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

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    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks to U.S. President Barack Obama (R) during the Leaders' Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism at the United Nations General Assembly in New York September 29, 2015.  REUTERS/Darren Ornitz  - RTS2AFB

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: World leaders met today at the United Nations on ways to combat violent extremism around the world, especially in Syria and Iraq.

    NewsHour’s chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner is there and has this report.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I have repeatedly said that our approach will take time. This is not an easy task.

    MARGARET WARNER: Today’s admission came one year after President Obama formed an international coalition against the Islamic State, with much fanfare here at the U.N.

    The U.S.-led coalition includes some 60 countries, about two dozen taking part in the military campaign. The president told the group he is ultimately optimistic, but the date of success was unclear.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We have ISIL taking root in areas that already are suffering from failed governance, in some cases, in some cases, civil war or sectarian strife. And, as a consequence of the vacuum that exists in many of these areas, ISIL has been able to dig in. They have shown themselves to be resilient.

    MARGARET WARNER: Indeed, this map from the Institute for the Study of War last September shows the Islamic State’s zones of control in Iraq and Syria. A similar map this month shows the group has made gains in Central Syria.

    In Iraq, the Islamic State still holds the major cities of Mosul and Ramadi, while Kurdish and Iraqi government forces have liberated Kirkuk and Tikrit, and stopped an advance on the Iraqi Kurdish capital, Irbil.

    So far, Iraqi government plans to launch new offensives have come to little. As for Syria, CBS News now reports the Pentagon is ending its $500 million program to train moderate rebels there. The National Security Council disputes that report. But U.S. officials have said that only a handful of the trainees ever took to the field.

    Kurdish fighters have been effective in both countries, but the politics are complicated. Today, Turkey’s prime minister, a member of the coalition, made a point of saying the Turks were also fighting Turkey’s Kurdish rebels demanding autonomy.

    AHMET DAVUTOGLU, Prime Minister, Turkey: All of us, we must be vigilant. One terrorist fighting the other will not legitimize it. We want our partners and friends to support Turkey in its fight against all types of terrorism.

    MARGARET WARNER: For his part, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi urged greater support to build up his military and shut down recruiting for ISIS.

    In fact, there have been multiple reports that the past year has seen a spike in foreign recruits to ISIS from more than 100 countries.

    British Prime Minister David Cameron addressed that.

    DAVID CAMERON, Prime Minister, United Kingdom: So, of course, we have to win militarily. We have to have the political solution. We need all the propaganda I have spoken about. But we also need to challenge the extremist world view right at the very start.

    MARGARET WARNER: That appeal to beat back extremism was nearly universal at today’s summit. But consensus on how to do it remained hard to come by.

    The post At UN, coalition finds little consensus on how to fight extremism appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan September 29, 2015. Afghan forces backed by U.S. air support battled Taliban fighters for control of the northern city of Kunduz on Tuesday, after the militants seized a provincial capital for the first time since their ouster 14 years ago. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail  - RTS28F7

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Afghanistan’s military fought today to take back a provincial capital, the first major city captured by the Taliban in 14 years.

    The militants stormed Kunduz yesterday, in a major setback to the government. Today, Afghan troops and militiamen launched a counteroffensive, with U.S. air support, and a promise of more help from President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul.

    PRESIDENT ASHRAF GHANI, Afghanistan (through interpreter): Afghan security force made achievements today in Kunduz province. They have recaptured some parts of the government buildings. New reinforcements have reached Kunduz and Baghlan, and a battalion from the national army will get to Kunduz soon.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Taliban disputed those claims of success, and later reports told of Taliban fighters attacking the Kunduz Airport.

    In Yemen, medical officials sharply increased the death toll from an attack on a wedding party to 131. They blamed airstrikes yesterday led by Saudi Arabia against Shiite rebels. The Saudis denied it, and blamed ground fire from the rebels. Video of the aftermath showed collapsed buildings and burned wreckage, as onlookers gathered. It was the deadliest incident yet in Yemen’s civil war.

    President Obama and Cuba’s President Raul Castro met privately today on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. It’s the second time they have held face-to-face talks this year, as part of normalizing ties. Cuba said Castro pressed again to end the longstanding U.S. economic embargo entirely. President Obama favors that move, but Republicans and some Democrats in the U.S. Congress are opposed.

    The U.S. Senate worked today toward a final vote to avert a government shutdown. The temporary measure would fund federal operations through December 11. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also called for a long-term deal to cover the next two fiscal years.

    Meanwhile, House Republicans were meeting to discuss strategy. California Congressman Kevin McCarthy is the favorite to replace the retiring John Boehner as speaker.

    REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), House Majority Leader: I’m concerned about making a difference in everybody’s lives. We want to make sure that we’re closer to the people, that they feel this is their government, they’re in charge and we serve them. Now, that’s not easy and it won’t change overnight, but that’s our mission.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Boehner resigned after running afoul of Tea Party demands to defund Planned Parenthood, even if it meant shutting down the government.

    For the first time, the head of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, faced her Republican critics in Congress today. They have attacked the group after clandestine videos showed officials discussing how fetal tissue is used for research.

    Today, Congressman Jim Jordan and others sparred with Richards over stripping the group of its federal funding.

    REP. JIM JORDAN (R), Ohio: The nice things about these videos, it’s — it’s lifted the curtain. We can now see what’s going on there. And that’s why should fund the government and ship the money from this organization to organizations that didn’t do this kind of behavior.

    CECILE RICHARDS, President, Planned Parenthood: The outrageous accusations leveled against Planned Parenthood based on heavily doctored videos are offensive and categorically untrue. I realize, though, that the facts have never gotten in the way of these campaigns to block women from health care that they need and deserve.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Republicans also accused Planned Parenthood of spending millions on political activities. Richards said the group keeps federal funds strictly segregated from its political arm.

    The director of national intelligence told senators today he doesn’t have high hopes for a new cyber-agreement with China. It’s supposed to prevent state-sponsored hacking aimed at businesses. But when James Clapper was asked today if he’s optimistic it will work, he said no. He said economic sanctions might be better.

    And on Wall Street, stocks had a mixed session, one day after the big losses. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 47 points to close near 16050. The Nasdaq fell 26 points, and the S&P 500 added two.

    The post News Wrap: Afghan military launches offensive to take back Kunduz appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    When Joaquin Gallegos was 5-years-old, his uncle took his own life.

    For two decades, over 30 of Gallegos’ family members and friends did the same, part of a trend sweeping Indian Country where the suicide among people age 18 to 24 far outpaces the national rate, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Suicide rates among young adults aged 18–24
    in the United States, 2012–2013


    Deaths per 100,000 population
    Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    Those who “completed” in taking their lives were in their 20s and 30s, and younger cousins first attempted suicide in their teens, said Gallegos, 25, a member of the Jicarilla Apache Nation and the Pueblo of Santa Ana and a researcher at the University of Colorado’s Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health.

    In his community, suicide among young people is an ever-present issue that goes unaddressed, Gallegos explained. Part of the problem is that it can feel overwhelming.

    “It’s kind of numbing,” he said. “When there’s one every week, how do you address it?”

    Among people ages 18 to 24 nationwide, the suicide rate is 12.8 deaths per 100,000, and is the second leading cause of death for people between 15- and 24-years-old, according to the CDC. Among all racial and ethnic groups studied, men at this age were far more likely than women to commit suicide. Within the American Indian and Alaskan Native population that age, the rate nearly doubles to 22.5 deaths per 100,000, according to CDC data from 2012 to 2013 released today.

    And these numbers are likely higher in the American Indian community where deaths overall are underreported by as much as 30 percent, previous studies revealed. That may be due to an official misidentifying a person’s racial or ethnic identity at the time of their death, or that person may have self-identified as another race.

    Even Arialdi Miniño, a statistician with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said he was surprised to see that the suicide rate among college-age American Indian people was so high when analyzing two years of data with his team, enough data to bolster the findings’ statistical significance.

    Within the American Indian and Alaskan Native community, young people forced a conversation about suicide prevention during a recent United National Indian Tribal Youth conference, explained Mary Kim Titla, the organization’s executive director. She said adults at the conference were nervous about how the conversation would go.

    “The youth said, ‘I know you don’t want to talk about this, but we need to talk about it,’” she said.

    Ultimately, 1,600 youth from across the country at the conference committed to raising awareness about suicide prevention when they returned home.

    “Our youth need to know that they’re loved and that they have a purpose in life,” Titla said.

    Reflecting on his loved ones who have taken their lives, Gallegos blames poverty entangled with a lack of jobs or access to mental health care for the high suicide rates. He said that the federal government’s policies in the American Indian community made these conditions worse.

    In fact, he wants to advocate for American Indians and “to obtain the healthcare we need and deserve,” Gallegos said, while taking a break from studying for his upcoming LSAT exam.

    “It’s hard to focus on something when there are so many other tragedies occurring around you,” Gallegos said. “This one should take precedence because it involves the future of the tribal nation.”

    The post Suicide among young American Indians nearly double national rate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch heads of state speak at the 70th session of the U.N. General Assembly starting at 9 a.m. EDT each day this week. We’ll update this post with highlights.

    More than 150 world leaders are gathering at U.N. headquarters in New York this week with a migrant crisis, cyber warfare and raging Syrian conflict as the backdrop.

    The Syrian conflict, now in its fourth year, is straining neighboring countries in the Middle East and has spread to Europe, where government officials are trying to come up with a coordinated response. The United States has upped its quota of refugees, but many in the international community think it isn’t enough.

    The United Nations members also are working on updating their development goals and looking toward December’s U.N. climate conference in Paris, where participants will be drafting a new international protocol for the environment.


    President Barack Obama said the U.S. is willing to work with Russia and Iran on a “managed transition” to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power.


    But Russian President Vladimir Putin said it was a “mistake” not to involve Assad’s military in the fight against the Islamic State group.


    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said, following approval of a comprehensive nuclear deal, that a “new chapter” has started in Iran’s relations with the world.

    Cuban President Raul Castro spoke of the particularly harmful effects climate change has on developing island nations and African countries, and demanded fair treatment for them.

    Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi described his country’s fight against extremism and the need to direct young people’s energies toward positive choices.

    Chief Executive Officer of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah called on Pakistan to help crack down on terror networks. He said Afghanistan agreed to peace talks with the Taliban and later learned the Taliban leader had been dead for more than two years, making the talks a “sham.”

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Tuesday that unmarked Russian military servicemen are continuing to occupy parts of Ukraine, and sanctions against Russia should be stiffened.

    Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced the end to his country’s conflict to applause from the attendees. He said the fighting factions are prepared to sign a peace agreement by March 23, 2016.

    Donald Tusk, president of the European Council of the European Union, said the migrant crisis has global dimensions and that Europe was trying to be fair when discussing a system of quotas for taking in refugees. “Everyone can offer help to the refugees. And those who do not want to, at least shouldn’t hide their indifference by criticizing Europe for doing too little,” he said.

    The post WATCH LIVE: 2015 U.N. General Assembly speeches appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Woman synchronising smartwatch and mobile phone.

    Privacy advocates warn the data you provide to your workplace wellness program might not stay private.

    Houston workers who checked the fine print said they weren’t sure whether they were joining an employee wellness program or a marketing scheme.

    Last fall the city of Houston required employees to tell an online wellness company about their disease history, drug and seat-belt use, blood pressure and other delicate information.

    The company, hired to improve worker health and lower medical costs, could pass the data to “third party vendors acting on our behalf,” according to an authorization form. The information might be posted in areas “that are reviewable to the public.” It might also be “subject to re-disclosure” and “no longer protected by privacy law.”

    Employees could refuse to give permission or opt not to take the screen, called a health risk assessment — but only if they paid an extra $300 a year for medical coverage.

    “We don’t mind giving our information to our health care providers,” said Ray Hunt, president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union, which objected so strongly along with other employees that the city switched to a different program. “But we don’t want to give it to a vendor that has carte blanche to give that information to anybody they want to.”

    Privacy advocates see a void of regulation or even voluntary standards to ensure the information is used as intended.Millions of people find themselves in the same position as that of the Houston cops. As more employers grasp wellness as the latest promised solution to soaring health costs, they’re pressuring workers to give unfamiliar companies detailed data about the most sensitive parts of their lives.

    But whether or not that information stays private is anything but clear, an examination by Kaiser Health News shows.

    In many workplace wellness programs, “it seems by taking the health risk assessment you are waiving your privacy rights,” said Jennifer Mathis, director of programs at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.

    At worst, shared information about sensitive conditions could support discrimination by employers, banks, life insurance companies and others. Wellness data is already escaping into what one expert calls “the great American marketing machine” that pitches products according to your diseases and lifestyles, privacy scholars say.

    Wellness vendors charge employers a per-person fee to assess workers’ health and motivate them to exercise, eat well, see doctors and take pills. Companies push workers to participate with gift cards, insurance discounts and other rewards or penalties.

    As employers flock to the wellness parade, corporate wellness vendors make up what research firm IBISWorld predicts will be a $12 billion industry by 2020 — six times its estimated size in 2011.

    Privacy advocates see a void of regulation or even voluntary standards to ensure the information is used as intended. By all accounts the amount of worker wellness data being collected — through the Web, company surveys, wearable devices, gym records and lab tests — is exploding.

    “The privacy issues are profound,” said Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, an advocacy group. “If people are being asked to wear a biometric electronic device, or use a mobile app or work within a wellness program, that data can be used in ways that may be very, very surprising to people.”

    Numerous wellness vendors say flatly that privacy is critical to their reputation and that they don’t share information on individual workers with employers, data brokers or marketing companies. But as the Houston employees found out, the fine print isn’t so plain or reassuring.

    • Few workers know that wellness contractors are often unbound by the strict privacy law, known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), that restricts doctors and hospitals.
    • A review of privacy policies shows that many wellness vendors adopt policies allowing them to share identifiable data with unidentified “third parties” and “agents” working to improve employee health.
    • The industry boom has drawn a widening network of fitness centers, websites, app publishers, wearable device makers and other affiliates working with wellness plans to collect employee health information — each with its own complicated privacy policy. That boosts chances data will be misused, privacy advocates say.
    • Wellness companies and their contractors routinely share almost completely unregulated “de-identified” data showing group heath results with employers, researchers and others. Scientists have shown such information can be “re-identified” and used for marketing, potential credit screening and other purposes.

    Wellness vendor Audax Health, whose work with Houston resulted in “an overwhelming number of employees who were uncomfortable with the privacy statement,” according to a city statement to employees, said it keeps information strictly confidential. Audax’s online portal for employees is called Zensey.

    “We do not sell or resell personal health information to anyone,” including marketing companies and data brokers, David Sclar, Audax’s chief privacy officer, said through a spokesman. “We do not allow third parties to market to Zensey users.”

    But Audax’s own fine print contradicts the second part of his statement, saying the vendor may direct marketing pitches from third parties to wellness members based on “attributes” it collects from those employees. Audax is majority-owned by insurer UnitedHealth Group.

    Other big wellness vendors, including venture-capital backed Welltok, include similar language in their disclosures. Under the heading, “Information Collected by Third Parties,” Welltok says its CaféWell portal might “target advertisements to you based on products and services you may be interested in.”

    Jeff Cohen, Welltok’s co-founder, expressed surprise at the statement.

    “That goes against everything we represent — probably one of those where a lawyer told us to put it in there,” he said in an interview. “I’m going to go back and talk to our compliance person” about the language, he said.

    Cohen said Welltok doesn’t “use and sell and share the data from our platform about users to third parties.”

    But as of Sept. 25, the disclosure language was unchanged. And that’s what matters legally, privacy lawyers said.

    Primary wellness vendors such as Audax and Welltok aren’t the only ones collecting employee health data. Wearable device makers, test labs, gym chains, data centers, workout-app publishers are also part of the gold rush.

    As frequent partners of employers and wellness providers, each of those companies also gathers worker information of varying sensitivity — often with employers pushing workers to participate — in what amounts to a widening wellness data web.

    Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 1.54.40 PM

    The most advanced employee wellness programs can even “ping your cell phone when you’re at the gym” to record your visit through a geo-location app, said Erick Hathorn, a consultant to wellness companies and contractors. “Or they can ping it 30 minutes later to know you stayed.”

    Lose It!, one of the most popular diet apps for smartphones, works with employee wellness plans to track your calories and weight via a wireless scale.

    Nobody at Boston-based diet app Lose It! was available to answer questions about corporate wellness and privacy, a spokeswoman said. The app’s privacy policy assures users of Apple products that information on their weight and eating habits won’t be used for “advertising or other use-based data mining purposes” except for health research. Results for non-Apple users, on the other hand, might be given to “advertisers and potential business partners” with the identities removed.

    That’s a lower level of protection, even without identification, lawyers said.

    Nobody at Boston-based Lose It! was available to answer questions about corporate wellness and privacy, a spokeswoman said.

    “What are the vendors doing with the data they collect? They aren’t telling us,” said Ifeoma Ajunwa, who teaches health law at the University of the District of Columbia. “Are they selling it? I would be surprised if they’re not selling it, because it’s valuable.”

    Two years ago Under Armour bought MapMyFitness, another app promoted for use in corporate-wellness programs, and turned it into an ad vehicle for its athletic apparel.

    The app records workout routes, times and speeds and shares data with wellness vendors and Under Armour itself, according to a disclosure statement. Users see ads for Under Armour gear and other products on their smartphones and computers.

    Data from MapMyFitness and other apps bought by Under Armour “is going to be extraordinary,” company CEO Kevin Plank told industry analysts this year. “This will help us sell more shirts and shoes,” he has repeatedly said.

    An Under Armour spokeswoman referred a reporter asking about data policies and wellness programs to MapMyFitness’ privacy statement.

    More than 13 million Fitbits and other wearable health devices will be used in corporate wellness plans by 2018, ABI Research has projected. Data gathered by the Fitbit can include height, weight, heart rates and sleeping and exercise patterns.

    “Now Fitbit has that information and the wellness program has it,” said Robert Gellman, a privacy consultant and former congressional staffer. “I don’t know of any best practices from wellness industry [to handle the data]. It’s the Wild West.”

    Fitbit did not respond to several requests to discuss privacy. The company won’t “sell any data that could identify you” and shares information only when necessary to provide the service, when the data are anonymous or with user permission, its written policy says.

    Employer wellness programs even follow you to the supermarket.

    A firm called NutriSavings assigns health grades to thousands of food products and lets grocers record member shopping. Stores report scores — but not specific purchases — to the wellness vendor, says NutriSavings. Members get rewards from their employer based on what they buy.

    Wellness information isn’t just valuable for selling stuff. Privacy advocates especially worry that the results might be shared with data brokers who crunch information and sell it to banks and other financial firms.

    “That’s where the data then moves into other parts of the economy — lending decisions, credit decisions, mortgage decisions,” said Scott Peppet, a law professor and privacy specialist at the University of Colorado. “Once these data are in the hands of a data broker, they can be blended into any kind of formula.”

    “People assume all their health information is covered by HIPAA and that’s just not true,” Gellman said.Credit-card companies could raise rates for employees that wellness programs reveal to be couch potatoes, inferring that they are more likely to default. Life insurers could deny coverage or raise prices based on unhealthy wellness results. Insurer John Hancock has already started offering discounts to life insurance customers who agree to wear a Fitbit, share data and attain certain scores.

    No one knows whether data brokers are getting workplace wellness information. But despite what many employees believe, not all wellness information is protected by HIPAA, which authorizes only doctors, insurance plans and others close to a patients’ care to see their medical data.

    “People assume all their health information is covered by HIPAA and that’s just not true,” Gellman said. “Wellness programs are on the border. Some are and some aren’t. How can a mere mortal tell? A lot of information can escape into the great American marketing machine, which is desperate to get information on a person’s health.”

    Wellness vendors are supposed to obey HIPAA restrictions if they’re part of an employer’s insurance plan. But it’s far from clear what that means.

    The National Committee for Quality Assurance, a respected health care certification group, asks workplace wellness groups it accredits to observe HIPAA rules and require the same from third parties they work with.

    Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 1.45.18 PM Source: Kaiser Health News

    But NCQA recognizes only about 30 wellness vendors out of hundreds. Even a “HIPAA-compliant” program could induce workers to waive their rights without knowing it, consumer advocates said.
    Nor does HIPAA protect the de-identified health information that wellness providers routinely share with employers and other, unidentified outside parties, according to their privacy policies. De-identified data might include blood pressure, cholesterol, drug use and disease history.

    Researchers have shown that such information can be linked to the subject by combining it with voter lists, credit-card records and other databases. Harvard investigators used birthdays and zip codes in a de-identified genetics survey two years ago to figure out who more than a fifth of the participants were.

    Until recently, Audax’s policy stated that the company could use de-identified employee data “for any business purpose.” It removed that language after KHN inquired about privacy.

    Fitbit and Limeade, a wellness provider in Bellevue, Wash., forbid third parties using their anonymized data from trying to re-identify the users.

    But that policy — the kind recommended by Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill and others — is unusual among wellness providers, KHN’s review shows.

    “We haven’t really stepped into regulating this or decided if to regulate this,” said Peppet, who favors employer wellness efforts despite his concerns about confidentiality. “I’m expecting over the next couple of years we’ll probably see some problems.”

    Julie Appleby contributed to this story.


    Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. This story was produced in partnership with CNN.

    The post Is your private health data safe in your workplace wellness program? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We have two events of note this evening. The first comes from East China, where a massive so-called tidal bore pushed up the Qiantang River today. Thousands watched as the leading edge of the incoming tide roared in, crashing into riverbanks and dams along the way. It was the largest tidal bore in the area in 10 years and was caused by high tides linked to the same lunar cycle that brought us Sunday’s blood moon.

    The post 202 skydivers grab hands to smash a record appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20:  Actress Viola Davis poses in the press room at the 67th annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to another installment in our ongoing series Race Matters.

    This year, a record number of African-American actors won Emmy Awards for outstanding performances on television.

    Special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault explores why what we are seeing on television is finally becoming more diverse.

    MAN: Viola Davis, “How to Get Away With Murder.”

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Viola Davis won an Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a drama series last week, she made history as the first black woman to win in that category. And she called on a history that dates back to the 1800s with words spoken by the abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

    VIOLA DAVIS, Actress: In my mind, I see a line, and over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But Davis was using Tubman’s words to illustrate lack of opportunities in the movie industry for African-American women today, saying:

    VIOLA DAVIS: You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: To pursue that further, we met up with a man who’s been involved in looking at just that issue over time. He’s Darnell Hunt, chair of the department of sociology at UCLA, and the head of its Ralph Bunche Center for African-American Studies.

    Professor Darnell Hunt, thank you for joining us.

    DARNELL HUNT, Professor, UCLA: I’m glad to be here.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: The other night at the Emmy Awards, Viola Davis seems to have really struck a nerve, which coincides, incidentally, with the research you have been doing.

    DARNELL HUNT: Yes.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Tell us a little bit about what she had to say and how that resonated with your studies.

    DARNELL HUNT: Well, you know, I think that Viola made a really important point. It’s hard to win awards if there are no roles, you know? And that’s been the history.

    It’s an industry that’s been dominated by white men for generations. And, unfortunately, it’s woefully out of step with where America is going. I mean, we’re almost 40 percent minority right now, and clearly a little bit more than 50 percent female.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Well, aside from the basic fairness — and that’s a huge one, obviously — but what else is wrong with the kinds of equations that you have spelled out?

    DARNELL HUNT: On the one hand, there’s the question of employment. You know, it’s just unfair that talent of color aren’t given the same opportunities as white and male actors, directors, producers, writers, et cetera.

    But, more importantly, as a sociologist, I’m interested in the impact on society. So, when we talk about representations, meaning the images that circulate, if you don’t have diversity in the media, it’s not likely that you’re going to generate and circulate the types of images that are healthy in a diverse democratic society.

    The more we see images that reproduce this notion that white men are in charge, the more we start to normalize that idea, and it becomes hard for people of color, particularly youth, to think about the possibilities that are there before them, to aspire to certain types of careers if they tonight see those role models reflected in the media.

    At the same time, we also know that people learn a lot about what they think they know about other people from what they see in the media. If they see certain types of images reproduced over and over again for other groups that limit them to narrow types of roles and portrayals, they start to take those prejudices into their interactions with those people in real society, and that creates all kinds of discriminatory problems.

    I mean, right now, we’re grappling with racial profiling. All these fears about young black men in some ways are related to types of images that have circulated about young black men throughout our history.

    So, from the very beginning, we designed our study to look at the relationship between diversity and the bottom line, since that’s what the industry is. It’s about making money. TV shows that roughly reflect the diversity of American society, that is, between 30 percent and 40 percent diverse on the screen, on average, had the highest ratings.

    And that was like a clarion call for a lot of people in the industry who had no idea, because there are so few shows that are that diverse.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: You did something concrete to help change that. Tell us a little bit about that.

    DARNELL HUNT: Well, the first thing we did was, when we conceived of the study, we decided we were going to go to the industry directly for support.

    Our rationale was that if we went directly to the industry for support, they would be forced, if they supported the study, to read it. You know, it’s quite as simple as that.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Excuse me. Who are you talking to?

    DARNELL HUNT: Well, we’re talking to people in the industry directly. We’re talking to…

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Behind-the-camera people?

    DARNELL HUNT: Well, the people who make the decisions. We’re talking to the people who make up the executive suites that are about 94 percent white and 100 percent male if you look at the major Hollywood studios, 94 percent white and 86 percent male if you look at the television networks.

    We’re talking about an industry that is heavily controlled by white men. So, we’re talking to them. We’re telling them what’s wrong with this picture.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And what kind of reaction are you getting?

    DARNELL HUNT: Well, you know, for years, people would say, yes, diversity is a great thing, but they thought of it as a luxury, something that we will get around to at some point.

    But when you start connecting diversity to the bottom line, to the dollars, to shareholder value, suddenly, it becomes more of an imperative.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: How do you think this is going to impact the racial discourse that we have in this country now, which is really very difficult and often very toxic?

    DARNELL HUNT: Yes, yes. Yes, I agree.

    And where we are right now with race is very difficult. I mean, it’s sort of a period of contradictions. I mean, we have an African-American president. And that has created the illusion for a number of people that we’re beyond race, that race doesn’t matter anymore. And yet we have all these high-profile cases around the country of racial profiling, of vigilantism and so forth and so on and that’s rooted in race, racial hate crimes, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

    Race is a core reality of American experience. Media images on television need to reflect that reality to help people who consume media and who don’t have the day-to-day, face-to-face contact with others, or where that contact is minimal, to help them have a greater appreciation of other experiences and how they’re all part of the American fabric.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: So that’s your solution, more diversity. And how long do you think it’s going to take? And how do you see it happening? What is the solution?

    DARNELL HUNT: I don’t believe that there’s a silver bullet, that if you just do this one thing, you solve the problems of the world.

    I think that it will require lots of interventions on lots of fronts. I think there needs to be continuing public pressure to demand the types of diversity on screen that are reflective of American diversity.

    People in the industry themselves, that is to say, those who are in charge, need to get the memo and recognize that the bottom line also is going to be increasingly dependent upon diversity. And I think that you need more diverse voices in the writers room. You need more diverse voices pitching TV ideas, movie ideas. And the stories themselves, not just the characters in the story, but the stories need to be more diverse, and from the perspective of other types of people.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: You have sat down with industry executives. Were they receptive to your positions that they needed to be more diverse?

    DARNELL HUNT: Absolutely.

    We’re getting really strong acceptance of our study among major decision-makers in the industry. In fact, a number of them, a number of major studios and networks, have already signed on as financial sponsors of our study.

    And we’re really careful to diversify that group, because we want to maintain our independence and our objectivity as researchers. But, nonetheless, we think it’s valuable to have them as stakeholders in the process, because they’re likely to use the results.

    CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Well, Professor Darnell Hunt, thank you.

    DARNELL HUNT: Thank you.

    The post Why greater diversity is good for Hollywood’s bottom line appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Members of the Secret Service stand guard on the roof of White House on Tuesday. White House intruder Omar Gonzalez, the man arrested last week after jumping the White House fence, went deeper into the building than what was previously reported. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    Members of the Secret Service stand guard on the roof of White House. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Scores of U.S. Secret Service employees improperly accessed the decade-old, unsuccessful job application of a congressman who was investigating scandals inside the agency, a new government report said Wednesday. An assistant director suggested leaking embarrassing information to retaliate against Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House oversight committee.

    The actions by the employees could represent criminal violations under the U.S. Privacy Act, said the report by the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general, John Roth. “It doesn’t take a lawyer explaining the nuances of the Privacy Act to know that the conduct that occurred here — by dozens of agents in every part of the agency — was wrong,” the report said.

    Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson personally apologized to Chaffetz again Wednesday, the congressman told The Associated Press in an interview on Capitol Hill. Johnson did not disclose whether any employees had been punished. “It’s intimidating,” Chaffetz said. “It’s what it was supposed to be.”

    Johnson said in a statement Wednesday that “those responsible should be held accountable” but did not provide further details.

    “I am confident that U.S. Secret Service Director Joe Clancy will take appropriate action to hold accountable those who violated any laws or the policies of this department,” Johnson said. “Activities like those described in the report must not, and will not, be tolerated.”

    Clancy also apologized Wednesday for “this wholly avoidable and embarrassing misconduct” and pledged to hold those responsible for the data breach accountable.

    “I will continue to review policies and practices to address employee misconduct and demand the highest level of integrity of all our employees,” Clancy said in a statement.

    Employees accessed Chaffetz’s 2003 application for a Secret Service job starting 18 minutes after the start of a congressional hearing in March about the latest scandal involving drunken behavior by senior agents. Some forwarded the information to others. At least 45 employees viewed the file.

    One week later, Assistant Director Ed Lowery suggested leaking embarrassing information about Chaffetz in retaliation for aggressive investigations by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee into a series of agency missteps and scandals, the report said. Days later, on April 2, the information about Chaffetz unsuccessfully applying for a job at the Secret Service was published by The Daily Beast, an Internet publication.

    “Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out. Just to be fair,” Lowery wrote March 31 in an email to fellow Assistant Director Faron Paramore.

    Lowery, who is in charge of training, told the inspector general he did not direct anyone to release information about Chaffetz and “believed it would have been inappropriate to do so,” the report said. He told Roth the email was “reflecting his stress and his anger.”

    Lowery declined to comment though a Secret Service spokesman.

    Chaffetz told the AP that Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., would conduct any congressional oversight hearings into the matter.

    Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said anyone at the agency “unwilling or unable to meet the highest of ethical standards should not be a part of the Secret Service.”

    The inspector general said that under U.S. law and Secret Service rules, employees were required to report such behavior to supervisors. The investigation found that 18 supervisors or members of the agency’s senior executive service knew or should have known that employees had improperly accessed Chaffetz’s job application, but only one person attempted to inform the Secret Service director, Joseph Clancy.

    Clancy said he was not aware of what was going on until April 1.

    During the March hearing, Clancy testified for the third time about an incident weeks earlier in which two senior agents were accused of drinking for several hours at a bar before driving a government vehicle into the White House complex, as on-duty personnel were investigating a suspicious item dropped on a roadway near the White House. It was the latest in a string of embarrassments, missteps and security breaches for the agency charged with protecting the president and his family.

    Clancy took the helm of the agency on a temporary basis late last year after then-Director Julia Pierson was ousted after the disclosure of two security breaches, including an incident in which a man armed with a knife was able to scale a White House fence and run deep into the executive mansion.

    The post Secret Service tried to discredit U.S. lawmaker, investigation reveals appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 22:  Cans of Coca Cola are displayed in a food truck's cooler on July 22, 2014 in San Francisco, California. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote on Tuesday to place a measure on the November ballot for a 2-cents-per-ounce soda tax. If the measure passes in the November election, tax proceeds would help finance nutrition, health, disease prevention and recreation programs.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we look at a second health story, one about childhood obesity, the role of sugary drinks in fueling the epidemic and corporate influence.

    A series of reports is putting a fresh spotlight on the spending and role of Coca-Cola, a company that’s known for its sweet products.

    Hari Sreenivasan has more from our New York studios.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Coke is the world’s largest producer of sugary beverages, so you might not think the American Academy of Pediatrics would partner with the company. But that had indeed been the case until this week. It was a main sponsor of the academy’s Web site, healthychildren.org, and a past sponsor of the group’s national conference.

    It’s provided over $100 million in financial support to other professional medical and health groups as well. The Academy is now ending its relationship with Coke. And it comes after a recent story in The New York Times laid out how the company has paid for scientific research that plays down the role of soda in obesity.

    Anahad O’Connor has been working on these stories, joins me now.

    So, I guess the first story — or the most recent story first, what’s the connection between Coke and the Academy of Pediatrics?

    ANAHAD O’CONNOR, The New York Times: So, the first story I did was looking at Coke’s — the money that they were paying a lot of researchers and institutions to do research that, you know, was downplaying the role of sugary drinks in obesity.

    And in response to that story, the CEO of Coca-Cola said, we’re not trying to deceive the public. We’re trying to work with institutions to promote active healthy living, and we are going to release all of the funding that we provided to scientists, universities, to health groups over the past five years.

    And so they released a trove of data showing this extensive number of grants. And in that data, we saw that the American Academy of Pediatrics was in there, and Coke had provided something like $3 million to the Academy, at least over the past five years.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And how do the pediatricians feel?

    ANAHAD O’CONNOR: So, the actual members of the Academy — and there’s more than 64,000 pediatricians who are part of this Academy — it’s very prestigious — a lot of them are very upset. When I spoke to them, they said they couldn’t believe that the Academy had partnered with Coke or worked with it to any extent, because sugary drinks are considered a very major factor in the obesity epidemic, especially among children.

    These pediatricians see the effects of it firsthand. They see type 2 diabetes, hypertension. You know, all these diseases that used to occur in middle age and later in life, they see them in children now. And they think that sugary drinks are a primary influence of that. So, pediatricians were very upset.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And yet they are — here they are at a conference, and they’re carrying around bags that have Coke in it while they’re trying to tell their patients don’t feed your kids sugary drinks.

    ANAHAD O’CONNOR: Yes, so some pediatricians said it was analogous to, you know, a major lung association group or university partnering with, you know, the tobacco industry. It just was completely contradictory.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, what’s the correlation? Is there influence on academic research? You point to a case in Louisiana.

    ANAHAD O’CONNOR: So there was a case in Louisiana at the Pennington Biomedical Center at Louisiana State University.

    They actually were one of the largest recipients of Coke money. They took something like $7 million over the past five years. And they just recently released the results of a major worldwide study that looked at obesity in children and the major factors of the epidemic. And they found that some of the major causes were a lack of sleep, a lack of exercise, television

    The one thing they didn’t mention was sugary drinks. And that seemed very striking, because you look at other independent research, and it’s all pointing to sugary drinks. But the universities and institutions that are taking Coke money, many of them are, you know, seeming to exclude sugary drinks from, you know, the obesity epidemic.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And how singular is Coke in this? I mean, in the past, there have been companies, industries, lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill. Certainly, that still happens. Are there other food companies or beverage companies that are trying this?

    ANAHAD O’CONNOR: So, Coke is certainly part of several lobbying and trade groups where — that are — also include other large corporations and food and industry players.

    But Coca-Cola really seemed to have been out front on this. I talked to one expert, Marion Nestle at NYU, who wrote a book called “Soda Politics” and studies the beverage industry and the food industry, and she said that she had never seen another corporation that had such a hand in so many public institutions.

    You know, Coke has partnered with all of these academic and medical groups. They have partnered with the Boys and Girls Club. They have partnered with minority groups like the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation. And, you know, they’re winning loyalty and allies.

    So, for example, when Michael Bloomberg, you know, tried to introduce his, you know, soda cap and restrictions in 2012, the beverage industry, supported by Coke, filed a lawsuit against Michael Bloomberg, and the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation actually filed amicus briefs supporting the beverage industry against Bloomberg.

    And that was very shocking, because the minority communities have a disproportionately high prevalence of obesity, and, you know, they seemed to be able to benefit the most from soda restrictions. And yet these groups were siding with industry.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Anahad O’Connor of The New York Times, thanks so much for joining us.

    ANAHAD O’CONNOR: Thank you for having me.

    The post American Academy of Pediatrics decides relationship with Coke is not so sweet appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Video by PBS NewsHour

    Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said he ordered airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday to fight Islamic State militants, a move that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he would welcome in Iraq, if needed.

    The prime minister, in an interview with PBS NewsHour’s Margaret Warner, said the Russian airstrikes would be “beneficial,” as long as they were coordinated with the U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition.

    “Don’t forget Iraq was attacked from across the Syrian border into Iraq by Daesh, by ISIL, and that cost us a lot of human costs in terms of people killed, people being kidnapped, people being enslaved,” he said.

    Video by PBS NewsHour

    Iraq recently agreed to share intelligence about the Islamic State with Iran, Syria and Russia, all U.S. adversaries. Al-Abadi said Iraq would not share U.S.–furnished intelligence with these countries.

    The post Iraqi PM says he supports Russian airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    medicaid

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The number of people who lack health insurance has fallen substantially since the implementation of the federal health care law known as the Affordable Care Act.

    That’s been particularly true in the 30 states that expanded Medicaid. But in more than a dozen of those states, enrollment in the public insurance program for the poor has far eclipsed projections, straining budgets and an overburdened health care system.

    Special correspondent Sarah Varney has our report from San Diego.

    This story was produced in collaboration with our partner Kaiser Health news.

    SARAH VARNEY: The Affordable Care Act unleashed a building boom of community health centers across the country, at a cost of $11 billion. More than 950 new health centers have opened, with hundreds more on the way, all meant to accommodate millions of new Medicaid patients, people like Lori Simpson.

    LORI SIMPSON, Medicaid Patient: Hi. How are you?

    WOMAN: Good. How are you doing?

    LORI SIMPSON: Doing good.

    SARAH VARNEY: At age 58, after several worrisome decades without health insurance, she’s finally getting treatment for her dangerously high blood pressure, as well as a thyroid disorder, and after years of double vision, surgery for her eyes.

    LORI SIMPSON: I have nine medications that I get every month, and mine comes to a little over $200. My husband, he’s a diabetic, and his medication alone without doctors’ visits or anything comes to over $400 a month.

    SARAH VARNEY: And for that, how much do you have to pay?

    LORI SIMPSON: We don’t pay anything. It’s all covered. It’s just amazing.

    WOMAN: It’s a little bit this way.

    SARAH VARNEY: Simpson goes to the Family Health Centers of San Diego, which saw an increase of 24,000 patients, almost overnight, after the Medicaid expansion.

    DR. CHRIS GORDON, Family Health Centers of San Diego: Sit up straight. Breathe normally.

    SARAH VARNEY: DR. Chris Gordon, the assistant medical director here, says it was a rush primary care clinics have been waiting for ever since President Obama signed the health law.

    DR. CHRIS GORDON: We have anticipated this for years, and been planning for it. We have capacity to take on patients.

    These are patients that haven’t had access before because they just didn’t have the financial means to get in.

    Extend all the way out.

    And now all of a sudden, they actually get to come in, get to spend time with somebody and get to feel, you know, like they’re heard.

    SARAH VARNEY: That’s not to say there haven’t been problems. Three million more people than expected have enrolled in Medicaid in California. Other states have also seen surges far beyond initial projections, including Kentucky, Michigan, Oregon, and Washington State.

    As successful as California has been in enrolling millions in Medicaid and building new primary care clinics, patient advocates say the Medicaid expansion has exacerbated longstanding shortages in specialty care. Community clinic directors say it’s often difficult to find cardiologists, orthopedists and other specialists to see their patients and that low-income Californians still face formidable hurdles when they need medical treatment.

    For Alessandro Gonzales Gomez, the search for specialty care has been burdensome. Gomez spent years working as a car salesman and auto parts delivery driver. But now, at age 60 and living along, he shuffles around his home in an Escondido trailer park hampered by spells of dizziness.

    The spells disrupt his daily prayers and curtail his driving. He’s now insured under Medicaid, but most of the specialists he needs to see are an hour away.

    ALESSANDRO GONZALES GOMEZ, Medicaid Patient: On my way over there, I didn’t feel well at all. I all of a sudden started getting dizzy again, so I turned and around just went and told them, and I can’t do this. It’s too far.

    And I even asked for the director of the clinic, explained my problems. And she told me that that’s the way it worked out, that there were only certain doctors that would contract with them.

    ALESSANDRO GONZALES GOMEZ: Doctor.

    DR. TED MAZER, Ear, Nose & Throat Surgeon: How you doing?

    ALESSANDRO GONZALES GOMEZ: OK.

    DR. TED MAZER: Pull you up a chair right here.

    ALESSANDRO GONZALES GOMEZ: OK.

    SARAH VARNEY: One of the doctors he has managed to reach is Ted Mazer. Mazer is one of the few ears, nose, and throat surgeons in San Diego County who accepts Medicaid. He says the state isn’t paying specialists enough to cover their costs.

    DR. TED MAZER: Certain surgeries, I can be out of the office for two hours, and we might get $300. My overhead is more than that. So, that’s a loss.

    SARAH VARNEY: Dr. Mazer sees only a limited number of Medicaid patients, but he often degrees to treat those like Qadir Koshna, a 19-year-old in need of a complicated nose surgery.

    MAN: OK. Lay your head back for me.

    SARAH VARNEY: But Mazer says the state is failing to guarantee access to this type of care for all Medicaid patients.

    DR. TED MAZER: If it was working, I wouldn’t have patients coming here from Oceanside and Fallbrook and from the Mexican border and the Imperial County area and the Riverside border. I’m one office.

    Why am I seeing all of those people? Because nobody else is available in their communities to see them. Why not? Because the rates are unacceptable, the hassles from the managed care plans, as well as the state, are unacceptable to most offices to deal with.

    SARAH VARNEY: The complaints extend beyond San Diego. A withering state audit released this summer found that regulators couldn’t verify if health plans had enough doctors in their Medicaid networks or if the distances patients had to drive were unreasonable.

    The state’s call centers were overwhelmed with phone representatives answering just half of all calls. And too often, those obstacles have forced patients to seek help in expensive emergency rooms. In a recent national survey, three out of four E.R. physicians said patient volume had increased, a pressing concern the Medicaid expansion was meant to address.

    DR. CHRISTIAN TOMASZEWSKI, Medical Director, U.C. San Diego’s Emergency Department: There’s a lot of people here with chronic back pain.

    SARAH VARNEY: Dr. Christian Tomaszewski, the medical director of U.C. San Diego’s Emergency Department, says E.R. visits have increased 11 percent since the Medicaid expansion.

    DR. CHRISTIAN TOMASZEWSKI: A lot of these patients, what we’re also noticing, are coming here looking for subspecialty care. They need an orthopedist for a complicated fracture. They might need a head and neck doctor for some complicated throat problem. And they’re using the emergency department as a gateway to have access to that kind of care.

    SARAH VARNEY: At nearby Scripps Mercy Hospital, visits by new Medicaid patients are up 30 percent due to the health law, says Dr. Davis Cracroft, the hospital’s medical director.

    Dr. DAVIS CRACROFT, Scripps Mercy Hospital: They have insurance, they come for care, but the overall goal is to get them into a primary care doctor’s office or get them the specialty care that they need, and oftentimes that’s difficult for them to achieve.

    JENNIFER KENT, Director, California Department of Health Care Services: We’re committed to having the conversation with you about how it needs to be spent.

    SARAH VARNEY: California’s Medicaid program is a budgetary behemoth that falls to Jennifer Kent to manage. She’s the California Department of Health Care services director.

    JENNIFER KENT: There’s definitely growing pains as the system broadly has to stretch to accommodate the influx of enrollees.

    SARAH VARNEY: Kent says the state is fixing its phone system and looks closely at complaints, but that problems with physician access are isolated and are being addressed.

    JENNIFER KENT: We are struggling, just as every other state is, in terms of, how do we bring people into California, how do we grow primary care providers, and then, more importantly, how do we provide specialists in areas where there may not be specialists today?

    SARAH VARNEY: California’s governor, Democrat Jerry Brown, has championed the Medicaid expansion, but like other governors, he’s leery of paying physicians more money just as the state confronts a drop in federal aid.

    The federal government is currently paying for the entire Medicaid expansion, but, in 2020, federal drops to 90 percent. Instead, he wants the state to spend its money revamping a system to better serve low-income patients, who are often sicker and can be hard to reach.

    Despite the challenges, there is evidence progress is being made. A recent survey found that in states that expanded Medicaid, 93 percent of new enrollees are satisfied with their coverage.

    Alessandro Gonzales Gomez says he will continue the long drives across the county…

    ALESSANDRO GONZALES GOMEZ: Next week, I have to go to La Jolla.

    SARAH VARNEY: … because his Medicaid card has opened up doors, even if those doors are often difficult to reach.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Sarah Varney in San Diego.

    The post Giving millions more access to care, Medicaid expansion strains California’s health system appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    (L-R) Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) take questions from the media regarding the upcoming budget battle on Capitol Hill in Washington September 29, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron     - RTS2B2E

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just hours before a possible government shutdown, Congress today passed a bill to keep funding flowing until December 11.

    But today’s votes showed the continued sharp divide within the Republican Party and it seemed to set up an even bigger fight in December.

    To unpack another dramatic day in Congress, our political director, Lisa Desjardins, has been following the developments, and she joins us now from Capitol Hill.

    So, Lisa, they dodged a bullet. They avoided the shutdown, but this was despite the opposition of over 150 Republicans in the House. What happened?

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right.

    You know, this seemed to be a fait accompli as we walked in the door this morning. Of course, a shutdown would be averted. That was the expectation. But I think there were several surprises today, Judy, and the biggest note for today was that two-thirds of House Republicans voted against the bill to continue funding government.

    There were a variety of reasons, they said, for that, but at the top of that list, Judy, was the fight over Planned Parenthood. Now, it’s an interesting contrast, Judy, because while two-thirds of House Republicans voted against that funding bill to keep government running, two-thirds of Senate Republicans voted for it.

    So, what we saw today, Judy, was such a great contrast between the Senate, which seems to be running on procedure and tradition right now, and the House, where there is so much anger among House Republicans, that, really, Republicans seem to be running there mostly on emotion and anger.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, you know, we have been told, Lisa, that there’s a group of, what, 40 or 50 hard-liners, if you will, in the Republican Party in the House who were giving fits to Speaker Boehner, leading to his resignation.

    But now you have got 150 Republicans voting against keeping the government going over this Planned Parenthood issue. What does that say?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Well, I think we can’t read too far into this, because I think this was a certain vote. Republicans knew that government wasn’t going to shut down, that enough Democrats would vote yes to keep government going.

    So, in a way, it wasn’t a complete test of what these Republicans would do if it were solely up to them. But I think you’re right that we have this caucus that is the most conservative group in the House, 40 or so members, and they are the most vocal. They are the ones that really are dominating discussion, even still, even after House Speaker Boehner’s resignation, to the degree, Judy, where today there was even a last-ditch, last-minute vote on Planned Parenthood in the House.

    It was completely symbolic. It will not have any effect on funding. But just the fact that that came up yet again today shows that that group of House conservatives that is so vocal really has an outweighed amount of power on their conference.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, again, they averted the shutdown now, but what does this say about the future, December, another funding vote, so many other things that could come up between now and then?

    LISA DESJARDINS: I think any student of history or Congress or legislation needs to pay very close attention to what happens the next few months. It is going to be exciting, potentially confusing, and potentially critical to the future of this country, as we face yet another deadline for the debt ceiling, but also as their there may be an opening, Judy, for the next month.

    As House Speaker Boehner remains in his position, there might be an opportunity for him to get through or try to get through some legislation that moderate Republicans like, things like the Export-Import Bank, or highway funding, to find a more secure source of highway funding, or even, imagine this, a two-year budget deal. That’s something that the Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, was talking about, and sources on both sides told me there are staff discussion now, not a lot of time to do it.

    But if they could, Judy, that would certainly save the next speaker a lot of headache. Now, the next big problem, of course, comes in December. This funding that was extended today runs out then. And, Judy, I have to tell you Democrats and Republicans both are digging in. I think that will be a ginormous fight, if that’s a word.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, if those things come to pass that you described in the next few months, a lot of conservatives will not be happy. So, you’re going to have a lot to cover up on the Hill.

    Lisa Desjardins, thank you.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Thank you.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now we get the view from Baghdad on Russia’s bombing and the fight against the Islamic State, or Da’esh, as the group is called in Arabic.

    NewsHour chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner spoke today with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. He is in New York attending the U.N. General Assembly.

    MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for joining us.

    HAIDER AL-ABADI, Prime Minister, Iraq: Welcome.

    MARGARET WARNER: It’s been confirmed today that the Russians launched an airstrike in Syria right outside the city of Homs. Is that kind of thing helpful, do you think, to the common fight against the Islamic State?

    HAIDER AL-ABADI: Well, of course it is beneficial. Don’t forget, Iraq was attacked from across the Syrian border into Iraq by Da’esh, by ISIL.

    And that cost us a lot of human costs in terms of people killed, people being kidnapped, people being enslaved, women, children. So, any joining of this fight against Da’esh by anyone, we very much welcome. We established this international coalition.

    MARGARET WARNER: You’re talking about the U.S.-led coalition?

    HAIDER AL-ABADI: Correct. That’s to help Iraq to stand in the face of Da’esh.

    And if the Russians are moving against Da’esh now in Syria, we very much welcome this.

    MARGARET WARNER: Well, that is really the question. The U.S. government was saying today that, in fact, that’s not a Da’esh, or ISIS, stronghold where they bombed; in fact, it’s held mostly by the opposition to President Assad.

    What do you think are the Russian intentions?

    HAIDER AL-ABADI: Our message to the Russians — I met with Putin — please join this fight against Da’esh.

    Da’esh is a dangerous terrorist organization, not only against Iraq, against Syria, against the whole region, against the whole world. It is time that we all join the same forces to fight Da’esh.

    MARGARET WARNER: But do you think that the Russian intention is only to do that or to also prop up the Assad government?

    HAIDER AL-ABADI: I cannot be in the mind of what the Russians want. But what I have been told by President Putin, yes, they consider Da’esh a very dangerous organization. It is threatening the national security of Russia, and the Russians are in it to fight Da’esh.

    MARGARET WARNER: Can you foresee the day that Iraq might ask the Russians to come in and bomb in Iraq, to assist what your ground forces are doing?

    HAIDER AL-ABADI: Well, if the Russians are prepared to join the international coalition, which is helping Iraq, they are welcome. I think I would welcome the Russians to do that.

    MARGARET WARNER: But, I mean, they’re not part of the U.S.-led coalition. They have a different group. Are you saying they’d have to first join the U.S.-led coalition or just that, if they say they want to defeat Da’esh, that in fact you would welcome their help, including bombs?

    HAIDER AL-ABADI: Yes, I think I would welcome that, but that they need a lot of work to liaison between everybody there.

    We need, like, a common platform, where there should be no conflict. We have to deconflict any misunderstanding between the countries which are helping Iraq inside Iraq.

    MARGARET WARNER: Another thing, of course, that happened over the last few days was news that Iraq had entered an intelligence pact with Russia and Iran and Syria to share intelligence about ISIS. Why did you join that?

    HAIDER AL-ABADI: ISIL is an international terrorist organization. As far as the intelligence is concerned, we can only gather information about ISIL inside Iraq.

    We need the help of other countries. Russia now considers ISIL as a national threat to them. It is a national threat to Syria. And, of course, it is a threat to Iran as well. Now, to share this intelligence with these countries is going to help us. I will do whatever it takes to protect the Iraqi people.

    And there are many terrorist networks all over the world and fighters coming across different countries, to Syria, to Iraq. I need the help of that intelligence, as well as the intelligence of the international coalition, which is…

    (CROSSTALK)

    MARGARET WARNER: But doesn’t most of your intelligence in fact come from the Americans? And are you worried that the U.S. will become more wary and less forthcoming sharing intelligence with you if they know it also goes to Iran and Russia and Syria?

    HAIDER AL-ABADI: No, we will be careful not to share this information which comes from other parties with another party.

    But, you see, Russia has an interest. We have about 2,500 Chechen fighters from Russia who are taking part with Da’esh inside Iraq and inside Syria. Inside Iraq, they are very dangerous guys. They do detonation. They kill a lot of people. So, I think to have the Russians on board will help me, will help my government to protect Iraqis and to save more lives.

    MARGARET WARNER: Now, you met with President Obama privately after this news came out. Did he seem upset, annoyed?

    HAIDER AL-ABADI: Well, I think there is some political enmity between probably the United States and Russia. That is very much understood.

    The Russians want to play a role in the Middle East. They want to play another role in Russia. I understand that. But, for me, these minor political differences, I should put aside.

    MARGARET WARNER: What the U.S. was upset about is that you, for whom, you know, the U.S. is providing air cover for your troops, retraining of your troops, didn’t even give the Americans a heads-up. Why not?

    HAIDER AL-ABADI: I think, no, they knew about it, about this intelligence sharing of information.

    MARGARET WARNER: They say they didn’t in advance.

    HAIDER AL-ABADI: I mean, they were — advance — well, probably not in advance before we have done it, but later, after we have done it.

    I mean, this has been going on for about three months now. This is not new. I don’t know why the news was broke recently. It’s very low-level. It’s very low-level. It is not high-level. There is no military cooperation whatsoever.

    MARGARET WARNER: So, if I might, back to the meeting with President Obama, what did he say?

    HAIDER AL-ABADI: It’s mainly to do with American and international coalition support to Iraq. We need more equipment. We need more support.

    And I think that the president was very much forthcoming in escalating the support for Iraq, for our forces to achieve victory on the ground. We are, I think, the only army in the region who are fighting Da’esh.

    MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask you about your fight in Iraq. It seems to have hit a stalemate. You had a little early success, sort of freezing ISIS in place last summer, but, since then, you have been unable to retake some major cities like Ramadi. Why is that?

    HAIDER AL-ABADI: Well, I think, last time was in April, when we took back Tikrit. And, since then, of course, we lost Ramadi.

    But after — a month-and-a-half after we lost Ramadi, we started a counteroffensive, and we have almost encircled not only Ramadi, but manyfold areas other than Ramadi to kick Da’esh out. Of course, this summer, in particular, was very hot, extremely hot.

    I don’t think, when soldiers are carrying about eight, 10 kilograms of equipment and of body armor, you wouldn’t expect them to fight in such a heat weather. We have made progress, but not as much as we anticipated because of the weather.

    MARGARET WARNER: Many Americans wonder, why should we keep getting involved, losing lives and treasure, trying to help these countries resolve their differences? Why not just walk away and let them resolve themselves? What would you say to those American taxpayers and voters?

    HAIDER AL-ABADI: See, Da’esh, or ISIL, is not only threat to Iraq or the region. It’s for the whole world.

    We have blocked the advance of Da’esh to the south. If they are allowed to go to the south, they would control all the Gulf areas, all the oil supply of the world. They will threaten the whole world. They will establish what they consider their rightful state, which is, of course, terror state, in the whole region.

    We have blocked that in Iraq. We not only stopped it, but we are reversing it. We are the only country now reversing the acts of this terrorist organization. If we don’t receive this international support, I’m not sure we can stand on our own. We gave a lot of sacrifices. We are prepared to give more. Iraqis are sacrificing themselves to defend their land and to push Da’esh out.

    If we don’t receive this international support, God knows what is going to happen in this region and what’s going to happen in the rest of the world.

    MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you.

    HAIDER AL-ABADI: OK, thank you.

    The post Prime Minister Abadi: Iraq welcomes Russia in Islamic State fight appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, September 30, 2015. Putin said on Wednesday the only way to fight terrorists in Syria was to act preemptively, saying Russia's military involvement in the Middle East would only involve its air force and only be temporary. REUTERS/Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novosti/Kremlin ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. - RTS2G3T

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Late this evening, Secretary Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov came out together and agreed to military talks.

    We get a closer Russian — look at Russia’s military moves in Syria with Andrew Weiss. He was the director of Russian, Ukrainian, and Eurasian affairs at the White House National Security Council during the Clinton and George H.W. Bush administrations. He’s now with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. And Steven Simon, he’s a visiting lecturer at Dartmouth College. He served on the National Security Council staff during the Obama and Clinton administrations.

    And we welcome you both back to the program.

    Let me start with you, Steven Simon.

    Is this an occasion for the U.S. to be pleased that it has a partner in going after ISIS or alarmed that the Russians are in Syria helping their friend President Assad?

    STEVEN SIMON, Dartmouth College: I think, on balance, there’s cause for some satisfaction and the presence now in Syria of a powerful military player with a serious strategic stake in defeating ISIS.

    It’s really the only, I would say, tacit partner. It’s certainly not an explicit or de jure partner of the United States in this battle against ISIS. So, at least the United States has a partner, even if it’s not official. On the other hand, it does mean that there is a serious friend of the Assad regime also present in Syria, and this is undoubtedly a cause for concern for the administration.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me turn to you, Andrew Weiss.

    More cause for concern or a cause for some satisfaction?

    ANDREW WEISS, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: I think the cause for concern here is that Russia is plunging headlong into a military adventure in a part of the world where it’s been absent for the better part of the last two decades.

    So, I defer to my friend Steve Simon about the impact on the ground. It certainly looks like this is a big shot in the arm for Bashar al-Assad. The question is, have the Russians thought two or three moves ahead? This to me looks suspiciously like what happened in Ukraine, where what seemed like a good idea, a very pressurized decision by the Russians to unleash aggression against Ukraine, has backfired quite badly.

    And so when I hear Secretary of Defense Carter today saying that he thinks this is ultimately going to basically be something that is doomed to fail or that is going to hurt Russia, I have very little reason to doubt that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you mean? Come back to you, Andrew Weiss. What do you mean it looks like what happened in Ukraine?

    ANDREW WEISS: Well, people like to talk Vladimir Putin as if he is this great master strategist.

    In fact, what he is someone who is fairly impulsive. And so the intervention in Ukraine was done very spur of the moment. And now what we’re seeing — and we have had about three weeks or so of a steady drip of Russian military buildup in and around the Western Mediterranean coast of Syria, and now he’s plunging into a military adventure.

    There’s no domestic Russian political support for foreign military activity of this type. And I think there’s a real question, which is, he is basically now putting a target on the back of every Russian soldier and many Russian civilians, including inside Russia itself.

    So, he’s creating a recruitment boon, I think, for the global local jihadist movement, and he’s putting Russia at the center of that, as opposed to the United States or other Western partners.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Steven Simon, why was it so difficult today to figure out who the Russians were targeting?

    STEVEN SIMON: Because the situation on the ground is, in fact, confused, and there is no geolocation of the attacks that are publicly available yet.

    The information available to me is that they struck targets affiliated with al-Nusra, which is another Islamist group. But, as a practical matter, the first priority for the Russians right now is protection of the regime and the survival of the regime and its viability. So, they’re going to attack the targets that they and the regime have decided are most threatening to the regime right now, and then move on to targets that are less immediately threatening.

    So, whoever was knocking at the gate right now was going to get the first Russian blow. The other thing, of course, is that the Syrians will be encouraging the Russians to be attacking ISIS targets the United States has thus far refrained from attacking because they’re politically sensitive. If there’s a target that looks as though its destruction would be mostly of benefit to the regime, rather than to the Syrian people at large, then the United States will save its ammunition, keep its powder dry, and strike other targets that are less ambiguous, if I can put it that way.

    So, that would be — that will be the Soviet — the Russian priorities.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Andrew Weiss, for any American or anybody listening to this, it sounds like a very confusing situation to keep track of who is up and who is down and who is being targeted.

    I mean, how should we — how should Americans view this? Do we wait and withhold judgment until we see what the Russians do over the next few days?

    ANDREW WEISS: Well, I think President Obama’s been quite reluctant to get the U.S. more involved militarily, and that’s been going on for some time now. So, I think the idea that the U.S. is either going to stand up to the Russians and tell them to knock it off, all that, I think is misplaced.

    The real question, I think, for us, as the U.S. and other Western partners in the fight — and the regional partners in the fight against ISIS, is whether we’re going to bump into the Russians in some sort. And the Russians up to now had talked a good game, saying, oh, we want our militaries talking, this is really important.

    But they have plunged ahead without getting that coordination mechanism locked in, and I think there’s a real risk here that the Russians, who don’t have the same level of experience, don’t have the same kind of intelligence backbone to support their operations, could be doing things that are either dangerous or that put Western pilots and others at risk.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Steve Simon, why isn’t that a big worry? I mean, there was a sense that we were led to believe ahead of time the Russians were going to give the West, the U.S.-led coalition, more advanced notice. It sounds like they barely had an hour’s word ahead of time.

    STEVEN SIMON: Yes, I think it is problematic.

    And we have got to get those mil-mil talks going and there needs to be better coordination. But, as a practical matter, the Russians are going to be striking in sectors of Syrian territory and Syrian airspace that lie outside of the areas that the United States has focused on, which are mainly targets that are close to the Turkish border in the north.

    So, as a practical matter, I think the risk of a collision are low.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me just quickly conclude asking you both, what are you looking for in the next few days to tell you whether this is a positive development or not?

    Andrew Weiss?

    ANDREW WEISS: I think the immediate question is how the Russian people will react.

    I have no doubt that there’s great sense of celebration inside Assad’s inner circle, and frankly in Tehran, but I don’t think the Russian people were prepared for any of this. This has all been thrown at them with maybe two or three weeks’ notice. It plays to Putin’s domestic agenda, which is to say Russia is a big, great power, it can thrust itself into the international stage at its own — a time of its own liking and a place of its choosing, but there’s no one I think at home who is really enthusiastic about this whole activity.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, we are going to have to leave it there.

    Andrew Weiss, Steven Simon, thank you both.

    The post Are Russia’s military priorities in Syria cause for concern? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) chairs a meeting with members of the government at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, September 30, 2015. Putin said on Wednesday the only way to fight terrorists in Syria was to act preemptively, saying Russia's military involvement in the Middle East would only involve its air force and only be temporary. REUTERS/Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novosti/Kremlin ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTS2FBB

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Russian military aircraft bombed a number of sites in Syria today, deepening its involvement in that nation’s civil war. But there are conflicting reports about exactly what Russia was targeting.

    Hari Sreenivasan has this report.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: This amateur video purports to be the first evidence of Russian warplanes in action over Syria, plumes of smoke rising over cities as fighters streak across the skies. The assault began hours after the Russian parliament authorized action and President Vladimir Putin vowed to forge ahead.

    PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through interpreter): The only right way to fight international terrorism in Syria is to act preemptively, to fight and eliminate fighters and terrorists on the territories they have already occupied, not to wait until they come to our home.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But exactly what the Russians hit, and why, remained unclear. There were strikes near Homs and in Hama province, and Moscow reported attacking eight Islamic State targets. But, by all accounts IS, or ISIL, has no significant presence in those areas.

    Instead, the Free Syrian Army charged its forces were targeted. The western-backed faction has fought Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Russia. U.S. officials agreed the strikes may have hit moderate rebel factions, and not Islamic State forces. The Kremlin denied it, but also claimed most of the Free Syrian Army has now joined ISIL ranks.

    And, at the United Nations, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was dismissive.

    SERGEI LAVROV, Foreign Minister, Russia: Everything — everything was said by the Russian Ministry of Defense. Don’t listen to Pentagon about the Russian strikes.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Secretary of State John Kerry was also at the U.N. He said Washington would welcome any genuine effort to defeat ISIL, but he issued a warning as well.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: We would have grave concerns should Russia strike areas where ISIL and al-Qaida affiliated targets are now operating — are not operating.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Meanwhile, at a U.S. House hearing, a top Pentagon official complained the Russians gave just one hour’s notice of the strikes.

    ROBERT WORK, Deputy Secretary of Defense: We are alarmed by what happened this morning. What was agreed by the two presidents is that our militaries would talk, so that we would deconflict operations.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said later those military-to-military talks are set to take place in the coming days. But he said the Kremlin is making a mistake.

    ASHTON CARTER, Secretary of Defense: By supporting Assad and thereby, seemingly, taking on everybody who is fighting Assad, you’re taking on the whole rest of the country of Syria. That is not our position. And so that’s one of the reasons why — in fact, it is the central reason why the Russian approach here is doomed to fail.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Carter said the Russian actions will not deter the U.S.-led air war on Islamic State fighters that’s been under way for a year.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Hari Sreenivasan.

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    Afghan special forces arrive at the airport as they launch a counteroffensive to retake the city from Taliban insurgents, in Kunduz on Septmber 29, 2015. The Afghan army on September 29 launched a counter-offensive to retake Kunduz from the Taliban, a day after insurgents overran the strategic northern city.   AFP PHOTO / Nasir Waqif        (Photo credit should read NASIR WAQIF/AFP/Getty Images)

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Moscow’s military buildup in Syria came to full flower today, with the opening of an air barrage. The Russians said they’re targeting the Islamic State, but that claim was disputed. And American officials issued a series of warnings about where the airstrikes could lead. We will have a full report after the news summary.

    In Afghanistan, the Taliban kept a tight grip on a major provincial capital they overran on Monday, and Afghan government forces faced the prospect of a critical test when they try to take it back.

    William Brangham reports on the day’s developments.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Afghan troops could be seen in action around Kunduz today, as fighting raged for a third day. And the local police chief insisted they’re making progress, backed up by U.S. airstrikes.

    MAN (through interpreter): The situation is better now. As you are aware, some areas have been retaken by security forces. The operation is ongoing. We retook the new police headquarters, the jail and some parts of the city.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But there was no sign of a broader counteroffensive, and a regional official complained that Afghan troops had — quote — “no will to fight.” The Taliban seized Kunduz on Monday, sealing off roads and hunting down government officials.

    Up to 5,000 police and soldiers retreated to the city’s airport, which Taliban fighters tried and failed to take overnight. But Taliban forces did capture a key hilltop fortress today. And civilians were in full flight.

    QADIR KHAN, Kunduz resident (through interpreter): Kunduz is under fire as a result of the conflict over these few days. The situation is very bad. All of the residents are fed up and thousands of families are escaping the province.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The loss of Kunduz was a blow to President Ashraf Ghani and his fractious national unity government. Ghani and chief executive officer Abdullah Abdullah faced angry denunciations in the Afghan Parliament today.

    IQBAL SAFI, Member of Afghan Parliament (through interpreter): The leaders of the Afghan national unity government are unable to administrate the current situation in the country. The people must stand against them and the people must stone them and kill them in their palaces.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All of this came with some 9,800 American troops still in Afghanistan, largely in a training role. And reports surfaced that U.S. commanders will recommend keeping several thousand in Afghanistan beyond 2016.

    White House spokesman Josh Earnest:

    JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: We’re going to continue to monitor the efforts by the Afghan government and Afghan security forces to retake Kunduz. And that will factor into a longer-term assessment of the conditions on the ground, which will influence longer-term policy decisions that the president will have to make.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: President Obama’s current plan calls for withdrawing all but about 1,000 U.S. troops by the end of next year.

    I’m William Brangham for the PBS NewsHour in Washington.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s word that a ship carrying weapons from Iran was intercepted last week off the Southern Arabian Peninsula. A coalition led by Saudi Arabia says the vessel was smuggling arms to Shiite rebels in Yemen. Sunni Arab states are fighting against the rebels. A U.S.-backed naval coalition says, in fact, that it actually stopped the vessel, and that the crew claimed to be bound for Somalia.

    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared today that he will no longer be bound by agreements signed with Israel. He addressed world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly, and said there’s no point in further negotiations.

    PRESIDENT MAHMOUD ABBAS, Palestinian National Authority (through interpreter): As long as Israel refuses to commit to the agreements signed with us, which render us an authority without real powers, and as long as Israel refuses to cease settlement activities, Israel has thus left us no choice. We will not remain the only ones committed to those agreements.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed Abbas’ remarks as — quote — “a speech of lies.”

    Back in this country, the state of Georgia has executed a woman for the first time in seven decades. Kelly Gissendaner was put to death by lethal injection just after midnight. She had been convicted in the 1997 murder of her husband. More than 100 supporters gathered outside the state prison in Jackson. In addition, Pope Francis had asked that her death sentence be commuted.

    It turns out the Kentucky county clerk who refused marriage licenses to gay couples met with Pope Francis last week. Kim Davis told ABC News she spoke briefly with the pontiff in Washington on Thursday, and that he had told her to — quote — “stay strong.” The Vatican had no comment.

    An internal report out today finds that a Secret Service official targeted Congressman Jason Chaffetz for investigating scandals at the agency. It says the official suggest leaking damaging information from an old job application by the Utah Republican. It also says that scores of Secret Service employees accessed his file, possibly illegally.

    The Atlantic Coast is now waiting to see what Hurricane Joaquin will do. The storm gained hurricane strength today, brushed the Eastern Bahamas, and kept growing. The National Hurricane Center predicted that it would churn north, possibly striking the U.S. Eastern Seaboard by early next week. That’s likely to add to flooding in several Southeastern states. They have been hit by heavy rainstorms over the past two days.

    Wall Street has been flooded by sell orders in recent days. But, today, traders went looking for bargains. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 235 points to close near 16285. The Nasdaq rose more than 100 points. And the S&P 500 added 36. Even so, stocks here and abroad ended their worst financial quarter in four years.

    And a federal appeals court has struck down a plan to let colleges pay student athletes up to $5,000 a year. Today’s ruling said the proposal to offer cash to football and basketball players would destroy amateur athletics.

    The post News Wrap: Taliban captures key fortress in Kunduz appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (right) greets supporters as he campaigns in Eldridge, Iowa, on Aug. 16, 2015.  Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

    U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (right) greets supporters as he campaigns in Eldridge, Iowa, on Aug. 16, 2015. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Bernie Sanders is offering Hillary Rodham Clinton an unexpected challenge in the race for primary campaign money this quarter as he collected nearly as much money from small donations as the Democratic front-runner has from big-dollar donors.

    The Vermont senator’s campaign says he has raised about $26 million for his presidential campaign in the past three months. Coming mostly from small donations given online, the sum underscores the draw of his insurgent campaign among the grassroots of the Democratic Party.

    Clinton’s campaign, in its own announcement Wednesday, said she had taken in $28 million. Most of it came from fundraisers hosted by big donors across the country. Many took place in the traditionally Democratic treasure-chests of Manhattan and Hollywood. She raised at least $19 million from about 60 events where admission typically cost $2,700, the biggest donation allowed by law.

    The Sanders campaign has held just seven traditional fundraisers since launching at the end of April, said Sanders campaign spokesman Michael Briggs, compared to a total of more than 110 for Clinton over the same period.

    Hours after initially announcing a take of $24 million, Sanders’ team boosted the total by an additional roughly $2 million. The campaign said donations rolled in all day Wednesday, the result of tweets and emails imploring supporters to give before the midnight close of the fundraising period.

    “We have a chance to send an unmistakable message about the size and strength of our campaign,” Sanders tweeted, urging supports to donate. With just a few hours left in the day, he emailed supporters, “Chip in $3 before the midnight FEC deadline as a way of saying you have had enough of the billionaire class buying our elections.”

    Clinton’s total for the past three months marks a notable drop-off from the $47.5 million she raised during the previous fundraising period, despite a busy schedule of donor events and an active online push for dollars.

    The sum is almost exactly what she brought in during the same period during her 2008 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. But there’s a key difference: In the previous campaign, she simultaneously raised money for the primary and general election, the latter of which she wasn’t able to use after losing the nomination to Barack Obama.

    This time, Clinton is raising only money for the primary election — meaning she can use every penny in her bid to secure her party’s nomination.

    Clinton’s campaign has set a goal of bringing in $100 million by the end of the year, a sizable amount intended to fund the hundreds of staffers and massive infrastructure her team has placed across the country.

    Aides said they were happy with the $75 million the campaign has raised so far.

    “Thanks to our supporters, we are able to meet our goals and build an organization that can mobilize millions of voters to ensure Hillary Clinton is their fighter in the White House,” campaign manager Robby Mook said in a statement.

    The nearly $20 million decline is partially attributable to the typical summer fundraising slow-down. Some donors are also waiting to see if Vice President Joe Biden joins the race. In previous campaigns, Biden was not known as an aggressive fundraiser and should he enter this year, he would have to raise tens of millions in a matter of weeks just to catch up with his primary opponents.

    Sanders’ campaign says it ended the latest fundraising quarter with more than $25 million in the bank. Clinton did not release the total amount in her account. But she’s been spending money at a rapid clip, using up 40 percent of the $47 million in donations she had amassed by the end of June.

    Sanders campaign strategist Tad Devine said the campaign had surpassed the pace that Obama set during the 2008 primary season in terms of sheer numbers of donors. Because most of those givers hadn’t maxed out their donations, he said the campaign could return to them in the months ahead to raise more money.

    “For Bernie Sanders to get into this race on the 30th of April and to be raising almost as much money as Hillary Clinton is a significant achievement,” Devine said. He said the cash infusion would give the campaign “enormous flexibility.”

    ___

    Associated Press writer Julie Bykowicz in Washington contributed to this report.

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    Afghan security forces keep watch in the streets of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan on Oct. 1, 2015. Taliban had taken over the city on Monday. Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

    Afghan security forces keep watch in the streets of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan on Oct. 1, 2015. Taliban had taken over the city on Monday. Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

    Afghan government forces have entered the northern city of Kunduz to try to eject Taliban fighters who had taken over the strategic city earlier this week.

    Even though officials said earlier that Afghan forces had retaken the city, fighting appeared to continue into Thursday. The Taliban’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Thursday it was still in Taliban hands, and residents reported hearing gunshots and explosions, according to the Associated Press.

    The Interior Ministry said the government operation was launched late Wednesday with ground forces moving in from the airport, where they had hunkered down after the Taliban took over on Monday.

    The province of Kunduz is at a crossroads of Tajikistan to the north and other Afghan cities including the capital Kabul to the south.

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    A person walks near one of the two Airbus A350-900 aircrafts for the Qatar Airways company on December 22, 2014 at the Airbus Group center in Toulouse, southern France. The A350, whose wings and fuselage are made of carbon fibre, is designed to save up to 25 percent in fuel consumption while serving long-range routes. Qatar Airways has ordered 80 of the aircraft and plans to make them the workhorse of its fleet. AFP PHOTO / ERIC CABANIS        (Photo credit should read ERIC CABANIS/AFP/Getty Images)

    Qatar Airways is among the Persian Gulf carriers that three major U.S. airlines allege has received unfair subsidies from its government. Photo by Eric Cabanis/AFP/Getty Images)

    Bart Jansen, who covers aviation for USA Today calls it “the single biggest trade dispute in history.”

    The three biggest U.S. airlines – American, United and Delta – have lodged a complaint with the U.S. government, alleging that three major carriers in the Persian Gulf are receiving unfair subsidies from their governments — $42 billion over the last decade. The Gulf carriers deny the allegation.


    For the American airlines, some of their most lucrative routes, plus thousands of U.S. jobs, are on the line. At stake for the Gulf states is access to the wealthiest travel market, along with the future of their rapidly growing airlines.

    And this is all happening as flying in this country has become more crowded, expensive and inconvenient.

    We take a look at the battle for this week’s Shortwave.

    The post U.S. and Persian Gulf airlines clash over $42 billion trade dispute appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The skyline of downtown The Obama Administration set new ozone standards on Thursday to prevent conditions as seen in Los Angeles in 2006. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/Files

    The skyline of downtown The Obama Administration set new ozone standards on Thursday to prevent conditions as seen in Los Angeles in 2006. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/Files

    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has set a new national ozone standard, tightening limits on the smog-forming pollution linked to asthma and respiratory illness.

    Officials familiar with the plan but not authorized to speak on the record said the Environmental Protection Agency will set a new standard of 70 parts per billion on Thursday, meeting a court-ordered deadline to act.

    The new standard is below the current standard of 75 parts per billion but at the high end of a range announced by the EPA last fall.

    The move fulfills a long-delayed campaign promise by President Barack Obama, but sets up a fresh confrontation with Republicans already angry about the administration’s plans to curb carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants and regulate small streams and wetlands.

    Business groups said a new ozone standard is unnecessary and could jeopardize jobs.

    But EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said public health benefits far outweigh costs.

    Environmental and public health groups called the action a step in the right direction, but said it did not go far enough.

    “The level chosen of 70 parts per billion simply does not reflect what the science shows is necessary to truly protect public health,” said Harold Wimmer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association.

    The lung association and other groups have pushed for an ozone limit of 60 parts per billion, saying it would have given Americans much greater health protections.

    The EPA declined to comment ahead of the official announcement, but a top EPA official told Congress this week that the current limit “is not adequate to protect the public health.”

    Janet McCabe, an acting assistant EPA administrator, said a stricter standard is needed to cut dangerous ozone pollution and prevent thousands of asthma attacks, emergency room visits and even premature deaths.

    A new ozone standard, combined with greenhouse gas reductions mandated by a rule limiting pollution from coal-fired power plants, “will extend the trajectory of the last 40 years when we’ve cut air pollution 70 percent — all while our economy has tripled,” McCabe said.

    Business groups reacted harshly. The National Association of Manufacturers and other groups had lobbied the White House in recent months and spent millions on a TV ad campaign decrying the pending ozone rule as an overreach and a job killer.

    “We know that this regulation could have been worse, but it still feels like a punch in the gut,” said Tom Riordan, president and CEO of the Wisconsin-based Neenah Enterprises Inc. and task force leader for the manufacturers group.

    “Manufacturers are tough and resilient, but when Washington puts politics above job creation, we still pay a price,” Riordan said in a statement.

    Manufacturers across the country, especially smaller companies, “will be forced to choose between navigating this rule and hiring new workers, between complying with Washington’s mandates and giving raises to their employees,” he said.

    The post Obama administration sets new national ozone standard appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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