation that I would presume the administration would not favor. The Russians also believe, as one senior Russian official told me not that long ago, that, if Assad goes, the capital of Syria moves from Damascus to Raqqa, which is the Syrian city that ISIS has made its headquarters.

    They take that very seriously. And, lastly, Russia is still a maritime power. They want to have a presence in the Eastern Mediterranean presumably. They have got intelligence gathering and naval facilities in Syria. And if they can put themselves in a position to protect those investments and protect those assets, I assume that they would.

    GWEN IFILL: There has been some cooperation with what the U.S. is trying to do, and that’s getting Bulgaria and another country to stop overflights, to not allow Russian airplanes, airspace into Syria to deliver whatever it is delivering. Is that something that can work?

    PAVEL BAEV: I think it’s mostly symbolic, because for Russia, the main way to deliver is still from the sea. And the planes can go through Iran and Iraq airspace.

    So it’s mostly exchange of signals or kind of political gesture as to what is acceptable, what is not, what we like, what we don’t, what we can do, what we cannot do. And I think on the Russian side, the capacity for making really a difference in the battlefield in Syria is very limited because most of their battalions are tied up in Ukraine.

    There’s very little they can really deploy there, maybe a symbolic squadron of air force to deliver a few strikes, which, again, will not make much of a difference, because they don’t have real-time intelligence, they don’t have high-precision weapons. It’s again mostly symbolism which is involved there.

    But, at the same time, Russians want to be really present big time at the political game in the Middle East to make themselves not just relevant, but central.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, let’s talk, Steven Simon, about the political game and the military game and the potential for this kind of a standoff to lead to Syria becoming a proxy in a standoff between the U.S. and Russia. How likely is that? How possible is that?

    STEVEN SIMON: Well, I think the U.S. will probably want to avoid that.

    Look, the Russian deployment, I think, will have a military effect if it’s carried out. More importantly, it will have an effect on the cohesion of the Syrian regime. Those members of the regime who the United States was perhaps hoping to peel away from Assad in pursuit of a transition scenario will now feel that, you know, the regime has a major power in its corner, in addition to the Iranians, who are now perhaps more able to act on behalf of the regime with the nuclear issue off the table.

    So I think, you know, this does put the regime, the Syrian regime in a stronger position. This isn’t something that the United States really, I think, has the leverage to deal with effectively, really to counter. The administration has two choices. And maybe this is a bit of an exaggeration. It’s a dichotomy.

    But, on the one hand, if you can’t beat them, join them, so find a way to cooperate with the Russians, pull them into an anti-ISIS coalition, coordinate airstrikes and direct the Russian effort in that direction. The alternative, really to try to block this Russian move entirely, is going to be very difficult, in part because, as the other speaker said, the Russians have plenty of other options for getting this military equipment, military assistance into Syria.

    It’s not something the U.S. can block by playing a game of Whac-A-Mole with various countries whose airspace the Russians need to rely on.

    GWEN IFILL: Pavel Baev, what do you think about those choices?

    PAVEL BAEV: I think the choices are in fact very limited, because the situation in Syria is indeed very difficult, and it is very easy to say that we want peace in Syria or we want normalization, and we also want President Assad to go out.

    Whether the elimination of this regime, which for a long time has been the main goal, not only of the United States, but also of Turkey, of many Arab states, whether it really leads anywhere is very difficult to say now, particularly with the rise of ISIS. And so Putin is trying to play on this uncertainty, to exploit an opportunity which is there for him.

    GWEN IFILL: Opportunities exploited.

    Once again, Pavel Baev of the Peace Research Institute in Oslo and Steven Simon at Dartmouth College, thank you both very much.

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    GWEN IFILL: The U.S. military reported today that U.S. airstrikes in Northeast Syria Wednesday destroyed three Islamic State fighting positions. But the U.S. effort may be getting more complicated, as Moscow steps up its support for beleaguered Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    As momentum in the Syrian war has shifted to Islamic State militants and other extremists, government forces have suffered one major blow after another. Today, ISIS forces closed in on a military base in northeastern Deir el-Zour province, the government’s last major outpost there. And to the northwest, al Qaeda-linked rebels and others drove the Syrian military out of Idlib province this week.

    Amid those setbacks, President Bashar al-Assad has increasingly turned to Russia for support. Amateur video and images posted on social media in recent days appear to show the beginnings of a Russian military buildup. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed today that Moscow has sent advisers and weapons, but he would not confirm Russian forces are involved in actual combat.

    SERGEI LAVROV, Foreign Minister, Russia (through interpreter): Russian military personnel are present in Syria. They have been there for many years. Their presence is connected with weapon supplies for the Syrian army. The Russian military presence is there to help Syrians become familiar with this equipment.

    GWEN IFILL: Others are worried. Israel’s defense minister said the Russians have dispatched an active force and are building an air base in Western Syria to launch strikes against Islamic State targets.

    And in Washington yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry raised the issues in a phone call with Lavrov.

    JOHN KIRBY, State Department Spokesman: He reiterated our concern about these reports of Russian military activities or buildup, if you will, in Syria, and made very clear our view that, if true and if borne out, those reports would be — could lead to greater violence and more — even more instability in Syria.

    GWEN IFILL: U.S. officials say Russian airstrikes could interfere with a year-old American air campaign against ISIS, which is also designed to help moderate Syrians.

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    A Syrian refugee covers  his child as they walk towards the border from Greece into Macedonia during a rainstorm, near the Greek village of Idomeni, September 10, 2015. Most of the people flooding into Europe are refugees fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries who have a legal right to seek asylum, the United Nations said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis  - RTSJ9C

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    GWEN IFILL: The United States will take in another 10,000 Syrian refugees in the budget year starting next month. White House officials announced the plan today. They said President Obama wants to pay for it with $4 billion that’s already been budgeted. The U.S. has accepted about 1,500 Syrians since civil war broke out in their country more than four years ago.

    Thousands of refugees and migrants entering Europe faced new misery today, heavy rain that fell across much of the region.

    We have a report from Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News.

    JONATHAN RUGMAN: They are leaving Greece behind them, heading for Macedonia in the thousands. Many of them are Syrians, and there’s no sign this exodus will stop.

    At the border, a refugee camp, about 4,000 sodden people were waiting to cross today, if only the Macedonians would let them in. The border guards are overwhelmed by the numbers. The refugees are overwhelmed by the journey they have just endured. Families with young children are allowed through.

    But as both sides stand bedraggled in the pouring rain, the situation spins out of control. A member of the Macedonian riot police lashes out, his way of keeping order. And amid the screams from frightened women, a small girl adds to this downpour by bursting into tears.

    The crowd is told to sit in the mud and wait. Eventually, it is allowed through, this is thought to be the biggest wave of people so far here, though the U.N. says more than 20,000 more are expected in the next two to three days.

    Today, Macedonia said it was thinking of building a fence to stem this human flow. And so the race to get here in time seems likely to intensify, the race to take a train north into Serbia and then on to Germany in the desperate hope that all this heartache and danger might be worth it.

    GWEN IFILL: There was also turmoil along Hungary’s border with Austria, as Austrian rail authorities announced their system was overwhelmed and halted all trains. The Iran nuclear deal cleared its major hurdle in Congress today, effectively guaranteeing it will take effect.

    Senate Democrats blocked Republican efforts to vote on a resolution disapproving the deal, but party leaders kept arguing even after the voting ended.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), Majority Leader: Democratic senators just voted to filibuster and block the American people from even having a real vote on one of the most consequential foreign policy issues of our time. It’s telling, it’s telling that Democrats would go to such extreme lengths to prevent President Obama from even having to consider legislation on this issue.

    SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), Minority Leader: The inane response is, you’re filibustering us. I know a lot about filibusters, because we have had to file a cloture more than 600 times because of filibusters by the Republicans. Never in the history of the country has there ever been anything close to that. Now what were most of those filibusters on? On motions to proceed.

    GWEN IFILL: In a statement, the president called the Senate vote — quote — “a victory for diplomacy and for national security.” But House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans on his side of the Capitol will use every tool to derail the agreement, including possibly a lawsuit.

    A former State Department worker has refused to talk to Congress about setting up Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server when she was secretary of state. Bryan Pagliano appeared today before a House committee investigating the attack on U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, Libya. As expected, he cited his constitutional right against self-incrimination.

    The presidential campaign erupted into a kind of verbal food fight today, with Donald Trump at its center. The Republican front-runner made GOP rival Carly Fiorina his latest target. In a “Rolling Stone” magazine profile, he belittled Fiorina’s appearance and said, “Can you imagine that the face of our next president?” Trump insisted today he was talking about Fiorina’s persona and not her face.

    But Republicans and Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, condemned the crack. Clinton spoke in Columbus, Ohio.

    HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON Democratic Presidential Candidate: We hear from candidates on the other side about turning back the clock on women’s rights.

    And there is one particular candidate who just seems to delight in insulting women every chance he gets. I have to say, if he emerges, I would love to debate him.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    GWEN IFILL: Trump also went after Republican Ben Carson for questioning his religious faith. He said Carson wasn’t much of a doctor and has no chance of being elected.

    And yet another rival, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, branded Trump a carnival act who would kill Republican chances of winning the White House.

    The trials of six Baltimore police officers in the death of Freddie Gray will stay in Baltimore. A judge denied their motion today for a change of venue. Gray died last April in police custody, triggering protests, riots and curfews.

    New York City’s police department is investigating how former tennis star James Blake was arrested by mistake. A witness misidentified Blake yesterday as a suspect in a credit card fraud ring. Police then pushed him to the ground and handcuffed him. Today, Commissioner William Bratton apologized and said he wants to know why Blake was roughed up, among other things.

    WILLIAM BRATTON, Commissioner, New York City Police Department: We were also concerned administratively with the failure to make any notification of the arrest and detention of Mr. Blake. Mr. Blake was inappropriately arrested and detained in handcuffs for a period of time.

    GWEN IFILL: The officer involved in the arrest has been stripped of his badge and gun while officials investigate.

    In Japan, a tropical storm that dumped unprecedented rainfall left the central part of the country reeling. Twenty inches fell, touching off heavy flooding around the city of Joso, forcing more than 100,000 people to flee. Fast-moving torrents swept through the region north of Tokyo, sweeping away homes and trees. Helicopters had to pluck scores of stranded people off rooftops.

    A scorching heat wave smothered much of California again today. Temperatures headed toward 100 degrees in Los Angeles and 90 around San Francisco. The heat has generated record demand for power to run air conditioning, and forced thousands to go to cooling centers.

    And on Wall Street, stocks managed modest gains. The Dow Jones industrial average added about 77 points to close at 16330. The Nasdaq rose nearly 40 points, and the S&P 500 moved up 10.

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    NEW YORK — Vice President Joe Biden said he is overwhelmed at times by his son’s death and unconvinced he could commit fully to being president, in an emotional interview that cast a deep pall over his deliberations about the 2016 presidential race.

    Asked about his 2016 decision on CBS’ “The Late Show,” Biden said Thursday he’d be lying if he said he knew he was prepared to run following Beau Biden’s death in May to brain cancer. With a level of candor seen rarely in politics, he recalled a breakdown of his emotions during a recent visit to a Colorado military base when a well-wisher yelled out the name of his son and referenced his decorated military service in Iraq.

    “All of a sudden, I lost it,” Biden said. “How could you — that’s not — I shouldn’t be saying this: You can’t do that.”

    Biden’s much-anticipated appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” was expected to take on a light and comedic tone, but instead veered almost immediately into raw and personal territory. He said White House hopefuls must be able to promise voters they can commit their whole heart, soul, energy and passion, and said, “I’d be lying if I said that I knew I was there.”

    “Nobody has a right, in my view, to seek that office unless they’re willing to give it 110 percent of who they are. And I am, as I said, I’m optimistic, I’m positive about where we’re going,” Biden told Colbert. “But I find myself — you understand it — sometimes it just overwhelms you.”

    Biden had previously expressed doubts about whether he and his family have the emotional energy to run. Still, his blunt description of his own emotional frailty on Thursday marked the strongest indication yet that he may be leaning against running for the Democratic nomination.

    Since his son’s death, Biden has frequently peppered his speeches with references to Beau and the impressive resume he developed in his 46 years. Yet Biden went further in the interview, describing in detail conversations he had with Beau in the months before his death at a military hospital.

    “He said, ‘Dad, sit down, I want to talk to you.’ He said, ‘Dad, I know how much you love me,'” Biden recalled. “Promise me you’ll be all right, because no matter what happens, I’m going to be all right.”

    If Biden seemed unusually willing to bare his soul, it may have been due to his host. Colbert, the longtime Comedy Central star who this week took over David Letterman’s former role, lost his father and two brothers in a plane crash as a child. Biden invoked Colbert’s losses to make a point about how “there are so many other people going through this.”

    “I feel self-conscious talking about it,” Biden said, looking down solemnly and occasionally wringing his hands.

    Decades ago, at the start of his political career, Biden lost his wife and infant daughter in a car crash that also injured Beau and his other son, Hunter. Asked by Colbert how he perseveres, Biden cited his Catholic faith and his determination to simply keep moving.

    “I feel like I was letting down Beau, letting down my parents, letting down my family, if I didn’t just get up,” Biden said, his voice trailing off at points. “You’ve just got to get up.”

    For his part, Colbert was unabashed in his support for a Biden campaign, praising him effusively for showing Americans “the real Joe Biden” and adding, “I think we’d all be very happy if you did run.” Biden attributed his current star status in the Democratic Party to the fact that he never felt compelled to modulate what he says.

    “If you can’t state why you want the job, then there’s a lot more lucrative opportunities other places,” he said.

    Biden’s public meditation on the 2016 race capped a hectic day of speeches and events in New York, where he focused on two issues that have been central to his political career for decades: workers’ rights and violence against women. He spent part of the day at a fundraiser for Senate Democrats.

    The vice president once set an end-of-summer deadline to decide whether to run, but that outlook was reshuffled after his son, the former Delaware attorney general, died. In early August, Biden let it be known that he was actively considering a run. More recently, Biden’s aides have said any announcement would likely slip into late September or early October, or possibly even later.

    The intense interest stirred up by the prospect of Biden running campaign has essentially frozen the Democratic primary campaign, as Hillary Rodham Clinton and the other candidates wait to see whether they’ll face another formidable contender. Recent national polls have suggested Biden could be competitive against the Republican candidates, and that he’s more popular within his own party than Clinton in key primary states.

    Funny or not, the late-night appearance put Biden on the same stage to which 2016 presidential candidates have been flocking. Since Colbert’s debut this week, he’s already snagged an interview with GOP contender Jeb Bush and booked future appearances with candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Clinton will try out her comedy chops next week on NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”

    The post An emotional Biden tells Stephen Colbert he’s unsure he can commit to be president appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    On Friday, PBS NewsHour live streamed 9/11 anniversary ceremonies from New York City. You can watch an excerpt from that in the player above.

    Ceremonies in New York City Friday payed tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Included was the annual reading of the names. There were also moments of silence in observance of the times the planes struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the times when each of the towers fell and the time that Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania.

    The post Video: 9/11 ceremony from New York appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Matthew Clark

    After Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in Oct. 2012, the Jet Star roller coaster in Seaside Heights, N.J., was left in ruins. It was demolished in May 2013. Photo by Matthew Clark

    Once, the Jet Star roller coaster was alive with the sounds of roaring passengers in its cars, the hammering of the wheels along its tracks and the thundering vibrations on the wooden pier.

    In the months after Hurricane Sandy, I went the New Jersey shore to shoot surf images and saw the destruction firsthand, the remnants of people’s homes and the beginnings of the rebuilding process. This storm affected the coastline I was so familiar with from years of swimming in the Atlantic Ocean’s frozen mid-winter surf with the other dedicated surfers, many of whom owned the homes along the shore. Yet, I hadn’t been to Seaside Heights since before the storm, where the Jet Star once rumbled and shook on Casino Pier.

    In March 2013, I drove though Seaside Heights to see if I could photograph the coaster, which rumors said would be dismantled in the coming weeks. The shore was a spectacle of flashing police lights, barricades and “No Entry” signs. We walked up to the caution tape barricading us from the shoreline and saw a police officer patrolling the immediate area. But we wanted to get closer.

    My friend Casey, who was with me, ran back to the car and grabbed a surf magazine I had in the backseat, which featured a two-page spread I had taken in Indonesia the summer before. Casey showed the officer the magazine and he recognized some of my work. “I know your name — you shoot surf photos down here a lot right?” he said. By chance, the officer was friends with some locally talented surfers and had been surfing this exact spot, right next to Casino Pier, since he was a kid. He let us beyond the police tape down to the shoreline, where I could set up my tripod and photograph the skeleton of the Jet Star.

    Now, the shot above is all that’s left of the coaster.

    Matthew Clark is a fine art water photographer based in New York. He recently won the Weather Channel’s “It’s Amazing Out There” photo contest with the image above. Parallax is a blog where photographers offer the unexpected sides and stories of their work. Tell us yours or share on Instagram at #PBSParallax.

    The post Why I jumped the caution tape to photograph an abandoned roller coaster appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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