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

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    Photo by David Sucsy/Getty Images

    Photo by David Sucsy/Getty Images

    The amount of time a child in foster care waits to be adopted has dropped dramatically since 2000, an improvement that is no accident, according to child welfare advocates.

    About 102,000 children were waiting to be adopted in 2013, the latest year for available data, down more than 20 percent since 2000, the Annie E. Casey Foundation reported recently. Kids who must wait three years or more to be adopted also has gone down by more than one-third during that same time.

    In 2000, nearly half of all children in foster care waited at least three years to be adopted. Now, 31 percent of these children wait that long, and 56 percent of them wait between 12 and 35 months before they are adopted, according to Annie E. Casey Foundation.

    States Speeding Up Adoption Wait Times
    Percent of children waiting to be adopted

    Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation

    Kim Stevens, an adoptive parent and project director for Advocates for Families First, said several factors led to these positive results. The federal government now monitors children in foster care better than they did, she said, and child welfare workers and agencies share best practices more than they used to. And unlike 13 years ago, there’s a growing movement to involve children and families in foster care to innovate the system and develop new strategies, she said.

    While the improvement is welcome, the work is not finished, Stevens stressed. More than half of the children in foster care in some states, such as New York, Illinois and Hawaii, still wait at least three years before they are adopted, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s data. By comparison, Utah produced among the fastest adoption placement figures nationwide. In 2013, Utah found adoptive families for nearly one-third of its foster care children less than a year after those children entered the system.

    “We know the longer a kid waits in care, the less likely it is that they’re going to find a permanent family, so it’s important that we do our job quickly and well,” Stevens said.

    The post Kids are getting adopted faster today, and here’s why that matters appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    The front lines in Bustan Al-Qasr. In the background, regime-held Al-Iza’a neighborhood where snipers from both sides cover the area. Buildings at firing range are still inhabited by civilians. Illustration by Molly Crabapple

    A scene from the Bustan Al-Qasr neighborhood of Aleppo. Illustration by Molly Crabapple

    Daily life in Syria is a mystery to many Americans. Since the Syrian civil war began, access within the country has been increasingly difficult for foreign reporters and humanitarian aid, especially since the rise of the Islamic State in the region.

    Illustrator Molly Crabapple wanted to capture the scenes of life amid war that often go unreported in Iraq and Syria, where the Islamic State has captured territory. Crabapple began working with Marwan Hisham, a writer who works under a pseudonym, to obtain images from Iraq and Syria via cellphone on which Crabapple could base a set of illustrations. The pair published a piece in Vanity Fair this summer on life in Aleppo, a city to which Hisham returned this year for the first time since 2012. 

    While Crababble was working on a project about Doctors Without Borders at a refugee camp in Domeez, Iraq, she and Hisham explained via email how they go about illustrating war.

    Molly, for how long have you been illustrating war scenes, and what began the Syrian war series?

    Illustrating war grew from illustrating protest. In 2011, I had a close view of Occupy Wall Street, and in 2012, I did a book with Laurie Penny called “Discordia” on the Greek financial crisis and anti-austerity protests. “Discordia” taught me to draw riot cops, demos and blood in the streets. Later, my body of work grew to include child fighters, migrant workers, prisoners, bombed out buildings, in places like Guantanamo Bay, Turkey, Abu Dhabi Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Gaza and Palestine.

    “People live lives, even in war zones. Sometimes, when we just see photos of atrocity, we forget that these are humans in that atrocity, who scam and love and watch satellite TV and buy vegetables at the market and love their kids.”
    Marwan and I began working together in the summer of 2014, right before the U.S. began bombing Raqqa. I got the idea because areas under ISIS control are off-limits to journalists. While very brave locals get photos out, they are taken surreptitiously, not with the craft a photojournalist could bring. I wanted to get out images from an ISIS area, and invest them with the beauty and clarity art can give.  I was so honored Marwan chose to work with me, and we’ve since done two more pieces, from Aleppo and Mosul.
    To block the view of snipers positioned just a few hundred meters away in the neighboring Masharqah, rebels and locals placed charred buses in between buildings in the entrances to the Bustan Al-Qasr battlefronts. Illustration by Molly Crabapple

    Illustration by Molly Crabapple

    What has your process for those illustrations been, and how do you decide which scenes to illustrate?

    Marwan sends me cellphone photos that I then use pen, ink and watercolor to illustrate. Marwan and I choose the scenes together, trying to create images that show Syria is more than the cliché of rubble and fighters.

    What are the challenges of illustrating scenes from the Syrian war from afar?

    This is the first time I’ve ever worked primarily from someone else’s photos, and I always feel very through a glass darkly.

    Fighters belonging to the local Islamist group, Fastaqim Kama Umert, parade in the Jsr Al-Haj bridge roundabout on May 23. Illustration by Molly Crabapple

    Fighters from the Islamist group Fastaqim Kama Umert. Illustration by Molly Crabapple

    Right now, you’re in Domeez documenting the lives of refugees. Can you talk about some of your experiences working there?

    I’m immensely lucky to have been brought to Domeez by Doctors Without Borders to document their work in the camp. They do fine, vital work but the camp itself is a wasteland of heat and powercuts and dust storms, with nearly every family I spoke to either longing to, or actively planning to go to Europe.

    The shock just after the barrel bombing. Women grieving their losses, in the Ferdous neighborhood. Illustration by Molly Crabapple

    Illustration by Molly Crabapple

    I saw you had tweeted about Abdulbadi Suliman, a graphic designer producing art in Domeez. Have you met any other Syrian artists working in refugee camps?

    Abdulbadi is the only artist I got to know in Domeez, but Castle Art is an incredible project in Akre Camp, Iraqi Kurdistan, where young Syrian artists paint murals. Check out this beauty.  

    This drawing illustrates a photo taken in front of Ayn Jalut elementary school in the Ansari area of Aleppo. The school was bombed on April 30, 2014. Illustration by Molly Crabapple

    The remains of the Ayn Jalut elementary school in Aleppo, which was bombed on April 30, 2014. Illustration by Molly Crabapple

    Your illustrations are unique from the graphic photos and video that depict much of the Syrian war and refugee crisis in the news. What do you want to add to representations of war?

    People live lives, even in war zones. Sometimes, when we just see photos of atrocity, we forget that these are humans in that atrocity, who scam and love and watch satellite TV and buy vegetables at the market and love their kids. Me and Marwan tried to show daily life, real life, of which war was a part but not the whole.

    A question for Marwan: What do you want the world to know about recent events in Syria?

    Living under ISIS rule doesn’t necessarily mean you are pro-ISIS. It’s absolutely the same for people who are living under the government or rebels’ territories. Many people don’t have the money to leave and the world has been hard on judging them. I always felt committed to give them a voice.

    A cat wandering through the rubble of the deserted Tallat Al-Zarazeer district on the southern edge of the city. Illustration by Molly Crabapple

    A scene from the Tallat Al-Zarazeer district in Aleppo. Illustration by Molly Crabapple

    Life in the war zone that is Aleppo is peculiarly harsh on children. Childhood has become an irrelevant stage that young locals skip over. Illustration by Molly Crabapple

    Illustration by Molly Crabapple

    The post Illustrator draws out Syrian life under Islamic State rule appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Malaysia is often cited as a "model" of democratic success, writes Brookings Institution scholar Shadi Hamid. Photo by  Laurie Noble and Getty Images

    Malaysia is often cited as a “model” of democratic success, writes Brookings Institution scholar Shadi Hamid. Photo by Laurie Noble and Getty Images

    Political scientists, myself included, have tended to see religion, ideology, and identity as “epiphenomenal” — products of a given set of material factors. These factors are the things we can touch, grasp, and measure. For example, when explaining why suicide bombers do what they do, we assume that these young men are depressed about their own accumulated failures, frustrated with a dire economic situation, or humiliated by political repression and foreign occupation. While these are all undoubtedly factors, they are not — and cannot be — the whole story.

    But the role, and power, of religion in the modern Middle East is more mundane than that (after all, the overwhelming majority of Muslims do not think about becoming suicide bombers). “Islamism” has become a bad word, because the Islamists we hear about the most often are those of ISIS and al-Qaeda. Most Islamists, however, are not jihadists or extremists; they are members of mainstream Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood whose distinguishing feature is their gradualism (historically eschewing revolution), acceptance of parliamentary politics, and willingness to work within existing state structures, even secular ones. Contrary to popular imagination, Islamists do not necessarily harken back to seventh century Arabia.

    Islamists aren’t just acting for this world, but also for the next.

    Why do Islamists become Islamists? There are any number of reasons, and each Brotherhood member has his or her own conversion story or “born-again” moment. As one Brotherhood member would often remind me, many join the movement so that they can “get into heaven.” To dismiss such pronouncements as irrational bouts of fancy is tempting. But, if you look at it another way, what could be more rational than wanting eternal salvation?

    Islamists aren’t just acting for this world, but also for the next. Muslim Brotherhood and Brotherhood-inspired organizations aim to strengthen the religious character of individuals through a multi-tiered membership system and an educational process with a structured curriculum. Each brother is part of a “family,” usually consisting of 5 to 10 members, which meets on a weekly basis to read and discuss religious texts. For many members, it is quite simple and straightforward. Being a part of the Brotherhood helps them to obey God and become better Muslims, which, in turn, increases the likelihood of entry into paradise. This belief doesn’t mean that these more spiritually-focused members don’t care about politics; but they may see political action — whether running for a municipal council seat or joining a mass protest — as just another way of serving God.

    The tendency to see religion through the prism of politics or economics (rather than the other way around) isn’t necessarily incorrect, but it can sometimes obscure the independent power of ideas that seem, to much of the Western world, quaint and archaic. It can be difficult to understand how people are able and willing to do seemingly irrational things in the service of seemingly irrational ends. The forces of reason and rationality, if they haven’t already prevailed, were, after all, supposed to prevail eventually. The modern Middle East seems to defy such expectations. As Robert Kagan writes: “For a quarter-century, Americans have been told that at the end of history lies boredom rather than great conflict.” Francis Fukuyama, the very scholar who first proclaimed the “end of history” in 1989, seemed almost wistful by that famous essay’s final paragraph. “I have the most ambivalent feelings for the civilization that has been created in Europe since 1945,” he wrote. “Perhaps this very prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history started once again.” The increasingly apparent influence of religion on politics suggests that Fukuyama was more prescient than his critics give him credit for.

    To understand Islamists, you have to sit with them, talk to them, and get to know them as individuals with their own fears and aspirations.

    When religion is less relevant in our own lives, it can be difficult to make that jump, to not just understand — but to relate — to its meaning and power for believers, and for those, in particular, who believe they have a cause beyond this life. But I think that outsiders have to make an extra effort to close that gap. And that, in some ways, is the most challenging, and ultimately rewarding, aspect of my work: to be exposed to something fundamentally different.

    To understand Islamists, you have to sit with them, talk to them, and get to know them as individuals with their own fears and aspirations. This is where I think it’s important for Western analysts, academics, and policymakers to cordon off their own beliefs and political commitments. Just because I’m an American and a small-l liberal (and those two, in my case, are intertwined), doesn’t mean that Egyptians or Jordanians or anyone else should be subject to my ideological preferences. If you go into the study of Islamism trying to compare Islamists to some liberal ideal, then that will distort your analysis. Islamists, after all, are products of their own political context, not ours.

    To us, democracy and liberal democracy might seem interchangeable, but, in the Middle East (as well as many other places), they’re not. In our own history as Americans, we followed a particular sequencing: first, the foundations of constitutional liberalism were established and only then did democracy — in the sense of universal suffrage, popular sovereignty, and full political equality of all citizens — become a reality (eventually). In many Muslim-majority societies, the tensions between liberalism and democracy are constantly on display. We might not like it — and, in some sense, we shouldn’t like it – but what if a majority of citizens in a given country want to pass legislation that bans alcohol, segregates the sexes at various levels of public schooling, empowers clerics, or “Islamizes” the educational curriculum? These are all things that, at some level, restrict or constrain individual freedom and liberty.

    We don’t need to speculate: Two oft-cited “models” of Muslim democratic success — Indonesia and Malaysia — feature significantly more sharia ordinances than Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, Algeria, Morocco, or Lebanon, to name only a few. In one article, the Indonesia scholar Robin Bush documents sharia by-laws implemented in South Sulawesi, West Java, and other conservative regions. They include: requiring civil servants and students to wear “Muslim clothing,” requiring women to wear the headscarf to receive local government services; requiring demonstrations of Quranic reading ability to be admitted to university or to receive a marriage license. But there’s a catch. According to one study by the Jakarta-based Wahid Institute, most of these regulations have come from officials from secular parties like Golkar. How is this possible? The implementation of sharia law is part of mainstream discourse that cuts across party lines, suggesting that Islamism is not necessarily about Islamists but is about a broader population that is open to sharia ordinances. As the leading scholar of Islamism in Southeast Asia Joseph Liow writes, “the piecemeal implementation of sharia by-laws across Indonesia has not elicited widespread opposition from local populations.”

    Islamism, then, doesn’t necessarily require Islamists. On the other hand, it is very difficult to have liberalism without liberals, and liberals have remained weak in most Muslim-majority countries. In the two fascinating and often overlooked cases of Indonesia and Malaysia, democracy went hand in hand with Islamization. To put it differently, where many assume that democracy can’t exist with Islamism, it is more likely the opposite.

    Editor’s note: The NewsHour is hosting a series of columns on faith this week.

    Joining the discussion:

    The post Column: What most people get wrong about political Islam appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Colleen Shalby

    America’s bishops await Pope Francis’s arrival to St. Matthews Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Tuesday. Photo by Colleen Shalby

    It seemed nearly all of Washington, D.C., and its many visitors waited with bated breath for Pope Francis’ first visit to America. Hundreds of thousands of spectators are expected to flock to the District, New York City and Philadelphia for the pope’s U.S. trip — what Homeland Security deemed a National Special Security event.

    An estimated 75,000 people lined Wednesday’s parade route through the capital, 25,000 sat outside of the National Basilica for the pope’s canonization of Junipero Serra and nearly 300 U.S. bishops gathered for a midday prayer at St. Matthews Cathedral. Crowds gathered today at the Capitol where Pope Francis addressed Congress, and again around St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and Catholic Charities in Chinatown where Pope Francis fed the homeless.

    Here’s a snapshot of some of those who tried to catch a glimpse of El Papa Francisco.

    Photo by Colleen Shalby

    Pope Francis held a midday prayer service on Wednesday at the Cathederal of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C.’s Dupont neighborhood. The majority of the crowd was made up of U.S. bishops. Photo by Colleen Shalby.

    Photo by Colleen Shalby

    Outside of St. Patrick’s Church, police, Secret Service, EMTs and others were never too far from Pope Francis. Photo by Colleen Shalby.

    Photo by Lisa Dejardins

    On the Capitol West Lawn, crowds gathered as Pope Francis addressed Congress. Photo by Lisa Desjardins.

    Photo by Colleen Shalby

    Across the street from St. Patrick’s is an H&M, a Madame Tussauds and a Forever 21, where this woman is seen watching for the pope. Photo by Colleen Shalby

    Photo by Lisa Dejardins

    People gathered early this morning to hear the pope’s speech on Capitol Hill. Photo by Lisa Desjardins

    Photo by Colleen Shalby

    Onlookers outside of St. Patrick’s waited to bid Pope Francis goodbye. Photo by Colleen Shalby.

    Photo by Colleen Shalby

    A Secret Service agent assessed the D.C. Chinatown area from a rooftop near St. Patrick’s. Photo by Colleen Shalby

    Photo by Colleen Shalby

    The pope turned down a limousine for an ecologically friendly Fiat. Here, the car waits idly for his return. Photo by Colleen Shalby

    The post Photos: A city stands still for Pope Francis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    MIAMI - MARCH 04:  A foreclosure sign hangs in front of a home March 4, 2008 in Miami, Florida. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke called for additional action to help prevent homeowners from falling into foreclosure during a speech in Florida. Foreclosures in Florida jumped at more than double the nationwide pace, rising 158 percent in the past year, according to RealtyTrac.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

    Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    Editor’s Note: This is the story of two housing markets — one that’s doing quite well and another that’s still treading water.

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman spoke with Nick Retsinas, who teaches real estate at Harvard Business School, about the second, larger, lower-end market. Strolling around Cambridge, Massachusetts the two discussed how there can be bidding wars in one neighborhood and foreclosure signs in another. In the latter neighborhood, banks have refused to refinance mortgages despite the depreciated values of the homes.

    Tune in to tonight’s Making Sen$e, which airs every Thursday on the PBS NewsHour, for more on the ongoing foreclosure crisis. The following conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

    Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor

    Paul Solman: Are there really two housing markets now — one that’s doing well and another very large one that’s just not moving at all?

    Nick Retsinas: Well, it’s a big country. So there are many markets. But generally speaking, it is a story of two markets. The higher-end market is doing very well, as a matter of fact, maybe too well. The lower-end market is kind of mired and stuck in the housing crisis.

    Paul Solman:  So houses on this street in Cambridge, not far from Harvard Square, how much are they?

    Nick Retsinas: They’re million dollar homes, easily. Sometimes more.

    Paul Solman:  And I hear that there are now bidding wars!

    Nick Retsinas: There are bidding wars, because so few come up for sale. A lot of these people have lived here a long time, so when they bought the house it might not have been a million dollars, but now they’re living in million dollar homes.

    Paul Solman: They’re snapped up — people are bidding more than the asking price, right?

    Nick Retsinas: We had a quarter last year in Cambridge where the majority of transactions were sold above the asking price. That’s unheard of to do that. The sellers know how high the market is, but even they can’t price it high enough to keep people out.

    Paul Solman: And yet, I’ve been talking to people in the last few days who have told me that their houses lost 50 percent of their value and have barely come back at all.

    Nick Retsinas:  It’s like the housing crisis keeps on giving to the lower end of the marketplace overall. Fifteen percent of all the houses under $200,000 owe more than the house is worth. They’re underwater, so to speak.

    Paul Solman:  Fifteen percent?

    Nick Retsinas: Fifteen percent. That’s one out of six, one out of seven houses owe more in their mortgage than the house is worth, which is why they can’t sell their house without paying money to get out of their mortgage.

    Paul Solman: And how is the higher-end market doing?

    Nick Retsinas:  At the higher end, it’s closer to five or six percent of the houses are still stuck — in some markets like Phoenix and Las Vegas and Los Angeles. But for the most part, the housing price increase has almost brought them back to where their peak was in 2007 and 2008.

    Paul Solman: Why is it that banks will not accept an offer from a homeowner at the current market price, and then once the homeowner is out, the bank will sell it on the open market? The bank doesn’t get as much as it could’ve gotten from the very person who was living in the house.

    Nick Retsinas: Some investors are very afraid of principal reductions. They’re afraid that there will be bad things happening between owners and related parties that would necessitate the bank taking up a reduction in what was the amount owed. They’re very nervous about doing that. I think they over-inflate that worry, but it’s one that does affect their behavior.

    Paul Solman:  But it makes no sense. You’re the mortgage holder. I live in the house. The house has a $250,000 dollar mortgage, it’s now worth $140,000 or $130,000 or something. I say, “Hey! I will absolutely service that loan at $130,000, because it will cut my payments.” And you say, “No,” you kick me out and then you make the same deal with somebody else?

    Nick Retsinas: I don’t disagree. But the counterargument they are hearing from their investors is: “If you start doing this, we will never buy mortgages from you again. If we get worried about whether or not we can get back our principal, we’re going to stop buying mortgages for you.” That’s what they’re afraid of.

    It’s an investor saying that, because the banks aren’t necessarily holding these mortgages. They’re often bundling them, securitizing them and selling them to investors. Investors are very nervous about losing any of their principal. They feel that’s inviolate. And they’re afraid that if a bank starts to do that, they’re at risk of doing that for future investments, and they threaten not to buy other mortgages going forward.

    Is that a real concern? Yes. Is it a real possibility? I’m not sure.

    Paul Solman: So the bank is simply afraid of setting a ‘precedent’ that will hurt its business later on?

    Nick Retsinas:  Yes, they are afraid it will be contagious to people. As a result, they haven’t done principal reduction, and you have these low values, particularly among low-end homes, continuing to stilt the marketplace.

    Paul Solman: So are you sympathetic to the lenders for not giving the homeowner the same deal that is actually a price on the open market?

    Nick Retsinas: No, I think the lenders have been shortsighted. And because they have been shortsighted, for the most part, this housing crisis has dragged on and on, and it explains why the recovery is so slow and so laborious.

    Paul Solman: But what’s the logic?

    Nick Retsinas: That contagion effect. The same logic. Absolutely the same logic.

    So I own a house, and there is a mortgage of $300,000 dollars. The actual value of the house is $200,000 dollars. I might say to the bank, “Look at it! It’s only worth $200,000 dollars! So take the house for the $200,000 dollars. That’s all I got overall.”

    The bank’s saying, “Oh, no, no. When you signed this agreement, you promised to pay the $300,000, not the $200,000 dollars.”

    Paul Solman: But why doesn’t the bank accept the $200,000, since that’s the market price!?

    Nick Retsinas: Because the bank thinks my neighbor is looking at me, saying, “Wait a minute, there’s something wrong with this. I’m paying my mortgage every month, even though I owe $300,000 dollars, and my house is only worth $200,000 dollars. Why don’t I stop paying my mortgage, so they’ll accept the lower valuation and save me that balance of $100,000 dollars that I owe them?” The banks are afraid this will be contagious to other people in similar situations with these underwater mortgages.

    Often the lender has put this mortgage in a pool of mortgages and sold it to an investor. So while some banks are holding this in portfolio, many of them are in securities that are owned by investors. And investors are sending the signal: never, never forgive principal. Whatever you do, never forgive principal. They’re willing to sacrifice interest rate, but they’re not willing to sacrifice principal.

    As a result, we’re mired in this, in the aftermath of foreclosure that never quite seems to go away.

    Paul Solman: Inequality in the housing market as everywhere else in the economy has been happening now for 35 years or so. Why is there this sudden difference between the top end of the housing market and the significantly large bottom end?

    Nick Retsinas: Well, there’s always a difference between high-end and low-end, of course, for many years over time. I think it’s exacerbated here because of the large numbers of foreclosures. The large number of foreclosures have made it impossible for people to go back in the market. They’re not allowed to go in the back in the marketplace for another five to seven years until they build good credit overall. And in the meantime, government and the government agencies, the Fannie Mae, the Freddie Mac and the FHA, are so spooked by what happened in the last crisis they’ve been tightening their credit boxes. So basically, you’re reducing demand at the low end.

    One element of the housing recovery has been a spiraling rental market. Rents are going up consistently, almost all over the country. As a result, historically, young people rented and then used their savings to save for a down payment, but they don’t have any savings anymore. They can barely keep up with their rent. You couple this with stagnant wage growth, and you’re basically muting demand. Less demand means lower prices, and that’s why the prices don’t go up, that’s why the mortgages stay underwater.

    Paul Solman:  So the foreclosure crisis is not over?

    Nick Retsinas: It’s not over. It’s not at its peak where it was two or three years ago, but in many states, say, Florida and California, you still have a residue of foreclosures that are continuing to fill up that pipe and stuff the pipe so we can’t have the free flowing of markets.

    The post Why the foreclosure crisis isn’t over yet appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Pope Francis has some choice words for capitalism. He’s called it “unbridled” and “unfettered,” and in his June encyclical, he condemned it, writing, “In this system, which tends to devour everything that stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.”

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman spoke with Reverend Jim Wallis, the founder of Sojourners and a progressive public theologian, about the pope’s critique of capitalism. Wallis, an evangelical Christian who converted to Catholic social teaching, explains how morality is undeniably tied to economics.

    “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,” says Wallis. “Now, that is more radical than communism and socialism.”

    Watch the video above, and for more on the pope’s economics, watch the full Making Sen$e segment here.

    The post Reverend Jim Wallis: Pope Francis is more radical than a communist appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tomorrow, Pope Francis continues his American tour with a stop at a Catholic school in New York City.

    Since the 1960s, enrollment at Catholic schools in the United States has fallen by more than 50 percent. But the one Pope Francis will visit and some others like it have found ways to keep their doors open.

    The NewsHour’s April Brown has our American Graduate report.

    APRIL BROWN: She may only be in fourth grade, but Ngueubou Kamwa is becoming very media-savvy. Over the past few weeks, she’s been interviewed by dozens of news organizations at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic school in New York’s East Harlem neighborhood to talk about the impending visit of the leader of the Catholic Church.

    Ngueubou will actually get to meet Pope Francis when he stops by the school, and she knows quite a bit about him.

    NGUEUBOU KAMWA, Student: And his real name is actually Jorge Mario Bergoglio. I know that he’s from Argentina. And that he lives in Vatican City.

    APRIL BROWN: Seventh-grader Jade Fuentes has also been studying the life of the pontiff.

    JADE FUENTES, Student: He had loved animals, and he still does. Because he relates to Saint Francis, that’s where he had chosen his name.

    APRIL BROWN: Jade’s mother, Nicole Fuentes, went to a Catholic school a few blocks away.

    NICOLE FUENTES, Jade’s mother: This is eighth grade gradation.

    APRIL BROWN: Fuentes says the area has changed a lot since then.

    NICOLE FUENTES: This neighborhood was diverse. You had Italian immigrants, Puerto Rican, African-American, Polish.

    APRIL BROWN: Now it’s largely African-American and Hispanic, with fewer Catholics and many families that hit hard times during the recession.

    NICOLE FUENTES: Things just happened economically to this neighborhood, and we lost out on a lot of schools. And my school was one of them. The church still stands, but the school is no longer here.

    APRIL BROWN: St. Cecilia’s is just one of about 6,500 Catholic schools that have closed in the U.S. over the past few decades. In the 1960s, there were nearly 13,000 across the country, educating more than five million students.

    Today, only about two million students attend Catholic school, and that’s due to a variety of reasons, including falling birth rates among Catholics, the rise of charter schools in urban areas, and more Catholics moving to the suburbs. The cost of running these schools has skyrocketed too, leaving many struggling to stay open.

    CHARLES ZECH, Villanova University: The parochial school system as we have known it over the years is a dinosaur. They can’t possibly survive, given the economics of the situation.

    APRIL BROWN: Charles Zech is an economics professor at Villanova University who studies how churches manage their finances. Zech says one major change in their work force has hurt Catholic schools, which are historically known for both academic rigor and strict discipline.

    CHARLES ZECH: Back in the day, when parochial schools were administered and most teachers were nuns, the labor costs were extremely low. You would be hard-pressed to find any nun teaching in parochial schools today.

    APRIL BROWN: Lay teachers now fill most of those posts, and get paid more than nuns, who take a vow of poverty. Zech says it can be very difficult to manage these institutions with fewer resources.

    Historically, church leaders, the educators, they don’t have financial backgrounds to be able to manage this kind of problem, do they?

    CHARLES ZECH: Parochial schools are under the purview of the pastor of the parish. And, for one thing, no priest I know became a pastor because he wanted to run a small business, which is what a parish and a school are. In addition, seminaries do just a terrible job of training their guys on management skills.

    APRIL BROWN: One Catholic school network that emerged in the mid-1990s has found an innovative way to deal with the financial challenges of parochial education. There are now 30 Cristo Rey schools across the country, including Don Bosco in Maryland.

    MAN: For you alone are the holy one. You alone are the lord.

    APRIL BROWN: Catholic traditions, including mass, are an important part of the day at Don Bosco, which found a home in a closed Catholic elementary school.

    One of the features that sets these schools apart is that they not only offer a college preparatory education, but a work-study program as well. Each student is paired with an employer and works one day a week for all four years, helping to offset part of the $13,000-a-year tuition.

    Senior Carlos Lopez has spent three years at the Washington, D.C., area power company, Pepco. He says he’s become more confident, invested in his own education, and now has skills that will be useful in any workplace.

    CARLOS LOPEZ, Student: I got to practice how to introduce myself, how to set a good impression. I learned that those are really important out in the real world.

    APRIL BROWN: The president of Don Bosco Cristo Rey, Father Michael Conway, says the purpose of Catholic schools is much the same as it has always been.

    FATHER MICHAEL CONWAY, President, Don Bosco Cristo Rey: Here in this country Catholic education came about as a result of the huge immigration process that took place in the 1800s and the cry of Catholic families to have their own schools. Many of them were struggling within the public school system to fit in. Many of them were ostracized.

    APRIL BROWN: Only now, he says, many Catholic schools are just serving different groups of young people.

    FATHER MICHAEL CONWAY: That’s why this is a unique school, because its mission is specifically for those who are at the poverty level or below.

    APRIL BROWN: Our Lady Queen of Angels in Harlem has a similar mission, making sure a Catholic education is within reach for some of the city’s most disadvantaged students. But it’s found a different way to keep the doors open by turning to a strategy charter schools have used for years, hiring a management organization to run things.

    The Archdiocese of New York inked an agreement with the nonprofit Partnership for Inner-City Education to oversee the educational and financial needs of Our Lady Queen of Angels and five other Catholic schools in Harlem and the Bronx.

    Kathleen Porter-Magee is the superintendent of the six partnership schools.

    KATHLEEN PORTER-MAGEE, Superintendent, Partnership for Inner-City Education: Over the past several years, I think the conversation about urban Catholic education has been one of pessimism, of sadness that schools have been closing. But I think we’re actually at a moment where the conversation is and should be about a renaissance and a real revitalization.

    APRIL BROWN: The partnership has been working to improve efficiency and share best practices among its six schools and stabilize revenue streams through a network of donors. The schools can’t depend on tuition, because more than two-thirds of the students need and receive scholarships.

    KATHLEEN PORTER-MAGEE: One of the things that Pope Francis has really focused is bringing the Catholic Church back to is mission of service to disadvantaged communities. And I know that that is something that has been part of what urban Catholic schools have done for generations and is certainly something that they do here at Our Lady Queen of Angels.

    APRIL BROWN: And many believe that’s why the pope has chosen to visit this school, which has taught children since 1892, many of them from immigrant families like Ngueubou’s.

    Her father, Jean-Pierre Kamwa, is originally from Cameroon.

    JEAN-PIERRE KAMWA, Ngueubou’s Father: Our neighborhood is predominantly immigrant, low-income, and having people who are out of work, like myself. So, if the pope comes to our neighborhood, that means that he’s going to try to reach where they are.

    APRIL BROWN: Ngueubou, meanwhile, has been focusing on what’s she’s expected to do when she meets the pope.

    NGUEUBOU KAMWA: When he comes in the room, we’re going to sing the prayer of St. Francis to him, and we might, like, talk with him and pray with him.

    APRIL BROWN: And as many in this community hope Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. will bring Catholics back into the fold, there is also belief that his stop at Our Lady Queen of Angels could spark a renewed interest in Catholic education as well.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m April Brown in New York City.

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    A foreclosed home for sale in Winchester, VA, on May 28, 2009.  Mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures rose to records in the first quarter and home-loan rates jumped to the highest since March as the government’s effort to revive the housing market lost momentum. A bank was offering unusual 100 percent financing for the home.  Photographer:  Jay Mallin / Bloomberg News. Jay Mallin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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    GWEN IFILL: But, first, years into the economic recovery, some homeowners are still struggling to hang on to their homes. The headlines tell of strong home sales in many major metropolitan areas, even in cities where sales prices have been shooting skyward.

    But there’s another part of the housing story, the places and homeowners who have yet to recover, even as prices have remained low.

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman has that report, part of our weekly series Making Sense, which airs every Thursday on the NewsHour.

    DANTE ORTIZ: Go, go, go, go. You all right?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Cheryl and Dante Ortiz are living proof that the housing crisis is still with us. When they bought their Southbridge, Massachusetts, home in 2004 for their large family, half of the kids adopted, they thought they’d found their slice of the American pie.

    CHERYL ORTIZ: I got you. I got you. Come on.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But six years later, it looked like they would lose it. Donte ruptured a disk in his back at work and became disabled. Cheryl’s grad school student loans came due. They fell behind on the house payments. But since the value of their house had plummeted, and in their neighborhood had never recovered, even refinancing wasn’t an option.

    CHERYL ORTIZ, Homeowner: The mortgage company had no compassion. They wanted to do nothing to help us, nothing. And I finally said to them, I don’t know what you want me to do. I’m explaining to you my situation. You don’t — it’s like you don’t care. And they said, well, it’s your problem. Put the house up for sale.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Which they did, in what’s known as a short sale, where the seller’s asking price doesn’t cover what’s owed to the bank.

    Now, what had you paid for it initially?

    CHERYL ORTIZ: Initially, $250,000.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And what were you short-selling it at?

    CHERYL ORTIZ: They brought it down to as low as $149,000. And not one person came to look at it, no offers, nothing.

    PAUL SOLMAN: After six months, they pulled the house off the market.

    So, you mean there’s been no housing rebound at all around here?

    CHERYL ORTIZ: No, no, not here.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But the news is that, nationally, housing prices are on the way back up.

    CHERYL ORTIZ: Well, maybe somebody should show me where that is, because it hasn’t happened here.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Elyse Cherry, who runs Boston Community Capital, a nonprofit lender that specializes in helping underwater homeowners, says this story is still a common place.

    ELYSE CHERRY, CEO Boston Community Capital: This is the story of a crisis that won’t quit, and it won’t quit because we’re not focused on the difference in how it impacts our lower-income neighbors, as opposed to our middle- and upper-middle-income neighbors. In low-income areas, the foreclosure crisis continues unabated.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Really? Unabated?

    ELYSE CHERRY: Unabated.

    PAUL SOLMAN: According to the research real estate firm Zillow, more than seven million borrowers remained underwater in June of 2015, over half of them by more than 20 percent, with homes in low-end neighborhoods more than three times as likely to be underwater.

    And this tale of two markets is playing out across the greater Boston area. David Greenidge, a research data management specialist, paid $250,000 in 2006 for his house in the modest, but well-tended town of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, then found it had soon lost about $100,000 in value. After being between jobs for several months, he too fell behind, tried to refinance, and got the run-around we have been reporting for years now.

    DAVID GREENIDGE, Homeowner: They initially said, you know, let’s try to do a modification. OK, fine. I sent them the paperwork, like 60 some-odd pages, all our information. A month — about a month later, can you send us all the information to do the modification? OK. I sent it to them again and said, I just sent you this a month ago.

    PAUL SOLMAN: OK, maybe the banks were overwhelmed by the volume of business, but like Greenidge, Cheryl Ortiz wondered, why wouldn’t the banks make a deal with homeowners at something like market rates?

    CHERYL ORTIZ: What do you think is going to happen to my house if you take it? What is that going to help you as the bank? You’re going to lose more. But, no, I’m out, you know, got to go, you’re out of the house, and we’re going to give it to somebody else much cheaper.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Nic Retsinas, who teaches real estate at Harvard Business School, says the banks don’t necessarily want to work things out.

    NIC RETSINAS, Harvard Business School: Because the banks necessarily aren’t holding these mortgages. They’re often bundle-izing them and securitizing them and selling them to investors. Investors are very nervous about losing any of their principal. They feel that’s inviolate. As a result, they haven’t done a principal reduction. As a result, you have these low values, particularly among low-end homes, continue to stilt the marketplace.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So the bank is simply afraid of setting a precedent?

    NIC RETSINAS: Yes, the banks think this will be contagious, and then they will lose their investor base, who is very concerned about ever losing their principal.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, are you sympathetic to the lenders for not giving the homeowner the same deal that is actually a price on the open market?

    NIC RETSINAS: No, I think the lenders have been short-sighted. And because they have been short-sighted, for the most part, this housing crisis has dragged on and on, and it explains why the recovery is so slow and so laborious.

    PAUL SOLMAN: This is where Elyse Cherry and Boston Community Capital come in. For the past six years, the organization’s Stabilizing Urban Neighborhoods program has refinanced some $85 million in home loans for people in default and foreclosure.

    PAUL SOLMAN: What you do is, you buy the home at the current market price, which is lower than the original one, and then sell it back to the owner.

    ELYSE CHERRY: That’s correct.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And that works?

    ELYSE CHERRY: Yes. We provide a new 30-year fixed year mortgage. We have some bells and whistles attached to this to be sure that we really get good homeowners.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Boston Community Capital charges those homeowners a interest rate than the banks and shares in any appreciation of the home for as long as the loan stays in force. As a result, says Cherry:

    ELYSE CHERRY: We encourage people to clean up their credit as quickly as possible, so that they can, in fact, go out and get perhaps a cheaper mortgage, take our mortgage out, and cut off any shared appreciation as early as they can.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Something the Ortizes are already making plans to do.

    CHERYL ORTIZ: Now I’m in a position to say, OK, now I can start looking for — to refinance. And I’m not going to have somebody say, oh, you can’t do that because you’re so far underwater, you will — nobody is going to touch you.

    PAUL SOLMAN: One of the bells and whistles that comes with the Community Capital mortgage is a biweekly payment regiment, requiring borrowers to make 26 half-payments a year, two more than needed to cover their annual obligation.

    The extra two goes into a fund…


    PAUL SOLMAN: … as a cushion.


    PAUL SOLMAN: Have you had the use the cushion?

    DAVID GREENIDGE: No, but we may need to because our furnace is very old. When the repairman came, he noticed that we have some pipe issues. The plumber said, don’t touch it, so your finger might literally go through. I’m going to submit the estimate to fix that with Boston Community Capital.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, is a program like this the answer for a large part of the housing market that’s still reeling? Elyse Cherry herself says no. For one thing, not everyone qualifies.

    ELYSE CHERRY: You really have to have enough current income to support even a current-priced mortgage.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And Nic Retsinas sees another limitation.

    NIC RETSINAS: They don’t really have the capacity to do this in large numbers sort of over time. They’re doing it in selected markets. They’re still running into hurdles. They still need the cooperation of banks. So, yes, it’s a great idea. It makes a lot of sense. Whether it can get to a scale to make a difference, I’m not so sure.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But, for Cheryl Ortiz, at least, it’s given her family room to breathe.

    CHERYL ORTIZ: We have a good place to live. My kids have their friends. And, you know, we hope that, little by little, things turn around, but at least I can say I’m not afraid for tomorrow, because, you know, we can make — right now, we’re making it. We’re doing well.

    PAUL SOLMAN: For the moment. And in the tale of two markets, that’s more than millions of still-underwater homeowners can say.

    From parts of the Boston area that still haven’t recovered from the housing crisis, this is economics correspondent Paul Solman reporting for the PBS NewsHour.

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    Pope Francis greets school children upon departure from the Vatican Embassy in Washington on day three of his first visit to the United States September 24, 2015. The Pope addressed a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress today, and now leaves for New York City and then Philadelphia during his first U.S. visit.  REUTERS/Gary Cameron          TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX1SBP9

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Some more reaction to the pope’s speech and some of the issues he staked out from three important catholic figures who attended today.

    Jim Nicholson sat with House Speaker Boehner. Jim was the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See from 2001 to 2005 and he was the former chairman — is the former chairman of the Republican National Committee. Sister Simone Campbell led four cross-country trips of Nuns on the Bus, which focused on economic justice and immigration, among other things. She’s the executive director of a Catholic lobbying group, NETWORK. And John Carr, who’s been working with the Catholic Bishops Conference of Washington, D.C., he’s the director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University.

    And we welcome all three of you to the program.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, John Carr, well, to all of you, I thought it was a remarkable speech.

    John Carr, you pay close attention to everything this pope says. What stood out particularly to you today?

    JOHN CARR, Georgetown University: Well, it was such a different day on Capitol Hill.

    He talked about people. He talked about their stories. He talked about faces. I watched Vice President Biden and Speaker Boehner, two Catholic kids from Ohio and Pennsylvania. They’re old enough to remember when John Kennedy was told he shouldn’t be elected president because he might take advice from the pope. And now the lead parties, the only thing it seems they agree on is they need advice from the pope.

    So, I was struck by how hard the Holy Father was trying to reach them. And English is not his first language, and there was more gestures, more energy, and how hard they were listening. It was an extraordinary day on Capitol Hill.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ambassador Nicholson, you’re somebody who has watched this city, watched the politics of the city play out for a long time. What did you see today that was different?

    JIM NICHOLSON, Former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See: Well, it was a different kind of speech from the pope.

    And I was very encouraged because it was a real elevated speech, and he started out by affirming American values, you know, the land of the free and the home of the brave. And he talked about the emphasis that we have on freedom and self-government and what that’s been able to do to enable people in our country and to give them hope and opportunity.

    And he also said to us, he said, you have a great system in place. There are big problems. Now apply that system and help solve those problems.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And it really was, Sister Simone, a call to action in many ways. He was — he referred to four — he called them great Americans who spoke to the future, in Abraham Lincoln, Dorothy Day and others.

    But what did that call of action mean to you?

    SISTER SIMONE CAMPBELL: Well, I think what his call is, is that we all need to work together, instead of pull apart. He lifted up the best of our nation with Abraham Lincoln and the quest for unity and freedom in the face of the Civil War, Dr. King and his quest that all could vote and be engaged, Dorothy Day to work with the poor and to not make judgments that leave people out.

    And, finally, Thomas Merton, which touched me the most, was to say that all of this has to be rooted in a reflective space and in dialogue, that we need to talk together to make change, which is something that has not been happening on Capitol Hill.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: John Carr, do you think the pope came thinking, I can really make something happen in the United States, in this political city?

    JOHN CARR: Lots of people thought he didn’t know much about the United States. He’s never been here. And it was a very respectful speech, as Jim said, very respectful of our values, our traditions and four great American leaders.

    I think he was calling us to our best, but he is an outsider. He looks at the world differently. He looks at the world from the bottom up and from the outside in. And that is not Washington’s way. So, this was a different message from a different messenger. And we can only hope that his call for dialogue, true, but to watch for the least of these, will ring a bell here in Washington, because those — those priorities have not been here.

    We’re a city of polarization, where the rich and powerful often have their way. The most powerful thing he did today was not a paragraph from that speech. He left Capitol Hill, talking to the most powerful legislature on earth, and went to have lunch with homeless people who have no power at all.

    So, he showed us by his actions what we need to do. I hope they listen. I hope they learn. Frankly, I hope they follow his example.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Jim Nicholson, there was some — yes, he did have something to say that both ends of the political spectrum could respond to, but there’s been interpretation today that suggested it was more — it was a message that resonated more with the political left.

    Is that how you heard it?

    JIM NICHOLSON: I didn’t.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I mean, on the environment, on abolishing the death penalty and so forth.

    JIM NICHOLSON: Well, you can — you know, there are things in there that you can interpret probably any way you want to, but I think the transcendent part of that talk was that he was speaking to our higher angels.

    He was exhorting America through its legislature to do more. I mean, it was really — it was a Gospel message, and coming from man like that, it has such great credibility, if not inspiration. My wife said something interesting to me as we were sitting there on the — in the gallery watching him come in. And all of those people of all stripes in those two bodies jumped to their feet.

    And she said, “Why do you think they’re clapping so much?” which I think is an interesting question.

    And I think — I think it’s because everybody is kind of yearning for some spiritual leadership, some spiritual clarity. And this iconic figure comes to Washington, they close our city down because this one man comes here. I mean, K Street, you could have thrown a grenade down there yesterday and not hit anybody.

    And why is that? And I think it’s just that he is trying to appeal to our higher nature and has done that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Sister Simone, is that how you heard it, more that than as a political…

    SISTER SIMONE CAMPBELL: He definitely had a political message. He was very clear on the issue of immigration.

    He said specifically that we are a nation of immigrants and that’s why he feels at home. His country is the same. And then he said, we cannot be afraid of the stranger. We must welcome them in. We shouldn’t be afraid of the numbers. We must see their faces.

    That was a very direct challenge, and I think, also on the economy, speaking of the needs of those who are left out in our very broken system.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, when it comes to immigration, Jim Nicholson, as somebody who has led the Republican National Committee, are words from the pope something that you think could make change happen, bring the two parties together?

    This is something — most of the Republican Party has been opposed to immigration reform.

    JIM NICHOLSON: Well, no, they — there’s been a lot of good discussion in our party, and good leadership, and attempts at immigration reform. We know we have a major…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, have a different vision of immigration reform, I should say.

    JIM NICHOLSON: Well, it’s a conundrum, because we’re also nation of law, the rule of law. And we have a lot of people here who have violated the law to be here. But they’re human beings. And now they have offspring and they provide a lot of useful function here.

    So, what do you do about that? And that’s not an easy question. And there are a lot of real good people that are concerned about that. And I think the pope, you know, thank God he might provide some help in the mediation of that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: John Carr, is there follow-up from this? Is this something where the pope, the Catholic Church stays engaged on the points the pope made today?

    JOHN CARR: Well, I hope so. And, actually, the church has been engaged.

    I was struck on the position of the immigration. He didn’t call for HR-2012.


    JOHN CARR: He called for us to see the stories, see the faces. The little girl who broke through the line yesterday, 5 years old, talking about her parents — immigrants are being demonized in our politics right now.

    The pope said, step back from that. Look at the human stories. Look at the faces. Remember your own history. Truthfully, if there was a secret vote on the floor of the House, immigration reform would pass. So, maybe, just maybe we could take a step back, think about the values that are at stake, the traditions the Holy Father outlined, and actually come together.

    I think criminal justice might be an area. I think lifting people out of poverty. If he gets Democrats and Republicans to work together, that might be his first miracle.


    JIM NICHOLSON: That would make him a saint.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you see follow-up?

    SISTER SIMONE CAMPBELL: It would probably make him a saint, I really think we have hard work ahead too — because we have a nanosecond memory in this town.

    And so what we’re doing is, next Tuesday, 35 sisters are flying in from around the country, and we’re going to do a lobby day on the Hill. It’s going to be the midst of the high-tension appropriations battles are coming down the line. And we’re going to say, remember what the pope said. We have to find a way forward. Remember the least of these.

    Remember the best of our nation, where we do create opportunity, but we cannot leave people out. And we must create a budget that does those things.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Jim Nicholson, do you see a lasting effect from this?

    JIM NICHOLSON: I’m not sure of that, but I hope there is.

    So, I mean, it’s so memorable, so unique when you think about what went on here with this one, you know, priest from Argentina who came here to America, and the effect that it’s had on our system, and just everything came to a standstill. Every television set is on and his movements, and that’s unprecedented.

    And so maybe it may have some unprecedented positive effect.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Though, I mean, when he’s — for example, when he says something, condemns the arms trade and talk about what it leads to, does that lead to somebody moving on that issue?

    JIM NICHOLSON: Well, it could.

    It gives people some authority, because he has so much credibility and has that, what I call his powerful moral megaphone. And when he speaks, he’s listened to. And it gives people — wherever they are in these positions, you know, they can sort of try to align themselves with the pope, and that does help. I have that from diplomatic experience and being in Rome in — with the Iraq War. And it can make a difference.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right.


    JOHN CARR: Well, because he speaks for those who rarely have a voice in Congress. And the fact that they heard a different voice with a different message calling us to our best selves, I hope it makes a difference.



    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, on that note, John Carr, Sister Simone Campbell, and Ambassador Jim Nicholson, we thank you, all three.

    JIM NICHOLSON: Thank you.


    JOHN CARR: Thank you.

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    Pope Francis waves from his vehicle as he is driven down 5th avenue near St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York September 24, 2015.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson  - RTX1SCBB

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    GWEN IFILL: And now we turn to the next leg of the pope’s trip, and the anticipation and security surrounding his time in New York City.

    He landed late this afternoon at Kennedy International Airport, where a crowd greeted him. He took a helicopter to Wall Street, and then headed toward St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

    Hari Sreenivasan was one of those outside when I spoke to him a short time ago.

    Hari, I see you’re front and center there in from the of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Tell me, what’s the security like in the city? The city shuts down when anybody comes to town, but, with the pope, it must be something.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: That’s right. Imagine a Super Bowl, multiply that by four, and then put it in downtown Manhattan for a period of two-and-a-half days or so.

    I mean, this area up and down Fifth Avenue — if anybody has been to New York, they have probably been to Rockefeller Center — there is no traffic on here. They have closed it for several blocks in either direction from St. Patrick’s. There’s a place where he’s going to rest overnight. That has security around it.

    There’s obviously Central Park that is preparing. And then, tomorrow, he has got four different places that he’s going to in the city as soon as he wakes up. It’s kind of a nonstop schedule for him. And everywhere he goes, there has to be this level of security that goes with him, ahead of him.

    GWEN IFILL: We saw a little bit of this here in Washington, but it’s not like what you are going to see there. So, give us a thumbnail sketch of his schedule, where he’s expected to go and be.


    For a man his age, it’s pretty impressive. After he does vespers tonight, which is not mass, but a church service tonight with clergy inside here, then he goes to rest tonight. Tomorrow morning, as soon as he wakes up, he goes to — today, he was trying to address the nation of the United States through its representative. Tomorrow, he tries to address the entire world at the U.N. And after that, he goes to the 9/11 Memorial, where he has an opportunity to pray and lead people in a — kind of a multifaith service, if you will.

    From there, he goes to a school in Harlem. And then he conducts a very small mass at Madison Square Garden. So, four areas of the city that have to prepare for him, and, you know, they are actually encouraging people in New York, if you can telecommute tomorrow, do so.

    GWEN IFILL: They encouraged people about that here in Washington as well, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm, except with one extra detail. I gather there are people actually scalping free tickets to see the pope?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes. That’s right. I don’t think the Pope or the cardinals or anyone that cares about this is very happy about this, but, yes, there were free tickets that were handed out for the event that he’s going to have in Central Park.

    And, sure enough, on eBay and on Craigslist, you can start to see these tickets pop up for hundreds of dollars. You can’t prevent the sale from happening, but you can certainly strongly discourage it.

    GWEN IFILL: And, finally, Hari, that crowd that we’re seeing behind you, how long would you say they have all been there waiting for this moment?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, the press was corralled together in these — sort of higher-security area for several hours. And the people on either side of me in front of the church have been here several hours as well.

    But what you can’t see is the people that are up and down Fifth Avenue, on both sides, just waiting for a glimpse of the Popemobile. Perhaps he’s going to wave. Perhaps he goes out and takes a selfie with them. I don’t know. But the people here are just as excited as they were in D.C.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, it’s amazing to watch, from city to city to city, this thing unfold.

    Hari Sreenivasan, thanks a lot.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Thank you, Gwen.

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    Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress as Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R) look on in the House of Representatives Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington September 24, 2015.   REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)   - RTX1S9J9

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Pope Francis wrapped up his historic trip to Washington, D.C., today. And it started with an address to Congress, one that was notable for his call to action on economic, political and social issues.

    William Brangham begins our coverage.

    MAN: Mr. Speaker, the pope of the Holy See!


    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It was the first time those words have ever been heard in the United States Congress.

    Pope Francis entered to a standing ovation from the House and Senate, and members of the Cabinet.


    POPE FRANCIS: I am most grateful for your invitation to address this joint session of Congress in the land of the free and the home of the brave.


    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Speaking slowly in English, the pontiff used the occasion to call for action on several issues from poverty to immigration. His appeal encompassed the thousands of refugees arriving in Europe, as well as Latin Americans coming to this country.

    POPE FRANCIS: We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.


    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The pope also urged lawmakers to address climate change, and he called for the — quote — “global abolition of the death penalty.”

    POPE FRANCIS: Every life is sacred. Every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Democrats applauded all of those things, while Republicans especially cheered when Francis alluded to the church’s longtime stance against abortion.

    POPE FRANCIS: The golden rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.


    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The pope didn’t directly address Congress’ current fight over funding for Planned Parenthood, but he did ask Congress to put aside its partisan divisions.

    POPE FRANCIS: The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Afterward, as the pope moved outside, members of both parties were left to contemplate his message.

    REP. JOYCE BEATTY (D), Ohio: He said to us that we have to do more than just possessing space. Translated to me, you have to come here and stand up for the issues. You have to take a position, and you have to make sure that you represent all the people and to keep that in mind.

    SEN. DAN COATS (R), Indiana: I think people appreciated the fact that he recognized the difference of opinion here about how we should go forward, and he was just saying we should go forward, and there are ways to do it that won’t affect people — put people out of work. And I think we appreciated that.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: As for Francis, there was more cheering in store outside the west front of the Capitol, where thousands had gathered, hoping for a glimpse of the pope. There, he reverted to his native Spanish, delivering a prayer for the children in the joyful crowd below.

    MARISA SWANSON, Attendee: This person that we read stories about and who is inspiring so many people, Catholics and non-Catholics, to see him in person, incredible.

    MAN: He radiates happiness. He radiates happiness. He radiates peace, which I need — which I think is something we all need right now.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Later, the pope traveled to St. Patrick’s Parish Church, where he delivered a prayer and met with some of Washington’s homeless. That was the last event in the nation’s capital. After a short break, he flew on to New York, the next stop on his six-day U.S. tour.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m William Brangham in Washington, D.C.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And our political director, Lisa Desjardins, was in the crowd on the west front of the Capitol for the pope’s speech, and she joins us now.

    So, Lisa, it was a call to action in what the pope had to say. And we just heard both Republicans and Democrats saying they liked different parts of what he had to say. You have been on the Hill talking to people. What have you heard?

    LISA DESJARDINS: You know, what I expected was to hear Republicans say, oh, this is a liberal pope, we agree with him on some things, not on others, but what I heard instead surprised me today. Both parties heard a challenge from the pope.

    And Republicans in particular, for whom I think the pope challenged perhaps on immigration and perhaps on climate change — Democrats think so at least — Republicans say they heard some of their conservative viewpoints on those issues, Judy. They say, especially on the environment, that his tone indicated that he sees the United States as a leader, and especially a leader in technology, like renewable technology.

    And I think that’s such a great example of what happened today or what might be happening from this speech. The pope’s words were so important and I think carefully chosen. He found perhaps areas where maybe Republicans and Democrats can find leadership room internationally, like on the environment.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, does that mean, whether it’s minds changing or agreement coming — he did talk about the polarization in Congress and in the country.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think that means it may lead to something?

    LISA DESJARDINS: I don’t think positions will change on immigration. I don’t think they’re going to change on, say, Planned Parenthood, abortion or the death penalty.

    But I do see a little room from the pope on the issue of climate and environment. And talking to Republicans today, they say perhaps, even if they don’t change, say, cap and trade — they’re not suddenly all going to be for something like that that they see as a problem — but perhaps there will be a dialogue where there’s more acknowledgment of a problem and a more careful look from those who don’t see a problem at what is going on in the environment.

    Note the pope didn’t use the phrase climate change. Republicans like that. They say that gives them room for a dialogue on this subject and some say they think there could be a change in how they approach it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, what about beyond politics, whether we want to talk atmosphere or whatever word you want to use? Did you sense, you know — listening to you and listening to what some of the members said, it sounds like they felt this was really something different happening. It wasn’t — clearly just another political speech.

    LISA DESJARDINS: This is what’s remarkable. We have been around these members so often. They live in a strange world where they are the powerful, and they only are accountable every two or six years.

    But I think what happened today, Judy, and even to a cynical reporter like me sometimes, is the pope made them more human. I heard from Dan Coats. He said there was a sense of reverence in the chamber. Debbie Stabenow said it was a sense of humility. I think he made these powerful people remember that they are human and that they have a human responsibility.

    That’s what I heard again and again from members who don’t usually talk like that. That’s what was astounding. And they also sort of got rid of that layer of scriptedness that we’re so used to, even if for a few hours today. We will see how long it lasts. It was remarkable.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Maybe it will last.

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right. I hope so.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We will see.

    Lisa Desjardins, thank you.

    LISA DESJARDINS: My pleasure.

    The post How Pope Francis’ bipartisan call resonated in Congress appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Migrants receive food after they arrived by train in Hegyeshalom, Hungary, September 24, 2015. The European Union migrant quota system approved in Brussels is "seriously flawed" and Hungary is considering challenging the decision in court, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff said on Thursday. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger  - RTX1S96B

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In other news, European leaders are promising new efforts to process thousands of refugees and migrants reaching Greece and Italy.

    The agreement early today also includes more than a billion dollars in aid for those still in refugee camps in the Middle East.

    Meanwhile, the crisis stoked new tensions along Serbia’s border with Croatia. Long lines of cargo trucks backed up as the rival nations cut off imports and blocked traffic in a war of words over the flow of refugees.

    ZORAN MILANOVIC, Prime Minister, Croatia (through interpreter): All that the Serbian prime minister has to do is to stop this flow of migrants, 9,000 in one day. We cannot make 50 refugee camps at the border. What we have done so far is good, and we can cope with 4,000, 5,000 a day, but above that, no.

    NEBOJSA STEFANOVIC, Serbian Interior Minister (through interpreter): Croatia is behaving irresponsibly. By imposing this economic aggression, they are hurting the economy of both countries. Serbia is forced to introduce countermeasures. We are not happy about it, but we have to protect our state and our sovereignty.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: More than 40,000 migrants have entered Croatia from Serbia over the last nine days.

    GWEN IFILL: The president of China arrived in Washington this evening for a highly anticipated state visit. Xi Jinping’s plane touched down at Joint Base Andrews, after flying cross-country from Seattle. He was greeted by Vice President and Mrs. Biden. Xi has a private dinner with President Obama tonight. He will be formally welcomed tomorrow.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Obama will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday in New York for the first time in nearly a year. The Kremlin said today the focus will be Syria and coordinating the fight there against Islamic State forces.

    But White House spokesman Josh Earnest charged again that Russia’s military buildup will do far more harm than good.

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: President Obama will make it clear once again that Russia doubling down on their support for the Assad regime is a losing bet. The likely consequence of them doing so is only to deepen and expand the ongoing crisis in that country. That doesn’t serve the interests of either the Russian people or the American people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Earnest said Russia’s involvement in Ukraine will be President Obama’s top item. The talks will follow Putin’s address to the U.N. General Assembly.

    GWEN IFILL: In Yemen, an Islamic State affiliate claimed an attack that killed 25 Muslims at prayer today. The suicide bombing wrecked a mosque in Sanaa, as worshipers observed the holiday of Eid al Adha. The bomber set off a smaller explosion, then blew himself up as people ran for the exits.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The government of Colombia and that country’s largest rebel group now say their long-running conflict will end in the next six months. The two sides announced the deal last night in Havana, Cuba, where peace talks took place. A final agreement would end more than 50 years of fighting. The United States welcomed the deal, but Colombia’s conservative political opposition condemned it.

    GWEN IFILL: The scandal over Volkswagen cheating on emissions tests is expanding again. In Berlin today, Germany’s transport minister confirmed that rigged V.W.s expanded beyond the U.S.

    ALEXANDER DOBRINDT, German Transport Minister (through interpreter): We were informed by Volkswagen that there are vehicles with 1.6-liter and 2-liter diesel engines in Europe affected by the manipulations. That is why we will continue to work intensely together with Volkswagen in order to determine what cars exactly are involved.

    GWEN IFILL: Eleven million Volkswagen cars worldwide were fitted with the software responsible for the emissions cheating.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, the Senate balked again at defunding Planned Parenthood as the price of preventing a government shutdown. Republican conservatives have pushed that plan. But they once again came up short of the 60 votes needed to advance a bill, but only after the two parties traded broadsides.

    SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), Minority Leader: By inserting into this debate a meaningless, losing attack on women as just a waste of time, but they decided, the Republicans have decided once again to place partisan, ideological agendas over the well-being of the nation.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), Majority Leader: There’s no reason to continue blocking every attempt to fund the government or to protect political allies that are mired in scandal. So, I’m calling on colleagues across the aisle to join us in standing against a shutdown. I’m calling on them to join us in standing up for women’s health instead.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, as you heard, is saying he opposes shutting the government. He’s now expected to offer a so-called clean bill to fund operations throughDecember 11. It’s not clear whether House Republicans will go along.

    GWEN IFILL: The world’s largest maker of construction equipment, Caterpillar, will cut as many as 10,000 jobs through 2018. The announcement today is the latest sign of a worldwide slowdown in mining and energy exploration. And that, in turn, held Wall Street back. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 80 points to close back near 16200. The Nasdaq fell 18 points. And the S&P 500 dropped six.

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    Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington, Sept. 23, 2015. David Ryder/Reuters

    Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington, Sept. 23, 2015. President Obama and Xi are scheduled to talk Friday at the White House. David Ryder/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is banking that tough talk on suspected Chinese cyberattacks will yield changes in Beijing’s behavior and justify a decision to hold off penalizing China.

    American officials say China is privately showing signs of taking the matter more seriously and noted comments from President Xi Jinping this week that he’s willing to work with the U.S. on cybersecurity.

    “Those kinds of comments are at least consistent with what we have urged the Chinese to do when it comes to their policies,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday. “But it certainly is not going to eliminate the concerns that we have, and it certainly is not going to reduce the priority that we place on trying to make progress on those issues.”

    Obama and Xi were to meet over dinner Thursday night and talk again at the White House on Friday.

    Hacking attacks on U.S. companies and government agencies have become a growing source of tension between the U.S. and China.

    The U.S. has been preparing sanctions against China in retaliation for its suspected theft earlier this year of personal data of millions of current and former U.S. government employees. But officials decided against levying the penalties ahead of Xi’s visit — in part because embarrassing the optics-conscious Chinese could have impacted potential cooperation during the talks that begin Thursday night.

    However, some analysts say China will only see an incentive to change its cyber behavior if it feels real consequences.

    “The Chinese are going to continue to engage in this activity until they begin to pay a cost for it,” said Patrick Cronin of the Center for New American Security. “And today they don’t pay a cost for it, so it’s going to continue.”

    U.S. officials are particularly concerned with cyberspying that aims to steal intellectual property from private corporations. The White House is seeking commitments from China to protect intellectual property, though officials are downplaying expectations for any particular formal agreement being reached this week.

    “We can choose to make this an area of competition, which I guarantee you we’ll win if we have to,” Obama told business leaders last week. “Or, alternatively, we can come to an agreement in which we say, ‘This isn’t helping anybody. Let’s instead try to have some basic rules of the road in terms of how we operate.'”

    In his visit to the West Coast earlier this week, Xi said China has also been a victim of hacking. Acknowledging that China and the United States don’t always see eye to eye, Xi said China is ready to set up a joint effort with the United States to fight cybercrimes.

    Nick Rossmann, a program manager for the security company FireEye Inc., said his group is tracking about two dozen organizations in China that use malware to breach U.S. organizations and companies. He cited defense, health care and high-tech firms as among the most frequently targeted companies.

    “It’s really a range across American industry that we see this economic espionage occurring in,” Rossmann said.

    The complaint from those companies is that they spend years developing innovative products while companies in China are able to launch comparable products without that same level of effort and cost, Rossmann said.

    Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser at the White House, said the U.S. will make the appeal during talks that China’s failure to crackdown on cyber spying could alienate a business community that has been a strong backer of deepening U.S.-China relations, and could also antagonize U.S. lawmakers into taking more aggressive action.

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    MECCA, SAUDI ARABIA - SEPTEMBER 24: Ambulances are seen on a road after at least 753 Muslim Hajj pilgrims were killed  and at least another 450 injured  in a stampede that took place near the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia on September 24, 2015. The stampede occurred in the town of Mina, located roughly five kilometers east of Mecca, as pilgrims performed a ritual in which they threw stones at a structure representing the devil. (Photo by Ozkan Bilgin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

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    GWEN IFILL: Tragedy struck the Muslim world today, marring the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. At least 719 people were killed when worshipers panicked and stampeded. More than 860 others were hurt.

    It was a scene of horror in a place of holiness. Cell phone video captured the gruesome aftermath, with bodies littering the streets. Saudi officials said the stampede started when two waves of pilgrims collided.

    KHALID AL-FALIH, Saudi Arabian Health Minister (through interpreter): The accident was caused by overcrowding and also by some of the pilgrims not following the movement instructions of the security and the hajj ministry. However, this is God’s will.

    GWEN IFILL: The disaster unfolded in Mina, a valley about three miles outside Mecca. Separate surges of people met at an intersection with Street 204, a main road that leads through thousands of tents to Al Jamarat. There, the faithful perform the symbolic stoning of the devil, a ritual of throwing pebbles at columns.

    But, on this day, many never got there. Instead, ambulances and rescue crews struggled desperately to get the injured through packed streets to nearby hospitals. Others were taken by helicopter.

    Survivors recall the sheer terror of being engulfed.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): We were coming back from the Jamarat, and on the way back, I met my husband and he was going to the Jamarat. The pilgrims began pushing each other and they pushed people to the ground. I was about to die.

    GWEN IFILL: It was the second major disaster of this year’s hajj season. Less than two weeks ago, high winds sent a giant construction crane crashing into Mecca’s Grand Mosque. It killed more than 100 people and injured nearly 400.

    The twin tragedies raised new questions about safety measures the Saudis have implemented to prevent a repeat of past disasters. The deadliest came in 1990, when at least 1,400 pilgrims died during a stampede in a pedestrian tunnel.

    Now Saudi King Salman has ordered an investigation into what caused today’s stampede.

    Aya Batrawy is covering the story for the Associated Press. I spoke to her from Saudi Arabia a few minutes ago.

    Aya Batrawy, thank you for joining us. We know you’re there in Mina, Saudi Arabia, the site of that horrific tragedy today. One of the things we watched, seeing this from a distance, we wonder is, how did it get so out of control?

    AYA BATRAWY, Associated Press: And that’s what the survivors I spoke to also are questioning, how this could happen in 2015, at a time when the Saudi government has been hosting the annual hajj pilgrimage for decades now?

    What the survivors told me was there was a large crowd heading toward the facility behind me to perform one of the final rites of hajj when another crowd coming back from the facility intersected with them. And at that point, people started shoving and trying to get past one another.

    And that’s when people started tripping, falling over each other, falling over wheelchairs. People were suffocating, bodies were piling up. And the streets just turned into complete chaos and mayhem and, as we see today, over 700 people dead, and the death toll is expected to rise.

    I was there at the scene 10 hours after this happened, and there were still bodies lying on the ground. There were still helicopters trying over trying to ferry the wounded. There were still bodies being picked up. I saw emergency lights being brought in, which means clearly they’re going to be working through the night to try and figure out what happened, as well as trying to get to people.

    GWEN IFILL: As we have reported before, this is not the first time there’s been this kind of stampede at the hajj, and is this — are there safety concerns that have been worked out in advance by authorities designed to avoid just this outcome?

    AYA BATRAWY: I mean, definitely, authorities here spend billions of dollars every year to prepare for the hajj and to make the hajj as comfortable and safe as possible for the pilgrims. They’re spending $60 billion to expand the Grand Mosque that houses the cube-shaped Kaaba, which is a central part of the hajj, a location where people go for the hajj pilgrimage.

    They have spent — there’s 100,000 security forces deployed this year for safety, for crowd management. There’s 5,000 CCTV cameras set up everywhere to monitor people for the flow of the crowds. It’s a logistical challenge. And so that’s kind of the question now, is, how did this happen? Who allowed these two — what agencies — what happened that these two crowds were able to intersect?

    Because, normally, what happens are that there are roads that are just one-way, so that crowds don’t end up clashing into one another, so there will be roads that are one-way going one way and roads going another way, and that way pilgrims can avoid this kind of thing.

    GWEN IFILL: You mentioned all of the renovations and the money being spent at the Grand Mosque. And yet there was an accident there also earlier this week, where 100 people were killed in a crane collapse. Do they know what happened there yet?

    AYA BATRAWY: There’s still an investigation into that crane collapse, but I also spoke with survivors there. It was a horrific, horrific scene. It was very unexpected.

    People were praying, looking toward the Kaaba. It was exactly almost two weeks ago today that it happened, when stormy — a storm happened, a thunderstorm, and wind came out unexpectedly. And one of the largest cranes around the mosque that’s currently working on the expansion collapsed.

    So, what authorities are saying is that wind was the cause, but they’re also saying that the giant construction company the Saudi Binladin Group, which was the operator of the crane, was also partly faulted for not following operating procedures there.

    So, obviously, this is something — there are two accidents that have happened in the last two weeks, extremely devastating for the pilgrims here. But also I think for the king, whose legacy is tied to the pilgrimage, his title is custodian of the two holy mosques, in reference to two holy sites, one of them being Mecca.

    It’s something that everyone is taking very seriously and everyone is planning to see how, you know, this can be avoided again.

    GWEN IFILL: Aya Batrawy of the Associated Press, thank you for talking us on the scene tonight.

    AYA BATRAWY: Thank you.

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  • 09/25/15--12:28: Panda cub’s name revealed
  • Zookeepers prepare to weigh a Giant Panda Cub at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington in this picture taken September 14, 2015.  The cub was born to Mei Xiang on August 22, 2015 and weighs 881.5 grams or 1.9 pounds, according to a zoo news release.  REUTERS/Smithsonian's National Zoo/Erika Bauer/Handout via Reuters   THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - RTS1929

    The National Zoo’s newest panda cub, seen here before being weighed, now has a name: Bei Bei. REUTERS/Smithsonian’s National Zoo/Erika Bauer/Handout via Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Washington’s newest giant panda cub is nameless no more. Call him Bei Bei.

    Michelle Obama and her Chinese counterpart, Peng Liyuan, revealed the name Friday during a tour of the panda house at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

    Bei Bei means “precious treasure” and is pronounced “bay bay.” It complements his 2-year-old sister’s name, Bao Bao.

    The first ladies chose the name and untied a pair of yellow scrolls to reveal it in both English and Mandarin Chinese, with help from two third-graders from a Chinese-immersion elementary school in the nation’s capital. Just before revealing the name, the spouses watched Bei Bei get a medical checkup.

    The zoo is a favorite of her family, Mrs. Obama told the audience of American, Chinese and Smithsonian officials.

    “My daughter, Malia, has done several internships here and comes here often, even though you don’t know it. She is a fan,” the first lady said. “She can now operate under cover, so she comes and goes and you don’t even know it. We are grateful for everything you do to make this a national treasure.”

    Bei Bei, who turns 5 weeks old on Saturday and now weighs about 3 pounds, is the survivor of a pair of twins born Aug. 22 to Mei Xiang. The second cub died four days after its birth.

    With the cub, the zoo has four pandas for the first time, including Tian Tian, the father of Bao Bao and Bei Bei.

    Panda keepers at the National Zoo and at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong, Sichuan Province, each contributed one name for consideration. Bei Bei was submitted by the Chinese. The cub will be sent to China to live after he turns 4.

    Peng spoke of the affection Americans have for pandas and quoted Mrs. Obama for having said the bears serve as a common bond between two countries that disagree sharply on other issues.

    “We do need more bonds to bring the people of our two countries ever more closer,” Peng said through an interpreter. “And I think giant pandas are exactly one of those bonds that we can celebrate to achieve that goal.”

    China gave a pair of giant pandas to the National Zoo in 1972 following President Richard Nixon’s groundbreaking visit to the Asian country. Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing lived out their lives at the zoo. The current pair of adult pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, arrived in 2000.

    Another of the couple’s surviving cubs, Tai Shan, lives in China.

    Before the announcement, Tian Tian and Bao Bao appeared in their outdoor yards, with Bao Bao thrilling the audience by toppling a panda-friendly frozen cake set out for her as a treat.

    Bei Bei likely won’t appear in public before early 2016.

    The post Panda cub’s name revealed appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A college student studying. A new survey finds that millennials are actually more informed than most people would think.

    WASHINGTON — Don’t believe everything you see tweeted, shared or posted about the millennial generation being uninformed.

    A sizable group of these young adults — 4 of every 10 — actively seeks out the news, an analysis of their media habits finds.

    Even the out-of-it others say they stumble on news while they’re catching up with friends on Facebook, scanning their Twitter feeds or looking for entertainment online.

    Like generations before them, the millennials are more nuanced and complicated than the stereotypes about them would have it.

    “It’s the first digital generation, so there’s a tendency to lump them together and think this is how people who’ve grown up with this technology behave,” said Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, which paid for the study. But, Rosenstiel said, “This generation is not a monolith.”

    To help sort out the millennials, from the more apathetic to the most plugged-in, researchers with the Media Insight Project surveyed them and came up with four general categories.

    The Media Insight Project is a partnership between the Associated Press-NORC Center For Public Affairs Research and the American Press Institute, which hopes to provide insight on how journalists can learn better ways to reach and hold this audience under age 35.

    They are the best-educated generation of Americans yet, and they have nearly infinite information available at their fingertips: Almost all use a smartphone.

    “My takeaway is that while these folks live a lot of their life connected on digital devices, they are interested in the world probably in pretty similar ways to previous generations, and maybe even more so,” Rosenstiel said.

    Here’s how the study breaks them down:



    This group, about a third of all millennials, is most like the stereotype of apathetic, disengaged youth. They tend to stumble onto their news and information while looking for other things online.

    At 18 to 24, they are younger members of the millennial generation, and many are in school or college.

    Eight in 10 stream music, TV or movies. Three out of 4 go online to see what their friends are doing. Half play games online, with most of those saying they play several times a day.

    But only 1 out of 3 follows national political news. Their interest in local news or international reports is no higher.

    Fewer than half use a paid news subscription, including those who piggyback on their parents’ digital or print accounts.

    About half of this group say they go online to keep up with what’s going on in the world, but for them that’s likely to mean the latest music or TV episode.

    Rosenstiel says the research on older millennials suggests that some in this younger group will become more engaged in news in a few years, as their lives change.



    This smaller group shatters the stereotype.

    They’re the same age as the “unattached,” adults under 25, but they actively seek to stay informed.

    About 1 in 6 millennials falls into the “explorer” category.

    Nearly two-thirds of this group say they enjoy following the news. Maybe that’s because they see it as a social activity.

    They are more likely than other millennials to talk to friends and family about the news. They also say staying informed makes them better citizens and helps them feel connected to their communities.

    About half check news several times a day on Facebook. And 4 in 10 report using Facebook to learn more about something they heard in the news.



    Busy, busy: This group of older millennials, ages 25 to 34, are plunging into marriages, parenthood and careers and find little time to follow current events.

    Representing about a quarter of their generation, they are accidental news consumers, in some ways even less engaged than the younger “unattached” crowd.

    They pay the most attention to news that’s relevant to their own jobs or kids or lifestyle.

    They are the least likely of the millennials to say news and information helps them take action to address issues they care about (only 26 percent) or that news helps them stay informed to be a good citizen (47 percent).

    Only 1 in 3 follows national politics.



    These are the ones to watch.

    They are the other half of the older millennials, ages 25 to 34. They make staying informed a priority despite their busy lives, families and careers — or maybe because those things inspire them to care about what’s going on in the world.

    Two-thirds say following news makes them a better citizen.

    Eight in 10 are employed, and they’re the group most likely to have a college degree. They’re also the most racially diverse of the groups — the only one where non-Hispanic whites aren’t the majority.

    They are the millennials most likely to follow current events: 6 in 10 track national politics and nearly half keep up with world news.

    They are also are among the most likely to keep up with practical information related to their jobs or their city and to research products and prices online.

    Half of the “activists” personally pay for a news subscription. They are less likely than other millennials to get their news via Facebook.


    The survey of 1,045 young adults was conducted from Jan. 5 through Feb. 2, 2015 with funding from the American Press Institute.

    The survey was conducted using online interviews in English and Spanish with a random sample of adults age 18-34 who were initially recruited and screened to take part in the survey over the phone. Results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

    The post Millennials are more informed than you think appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Iran's President Hassan Rouhani during a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at last year's U.N. General Assembly in New York. Photo by Jewel Samad/Pool/via Reuters

    Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani during a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at last year’s U.N. General Assembly in New York. Photo by Jewel Samad/Pool/via Reuters

    It was a serene and confident Iranian President Hassan Rouhani who strode into the room of editors, anchors and columnists this morning to take his seat at the head of a U-shaped table behind a cascade of white flowers. And no wonder. As he reminded us, at this gathering a year ago the discussion had been all about whether negotiations between Iran and the “P5+1” world powers could lead to a deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program and lifting economic sanctions in return. And succeed they did.

    Hassan Rouhani at a meeting with the press in New York ahead of the U.N. General Assembly. Photo by Margaret Warner

    Hassan Rouhani met with media in New York ahead of the U.N. General Assembly. Photo by Margaret Warner

    “The atmospherics are somewhat different than last year.” Rouhani said. The question is, “whether the accomplishments thus far can be used as a road map to agreement on other issues.”

    Specifically, he said, Iran wants to see if the agreement is implemented or whether “road blocks” are thrown up, a clear reference to ongoing Republican efforts in Congress to hamstring President Obama’s power to lift nuclear-related sanctions. “We shall see,” he said.

    The carrot Rouhani dangled is one he’s held out before: that the July 14 nuclear agreement could open the door to U.S.-Iranian cooperation on other issues, especially on resolving the conflict in Syria and defeating what he called the “savage, inhuman, sub-human” Islamic State.

    But first, he said, the Iranian people have to be convinced that the diplomatic path they took on the Iran deal bore fruit.

    It was a warning, but also an admission of the constraints on his power. Rouhani — elected in 2013 on a campaign pledge to end Iran’s isolation from the world and get out from under crippling sanctions — now has to deliver. Not only to the Iranian people, but to domestic hard-liners long suspicious and even hostile to the talks, including the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

    So for now, he said cooly, there’s no reason to have a meeting or photo-op handshake with President Obama around the edges of the U.N. General Assembly this coming week. “Before talking about meetings or handshakes,” he said, “we should focus on … on those issues important to both countries and trying to find a solution.”

    The most obvious and intractable issue is the ongoing tragedy in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad is fighting the Islamic State terrorists, but also all opposition to his rule. The Obama administration has insisted Assad has to go and a transitional government be formed, before it’s possible to defeat ISIS in Syria.

    But Rouhani poured cold water on expectations that the two countries would see eye to eye anytime soon. He readily acknowledged that Iranian military personnel are there, actively helping Assad. And he embraced the same view as the Russians — who just stepped up their military involvement there. “If we want to fight terrorists in Syria, we cannot do so while weakening the central government in Syria,” he said.

    So does the Iranian deal herald the dawn of a new era in U.S.-Iranian relations?

    “We can point to the tangibles, the many steps forward,” Rouhani said. “But there is a long road to travel.”

    A long road indeed.

    The post Iran and the U.S have a deal, but don’t expect Rouhani and Obama to shake on it appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A woman waits for a bus to take her to a refugee registration center in Hungary on Tuesday. Hundreds of migrants and refugees have been stuck in an open field near the Serbian border. Photo by Saskia de Melker/NewsHour

    A woman waits for a bus to take her to a refugee registration center in Hungary. Photo by Saskia de Melker/NewsHour

    As the Syrian refugee crisis has transcended borders and minds, a growing number of U.S. corporations have reached into their pocketbooks and outward to their public spheres of influence to assist with the humanitarian efforts.

    Fast food giant, McDonalds, has spearheaded a “multimillion-dollar” media initiative for the U.N.’s World Food Program.

    These funds, they say, will help pay for television airtime supporting WFP’s response to the crisis, which recently featured the animated ad, “Stop Hunger. Start Peace.” Burger King, DreamWorks, Facebook and Twitter, among others, have also backed the initiative in solidarity.

    “We felt it was an opportunity for us to contribute something meaningful, something authentic,” McDonalds CEO Steve Easterbrook said to the New York Times. “This is not about single brands. This is about doing good.”

    Apple will be making its own “substantial” contribution to the Save the Children charity and match donations from its’ employees two-for-one.

    They also released a new version of Crowded House’s 1999 song, “Help is Coming,” on iTunes with proceeds going to Save the Children.

    “Apple is dedicated to advancing human rights around the world,” Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote in a statement. “We hope the actions we’re taking will help make the situation less desperate for some, and ease the hardship so many are enduring.”

    Google has also pledged $1 million to relief efforts and challenged individuals to raise $5.5 million by matching their donations.

    The donations will be sent to four different non-profits: Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders, the UNHCR and the International Rescue Committee.

    “These nonprofits are helping deliver essential assistance, including shelter, food and water and medical care, and looking after the security and rights of people in need,” Google wrote on its One Today page.

    This support has been welcomed by aid agencies, but the crisis has proven exorbitantly expensive, even for the united front of America’s most powerful corporations.

    The WFP reaches more than 4 million Syrians and 1.3 million refugees in camps in neighboring countries. But for 2015, the aid agencies requested a whopping $7.4 billion to adequately care for all the refugees. As of September, they received less than 40 percent of that total.

    While the U.S. has been the largest funder of the WFP with more than $1.1 billion committed, the private sector only represents 5 to 10 percent of this pool.

    The funding shortages led the U.N.’s food program to cut the aid of 360,000 refugees from Syria’s neighboring countries, Lebanon and Jordan, in September leaving most refugees in those countries living on about 50 cents a day.

    But the surge in corporate donations has brought new hope to the WFP as a means to bring more support and attention to their appeal.

    “This gives us a megaphone,” WFP’s director of private sector partnerships Jay Aldous said to Reuters. “We think the sum total of using the voices of all of these companies is greater than the sum total of a singular financial gift.”

    The post U.S. corporations give millions for refugees, but billions more needed appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Graphic courtesy of NASA's Scientific Visualization studio

    The moon as it appears when eclipsed. Graphic courtesy of NASA’s Scientific Visualization studio

    On Sunday, if the skies are clear, you’ll have the chance to glimpse a rare event in the night sky: a total supermoon lunar eclipse.

    During this event, three things will occur at once. The moon will be both full and at its closest point to Earth – that’s known as a supermoon. And this will occur at the same time as a total lunar eclipse – that means the moon, sun and Earth will be aligned.

    Graphic courtesy of NASA’s Scientific Visualization studio

    Because of its proximity to Earth, the moon will appear brighter and larger — 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than other full moons — in the sky. And it will appear a dark, coppery red, caused by the Earth blocking the sunlight that normally reflects off the moon.

    Sunday’s eclipse will start at 8:45 p.m. EST and end around 1:00 a.m EST, with the reddish phase lasting for about an hour from 10 to 11 p.m.

    Graphic courtesy of NASA's Scientific Visualization studio

    A timeline of the eclipse in Eastern Daylight Time. Graphic courtesy of NASA’s Scientific Visualization studio

    This represents the first total supermoon eclipse since 1982, and there won’t be another until 2033. It also caps the end of a series of lunar eclipse tetrads, or four total lunar eclipses in a row.

    Tetrads occur when four total lunar eclipses happen in a span of 18 months, and they can be very rare. While there are eight happening in the 21st century, between 1600 and 1900, there were none.

    A visualization of all the moon’s phases. Craters near the terminator are labeled. Graphic courtesy of NASA’s Scientific Visualization studio.

    Tetrads are rare because even though there is the potential for a total lunar eclipse twice every year, they don’t always happen. Instead, there could be a partial eclipse, where the moon only passes partway through the Earth’s shadow, a penumbral eclipse, where the moon passes through the pale, outer-edge of the earth’s shadow, or no eclipse at all.
    A lunar eclipse as seen from the moon. Graphic courtesy of NASA's Scientific Visualization studio

    A lunar eclipse as seen from the moon. Graphic courtesy of NASA’s Scientific Visualization studio

    From April 2014 until now, every potential eclipse has resulted in a total lunar eclipse.

    “The next couple of eclipses are penumbral, then there’s a partial, then the next total lunar eclipse you get is in January 2018.” said Dr. Bruce Betts of Planetary.org.

    The post Why you won’t want to miss Sunday’s supermoon eclipse appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Yuja Wang performing the music of Schubert, Liszt, Scriabin and Balakirev at Carnegie Hall on Thursday night, December 11, 2014.(Photo by Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images)

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We take a look now at a very different Chinese-American collaboration, this time in the world of the arts.

    Ever since a ban on Western music was lifted in China almost 40 years ago, the country has produced a number of artists for elite music conservatories in the West.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story of one such pianist who’s taken the leap from prodigy to international superstar with the help of an American mentor and a former prodigy himself.

    This story was produced in collaboration with public TV station KQED.

    JEFFREY BROWN: He is 70, the grandson of Yiddish theater stars, music director of the San Francisco Symphony, and a major figure on the classical music scene for five decades. She is 28, a virtuoso from China and a spectacular new presence on the international circuit.

    Michael Tilson Thomas and Yuja Wang have been collaborators, as conductor and pianist, for 11 years now.

    MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS, San Francisco Symphony & News World Symphony: This is a little part of a Schubert Rondo, which is subtitled, “Our Friendship is Unchanging.” It’s forever.


    JEFFREY BROWN: Up close, it’s clearly a relationship based on musicianship and a sense of humor.

    MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS: There is an element of excitement and danger to it, because it reminds me sometimes as if you were watching the circus and you’re watching a trapeze act. Somebody is jumping and doing flips in the air, but also somebody is catching the person who is doing that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And who is who in this case?

    MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS: In this case, I’m the catcher.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. And you’re the?

    YUJA WANG, Pianist: I jump around.


    JEFFREY BROWN: You jump around.

    Yuja Wang took her first piano lesson at age 6. Soon after, she was accepted at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. At 14, she left China without her parents to study classical music, first in Calgary and then at the prestigious Curtis School of Music in Philadelphia, from which she graduated at age 21.

    These days, when not on the road, Wang lives in New York, as addicted as the next 20-something to her digital devices.

    When you put on the headphones, you’re listening to?

    YUJA WANG: It really depends on my mood, because, like — today, I feel like Brahms, or today I feel like Eminem.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Brahms and Eminem, right?


    JEFFREY BROWN: They go together. Yes. Yes.

    Her fiery, youthful style and sheer talent quickly attracted attention in traditional classic music circles and beyond. YouTube videos, like this one of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” on the Medici TV site have gained millions of views.

    For his part, Michael Tilson Thomas was himself a classical music prodigy. In Los Angeles, he played piano alongside legends like Igor Stravinsky and Aaron Copland. When he first heard then 17-year-old Yuja Wang play, he recognized some familiar traits.

    MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS: There’s that expression, it takes one to know one. And there is that certain thing I spotted in her from the beginning of, ah, right. And it was remarkable, because here was this very young woman playing, and she was listening. She was listening to the harmonies and she was playing in a way that was following and sympathetic, as well as asserting herself.

    JEFFREY BROWN: We watched the two rehearse Beethoven’s Piano Concerto Number Four with the San Francisco Symphony.

    MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS: And then kind of resolving in — does that sort of make sense for you?

    YUJA WANG: Yes, but it’s hard to control the sound.

    MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS: I know. It’s hard playing — playing slow and quiet is the hardest thing, for a thoroughbred like you, anyway.


    JEFFREY BROWN: Hours later, issues resolved, they performed for a packed house in Davies Hall.

    YUJA WANG: We played it three years ago, and now we’re playing it again. And I feel like it’s more relaxed and more free. And he caught up on that in the rehearsal like after five pages. It was just so sensitive.

    And it just had this really subtle adjustments right away. And he will tell the orchestra, and they change the sounds, the tone, the phrasing. Everything just kind of takes care of itself, because the overall mood and atmosphere is a little different.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Mentoring, in this case, takes many forms, including, over the years, teaching Wang, a young woman constantly traveling the world, how to prepare healthy meals.

    MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS: We’re going to make croutons. No, no, no, wait. Don’t put them in yet.

    YUJA WANG: No? Oh, OK.

    MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS: You’re not done with them. Take them out.


    JEFFREY BROWN: But, beyond the salad-making, Tilson Thomas says, there’s the deeper satisfaction to his mentoring role.

    MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS: It’s essential for me, the sense of contact with a new brilliant spirit of another generation, with whom I feel so much in common.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But why is it essential?

    MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS: Because it reminds me, too, of the relationship I had with mentors of mine who were 50 years older than I. My major piano teacher was a pupil of a guy called Moriz Rosenthal, who had been a pupil of Liszt, who was a pupil of Czerny, who was a pupil of Beethoven.

    JEFFREY BROWN: With Yuja Wang, along with her musical prowess, her style, very much including clothing, has also gotten plenty of attention, and sometimes raised eyebrows in the tradition-bound world of classical music.

    Of an orange mini-dress she wore for a performance at the Hollywood Bowl, The Los Angeles Times wrote — quote — “Had there been any less of the dress, the Bowl might have been forced to restrict admission to any music lover under 18.”

    Do you like to make a statement with your clothes, as well as with your music?

    YUJA WANG: Well, the clothes goes with the music. Like, tonight, it’s Beethoven. It’s something elegant. Tomorrow, I will have something very jarring and blatant for Bartok.

    MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS: I have certain ideas of where that borderline is of just how daring her fashion sense can be relative to the piece that she’s playing.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But Tilson Thomas also recognizes an added benefit.

    MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS: She’s very appealing to young people, of course, because she is so young, she’s so attractive. Her playing is so brilliant. All the controversy concerning the way she appears, fashion-wise, this is all part of it, and yet there is no one who remotely suggested that anything about her music-making was less than totally serious.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Soon after our visit, Michael Tilson Thomas, Yuja Wang, and the San Francisco Symphony took their show on the road for an extended European tour.

    After that, Tilson Thomas returns to San Francisco to launch a new season. And Wang continues her peripatetic musical ways with a new album of music by Maurice Ravel out in October.

    From San Francisco, I’m Jeffrey Brown for the PBS NewsHour.


    The post Unique mentorship between conductor and pianist sparks musical fireworks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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