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- 11/15/15--12:23: _At Democratic debat...
- 11/15/15--13:33: _Key takeaways from ...
- 11/15/15--14:33: _France launches ‘ma...
- 11/15/15--14:48: _Baltimore reaches g...
- 11/15/15--15:36: _Fact or fiction? Ta...
- 11/15/15--15:45: _Suspects in terror ...
- 11/15/15--15:57: _How residents are c...
- 11/15/15--16:05: _What motivated the ...
- 11/16/15--11:00: _Bats flip like Tony...
- 11/16/15--11:08: _Column: Water wars ...
- 11/16/15--11:20: _What is the Islamic...
- 11/16/15--11:34: _Kerry arrives in Pa...
- 11/16/15--12:34: _Column: The 3 poiso...
- 11/16/15--14:18: _A bird’s-eye portra...
- 11/16/15--14:32: _U.S. governors don’...
- 11/16/15--15:20: _In a time of darkne...
- 11/16/15--15:25: _How should the West...
- 11/16/15--15:30: _Group claiming to b...
- 11/16/15--15:30: _Paris attacks bring...
- 11/16/15--15:35: _News Wrap: State De...
- 11/15/15--12:23: At Democratic debate, terrorism took center stage
- 11/15/15--13:33: Key takeaways from the second Democratic presidential debate
- 11/15/15--14:33: France launches ‘massive’ air strike on ISIS in Syria
- 11/15/15--14:48: Baltimore reaches grim milestone with 300 murdered this year
- 11/15/15--15:36: Fact or fiction? Taking a closer look at the Democratic debate
- 11/15/15--16:05: What motivated the terror attacks in Paris?
- 11/16/15--11:00: Bats flip like Tony Hawk to land upside down
- 11/16/15--11:08: Column: Water wars are coming
- 11/16/15--11:20: What is the Islamic State?
- 11/16/15--11:34: Kerry arrives in Paris to show U.S. support for France after attacks
- 11/16/15--12:34: Column: The 3 poisonous pillars of government economic policy
- 11/16/15--14:18: A bird’s-eye portrait of what was once a thriving steel town
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- 11/16/15--15:20: In a time of darkness, world stands with the City of Light
- 11/16/15--15:25: How should the West battle the Islamic State’s shifting strategy?
- 11/16/15--15:35: News Wrap: State Department suggests Syrian war can still be ended
DES MOINES, Iowa — A day after deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, Hillary Rodham Clinton cast herself as the country’s strongest commander in chief in a scary world, even as she defended her own role in the rise of Islamic militants.
“This election is not only about electing a president, it’s also about choosing our next commander in chief,” Clinton declared Saturday night in the Democrats’ second debate of the presidential campaign. “All of the other issues we want to deal with depend upon us being secure and strong.”
Amid the backdrop of global anxiety, Clinton found herself fending off questions about not only her foreign policy record but her economic ties, with both Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley painting the former senator from New York as a lackey for Wall Street and corporate interests.
“Let’s not be naive about it,” said Sanders, noting that Clinton collected millions in campaign donations from Wall Street bankers. “They expect to get something. Everybody knows that.”
The barbs marked a far more aggressive shift in a primary race that has been notable in part for its civility compared to the Republican contest.
Since the Democrats’ first debate a month ago, Clinton has built a lead in the early voting states, gains that have come amid other signs the party is coalescing behind her. But the nomination fight is far from over.
On Saturday night, Clinton faced criticism of her national security record, when Sanders traced the current instability in the Middle East to the U.S. Senate’s vote – including Clinton’s – to authorize military action in Iraq in 2002. He said that U.S. invasion “unraveled the region.”
The former secretary of state fought back, saying terrorism has been erupting for decades. She rejected the idea that she and the rest of the Obama administration underestimated the growing threat of the Islamic State group.
The back-and-forth revealed a foreign policy split within the Democratic Party, with Sanders playing to the anti-war activists who boosted then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama to the presidential nomination in 2008.
Sanders argued for a far more hands-off approach, advocating for Muslim countries to lead the fight and declaring that the war against Islamic State militants is about the “soul of Islam.”
Clinton has a history of advocating for more robust involvement across the globe – both as a presidential candidate eight years ago and as Obama’s secretary of state. In recent weeks, she has called for a more aggressive U.S. role in the Syrian conflict, including a no-fly zone over the area, a move the Obama administration opposes.
The debate began with a moment of silence followed by the previously unplanned foreign policy questions. All the candidates denounced the attacks, but they gave some fodder to their Republican rivals who coupled condemnation of the Paris attacks with sharp criticism for Obama and Clinton.
All three Democrats criticized the term “radical Islam” used by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and other Republican candidates as unnecessarily offensive to American Muslims.
“We are at war with violent extremism, we are at war with people who use their religion for purposes of power and oppression,” said Clinton. “I don’t want us to be painting with too broad a brush.”
GOP candidates immediately seized on the remarks. “Yes, we are at war with radical Islamic terrorism,” tweeted former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
The debate pivoted to economic issues, in a conversation that revealed how Sanders’ liberal message has helped shift the party to the left on some economic issues.
All three agreed that wealthy citizens and corporations should pay more in taxes to benefit the middle class. They tangled over how high to increase the minimum wage, with Clinton backing a $12-per-hour federal floor while Sanders and O’Malley said $15 an hour. And they fought over the degree to which they would curtail large financial institutions, with Sanders describing Wall Street’s business model as “greed and fraud” – a startling judgment for a major presidential candidate.
“I’m not that much of a socialist compared to Eisenhower,” joked Sanders, saying the 1950s-era president backed a 90 percent marginal tax rate.
Clinton defended her relationship with Wall Street, citing her work in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but her statement met with blowback from Republicans who accused her of politicizing the terrorist assaults.
While Clinton is wary of alienating Sanders backers whose support she’ll need should she win the nomination, she did take a few shots. She attempted to cast some of Sanders’ major proposals, including a single-payer health care system and free college, as politically unrealistic.
“The revolution never came,” she said, in a knock on his call for a “political revolution.”
Sanders may have inadvertently helped her in the first debate, when he seemed to dismiss the controversy over her use of a private email account and server by saying Americans are tired of hearing about her “damn emails.”
Saturday night, Sanders declined once again to attack: “I am still sick and tired of Hillary Clinton’s email,” he said.
“I agree completely,” said Clinton, with a laugh.
DES MOINES, Iowa — Call it a tale of two debates.
The deadly attacks in Paris cast a somber mood at the start of the second Democratic presidential debate, but the field spent the rest of the night tossing sharp elbows over Wall Street reform, gun control and the minimum wage.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley stood for a moment of silence at the start of the debate, their heads bowed and their hands folded. From there, they engaged in a direct but measured discussion during the next 30 minutes over the consequences of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the rise of the Islamic State group.
But the pace of the debate quickly picked up over domestic policy with Sanders and O’Malley challenging Clinton’s willingness to police Wall Street. Clinton put Sanders on the defensive over his vote to shield gun manufacturers from legal liability in fatal shootings. O’Malley accused Clinton of being on “three sides” of gun control, saying she once portrayed herself as Annie Oakley.
Some takeaways from the Des Moines debate:
The three candidates offered sharp language for the Islamic State group, which has claimed responsibility for the attack in Paris that killed more than 120 people in a series of shootings and explosions.
Sanders said the U.S. needed to lead an international coalition and that the U.S. would “rid our planet of this barbarous organization.” Clinton said American prayers are with the people of France but “that is not enough” and the U.S. needed the resolve to bring the world together to “root out the kind of radical, jihadist ideology” that motivates the militant group.
O’Malley pointed to his executive experience as Maryland’s governor, saying the U.S. needed “new thinking” and “new leadership” to respond to threats like those posed by the Islamic State group.
Clinton defended the Obama administration’s initial approach to the rise of the Islamic State group, including her actions as secretary of state, and blamed former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for failing to maintain stability. She cited President Barack Obama’s recent remarks about containing the Islamic State militants and said it “cannot be contained, it must be defeated.”
Sanders said countries in the Middle East must get more involved in the fight against IS and called the current conflict a “war for the soul of Islam.”
O’Malley sought to separate himself from Clinton and the Obama administration, saying Syria, Libya and Afghanistan are “a mess” and that the United States wasn’t doing enough to build stable democracies after toppling dictators. He said the U.S. needed better “human intelligence” on the ground.
Sanders went on offense when the topic turned to Wall Street, arguing that Clinton was beholden to Wall Street financial institutions and would not act strongly enough to regulate them. After Clinton rattled off her plan to regulate the financial industry, Sanders replied bluntly, “Not good enough.”
“Let’s not be naive about it. Why over her political career has Wall Street been the major contributor to her campaign?” Sanders said, later calling the business model of Wall Street “fraud.”
Clinton replied sharply that as a senator from New York, she stood up to help the heart of the nation’s financial system rebuild after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. She accused Sanders of using his answer to “impugn my integrity” and noted that a large percentage of her donors were women – a line that drew applause. But her decision to invoke the 9/11 attacks as a way to defend her ties to the financial markets was met with skepticism from Republicans who accused her of politicizing the issue.
It even brought a follow-up question from a Twitter user, whose query was relayed to Clinton. She responded, “Well, I’m sorry that whoever tweeted that had that impression because I worked closely with New Yorkers after 9/11 for my entire first term to rebuild.” She said people who gave her donations often said, “‘I don’t agree with you on everything, but I like what you do, I like how you stand up, I’m going to support you.’ And I think that is absolutely appropriate.”
Clinton took the upper hand against Sanders on gun control, calling his vote in favor of a 2005 measure to give gun manufacturers immunity from lawsuits a “terrible mistake.” Sanders was put on the defensive and said he agreed with parts of the bill and disagreed with others and would be willing to revisit it.
O’Malley piled on, questioning Sanders’ support for the liability legislation. But he also pivoted to Clinton, accusing her of shifting her positions over time.
“When you ran in 2000, you said we needed federal robust regulation, then in 2008 you were portraying yourself as Annie Oakley and saying we don’t need those regulations … and now you’ve come back around here,” he said.
Sanders was ready with a counterpunch, noting that O’Malley’s hometown of Baltimore “is not now one of the safest cities in America.” O’Malley was mayor of Baltimore, which recorded its 300th homicide of the year on Saturday.
The post Key takeaways from the second Democratic presidential debate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
France has launched a “massive” air strike on an Islamic State stronghold in Syria, the defense ministry said Sunday.
The evening raid was the country’s first military response following the terror attacks in Paris on Friday that killed 129 people.
The militant group that calls itself the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, claimed responsibility for the attacks in France.
According to the French Defense Ministry, 12 aircraft dropped a total of 20 bombs on the city of Raqqa, targeting a Jihadist training camp and a munitions dump.
The show of force was the biggest air strike since France extended its campaign against ISIS in Syria in September.
Iraqi intelligence officials say the Paris attacks were planned in the city of Raqqa, according to a report by the Associated Press.
The post France launches ‘massive’ air strike on ISIS in Syria appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Baltimore hit a grim milestone Saturday as the city’s homicide rate reached 300, following the fatal stabbing of a 27-year-old.
The city has not seen a tally that high since 1999.
2015 has been a violent year in Baltimore as shootings have increased by 80 percent, pushing the city’s per-capita homicide rate to the second highest in the country after St. Louis.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake released the following statement:
The 300th homicide is no more tragic than the first homicide of 2015, or the 50th, or the 200th. Every victim leaves family, friends and a neighborhood who mourn their loss. All of us must come together as a community to fight this violence. Unfortunately, the violence we are experiencing in Baltimore is occurring in many cities across our nation, which is why I will be joining with other leaders of the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Monday to meet with Attorney General Lynch to press for more federal assistance. We have brought our city’s homicide numbers down to dramatic lows before, and I am confident that we can do it again.
A few hours after the 300th homicide, a 22-year old man was fatally shot in the chest, bringing the number up to 301.
The post Baltimore reaches grim milestone with 300 murdered this year appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The terror attacks in Paris were front and center last night in Iowa, where the three candidates for the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidential nomination held their second debate.
The debate began with a moment of silence for the victims of Friday night’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
When the candidates started talking, the group that carried out the attacks was topic number one.
MARTIN O’MALLEY (D), Presidential Candidate: And ISIS, make no mistake about it, is an evil in this world.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), Presidential Candidate: It cannot be contained. It must be defeated.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders blamed supporters of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, including then-New York Senator Hillary Clinton, for the instability that followed inside Iraq.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), Presidential Candidate: I would argue that the disastrous invasion of Iraq, something that I strongly opposed, has unraveled the region completely and led to the rise of al-Qaida and to ISIS.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley criticized Clinton’s handling of the Middle East when she was President Obama’s secretary of state.
MARTIN O’MALLEY: Libya is now a mess. Syria is a mess. Iraq is a mess. Afghanistan is a mess.
We need to be much more far-thinking in this new 21st century era of nation state failures and conflict. It’s not just about getting rid of a single dictator.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Clinton defended the administration’s decision to participate in the European-led coalition that deposed former Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi four years ago, saying Libyans have since elected moderate leaders.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Now, there has been a lot of turmoil and trouble, as they have tried to deal with these radical elements, which you find in this arc of instability from North Africa to Afghanistan.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: On domestic policy, Clinton’s rivals disagreed with her on how high the federal minimum wage should go.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: It is not a radical idea to say that, if somebody works 40 hours a week, that person shouldn’t be living in poverty.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Sanders and O’Malley support $15 an hour. Clinton supports $12.
Joining me now from Washington to fact-check some of last night’s debate, as she has before on the NewsHour, is Angie Holan from PolitiFact.org.
So, Angie, let’s start with the assertion by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders about today’s income tax rates compared to where they were back in the ’50s. He was asked how high he would raise the top rate, and here’s what Sanders said.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: We haven’t come up with an exact number yet, but it will not be as high as the number under Dwight D. Eisenhower, which was 90 percent. But it will be…
I’m not that much of a socialist compared to Eisenhower.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Sanders got a lot of laughs for that, but how did that fact-check out? A 90 percent tax rate under Eisenhower, is that right?
ANGIE HOLAN, Editor, PolitiFact: That is right. We rated it true.
Now, there are a few things to be said about this. First off, we’re talking about marginal income tax rates. So, this is the tax rate that a person’s last dollar of income is taxed at. During the Eisenhower days, the tax rates were that high, 92 percent.
And it was on people who made quite a bit of money in that time. When we adjusted for inflation, we’re talking about people being taxed at over $1.7 million of income.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, if you compare that to people earning an equivalent amount today, what would — what kind of numbers are we talking about for today’s earners?
ANGIE HOLAN: Right. Today, the top tax bracket is about 39.6.
And for individuals, it’s people who make just over $413,000. So, it’s a little bit different than today. It’s — they were higher then.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: OK, so a true for Senator Sanders there.
Let’s listen next to something former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said about stagnant American wages.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: I have made very clear that hardworking middle-class families need a raise, not a tax increase. In fact, wages adjusted for inflation haven’t risen since the turn of the last century.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You and your colleagues rated this as only half-true. Why is that?
ANGIE HOLAN: Right. Well, literally, when we looked at the government statistics, she wasn’t quite right.
The median weekly wage is now is about $340 a week. Back in 1999, they were $315 a week, so there has been a slight increase.
However, we didn’t say she’s completely wrong, because this is a real trend of wages stagnating since the 1970s. She would have been better off if she had widened her time frame a little bit.
And the other thing is, the increase that we have seen since 1999 is very small. So, we gave her a half-true on this.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, stagnant maybe is not the best adjective to be using for this?
ANGIE HOLAN: Yes, it barely budged or maybe a very small increase. It was a small increase, and there is a real problem with wage stagnation over many decades.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: OK, great. So, finally, former Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley, he takes a shot at Donald Trump.
And then he dared journalists to come out and check one of his statements about Mexican immigration. Let’s listen to what he said.
MARTIN O’MALLEY: The fact of the matter is — and let’s say it in our debate, because you will never hear this from that immigrant-bashing carnival barker Donald Trump — the truth of the matter is…
The truth of the matter is, net immigration from Mexico last year was zero. Fact-check me. Go ahead. Check it out.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: OK, he dared you. Net immigration last year from Mexico was zero. Is that true?
ANGIE HOLAN: We rated it mostly true. Now, there is some uncertainty.
When he says net immigration, what we’re talking about are the people who came from Mexico minus all the people who left the United States. It’s arrivals minus departures.
Now, we don’t have a direct measure of this. We have some indirect measures that kind of tell us where the situation might be. And, mostly, that’s by estimating the population of people in the United States who were born in Mexico.
Now, that number has been flat for many years. There was a tiny uptick last year.
But it’s not clear that that means that that overall trend has stopped of very low numbers of immigration. Basically, it is kind of staying flat when you do that arrivals vs. departures.
So, we said he was mostly true. The experts we spoke with said, yes, immigration is just — from Mexico is staying flat. But, again, there’s some uncertainty. It’s complicated, how they measure it.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Angie Holan from PolitiFact, thank you very much.
ANGIE HOLAN: Thanks for having me.
The post Fact or fiction? Taking a closer look at the Democratic debate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan is in Paris and joins me now. So Hari, what do we know about this suspect?
HARI SREENIVASAN: Good evening William, well we do know this is a face that is now becoming famous all across Europe, this 26-year-old that was born in Brussels.
French authorities have distributed the photo of Salah Abdeslam with the message: If you see him, “do not intervene yourself,” because Abdelsam is considered dangerous.
The authorities believe he rented a car the gunmen used in their Friday night rampage. It was seen outside the Bataclan concert hall where the series of attacks ended.
Cell phone video released today shows when French police moved in on the hall, shooting one of the gunman while two other gunman wearing suicide vests blew themselves up.
French authorities say Abdeslam is one of three brothers believed to be involved in the terrorism conspiracy — one died in the attack; another has been arrested in Belgium.
Investigators here say at least three of the suicide bombers killed in the Paris attacks were french citizens.
One has been identified as a 29-year old who grew up in the town of Chartres, 60 miles southwest of Paris.
Ismael Mostefai had been flagged by French officials for connections to Islamic radicalism.
Yesterday, French officials detained his brother, father, and other relatives for questioning.
Today, we learned a little more about the Syrian passport found with one of the three suicide bombers who blew themselves up at the French national stadium, where the attacks began.
Serbia says the Syrian passport was registered at its border entry with Macedonia on October 7. Macedonia is next door to Greece, which has said the passport was stamped upon arrival on a Greek island on October 3.
The route from Syria to Greece is one several hundred thousand Syrian refugees have taken to Europe this year.
French senator Joelle Garriaud Maylam sits on the foreign affairs and defense committee. She told me that this was a major failure of intelligence services.
JOELLE GARRIAUD MAYLAM, FRENCH SENATOR: We can’t check every inch of these borders, but we have to be much more careful in checking the identity of every person who comes through.
And for that once more, we need to work with other countries, we need to have registries, we need to check the information with the various countries, and we have got to be extremely firm in not letting terrorists having their freedom and enjoying it.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Today, security remains tight around Paris, with army soldiers still on patrol.
Crowds gathered near the attack sites, laying flowers and candles.
Today, historic Notre Dame cathedral and other churches around the city held special ceremonies for the victims.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Hari, I understand there have been some reports of false alarms near where you have been.
Can you tell us what has been going on with those?
HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes, William, this is a city that is so tense right now. It’s not uncommon to see police vehicles running at top speed through city streets at an incredible sense of urgency.
Earlier this afternoon, or I guess late this evening, there were scares at the main plaza where so many people had come to lay flowers and pay their respects and show their solidarity. That plaza was evacuated.
There was suspicious activity at least called in. There was also people that were getting scared near some of the restaurants where these vigils were.
Again, both of those turned out to be false alarms, but not before hundreds, if not a couple of thousand people from the central plaza all took off because they didn’t know whether there was another attack happening.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And, beyond that, what is your sense of what is the — what is the mood like? What are people saying to you about what they would like to see happen next?
HARI SREENIVASAN: You know, this is a city that is really in the mix of both sadness and anger.
You see some of the signs that are actually left up here. On the one hand, there’s a — pray for Paris and we’re sorry for your loss.
And then there’s also a very, very strong and hateful tone, not just against the terrorists, but sometimes very unpleasant opinions against Muslims, from around the country or around the world.
So, there is a national conversation that has to happen here, similar to the ones that’s actually happening around the memorials.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: What about this issue of the connection between the refugees and the migrants that have been coming into Europe, and the potential threat that this might be a vehicle for terrorists getting into France?
Are you hearing talk about that as well?
HARI SREENIVASAN: That is a conversation that we had at length with the senator, but it’s also something that a lot more average citizens are thinking about.
On the one hand, they do want to do right by the refugees. They want to help these people in need. On the other hand, they say, listen, the absolute open border policy of Germany from a few months ago might not be the solution.
Well, what is the in-between step where the French citizens can ensure some semblance of their own security, at the same time help the people that are on their doorsteps?
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Hari, thank you very much.
The post Suspects in terror attacks identified as anger and sadness grip City of Light appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Newshour special correspondent Malcolm Brabant is also in Paris and files this report about a city trying to come to terms with tragedy.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Forty eight hours on, Anne Sophie de Chaisemartin is trying, but not succeeding, to suppress the recurring images of carnage.
Grabbing bandages from home, she managed to save four lives thanks to the emergency battlefield medical techniques she learned as a television producer.
ANNE SOPHIE DE CHAISEMARTIN, PRODUCTION CHIEF, FRANCE24: As soon as I realized that the gunshot stopped because it did ‘di di di di, di di di’ many times, then it stopped and I thought, I have to help those people. There was an absolute silence all around the cafe.
The windows were smashed. People were lying down dead, blood everywhere and I don’t know, I got out of my body.
My mind, I don’t know what I was thinking but I just rushed there, took my stuff and just tried to save the ones that were still moving and I think when people started to be hurt and realize the pain, they started screaming and this was the terrible part because they were screaming at me and trying to get my attention to get help.
MALCOLM BRABANT: International sympathy for France’s agony was expressed exquisitely during services at Paris’s American cathedral. The two nations are inextricably linked by this attack, because it was at the concert by an American band, that most of the victims were murdered.
Dean Lucinda Laird appealed to the congregation not to blame all the followers of Islam for Friday the 13th.
LUCINDA LAIRD, AMERICAN CATHEDRAL PARIS: It’s bad religion when people twist it to their own purposes and it is good religion when it opens us up, binds us one to another and leads us to peace.
We can not react the same way as those terrorists, but we can deny them their victory by refusing to submit to a world created in their image.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Does this feel like the start of a war?
LUCINDA LAIRD: We are all afraid it might be the start of a war and we seriously hope not, but it might be. It keeps going and I don’t see an early end to it.
MALCOLM BRABANT: What do you think Christians have to do in relation to this because there are some people who like to foment trouble between Muslims and people who are not Muslims?
LUCINDA LAIRD: Yes you are completely correct. Christians have to stand for peace. Have to stand for working together with our Muslim brothers and sisters.
Have to differentiate between good religion and bad religion. Bad religion that twists what is good. Good religion Christian, Muslim, Jew any religion that works for peace, justice and the humanity of all people. That’s where Christians need to be.
MALCOLM BRABANT: From the other side of the religious divide, Samia Hathroubi, a French Tunisian campaigner for multi-faith understanding, issued a similar plea for peaceful co-existence.
SAMIA HATHROUBI: The terrorists sent us a letter. They sent us a trap. And I’m afraid, I’m really concerned that we might fall in this trap.
This trap of division. This trap of division and hatred and this fight that we could have with the French people and if we fall into this civil war, I am afraid of myself, I’m afraid of the life of my nephew and nieces and iIm afraid of each one person in this country and not only the Muslim community.
The post How residents are coming to terms with the devastation of loss in Paris appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS, has claimed credit for Friday’s terrorist attack in Paris. And the French government also blames the Islamic militant group.
Peter Neumann studies and teaches terrorism and radicalization at King’s College in London. He joins me now from there to discuss the group and its intentions.
Peter, these latest attacks sort of put to rest the idea that ISIS was mostly concerned about actions in the Middle East. What do you think that they are trying to accomplish with these most recent attacks?
PETER NEUMANN, Director, International Center for the Study of Radicalization, King’s College: I think there are three aims here. The first is classical asymmetric warfare — warfare. You’re hitting us. We’re going to take revenge by hitting you where it hurts most, namely at home.
The second intention is really to polarize and to divide European societies, to create that sense of Islam against the West, and to create a lot of mess in the countries that they oppose.
The third intention that often gets forgotten is also internally. I think the Islamic State has been on the defensive in its core territory in Iraq and Syria.
And this kind of attack, I think, motivates supporters and gives them again the feeling that they are part of a winning team. And that’s really important.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, this is part of their strategy of not just maybe scaring the West off from attacks against them, but trying to recruit more people to the cause?
PETER NEUMANN: Absolutely.
And I think it’s really important to understand, in the case of ISIS, that it is important to understand the ideology, but it’s also important, for a lot of Western recruits, the sense that they are part of a winning team, that this is a successful, ever-expanding project. That is how it seemed last year.
And it hasn’t seemed like that for a number of months. And this kind of attack is almost diverting attention from some of the problems that ISIS is having in Iraq and Syria. And, for — for that reason, it is very important for ISIS to have it.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: U.S. officials in the past have been saying that the fight against ISIS might take some patience and might take some time.
In your opinion, is this a fight that can be hastened?
PETER NEUMANN: I think it’s very dangerous to try to hasten it too much.
I think, contrary to what everyone says, the campaign that has been going on in Iraq and Syria has not been altogether unsuccessful.
It has contained the Islamic State. It has taken away the notion of it as a successful organization in its core territory.
And if you want to hasten it, of course, America can basically bomb the whole place, but the question then becomes, what happens the day after that?
So, you have to bring ISIS down in a way that it actually implodes. That’s the only way in which you can have a sustainable end to ISIS.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: There’s obviously been a connection made in the last few days between the refugees coming into Europe and these attacks.
And, obviously, we’re torn between a humanitarian disaster going on that is sending all these people into Europe and then fears now people — very real fears of more attacks happening. How do you see that tension playing out?
PETER NEUMANN: It is incredibly dangerous.
The important thing to remember about terrorism is, it is always about — not only about killing people. It’s also about creating a political effect.
If the political effect of these attacks is that, in the medium term, European societies are becoming more polarized, that the far right, which is already strong in a lot of countries, is trying to capitalize on that, is trying to merge the refugee issue with the terrorism issue, the effect on European societies could be terrible.
They could even question the idea that people of different faiths, ethnicities can live peacefully together in Europe. So, I do think we are at a fragile moment here in Europe, and we have to be really careful.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Peter Neumann of King’s College in London, thank you so much for being here.
PETER NEUMANN: Thank you.
Most bats roost by hanging from their feet, which means they must land upside down on cave ceilings. And to stick the landing, they employ similar mechanics as skateboarders and pirouetting figure skaters, according to a new study in PLOS Biology. By using high-speed videos, researchers learned that bats use inertia rather than air flowing over their wings to execute the flip needed to land. And in the cases where they miss the mark, they use the same moves to recover and fly away.
“We’ve been thinking about how bats land for seven or eight years,” said Brown University evolutionary biologist Sharon Swartz, who co-led the study. She says that because flight is trickier for bats than other winged creatures. Anyone who has ever eaten a chicken wing knows that they only contain a few hollow bones and joints. Bat wings, in contrast, have heavy bones and are packed with joints.
“Bat wings are just like our hands with lots of skin between them,” Swartz said. This skin is super soft and compliant, which is troublesome too. Think of kite material, which is stiff, not really stretchy and superb at catching wind, she says. Bat wings are the opposite, not stiff and stretchy, meaning their aerodynamics are often unique when compared to insect and bird wings.
That distinction is on full display when bats land in this new study. Bats can abandon aerodynamics altogether when they land upside down.
To discern this, Swartz and her long-time collaborator — Brown engineer Kenneth Breuer — filmed high-speed videos of Seba’s short-tailed bats (Carollia perspicillata) as the mammals landed on a gauze net attached to the ceiling. They then took those videos and analyzed them with computer software to dissect the precise motions of the wing.
“We know all of its angles, joint angles and wing postures that happen during this two-second maneuver,” Breuer said. “What they do is move their wings in very characteristic ways in order to manipulate their center of mass and moment of inertia.”
Breuer described the motion step-by-step:
As the bat approaches that landing site, it slows down and brings its posture vertically, using its wings in an asymmetric manner. It brings its left wing in, flaps, is able to rotate and then it brings its wings forward and that enables it to pitch, so the body rotates. It stretches its legs out, and it’s able to grab onto the gauze with its feet and land.
All of this happens in half a second.
The behavior echoes what happens with pirouetting figure skaters. They pull in their arms at different moments to speed up or slow down the velocity of their spins or rotations. High divers and skateboarders make the same moves while twisting through the sky.
“In these cases, when they don’t have anything to push off against, they have to use adjustments in the moment of inertia to create these moves, these rotations,” Breuer said.
A bigger surprise came when the team looked at their computer models. They learned that the bats could perform the maneuver almost entirely without aerodynamics or accounting for how air flows over their wings. Inertia is the master switch to spinning.
“It never would have occurred to me that aerodynamics would play such a small role in landing. I always think of flight as a primarily aerodynamic phenomenon. Wings are aerodynamic organs, and landing seems so obviously to be a flight behavior,” Swartz said. “Inertia can play an important role in flight dynamics, but the relative unimportance of aerodynamics is still quite astonishing.”
Leaning on inertia might explain another phenomenon being studied by Swartz and Breuer’s teams. When bats exit a cave in a giant swarm, they often collide in mid-air. But they don’t crash. Swartz says inertia keeps the pace of the wing going.
“In the lab, we have blown strong gusts of wind at bats. They’re disrupted for a wing beat, but then they keep going. Inertia seems to play a role,” Swartz said.
Swartz said the next plan is seeing if these landing controls apply to other bats. Some species mimic Seba’s short-tailed bats, by flipping and grabbing their target with both feet, which is called a two-point landing. Others latch to an area with both hindlimbs and the thumbs of their wings (four-point landing).
“In Central America, there are some bats that roost head up thanks to suction disks on their wrists and ankles. They roost inside furled up leaves in tropical forests,“ Swartz said. “They don’t end up upside down. So how do they land? There’s almost 1,400 species of bats, and we’ve just scratched the surface.”
“Water water every where, nor any drop to drink,” wrote Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his 1798 poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”
The world is awash in water. Seventy percent of the planet’s surface is covered by water, and a significant amount of water is frozen and in gaseous forms. Further, the volume of water on planet Earth has remained roughly constant at 344 million cubic miles for more than 1 billion years. By almost any account, water is quite literally everywhere.
Yet we constantly hear of impending shortages. Why? To begin, 97.5 percent of the water on Earth is in oceans — and therefore salty and unfit for human consumption. If all of the planet’s water filled a typical one-gallon milk container, less than a teaspoon of it would be freshwater.
The Earth is constantly recycling the water we use. But we’re stressing the system by not allowing it adequate time to replace the growing amounts we demand. “Can’t we just make new water?” you might ask. Well, our galaxy is actually creating new water molecules all the time — enough to fill the oceans of Earth multiple times per hour. Unfortunately, this is happening far from our planet, and it won’t be efficient — at least for the foreseeable future — to transport it here. Our heavy use of freshwater certainly appears to be a problem without an easy solution. And worse, the pressures are building: demand for water is predicted to exceed supply by 40 percent by 2030.
The already scarce supply of the freshwater consumable by plants, animals and humans is being further limited by climate change, which is changing historical rainfall patterns and increasing the severity of storms. Meanwhile, demand is driven by agriculture, which accounts for more than 90 percent of freshwater use each year. The same forces driving demand for food — namely a global population boom and increasing preferences within that population for animal protein — are placing unsustainable pressure on water supplies.
Climate change and food-driven water demand are creating a toxic cocktail that may shock global stability. We are already flirting with severe water shortages on a regular basis. Consider that one in four large cities are “water stressed,” according to the Nature Conservancy. Barcelona came within days of running out of water in 2008 and was forced to import a tanker of drinking water. California, which has been warming for the last 30 years, has been suffering its worst drought in 1,200 years, one study found. In South Africa, another terrible drought has forced Johannesburg to impose restrictions on water use. By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water-stressed conditions.
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Water wars are coming. The U.S. National Intelligence Strategy, released in September of last year, highlights an elevated potential for water scarcity to generate instability. And a U.S. intelligence community report on Global Water Security released in 2012 warned: “During the next 10 years, many countries important to the United States will experience water problems — shortages, poor water quality, or floods — that will risk instability and state failure, increase regional tensions, and distract them from working with the United States on important U.S. policy objectives.”
Might water wars already be brewing? Pakistan, one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, has an ongoing dispute with India over access to water in which radicals have called for “water jihad.” New Delhi also fears that a new Chinese dam project in Tibet could be used to restrict water supplies downstream in northern India. In March, an Ethiopian dam under construction that could have limited Egyptian and Sudanese access to water nearly generated conflict. In central Asia, there is a similar ongoing disagreement over a Tajikistani dam that could restrict water access in Uzbekistan. These are but a few of the water tensions bubbling globally.
The sad reality of the situation is that it may soon be time to update the Coleridge quote with which I began this piece to “Water wars everywhere, nor any drop for peace.”
By Zachary Laub, online writer/editor, and Jonathan Masters, deputy editor at the Council on Foreign Relations
The self-proclaimed Islamic State is a militant movement that has conquered territory in western Iraq and eastern Syria, where it has made a bid to establish a state in territories that encompass some 6.5 million residents. Though spawned by al-Qaida’s Iraq franchise, it split with Osama bin Laden’s organization and evolved to not just employ terrorist and insurgent tactics, but the more conventional ones of an organized militia.
In June 2014, after seizing territories in Iraq’s Sunni heartland, including the cities of Mosul and Tikrit, the Islamic State proclaimed itself a caliphate, claiming exclusive political and theological authority over the world’s Muslims. Its state-building project, however, has been characterized more by extreme violence, justified by references to the Prophet Mohammed’s early followers, than institution building. Widely publicized battlefield successes have attracted thousands of foreign recruits, a particular concern of Western intelligence.
The United States has led an air campaign to try to roll back the Islamic State’s advances, and a series of terrorist attacks outside of Iraq and Syria in late 2015 that were attributed to the group spurred an escalation in international intervention. The U.S.-led coalition has worked with Iraqi national security forces and the Kurdish peshmerga in Iraq; some of those forces have also worked with Shia militias. In Syria, a small number of U.S. Special Operations Forces have embedded with some opposition forces. Meanwhile, militant groups from North and West Africa to South Asia have professed allegiance to the Islamic State.
What are the Islamic State’s origins?
The group that calls itself the Islamic State can trace its lineage to the aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, in 2003. The Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi aligned his Jama’at al-Tawhidw’al-Jihad with al-Qaida, making it al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI).
Zarqawi’s organization took aim at U.S. forces (PDF), their international allies, and local collaborators. It sought to draw the United States into a sectarian civil war by attacking Shias and their holy sites, including the Imam al-Askari shrine, in 2006, and provoking them to retaliate against Sunnis.
Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike that year. The emergence of the U.S.-backed Awakening, or Sons of Iraq, coalitions further weakened AQI as Sunni tribesmen reconciled with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shia-led government. Zarqawi’s successors rebranded AQI as the Islamic State of Iraq and later, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), referring to a territory that roughly corresponds with the Levant, reflecting broadened ambitions as the 2011 uprising in Syria created opportunities for AQI to expand. The group is known to its followers as il-Dawla (“the State”) and its Arabic-speaking detractors as Daesh, the Arabic equivalent of the acronym ISIS.
The Islamic State’s current leader, the self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, spent time in U.S.-run prisons in Iraq. Cells organized in them, along with remnants of Saddam Hussein’s ousted secular-nationalist Ba’ath party, make up some of the Islamic State’s ranks.
How has the Islamic State expanded?
Sunni disenfranchisement in both Iraq and Syria created a vacuum that the Islamic State has exploited. In Iraq, a Sunni minority was sidelined from national politics after the United States ousted Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, in 2003. In Syria, a civil war erupted in 2011 pitting the ruling minority Alawis, a Shia offshoot, against the primarily Sunni opposition, spawning sectarian violence.
In Iraq, Maliki cemented his own power as U.S. forces pulled out in 2010 by practicing what was largely denounced as a divisive politics that excluded Sunni political rivals and gave Shias disproportionate benefits.
The Awakening councils effectively came to an end as Maliki rejected the inclusion of many of their militiamen in the security forces, an integration process advocated by U.S. forces, and arrested some of its leaders. In 2013, the security forces put down broad-based protests, contributing to the Sunni community’s sense of persecution.
Maliki purged the officer corps of potential rivals. Combined with desertion and corruption, this contributed to the Iraqi military’s collapse as Islamic State militants overran Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in June 2014.
Syria’s 2011 uprising helped in the Islamic State’s expansion. Some analysts have even described a tacit nonaggression pact between Islamic State militants and Bashar al-Assad regime, with each focused on fighting the main antigovernment opposition forces for territorial control. As extremists came to dominate territory in Syria’s north and east and overran more moderate forces, Assad claimed it validated his argument that only his government could mount an effective opposition to “terrorists” — a term he has applied to opposition forces of all stripes.
The northern Syrian city of Raqqa is often cited as the Islamic State’s de facto capital. There, the group has established some new institutions (e.g., judicial, police, economic) and coopted others (e.g., education, health, and infrastructure) to provide residents a modicum of services and consolidate its control over the population.
After rapid expansion through Iraq in much of 2014, the Islamic State seemed to run up against its limits as it pushed up against majority Kurdish and Shia Arab regions, where it faced greater resistance from Iraqi forces and local populations along with U.S.-led air strikes. Its militants have failed to advance on Baghdad or the Kurdish capital, Erbil.
What is the Islamic State’s relationship with al-Qaida?
The group became an al-Qaida franchise by 2004 but has since broken with bin Laden’s organization and become its rival. The split reflects strategic and ideological differences. In Syria, the groups compete for power and recruits among many militant forces.
Al-Qaida focused on attacking the United States and its Western allies, whom it held responsible for bolstering Arab regimes it considered apostate, like those in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. For bin Laden, the establishment of a caliphate was the end goal — but one that was generations off.
In 2005, bin Laden deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri castigated AQI’s Zarqawi for indiscriminately attacking civilians, particularly Shias. Zawahiri believed that such violence would alienate Sunnis from their project — a concern borne out by the success of the Awakening movement.
A more thorough rupture came after the start of Syria’s uprising. Baghdadi publicly rebuffed the private ruling of Zawahiri, who had succeeded bin Laden as al-Qaida’s chief, that the emergent Syrian al-Qaida affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, remain independent, and Baghdadi’s organization restricted to Iraq. Since then, the two groups have at times fought one another on the Syrian battlefield.
How is the Islamic State financed?
Oil extraction constitutes the Islamic State’s largest source of income. The group is estimated to produce 44,000 barrels a day from Syrian wells and 4,000 barrels a day from Iraqi ones. The group then sells the crude to truckers and middlemen, netting an estimated $1 million to $3 million a day. By selling well below market price, traders are incentivized to take on the risk of such black-market deals. The oil-starved Assad regime, Turks, and Iraqi Kurds — all putative enemies of the Islamic State — are rumored to be among its customers. In a rare raid on Syrian territory in May 2015, U.S. Special Operations forces killed an Islamic State official believed to have managed the group’s oil and gas operations.
The Islamic State is believed to extort businesses in Mosul, netting upwards of $8 million a month. Christians who have not fled the city face an additional tax levied on religious minorities. Protection rackets bring in revenue while building the allegiance of some tribesmen. Exploitation of natural resources and trafficking in antiquities also contribute to the Islamic State’s coffers.
Ransom payments have provided the Islamic States upwards of $20 million in 2014, including large sums for kidnapped European journalists and other captives, according to the U.S. Treasury. The United States maintains a no-concessions policy, at odds with its European counterparts.
The Islamic State pays its fighters monthly wages estimated to be upwards of $350, more than rival rebel groups or the Iraqi government offer, and as much as five times what is earned by ordinary Syrians in territory controlled by the Islamic State.
Does the Islamic State pose a threat beyond Iraq and Syria?
The Islamic State group’s claim to be a caliphate has raised concerns that its ambitions have no geographic limits, and a series of attacks in November 2015 highlighted its ability to strike beyond its territorial base. Militants in Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan have taken up the Islamic State’s trappings and sworn allegiance to Baghdadi. It is unclear, however, whether these self-proclaimed provinces of the Islamic State should be considered true outposts of Baghdadi’s organization, or rather, local militants looking to capitalize on the Islamic State’s notoriety as they compete with rival groups in local contests for power.
The conflicts in Syria and Iraq have attracted foreign fighters by the thousands. Middle Eastern and Western intelligence agencies have raised concern that their citizens who have joined the fighting in Iraq and Syria will become radicalized and then use their passports to carry out attacks in their home countries. U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper estimated in February 2015 that more than 13,000 foreign fighters joined Sunni Arab antigovernment extremist groups, including the Islamic State, in Syria, and that more than 3,400 of more than 20,000 foreign Sunni militants hailed from Western countries. (Estimates of the group’s total forces range from around 30,000 to more than 100,000.)
In November 2015, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for downing a Russian passenger jet over the Sinai peninsula, shortly after Russia had begun conducting air strikes in Syria. Over the following two weeks, the group also claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings in a Shia-majority suburb of Beirut — the city’s deadliest attack since the end of its civil war in 1990 — and coordinated attacks in Paris that killed at least 129 people. France retaliated by bombing Raqqa, marking its first major involvement in the anti-Islamic State campaign in Syria, even as questions persisted as to whether these attacks were centrally directed.
Another concern is Turkey’s 500-mile border with Syria, through which foreign fighters have entered and exited the conflict. Turkey kept its border open as it sought the overthrow of Assad. But as the Islamic State crowded out other armed opposition groups and came up to the Turkish border, international pressure mounted for Turkey to seal the border. In July 2015, Turkey joined the U.S.-led coalition despite concerns about Kurdish gains on its southern border and domestic reprisal attacks. A series of bombings over the course of the campaign season culminated with an attack in Ankara that killed more than one hundred people — the worst such attack in the country’s history.
What is U.S. strategy vis-à-vis the Islamic State?
U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has assembled a coalition of some 60 countries to “degrade and ultimately defeat” the Islamic State. The U.S.-led coalition includes the European Union and several Sunni Arab states. As of mid-May 2015, the coalition had carried out nearly 4,000 airstrikes, four-fifths of them by U.S. forces.
In Iraq, the United States has deployed nearly 3,000 uniformed personnel, armed the KRG paramilitary (the peshmerga), and led airstrikes against Islamic State forces. As of early March 2015, the coalition had carried out nearly 1,500 airstrikes, 70 percent from U.S. forces. Meanwhile, Shia militias have done much of the fighting on the ground, making up for the hollowed-out Iraqi army. Militias backed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps played a critical role in Iraq’s March 2015 push to oust Islamic State forces from Tikrit. Another militia involved in the fight against the Islamic State is loyal to the nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army battled U.S.-led forces early in the occupation.
The Obama administration insisted that Maliki step down and be replaced by a less polarizing politician as a condition of military assistance. His successor, Haider al-Abadi, pledged to practice more inclusive politics and bring Shia militias aligned with Iraqi security forces under the state’s control. But rights groups allege that these militias have evicted, disappeared and killed residents of Sunni and mixed neighborhoods in the wake of operations to root out Islamic State militants. Acknowledging these abuses, Sadr temporarily froze his militia.
As Islamic State forces fought for control of the heavily Sunni-populated Anbar province, the United States reportedly opposed the deployment of Shia paramilitary groups to fend them off. Washington believed they would exacerbate sectarian tensions and Sunni alienation from the state while undermining the government. Baghdad, meanwhile, resisted arming Anbar’s Sunni tribes. The Islamic State claimed to overrun the provincial capital, Ramadi, in mid-May 2015.
Though opposition to Islamic State advances would seem to put Washington and Tehran on the same side, both sides have downplayed the possibility of tactical coordination in Iraq. Military measures that Sunnis perceive as bolstering hostile regimes in Iraq or Syria could backfire, driving members of the community to cooperate with the Islamic State. The United States has also carried out airstrikes in Syria in a bid to roll back Islamic State territorial gains. The United States does not have a fighting partner on the ground there, while political efforts to end the broader civil war (international negotiations and, more recently, a U.N.-backed effort to broker local ceasefires) have failed.
Some critics in Washington argue that the Obama administration’s failure to follow through on its rhetorical support for rebel forces in Syria with training and arms put them at a disadvantage against both Shia pro-government elements like Hezbollah and Sunni extremist groups, which grew strong with the support of Tehran and deep-pocketed Gulf donors, respectively.
In early 2015, the Pentagon began a three-year program to train and equip 5,000 “appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian opposition” a year to attack Islamic State forces — but not the Assad regime and its allies. But the Obama administration abandoned the $500 million program in October 2015 after it was revealed to have yielded just “four or five” fighters in Syria. In its place, the White House said it would adopt a looser approach, screening just commanders rather than individual fighters. The United States has also embedded Special Operations Forces with Syrian rebels.
These military measures may contain the Islamic State, but are unlikely to help resolve the governance problem, which the administration has said is the only solution to this conflict. But the diplomatic efforts of major powers appear deadlocked as the regime’s backers and opponents remain unable to agree on what a political transition ought to look like.
This backgrounder, originally published in June 2014 and updated in November 2015, first appeared on the Council on Foreign Relations’ website.
PARIS — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Paris to show American solidarity with France after last week’s deadly terror attacks.
Kerry landed in the French capital on Monday under unusual security precautions that precluded journalists accompanying with him from reporting his planned visit — believed to be the first such restriction for a secretary of state’s travel to a European capital.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said Kerry will meet and thank U.S. Embassy staffers and hold talks with French officials.
Kirby said Kerry will reiterate America’s commitment to the strong U.S.-France relationship, express condolences to the victims of the attacks and reiterate the shared resolve to counter violent extremism in France and elsewhere.
The post Kerry arrives in Paris to show U.S. support for France after attacks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Editor’s Note: In 2013, economist Terry Burnham penned his first PBS NewsHour Making Sen$e article worrying about the economy and financial markets.
Burnham, a former Harvard Business School professor, money manager, biotech entrepreneur and author, has regularly shared his views on the Dow (predicting that it would hit to 5,000 before 20,000) and the Federal Reserve (arguing that it should abolished) with Making Sen$e. His fearful articles caused business and economics correspondent Paul Solman to label Burnham the “Chicken Little of Finance.”
Burnham has embraced the Chicken Little moniker, revealing his own investment positions in April. Below, Burnham discusses his macroeconomic views, specifically Chicken Little’s perspective on government economic policy, which is key to his investment strategies. In December, he’ll share his investment decisions once again.
— Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So reads a vintage cigarette ad. For decades, cigarettes were sold as healthy supplements. “Doctor-recommended” smoking purportedly improved digestion, soothed throats and sharpened the mind. We now view smoking as the leading avoidable killer of people.
In the case of cigarettes, a purported medicinal supplement has been revealed to be poison. Similarly, I believe the government actions to “support” the economy are actually causing problems.
Since 2008, the three pillars touted to support the global economy are increased government debt, stimulative Chinese government policy and loose money created by central banks. Loose money comes in two forms: low interest rates and the creation of money through asset purchases (also known as quantitative easing).
I believe that all three of the pillars of economic “support” actually decrease wealth.
Poisonous Pillar #1: Government overspending
The average government debt level in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has climbed from 53 percent of GDP in 2007 to over 80 percent in 2015. I continue to believe that spending more than one earns is not a path to prosperity.
Too much debt was a central cause of the financial crises, but the government solution to this problem has been to create even more debt. This makes the system less stable, not more stable.
Poisonous Pillar #2: Chinese investment
There’s a notion that Chinese government mandated spending will help the world economy. The logic of this view is that when the Chinese government spends money to, say, build a new city, it employs thousands of workers. Those workers have money to spend, and when they buy goods and services, the sellers then have more money to spend and so on. This is known as the Keynesian multiplier.
The trouble with this view of government spending, Chinese or non-Chinese, is that it does not take into account the value of what is produced compared to what could have been produced with the same expenditure.
In China, trillions of dollars have been invested without regard to the value of the projects. Ghost towns and excess production make people poorer both in China and elsewhere.
If one just focuses on workers’ pay, then building useless projects may appear to help the economy, but all in all, it is just a waste. If building empty highways makes a country richer, so would blowing up existing highways and repairing them. No one is fooled into thinking blowing up existing projects is good, but some are fooled by looking at new, useless projects. The Chinese problem is that the government is picking the projects and all too often picking the wrong projects.
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Beyond wasting money directly, Chinese investment hurts others. For example, Alcoa, a U.S.-based multinational company that makes aluminum, is one of many of companies that have suffered as a consequence of China’s misdirected investment. China has continued to invest in aluminum production, even though the financial returns to these investments have been low or negative. Nonetheless, these investments have created severe competition for Alcoa — so much so that Alcoa’s stock price has declined by 90 percent since 2007. The company was kicked out of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and will now morph into two entities. Alcoa was an industrial giant. Now, it ceases to exist in its prior form.
There are hundreds of similar stories.
Poisonous Pillar #3: Low interest rates
While government overspending and Chinese financial mistakes are terribly costly, loose money might be the worst government economic policy. Monetary policy is particularly destructive in that its negative effects are delayed and misunderstood.
Consider the impact of low interest rates on housing and savers. Mortgage rates have dropped from above 6 percent in 2007 to around 4 percent today. People who refinance their loans at lower rates spend fewer dollars on mortgage payments each month and consequently, have more to spend on cars and other items. Similarly, new home buyers are able to pay more for houses with a 4 percent mortgage than they could under the same circumstances with a 6 percent mortgage. Lower mortgage rates have helped U.S. housing prices rise in recent years.
Lower mortgage payments are great for borrowers. However, every dollar saved by a borrower is a dollar not received by a lender. The most important impact of lower rates is not wealth creation, but the transfer of wealth from savers to borrowers. Low rates are terrible for savers.
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If there is a saving loser for (almost) every borrowing winner, why aren’t savers “mad as hell”? While there is some expressed anger at the negative impact of Federal Reserve policies on senior citizens, on balance, the public seems to support low rates.
One barrier to recognizing the cost of loose money is that some savers benefit in the short-run from low rates. In particular, savers who own bonds see them go up in price when interest rates go down. Consider, for example, the 30-year Treasury bond sold on May 15, 2007 (one of the last 30-year auctions conducted before the beginning of super loose money). This 30-year bond pays 5 percent a year in interest. Any saver who owns this bond has seen its value increase by 40 percent since issue. (To see the current price of this bond, search for “912810PU6” on this long list of Treasury security prices.)
So borrowers are happy with low mortgage payments, and savers may be fooled by the rise in value of the bonds they own. The fact that bond prices have gone up in recent years cannot, however, hide the depressing set of options available to savers today. The 30-year Treasury currently returns about 3 percent, and bank deposits pay 0 percent.
What is net impact of loose money? I believe it is negative. There may be some stimulation as, for example, some houses are built that wouldn’t have otherwise been built. However, loose money also destroys wealth, because altering prices leads to bad decisions.
Consider the impact of Federal Reserve Policy on drilling for oil in the Arctic. During the Fed’s program of quantitative easing, oil prices rose from under $50 a barrel to over $100. Assuming relatively high oil prices, Shell invested over $4 billion in Arctic drilling. Yet, after the end of quantitative easing, oil prices declined to below $50 again. Shell canceled its Arctic effort and wasted $4 billion.
While many of us are happy to see less Arctic drilling, we would all be richer if the $4 billion had not simply been thrown away. There are billions of decisions that have been distorted by the central bank’s policies, and the total cost may run to the trillions of dollars.
Many economists describe the gradual reduction of Federal Reserve money creation as a “taper.” Up until recently, I have never seen a Federal Reserve official use the word. Why not? My guess is the government does not want to equate loose money with the more common usage of taper in the context of illegal drugs.
“If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and it sounds like a duck, it’s probably not a chicken.” So said Wall Street trader Peter Borish. Low interest rates are like a drug in causing short-term stimulation and long-term stagnation.
Drug stimulants are bad for people. Monetary stimulants are bad for economies.
I am Chicken Little cowering in fear, because I believe that current government economic policies are poisonous. I believe the sky will fall in the form of declining financial markets and a bad economy.
The post Column: The 3 poisonous pillars of government economic policy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Many people have never heard of Braddock, Pennsylvania, an industrial town on the Monongahela River, just a 20-minute drive from Pittsburgh. Just over 2,000 people live there. The town’s defining feature is itself a remnant of outdated industry — Andrew Carnegie’s steel mill, built in 1872.
But photographer LaToya Ruby Frazier‘s work tells a story that weaves Braddock into the social and economic fabric of the U.S. — one that began when Braddock was a thriving mill town and center of culture.
Frazier’s family dates back four generations in Braddock, having arrived there in the early 1900s as part of the Great Migration of more than 6 million African Americans from the South. Braddock was a hub of industry and commerce, with Carnegie’s mill operating in full force and one of his famous libraries serving Braddock since 1888. That was the life her grandmother knew while growing up in the 1930s, Frazier said.
“Some people remember, this is the place that had all the theaters, had all the bars, had all the shopping centers. That’s why people came to Braddock. They came to shop and for entertainment in that period,” she said.
The steel mill was the center of the town, and most of its residents worked there and lived in Carnegie-built row homes. “That area, the way I see it historically, [was] the right of passage for black and white steelworkers,” she said. “At one point, we all lived there.”
But as the steel industry declined in the 1960s and 1970s, the area lost much of its vitality. White residents moved away from Braddock, leaving behind communities of color who were frequently barred from getting loans to buy homes elsewhere, Frazier said.
“What’s interesting is that through discrimination and racial and systemic oppression, you see how black people were entrapped in that area — through redlining, and not being able to get loans from banks to move to the suburbs, how they were left behind,” she said.
For 12 years, Frazier has captured these changes in a series of portraits of the town and her family entitled “The Notion of Family.” But one home, she said, tells a unique part of this story: the Bunn family home, which sits in the neighborhood that residents call “The Bottom” just a block away from where she grew up. The home rests on a lot that used to hold multiple black-owned homes and businesses, including a cleaners and cafe that Frazier’s great-grandmother ran.
Over roughly the past decade, those buildings came down, leaving room for the lot to become a dumping-ground for city construction, according to Isaac Bunn, the third generation of his family to live in the house.
In 2000, Bunn said he filed an application through the Vacant Property Recovery Program to obtain the vacant land adjacent to his home, but described coming up against bureaucratic red tape multiple times, both in Allegheny County and later in Pittsburgh, where he traveled to check the status of the application.
Eventually, the block dwindled, leaving only his house there by 2009. “I’m trying to hold on to the land and gain a voice for the people, but it was very stressful and draining,” he said.
For Frazier, the Bunn home is the latest chapter in a history that has disadvantaged people of color in industrial suburbs like Braddock. Bunn said he does not intend to leave the house, where his family has lived since 1949, and founded the Braddock Inclusion Project to organize residents’ input on city policies and development in 2013.
When Bunn — who she described as “extended family” — told her what had happened to the land surrounding his house, she rented a helicopter and photographed aerial views of the home to help raise awareness and resources for the Braddock Inclusion Project.
“I will continue to fight to hold onto the property as a means to preserve my family’s legacy and the history of a once-thriving African American community,” Bunn wrote in an email. “Without any black controlled assets [or] land … the future of Black America is bleak.”
Check out the images below for more aerial views of Braddock and the Bunn home.
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As authorities made sense of the aftermath from Friday’s Paris attacks and the death toll count began to stabilize, reports emerged over the weekend that a gunman involved with the coordinated bombings and shootings may have entered Europe, embedded in the scores of refugees fleeing Syria.
By Monday afternoon, the number of American state governors, many of them Republican, who released statements refusing to accept refugees ballooned to more than a dozen. The voices of opposition included presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Jeb Bush, who told “CBS This Morning” that the U.S. screening process should only grant refugee status to Syrian Christians.
In his letter to President Barack Obama, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) said Texas would refrain from participating “in any program that will result in Syrian refugees — any one of whom could be connected to terrorism — being resettled in Texas.”
Governors of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio, Wisconsin, among others have all issued similar statements, promising to block Syrian refugees from entering their states.
Problem is, states don’t really have a choice.
According to Think Progress’ Ian Millhiser, the states are limited in their power to resist the intake of refugees, an action that’s specifically under the president’s purview.
Under the Refugee Act of 1980, “President Obama has explicit statutory authorization to accept foreign refugees into the United States.”
In a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Rick Scott said “it is our understanding that the state does not have the authority to prevent the federal government from funding the relocation of these Syrian refugees to Florida even without state support.”
Instead, Scott said Congress ought “to take immediate and aggressive action to prevent President Obama and his administration from using any federal tax dollars to fund the relocation of up to 425 Syrian refugees” to Florida.
Cecillia Wang of the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement Monday that politicians were fabricating a link between the Paris attacks and Syrian refugee resettlement in the U.S.
“Making policy based on this fear mongering is wrong for two reasons,” she said. “It is factually wrong for blaming refugees for the very terror they are fleeing, and it is legally wrong because it violates our laws and the values on which our country was founded.”
Presidential candidate Rand Paul also introduced a bill Monday that imposed an “immediate moratorium on visas for refugees.”
The U.S. plans to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next fiscal year. Some Democrats, including presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley said that number should increase to 65,000 Syrian refugees. Either way, state governors will have to yield to Obama’s plan.
According to The New York Times, the U.S. has accepted 1,854 Syrian refugees as of Sept. 2015. Over the same time period, Germany has accepted nearly 93,000 refugees.
Speaking from Antalya, Turkey, on Monday, President Obama said the U.S. and other countries should continue to accept refugees leaving Syria, adding that they were the ones that are more harmed by terrorism, especially the brutal tactics of the Islamic State militants.
“Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values,” Obama said at the close of the Group of 20 summit in Antalya. “Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee supported Obama’s stance on providing sanctuary to Syrian refugees.
“Washington will continue to be a state that welcomes those seeking refuge from persecution, regardless of where they come from or the religion they practice,” he said.
Which states are saying no to resettlement of Syrian refugees?
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Hackers claiming to be Anonymous, an international collective of activist hackers, threatened cyberattacks on the Islamic State group in retaliation for Friday’s deadly attacks in Paris.
The hacktivist group delivered its message in videos posted in multiple languages on social media Saturday, which featured a person clad in a Guy Fawkes mask — the group’s signature — addressing the militant group directly.
“These attacks cannot remain unpunished,” the video states. “Expect many cyberattacks. War has been declared. Get ready.”
In the two days since its posting, the videos already have been viewed millions of times.
According to Reuters, Anonymous also claims to have identified and reported more than 39,000 suspected Twitter accounts belonging to Islamic State group members, saying they have been successful in getting more than 25,000 of them shut down.
This is not the first time Anonymous has targeted the Islamic State group. In January, the hackers launched a series of cyberattacks on the organization following their attacks on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
The full translation of the video, provided by Reuters, is below:
“Yesterday, Friday November 13th, 2015, our country, France was attacked in Paris at around 10 PM by multiple terrorists attempts claimed by you, ISIS. These attacks cannot remained unpunished, hence the reason why the anonymous from all over the world will hunt you down, yes you vermin that are killing innocent people, we will hunt you down, as we did since the attacks of Charlie Hebdo. Therefore, be prepared for a massive retaliation from the Anonymous. Be advised that we will find you and will not let you go; we are going to launch the biggest operation ever against you. Expect many cyberattacks. War has been declared. Get ready. The French people are stronger than you and will come out of this atrocity even stronger. Anonymous presents its condolences to the family of all the fallen victims. We are the Anonymous, we are legion. We don’t forgive and we don’t forget. Expect us.”
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GWEN IFILL: Politics and political campaigns are in the end about leadership. And from the campaign trail, to the presidential podium, to the halls of Congress, leaders weighed in on the fallout from Friday’s Paris attacks.
Over the weekend, the Paris attacks quickly turned into a political Rorschach test. Among many Republicans, the debate centered on the wisdom of allowing Syrian refugees to receive U.S. asylum.
SEN. TED CRUZ, Republican Presidential Candidate: We can’t roll the dice with the safety of Americans and bring in people for whom there is an unacceptable risk that they could be jihadists coming here to kill Americans. We just saw in Paris what happens when a country allows ISIS terrorists to come in as refugees, and the result can be a horrific loss of life.
BEN CARSON, Republican Presidential Candidate: Bringing people into this country from that area of the world I think is a huge mistake, because why wouldn’t they infiltrate them with people who are ideologically opposed to us? It would be foolish for them not to do that. But to bring them here under these circumstances is a suspension of intellect.
JEB BUSH, Republican Presidential Candidate: We have a responsibility to help with refugees after proper screening. And I think our focus ought to be on the Christians who have no place in Syria anymore. They’re being beheaded. They’re being executed by both sides. And I think we have a responsibility to help.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, Republican Presidential Candidate: The problem is, we can’t background-check them. You can’t pick up the phone and call Syria. And that’s one of the reasons why I have said we won’t be able to take more refugees.
GWEN IFILL: At least a dozen Republican governors agreed, declaring they would try to keep the refugees out.
President Obama, speaking in Turkey at the G20 summit of nations, pushed back.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that’s shameful.
GWEN IFILL: At their weekend debate, Democrats reacted to the crisis by focusing on what action the U.S. should be willing to take to bring down ISIS.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, Democratic Presidential Candidate: We have to look at ISIS as the leading threat of an international terror network. It cannot be contained. It must be defeated. But this cannot be an American fight, although American leadership is essential.
MARTIN O’MALLEY, Democratic Presidential Candidate: I would disagree with Secretary Clinton, respectfully, on this score. This actually is America’s fight. It cannot solely be America’s fight.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, Democratic Presidential Candidate: I would argue that the disastrous invasion of Iraq, something that I strongly opposed, has unraveled the region completely and led to the rise of al-Qaida and to ISIS.
GWEN IFILL: And on Capitol Hill, Republicans in both chambers called for the president to halt the flow of Syrian migrants into the U.S.
For more on what has been said and what hasn’t, we turn to Politics Monday with Tamara Keith of NPR reporting tonight from Des Moines and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report with me here.
So, Amy, are you at all surprised that this turned to politics so quickly, this debate over Paris?
AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: No.
This has been sort of the reality of the political campaign. Look, you have a big — this is a very serious issue, and this is a very serious crisis. And the fact is, we’re in the middle of a presidential campaign. This, of course, should be part of the 2016 campaign.
What’s surprising, I guess, is how quickly this has been divided along partisan lines, especially on the issue of accepting Syrian refugees, that Democrats almost universally on the side of the president, saying we should still accept Syrian immigrants after a lengthy process vetting those folks who want to come into this country, and Republicans pretty much universally saying we shouldn’t accept them at all.
GWEN IFILL: Tamara, it’s kind of an intellectual debate, because can these states really block refugees?
TAMARA KEITH, NPR: It’s not clear that they can.
But they’re certainly out there making a statement. And I think it’s much easier to make a statement about refugees and saying, hey, let’s put a stop to this, than going out and offering a solution on how to deal with the crisis with ISIS and Syria. That is a messy, sticky situation, which is much more complicated and nuanced than simply saying, I don’t want refugees in my state.
AMY WALTER: Yes.
GWEN IFILL: It’s quite a test, however, of foreign policy chops, these unexpected crises, no matter what they are. In this case, for instance, we saw Dr. Ben Carson on “FOX News Sunday” being asked repeatedly, what would he do, who would he call, how would he build a coalition? He didn’t seem to be prepared with an answer, Amy.
AMY WALTER: No, he definitely struggled on the answer to that question. He struggled on answers to a couple other questions, including how to enforce a no-fly zone. What happens if we actually do down a Russian plane? What does that mean for American foreign policy vis-a-vis our relationship with Russia?
We saw that he struggled during the debate as well. Look, I don’t think this is going to change the overall contours of the political race right now on the Republican side. What I do think it does, though, is put another piece into the vetting process for voters, that while they’re not making a decision today about who they’re going to vote for, eventually, they’re going to get to that place.
And I think, once we hit the end of December, early January, people start to get very serious about not just who they like, but who they are going to vote for. And the idea of who is going to look like a commander in chief is going to be a very important piece of this. It always was, but I think Paris made that even more important.
GWEN IFILL: So, Tamara, if you are Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, how do you think that they are treating this in a way that they think would help them?
TAMARA KEITH: Hillary Clinton is certainly talking about it. However, she’s not making it a complete focus of her campaign.
I saw her speak yesterday here in Iowa. She spent the first couple of minutes, two, thee minutes of her remarks talking about the terrorist attacks in Paris and the need to build international coalitions to fight ISIS. And then she quickly turned and started talking about the economy, because I think many Democrats and actually some Republicans still feel that, when it comes down to it, people are going to vote based on the economy more than they will vote based on these international affairs.
AMY WALTER: And that’s been a big division between Democrats and Republicans from the very beginning, even before these attacks in Paris, that Republican primary voters much more interested on the issues like terrorism, security, Democratic voters much more interested in the economy.
So I think this just helped to, again, underscore that the Republican primary electorate interests pretty different from Democratic interests.
GWEN IFILL: So, is that the sweet spot we’re seeing with these Republican governors calling to keep refugees out, which is they’re talking about something that basically affects people at home while speaking to the foreign policy component?
AMY WALTER: I think that’s a part of it, but I think they’re also speaking to their base, which is a group of voters, Republican primary voters.
This is a concern that they have held a long time, again, before we had the Paris attacks, about what’s going to happen if we bring in refugees from Syria. This was not an overwhelmingly popular idea even among the broader American electorate. This has obviously been a party too that is very much opposed to immigration, illegal immigration.
And even you have groups of Republican voters who want to see legal immigration scaled back, and of course the big fight with President Obama on what to do with Gitmo detainees, not bringing those prisoners into the United States.
GWEN IFILL: Well, Tamara, let’s talk about President Obama, because while he was traveling in Turkey today, he took many occasions, probably because he was asked a question so many times, to defend his policy going after ISIS, and he grew more exasperated with each question.
But he also took the opportunity to say, listen, what these folks who don’t know what they’re talking about are doing was what he was essentially saying need to step back. We are taking this more seriously than that. Did he make his case?
TAMARA KEITH: Well, he was certainly taking a swipe at — at least, not so subtly, I think, at Ted Cruz without saying his name and the people who talk about things like, well, we know Christians would come here, and we would be OK with maybe Christians, but we really have to vet the ideology.
GWEN IFILL: That would be Jeb Bush, right. Right. Jeb Bush made that point.
TAMARA KEITH: Yes.
GWEN IFILL: So, but is that — does the White House just go exasperated, not only in an election year with these outside questions, but also good and legitimate questions about whether their strategy is working?
TAMARA KEITH: Well, what the president seems to be saying is, you guys are criticizing me, but then when you say what we should do, we’re actually doing that.
There have been huge numbers of airstrikes, and there are advisers on the ground. And many of these things that are being prescribed by his opponents are things that he’s doing, but maybe it’s more a matter of rhetoric. The way he talks about this is in a way trying to still build bridges. And I think a lot of people are calling on him to just come out and be stronger about it.
GWEN IFILL: Well, it’s the word of strength, Amy.
The Democrats are talking a lot about strategy, but you also hear people like Donald Trump saying, we should be bombing the oil trucks. Look, they bombed the oil trucks. You also hear everybody — Donald — John McCain, not running for president, but Lindsey Graham, who is, talking about being stronger, boots on the ground, something that Ben Carson is also talking about.
Is that a vulnerable — is that a vulnerability?
AMY WALTER: For the Republicans?
GWEN IFILL: Yes, and for the Democrats.
AMY WALTER: Yes.
I think for the Democrats — and Tamara made this point as well, which is, it’s not just the president getting criticized for this policy. It’s going to be Hillary Clinton and Democrats who have to defend the current administration policy, Hillary Clinton even more so because of course she was part of the administration as a secretary of state.
And you saw on Saturday night nobody did a particularly good job defending the president, I didn’t see that, or his strategy on ISIS.
And then you looking to the Republicans who are pretty well unified, we need to be stronger, we need to send a stronger message, no Syrian refugees, and yet they’re kind of divided on, well, how intensively do we get involved?
Rubio is suggesting, yes, we could send military there, but not as strongly as somebody like Donald Trump, who wants to do it immediately. So I think those are where the fault lines are going to open up for Republicans is how quickly do you invest? The public is clearly is going to be very wary about more military involvement.
GWEN IFILL: And final thought, Tamara. We — Amy just mentioned in passing there was a Democratic presidential debate on Saturday. And I do wonder whether, in the end, anything changed in the atmosphere after that. Obviously, both O’Malley and Sanders tried to take more direct aim at Hillary Clinton.
TAMARA KEITH: I think that there is a little bit more negativity, especially coming from Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.
He’s definitely more willing to go on the attack now after that debate than he had been before. And I think Bernie Sanders also is more directly addressing Hillary Clinton. And Hillary Clinton herself is going after them a little bit more. So, you know, the gloves maybe came off ever so slightly, but it’s still pretty tame compared to the Republican side of the fight.
GWEN IFILL: OK. Tamara Keith in Des Moines, Iowa, for us tonight of NPR, and Amy Walter of Cook Political Report, thank you both, as always.
TAMARA KEITH: Thanks, Gwen.
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