Articles on this Page
- 09/17/15--12:02: _U.S., Cuba to resum...
- 09/17/15--12:43: _How to submit to ‘C...
- 09/17/15--12:54: _Quiz: How much do y...
- 09/17/15--12:57: _GOP leaders seek to...
- 09/17/15--15:15: _Muslim teen builds ...
- 09/17/15--15:20: _How can America nar...
- 09/17/15--15:25: _In Syria, Russia ma...
- 09/17/15--15:30: _Why Pope Francis wa...
- 09/17/15--15:35: _Why the law doesn’t...
- 09/17/15--15:40: _At second GOP debat...
- 09/17/15--15:45: _Federal Reserve cal...
- 09/17/15--15:50: _News Wrap: Hungary ...
- 09/17/15--18:43: _I’m a teacher. I’m ...
- 09/18/15--08:23: _Marines expected to...
- 09/18/15--10:35: _Thanks to Ig Nobels...
- 09/18/15--11:30: _House votes to bloc...
- 09/18/15--11:51: _Is the fracking boo...
- 09/18/15--12:21: _Trump draws fire fo...
- 09/18/15--14:55: _Take a look inside ...
- 09/18/15--15:20: _Baratunde Thurston ...
- 09/17/15--12:02: U.S., Cuba to resume mail service this year
- 09/17/15--12:43: How to submit to ‘Casa de Colores,’ a nation-wide poetry project
- 09/17/15--12:54: Quiz: How much do you know about the U.S. Constitution?
- 09/17/15--12:57: GOP leaders seek to avert shutdown over Planned Parenthood
- 09/17/15--15:20: How can America narrow divisions between police and community?
- 09/17/15--15:30: Why Pope Francis wants us to stop worshipping capitalism
- 09/17/15--15:35: Why the law doesn’t actually cover GM’s deadly defects
- 09/17/15--15:40: At second GOP debate, targeting Trump and trying to break through
- 09/17/15--15:45: Federal Reserve calls timeout on raising interest rates
- 09/17/15--15:50: News Wrap: Hungary border closed, migrants stream into Croatia
- 09/17/15--18:43: I’m a teacher. I’m tired of fear driving everything in education
- 09/18/15--08:23: Marines expected to bar women from combat jobs
- 09/18/15--10:35: Thanks to Ig Nobels, we now know how long it takes elephants to pee
- 09/18/15--11:30: House votes to block Planned Parenthood’s federal funds
- 09/18/15--11:51: Is the fracking boom causing a dropout boom?
- 09/18/15--12:21: Trump draws fire for not repudiating bigoted comments
- 09/18/15--14:55: Take a look inside a sea level rise time machine
- 09/18/15--15:20: Baratunde Thurston on fighting racist absurdity with laughs
WASHINGTON — The United States and Cuba should be able to transform their new diplomatic relationship into a deeper commercial partnership before the end of the year, with direct postal service to begin and an agreement on regularly scheduled commercial flights between the two countries, an American official said.
Washington also plans to publish new regulations soon making it easier for U.S. citizens to visit the island and do business with its growing ranks of independent entrepreneurs.
The official, who is familiar with the diplomacy, described significant progress in U.S.-Cuban discussions since the former Cold War foes reopened embassies in their respective countries in July. At a meeting in Havana last week, delegations from each side established a plan to settle a half-century of economic and legal disputes within the next 15 months.
While difficult questions related to human rights and compensation claims won’t be resolved immediately, the official said first steps toward a broader normalization of ties would come quickly.
First, the Obama administration intends to move on its own in the coming days by releasing a new set of rules designed to loosen the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba, said the official, who wasn’t authorized to publicly lay out the process and demanded anonymity.
The goal is to pick up where President Barack Obama left off in January, when he eased economic restrictions on Cuba in potentially the most dramatic manner since relations between the countries broke down after Fidel Castro’s revolution in 1959 and the subsequent Bay of Pigs invasion and Cuban missile crisis. The action sought to cut red tape for U.S. travel to Cuba, permit American companies to export telephones, computers and Internet technology, and allow U.S. firms to send supplies to private Cuban enterprises.
But efforts to expand business, tourism and other exchanges have run into an overlapping thicket of U.S. laws and hindrances, not to mention an uneven response from Cuba’s political leaders, the U.S. official said.
Many U.S. travelers still need to go on supervised group trips. Routine airline service hasn’t satisfied various federal conditions. Cruise ships and ferries are still trying to finalize regular maritime routes with Cuban authorities. Credit card and other companies still can’t transfer payments to Cuba. Telecommunications companies haven’t been able to set up shop and get equipment to the island 90 miles south of Florida. And Cuba’s government isn’t even running its Internet connections anywhere near capacity levels.
The new U.S. rules should help cut through some of these bureaucratic hurdles, the official said, though he declined to describe all the legal changes in concrete terms. Only Congress can end the embargo, and much of the foreseen expansion of U.S.-Cuban economic ties rests on the cooperation of the island’s communist government.
The U.S.-Cuban political track moved ahead Thursday as new ambassador Jose Ramon Cabanas Rodriguez presented his credentials to Obama at a White House ceremony. The pair briefly spoke, according to a Cuban embassy statement.
When Obama laid out his vision of improved relations eight months ago, he said his objectives were twofold: ease economic hardship in Cuba and spur its development of a private market outside of state control.
Some breakthroughs can be expected by the end of the year, according to the official.
Washington and Havana are slated to begin a “pilot program” allowing Cubans and Americans to send mail directly to one another, the official said. The governments have been speaking about re-establishing a postal link since Obama entered office, but the talks stalled when Cuba imprisoned U.S. contractor Alan Gross. Direct mail service was halted in 1963, though letters and packages travel back and forth through countries like Canada and Mexico.
The postal program will use the Miami and Havana airports, the official said.
Also, the U.S. and Cuba should finalize an agreement on resuming direct, commercial airline routes, though the first flights wouldn’t come until next year. Right now, American and Cuban travelers must fly on charter flights that are complicated to book, rarely involving an online portal and often forcing a prospective traveler to email documents and payment information back and forth with an agent. Those flying sometimes must arrive at the airport four hours in advance; strict baggage limits apply.
The official outlined a few other achievable goals before the end year: Counternarcotic cooperation that goes beyond Coast Guard interdiction efforts to include Drug Enforcement Agency partnering with its Cuban counterpart; joint environmental work involving the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; progress on setting up maritime passenger routes.
U.S. and Cuban officials hope to tackle their biggest differences by December 2016, before Obama leaves office, the official said.
The U.S. says Cuba must make significant democratic reforms, allowing greater space for opposition political voices and civil society movements. The fate of U.S. and Cuban fugitives beyond the reach of law enforcement authorities at home remains an outstanding issue. And each side has billions of dollars in compensation claims against the other, perhaps the biggest hindrance to the resumption of any “normal,” U.S.-Cuban relationship.
Watch PBS NewsHour’s senior correspondent and chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown report on Juan Felipe Herrera, the current U.S. poet laureate.
This marked the first week as U.S. poet laureate for Juan Felipe Herrera, the 21st poet to hold the position and first Hispanic poet to do so, as well as the beginning of a new nation-wide poetry project.
Herrera announced his project, “La Casa de Colores,” earlier this month at the National Book Festival. The project will combine submissions from the public across a different theme each month; combined, they will form one giant epic poem over the course of his laureateship.
Starting this week, anyone can submit up to 200 characters per 30 days to the project on the Library of Congress’ website. From now until Oct. 15, submissions should address the subject of family.
“La Casa de Colores, ‘the House of Colors,’ is a house for all voices. In this house we will feed the hearth and heart of our communities with creativity and imagination. And we will stand together in times of struggle and joy,” Herrera said in a statement on the project.
Herrera gave his inaugural reading on Tuesday at the Library of Congress, where he performed a variety of pieces from the span of his career, including “Are You Doing That New Amerikan Thing?” and “Saturday Night at the Buddhist Cinema.”
He also spoke about his path to writing and poetry, which began in third grade in San Diego when his teacher Mrs. Sampson asked him to sing a song in front of the class. When he was finished singing “Three Blind Mice,” she told him: “You have a beautiful voice.”
Those words were powerful in Herrera’s life, and he has spent the time since then telling others the same thing, he told the audience at the Library of Congress. “And I’m going to say it to you tonight: You have a beautiful voice,” he said.
The post How to submit to ‘Casa de Colores,’ a nation-wide poetry project appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Happy Constitution Day everyone, the occasion marking the Sept. 17, 1778, signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia.
It’s a holiday without fireworks or fanfare, but what it may lack in mandatory time-off, Constitution Day makes up for with history. To celebrate this day cherished by lovers of American law, we bring you a short quiz to test your knowledge of the nation’s founding and of potential changes on deck for the Constitution today.
The post Quiz: How much do you know about the U.S. Constitution? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders scrambled on Thursday to head off a politically damaging government shutdown in two weeks over rebellious conservatives’ demand that any stopgap spending bill block federal funds for Planned Parenthood.
Leadership sought an outlet for GOP lawmakers’ outrage after this summer’s release of videos secretly recorded by abortion foes, who contend they show that Planned Parenthood illegally profits from selling tissue from aborted fetuses to medical researchers.
Unclear is whether a vote on Friday to defund Planned Parenthood and other steps will be enough to placate conservatives, emboldened by widespread criticism of the organization at Wednesday’s GOP presidential debate.
Temporary funding legislation is needed to give the chronically dysfunctional Congress more time to sort through huge differences over a full-year spending bill that could ease a budget freeze facing the Pentagon and domestic agencies.
In the final months of the year, another possible shutdown looms over President Barack Obama’s expected request to the GOP-led Congress to increase the nation’s borrowing authority.
What is clear is that the once-routine job of advancing a short-term spending bill to keep the government open past an Oct. 1 deadline remains a major headache for House GOP leaders, chiefly Speaker John Boehner. Some hard-right lawmakers and tea partyers are threatening to topple the Ohio Republican, a fierce foe of abortion who has held the speakership since January 2011.
“We’ve seen promises to fight tooth and nail on things in the past and it hasn’t really materialized,” said tea party-backed Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz. “I think there will be a point where the thin ice breaks.”
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., accused Boehner of “subverting our republic,” and working for lobbyists rather than “what the constituents of our district want.”
Boehner’s clear but unstated preference is to pass a temporary funding bill that’s free of the Planned Parenthood controversy. Democrats are sure to filibuster any bill defunding Planned Parenthood should it come to a vote in the Senate, and Obama has promised a veto regardless.
The organization, which provides birth control, abortions and various women’s health services, says it’s done nothing wrong.
Planned Parenthood gets about $450 million in federal funds annually, the Congressional Budget Office says, virtually none of which can be used for abortions. That’s a third of its $1.3 billion budget.
“If you’re pro-life, the last thing you want to do is have the focus changed to the government shutdown … rather than the activities of Planned Parenthood,” said Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, a Boehner ally. “At some point in time you’ve got to face reality.”
At a closed-door GOP meeting Thursday, Republicans were shown party polling data that showed most Americans haven’t seen the videos and that more Americans associate Planned Parenthood with women’s health than with abortions. The numbers also showed that most Americans don’t want a government shutdown, lawmakers at the meeting said.
A significant majority of Republicans would support Boehner if he were to press for a temporary bill disentangled from the dispute over Planned Parenthood. But a few dozen of the most conservative Republicans have vowed to oppose any such effort, and some are weighing a challenge to Boehner’s leadership.
That drew a rebuke from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who said talk about removing Boehner from the speakership is “a distraction.” He said the House already voted this year to make Boehner speaker, adding, “We’ve had that election and now let’s move on.”
Asked how confident he was that he could defeat an effort to remove him from the post, Boehner said, “Very.”
Other GOP members say tea party lawmakers have repeatedly driven GOP leaders into unwinnable fights. They highlight the 16-day partial government shutdown over health care two years ago and a failed attempt this year to use a Department of Homeland Security funding bill to reverse Obama’s moves easing the threat of deportation for millions of immigrants living in the country illegally.
“They’re kind of like their own party,” said Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif. “You can’t really do anything about it because they’re right-wing Marxists. It’s unpredictable what they’re going to do.”
Last month, Senate Democrats derailed a bill stopping federal funds for Planned Parenthood. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says that proves he lacks the votes to force such legislation through the Senate.
So for now, GOP leaders are pushing free-standing bills blocking Planned Parenthood’s money and curbing abortion that are not tied to money to keep the government functioning. In addition, four congressional committees are investigating Planned Parenthood.
Right to Life’s leaders released a statement this week endorsing a bill by Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., halting federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year. The House plans to approve that bill on Friday, along with another by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., setting criminal penalties for medical providers who don’t try to save babies born live during abortions.
Associated Press reporters Alan Fram, Stephen Ohlemacher and Erica Werner contributed to this report.
The post GOP leaders seek to avert shutdown over Planned Parenthood appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
GWEN IFILL: Fourteen-year-old Ahmed Mohamed, who was suspended from an Irving, Texas, school after officials mistook his school project for a bomb, spent another day out of school today.
Mohammed’s arrest — he’d brought a homemade clock to school — stirred a global social media frenzy.
Hari’s back with that.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The hashtag #IStandWithAhmed went viral for a third straight day on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere. President Obama jumped in yesterday, too, inviting him to visit with a tweet that read: “Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.”
For his part, the teen said he didn’t plan to return to the school and was grateful for overwhelming support.
AHMED MOHAMED, Student: I brought the clock to impress my teacher. But when I showed it to her, she thought it was a threat to her.
So — so, it was really sad that she took the wrong impression of it, and I got arrested for it later that day.
Thank you to all my supporters on Twitter, Facebook, all social media. Thank you all for helping me. I would have never got this far if it wasn’t for you guys, and not just you guys, everybody.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Some perspective from a part of the American Muslim community.
Nihad Awad is the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has been working with Ahmed and his family.
Mr. Awad, thanks for joining us.
So, tell me about your contact with the family.
NIHAD AWAD, Council on American-Islamic Relations: Yes.
From the beginning, when this happened to the family, the family contacted our office in Dallas. And we recognized that this was another case of unfortunate Islamophobia and targeting of young people just because of their faith tradition, not because of their deeds or their behavior.
And we managed to tell his story. And his narrative now dominated the story, because the school officials, I think, failed him when they accused him, when they called the police on him. He was arrested. He was detained, interrogated without the presence of his parents. And this was totally unnecessary.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Mr. Awad, why do you think this story is resonating so much, even to non-Muslims around America?
NIHAD AWAD: Well, I think it’s a human story.
This is a young genius inventor who wanted to impress everyone, and he wanted to do better. He wanted to build things to improve the world. I spoke to him yesterday, and he told me that he wants to create things. And his father told me that he fixes everything around the house.
So, at this young age, to have a brilliant teenager who is involved and has a passion in science and innovation, we should cherish this. And that’s why I believe he was able to tell his story through his invention. He’s young. He’s cute, adorable, intelligent. And I think that got him a lot of support, definitely with the help of an advocacy organization like ours. We managed to also get his story out.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, are you advocating or counseling him to take legal action? And, if so, what’s the basis of that action, against whom?
NIHAD AWAD: I think the most important thing is to restore his confidence.
The president has supported him, and he stood for him publicly. And he led by example. Mark Zuckerberg and other leaders in our society, in the industry, in the faith tradition have stood by him. And that was the most important thing, is to restore and reinstate his confidence and his dreams to change the world to be a better world.
The legal action, I think, is being considered. We just want to make sure that this story and this experience doesn’t happen to other people.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Is this indicative or emblematic of actions against Muslims around the United States? Is that one of the reasons that people are paying attention to this, where they can see this in themselves?
NIHAD AWAD: Unfortunately, I have to say, yes, it is widespread.
There is a poisoned atmosphere of Islamophobia that has plagued our countries, cities and towns. It has filtered even through the school system. We hear many, many stories like this.
Luckily, Ahmed is clever. He was able to tell his narrative. But there are many untold stories nationwide. And we, as a nation, have to start a frank conversation.
And I urge our national leaders, religious leaders, at their homes, in their places of worship, everywhere, we have to fight against xenophobia, any kind of phobia, and just reward diversity, but not punish diversity or punish people just because of their faith traditions.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Finally, what would you like to see in — what would you like to see happen at the school, at the local police department?
NIHAD AWAD: I would like the school to look really at what happened.
And they shouldn’t justify what they did. What they did was wrong. And they have sent the wrong message to teenagers nationwide, not only in their school. And I would like that to be the last story. But, unfortunately, knowing the history of our society, we learn, but sometimes slowly.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, thanks so much for joining us.
NIHAD AWAD: Thank you for having me.
The post Muslim teen builds a clock, gets arrested, receives invitation to the White House appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
GWEN IFILL: Now: how body cameras on police and cell phones everywhere are changing our views on justice.
Charlayne Hunter-Gault has the latest installment in our series Race Matters.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: From the Michael Brown fatal shooting by a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, last year to New York City last week, when a plainclothes police officer roughly threw former tennis pro James Blake to the ground, police have been under fire for attacks on black people.
But, in many instances, police representatives have pushed back, insisting their offices were merely doing their jobs. How to narrow such profound fractures between the public and the police is the subject of extensive research by Brian Jackson, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit think tank working on improving policy and decision-making.
Brian Jackson, thank you for joining us.
Your study focused on what you describe as profound fractures between the public and the police, and you say it’s been a long trend. Can you expand on that just a little bit?
BRIAN JACKSON, RAND Corporation: Well, of course, policing in the United States isn’t something that started a week ago. It’s something that started at — near the beginning of our country.
And the relationships that police have with their communities goes back to events that happened during the era of segregation, during war protests, when police didn’t always take actions that today, you know, we see as appropriate.
And so for individuals who have an interaction with a police officer today, they’re often seeing that interaction as part of a pattern that went back a long time. And this is part of why it’s very challenging to build and maintain trusted relationships between police officers and different communities, because the police have to sort of take on and understand this history that goes back probably well before any of the officers who were on the force now were police officers.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: So, it’s going on in the heads of black people or people who are victims, but not in the heads of policemen?
BRIAN JACKSON: Well, yes, indeed.
And it’s not just a minority community thing — issue. I mean, you have people who were members of protest communities during the ’60s and ’70s, who have very different views of police.
Really, this is a question of the many communities that exist in the United States and the fact that all of them need good relationships with the police departments that protect them.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But I think you see statistics showing that blacks are three times as likely as whites to be killed by the police. That widens the fractures, doesn’t it?
BRIAN JACKSON: Absolutely. When you have a sort of preexisting breakdown in trust, these very serious incidents — and a police use of force is always a serious incident when it results in loss of life of a citizen. That’s always something that is a challenge in a democracy.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: So how do you see race fitting into this?
BRIAN JACKSON: Our country has a very complex history around race, to make a very sort of obvious and understated point.
And so race is something that is behind all of this. And it’s not that individuals are necessarily racist. There are folks who study unconscious stereotypes and how race can affect the way that people make judgments about another person.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Unconscious stereotypes?
BRIAN JACKSON: Indeed.
I mean, someone may view someone else as a threat because of stereotypes that exist around race, where they may not even realize that that is what is driving their decision. And so there are folks who are looking at, OK, how do you train people to recognize this, to understand that there are stereotypes, to let people step back from themselves as they’re making these incredibly important decisions, sometimes in a very short time, and work through those issues to make sure that they’re making the right decision for the right reasons, not because of a stereotype that they have learned overtime?
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: So are you saying that this can be fixed?
BRIAN JACKSON: I’m an optimist by nature, so, yes, I am saying it can be fixed, although this is a training issue.
It’s about sort of teaching people about other cultures. It’s — this is embedded in sort of the notions that are behind community policing, of police departments, building connections with the community, so they have a way of understanding where people are coming from, understanding what their needs are, the problems that police should be involved in solving.
And part of that is about building these person-to-person relationships that mean people are making judgments less on mental shorthand, and more about, you know, who is this person who is in front of me and understanding what is going on.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: In your report, you talk about narrowing these gaps and divisions being a two-way street, that the police have responsibilities and the community has responsibilities. How do you work that out?
BRIAN JACKSON: When you look at the rhetoric around sort of challenges about police oversight, police are concerned that members of the public who don’t know what high-pressure interactions where the police officers are at risk work, and are concerned that they’re not going to make fair judgments about — you know, about the police officer’s decision-making after the fact.
Members of the public are obviously concerned about that decision-making, because it’s in that decision-making where we get uses of force, where we get decisions about who gets searched and who doesn’t, who gets stopped and who doesn’t.
And so there is an element in this where, you know, increasing transparency in those interactions to give the public more data, more information — I’m a researcher, so I go back the data and information as a solution.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: So, it sounds like that may be what is happening in the Ferguson case, where we have just had a report by a commission that looked into those incidents there.
And they said that people need to engage with the report, discuss, debate and argue about it, even though it is likely to be difficult and take a long time. Is that what we’re looking at?
BRIAN JACKSON: They are going in the right direction. These are not easy questions. I mean, we expect the police to use force in situations to save lives.
And we expect — but we expect them to do it appropriately. Where is the line? Well, that’s a tough — that’s a tough line to draw, and it varies place to place. In a democracy, that’s done by sort of people coming together and having those debates, having those discussions.
You know, broken windows policing, or order maintenance policing, as it’s called, was a philosophy of trying to control crime. But that approach has a lot of impacts on the communities that are affected by it. So, part of what needs to happen there around a policing tactic is for people to come together and say, well, do the benefits that we think we’re getting from reducing crime worth the side effects that this has on everybody in the community where it’s done?
Is there a right and a wrong answer there? No, but the answer for me there is going for more transparency, so these bad incidents that happen — and there are terrible incidents that happen, where we get the one cell phone video. They travel the Internet. They have a very large effect.
On that same day, a lot of interactions between the police and the public happened that were very positive. Sometimes, those go viral. For example, there was the case of the African-American police officer who was helping a white supremacist at a Confederate Flag rally who was being overcome by the heat. And a picture of this officer leading this gentleman away so he could sort of get water, again, went viral.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Is there anything in this whole equation that gives you optimism that this fracture can be narrowed and maybe even resolved?
BRIAN JACKSON: Yes, absolutely.
I mean, we’re seeing sort of explorations with use of technology like body cameras, although they’re not the answer to everything. We’re seeing, you know, police departments proactively sort of reach out to communities. We’re seeing the public debate.
And the public debate is part of this, about, you know, what the country wants from its police forces, what the right balance to strike in a democracy about the power given to police vs. citizen oversight. What the society wanted from police 30 years ago is not the same as what society wants from police now.
And I don’t know what the changes will be, but I’m quite sure that, in 30 years, there will be changes. And so what I’m optimistic about is that we have a process going now where people are focusing now on this issue and where we will sort of work through the problem set as a country to come up with better solutions over time.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Brian Jackson, thank you.
BRIAN JACKSON: Thank you very much.
GWEN IFILL: On Monday, we will expand on that conversation in a PBS prime-time special, “America After Charleston.”
Join me as we explore the many issues propelled into public discourse after a white gunman shot and killed nine African-American worshipers in Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church last June.
The post How can America narrow divisions between police and community? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
GWEN IFILL: New reports surfaced today that the U.S. and Russia will begin military-to-military talks about Syria, even as Vladimir Putin moves to bolster his old ally Bashar al-Assad. But will Russia also be fighting a man they have battled before?
Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports.
MARGARET WARNER: The man is Abu Omar al Shishani, the Islamic State military commander for the Northern District of Syria, seen here last August as the group pursued its lightning march across Northern and Central Iraq.
ABU OMAR AL SHISHANI, Islamic State (through interpreter): It is time for the sons of the Islamic State to defend the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham and defend our imam, who the world gathered against with all its strength.
MARGARET WARNER: Unlike most I.S. fighters, he was speaking Russian. His real name is Tarkhan Batirashvili. He’s an ethnic Chechen reportedly born 30 years ago in Georgia, then part of the Soviet Union, to a Christian father and Muslim mother. Tapped as a special forces soldier in the Georgian army, he fought fiercely against the Russian army when the two countries went to war over the province of South Ossetia in 2008.
Mitchell Prothero of McClatchy Newspapers has just written an exhaustive profile of al Shishani, with startling new information. I spoke with him via Skype from his bureau in Northern Iraq.
How significant a military figure is al Shishani in ISIS?
MITCHELL PROTHERO, McClatchy Newspapers: If he’s not the overall military commander for the Islamic State, he’s definitely in charge of the Northern Syrian Front, which is one of the most active and serious.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, you uncovered a very interesting new twist in this story, with — some of his skills actually came from training by the Americans.
MITCHELL PROTHERO: In 2005 and ‘6, there was a lot of cooperation — and there still is today on some level — between the American intelligence services and the U.S. military in training the Georgian armies and their intelligence services.
He had been tapped for training as a special forces unit. And that was done through the United States. But, again, there was nothing that would flag him as a security risk on paper.
MARGARET WARNER: How effective was he as a fighter against the Russians back in 2008?
MITCHELL PROTHERO: He was considered a rising star of the Georgian military.
He was a senior non-commissioned officer in a special forces unit that was tasked with basically being the eyes and ears of the Georgian military and was one of their most successful battle commanders during the very brief 2008 war before the Russians sort of rolled over them.
MARGARET WARNER: Yet, scarcely six years later, he was in Syria, swearing allegiance to the Islamic State. It’s an unusual evolution for a man brought up in a moderate Muslim enclave in the predominantly Christian nation of Georgia.
Shishani was arrested in 2010 on what his family says was a trumped-up weapons possession charge and he spent 16 months in prison. Once released, he fled to Istanbul.
MITCHELL PROTHERO: At that point, he appears to have been radicalized somewhat, maybe his prison experience. And people also suggested that the death of his mother to cancer shortly after his release from prison sort of led to him having a religious awakening, and he adopted her religion. His father, as we said, is Christian.
And by June of 2012, he shows up in Aleppo as a little-known sort of foreign fighter in a small group of guys, and slowly — or, actually, rather quickly, built a movement that slowly then became part of the Islamic State.
I was told that part of why he was able to be convinced to bring his unit and to join the Islamic State was a promise that the Islamic State would organize basically an emirate in the Caucasus that would then go after the Russians.
MARGARET WARNER: And, says Prothero, al Shishani has emerged as an effective recruiter of other Muslim fighters from other former Soviet republics.
MITCHELL PROTHERO: The Chechens and a lot of these other former Russian-speaking province guys have a tendency to be very professional, military-wise.
They’re considered sort of the shock troops or special forces of the Islamic State. They’re moved around from place to place to fight in specific areas. They were part of the Mosul operation, although a lot of that was local Iraqis. There is always sort of a core of these just very disciplined and experienced foreign fighters, as opposed to the guys that are coming from Europe.
MARGARET WARNER: What makes him so particularly effective? What makes him a standout in that group of already effective and disciplined fighters?
MITCHELL PROTHERO: It sounds like he’s quite capable of thinking strategically and tactically from a military standpoint that you don’t always get with a lot of these guys, even if they’re fierce fighters. It takes more to run an army.
MARGARET WARNER: Today, al Shishani is on the U.S. Treasury Department’s list of specially designated global terrorists and he carries a $5 million bounty on his head.
So, as the Russian military appears to be moving its way into Syria, this hardened Chechen fighter may have the battle coming that he’s long been waiting for.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Margaret Warner in Washington.
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GWEN IFILL: Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to the U.S. next week is generating huge interest and expectation.
Part of that excitement is rooted in the different tone the pope has taken on a number of issues, from marriage to the role of women in the church. But he has also issued a tough critique of capitalism and called for more action on climate change.
We kick off our coverage of the pope’s trip, which will continue all next week, with a look at those issues from our economics correspondent Paul Solman.
It’s part of our weekly series Making Sense, which airs every Thursday on the NewsHour.
PAUL SOLMAN: Are you excited that the pope is coming here?
WOMAN: It’s a blessing that the pope is coming to visit us, especially the poor people that need a little bit more.
PAUL SOLMAN: A senior center in East Harlem, the poorest part of Manhattan and the one with the closest ties to Latin America, home to Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Argentinean Jesuit priest now known as Pope Francis.
MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO, Speaker , New York City Council: And just south of this district, we have the most wealthy district in the city of New York in the Upper East Side.
PAUL SOLMAN: Melissa Mark-Viverito is the first Puerto Rico-born speaker of the New York City Council, where she also represents El Barrio.
MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO: There is a real contrast, which speaks to really the vision and, I think, the philosophy of what the pope is all about.
PAUL SOLMAN: The pope put that vision and philosophy bluntly in June, with his controversial encyclical on climate change and poverty, blaming what he calls unbridled capitalism for ruining the Earth, with tragic effects on those he cares most about, the world’s poorest.
MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO: I think that that’s the reason why the pope’s visit is so important, is to continue to shine the light on those challenges and challenge us, as government and as leaders in our communities, to overcome them.
PAUL SOLMAN: And presumably, that’s why Francis will come here, to challenge government to do more for the environment and for the poor. But will government respond?
The issue has already entered the race for president.
JEB BUSH, Republican Presidential Candidate: I don’t get economic policy from my — from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope.
PAUL SOLMAN: Conservative Americans like presidential candidate Jeb Bush, a convert to Catholicism, say the pope should steer clear of politics.
JEB BUSH: I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting into the political realm.
PAUL SOLMAN: But Francis seems to think politics is about making us better as people, more generous, kinder and gentler to the poor, to each other, to the Earth.
Activist Naomi Klein:
NAOMI KLEIN, Author: It kind of felt a little bit like being invited into the world’s oldest secret society.
PAUL SOLMAN: Klein is one of the pope’s more surprising new advisers, a self-described secular feminist.
NAOMI KLEIN: My views about climate change about the economy are pretty radical. There are people out there who are saying this pope is a closet socialist, and then for them to invite somebody who’s written a book whose subtitle is “Capitalism vs. the Climate” is kind of saying, well, we’re not backing down, frankly.
PAUL SOLMAN: Moreover, says progressive evangelical Jim Wallis, Pope Francis is squarely within the tradition of his vow-of-poverty namesake and of Jesus, who told the rich man hoping to enter the kingdom of heaven that he should give away all his possessions.
REV. JIM WALLIS, Founder, Sojourners: And Jesus says, you either serve God or mammon. That’s pretty radical. Mammon means money. You serve God or you serve money.
PAUL SOLMAN: Isn’t that why people say that Jesus was a socialist?
REV. JIM WALLIS: How we decide the morality, the integrity, the righteousness of an economy is not how the wealthiest do, but how the poorest do. That’s in the text. Now, that is more radical than communism and socialism.
PAUL SOLMAN: I tried to be even more provocative with Marie Dennis, who heads a Catholic peace and justice movement.
So, is the pope a communist?
MARIE DENNIS, Co-President, Pax Christi International: No, the pope is not a communist. Pope Francis keeps — as the church ought to do, keeps a distance from any particular system, whether it’s communism or socialism or capitalism, in order to be able to critique whatever system is not serving the needs of people and the planet.
PAUL SOLMAN: But in his encyclical, he is stridently anti-capitalist, or at least the unbridled version, as he calls it.
MARIE DENNIS: His critique of unbridled capitalism is very strong, absolutely, and he is very serious about it, because of his experience. He lived his whole life in a Latin America that was on the receiving end of some very destructive economy policies. And I think what Pope Francis is trying to do is amplify voices that have been calling for a different system for decades.
PAUL SOLMAN: A different economic system? Is what the pope argues for really what the world’s poor need?
RICHARD SYLLA, New York University: Well, I would say that the pope is probably not a well-trained economist.
PAUL SOLMAN: New York University professor Richard Sylla:
RICHARD SYLLA: And economic historians like myself study these things, and we’re pretty big fans of capitalism.
PAUL SOLMAN: The pope’s argument isn’t that, historically, capitalism has not done a good job. It’s that now capitalism is a new form of colonialism, is suppressing the poor and keeping them down.
RICHARD SYLLA: I have to disagree with that, because, in this age of globalization, my view is that capitalism is actually working to make the lives better for the poorer people of the world.
PAUL SOLMAN: But there’s so much poverty in the world. Hasn’t capitalism created that?
RICHARD SYLLA: No, capitalism is not the culprit. Capitalism, when it’s allowed to do its work, some of us would say work its magic, it has a tremendous ability to raise living levels for the people who live under that system. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, but I think to sort of say that capitalism is the problem, let’s get rid of it, as the pope may be hinting, is to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
PAUL SOLMAN: The pope, however, is more than hinting. He writes that — quote — “Whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, a market that doesn’t take into account fundamental rights of the poor and underprivileged.”
The pope being unavailable to respond to economist Richard Sylla’s defense of markets, I asked his radical bedfellow, Naomi Klein, for a reply.
NAOMI KLEIN: Yes, this is a system that has pulled many people out of poverty, but it has also thrown many people into destitution. Now, my goal here is not to say capitalism has never done anything good. It’s to say we need a better system, because now the fate of our species hangs in the balance.
PAUL SOLMAN: Or, as Reverend Wallis puts it:
REV. JIM WALLIS: Is our economy today good news for the poor? The economy is for, more and more, the very top, the very few, and the middle are all very insecure. And half of God’s children, half the world’s people are left behind by the economy. God’s economy is very simple. There is enough, if we share it. It’s really as simple as that.
PAUL SOLMAN: Well, maybe it’s simple, maybe it isn’t. But that seems to be what Pope Francis believes. And the New York neighborhood he will visit, with its homeless, its mentally ill, its drug-ravaged denizens, cries out for help, says local resident Rodney Johnson.
RODNEY JOHNSON, East Harlem resident: There’s a lot of changes that need to be made.
PAUL SOLMAN: Like what?
RODNEY JOHNSON: Like people getting housing, people really getting help on their drug problems, people — somebody really sitting down and understanding people on what they been through in life, and what they need in order to get off the streets, because there’s really no — there’s really no compassion out here enough to help people on their feet. It’s not out here no more. There used to be, but it’s gone.
PAUL SOLMAN: From East Harlem, among other locations, this is economics correspondent Paul Solman, reporting for the PBS NewsHour.
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GWEN IFILL: But, first, General Motors and the government reached a settlement today over how the automaker handled a defect that led to deaths, injuries and the recall of millions of vehicles. The agreement may resolve many of the cases, but some remain concerned that the government may have let GM off too lightly.
Hari Sreenivasan has the story from our New York studios.
PREET BHARARA, U.S. Attorney, Southern District of New York: This office and GM have entered into a deferred prosecution agreement.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The formal announcement from U.S. attorney Preet Bharara in New York followed years of recalls, lawsuits and congressional hearings. GM agreed to pay $900 million over faulty ignition switches that shut off engines and disabled safety systems. The company now admits it hid the deadly defect for more than a decade.
PREET BHARARA: They didn’t tell the truth in the best way that they should have to the regulator and to the public about a serious safety issue that risked life and limb.
HARI SREENIVASAN: An independent monitor will check GM’s compliance, and pending criminal charges could be dropped after three years. But the deal does have its critics.
In a statement today, Democratic Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal said: “The 124 families who lost loved ones deserved individual criminal accountability. It is shameful that they will not be held fully accountable.”
Back in New York, prosecutor Bharara defended the agreement.
PREET BHARARA: We’re not done and it remains possible that we will charge an individual, but the law doesn’t always let us do what we wish we could do.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And in Warren, Michigan, GM’s chief, Mary Barra, summed up the automaker’s perspective at an employee town hall.
MARY BARRA, CEO, General Motors: This is a tough agreement. It further highlights the mistakes that were made by certain people in GM and it imposes significant penalties and obligations.
HARI SREENIVASAN: GM also today said it will spend $575 million to settle civil lawsuits.
Let’s learn more about this settlement and the questions surrounding a lack of charges.
David Shepardson of The Detroit News was at today’s press conference and joins me now.
It seems that we kind of learned today the limits of the law. GM wasn’t necessarily found guilty of the ignition switch problem, but more of the wire fraud connected to the cover-up.
DAVID SHEPARDSON, The Detroit News: It’s basically the same charge the federal prosecutors have used for years for gangs and different crimes, you know, using a telephone or any electronic device across state lines.
And the U.S. attorney said there is not a statute that makes it a crime solely for an auto company to sell defective vehicles, and that they were not able to determine whether individual employees, you know, actually were engaged in a cover-up or intentionally committing a crime without that specific statute. And so they said they’re not giving up, and they’re not ruling out any criminal charges in the long run. But, realistically, this is probably the end of the criminal side of this case.
HARI SREENIVASAN: A lot of families of the victims are saying, listen, my loved one died, and there’s not a single human being at General Motors that’s responsible for this that we can find criminally negligent here?
DAVID SHEPARDSON: You have 124 deaths, and GM’s independent compensation fund is tied to this, 270 injuries, some of them very serious.
And what the U.S. attorney said is, GM had this silent culture where no one was taking responsibility. The CEO has called it a culture of incompetence and neglect. And, essentially, because of this huge incompetent company, no one is being held responsible. And it is — you know, like you said, there are a lot of families.
And the U.S. attorney personally met with the families and said he was sorry and he said they’re as aggressive as any other office in the country, but they can’t find a statute to specifically go after those individual employees.
HARI SREENIVASAN: That’s probably discomforting for any auto owner, that there is no law that can actually prosecute this.
But how much has GM paid so far? And it seems like this is less than what Toyota was fined with for the sticky accelerator problem a couple years ago.
DAVID SHEPARDSON: That’s right.
In fact, the Toyota sudden acceleration problem, which was linked to about five or six deaths, resulted in a $1.2 billion fine. GM is paying to the U.S. government $900 million. There’s about $1.2 billion more in settlements of lawsuit, including to shareholders and people who sued over ignition switch defects. And then there’s the independent compensation fund that’s awarded about $600 million.
What the U.S. attorney said was, we’re essentially going easier on GM because they fully cooperated, that not only did their attorneys, you know, turn over information to us before they even told the executives, but they created this compensation fund and they quickly said, we’re going to change our culture.
Toyota was accused of misleading government regulators and not coming clean for much longer. It took them four-and-a-half years to reach that settlement. So that’s part of the reason for the difference in the fines.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. And this also doesn’t count what it is going to cost to fix the ignition switches of all these recalled cars.
DAVID SHEPARDSON: That’s right.
GM last year took about $4 billion in charges for — much of it in the 30 million vehicles they recalled, including another 12 million vehicles beyond the ones involved in this criminal case for other ignition problems, for other key issues. So the expenses are significant. There’s many, hundreds of lawsuits left to be resolved. So it’s not over yet.
HARI SREENIVASAN: But what are the next steps? Is GM essentially on some sort of probation for the next few years? They didn’t have to admit any wrongdoing, but keep their nose clean?
DAVID SHEPARDSON: Well, they didn’t have to plead guilty. They were charged with two felonies. But they were required to admit to the information that’s laid out in these two charges.
And so, for the next three years, they will have a consent decree. They will be on probation. If they violate the law, the government could seek to reinstate those felonies and actually going through conviction. But the reality is, there are not a lot of penalties to a big company.
Companies don’t go to jail. You know, individuals do. And for the most part, Wall Street have basically baked in this cost of the settlement, so the stock was up a little bit today.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right.
David Shepardson of The Detroit News, thanks so much.
DAVID SHEPARDSON: Thanks, Hari.
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GWEN IFILL: The Republican candidates now have two debates under their belts and they’re now working to capitalize on last night’s meeting — one clear winner, CNN, which scored nearly 23 million viewers.
While Donald Trump continues to be the marquee draw, business executive Carly Fiorina and Senator Marco Rubio also grabbed their share of the spotlight.
President Reagan’s Air Force One served as the backdrop for 11 Republicans who hope to have their own presidential plane someday. But they first had to survive the night.
As expected, the primary target was front-runner Donald Trump, who has upended the race and left previously strong contenders like Wisconsin governor Scott Walker in the dust.
GOV. SCOTT WALKER Republican Presidential Candidate: This is what’s wrong with this debate. We’re not talking about real issues. And, Mr. Trump, we don’t need an apprentice in the White House. We don’t need an apprentice in the White House. We have one right now.
GWEN IFILL: Walker and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush tried to use the face-off to reestablish lost footing by linking Trump to the leading Democrat.
JEB BUSH, Republican Presidential Candidate: You got Hillary Clinton to go to your wedding.
DONALD TRUMP, Republican Presidential Candidate: That’s true. That’s true.
JEB BUSH: Because you gave her money. Maybe it works for Hillary Clinton.
DONALD TRUMP: I was — excuse me, Jeb.
JEB BUSH: It doesn’t work for anybody on this stage.
DONALD TRUMP: Jeb, I was a businessman. I got along with Clinton. I got along with everybody. That was my job, to get along with people.
JEB BUSH: But the simple fact is…
DONALD TRUMP: I didn’t want to — excuse me one second.
JEB BUSH: No. The simple fact is, Donald, you could not take…
DONALD TRUMP: OK, more energy tonight. I like that.
GWEN IFILL: Trump came prepared to criticize Bush as well over his stance on women’s health programs.
DONALD TRUMP: I know, but why did you say it? I heard it myself. Why did you say it?
JEB BUSH: We increased child support — we increased child support with a broken system by 90 percent.
DONALD TRUMP: You said you’re going to cut funding for women’s health. You said it.
JEB BUSH: I have a proven record. I have a proven record.
DONALD TRUMP: You said it.
GWEN IFILL: Carly Fiorina, a former Hewlett-Packard CEO who was relegated to the second-tier debate last time, seized the moment to slash at Trump while presenting herself as a leader.
CARLY FIORINA, Republican Presidential Candidate: I also think that one of the benefits of a presidential campaign is, the character and capability, judgment and temperament of every single one of us is revealed over time and under pressure.
GWEN IFILL: The only woman in the field also came prepared to belittle Trump, who in an interview, had criticized her looks.
CARLY FIORINA: You know, it’s interesting to me Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly and what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
GWEN IFILL: Trump, in turn, dismissed Fiorina as a failure in business.
But New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, struggling in the polls himself, repeatedly returned to his theme of the night: that the campaign wasn’t about them.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, Republican Presidential Candidate: While I’m as entertained as anyone by this personal back-and-forth about the history of Donald and Carly’s career, for the 55-year-old construction worker out in that audience tonight who doesn’t have a job, who can’t fund his child’s education, I have got to tell you the truth. They could care less about your careers. They care about theirs.
GWEN IFILL: Each member of the 11-candidate field took turns trying to break through.
For Florida Senator Marco Rubio, it was on foreign policy.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, Republican Presidential Candidate: The United States military wasn’t built to conduct pinprick attacks. If the United States military is going to be engaged by a commander in chief, it should only be engaged in an endeavor to win. And we’re not going to authorize use of force if you’re not put in a position where they can win.
GWEN IFILL: And in an earlier forum, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham targeted former Senator Rick Santorum on immigration reform.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, Republican Presidential Candidate: How many democrats did you have on your bill?
RICK SANTORUM: I don’t know how many Democrats I had on my bill…
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: I can tell you. None.
RICK SANTORUM: But, the point is — the point is, is that I had a bill…
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: That went nowhere.
GWEN IFILL: The attention turns now to the Democrats.
Clinton used an appearance on “The Tonight Show” last night to mock her competition.
JIMMY FALLON, Host, “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon”: How are you, Hillary? Haven’t seen you since my last wedding.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, Democratic Presidential Candidate: Well, I’m sure I’ll see you at the next one.
The Democrats’ first debate is October 13.
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GWEN IFILL: It’s been seven years since the Federal Reserve took the unusual step of lowering interest rates to near zero. More extraordinary, rates have not moved up since then.
For much of this summer, the expectation was that this would be the day that the Fed would announce a change. But, once again, the Fed decided to leave rates where they were.
Jeffrey Brown picks up the story from there.
JEFFREY BROWN: Expectations began to change just weeks ago following market turmoil and worries over China. During a press conference this afternoon, Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen spoke of those factors, but also said a hike may still be in the cards.
JANET YELLEN, Chair, Federal Reserve: Most participants continue to think that economic conditions will call for or make appropriate an increase in the federal funds rate by the end of this year.
Of course, there will always be uncertainty. We can’t expect that uncertainty to be fully resolved. But in light of the developments that we have seen and the impacts on financial markets, we want to take a little bit more time to evaluate the likely impacts on the United States.
JEFFREY BROWN: Some insight now into this decision and where the Fed may head soon from a close observer.
Krishna Guha is the vice chairman of Evercore ISI, an independent investment banking advisory firm. From 2010 to 2013, he served as head of communications at the New York Federal Reserve.
Nice to see you again.
KRISHNA GUHA, Evercore ISI: Great to see you, Jeff.
JEFFREY BROWN: The Fed did make clear that the recent turmoil in the markets and Europe was a factor here.
KRISHNA GUHA: I think that’s right, but it’s not just so much the turmoil in the markets, per se.
The Fed is saying is, it looks like the market weakness was driven by concerns about China and the emerging markets. And if that’s right, that’s something the Fed should be paying attention to, not market volatility from day to day, but concerns about global growth. That’s really what they focused on.
JEFFREY BROWN: The release today says the Fed is — quote — “monitoring developments abroad.” It’s a sort of — that bland kind of statement.
Of course, they’re always monitoring developments abroad, but this says they’re really watching it and worried.
KRISHNA GUHA: It says they’re paying close attention to these developments.
Now, I think one of the reasons why markets, the stock market was a bit jittery today is people were wondering, does the Fed know something we don’t? I don’t think that’s the case. I think they’re being prudent. I think they’re saying, things look weak in China and other emerging markets, weaker than we thought a few months ago, and the markets are telling us that there may be some problems here, so let’s take a short time out at least and evaluate these developments, see what happens. And then we can make a better assessment of what they mean for the U.S.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, a short time out. There were some real divisions that have come out about what happens next. Right? There was a minority, but still a strong minority, suggesting nothing should happen even through — at least through the end of the year.
KRISHNA GUHA: So I think — you’re, of course, right, and the Fed officials give you their dots, where they think interest rates will go.
JEFFREY BROWN: The tally.
KRISHNA GUHA: Yes, that’s right.
So, most of them said they still expect to have that hike by year-end. Four are now saying, no, 2016 or maybe even 2017. So I think they’re leaning towards December, but they’re giving themselves the option to delay if the world looks threatening at that point.
JEFFREY BROWN: Is this unusual, in your experience, to have that kind of division vocalized or put down in the tally form?
KRISHNA GUHA: You know, not really.
And I think that’s a good thing, not a bad thing, because you don’t want group think at a central bank. You want people to have their own perspectives, difference of views. Right now, there is, I think, a fairly cohesive mainstream view that we’re getting closer to the point at which the domestic economy will support a rate hike, but it’s worth paying attention to these international developments.
Now, you have some people — Jeff Lacker dissented — who would like to hike today, and you have got a few who are already pushing back into next year, but I think the mainstream is saying, by the end of the year, probably, but we will keep an eye on things.
JEFFREY BROWN: But, just briefly, so in the meantime, you do have people breathing a sigh of relief in Europe, that are elsewhere who are looking to the U.S. economy as a driver still.
KRISHNA GUHA: Yes to some degree, but it’s also the case that, of course, if you’re sitting in Europe right now, the fact that the U.S. is not raising rates means the dollar is a bit weaker, means their currency, the euro, is a big stronger.
And if your economy still has a lot of challenges, like the European economy, you would actually perhaps prefer the Fed was hiking, so your currency would weaken and you would pick up some more trade.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right.
Krishna Guha, thank you so much.
KRISHNA GUHA: Thank you.
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GWEN IFILL: The word from the Federal Reserve today, interest rates aren’t going anywhere just yet.
The announcement ended weeks of speculation, but Wall Street wasn’t sure what to make of the news. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 65 points to close below 16675. The Nasdaq rose four points. And the S&P 500 slipped five. We will hear some of what the Fed had to say, and examine its reasoning, right after the news summary.
The flash point in the crisis engulfing Europe shifted to Croatia today with fresh scenes of chaos. Thousands of people poured into the country at a key border crossing with Serbia, after Hungary closed its border yesterday.
Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News reports from the scene.
JONATHAN MILLER: On the Croatian front of the crisis threatening to overwhelm this continent, even riot police proved hopelessly unable to contain the onward surge of refugees and migrants.
Hours waiting for a train which never came in blazing heat with insufficient water and in a total information vacuum was too much for the multitude who had streamed across the Serbian border into the European Union in the past 24 hours alone.
The desperation here is incredible. They have been pushing women through and manhandling little children over their heads to get them out of this crush, this chaos the knock-on effect of the closure of the gates to Hungary 100 miles northeast. It’s been obvious for days that a new route would open up through the Western Balkans, but somehow no one had expected this.
The U.N. Refugee Agency was nowhere to be seen. The handful of Croatian Red Cross workers were stretched beyond their limits. Women fainted, children became separated from their parents, but police didn’t use their batons. From early morning, fresh arrivals have streamed across the fields to the Tovarnik station, just 500 meters inside Croatia.
Thousands crowded on to the railway tracks. They have been told the train was coming to take them to Zagreb. There were Afghans, Syrians and Iraqis. There were Somalia and Eritreans too, many here acutely aware that in Western Europe, where they’re headed, there are large numbers of people who do not want to let them in.
MAN: We want to live in peace because we leave Syria to live in peace in Europe.
JONATHAN MILLER: As the temperature rose, so did the frustration. No sign of any train. Croatia’s interior minister turned up.
Are you overwhelmed?
RANKO OSTOJIC, Croatian Interior Minister: Absolutely, yes, because this country in this moment, the figures are very important. During the nine months, Croatia has 1,500 illegal immigrants altogether. We have in this 24 hours 6,500, and you ask me, are we overwhelmed? Yes. Absolutely yes.
JONATHAN MILLER: He said he spoke to the U.N. Refugee Agency to inform them this was their problem now. After weeks and sometimes months on the road, this international mass migration is unstoppable.
There has been barbed wire and tear gas, water cannon, boat capsizes, thirst, hunger and exhaustion, but they keep on coming, and they keep on keeping on.
GWEN IFILL: Austria and Slovenia have now imposed new border checks ahead of an expected surge in the thousand traveling through Croatia.
In South Sudan, a truck carrying gasoline exploded today, killing more than 100 people. It happened in a town west of the capital, Juba, as people were trying to siphon fuel. Officials say a crowd had gathered around the truck, when someone lit a cigarette.
Meanwhile, twin suicide bombings in Iraq killed at least 23 people and wounded nearly 70. The bombers blew themselves up at police checkpoints in mainly Shiite sections of Baghdad. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility.
Thousands in Chile spent the day sifting through debris after a powerful earthquake struck last night. At least 10 people were killed. The quake had a magnitude of 8.3, so strong that was felt across much of South America. Today, people in small towns along and near the Pacific coast picked through what was left after the quake and small tsunamis hit.
MAN (through interpreter): We never imagined the water could do so much damage. The earthquake didn’t do that much damage. It was the water. It was the tsunami that destroyed part of our lives. It destroyed our memories, our pictures.
GWEN IFILL: More than a million people were forced to evacuate their homes, but most of Chile was spared major damage.
The military in Burkina Faso seized power today, short-circuiting a democratic transition. Instead, the army installed a general with close ties to a former president who was ousted last year. Troops then broke up attempts to protest the coup. Hospitals filled with victims of the street clashes. At least three people were killed, and dozens more were wounded.
Back in this country, two more bodies were found in burned-out homes in Northern California. That makes five people killed in two major wildfires in recent days. The latest victims died in the so-called Valley Fire raging near Napa Valley, north of San Francisco.
And in Southern Utah, the death toll hit 19 in Monday’s flash floods. Search teams discovered another body today.
An American soldier accused of desertion in Afghanistan went before a military judge today for a crucial hearing. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl disappeared from his post in 2009 and was held by the Taliban for five years before being exchanged for five Taliban commanders. The hearing at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio will decide if Bergdahl is court-martialed.
The three Americans who helped foil an attack on a train bound for Paris got a White House welcome today. President Obama posed for pictures with Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, Army Specialist Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, and thanked them for confronting a would-be gunman.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: They represent the very best of America, American character. And, you know, it’s these kinds of young people who make me extraordinarily optimistic and hopeful about our future.
GWEN IFILL: The men were also given medals at a Pentagon ceremony. They had already received the Legion of Honor Medal, the highest award in France.
And there’s word of major progress against a deadly disease. U.N. health agencies report malaria deaths have fallen 60 percent in the last 15 years. That means more than six million lives saved, the vast majority of them are children in Africa. Officials also say the disease is far from eradicated. There have already been 214 million new cases just this year.
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As an educator and as a mother of a son attending public school, my initial response to what happened to Ahmed Mohamed is anger and disappointment. In case you haven’t heard, Ahmed is the 14-year-old freshman at Irving ISD’s MacArthur High School who was arrested for bring in a ‘suspicious device,’ which was actually a clock he had created to show his engineering teacher. His English teacher was afraid it was a fake bomb.
I am so tired of fear driving everything in education.
Fear: We’re frightened our diverse kids are getting inconsistent instruction.
Response: Here’s a standardized test to which we must direct most of our resources so every learner can pass.
Fear: Our students are in danger of being cyber-bullied and cyber-stalked.
Response: Let’s implement filters for the Internet completely inconsistent with anything they would encounter anywhere else, thereby leaving them without the skills to self-monitor and become a responsible digital citizen.
Fear: Someone will threaten the safety of our school by building a fake bomb.
Response: Arrest a student gifted in engineering for doing something challenging and honestly telling several authorities it was a clock.
Don’t get me wrong. I want my students to be safe.
This incident hits very close to home. I work in a district just down the road from Irving ISD. My son attends a school in my district. Two of my older siblings graduated from MacArthur High School, and that would have been my alma mater had I not attended private school instead. All of this to point out that safety, and safety in this particular context, is very near and dear to my heart.
I want my students to feel like they can attend school without being threatened. I want them to know that school is a place where learning can happen and where they can feel comfortable and secure.
I understand the fear of possible security breaches, but Ahmed explained to them it was a clock. When asked what it was by the English teacher, he said it was a clock. When he was asked by the police, he said it was a clock.
I wasn’t there. I do not presume to know every detail surrounding the event. But I do know this: Part of building a safe environment where people feel like they can take risks — which is necessary for any real learning to occur — is building trust. And when students are being interrogated without representation, when authorities are not believing what their students are telling them without any cause to be suspicious, when students are finally excited to share one of their creations only to be arrested as a result, I know that trust is not happening. I know that Ahmed no longer feels safe and secure. I know there won’t be much learning happening for him in that context. I also know the same is probably true for other students on that campus.
Amazingly, this event happened the day before teachers around the country celebrate Constitution Day, a day declared by the United States Senate in 2004 to commemorate the adoption of the Constitution.
Now, I reflect, what does it mean to be “more perfect”? It conjures liberty and peace and compassion but at the center, before all of that, there should be safety. What does it mean to be a “union”? To be inclusive, resisting the urge to exclude or marginalize others.
When a school makes choices that divide a community and is not willing to admit wrongdoing or the need to revisit practices, certain community members are left feeling excluded.
There’s no union in that. There’s no strength in that. There’s no perfection in that.
Perhaps, Ahmed’s story is an ideal counterpoint to Constitution Day. It’s a poignant reminder that on this day just as any, we must not allow fear to guide our decisions. We must remain vigilant and continue to advocate for the ideals our nation sought on September 17, 1787:
…to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.
Janelle Bence is a ninth grade English facilitator at New Tech High at Coppell. She is dedicated to designing authentic learning opportunities where her learners gain literacy skills and develop global competencies. Her passion is helping her learners find their voices to make a difference in this ever-changing world.
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WASHINGTON — The Marine Corps is expected to ask that women not be allowed to compete for several front-line combat jobs, inflaming tensions between Navy and Marine leaders, U.S. officials say.
The tentative decision has ignited a debate over whether Navy Secretary Ray Mabus can veto any Marine Corps proposal to prohibit women from serving in certain infantry and reconnaissance positions. And it puts Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Marine Corps commandant who takes over soon as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at odds with the other three military services, who are expected to open all of their combat jobs to women.
No final decisions have been made or forwarded to Pentagon leaders, but officials say Defense Secretary Ash Carter is aware of the dispute and intends to review the Marine plan. The Marine Corps is part of the Navy, so Mabus is secretary of both services.
The ongoing divide has put Dunford in the spotlight as he prepares to start his new job next week. And it puts him in a somewhat awkward position of eventually having to review and pass judgment — as chairman — on a waiver request that he submitted himself while serving as Marine commandant.
The debate includes jabs at Mabus for his public criticism of the Marine plan that triggered a call for his resignation from a member of Congress.
Officials say the Army, Navy and Air Force are expected to allow women to serve in all combat jobs and will not ask Carter for any exceptions. They say that Special Operations Command is also likely to allow women to compete for the most demanding military commando jobs — including the Navy SEALs — though with the knowledge that it may be years before women even try to enter those fields.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
Mabus on Monday made his position clear.
“I’m not going to ask for an exemption for the Marines, and it’s not going to make them any less fighting effective,” he said, adding that the Navy SEALs also will not seek any waivers. “I think they will be a stronger force because a more diverse force is a stronger force. And it will not make them any less lethal.”
Hunter, who served as a Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Mabus’ comments raise questions about whether he can be objective and continue to lead the Marine Corps. And he said Mabus should have no role in any decisions about women in the Marine Corps.
Under the current plan, the service chiefs will present their plans to the service secretaries, who will then forward recommendations to Carter. He will make the final decisions by the end of the year.
If Dunford does seek the exception, it puts the new Joint Chiefs chairman at odds with public statements by Carter asserting that anyone, regardless of gender, who meets the standards and requirements for a job should be allowed to do it.
Informing Dunford’s decision is the Marine Corps’ yearlong study on gender integration. It concluded that, overall, male-only units performed better than gender-integrated units. It found that the male-only infantry units shot more accurately, could carry more weight and move more quickly through specific tactical movements. It also concluded that women had higher injury rates than men, including stress fractures that likely resulted from carrying heavy loads.
The report acknowledged that “female Marines have performed superbly in the combat environments of Iraq and Afghanistan and are fully part of the fabric of a combat-hardened Marine Corps after the longest period of continuous combat operations in the Corps’ history.”
Women make up less than 8 percent of the Marine Corps, the smallest percentage across the four active-duty services.
But the report also pointed to the 25-year-old report by a presidential commission on women in the armed forces that concluded: “Risking the lives of a military unit in combat to provide career opportunities or accommodate the personal desires or interests of an individual, or group of individuals, is more than bad military judgment. It is morally wrong.”
Mabus, however, told the City Club of Cleveland that while the Marines did a long study of the matter, it relied on averages — such as the average woman can’t carry as much or perform as quickly as a man.
“The other way to look at it is we’re not looking for average,” said Mabus. “There were women that met this standard, and a lot of the things there that women fell a little short in can be remedied by two things: training and leadership.”
The services have been slowly integrating women into previously male-only roles, including as Army artillery officers and sailors on Navy submarines. Adding to the debate was the groundbreaking graduation last month of two women in the Army’s grueling Ranger course.
In January 2013, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey signed an order wiping away generations of limits on women fighting for their country, ordering a quarter-million positions open regardless of gender. They called for sweeping reviews of the physical requirements for combat jobs and gave the military services until January 2016 to argue if any positions should remain closed to women.
What happens when you attach a weighted stick to the back of a chicken? Where is the most painful place on the body to be stung by a bee? Can we diagnose appendicitis just by driving over speed bumps?
These aren’t the questions that have plagued humanity for years, but a few brave scientists were willing to explore these baffling riddles. On Thursday, they were rewarded for their efforts at the 25th First Annual Ig Nobel Prizes ceremony at Harvard University. According to their website, the Ig Nobel awards are meant to “celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.”
Previous Ig Nobel prizes have gone to a scientist who developed a method for determining which bug just hit your windshield (Entomology), the British Royal Navy, for ordering sailors to yell out ‘Bang’ instead of using live cannon shells (Peace), and the scientists who demonstrated that high-priced placebos were more effective than low-priced placebos (Medicine). The awards carry a cash prize of 10 trillion Zimbabwean dollars, and are handed out by genuine Nobel Laureates.
Here are a few highlights from this year’s ceremony:
BIOLOGY PRIZE: The prize went to a group of Chilean and American scientists who observed that when you attach a weighted stick to the rear end of a chicken, it walks like a dinosaur. The experiment was meant to see if birds, which share many common traits with their reptilian ancestors, could provide clues about dinosaur locomotion.
Video by YouTube user Francis Villatoro
ECONOMICS PRIZE: The prize went to Thai police who offered more money to officers who did not take bribes. As reported by several news sources, Thai police officers were being offered 10,000 baht, or $310, if they refused small ($3) bribes in the course of their every day duties.
PHYSIOLOGY PRIZE: The prize went to Michael L. Smith, who used one test subject (himself) to determine which locations on the body were most painful to be stung by a bee. Most painful locations were the nostril, upper lip and penis shaft.
MATHEMATICS PRIZE: The prize went to two Austrian/German scientists who calculated whether Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty, the Sharifian Emperor of Morocco could have really fathered 888 children from 1697 through 1727. The result? It’s possible. (If you have sex once or twice a day every single day).
PHYSICS PRIZE: The prize was awarded to a group of Taiwanese and American scientists who tested the biological principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (give or take 13 seconds).This proves that duration of urination does not change with body size.
In addition to the awards, the ceremony featured a mini opera and something called “24/7 Lectures,” in which “some of the world’s top thinkers” explain their work first in 24 seconds and then again in seven words that “anyone can understand.” And then there’s the tradition of throwing paper airplanes at the stage.
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WASHINGTON — A divided House voted Friday to block Planned Parenthood’s federal funds for a year, as Republican leaders tried to keep GOP outrage over abortion from spiraling into an impasse with President Barack Obama that could shut down the government.
The House voted 241-187 for the legislation, with just three Republicans and two Democrats defecting from their party lines. The measure stands little chance of enactment, since Senate Democrats have enough votes to block it and for good measure the White House has promised a veto.
Yet Republicans are forging ahead, sparked by secretly recorded videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing how they take tissue from aborted fetuses for medical research.
Those videos have helped mushroom the longtime political fight over abortion into a prominent issue for next year’s elections. They’ve also refueled Congress’ always-emotional clashes on the subject, with Friday’s debate featuring a poster-sized photo of a scarred, aborted fetus and accusations from each side that the other was simply trying to drum up campaign donations.
“In the face of these videos, with all the alternatives women have for health, why would you want to force your constituents to pay for something so evil?” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
The bill by Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., would shift Planned Parenthood’s federal payments to the thousands of government-backed community health centers, which Republicans said would treat the group’s displaced patients. Most of the organization’s $450 million yearly in federal money — a third of its overall budget — comes from Medicaid reimbursements for treating low-income clients, and virtually none of it can be used for abortions.
Democrats said other clinics are already overburdened and often distant from women who need them. They said the true GOP goal was to whip up conservative voters with bills that would result in diminished health care for women.
“Some of their members are willing to risk women’s lives just to score political points,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. “Enough is enough.”
Abortion opponents say the tapes show Planned Parenthood illegally profited from tissue sales for research. Planned Parenthood says it’s acted legally and says the tapes were deceptively edited.
The GOP assault on Planned Parenthood was being waged on several fronts.
By 248-177, the House also approved a bill by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., imposing penalties of up to five years in prison plus fines on doctors who don’t try to save infants born alive during abortions. It, too, faces likely Senate defeat and an Obama veto threat.
The Senate was ready to vote Tuesday on a measure banning most late-term abortions that Democrats were poised to scuttle. Committees from both chambers were investigating Planned Parenthood.
Yet it was unclear if those moves would help House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, solve a political Rubik’s Cube.
Boehner, a long-time abortion foe, has twin goals.
He’s hoping to satisfy conservative lawmakers who might try to oust him as leader for not adequately confronting Obama. But he’s also trying to avoid a shutdown fight that GOP leaders worry would damage the party’s standing with voters and that they say they couldn’t win, because they lack the votes to prevail in the Senate or override Obama vetoes.
As a result, party leaders want to avoid entwining the GOP effort to halt Planned Parenthood’s money with must-pass legislation needed to keep government agencies from closing on Oct. 1.
The fight over abortion touches an emotional hotspot among each side’s most loyal partisans and could be pivotal as each party seeks female voters.
Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., sponsor of the bill imposing criminal penalties on doctors, defended his legislation as he stood beside a poster-sized photo of a scarred fetus that survived an abortion attempt.
“Our response as a people and a nation to these horrors shown in these videos is vital to everything those lying out in Arlington Cemetery died to save,” Franks said.
Democrats said Franks’ measure was unneeded because clinicians allowing born-alive babies to die would face murder charges.
“Its real intent is to further undermine a woman’s right to choose,” said Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif.
The Planned Parenthood issue has been partly fueled by the race for the GOP’s presidential nomination. Several candidates used their Wednesday night debate to urge lawmakers to block the funding.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., spotlighted GOP divisions by writing Thursday to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, one of the presidential hopefuls. Cruz wants Republicans to oppose financing the government unless Planned Parenthood’s money is cut off.
Ayotte, who faces her own tough re-election fight next year, wrote that she opposed risking a shutdown “given the challenges and threats we face at home and abroad” and asked, “What is your strategy to succeed in actually defunding Planned Parenthood?”
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For 29 years now, Paul Solman’s reports on the NewsHour have been trying to make sense of economic news and research for a general audience. Since 2007, our Making Sen$e page has vowed to do the same, turning to leading academics and thinkers in the fields of business and economics to help explain what’s interesting and relevant about their work. That includes reports and interviews with economists affiliated with the esteemed National Bureau of Economic Research.
Founded in 1920, NBER is a private nonprofit research organization devoted to objective study of the American economy in all its dazzling diversity, combining data with rigorous analysis to describe and explain the material world in which we live long before data analytics became fashionable. “Why Some Women Try to Have It All: New Research on Like Mother Like Daughter” and “Why Does the First Child Get the Gold? An Economics Answer” have been among our most popular posts on Making Sen$e, both of them largely based on NBER research. We thought our readership might benefit from a closer relationship.
Each month, the NBER Digest summarizes several recent NBER working papers. These papers have not been peer-reviewed, but are circulated by their authors for comment and discussion. With the NBER’s blessing, Making Sen$e is pleased to begin featuring these summaries regularly on our page.
The following summary was written by the NBER and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Making Sen$e. We will tell you, however, what the takeaway is: The fracking boom has increased demand for low-skilled workers, raising local incomes and increasing the high school dropout rates among male teens.
A defining feature of the U.S. labor market since the 1970s has been a rising premium for skill. The disparity between the wages of high- and low-skilled workers has increased in part because the economy has evolved in a way that has raised the relative demand for high-skilled workers. But over the past decade, the advent of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has fueled a structural transformation of some local economies. In locations as diverse as North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas, these technologies have sharply increased the demand for low-skilled workers.
In “Who Needs a Fracking Education? The Educational Response to Low-Skill Biased Technological Change” (NBER Working Paper No. 21359), Elizabeth U. Cascio and Ayushi Narayan find that the new extraction technologies have raised local incomes, especially for low-skilled workers, while also increasing high school dropout rates among male teens. They take advantage of the timing of fracking’s widespread introduction and of variation in shale oil and gas reserves across locations to document a correspondence between the rising dropout rate and the higher wages available to dropouts.
The authors find that local labor demand shocks from fracking have been biased toward low-skilled workers and toward men, reducing the male return to high school completion. This lends empirical support to the notion that fracking represents low-skill biased technological change. They also find that fracking has increased the high school dropout rates of male teens, but not of female teens. Absent fracking, they estimate that the male-female gap in high school dropout rates among 17- to 18-year-olds in the average area with fracking would have narrowed by about 11 percent between 2000 and 2013. Instead, it was unchanged.
The findings imply that there may be long-lived labor market consequences associated with energy-related economic booms. The decision to drop out of school could well be a rational one in the face of increases in the relative wages of low-skilled workers. Nevertheless, the authors suggest that some students could be making a mistake by putting too much weight on the present and that this may have implications for future productivity and the social safety net. By the end of their data sample, in 2013, even though the price of oil remained high, the labor demand from fracking also no longer appeared to favor dropouts. This suggests the possibility that the relatively large income benefits of fracking for high school dropouts were only temporary. Further work is needed to explore potential differences in the impact of skill-biased technological change on wage differentials and educational decisions at other points in the skill distribution.
— Les Picker, National Bureau of Economic Research
WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump drew fire from Democrats and some Republicans Friday after declining to correct a questioner at a town hall event who wrongly said President Barack Obama is Muslim.
“He knew, or he should have known, that what that man was asking was not only way out of bounds, it was untrue,” Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, said after a campaign event in New Hampshire. “He should have from the beginning repudiated that kind of rhetoric, that level of hatefulness.”
The question to Trump came Thursday night at a town hall in Rochester, New Hampshire. The first person the billionaire real estate mogul called on said, “We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims.”
“We know our current president is one,” the man continued. “You know he’s not even an American.”
Trump, a driver of the “birther” movement that falsely claimed Obama wasn’t born in the U.S., first responded with feigned exasperation — “We need the question,” he said, to laughs — before letting the man continue.
“We have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question,” the man in the audience continued. “When can we get rid of it?”
Trump did not dispute the man’s assertion that militants operate training camps on American soil and said he’d heard others raise the issue.
“We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things. And you know, a lot of people are saying that, and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there,” said Trump. “We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.”
At the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday it was unfortunate that Trump “wasn’t able to summon the same kind of patriotism” that Republican Sen. John McCain showed in 2008, when he took the microphone away from a woman who said she didn’t trust Obama because he was Arab.
“Mr. Trump isn’t the first Republican politician to countenance these kind of views in order to win votes,” Earnest said. “That’s precisely what every Republican presidential candidate is doing when they decline to denounce Mr. Trump’s cynical strategy.”
But South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham was happy to criticize Trump, saying via Twitter, “There is a right way to handle these situations and a wrong way to handle these situations, Donald.”
Graham tweeted a link to a story about how he condemned a racist comment during a political event earlier this year in Iowa, and then beat the man who made it in a game of pool.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said that “if somebody at one of my town meetings said something like that, I would correct him.” But Christie, appearing Friday on NBC’s “Today” show, also said it is up to Trump to decide how to handle such situations, adding, “I’m not going to lecture him about what to do.”
Trump did not respond to shouted questions about the exchange as he left the event, but his campaign released a statement in response that focused on the treatment of Christians in the country.
“The media wants to make this issue about Obama. The bigger issue is that Obama is waging a war against Christians in this country,” it read. “Christians need support in this country. Their religious liberty is at stake.”
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said that the room was noisy and that Trump had trouble hearing the question. But the questioner was speaking into a microphone, and his remarks could be heard clearly by several journalists sitting near the back of the gymnasium.
Trump was scheduled to appear Friday night at a forum for Republican presidential candidates in South Carolina but pulled out of the event. In a statement, his campaign said “a significant business transaction that was expected to close Thursday” had been delayed, keeping Trump from attending.
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Editor’s note: This story is part of a series, The Wild Side of Sea Level Rise, which explores the basic research behind ocean expansion and its impacts on coastal ecology.
If you drive north on I-95 between Brunswick and Darien, Georgia, and peek over the overpass, your eyes will be drawn to a tranquil sea of grass that stretches for miles toward the Atlantic Ocean. But a closer look at these wetlands reveals something else. A giant outdoor experiment called SALTEx.
When one thinks about climate change, the mind is naturally drawn to the big shifts. Giant glaciers will melt into the sea; huge hurricanes will batter cities like New York or New Orleans. But on Georgia’s Altahama river delta and sea islands, the effects of sea level rise are already being felt, like tiny cuts. The wound is slow.
SALTEx isn’t just a lab in the wilderness, it’s a time machine. It is a large-scale simulation of a one devastating side effect of rising seas: saltwater intrusion into freshwater habitat. SALTEx shows what happens when this slow wound becomes an ulcer. Salts seep into tiny pores in the soil and stick. Toxic microbes multiply in the soil, each one burping out a microscopic amount of poisonous gas. Plant roots, the glue of the marsh, begin to recede, and the land sinks.
This gradual exposure to more saltwater is poisonous for freshwater wildlife, and the problem isn’t limited to marshes on the coast. Saltwater is pushing further upstream into rivers. Already, centuries-old trees are beginning to die miles from the shore as the ocean migrates inland into freshwater rivers.
The SALTex project is part of the Georgia Coastal Ecosystems Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) project. There are 25 LTER sites worldwide, funded by the National Science Foundation, that study long-term transitions in different ecosystems. Marine scientist Merryl Alber directs the Georgia Coastal Ecosystems project as well as the University of Georgia Marine Institute.
Unlike a typical science study, which may last three to four years, Alber and her colleagues run single projects that extend for a decade or longer. By taking extra time, the researchers can dig deeper into the myriad nature of ecosystems.
The salt marshes of the Altamaha river delta and its barrier islands are an ecological cathedral. This coastal region shows what happens in a relatively pure environment. Researchers here devote much of their time to studying the alarming and already-very-present outcomes of sea level rise. And if wildlife becomes imperiled here, it may spell worse tidings for other coastal habitats.
Do it yourself sea level rise
Do it yourself sea level rise
With sea level rise, each tide doesn’t just wear away the marsh; it chips away an ecosystem that has existed for 5,000 years.
Our tour of SALTEx began at a Meridian dock, about 10 miles away from the actual study site. We reached the dock at dawn, as a fog hung, thick and low, over the marshes north of Darien, Georgia. Alber along with wetlands scientists Christ Craft, Ellen Herbert and Dontrece Smith welcomed us near the landing, with a white ferry bobbing behind. The ferry is the primary means of transport between the mainland and the marine institute’s camp on nearby Sapelo Island.
Smith began this workday, as he does four mornings per week, by using a motorized pump to lift 4,000 pounds of ocean water into a giant plastic tank loaded onto a pickup truck. Once done, we drove through Darien, where live oak trees line two-lane roads like a guard of honor.Their branches extend in a salute with spanish moss drooping like oversized sleeves.
We park by the entrance of a long levee that acts as one of SALTEx’s borders. Fire ants scurry everywhere, and frenzied mosquitoes bite through clothes. One bites my lip within seconds of opening the car door. We walk along a levee, the ground hard and sandy, until we reach the boardwalk.
Craft and Alber developed the idea for SALTEx in 2010. Building anything in a marsh is challenging. The soft ground and heat want to absorb or rot most materials like a swamp monster. So Craft and Herbert, who are based at Indiana University, recruited a platoon of students and technicians to put a plan in action.
Over the next two years, their team performed pilot studies and gained land permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct a 1,250-foot boardwalk through the soggy marsh. The foot-wide boardwalk is made from plastic lumber that allows light and water to penetrate. The support structures are recycled plastic four times heavier than plywood. (Regular lumber could potentially affect organisms in the plots.) It took a year of assembling and laying out the segments — plank by plank — to build the boardwalk.
In April 2014, the SALTEx team began treating this freshwater habitat with saltwater. The team obviously can’t drive a heavy truck and its saltwater tank directly onto a muddy marsh, so they’ve built a 110-foot-long pvc pipe to link the pickup to two holding containers adjacent to the plots.
“The river is just on the other side of those trees,” Craft said. “We have a 1,000-foot pipe that goes out there to pump freshwater. We mix fresh and saltwater to our desired concentration in these holding tanks, and then Dontrece pumps the water to the plots over a 3,000-foot network of pipes.”
Saltex is organized into a grid of 30 squares — 10-by-10 meter plots. Each plot has four species of freshwater plant and a fountain spout connected to the holding tanks. The plots are either controls or receive one of two saltwater treatments: press or pulse.
Craft described “press” plots as chain smokers because they receive continual saltwater exposure throughout the year. Pulse plots, in contrast, are occasional smokers that get hit with salty water only during September and October.
Pulse plots simulate what happens during drought conditions when the water volume coming down the river is low. Ocean water fills the void by moving further upstream at high tide. During droughts, salt concentrations in the river near SALTEx can jump 25-fold — from 0.2 to 5 practical salinity units. So the team is using water with 5 practical salinity units to press and pulse plots, even though they predict droughts will become more severe and more frequent in the future.
Stepping into the marsh between the SALTEx plots, we’re immediately surrounded by five-foot tall cutgrass, which, as its name suggests, can slice through skin. Twinkie-sized grasshoppers crawl on its treacherous blades. Other marsh plants, like primrose willow, smartweed and pickerelweed fill the plots too. It’s low tide, and tiny crabs traipse in the mud.
On the surface, they’ve found what you would expect: higher salinity kills freshwater plants. But the plants are dying much faster than anyone expected. And the real changes are happening underground, Herbert says.
“The marsh grass is extremely productive. The amount of biomass and plant material that they produce every year is on par with tropical forests,” she said. “That biomass and plant material is part of the physical structure of these soils. Live and dead roots from the plants build the volumes of the soils.”
Marsh plants hold the sediment together, not only with their roots but also, when they die, with their corpses. The plants are the glue. Normally, with rising oceans, the marshes would have the natural ability to grow vertically against sea level by accumulating dead plant material, Hebert said. But the researchers have learned that elevated exposure to saltwater stunts this replenishment. By using a sedimentation erosion table, in essence a narrow pipe driven 50 feet into the ground, Craft has found that marsh plots at SALTEx are sinking – at twice the normal rate.
“We expected this sort of degradation and decline of the marsh over about a four or five-year period, but we’re seeing it in the second year of the study. It’s happening faster than we thought,” Craft said.
The significance of this finding is troubling. As saltwater intrudes and more plants die, the marsh sediment will likely begin to degrade and dissolve. The result: the marsh land will sink, allowing more ocean water to creep onto the coast.
At the root of the problem is a shift in soil chemistry. Seawater has a lot of sodium chloride — that’s the common salt in our saltshakers — but it harbors other dissolved salts too, like sulfate. Some microorganisms use sulfate as fuel to grow and reproduce. They’re called sulfate-reducing bacteria, and they produce hydrogen sulfide gas.
More seawater means more hydrogen sulfide gas. That’s a problem because this gas is toxic to freshwater plants, Craft said.
Extra salinity also poisons a kind of bacteria that allow freshwater wetlands to serve as nature’s kidneys.
“Creeks and rivers are like arteries that feed our waste from cities and farms toward the ocean. Wetlands clean out the muck and waste,” Alber said. Nitrate is a major water pollutant in this waste.
Microbes called denitrifying bacteria are vital to the health of freshwater wetlands and removing waste. Denitrifying bacteria take nitrate and turn it into nitrogen gas, which is a key component of our atmosphere.
“When you add seawater, it poisons these bacteria, and so the wetlands’ ability to remove nitrogen and keep the water clean is going to be compromised,” Craft said.
Bald Eagle Squatter
Bald Eagle Squatter
At SALTEx, scientists have artificially simulated saltier conditions. But downstream, saltwater intrusion is occurring naturally and you can see the impact.
We left SALTEx just before noon and hopped on a speed boat at nearby Two-way Fish Camp. We snaked south through branches of the river until we were just an eyeshot away from the Buttermilk Sound, four miles down river from SALTex.
A field of brackish marsh spread before us. Saw grass and wheatlike spartina grass formed the leading edge, while black needlerush poked up behind and filled the rest of our views. And just 300 yards from us, tall woody skeletons sprung from the marsh. These centuries-old bald cypress trees stood like starved sentinels. Grey spanish moss clung to the faded bark, which split as if festered with bursting boil. In the leafless branches, bald eagles had built nests. Known as snags, these dying cypresses feel like ghosts of the marsh.
“We think of this area as an analog to sea level rise. As the estuary becomes saltier, and the saltwater moves into these historically freshwater areas that would have been dominated by charismatic tidal marsh trees like cypress and tupelo gum,” Herbert tells me through ruby red sunglasses. She has an energetic spirit that comes naturally to a freshly minted doctorate and the determination and grit required to work in a damn swamp.
“What you see behind us are the dead snags, and the grasses moving in underneath,” she said. “Obviously that’s a huge transition for the ecosystem, both in terms of the species that want to exist there and the physical structure of the estuary.”
As our boat pilot and marine scientist Jacob Shalack swung our speeder around, Herbert explained that this trend won’t just be transformational near the ocean, but could also seep deep inland. We zoomed fifteen miles upstream, where the team monitors the threat in a patch of freshwater forest that is naturally being exposed to increasing amounts of saltwater with each rising tide.
“There’s probably 15 different tree species in here,” Craft said pointing one by one. “Two species of gum — tupelo gum and black gum as well. There’s wet oaks in here, red maple, and then there’s this big understory of palmetto that also grows in drier areas.”
All of these trees are at risk. Two years ago, the team donned a thin steel belt around 40 cypress trees. The belt — called a dendrometer — tracks the tree’s growth rate as the trunk expands. By measuring the tree’s “waistline” at regular intervals, the team can determine if saltwater intrusion is slowing the trees’ growth and ultimately killing them.
“We think the growth rates will go down, but we’re going to make our first set of measurements this winter,” Craft said.
After lunch at Mud Cat Charlie’s, we venture back to Meridian dock for the afternoon ferry to nearby Sapelo Island. As we cruise across the sound, I chat with Alber about the legacy of the University of Georgia Marine Institute, which is housed there.
An emerald isle of grass
An emerald isle of grass
Sapelo Island is an emerald relic of the Ol’ South. Unlike nearby sea islands like Saint Simon’s or Hilton’s Head, which became resorts about a century ago, Sapelo has remained unblemished. On the barrier island’s north side, green marshes and live oak forests exist alongside deserted plantations called Chocolate and Raccoon Bluff, names that betray the area’s pre-civil war roots. To the south, fewer than 60 residents occupy the historically all-black, former slave community of Hog Hammock — the island’s sole town. A handful of paved roads, dubbed the Autobahn, wind from Hog Hammock to the Long Tabby grass air strip and south to an old lighthouse near Nanny Goat beach and the marine institute.
Sapelo Island is also considered the birthplace of coastal ecology, Alber said.
During the early 1900s, Sapelo was owned by Detroit-based automotive pioneer Howard Coffin, who kept the island as a speculative ranch and private getaway. He entertained guests like aviator Charles Lindbergh and presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover. When the Great Depression ruined Coffin, R.J. Reynolds Jr., a tobacco tycoon and future co-creator of Delta Airlines, purchased most of the island in 1934.
Ironically, these two industrialists kept Sapelo from industry. Rather than build beach condos, they allowed nature to persevere. Causeways to the mainland eventually became too expensive to justify, so the marshy island remained unburdened by modernity.
“If you fly over at night, you’d likely miss the island. Without light pollution, it blends into the dark salt marsh and ocean on the Atlantic shelf,” Alber said. McIntosh county, where Sapelo and the Altamaha delta, remains the least developed area on the Georgia coast.
Sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s, RJ Reynolds met Eugene Odum, a biologist at UGA whom some regard as the father of modern ecology.
“Odum came out here to see rare birds, and they met. The legend goes that they shared a bottle of scotch and Reynolds was impressed by Odum’s passion for ecology,” Alber said.
And so the UGA Marine Institute was born. Ultimately, Reynold’s wife, Annemarie Schmidt, bequeathed their land to the state of Georgia, which converted much of the island into a nature preserve.
When we arrived, Alber gave us a tour of the converted dairy complex that Reynolds donated for the institute’s home. Aquamarine tiles line the floors. A milking room now houses big autoclaves for sterilizing beakers. We pass by a drying oven, where plant specimens are preserved by baking. It smells like herbs roasting on Thanksgiving. Step outside, and you’ll face a courtyard and a fountain covered with stone turkeys.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the institute became a haven for long-term research. Rather than work on a project for days or weeks at a time, scientists could spend years on an outdoor investigation. In the early decades, it wasn’t unusual for scientists to make the marine institute their home, while they made landmark discoveries. For instance, biologist John Teal lived on the island from 1955 to 1959, in which time he recorded the first carbon budget for a marsh. His 1962 publication on the work would ultimately lead to the discovery that salt marshes are an enormous carbon sink.
Salt marshes can store twice to four times as much carbon as mature tropical rainforests. Once a place like the Amazon reaches its full capacity, meaning no more land can be covered by terrestrial plants, the rate at which the forest continues to be a sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide levels off. In salt marshes, that is not the case. They become larger sinks for CO2 as plant matter builds and buries organic carbon in the sediments.
“If we lose these habitats to sea-level rise, it’s possible that more carbon and other greenhouse gases will be left in the atmosphere, which could exacerbate global warming,” said UGA biochemist Chuck Hopkinson, who has continued Teal’s work by examining how rising seas influence salt marsh evolution and the maintenance of carbon cycles.
To see what this means for carbon cycles, the team built a tower in the middle of a salt marsh near the Duplin River, which drains from the island into the Atlantic ocean. The tower continuously measures the exchange of carbon between the marsh and the atmosphere (10 measurements every second).
“When you look at the flux tower data, the rate of carbon dioxide exchange drops very rapidly when the marsh becomes flooded,” Hopkinson said, as we teetered on a narrow footbridge, seven feet above the muddy, crab-covered ground.
When high tides flood the marsh, scientists suspect that much of the carbon that would normally be trapped in the sediment is being caught by the tidal water and drained out of the marsh at low tide. Analysis of water samples collected at the mouth of the tidal creek that floods and drains the flux tower marsh confirms this.
“Right now, our preliminary estimates are that maybe 10 or 50 percent of the carbon dioxide that normally would have gone to and from the atmosphere is going out in the tidal creek water,” Hopkinson said.
That’s a concern because that extra carbon seeps into other environments, like the ocean, and can get released back into the atmosphere.
$2 billion squeeze
$2 billion squeeze
So what does saltwater intrusion at the Altamaha river mean for the rest of the coast?
The Chesapeake Bay, where marsh ecologist Matthew Kirwan works is dealing with the fastest rate of sea level rise along the Atlantic coast. Kirwan’s family has lived along the bay for thousands of years, so he’s had a front seat to the transformation.
“Next to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, I can see places where my relatives used to have a vegetable garden. I can see places where there were strawberry fields that then became trees and now all that’s left is marsh with dead trees above it. They were growing strawberries there until maybe four years ago,” Kirwan said.
Much of the bay is rural, so for now, there is room for marshes to migrate inland. On the whole, the Chesapeake Bay is losing as much marsh to sea level rise as it’s gaining through inland intrusion. However, there are spots where migrating marshes are starting to bump into land developments.
Such is the case for the Chesapeake’s Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge has lost more than 5,000 acres of tidal marsh over the last century. “Outside of Louisiana, Blackwater is the posterchild for marsh loss in the world, said Kirwan, who works at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and for the Virginia LTER.
There too, the rapid marsh loss is a threat to the wildlife, which is slowly losing its protected home. In response, the state and some conservation groups are buying the farmland that surrounds the refuge. As of January, they had purchased about 2,300 acres or about half of what’s been lost to sea level rise. However, there are no guarantees if this solution will work long-term, especially with Maryland residents.
And similar to the Altamaha delta, as waters rise, the coastal forest is dying too, but Kirwan doesn’t think that’s all bad.
“If you go out in the field and look at where the marsh meets the land, a pessimist is going to see a lot of dead and dying trees. An optimist sees a beautiful marsh growing under those dead trees. That new marsh is providing a wonderful habitat for some birds. It’s sequestering a lot of carbon, and it’s protecting us from storms.”,” Kirwan said.
Back along the Altamaha river, Alber is concerned that there isn’t room for freshwater landscapes to move inland as sea levels rise.
A 2010 study commissioned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that residential development in McIntosh County had recently experienced a surge, and a 2012 report by the Georgia Conservancy says the county has “the largest percentage of residential land threatened by flooding due to sea level rise.” For the Georgia coast in general, Climate Central says that $2.5 billion in property value sits on land less than three feet above the local high tide line. This report predicts sea levels in this region to rise by a foot by 2050 and close to four feet by 2100.
“There’s no place for the tidal fresh forest to move further upstream, because those areas are developed. So there’s concern about what will happen to the wildlife that depend on these areas,” Alber said. “If there were no humans on the landscape, this would probably just roll into new areas. But that isn’t something that can happen here.”
In the future, coastal residents will be forced to decide whether to vacate or protect themselves through coastal armouring. As a defense against sea level rise, people are building physical structures, like bulkhead or riprap, to block the oncoming waves. Kirwan says 20 percent of the Chesapeake Bay is armored, but these structures doom the marsh by preventing migration.
I spent a night on a Sapelo Island in one of the marine institute’s dorms. It resembled a beachside bungalow, except its vista was of a vast salt marsh. Generations of researchers have lived in these houses during their long studies at the institute. Decades earlier, Chuck Hopkinson lived for 10 years with his family in an adjacent house. His second daughter was born there.
On the beach that night, I scanned the night sky for the Big Dipper and the North Star. It’s always comforting to know where you’re going. High above us, a plane flew over, with passengers who likely couldn’t see this dark marshy island, and its uncertain future.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Now to our regular feature Brief But Spectacular.
Tonight, author and comedian Baratunde Thurston on using humor to educate and skewer racism with satire.
BARATUNDE THURSTON, Author/Comedian: When you are the black friend in your circle of people, that means you’re the one black person that these friends have, you’re kind of like a double agent, and you help prevent all-out thermonuclear war.
I grew up in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C., before it was flooded by white people. I was raised by my mother alone. My father was killed when I was 7 or 8 years old. And my mom worked for the government, no college degree, very self-taught, the most resourceful and intelligent person I have ever known.
In college, I started writing a satirical e-mail newsletter. And I got very frustrated that my peers at Harvard University didn’t know anything about what was going on in the world. So, I’m like, yes, we’re paying 38 bagillion dollars a second to be here. You should know what’s going on in Sri Lanka. And I took it upon myself to educate my peers with less stridency and more hilarity.
I served at The Onion for about five years as political editor and director of digital strategy. And for the most part, I was the black people at The Onion. The Onion does a lot of great photo art, so I played the part of a lot of other black people in the Photoshop job. I was the mayor of Detroit. I was all three Supremes. I was President Obama’s hand, and I wrote, like, executive orders with that hand. It was powerful.
The book “How to Be Black” is mostly a memoir, and it’s peppered with satirical lessons that I have learned along the way, how to be the black employee, how to be the black friend, how to be the next black president.
If a white person is holding a book called “How to Be Black,” they’re like, oh, you poor thing. Like, you think a book is going to change this for you? But if a black person is holding it, they’re like, oh, you poor thing. Do you need a refresher course? And so I’m glad to have offered that into the world.
Racism is an absurd act in our history as well. And so, sometimes, we have got to come at it sideways, come at it comedically to try to move forward politically.
My name is Baratunde Thurston. This is my Brief But Spectacular take on how to be black.
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