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

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    German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere stands with Chancellor Angela Merkel as they arrive for the special cabinet meeting on migrants' situation, in the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, September 15, 2015. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke  - RTS1747

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: German Chancellor Angela Merkel today called for an emergency summit next Tuesday to deal with the refugee and migrant crisis. The push comes one day after European ministers failed to reach a deal on resettlement quotas. Some of Germany’s leaders have said the nation could receive one million people by the end of this year.

    For more on how the country and continent are dealing with the surge, I’m joined by Germany’s ambassador to the United States Peter Wittig.

    Thank you for joining us.

    PETER WITTIG, Ambassador, Germany: It’s a pleasure to be here.

    GWEN IFILL: Let’s talk about this refugee summit that Chancellor Merkel is calling for.

    Given the resistance which any idea, any common solution had met in Brussels, is there a possibility that there’s some one way to address this?

    PETER WITTIG: Well, we have to understand this is a crisis of historic proportions.

    Never, since the World War II, have we seen that flow of refugees pouring into Europe, so small wonder that Europe was ill-prepared for this momentous crisis. But I think all the countries have realized we can only solve this together. And it’s a litmus test of European solidarity.

    And that’s why the chancellor has called for an urgent summit, to do basically two things, provide more help for the front-line states, those states where the refugees transit through or enter the European Union, help them manage the border, help them to receive the refugees in a dignified manner, and help to fight human trafficking.

    And the second thing is, the second challenge is to find a fair and a fairer distribution of those refugees among us. In a way, this is a litmus test for European solidarity.

    GWEN IFILL:
    Well, let me pick up on that, because, last week, we had a European Union ambassador here sitting here where you are. And his solution, their solution was that there be mandatory quotas imposed, that certain countries, every country in the E.U. would have to take a certain number of migrants.

    And that has not been — that has not gone over well. So, is that dead?

    PETER WITTIG:
    It’s not dead. It’s still on the table.

    And the homeland security ministers, they discussed this, and they reached an agreement that they would work together in that direction. But some countries have not embraced that idea because of their domestic politics, because they think they can’t receive that many refugees. It’s not off the table, but it’s not all of it.

    I think it’s a package. We have got to support those countries that are receiving the refugees. The first point of entry, like Greece, like Italy, like Hungary, we have got to enable them to receive and process, is the word, the refugees in a more dignified way. And then we have got to reform our own asylum, Europe asylum system, make it more coherent, and then again, yes, a fairer distribution of the refugees among the European member states.

    It cannot be that just two or three are bearing the brunt of the burden.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, among those two or three was Germany. Chancellor Merkel had her arms wide open, and now, however, is talking about border controls.

    Is that a result of the domestic resistance to this notion of just throwing the doors open?

    PETER WITTIG:
    Well, the German reaction to the refugee flow was generally very welcoming.

    We saw an outpour, an overwhelming outpour of solidarity by thousands and thousands of volunteers in Germany. And so the reaction is still very positive. But the sheer number and the speed of the refugees, they are — now start to stretch the capabilities of our country, of the cities, of the municipalities.

    GWEN IFILL:
    Is it also the kinds of refugees we’re talking about? You served in Lebanon, if I’m not mistaken.

    PETER WITTIG: I did.

    GWEN IFILL: So you understand that the people we’re talking about coming across these borders are not homogeneous, the way they are in so many other countries.

    PETER WITTIG: Well, the first concern is now to have a more orderly process. And we have got to house the refugees decently, give them food, school them.

    And we have got to distinguish between those who are really in need of help, like the asylum-seeker who are politically persecuted, or the refugees from Syria. For instance, they need our help.

    GWEN IFILL:
    How do you do that? How do you make that distinction, and then the extra distinction between those who are innocent and those who are dangerous?

    PETER WITTIG: Well, they have to go through a process of registration, and eventually seeking asylum, getting asylum, or getting the status of a refugee.

    And then we can help them and welcome them for a longer time. And there are others who come for different reasons that we might not be able to take in for good. So, there are security concerns also. We have to know who is coming into our countries.

    So now we are at a point — and that’s the backdrop of that reintroduction of border controls. We’re not closing the border, nor are we putting into question the system of free movement within Europe. But that’s an emergency measure, in order to have a more orderly process of entry into our country.

    GWEN IFILL: Is it different for Germany, a country which is perhaps more welcoming to immigrants because you have an aging population and you could actually stand to have some — a greater influx of new citizens?

    PETER WITTIG: I think it’s a couple of reasons.

    First of all, we have an historic legacy. We know the tremendous value of asylum, countries granting asylum. We have our own — we had in our history the Nazi dictatorship that produced refugees, so we have a very liberal asylum law.

    I think we saw this compassion in the German population which was really heartwarming for the victims of the civil war in Syria. That’s something — I served there, and, you know, people are fleeing hell, fleeing the barrel bombs of Assad and the murderous swathes of ISIL.

    So I think that is what people felt. They need to — they wanted to comply with humanitarian norms.

    GWEN IFILL: You talked about the war in Syria and what’s driving people out. How much responsibility does the European Union, Germany, the United States have to address or do something about the root causes of what’s causing these people to flee?

    PETER WITTIG: The root causes, we have got to tackle.

    And I think this refugee crisis now should be a catalyst, if you will, a new incentive to once again try politically to cope with this cruel, horrendous civil war in Syria. And I think a good occasion would be the next meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in two weeks’ time, where hopefully leaders will sit together and address that political challenge to come to a political solution in Syria that includes not only the main segments of the Syrian population, but also the main powers of the region, including Saudi Arabia and Iran and others.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, that certainly will be at the top of someone’s agenda. We will see how it plays out in New York.

    Peter Wittig, U.S. — German ambassador to the United States, thank you very much.

    PETER WITTIG: Thank you, Gwen.

    The post Europe was ‘ill-prepared’ for refugee deluge, says German ambassador to the U.S. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Migrants rescued from a capsized boat wait to disembark from a Coast Guard ship in the resort town of Bodrum, in Mugla province September 15, 2015. Twenty-two migrants drowned and 200 more were rescued when a boat capsized in the Aegean Sea off the Turkish coast while trying to reach the Greek island of Kos on Tuesday, the Turkish coastguard said. A total of 211 immigrants were rescued from the boat while divers recovered the bodies of 22 drowned passengers, the statement said. The boat went down about 1.5 miles (2.5 km) off the resort town of Bodrum, where the drowned body of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi washed up two weeks ago, giving rise to a tragic image that shocked people around the world. REUTERS/Kenan Gurbuz - RTS172A

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: Now to another tragedy at sea.

    Earlier today, a boat filled past its capacity with migrants and refugees capsized off the Turkish coast, drowning more than 20 people.

    PBS NewsHour’s Malcolm Brabant, who was on shore as survivors returned to the Turkish city of Bodrum, reports tonight on why so many are still willing to take the risk.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: The boat capsized and sank less than two miles after setting off from Bodrum. More than 240 people were packed into the 65-foot-long vessel, which was normally used for tourist trips. It was heading for the nearby Greek island of Kos, which has become one of the main entry points to Europe.

    Turkish Coast Guards managed to rescue 220 people, but 22 drowned, four of them children, one a 16-day-old baby. The survivors were brought back to the coast guard station in Bodrum, where medical teams were on hand to deal with the trauma of their experience.

    A group of small children were among the first to be placed on special buses by police. The whole drama was played out in front of European tourists like Harlene Bown, who had been to Turkey for a day shopping and were boarding boats back to their resorts in Kos the legal way.

    HARLENE BOWN, Tourist: I have got very mixed feelings over it, obviously, sympathy for some of them, and obviously concern over the others.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: What do you think about the journeys they have to make?

    HARLENE BOWN: Oh, that’s terrible. We sit from our balcony and watch the lanyards go in and out with them on. And they’re being pushed from pillar to post. They must doubt where their future lies in the end of all this.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: The regional authorities drafted in extra police to hunt down the trafficking gang responsible for this latest Mediterranean tragedy. And three men were taken away.

    The going rate for the short voyage to Europe is $1,000 a head. So this one boatload could have earned the people smugglers a quarter-of-a-million dollars. Officials at the coast guard headquarters suggested these men were the prime suspects.

    Excuse me, sir. Are you the smuggler? Are you the smuggler responsible for these people’s deaths? What’s your involvement in this?

    The Turkish authorities have kept us quite some distance away from the survivors, but we have been close enough to one of the buses to hear the most uncontrollable weeping coming from a couple of people who have lost relatives during the sinking.

    Now, these people haven’t just endured the most profound personal tragedy. They have also probably lost money to the traffickers who were promising them a new life in Europe. And what’s more, once the Turkish authorities are finished processing them, they’re going to take them away from the Mediterranean, hundreds of miles away, to the southeastern part of Turkey, near to the Syrian border to an overcrowded refugee camp.

    And perhaps then they will try to escape and come and go through this whole experience one more time. Such tragedies don’t deter Abed Allmugharbel, a 21-year-old Syrian student who spent the past three years in Lebanon. He’s already had one failed crossing after his boat was intercepted by the Turkish coast guard, as are many.

    But he’s ready to try again, with the intention of getting to Sweden.

    ABED ALLMUGHARBEL:
    I look at it as a redemption, as a redemption, to start a new life in these countries, these free countries, these free countries where they respect the human rights, all the human rights. Yes.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: How many — it is worth the risk going on the boat? I mean, how scared are you?

    ABED ALLMUGHARBEL: I mean, I have already been in the boat for the first time. I failed. I’m now going back. It’s not that hard, because starve for the family is hard, OK? When — it’s better than to stay in Lebanon and die slowly in there, without study and nothing to do in Lebanon. It’s — it’s worth it to go there. It’s worth it.

    ABED ALLMUGHARBEL: Have you got something to give to Europe?

    ABED ALLMUGHARBEL: Yes, yes. If I study there, I am willing to give the Europe back what they gave me, to give them back what they gave me. If they gave me shelter, I give them back my whole energy to — to build their country.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: This is Basmane in the city of Izmir, which is the gateway the Europe. It’s a magnet for Syrians and scores of other nationalities. We were taken to a smugglers cafe by the head of the regional refugee support group, Cem Terzi, a consultant surgeon.

    CEM TERZI, Surgeon: It’s a meeting point for smugglers and the refugees all day, during the day or during the night. They are all coming together here and talking and reaching about a price.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: The regional government estimates that there are 70,000 asylum-seekers in the Izmir region, but professor Terzi believes that the number is really 400,000, half of whom want to come to Europe. The figures dwarf those that Europe is concentrating on resettling.

    CEM TERZI: We are seeing, I think, one of the most tragic situations in history. At the moment, three million people are in Turkey, and at least half of them are trying to go to Europe and to survive, to have better conditions, to get refugee situation.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: The professor and other medical volunteers offer a rudimentary health care service for the thousands living rough, where infection is rife among the dirt and dust.

    Turkey doesn’t grant these people full refugee status, and so, unless they have money, they are in serious trouble. As the professor treated children with bronchitis, we caught up with Abed. He had found a smuggler, who told him to go to a secret rendezvous for a boat to the Greek island of Samos.

    How does this feel in terms of your life? How much of an important day is today?

    ABED ALLMUGHARBEL: It’s — it might be my best day or might be my salvation day.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: And what do you think?

    ABED ALLMUGHARBEL: What do I think of what?

    MALCOLM BRABANT:
    What is it going to be?

    ABED ALLMUGHARBEL: It’s going to be, hopefully, my salvation day.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: And what does salvation mean to you?

    ABED ALLMUGHARBEL: Salvation means start a new life, find a new hope, not to stay stuck here in Izmir in Turkey and going back to Lebanon and live a miserable life.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: In this corner of Turkey, we have not been able to discover where Abed made it. This is the prosperous and exotic Mediterranean, tantalizingly close to Europe, but, to refugees, it’s an illusion, for this is a deadly sea.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Malcolm Brabant in Bodrum, Turkey.

    The post Risking journey to Greece, more than 20 migrants drown off Turkey appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Migrants look through a fence as they wait to enter Hungary, after the Hungarian police sealed the border with Serbia, near the village of Horgos, Serbia, September 15, 2015. Hundreds of migrants spent the night in the open on Serbia's northern border with Hungary, their passage to western Europe stalled on Tuesday by a Hungarian crackdown to confront the continent's worst refugee crisis in two decades. REUTERS/Marko Djurica - RTS14XR

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: The many thousands on a desperate journey into Europe’s heartland hit the wall today, literally. A barrier fence sealed off the length of Hungary’s southern frontier, the main land route for the migrants.

    James Mates of Independent Television News reports from the scene.

    JAMES MATES: “Open, open,” they cry, 2,000 or more refugees pressing against Hungary’s newly fortified border with its southern neighbor, Serbia.

    There has been a human river flowing northward for weeks. This is what happens when you try to top stop that flow. The crowd have been growing since early morning as the first arrivals confronted the new three-meter high razor wire fence, one obstacle too many in their bid to get to Germany. Instead, they must walk along it to an official transit center built from shipping containers.

    The thousands walking this trail can enter Hungary through this door and this door alone, and the wait will be interminable. They have traveled hundreds of miles to get here. They find this quite literally the door into the E.U. And it’s shut. So, they waited, in a field, in the blazing sun all day.

    A former prime minister of Hungary came to look.

    MAN: It’s terrible, what we are seeing here. It’s terrible.

    JAMES MATES: He was disgusted by what his successor was doing. Mohammed al-Mahaney from Damascus, spotting a senior Hungarian, asked for her to find his wife, who crossed the border without him. Mohammed now admits, if he had known what was waiting for him, he might never have left Syria.

    MAN: Hopefully. Look at this.

    JAMES MATES: Is this what you expected?

    MAN: Of course not. This is because I tried to be legal. This is only because I tried to be legal. They want us to be illegal? This fence will not help them.

    JAMES MATES: Patience quickly ran out. Demanding the right to go to Germany, they sat in the middle of a main motorway between Hungary and Serbia. If they weren’t going to cross the border, nor was anyone else.

    Women brought tiny babies up to the austere metal fence, pleading to be let through. Instead, the bolts were tightened. Nervous policemen gripped their cans of tear gas in case there was to be an assault.

    It is a standoff. The Serbians want this border open to relieve the pressure they’re under. Many others in Europe believe this is not how refugees should be treated. But Hungary has made this central to their policy and seem unlikely to back down.

    GWEN IFILL:
    Hungary also began enforcing new laws, arresting 174 people for trying to cross illegally. In response, Serbia started bussing migrants toward Croatia, which also has a border with Hungary. But the Hungarians defended their actions.

    ZOLTAN KOVACS, Hungarian Government Spokesman: The freedom of movement, the freedom of settlement, the freedom of the flow of goods is being endangered by the very fact that illegal migrants will come, will try to come at will through the green borders. And that is not going to stop if Hungary is not stopping them.

    GWEN IFILL: In Washington, President Obama met with the king of Spain and expressed new concern about the crisis in Europe.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We agreed that this is going to require cooperation with all the European countries and the United States and the international community in order to ensure that people are safe, that they are treated with shared humanity, and that we ultimately have to deal with the source of the problem, which is the ongoing crisis in Syria.

    GWEN IFILL:
    There were new casualties today among the thousands of Syrians trying to make the journey. We will have a report on that front in the crisis after the news summary.

    Losses mounted today from the firestorm that swept part of Northern California over the weekend. Officials gained access to more burned-out areas about 100 miles north of San Francisco, not far from Napa Valley.

    Overnight, the count of homes consumed by the Valley Fire surged to 585, a number that could rise even higher as the big blaze keeps burning. At least 9,000 more homes are in its path. The massive fire has engulfed 104 square miles across three counties. In hard-hit Middletown, the newly homeless are trying to absorb the enormity of their losses.

    MAN: My house burnt up in probably about 30 minutes. I lived on Hoberg South, which is basically where the fire originated from. And we were at a soccer game, got home a little after 2:00 p.m. Our house was gone by 3:00 and we really don’t have anything left.

    GWEN IFILL: For those families, donated clothing and food are on hand at an evacuation center at the Napa County Fairgrounds. Many of the evacuees still don’t know if their homes and belongings even survived.

    MAN: I know everybody wants to know, what — what happens? When do we get to go home? It’s not an easy question. You get to go home when it’s safe.

    GWEN IFILL: Others are just trying to maintain hope, in the face of the devastation.

    MAN: I’m not going to be defined by things like this, you know? It’s — you have a choice of how you handle things in life, and I think this is the way I want to handle it, positive. We will move forward. We will get through this.

    GWEN IFILL: Nearly 2,400 firefighters are battling the Valley Fire. By this morning, it was only 15 percent contained.

    One person died in the Valley Fire: an elderly woman whose body was found in the gutted remains of her home.

    Another major wildfire has burned nearly 200 homes and outbuildings southeast of Sacramento. It’s now about one-third contained.

    A small town in Utah is in mourning tonight after flash floods killed 12 people Monday evening. One other was missing. Authorities said a wall of water smashed into Hildale, just above the border with Arizona. An SUV and a van carrying women and children were washed miles downstream by the torrent triggered by a heavy rainfall in a canyon above the town. Flood warnings remained in force today, with more storms in the forecast.

    In North Korea, state media announced the communist nation’s nuclear fuel plants have been upgraded and restarted. That includes the main plutonium enrichment site at Yongbyon. Upgrades there could let the North build new, more sophisticated nuclear warheads.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin today strongly defended Moscow’s military aid to the government of Syria. He said such intervention is needed to defeat the Islamic State group. Putin spoke in Tajikistan at a meeting of ex-Soviet nations, and he urged other countries to follow Russia’s example.

    PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through interpreter): I would like to say that we are supporting the government of Syria in the fight against terrorist aggression, and will continue to offer military technical assistance. It’s clear that without an active participation of the Syrian authorities and the military, it would be impossible to expel the terrorists from that country and the region as a whole.

    GWEN IFILL: Putin rejected allegations that Russian support has sparked the flow of refugees out of Syria. He said the situation would be even worse if Moscow had not stepped in.

    Desperate officials in Malaysia turned to cloud-seeding today to battle a smoky haze that’s blanketed swathes of Southeast Asia. Planes will spew chemicals into the air to promote rainfall and clear the air. The haze is coming from illegal fires set in neighboring Indonesia to clear land. It’s so bad, and dangerous to breathe, that schools across three states in Malaysia had to close today.

    Back in this country, Hewlett-Packard announced up to 30,000 jobs will be cut when it spins off its software, consulting, and data analysis business. H.P. already shed thousands of workers in recent years amid falling demand for its personal computers and printers.

    And Wall Street shot higher, as weaker economic data raised hopes that the Federal Reserve might delay raising interest rates. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 230 points to close at 16600. The Nasdaq rose 54 points and the S&P 500 added 25.

    The post News Wrap: Hungary arrests migrants under new laws appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    [Watch Video]

     

    It was a moonless Friday at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, and a loggerhead sea turtle was giving birth. I watched as her goo-covered eggs dropped in threes, each clutch landing in the sand with a wet plop. The sound echoed against the crashing waves.

    sea-turtle-info-promo-1

    She seemed ambivalent to my voyeurism. A loggerhead, like any sea turtle, is wary of predators while picking a nesting site onshore. If unconvinced of the spot’s safety, she’ll turn tail and head back to the ocean. But once laying begins, nothing will stop her from dropping all her eggs and concealing her nest with sand. It’s a version of cruise control from the dawn of the sea turtles 120 million years ago. A primordial commitment to protecting her young, fortified by generation after generation returning to the beaches of one’s foremothers.

    Archie Carr is an epicenter for this way of life. Loggerheads plant between 50,000 to 100,000 nests on Florida beaches each year — about 80 percent of the Atlantic population— but the Archie Carr refuge hosts the largest batch. One out of every four of those turtles nests on this 20-mile section of sand.

    They’re not alone. Thousands from other sea turtle species join them. Giant leatherbacks with striped, referee uniform-like shells flap onto the beach with green turtles, Kemp’s ridleys and hawksbills.

    It’s their birthright, and it’s slowly eroding.

    You’ve heard the stats. Seas are rising as hotter temperatures melt glaciers and physically expand the ocean. By 2100, seas are expected to rise by three feet across the globe, and places like the U.S. eastern seaboard will face up to 15 inches more. Last month, NASA scientists reported that sea levels might rise even faster than initially predicted.

    “Even if we were to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today or somehow mitigate temperature change, there is going to be continued sea level rise and continued warming for the next hundred or couple hundred years because of the inertia in the oceanic and atmospheric systems,” said NASA glacier scientist Tom Neumann. “So in that sense, we’ve already bought into continued sea level rise and continued warming.”

    In the face of an unstoppable train, it’s natural to focus on what this means for us, for humans. About 160 million Americans — 53 percent of the population — live in coastal regions, and in cities like Miami and Annapolis, Maryland streets already flood with many high tides.

    science-wednesday

    But long before our cities wash away, thousands of critters and plants will feel the blunt hammer of these rising waves. The slow creep of rising tides and the blasts of storm surges won’t just wash away habitat. The rushing water is changing how these organisms exist, and may potentially decide whether they exist at all.

    Sea turtles mostly live at sea, but return to land to lay their eggs. This habitat is threatened by rising water, but there’s another problem: females are running dangerously low on mates.

    Hot girls, cool guys

    The Gumbo Limbo Nature Center takes its name from the scraggly trees that populate its front lawn. Those and palm trees conceal the facility from drivers and bike riders coasting down the A1A beach highway in Boca Raton, Florida. Creamsicle rays of sunlight filter through the branches onto large sculptures of sea turtles. Founded in the 1970s, the nature center watches over wildlife on the city’s five miles of beach, with the help of its next-door neighbors, the Florida Atlantic University Marine Research lab.

    It’s at that lab that we met marine biologist Jeanette Wyneken, who spends much of her time dwelling on sea turtle sex. Not copulation, but the physical sex of the reptiles.

    “What we’ve been doing across this beach for the last 13 years is documenting sex ratios of little loggerheads like these guys,” she said, plucking from a tank a hatchling with a brown underbelly that resembled a gardener’s muddy shirt.

    Loggerhead turtle — Biologist Jeanette Wyneken holds a young loggerhead turtle at the Florida Atlantic University Marine Research lab. Photo by Mike Fritz.

    The sex of the sea turtle is determined by its environment. Hot weather produces more females, while cooler temperatures make more males. With global warming and increased drought conditions, Wyneken and her team have seen an extreme and disproportionate shift in the pattern toward females.

    “In 2010, we did not see a single male. That was a drought year,” Wyneken said. Among thousands of loggerhead nests in southeast Florida that year, both near Boca Raton and a sister site at Juno Beach, it’s likely that not one male hatchling was present.

    But a mother sea turtle nests multiple times in her life, so what’s the harm if one nesting season’s a bust?

    Too many generations of unisex sea turtles could be devastating for the animals. Loggerheads are threatened in the Northwest Atlantic, meaning they’re likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. Other species nesting off Florida — greens, leatherbacks, hawksbills and Kemp’s ridleys — are endangered. This is in part because few sea turtles survive from egg to adulthood. Some eggs never hatch or are nabbed by skunks or foxes. Hatchlings make a mad dash for the sea immediately after birth, but many are consumed by seagulls or crabs.

    “In the case of the loggerhead, if you do a back-of-the-envelope calculation, we’re looking at about 1 in 7,000 making it to adulthood,” Wyneken said. “So she’ll have to commit to over 10 nesting seasons, which, in the case of a loggerhead is a 20- or 30-year period, just to replace herself and maybe one mate.”

    A trend toward too few males may also weaken the population’s genetic diversity, making the turtles more prone to disease.

    Young loggerhead sea turtles at the Florida Atlantic University Marine lab in Boca Raton. Photo by Mike Fritz

    Young loggerhead sea turtles at the Florida Atlantic University Marine lab in Boca Raton. Photo by Mike Fritz

    If drought is one edge of the sword threatening turtle diversity, then storm surge is the other. An uptick in storm surges in recent years means that more nests are flooding, which suffocates the eggs or washes them out out entirely. We walked along the beach with Wyneken and her colleague Kirt Rusenko, marine conservationist for the city of Boca Raton and the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, and stood about halfway between the crashing waves and bottom edges of the dune.

    The beach is narrow — less than 30-feet wide from surf to dune in spots — and the sand doesn’t pile high above the water line. Any small rise in sea level combined with a storm surge is going to send water all the way to the dune. Huge waves from Hurricane Sandy covered the entire beach in 2010, to the point where it carved away at the dune, Rusenko said. The city had to ship in sand to pack against the foot of the dune to keep it from collapsing.

    As Rusenko’s arm swept to the upper edge of the beach and the dune, one could easily picture the impact. All the sea turtle nests — from midbeach to the foot of the dune — covered in water. Water doesn’t just wash away the eggs, it suffocates them, especially at late stages of development when they’re pulling a lot of oxygen through their shells.

    And it’s not just Sandy. In recent years, Wyneken and Rusenko have witnessed storms 80 miles away in the Bahamas create surges that shot all the way up into the dune.

    Due to the rising threat of tidal and storm surges, scientists daily are relocating sea turtle nests in danger to areas further up the beach. One of Wyneken’s graduate students — Alex Lolavar — takes this opportunity to examine the “hot girls, cool guys” phenomenon in the wild.

    Does more water mean more males?

    Due to an increasing number of storm surges, researchers from Florida Atlantic University and Gumbo Limbo Nature Center relocate nests in danger of being washed out. Photo by Mike Fritz

    Due to an increasing number of storm surges, researchers from Florida Atlantic University and Gumbo Limbo Nature Center relocate nests in danger of being washed out. Photo by Mike Fritz

    Jeanette Wyneken and Alex Lolavar prep an artificial nest for relocated sea turtle eggs. Lolavar uses the opportunity to perform an outdoor experiment on sex ratios. Photo by Mike Fritz

    Jeanette Wyneken and Alex Lolavar prep an artificial nest for relocated sea turtle eggs. Lolavar uses the opportunity to perform an outdoor experiment on sex ratios. Photo by Mike Fritz

    Leatherback turtle being measured with calipers at the Florida Atlantic University Marine Research lab. Photo by Mike Fritz

    Leatherback turtle being measured with calipers at the Florida Atlantic University Marine Research lab. Photo by Mike Fritz

    In the lab or extremely hot drought conditions, this temperature relationship is well defined. Add heat, get females. But sometimes, in natural conditions, it’s murkier. In some seasons, scientists record hot temperatures that should produce all females based on lab data, yet the field measurements note a smattering of males. One theory is that rainfall may play a role by cooling a nest, but Lolavar and Wyneken suspect a more nuanced relationship. This is because they’ve found that years with greater rainfall than average tend to produce more male hatchlings, regardless of temperature inside the nest. Their hypothesis: Moisture or humidity might be an independent switch for turtle sex.

    To test the idea, the team, led by Lolavar, has created an outdoor experiment that involves relocating loggerhead nests that are too close to the high-tide line and in danger of washing out. The night after a laying, Lolavar splits each nest in half — each contains about 100 eggs — and then digs two artificial nests. One of the resulting nests recieves of daily dose of “rain” via a sprinkler; the other is left dry.

    When the hatchlings emerge, the team collects 10 hatchlings from both the wet and dry nests — 20 overall — to raise in the lab. Once the babies are old enough — 2.5 months on average — the researchers will assess their sex. Assessing sea turtle sex is not as simple as just flipping them over. In fact, in the past, the only way to determine gender was via dissection.

    “The traditional way of doing this work was to sacrifice a bunch of hatchlings, but that’s not very popular. And it’s kind of counterproductive if you’re working with an imperiled species,” Wyneken said.

    So from 2002 to 2004, Wyneken’s team tackled the problem by developing a non-destructive way to gauge the sex of sea turtle hatchlings. The procedure is akin to laparoscopic knee surgery. The scientists use a “tiny telescope” — a fiber optic camera — to examine the sex organs of young hatchlings without harming them. Then, once the turtles are old enough, typically three to four month old, scientists release them into the ocean.

    This extra degree of care isn’t unusual for Wyneken’s lab; they specialize in it. For instance, it’s the only lab in the world, as far as she knows, that raises leatherback turtles in captivity. That’s hard partly because the turtles don’t stop swimming…even when they’re slumbering, Wyneken said. To keep leatherbacks from banging against their tank walls until the point of injury, the researchers stick little harnesses to their backs with a string attached to the center of a pole that runs over the tank. They paddle with endless strokes. Flap after flap.

    Scientists attach a harness to baby leatherback turtles to prevent them from banging into the tank walls while swimming. Image by Mike Fritz

    Scientists attach a harness to baby leatherback turtles to prevent them from banging into the tank walls while swimming. Image by Mike Fritz

    Lolavar’s study is ongoing, but if moisture dictates sex, the result would add an interesting twist to the turtle’s global warming saga. It would suggest that the turtles have already adapted in part to sea level rise. Rapid sea level rise has happened several times over the loggerheads’ 60-million-year evolution. The last major glacier melting event, which occurred some 8,000 years ago, elevated ocean water by 21 feet in 140 years. (We’ll face close to a six foot rise, in some places, by 2100). So perhaps sea turtles evolved this moisture switch to handle former surging seas.

    However, this adaptation may not save the sea turtles from rapid beach erosion.

    Ebb sans flow

    Beach erosion isn’t unique to Boca Raton — it is striking most of the Florida peninsula.

    “That’s what we see in the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. We’ve lost several meters of beach just over the last 20 years,” said biologist Joshua Reece at Valdosta State University in Georgia.

    The redhaired Reece reflects on the sea turtles’ situation on the balcony of retired colleague and mentor Llewellyn Ehrhart, a biologist whom everyone calls Doc. Ehrhart resembles a silver-haired version of MacGyver. Crickets buzz around us in the sweaty afternoon heat, while Ehrhart and Reece banter about the wildlife on this barrier island. A gopher tortoise has apparently taken residence in the sandy dirt, burrowed underneath Doc’s driveway.

    Doc began studying the shores of Melbourne Beach in 1982, nearly a decade before the Archie Carr refuge was officially established as safe haven for sea turtles and other wildlife. In 2012, Doc and his colleagues at the University of Central Florida teamed with Reece, who studies vulnerabilities in ecosystems, to examine how loggerhead nesting patterns had changed over the previous two decades. Since Archie Carr is a focal point for loggerhead reproduction, small shifts could have a major impact on nesting success and the species.

     Biologist Joshua Reece (right) and Llewellyn "Doc" Ehrhart chat about sea turtle nesting at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Mike Fritz

    Biologist Joshua Reece (right) and Llewellyn “Doc” Ehrhart chat about sea turtle nesting at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Mike Fritz

    The study isolated three major threats to sea turtles nesting in the refuge and throughout Florida: coastal development, increasingly warming temperatures and sea level rise.

    “It’s really important that we look at those three things at the same time, because they have synergistic effects,” Reece said.

    Land use by humans pairs with sea-level rise to create a vise on sea turtle nesting. Typically, beaches are dynamic. As waves rise, the dune can flatten and replace the sandy beach, and then the inland area becomes the dune. However, because people have hardened the shorelines by laying cement foundations for beach condos or built asphalt coastal highways, this shifting cycle doesn’t occur anymore, meaning the beach gets narrower with each passing tide and storm.

    “Climate change is nothing new to sea turtles,” Reece said. “They’ve been here for hundreds of thousands of years, and they’ve dealt with climate change more rapid than what we’re seeing today. What they haven’t dealt with is climate change in the context of human infrastructure.”

    Due to global warming, loggerhead sea turtles are nesting earlier in the year than before, but they also appear to be shifting northward at the refuge. It isn’t clear yet if this shift is happening statewide, but at Archie Carr, Reece’s research has found that the nests are moving north. As a result, more of their nests are landing in narrow, heavily eroded beaches that can’t ebb and flow due to urban development.

    This land shortage comes at a time when turtle numbers are rising. Conservation policies over the past few decades have banned turtle harvesting for food, and fishermen have modified their deep sea nets, so they no longer ensnare sea turtles. As a results, sea turtle nesting in Florida seems to be rebounding from the historic lows recorded during 2000 to 2010. In fact, this year marked the strongest nesting summer on record.

    But that means more turtles occupying a smaller and smaller habitat. And if sea levels rise by 1.5 feet, as climate scientists predict they should by 2100, then Reece and his colleagues predict that 43 percent of the turtles’ nesting ground could disappear.

    “As these beaches become increasingly narrow, there’s simply not enough room for as many sea turtles that nest on this beach to lay nests without actually digging up an existing nest and disrupting those eggs,” Reece said. “Also, if the turtles shift to new nesting grounds, the refuge doesn’t move with them. We need proactive strategies to shift those wildlife protections too.”

    Total nests and washouts on the five-mile stretch of Boca Raton

     Total Nests
     Lost Nests due to Washouts


    A $2 billion band-aid

    Florida residents have limited options for abating sea level rise, and most are unsustainable or detrimental to turtle conservation.

    Beach renourishment offers a buffer for the seas and temporarily rebuilds turtle nesting grounds, but it is costly. Most nourishment projects last between five to 10 years and cost millions of dollars. Over the last 25 years, Florida has spent more than $2 billion to renourish beaches with 250 million cubic yards of sand, according to the Western Carolina University’s Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines. Yet, storm surges and high tides will worsen, requiring even more renourishment as time passes.

    “It’s simply not a viable long-term strategy to continue pumping that sand up onto the beach. As sea levels rise, we can’t keep pace,” Reece said. Plus, after each renourishment, it takes two to three years for the sand to settle or “equilibrate”, and during this time, more nest washouts occur.

    Wyneken said shipped-in sand can make the beach harder, as hard as concrete, and that can impede a mom’s ability to dig a nest. A sea turtle nest is typically shaped like an upside-down lightbulb, but due to this beach renourishment, it’s not uncommon to find nests that look like toilet plungers. Misshapen nests — with a narrow neck and wide base — mean that the hatchlings have a smaller escape route. Many can’t get out, and the result is a goopy mess of trapped baby turtles.

    A green sea turtle swims off the coast of Florida. Photo by Jim Abernethy

    A green sea turtle swims off the coast of Florida. Photo by Jim Abernethy

    Armouring the coast is another option. Physical structures, like seawalls or rocky riprap, can block the oncoming waves, but any sand on the sea side of the armoring would wash away, leaving none for sea turtles or other organisms.

    Florida’s coasts have another option in the form of “managed retreat”. In this scenario, people would vacate coastal areas, and construction crews would rip up man-made structures like roads, businesses and houses. With beaches being no longer constricted by hardened shorelines, they can move as waters elevate. This choice would obviously be less popular for Florida’s ever growing coastal population, Reece said. The state added more than 7 million people to its shorelines over the last two decades, which is second to only California in terms of coastal growth. Last autumn,
    Reuters reported that of 3,302 applications to build residential structures on Florida beaches since Jan. 1, 2000, only 114 have been denied permits.

    “We must allow our beaches to move, but that is going to be really hard to do culturally and socially,” Doc said

    As Doc and Reece talk about this grave future, their exuberance provides welcome counterweight. Reece’s enthusiasm is apparent as he walks down the beach. He casually lists off plant species when he passes a dune — “look, there’s some sea grape” — and you crane your neck to observe. One of his undergraduate students — senior Erika Schumacher — drove two hours from Orlando to check out the refuge with us. Her trip wasn’t for class credit, since school was still out. She merely came to observe.

    Kate Mansfield, director of the UCF Marine Turtle Research Group (right), reviews the plans for a nighttime search for nesting sea turtles at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Melbourne Beach, Florida. Photo by Mike Fritz

    Kate Mansfield, director of the UCF Marine Turtle Research Group (right), reviews the plans for nighttime search for nesting sea turtles at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Melbourne Beach, Florida. Photo by Mike Fritz

    A pair of loggerhead hatchlings at the University of Central Florida Marine Turtle Research station in Melbourne Beach, Florida. Most mornings, the researchers collect any stragglers left behind in nests and then release them at night when fewer predators are active. Photo by Mike Fritz

    A pair of loggerhead hatchlings at the University of Central Florida Marine Turtle Research station in Melbourne Beach, Florida. Most mornings, the researchers collect any stragglers left behind in nests and then release them at night when fewer predators are active. Photo by Mike Fritz

    Erika is part of collective of students who recently led a petition to save Reece’s job. Like so many small colleges across the U.S., Valdosta State is facing lower enrollment, and the school is cutting the youngest faculty to balance the budget. Reece is facing the axe, even though his research grants are scheduled to bring more than $250,000 over the next two years.

    Later that evening, Reece took us to meet Kate Mansfield, who took over directorship of the UCF Marine Turtle Research Group in 2013 when Doc stepped down. During the summer, a dozen researchers – a pack of undergrad and graduate students — live at a beach house about half a mile behind the refuge’s dune. Inside, it feels like half lab, half summer camp. The students sit around a square coffee table playing cards or chat on the screened-in balcony in the back. Two undergrads — Connor Carrell and Cody Sparaco — kill time by passing around a drawing notebook of sketches.

    Each night around 9 pm, two of the researchers hop onto ATVs parked in the driveway. Their mission is to drive along the beach and spot mother turtles as they come on shore to nest. During peak nesting, 600 moms might hit the beach in one night. If the scouts spot one, then they will radio their location to Brazilian graduate student Gustavo Stahelin or another team leader at the base, and the rest of the scientists will head to the site. After a mom finishes laying, they’ll conduct health assessments and potentially tag the turtle so they can keep tabs on her nesting patterns.

    So there we stood with a mother loggerhead.

    “She has just finished clearing out a body pit, then she takes her rear flippers and she digs out an egg chamber, Mansfield said, narrating the turtle’s movements. “Once she gets all the way down to the bottom of where she can reach with her rear flippers, she kind of creates this lightbulb shape for the egg chamber.”

    Nearby, students crowded around a bucket. Inside the bucket were two hatchlings that had been found on the beach earlier that day.

    “If we have any stragglers left over in the nests, we will bring them back into a dark closet. Keep them in a quiet spot during the daytime. And then release them at night after dark, when the visual predators are not as active,” Mansfield said.

    As the little ones scuttled toward the beach’s edge, I considered the survival of this beach. Will these hatchlings return one day to this shore expecting warm sand and find instead a hardened bluff or a concrete sea wall?

    The mother loggerhead began crawling back to sea, her nest fully concealed. She moved like an human infant, front left flipper, rear right, front right, rear left. In the still-soft sand, her staggered shuffle left an imprint like bulldozer tracks.

    The post How rising seas could sink the sea turtle appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty, heart surgeon and founder of Narayana Health, meets with patients in India. The group, founded in 2000, now has more than 30 hospitals. Photo by Rakesh Nagar for the PBS NewsHour

    Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty, heart surgeon and founder of Narayana Health, meets with patients in India. The group, founded in 2000, now has more than 30 hospitals. Photo by Rakesh Nagar for the PBS NewsHour

    BANGALORE, India — The average heart surgeon in America performs about 2,000 operations by the end of a 30-year career, according to Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty.

    “We have surgeons who have done more than 2,000 surgeries and who are only in their 30s,” boasted the 62-year-old founder of Narayana Health Systems, a for-profit chain of 32 hospitals (and growing) across India. Shetty says he lost track of his own tally when it exceeded 15,000.

    “That was some years ago,” he laughed.

    Productivity, efficiency and volume on a massive scale have been the hallmark of the Narayana approach, which has been likened to that of Henry Ford and Walmart. It has brought the cost of the typical operation down to about $1,200. That might seem astonishing in America, where the comparable cost could approach or exceed $100,000, albeit mostly covered by insurance.

    However, even $1,200 is still well beyond the reach of most heart patients in India, where hundreds of millions of citizens earn less than $2 a day.

    So the challenge for Narayana has been as much financial as surgical and one innovation — called micro insurance — has been key to the chain’s growth.

    Partnering with farmer cooperatives, which almost all rural residents are eligible to belong to, they created Yeshasvini (“success without obstacles” in the ancient Sankrit language), a so-called catastrophic health insurance plan. It does not cover routine health care but will kick in for a long list of major surgical procedures. In about a decade some 10 million people, paying an average premium of just 11 cents a month, have enrolled in and around Karnataka state, where Narayana is headquartered. The company says more than 100,000 have received surgeries of various types. About a quarter of Narayana’s annual revenues come from the Yeshasvini program.

    So if sophisticated surgery can be made widely accessible why not basic health care, in a country with some of the world’s highest rates of maternal and infant mortality? According to a 2010 United Nations report, a woman dies in childbirth every 10 minutes.

    Shetty said he believes it’s a lack of political will. Health care is usually a big influence over voting behavior in aging societies. That’s not the case in India, where the median age of the population is just 27 (37 in the U.S., 41 in France). He also blames the undue political influence of professional societies, which have remained steadfastly exclusive and made it difficult for doctors and nurses to operate particularly in rural India where the need is vast, he said.

    Many of the same influences are at play in developed countries and especially the United States, and it’s one reason that costs are escalating out of control, Shetty said.

    Photo by Rakesh Nagar for the PBS NewsHour

    Photo by Rakesh Nagar for the PBS NewsHour

    To prove that the Narayana approach can work in developed world settings, in 2013, the chain opened a new 140-bed hospital in the Cayman Islands, a 90-minute flight from Miami. The facility is phase one of a planned multispecialty “health city” and has received Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Hospitals (JCAH) certification that’s the gold standard in the U.S. Even in its ramp-up phase, Shetty said costs at the Cayman facility are a half of what you’d find in Miami. That could start to attract American patients in the future but more immediately lure the well heeled from the Caribbean region, whose only option has been to go further north.

    Tennessee-based Ascension Health, the largest Catholic heath care provider in the U.S., is an operational partner in the Cayman venture, though the medical staff are transplants from India, one critical ingredient in the cost savings. As an example, he said the typical Indian surgeon in Cayman is vastly experienced in a much wider array of procedures than his or her American counterpart is ever allowed to become.

    “If (the medical staff) were managed an American enterprise, he said, there would be one full-time cardiac surgeon, one full-time pediatric cardiac surgeon, one vascular surgeon and one thoracic surgeon,” he said, in our interview in his office in Bangalore.

    “So you have to pay the salaries of four people, whereas we are able to manage with just one person.”

    In any social enterprise but especially a social one, Shetty said, the starting point should never be what it costs you. It should be “what the client can pay.”

    We’ll have more about the hospital network on Wednesday’s PBS NewsHour.

    The post Doctor slashes the cost of surgeries for India’s poor appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    NewsHour shares web small logoIn our NewsHour Shares series, we show you things that caught our eye recently on the web. What about you? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, tweet to @NewsHour using #NewsHourShares or submit your ideas here. We might share it on air.

    SEB LESTER, Calligrapher: My name is Seb Lester. I’m a designer and artist, and I work in the United Kingdom.

    I think calligraphy is many things to many people, really. I mean, calligraphy is beautiful writing. That’s the translation from Greek. But for me personally, it’s a powerful form of self-expression. I would describe calligraphy as ancient magic.

    The post Why the ancient art of calligraphy still enchants appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GWEN IFILL: Now the newest addition to the NewsHour Bookshelf.

    Clifton Wharton Jr. is sometimes known as the quiet trailblazer, much accomplished, but not widely known. His memoir, “Privilege and Prejudice: The Life of a Black Pioneer,” has just been published.

    He sat down to talk about it recently with Judy Woodruff.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Admitted to Harvard at age 16, the first black student to earn an economics doctorate at the University of Chicago, worked on development issues in Latin America and Asia, president of Michigan State University, chairman and CEO of TIAA-CREF, a pension and financial services company, and number two man at the Department of State, these are but a few highlights from a storied life.

    Clifton Wharton, welcome.

    CLIFTON R. WHARTON, Author, “Privilege and Prejudice: The Life of a Black Pioneer”: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s great to have you with us.

    You — the title of the book, “Privilege and Prejudice,” signaling that you have experienced both.

    CLIFTON R. WHARTON JR.: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In equal amounts or one more than another?

    CLIFTON R. WHARTON JR.: Well, I wouldn’t say that I would try to measure them.

    It’s merely the fact that, throughout my life, when I have had exposure, it sometimes has occurred, prejudice.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you grew up the son of a diplomat, of an ambassador.

    CLIFTON R. WHARTON JR.: That’s correct.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A pretty sophisticated life. You were overseas much of the time as a child.

    CLIFTON R. WHARTON JR.: Yes, right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot was expected of you.

    CLIFTON R. WHARTON JR.: Yes.

    When we lived abroad, most of my early years were spent in the Canary Islands of Spain. I knew that I was black because my mother had taught me a great deal about outstanding blacks, including my father. So I didn’t experience any significant racial incident until I came back to the United States.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You were about 10 or 11 years old.

    And I was struck. You wrote about it. You said, although — and it was a tough experience for you. You said, “Although it never went away, over time my indignation cooled to a small diamond-hard ire I could usually disregard.”

    CLIFTON R. WHARTON JR.: Oh, yes, indeed.

    And it also provided me with a tremendous amount of inner strength to be able to deal with it. I first experienced it when I was temporarily in the fourth grade on home leave. A youngster in class was very angry because a teacher used me to show the students how to read.

    (LAUGHTER)

    CLIFTON R. WHARTON JR.: In one of the evacuation periods, he came up to me and says, “You think you’re a smart N.” And I didn’t know what that word meant.

    And so I went home and I said to my mother, what is that? So, she explained to me. She said, that is a term which is used to put you in a box. She said, don’t ever let anybody put you in a box.

    And she was right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You do mention dealing with race throughout the book.

    CLIFTON R. WHARTON JR.: Yes. Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you always just worked right through it.

    CLIFTON R. WHARTON JR.: Oh, yes.

    There are times when it becomes a matter of how you deal with it yourself. That is to say, you begin to approach it as an instant where the other person — the other person who may be expressing racist sentiments requires a bit of education, and teach them exactly what is that they’re doing and why.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Clifton Wharton, when you see where the United States is today with race relations, what do you make of it all?

    CLIFTON R. WHARTON JR.: Well, I would say that we have, to a great extent, improved situations, but made some of them worse.

    But one of the things which disturbs me a great deal today is that we are, in fact, reducing the opportunities, for a variety of reasons, for young minorities to receive a great and good education.

    And I say that because I think the United States needs to recognize that the failure of providing that education creates a loss in human capital for the country as a whole.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean failing to provide it in K-12 or at the higher education…

    CLIFTON R. WHARTON JR.: In all of it, particularly in K-12, but also in colleges and universities.

    Let me give you an example. A recent — there has been a recent study that shows that, if you are in the upper quartile of families in income in the United States, your child has an 85 percent chance of getting a college degree. If you’re in the last bottom quartile, your child has an 8 percent chance.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But why haven’t we done better in that regard? I mean, you…

    CLIFTON R. WHARTON JR.: I think it’s because people fail to recognize some of times that they have institutional racism, whether it’s built into the psyche of people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why is it so hard to minimize this or to get rid of it?

    CLIFTON R. WHARTON JR.: There are individuals who continually develop aspects of institutional racism.

    For example, why is it that we have so many young blacks, such a huge percentage of the population, in jails? That creates, itself, a particular psyche.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You don’t get discouraged when you think — you’re about to turn 89, you were telling me.

    CLIFTON R. WHARTON JR.: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And things have gotten better, as you just said.

    CLIFTON R. WHARTON JR.: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But we still have a long way to go.

    CLIFTON R. WHARTON JR.: Oh, and we certainly do.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You don’t get discouraged?

    CLIFTON R. WHARTON JR.: And, no, I don’t get discouraged in that sense.

    I get discouraged when I see that we are not correcting some of the problems that are creating it. That, to me, is the really significant…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But why? Whose fault is that?

    CLIFTON R. WHARTON JR.: I think it’s everybody’s fault, in a sense, that we have — we have missed the opportunity to recognize what it is we’re doing.

    It’s not in the national self-interest to avoid developing the human capital that could contribute to our society. It’s…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But doesn’t someone bear responsibility?

    CLIFTON R. WHARTON JR.: Not individually, but collectively. Collectively, there’s a problem.

    We have so many times missed the boat on these things. And once they become this cycle of poverty, which perpetuates itself, it’s very, very hard to break.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, finally, what, Clifton Wharton, is your advice to young African-Americans in the United States today?

    CLIFTON R. WHARTON JR.: Oh, I would say, be prepared. Be prepared. And always look for the kind of opportunities where you think you can make your own way and contribution to society.

    Many of these individuals need that kind of encouragement, that people believe in them, people recognize that they have skills and competencies and would be able to succeed.

    And, quite frankly, for me, the greatest return is when you see them being converted into significant human capital for the society. That’s wonderful.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Clifton Wharton, the book is “Privilege and Prejudice: The Life of a Black Pioneer.”

    Thank you very much.

    CLIFTON R. WHARTON JR.: Well, thank you for having me.

    The post Why an American trailblazer fears we’re losing the next generation of ‘black pioneers’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Leatherback turtle being measured with calipers at the Florida Atlantic University Marine Research lab. Photo by Mike Fritz

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    GWEN IFILL: Now we turn to another angle of our continuing of climate change and its impact.

    Tonight, our science team looks at the toll it is taking on sea turtles and some of their tiniest offspring. We went to the coast of Southern Florida and came back with a major report that we are launching on our Web site tonight. Here’s a part of it.

    JEANETTE WYNEKEN, Florida Atlantic University: Turtles go back around 230 million years. Sea turtles go back around 110 million years.

    And while I’m happy to report that we have had a really big nesting year this year and last year, the numbers are still depleted from what they have been historically. So we’re not looking at a species that is out of the woods yet.

    When we think about the biology of the animal, the loggerhead has been around for around 60 million years. There have been a lot of climatic changes during that time, and very few of them have occurred at this rate.

    It changes where the droughts occur. It changes where the heavy rainfall events occur. It changes where major tropical storms occur and the sizes of the tropical storms. The shift in climate is shifting turtles as well.

    Now, one of the things that we discovered from those major rainfall amounts or major storm surge events, that we can see the changing in the temperature of the nest. So the reason why the temperature matters is because sea turtles have environmentally determined sex. They don’t have an X or Y chromosome. They have a sex that’s defined during development by the incubation environment.

    And In general, we have higher biased sex ratios, where female bias is common. If the sand absorbs more heat, we’re going to push that female bias, which we know is really common down here, to an even more extreme situation.

    So, a typical loggerhead down here in Southern Florida is producing about 105 eggs. If a female nests five times, five times 105, if my math is good today, should be 525 eggs. So she will have to nest over 10 nesting seasons, which is about a — in the case of a loggerhead, a 20- or 30-year period, just to replace herself and maybe one mate.

    If you do a back-of-the-envelope calculation, we’re looking at about one in 7,000 making it to adulthood. Let’s take that same turtle and her nesting over 20 years, so that’s 10 nesting events. If five of those, everything gets wiped out by storms, and five of those are drought years where turtle production is low, and it’s so hot that everything that comes out of the nest is a female, wow, as long as they can find a date, they have got a future.

    But if there aren’t enough males out there, then — then there is a problem. They have been through some climate changes, but we hope this climate-changing event is not one that they can’t recover from, that they can’t compensate for. And if it is so bad that they can’t compensate, that’s a pretty dire statement, not only for the turtles, but for us.

    GWEN IFILL: I’m joined now by science producer Nsikan Akpan.

    So, Nsikan, you’re a science guy, so you know about melting glaciers and polar bears. Tell us why we care about loggerhead turtles.

    NSIKAN AKPAN: So, we’re calling the series the Wild Side of Sea Level Rise, because we’re looking at the infinite little ways that sea level rise will impact wildlife along the coasts.

    Now, if you look at adult sea turtles, they are not that small, right? They are not that tiny. We know a leatherback can weigh as much as a motorcycle.

    GWEN IFILL: Huh.

    NSIKAN AKPAN: But sea level rise is going to have a huge impact on their very small nestlings.

    So, as Janet mentioned in the — or Jeanette mentioned in the video, sea level rise is washing out nests at a higher frequency than we have seen in the past. Storm surges are a part of that. And then we also have this issue with beach erosion, which is squeezing the amount of area that sea turtles have to nest.

    GWEN IFILL: Now, I highly recommend people going and reading your report, which is very interesting.

    But one of the things that struck me was, you found that — you reported that only one in 7,000 of these loggerheads, once they’re born, actually make it to adulthood.

    NSIKAN AKPAN: Right.

    So, sea turtles, and especially their hatchlings, often serve as prey for a lot of predators. So, while we were out there on the beach, producer Mike Fritz and I, we saw a fox running around the beach. And one of the researchers told us that a fox could eat an entire nest of sea turtle eggs, so it could eat 100 eggs in a single sitting.

    Once the hatchlings make it off the beach and into water, they’re often prey for sharks. And so then, when you compound the fact that so few survive natural predation with the fact that beach erosion — or beach erosion and also storm surges washing out more nests, you are going to have sea turtles sort of pushed to the brink in terms of their genetic diversity and also just their population numbers overall.

    GWEN IFILL: Predators have always been thus, right?

    But what’s different now, it seems that we’re talking about the effects of drought and, as you mentioned, erosion and warming and storm surges. Of all of those factors, what would you say is the most dead — having the most deadly impact?

    NSIKAN AKPAN: Well, I think all of those are having pretty cataclysmic effects.

    As Jeanette mentioned in the — with her research, they’re seeing that drought is forcing the sex ratio bias, where they are going to have almost primarily females being reproduced. And if you have that occur for multiple generations, you can lose a lot of diversity of sea turtles, but also just their ability to reproduce overall.

    GWEN IFILL: So, what is the solution — or are there solutions, first of all, and are they — there solutions we can pay for?

    NSIKAN AKPAN: One solution is beach renourishment, which is when you ship sand from offshore and you just try to physically rebuild the beach.

    For a couple of different reasons, that isn’t always the great for sea turtles. Sea turtles have a harder time digging into a renourished beach. Their nests are often misshapen, which can prevent hatchlings from being able to escape. And you just end up with a big trap.

    GWEN IFILL: And it’s an expensive prospect, also.

    NSIKAN AKPAN: It’s also very expensive.

    So, since 1991, Florida has spent over $2 billion to renourish beaches. And if you think about it — if you think about this prospect long term, it isn’t very sustainable, because sea levels are predicted to rise by at least five feet by 2100, which — so, beach renourishment isn’t really a solution in that case, right?

    GWEN IFILL: Right.

    Well, Nsikan, you introduced me to something I knew nothing about and now I find terribly interesting. So, thank you very much.

    NSIKAN AKPAN: Thank you, Gwen.

    The post Climate change is hurting the sex lives of sea turtles appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Rakesh Nagar for the PBS NewsHour

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    GWEN IFILL: Next: the story of a man who’s been called the Henry Ford of heart surgery.

    Fred de Sam Lazaro reports from India. It’s part of his ongoing series Agents for Change.

    A warning: Some images may be disturbing.

    DR. DEVI PRASAD SHETTY, Founder, Narayana Health: Hole in the heart. It’s one of those standard procedures.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It is especially standard for 62-year-old Devi Prasad Shetty, one of the world’s most prolific heart surgeons.

    DR. DEVI PRASAD SHETTY: I do now about one or two surgeries a day, and we work six days a week. My colleagues, some of them do four surgeries, five surgeries a day.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Anywhere from 25 to 35 open heart operations are performed in the theaters here every day, many on babies, making this by far the largest cardiac care facility in the world.

    It’s part of a fast-growing for-profit chain called Narayana Health, offering top-notch surgery, like this complex valve replacement, at rock-bottom costs.

    DR. DEVI PRASAD SHETTY: This patient would have paid us about $2,500 to about $3,000, but in the U.S., an operation of this nature would cost, I guess, more — anything from $30,000, $100,000.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Dr. Shetty founded Narayana Health 15 years ago. It serves wealthy patients and some medical tourists. But he says the goal is to bring the latest advances in cardiac surgery to the poor.

    DR. DEVI PRASAD SHETTY: It’s pointless we’re talking about huge developments in cardiac surgery or a brain operation or a complex cancer surgery if the common man cannot afford it. If a solution is not affordable, it is not a solution.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In other words, making it affordable is as critical as the surgery itself.

    DR. DEVI PRASAD SHETTY: I see 70, 100 patients a day. A typical patient of mine is a little kid on a mother’s lap.

    DR. DEVI PRASAD SHETTY (through interpreter): He has a leakage in the valve of his heart. He needs an operation.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The surgery carries risks, Shetty warned.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): Sir, he is my only child. That’s all I want to say.

    DR. DEVI PRASAD SHETTY (through interpreter): I will do everything possible. God will make it all right. Don’t worry.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It’s a scene repeated several times a day, Shetty says, and the tears, the anguish are not always just about whether the surgery will be successful.

    DR. DEVI PRASAD SHETTY: I tell the mother that the baby requires a heart operation, and she has only one question, how much it is going to cost.

    And I tell her that it is going to cost 80,000 rupees, which she doesn’t have, and that is the price tag on the kid’s life. She comes up with 80,000 rupees, she can have the baby. If she does not have 80,000 rupees, she going to lose the kid.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: That’s about $1,300, a lot of money in India, where hundreds of millions earn $2 a day or less, a country where 80 percent of all medical bills are paid out of pocket. A few patients receive care from a charitable trust Narayana set up, but Shetty says most have scrounged together the resources before coming here.

    DR. DEVI PRASAD SHETTY: They virtually sell everything that they have and come for treatment. Half the country’s population borrow money or sell assets to pay the medical bills.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The parents of 5-month-old Manoj borrowed about three times their monthly income as rural farm laborers just to figure out why the child wasn’t thriving.

    HEMAKSHI SIVAPURA, Mother (through interpreter): He was not taking his milk properly, he had fevers and cough, so we took him to see the doctor. They told us he needed surgery.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: That meant a daylong train journey to this hospital. But once here, another Narayana benefit kicked in: an insurance program developed with farmers groups and state governments in South India.

    The insurance policy covers only major medical costs, like surgery, but the premium of just 10 U.S. cents a month makes it widely affordable, says Narayana’s CEO, Dr. Ashutosh Raghuvanshi.

    DR. ASHUTOSH RAGHUVANSHI, CEO, Narayana Health: It’s amazing that such a small amount of money could provide that care. The number of people who are covered under this scheme is about 10 million now, and it has performed close to about 100,000 operations of various kinds.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: We were assured 3-year-old Chitrashri was in no physical pain, just anxious as nurses removed her stitches from a successful heart operation, a huge relief medically and financially for her parents, who struggle to get by selling milk from their two cows.

    The insurance coverage for this extended family and many others, the first of its type in aimed specifically at the poor, has also been a significant source of income for Narayana Health.

    DR. ASHUTOSH RAGHUVANSHI: About 25 percent.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Really?

    DR. ASHUTOSH RAGHUVANSHI: Yes.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So it’s significant?

    DR. ASHUTOSH RAGHUVANSHI: It is significant.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It is just one strategy Narayana has used to find revenue. It also has a Wal-Mart-like approach to cost control, squeezing vendors for everything from surgical gowns to supplies to devices.

    DR. DEVI PRASAD SHETTY: We have 32 hospitals across India. Twelve percent of the heart surgery done in India is done by us. When we implant one of the largest number of heart valves in the world, obviously, you pay for it less than others. And, also, more than the cost, your results get better.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: He says the sheer volume of surgery not only means more productivity. It makes better surgeons, attracting those focused on their surgery, rather than their income. They’re paid well by Indian standards, but far less than they could earn elsewhere, especially in the West.

    DR. DEVI PRASAD SHETTY: We can address the need of the doctors, but we cannot address the greed of the doctors. And I’m pleased to say that our attrition rate among doctors is virtually zero percent. They love working here.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: What qualities are you looking for specifically to work in a place like this?

    DR. DEVI PRASAD SHETTY: The most important quality is the passion. The second most important quality is the compassion.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Despite his compassion, he says, he’s not running a charity.

    DR. DEVI PRASAD SHETTY: Charity is not scalable. It doesn’t matter who you are. You may be the richest person living on this planet, but if you want to offer free surgery, free treatment to everyone, you will go broke within a month. But good business principles, standard business policies are scalable.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Narayana Health has branched out beyond cardiac surgery into cancer and kidney care, and Shetty says it will become the largest hospital system in a few years.

    HEMAKSHI SIVAPURA (through interpreter): It was very difficult at first when we came to see him, but the doctors told us that things are going to be alright.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Baby Manoj is but one case, Shetty says, that proves health care, even sophisticated surgery, can be made accessible to the poorest people in the farthest corners of the world.

    For the PBS NewsHour, this is Fred de Sam Lazaro in Bengaluru, India.

    GWEN IFILL: A version of this story aired on the PBS program “Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.”

    Fred’s reporting is a partnership with the Under-Told Stories Project at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

    The post How this Indian medical chain makes heart surgery affordable appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON, USA - SEPTEMBER 16:  General Lloyd J. Austin III, Commander of  U.S. Central Command, takes his seat before testifying at a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing on U.S. Military Operations to Counter the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant with Under Secretary Of Defense For Policy Christine Worth in Washington, USA on September 16, 2015. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

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    GWEN IFILL: But, first, a look at a growing controversy that has gripped one part of the government’s intelligence community.

    At CENTCOM, the military headquarters for U.S. forces in the Middle East, a number of intelligence officers are claiming that senior officials have been altering their analysis, painting a more optimistic assessment about the fight against the Islamic State group.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The Pentagon’s inspector general is now conducting an investigation of these allegations.

    And this morning, the commander of Central Command, General Lloyd Austin, addressed this issue at a hearing on Capitol Hill.

    GEN. LLOYD AUSTIN, Commander, U.S. Central Command: Because the allegations are currently under investigation, it would be premature and inappropriate for me to discuss this matter.

    What I will say is, I welcome the DOD I.G.’s oversight, and once the investigation is complete, based upon the findings, you can be assured that I will take appropriate actions.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But General Austin drew a sharp rebuke from Arizona Senator John McCain when he described the U.S. efforts to combat ISIS.

    GEN. LLOYD AUSTIN: Fortunately, amidst all the — amidst the many challenges that exist in Iraq and Syria, we find opportunities, and we remain confident that our actions in pursuit of these opportunities will continue to produce positive results in the coming days.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: So, everything is really going well.

    GEN. LLOYD AUSTIN: No, sir, that’s not…

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Well, then, if things aren’t going well and we have had — quote — “setbacks,” and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says it’s tactically stalemated, and you think everything is going well as — pursuing the strategy and tactics on the ground that we are, General Austin, I respectfully disagree. I respectfully, fundamentally disagree.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Joining us now, Retired Colonel Derek Harvey, a former intelligence officer and special adviser to the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. He’s now a professor of practice at the University of South Florida. And New York Times intelligence reporter Mark Mazzetti.

    Welcome to both of you.

    Mark, let me start with you.

    You have been reporting this story for a month, but it seems to have taken a big jump forward now, as the scope becomes clearer.

    MARK MAZZETTI, The New York Times: The scope has become clearer. A number of senior lawmakers have spoken about the seriousness of the matter.

    And it’s not just Senator McCain. You have a lot of Democrats as well who have talked about that this issue sort of cuts to the heart of the credibility of CENTCOM, the credibility of senior officers who talk about the progress of the war, or lack thereof.

    So I think you’re starting to see it build up, and, as you said, the scope has become clearer. I think we have a better sense that it seemed to be a problem within the intelligence unit of Central Command. But it’s a huge unit, some 1,500 people, and they call it — it’s called the J2.

    It’s people who provide intelligence about the whole Central Command area, but very specifically about this war and how it’s going.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Colonel Harvey, help us understand a little bit who’s who here. These intelligence officers raising concerns, who do they work for? What’s supposed to happen with their reports?

    COL. DEREK HARVEY (RET.), Former Army Intelligence Officer: Well, this is a very interesting command

    And it’s comprised of very professional, very capable Defense Intelligence Agency analysts, contractors and military personnel, and they are some of the best and brightest intelligence analysts that this country has, particularly on the problem of terrorism in the Middle East, the Islamic State and the challenges with Iran.

    They are extremely professional, and that’s why this is very interesting, because you have very professional people making allegations about the attempts to thwart their assessments. And they have been submitting these reports, apparently, and their concern is that their bottom lines, their analysis has not been able to move forward

    And it’s not about sources. It’s not about the credibility of the methodology. It’s not about what might be a normal intelligence debate about how to think about a problem. It probably isn’t about the commanders there having an operational context that the intelligence analysts don’t have.

    So, the J2 there, who is the director of intelligence, Major General Steven Grove, and his deputy are involved in this, according to the media reporting. And there are some allegations that their reports have been distorted or parts of them have been left out, which go to the heart of whether or not we’re having success or not on the ground, as Senator McCain went through today.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, let me ask — let me come back to Mark Mazzetti.

    Two big questions, right? Who’s under suspicion of tampering with the intelligence? We just heard one name thrown out. And why would they be doing it?

    MARK MAZZETTI: Well, the first question is easier to answer right now.

    I think that it’s really focused around the senior command of the intelligence outfit at CENTCOM, so it’s Major General Steven Grove, his deputy, Gregory Ryckman, and the allegations among the group of analysts is that they are reworking the assessments.

    The bigger question is why. And we don’t know yet, and we’re trying to figure out what the implications are, but what specifically the charges are. There have been things — there have been allegations in the last month that maybe there are people who are close to the administration who want to only toe the line of what the administration wants.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, allegations, but is there any evidence of…

    MARK MAZZETTI: No, and so we’re really trying to get to the bottom of the why.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so, Colonel Harvey, what are you picking up from former colleagues of yours about either how high this goes, perhaps why it might be going on and how it’s affecting things there?

    COL. DEREK HARVEY: Well, I think the concern within the command is about some things that have been reported in the media about a toxic command environment and about Stalinist approaches that diminish the freedom of intellectual pursuit of the analysts.

    And this investigation and the news media coverage of it is going to have an impact on the ability of the analysts, because it’s going to distract people and it’s going to sow doubt. And it also, from my perspective, brings in the question in the media, as we heard the coverage of the Senate hearing today, doubts about overall credibility of intelligence, and it raises a host of questions.

    What I wonder about is, did any of these — if these are true — and the inspector general will determine whether or not these allegations are true or not, and so we have to reserve some judgment here, but did anything that wasn’t put forward have an impact on how we characterized the fight, and did that lead to a decision being taken or not taken that wouldn’t have been otherwise?

    So that’s something we need to look at, too.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, Mark Mazzetti, we saw Senator McCain in that earlier clip, some of the fireworks there today.

    But you also quoted in your story today, your article today Representative Adam Schiff, the Democrat, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. And he was saying, in your story, that in this administration or in recent years, that some of the internal divisions have been aired pretty well, that it has not been such a problem of sort of keeping bad news under wraps. What’s going on?

    MARK MAZZETTI: Right.

    So, the famous or infamous example, right, is the pre-Iraq War intelligence, where dissent was disregarded or buried in footnotes or things like that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. Yes.

    MARK MAZZETTI: So you only got a unanimous picture almost about Iraq’s WMD.

    So, in the wake of that debacle, there were all of these checks put in place to prevent that from happening again, allowing alternate analysis to be raised in products, to allow greater debate, to allow all sorts of what they call red-teaming, different — different ways of thinking through problems, and not — and allowing policy-makers to see a lot of different views.

    And so what Representative Schiff was talking about is that, in recent years, it has gotten better to prevent the very problems we saw before the Iraq War. But as Colonel Harvey talked about, there is still this question of, if one intelligence outfit, one command is presenting a certain view, and it’s a very, you know, influential command, that will have impact on policy, it will have impact on how lawmakers consider a problem.

    So this is the military headquarters running the war. So what they say matters. And, as Colonel Harvey said, if there are doubts about the veracity of what they’re saying, that is going to have a big credibility problem for not just General Austin, but for everybody below him.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, clearly much more to come here.

    Mark Mazzetti and Colonel Derek Harvey, thank you both very much.

    MARK MAZZETTI: Thank you.

    COL. DEREK HARVEY: Thank you.

    The post Did U.S. intelligence officers downplay Islamic State reports? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Firefighters search for victims in the rubble of a home burnt by the Valley Fire in Middletown, California, September 14, 2015. The Northern California wildfire ranked as the most destructive to hit the drought-stricken U.S. West this year has killed one woman and burned some 400 homes to the ground, fire officials said on Monday, and they expect the property toll to climb.  REUTERS/David Ryder - RTS1494

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    GWEN IFILL: Crews battling wildfires in California seem to have turned the corner against two of the most difficult and destructive blazes. Progress was reported in containing the Valley Fire, which erupted this weekend north of Napa Valley, which torched nearly 600 homes and left many homeless. That and a second fire have scorched more than 140,000 acres in just a matter of days, much of it exacerbated by California’s continuing drought.

    Hari Sreenivasan, in our New York studio, has that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The fires in recent days have led to the evacuation of 20,000-plus people and left some towns looking like charred ruins. Despite the progress, conditions remain unsafe in many areas. And it comes as the West is facing a potentially record-breaking fire season.

    In California alone, more than 650,000 acres have been burned by more than 7,000 wildfires.

    NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien joins me from California.

    Miles, the focus has been on fires over the past few days because of all those amazing videos that we see, but really the drought is affecting pretty much everything around there.

    MILES O’BRIEN: It affects every aspect of life here, Hari.

    I’m in Los Angeles, came in yesterday. They were all abuzz over a little bit of rainfall that they have had. They actually had some rain here in July, which kind of caught them by surprise. That doesn’t happen here often.

    There are indications of a strong El Nino season ahead this winter, pretty strong indications. And everybody is thinking El Nino is going to save them, but it really won’t. It might make a down payment, but there is also a double-edged sword component. A lot of El Nino rain after all this drought can lead to all kinds of problems, including mudslides.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: When you talk about a good rain season and perhaps a good winter, how much of a dent is that likely to make in the snowpack which I saw some animations and graphics yesterday says it’s the worst in 500 years?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Yes. It’s at a 500-year low. Some scientists looking at real data that’s been collected in more modern times, and also looking at tree ring data, comparing tree rings, came up with this notion that in the Sierra Nevadas, it’s at a 500-year low, the icepack, that is.

    The icepack in the Sierra Nevada, as a lot of people probably don’t realize, provide one-third of the drinking water in all of California. Another third is aquifer. Another third is out of rivers and lakes and so forth. That’s a very significant thing to watch. And when you hear a 500-year low, that’s got to get your attention.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And when you look at the drought monitor map, you see that it’s not just California. California has big streaks of very dark brown, horrible color. And then — but you go up right up the Western Seaboard, all the way into Washington, and you see sort of deep reds, where it’s very dry there, too.

    MILES O’BRIEN: It’s a scary picture, Hari, and, unfortunately, as you project to the middle of this century ahead of us, it gets much scarier.

    We’re looking at the consequences of about an almost two-degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature climatically since 1970. We’re supposed to do much worse than that over the next 40, 50 years.

    And what that does is make things drier where places are drier. It actually also makes some places that are wetter wetter, too. The climate changes in some weird ways with climate change. And we have less of a snowpack. We have drier conditions for a longer period of time. We have more fires, the fires are more severe, and the fire season lasts longer.

    And then just add to that the fact that we’re building homes right in the middle of these areas that are susceptible to forest fires, and you have got a big problem ahead.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Yesterday, we heard some experts and even over the past couple of days saying that the explosiveness of these fires is different because almost everything around is like kindling.

    MILES O’BRIEN: It is.

    You know, a lot of this has to do with the fire management techniques and the fact that the fuel kind of builds up. But when you have a situation where you have a longer season that is drier, you make more kindling, and you also make it easier for bugs and other pests to do their work and make the trees less hardy when it comes into the face of fire.

    So there’s all kinds of subtle unintended consequences that come as a result of climate change. And it does have — there’s a mound of science that will tell us this is really fueling a much worse fire picture here in the West, along with a drought situation.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And finally, briefly, it looks like in the weather maps that you’re bound to get a little bit of rain. That should help.

    MILES O’BRIEN: A little bit of rain should help, but they need a lot of rain.

    And you have got to make sure, too, that you’re not drinking from a fire hose. If you get El Nino downpours on land that is denuded and dry and devoid of a lot of foliage, that causes all kinds of problems.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien joining me from California, thanks so much.

    MILES O’BRIEN: You’re welcome.

    The post What made the West explode in flames appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks on the USS Iowa in San Pedro, Los Angeles, California, United States September 15, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson - RTS1ATN

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    GWEN IFILL: The stage is set for tonight’s CNN Republican debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.

    Eleven candidates meet in the prime-time event. And four more with the lowest polling numbers face off in an earlier round. The majority of those on the stage have a great deal riding on its outcome, as they seek to emerge from the shadow of front-runner Donald Trump.

    Political director Lisa Desjardins is in Simi Valley tonight, and she is watching the doings and joins us now.

    Hello, Lisa.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Hey, Gwen.

    GWEN IFILL: So, tell me what we — so, let’s talk about Donald Trump, first of all.

    What is it that he has at stake as the prohibitive front-runner at this point?

    LISA DESJARDINS: It might sound strange for someone who is so far out in front, but there are big stakes that the Trump campaign sees at this point.

    They think that he needs to work on his long-term viability, make sure that by being a firebrand, he doesn’t become only the firebrand. And by that, they say they’re going to talk about trying to tone him down. Donald Trump himself talked about that to CBN, the Christian Broadcasting Network, in the last day.

    And, Gwen, I noticed this in his speech yesterday aboard the USS Iowa, when he was speaking to veterans. We noticed — or I did, at least — a less sharp tone, still talking about the same issues, Gwen, talking about immigration, talking about what he calls the border babies.

    But he seemed to have a less sharp tone overall. And the campaign thinks that’s important, so that he can actually make it past this early wave he’s riding, and get some real solid ground beneath him for Iowa, for New Hampshire, for the spring and through March.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, speaking of early waves, we know that Jeb Bush and Scott Walker had some pretty big early waves. They may yet again, but they are looking at this debate a little bit differently. What’s at stake for them?

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right.

    They have perhaps the highest stakes of anyone on stage, because they had such a clear slide. Talking to those campaigns — let’s start, first of all, with Jeb Bush. What the Bush campaign wants to do now going forward is have the former governor be more assertive.

    Also, he will keep talking about policy issues. But they say he is going to specifically differentiate himself more and more from Donald Trump. How will he do that? Well, we have seen a glimmer of it already. He’s going to talk about how he is a true conservative and make the argument that Donald Trump is not a conservative and not a Republican.

    He’s already been doing that, Gwen, as we have seen, but now they’re going to ramp that up. As for Scott Walker, who considers himself the ultimate conservative — notice the theme here, Gwen — his campaign says he will also be more aggressive, that he is going to try and get out front, and these are the words they told me, inject himself more into the overall debate.

    Also, look for Scott Walker to come out with more policy positions. They think he is a smart candidate who has serious policy to offer. They say the time for sort of the summer lovefest is over and they think this more serious phase of the campaign will lead to perhaps more consideration of policy. At least, that’s what they hope.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, let’s talk about that. Assuming that this is the — we’re now entering the more serious phase of the campaign, whatever that might mean this year, we do assume that, at some point tonight or going forward, they will talk about policy. Is that in the playbook, not only for tonight, but after tonight for any of these candidates?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Right.

    I think it’s a fascinating moment, Gwen, because that exact issue, do you talk about policy or not now, is one of the strategic issues separating these campaigns. You’re going to see, as I said, Bush and Walker coming out, perhaps even pounding us with a lot of serious policy, showing that they know their stuff on serious issues and that they know how to govern.

    They will probably speak to their past experience. John Kasich, we may see some policy positions from him as well. But there are other candidates, like Donald Trump, who aren’t offering specifics, except he did on immigration, but with that exception, we don’t know exactly how he wants to build the American military, and so far he has no plans to tell us.

    We will see if he has more position papers. But one specific contrast, Gwen, I talked to Dr. Ben Carson just in the last hour-and-a-half and I asked him, when do you think is the right time to come out with more policy positions? We really haven’t seen how he wants to get things done.

    And he said to me, “Honestly, I don’t think that policy specifics are helpful right now. I don’t think that’s what I should be doing. I think the American people get — need to get to know the voters.”

    And, Gwen, what I think that speaks to is the appetite among American voters right now that these politicians are feeling and trying to feel out. Do they want someone that they like, trust, and who is an outsider, or do they want someone who they think can govern? Both sides of this Republican field are gambling on what the answer to that question is.

    GWEN IFILL: And some of them are assuming that people will wait to eat the spinach, I suppose.

    Lisa Desjardins, thank you very much. Have a good time at the debate.

    LISA DESJARDINS: You got it. Oh, of course.

    The post Will personality or policy dominate at second GOP debate? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Migrants stand in front of a barrier at the border with Hungary near the village of Horgos, Serbia, September 16, 2015. Hungary's right-wing government shut the main land route for migrants into the European Union on Tuesday, taking matters into its own hands to halt Europe's influx of refugees. REUTERS/Marko Djurica - RTS1DM3

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    GWEN IFILL: Violence erupted today between Hungarian police and thousands of people now blocked from entering the country. The clashes came at a key crossing point in a new barrier stretching 110 miles along the border with Serbia.

    At the same time, the flow of mostly Syrian refugees shifted to a new front-line state: Croatia.

    Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News reports on the day’s developments.

    JONATHAN MILLER: On the Serbian side of the frontier, tensions ratcheted up, anger rose and tempers frayed in the late summer heat. Hungarian riot police held firm. From above, a Hungarian police helicopter kept watch.

    Suddenly, frustrations exploded into open hostilities on this, the southern front in the migration war of 2015, tear gas forcing the refugees and the migrants to beat a retreat, eyes stinging, women and children among those now backing away. Others, enraged, retaliated, flinging stones at the Hungarian police, who, in turn, brought out the water cannons.

    Rumors of trouble on the Hungarian front have been passed back down the lines to Belgrade and on south to the Macedonian border. By social media and word of mouth, a grand diversion was agreed upon, a new overland route, bypassing water cannon and razor wire. The long marchers set a brisk pace to the northwestern Serbian cornfields towards Croatia, the E.U.’s newest member.

    The finishing line still some way off, ahead, the E.U.’s new front line. This dusty farm track is the Serb-Croat border. Croatian police had deployed a reception party. They don’t want refugees from distant conflict zones wandering through unmatched mine fields from the Balkan wars 20 years ago, the last time hundreds of thousands trudged through this region towards Western Europe.

    We entered Croatia ourselves by a more formal route and in the nearby town of Tovarnik found a refugee crisis center. A Croatian government minister was observing.

    Is Croatia prepared for what’s about to happen?

    SINISA VARGA, Health Minister, Croatia: We have been following what’s happening in the surrounding countries, in Serbia and Hungary, for the past month. We have been following the situation. And we have prepared all protocols and we want to be a good host for people transiting through Croatia and into the European Union.

    JONATHAN MILLER: And transit, it is, for nobody we spoke to wants asylum here in the Balkans.

    Next stop for these people, Slovenia, like Hungary, part of the Schengen visa-free zone, after which they can all pretty much head where they please, no restrictions. At least 10 busloads arrived on this border today, but after what has happened on the Hungarian frontier this afternoon, you can bet that the multitudes will soon be on their way.

    GWEN IFILL: This evening, Serbia’s government accused Hungary of brutal and — quote — “non-European behavior,” and sent more police to the border. In turn, Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, announced his government will extend the border fence to parts of its frontier with Croatia.

    Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared the refugee crisis is Europe’s fault. He said Western support for rebels in Syria has escalated the fighting, and driven people to flee. Speaking to Russian reporters, Assad also criticized what he called European double standards.

    PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD, Syria (through interpreter): Europe is to blame for the problem of refugees. How can one be indignant about a drowned child and remain silent about the death of thousands of children, elderly people, women and men killed by terrorists in Syria? Europe supports terrorism and provides protection for terrorists, calling them moderates.

    GWEN IFILL: The Syrian leader didn’t directly address the Russian military buildup in his country. But he did accuse U.S. officials of willful blindness for refusing to coordinate attacks on attacking Islamic State forces.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit Washington in November to discuss the Iran nuclear deal directly with President Obama. The two men have had chilly relations, and Netanyahu had urged Congress to block the Iran deal. That effort failed.

    The president pressed congressional Republicans today to steer clear of another government shutdown. A partial closure could happen October 1, unless lawmakers approve money to keep things running. But Mr. Obama warned a Business Roundtable gathering today that demands to defund Planned Parenthood could block a budget agreement.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, United States: The notion that we play chicken with an $18 trillion economy and global markets that are already skittish, all because of an issue around a women’s health provider that receives less than 20 cents out of every $1,000 in the federal budget, that’s not good policy-making.

    GWEN IFILL: Later, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also rejected a shutdown, and warned against what he called exercises in futility.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), Majority Leader: We need to deal with the world we have. We have a president who deeply supports Planned Parenthood and will not sign a bill that defunds it. And even if he did sign such a bill, it wouldn’t work, because this would only take a small portion of the funds away from Planned Parenthood.

    GWEN IFILL: Instead, McConnell said he will seek temporary funding to keep federal operations going through late fall.

    Income and poverty were virtually unchanged in the U.S. last year over the year before. The latest Census Bureau report finds median income was about $53,700, down very slightly. The poverty rate rose a bit to 14.8 percent of the population. A separate report found the number of Americans without health care insurance dropped nearly 3 percent.

    A 14-year-old Muslim boy spoke out today about being hauled out of school in handcuffs in Irving, Texas. Ahmed Mohamed is an amateur inventor who brought a homemade clock to school on Monday. His teacher said it looked like a bomb, and he was taken away.

    Today, he welcomed the outpouring of support on social media, where the incident sparked allegations of anti-Muslim profiling.

    AHMED MOHAMED, Student: I felt pretty down that no one would know about this, but I guess there’s always supporters online and social media. It brought me to the point where I could — I could see people who don’t care for me, but every other person. It made me really happy to see all of these people support me and support others.

    GWEN IFILL: Mohamed was suspended for three days, but he said he won’t be returning to the school.

    Meanwhile, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg invited him to visit. And President Obama tweeted that the clock was cool, and asked the teenager to come to the White House.

    Wall Street scored gains today, with energy stocks leading the way. They shot higher, along with oil prices, after inventories of crude oil fell. In turn, the Dow Jones industrial average jumped 140 points to close at 16740. The Nasdaq rose nearly 29 points, and the S&P added 17.

    And, in Colorado, retailers selling marijuana offered door-buster specials today, hoping for a windfall. Recreational use of pot is legal in the state, but taxes, totaling 25 percent, were suspended for the day due to a quirk in state law. As a result, customers came out in droves, hoping for bargains. And stores handed out coupons and deals.

    The post News Wrap: Refugees clash with Hungarian police at border appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The heartbreaking story of a Texas 9th-grader arrested because he had the gall to make a clock and bring it to school to show his engineering teacher has left Americans understandably reeling. Twitter is beside itself. Even President Obama has posted a supportive message for the boy, Ahmed Mohamed, inviting him to bring his “cool clock” to the White House.

    Ahmed’s arrest is a severe reminder to all of us that Islamophobia is alive and well in America. Despite so many efforts to counteract such prejudice, the false equations remain: Brown = suspicious. Muslim = terrorist. For the rest of us, who know that Muslims are no more like terrorists than Christians are like the KKK or the Christian Identity Movement, this stuff is mind-numbingly frustrating. When will they ever learn? we ask ourselves, like, constantly. When will they ever learn?

    But it must be said that Ahmed’s situation is about more than Islamophobia. It’s also, I believe, about our fear-mongering, better-to-be-safe-than-sorry culture. And not just in Texas — but everywhere. Too many of us are rapidly becoming victims of our own irrational fear.

    Just look how often parents go overboard in their desire to protect their kids. It happens ALL THE TIME. They justify their actions with every story they see about a child abduction or a child being run over by a car or a child being seduced into drug use or a child caught in gang crossfire or a child harmed in some other way because his parents weren’t there watching over him, saving the kid from almost certain disaster.

    I am not above this.

    As a mother of an only child, I have compulsions of overprotection all the time. I justify these compulsions with my emotions and gut reactions (“I just feel better knowing she’s not crossing a big street by herself.”) I justify them with finger-pointing. (“If I let my kid play in front of the grocery store while I go inside to shop, others might think I’m a bad parent.”) I justify them with all the [bleeping] stories that pop up in my news feed all day long. (“Maybe I can’t prevent random bad things from happening, but I at least I can help prevent random bad things from happening to MY KID.”)

    We know — well, some of us know — that these news stories are woefully misleading. Incidents of children being, for instance, abducted are exceedingly rare. According to the Polly Klaas Foundation, “99.8 percent of all children who go missing do come home.” In fact, crime overall is much lower than it was when we were kids, points out my idol, Lenore Skenazy, of Free-Range Kids.

    We also know that helicopter parenting is bad for kids; it compromises their ability to make independent decisions, lowers their self-esteem and creates incompetence and co-dependence. Even worse, though, fear begets fear. When we treat the world like a dangerous place, our kids come to believe the world is dangerous.

    But it is dangerous! says the helicopter parent still tooling around in my head. Bad things happen all the time. Why should I take any chances? I’d rather be safe than sorry.

    Of course, this attitude spills over into schools. How can it not? In being sensitive to parents’ “concerns” and, frankly, fearing for their own jobs (Oh, hello again, fear!), too many teachers and administrators go along with, and even perpetuate, this fear culture.

    And it’s gone too far. Now, when we see a child doing anything out of the ordinary — playing alone on a playground, riding in a subway by himself, bringing a homemade clock to school … our hackles go up. Why is that happening? What could it mean? Should I be alarmed? And the answer almost always is: Yes! Yes, I MUST be alarmed. I am a parent; I am a teacher; I am a principal. The lives of children are on the line. There is no harm in going overboard, but there could be harm in holding back.

    But you know what? That’s not true, and Ahmed’s clock is proving it. There most certainly is harm in going overboard. And it’s not always better to be safe than sorry. Here is an innocent boy being harmed not in spite of the protective measures implemented by the school, but because of it. And think of the thousands of other boys across American who look like Ahmed; don’t think they’re not harmed by this, as well.

    I absolutely agree that this was an act of racial and religious discrimination. Ahmed would not have been singled out had he not been brown and Muslim. But the reactionary model set to work in this case signals a much wider problem. I would hazard to guess that a great number of my wonderful liberal compatriots taking to Twitter with hashtags such as #IStandWithAhmed would also not want THEIR children’s school “taking any chances” on an unusual beeping device that looked vaguely scary.

    I’m not AT ALL excusing what this school did. It was radical and gross and I, too, Stand With Ahmed. I just wonder if we shouldn’t all take a little responsibility for how we move forward. If we really do care about the Ahmeds of the world, then let’s partner with him in fighting this culture of fear that has grown up around us.

    The next time you see something out of the ordinary that might normally “give you pause,” ask yourself: Is this really dangerous or scary or potentially harmful, or might my mind be reacting irrationally?

    Maybe it’s time to retire the slogan “Better to be safe than sorry,” and find a new one.

    “Better to be rational than fearful” has a nice ring to it, no?

    The post Column: Ahmed’s clock proves it’s time to disarm our irrational fear appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In August, we shared this gem: stargazers catching a glimpse of the annual Perseid meteor shower. Have a story you want to share with us?

    NewsHour shares web small logo In our NewsHour Shares series, we show you things that catch our eye on the web. What about you? Tell us what you think is worth sharing, and we might feature it on air, or online.

    Submit your ideas for a NewsHour Shares here.

    And find all our stories here, including an out-of-this-world experiment on twins, a ballerina who’s dancing in the street, artifacts that will make your inner spy swoon and so many more!

    The post What’s caught your eye on the web? Share it with us appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Republican presidential candidates George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal and Lindsey Graham stand onstage during the Republican presidential debates at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley on September 16, 2015.  Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Republican presidential candidates George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal and Lindsey Graham stand onstage during the Republican presidential debates at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley on September 16, 2015. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — The four Republican presidential candidates who didn’t make the cut for the 11-person prime-time GOP debate met Wednesday for an undercard event at the Ronald Reagan presidential library, each searching for a breakout moment.

    George Pataki, Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal sought the kind of performance that former technology executive Carly Fiorina put on at the first GOP debate last month, which helped propel her onto Wednesday night’s main stage.

    Absent from both debates was former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, the lone Republican who did not register high enough in national polls to make the cut for either debate.

    Key takeaways from the first of Wednesday’s two debates:

    TWEAKING TRUMP

    Three of the four candidates eagerly took the bait offered by the debate moderators to attack GOP front-runner Donald Trump, who was the subject of the first several questions.

    Jindal, Louisiana’s governor, hurled the sharpest verbal jabs, saying Trump shouldn’t be treated as a Republican or a conservative. “He’s a narcissist who only believes in himself,” he said. Pataki, the former chief executive in New York, chimed in to call Trump “unfit to be president of the United States or the party’s nominee.”

    Santorum held his tongue, the former senator from Pennsylvania saying such personal attacks “just please one person, Hillary Clinton.”

    HAPPYGRAHAM

    Graham made the wrong impression during the undercard debate last month, as the South Carolina senator came across as the saddest candidate in the room. At one point, he gloomily noted that he is unmarried and doesn’t have any children.

    This time, Graham let his quirky personality and his foreign policy knowledge shine. The approach took an odd tone at times, as he repeatedly called for more military action in places such as Syria, but did so while delivering cheeky one-liners.

    Shortly after declaring, “We’re at war, folks,” Graham said: “First thing I’m going to do as president? We’re going to drink more.”

    PROXY PARTY FIGHT ON IMMIGRATION

    Graham and Santorum rumbled on immigration policy, an exchange representative of the dispute inside the Republican Party over how to approach an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system.

    Santorum, who finished second to 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, said Americans are hurt by immigration and he accused much of the GOP field as being for “amnesty.”

    Graham and Pataki said it’s impractical to deport all estimated 11 million people who are in the country illegally. Graham also argued that Hispanic voters are an untapped source of voters for Republicans.

    “We need to win fighting for Americans. We need to win fighting for the workers in this country who are hurting,” Santorum said, leading Graham to rebuke him: “Hispanics are Americans”

    A PROGRESSIVE PATAKI?

    Along with his comments on immigration, Pataki sounded like a Democrat in one other way: He forcefully said that Kim Davis, the county clerk from Kentucky who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, should have lost her job.

    “If she worked for me, I would have fired her,” he said, drawing applause from the crowd at the debate. “When you’re an elected official and you take an oath of office to uphold the law, all the laws, you cannot pick and choose or you no longer have a society that depends on the rule of law.”

    He closed by arguing that he is a pragmatist who can get elected in a general election and work in a bipartisan way.

    OUTSIDERS RULE

    Jindal allowed that he had one thing in common with Trump: They both dislike Washington “insiders.”

    “It’s time to fire all of them,” he said. He later gave credit to Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid for fighting for what they believe in, something he said Republican leaders in Washington no longer do.

    In his closing remarks, Jindal tried to emphasize his “outsider” credentials. He said he’d “take on the D.C. permanent governing class.” It was a nod to Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who have never held political office and stand atop the latest GOP preference polls.

    The post 5 takeaways from the GOP’s undercard presidential debate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Donald Trump frequently clashed during the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on September 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, California. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Donald Trump frequently clashed during the presidential debates at the Reagan Library on September 16, 2015 in Simi Valley, California. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Viewers of the second Republican presidential debate heard inflated claims about Planned Parenthood abortion practices and a dubious assertion by Donald Trump that he wasn’t interested in establishing casinos in Florida when anti-gambling Jeb Bush was running for and serving as governor.

    Some of the claims in the debate Wednesday night and how they compare with the facts:

    BUSH: “The one guy that had some special interests that I know of that tried to get me to change my views on something — that was generous and gave me money — was Donald Trump. He wanted casino gambling in Florida.”

    TRUMP: I didn’t. … Totally false….”

    BUSH: “I’m not going to be bought by anybody.”

    TRUMP: “I promise if I wanted it, I would have gotten it.”

    THE FACTS: Trump’s hopes of expanding casino operations in Florida in the mid-1990s were well known at the time. Trump employed a prominent lobbyist to represent his gambling interests in Florida. And news report from that time show he hosted a fundraiser to help Bush’s campaign for governor and donated $50,000 to the Florida Republican Party during that campaign.

    Bush did not bend in his opposition to casino gambling. It is not clear whether Trump approached Bush directly on the casino matter, but his interest in the enterprise is a matter of record.

    READ: What does Donald Trump believe?

    READ: What does Jeb Bush believe?


    TEXAS SEN. TED CRUZ: “On these videos, Planned Parenthood also essentially confesses to multiple felonies. It is a felony with 10 years’ jail term to sell the body parts of unborn children for profit. That’s what these videos show Planned Parenthood doing.”

    THE FACTS: The Center for Medical Progress released five videos showing furtively recorded conversations with Planned Parenthood officials, recorded by people posing as representatives of a fictitious private company that buys fetal tissue for researchers. In the videos, Planned Parenthood officials discuss how they obtain tissue from aborted fetuses for research, how they decide how much to charge and how it’s possible to alter the procedure to enhance the chances of recovering the organs being sought.

    But the officials also repeatedly say they are only allowed by law to recover costs, not to make a profit. The videos don’t unambiguously show otherwise.

    READ: What does Ted Cruz believe?


    TRUMP: “I want to build a wall, a wall that works. So important, and it’s a big part of it.”

    BEN CARSON: “I was down in Arizona a few weeks ago at the border. I mean, the fences that were there were not manned, and those are the kind of fences when I was a kid that would barely slow us down. So, I don’t see any purpose in having that.”

    THE FACTS: The expectation that a fence all along the border with Mexico could stop illegal crossings is not borne out by the fencing that’s already been built — about 700 miles of it. But neither is that fence as porous as Carson suggests. The reality is somewhere in between.

    Maintaining the existing multibillion-dollar fencing has been a time-consuming task for Border Patrol agents, who routinely patrol the fence line looking for holes or other damage. It was never designed, or expected, to block all illicit traffic from coming across the border, but instead to act as a deterrent and slow those who try crossing on foot.

    Even so, a fence section that appears unmanned is not unguarded. In urban areas such as El Paso, Texas, the fence line is monitored by cameras mounted atop fixed poles, and accessible to patrolling agents. Carson acknowledged that such areas can be more secure than some of the fencing in disrepair that he witnessed.

    READ: What does Ben Carson believe?

    The post GOP debate fact check: Who’s right in Trump vs. Bush? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    People walk to higher ground for safety, in Valparaiso city Thursday after a mass evacuation of the entire coastline during a tsunami alert after a magnitude 8.3 earthquake hit off the coast of Chile on Wednesday night. Photo by Rodrigo Garrido/Reuters

    People walk to higher ground for safety, in Valparaiso city Thursday after a mass evacuation of the entire coastline during a tsunami alert after a magnitude 8.3 earthquake hit off the coast of Chile on Wednesday night. Photo by Rodrigo Garrido/Reuters

    A powerful magnitude 8.3 earthquake struck central Chile, shaking buildings to the north in the capital city of Santiago, Wednesday evening, according to the Associated Press. Officials issued tsunami warnings for the entire country, the news organization reported.

    Fifteen-foot waves were reported off the coast near the port city of Coquimbo and several aftershocks were measured in the area of Illapel, Chile.

    Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet has confirmed three people dead from the tremor, which struck just before 8 p.m. local time.

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

    The U.S. National Tsunami Warning Center issued an advisory to parts of California, from San Onofre State Beach just south of Los Angeles, to Ragged Point, 50 miles northwest of San Luis Obispo. The Pacific Tsunami Center also has issued alerts for Japan, Antarctica, and most of the South Pacific, including New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

    This post will be updated.

    The post Magnitude 8.3 earthquake strikes Chile; tsunami alerts issued across Pacific appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan after leaving his military outpost on June 30, 2009. He was released five years later in a controversial prisoner swap that involved the trade of five former high-ranking members of the Taliban government from the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo by U.S. Army via Getty Images

    U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan after leaving his military outpost on June 30, 2009. He was released five years later in a controversial prisoner swap that involved the trade of five former high-ranking members of the Taliban government from the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo by U.S. Army via Getty Images

    U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl intentionally left his outpost in rural Afghanistan in 2009, resulting in his capture by the Taliban, prosecutors said at his preliminary hearing on Thursday.

    Bergdahl is charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

    The so-called Article 32 military hearing – akin to a preliminary hearing in civilian court – also can determine if there is enough evidence to court-martial Bergdahl, 29. The hearing is expected to last several days.

    “Under the cover of darkness, he snuck off the post,” said military prosecutor Major Margaret Kurz at the hearing in Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

    Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban shortly after he left the outpost and released five years later in a controversial prisoner swap for five high-ranking Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    Defense attorneys have said Bergdahl didn’t intend to leave the outpost permanently and was trying to find a senior officer to report “disturbing circumstances” in his unit, the New York Times reported.

    Well-wishers signed a poster on June 2, 2014, for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl at Zaney's coffee shop in Hailey, Idaho, where he worked as a teenager. Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan in 2009 while serving with the Army's 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Paktika Province, Afghanistan. He was released on May 31, 2014, in exchange for five Taliban members. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

    Well-wishers signed a poster on June 2, 2014, for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl at Zaney’s coffee shop in Hailey, Idaho, where he worked as a teenager. Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan in 2009 while serving with the Army’s 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment in Paktika Province, Afghanistan. He was released on May 31, 2014, in exchange for five Taliban members. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

    Bergdahl’s attorney Eugene Fidell said Thursday in the courtroom, “The government should make Sergeant Bergdahl’s statements (about the incident) available to the public, not only just to you.”

    The day after Bergdahl walked off the base on June 30, 2009, the platoon was supposed to leave the outpost and hand over control to the Afghan National Police, said one of his platoon mates U.S. Army Spc. Gerald Sutton in an interview with the PBS NewsHour shortly after his release in 2014.

    But instead they had to stay and try to find their missing comrade. Several platoon members have called Bergdahl a deserter but have not gone as far as labeling him a traitor.

    Some critics are not as restrained, among them presidential contender Donald Trump, who called Bergdahl a “dirty, rotten traitor.” Fidell responded in a statement that Trump’s remarks were “contemptible and un-American. They are a call for mob justice.”

    The post Taliban captive Bergdahl ‘snuck off’ his military post, prosecutors say appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Just 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft looked back toward the sun and captured this near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains extending to Pluto’s horizon. The image was taken from a distance of 11,000 miles to Pluto; the scene is 780 miles wide. Image courtesy of NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

    Just 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft looked back toward the sun and captured this near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains extending to Pluto’s horizon. The image was taken from a distance of 11,000 miles to Pluto; the scene is 780 miles wide. Image courtesy of NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

    Behold, a Plutonian sunset.

    Captured by the New Horizons spacecraft during its flyby in July, NASA released the backlit image Thursday, which revealed more details of the dwarf planet’s icy landscape, including mountains that stand as high as 11,000 feet and an atmospheric haze that extends to at least 60 miles above the surface.

    “This image really makes you feel you are there, at Pluto, surveying the landscape for yourself,” New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern said in a statement.

    Stern called the high-resolution image a “scientific bonanza” as it also revealed details of Pluto’s glaciers and plains. Other new photos confirmed that Pluto has Earth-like glacier activity, except its glaciers are made from nitrogen instead of water.

    A closer look. Image courtesy of NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

    A closer look. Image courtesy of NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

    According to NASA scientists, the low-lying fog seen in the images could also indicate that weather on Pluto changes day to day, just like on Earth.

    New Horizons is currently on course to reach the Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69 by January 2019.

    Shadows of various small mountains on the surface of Pluto cut through the haze. Image courtesy of NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

    Shadows of various small mountains on the surface of Pluto cut through the haze. Image courtesy of NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

    The post New images reveal what sunset on Pluto looks like appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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