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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news, the White House warned this evening that President Obama will veto a House Republican bill to increase screening of refugees. House Speaker Paul Ryan had announced today that Republicans will call for admitting Syrians and Iraqis only if U.S. officials certify that they are not a security threat.

    Ryan said a vote could come tomorrow on what he called commonsense precautions.

    REP. PAUL RYAN, Speaker of the House: People understand the plight of those fleeing the Middle East, but they also want basic assurances for the safety of this country. We are a compassionate nation. We always have been and we always will be. But we also must remember that our first priority is to protect the American people.

    GWEN IFILL: Some Republican presidential candidates have said Christian refugees should be given preference over Muslims.

    At a summit in the Philippines today, President Obama said such proposals are rooted in hysteria and political posturing.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We are not well-served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic. When individuals say that we should have a religious test and that only Christians, proven Christians, should be admitted, that’s offensive and contrary to American values.

    GWEN IFILL: Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is among those who have said Christian refugees should be given special immigration preference. He challenged the president today to debate him on the issue.

    Meanwhile, a Syrian family was diverted to Connecticut today instead of going to Indiana as planned. Resettlement groups cited the Indiana governor’s move to stop refugees from seeking new homes in the Hoosier State.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Chinese President Xi Jinping today reassured world leaders that China’s economy remains strong. The country’s growth rate hit a six-year low last quarter, but it was still running at an annual pace of 6.8 percent.

    Today, at the Asia-Pacific gathering in Manila, Xi promised his government will keep growth on track.

    XI JINPING, Chinese President (through interpreter): Overall, the enduring positive trend of China’s economic development has not changed. The characteristics of the economy being resilient, full of potential, with ample room for maneuvering have not changed. The fundamentals and conditions supporting the continuing growth of the Chinese economy have not changed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Xi didn’t mention territorial disputes in the South China Sea, but President Obama called for Beijing to stop building manmade islands.

    GWEN IFILL: Back in this country, cleanup is under way in Washington state, after a deadly storm passed through last night, killing three people. Winds that topped 100 miles an hour brought down trees around Spokane and elsewhere, while heavy tray — heavy rain, that is, triggered flooding. In all, about 350,000 homes and businesses lost power. Utilities said it could take days to be restored.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Authorities in Minneapolis today identified two officers involved in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man, Jamar Clark. Sunday’s incident triggered demonstrations, and today police took down protesters’ tent outside the entrance to a precinct station. The activists insisted they won’t leave until video of the killing is released.

    Investigators say Clark fought with officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze after a domestic assault. His family disputed that account today.

    JAVILLE BURNS, Victim’s Sister: Despite what you have heard, every allegation without evidence is not the truth. Everything you hear is not the truth. Everything that seems is not always what it seems. My brother was a decent person. The heart that he had, I wish some of you would have half of it. Everything that’s happened to him, he didn’t deserve.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Witnesses have said Clark was handcuffed when he was shot. Police initially denied that, but now say they’re still trying to determine exactly what happened.

    GWEN IFILL: About 2,000 workers at seven major U.S. airports are set to go on strike tonight. Plane cleaners, baggage handlers and other employees are protesting over wages and their right to unionize. Among the targets, New York’s John F. Kennedy and La Guardia Airports, Chicago’s O’Hare International, and Boston’s Logan International, among others.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And this was the best day on Wall Street in a month, fueled by corporate deals and hopes for improving growth. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 247 points to close at 17737. The Nasdaq rose 89 points, and the S&P 500 added 33.

    The post News Wrap: White House warns of veto on House refugee bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    French special police forces secure the area as shots are exchanged in Saint-Denis, France, near Paris, November 18, 2015 during an operation to catch fugitives from Friday night's deadly attacks in the French capital.  REUTERS/Christian Hartmann - RTS7O9O

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: The hunt for culprits in the Paris attack triggered a seven-hour gun battle today. But after multiple explosions and 5,000 rounds fired, there was no official confirmation that the accused leader of the attacks had been killed.

    We begin our coverage with Malcolm Brabant in Paris.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: The terrible staccato of gunfire echoed across the Saint-Denis neighborhood overnight, as police fought a furious battle with suspects holed up in a third-floor apartment.

    French authorities say police stormed the building to disrupt an imminent terrorist attack. A woman in the apartment detonated a suicide vest, killing only herself. A man was killed in the fusillade of bullets and another explosion.

    Seven other men and a woman were arrested. Mobile phone video shot by witnesses showed unidentified men being hustled away. The target was the alleged ringleader of the Paris plot, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, seen here in an undated Islamic State social media video.

    Paris prosecutor Francois Molins spoke some hours after the raid’s end.

    FRANCOIS MOLINS,
    Paris Prosecutor (through interpreter): We have done a lot of work, which has allowed us to obtain, through telephony, surveillance and witness statements, elements that could allow us to think that Abaaoud might be in a conspirators’ apartment in Saint-Denis.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: It was earlier thought that Abaaoud was in Syria. After the gunfight, French military lined the streets, and police frisked passersby, as witnesses told of enduring hours of mayhem.

    SAMI BEN-ABDELKADER, Witness: It was like war. It was very, very noisy, what I heard. And, after, I understand that it was guns and bombs.

    NADIA LALA, Witness (through interpreter): I spoke to the emergency service. They said the police were on site and not to worry. So I thought fine. But then there was machine gun fire for half-an-hour. Machine guns in town, of course, you are going to find that scary.

    MALCOLM BRABANT:
    Another witness wished to remain anonymous:

    MAN (through interpreter): There was lots of gunfire. There was a policewoman who got injured. Other police officers were also wounded. There’s a pool of blood over there. I don’t know who was the victim.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Saint-Denis, a relatively poor district just north of the Paris beltway, is now effectively under military occupation. It has a large Muslim population among its 120,000 residents and is something of a melting pot.

    But, as one local man said today, that mixing goes only so far for some.

    MOHAMMAD TRABELSY, France (through interpreter): Our young people, frankly, feel quite separate, excluded from society. Our young people have no professional training. Our young people, they only have cigarettes, joints, and all manner of mind-altering drugs.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: But Nacho Petit Collot, a human rights activist who lives in Saint-Denis, is keen to emphasize that turning to extreme Islam is not a choice for the majority of young residents.

    NACHO PETIT COLLOT, Human Rights Activist: Some people are fragilized mentally. Some people can be, you know, turned, brainwashed for whatever reasons that make radicalization one exit. But let’s not stigmatize Saint-Denis or any other neighborhood, saying that this is the exit.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Although two terrorists are dead, and more are in custody, there’s no sense of complacency on the streets of Paris tonight. And the big question tonight is, what has happened to Salah Abdeslam, one of three brothers who was involved in the Paris attacks, and who has so far evaded all attempts to capture him?

    French authorities declared a state of emergency following the attacks, during which time security forces have conducted over 400 raids, making dozens of arrests. France’s Parliament will vote later this week on an extension of that emergency for a further three months.

    Today, President Francois Hollande said the grief and anger caused by the attacks must translate into action.

    PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, France (through interpreter): The emotion is immense. The anger is too. Each of us is experiencing an intense feeling of compassion for the victims of the attacks, and, at the same time, a demand for action, in order to neutralize those who committed these crimes.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: And in Germany, where a bomb scare at a soccer match last night in Hannover shook the country, Chancellor Angela Merkel said determination must be shown in the face of terrorism. She’d been scheduled to attend the game between Germany and the Netherlands.

    ANGELA MERKEL, Chancellor, Germany (through interpreter): This cowardly attack was nothing else than an attack on our freedom. And there can only be one answer to it, and that is determination. And that is why Germany supports France in order to fight against terrorist and its backers.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Meanwhile, French jets again hit Islamic State targets in Syria today, while the military announced that the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle left port steaming toward the region to reinforce their operations.

    Back in Paris, President Hollande said the attacks must compel international unity to take on the Islamic State.

    FRANCOIS HOLLANDE (through interpreter): I know very well that every country doesn’t have the same interests, nor the same ideas, nor necessarily the same allies. But what’s at stake here is putting an end to, destroying an army that threatens the entire world.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: But, for now, Islamic State militants show no signs of giving way. Instead, their online magazine carried a photo today, purporting to show the bomb, housed in a soft drink can, that brought down a Russian jet over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in late October.

    The Russians said yesterday they had determined that a bomb had indeed downed the plane, and they continued a heavy bombardment in Syria today, including strikes at the Islamic State.

    GWEN IFILL: And Hari and Malcolm join me now.

    Malcolm, you spent the day in Saint-Denis. Tell us what the conditions are like in that neighborhood, whatever you can tell us about that neighborhood.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: What was most striking, Gwen, was the fact that this place really did look like a city in war.

    In Europe, you’re used to seeing police around the place, but you’re not used to seeing soldiers out on the streets, and this place really was under military control today. And a colleague of mine said that it resembled Belfast perhaps in the sort of 1980s.

    But it was not like Belfast. It’s much more serious than that, because the British, for example, were not facing terrorists like this who are prepared to die. And you wouldn’t have 5,000 rounds being fired.

    The atmosphere in the place was really quite tense indeed. Most people were staying off the streets because they were so scared about what was happening.

    GWEN IFILL: One of the questions which have often come up, Malcolm, about immigration in Paris is that — or in Europe in general — is that there hasn’t been that much assimilation, that a lot of people have gathered in their own neighborhoods. Is that what Saint-Denis represents?

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Very much so. It is part of segregated Paris.

    And one of the things that President Hollande has been trying to say today is that France really wants to be generous to people coming in, and it will honor its commitment to allow 30,000 Syrians to come in.

    But the problem that he’s going to have is trying to assimilate these people, because these kinds of places like Saint-Denis and Molenbeek in Brussels, where there was this shoot-out the other day, there are lots of these places all around Europe where immigrants have gathered, where they feel disenfranchised, where they don’t have the same kind of opportunities.

    And more of these refugees are coming in. And they perhaps are going to end up even worse off than those people who are already there. And so the problem that Europe has is trying to be generous, but at the same time, it must make sure that there is integration, segregation — no segregation, and that there are opportunities for these people. And that’s really difficult, especially as the economies of these countries are getting worse.

    GWEN IFILL: And, Hari, you have now been on the ground several days in Paris. And I wonder whether this feels more like a police operation or more like wartime footing. What is the city feeling likes these days?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Right.

    Even today, when we were at different places that usually you would see flocks of tourists with their cameras, what we saw were people in military fatigues carrying machine guns. And what’s strange is that the Parisians that are just going about their daily lives as best they can have almost gotten used to it.

    I mean, this is what we have really seen in the last three or four days. They have gotten used to the sirens blaring at all hours of the night. They have gotten used to this military presence.

    And it’s a different feeling, because you look at it. This is a world-class city. It’s a place where so many people come to vacation and holiday. But maybe this isn’t the best place to be, if that’s the environment that you’re going to be in, where you’re constantly feeling surveilled.

    GWEN IFILL: Too soon to say that things have returned to normalcy, I guess.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes, yes.

    It’s also — the hard part is that it’s almost a cycle of suspicion, right, that now there are these immigrants or there are perhaps refugees that are going to get a second look or a third look, not just from the police, but other people that are normal Parisians. And perhaps that’s the that’s the beginning of their feeling where, wow, maybe I’m a second-class citizen here.

    And that just opens up them to, you know, recruiting by ISIS.

    GWEN IFILL: You guys have been doing great work. We will return to Hari and to his reporting on how the Paris attacks are changing attitudes about Europe’s open borders after the news summary.

    The post Mayhem in a Paris suburb as police search for mastermind appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A volunteer carries a rescued child after a boat carrying more than 200 refugees and migrants sunk while crossing part of the Aegean sea from Turkey, on the Greek island of Lesbos, Oct. 28, 2015. Since the Nov. 13 attacks on Paris, several U.S. governors have made statements vowing to keep refugees from entering their states. Photo by Giorgos Moutafis/Reuters

    A volunteer carries a rescued child after a boat carrying more than 200 refugees and migrants sunk while crossing the Aegean, Oct. 28, 2015. Since the Nov. 13 attacks on Paris, several U.S. governors have made statements vowing to keep refugees from entering their states. Photo by Giorgos Moutafis/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled that country to escape the ongoing civil war there. Migrants have trekked across Turkey, landing first in Greece, before making their way into Europe. European authorities have been overwhelmed by the mass migration. Meanwhile, the United States has announced plans to accept about 10,000 Syrian refugees trying to leave the region.

    READ MORE: U.S. to welcome 10,000 more Syrians. How are they picked?

    Lawmakers and more than half of U.S. governors, mostly Republicans, have raised questions about the vetting process for Syrian refugees being brought to the United States. Some said they were worried that Islamic extremists may try to take advantage of the U.S. refugee process.

    Here are a few things to know:

    — The U.S. annually accepts 70,000 refugees from around the world. This group includes people fleeing violence, religious persecution and war. The Obama administration announced earlier this year that the number of people invited to move to the U.S. as refugees would be increased to 85,000 in the coming year, including about 10,000 Syrians.

    — The U.S. has helped resettle about 2,500 Syrian refugees since the war started in that country in 2011. The Obama administration said about half that group is children, while about 2.5 percent are people over the age of 60 and roughly 2 percent are single men of combat age. The overall group is almost evenly split among men and women.

    READ MORE: Which states are saying no to resettlement of Syrian refugees?

    — Amid questions about background checks and security vetting, the administration for the first time this week disclosed new details about how refugees are investigated. The process is directed by the Homeland Security Department and involves the State Department and U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Refugees submit to in-person interviews overseas, where they provide biographical details about themselves, including their families, friendships, social or political activities, employment, phone numbers, email accounts and more. They also provide biometric information about themselves, including fingerprints. Syrians are subject to additional, classified controls, according to administration officials, who briefed reporters this week on condition that they not be identified by name to publicly discuss confidential details about the process. The Associated Press had been seeking details about the vetting process since September.

    — Administration officials have acknowledged that checking the accuracy or authenticity of documents provided by refugee applicants against foreign government records can be especially difficult involving countries that don’t cooperate with the U.S. government, such as Syria. It can also complicate U.S. efforts to check foreign government records for local arrests or lesser bureaucratic interactions, such as bank records, business licenses or civil filings. “We do the best we can with the information we have,” one U.S. official said.

    — As for concerns about potential refugees lacking documents to prove who they are, the administration officials said Syrians as a population tend to provide extensive documents involving their day-to-day lives. They often arrive with family histories, military records and other information that can be useful for American authorities investigating them.

    — Refugees who spent years waiting for approval to come to the United States said authorities asked detailed questions repeatedly in multiple interviews, including pressing them about their backgrounds and reasons for fleeing Syria. Nedal Al-Hayk, who was resettled in suburban Detroit with his family after a three-year wait, said officials interviewed him and his wife in separate rooms, asking repeatedly and in different ways where they were born, where their parents were born, what they did before and during the war or whether they were armed, part of a rebel group, supportive of the government or even politically outspoken.

    — Syrians initially file refugee claims with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which then refers them to the U.S. government. The process has no guarantee of approval and takes so long — Syrians wait nearly three years for approval to come to the U.S. — that experts said it would be a longshot for an extremist group to rely on the refugee program as a way to sneak someone into the United States. The Islamic State group has had far more success appealing to people already living inside the United States to commit or conspire to commit violence. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told lawmakers this week that roughly 70 people have been charged with crimes related to foreign-fighter activity and homegrown violent extremism since 2013.

    — House Republicans are proposing changes to the refugee vetting process that would include more background checks from the FBI. The proposed legislation, which could be voted on as early as Thursday, would halt refugee processing while the new protocol is established. The bill would require that the heads of the FBI, Homeland Security Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence certify that each refugee being admitted would not pose a threat. It could have the practical effect of keeping refugees out of the United States entirely.

    The White House on Wednesday threated to veto any legislation to toughen the screening process for Syrian refugees.

    Associated Press reporters Sophia Tareen in Chicago, Jeff Karoub in Detroit, and Bradley Klapper and Erica Werner in Washington contributed to this report.

    The post How does the refugee vetting process work? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved genetically modified salmon, the first such altered animal for human consumption in the United States. Photo by Getty Images

    The FDA has approved genetically modified salmon, the first such altered animal for human consumption in the U.S. Photo by Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved genetically modified salmon, the first such altered animal allowed for human consumption in the United States.

    The Obama administration had stalled in approving the fast-growing salmon for more than five years amid consumer concerns about eating genetically modified foods. But the agency said Thursday the fish is safe to eat.

    “There are no biologically relevant differences in the nutritional profile of AquAdvantage Salmon compared to that of other farm-raised Atlantic salmon,” the agency said in announcing the approval.

    AquAdvantage Salmon is engineered by the Massachusetts-based company AquaBounty. Ron Stotish, the company’s CEO, said in a statement that the fish is a “game changer that brings healthy and nutritious food to consumers in an environmentally responsible manner without damaging the ocean and other marine habitats.”

    The fish grows twice as fast as normal salmon, so it reaches market size more quickly. It has an added growth hormone from the Pacific Chinook salmon that allows the fish to produce growth hormone all year long. The engineers were able to keep the hormone active by using another gene from an eel-like fish called an ocean pout that acts like an “on” switch for the hormone. Typical Atlantic salmon produce the growth hormone for only part of the year.

    Bernadette Dunham, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, said the agency “has thoroughly analyzed and evaluated the data and information” submitted by AquaBounty. To approve an engineered animal for human consumption, the agency reviews a company’s data and must determine that the food is safe to eat, that the engineering is safe for the fish and that the company’s claim — in this case, faster growth — is accurate.

    Because there are no material differences between an engineered and a normal salmon, the FDA says the law does not require the fish to be labeled as engineered. That means once the salmon reach stores, consumers may not even know they are eating them. AquaBounty says that genetically modified salmon have the same flavor, texture, color and odor as the conventional fish.

    The FDA released separate guidance Thursday that would set guidelines for retailers that do want to label the salmon as engineered.

    Under pressure from activists who oppose genetically modified foods, some retailers have pledged not to sell the salmon at all. And it’s still unclear whether the public will have an appetite for the fish. Genetic engineering is already widely used for crops, but the government until now has not allowed the consumption of modified animals. Although the potential benefits and profits are huge, some people have ethical qualms about manipulating the genetic code of other living creatures.

    Critics call the modified salmon a “frankenfish.” They worry that it could cause human allergies and the eventual decimation of the natural salmon population if it escapes and breeds in the wild.

    “There’s no place on our dinner plates for genetically engineered fish,” said Lisa Archer of the environmental advocacy group Friends of the Earth. “We will continue to work to ensure the market, from grocery retailers to restaurants, continues to listen to majority of consumers that don’t want to eat this poorly studied, unlabeled genetically engineered fish.”

    The salmon has also faced opposition in Congress. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, has vehemently opposed the approval, saying the engineered salmon could harm her state’s wild salmon industry. She called the FDA’s approval “potentially disastrous” and said she will swiftly push legislation to mandate labeling of the modified fish.

    The FDA said the fish “would not have significant environmental impact.” The agency said the salmon can only be raised in land-based, contained hatchery tanks in two facilities in Canada and Panama, and that other facilities in the U.S. or elsewhere cannot breed the salmon for human consumption.

    The agency said that there are “multiple and redundant levels of physical barriers” in the facilities to prevent the escape of fish. The fish would be bred to be female and sterile, so if any did escape, they would not be able to breed.

    The agency said it will inspect the facilities, as will the Canadian and Panamanian governments.

    The post FDA OKs genetically modified salmon for human consumption appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Fall leaves blow past an empty home (C) seen in a well kept neighborhood where the house is listed on the auction block during the Wayne County tax foreclosures auction of almost 9,000 properties in Detroit, Michigan, October 22, 2009. The tax foreclosure auction stood as one of the most ambitious one-stop attempts to sell of urban property since the real-estate market collapse. Picture taken October 22, 2009.  REUTERS/Rebecca Cook (UNITED STATES BUSINESS) - RTXQ08W

    The nation’s largest housing recovery initiative led to more household spending, but impediments to competition kept it from reaching its full potential. Photo by REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

    Editor’s Note: For 29 years now, Paul Solman’s reports on the NewsHour aim to make sense of economic news and research for a general audience. Since 2007, our Making Sen$e page has vowed to do the same, turning to leading academics and thinkers in the fields of business and economics to help explain what’s interesting and relevant about their work. That includes reports and interviews with economists affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research.

    Making Sense/NBER logo

    Each month, the NBER Digest summarizes several recent NBER working papers. These papers have not been peer-reviewed, but are circulated by their authors for comment and discussion. With the NBER’s blessing, Making Sen$e is pleased to feature these summaries regularly on our page.

    The following summary was written by the NBER and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Making Sen$e.


    A number of government entities launched policies and programs designed to deal with the critical economic problems arising from the financial crisis of 2008, the housing market collapse and the Great Recession. The Federal Reserve maintained a low-interest rate monetary policy in an effort to spur growth and help the housing industry while Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 among other stabilization and stimulus programs. What were the effects of such programs?

    In “Mortgage Refinancing, Consumer Spending, and Competition: Evidence from the Home Affordable Refinancing Program” (NBER Working Paper No. 21512), Sumit Agarwal, Gene Amromin, Souphala Chomsisengphet,Tomasz Piskorski, Amit Seru and Vincent Yao examine the nation’s largest housing recovery initiative, the Home Affordable Refinancing Program (HARP). They find that it spurred substantial mortgage refinancing activity and freed up resources for households to spend on other items. But they also find that the HARP participation rate and additional consumer spending didn’t reach their full potential, partly due to impediments to competition within the refinancing market that hampered many borrowers from benefiting fully from the program.

    NBER HARP

    Started in early 2009 by the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, HARP focused on assisting millions of “underwater” American households whose mortgages, issued with help of government-sponsored entities, exceeded the value of their homes, particularly those with especially high loan-to-value ratios. HARP was designed to provide federal credit guarantees to borrowers with insufficient credit to refinance their loans, thereby helping them take advantage of the Fed’s low interest rate policy.

    HARP began in fits and starts. It serviced a relatively small number of borrowers in its early years and required constant rule revisions to make it more viable, including periodic increases in the loan-to-value eligibility rate. The researchers reviewed millions of mortgage records of both HARP and non-HARP borrowers and tracked the borrowing and spending patterns of the mortgagors. To analyze and compare HARP’s impact, they divided the households in the data set into two categories — those with loan guarantees from government-sponsored entities and those whose loans were not government-backed.

    The researchers found a large difference in refinancing activity between the two groups of borrowers. HARP took off, while the private refinancing market remained relatively frozen in the immediate post-crash years. Indeed, more than three million eligible borrowers, primarily with fixed-rate mortgages, refinanced at lower interest rates through HARP.

    On average, borrowers saw a reduction of about 140 basis points in their interest rate as a result of HARP refinancing. That averaged out to about $3,500 in annual savings per borrower. The researchers found that many of these HARP participants subsequently increased purchases of durable goods, such as autos, and also increased spending on other items and on services. These effects were particularly evident in regions that were hardest hit by the housing-market contraction and therefore more exposed to the HARP program. These regions also saw declines in foreclosure rates and faster recoveries in house prices after HARP become operational.

    But the researchers also found that competitive frictions in the refinancing market — among both incumbent loan servicers and new servicers — may have hampered the HARP program’s overall impact. They estimate that these frictions reduced the take-up rate among eligible borrowers by between 10 and 20 percent and cut interest rate savings by between 16 and 33 basis points, amounting to $400 to $800 of annual foregone savings per borrower. The largest effects were among the most indebted borrowers; they were the primary target of HARP.

    “Our findings suggest that a significant number of eligible borrowers did not take advantage of the program,” the researchers conclude. “While certainly the borrower specific factors or other institutional frictions (e.g., like servicer capacity constraints) may help account for this muted response, our paper finds that limits to competition in [the] refinancing market can also help explain part of this shortfall.”

    — Jay Fitzgerald, National Bureau of Economic Research

    The post Did the nation’s largest housing recovery initiative work? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book “Between the World and Me,” a memoir and historical analysis of racism and white supremacy in America, drew Toni Morrison to compare the author to James Baldwin this year and was published a few months before Coates won a MacArthur “genius” grant. It received a new honor on Wednesday as the recipient of a National Book Award in the nonfiction category.

    The other winners of the 66th annual awards, one of the most prestigious literary prizes in the U.S., were Adam Johnson, for fiction; Robin Coste Lewis, for poetry; and Neal Shusterman, for young people’s literature.

    Coates, a writer for The Atlantic whose widely-read essay “The Case for Reparations” catalogued America’s history of enslavement and systemic oppression as an argument for reparations, wrote “Between the World and Me” in the form of a letter to his teenage son. The book was published amid a national conversation on the relationship between police violence and race in the U.S.

    In his acceptance speech, Coates dedicated the award to Prince Carmen Jones, his friend who was shot by a police officer in 2000 when the officer misidentified him as the suspect of a crime. “I’m a black man in America. I can’t punish that officer. ‘Between the World and Me’ comes out of that place,” he said.

    Johnson won for “Fortune Smiles,” a short story collection that covers a wide span of topics, from surrealism to futurism, technology and politics. Watch the NewsHour’s chief arts and culture correspondent Jeffrey Brown talk to Johnson about his book “The Orphan Master’s Son” (2012), an account of a young man’s travels through North Korea.

    In the young people’s literature category, Shusterman won for his novel “Challenger Deep,” named for the lowest point of the earth in the Mariana trench, which depicts a young protagonist’s experience with schizophrenia. Shusterman’s son was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 16, and Shusterman has said his experiences informed the plot and title of the book.

    “When my son was in high school, he began to show signs of mental illness,” Shusterman told Horn Book Magazine. “In the depths of it, when he couldn’t tell the difference between what was real and what was in his mind, in a moment of despair, he said to me, ‘Sometimes it feels like I’m at the bottom of the ocean screaming at the top of my lungs and no one can hear me.'”

    Lewis’ debut collection “Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems” won the prize in poetry. The collection’s title makes reference to an 18th-century engraving that celebrated the slave trade; throughout the book, Lewis “recast[s] history in her own brilliant, troubling terms” with poems that explore racial stereotypes and depictions of black women, The New Yorker’s Dan Chiasson said in a review.

    The post Ta-Nehisi Coates, Adam Johnson among winners at National Book Awards appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    How can smaller, subtle, more persistent forms of discrimination affect environments? Join NewsHour for a Twitter chat with Dr. Derald Sue.

    How can smaller, subtle, more persistent forms of discrimination affect environments? Join @NewsHour at 1 p.m. EST Friday for a Twitter chat with Dr. Derald Wing Sue.

    Have you ever experienced a microaggression? These everyday insults usually ensnare members of marginalized groups and often go ignored, or even unnoticed, when compared to more obvious forms of discrimination. But according to Derald Wing Sue of Columbia University’s Teachers College, those subtle slights can sting just as much as overt racist or sexist remarks.

    Sue told PBS NewsHour special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault that microaggressions build hostile environments. He believes that’s what happened at the University of Missouri just two weeks ago. According to Sue, protests over racial hatred at the school followed a series of microaggressions aimed at students and faculty of color.
    Why do you think people commit microaggressions? At 1 p.m. EST on Friday, join Dr. Sue (@deraldwingsue) and @NewsHour on Twitter for a conversation. Follow along using #NewsHourChats.

    Special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault speaks to Derald Wing Sue of Teachers College at Columbia University about the ways that everyday “microaggressions” can affect people:

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    Congress asked for an extension to continue working on a highway and transit bill, the Associated Press reported on Thursday. Photo by Linda Davidson/The Washington Post via Getty Images

    Congress asked for an extension to continue working on a highway and transit bill, the Associated Press reported on Thursday. Photo by Linda Davidson/The Washington Post via Getty Images


    WASHINGTON — Congress has bought itself more time to finish work on a long-term transportation bill.

    The Senate has passed an extension of the government’s authority to keep highway and transit aid flowing to states through Dec. 4. That authority was set to expire on Friday.

    The extension — already passed by the House — now goes to President Barack Obama.

    Both the House and Senate have passed separate measures that would set transportation policy for the next six years. The bills are similar, but negotiators say they need more time to reconcile scores of differences and to settle on how to pay for transportation programs.

    Transportation groups say they’d rather have more money over fewer years than less money over six years.

    The post Congress buys more time to pass transportation bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Zhou Ziwei plays with his cousin at a shopping mall in Beijing, China October 30, 2015. Wang Yi, 34, an office worker, the mother of the five-year-old Zhou Ziwei said she does not want to have a second child because it takes efforts to raise her son. She does not expect the rule change bring more childbirths in China because many of her friends have hesitated to have second child since the implement of the one-child policy last time, as raising children requires a lot of effort. China has unwound its one-child policy, for decades a symbol of invasive and coercive government planning, but the shift has been met with a disinterested shrug from many younger couples. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon - RTX1TXVC

    China has unwound its one-child policy, for decades a symbol of invasive and coercive government planning, but the shift has been met with a disinterested shrug from many younger couples. Photo by REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

    In a landmark decision last month, China reversed its one-child policy and allowed married couples to have two children for the first time in 30 years. The move was spurred by the failure of previous attempts to stimulate childbirth and by the increasingly apparent slowdown in the Chinese economy. Yet the policy shift won’t help the current situation, which is driving the bursting of a credit-fueled investment bubble.

    So why did China change its policy now? One of the supposed benefits of a centrally-planned economy is the ability to look further into the future, and when China’s leadership did, it didn’t like the outlook. You see, China’s one-child policy created a demographic wave that is beginning to crash on the economy.

    Let’s remember that there are three primary sources of growth in any economy: labor, capital and productivity. Labor-driven growth originates from adding more workers to an economy. Capital-driven growth comes from deploying more equipment. And productivity-driven growth is the result of squeezing more output from existing labor and capital.

    Labor in China is unlikely to be a meaningful source of growth for the economy for decades to come. Sometime in the next few years, those leaving the labor pool will exceed those entering it. By 2035, 20 percent of the population is expected to be over 65. Young people entering the workforce — who are almost invariably only children due to the one-child policy — are already complaining about the pressures of taking care of aging parents on their own and have been dubbed by the Chinese media “the loneliest generation.”

    Estimates from the UN and the Population Reference Bureau suggest that the new policy will add 23.4 million extra people to the population by 2050 (Chinese officials are putting the number at 30 million).  Even so, the dependency ratio — the working age population to non-working age population — is on the rise and may soon emerge as an economic drag.

    China 2014

    What about capital? China is weaning itself off of a debt-fueled investment binge that has misallocated capital and created significant excess capacity. Its housing boom has turned to a bust. Might the dearth of home buyers be partially attributable to the one-child policy?

    Simple math suggests China needs to spend at least the same amount this year as last in order to not shrink.  But there are plenty of signs of excess in past allocations; investing more today to stimulate the economy — in the face of overcapacity — can lead to an even harder landing in the future.

    As for productivity, surely a factory worker is more productive than a farmer, and the ongoing urbanization can drive growth for many years to come, right? Not quite.

    While China’s data indicates significant potential for migration-fueled growth, much of this urbanization has already happened. First, China defines a region as “urban” if it has a population density of 1,500 people per square kilometer, but by that definition, Houston — America’s fourth largest city — is rural! Second, the most likely age band to migrate is 16-24 year-olds, and that age band has shrunk by 25 percent between 2010 and 2015 — yet another impact of the one-child policy. Third, China’s hukou residency permit system classifies individuals according to where they are from, not where they currently live (and we’ve already had lots of migration). Thus, there are those working in actual cities that are deemed rural, or those working in factories, but listed as farmers, and there are fewer potential migrants.

    My interpretation of these facts implies that China will continue to slow for the foreseeable future, even beyond the hiccups surrounding the transition from investment- to consumption-led growth. The world is underestimating Chinese urbanization, and there is a structural headwind that makes a low single-digit growth rate not just possible, but likely. This has massive implications for asset prices, interest rates, commodity markets and inflation rates.  It may take a village to raise a child, but one child can create global economic ripples.

    The post Is China’s one-child policy to blame for its economic slowdown? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The House of Representatives passed a Republican-backed measure to stifle the flow of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, attracting enough votes to override President Barack's threat of a veto, the Associated Press reported Thursday. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    The House of Representatives passed a Republican-backed measure to stifle the flow of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, attracting enough votes to override President Barack’s threat of a veto, the Associated Press reported Thursday. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — In a stinging rebuke to President Barack Obama by Republicans and Democrats, the House ignored a veto threat Thursday and overwhelmingly approved GOP legislation erecting fresh hurdles for Syrian and Iraqi refugees trying to enter the United States.

    Forty-seven Democrats joined all but two Republicans as the House passed the measure by a veto-proof 289-137 margin, a major setback to the lame duck president on an issue —the Islamic State group and the refugees fleeing it — that shows no signs of easing. The vote exceeded the two-thirds majority required to override a veto, and came despite a rushed, early morning visit to the Capitol by senior administration officials in a futile attempt to limit Democratic defections.

    Thursday’s roll call came six days after a burst of bombings and shootings in Paris killed 129 people, wounded many more and revived post-9/11 jitters in the U.S. and Europe. The attacks have turned the question of admitting people fleeing war-torn Syria and Iraq into a high-stakes political issue in both the United States and Europe, and many congressional Democrats were willing to vote against Obama for fear of angering voters nervous about security at home.

    Democrats opposing the GOP bill said the U.S. has no business abandoning its age-old values, including being a safe haven for people fleeing countries racked by violence. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks and controls vast swathes of Syria and Iraq, despite a growing military campaign against them by the U.S. and other nations.

    “Defeating terrorism should not mean slamming the door in the faces of those fleeing the terrorists. We might as well take down the Statue of Liberty,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.

    Republicans said that in dangerous times, the government must first protect its own.

    “It is against the values of our nation and the values of a free society to give terrorists the opening they are looking for” by not tightening entry restrictions, said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

    The 47 Democrats who backed the bill, largely moderates and lawmakers facing potentially tough re-elections, were joined by 242 Republicans. Voting no were 135 Democrats and two Republicans, North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones and Iowa Rep. Steve King.

    Before Thursday’s House vote, the White House sent chief of staff Denis McDonough and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to the Capitol to try winning over Democrats. Democratic aides said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., had a forceful exchange with Johnson, saying that opposition to the bill would be a terrible vote for Democrats that could cost them seats in next year’s elections.

    With the House’s 246 Republicans ready to solidly support the legislation, the administration was eager to keep the final tally for the bill below the two-thirds margin required to override a veto. In a sign of the conflicting political undercurrents confronting Democrats, senior House Democrats said they did not push rank-and-file lawmakers to oppose the bill.

    “I’ve said to them from the start, ‘Nobody’s asked you to do anything. Do whatever works for you, for your district,'” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who opposed the legislation, told journalists.

    Freshman Rep. Brad Ashford, D-Neb., who faces a tough re-election fight next year, called the Paris attacks “a game changer” and supported the bill, saying, “I cannot sit back and ignore the concerns of my constituents and the American public.”

    The measure, which in effect would suspend admissions of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, would require the FBI to conduct background checks on people coming to the U.S. from those countries. It would oblige the heads of the FBI and Homeland Security Department and the director of national intelligence to certify to Congress that each refugee “is not a threat to the security of the United States.”

    On the campaign trail, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said the U.S. should welcome refugees from the region and bolster America’s defenses and intelligence operations.

    On the Senate floor, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who hasn’t yet scheduled debate on the issue, said Thursday it is time “to press pause” so policy makers could decide whether adequate vetting procedures are in place, calling it “the most responsible thing for the administration to do.”

    Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he’s been disgusted by the comments from Republicans he labeled “fear-mongering and bigotry.”

    In a statement assuring a veto, the White House said the GOP bill would not improve Americans’ security. It said the legislation “would unacceptably hamper our efforts to assist some of the most vulnerable people in the world, many of whom are victims of terrorism, and would undermine our partners in the Middle East and Europe in addressing the Syrian refugee crisis.”

    The refugee screening process typically takes 18 to 24 months and includes interviews, fingerprinting and database crosschecks by several federal agencies. Syrians undergo additional screening involving data from the U.N. Refugee Agency and interviews by Homeland Security Department officials trained to question Syrians.

    The Obama administration wants to increase the 70,000 refugees to be admitted from around the world this year by 10,000, with much of the increase for Syrians.

    The White House said that of 2,174 Syrians admitted to the U.S. since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, none has been arrested or deported because of allegations they harbored extremist ambitions.

    The post House gets enough votes to curb Syrian refugees to override veto appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Carnations are seen placed on the ground during a protest against explosions at a peace march in Ankara, in central Istanbul, Turkey, October 10, 2015. At least 30 people were killed when twin explosions hit a rally of hundreds of pro-Kurdish and leftist activists outside Ankara's main train station on Saturday in what the government described as a terrorist attack, weeks ahead of an election. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

    Carnations are seen placed on the ground during a protest against explosions at a peace march in Ankara, Turkey, October 10, 2015. At least 30 people were killed when twin explosions hit a rally of hundreds of pro-Kurdish and leftist activists in what the government described as a terrorist attack. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

    This is a podcast. That you listen to. Click on this link to subscribe.

    Women make up 10 to 15 percent of foreigners that have traveled to the so-called Islamic State. And these women play a critical role in building the state.

    Audrey Alexander, a researcher at George Washington University, tracks the movements and behaviors of women who relocate to the Islamic State.

    On this week’s Shortwave podcast, Alexander describes the critical role these women play in helping other western Muslim women prepare for the journey to Iraq and Syria. She also describes the culture of widowhood and martyrdom underlying the group.

    “We see these women tweeting, saying, ‘I’m raising the next generation of lions. These are my cubs,'” says Alexander. “It’s not passive. It’s very proactive.”

    This is a podcast. That you listen to. With your ears. Click on the link above.

    The post Podcast: The women of the Islamic State appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Willie Nelson receives a standing ovation at the close of the tribute concert. Photo by Shawn Miller.

    Willie Nelson brings the crowd to its feet at the close of the 2015 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Neil Young, Paul Simon, Alison Krauss and others paid tribute to Nelson Wednesday night in Washington. Photo by Shawn Miller.

    Willie Nelson has weighed in on the debate over Syrian refugees.

    In front of a Washington, D.C., crowd, including a smattering of lawmakers, the 82-year-old “outlaw” musician sang that there’s “room for everyone” in America, after accepting the Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize for Popular Song Wednesday night.

    “I think this is one of the most appropriate songs that we could do for this period in America,” Nelson told the crowd at Washington’s DAR Constitution Hall. “Many years ago, I recorded this song and I felt like this might be a good time to kind of try to bring it back.”

    Bookended by his sons Lukas and Micah, Nelson then eased into 1986’s “Living in the Promiseland,” where he sang, “Give us your tired, your weak, and we will make them strong … There’s still a lot of love, living in the Promiseland.” At center stage, Nelson gave his variation of the poem found at the Statue of Liberty’s feet.

    Video by PBS NewsHour

    “Leave it to Willie: Only he can bring together Republicans and Democrats,” host Don Johnson said.

    Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) gave Nelson a big thumbs-up, while GOP congresswoman Candice Miller smiled warmly. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) also smiled and clapped generally throughout, but House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), as spotted by NewsHour’s political director Lisa Desjardins, watched expressionless, mostly thumbed through his cell phone until the end of the song, when he clapped with the rest of the audience.

    Only a man who once smoked weed atop the White House, according to Willie lore, could make a room with politicians slightly uncomfortable.

    There was a standing ovation, but the crowd didn’t sit back down because Nelson ended the night with the thematic one-two punch, following up “Promiseland” with “On the Road Again,” one of his signature hits. If “Promiseland” was the plea for acceptance, Nelson’s proclamation that “The life I love is making music with my friends” is the goal realized.

    Longtime friends and performers who paid tribute to the red-headed troublemaker at the beginning of the concert joined Nelson on stage to sing along in solidarity, including Neil Young, Rosanne Cash, Alison Krauss, Leon Bridges, Paul Simon, among others.

    Wednesday night’s concert was a snapshot of the musician’s storied discography of more than 100 albums.

    The Library of Congress awarded Nelson its pop music prize, saying that the singer-songwriter was a “musical explorer.”

    Country music legend Willie Nelson backstage at the DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Photo by Joshua Barajas/PBS NewsHour

    Country music legend Willie Nelson backstage at the DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. Photo by Joshua Barajas/PBS NewsHour

    “Like America itself, [Nelson] has absorbed and assimilated diverse stylistic influences into his stories and songs,” Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said in a statement. “He has absorbed and assimilated diverse stylistic influences into his stories and songs.

    Raised during the Great Depression in a small Texas farming town, Nelson has documented the weight of poverty, heartache and regret in a career that continues into its sixth decade.

    However, any roads of darkness described in his songs were traversed by a cowboy musician with flaming red hair in New Balance tennis shoes. Nelson’s drive has also meant a never-ending touring schedule of Fourth of July picnics, weed politics and small farm activism.

    Nelson is the first country music artist to receive the prize. The award has previously been given to Billy Joel, Carole King, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney and Paul Simon, who performed two of Willie’s songs for the concert.

    Young opened the proceedings with Nelson’s concert staple, “Whiskey River,” a jaunty take on a tragic struggle with the “amber current.” Simon, backed by accordionist Buckwheat Zydeco, did a little jig in the middle of “Man With the Blues.” Krauss sang “Angel Flying too Close to the Ground” with all the fragility of a love lost. And when Mexican singer Ana Gabriel sang the kiss-off “I Never Cared For You” in Spanish, the song’s agony was not lost in translation.

    Raúl Malo of the Mavericks took on “Crazy,” the iconic country ballad that Nelson wrote for Patsy Cline, years before he broke out as a solo artist in the 1970s.

    Much was made at the concert of how the young songwriter challenged the “Nashville machine” in the 1950s and 1960s. In his autobiography, Nelson said he had trouble selling “Crazy” to Nashville ears because “[i]f a song had more than three chords in it, there was a good chance it wouldn’t ever be called country.”

    “Crazy” had at least four chords.

    “Not that ‘Crazy’ is real complicated,” Nelson wrote, “it just wasn’t your basic three-chord country hillbilly song.”

    Many of the concert’s performers also didn’t mimic Nelson’s trademark off-beat phrasing, which never gelled with the Nashville standard. Especially in a live setting, Nelson is unhurried by the band.

    “I could sing on the beat if I wanted to,” Nelson wrote, “but I could put more emotion in my lyrics if I phrased in a more conversational, relaxed way.”

    President Carter, who was unable to attend the concert, wrote a letter to Nelson that Johnson read to the crowd.

    Carter congratulated his friend of 30 years, saying that the country music legend’s “music has enriched the lives of people far and wide for decades, and it is only fitting that your life’s work be honored in this way.”

    “Your music has become the soundtrack of our lives,” he said.

    Armed with his weathered, holey guitar Trigger on stage, Nelson, whose hair is now more gray than red, didn’t miss a beat.

    The 2015 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song tribute concert honoring Willie Nelson will air on PBS stations nationwide on Friday, Jan. 15, 2016, at 9 p.m. EST. Check your local listings.

    The post Willie Nelson sings there’s ‘room for everyone’ in America appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    This photo shows part of the ceremony initiating "thwasas," who are in training to become "sangomas," or South African traditional healers. Photo by Corinna Kern

    This photo shows part of the ceremony initiating “thwasas,” who are in training to become “sangomas,” or South African traditional healers. Photo by Corinna Kern

    Editor’s Note: Sangomas, or South African traditional healers, carry forward a long history of healing in the Zulu, Swazi, Xhosa and Ndebele traditions of South Africa. Chris Ntombemhlophe Reid, the first white sangoma of the Pondoland region, gave photojournalist Corinna Kern permission to document the practice of training his new students, who are known as thwasas. In this week’s edition of Parallax, Kern gives an account of part of one thwasa’s initiation with Ntombemhlophe Reid. 

    In one of the most beautiful spots in the Eastern Cape, one and a half hours’ walk from the next drivable road, Chris Ntombemhlophe Reid, the first white sangoma of Pondoland, has a homestead and trains the next generation of sangomas.

    Ntombemhlophe Reid conducts traditional ceremonies and mentors his trainees, who are known as thwasas. I photographed the thwasas’ lifestyle and training, which is focused on humility and self-deprivation. Their routine is shaped by myriad daily rituals that pave their way towards spirituality in order for them to become traditional healers.

    This photo shows a part of the ceremony during which the prospective sangoma is initiated as a thwasa. Three chickens were anointed with dream medicine and traditional beer and then placed on the thwasa’s head. I had the privilege to capture it from the front, a space that is usually reserved for the sangomas leading the ceremony. During the ritual, the thwasa closed her eyes while meditating, in order for the chickens to sit still on her head, an indication that the ancestors accepted them as an offering. I took this photo the moment after she passed the test.

    The ceremony marks the transition phase from the thwasa’s former freedom into a period of self-deprivation that can last up to several years. From then on, the new thwasa will kneel down when speaking, sleep on a thin mat on the ground and wake up every morning before dawn. Documenting this lifestyle was very eye-opening for me.

    The word “parallax” describes the camera error that occurs when an image looks different through a viewfinder than how it is recorded by a sensor; when one camera gives two perspectives. Parallax is a blog where photographers offer the unexpected sides and stories of their work. Tell us yours or share on Instagram at #PBSParallax.

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    Militant Islamist fighters wave flags as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province June 30, 2014. The fighters held the parade to celebrate their declaration of an Islamic "caliphate" after the group captured territory in neighbouring Iraq, a monitoring service said. The Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot previously known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), posted pictures online on Sunday of people waving black flags from cars and holding guns in the air, the SITE monitoring service said. Picture taken June 30, 2014.  REUTERS/Stringer (SYRIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT) - RTR3WKNM

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    GWEN IFILL: But, first, we turn to the question of why it’s so tough to choke off the supply of money to ISIS. There are new calls for countries to crack down on groups that may be financing them.

    Earlier today, authorities in Kuwait, which suffered its worst attack from ISIS this summer, arrested members of a cell providing money and arms to the terrorists. New estimates show the militants have resources in the Middle East that go much deeper.

    Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman, begins, part of our Making Sense series, which airs every Thursday on the NewsHour.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Since the Paris attacks this weekend, the forces arrayed against ISIS have been pounding the territory it holds, and, specifically, hitting oil it’s been extracting for sale, as oil is a key source of ISIS revenue, having made the group one of the richest terrorist armies in history.

    Earlier today, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton insisted the U.S. should be targeting ISIS’ money.

    HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, Democratic Presidential Candidate: When it comes to terrorist financing, we have to go after the nodes that facilitate illicit trade and transactions. The U.N. Security Council should update its terrorism sanctions.

    They have a resolution that does try to block terrorist financing and other enabling activities. But we have to place more obligations on countries to police their own banks.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Republican candidate Donald Trump has been even more aggressive.

    DONALD TRUMP, Republican Presidential Candidate: ISIS is making a tremendous amount of money because they have certain oil caps, right? They have certain areas of oil that they took away. There’s some in Syria, some in Iraq. I would bomb the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of them.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Meanwhile, there’s been a debate over just how much money ISIS actually has.

    Last year, David Cohen, then with the U.S. Treasury Department, said on the “NewsHour”:

    DAVID COHEN, Former U.S. Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence: In the aftermath of some of the airstrikes that have been taken, as well as some of the efforts that have been undertaken to restrict ISIL’s ability to use these smuggling networks, our estimate is that ISIL is now earning something on the order of a couple million dollars a week.

    PAUL SOLMAN: A report this week in Bloomberg Businessweek suggests Cohen was overly optimistic, citing new data from the Treasury that ISIS actually took in as much as half-a-billion dollars in the past year from oil.

    But just yesterday, Army Colonel Steve Warren, spokesman for the joint task force, said the stepped-up offensive against ISIS’ main source of revenue is paying off. For the first time, the U.S. is attacking oil delivery trucks.

    COL. STEVEN WARREN, Spokesman, Combined Joint Task Force : We destroyed 116 tanker trucks, which we believe will reduce ISIL’s ability to transport its stolen oil products.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Besides the oil fields in Iraq and Syria that ISIS controls, there are, however, three other major sources of terrorist funding, taxation, which might just as easily be called extortion in the case of ISIS, kidnapping for ransom, and, finally, the looting and the sale of precious antiquities smuggled from the region.

    This is economics correspondent Paul Solman reporting for the “PBS NewsHour.”

    GWEN IFILL: And now William Brangham has more about how ISIS gets its funding.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And for that, I’m joined by Cam Simpson from London. He’s a reporter from Bloomberg Businessweek who watches this subject and co-wrote that new cover story.

    So, Cam Simpson, you report on several misconceptions that the U.S. had about ISIS’ capacities with regards to oil. What was it specifically that we got wrong?

    CAM SIMPSON, Bloomberg Businessweek: Boy, I think, you know, William, unfortunately, we pretty much got everything wrong.

    We mis — we severely miscalculated the damage that we had inflicted on ISIL’s oil infrastructure during those strikes that started more than a year ago.

    And you had David Cohen in that setup peace. And those numbers that he cited, we continued — the administration continued to cite for months and months, at least, I think, seven months after that, well into this year, that we had bombed their oil revenue down to about $100 million a year.

    You know, what they discovered this year was that they had not only significantly overestimated the damage that we had done, but I think that they had significantly underestimated the amount of money that ISIS was getting. So the new figure that we have after a raid deep into enemy territory against the oil emir of ISIS, where they seized a massive trove of intelligence ledgers, is that they’re making $500 million a year.

    So that’s a really significant difference. I mean, $400 million is not a rounding error. That’s probably enough to pay most of their armed forces maybe twice over. It’s a lot of money.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You also report that we initially went after ISIS’ refining capacity, but not their crude oil capacity. What does the — why does that distinction matter?

    CAM SIMPSON: Well, I think, initially — and, again, this is what we know from what was said at the time during the strikes and sort of from the approach that they took and the approach that they are taking now going after the trucks — you know, I think that people believed that refined oil is obviously more valuable than crude.

    Refined oil is what you actually burn. It’s what you put in your car. It’s versus crude oil, which you can’t really use until it’s refined. And so since it’s more valuable, I think we thought they have got storage tanks just in places that they have seized that are full of refined oil. They have got refineries. If we take that out, they’re finished.

    Well, that’s not the way either that it worked, or they completely changed the way that they were doing business. Now they have got — when Donald Trump says he is going to bomb it everywhere, it’s just — it doesn’t work like that. You’re talking about, like, literally thousands of hose pipes buried in the desert, where somebody can pull up with a truck or even just fill a jerrican.

    And ISIS gets paid right there, at the end of that hose pipe. And then that guy drives off and he sells the oil. And he’s not a part of ISIS. I mean, oil is the lifeblood not just of ISIS, but of the entire economy in this region for everybody, I mean, for fueling generators, and getting electricity. It’s for asphalt for roads, I mean, for everything. So it’s an incredibly difficult challenge.

    When the Pentagon said this week that they had bombed 116 trucks lined up, and that was the headline, in some ways, to me, it was almost like you could say the headline is there were 116 trucks lined up to get oil, because we’d been watching these trucks drive around now for a year, and we haven’t gone after them, specifically because they’re civilians.

    There have been estimates that some of these lines, these queues at the bigger oil depots where the trucks are filling can be two miles long, can be four miles long. Some of these drivers sit in these lines for a month, you know, with their trucks waiting to fill up, sell the oil, and then come back and get another load.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You detail a lot of the ways that — the different ways that ISIS is able to get money, the selling of sex slaves, ransom from kidnappings, banks’ money that they have seized.

    One of the ways you detail that was incredibly fascinating was their system of taxation. Can you explain a little bit more about that?

    CAM SIMPSON: Yes.

    Yes. I mean, when you have power, brutal power, as they have over eight million people, you can squeeze literally every piece of life in that system. You can tax students. And the tax rates have varied depending on the grade that they’re in. You can tax people for working previously for a religiously inappropriate regime, whether they were soldiers, teachers, whatever. And they have to get an identity card that says they have repented.

    You know, those are — they have charged up to $2,500 for an identity card to say that you have repented that you have to renew every year for, like, $200. They’re squeezing everything. They can squeeze everything.

    There are taxes on utilities. There’s taxes on mobile phones. I mean, the idea that you can hit this with U.N. sanctions and the international banking system, it’s just so far-fetched. It’s impossible.

    When you have control of that many people, you can just continuously squeeze them for all the money that you need. And it’s probably even a bigger income source for them than the oil. And they’re really good at this. They have been doing this from the beginning since we have been dealing with them since 2005.

    This is the same group we went after in the surge in 2007. And they’re just really good at collecting money from every possible source that you can imagine.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Cam Simpson, Bloomberg Businessweek, thank you very much for joining us.

    CAM SIMPSON: It’s my pleasure. Thank you.

    The post What’s made the Islamic State one of the richest terrorist armies in history? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A Syrian refugee embraces his son after their overcrowded raft landed at a rocky beach in the Greek island of Lesbos, November 19, 2015. Balkan countries have begun filtering the flow of migrants to Europe, granting passage to those fleeing conflict in the Middle East and Afghanistan but turning back others from Africa and Asia, the United Nations and Reuters witnesses said on Thursday. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis - RTS7Z74

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now the politics of refugees here at home.

    Politicians at all levels, from both parties, weighed in.

    Our political director, Lisa Desjardins reports.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Dominating the U.S. House of Representatives today was the refugee crisis that’s been plaguing Europe for months.

    MAN: The bill is passed.

    LISA DESJARDINS: A bipartisan majority easily passed what’s called the America SAFE Act. The bill doesn’t mandate a pause for refugees, but it would likely force one by requiring that each Syrian or Iraqi refugee get a background check from the FBI.

    That’s something the FBI director has said may not be possible due to lack of data from the region. Then the FBI director, director of national intelligence and the secretary of homeland security would personally need to sign off on each refugee.

    In the eyes of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, the bill fills gaps in a dangerously weak vetting process.

    REP. PAUL RYAN, Speaker of the House: Our own law enforcement experts are telling us that they don’t have confidence that they can detect or block, with the current standards in place, that ISIL or ISIS is not trying to infiltrate the refugee population.

    LISA DESJARDINS: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stressed humanitarian concerns.

    REP. NANCY PELOSI, House Minority Leader: Families in Syria and Iraq are desperately trying to escape ISIS’ gruesome campaign of torture, rape, and violence, and terror of the Assad regime. The Republican bill before the House today severely handicaps the refugee settlement of the future in our country.

    LISA DESJARDINS: But it may be reaction without consequence. The White House has already vowed to veto and the bill, and it faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, where Democrats today proposed a different approach, toughen requirements for visitors from friendly countries, who can arrive with little vetting and no visa now.

    SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), New York: The visa waiver program has many, many more people going through it, millions. It takes virtually no time, as opposed to 18 months to 24 months, and there is much less vetting. We need to really tighten up that program.

    LISA DESJARDINS: The political waves continued to the local level. The Democratic mayor of Roanoke, Virginia, joined dozens of mostly Republican governors in opposing the resettlement of refugees in their communities.

    DAVID BOWERS (D), Mayor of Roanoke, Virginia: I have no opposition to American involvement in assisting the refugees. I just don’t think it’s time to bring them over here.

    LISA DESJARDINS: But just a few hours’ drive from Roanoke, in Arlington County, Virginia, they’re keeping out the welcome mat.

    J. WALTER TEJADA, Vice Chairman, Arlington County Board: We have an obligation to make sure that people from all walks of life that live in our community, and in our community, there are folks who speak over 100 languages, that they feel welcomed.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Local governments are weighing in, even though they lack the legal authority to direct the process.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Lisa joins me now from our newsroom.

    So, Lisa, it looks like at this point none of these Republican plans to put more limits on the refugees coming in can get around a presidential veto. So, what’s their strategy around that?

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s correct.

    There are a couple of strategies. But I think, in the end, the best chance for Republicans, they feel right now, is to actually leverage the next big fiscal crisis. And it’s not far away, Judy. December 11 is when funding for most of the federal government runs out again.

    And some Republicans are talking about attaching to the budget bill a — potentially be called the omnibus budget bill — some of these measures that would limit refugees or force a pause on the flow of refugees. Now, of course, Judy, that brings us to a standoff situation with the White House.

    And it’s not clear how the White House would react to that, whether either side would allow or shut down the government over this major national security issue. The president has said he would veto the bill that the House passed today, based on the idea that he says it actually takes resources away from where they’re needed and it would overwhelm the system.

    In addition, the FBI director today, Judy, said that he doesn’t think this bill is a good idea either. Now, one other note. This might not be the — the omnibus bill and spending might not be the only issue. Rand Paul is currently proposing his own bill to limit refugee flow. And he right now is threatening to hold up a transportation and housing bill over that issue as well.

    So this is ricocheting across many issues on the Hill.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa Desjardins, we thank you for that reporting.

    LISA DESJARDINS: You got it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on the debate over refugee resettlement, I’m joined by Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly. He was one of 47 Democrats who voted to tighten control of refugees. And Erol Kekic, he is executive director of the Immigration and Refugee Program for Church World Service. It’s an organization that provides placement and assistance to refugees around the world.

    We welcome you both.

    So, Congressman Connolly, let me start with you.

    Why did you join with the Republicans to vote for this legislation proposal to tighten restrictions on these refugees from Syria and Iraq?

    REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D), Virginia: Well, the tightening has to do with certification.

    And the bill essentially requires three government officials, the head of the FBI, the head of the DNI, and the head of Homeland Security, to certify that the refugees being allowed in the country are in fact not terrorists, that they have been vetted.

    Now, that adds an extra layer of bureaucratic review, but that’s what it does. It doesn’t stop the program. It doesn’t even have a pause by statute. It doesn’t finger a particular ethnic group. It doesn’t — it’s not Islamophobic, contrary to the rhetoric, unfortunately, of the Republican presidential candidates and the governors, which I find repugnant.

    And it allows the refugee program to continue. Now, it is a bureaucratic burden, but it seems to me it does the least amount of harm under the current circumstances, where Americans want some reassurance that we’re not unwittingly letting people into the country who could do us harm.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But just very quickly, it’s not just the Republicans making one argument. It’s the argument from the president, who said this is hysteria. It’s over what he calls widows and orphans, older people and very young children. And he said it does basically shut down the refugee program.

    REP. GERRY CONNOLLY: Well, I don’t think that he read this bill. I think he was reacting to the earlier wave of demagoguery and Islamophobia and nativism coming out of Republican presidential candidates and the Republican governors.

    And I agree with the president. But this bill doesn’t do that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, let me turn to Erol Kekic.

    Your organization, as we understand it, works with several other organizations. You have got something like 400 offices around the country, 49 states. My question is, what do you make of these efforts? You have been working with these refugees for years and years. What do you make of this effort today in the Congress?

    EROL KEKIC, Church World Service: Well, we’re certainly rather disappointed that the elected officials have succumbed to this mass hysteria that has been spewing over the airways over the last four or five days.

    Even the president of France, whose country has been under this horrible attack, has actually come forward and said that, despite this, they will still accept 30 refugees over the next — 30,000 refugees over the next two years.

    And, at the same time, here we are in the United States, where we had this orderly program, when we had refugees vetted by a number of intelligence and security agencies, falling for this hysteria, trying to prevent people from come into our midst. This is just repugnant and it’s, frankly, disgusting.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I think you heard Congressman Connolly say it’s merely an effort to tighten up the scrutiny that already exists.

    EROL KEKIC: Refugees are already the most scrutinized group of travelers ever to enter the United States of America. They go through an extensive process of vetting that is done by the most advanced agencies we have in the U.S. government.

    Now, if you can’t trust the U.S. government to do something, that’s a different story. But we are confident that the U.S. government has put in placed adequate measures to screen and screen, and screen then again, refugees who are coming through the program.

    These people are people on whom we have biometric information, people for whom we have background information, people who have been seen by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees before they ever get to the system that we have today. People have been seen by the Departments of Homeland Security, Departments of State, Defense and a number of other agencies.

    So, to focus on this particular group, instead of all of these other groups of travelers that are coming to the U.S., is simply a waste of time and, frankly, resources.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Congressman Connolly, you’re hearing him saying it is already a very thorough vetting process that is in place right now.

    REP. GERRY CONNOLLY: And, indeed, it is.

    I believe Mike McCaul, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and Speaker Ryan put together bill to allow some ventilation that does very little harm.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you mean ventilation?

    REP. GERRY CONNOLLY: Because there is a demand in the country for, prove to us we’re protected, prove to us we’re secure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Are you hearing that from your own constituents?

    REP. GERRY CONNOLLY: Oh, of course. I think all of us are.

    And I just — I have enormous respect for the work of the gentleman you just interviewed. I myself have a refugee background. And I have called for expanding Syrian refugees coming into the United States.

    This is a humanitarian crisis. And the biggest recruitment opportunity for ISIS is refugees camps that are left untended. But it’s a balancing act here. This legislation isn’t what the gentleman just described.

    Read the bill. It doesn’t stop the program. It doesn’t prevent refugees from coming in. He’s correct that we have a very robust vetting system now. This adds one more layer. And it seems to me that, if this were to become law, we could work it out, so that it’s incorporated into existing procedures and protocols.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Erol Kekic, what is the harm done if additional scrutiny is applied to these refugees in this particular time after these Paris attacks?

    EROL KEKIC: Refugees languish in refugee camps in urban situations for years on end ever before — before they’re ever referred to this program.

    Then they go through this extensive process, which takes anywhere between one and three years. I have been hearing this 18 to 24 months. In reality, actually, the process takes more than three years.

    And if we add an additional layer to this system here, are we trying to really age people out of the system before we ever resettle them? We can’t have this debate while refugees wait in refugee camps. The winter is coming. And we do not have enough money to support them in those situations. We need to do more.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about the humanitarian aspect of this, Congressman Connolly?

    REP. GERRY CONNOLLY: Well, 98 percent of refugees that have been allowed into the country from Syria and Iraq are elderly women and children, 98 percent. Do anyone really believe that an extra certification just to make sure is going to somehow exclude that 98 percent? I don’t think so.

    I think that we’re worried about…

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But won’t they be affected?

    REP. GERRY CONNOLLY: Well, they could be. And we want to make sure that that doesn’t happen.

    But, again, the question was, are we going to respond in any fashion or not to the tragedy that just occurred in Europe, or are we going to declare everything is fine here, and we’re unwilling to even look at an extra certification to make doubly sure?

    I came down on the latter side because I heard from the White House this morning, and their argument against it was essentially we don’t have enough staff to make that happen.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me back to you, finally, Mr. Kekic.

    What are the consequences if this — right now, the president is saying he will veto it. The Senate — there is no indication the Senate will pass it. But it has passed the House of Representatives. If it were to become law, what would the consequence be?

    EROL KEKIC: We’re really concerned that this additional layer would actually mess up the system that already exists. So, the pre-checks and clearances, they all have expiration dates. All of this will go back to the beginning of the system and will add two, three, four years to the actual system that already exists.

    I don’t see a benefit in that at all.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Erol Kekic with Church World Service, Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia, we thank you both.

    REP. GERRY CONNOLLY: Thank you, Judy.

    EROL KEKIC: Thank you.

    The post Does the U.S. need tighter security checks on refugees? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An armed French policeman secures the scene at the raid zone in Saint-Denis, near Paris, France, November 18, 2015 to catch fugitives from Friday night's deadly attacks in the French capital. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier - RTS7R4Q

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    GWEN IFILL: We return now to the Paris attacks, and the story of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the ringleader who managed to return to Europe undetected after joining Islamic State in Syria.

    To help us understand more about him and other radicalized Europeans like him, I’m joined by Wall Street Journal reporter Stacy Meichtry, and Lorenzo Vidino, director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University.

    And welcome to you both, gentlemen.

    Stacy Meichtry, how do — tell us everything that we know about Abdelhamid Abaaoud.

    STACY MEICHTRY, The Wall Street Journal: Well, he comes from a suburb of Brussels, where his family were — they were business owners. They had a house. And as far as they were concerned, they were a normal family.

    As he got older, he started a sort of career of petty crime, getting convicted for assault, breaking and entering, and he ended up serving prison terms in three different prisons. At some point, he decided to travel to Syria. And it was there where he apparently rose to significantly a high rank for a foreign fighter in Islamic State territory.

    He was known as an emir of war, which is a military commander.

    GWEN IFILL: So, he was part of his parents’ retail business in Belgium until 2013, and sometime between now and then, he not only got involved, but he became a leader in this.

    How significant is it that he was taken down today?

    STACY MEICHTRY: It’s very significant, first of all because it deprives ISIS of a significant commander.

    Second of all, this is somebody who managed to construct a broad network of associates capable of carrying out attacks. You know, the interior minister of France today said that he was involved in up to five different plots against European soil.

    And when they raided the apartment, his hideout, police came up against some significant firepower. And it was a pitched battle that lasted hours. This is someone who was capable of assembling a significant arsenal.

    GWEN IFILL: Lorenzo Vidino, how unusual is this, what we’re seeing here, what we’re having described here?

    LORENZO VIDINO, George Washington University: Unfortunately, not that unusual.

    We know that there are up to 5,000 Europeans who have gone to Syria and joined ISIS and other jihadist groups. We see quite a few of them that have gone back. Now, of course, not all those that go back are intent on carrying out attacks.

    I mean, Abaaoud was somewhat of an exception, in the sense that he was specifically going back and forth between Syria and Europe to develop a network of operatives and mobilize them to carry out attacks.

    But, unfortunately, the numbers are very high and there are a lot of problems for European intelligence agencies to monitor such a large number of people.

    GWEN IFILL: Well, that’s interesting to me, because people knew about him. They knew a little bit about his movements. Why wasn’t he tracked, or was he being tracked?

    LORENZO VIDINO: Well, we have got to find out the details of exactly what happened.

    And, clearly, that was a failure of intelligence on the French part. But, again, I think there are a couple of things to be mentioned here. First of all, as I said, the numbers, it’s so difficult to track such a large number of people.

    The French alone have up to 1,500 people who have gone to Syria to fight. And they have 11,000 individuals that they consider radicals that they have to monitor. Obviously, the manpower required for that is enormous.

    Add to that the fact that people can cross borders in Europe without having to go through any barrier and having to show a passport. So there is freedom of circulation, but intelligence agencies are still divided by countries.

    So he could have gone in from a certain European country, and the French would have not been notified by them. So there is this division among different European countries, and the terrorists exploit it.

    GWEN IFILL: Stacy Meichtry, what do these attacks and this investigation, what do they tell us about how these kinds of terror networks work?

    STACY MEICHTRY: Well, I think what’s remarkable about this case is that, previously, we had assumed that Islamic State in particular was almost a local militia. Their focus was to build a caliphate in Syria and Iraq in the Middle East.

    What this particular attack demonstrates is that they have really sort of expanded and developed the capability to launch indirect attacks on Western soil. They really have become sort of a global syndicate capable of activating operatives in the field.

    And in the case of Abaaoud in particular, this is somebody who was able to slip back and forth across European borders, go to Syria. He was seen evidently as recently as a few months ago in Greece. That was today’s revelation. So, you know, this really caught French officials off guard.

    GWEN IFILL: And we’re discovering now that he had other plots in mind?

    STACY MEICHTRY: In fact, we spoke to French officials today, and they told us that they believe that either he or the militants involved with him were planning an additional attack on Montmartre. And that, of course, is the neighborhood that hosts Sacre-Coeur.

    It is one of the most cherished neighborhoods in Paris. There were other plots afoot. Apparently, he was also thinking of launching an attack against Paris’ business district, La Defense.

    GWEN IFILL: Lorenzo Vidino, why Belgium? Why is Belgium such a hotbed for this kind of activity?

    LORENZO VIDINO: Well, Belgium, as a tradition, has given asylum some 20 years ago to a lot of very radical people who in a way have radicalized a new generation.

    There have been a few groups that operated there. And they were not necessarily violent a few years ago. But when the conflict in Syria broke out, they started recruiting and mobilizing and crossed the threshold from extremism to violence. And the Belgians never really cracked down on them.

    It’s also a country that has a lot of political problems internally, division between the French-speaking part, the Dutch-speaking part. The divisions, political divisions inside Belgium prevent the formation of a unified law enforcement and intelligence agency.

    So, they haven’t really cracked down on these networks. There is a lot of links also to organized crime. That is why it’s so easy for terrorist groups to get weapons on the black market in Brussels and other places in Belgium. So, it is somewhat, to some degree, the weak link in the chain of counterterrorism in Europe.

    GWEN IFILL: We heard that French — I think it was the prime minister, the foreign minister, someone, say today that they were worried about chemical attacks and biological attacks in the works.

    Do we know what that’s based on? Have we heard, have you heard any reporting, Stacy Meichtry, that suggests that that’s the next worry?

    (CROSSTALK)

    GWEN IFILL: That’s all right.

    Mr. Meichtry first.

    STACY MEICHTRY: Yes.

    It’s a constant concern. We don’t know exactly what the prime minister, what his sources were. Obviously, when we’re talking about Islamic State, you’re talking about a group that now occupies territory where there were the materials to make chemical weapons.

    Now, evidently, there was an agreement struck in order to de-weaponize those arms, but you never know. There are concerns always that there are still materials out there.

    GWEN IFILL: OK.

    Lorenzo Vidino of the George Washington University Program on Extremism, and Stacy Meichtry of The Wall Street Journal, thank you both very much.

    The post How terrorists exploit Europe’s divided intelligence efforts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Syrian refugees walk through a field near the village of Idomeni at the Greek-Macedonian border, July 14, 2015. The United Nations refugee agency said that Greece urgently needed help to cope with 1,000 migrants arriving each day and called on the European Union (EU) to step in before the humanitarian situation deteriorates further. More than 77,000 people have arrived by sea to Greece so far this year, more than 60 percent of them Syrians, with others fleeing Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea and Somalia, it said. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis - RTX1KAH1

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    GWEN IFILL: In the day’s other news, the refugee crisis in Europe took a sharp turn, as four countries imposed new rules in the wake of the Paris attacks. Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia, and Slovenia announced they will turn back economic migrants and allow only war refugees to enter their territory.

    That quickly created a logjam along several borders. A U.N. worker in Macedonia said about 1,500 people were being held back at the country’s frontier with Greece.

    WOMAN: The government, as far as I know, and what has been communicated to us here from the border officials is that the government has decided to let pass only Syrians, Afghans and Iraqi refugees.

    GWEN IFILL: Farther west, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann called for stricter border checks. But, in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged people not to harden their attitudes against Muslim refugees.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The fallout from the Paris attacks also dominated the U.S. presidential campaign today. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton said the U.S. must lead the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria with an expanded air campaign.

    But, speaking in New York, she said local forces in the region, not U.S. troops, should do the bulk of the fighting.

    HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, Democratic Presidential Candidate: Injecting some large contingent of American forces complicates that, in my opinion. Right now, we need to keep the pressure on the people on the ground, and get them to change their priorities and work together.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Clinton’s chief rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, echoed that sentiment at an event in Washington, D.C.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, Democratic Presidential Candidate: The bottom line is that is must be destroyed, but it cannot be defeated by the United States alone. A new and effective coalition must be formed, with the Muslim nations leading the effort on the ground, while the United States and other major forces provide the support they need.

    GWEN IFILL: On the Republican side, Jeb Bush called again for a more aggressive stance against the Islamic State, including an undetermined number of ground troops. He spoke to reporters in New Hampshire, after filing official papers to appear on the primary ballot.

    JEB BUSH, Republican Presidential Candidate: We can’t do this leading from behind, as the president has suggested. We can’t do it, as Hillary Clinton has suggested, up until today at least, that it isn’t our fight. It is our fight. It’s a fight for Western civilization.

    GWEN IFILL: The candidates have also been weighing in on resettling Syrian refugees in the U.S. Today, Republican Ben Carson said it’s vital to keep out potential terrorists.

    He told an audience in Alabama: “If there’s a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog.”

    We will explore the continuing politics of the refugee debate later in the program.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Elsewhere in the Middle East, violence between Israelis and Palestinians claimed five more lives today. One was an 18-year-old American tourist who died when a Palestinian in a car opened fire in the West Bank. Two Israelis were killed there as well. The gunman’s fate was unclear.

    Earlier, in Tel Aviv, a Palestinian attacked a prayer gathering in an office building. He stabbed two Israelis to death, before being captured.

    GWEN IFILL: President Obama is insisting that the civil war in Syria cannot end while President Bashar al-Assad remains in power. He spoke as he met today with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Asia-Pacific Summit in Manila. Mr. Obama said it is unimaginable that Assad would stay.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: An overwhelming majority of people in Syria consider him to be a brutal, murderous dictator. He cannot regain legitimacy. And if, in fact, he is still in power, then, regardless of what outside powers do, there is still going to be large portions of the population that are fighting.

    GWEN IFILL: Separately, the president said the attacks in Paris won’t change his mind about closing the prison for terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The former Subway Sandwich spokesman Jared Fogle is headed to prison for more than 15 years, after pleading guilty to child pornography and underage sex. A federal judge in Indianapolis handed down the sentence today. She also imposed a fine of $175,000. Fogle apologized in court, and said he regrets letting so many people down.

    GWEN IFILL: For the first time in decades, more Mexicans are leaving the United States than entering. The Pew Research Center reported those numbers today. It said a little over a million people returned to Mexico in the last five years.

    At the same time, 870,000 moved north into the U.S., reversing a longtime trend. Pew attributes the shift to a sluggish U.S. economy and stricter border enforcement.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Wall Street had what you might call an uninspired day. The Dow Jones industrial average lost four points, to close at 17732. The Nasdaq fell one point, and the S&P 500 slipped two.

    The post News Wrap: Four EU countries to turn away economic migrants appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In honor of World Toilet Day, some innovative designs that could change the way we think about commodes.

    In honor of World Toilet Day, some innovative designs that could change the way we think about commodes.

    Today is World Toilet Day. For some, toilets are something we don’t really think about, and we certainly don’t talk about. The point of World Toilet Day, however, is to remind us that toilets and sanitation are hugely important.

    Currently, about one-third of the world does not have access to adequate sanitation. This leads to problems including drinking water contaminated with fecal matter and having to defecate out in the open. The World Toilet Organization estimates that 1,000 children die each day because of poor sanitation.

    The problem isn’t just limited to the developing world though. In the U.S., toilets account for about one-fourth of the clean water we use. New toilet technologies, however, aim to change this. So, in honor of World Toilet Day, we have compiled a list of a few innovative toilet designs that show promise in helping to solve sanitation and ecological problems.

    Mobile toilets

    The lack of sanitation is especially problematic in slums. Around 1 billion people in the world live in slums. A lack of bathrooms can lead to violence and rape, as women venture off to secluded locations to use the bathroom. Another common practice, the use of “flying toilets” (urinatinginto a plastic bag and throwing it into the street), leads to the spread of diseases.

    Mobile toilets aim to combat these problems. These toilets are small, portable and affordable. The Peepoo, for example, is a biodegradable bag with a urea lining that can be used and then discarded almost anywhere. Other systems, such as re.source and x-runner offer small toilets that can fit in a home, which have removable waste collection bags that can then be collected and taken to processing facilities.

    Composting toilets

    For much of the world, having water-based sanitation systems simply isn’t feasible. For them, composting toilets may be the easiest system to implement. These designs take advantage of the fact that human feces naturally break down into compost when exposed to oxygen, and urine makes an excellent fertilizer. Designs like “the crapper” (Compact, Rotating, Aerobic, Pollution-Prevention Excreta, Reducer) create an eco-friendly toilet for developing countries.

    However, composting toilets aren’t just for the developing world. In the developed world, composting toilets are becoming a more and more popular part of the green movement. Last year in the U.K., the popular Glastonbury music festival used composting toilets. Composting toilets can be used on a smaller scale though. The BioLet composting toilet is an example of a composting toilet designed for houses, cottages or boats.

    Bio-energy toilets

    One of the most interesting aspects of toilet innovation are ideas that look at how human waste can be turned into a useful product. Just recently, the United Nations declared that the treatment of solid human waste could yield both fuel and biogas which would help increase sanitation, and reduce global warming.

    The Janicki Bioenergy Omniprocessor utilizes this idea to create a processor that converts sewer sludge into clean water, electrical power, and fertilizer. China has also been experimenting with models to turn waste into fuel and organizations like the Umande trust are trying to bring this technology to developing countries.

    Solar toilets

    Another problem with toilets in the developing world is that they need to be self-powered. Solar-powered toilets are one way of tackling this problem. In 2012, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded a team of researchers at Cal Tech $100,000 as part of their “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge.” Their design was a solar-powered toilet which recycles water and breaks down waste into reusable energy. Recently, the team has been field-testing the design in India and China, and plans to begin tests in South Africa soon.

    Solar-powered toilets are another example of a technology useful in the developing world as well though. In San Francisco, mobile solar-powered toilets have become so successful they are being considered in other cities.

    The post 4 innovative toilet designs to talk about on World Toilet Day appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The National Assembly is lit with the blue, white and red colours of the French flag in Paris, France, November 19, 2015, to pay tribute to the victims of a series of deadly attacks that occurred last Friday in the French capital.  REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen  - RTS80KK

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: French officials claimed a major kill today in their hunt for those behind the Paris attacks. They announced the ringleader of last Friday’s massacre died early yesterday in an all-out battle with police.

    Hari Sreenivasan begins our coverage.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Official word of Abdelhamid Abaaoud’s death came as forensic teams police worked at the scene of the raid that killed him in Saint-Denis. Authorities had already said two people were killed and eight others arrested.

    But, today, the Paris prosecutor confirmed one of the bodies was indeed Abaaoud’s, based on analysis of his fingerprints.

    French Prime Minister Manuel Valls formally announced it to members of Parliament.

    MANUEL VALLS, Prime Minister France (through interpreter): Most of you already know this, but Abaaoud, one of the masterminds, was found amongst those who were killed. I would like to pay tribute once again to the incredible work done by our intelligence services and the police.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The 27-year-old Belgian Abaaoud was thought to be in Syria. But he’d bragged in the Islamic State’s English magazine that he was able to slip in and out of Europe undetected. And at a news conference, the French interior minister complained that other countries failed to report his movements.

    BERNARD CAZENEUVE, Interior Minister, France (through interpreter): Abdelhamid Abaaoud obviously played a key role in these attacks. We didn’t receive any prior information from any European country where he could have gone through before reaching France. It was only on Monday that the intelligence services of a country based outside Europe told us they had evidence of his presence in Greece.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: French investigators believe Abaaoud was behind four of six failed plots since the spring. They have yet to detail his exact role during the Paris attacks or his location in the days leading up to it.

    The circumstances of his death in Saint-Denis are also unclear, although officials said his body was riddled with bullets. His cousin, identified as the other person who died in the raid, is believed to have blown herself up just after an exchange with police captured in this audio recording.

    (GUNSHOTS)

    HARI SREENIVASAN: There’s gunfire. Then police ask, “Where is your boyfriend?”

    “He’s not my boyfriend,” she says. And police again ask where he is.

    The woman repeats, “He’s not my boyfriend,” followed by more shots, and an explosion, possibly her suicide vest detonating.

    A day after the raid that killed the ringleader of the Paris attacks, the people here in Saint-Denis, a working-class neighborhood that’s trying to pull itself back up, are concerned that this event will undermine those efforts.

    Monique Jeffroy was born in Saint-Denis, and has lived here all her life.

    MONIQUE JEFFROY, Saint-Denis Resident (through interpreter): It gives the impression that this is a terrible town, with the police everywhere, everywhere. It’s far from the truth. That’s not what this area is like. On a cultural level it is a very interesting town. There are a lot of people who are motivated to help improve it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Inside the area cordoned off by police are dozens of shuttered shops, including one that employs Jean Francois De Fournier.

    MAN: If me — have to buy something, never I’m coming to Saint-Denis again.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Why not?

    MAN: For the security. Everybody will be afraid of Saint-Denis, like they will be afraid of the Bataclan.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Locals like Dies Granis are happy with the investigation into this act, but also with Parliament’s extension of the state of emergency today.

    DIES GRANIS, Nearby resident (through interpreter): It will allow the police and everyone to carry out inquiries more seriously without waiting for the bureaucracy, which will delay it. It helps open doors. I think it’s a good thing.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: That vote today in the National Assembly was overwhelming, 551-to-6, to extend the emergency for three months. It followed a fresh warning from Prime Minister Valls about what Islamist extremists might try next.

    MANUEL VALLS (through interpreter): The way of carrying out an attack, of killing, is constantly evolving. Today, nothing can be excluded. And I say this, of course, with all the necessary precautions, but we know it and we have it in mind. There is also the risk of chemical or biological weapons. This is a new kind of war, because borders are of no concern.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Meanwhile, in Belgium, there were nine more raids today in and around the poor Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek. Authorities said nine people were detained in all. Seven had ties to Bilal Hadfi, one of the suicide bombers who died in the Paris attacks. Molenbeek was also the home of Salah Abdeslam, another suspect in the attacks who’s still on the run.

    Belgian police have now issued this alert about him.

    MAN (through interpreter): Salah Abdeslam, one of the main suspects in the attacks, is possibly still in our country. The man is 26, slim and about 5 feet, 9 inches tall. He is extremely dangerous and likely armed too. So, in case you see him, certainly do not take action yourself, but warn police immediately.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In addition, Belgium’s prime minister, Charles Michel, announced a series of new measures, including $427 million to expand the anti-terror fight.

    CHARLES MICHEL, Belgian Prime Minister (through interpreter): We want to act along four major lines, first to eradicate messages of hate and calls to violence, second, to concentrate efforts and our means on individuals who have been flagged as potentially dangerous, third, to strengthen the security measures, and, finally, to act on an international level.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Michel also said he wants to amend the Belgian constitution to lengthen the time terror suspects can be held without a charge.

    And in Italy, authorities announced they’re looking for five people after a U.S. warning that Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, among other sites, might be potential targets in a new plot.

    Italian authorities also made a couple of arrests today. A couple of men were trying to get to Malta on fake passports. But those aren’t the only arrests. In Sweden, there was an arrest of an Iraqi man with suspected ties to Iraq. And in Kuwait, there was a group of arrests of what they think is an ISIS cell that was supporting them with funds and with weapons — Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Hari, I noticed in your report you mentioned French officials complaining today about intelligence sharing, or the lack thereof, from other countries. And then now we see these arrests happening all over Europe.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes.

    In fact, the head of Europol, Rob Wainwright, actually spoke at the European Parliament today. And this is what he was pleading for, that how we do we figure out a way to get these 28 countries to share intelligence?

    The Europol folks have a database. They say there are 2,000 European fighters who have left Europe and gone to Iraq or Syria perhaps to be trained.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, Hari, tell us, what are the French themselves doing to step up their own efforts, whether it’s intelligence or whatever else?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Right.

    The prime minister today called for a deeper investigation in exactly how it is that Abaaoud was able to slip in and out and even brag about it in that magazine about how he can get into Europe so easily. And the president, President Hollande, after meeting with his defense council, also said they’re — quote — “intensifying” their militaries actions against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hari, finally, do you get the sense that French officials continue to feel under a lot of pressure over this?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes, I think so, because right now — today was the Lower House of Parliament. Tomorrow, there is another house that will vote on this.

    If today’s vote is any indication, it will be probably be nearly unanimous there as well. But there is a sense of urgency here. People are expecting their politicians to be held accountable, especially considering the gravity of this attack.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Hari Sreenivasan, joining us once again from Paris, thanks. And we will turn to the growing threat of Islamic State attacks around the world after the news summary.

    The post Confirming death, France laments lack of intelligence sharing over Paris suspect’s movements appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Image from a video shows a hostage rushed out of the Radisson hotel in Bamako, Mali, on Nov. 20. Gunmen shouting Islamic slogans attacked a luxury hotel full of foreigners in Mali's capital Bamako early on Friday morning, taking 170 people hostage, a senior security source and the hotel's operator said. Image from Reuters TV

    Image from a video shows a hostage rushed out of the Radisson hotel in Bamako, Mali, on Nov. 20. Gunmen shouting Islamic slogans attacked a luxury hotel full of foreigners in Mali’s capital Bamako early on Friday morning, taking 170 people hostage, a senior security source and the hotel’s operator said. Image from Reuters TV

    Gunmen stormed a Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital Bamako Friday morning, taking more than 100 hostages. At least 27 people were reported dead by the end of the day-long siege.

    Malian troops responded by going floor to floor freeing the hostages, Malian army commander Modibo Nama Traore told the Associated Press. U.S. and French special forces assisted with the response.

    By 5 p.m. local time, all hostages had been freed, according to Malian state television. U.N. officials said at least 27 people had been killed.

    The Brussels-based Rezidor Hotel group said that about 170 guests and employees were in the hotel at the time, reported the AP.

    A U.S. military official said at least six Americans were among those freed from the luxury hotel.

    One guest said the attackers told him to recite verses from the Quran before he was released.

    A jihadist group, known as the Mourabitounes, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it wanted its fighters freed from Malian prisons and for attacks in the North to stop.

    In 2013, several jihadi groups had taken over the northern part of Mali, a former French colony, before French forces helped the Malian army extricate them.

    Friday’s attack came a week after Islamic State followers exploded devices and fired into cafes and a concert venue in Paris, killing 129 people.

    “We should yet again stand firm and show our solidarity with a friendly country, Mali,” said French President Francois Hollande.

    The U.S. Embassy in Mali told citizens to shelter in place and contact their families.

    The post Siege over as special forces free hostages at hotel in Mali appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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