Articles on this Page
- 06/15/16--11:21: _Gravity waves, the ...
- 06/15/16--13:17: _What sorrow, fear a...
- 06/15/16--13:20: _How do dolphins com...
- 06/15/16--13:57: _Column: Are we head...
- 06/15/16--14:21: _Why the Orlando sho...
- 06/15/16--14:27: _CDC: Zika infection...
- 06/15/16--15:10: _An Orlando Muslim’s...
- 06/15/16--15:14: _Polio strain found ...
- 06/15/16--15:25: _New book, ‘Listen L...
- 06/15/16--15:30: _Egypt says it has f...
- 06/15/16--15:30: _The daunting strugg...
- 06/15/16--15:35: _Muslim-Americans fa...
- 06/15/16--15:40: _Study slams trouble...
- 06/15/16--15:45: _Measuring the ‘Trum...
- 06/15/16--15:50: _News Wrap: Senate D...
- 06/16/16--10:04: _VA benefits chief r...
- 06/16/16--10:19: _British lawmaker ki...
- 06/16/16--13:36: _Three U.S. infants ...
- 06/16/16--14:00: _As Brexit vote appr...
- 06/16/16--14:16: _This computer algor...
- 06/15/16--13:17: What sorrow, fear and love sound like in Orlando right now
- 06/15/16--13:57: Column: Are we headed for a recession?
- First, the economy is already growing at a slow pace, meaning that otherwise minor issues—let alone major ones—could push it into negative territory.
- Second, many are concerned about a downturn in the Chinese economy, which could spread to the U.S.
- Third, declining business investment is making economists nervous; spending on capital goods has declined 12 percent since September 2014.
- Finally, they point to the uncertainty surrounding this year’s presidential race as a possible recession catalyst.
- 06/15/16--14:21: Why the Orlando shooter fell off the FBI’s radar screen
- Why wasn’t the FBI even alerted when Omar Mateen — investigated for 10 months for suspected terrorist links or sympathies — tried to buy an assault weapon after the case was “closed?”
- Why didn’t the FBI continue to monitor at least his social media postings after it “closed” the case?
- 06/15/16--14:27: CDC: Zika infection without symptoms can harm fetus too
- 06/15/16--15:10: An Orlando Muslim’s heartfelt words on nightclub mass shooting
- 06/15/16--15:25: New book, ‘Listen Liberal,’ looks at Democratic party schism
- 06/15/16--15:30: Egypt says it has found the wreckage from missing EgyptAir plane
- 06/15/16--15:30: The daunting struggle to diversify elite public high schools
- 06/15/16--15:35: Muslim-Americans face backlash after Orlando mass shooting
- 06/15/16--15:40: Study slams troubled Oakland police department for racial bias
- 06/15/16--15:45: Measuring the ‘Trump effect’ on the 2016 presidential race
- 06/15/16--15:50: News Wrap: Senate Democrats launch gun control filibuster
- 06/16/16--10:04: VA benefits chief retiring, was suspended in relocation scam
- 06/16/16--10:19: British lawmaker killed ahead of Brexit vote
Gravitational waves have struck again. Scientists who in February announced their landmark discovery of these ripples in spacetime revealed on Wednesday that they had detected more—again caused by a pair of crashing black holes. The gargantuan gravitational forces involved when two such incredibly dense objects ram into each other are so catastrophic that they wrench spacetime out of shape, curving it in powerful waves that travel clear across the cosmos.
This second find shows that the initial discovery was not a rare windfall, but rather a preview of many more to come, ushering in an era where astronomers can use gravitational waves, rather than light, to “see” black holes and other invisible components of the hidden universe.
“Our intent was not to just detect the first gravitational wave or prove Einstein right or wrong—it’s to create an observatory,” says LIGO spokesperson Gabriela González of Louisiana State University. “Now we can really say the goal of LIGO has been justified.”
“It allows us to explore literally the dark side of the universe,” says Arizona State University theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, who is not involved in LIGO. “Gravitational-wave astronomy will become the astronomy of the 21st century.”
Smaller black holes
The newfound gravitational waves began about 1.4 billion years ago in the merger of two black holes—one about 14 times and the other about eight times the mass of the sun—that had gradually circled closer and closer to each other and eventually smashed together, according to scientists’ calculations. The crash produced a new black hole containing 21 times the mass of the sun—the missing mass from the parent black holes was converted to energy in the form of gravitational waves.
Compared with LIGO’s first detection, which came from two larger colliding black holes (each roughly 30 solar masses), this merger created gravitational waves of a higher frequency that were “visible” longer than those involved in the initial discovery. In that case, scientists witnessed just one or two orbits of the black holes around each other but here they were able to track the objects’ final 27 orbits before they crashed.
“That allows for better tests of general relativity and better characterization of the black holes’ parameters,” González says.
This time the researchers were also able to measure the black holes’ spin rates and found that at least the larger one was definitely twirling, likely at some 20 percent of the maximum theoretical spin for a black hole.
“With the first detection it looked like the two black holes could be non-spinning,” says LIGO team member Vicky Kalogera of Northwestern University, “so this is a new finding.”
The gravitational waves announced Wednesday reached LIGO on December 26, 2015—just under three months after the observatory saw its first signal on September 14. LIGO uses two detectors—one in Louisiana and the other in Washington State—to capture the squeezing and expanding of spacetime that occurs when a gravitational wave passes through Earth.
Both detectors are giant L shapes with four-kilometer-long legs. Scientists use mirrors to bounce laser beams back and forth through the legs and measure how long it takes to make the trip. Under normal circumstances the two legs are the same length and the travel times of the two light beams are exactly the same duration. But if a gravitational wave passes, the space between the mirrors will expand and contract minutely in one direction and the two perpendicular legs will briefly have unequal lengths, causing one of the laser beams to arrive a fraction of a second later than the other.
The change is infinitesimal—LIGO must be able to measure a difference in length smaller than one ten-thousandth the diameter of a proton in order to detect the waves. The $1-billion experiment, now officially called Advanced LIGO, is an upgraded version of a project that has been in the making since the 1960s and was first turned on in 2002. Its initial discovery earlier this year electrified the science community as well as the public and won the experiment’s founders the 2016 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics and a Breakthrough Prize as well as many other accolades. It has inspired dozens of follow-up theoretical papers analyzing all aspects of the discovery, from explorations of a possible connection between the black holes and dark matter to a discussion of whether they were not black holes at all, but wormholes.
“The most interesting work was done outside of LIGO,” says LIGO team member Szabolcs Márka of Columbia University. “That’s how science should work.”
After the dawn of gravitational astronomy
Advanced LIGO has now completed its initial run of observations, which lasted from September through January. Its detectors are currently offline for upgrades, and scientists plan a test run in July. If that goes well, a second live run lasting about six months could start in the late summer.
Meanwhile researchers continue to analyze the data from the first run. In addition to black hole collisions, physicists hope to find gravitational waves produced by neutron stars—the extremely small and dense hulks of former stars in which all the protons and electrons have been crammed so tightly that they essentially merge to form neutrons. If two neutron stars crashed together, they would theoretically trigger gravitational waves, which could also result from one spinning neutron star that is a bit lopsided, possibly with a protrusion on one side.
“That’s not an explosive event like the collision of black holes—it would produce gravitational waves that are much fainter,” says Georgia Institute of Technology physicist Laura Cadonati, who chairs the LIGO Data Analysis Council. “That’s a long-term search—it takes time—that’s still being run now.”
As the team gathers more data, the researchers hope to be able to learn more about how black hole binary pairs originate. Perhaps most come from stars that were originally in pairs and then died, becoming black holes that stayed in orbit around each other. Another scenario suggests that binaries are born in tight stellar clusters, when black holes that might have started off as single stars before they died get caught up in each other’s gravity.
“This is my primary interest—can we tell how these binary black holes actually form in reality?” Kalogera asks. “Is there one of these mechanisms dominating or is it more of a mixture?”
And the more gravitational waves LIGO finds, the better it can test whether they seem to fit predictions from general relativity. Although most scientists expect they likely will—after all, the theory has passed every test thrown at it so far—physicists would love to see some kind of deviation from relativity that points to a subtler truth about the universe. Such a discrepancy might provide a clue that helps devise a theory of gravity compatible with quantum mechanics, the current reigning rules of the microscopic realm.
“So far we have found no inconsistencies with general relativity,” Cadonati says, “but if we start seeing anomalies—which can only come with higher statistics—we may start exploring beyond general relativity.”
In any case, scientists hope LIGO’s first two findings are just the beginning of a long and productive future for the experiment.
“Three generations have already worked on this,” Márka says, “and there will be three generations more at least. We are only in the middle. Isn’t that gorgeous?”
The post Gravity waves, the sequel. LIGO detects second pair of crashing black holes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
ORLANDO, Fla. — On June 12, a gunman open fire in a crowded gay nightclub, killing 49 people and injuring 53 in the deadliest shooting in modern American history. The gunman, identified as 29-year-old Omar Mateen, later shot and killed himself.
We’ve been reporting on the ground in Orlando since Sunday. We spoke with people at an LGBT community center, a local mosque, a blood donation center and a vigil for victims of the shooting. We spoke with people in the Puerto Rican community and people on the street. Here’s what they said.
Imam Tariq Rasheed
“It’s tragic, it’s tragic across the board. You know, we saw the act of what one person can do, but in the same day, within 12 hours, we saw the acts of what many can do together to really fight this incident and really try to come together and help each other. I think it hits home because a lot of Latin brothers and sisters were there. But we’re all one community at the end of the day.”
The post What sorrow, fear and love sound like in Orlando right now appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Denise Herzing’s research team hopes to crack the code of spotted dolphins’ underwater communication system. PBS NewsHour Science correspondent Miles O’Brien takes a deeper look at the group’s database of whistles, clicks and other sounds and their attempts to talk back. Video by PBS NewsHour
For more than 30 years, Marine mammalogist Denise Herzing and her team have studied the behavior and cognitive abilities of wild spotted dolphins living in shallow water off the Bahamas.
“I see them probably more than some of my human friends, to be honest,” Herzing said. “They have personalities, they have different ways of greeting you sometimes, so they’re unique in their own right as well.”
Over time, the group has compiled a large database of the dolphins’ whistles, clicks and other sounds and hope to use the information to crack the code of their underwater communication system.
“What we discovered is that indeed there seems to be this regularity to the sounds,” said Thad Starner a Georgia Institute of Technology computer scientist collaborating with Herzing. “Just by looking at the audio, we can predict what you’re seeing in the videos.”
PBS NewsHour Science correspondent Miles O’Brien recently took a deeper look at the team’s research and attempts to talk back to the dolphins.
The post How do dolphins communicate? Cracking the code of the mammal’s whistles and clicks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
After seven years of expansion, the U.S. economy appears to be headed for a recession. Earlier this month, a weak jobs report bolstered fears that hiring has been slowing and hundreds of thousands have been dropping out of the labor force. Employment growth is running at half the pace it was in 2015. Meanwhile, the Fed’s broader Labor Market Conditions Index has been dropping, economists have lowered their estimates of job growth over the next 12 months, the manufacturing sector is on the verge of contracting and the economy grew at a rate of only 0.8 percent in the first three months of this year.
A number of other indicators that suggest oncoming recessions are blinking. While the yield curve on Treasuries may no longer be the clear guide to future downturns it once was, the difference between 2- and 10-year Treasury note yields is the smallest it’s been since before the last recession. This matters because it telegraphs investor pessimism via strong demand for long-term bonds. It also foretells a possible contraction of bank lending. How’s that? Because banks earn long-term yields and pay depositors short-term rates, a flattening yield curve implies shrinking profits – a pattern that usually results in less lending.
Depressing stats about the U.S. economy are everywhere. Corporate profits have declined—a dynamic that has historically been associated with recessions. In the last three months of 2015, they fell over 10 percent compared to the previous year, the biggest drop since 2008. Although they ticked up at the start of 2016, a tighter labor market could erode this progress. As Morgan Creek Capital Management chief executive Mark Yusko pointed out at John Mauldin’s Strategic Investment Conference in Dallas last month, the last few times consensus future earnings estimates for S&P 500 companies turned negative were 1990-1991, 2001, and 2008-2009—the last three recessions. It happened again at the end of 2015. Moreover, growth in household net worth has slowed to zero, a shift that has also coincided with past recessions.
Yet not everyone is fixated on doom and gloom. As the economist Justin Wolfers pointed out, the dire jobs report was not as bad as it seemed, because seasonal factors and the Verizon strike may have made the situation look worse than it really was. Since the report, more than 35,000 Verizon workers are back to work. Demographic factors—baby boomer retirement in particular—also reduce the number of jobs we need to create each month to maintain our low level of unemployment, Wolfers added. On top of that, consumer spending is on the rise, service sector revenue has picked up, and data released last week showed that unemployment benefits claims had fallen.
In the aftermath of the jobs report, Fed chair Janet Yellen emphasized the positive over the negative, pointing to strong auto and housing markets, and signs of worker confidence. Despite her cautious optimism, we shouldn’t be surprised if growth turns negative. The current expansion is already one of the longest in modern U.S. history. As Larry Summers points out, if history is any guide, a recession is more likely than not to happen in the next three years.
Even over the next 12 months, economists think there’s a 21 percent chance of recession. A Wall Street Journal survey of economists emphasized four factors in particular that could lead to a contraction.
Other potential risks include the UK voting to leave the EU, a recession in Japan, an oil price shock, and an asset price collapse. Macro strategist Worth Wray also notes the possibility of European banks failing. Recently, George Soros has grabbed headlines making pessimistic bets on some of these risks, selling stocks and buying gold-related assets. A growing interest in the precious metal among high-profile investors is a sign of how widespread fear has become.
If we do find ourselves in a recession, the Fed will have few tools left to deploy. Interest rates are already extremely low, leaving limited room for lowering the cost of money. It could experiment with negative rates, but that hasn’t worked so well in Europe. Or it could try even more exotic maneuvers like helicopter money—in Ben Bernanke’s words, “an expansionary fiscal policy—an increase in public spending or a tax cut—financed by a permanent increase in the money stock.” Doing so would likely require coordination with Congress to allocate the funds. And no disrespect to our legislators, but they’re not exactly cooperative these days. Politics will constrain fiscal spending.
The shortfall of tools is just as worrying at the state-level. According to the Brookings Institution, last year “only eight states had accumulated enough in their rainy-day funds to offset a hypothetical one-year loss of 10 percent or more of their annual expenditures.” The blunt fact is that states are as ill-equipped to handle a downturn as is the federal government.
So while we have a potential recession to fear, our inability to fight it may be even scarier.
The jumbled picture emerging of Orlando shooter Omar Mateen — his statements to friends and coworkers and his tangled personal history — lay bare the dilemma for law enforcement in confronting the growing threat of home-grown lone wolf terrorists.
FBI Director James Comey summed it up this week. The Bureau isn’t only looking for “needles in a national haystack,” he said. “We are also called upon to figure out which pieces of hay might someday become needles.”
That transformation is not easy to detect, not lawfully at least. It’s not against U.S. law to criticize the U.S. government in violent terms, or to watch jihadist videos, or even to express support for what terrorists are doing. It’s only illegal when a citizen takes steps to act on these extremist views.
“The key challenge is to figure out, when does an individual move from being aspirational to operational?” says Fran Townsend, former Homeland Security Advisor and counter-terrorism expert in the George W. Bush White House. And that is much harder when the U.S. individual is a self-starter, or, more specifically, not directed from overseas through communications the government can monitor.
According to FBI director James Comey, the bureau’s 10-month probe into Mateen from May 2013 to March 2014, didn’t produce enough evidence to move him up to the next level of a full-field investigation, much less a prosecution.
“This has been a fear we’ve worried about for a long time — that terrorist violence here would move to the Israeli model,” said a former top legal official at the National Security Agency, or NSA. “Low level attacks, by self-starters, with no overseas connection, attacks that cost the perpetrator little but have a huge impact in loss of American lives and the public’s sense of security.”
But ferreting out an individual’s intent, or predicting his evolution, is hard to do in a nation that’s constitutionally and historically averse to government surveillance of its citizens. “Changing policy is very complicated,” this same official said. “It’s important not to delude ourselves into thinking we can prevent every attack. That could lead us down a path that perversely leads to more alienation and more attacks.”
Still, in the case of the Orlando shooter, Americans are asking two common-sense questions:
The answer to both is the same: after a preliminary FBI investigation is “closed,” the Bureau has no authority to continue scrutiny of a suspected individual’s activities.
It’s worth noting that the closing of the probe doesn’t mean the FBI has cleared the individual of all suspicion; it just means there’s no evidence to move toward prosecution.
“It does in many ways fail the common sense test,” a senior FBI official conceded to me. “But when we investigate someone at any of the three levels, if after a reasonable time there’s not enough evidence to move it to the next level, we have to close it. That’s the law, that’s our fundamental system.”
The rules for each level of scrutiny are firmly laid out in a document called “The Attorney General’s Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations.”
Former deputy attorney general Jamie Gorelick notes that the AG guidelines first came into effect after revelations by the 1970s era Church Committee of excesses by the FBI and other intelligence agencies that violated the privacy of American citizens.
The attorney general can change them at any time, and in fact they have been relaxed over the decades. But still, Gorelick says, the hangover remains. “The bureau has been criticized in the past for being too zealous, but that risks their being too mechanical when they close an investigation. If you can’t check a box, you can’t proceed further. There are times that can undermine the use of common sense.”
“This has become a real topic within the FBI, and a source of frustration,” said a former senior counter-terrorism official. “Agents will say, reporters can monitor someone’s Twitter account or Facebook postings. Why can’t we? The answer, of course, is that the guidelines reflect the basic principle of protecting freedom of speech.”
“Once the bureau closes an investigation, there is no gray area to use investigative techniques on that person,” said a former senior DOD legal official. “You can’t justify it by saying Facebook is public. So is walking down the street. But the government isn’t allowed to follow you down a public street without a warrant. Historically it’s rooted in efforts to balance law enforcements’ interest in preserving security, and the right of citizens to their privacy.”
Yet if, as law enforcement sources tell me, investigators are now discovering a treasure trove of incriminating material in Mateen’s digital trail, including Internet searches, the question will arise again. Why wasn’t law enforcement aware of these clues?
Former FBI deputy director Timothy Murphy appreciates the rationale for ending scrutiny once an investigation is closed — even if the agents have “a spidey sense” or investigative intuition, that something remains suspicious. “There are agents who say, ‘I don’t feel good about it, but we have to go with the guidelines, if we cannot quantify our suspicions.’ We can’t have endless surveillance of our citizens.”
But Murphy also thinks the guidelines have to be reviewed and possibly revised. ”Right now the rules aren’t conducive to meet this evolving threat,” he said. “I think there needs to be an expansion of the guidelines and authorities when it comes to home-grown violent extremists, even if they are U.S. citizens.”
Changes may be in the works. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said this week the Justice Department would consider a new policy, to have the FBI alerted if people previously under terrorism investigation try to buy guns.
No doubt that will raise the ire of the National Rifle Association. And any move to enhance the FBI’s surveillance powers on a once-investigated suspect will face a tough push-back from civil liberties advocates, and many Americans.
How to balance the conflicting security needs and constitutional protections in facing this new threat? It is, as Winston Churchill once said about Russia, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. But perhaps there is a key.”
The post Why the Orlando shooter fell off the FBI’s radar screen appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Zika infection in the third trimester of pregnancy may not be as dangerous for a developing fetus as infection earlier in pregnancy, scientists from Colombia and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday.
No cases of microcephaly or other obvious birth defects were seen among the babies born to a group of 616 Colombian women who contracted Zika in their third trimester, the researchers reported in an article published by the New England Journal of Medicine.
In a more concerning finding, the scientists also reported that four women who had no symptoms of a Zika infection during pregnancy gave birth to babies who had microcephaly. The newborns were confirmed to have Zika virus in their systems.
One of the many unanswered questions about Zika is whether women who are infected but don’t have any symptoms run the same risk of having a baby with microcephaly — an abnormally small head — as women who have symptoms of the infection.
The article published Wednesday doesn’t indicate if the risk is the same, but it does make clear that pregnant women who have no symptoms may still give birth to a Zika-affected infant.
It is estimated that four of five people infected with Zika virus are asymptomatic.
The post CDC: Zika infection without symptoms can harm fetus too appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
GWEN IFILL: We close tonight with a personal reflection on the Orlando shooting from one of the city residents William Brangham introduced us to earlier.
RUBANA KHAN, Orlando Resident: From my family to you.
Dear families of Pulse victims, I apologize.
I apologize not for being a Muslim, but for the heinous act committed by a so-called Muslim. I apologize. I apologize not because my heart weeps, but because of all the hurt and agony it has caused the victims’ families. I apologize.
My deepest condolences to all the families that are affected by this monstrous act. There is no place for hatred in Islam. I apologize. I apologize not because it was the holy month of Ramadan, but because this lunatic twisted and misused the peaceful religion to carry out his own horrific act.
Please don’t judge or hate the rest of the Muslim nation. I apologize. I apologize not because I’m being judgmental towards that monster, but because loved ones will have to wait until the day comes when this monster shall be held accountable for his unforgivable deed.
Please do not despair. I apologize. I wish you find peace of mind, knowing that they are in a better place than this world right now.
May God bless the victims and their families. May God bless you. May God bless America.
GWEN IFILL: On the “NewsHour” online right now, Margaret Warner takes a detailed look at how the Orlando shooter fell off the FBI’s radar, and the dilemma for law enforcement in confronting the growing threat of homegrown terrorism.
All that and more is on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.
And later tonight on “Charlie Rose,” former Deputy FBI Director Tim Murphy also looks at the lessons learned from Orlando.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Last night, we aired a story about the AR-15 rifle, the weapon used in several recent mass shootings. Orlando law enforcement officials had initially said that this was the same gun type used in the nightclub massacre.
But, later, they clarified that the Orlando shooter was using a Sig Sauer MCX. That is a rifle with several similarities to the AR-15 style. The Sig Sauer was originally designed for use by U.S. special operations military forces. The “NewsHour” regrets the confusion.
And that is the “NewsHour” for tonight.
On Thursday, we travel to Brazil, where fears over Zika are gripping A local community and international athletes ahead of the Olympics.
I’m Judy Woodruff.
GWEN IFILL: And I’m Gwen Ifill.
Join us online and again here tomorrow evening. For all of us here at the “PBS NewsHour,” thank you, and good night.
The post An Orlando Muslim’s heartfelt words on nightclub mass shooting appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Two years after the World Health Organization declared India polio-free, an active strain of the virus has been found in samples of sewage water in the southern city of Hyderabad.
In response, the country is launching an emergency vaccination drive with the goal of vaccinating 350,000 children aged 6 weeks to 3 years old next week in Hyderabad and the neighboring Ranga Reddy district.
Reza Hossaini, UNICEF’s director of polio eradication said the identified strain is a mutation of the one used in the polio vaccine and is a weakened form of what is considered the “wild” virus.
“If left alone, [the strain] has the potential to become as dangerous as wild polio,” Hossaini said.
India’s government, along with the World Health Organization and international nonprofit organizations, spent billions of dollars to eradicate polio in India.
The last case was detected in 2011, and the country received its official polio-free status in 2014 when the WHO confirmed there had been no new cases in three years.
A UNICEF representative confirmed to the NewsHour that the discovery of the strain will not change India’s WHO polio-free status. (UNICEF works with WHO on polio-related initiatives.)
The post Polio strain found in India two years after virus declared eradicated appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, a look at some of the backstory to this year’s raucous political season.
Just as it brought to the surface tensions and disaffection within the Republican Party, so too have divisions in the Democratic Party revealed themselves.
Author and historian Thomas Frank explores all this in his latest book, “Listen, Liberal.”
I sat down with Frank recently in our studio.
Thomas Frank, welcome to the program.
THOMAS FRANK, Author, “Listen, Liberal”: Good to be here, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And we should say the subtitle is “What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?”
You were talking about the Democrats, but just before we talk about what you think is wrong with the Democratic Party now, when was the last time you thought the Democratic Party was doing what it was supposed to do?
THOMAS FRANK: Well, there’s a — look, there’s still a lot of good Democrats out there, the Democrats that get the — like, the seal of approval from me, you know, that get five stars. There’s plenty of Democrats that I approve of.
And I will say that I enthusiastically voted for President Obama back in 2008. So — but, on the other hand, I think that the party has really abandoned its dedication to working-class Americans, beginning in the 1970s, and has progressively abandoned it more and more and more, that sort of traditional Democratic mission.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I mean, you’re hard. In your book, you’re pretty hard on President Obama in not fulfilling what you argue was the promise of his presidency. You’re hard on both of the Clintons, both Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton.
But you also make the striking point that the inequality that we have in this country is something that they think is a good thing?
THOMAS FRANK: Well, it’s something that — I wouldn’t say that. Barack Obama called it the — what did he call it? The great — the overriding challenge of our time.
But, yes, he has a way of putting it, and when he speaks about it in this very eloquent manner, he makes it clear that this is something he deplores, something that, you know, he finds shocking.
However, the Democratic Party, the sort of leadership faction of the Democratic Party, isn’t really at their core bothered by inequality. They think that, to a certain degree, it reflects the way things ought to be. This is because the Democratic Party isn’t — the leadership of the Democratic Party is not who we think they are.
It’s a different group of people serving a different agenda than what we — than their brand identity tells us they are.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you describe them as pretty much the opposite of the working class, the blue-collar workers in this country.
THOMAS FRANK: Yes. Yes. That’s not who they’re interested in anymore.
Once upon a time, say, Franklin Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson or somebody like that, yes, absolutely, that’s what the Democratic Party was about. They were about the middle class of this country. Today, they are about the professional, managerial, highly educated, white-collar, affluent, suburban class. That’s who they identify with.
That’s who they — they have sort of developed this enormous literature talking about how this class of people is of the pinnacle of history. This is also the class they are all — themselves, that they themselves are drawn from.
They talk about these people all the time. And they see that, you know, this group of winners is, you know, the ultimate, the sort of number one Democratic constituency, they think that that class of people deserves to be where they are, that this is — that their status is something that they have earned.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s a pretty harsh criticism.
And you’re basically saying that the leadership of the Democratic Party, Silicon Valley, the academics, the folks on Wall Street who are Democrats, really don’t care about the working class.
THOMAS FRANK: Yes, that’s exactly right. That’s exactly right.
The more shocking thing is that the Democrats basically are a party that identifies itself with Wall Street and that identifies itself with Silicon Valley and that identifies itself with big pharma, with these industries that they’re forever talking about and saluting because they’re so creative, they’re so innovative.
This is where these sort of knowledge-based industries, where — the kind of professionals that Democrats see themselves as representing, this is where those kind of people are found. And so they look at Wall Street and they don’t see this kind of colossal villain or, you know, the way, say, someone like Franklin Roosevelt would have understood Wall Street.
Instead, they see classmates. They see their peers. You know, they have a really difficult time bringing this industry to heel or making sure that the rule of law applies to this industry.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you end the book, Thomas Frank, on a pretty pessimistic note, because you say until Democrat — the leaders in the Democratic Party understand the role they have played in bringing things to this place, things aren’t going to get better.
THOMAS FRANK: Yes, that’s exactly right, because it’s clear that the Republican Party — it’s clear from my point of view, I should say, that the Republican Party, with its dedication to markets and its philosophy of entrepreneurs, is not really interested in inequality.
But what’s shocking is when you realize that the Democrats themselves aren’t really interested in it either, that the kind of liberalism that you see in the Democratic Party is a liberalism of the rich, that it’s the liberalism of the top 10 percent of the income distribution, of a kind of — of a tiny swathe of Americans who have actually done very well in the era of inequality. And that’s shocking once you realize that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What are the implications of this for this year’s election?
THOMAS FRANK: Well, we have a contest now that is basically down to Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton, and between those two.
On the matter of inequality, one of them is really bad and one of them is a lot less bad. And that’s where we’re left. You know, it’s the sort of same situation that we have been in for so many years. No, I don’t think there is an easy way out this year. And I think that the public is going to get — these problems are going to get worse. Inequality is going to get worse.
The situation of working people is going to get worse. And you’re going to see more public frustration and more public anger and more Bernie Sanders down the road and more — unfortunately, I’m sorry to say, more Donald Trumps as well.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s a provocative book, “Listen, Liberal: What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?”
Thomas Frank, thank you very much.
THOMAS FRANK: Well, thank you for having me.
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A search vessel has spotted “several main locations of the wreckage” from an EgyptAir airplane that crashed into the Mediterranean Sea last month, Egyptian investigators announced Wednesday.
An Egyptian committee said in a statement today that the vessel has provided the first images of the wreckage, the Associated Press reported. This will allow investigators to draft a map of the distribution of the wreckage from the missing Airbus A320 plane.
Flight 804, carrying 66 people on board, vanished from radar screens on May 19 on its way to Cairo from Paris. A majority of the passengers were Egyptian. Several satellites had received a distress signal from the plane minutes after it disappeared, Egyptian authorities confirmed in late May.
Shortly after the crash, the Egyptian navy recovered debris and human remains in the waters 190 miles north of the Egyptian city of Alexandria.
Investigators hope to recover the voice and data recorders from the plane to help determine the cause of the crash. Egyptian officials have said they couldn’t rule out terrorism. At this time, no one has claimed responsibility for the crash.
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GWEN IFILL: As the school year nears its end, a number of highly selective public high schools around the country are struggling to deal with a longer-term problem, how to enroll more students of color.
Special correspondent Spencer Michels looks at one such school, in this report produced in association with Education Week. It’s part of our weekly series, Making the Grade.
SPENCER MICHELS: Lowell High School in San Francisco excels in everything from music to math. Motivated, hard-driving and talented students have propelled this four-year institution to the top tier of national public school rankings.
Its graduates include scientists, politicians, entertainers and a Supreme Court justice.
Chrislyn Earle, here in a psychology class, is a senior.
CHRISLYN EARLE, Student, Lowell High School: I wouldn’t imagine myself at any other school, to be honest. This school really builds you for the next step and the next chapter in your life.
SPENCER MICHELS: But there is something missing at Lowell, more students like Earle from historically disadvantaged minority groups. She is one of a very small and dwindling number of African-Americans, about 2 percent of the student body. Latinos make up about 10 percent, while Asians comprise 57 percent, and whites, also dwindling, at 14 percent.
KAREN POLANCO, Student, Lowell High School: I think the people who are minorities at this school feel left out. And it is hard to find a place in this school. Like, my freshman year, I wanted to transfer.
KADEE SYLLA, Student, Lowell High School: I wanted to leave immediately. I wanted to go to Balboa instead, because I know that there’s — it’s more diverse over there.
SPENCER MICHELS: That issue came to a head this spring when a non-black student put up a poster that drew the ire of many at Lowell. Titled Black History Month, it glorified black rappers and movies, lampooned President Obama, and failed to mention historically important figures.
African-American students walked out of class and marched to city hall to protest.
CHRISLYN EARLE: The poster was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
SPENCER MICHELS: Earle lives with her mother, Shronda Jackson (ph).
CHRISLYN EARLE: The whole main purpose of the walkout is the students at Lowell and staff members were not respectful to the black culture. We were trying to explain that we are more than just our music and the movies and entertainment. This is not OK and it’s very insulting.
SPENCER MICHELS: Earle didn’t expect that when she took a test and applied to Lowell, which is a free public school.
WOMAN: When we received the letter that she was accepted, I was ecstatic.
SPENCER MICHELS: But Earle says she didn’t realize how few African-Americans she’d meet.
CHRISLYN EARLE: It didn’t really soak in until I got inside the classroom, and I was the only black person in there.
SPENCER MICHELS: Diversity and how to achieve it is a hot topic at Boston Latin, a selective public high school in Massachusetts, at Stuyvesant in New York, and at other elite schools, many of which are majority Asian.
Often, as at Lowell, the African-American student population is dropping. Officials point to the declining numbers of blacks living in San Francisco, now just 4 percent, as one factor in the decrease in black students at Lowell. Other factors include poor preparation in early grades, low test-taking skills and, in some cases, disruptive or difficult home life, suggests San Francisco Schools superintendent Richard Carranza.
RICHARD CARRANZA, Superintendent, San Francisco Unified School District: Some families are homeless. Some families are living in poverty. Some students are in foster care.
How do we rally to create a mosaic of supports for students that have been historically disadvantaged, to give them the equity boost they need to meet the bar that we have set for them to get into different kinds of schools?
SPENCER MICHELS: The low numbers of blacks and Latinos at Lowell, for whatever reason, discourages other students of color from even applying.
Lowell is certainly interesting, because of the diversity problems that it and several elite high schools around the country are facing. But, for me, it’s personal. My wife, my grandfather, and my father all went to Lowell, and I have a son who is teaching here now.
Just for the record, I went to a high school across town.
But when principal Andrew Ishibashi, who has worked in, and attended, inner-city schools first became principal here, he was shocked.
ANDREW ISHIBASHI, Principal, Lowell High School: I found that diversity was the weakest area at Lowell. It’s something that I have worried about for the past nine years.
SPENCER MICHELS: Micia Mosely, a part-time stand-up comedian and teacher who founded the Black Teacher Project in the Bay Area…
MICIA MOSELY, Founder, Black Teacher Project: We at the Black Teacher Project believe that every child deserves a black teacher…
SPENCER MICHELS: … says it’s not a surprise that elite schools lack diversity.
MICIA MOSELY: By nature, they’re exclusive. So how do you have diversity inside a system or an organization or a school that’s designed to shut people out? We say we want diversity in this country. We’re asking things of schools that we’re unwilling to do of ourselves.
SPENCER MICHELS: Her answer?
MICIA MOSELY: So, you groom people. So, this idea that folks are born innately with the skills to succeed in these elite schools is ridiculous. Everyone’s groomed. Whether that means that you have a parent making sure your academics are in order, or you go to a good school that’s preparing you, folks don’t come out of the womb ready to succeed in an elite school.
SPENCER MICHELS: But bringing more people of color into Lowell is not simple, says superintendent Carranza.
RICHARD CARRANZA: Well, if we knew that, we’d have already figured it out, and so would have Stuyvesant and Boston Latin. If you see students of color in your school, are they made to feel like they’re welcome? Or do students of color feel like, well, they’re just a quota?
SPENCER MICHELS: Lowell’s principal has tried to dispel that feeling and boost academic performance by meeting occasionally at lunchtime with black freshmen and sophomores and a special consultant to go over grades and problems.
ANDREW ISHIBASHI: How did you guys do last spring?
STUDENT: First semester, I was like really great at algebra II. Even though I was doubling up, you would think that I would fall behind, but I did it.
ANDREW ISHIBASHI: So, have you come down here for tutoring? I have seen you guys down here, but…
STUDENT: Yes. I come down here to study, get a few tutors.
STUDENT: You know, my Spanish grade was like really bad. It was like an F. And now it’s to a B, because I worked really hard to get it there.
SPENCER MICHELS: Addressing the issues of diversity frankly is a major goal of an elective class in critical thinking and social change.
CHARLES HUYNH, Student, Lowell High School: A lot of people don’t want to go to a school full of a lot of Asians and then just like — you know? So, it discourages people from going to Lowell.
PHILIP MA, Student, Lowell High School: I just feel we — we’re usually too busy studying and getting a good GPA and stuff. As a result, we haven’t really had time to think about how what we do impacts minorities and all that stuff.
SPENCER MICHELS: Malia Cohen, a member of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, and a graduate of Lowell in 1996, wants the district to allocate more money to address enrollment at her alma mater.
MALIA COHEN, San Francisco Board of Supervisors: So, when it comes to actually hiring a person specifically charged with the duty of targeting an increasing enrollment, that’s what we’re not seeing.
RICHARD CARRANZA: Who’s going to pay for that? Do I hire another English teacher or math teacher, or do I hire another specialized person to do something?
SPENCER MICHELS: Lowell’s principal has made recruiting a priority, going into black and Latino communities and persuading promising students to apply to Lowell. As for making it easier for students to get in, it’s a topic that was hashed out and rejected in court years ago.
ANDREW ISHIBASHI: I would like to see a little dent in as far as not having to pull such high test scores and grades.
SPENCER MICHELS: But the way to get more minority kids into elite schools, nearly everyone agrees, is to start young.
MICIA MOSELY: I went to Brooklyn Tech High School in New York City, which is a specialized high school, and had to take an exam. And I know that the preparation I had in elementary and middle school allowed me to do well on that exam, allowed me to do well in school.
SPENCER MICHELS: Lowell and the nation’s other elite public high schools have acknowledged they have a long way to go to achieve the diversity they say they value.
For the “PBS NewsHour” and Education Week, I’m Spencer Michels in San Francisco.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: But, first: how the Muslim community in Orlando is responding to the mass shooting.
As investigators continue to try to understand the motives of the Orlando shooter, the fact that he was a Muslim has put another community of American Muslims in an uncomfortable spot, disavowing the actions of an extremist, while also facing a backlash themselves.
William Brangham has the story.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: As news broke early Sunday about the killings in Orlando, Joshua Weil thought what many Muslims thought about the attacker.
JOSHUA WEIL, Islamic Center of Orlando: My first thought is always, and sadly, like, please don’t let him be Muslim.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Weil is a member of the Islamic Center of Orlando, one of the largest Muslim mosques in this area. Of course, news quickly broke that the killer, Omar Mateen, was, in fact, a Muslim. The attacks occurred right after Saturday night’s Ramadan prayers.
JOSHUA WEIL: The thought occurred to me that, if this guy was Muslim, he probably just left one of these mosques. He might even have left this mosque. He might’ve been standing and praying Taraweeh, like, standing side-by-side with his brothers and listening to the Koran, and then he left that to go murder all these people.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Tariq Rasheed is the imam of this mosque.
IMAM TARIQ RASHEED, Islamic Center of Orlando: Every Muslim in this country and in Orlando is grieved. And they are in shock. They are asking questions, how can this happen here in Orlando? How can a person with Muslim faith can do this?
So, you know, people are very much in a shock, I can tell you, everyone. And then — and there is a fear factor as well, that you know there might be a backlash.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The mosque held a candlelight vigil for the shooting victims the night after the killings, and they have publicly and repeatedly condemned the attack, saying Mateen’s actions are no reflection of their religion.
Imam Rasheed says this is the new reality for the American-Muslim community, having to account for the violent actions of a few extremists who claim to share their faith.
IMAM TARIQ RASHEED: We have nothing to do with this. We don’t know who this guy was, where is he coming from, because terrorism has no religion. And, in religion, there is no terrorism.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: This is what happened in San Bernardino and what happened at the military base in Texas, where one of these events occur and then the Muslim community is called to condemn. Are you guys sick of being asked to condemn?
SYED QUADRI, Orlando Resident: Absolutely. Sick is the right word. We are sick of this.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Syed Quadri and his wife, Rabana Khan, and their three kids are members of this mosque. Syed’s a psychiatrist and Rabana is an accountant who helps manage his practice.
RUBANA KHAN, Orlando Resident: I actually was terrified and finding out what exactly happened. And of course, our heart goes out to all the mothers and fathers who have lost their kids. It’s unfortunate. And it’s terrible that these kinds of incidents are continuing to happen. And it’s putting a bad name on the Muslim community.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Many people believe there is something about Islam that draws a paranoid, radicalized thinking. What do you say to people who think that that part — that that’s part and parcel of your faith?
SYED QUADRI: Well, I’m not going to deny that. There is radicalism in every religion, I think, you know? Islam gets attention because of everything that’s going around in the world. And I’m not going to say these people are not radical Islamists. Definitely, they are, but they are not a part of Islam.
We do not consider them Muslims. We do not consider them a part of Islam. Islam is all about peace, nothing to do with hatred or violence.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But these repeated disavowals haven’t stopped the threats. The mosque’s Facebook page, beneath its tributes to the victims, has been repeatedly covered with death threats and angry denunciations of Islam. The mosque says they have received similar voice-mail messages.
Joshua Weil says most of these are likely just angry venting after the attacks, but some of them were simply too specific to ignore.
JOSHUA WEIL: He see us parasites at the Publix at Hialeah all the time.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The grocery store.
JOSHUA WEIL: Yes. The grocery store on Hialeah all the time, and that the next time he sees one of us, he’s going to take care of them.
And that was the one that got us most. We contacted the police with that one.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The mosque alerted the police, but now they have also hired an armed guard to patrol the grounds during prayer services.
Imam Rasheed says Ramadan is usually the busiest time at the mosque, but now people are afraid to come.
IMAM TARIQ RASHEED: Sisters in the community, they texted me, you know what, I’m not coming today. You know, we are fearful. We don’t want to come. And they didn’t send their children.
You know, we have never done this. We have never done this. And this mosque has been in operation for the last 32 years.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Weil says that he and his wife, Anna, who’s also Muslim, don’t want to give into fear, but he understands it. Weil is a teacher by day, and also works as an outreach director for the mosque.
He says, especially at times like this, people need to worship together, not apart. But Anna said, she thinks the anger out there is serious enough to stay away from the mosque for now.
ANNA WEIL, Orlando Resident: We have not gone to the mosque for dinner, for prayers or anything since the shooting happened.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You and the kids?
ANNA WEIL: Yes.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Weil says these attacks have also shined a light on a generational divide within the Muslim community over the issue of homosexuality.
He says most of the younger American-born Muslims here have condemned the attacks and embraced the gay community that’s been victimized by this killer. But he says some of the older generation, those largely born abroad in much more conservative societies, have struggled with how to respond.
JOSHUA WEIL: They want to condemn this. They want to — they do believe it’s horrible and they do think that it never should’ve happened, but they don’t want to go as far as to, you know, embrace or say that they support homosexuality, and they kind of feel that this awkward place. It’s almost been nice to see some of them reluctantly move in and say, no, we see now this is a community that we should be supporting.
This is a community that faces all of the same bigotry and all of the same, you know, anger and aggression from many of the same people that we do.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The reverberations from this attack have also spilled onto the campaign trail. Citing Orlando, Donald Trump doubled down on his call to ban Muslim immigration, although the shooter was born in New York City.
President Obama and some GOP leaders have again condemned that proposal.
What is your response when you hear some of the political rhetoric that happens — that flows after attacks like this?
SYED QUADRI: It is unfortunate that some people take advantage of these kinds of incidents. And, you know, they are banking on their votes. They are trying to build their political careers out of all those. That’s all I can say.
RUBANA KHAN: Well, I consider myself an American and an American Muslim.
SYED QUADRI: Absolutely.
RUBANA KHAN: So, and I — it hurts that if somebody would try to take that away from me, because this is my country. This is where I grew up. So, when you tell me to leave, where am I supposed to go? You give me an answer.
SYED QUADRI: That’s right. That’s right.
RUBANA KHAN: This is my home.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The Muslim community here hopes the anger directed at them will soon subside and that the whole Orlando community can continue its slow process of healing from this tragedy.
For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m William Brangham in Orlando, Florida.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The police department in Oakland, California, has a long and troubled history. The most recent scandal to roil the department involves alleged sexual misconduct by officers.
Police chief Sean Whent resigned last week for reportedly mishandling that situation. And there are decades of tension and mistrust between officers and the African-American community.
Stanford University has been studying that often volatile relationship, and the results of its groundbreaking study were released today.
Special correspondent Jackie Judd has our exclusive report.
JACKIE JUDD: The report confirms what African-American residents of Oakland, California, have long known, seen and felt. Police often treat them very differently than white residents.
REBECCA HETEY, Stanford University: We found a significant pattern of racial disparities in who was stopped, in who was handcuffed, in who was searched, and in who was arrested.
JACKIE JUDD: Rebecca Hetey is a Stanford University researcher and an author of the report.
REBECCA HETEY: More importantly, these disparities remained significant after we took into account a wide range of factors that we would expect to influence police decision-making, like crime rate, like neighborhood demographics.
REV. MICHAEL MCBRIDE, Operation Ceasefire: It is an insult. And no one can make me believe that this would be happening in any other community, except for a community that is defined by black, brown and poor people.
JACKIE JUDD: Activists and brothers Michael and Ben McBride are longtime critics of the Oakland Police Department.
REV. BEN MCBRIDE, Operation Ceasefire: We have a broken relationship because, while there have been some steps moving forward to try to repair it, there still has not been the kind of honest discourse that needs to happen around truth and reconciliation.
JACKIE JUDD: According to the most recent FBI statistics, Oakland has more violent crime than any other U.S. city except for Detroit and Memphis. It was in this supercharged atmosphere that city officials took an unprecedented step. They decided to have outsiders analyze their officers’ behavior, knowing the results wouldn’t be pretty.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf:
MAYOR LIBBY SCHAAF, Oakland: It is incredibly important that we ask these hard questions, so that we can get to the bottom of making the department something that the community trusts and that is, in fact, bringing justice.
WOMAN: So, this when I just broke down the entire stops into both race and gender.
JACKIE JUDD: Researchers at nearby Stanford University spent two years analyzing vast amounts of data, field reports from 28,000 stops officers made on the streets and roads during a 13-month period, and body-cam video from 2,000 of those encounters. They expected to find about 7,800 stops of African-Americans. In fact, there were more than double, almost 17,000 stops.
What surprised everyone involved even more was the huge gap in handcuffing.
REBECCA HETEY: Even when we took out stops that resulted in arrests, we found that one in four black men, for example, were handcuffed, compared to one in 15 white men.
JACKIE JUDD: Analysis of the body-cam video also found disparities. Lead researcher Jennifer Eberhardt says, while no racial slurs were uttered, certain words were used far more frequently when an officer questioned an African-American.
JENNIFER EBERHARDT, Stanford University: We started by just looking at linguistic patterns in that footage. And we found, for black stops, words that are associated with probation, parole, arrest, jail time, those kinds of things…
JACKIE JUDD: So, there was an assumption that the black person who had been stopped had a criminal record?
JENNIFER EBERHARDT: There was a possibility of that. In our discussions with community members, there was a lot of concern that there are ways in which they’re stopped where there’s a suspicion of criminality.
So, implicit bias can influence us unintentionally.
JACKIE JUDD: Eberhardt is a national expert on implicit, or unconscious, bias, and she trains Oakland officers to understand what that means.
Her cautiously worded report suggests implicit bias may be behind the racial disparities in police stops, along with the police believing this is the norm, this is what their superiors want them to do. The phrase racial profiling, which suggests overt racism, is never used.
Why is racial profiling such a radioactive phrase?
SEAN WHENT, Former Chief, Oakland Police Department: I think that race is a very sensitive issue.
JACKIE JUDD: Former police Chief Sean Whent, who resigned last week for reasons unrelated to the Stanford report.
SEAN WHENT: Racial profiling, in and of itself, obviously is prohibited by our policy. I mean, it would be a misconduct issue. The fact that people are impacted by implicit bias, that’s a different issue.
JACKIE JUDD: So you are not willing to say that these findings would lead you to a conclusion that there is racial profiling in Oakland?
SEAN WHENT: I don’t know how I could credibly say that, no, no racial profiling is ever — ever occurs here, although what I don’t believe necessarily is that these findings show that there’s systemic racial profiling going on. I just think it’s much more complex than that.
REV. MICHAEL MCBRIDE: I don’t care if it’s implicit or explicit. I want bias gone. I want it managed, and I want people held accountable. And the people have the right to be able to live in a community where bias is not overdetermining their lives.
JACKIE JUDD: The report is only the latest in a string of critical evaluations since the department came under federal oversight in 2003 because of police misconduct.
At the time, the department agreed to adopt dozens of reforms within a five-year period — 13 years and millions dollars later, the federal government is still monitoring the Oakland Police Department.
City officials believe the department is approaching the day when that oversight will end. And there has been some progress recently. Use of excessive force, the number of arbitrary searches and citizen complaints have all declined. And so has the crime rate itself.
Sergeant William Febel explains that different tactics are now used in high-crime areas.
SGT. WILLIAM FEBEL, Oakland Police Department: So, we use intelligence-based policing. When we talk to folks in the area, we like to particularly speak with community members. Community members help us identify the subjects who out there who are involved in criminal activity.
JACKIE JUDD: The Stanford report includes dozens of recommendations, including more data collection, sustained training, annual review of each officer’s stop data, and regular community feedback on police interactions.
Police departments around the country, including those caught up in controversial police shootings like this one in Chicago, are watching what Oakland does now and how the local community responds.
Paul Figueroa leads Oakland’s reform efforts.
PAUL FIGUEROA, Interim Chief, Oakland Police Department: We’re at a position in reform, not only locally, but nationally, that we’re finally getting to the point where we have the data, where we can take some real action.
LIBBY SCHAAF: I believe that, at the end of my term, people will be able to say that this city really grappled honestly with some very difficult issues, like race, like oppression, like class differences.
REV. MICHAEL MCBRIDE: Every mayor that we have been in relationship with, the last three mayors, have all told us that: We’re working as fast as we can, we’re close, we’re close.
And then they go out of office, and then we have to hear the exact same rhetoric from the sitting mayor.
JENNIFER EBERHARDT: I think, on all sides, people want this relationship to work right. I think African-Americans especially don’t want to feel fearful of the police, of the people who are supposed to protect them. And I think the police officers don’t want to feel like targeted. They don’t want to feel like perpetrators of bias.
JACKIE JUDD: At this roll call, new recruits join veteran officers as they prepare for their first shift of a very tough job. With this revealing report in hand, commanders will expect them to carry out more even-handed policing. And a wary community will be watching.
For the “PBS NewsHour” this is Jackie Judd in Oakland, California.
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GWEN IFILL: No matter which side you are on, the 2016 campaign is already on the books as one of the most unusual in modern history. Just this week, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and President Obama have offered a preview of what’s to come, with attacks, counterattacks, and harsh disagreement over policy, both foreign and domestic.
From guns, to refugees, to immigration, it has turned into a campaign like no other. Call it the Trump effect.
Joining us to explain the hows and whys, Trump senior campaign adviser Barry Bennett, Wall Street Journal political reporter Beth Reinhard, and pollster J. Ann Selzer.
Ann Selzer, you just completed a poll with Bloomberg Politics that was released yesterday. Tell me, is there anything in there to support my notion that there is a Trump effect this year?
ANN SELZER, Selzer & Company: Well, there are a couple of things in there, Gwen.
First of all, what we see happening right now is a 12-point lead for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, 49 to 37. That’s a substantial lead, and polls recently have been showing this a tighter race than that. So the Trump effect for right now, overall, doesn’t appear to be a winning position.
But, secondly, you asked about whether this is a race like no other, and pollsters have been going through their archives trying to find some little piece of data to shine a light on that. And I found one today. If you look at the proportion of Republicans who have unfavorable feelings toward Donald Trump, it’s 27 percent.
And you might think, well, this is just a year that everybody hates everybody. The number is 15 percent for Hillary Clinton. That’s looking just at Democratic voters. But I went back to our archives to see, four years ago, what was the situation with Mitt Romney, because maybe you think Republicans always have — there is a substantial group that are unhappy with their nominee. It was 11 percent.
So Donald Trump, even within the confines of his own party, is turning off a substantial number of people there, and that’s a Trump effect, too.
GWEN IFILL: Barry Bennett, he’s also turning on a substantial amount of people. How do you measure that? How do you weigh that against each other?
BARRY BENNETT, Senior Adviser, Trump Campaign: Well, I think, typically, a candidate comes to a race and he comes within the four out of four voters and the three out of four voters, and you fight the campaign over the two out of four voters.
It’s kind of the inverse this cycle. Right? He comes with a bunch of the folks who are not traditional voters, not traditional Republican voters. In fact, in Youngstown, Ohio, for instance, in January, there were 16,000 registered Republicans. Today, that number is 38,000. It’s a huge shift. Now, these three out of fours…
GWEN IFILL: In an important state.
BARRY BENNETT: In a very important state.
These three-fours and four-fours, which supported somebody else in the primary, they will come home. It will take some time, but they will come home.
GWEN IFILL: You have covered more — you have been to this rodeo before, Beth, so as you compare this to previous campaigns, what to you is the most significant difference?
BETH REINHARD, The Wall Street Journal: There is very little that’s familiar about this race. Donald Trump has not just rewritten the rule book, but taken the old one, burnt it, thrown it in the ocean.
Everything about how he runs his campaign and how he conducts himself is unlike anything we have ever seen before. The way he interacts with the media is…
GWEN IFILL: Or not.
BETH REINHARD: Or not. In that case, disqualifying reporters from covering him based on stories he doesn’t like, we haven’t seen that before.
The way he calls in to so many of the television networks and really is just running his own media operation on television and on Twitter is unlike anything we have seen before.
GWEN IFILL: Ann, we know that Americans still think largely the country is on the wrong track. Is that also a number, which we watch very carefully every four years, is that something which could also maybe speak to the kind of effect that Donald Trump is having, something that he can take advantage of?
ANN SELZER: Well, our poll is showing that the percent of people showing that the nation is headed off in the wrong direction has reached one of its highest points since we started polling in 2009.
So there’s a lot of discomfort at the national level. That’s usually a reflection on the view of the president. And, actually, Barack Obama’s numbers were not so terrible in our poll. So there sort of is this breaking apart of the things that we used to think hung together and gave you a pretty clear view of the way the nation was heading.
Not so anymore.
GWEN IFILL: Barry Bennett, there are all these contradictions. The perfect example today is Donald Trump says that he’s going to speak to the NRA about changing the no-fly lists for gun purchases, or who can purchase guns, which is something the NRA objects to.
He has also said he supports the LGBT community in the wake of Orlando, but not that he supports gay marriage. Is it — is that Americans can hold two opposing thoughts in their heads at one time?
BARRY BENNETT: Well, I think often in politics we come up with this monolithic view of things. And this cycle is a perfect example of where none of that is really true. Right?
There’s no such thing as the average Hispanic voter, right? They’re all over the place. Some are faith-based. Some are small business-based. Some are family-based. Some are just young progressives.
So we’re challenging all the norms that we have seen in campaigns. But I think that the tone of the country, the 45 percent of the folks think we’re going in the wrong direction, which is an all-time record. They have also figured out they don’t necessarily have to like or love the candidate for president, which we have always believed to be true.
They want to someone who will go to Washington literally with a bulldozer’s license and just fix things. And that’s, I think, what we’re seeing.
I mean, otherwise, how could Donald Trump’s approval rating, according to Ann’s poll, be at 29 percent and his ballot be in the 40s? It’s not possible during traditional political metrics. Right?
GWEN IFILL: Well, there are no traditional political metrics which apply, I think we can all agree.
Let me ask you, Beth, about this, though. We have — it feels like we have just lurched into the general election campaign. Maybe Bernie Sanders is still in the race, but it doesn’t feel like that’s what’s driving this anymore.
so, how different is — are primary races, aside from 17 people on the Republican ticket — how different are they from general election races, and does it matter in a nontraditional year like this?
BETH REINHARD: Donald Trump, people keep saying he’s going to — quote, unquote — “pivot” to the general election. And we have all been sitting on the edge of our seats waiting for that to happen, and it really hasn’t.
In fact, he still talks about rivals that fell away months ago, as if he’s still reliving those conquests. And, of course, he has talked quite a bit about Hillary as well. But it does still have the feel of a primary, in that the rhetoric is just as fury and just as harsh as you see in a primary, where people are trying to appeal to that fire-breathing base.
He hasn’t really moderated his tone, which is what people expect once you become the nominee, that you’re going to try to reach this wider audience with, you know, more warmer tones. Donald Trump is hitting it as hard as ever.
GWEN IFILL: Ann Selzer, that reminds me, yesterday, the president came as close to fire-breathing as I guess he ever gets, in his pretty full-throated, without mentioning his name, attack on Donald Trump, the things that Donald Trump stands for.
At the same time, am I right, his approval rating seems to be creeping up?
ANN SELZER: Yes, his approval rating is creeping up. His favorability numbers are creeping up. He’s about on a par with Bill Clinton, who has usually surpassed him a little bit there.
I think, however, there are things that are still bothering the general electorate as they look at Donald Trump. We tested a few items, and half say they’re bothered a lot by Trump’s ban on Muslim immigrants, 55 percent bothered a lot about comments he made about the judge ruling in the Trump University case, and 62 percent bothered a lot about his tone with women, 62 percent. That’s bothered a lot. That’s the strongest answer they could give us. And it’s 71 percent among women.
So, the one last thing I want to share with you is that we know he can change things if he wants to. When we first were polling on Donald Trump here in Iowa a year ago, his favorable-to-unfavorable ratio was 2-to-1 unfavorable. And within the course of a few months, he flipped it to where it was 2-to-1 favorable to unfavorable. So, he’s done magic before.
GWEN IFILL: So, let me ask Barry Bennett, doing magic, how does he flip those numbers?
BARRY BENNETT: Well, I think when people hear his policy positions, you could either believe what Hillary Clinton says about his policies or you can listen to him, that they will come to appreciate where he is.
You know, government is not working. We know precious little — for instance, this idea of radical Islamism, we know precious little about what causes people to radicalize. We have been dealing with this for a number of years now.
You would think that we would have a better understanding, we would have a better screening, have a better watching and calculation. But all of our processes that the government has put in place have not worked.
GWEN IFILL: Do you think he’s been specific enough about what the alternative to that is?
BARRY BENNETT: Well, you can never be specific enough. Right? That’s what campaigns are about.
But, I mean, that’s why we have 150-some days to talk about it. But that’s what we’re going to talk about in the campaign. But there are just so many people in America who are suffering real pain. And the current policies of this administration and even some of the policies from the previous administration just never helped them. And that’s what we’re going to talk about.
GWEN IFILL: Barry Bennett, senior Trump campaign adviser, Beth Reinhard, political reporter for The Wall Street Journal, and Ann Selzer, the redoubtable Ann Selzer of the Bloomberg poll, thank you all very much.
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GWEN IFILL: Good evening. I’m Gwen Ifill.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And I’m Judy Woodruff.
GWEN IFILL: On the “NewsHour” tonight: As details of the Orlando massacre become clear, focus shifts away from the killer and toward his wife.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Also ahead this Wednesday: a look at the Donald Trump effect. The presumptive nominee isn’t backing down, even when his party disagrees — what this means for his campaign and the GOP.
GWEN IFILL: Plus, a “NewsHour” exclusive: After a two-year study, Stanford researchers find shocking racial injustices by the Oakland Police Department.
REBECCA HETEY, Stanford University: Even when we took out stops that resulted in arrests, we found that one in four black men, for example, were handcuffed, compared to one in 15 white men.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight’s “PBS NewsHour.”
JUDY WOODRUFF: Investigators in Orlando worked today to reconstruct the movements of the gunman who killed 49 people over the weekend. Omar Mateen died in a gun battle with police, after the massacre at a gay nightclub.
Authorities working the crime scene today said they need to know what Mateen did before the attack. They wouldn’t confirm that his wife knew of the plot and might be charged.
LEE BENTLEY, U.S. Attorney: I am not going to speculate today as to any charges that may be brought or indeed about whether any charges will be brought in this case. It is premature to do so.
It would interfere and hamper the investigation to put out premature information about where the investigation is headed.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Orlando’s mayor said today that investigators do know that Mateen visited several locations Saturday night. He didn’t elaborate.
GWEN IFILL: Senate Democrats launched a filibuster today, demanding tougher gun controls in the aftermath of Orlando. Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy and several others spent much of the day calling for a vote on barring gun sales to people on the terrorist watch-list.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), Connecticut: In the face of mass slaughter after mass slaughter, this body has taken absolutely no action.
And I know that times are tough here. I know that we’re often at each others’ throats, but that, in and of itself, is unacceptable. Let’s find some limited common ground on issues that the broad American electorate support, and let’s move forward on it.
GWEN IFILL: Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told a rally in Atlanta, carnage could have been avoided if some of the Orlando victims had themselves been carrying guns.
DONALD TRUMP (R), Presumptive Presidential Nominee: If the bullets were going in the other direction, aimed at this guy who was just open target practice, you would’ve had a situation, folks, which would’ve been always horrible, but nothing like the carnage that we all, as a people, suffered this weekend.
GWEN IFILL: Trump said he will meet with the National Rifle Association to discuss tying gun sales to the terror watch and no-fly lists. In response, the NRA says it supports delaying gun sales to terror suspects for 72 hours, but it wants a way to take people off the watch list, if they’re wrongly accused.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Another tragedy played out in the Orlando area today, after an alligator snatched and killed a 2-year-old boy at Walt Disney World. It happened Tuesday evening at the Seven Seas Lagoon, as the boy was wading near shore. Police reported that search teams found the body today and that it was intact. The resort closed all its beaches.
GWEN IFILL: The wreckage of a missing EgyptAir plane has been spotted deep in the Mediterranean Sea. Egyptian officials say they have identified several main locations on the ocean floor. The flight disappeared on May 19, killing all 66 people on board. The cause of the crash remains unclear.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The Federal Reserve left a key short-term interest rate unchanged today, in light of an uncertain jobs picture. In a statement, the central bank said — quote — “The labor market has slowed, while growth in economic activity appears to have picked up.”
Fed Chair Janet Yellen elaborated:
JANET YELLEN, Chair, Federal Reserve: Although recent labor market data have, on balance, been disappointing, it’s important not to overreact to one or two monthly readings. The committee continues to expect that the labor market will strengthen further over the next few years. That said, we will be watching the job market carefully.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Yellen said Fed policy-makers are also watching for any economic fallout from Britain’s vote next week on whether to stay in the European Union.
GWEN IFILL: The Fed’s news failed to reassure Wall Street, as stocks fell for a fifth day. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 34 points to close at 17640. The Nasdaq gave up eight points, and the S&P 500 dropped nearly four.
JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama met with the Dalai Lama today, despite China’s warnings that it would damage U.S.-Chinese ties. Beijing accuses the spiritual leader of Tibet’s Buddhists of campaigning to split the region from China. The White House released a photo of the meeting, but allowed no other coverage.
GWEN IFILL: Medical news on two fronts today.
The World Health Organization now says there’s no conclusive evidence that drinking coffee causes cancer. That reverses a 25-year-old warning. Instead, the WHO says the real issue is temperature. If you routinely drink anything that’s very hot, about 150 degrees or more, there’s limited evidence it could lead to cancer of the esophagus.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A major city in southern India is on high alert for polio after an active strain was found in sewage water. The alert in Hyderabad means about 350,000 children will be vaccinated next week. India was declared free of polio in 2014.
GWEN IFILL: And astronomers have picked up new echoes of two black holes crashing into each other deep in space. The collision generated a gravitational wave that gave off a high-pitched chirp. It’s only the second time that Earth-based instruments have detected a gravitational wave, and it helps prove the first time wasn’t a fluke.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Still to come on the “NewsHour”: Donald Trump takes an unexpected stance on gun control; a new report detailing racial bias by the Oakland California police; how the Muslim community is responding to the attack in Orlando; and much more.
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WASHINGTON — The acting head of the Veterans Benefits Administration is retiring — three months after he was suspended for allowing two officials to manipulate the agency’s hiring system for their own gain.Danny Pummill will leave the Department of Veterans Affairs on June 23. Pummill was suspended without pay for 15 days in March for his role in a relocation scam that has roiled the agency for more than a year.
The VA says Pummill failed to exercise proper oversight as the two officials forced lower-ranking employees to accept job transfers and then took the vacant positions themselves — keeping their senior-level salaries while reducing their responsibilities.
Pummill leads an agency with a $2.7 billion budget that provides disability benefits to about 4.3 million veterans.
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A British member of parliament, Jo Cox, was killed in northern England on Thursday, days ahead of a referendum on whether the UK should leave the European Union, known as “Brexit.”
Cox, 41, was shot twice and stabbed in Birstall, West Yorkshire, after attending a meeting with her constituents. She later died from her wounds.
A 52-year-old man was arrested in the area, police said. A witness told the Guardian that he heard the man shout “Britain first” before launching the attack.
Officials said it was unclear if the incident was related to the June 23 Brexit vote.
Both sides on the referendum said they would suspend campaigning. British Prime Minister David Cameron cancelled a speech he intended to make in Gibraltar.
Cox was described as a rising star in the Labor Party. She previously worked in the aid industry at Oxfam and reportedly often called for Britain to do more for the Syrian refugees.
She was married with two small children. Her husband Brendan Cox posted a tribute to her on Twitter:
— Brendan Cox (@MrBrendanCox) June 16, 2016
Three infants in the United States have been born with birth defects linked to the Zika virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.
Three other pregnancies in the U.S. have also been affected but they were not carried to term, the agency said. It listed them as “pregnancy losses” — meaning a miscarriage, stillbirth, or termination after the fetus was seen to have birth defects and tested positive for the virus.
The early signs of what the U.S. may experience from Zika infections among pregnant women are worrying, admitted Dr. Denise Jamieson, co-lead for the CDC’s Zika pregnancy and birth defects task force.
“I’m very concerned,” she told STAT. “What we’re seeing among U.S. travel-associated cases and U.S. travelers is the same pattern that we’re seeing in other places like Colombia and Brazil.”
These six cases involve women in the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. They do not include infected pregnant women in Puerto Rico — where one case of Zika-related microcephaly has been reported — or other U.S. territories.
Some of these cases have already been reported publicly. In January, a woman in Hawaii who had been infected with Zika in Brazil early in her pregnancy gave birth to a baby with severe microcephaly.
And the CDC reported in February that two women had miscarried after having contracted Zika abroad. Testing of the fetuses confirmed Zika infection.
Also included in these figures is a woman from Latin America who gave birth to an infant with microcephaly in New Jersey. The woman, believed to be from Honduras, was visiting relatives when she went into labor.
Jamieson declined to comment on individual cases but said the figures include all babies born in the U.S. with birth defects that are linked to Zika infection.
She said the CDC will update these numbers weekly and will eventually provide similar statistics for the U.S. territories.
None of the cases involved local infection in the United States from a mosquito. It’s not clear if any of the women were infected through sexual transmission of the virus from a male partner who had become sick while abroad.
“They’re all travel-associated cases. So they’re all women who either traveled to a Zika affected area or had sex with someone, a man, who traveled to a Zika-affected area,” said Jamieson, who declined to clarify further.
The U.S. has reported 11 cases of sexual transmission of Zika.
The figures were posted on the CDC’s website on Thursday, the first time the agency has provided a tally of Zika-linked pregnancies and birth defects in the United States.
The CDC reported that, as of June 9, 234 pregnant women in the U.S. have been diagnosed with Zika infection. Jamieson said most of those pregnancies are still ongoing. There have also been at least 189 women in U.S. territories who have been diagnosed with the Zika virus.
Zika infection during pregnancy can cause significant birth defects in the developing fetus including microcephaly, a condition in which infants are born with abnormally small heads and sometimes underdeveloped brains.
Scientists are still trying to determine how many women infected with Zika during pregnancy are likely to give birth to babies with birth defects.
Jamieson said the CDC’s best estimate at the moment is that there is a 1 percent to 15 percent risk, if the infection occurs in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Some people have characterized that risk as relatively low, but that’s not the way Jamieson sees it.
“I think a 1 percent chance of having a baby with a major birth defect such as microcephaly is very concerning. I’m not reassured by that.”
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Editor’s Note: On June 23, the United Kingdom will vote to stay in the European Union or to leave. Known as “Brexit,” the referendum has the potential to upend Europe’s economy as well as Britain’s. In a two-part series airing tonight and tomorrow, economics correspondent Paul Solman explores both sides of this debate that has embroiled Britain’s case for leaving the European Union and the case for staying.
Terry Greenwood, who helps run the Porter’s lodge at Oxford University, told Paul that he simply doesn’t trust the competence of the European Union Parliament, pointing to the European Union’s admittance of Greece. Read that conversation below, and tune in to tonight’s Making Sen$e for more. The following text has been edited for clarity and length.
— Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor
Paul Solman: Leave or remain?
Terry Greenwood: Leave, definitely.
Paul Solman: Why?
Terry Greenwood: I have no confidence in the basic ability or competence of anybody in the European Parliament. And I think my evidence for that is all of the expertise, all the effort, all the propaganda that was put out just before Greece joined the European Union — it was going to be the finest thing to turn Greece into a modern economic country, etc. And lo and behold a few months later, the country is bankrupt. You cannot tell me that all of the expertise that these people could drum up can actually count for anything. So I think I want out of the European Union. It is a very expensive talking shop.
Paul Solman: But Greece was hiding its numbers. Even people in Greece didn’t know the extent to which it was cooking the books.
Terry Greenwood: Anybody knows that money in, money out. They knew what they were paying in pensions. They knew what the country was earning. And yet, people are quite willing to accept anything that the European Parliament or European Council says. I’m not going to accept it.
Paul Solman: But it’s going to cost the United Kingdom to leave the union, is it not?
Terry Greenwood: So what? We’ve been there before. I remember running down the shop and getting my three-pence coupon for a couple of sweets, and if they didn’t have any, I went without. So what? We are English. We can take it. We have done it before and can do it again. If people don’t like it, they can move on.
Paul Solman: But we are more and more in a cosmopolitan, international, globalized world. Don’t you think England should be a part of that world rather than opposed?
Terry Greenwood: I totally agree, however, we should be in charge of our own country. We, not some unelected Parliament. You wouldn’t have your next-door neighbor come in and tell you what to eat at your table.
Well, that’s precisely what the European Union is trying to do. It’s telling us how to conduct our lives, and I think that’s wrong. I wouldn’t dare go into a German country and tell them how to run their lives, and yet people are quite pathetically just accepting this large institution telling us, “This is what you should do.”
Paul Solman: What are you being restrained from doing? What are they telling you to do?
Terry Greenwood: Me, personally, not a lot. But they start frightening by saying if we move out, we’ll all lose our pensions. This is all so rubbish. For goodness sakes. We are one of the strongest economies in Europe, and they’re saying it’s going to affect us. I’m sorry, I think it’s going to affect them. I think they want us in, because we are the gold chip. I don’t care what they say. I don’t believe anything or any of their numbers that they’re coming out with.
Paul Solman: So for you it’s really a matter of pride more than anything else?
Terry Greenwood: No, not necessarily. People say immigration is a problem. I work here with Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles, Spaniards. I’m quite happy. They are good at their job, and they don’t stand at the bottom of the road asking for welfare. They do a good job, and they work, and they pay their taxes, end of story.
But there are a lot of subsidies about. When anything crosses a border, it gets a subsidy. You drive up the road. You come back across the border. You export it again, you get another subsidy. This is just a crazy way to carry on.
I don’t trust their systems. I don’t trust their competence, and basically, I’m all for leaving the European Union. I mean, if it were tomorrow, I’d be a very happy man.
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Before opening fire on a crowded Orlando nightclub on Sunday, Omar Mateen had been investigated twice by the FBI. He had also posted Islamic State-related threats on Facebook and allegedly used the social media platform to search for information on the San Bernardino terrorists last month, according to a Senate Committee. But Mateen’s web activity didn’t trigger an alarm. Lone wolves are hard to stop, as President Obama pointed out two days after the attack
And in fact, new research in Science Magazine shows lone actors shouldn’t be the top priority when it comes to tracking ISIS online – groups should. In the study, computer scientists charted the ecology of pro-ISIS activity in 2015 on Europe’s biggest social media platform, VKontakte. Like a modern Darwin on an electronic Galapagos, they examined an ecosystem rife with evolving groups of pro-ISIS supporters.
“In our case, almost a week before, we were able to make a pretty reliable prediction when an event was imminent,” said Stefan Wuchty, a computer scientist at the University of Miami and the project’s leader. “If you just look at chatter — or what people are posting — you would not be able to make a prediction with [this] many days’ leeway.”
Wuchty said this project was birthed a couple years ago by social unrest in Latin America, namely Brazil and Venezuela. The team wondered if a machine-learning algorithm could predict when future protests might surface. They started by tracking real-world movements in the street, but no coherent patterns surfaced. Eventually, they looked into social media, given the platform’s influence on the Arab Uprising in 2011.
The researchers searched for public groups on VKontakte that expressed pro-ISIS sentiments in the form of hashtags or specific language. Over the course of January 1 to August 31, 2015, the team isolated 196 pro-ISIS groups — or aggregates — with just over 108,000 individual followers. (Unlike Facebook, VKontakte users aren’t required to use their real names, but they need a valid phone number to activate an account.) They picked the Russia-based VKontakte because, over the last two years, Facebook and Twitter have pushed to immediately suppress ISIS propaganda.These pro-ISIS clans behaved like mushrooms in order to survive. Groups would occasionally get shut down by online moderators or hackers. The followers responded with reincarnation, sprouting in a new group, or they moved into another preexisting pack.
Setting this coalescence to math revealed an Achilles heel for pro-ISIS activity online: strike small groups rather than large ones. The team’s algorithm found eliminating small- and medium-sized groups had a disabling effect on the distribution of radicalizing propaganda.
“The paper has some very valuable insight in trying to break up these networks,” said J.M. Berger, a fellow at the International Center for Counterterrorism who specializes in ISIS activity on social media. He wasn’t involved with the study, but said private and government analysts have found breaking up these aggregates inhibits the performance of terrorist networks.
But when shutdown rates drop below a critical threshold, a scenario emerges where “any piece of pro-ISIS material can spread globally” like a contagion, according to the study.
“What you’re seeing is that groups like Daesh, ISIS, have weaponized the internet for purposes of recruiting, propaganda, calls to action,” said former U.S. ambassador Mark Wallace, who is now CEO of the Counter Extremism Project. “[This research and ours shows] you could undermine the reach of Daesh by focusing on much smaller group sets rather than the ubiquitous nature of online discussion by Daesh.”
But Wuchty’s team also discovered the rapid appearance or reincarnation of these groups can signal a real-world event. They found, in a second set of VKontakte data, that these groups swarmed right before the ISIS attacks on Kobane, Syria on September 18, 2014.
“What we saw is that right before the onset, the time interval between two aggregates showing up got smaller and smaller and smaller,” Wuchty said. Plus, the surge resembled what happened with Facebook groups prior to mass protests in South America.
“It’s super interesting that they’re able to show this,” said mathematician and conflict economist Michael Spagat of the University of London, who wasn’t involved in the research. “The actual violent event comes at the culmination of this buildup.”
Berger said this result should be taken with caution. As of now, “nobody has managed to crack the mountain of predicting terrorist events,” he said. Aggregates are important in his opinion, but it’s important to remember information also travels from person-to-person. Major events like the Paris attacks don’t tend to leak indicators in social media groups, he said.
“If you’re looking for people of interest to arrest or surveil, then the aggregates are better than randomly scouring the internet,” Berger said. “But not necessarily better than going through a follower-to-follower approach.”
Also, the team only analyzed one ISIS-related attack, due to limited funding for the project. Berger, Spagat and Wuchty believe public funding for this brand of mathematical network analysis has lagged, despite its ability to spot fresh trends. Just last week, Spagat’s team reported that women play crucial roles in online terrorist networks, irrespective of the Islamic State’s record of misogyny.
Regardless, Ambassador Wallace said the top priority should be eliminating ISIS propaganda from the internet, a viewpoint echoed by President Obama two days ago. Wallace highlighted the YouTube videos of Anwar al-Awlaki, a radicalized American citizen who was killed by a U.S. authorized drone strike in 2011.
“You can still go onto YouTube and find 60,000 of his videos,” Wallace said. It’s not easy to find the content, he said, but private and public researchers are developing computer programs that scan online documents, video, images and audio to identify terrorism materials.
“Governmental actors and NGOs have been slow to respond to that, but the first thing to do is be able to remove content and deny the battlefield to the propagandists and recruiters,” Wallace said.
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