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

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    BRIAN FURNISH, KENTUCKY FARMER: Basically, a barn like this, with 20 guys, we can load this barn in two days.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Brian Furnish and his family have been growing tobacco for eight generations. They started in Virginia nearly two hundred years ago then migrated in the mid-1800s to the rolling hills of central Kentucky.

    BRIAN FURNISH: I guess it’s a labor of love, one we have always done. We grew up in it and I guess we always will as long as it’s available to us.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: But life as a Kentucky tobacco farmer is not as lucrative as it once was. Thanks to anti-smoking campaigns and high taxes on cigarettes, domestic demand is down and federal government price supports are gone.

    The days when Kentucky’s crop grossed nearly a billion dollars a year are no more — forcing Brian, and farmers like him, to imagine a future without tobacco and diversify their farms.

    His move to cattle paid off with rising beef prices, but Brian’s most recent bet is cannabis sativa, also known as hemp.

    But there is a catch. To the federal government, hemp is just as illegal as marijuana.

    Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is determined to change that.

    JAMES COMER; KENTUCKY AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER: There is no reason why industrial hemp should’ve been outlawed in the United States or in Kentucky.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Both marijuana and hemp are cannabis plants, and to the naked eye they look and smell the same.

    The main difference comes down to the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol – commonly referred to as THC, the psychoactive chemical in the cannabis plant.

    Hemp has a THC level below point-three percent, essentially making it impossible to get high on the plant, whereas marijuana has THC levels above point-three percent. Potency levels generally vary between one-percent and twenty-percent.

    JAMES COMER: It’s a crop that today we make a lot of products from plastic and wood, tomorrow those products will be made from industrial hemp. The problem is that when people thought of hemp, they thought of marijuana.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: In order to move forward, Comer and other leaders have tried to change the misperceptions. And this was a hard sell. Kentucky’s State Police Commissioner wasn’t convinced. He declined our request for an interview, but has voiced his skepticism on the local P-B-S program “Kentucky Tonight.”

    RODNEY BREWER, KENTUCKY STATE POLICE COMMISSIONER: The main, number one concern that law enforcement has is that it is impossible for us with aerial surveillance, which is how we cut most of our marijuana, 441-thousand plants last year on the governor’s marijuana strike task force, you cannot distinguish that from the air or even on the ground when you’re in the field to the naked eye.

    But the big issue that we have is what is to prevent an unscrupulous farmer, maybe with or without his knowledge, from someone going in and planting ten, fifteen, twenty marijuana plants in the center of this one acre, ten acre tract?

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: The appeal of hemp is based on the productivity and diverse usage of the plant. The fiber can be used in rope, clothing, building materials, even car dashboards. Whole Foods sells a variety of products derived from hemp seeds – from hemp granola bars to hemp milk.

    And the Body Shop, offers everything from hemp hand cream to hemp soap-on-a-rope. But all of the hemp fiber, seeds, or oils in these products comes from hemp grown outside of the United States to the tune of about 500-million-dollars a year.

    After Comer took office in 2012, he pushed the state legislature to pass a law that set the basic framework for a Kentucky hemp industry. But getting hemp seeds in the ground required the federal government. So, the state turned to one of the most powerful politicians in Washington for help — the senior U.S senator from Kentucky and current Republican Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell.

    When the 2014 Farm Bill arrived in the Senate, it included a House of Representatives amendment granting colleges and universities the right to grow and study industrial

    hemp. In the Senate version of the bill, Senator McConnell inserted a key measure extending the rights to state agriculture departments, clearing the way for states to license individual farmers to grow hemp.

    After it passed, McConnell issued a statement applauding what this might mean for Kentucky, saying: “This is an important victory for Kentucky’s farmers, and I was pleased to be able to secure this language on behalf of our state…we are laying the groundwork for a new commodity market for Kentucky farmers.”

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Brian Furnish was one of the first Kentucky farmers approved last year to grow hemp, but it wasn’t that simple. Because the state lacked a controlled substance import permit, the Drug Enforcement Administration held up the first batch of seed for weeks.

    BRIAN FURNISH: They seized one of our shipments and we had to go to court in Louisville to get the seed released and to lay out the framework of what we would have to do to get our licensing permits. Last year was a really slow process. This season it wasn’t so bad. They only delayed us about a maybe ten days.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Even with seeds in hand, Furnish was monitored from planting to harvest.

    BRIAN FURNISH: Everything we do has to be reported. We have to go through a criminal background check. All of our fields have to be GPS when they’re planted. Samples will be taken of every field to test for the THC levels.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: While Furnish and the state view this effort as a way to push farms into a post-tobacco future, the move to hemp is actually a return to a plant that once dominated the Kentucky landscape.

    “HEMP FOR VICTORY” GOVERNMENT FILM, 1942: With Philippine and East Indian sources of hemp now in the hands of the Japanese American hemp must meet the needs of our army and navy, as well as our industries.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: At the height of World War Two, the U.S. government temporarily allowed and encouraged farmers to grow hemp for the war effort.

    “HEMP FOR VICTORY” GOVERNMENT FILM, 1942: Rope for marine rigging and towing, thread for shoes for millions of American soldiers, and parachute webbing for our paratroopers.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: At the war’s end, came the end of Kentucky hemp. Despite the state’s history, there are essentially no farmers remaining that have direct experience with the plant.

    Unlike the tobacco farming techniques that have been passed down through the generations, Kentucky farmers that are looking to experiment with hemp are mostly relying on the techniques developed in other countries.

    DAVID WILLIAMS, UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY: The uses of hemp at that period of history are very, very different than why we would grow hemp today.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Following the passage of the last year’s farm bill — professor David Williams helped launch the University of Kentucky’s hemp research program.

    DAVID WILLIAMS: If you consider a plant that has three potential harvestable components there aren’t too many other crops that we’re growing in Kentucky that can serve that role. We have experiments for all three this year.

    The one behind me is a natural fiber trial. We have two trials investigating grain production, growing hemp just for the seed for food purposes, animal or human food. And then we also have some trials investigating the production of cannabinoids.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: It is these cannabinoids — the biochemicals in hemp that some believe have potential medicinal applications — from reducing seizures to treating cancer.

    The state feels, this is where most potential profit lies, but James Comer says, this is where they are facing another challenge from a federal agency, the Food and Drug Administration.

    JAMES COMER: Some of our most profitable pilot projects now are focused on the cannabidiol from a pharmaceutical standpoint. If you look at what their projected profit margin will be per acre, it’s going to be significantly greater than tobacco ever was.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: But any medicinal application would require the approval of the FDA, the agency responsible for the regulation of medication and dietary supplements.

    In an excerpt from a statement to the NewsHour, the FDA said: “It is important and appropriate to use the same scientific standards in the development and assessment of potential therapeutic uses of cannabidiol as with any unapproved drug that the agency reviews.”

    TREY RIDDLE, SUNSTRAND CEO: With all new industries, there’s an element of risk.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Trey riddle hopes to cash in on hemp. He relocated his materials company, SunStrand, from Montana.

    TREY RIDDLE: My company right now is prepared to chart a path into the unknown and invest time, money, resources into developing capabilities to take the material to the next step. We do feel that there is a large market potential for hemp, and so are willing to make those investments.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: What if there’s a change in policy and they basically say, “okay no more, no more hemp?”

    TREY RIDDLE: I’m not too worried about that myself. I don’t really see the laws going backwards. I think it would be a hard sell, because we are making a lot of progress.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Particularly thinking about your own trajectory, you know, Brian Furnish, whose farm we visited, he has a hundred acres. I mean, if you’re talking about scaling up, you’re going to need a lot more hemp.

    TREY RIDDLE: That’s right. I mean we expect to need five thousand acres of hemp in the not-so-distant future for just a portion of what we think is a major industry.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: A potential major industry for Kentucky and dozen or so other states looking at alternatives to tobacco. But even with the current framework in place, one that will require a bit more than investment and development to move forward in the way some are hoping.

    JAMES COMER: Once they have confidence that the federal government is going to leave them alone there, there’s going to be a huge investment made all over the state and I can see the interest from, from Wall Street.

    I can see the interest from, from hedge funds and, and investors all across the United States that want to come to Kentucky and, and get in on the ground floor of an industry that they know ten years down the road is, is going to be huge.

    The post Why Kentucky farmers are quitting tobacco and turning to an unlikely new crop appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    POMPEII, NAPLES, ITALY - 2015/09/29: (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains graphic content.) A working team appointed by the Archaeological Superintendence of Pompeii performs a CAT (Computerized Axial Tomography) scan on one of thirty casts of the victims of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD in Pompeii. (Photo by Ciro De Luca/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

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    MEGAN THOMPSON: Two-and-a-half million people visit Pompeii every year, making it one of Italy’s busiest tourist attractions.

    The ancient city, close to modern-day Naples, is famous for being frozen in time, preserved as it was when the volcano Mount Vesuvius erupted more than 1,900 years ago, in 79 AD.

    Pompeii, buried in tons of volcanic ash, along with the remains of some 2,000 people killed, was first excavated in the 1800s.

    Those early discoverers poured plaster on the recovered bodies to better preserve them, but little was known about them.

    So, last month, researchers brought in a CAT scan machine, like the one you might find in a doctor’s office.

    The machine penetrates the thick plaster and creates a 3-dimensional image of each body. The CAT scans reveal two big discoveries.

    First, many victims did not die from suffocation, as previously thought, but from the falling buildings.

    MASSIMO OSANNA, DIRECTOR: From the analysis carried out on the bones, we have found a lot of broken skulls. This tells us many died from falling roofs under the pressure of the pumice. The pumice is very light but when it builds up two meters, it can collapse roofs and many died because of this.”

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Second, the researchers are finding many of Pompeii’s victims had practically perfect teeth, a reflection, perhaps, of a healthy Mediterranean diet low in sugar and high levels of fluoride in their water supply.

    MASSIMO OSANNA, DIRECTOR: From the study, we discovered the absence of cavities in the teeth. This is very interesting, it is not completely surprising because we know about the Mediterranean diet and it’s positive aspects.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: The researchers plan to scan all 86 casts of the human remains to help us learn more about not only how the people of Pompeii died, but how they lived.

    The post New imagery from Pompeii yields surprising findings about ancient humans appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has so far resisted elaborating on two landmark decisions that established a nationwide right to defend one’s home with a gun.

    That could change with a new appeal filed by gun owners that challenges a Chicago suburb’s assault weapons ban.

    The appeal by Dr. Arie Friedman and the Illinois State Rifle Association argues that the City of Highland Park has violated their constitutional rights by banning some of the most popular semi-automatic guns in the United States, as well as ammunition clips of more than 10 rounds.

    The justices put off consideration of the appeal last week. In recent years, the court has almost always deferred action on an appeal before agreeing to take it up.

    The court could say as early as Monday whether it will hear the case.

    Friedman is a practicing pediatrician and owner of semi-automatic weapons. He lost a bid for the state Senate as a Republican in 2012 in a campaign in which some conservatives complained about his support for abortion rights. In recent days, Friedman has used his Twitter account to offer tips for Israelis who want to arm themselves in public. He did not respond to messages left with his medical practice.

    The Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller and the 2010 decision in McDonald v. Chicago focused mainly on the right to defend one’s own home. Gun rights groups have failed repeatedly to get the justices to say how broadly the Second Amendment protects gun rights.

    The court has turned away challenges to gun laws at least three other times in cases that involved whether people have a right to be armed in public.

    Even though lower courts have mainly upheld gun restrictions, the Highland Park case arises out of a decision by the federal appeals court in Chicago that struck down the only statewide ban on carrying concealed weapons, in Illinois.

    In 2013, when state lawmakers reacted to the court ruling by making it legal to carry a gun, they gave cities around the state 10 days to come up with local restrictions on assault weapons, or forfeit their right to do so.

    Highland Park was one of fewer than 20 municipalities, all in the Chicago area, to enact regulations or bans, according to the rifle association.

    The city’s assault weapons ban was upheld by the appeals court in a 2-1 decision.

    “If a ban on semi-automatic guns and large-capacity magazines reduces the perceived risk from a mass shooting and makes the public feel safer as a result, that’s a substantial benefit,” Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote for the court. Variations of the Bushmaster AR-15, one of the guns specifically banned by Highland Park, were used in the Newtown, Connecticut, school massacre and the theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado.

    In dissent, Judge Daniel A. Manion said individuals, not elected officials, get to choose which guns they prefer for self-defense.

    “To limit self-defense to only those methods acceptable to the government” creates an “enormous transfer of authority from the citizens of this country to the government – a result directly contrary to our Constitution and to our political tradition,” Manion wrote.

    Twenty-four states and other gun-rights groups are supporting the appeal at the Supreme Court.

    The justices’ refusal to say more about gun rights has allowed, even encouraged, federal judges to take a narrow view of the meaning of the Second Amendment, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said on behalf of the states. “It is time for this court to intervene.”

    The case is Friedman v. City of Highland Park, 15-133.

    The post Supreme Court considers appeal of Chicago suburb’s assault weapons ban appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Tanks belonging to Syrian government forces are positioned near the Jazel oil field, near the ancient city of Palmyra in the east of Homs province after they retook the area from Islamic State (IS) group fighters on March 9, 2015. Recent US-led coalition air strikes have frequently targeted oil facilities run by the IS group jihadists, who according to some estimates earn more than $1 million per day from oil sales. AFP PHOTO/ STR        (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: The militant group known as the Islamic State or ISIS controls huge amounts of territory in Iraq and Syria. And ISIS finances much of its military operations from siphoning and selling the greatest commodity in Iraq and Syria: oil. Some estimates put proceeds from the ISIS theft at $1.5 million a day.

    “Financial Times” reporter Erika Solomon has written about this, and she joins me now, from Chicago.

    So, Erika, how is it possible that they have this kind of an industry of oil in the middle of the war where different countries are attacking them?

    ERIKA SOLOMON, FINANCIAL TIMES: Well, that’s the very interesting part because actually, attacking oil fields is quite difficult. You can’t just bomb an oil field. It could cause a natural disaster and it could potentially hurt that country’s future in terms of using its oil.

    So, the coalition can only really go o after refining processes or everything after the extraction. And ISIS has used that to its advantage. Basically, it’s taken over oil fields and has used employees who already were working at those fields to continue production.

    And the other thing is that Syria has been in a war for about five years so, people in this region, when the government lost control, had been doing this for quite some time. What ISIS did was just take over production that was already ongoing and improve it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. So, who do they sell this oil to?

    ERIKA SOLOMON: ISIS sells this oil to everyone there. A lot of people think that the oil probably goes to, say, the Syrian regime or to Turkey. But we found most of the oil is being bought by the people that ISIS controls, or even their neighbors who are technically at war with them.

    The most striking examples would be areas to the northwest controlled by the Syrian opposition, which is at war with ISIS. They fight ISIS at the same time that they actually have to buy their fuel because they have no other option

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, the hospitals are all powered by generators using oil from ISIS.

    ERIKA SOLOMON: Yes, that’s the really shocking part. At some point, ISIS has blocked fuel moving to rebel areas to make this point. And a few months ago, what happened is we saw hospitals that didn’t have any fuel. They couldn’t power some of their operations rooms and people actually died because they didn’t have fuel.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Why is this so difficult to stop? You said it’s hard to bomb oil fields for environmental repercussions. Why is it so difficult to stop this pipeline of oil getting for one place in Syria or Iraq to another?

    ERIKA SOLOMON: There’s differences of opinion among the international coalition about how to handle this. In reporting the story, I went to places on the border between Syria and Iraq where Kurdish Peshmerga forces are fighting ISIS with support from coalition air forces.

    They would like to bomb routes where you can see trucks going by with oil, but their coalition partners, like the it’s Americans say we don’t want to do that. We don’t want to turn what are essentially civilian traders against us because what ISIS has done is allowed locals to buy their fuel.

    They don’t actually control the entire system. They only control the extraction and sell crude oil. Locals are the ones who refine it and sell it on and they’re benefiting from it because they don’t really have any other economic opportunities right now. And that’s why the coalition has really struggled to find an effective way to fight the oil industry in Syria

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Erika Solomon, normally based in Beirut but joining us today from Chicago — thanks so much.

    ERIKA SOLOMON: Thank you.

    The post How ISIS built its own multi-million dollar industry by attacking oilfields appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

    The five Democrats on the debate stage last week in Las Vegas offered a relatively – and surprisingly – unified front on the issues at the forefront of the campaign. Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — If the recent Republican presidential debates have revealed hobbling breaks in the party, the Democrats’ first political X-ray showed a couple of hairline fractures.

    The five Democrats on the debate stage last week in Las Vegas offered a relatively – and surprisingly – unified front on the issues at the forefront of the campaign.

    On solutions, the differences tended to be a matter a degree, rather than diametrical. On President Barack Obama, at times a source of considerable Democratic discontent, their positions ranged from warm embrace to polite disagreement.

    The sense of respect and courtesy was in sharp contrast to the public bickering on the other side and the recent history of how parties have dealt with passing control of the White House.

    Democrats showed they are willing to embrace Obama’s legacy, whatever the risks. Republicans continue to struggle with the fallout from George W. Bush’s presidency, with years of public soul-searching and animosity toward their leadership.

    “You would expect in a Democratic primary field when people are crossing a broad ideological spectrum that they might be critical of the incumbent no matter who the incumbent is,” Democratic pollster and strategist Celinda Lake said. “But I think Democrats demonstrated that across the spectrum it’s good to run with the president rather than against him.”

    Under their first national spotlight, leading Democrats put forward no drastic re-imaging of Obama’s signature policies. The candidates largely pledged to build on Obama’s health overhaul, preserve or expand his immigration orders and continue global climate change talks. They indirectly criticized his handling of issues that the party considers to be failings of his tenure: comprehensive immigration changes, gun control, spurring middle class wage growth, cracking down on Wall Street.

    Opposition to a Pacific Rim trade pact was the most prominent area of disagreement.

    Obama noted the trend Friday, saying he found it “interesting” how few differences emerged.

    “I think everybody on that stage at the debate affirmed what I have said in the past, which is we agree on 95 percent of stuff and on the basic vision of a country,” Obama told reporters.

    The candidates’ cohesion around Obama is as much political calculation as a spontaneous exercise.

    Obama is popular with Latinos, blacks, young people and unmarried women – the core coalition that any Democrat will need to win the nomination and the White House. His approval rating hovers around 80 percent among Democrats in Gallup’s recent tracking surveys. Among liberal Democrats, that number moves toward 90 percent. Democrats alienate these groups at their own peril.

    Front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton has started to pull away from Obama, delivering rough comments on his immigration record or deviating from his policy in Syria. But when given the biggest audience of her campaign, she promised to “build on the successes of President Obama” and “go beyond.”

    She not only embraced Obama but also used his endorsement of her to deflect criticism. The two once debated her vote on the Iraq War, she noted, and “after the election, he asked me to become secretary of state. He valued my judgment, and I spent a lot of time with him.”

    Clinton’s rivals similarly went easy on the president, even the one whose campaign is built on a harsh critique of his economic policy.

    “I have a lot of respect for President Obama. I have worked with him time and time again on many, many issues,” said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. It was a softer introduction to his call for “political revolution” to unlock the government from what he contends is the control of Wall Street and corporate media.

    Still, the collective appreciation for the president and his policies papered over persistent rifts, particularly between the party’s left flank and pragmatic middle.

    Sanders’ call to break up the banks is a critique of Obama’s handling of Wall Street regulation. Reflecting concern about crises in the Middle East, the conversation about foreign policy was more contentious. The U.S. needs to “take more of a leadership position” in Syria, Clinton said.

    It’s hard to imagine the lineup of Republican candidates using such restraint.

    The GOP ranks have battled their party’s leadership for nearly all of Obama’s presidency. The conflict has boiled over in recent weeks as conservatives and moderates in the House spar over the speakership, and Republican voters elevate party outsiders Donald Trump and Ben Carson to the top of the presidential polls.

    At their recent debates, Republicans have clashed over immigration policy, federal spending, compromising with Democrats and the lessons of Bush’s presidency.

    Whether a party breaks up or falls in line at the end of a presidency tends to be determined by how popular or divisive the incumbent is, says Sidney M. Milkis, a political scientist at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center.

    Bush left office unpopular in his party and out. The end of the President Lyndon Johnson’s presidency left Democrats in disarray. In rallying around Obama, Democrats resemble Republicans at the end of President Ronald Reagan’s term – happy with their status quo and looking for more, Milkis noted.

    While Obama’s approval rating among Democrats is solid, Republicans are focused on other numbers. His overall job approval is 46 percent, according to Gallup. Pollsters are finding broad dissatisfaction with the direction of the country and a steady distrust of public institutions.

    “This is not a country that’s satisfied,” said GOP pollster David Winston.

    Both parties’ nominees will need to present a distinct, forward-looking agenda that appeals to voters beyond the base. “As Republicans saw in 2012, the idea that you can win a primary and you don’t have to worry about the general – that that cake is already baked – I think there was a rude awakening there.”

    The post Democratic hopefuls offer relatively unified front on major issues appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    jacksonville

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    MEGAN THOMPSON: It’s a typical, busy morning at the port in Jacksonville – Florida’s most populous city. Vincent Cameron has worked on the docks here for 25 years.

    VINCENT CAMERON: These boxes that are coming off these ships behind you have all types of cargo in them, and they go to all different destinations — from your Pier-1s, your Walmarts, your Targets, to your warehouses, to your factories, the paper mill, you name it.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: This massive port imports and exports some 8 million tons of cargo a year, worth around $33 billion dollars…generating almost $170 million in state and local taxes. The Jacksonville port – called Jaxport for short – is a mid-size port, ranking 37th out of the 99 biggest U.S. ports by cargo volume. But it’s also one of the fastest growing U.S. ports for exporting.

    It ships more cars out of the U.S. than any other port in the country, and it’s a major import hub for companies like Disney, Bacardi, Maxwell house, and Samsonite. The port is located just off the Atlantic Ocean on the St. Johns River. When cargo comes in…it’s delivered quickly over three interstate highways even more freight train lines across the southeast United States.

    VINCENT CAMERON: Jacksonville is a port city. You know, we derive our fruits from the labors that take place right here on these very docks.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Cameron, a third generation longshoreman, is one of nearly 10,000 people employed at the port…which supports thousands of jobs at local businesses, too.

    VINCENT CAMERON: It’s a big economic engine for the city of Jacksonville, and it needs to survive if the city is going to continue to thrive.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: To thrive in the global economy, Jaxport has spent tens of millions of dollars in the past decade to modernize and to compete with ports to the north, like Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina. In 2009, the port completed a high-tech terminal with 275-foot tall cranes to reach across the decks of the largest ships that dock here.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: It installed state-of-the art technology to provide ships entering the port better navigational information. And to speed up cargo delivery… the port is now building a facility to transfer containers directly from ships onto freight trains. And the port’s jumping into the business of servicing new ships powered by liquefied natural gas – a cleaner burning fuel than the fuel oil used by most cargo ships.

    But all of these innovations might not be enough for Jaxport to stay competitive, according Jaxport CEO Brian Taylor, who says the port now needs to be deepened by seven feet.

    BRIAN TAYLOR: Deepening the port is to allow us to compete and handle the ships of the future that are going to be carrying the cargo to the east coast ports.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: In the last two decades, the shipping industry has built bigger and bigger ships – tripling the capacity of the largest ones. Today the biggest ship today a quarter-mile long – longer than the empire state building is tall.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: As a result, the 101-year-old Panama Canal – which connects the pacific and Atlantic oceans – is expanding to accommodate the new ships, doubling its capacity by deepening and widening its channels. The project could be done as early as next year. A report by the Boston consulting group estimates that the Panama Canal expansion could lead to 10-percent of west coast ship traffic shifting to the east in the next five years. Ports up and down the eastern seaboard are spending billions to snag a share of that traffic. Jaxport’s Taylor says his harbor needs to be deepened by seven feet…or else.

    BRIAN TAYLOR: We will lose the opportunity to participate in the single biggest growth segment over the next 20 years.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Taylor says his 40-foot deep channel is already too shallow. It requires some large ships to carry less than a full load to avoid scraping the bottom. And that results in less revenue for the port.

    BRIAN TAYLOR: So, if we do not deepen this port, I would expect to see the business that we’ve worked so hard to gain to gradually move north of here, and all those jobs that we’ve worked to gain will move there as well.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: The thirteen-mile dredging project, simulated in this Jaxport video, has a big price tag – nearly $700 million. All of it is expected to come from the government. Last year, congress passed a 12-billion-dollar bill to improve the nation’s ports. But so far, Jaxport hasn’t seen any federal funding. Savannah and Charleston have; they move more cargo and got an earlier start on their expansion projects.

    The State of Florida has given some money, but nowhere near the amount needed. And local government hasn’t come up with the funding, either. Opponents of the Jaxport dredging project say it just isn’t worth the environmental risks, or the high cost.

    DAVID JAFFEE: I don’t think it’s do or die for Jacksonville…

    MEGAN THOMPSON: University of North Florida professor David Jaffee specializes in economic sociology and has studied the project. He says there are many other costs that haven’t been included in the price tag, like further terminal upgrades and maintenance.

    DAVID JAFFEE: I don’t think it will yield the benefits that they’ve claimed, and I think the costs that they have estimated — are grossly underestimated. So when you put all that together, that doesn’t even include the incalculable cost to the river itself. It’s a project that it unnecessary and, in my view, would be a monumental waste of taxpayer dollars.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Jaffee points out that Jacksonville is already behind Savannah and Charleston, and he thinks the projected traffic through the Panama Canal won’t be sufficient to justify so many east coast ports expanding capacity.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: He predicts many of the biggest ships will unload onto smaller ships in the Caribbean that will continue onto the U.S. – something called “transshipment.” He argues Jacksonville should vie instead for that traffic.

    DAVID JAFFEE: Rather than try to engage in what I would regard as a kind of destructive form of competition, my proposal would be that Jaxport and Jacksonville focus on their strengths. And that is developing connections with trade and the movement of cargo in the Caribbean and Central and South America. That they can attract vessels which move large numbers of containers that actually can come in currently at the depth of the river.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: But some local business leaders disagree.

    MARIE-CLAIRE ABERCROMBIE: Everything that you see here, we import through the port of Jacksonville.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Marie-Claire Abercombie manages east coast distribution for Bedrosians, a company that supplies tiling for floors, bathrooms, and countertops.

    MARIE-CLAIRE ABERCROMBIE: If it’s slate, we are importing it out of India or Pakistan. If it’s granite, it’s imported out of Brazil. If it’s marble, it’s coming out of China or Spain or Italy.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Abercrombie says business is booming, but she sometimes has problems importing heavy freight from her factory in china, because space on ships that can reach Jacksonville can be tight. She says the ability to dock bigger ships would help.

    MARIE-CLAIRE ABERCROMBIE: That will be great for us, because it means our product can get here quicker. Larger ships means that we can bring in more products, we can, you know, spread the cost of that transportation over more products, and again, keep the cost to the consumer lower.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: The potential environmental effects of deepening the harbor are also a point of controversy. Lisa Rinaman leads the local advocacy group St. John’s Riverkeeper. She says digging up the river floor could harm endangered species like manatees and sea turtles…and could disrupt the delicate mix of salt and fresh water in the river.

    LISA RINAMAN: In addition to the salt water coming in, you have erosion and sedimentation and all of these changes to this complex, delicate ecosystem causes major problems with water quality, as well as impact to our fisheries.

    The increase in salt water does damage to our wetlands and submerged grasses. Those are the kidneys of the St. Johns River, and so, when you lose those systems, all of a sudden you start having more water quality problems.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – which would oversee the dredging project – has a plan to mitigate possible damage to the environment.

    But Rinaman says it’s not enough. St. Johns Riverkeeper plans to sue the Army Corps to add more protections for wetlands, the shoreline and wildlife. But dredging supporters say environmental concerns shouldn’t outweigh economic ones.

    MARIE-CLAIRE ABERCROMBIE: Yes. The environmentalists, I get it. We have to save our planet. But before we can save the animals, I think we also have to look at the people. How are we taking care of the people? e can save the fish and we can save the turtles, but if the economy goes down, and these environmentalists are not going to have a job to fight for or to save the turtles.

    LISA RINAMAN: You know, a lot of times people try to put the environment against the economy and we don’t see it that way, because this community, this state thrives on our healthy natural resources. Healthy rivers drive healthy economies, and so, there has to be that balance.

    VINCENT CAMERON: Yeah, there is no perfect product when it comes to man intervening with the environment.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Longshoreman Vincent Cameron says he understands the concerns on both sides….and thinks they can be resolved.

    VINCENT CAMERON: We’re better now than we were many years ago, as far as the bright minds that are coming to the table to make this a reality. And I think that we can manage this together.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Port officials say they will continue to lobby for government funding … and are even considering dredging a shorter length of the river to make the project more affordable. In the meantime … all sides in Jacksonville continue to wait.

    The post How deepening the Panama Canal set off a fierce debate in Jacksonville appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Here’s the latest on the presidential candidates’ comments on the Sunday talk shows. All times Eastern.

    9:30 a.m.

    Donald Trump says that had he been president, the Sept. 11 hijackers likely would not have gotten into the U.S. in the first place.

    The billionaire developer is leading most polls for the GOP presidential nomination and says on “Fox News Sunday” that if he were “running things…there’s a good chance that those people would not have been in our country.”

    All but one of the 19 men who hijacked planes and flew them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania legally entered the country on business or tourist visas. One entered on a student visa but did not show up to class.

    9:15 a.m.

    Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson says he doesn’t think any of the Democratic candidates would be tough opponents for him to beat in the general election.

    The retired neurosurgeon would first have to win the crowded race for the GOP nomination, and currently he’s behind billionaire businessman Donald Trump. But Carson says on ABC’s “This Week” that the election will essentially be about, “whether we want a nation where the government is in control or a nation where the people are in control.” And that, he says, would make him the clear choice no matter the Democratic opponent.

    —-

    9:00 a.m.

    Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz says it’s better for the United States if strongmen like the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi (MOO’-ah-mar gah-DAH’-fee) were still in power.

    The Texas senator says on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Gaddafi and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak (HOHS’-nee moo-BAH’-rahk) were better allies than the extremists in power in those countries now.

    He would not say, however, whether Iraq was better off led by the late Saddam Hussein, who was toppled by President George W. Bush’s administration in 2003 and executed three years later.

    Gadhafi was killed in a battle in 2011.

    The post Trump on Fox News: I would have kept out 9/11 hijackers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Barack Obama walks from the rostrum after making a statement about the shootings in Oregon at the White House, October 1, 2015.  Responses to Thursday’s mass shooting from Obama, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Jeb Bush illustrate the stark divide between the two parties on the issue of gun control. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    President Barack Obama walks from the rostrum after making a statement about the shootings in Oregon at the White House, October 1, 2015. Obama is considering more executive action on gun control and Hillary Clinton says she “will not be silenced” on guns. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — After 15 years of a virtual gag order on guns in presidential politics, Democrats are talking again.

    President Barack Obama is considering more executive action on gun control. The front-runner in the Democratic race to replace him says she “will not be silenced” on guns. At the Democrats’ first debate in the presidential season, candidates jockeyed for bragging rights over who had the lowest rating from the National Rifle Association.

    The return of the gun debate comes in the first White House contest since the December 2012 shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 children and six educators at an elementary school, and a string of mass shootings after that. The absence of gun legislation passed by Congress has spurred a steady call for action from the Democratic base.

    Democrats say support for new gun laws is broader now and the politics of the issue have shifted enough to make the push for tougher measures a political winner, even if there remains almost no chance for success in Congress.

    Republicans are eager for Democrats to test the theory.

    They watched the Democratic debate and saw fodder for advertising aimed at rural voters and gun owners still firmly opposed to putting more restrictions on gun purchases. Those voters have tended to retain their passion on the issue and have been motivated to vote, long after a shooting recedes from the headlines.

    The White House has been upfront that it plans to keep attention on the issue.

    Obama has directed his staff to review gun laws for possible ways he could make changes without congressional approval.

    One option could be changing regulations to ensure gun show and Internet purchasers are subject to background checks, a move that would probably run into a court challenge over whether he has that authority.

    It would risk a backlash from supporters of gun rights – one that could complicate Obama’s agenda in Congress and create trouble for Democratic lawmaker running in conservative or rural districts.

    But Democrats increasingly argue that fears of such a backlash are overblown, particularly if the issue is framed narrowly.

    “You see such strong support all across the country for proposals like closing the gun show loophole,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, urging Congress to act. “There’s ample public data to indicate that even a majority of gun owners support something like this.”

    A July Pew Research Center poll found that 85 percent of those questioned, including 87 percent of those in gun-owning households, support requiring background checks for private sales and at gun shows. But on the more general question of whether gun laws should be tighter, just 52 percent of respondents overall agreed, in a CBS News poll conducted in July and August.

    That survey found 77 percent of Democrats in favor of tighter laws, a number that helps explain why the issue has lit up the Democratic primary. Hillary Rodham Clinton has kept up a drumbeat for weeks, using the issue to try to drive a wedge between liberal Democrats and her top rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has voted against some gun control legislation.

    Clinton on Friday suggested that the U.S. might consider a gun buy-back program and mocked the gun lobby for opposing such measures.

    “They just scare responsible folks into thinking that the black helicopter is going to land in the front yard and someone is going to come and take away your guns,” she said.

    Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said the buy-back idea “validates what the NRA has said all along. The real goal of gun control supporters is gun confiscation.”

    It was hard to imagine Democrats picking a fight with the NRA in past presidential contests.

    Democrats’ electoral losses after the 1994 passage of the ban on assault-type weapons had a chilling effect on the debate. President Bill Clinton posited that Vice President Al Gore lost the 2000 election because of opposition to Gore’s gun stance in his home state of Tennessee and other rural, right-leaning states. Democrats have since all but taken the issue off the table in national campaigns.

    The former president’s analysis has been disputed by some who say it exaggerates the influence of the NRA in the election, but its impact has been clear. Obama made scant reference to gun control in either of his campaigns. John Kerry, the 2004 nominee, memorably emerged from the cornfields of eastern Ohio carrying a shotgun after hunting geese.

    The photo op was aimed at rural, white voters, who have become less critical for Democrats’ path to the White House. Democrats are no longer dependent on winning states such as Tennessee, Arkansas or West Virginia, where skepticism of any new gun law runs deep, and more reliant on energizing African-American, Latino and unmarried female voters.

    Republicans strategist Ed Goeas said the Republican nominee will be braced for a debate over guns and ready to talk about perpetrators of mass shootings, focusing on improving mental health systems.

    Advocates of tighter gun laws are heartened by the fact the debate even exists.

    “Guns have been considered a third rail issue especially for Democrats and now major presidential candidates are actually running on it,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Violence. “For someone like me, it’s almost surreal to watch.”

    The post Democrats welcome the gun debate to the 2016 campaign appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    TEL AVIV, Israel — The U.S. military is confirming that an airstrike in Syria by the U.S.-led coalition has killed a top al-Qaida commander.

    The Pentagon says a Saudi national known as Sanafi al-Nasr was “a longtime jihadist experienced in funneling money and fighters” for the terrorist network.

    A statement from the U.S. Defense Department says coalition forces conducted the airstrike on Thursday over northwest Syria.

    The U.S. says he was a leading figure in the Khorasan group – a secretive cell of al-Qaida operatives who U.S. officials say were sent from Pakistan to Syria to plot attacks against the West.

    U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter says the military operation “deals a significant blow” to the Khorasan group’s plans to attack the U.S. and its allies.

    A U.S. official who was not authorized to discuss the strike publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity said an American drone targeted and struck the militant.

    The post U.S. confirms airstrike in Syria killed Al-Qaida commander appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a visit at the Universal Exhibition 2015 (Expo Milano 2015 or World Exposition 2015) in Milan on October 17, 2015.    AFP PHOTO / OLIVIER MORIN        (Photo credit should read OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images)

    US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a visit at the Universal Exhibition 2015 (Expo Milano 2015 or World Exposition 2015) in Milan on October 17, 2015. Kerry said Sunday he will meet this week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in a bid to ease tensions. Photo by Oliver Morin/AFP/Getty Images

    PARIS — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday he will meet this week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in a bid to ease tensions that have erupted in deadly violence.

    Kerry plans talks with Netanyahu in Germany and then, after a meeting on Syria in an as-yet undetermined location, intends to see Abbas and Jordanian King Abdullah in the Mideast.

    Kerry isn’t giving the exact dates. But U.S. officials say Kerry probably will be in Germany on Thursday and Jordan on Saturday. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss Kerry’s travel plans.

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

    Over the past month, eight Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks, most of them stabbings, and 40 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire.

    This report was written by Matthew Lee of the Associated Press.

    The post Trying to ease tensions, Kerry to meet with Netanyahu, Abbas appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Israeli border policemen stand guard at a bus stop in the east Jerusalem Jewish settlement of Armon Hanatsiv, adjacent to the Palestinian neighbourhood of Jabal Mukaber, on October 18 2015. Israel pressed ahead with major security measures after five more stabbing incidents. Israel has set up checkpoints in Palestinian areas of east Jerusalem, where many of the knife attackers have come from, and hundreds of soldiers have reinforced their patrols, but frustrated youths have defied efforts to prevent violence. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX        (Photo credit should read THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Israel is announcing new steps to curb a rash of deadly attacks on its citizens.

    An Arab man shot and stabbed people in a bus station in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba. Police say an Israeli soldier died, and 10 people were wounded.

    Earlier today, the Israeli cabinet proposed police be allowed to stop and frisk anyone on the street suspected of carrying a weapon. Tel Aviv and three other cities said they will prohibit Arab workers in their schools starting tomorrow. And Israel is enforcing roadblocks in Arab East Jerusalem.

    The moves come a day after Palestinians carried out five knife attacks on Israelis in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Four of those attackers were shot and killed.

    Over the past month, eight Israelis have died in Palestinian stabbings, while Israeli soldiers and police have shot and killed around 40 Palestinians in clashes, many of whom Israel identified as knife attackers.

    Today, Israeli soldiers removed 30 Jewish worshipers who didn’t have permission to gather in Joseph’s Tomb, a shrine named after the biblical Joseph in the Palestinian-controlled city of Nablus. The unrest that began four weeks ago was fueled by rumors that Israel might limit access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City.

    Again today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, that is wrong, that Israel is preserving the status quo in the Old City, which has sites sacred to Jews, Muslims, and Christians.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said today he plans to meet separately this week with Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to try to defuse tensions.

    “NewsHour” special correspondent Martin Seemungal is in Jerusalem, and joins me now via Skype to discuss the latest on the situation there.

    Martin, what are the impacts on a day-to-day basis of all these roadblocks? Do you feel it?

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Yes, you know, we have been coming to East Jerusalem for quite some time, and we have never seen roadblocks.

    There’s one just down the road here that has never been there in the times I have been coming here. What — initially, it was just a car, a police car, with some border police manning the roadblocks, stopping people. The next day, they dropped about three or four huge concrete blocks on the road.

    But there are roadblocks going in — going out of most of the areas of — the Arab areas of East Jerusalem, some closer to Jerusalem itself, others a little bit more remote.

    Some of the Arab areas there, there was one about Jabel Mukaber, where, basically, we know that the Israelis are saying that three of the alleged assailants for one of the attacks actually came from that area.

    And that area has been — seems to have been sealed off in more areas. And, obviously, this causes all kinds of tension in and around the area. Jerusalem, people live in close quarters, so it does have an impact on the day-to-day lives.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Can you feel the tension? Is it palpable? This is a region that is used to these sorts of stresses.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Yes, but, you know, this one is slightly different, Hari, because what you have got is these — these knife attacks.

    They come randomly. You know, you talk to Jewish Israelis on the streets and they say, you know, we could be standing at a bus stop waiting — waiting to catch the bus and there could be an attack right there. It comes without warning.

    People — and, as a result of that, people are really quite nervous about it. And that kind of thing, we hadn’t seen since the second intifada. I suppose it could be — there was tension back in 2000-2001, when I was also here, with the bus bombs going off and the suicide bombs that were associated with that second intifada.

    This round of violence, of strife, if you want to call it, is basically driven by random knife attacks, lone wolves. And not only does that cause a lot of tension, but just people going about their daily lives, whether it’s going shopping, going to a bus stop or whatever.

    But it makes it very difficult for the Israeli police to try to combat it, and, hence, they are putting in these roadblocks to try to do something about it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right.

    I also want to give our viewers a little bit of a preview of the piece that you are working on for the program tomorrow night.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Well, as you know, there was this attack last week involving two teenagers.

    You had a 13-year-old Arab Palestinian attacking a Jewish boy. He was — in a lot of these cases, the attackers are shot dead instantly. He happened to have been hit by a car. That video went out. There was a great deal of anger in the Arab world, because it seemed that nobody was doing anything to help the boy.

    He’s now in hospital. We have spoken to his — some of his friends, his family. And we have talked to people on the other side, on the Jewish side. We have gone to that settlement to try to get a sense of what that has done there.

    So, we are trying to really do a story about something that hasn’t really been seen before in Israel, these — first of all, these lone attacks, and the attackers getting younger and younger.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Martin Seemungal, we’re looking forward to your piece tomorrow night.

    Thanks so much for joining us.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Thanks, Hari.

    The post Israel responds to deadly wave of knife attacks with new police powers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Israeli policemen check Palestinian youths at Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem on October 18, 2015 as security measures are increased. Israel rejected a proposal to send international observers to the to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound in a bid to calm unrest after five more stabbing incidents defied a security crackdown. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI        (Photo credit should read AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)

    Israeli policemen check Palestinian youths at Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem on October 18, 2015 as security measures are increased. Photo by Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images

    In an effort to curb a rash of deadly stabbings, the Israeli Cabinet authorized the police on Sunday to ‘stop and frisk’ individuals on the street, even if there is no indication they are armed.

    If the bill passes the Israeli parliament, police will be able to “search anyone in a place prone to violence” if the police think there is a reason the person may use a weapon, the Jerusalem Post reported.

    “Following recent terrorist attacks, there is an urgent need to give the police authority to conduct body searches in order to better deal with knife terrorism,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told the Jerusalem Post. “This is another step I am promoting in a series of decisions to strengthen the police and its authority to increase personal security in the streets.”

    On Sunday afternoon, one person was killed and ten were injured when an attacker opened fire at a central bus station in the southern city of Beersheba.

    Police officials told the Associated Press that an Israeli soldier was killed, five police and five civilians were wounded in the attack.

    As public fear of Palestinian street attacks has increased, four cities including Tel Aviv announced a temporary ban on Arab workers in schools, Reuters reported.

    Israeli police have also set up roadblocks and checkpoints at the entrances of Palestinian neighborhoods in east Jerusalem.

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

    According to NewsHour special correspondent Martin Seemungal, the fear is driven in large part by the randomness of the knife attacks.

    “This round of violence, of strife… is basically driven by random knife attacks, lone wolves,” he said. “Not only does that cause a lot of tension for people going about their daily lives… but it makes it very difficult for the Israeli police to combat it.”

    On Saturday, Palestinians carried out knife attacks on Israelis in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Four of the attackers were shot and killed by police.

    Over the past month, eight Israelis have died in stabbings, while Israeli soldiers and police have shot and killed around 40 Palestinians in clashes.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday he plans to meet separately this week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to try to ease tensions.

    The post Israel approves ‘stop and frisk’ policy amid new violence appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Iranians celebrate on the streets following a nuclear deal with major powers, in Tehran July 14, 2015. Iran's president Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday a nuclear deal with major powers would open a new chapter of cooperation with the outside world after years of sanctions, predicting the "win-win" result would gradually eliminate mutual mistrust.  REUTERS/TIMA
ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. - RTX1KAPQ

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Iran’s agreement with the United States and five other world powers to roll back its nuclear weapons program has officially taken effect today.

    In Tehran, the head of Iran’s nuclear program said they would begin dismantling uranium enrichment centrifuges. But Iran said that step is contingent on receiving formal notification from the U.S. that longstanding economic sanctions are being lifted.

    For some insight, I’m joined from Washington by David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security.

    Give us an example of all the logistics that are necessary to do something like this.

    DAVID ALBRIGHT, President, Institute for Science and International Security: Iran has created a very large nuclear program.

    And it has a — particularly a large uranium enrichment program that has 18,000, 19,000 centrifuges. And it has to dismantle over 10,000 of those centrifuges and put them in monitored storage. And those centrifuges that are dismantled would be inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

    And so it’s a large job. Now, how quickly could Iran do it, no one knows. I mean, they could bring in a bulldozer into halls that hold the centrifuges and just bulldoze them into scrap. But if they want to take them out carefully, one by one, and store them, so they could then reuse them at a later date if they reneged on the deal, for example, then it could take them several months.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: There seem to be different incentives for the sides on how fast this all could happen.

    DAVID ALBRIGHT: Well, I think the U.S. has an incentive to have it go on as long as possible.

    I mean, they want the job done thoroughly. They want to make sure that Iran hasn’t sort of done any subterfuge. There’s a lot of — a lot of things that have to be done. And so I think, from the U.S. point of view, slowness is good.

    From the Iran point of view, they obviously want to go as fast as possible. They want to get this done this fall. They want to get the sanctions, the major part of the sanctions off on implementation day, and hopefully have that done before they have their next election, which could be as early as February, from what I understand.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And there’s also been tensions, at least on the West, about the who inspects what question. Iran has said that certain sites will be inspected by their own people, which has caused a lot of alarm bells to go off elsewhere in the world.

    DAVID ALBRIGHT: One of the big unresolved issues in this whole process is, how good are the IAEA inspections going to be?

    They’re not — Iran has refused to allow the IAEA access to military sites, except under extraordinary circumstances, one of which happened recently, but it was — the IAEA wasn’t allowed to do its normal process of taking what are called environmental samples.

    The Iranians did it under IAEA supervision. That’s not the normal way to do it. There’s concerns it’s weaker than what is normal. For example, what Japan accepts in terms of access, intrusiveness of inspections, Iran is resisting.

    And it’s unclear how that is going to come out. But, where it really doesn’t matter much in Japan, I mean, where we — where we trust Japan, it sure matters in Iran. And how this plays out over the next several months is going to be very important to see whether this deal is actually verifiable in the long run.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And none of this happens in a vacuum.

    There is Iran’s support of Hezbollah, their involvement in the Syrian war. I mean, all of these things are still playing on the minds of everyone else in the world watching while this specific inspections process works.

    DAVID ALBRIGHT: Well, that’s right. And the Middle East is a very tough place, but the nuclear deal was designed to work in that tough environment.

    Now, where — one issue that it touches upon the deal, which is a little more problematic, is the whole question of missiles. And Iran’s recent launch of a missile is very corrosive on this deal, because, in the end, if Iran does renege on this deal or just outlasts the deal — it doesn’t last that long, based on the timelines of the Middle East — and it builds nuclear weapons, those weapons will only have meaning if they are put on ballistic missiles.

    And those ballistic missiles are going to have to be accurate and fast. And Iran is working on those now. And so I think the United States has to find a way to start limiting Iran’s ability to work on ballistic missiles, again, in parallel to the nuclear deal.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, David Albright, joining us from Washington, thanks so much.

    DAVID ALBRIGHT: Thank you.

    The post It’s launch time for the Iran nuclear deal, but will there be any action? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets attendees at the Iowa State Fair during a campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, August 15, 2015.  REUTERS/Jim Young   - RTX1ODW2

    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets attendees at the Iowa State Fair during a campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, August 15, 2015. Financial reports filed last week also show that more than 70 percent of the $3.9 million Trump raised from July through September came from people giving $200 or less. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Donald Trump likes to boast about his enormous wealth and how he doesn’t need anyone else’s money to pay for his presidential campaign. That hasn’t stopped tens of thousands of people from chipping in with checks as small as $10 to let the Republican candidate know they’re behind him.

    Trump has taken in 73,942 contributions, a total that surpasses several of GOP rivals, despite the billionaire businessman’s early pledge to finance his own campaign. Financial reports filed last week also show that more than 70 percent of the $3.9 million he raised from July through September came from people giving $200 or less. That rate of small-donor contributions is second only to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who’s in the Democratic race.

    The average Trump contribution was $50.46, his campaign said.

    The contributors are in small towns, suburbs and big cities. He’s raised money from hundreds of retirees, ranchers, dentists, physicians, real estate executives and financial consultants.

    For Ansley Pascoli, 64, a retiree in Sandy Springs, Georgia, the money is intended as a symbol of support. She gave the Trump campaign $25 and bought several hats and T-shirts, one of which she was wearing Friday.

    “One of my reasons for wanting to support him is that even though I know that he does have a lot of money, I don’t feel that it’s right for him to have to bear the burden,” she said in a telephone interview when asked why she was giving money to someone who has bragged about not needing campaign cash.

    “And even though my contribution was small, I want him to have the feeling that there are other people that are behind him,” she said.

    It was a sentiment expressed by many of those who appear on Trump’s contributor list and is evidence of the passion he has elicited from voters angry over the country’s direction and craving a political outsider.

    Pascoli said she was drawn to Trump because of his hard-line stance on immigration, his business background and the fact he’s not a product of the political system.

    “I really think we are in a pivotal time for the country and we need somebody who has the type of skill set that he has,” she said.

    Stephan Robinson, a commercial real estate broker in Pearland, Texas, said he contributed $250 because he felt an obligation to help.

    “If you support a candidate, it shouldn’t matter how much money he’s got,” Robinson said. “He shouldn’t have to spend all his money.”

    Robinson went on: “I know he doesn’t need my money and the little bit of money I’ve sent, it’s not going to make a big difference. But I just feel in good conscience, that if you support somebody, you should contribute to help offset some of his costs.” Robinson also offered to volunteer and provide office space if the campaign wants to come to town. He’s given money to another Republican in the race – Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

    Illinois retiree Beverly Perlson, who’s from a military family, said she was immediately drawn to Trump because of his attention to veterans’ issues and his promise to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    The first time she heard him speak about the issue, she said, “I absolutely fell in love with Donald Trump at that moment.”

    Her recent $100 contribution was intended to say thank you. “My heart rejoiced because he’s honestly the first person who stood up for our troops, our veterans,” she said.

    While Trump originally denounced the idea of contributions, he appeared to warm to the idea over the summer. His campaign now makes it easy to give, with a prominent “Donate” Button” on his website. The site also offers an online store full of campaign gear, such as $30 hats with Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan and $50 sweatshirts.

    The latest filings show that the vast majority of Trump’s campaign expenses in the last quarter were financed by contributions, not by Trump himself.

    Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said in August that the campaign had received tens of thousands in small-dollar donations, but contributions would remain “a very small portion” of the campaign’s funds. He did not respond to questions Friday about the extent to which the campaign’s calculus had changed.

    Many of the logged contributions reflect purchases from the website. Elle Koch, a semiretired business owner from Cincinnati, Ohio, made a hooded sweatshirt and bumper sticker purchase.

    Koch, a frequent phone-banker, would like an eventual role with the campaign. She said she wasn’t surprised by the large number of contributions.

    “This is one of the things you can do right now to show your support,” she said.

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    SAO GONCALO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 13:  Birds are perched along a fisherman's community on a polluted inlet flowing to the polluted Guanabara Bay, the Rio 2016 Olympic Games sailing venue, on August 13, 2015 in Sao Goncalo, Brazil. Following sicknesses to U.S. athletes during a recent rowing event and a study showing dangerous amounts of viral levels in all Rio Olympic water venues, the IOC has controversially ruled out the possibility of viral testing of the sewage-laden waters ahead of the Olympics.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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    MEGAN THOMPSON: The controversy covers Rio’s dirty waterways that will be used for sailing, rowing, canoeing, triathalon and open distance swimming.

    Rio’s Guanabara Bay and other water venues are polluted with trash and untreated human sewage, and independent tests commissioned by the Associated Press in July found high levels of viruses in these waters.

    Doctors for the U.S. Olympic team blamed water contamination for causing 13 American rowers getting sick during an August practice run on the lake where the rowing competition will be held.

    Viruses can cause severe stomach and respiratory illnesses that would prevent an athlete from competing, and viruses live longer than bacteria in tropical climate’s like Rio’s.

    But Brazils Olympic organizers say the World Health Organization backs them up, that tests for viruses are not needed because of a lack of standardized methods and difficulty interpreting results.

    Rio 2016 will also save money because viral testing is more expensive and difficult than bacterial testing.

    As for the trash piling up on the shores of Guanabara Bay, Rio is recruiting volunteers to help pick it up, in exchange for a credit on their electricity bills.

    Rio’s Olympic organizers hope the cleanup efforts will reduce pollution of its waterways by 80 percent before the games begin next summer.

    The post Organizers scrap viral tests of Rio’s sewage-filled waters ahead of Olympics appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — House Republicans return to Washington this week to confront a nearly unprecedented leadership crisis, looming budget deadlines and a deeply uncertain future.

    Attention is focused on Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, who is under pressure from party leaders to run for House speaker – a job he repeatedly has made clear he does not want.

    Even if Ryan yields to his colleagues’ pleas, conservatives are increasingly serving notice that the 45-year-old House Ways and Means Committee chairman will have to audition for the job just like anyone else, despite the widespread support he has.

    That suggests that the same hard-liners who pushed current Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to announce his resignation and scared off his heir apparent, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., could throw up obstacles to Ryan, too.

    It also leaves any resolution unclear for a party that seems nearly irreparably divided. More than a half-dozen lawmakers are considering running for speaker if Ryan does not, even as hard-liners warn that Boehner risks more rebellions if he stays on past his planned departure date of Oct. 29.

    “John is a lame duck. There was a reason John announced his resignation,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, a leader of the House Freedom Caucus. “I think Paul does have the credibility across the conference to be able to unite us, but to say he’s the only one I think is hyperbole.”

    “It’s not just the conservatives Paul would have to convince,” Mulvaney added. “Everybody’s interested in a new type of leadership.”

    The turmoil comes as Congress confronts the need to raise the federal borrowing limit by early November or risk a market-shattering default, and delicate talks are underway to come up with a budget deal to avoid a government shutdown in two months. The task of raising the debt limit is falling to Boehner. But he will have to tread carefully, given GOP objections to an increase without concessions from President Barack Obama – something the White House is ruling out.

    Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, one of the Republican rebels, said he would consider forcing a vote to push Boehner out of the speaker’s chair if Boehner engages in “nefarious activity.” Massie defined that as “running the tables” on legislation not supported by a majority of Republicans. Boehner has suggested he wants to “clean the barn” before leaving Congress so his successor does not have a lot of unfinished business.

    But Massie said he doesn’t draw a “red line” at the debt limit.

    The unrest in Congress coincides with a chaotic GOP presidential primary dominated by candidates far afield from the political establishment, as Republican voters push for action, change and confrontation with Obama.

    It may be difficult for any House speaker to satisfy those demands, with Obama still in the White House and minority Democrats in the Senate using that chamber’s rules to bottle-up legislation passed by the majority-rule House.

    The job of speaker “would more or less fall in the category of thankless task, because people are not going to be in agreement with anything that a speaker does,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, one of the lawmakers who says she is being encouraged to consider the job.

    For Ryan, who may harbor presidential ambitions, the job is unlikely to be the best stepping-stone. Only four speakers or former speakers captured their parties’ presidential nominations, and just one won the White House – former Speaker James Polk in 1844.

    Already Ryan is under attack from some conservatives inside and outside Congress for his support of comprehensive immigration legislation.

    Rep. Steve King of Iowa, Congress’ leading immigration hard-liner, said Ryan would be unlikely to win support from House conservatives opposed to any “pro-amnesty” politician.

    “There’s definitely an undercurrent of concern among conservatives in the House that make it unlikely they would step forward and support Paul Ryan, especially in a bloc,” King said.

    Last week, King circulated a letter to fellow House Republicans aimed at building support for Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida, the preferred candidate of the Freedom Caucus and other conservative groups in the House, including the Conservative Opportunity Society, which King heads.

    “Other than one candidate dropping out, nothing has changed in the race for speaker,” King’s letter said. “The best candidate, Daniel Webster, is gaining momentum for his demonstrated leadership.”

    The post Unrest and uncertainty for House GOP headed back to the Hill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC) walks out to talk to reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington in this June 16, 2015 file photo. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters.

    U.S. House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC) walks out to talk to reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington in this June 16, 2015 file photo. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters.

    WASHINGTON — The chairman of the panel investigating the deadly 2012 Benghazi attacks said Sunday that new information reveals a “total disconnect” between the security needs of U.S. personnel on the ground and the political priorities of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s State Department staff in Washington.

    Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., described emails from Ambassador Chris Stevens to the State Department requesting more security almost from the moment he arrived in Libya. The request virtually crossed paths with one Clinton’s staff sent to Stevens, asking the new ambassador to read and respond to an email from a Clinton confidant, according to Gowdy. At another point, Clinton aide Victoria Nuland asked Stevens for advice on “public messaging” on the increasingly dangerous situation in the region, Gowdy said.

    “He didn’t need help with (public relations), and he was asking for more security,” Gowdy said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” Gowdy refused to release the emails on Sunday. But he said they point to “the total disconnect between what was happening in Libya with the escalation in violence – that we were a soft target, that there was an increase in anti-Western sentiment … while Washington is asking him to read and react to a Sidney Blumenthal email and help on how to message the violence.”

    At one point, according to Gowdy, Stevens joked in an email: “Maybe we should ask another government to pay for our security upgrades because our government isn’t willing to do it.”

    Gowdy described the emails as he defends his 17-month probe into the Sept. 11, 2012, attack that left Stevens and three other Americans dead, and anticipates Clinton’s long-awaited public testimony on Thursday. The event is a make-or-break moment for the investigation that even some Republicans say was designed to undermine Clinton’s second bid for president.

    “I have told my own Republican colleagues and friends, shut up talking about things that you don’t know anything about,” Gowdy said Sunday on CBS.

    Gowdy, a former prosecutor, insisted that his investigation is focused on the events before, during and after the deadly attacks. On Sunday, he cast Clinton as “just one out of 70″ witnesses and suggested her testimony is of equal value with the others, at best. He’s only interested in Clinton’s testimony because she was secretary of state at the time of the attacks, so “you have to talk to her,” Gowdy said.

    Of more interest, he suggested, is one week in June 2012 that’s covered by Stevens’ emails and is key to the investigation.

    As Gowdy describes them, Stevens’ emails paint a picture of a newly installed ambassador in a consulate that’s been the target of increasing terrorist attacks. Almost immediately, he “knows that there’s been an uptick in violence, and he’s asking for more security,” Gowdy said on CBS.

    “On almost exactly that day,” Clinton aide Jake Sullivan asks Stevens to read and respond to an email from Blumenthal, “who knows nothing about Libya,” Gowdy says.

    Apparently additionally, Victoria Nuland, who is now assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, emailed Stevens, “and says, ‘We need help with your public messaging advice.'”

    The post Benghazi chairman: New emails reveal ‘total disconnect’ with Washington appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An illustration picture shows a projection of binary code on a man holding a laptop computer, in an office in Warsaw June 24, 2013. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel (POLAND - Tags: BUSINESS TELECOMS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTX10ZB5

    Chinese hacking attempts on American corporate intellectual property have occurred with regularity over the past three weeks, suggesting that China almost immediately began violating its newly minted cyberagreement with the United States. Photo by REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

    WASHINGTON — Chinese hacking attempts on American corporate intellectual property have occurred with regularity over the past three weeks, suggesting that China almost immediately began violating its newly minted cyberagreement with the United States, according to a newly published analysis by a cybersecurity company with close ties to the U.S. government.

    The Irvine, California-based company, CrowdStrike, says it documented seven Chinese cyberattacks against U.S. technology and pharmaceuticals companies “where the primary benefit of the intrusions seems clearly aligned to facilitate theft of intellectual property and trade secrets, rather than to conduct traditional national security-related intelligence collection.”

    “We’ve seen no change in behavior,” said Dmitri Alperovich, a founder of CrowdStrike who wrote one of the first public accounts of commercial cyberespionage linked to China in 2011.

    One attack came on Sept. 26, CrowdStrike says, the day after President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced their deal in the White House Rose Garden. CrowdStrike, which employs former FBI and National Security Agency cyberexperts, did not name the corporate victims, citing client confidentiality. And the company says it detected and thwarted the attacks before any corporate secrets were stolen.

    A senior Obama administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to discuss the matter publicly, said officials are aware of the report but would not comment on its conclusions. The official did not dispute them, however.

    The U.S. will continue to directly raise concerns regarding cybersecurity with the Chinese, monitor the country’s cyberactivities closely and press China to abide by all of its commitments, the official added.

    The U.S.-China agreement forged last month does not prohibit cyberspying for national security purposes, but it bans economic espionage designed to steal trade secrets for the benefit of competitors. That is something the U.S. says it doesn’t do, but Western intelligence agencies have documented such attacks by China on a massive scale for years.

    China denies engaging in such behavior, but threats of U.S. sanctions led Chinese officials to conduct a flurry of last-minute negotiations which led to the deal.

    CrowdStrike on Monday released a timeline of recent intrusions linked to China that it says it documented against “commercial entities that fit squarely within the hacking prohibitions covered under the cyberagreement.”

    The intrusion attempts are continuing, the company says, “with many of the China-affiliated actors persistently attempting to regain access to victim networks even in the face of repeated failures.”

    CrowdStrike did not explain in detail how it attributes the intrusions to China, an omission that is likely to draw criticism, given the ability of hackers to disguise their origins. But the company has a long track record of gathering intelligence on Chinese hacking groups, and U.S. intelligence officials have often pointed to the company’s work.

    “We assess with a high degree of confidence that these intrusions were undertaken by a variety of different Chinese actors, including Deep Panda, which CrowdStrike has tracked for many years breaking into national security targets of strategic importance to China,” Alperovich wrote in a blog posting that laid out his findings.

    The hacking group known as Deep Panda, which has been linked to the Chinese military, is believed by many researchers to have carried out the attack on insurer Anthem Health earlier this year.

    CrowdStrike and other companies have tracked Deep Panda back to China based on the malware and techniques it uses, its working hours and other intelligence.

    In 2013, another cybersecurity company, Mandiant, published a report exposing what it said was a hacking unit linked to China’s People’s Liberation Army, including identifying the building housing the unit in Beijing. Those findings were later validated by American intelligence officials.

    The post Chinese cyberattacks on U.S. companies continue, despite cyberagreement appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Barack Obama speaks about the Affordable Care Act during a visit to Nashville,  Tennessee, this summer. The federal penalty for having no health insurance is set to jump to $695 in 2016. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    President Barack Obama speaks about the Affordable Care Act during a visit to Nashville, Tennessee, this summer. The federal penalty for having no health insurance is set to jump to $695 in 2016. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The math is harsh: The federal penalty for having no health insurance is set to jump to $695, and the Obama administration is being urged to highlight that cold fact in its new pitch for health law sign-ups.

    That means the 2016 sign-up season starting Nov. 1 could see penalties become a bigger focus for millions of people who have remained eligible for coverage, but uninsured. They’re said to be squeezed for money, and skeptical about spending what they have on health insurance.

    Until now, health overhaul supporters have stressed the benefits: taxpayer subsidies that pay roughly 70 percent of the monthly premium, financial protection against sudden illness or an accident, and access to regular preventive and follow-up medical care.

    But in 2016, the penalty for being uninsured will rise to the greater of either $695 or 2.5 percent of taxable income. That’s for someone without coverage for a full 12 months. This year the comparable numbers are $325 or 2 percent of income.

    Marketing usually involves stressing the positive. Rising penalties meet no one’s definition of good news. Still, that may create a new pitch:

    The math is pretty clear. A consumer would be able to get six months or more of coverage for $695, instead of owing that amount to the IRS as a tax penalty. (That example is based on subsidized customers now putting in an average of about $100 a month of their own money.)

    Backers of the law are urging the administration to drive the math lesson home.

    “Given that the penalty is larger, it does make sense to bring it up more frequently,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a liberal advocacy group. “It’s an increasing factor in people’s decisions about whether or not to get enrolled.”

    “More and more, people are mentioning the sticks as well as the carrots,” said Katherine Hempstead, director of health insurance coverage for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a nonpartisan organization that has helped facilitate the insurance expansion under Obama’s law.

    Administration officials are looking for a balance.

    “We need to be make sure that we are very clear and explicit about that $695 penalty so people understand the choice they are making,” said spokeswoman Lori Lodes. But she said the main emphasis will stay on the benefits of having health insurance and how the law’s subsidies can dramatically lower the cost of monthly premiums.

    The requirement that individuals get health insurance or face fines remains the most unpopular part of President Barack Obama’s health care law, a prime target of Republican repeal efforts. It started at $95 or 1 percent of income in 2014. The fact that it’s gone up so much may take consumers by surprise.

    But many experts consider the mandate essential to Obama’s overall approach, as does the insurance industry. The law forbids insurers from turning away people with health problems, and the coverage requirement forces healthy people into the insurance pool, helping to keep premiums in check. After 2016, the fines will rise with inflation.

    This year was the first time the IRS collected the penalties, deducting them from taxpayers’ refunds for the 2014 tax year in most cases. Some 7.5 million households paid penalties totaling $1.5 billion, an average of $200 apiece, according to preliminary IRS data. Separately, another 12 million households claimed exemptions from the mandate because of financial hardships or other reasons.

    Although Obama’s law is five years old and has survived two Supreme Court challenges, administration officials say the upcoming open enrollment season won’t be easy. It may be a struggle to just keep about the same number of people covered.

    The administration has set a goal of 10 million customers enrolled and paying their premiums by the end of 2016 on HealthCare.gov and state insurance markets. That’s roughly the number covered now, well below what congressional budget analysts had estimated for 2016. The administration expects most will be returning customers, but 3 million to 4 million will be people who are currently uninsured.

    Among the difficulties for next year: Premiums are expected to go up more than they did this year, even if subsidies cushion the cost. The most eager customers have already signed up. And many of those remaining may have other financial priorities for their tight budgets, like car repairs or putting money in savings accounts.

    Sign-up season starts Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 31. As a result of the law, the share of people in the United States lacking health insurance is at a historic low of about 9 percent, and the White House wants to keep that trend going during Obama’s last full year in office.

    Associated Press Health Care Reporter Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar wrote this report.

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    The federal government will require many drone aircraft to be registered, a move prompted by the growing number of reported close calls and incidents that pose safety risks, officials announced Monday. Photo by Flickr user Don McCullough

    The federal government will require many drone aircraft to be registered, officials announced Monday. Photo by Flickr user Don McCullough

    WASHINGTON — The federal government will require many drone aircraft to be registered, a move prompted by the growing number of reported close calls and incidents that pose safety risks, officials announced Monday.

    Pilot sightings of drones have doubled since last year, including sightings near manned aircraft and major sporting events, and interference with wildfire-fighting operations, the government said.

    “These reports signal a troubling trend,” Federal Aviation Administration chief Michel Huerta said at a news conference to announce the step. Registration will increase pressure on drone operators to fly responsibly, he said, adding, “when they don’t fly safely, they’ll know there will be consequences.”

    To work out details, the FAA and the Transportation Department are setting up a 25- to 30-member task force including government and industry officials and hobbyists. They’ll recommend which drones should be required to register and which should be exempted, and design a system that would be easy for commercial operators to comply with, the department said.

    Toys and small drones that don’t present a safety threat are likely to be exempt. Drones that weigh only a pound or two or that can’t fly higher than a few hundred feet are considered less risky. Heavier ones and those that can fly thousands of feet pose more of a problem.

    There is no official count of how many drones have been sold in the U.S., but industry officials say it is in the hundreds of thousands and will easily pass a million by the end of the year.

    Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx directed the task force to deliver its report by Nov. 20. The Consumer Electronics Association has forecast that 700,000 drones will be sold this holiday season, and Foxx said it’s especially important that new drone users be taught the responsibilities that come with flying.

    Registering drones that could pose safety risks “makes sense, but it should not become a prohibitive burden for recreational users who fly for fun and educational purposes and who have operated harmoniously within our communities for decades,” Dave Mathewson, executive director of the Academy for Model Aeronautics, said in a statement.

    The FAA now receives about 100 reports a month from pilots who say they’ve seen drones flying near planes and airports, compared with only a few sightings per month last year. So far there have been no accidents, but agency officials have said they’re concerned that even a drone weighing only a few pounds might cause serious damage if it is sucked into an engine or smashes into an airliner’s windshield.

    In cases where drones have crashed where they were not supposed to be flying — at crowded sports stadiums, for example — it has been difficult to find the operators.

    The FAA signed an agreement last month with CACI International Inc., an information technology company in Arlington, Virginia, to test technology that could locate the operators of small drones that are flying illegally near airports. The technology would let the government track radio signals used to operate drones within a 5-mile radius and identify the operator’s location.

    The post Drone close calls spur government to require registration appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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