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- 08/18/16--15:30: _Column: A $3.6 mill...
- 08/18/16--15:30: _In an unconventiona...
- 08/18/16--15:40: _How Louisiana plans...
- 08/18/16--15:50: _News Wrap: Californ...
- 08/19/16--06:11: _Zika virus may now ...
- 08/19/16--07:06: _Kids with insurance...
- 08/19/16--07:29: _Paul Manafort, Trum...
- 08/19/16--08:06: _Ukraine secret docu...
- 08/19/16--09:28: _One million US stud...
- 08/19/16--09:41: _Olympic highlights ...
- 08/19/16--12:17: _Uncovering the fema...
- 08/19/16--13:13: _Economy in tatters,...
- 08/19/16--13:33: _Lochte apologizes f...
- 08/19/16--15:05: _Shields and Rubin o...
- 08/19/16--15:10: _Legendary filmmaker...
- 08/19/16--15:15: _A portrait of turmo...
- 08/19/16--15:20: _U.S. swimming scand...
- 08/19/16--15:30: _Payment to Iran was...
- 08/19/16--15:40: _News Wrap: CDC warn...
- 08/19/16--15:50: _TV ads, resignation...
- 08/18/16--15:30: Column: A $3.6 million bonus and I still wanted more
- 08/18/16--15:30: In an unconventional race, even the electoral map surprises
- 08/18/16--15:40: How Louisiana plans to rebuild after historically damaging floods
- 08/19/16--06:11: Zika virus may now be spreading in Miami Beach
- 08/19/16--07:06: Kids with insurance still miss out on eye exams, study finds
- 08/19/16--07:29: Paul Manafort, Trump campaign chairman, resigns
- 08/19/16--08:06: Ukraine secret documents show $12.7 million in payments for Manafort
- 08/19/16--09:28: One million US students could be studying Mandarin by 2020
- “Olympians have a very short shelf life,” a managing director of a sports promotion company in Dallas told the Los Angeles Times. “We fall in love with these athletes who represent our country and then we forget about them. Then the next thing comes along,” he said.
- The U.S. men’s basketball team is struggling in the Rio Games because the players this time around aren’t as talented as the ones in years past, Vox argued.
- Kyrgyzstan weightlifter Izzat Artykov became the first Rio Olympian to test positive for a banned substance, The Guardian reported. As a result, he was stripped of his bronze medal in the men’s 69 kg competition.
- 08/19/16--12:17: Uncovering the female body’s secret protection against HIV
- 08/19/16--13:13: Economy in tatters, Nigeria loses title as Africa’s largest economy
- 08/19/16--15:10: Legendary filmmaker explores how the internet reflects human nature
- 08/19/16--15:15: A portrait of turmoil in South Sudan, from behind the lens
- 08/19/16--15:20: U.S. swimming scandal casts shadow over Rio, but Bolt still shines
- 08/19/16--15:50: TV ads, resignation and ‘regret’ spell change for Trump campaign
Editor’s Note: Once a hedge fund manager on Wall Street, Sam Polk is now the founder and executive of the nonprofit Groceryships and the social enterprise Everytable. The following is an excerpt from Polk’s memoir, “For the Love of Money,” published by Scribner. For more on the topic, tune in to tonight’s Making Sen$e report, which airs every Thursday on the PBS NewsHour.
— Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor
The email from Sean popped up in my inbox.
Come to my office.
I felt a jolt of adrenaline. It wasn’t fear, exactly. It was just that so much could happen in a late January conversation with your boss. On Wall Street, everything important — bonuses, promotions, firings — happens in January.
I leaned back in my chair and looked down the row to Sean’s glass-walled office. He sat at his desk, typing on the keyboard. I could usually sense his mood from the set of his jaw, the hunch of his shoulders. Today, I couldn’t tell. Sean was the head of trading at Pateras Capital, one of the largest hedge funds in the world. It was rumored that in bad years he made $20 million.
I was one of five senior traders at Pateras. Each of us was responsible for a particular market. I traded bonds of companies in or near bankruptcy. The “distressed” market. The term distressed captured how I was feeling about my entire life.
When Sean offered me a million dollars to leave Bank of America and come to Pateras, I’d felt like I won the lottery. Pateras was one of the most prestigious hedge funds on Wall Street. I couldn’t have dreamt up a more perfect job. But in the two years since I’d arrived, I’d started to see things — about Wall Street, about myself — that I hadn’t seen before. Now I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be here anymore.
I typed out a reply to Sean. Be there in two minutes. I wanted him to think I was busy, and I also wanted to collect myself. I had some internal tension when it came to Sean.
In my first few months at Pateras I’d seen firsthand what an amazing trader Sean was. His market knowledge was encyclopedic; his instincts were fighter-pilot sharp. I started to fantasize about becoming his protege.
But our relationship hadn’t developed as I’d hoped. While Sean treated me with respect, he never focused special attention on me. He saved that for another senior trader, Derek Mabry. Derek wore expensive suits, dated models and spent weekends in the Hamptons. Sean preferred him. When I’d see Derek sprawled on the chair in Sean’s glass-walled office, embers of jealousy smoldered inside me.
I worried my big mouth had gotten me in trouble. A few times I’d been on the phone with my identical twin brother, discussing the pros and cons of leaving Wall Street, when I suddenly realized how loudly I’d been talking, and how quiet the trading floor was. I worried Sean had overheard me, that my loose lips had jeopardized my bonus. Why pay someone millions of dollars if their heart isn’t in it anymore?
Sean looked up as I pulled the door open. “How’s the market?” he asked.
“Stable,” I said. “Not much going on.”
For the past year and a half, the market had fluctuated like a pitching boat. We were still climbing out of the Great Recession. But that day the market was quiet, as if it were taking a collective, exhausted breath.
Sean nodded. The stress of the past few years had taken its toll. He’d always been thin, but he was starting to resemble a cadaver. His head seemed enormous atop his emaciated body. You could see the shape of his skull.
“Let me get right to it,” he said. I held my breath.
“What are you expecting this year for a bonus? Give me the number,” he asked.
I exhaled. We were having The Bonus Talk. I was safe, not fired. Under Sean’s gaze, I searched for a response. But the answer seemed hazy, far away.
It wasn’t that I hadn’t thought about it. It’s impossible to overstate how often Wall Street traders think about their bonuses. Those thoughts drive every trade, meeting, client dinner and ball game. The carrot at the end of the stick.
One of the reasons you think so much about it is because you don’t have much control over it. It’s a great paradox on Wall Street, where you supposedly “eat what you kill,” that your bonus is entirely at your boss’s discretion. The more trading profits you make, the bigger your bonus will likely be. But there are other variables — how profitable the firm is, seniority, what competitors are paying. You just don’t know.
It was especially true for me that year. I’d had the best trading year of my life. I’d been positioned perfectly for a market collapse. When the crash came, I’d closed out trades for huge profits and then bought a ton of deeply distressed bonds for cents on the dollar, just as the market bottomed out. Those bonds screamed higher, and by the end of the year, I’d earned several hundred million dollars for Pateras. The year before I’d made less than half of this year’s take for Pateras, and my bonus had been $1.3 million. Sean said that the longer I was at Pateras, the higher my percentage payout would be. Given how much I was up this year, a higher-percentage payout would mean a massive amount of money. NBA all-star money.
I was 30 years old. I’d been an English major. I’d managed to keep my past a secret.
I gazed back at Sean. He was about to tell me I’d make more that year than my mom, a nurse-practitioner midwife, had earned in her entire life.
“So tell me,” said Sean. “What’s the number?”
“I have no idea,” I said.
“Your bonus this year,” he said, “will be $3.6 million.”
I took a step back, staggered. Lots of people on Wall Street make a million bucks a year. Few make almost four. It was an instant entrance into the ranks of the super wealthy. I’d yearned for this moment my whole life. And now that it had happened — now that Sean had said the actual number — I wanted more.
As I ran the numbers in my head, a hollow feeling crept into my stomach.
“So you all are paying me less of a percentage than last year?” I asked.
“I think they should have paid you more,” Sean said. “But you know how Peter is.” Peter Conroy, co-managing partner of Pateras, controlled the purse strings and seemed to think everyone should just be grateful to be there.
My happiness disappeared under a flash flood of anger. “You said my percentage payout would go up,” I said.
“I know,” Sean said. “You need to be patient. Just look at Derek — it took him a few years, but now he’s making real money.” The flash flood lurched up like a wave about to break. Derek was making real money this year? More than me.
“This is bullshit,” I said. My hands were shaking.
That night I lay in bed next to my girlfriend, Kirsten, listening to the creaks and groans of the old brownstone in Brooklyn Heights where I rented a floor. Thoughts raced through my head like motorcycles.
The image of Derek bragging about his windfall to his popped-collar Hamptons buddies made me nauseous. But what really hurt was that Sean hadn’t stood up for me. He could have convinced Peter to increase my bonus or even shaved a few million off his own for me.
But he didn’t.
My face was tight with anger. But I could feel tears lying in wait, ready to stream down my cheeks.
I wasn’t going to fall asleep. I knew my shifting would eventually wake Kirsten, so I sat gently up in bed, my left side suddenly cold without her next to me. I stuck my feet into my slippers and padded into the kitchen for a glass of water. I took it to the living room and sat down in the big gray chair where I usually did my reading. But instead of pulling out the worn copy of “The Great Gatsby” I was rereading, I just sat and thought about my life.
Yesterday, I’d been planning to leave Wall Street; today, I was devastated because my enormous bonus wasn’t bigger.
What was wrong with me? How had I become like this?
The post Column: A $3.6 million bonus and I still wanted more appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We turn to politics now and the changing picture of the 2016 electoral map. Hillary Clinton campaigned in New York today, while Donald Trump is in North Carolina, a state that’s been receiving attention from both candidates lately.
As Lisa Desjardins reports, it is part of a fast and fascinating shift in the battleground game.
LISA DESJARDINS: Forget the words, the twists —
DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee: I am the least racist person.
LISA DESJARDINS: The turns.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), Presidential Nominee: I never sent or received any material marked classified.
LISA DESJARDINS: And the endless speculation around this strange campaign year. Now, the race is coming in focus — focus on just a handful of states.
HILLARY CLINTON: We’ve had an incredible week here in Pennsylvania.
DONALD TRUMP: I think I’m going to win Pennsylvania easily.
HILLARY CLINTON: Thank you, Northern Virginia!
DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to be back in Virginia a lot. We have to win Virginia.
LISA DESJARDINS: And now, 2016 brought another surprise, a fast-changing map. These were the expected battlegrounds earlier this year, eleven key swing-ish states. But in recent weeks, five of those — Colorado, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia — have moved away from contention in Democrats’ direction.
Polls show Hillary Clinton ahead the by a whopping 9 to 15 points in all five. She’s so confident in five states, Colorado and Virginia that she stopped advertising there for now.
Instead, Team Clinton is shifting plans, hoping to expand their map.
SEN. TIM KAINE (D), Vice Presidential Nominee: We’re not in North Carolina by accident. We’re here because we’re going to win North Carolina.
LISA DESJARDINS: Clinton and Kaine are going on attack, after states that voted for Romney in 2012, like North Carolina and even more solid Republican territory like Georgia and Arizona. Clinton is expanding her staff in both states. Those states have seen major growth around large cities and in their Hispanic population, trends that Democrats believe favor them long term.
And one more new and eye-popping state of the battleground map, Utah. The Beehive State has voted Republican for almost 50 years but in a close race, its six electoral votes could matter.
Donald Trump said this just last week.
DONALD TRUMP: I’m having a tremendous problem in Utah. Utah’s a different place, and I don’t know if — is anybody here from Utah?
LISA DESJARDINS: You know who lives in Utah, Mitt Romney, former nominee and outspoken Trump critic.
MITT ROMNEY (R), Former Presidential Nominee: Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud.
LISA DESJARDINS: He reflects Mormons’ discomfort with Trump’s scrutiny of another religious minority, Muslims.
Trump is still competitive in some key states like Florida and Ohio and he’s far in front in Indiana. But he has two and a half months until Election Day to shift the rest of the map his direction.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And Lisa joins us now as we dig a little deeper into what’s going on in these crucial battleground states.
Also joining us: Karen Kasler, she’s statehouse bureau chief with Ohio Public Radio and TV. And Adam smith, he’s political editor for Florida’s “Tampa Bay Times”. He joins us from our PBS station WEDU.
And we welcome all three of you.
Adam Smith, let me start with you in Florida. Right now, Hillary Clinton has a very slightly — slight lead there but it’s close. What does it feel like? What do you see the two candidates’ strengths and weaknesses right now?
ADAM SMITH, Tampa Bay Times: Well, Florida’s always a nail biter state. So, it’s — the safe bet is it’s going to be close. It usually is. Both candidates are here virtually every week, sometimes within a couple of days of each other. We’ve had a lot of pro-Hillary ads and some pro-Trump ads and now, Trump is just about to start advertising any day now.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Karen Kasler, what about Ohio? This is another state where it’s very close, as we just heard in Lisa’s report. What does it feel like to you there?
KAREN KASLER, Ohio Public Radio and Television: Well, the polls are showing between four and five points. Hillary Clinton is leading. Right now, we’re seeing a lot of advertising for Clinton. She has been popular here in Ohio and, in fact, Democrats have won Ohio in the last two presidential elections. But it depends on where you live I think.
In the cities, you’re seeing a lot of Hillary Clinton ads and offices popping up, whereas Trump seems to be doing a lot of campaigning in other areas of the state where there aren’t urban areas. For instance, in Youngstown, which is right on the border with West Virginia and Pennsylvania, he’s done a lot of campaigning, did his foreign policy speech earlier this week there.
And he’s opened up 15 so-called victory offices in Ohio, whereas Clinton had a leg up on that. She has close to two dozen offices.
So, the organizations are out there starting to work, but Hillary Clinton I think has an edge in terms of the organization. And right now, in the polls, she has an edge as well.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Adam, let me come back to you on that. What do you see in Florida in terms of organization, in terms of what these two campaigns have going for them on the ground?
ADAM SMITH: Considerably more organization on Clinton’s side. She has about 20 offices — 19 or 20 offices open. As of today, Donald Trump has one headquarters in Sarasota. They’re talking about opening up a couple of dozen more within the next couple of weeks, but that hasn’t happened yet.
I think like in a lot of states, the Trump campaign is really all about these big rallies. That’s sort of what Trump himself emphasizes. So, yes, it’s true, they point at rallies where they draw 10,000, 15,000 people, and suggest that shows that the energy is on their side. You know, the question a lot of Republicans and Democrats ask is, with those people going after the rallies, they don’t need to be pushed out, that a lot of people are worried on the Republican side that he needs to do something to bolster the ground game and push people to the polls that aren’t automatically likely to go.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa Desjardins, we’re talking about two of the states where it’s competitive. Hillary Clinton is ahead in some of the other battleground states. You describe, what does Donald Trump need to do? You have been talking to people inside his organization.
LISA DESJARDINS: These are the two juggernaut states for sure, Florida and Ohio, he absolutely needs to win those two states and also Pennsylvania is considered the third leg on that critical stool for him.
Now, those are the three states with the most electoral votes. All of them are key for that reason. But he can technically lose one of them. He’s behind in Pennsylvania by double digits right now. If he does that Judy though, his path is even harder. If he loses any of the three states like Pennsylvania, he has to win two others somewhere else like Virginia and Colorado.
So, these three states have twice the importance as others and his path gets smaller and smaller as these particular states slip away or come toward him.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Karen Kasler, you were saying you see more evidence of Hillary Clinton’s organization in Ohio. If Donald Trump wants to catch up in the next 80-some odd days, what does he need to do from the perspective of the Republicans you’re talking to right now?
KAREN KASLER: Well, it seems like he’s got to win over the Republicans that I’m talking to because as you may recall, Governor John Kasich was the last one man standing against Donald Trump in the presidential contest. He was the last one to drop out. He has yet to endorse Donald Trump and has indicated he’s not going to. He didn’t go to the RNC in Cleveland, his home state, because of his concerns about Donald Trump.
There are other Republican leaders who feel similarly. They’re concerned about the rest of the ticket, including Senator Rob Portman who is up for election, but they are really very worried about Donald Trump being at the top of the ticket. And so, you hear a lot of language about I’m going to support the nominee but not necessarily I’m going to campaign with Donald Trump.
So, for Donald Trump to win, he certainly would have to win over some of those people who may not be won over-able, and also, he needs to win a key area of the state, and that’s central Ohio. And Central Ohio is really the battleground, I think in Ohio. Central Ohio, the area around Columbus where I am is Democratic, but then the counties surrounding it are very Republican.
And so, I think that’s going to be really the area that is going to decide the state for the election coming up.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Adam Smith, I saw you nodding your heard when Karen was speaking about Republican officeholders in Ohio. What about in Florida? What kind of support does Donald Trump have going for him in Florida?
ADAM SMITH: Well, it just sounds so similar to what I hear from most Republican officers in Florida where they will talk about the nominee, they’ll talk about beating Hillary Clinton, but most of them don’t want to utter those two words “Donald Trump” for whatever reason. The exception is our governor, Governor Rick Scott, unlike Kasich is a big Trump guy. He’s leading his super PAC. He’s enthusiastic and out there for Trump, but Rick Scott maybe doesn’t have quite the juice that some other people do. He’s not the most popular governor.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa Desjardins, talking to the Trump people, again, do you get the sense they are looking to other Republicans to climb on board? Are they thinking they will have to do this on their own?
LISA DESJARDINS: They admit they have two very big jobs right now. One is to bring all the Republicans on board. What they talk about is how happy they are with Mike Pence. They think Mike Pence is the key to doing that. And we know that daily he has been reaching out to these —
JUDY WOODRUFF: Indiana governor.
LISA DESJARDINS: The Indiana governor, now the vice presidential nominee.
The other job they have is to expand their base. This is not just a Donald Trump question. This is a bigger question fort Republicans in general, and we’ve seen Donald Trump start to do that more seriously this week as he gave a speech talking about how he believes he can appeal to African-Americans. We need to see if that actually moves the dial or not. But he’s got to grow past Republicans and he also has to grow within Republicans.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You and I were talking earlier today about the demographic challenges the Republican ticket faces in this election.
LISA DESJARDINS: Right. This is a key election to watch not just this year but perhaps for two or three cycles down the road. Let’s look at the states we talk about that are shifting a little bit. Arizona on the map, Georgia on the map, what do those states have in common? Some of the fastest growing Hispanic populations in this country.
Another problem for Republicans, people are moving to the cities. They’re moving away from small towns. I think it’s one of the great uncovered stories right now, our small towns are dying. That’s a problem because that’s a big part of the Republican base, as we get more urban. That so far has benefited Democrats.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Pick up on that, Karen Kasler, and talk also about the kind of enthusiasm you see for these two candidates, for Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump.
How do you read that?
KAREN KASLER: Well, the rallies that have happened here have been pretty enthusiastic. Hillary Clinton was here in Columbus just a couple of days after accepting the nomination at the Democratic National Convention. She brought out 5,000 people in the middle of the heat. Donald Trump have done several rallies in Ohio that have been multi-thousand attendees.
But I want to add one other thing in terms of demographics — I think in Ohio, the Trump voters — the Trump campaign is targeting voters who are these blue-collar, unemployed or underemployed or frustrated voters, people who are in the Youngstown area, in areas around Toledo, in heavy manufacturing areas, people who are concerned about the economy because of trade. We’ve seen the numbers of union members who have voted for Republicans actually rise over the last 20 years because of their concerns about trade.
So, I think that’s one area the Trump campaign targets, when he comes to Ohio, he’s been going to those areas. And other than, he has been in Columbus, but he’s going to Youngstown. He’s been going to that part of the state because I think he’s very interested in trying to lure in those blue-collar and possibly union workers who are very concerned.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What about that, Adam Smith, finally to you? Is that — is that a rich target of — an area of opportunity for Donald Trump in Florida?
ADAM SMITH: Well, yes, and just as Columbus is the swing area of Ohio, the I-4 corridor going between Tampa Bay and Daytona Beach, that’s our swing area here, and particularly the rule the rule of thumb in Florida is whoever wins Tampa Bay generally wins statewide. Trump is very strong in a lot of Tampa Bay where there are a lot of independent voters, a lot of voters that are fed up with both parties and we’ve seen some polling for some congressional districts and legislative districts in swing districts where Donald Trump is surprisingly strong, and he’s not the drag on the bottom end of the ticket that in some districts that a lot of people have thought he would be at all.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So fascinating to watch. Adam Smith joining us from Florida, Karen Kasler from Ohio, our own Lisa Desjardins here in Washington — we thank you all.
The post In an unconventional race, even the electoral map surprises appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
HARI SREENIVASAN: As Louisiana struggles with historic floods, residents begin to wonder, what next?
William Brangham has the story.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: As the flood waters start to recede, the hard work of assessing and rebuilding begins.
CLEVE BROWN, Baton Rouge Resident: Basically, we lost everything, you know, other than our lives. Couple of hours, we probably had six-foot of water. Water is probably one of the worst Mother Nature beasts there is.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: An estimated 40,000 homes were damaged in the flooding that inundated Baton Rouge and Lafayette, killing at least 13 people.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson got a first hand look today.
JEH JOHNSON, Secretary of Homeland Security: The federal government is here. We have been here. We will be here as long as it takes to help this community recover.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Four thousand people are still living in shelters across the state.
GAIL MCGOVERN, Red Cross President and CEO: This is the largest operation that the American Red Cross has responded to since 2012, Superstorm Sandy, and driving s around the affected area, it’s really devastating.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In the most damaged areas, only about one out of every eight homes is covered by flood insurance, because these areas weren’t considered likely to flood.
CLEVE BROWN: No one was expecting this. This is, I mean, you can see, I might have gotten from here at it’s worst to up here. So, that’s why no one was expecting it. So, they’re not going to have flood insurance. They were, you know, they thought they were high and dry.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: More than 9,000 insurance claims have been filed so far.
For more on how Louisiana is doing, I’m joined now by the state’s lieutenant governor, Billy Nungesser. He joins us from Louisiana Public Broadcasting in Baton Rouge, where many of our colleagues there have also been flooded out of their homes.
Lieutenant Governor, welcome.
I wonder if you would just tell us, how are things today in Louisiana?
LT. GOV. BILLY NUNGESSER, Louisiana: Well, we’re still recovering. We still got areas where the water is flowing south that will continue to have water for several more days, and hopefully we can get a break in the weather and start to dry out.
But I heard you mention about the flood insurance. That’s going to be an ongoing problem because many areas, this is an historical flood, outside of the flood areas, they didn’t have flood insurance, and that’s going to be a problem moving forward.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Well, what is going to happen to those people? If you go back to your house and it’s severely damaged or destroyed, and you don’t have insurance to cover that, what are those people supposed to do?
BILLY NUNGESSER: Well, FEMA will give up to $33,000 if you weren’t in a flood zone and had no insurance, but the average — that’s the maximum you can get. The average is about $7,500. We’re going to have to make up that difference with volunteers and the giving of people from all over the country working with nonprofits to help make those people back in their house and make them whole. A lot of elderly people that had never flooded, lived in a house 40 or 50 years, didn’t see the need or couldn’t afford the flood insurance. So, those are — those are the ones that we’re really concerned about.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I mean, even if people were to get up to $30,000, do you think that’s enough to cover people’s rebuilding, hotels, time off work?
BILLY NUNGESSER: Absolutely not. That’s why we’re working through volunteer groups, United Way, Red Cross, a lot of the rebuilding groups that were here after Katrina will be coming back to help gut those homes and make them whole. We had groups from all over the country that are already starting in Louisiana to help out in the rebuilding effort.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: A lot of people acknowledged the flood maps that we use to determine where’s the risky place to build and where isn’t, but those maps are really outdated. And now, people have to start rebuilding their homes. I mean, what do you tell people if they come to you and they say, Lieutenant Governor, should I be building here? Should I build it higher? Should I build it differently? What do you say to people?
BILLY NUNGESSER: Well, it absolutely should be built higher. And, you know, we see a lot of these rivers have been silted in over the years, so there is not as much storage capacity in those rivers and canals. Plus, with sea rise and with the coastal erosion, even the coastal Louisiana for hurricanes, we’re going to have to really fast track our coastal restoration.
But you’re right. It’s the same thing that makes Louisiana special. It’s the people that pitch in to help rebuild. It’s a special place to live, and that’s one of the risks of living here.
But absolutely, every one that rebuilds, as they did along the coast, needs to rebuild at a high elevation.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: More broadly, are you getting the help you need from the federal government right now?
BILLY NUNGESSER: I’m really — you know, I have been through five hurricanes and the oil spill as a parish president, and we worked through a lot of challenging times with FEMA. But the team on the ground here in Louisiana has been with us every day, traveling with the governor and addressing all the needs, and we’ve really got a great team working on the ground with FEMA and I have seen great cooperation.
We still got some challenges ahead, but I’m very impressed with the way things have been handled thus far with this disaster, especially being spread out over 20 parishes. Usually, a hurricane hits one corner of our state and we can concentrate all our efforts in that area. To deliver response with the National Guard and the police, volunteers, firefighters, at 20 parishes at one time has really been a massive undertaking and they’ve done a great job.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You mentioned the importance of having local volunteer and charity groups helping out. If our viewers were interested in trying to lend a hand themselves, where would you steer them? Where would you direct them?
BILLY NUNGESSER: VolunteerLouisiana.gov is where we’re signing up all the volunteers and it’s a way to check on and have your group come in and help, or the Red Cross is accepting donations. They are manning our shelters and will take them over from the volunteers this week.
The Red Cross has been a great partner here in Louisiana and continue to run those shelters, and they’re going to be feeding a lot of people. So, we are asking for all the help you can give, and the country has been very gracious in the past.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right. Lieutenant Governor, thank you for being here and best of luck to you all down there.
BILLY NUNGESSER: Thank you so much.
The post How Louisiana plans to rebuild after historically damaging floods appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
HARI SREENIVASAN: A fast-moving inferno burning 60 miles east of Los Angeles flared even more today. Some 1,500 firefighters are battling the massive wildfire that’s only four percent contained. They dropped fire retardant on parts of the San Gabriel Mountains to help control the blaze. It’s already charred more than 49 square miles since Tuesday, 82,000 residents have been ordered to evacuate.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Nearly 18,000 detainees have died in Syrian government prisons since that country’s uprising began back in 2011. That’s according to a new report out today from Amnesty International. The group interviewed abuse survivors who described rampant torture, disease, and death at the detention centers run by Syria’s intelligence agencies. Amnesty warned the actual death toll is likely much higher, since thousands of detainees disappeared while in custody.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The United Nations has admitted for the first time to playing a role in Haiti’s initial choler outbreak. Some 10,000 people died, and hundreds of thousands more were sickened. The disease is believed to have spread in 2010 while U.N. peacekeeping troops from Nepal, where cholera is endemic, were helping with the relief effort after the devastating earthquake.
A short time ago, I spoke with journalist Jonathan Katz live on Facebook, who broke this story. He’s the author of the book “The Big truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster”. He’s also been covering the cholera epidemic in Haiti.
One of our Facebook commentators asked, “what took the U.N. so long to admit its role?”
JONATHAN KATZ, Journalist: The answer is that nobody likes admitting when they’re wrong, especially when admitting that you’re wrong can cost you billions of dollars and your job. I think they were hoping that this could go away. There was a perception at the beginning when cholera first broke out, again, six years ago, that sanitation was bad and Haiti, Haiti’s a country that’s had lots of different kinds of diseases in the past and there was this disaster that, of course, we now know had nothing to do with it but it was the enormous disaster that gotten the world’s attention nine months before. And I think the U.N. really felt that it could sort of skate by on these expectations that people that Haiti is just sort of a dirty disease place and diseases just happened and they thought they would get away with it.
HARI SREENIVASAN: You can watch my full interview on our “NewsHour” Facebook page.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A string off bombings in Turkey has killed at least 14 people and wounded more than 220 others. Militants struck three separate sites across the south and east within hours of each other. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed Kurdish separatists for the attacks. But he also accused followers of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey says orchestrated last month’s failed coup.
PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkey (translated): One does not need to be a prophet to see that Fethullah Gulen’s organization is behind the recent attacks in terms of information sharing and encouragement. Turkey is facing joint attacks by various terrorist organizations who act with the same motive.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Erdogan again demanded the U.S. extradite Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The State Department acknowledged today a $400 million cash payment the U.S. made to Iran last January was contingent on the release of American prisoners. “The Wall Street Journal” first reported the two events were specifically timed to one another yesterday. The money was owed to Iran in the wake of a failed arms deal dating back to 1979.
Today, State Department spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. would not let Tehran take control of the cash until after the three U.S. citizens had left Iran.
JOHN KIRBY, State Department Spokesman: We, of course, sought to retain maximum leverage until after American citizens were released. That was our top priority. This wasn’t a case of ransom. And again, I need to remind you all, while a little bit of the tick tock here that’s driven out you might find new and salacious — there’s really nothing new here in the story about how we got those American out and how we leveraged opportunities here that were coming together at the same time.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Republicans have long accused the Obama administration of paying ransom for the U.S. prisoners. They have vowed to hold hearings on the issue when they return from their summer break.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The Justice Department today announced it will end its use of privately- operated prisons. A recent report from the department’s inspector general found that they are less secure and less effective compared to federally-controlled prisons. The government began using the private facilities back in the 1990s amid a prison overcrowding crisis.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Police in Brazil now insist the four U.S. Olympians who claimed they were robbed at gunpoint in Rio lied. They allege the swimmers, including gold medalist Ryan Lochte, were involved in a dispute at a gas station after causing some minor damage to its bathroom. Brazilian TV broadcast surveillance video that purports to show the group being confronted by armed security after the incident. One guard pulled out his gun. Brazilian police are recommending charges.
FERNANDO VELOSO, Chief, Rio de Janeiro Civil Police (translated): In theory, they can be charged with giving false testimony and vandalism, in theory. They stopped at the gas station, they went to the toilets, and one or more than one, we are still investigating that, started vandalizing inside the toilets of the gas station.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Police say at the time the group did offer to s pay for the damage, three of the swimmers are still in Brazil, while Lochte returned to the U.S. earlier this week.
JUDY WOODRUFF: There was word today homegrown Zika cases have now been reported in the popular tourist destination of Miami Beach, Florida.
Unnamed state health officials told “The Miami Herald” that a handful of cases have been discovered there. The first instances of locally-transmitted Zika had previously been concentrated in a neighborhood north of downtown Miami.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The Clinton Foundation will no longer accept foreign or corporate donations should Hillary Clinton be elected president. “The Associated Press” reports former President Bill Clinton, who established the non-profit organization, briefed staffers on the decision today. In the event of a Clinton victory, it will only accept contributions from U.S. citizens and independent charities.
On Wall Street today, stocks were up slightly after rising oil prices gave energy shares a boost. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained more than 23 points to close at 18,597. The NASDAQ rose 11 points, and the S&P 500 added nearly five.
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Health officials now believe the Zika virus is being transmitted by mosquitoes in parts of Miami Beach, a development that is expected to lead to a travel warning for one of the country’s best known travel destinations.
Roughly a handful of cases have cropped up that are believed to be linked to that part of the city, a health official who spoke on condition of anonymity told STAT.
Late Thursday afternoon health authorities were working to finalize the area that would be covered by a new travel advisory from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Late last month, the CDC warned women who are pregnant to avoid a one-square-mile section of Wynwood, the Miami neighborhood where local transmission was first identified.
That marked the first time the Zika virus was confirmed to have been spreading in the United States, and the first time CDC had warned Americans against traveling to a part of the country to avoid contracting a disease.
Since then, 35 people who are believed to have been infected locally through the bites of mosquitoes have been identified. Many have been linked to Wynwood, either because they live, work, or have spent time there. But a number of cases have not had obvious ties to that part of the city.
The specter of ongoing Zika transmission in Miami Beach could have significant consequences for the Miami tourism industry, a key source of revenue for the state. The city saw a record 15.5 million visitors last year, according to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
It could also have an impact outside Miami. Earlier this week, Texas reported a case of Zika that was contracted in Miami. And Taiwan reported a woman who had traveled to Miami came home infected.
Zika is transmitted mainly by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are found throughout Florida and other states on the Gulf Coast. Although the virus generally causes only a mild illness — and often no symptoms at all — it can cause serious birth defects in fetuses when it infects pregnant women.
Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez said officials have yet to find a Zika-carrying mosquito.
“All we have right now are reported cases of people who are positive,” she said. “That being said, we’re working on mosquito control.”
Kids from less affluent homes, even when they have health insurance, are not as likely as others to get vision screenings that can identify conditions like lazy eye before the damage becomes irreversible, a new study found.
Researchers at the University of Michigan examined commercial health insurance claims data between 2001 and 2014 for nearly 900,000 children from birth to age 14. They tracked how often kids at different family income levels visited ophthalmologists and optometrists and the diagnosis rates for strabismus (cross-eyed or wall-eyed) and amblyopia (lazy eye).
The two conditions are relatively common, serious eye diseases in children. Because the eyes are seeing different things, the brain suppresses the vision in one eye. If not corrected by age 10, either condition can result in permanent vision loss. Treatment generally involves glasses, surgery, eye drops or patches, or some combination.
Children in families with the lowest net worth of less than $25,000 a year had 16 percent fewer eye care visits than those in the middle-income category of $150,000 to $250,000, the study found. Meanwhile, kids from families with the highest net worth of $500,000 or more had 19 percent more visits to eye care professionals than those in the middle-income group.
Lower income kids were also less likely to be diagnosed with strabismus or amblyopia than children from higher income families. By age 10, an estimated 3.6 percent of children in the lowest income category were diagnosed with strabismus, and 2 percent were diagnosed with amblyopia, the study found. For kids in the highest income bracket, the estimated diagnoses were 5.9 percent for strabismus and 3.1 percent for amblyopia.
“We think that affluence is driving the eye care visit and the visit is driving the diagnosis of eye disease,” said Dr. Joshua D. Stein, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Michigan’s medical school.
The researchers estimate that the lack of eye-care visits by lower income children resulted in 12,800 missed cases of strabismus and 5,400 missed cases of amblyopia.
Many children receive vision screening in schools, which wouldn’t appear in the claims data that were analyzed. Children who fail a school vision screening, however, should be referred to an optometrist or ophthalmologist for further testing, and that visit would show up in the claims data.
Less affluent parents may have more difficulty taking time off from work or face transportation challenges getting a child to an eye care provider, said Stein, and there may be fewer eye care providers available in less affluent areas.
Under the health law, services recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of medical experts, are covered by insurance without requiring most people to pay anything out of pocket. The task force recommends that children between the ages of 3 and 5 receive at least one vision screening to check for amblyopia. That recommendation is being updated.
Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. You can view the original report on its website.
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WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort resigned on Friday in the wake of campaign shake-up and revelations about his work in Ukraine.
In a statement issued as he arrived in Louisiana to tour the flood-ravaged state, Trump said Manafort offered his resignation Friday morning. The billionaire called Manafort “a true professional.”
“I am very appreciative for his great work in helping to get us where we are today, and in particular his work guiding us through the delegate and convention process,” Trump said.
Manafort’s resignation comes a day after The Associated Press reported that confidential emails from Manafort’s firm contradicted his claims that he had never lobbied on behalf of Ukrainian political figures in the U.S.
Emails between Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates, also a top Trump adviser, and the lobbying firm Mercury LLC showed that Manafort’s firm directly orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation on behalf of Ukraine’s then-ruling political party.
The effort included not just legislative outreach but also attempts to sway American public opinion and gather political intelligence on competing lobbying efforts in the U.S.
Manafort and Gates never registered as foreign agents for their work as required under federal law.
Also Friday, Ukrainian anti-corruption investigators released copies of handwritten ledgers detailing possible cash payments from Ukrainian political figures to Manafort totaling more than $12 million. Details of the payments described in the ledger were first reported by The New York Times. Manafort denies receiving those payments.
Earlier this week, Trump brought in a new campaign chief executive and campaign manager following a disastrous stretch in which the New Yorker committed a series of errors and fell behind Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in both national and battleground state preference polls.
The new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, had described Manafort and Gates as part of a new “core four” atop the Trump operation with her and CEO Stephen Bannon.
MOSCOW — Once-secret accounting documents of Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin party were released Friday, purporting to show payments of $12.7 million earmarked for Paul Manafort, who resigned from his job as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman following the revelations.
Manafort’s resignation comes a day after The Associated Press reported that confidential emails from his firm contradicted his claims that he had never lobbied on behalf of Ukrainian political figures in the U.S.
The AP found that Manafort helped Ukraine’s Party of Regions secretly route at least $2.2 million to two Washington lobbying firms. Manafort told Yahoo News that the AP’s account was wrong.
Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau, which was set up in 2014 to deal with high-profile corruption cases, is studying the so-called black ledgers of the Party of Regions which investigators believe are essentially logs of under-the-table cash payments that the party made to various individuals.
The bureau on Friday released 19 pages of the logs which contain 22 line-item entries where Manafort is listed as the ultimate recipient of funds totaling $12.7 million. The bureau said, however, that it cannot prove that Manafort actually received the money because other people including a prominent Party of the Regions deputy signed for him in those entries.
Handwritten notes in a column describe what the payments were used for with entries such as: “Payment for Manafort’s services,” ”contract payment to Manafort” dated between November 2011 and October 2012.
Manafort and business associate Rick Gates, another top strategist in Trump’s campaign, were working in 2012 on behalf of the political party of Ukraine’s then-president, Viktor Yanukovych.
People with direct knowledge of Gates’ work told the AP that, during the period when Gates and Manafort were consultants to Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, Gates was also helping steer the advocacy work done by a pro-Yanukovych nonprofit that hired a pair of Washington lobbying firms.
The nonprofit, the newly created European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, was governed by a board that initially included parliament members from Yanukovych’s party. The nonprofit subsequently paid at least $2.2 million to the lobbying firms to advocate positions generally in line with those of Yanukovych’s government.
Two co-founders of the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, Yevhen Geller and Vitaly Kolyuzhny, both former members of parliament, are listed in the released documents as recipients of funds on Manafort’s behalf.
Serhiy Leshchenko, a former investigative journalist turned lawmaker, on Friday published several pages from the ledgers in an article in the respectable Ukrainska Pravda newspaper.
When asked if he has evidence that Manafort actually received the money that had been earmarked for him, Leshchenko said only investigators can prove that if they question the people named in the ledgers. Leshchenko said Manafort had worked in Ukraine for several years and that the entries in the ledgers are the only explanation of how he could have been paid.
Some Ukrainian politicians who have been mentioned in entries released earlier this year have confirmed to local media that the books are genuine.
Leshchenko also said Manafort continued to work in Ukraine after Yanukovych fled and a new pro-European government stepped in and that Manafort consulted the Party of Regions for the 2014 parliamentary election and visited Ukraine last year.
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A multinational effort to boost the number of U.S. students studying abroad in China has expanded its focus to stateside Mandarin language learning.
The push, led by the US-China Strong Foundation, aims to increase the number of American students studying the language to one million by 2020, a five-fold increase. The effort recognizes the growing importance of U.S.-China relations and aims to prepare a new generation of U.S. citizens to engage with China through commerce and culture.
“We’re looking at this as a lifelong effort to ensure we have leaders who understand China and can help manage what we believe is the most important bilateral relationship in the world,” said Carola McGiffert, CEO of the Washington-based foundation.
To reach that goal, the initiative aims to create a model Chinese language and culture curriculum that is flexible enough to allow local school systems to tailor it to their needs.
The foundation also hopes to promote development of language-learning technology and online instruction tools, form a vocal coalition of governors and mayors who support Mandarin learning in public schools and double-down on efforts to create a homegrown corps of teachers able to teach the language. Right now, U.S. schools rely heavily on guest teacher programs that supply instructors for two to three years.
The number of elementary-aged students learning Mandarin in the United States is on the rise, in part because of U.S.-based Confucius Institutes, a nonprofit network tied to the People’s Republic of China.
Roughly 10 Mandarin dual-language programs existed in the United States before 2009. That number had swelled to nearly 200 by last fall.
In a joint press conference in September 2015 with Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Obama announced the launch of the “1 Million Strong” effort.
“If our countries are going to do more together around the world then speaking each other’s language, truly understanding each other, is a good place to start,” Obama said, noting that two of Vice President Joe Biden’s grandchildren are studying Mandarin.
The US-China Strong Foundation was established in 2013 as the 100,000 Strong Initiative with an initial goal of helping 100,000 U.S. students study in the country.
The recent rebrand reflects its expanding mission. The foundation also wants to encourage socioeconomic, geographic, and racial diversity among stateside Mandarin learners, McGiffert said.
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Team USA’s Ashton Eaton defended his Olympic decathlon title Thursday, becoming the third man in history to repeat as a gold medalist in the grueling 10-event competition.
Eaton’s win places him in the esteemed company of track and field greats Bob Mathias of the United States and Daley Thompson of Great Britain as the only athletes to earn consecutive gold medals in the men’s decathlon.
Before the final event, a 1,500-meter run, Eaton said he took a cold shower and thought to himself, “I’m willing to run myself into the hospital, if I have to, to do this,” he told NBC.
When he ran past the finish line, Eaton’s total score was 8,893 points — 59 points ahead of France’s Kevin Mayer, who took silver. Canada’s Damien Warner took bronze.
The Olympic decathlon is demanding on athletes, who have to compete in 10 events — from shot put and high jump to the discus throw and pole vault — over two consecutive, 12-hour days. When American Jim Thorpe won the decathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Games, he was unofficially dubbed “the world’s greatest athlete.”
“It’s the only event where you run, jump and throw,” Eaton once told Yahoo Sports. “To me, it’s the SAT of athleticism,” he said.
Eaton, who set a world record at the 2012 Olympic trials, didn’t break any personal records at the Rio Games, The New York Times reported, but did beat his final score from the 2012 London Games, earning 12 more points this time around.
After seeing his score, the 28-year-old embraced his wife, Brianne Theisen-Eaton of Canada, who won a bronze medal last week in the women’s heptathlon.
When his wife competed then, Eaton wore a bright red “Canada” hat while he watched from the stands.
OTHER NOTEWORTHY MOMENTS
In an upset, Helen Louise Maroulis took gold in women’s wrestling, the first time for the United States, in the 53 kg weight class. The 24-year-old defeated Japan’s Saori Yoshida, 33, who is the world’s most decorated athlete in freestyle wrestling with three Olympic gold medals to her name.
“I’ve been dreaming about wrestling Saori for so long,” Maroulis said after the match. “She’s a hero … It’s such an honor to wrestle her,” she said.
Maroulis had lost to Yoshida twice before, and they hadn’t wrestled each other since 2012, the Washington Post reported. Maroulis’s personal coach told the Post that all of the wrestler’s training the past two years was focused on beating Yoshida.
Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt also won his second Rio gold medal — the eighth of his career — in the men’s 200 meters on Thursday. He clocked in at 19.78 seconds. Canada’s Andre De Grasse, who prompted a smile and finger wag from Bolt during the semifinals, took silver.
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A day after Rio police officials discredited Ryan Lochte’s robbery claim, the American swimmer apologized for “not being more careful or candid” in how he recalled the events, the Associated Press reported.
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CAPE TOWN, South Africa — From where Linda-Gail Bekker sits as director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre in Cape Town, science has been losing ground against HIV for years, especially when it comes to young women. After all, in some parts of the country, girls who are 15 today have an 80 percent chance of acquiring HIV in their lifetimes.
“We’re really in the trenches here,” she said. “We have to bring all the technology, tools—you know, innovations—we can find to start turning that war around.”
So when researchers announced at the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, last month that they’d linked a single strain of vaginal bacteria to higher HIV rates, it seemed like they had started to make inroads against the virus in a unique way: by identifying weaknesses in the communities of bacteria that occupy the vagina—weaknesses that could open the door for HIV. But additional research out of the conference complicates that finding and highlights how far there is to go.
The good news is that, as researchers uncover the complexity of those communities, they are also finding ways to strengthen them, crafting new tools that not only could make women less susceptible to HIV but also improve their health overall. And it highlights the vagina as a powerful HIV prevention tool in itself, said Alison Roxby, a researcher at the University of Washington who studies how the injectable contraceptive Depo-Provera impacts HIV acquisition.
“What people often don’t appreciate about the vagina is that, although many women have high risk for HIV, many of those women don’t get HIV,” said Roxby. “We have a pretty impressive protective barrier [in the vagina], so understanding how infection occurs and how it does not occur are two sides of the same coin. Both of those help prevent HIV.”
A Riskier Microbiome
Like every other surface of the human body, the vagina is colonized by millions of bacteria—some beneficial, others not so much. This is what researchers mean when they talk about the vaginal microbiome. Just like in the gut, the vagina plays host to a variety of bacteria that can either improve health or worsen it.
But first, the basics.
Lactobacillus is one of the only vaginal bacteria that produce lactic acid. When conditions are right—when Lactobacillus is the dominant bacteria in the microbiome and when the microbiome’s pH is below 3.8—it produces a kind of lactic acid that’s more than inhospitable to what Richard Cone, a professor of biophysics at Johns Hopkins University, calls “sperm and germs.” That acid can also slip into the cells of foreign viruses and bacteria and kill them. That includes common sexually transmitted infections and, yes, HIV. It’s the vaginal microbiome’s secret protector.
“Only humans have Lactobacillus in their vaginas,” said Cone, who has studied the microbiome for 20 years. “Humans haves the unique ability to protect against germs.”
The problem is that not every woman has a Lactobacillus-dominated microbiome. There are dozens of bacterial families that can occupy the vagina, and none are as good for HIV protection as Lactobacillus, at least as far as researchers know to date. Women without a Lactobacillus dominated microbiome are often said to have a bacterial imbalance called bacterial vaginosis (BV). For decades, researchers have known that HIV rates are higher in women with BV than women with Lactobacillus-dominant microbiomes. And for years, research has suggested that Lactobacillus is more common in white and Asian women’s microbiomes than in the microbiomes of Black and Latina women—women with far higher rates of HIV.
This may be part of the reason HIV rates are so much higher in African women, said Scott McClelland, professor of medicine, epidemiology and global health and associate director for the Center for AIDS Research International Core at the University of Washington. But up until now, it wasn’t clear if it was just generalized BV—that is, wide diversity in the vaginal microbiome—a lack of Lactobacillus in the microbiome, or some combination of the two that increases HIV risk.
“We had a more focused hypothesis,” said McClelland. “We wondered if it might be individual bacterial species or communities [or groups of specific vaginal bacteria] that were particularly strongly associated with HIV.”
Capturing the Culprits
To start with, McClelland and others began to differentiate the types of BV women can have.
Sure, some women with clinical signs of BV—lack of Lactobacillus and high inflammation, for instance—may have symptoms we associate with BV: an unpleasant, fishy smell, or excess, watery discharge. But it can also mean the presence of a variety of bacteria that cause no symptoms: Gardnerella is the most common example, but there’s also Bacterial Vaginosis Associated Bacteria 1 and 2 (BVAB1 and BVAB2), first identified in a 2005 New England Journal of Medicine article by McClelland’s colleague, David Fredricks, a professor of medicine at University of Washington’s Division of Allergy and Infectious Disease and head of a lab on the vaginal microbiome.
It could mean the presence of L. iners, which, despite being in the Lactobacillus family, has been found in women without BV but also in women with it. There are even some bacteria, like Atopobium, which is typically implicated in BV, that produce lactic acid themselves.
So the hunt was on. And at the International AIDS Conference last month, researchers unveiled their first results. First, the Center for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa made a splash with a special symposium, chaired by National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease Director Anthony Fauci and U.S. Ambassador Deborah Birx, that revealed preliminary data that linked the presence of the vaginal bacteria Prevotella bivia (P. bivia) to a 13-fold increase in women’s risk of HIV acquisition.
But that wasn’t the only new research on the microbiome presented at the International AIDS Conference. Without much fanfare and as part of a poster session mostly about HIV prevention drugs, McClelland also presented data on the microbiome—data that didn’t jibe with the CAPRISA findings.
McClelland and his team, who first submitted grants to try to research the microbiome’s link to HIV acquisition nine years ago, did find that specific bacteria were associated with significantly higher risk of HIV acquisition, and that that acquisition rate was significant. But P. bivia wasn’t among his culprits.
They studied P. bivia, but found it had a “modest association with HIV acquisition” in McClelland’s sample of 449 women. But in the end, “we did not find a significant association between Prevotella quantity and HIV.”
Here’s what McClelland did find: Not one but a group of bacteria emerged as powerfully associated with increased HIV acquisition, including Eggerthella species type 1, Gemella asaccharolytica, Leptotrichia/Sneathia, Megasphaera, and Mycoplasma hominis.
“These five that emerged were statistically significantly associated with HIV acquisition in a concentration-dependent fashion,” he said. “This was one of the really big findings.”
Another finding, which McClelland found intriguing but cautioned against putting too much weight behind, was that different amounts of those bacteria, relative to the other bacteria present in the microbiome, were associated with different odds of HIV acquisition. It only took the smallest amount of Megasphaera to increase odds of HIV acquisition by more than three times, for instance. But for Mycoplasma hominis to have a similar impact, it needed to be present in the highest concentrations McClelland’s team calculated. Eggerthella species 1 increased women’s risk of HIV the most when it was present in moderate amounts.
That leads to a natural next question, which is that, if all five of these culprit bacteria are present in a single woman’s microbiome in the right concentrations, could that mean a much higher rate of HIV?
“Great question,” he said, “and one that we are currently exploring.”
For that, said McClelland, we need more research and more money dedicated to the microbiome. The deep molecular sequencing McClelland’s team used doesn’t come cheap.
Dr. Salim Abdool Karim, CAPRISA’s director who presented the P. bivia findings at IAC, agreed, calling McClelland’s research “exactly the kind of study that we need a lot more of.”
“I think we will find a range of bacteria associated with HIV acquisition,” Karim said. “These associations will all need to be repeatedly tested to see if they hold up in multiple settings.”
Until that replication and study can be done, McClelland discouraged women from trying to alter their microbiomes on their own.
“This is an exciting area but still a research field that is not yet ready for full transition to prevention or treatment recommendations,” McClelland said. “Without stronger data (e.g., from a randomized trial), it would be premature to tell women to try to manipulate the vaginal microbiota as a way to reduce HIV or STI risk.”
But that doesn’t mean that researchers aren’t trying to find those answers. Indeed, researchers around the world are testing ways to remove detrimental bacteria, introduce Lactobacillus—and specifically one strain, L. crispatus—and otherwise armor the microbiome that is there now.
Douglas Kwon is head of a research team studying immune responses to HIV at the Harvard Medical School. “The question now is, can we leverage the vaginal microbiome to reduce HIV risk for women in sub-Saharan Africa?” he said.
Since BV is a disorder in which Lactobacillus is lacking, the first step seems to be determining if you can really kill off an already existing microbiome. This leads back to McClelland again. In separate research, McClelland is testing whether periodically and regularly treating BV, whether a woman has symptoms or not, really can reduce women’s rates of sexually transmitted infections. The trick with BV, he said, is that once you have it, it’s hard to get rid of it. Even after treatment, it often comes back.
The microbiome, it seems, wants to stay the way it is.
So McClelland and his team are testing whether periodic BV treatment with antibiotics can reduce rates of gonorrhea and Chlamydia.
He can’t specifically study whether BV treatment reduces HIV transmission, though. Most HIV trials now offer HIV prevention agents like condoms and HIV prevention pills as backup for participants. It would be unethical to do otherwise, he said. But with gonorrhea and Chlamydia, there is no such biomedical prevention, so he’s planning a Phase III clinical trial on so-called periodic presumptive treatment for BV. A subanalysis of an earlier BV treatment study he was a part of, published in June, found that periodic BV treatment reduced infection from three STIs by about 45 percent.
And there is real-world impact on HIV, even if he can’t prove that BV treatment specifically reduces HIV rates. The presence of other STIs increases inflammation in the genital tract, and can make a woman more susceptible to HIV all on its own.
Kwon’s lab, meanwhile, is coming at the question of microbiome change from, well, the other direction.
“It seems that most of the women in the African cohort we’ve looked at don’t have classic L. crispatus that’s described in white women in developed countries,” said Kwon. “Why is that? Where are those other bacterial taxa coming from?”
Maybe, his team has hypothesized, it comes from the other microbiome: the gut. The same kind of sequencing that allowed McClelland’s team to identify the bacteria in the microbiome associated with increased HIV acquisition can not just identify the species, but also track specific species from one part of the body to another. Kwon’s team wants to find out if some of the bacteria in the vaginal microbiome comes from the gut microbiome.
“If so, that could mean that changing the gut microbiome could also impact the vaginal microbiome,” Kwon said. If they can prove that bacteria migrate from one microbiome to the other, he said, they may be able to treat BV not with antibiotics but with probiotics.
Another way to introduce lower-pH and lactic acid-producing Lactobacillus to women’s microbiomes is being looked at in Kwon’s lab and at the Silicon Valley biotech company Osel, Inc., separately: Infusions of Lactobacillus.
Kwon’s lab is in preclinical stages, meaning its product hasn’t been tested in humans yet. But Osel has already tested the safety of a powdered form of L. crispatus, applied directly to the microbiome via what’s essentially a tampon applicator. In the study, funded by the NIH, 61 percent of the 18 women saw L. crispatus take hold by day 28. The hope, said Osel’s Director of Research Laurel Lagenaur, is that it will replace the vaginal microbiome lost during antibiotic treatment and that it may even improve health by reducing common genital tract problems like urinary tract infections.
But that’s just one way to add Lactobacillus. Laura Ensign, assistant professor at the Center for Nanomedicine at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University, wants to try another way: Taking another cue from gut microbiome research, she wants to see if you can do not just an infusion of Lactobacillus, but a full-blown microbiome transplant.
“If you put Lactobacillus in the vagina of a woman who has BV, it’s just going to die,” said Ensign. “But if you transplant its whole environment, including its main food source, then I think it has a shot to overtake the resident BV bacteria that are left behind after antibiotic treatment.”
That food isn’t what we think of in nutritional science as prebiotics—things like flax seed meal that sustain health bacteria in the digestive tract. No, the food for vaginal bacteria already exist in the vagina. It’s in the cervicovaginal mucous, the mucous membrane that lines the vagina.
“Mucous is definitely underappreciated,” she said. “The proteins in the mucous form a net that protects the vagina. It serves a lot of different functions. It traps a lot of different matter,” including the food Lactobacillus lives on.
Ensign is in the process of designing a trial to see if such a thing is possible.
Finally, researchers at Osel and Harvard, working separately, are engineering forms of Lactobacillus that secrete antibodies that bind to and neutralize HIV. Osel’s form is a tablet delivered vaginally, right to the spot where women are exposed to HIV most. Harvard’s is still in early development.
“People with HIV will eventually make neutralizing antibodies against HIV, but by that time, the damage has been done—the virus has already taken over,” said Osel’s Lagenaur. “But if you start with the neutralizing antibody, if you can passively deliver it… It’s just like if you’ve been bitten by a rabid dog. Doctors will give you passive anti-rabies antibodies. We’re using Lactobacillus to passively deliver antibodies.”
The Stability of the Microbiome
Still, for any of these interventions to work, all the researchers who spoke to PBS NewsHour agreed that they will have to know a lot more about the vaginal microbiome, the bacteria that live there, and how they interact with things like sperm, sex hormones and contraceptive hormones before they have solutions.
We may find that the vaginal microbiome is not that easy to displace, Kwon said. Because of this, his lab is not just working on an engineered form of Lactobacillus, but is looking beyond that to see if there are other bacteria more common in the microbiomes of African women that could also be protective. After all, he said, the microbiomes of African women evolved to be what they are for some reason. It could be that a more diverse vaginal microbiome confers advantages in certain situations. But now, in the era of HIV, they leave women at a distinct disadvantage.
He’s already begun research into the microbiomes of African women, looking for a native and protective bacteria. Lactobacillus might be the only bacteria that can protect women from HIV. But what if it’s not?
“We have to think about the fact that these bacterial communities might be relatively stable and hard to manipulate,” he said. “So leveraging the community that’s there naturally and most predictably and to use that to try to decrease HIV acquisition is another approach that’s worth looking into.”
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On June 15, Nigeria’s central bank announced it would abandon its currency’s dollar peg. Since then, the naira has fallen 61 percent against the U.S. dollar, generating difficulties for both foreign and domestic businesses in Africa’s most populous country. Nestle Nigeria, for instance, saw a 94 percent drop in profits as the currency depreciated. The currency’s move also led to Nigeria losing its title as Africa’s largest economy — a symbolic downgrade that succinctly summarizes the many challenges facing the country.
Perhaps the most disruptive development in the Nigerian economy over the past five years has been the drop in the price of oil, which accounts for 70 percent of government revenue and 95 percent of export income. As oil prices fell from more than $100 a barrel in June 2014 to under $50 today, government revenues plunged, leaving Nigeria with a $7 billion budget deficit.
Amidst the decline in oil revenue, the government’s prolonged peg of the currency to the dollar led to foreign exchange shortfalls and import barriers on items such as margarine, private jets, wooden doors and even toothpicks, significantly hurting both local and multinational businesses.
These measures drove United Airlines and Iberia Airlines to cut off routes to Nigeria. The measures also left domestic operators with painful fuel shortages. Business in other industries suffered as well, with companies like Nestle’s Nigerian operation struggling to access foreign exchange and the Africa president of Unilever calling the maintenance of the policies “very insane.”
Meanwhile, militants known as the Niger Delta Avengers have blown up pipelines, contributing to Nigeria’s loss of its title as Africa’s largest oil producer. Sabotage has cost the country 700,000 barrels per day, sending the country’s output down to its lowest level in almost three decades. Shell’s production in Nigeria dropped 24 percent between the first and second quarters of this year alone. The government has engaged the militants in peace talks (as well as paying them stipends), but analysts are not optimistic that peace is imminent.
In the north, the military continues to battle Boko Haram terrorists, whose violence has displaced 2.2 million people. At the same time, regional tensions have erupted elsewhere in the country, and land disputes have killed more people this year than Boko Haram.
Given this backdrop, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the economy is in tatters. Growth slowed from 6.3 percent in 2014 to 2.8 percent last year, and the IMF says the economy could shrink by 1.8 percent in 2016. In June, inflation rose to an 11-year high of 16.5 percent, while business confidence has hit all-time lows. The unemployment rate is over 12 percent, and major electricity companies are threatening to cut off power if the government does not pay them the hundreds of millions of dollars it owes.
If all that wasn’t enough, a moth ravaged the tomato crop in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna, driving up the local price of a basket of tomatoes from as little as 300 naira to 42,000 naira — a 14,000 percent increase (and incidentally, sparking ill-will towards the decadent, annual tomato-throwing festival in Spain on social media). Locals called it “tomato Ebola,” and the regional government declared a state of emergency.
The slowing economy is particularly problematic for a country that is adding 13,000 new people to its population every day. By 2050, the country is expected to have roughly 400 million people, surpassing the U.S. and only trailing the populations of India and China. By 2100, that figure could near 1 billion. Population density will skyrocket as well, given the country’s land area is roughly equivalent to that of Texas. With a population growing at 2.7 percent per year, the economy needs to maintain that level of growth just to tread water, let alone improve the incomes of its citizens.
One impediment to growth has been corruption. Nigeria lies in the bottom 20 percent of nations on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. Muhammadu Buhari, who was elected president with a mandate to crack down, seems to have made some progress. In June, the government announced it had seized more than $10 billion dollars’ worth of stolen wealth. But some are skeptical of this figure, noting only $600 million had actually been repatriated so far.
There are signs of hope for Nigeria’s economy. While painful, the plunge in the currency could be an opportunity for entrepreneurs and exporters who have costs in naira and revenues in foreign currencies. It might also help local industries as Nigerians substitute domestically produced goods for foreign imports.
Another bright spot is the development of Nigeria’s petroleum refining infrastructure. Today, the country produces more crude oil than it can process. Ironically, this means that even as Nigeria exports crude oil, it is dependent upon imports to meet domestic gasoline consumption demands.
Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, is constructing a refinery that could “satisfy Nigeria’s daily requirement of 445,000 to 550,000 barrels of fuel, with spare capacity to export,” according to CNN. This could improve the country’s trade balance while making shortages induced by currency fluctuations less likely.
An expansion in access to information technology could also be a boon for business. This year, the price of data for the country’s nearly 100 million mobile internet users has plunged dramatically as the market was deregulated and competition grew. According to Quartz, the price of 500 megabytes fell 50 percent in a single month this spring — but it still needs to fall much farther to enable mass consumption.
Infrastructure investment will also drive growth. This June, a U.S. fund announced it would raise $2 billion to fund projects in the country — a drop in the bucket of Nigeria’s $300 billion infrastructure deficit, but nevertheless a positive sign of Nigeria’s potential to attract capital even amid turmoil. The state has also announced fiscal spending to offset the downturn.
So while pessimism abounds, it is crucial to keep our eyes on the bright spots in Nigeria’s economy. We write off and ignore the country at our own peril; it could very well become a 22nd century superpower. As the Nigerian businessman Tony Elumelu said, “Today we may appear young and people may not believe in us, but we are going to compel them to believe in us through our achievement.”
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U.S. Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte apologized Friday for “not being more careful and candid” when describing an alleged armed robbery in Rio last week.
The apology appeared on the American swimmer’s official social media accounts, a day after Brazilian police accused Lochte and three of his teammates of fabricating details of their claim that they were robbed at gunpoint on Aug. 14 by men impersonating officers.
Lochte said on Instagram and Twitter that it was “traumatic to be out late with your friends in a foreign country” and “have a stranger point a gun at you and demand money to let you leave.”
He also said that he should have been more “responsible,” adding that he was “sorry to my teammates, my fans, my fellow competitors, my sponsors, and the hosts of this great event.”
“[T]his was a situation that could and should have been avoided,” Lochte said. “I accept responsibility for my role in this happening and have learned some valuable lessons.”
Initially, Lochte told NBC that an assailant pushed a gun to his forehead, demanding he give up his possessions.
Video by NBC
But Lochte’s early account conflicted with Rio police who said the swimmers had a “rowdy gas station confrontation” with security guards.
Police said Lochte and the others had vandalized a gas station bathroom while intoxicated. Despite rebutting the swimmers’ accounts, Rio police did acknowledge that a security guard had pulled a gun on the athletes at the gas station and demanded payment for the damage, the Associated Press reported.
Civil Police Chief Fernando Veloso told AP that the athletes paid 100 Brazilian reals, or about $33, and $20 in U.S. money to leave the gas station that night. Later on, Jimmy Feigen also agreed to pay nearly $11,000 to a Brazilian charity as part of a settlement with a Rio judge.
“They were not victims of the crimes they claimed,” Veloso said Thursday at a news conference.
Lochte, currently back in the U.S., said in his apology that he delayed releasing his statement until “it was clear that my teammates [three other swimmers involved in the investigation] would be arriving home safely.”
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JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s Friday, and so we turn to politics, and the analysis of Shields and Rubin. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Jennifer Rubin, the opinion writer for The Washington Post. David Brooks is away this week.
We welcome you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And good to have you back, Mark.
MARK SHIELDS: Good to be here.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, let’s talk about this upheaval in the Trump campaign, phases one and two. We have a new — Mark, a new campaign manager. We have Paul Manafort out after some stories about his work in Ukraine.
We know that one of the new folks coming in is from Breitbart News, Stephen Bannon. What do we make of all this?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, first of all, Judy, every campaign is ultimately, inevitably a mirror reflection of the candidate.
The criminality and paranoia of the Nixon campaign began with Richard Nixon. The discipline and, I would say, the insularity of Jimmy Carter’s campaign began with Jimmy Carter. And I think that’s true of every campaign.
This is a year unlike any year, when voters are so angry with Washington. They think Washington is awash in money, that money buys influence, buys access, puts the fix in.
So, what does — Donald Trump, who has an advantage over Hillary Clinton of 3-1 on someone who would change Washington, he hires the ultimate insider, the guy who gets, according to reports, various reports, got $12 million in cash for representing the pro-Russian, pro-Putin interests and parties in Ukraine.
JUDY WOODRUFF: This is Manafort.
MARK SHIELDS: Paul Manafort, the ultimate insider. So, now Paul Manafort is gone, amidst charges that this is just Washington as usual, the worst kind.
And who does he bring in? He brings in Stephen Bannon, who’s never run a campaign before, who has done a good job of running a Web site. It’s been very successful. And he lines himself up with Roger Ailes, Roger Ailes, the recently deposed chief of FOX News, the bete noire of every liberal in the country, many of whom are sort of lukewarm toward Hillary Clinton, and who has just left amidst a flurry of serious allegations about sexual harassment of women and misconduct.
So, I don’t know. I mean, it just — if personnel is policy, these self-inflicted wounds on the part of Trump are just, if not mortal, they’re seriously damaging.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see all this, Jennifer?
JENNIFER RUBIN, The Washington Post: Well, I think several strands of the campaign came together all at once.
One is this very odd relationship, maybe not even relationship, that Donald Trump has with Vladimir Putin and the number of advisers around him who are overtly pro-Russian, who have made money in Russia. So, that’s one strand.
The next strand is, there is no campaign. As you were saying, there is no one really running the store. There is something more to a campaign than the candidate showing up and giving a speech. There’s ad buys, there’s ground game, there’s all sorts of elements.
And I see none of that. And, apparently, Mr. Manafort didn’t do that. Maybe he tried and Donald didn’t let him. Maybe he didn’t know how to do that. So, that’s the second strand.
A third is, he’s behind. And the national polls, I think, underestimate the trouble he’s in.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Really?
JENNIFER RUBIN: He is trailing in virtually every poll in every battleground. And now we have new battleground states. They’re called Georgia and Arizona, which is unheard of.
So, that’s another strand that kind of came together this week. And I think the last thing is, how is this new mix going to work? Donald Trump throws people out and he pairs people together. Kellyanne…
JUDY WOODRUFF: Conway, the pollster.
JENNIFER RUBIN: … Conway is a very polished, very buttoned-down pollster, not a campaign chief, but a pollster, matching with this fellow who ran not just a right-wing Web site, but one that really made its money and attracted a very anti-Semitic, anti-minority clique called the alt-right. These two people are supposed to work together in some cohesive campaign? I don’t see it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Mark, this is all happening. The evidence that we’re seeing is, Donald Trump gave a speech in North Carolina last night where he said — for the first time, he said: I misspoke. I didn’t say what I should have said in some instances.
He didn’t say what he was talking about. He said: If I have caused people some pain, I regret that.
Today, he was touring the flooding in Louisiana. Are we seeing a different Donald Trump now?
MARK SHIELDS: Well, I mean, he certainly admitting that somehow he may have hurt somebody’s feelings, in sort of the contrived, counterfeit apology, that if I in any way offended you by burning down your house and killing your dogs, then I’m sorry.
I mean, this is a man that we saw at the opening called John McCain, an authentic hero, he said he wasn’t a hero because he had been captured. This is a man who accused Ted Cruz’s father of colluding with Lee Harvey Oswald just days before Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President Kennedy, I mean, a man who has made just incredibly outrageous, offensive, vulgar, obscene charges, and who ridiculed a respected reporter with a physical affliction, and over and over again.
So, I mean, this is something new that we’re seeing in Trump. He’s giving — he gave a better speech, I think, this week than he’s given. I mean, it was a coherent speech. It had echoes of Nixon ’68. And I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. It really did.
MARK SHIELDS: But he’s not as good on the teleprompter as he is spontaneously.
I think the roar of grease paint the sound of the crowd really gets him. And I think, if he is going to give teleprompted speeches, he is not going to get that same reaction that really gets his adrenaline going.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Jennifer, some of what the campaign has been saying is, this is going to let Donald Trump be Donald Trump. So, is that what you see going on here?
JENNIFER RUBIN: Well, maybe Donald Trump is schizophrenic, because, on one hand, he’s reading off a teleprompter. On the other hand, I think we have come to know the real Donald Trump, who is irreverent, who is rude, who is aggressive, who loves that interaction, that spontaneity.
So I think they have to figure out whether he’s going to be something in between, or one on one day and another on the next.
And Mark raises something, I think, that is important. And that is, there gets to be an incoherence about that campaign. His supporters love him because he was outrageous and frankly said a lot of things that they thought were politically incorrect, which others might think of as racist or misogynistic.
But the rest of the voters are very skeptical of him. Does he lose both sides now, or does he gain supporters?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk about the other side of the campaign, because, Mark, Hillary Clinton is out there. She’s ahead, as we have said, in the polls in most of the battleground states.
Do you see the kind of enthusiasm for her out there that we have been looking for throughout this campaign? And then you had another reminder this week about the email issue, that she told the FBI that she got the idea for using personal email from Colin Powell. He now says, yes, I suggested it, but I never suggested she use her own server.
MARK SHIELDS: No.
Judy, this has been a campaign of self-inflicted wounds on both sides. From 2000 to 2014, Hillary Clinton was in the United States Senate, candidate for president and then secretary of state. She was mercifully and happily divorced from the Clinton Foundation, which was raising money from all sorts of sources, many of whom couldn’t take a frisk.
There were people with an agenda totally alien and hostile to anything that Hillary Clinton’s ever stood for, and some people who were rather shady characters. She leaves that job as secretary of state and plunges into the foundation. She goes right into it.
So, now she’s afflicted with that. She’s stayed with that. She gives speeches for $600,000 — six-figure speeches and won’t reveal the text of what she’s done, again, self-inflicted. And you point out the email server, the private email, all self-inflicted.
So the perception of her as somebody who plays too close to the edge, who has rules especially for her, who has — because of her righteous and moral impulses and beliefs is somehow exempt from ordinary rules and is overly secretive, I mean, that persists. And it didn’t come from Donald Trump and it didn’t come from Republicans. It came from her.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Jennifer, we did have Bill Clinton saying yesterday that he’s going to — he would step down from the foundation if she’s elected president and that they won’t be taking any more money from foreign sources or corporate sources, he said.
JENNIFER RUBIN: This is the proverbial closing the barn door after the horse is out and gone and probably died, because he’s been out for so long.
Why did they have those donors all along, as Marks points out? It was influence peddle, from an objective eye. People who wanted to be in close with the Clintons, who knew that she was going to be running for office, gave to her foundation, paid her and her husband for speeches. It’s the typical pay-to-play kind of game.
So, now to say, now that we have taken all the money and we have gotten what we wanted, which is to get into office, we won’t take any more, I’m not all that impressed. And I don’t think the American people will be either.
I do think, however, she is the luckiest person on the face of the earth, because not very many people are going to focus on that part of this week, with Donald Trump doing his usual chaos routine.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, can she keep going like this, Mark, with — you have said self-inflicted wounds.
MARK SHIELDS: Judy, this is a year, if it’s the fundamentals, it’s a year of change. Voters want change, and they don’t want continuity. She’s the candidate of the status quo. It’s a third Democratic term.
But all the focus, Donald Trump, instead of being the candidate of change, is the candidate of chaos, the candidate of crisis, And, I mean, just — basically, he goes to Louisiana today, which was certainly good. And what does he say when he’s there? He says: Great place. I have had a great history with Louisiana.
I mean, this is a man who is in stage four self-centeredness. And so he draws the spotlight to himself, and it helps her.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What about that, Jennifer?
I mean, I was going to ask both of you. Donald Trump is there with Mike Pence, his running mate. President Obama hasn’t been there yet. He’s still on vacation. Hillary Clinton put in a call to Louisiana’s governor.
Is this the kind of thing that politicians should be jumping to go do right now at this point or staying away from?
JENNIFER RUBIN: This is the dilemma, of course, that George W. Bush faced with Katrina. He kind of played it halfway and got vilified because there was a shot of him looking down at New Orleans from the sky.
I think the president is right to stay away for a few days. He’s going to go on Tuesday. I think it is an incredible strain on the first-responders, on security folks, on all the people who should be spending 110 percent of their time on helping the people.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Which is what the governor said.
JENNIFER RUBIN: Exactly.
And for a candidate who has no ability to do anything about it — you can understand a president who wants to see things, wants to assess how bad things are, wants to get a feel for things. But these people are just there to have their picture taken.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: I thought the president should have — somewhere between his 312th and 313th round of golf, should have put on a suit and tie and spoken to the press.
The president is not only the commander in chief. He’s the consoler-in-chief. And I think just — just to tell, express the sympathy, support and what we were doing as a people, by television, to the people of Louisiana, not to go down. I think Jennifer is absolutely right, not to interfere with that or upset things down there.
But I just — I think that’s something that a president has to do and should do at that time. And I think the president, he doesn’t like to be forced into these things. And I think he resisted it. And I think now he looks like he’s going down in response to the criticism.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In a few days.
Well, this campaign doesn’t get any less exciting, less interesting.
MARK SHIELDS: No, that’s right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Shields, Jennifer Rubin, thank you both. Have a great weekend.
JENNIFER RUBIN: You, too.
MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: The promise and peril of the internet is the subject of Werner Herzog’s new documentary out today.
The legendary filmmaker was recently honored with an achievement award from the American Film Institute for his work in documentary film.
In Washington, Jeffrey Brown caught up with Herzog to discuss the new film and more.
WERNER HERZOG, Documentarian/Filmmaker: This is the birthplace of the internet.
JEFFREY BROWN: In his new documentary, “Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World,” filmmaker Werner Herzog is again asking big questions.
WERNER HERZOG: An explosion of information technology on the internet has led to some of its greatest glories.
JEFFREY BROWN: This time about the internet.
WOMAN: The internet is a manifestation of evil itself.
JEFFREY BROWN: Its history, its impact, good and bad, on all of us.
MAN: That is the goal, to have a team of soccer playing robots defeat the FIFA world champion.
WERNER HERZOG: I try to be after something that is deeply reverberating inside of our souls, some deep echo from — even from prehistory. What makes us humans? How do we communicate? Where are we going at this moment? Something for an audience where they can step outside of themselves, where they can be almost like in ecstasy of truth, some sort of deep illumination.
And that’s what I’m trying in documentaries and in feature films.
JEFFREY BROWN: That search played out in early dramas, such as “Aguirre, the Wrath of God” in 1972, about a mad conquistador seeking gold in Peru, and, 10 years later, “Fitzcarraldo,” the story of a man obsessed with bring opera to the Amazon jungle.
That film would become famous for what happened behind the scenes, as Herzog insisted on having his actors and crew actually drag a large boat over land, rather than using special effects.
Herzog’s quest for ecstatic truth also came through in documentaries, such as “Grizzly Man” in 2005, telling of a man who lived among bears in Alaska before being killed by them.
MAN: Occasionally, I am challenged. And in that case, the kind warrior must, must, must become a samurai.
WERNER HERZOG: This cave had been perfectly sealed for tens of thousand of years.
JEFFREY BROWN: And in 2010’s the “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” which explored prehistoric cave paintings in Southern France.
WERNER HERZOG: These images are memories of long-forgotten dreams.
JEFFREY BROWN: Some 70 films to date, a remarkable career, one he’s insisted on building his own way, despite setbacks.
In a series of interviews you did over the years, it’s in a book called “A Guide for the Perplexed,” you speak of the — quote — “cumulative humiliations and defeats” that you have experienced.
And I wonder…
WERNER HERZOG: Yes. Who has not?
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, who has not, but what did you learn from them, how important are those?
WERNER HERZOG: You see, I’m completely self-taught. I never went to film school. I was never assistant anywhere.
So, of course, I learned by trial and error. My first featurettes were my film school. And, of course, until today, none one of my first films has ever been sold, but it’s OK, money lost, but film gained. And there was a some sort of a dialectic of defeat. Somehow, it converts into something that pushed me forward.
Yes, I have learned a lot through defeats, and, until today, it’s — I’m still haunted by defeats, and they do happen. Sometimes, a film of mine is rejected. And how do you deal with it? And you have to learn how to deal with it and survive anyway.
MAN: It consists of modems, CPU, logic units.
JEFFREY BROWN: His new film, “Lo and Behold,” is divided into 10 chapters, and features interviews with early internet pioneers.
MAN: And it was here that the first message was sent. A revolution began.
JEFFREY BROWN: Robotics engineers pushing the boundaries of artificial intelligence.
MAN: It’s one of my favorites, actually.
WERNER HERZOG: Beautiful. Do you love it?
MAN: Yes, we do.
JEFFREY BROWN: And leading thinkers about what may come, including life on Mars.
MAN: I mean, right now, we can’t even get one person to Mars.
WERNER HERZOG: I would come along. I wouldn’t have a problem. One-way ticket.
MAN: Sounds great.
WERNER HERZOG: I would be your candidate.
WERNER HERZOG: Here, all of a sudden, we have a revolution in — in communication, and it is — it is really, truly big. It is as big as the introduction of fire to the human race, or the introduction of electricity into our lives.
And this is very, very big. And I see how rapidly things are changing. And, of course, there is a fascination, although I use it very little. I do use the internet for e-mails, and sometimes for Google Maps, and that’s basically it.
JEFFREY BROWN: That’s it?
WERNER HERZOG: And I don’t use a cell phone.
JEFFREY BROWN: You do not? Why?
WERNER HERZOG: No, I do not want one. I do not want it for cultural reasons. I do not want to be available all the time.
I want to have time to think and to touch somebody, and have a meal across my kitchen table without a cell phone, being constantly on tweets.
JEFFREY BROWN: You know, at the end of “Lo and Behold,” one isn’t sure whether to be hopeful or not, right? There’s lots of reasons that you give us to be very fearful, right?
If the robots don’t get us, then the sun flares might get us. What about you, I wonder? Are you hopeful?
WERNER HERZOG: Well, I couldn’t say that, because not only the internet is very fragile, and if that collapses, our civilization is going to collapse, and there will be billions of people dead, because we cannot step back into hunting and foraging.
JEFFREY BROWN: And that leaves you?
WERNER HERZOG: It leaves me with the idea we’d better anticipate what’s going on. We take our right steps today and now. And we’d better avoid, that we are overdependent on, let’s say, the internet.
We’re overdependent on other things. We are dangerously overpopulated.
JEFFREY BROWN: But for however many years we have left, no lack of subjects clearly for you?
WERNER HERZOG: No, I think it’s like burglars in the middle of the night in my kitchen uninvited, and they come swinging at me. So I’d better deal with what’s the most ferociously swinging. And the last one really swinging, coming at me, was “Lo and Behold.”
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Werner Herzog, thank you so much.
WERNER HERZOG: You are very welcome.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: But, first: The world’s newest country, South Sudan, established in 2011, again stands on the brink of civil war. A peace deal signed last year between rival governing factions is in tatters. More than one-sixth of the country’s 12 million citizens have been displaced, and the humanitarian crisis there is worsening by the day.
John Yang has the story.
JOHN YANG: For that view, we turn to photographer Sebastian Rich, who has covered conflict zones for more than four decades. He has been to South Sudan many times. He is there now on assignment for UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency.
He joins us now via Skype from Juba, the capital.
Sebastian, thanks for joining thus evening.
First of all, tell us how it feels now, what the situation is like on the ground now.
SEBASTIAN RICH, Photojournalist: Well, the situation is a little more tense than it was, obviously, before the recent fighting.
The recent fighting has put the people, the ordinary people in the street. They’re much more tense than they were. There’s not so many friendly faces. If you walk in the streets of Juba now, you’re not greeted the same way you were a couple of months ago or even a year ago, when I came last year.
JOHN YANG: And how is this affecting the children that you’re covering, that you’re there watching, looking at behalf on UNICEF, particularly the issues of malnutrition?
SEBASTIAN RICH: Well, it’s affecting the children very badly.
And there’s 250,000, a quarter-of-a-million children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. And that’s not including the children who just got malnutrition, the first stages of.
So, what’s happened is that the children who were actually starting to recover from severe acute malnutrition before this recent fighting, when the fighting happened, those children couldn’t come back to the hospitals to get their follow-up treatment and children that had started to get malnutrition couldn’t get to the hospitals either.
So now we have this huge increase in malnutrition and severe cases of malnutrition. And UNICEF is trying its very, very best to keep on top of this disaster.
JOHN YANG: And you spent time some today, you were telling me, with a young girl who actually has been making progress. And is there danger that this could reverse what’s happening?
SEBASTIAN RICH: Yes. It’s not all bad news. There are wonderful individual cases.
Last year, I photographed a little in a hospital in Juba. And she was on death’s door. She was a tiny little stick insect. And I stayed with her for a couple of weeks. And she got a bit better and bit better. And, today, six months later, when I came back, I photographed her and filmed her with her family, singing and dancing to tunes on my iPhone.
And it was fantastic to see a success story for once in this mess here.
JOHN YANG: And is there danger that, with this increased tension, that some of that progress could be reversed or lost?
SEBASTIAN RICH: Yes, of course.
Children will die. I mean, I don’t see how you can sugarcoat it. If you don’t get treated for severe acute malnutrition, you will die. It’s not only malnutrition. There’s complications with malnutrition. A lot of these children have on top of that tuberculosis and malaria.
So, yes, put it very simply, they will die.
JOHN YANG: And another area that this sort of increased tension threatens are child soldiers.
We have seen reports that, perhaps in preparation for tensions, that the recruitment of child soldiers is on the increase again. You have actually been watching programs where they have been trying to take them out of those — of that situation.
SEBASTIAN RICH: Yes.
Well, once again, the renewed fighting has caused more problems, because now much more children will be coerced into trying to be forced into joining armed groups.
But UNICEF, once again, has been very, very successful in taking these children who have recently been released from armed groups and getting them back into education, and some of them for the very, very first times in their lives. And this is a great success. And it’s going to be a great shame not to see this success actually, you know, flower into something very good.
JOHN YANG: You talk about these former child soldiers going into school again.
UNICEF says that half of children in South Sudan don’t go to school, which is the highest proportion, they say, in the world. What’s it like for a child? What’s a child’s life like in Juba in South Sudan?
SEBASTIAN RICH: Well, all over — yes, you’re quite right. South Sudan, there’s more children now out of school than any other country on the planet.
And what you have to remember, that the war here and the ongoing wars and troubles here have just basically stripped most infrastructure. And so school, they don’t have desks. They don’t have anything to sit on.
I photographed yesterday children sitting on metal car wheels with no tire on it to listen to their teacher, sitting on engine parts, sitting on buckets, sitting on little stoves that they take to school. And when they bring the stoves home, their mother takes the stoves and cooks them lunch on it.
It’s more, more than basic, actually. And these are dirt floors as well.
JOHN YANG: Sebastian Rich, thanks so much for not only your insights on what’s going on, on the ground in South Sudan, but also for your powerful images of what is going on.
SEBASTIAN RICH: My pleasure. Thank you very much, indeed.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to Brazil and the Olympics, where the Games are heading into the final weekend on and off the fields of play.
Jeffrey Brown has our update.
JEFFREY BROWN: Decorated American Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte apologized today for his behavior last weekend after videotapes and statements from other American swimmers contradicted Lochte’s account of a supposed robbery at a Rio gas station.
Meanwhile, on the track, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt showed he’s still the fastest man on Earth, adding another 200-meter win to his 100 meters earlier this week. He goes for a ninth career gold medal today.
And back with us from Rio, Christine Brennan, covering the Games for USA Today and as a contributor for CNN, and NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro.
And welcome back to both of you.
Christine, let’s start with you and Ryan Lochte. He apologized without quite admitting that he had lied about what happened. Do we know, at this point, what happened?
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, USA Today: I don’t know, Jeff, that we’re ever going to know exactly what happened at that gas station in the early hours of Sunday morning.
And I’m not so sure at this point if we need to. I mean, obviously, that will all be sorted out as best as the lawyers and everyone can do. The bottom line is, it’s a story that basically just took over these Olympics and took coverage away from athletes who deserved it, all because these four Americans were out on a night on the town, apparently drunk, allegedly vandalizing a gas station, and then, obviously, this cover-up.
And everyone, I think, is well aware of the story. But it just was a complete lack of where they should be and what they should do. You’re a representative of the United States. I know our senses are so dulled by pro athletes, Jeff, that kind of say, well, they’re always going to misbehave.
Well, the U.S. Olympic Committee is very serious about this. USA Swimming is very serious about this. The notion that these guys created an international incident, and Ryan Lochte even spoke about it, he should have just kept quiet. This is going to haunt him for the rest of his life. And I think it will be — this is what Olympics — the swimming will be remembered, sadly, not as much as Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky in the first week.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, and, Lulu, he is now possibly facing a suspension. But, in Brazil, the Brazilians haven’t taken this well at all, correct? Tell us about the reaction. Tell us how it’s played there.
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, NPR: Well, as you can imagine, I think it’s been treated with a great deal of fury and outrage and disgust.
His actions are being seen as a symbol of the ugly American, and basically people here feel that the actions of the four Americans reflected very badly on the United States, reflected very badly on their Olympics.
They feel very aggrieved, because all the focused was on Ryan Lochte having said that he had been assaulted. And it made these Olympics look very bad. And now they feel that he lied, he misrepresented what happened and that an apology, quite simply, is not quite enough. And the apology that he gave is being received here as not really an apology.
They don’t feel that he admitted what they feel is the truth, which is that he lied.
JEFFREY BROWN: Lulu, is there still any potential legal or diplomatic implications to come?
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, I think the diplomatic implications are that — have sort of been resolved.
Certainly, three of the swimmers are on their way back to the States. And we understand that the other will be leaving shortly. And so, therefore, I think it has been smoothed over.
The police do feel that they did their job. They investigated this. They showed to the world that, in fact, what Ryan Lochte and his cohorts said had happened had not happened. And so I think the Brazilian government, Rio’s government and the police feel that they have shown that they are responsible and that this is a place that has the rule of law.
So, I don’t think it will go any further diplomatically.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, so, Christine, back to sports now.
Last week, you and I talked about swimmers in a different context, swimmers in the pool, and about gymnastics. And this time, I think we want to talk about one guy, this great runner, Usain Bolt.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Oh, absolutely, Jeff.
And for all the terrible things that the Americans did — and they will get suspended for it almost for sure — then you have got the joy of Usain Bolt, and winning the 100-meter for the third time. No man has ever done that before, Beijing, London and now Rio. He had to come from behind.
Justin Gatlin had the lead with about 75 meters to go. No problem. But Usain Bolt could not dance and prance and look around at the end. He had to pretty much run through the tape, the finish line. And then coming back in the 200 meters, this is a difficult double under any circumstances. Usain Bolt turned 30 on Sunday, the day these Games end.
And he’s not a young man in this sport. And, as we know, he had a hamstring injury, and there’s been a lot of questions. So, he’s now done the 100, the 200, huge win, and if he gets the relay, the Jamaican relay, he will have an incredible triple-triple, three events, three different Olympic Games, and winning in them all.
He has cemented himself as one of the greatest Olympians of all time.
JEFFREY BROWN: And, briefly, Christine, because we have also seen the continued dominance of American women, including in the medal count.
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO: Absolutely.
Team Title IX, we saw it start in London, Jeff. We talked about it then. We’re talking about it again now, Title IX, signed by Richard Nixon in June of ’72, working it way through the generations, creating of all these great athletes, the girl next door who grows up and wins the Olympic U.S. medals.
U.S. women are dominating, winning about 60, 61, 62 percent of the U.S. gold medals and also well over 50 percent of the U.S. total medals. And get used to it. It’s going to keep happening over and over again.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so, Lulu, I want to come back to you, because we — you and I talked several days before the Games started about all the apprehension, lack of preparation, Brazil’s economic problems.
You even said to me, I remember, at that point that locals were ready to have it done with, even before it had started. So, what’s your sense now of how people have responded? How has it gone over there?
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO: I think you can look at this in two ways. Certainly, when you speak to average Brazilians, they have fallen in love with the Olympics. They have really greeted it with a great deal of joy, once the opening ceremony happened.
They really enjoyed seeing all the people here, and they enjoyed having the athletes compete. But, on the other hand, of course, there have been a number of problems, leaving Ryan Lochte aside, the fact that he might have invented what happened to him, but there have been assaults, there have been organizational snafus, empty seats, slow ticket sales.
So I think the epitaph for these Olympics is going to be mixed. I think people will look at this on the one hand and say the Brazilians did the best that they could under very difficult circumstances, but, on the other hand, this wasn’t an Olympics that a lot of people think was up to standard.
JEFFREY BROWN: And, briefly, still to come, there are some problems, Lulu, with the Paralympics.
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, this actually is a growing controversy, a great scandal. Basically, the Paralympic Games, which did so well in the last Summer Olympic Games in London, are now facing unprecedented — an unprecedented budget crisis.
Basically, we have been told today that maybe 10 teams at least won’t be able to make it here because Rio 2016 Organizing Committee doesn’t have the money to pay for them to come. They’re going to be slashing venues. They’re going to be slashing transportation.
And so what the head, the president of the Paralympics Committee said today was that, in his 50-plus years of being involved in this movement, he had never faced a situation like this. It is an absolute scandal, he said.
And he’s very concerned about how these Paralympic Games will go off.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Lulu Garcia-Navarro, Christine Brennan, thank you both very much from Rio.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN: Thank you, Jeff.
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO: You’re welcome.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The January release of American prisoners from Iran was accompanied by a $400 million payment, money the Islamic republic had been owed for decades from a weapons sale that was never completed between the United States and Iran because of the revolution there. The Obama administration announced the payment at the time.
But, lately, critics have alleged that the payment’s proximity to the release amounted to a ransom, a charge the administration denies. But, yesterday, the State Department modified its response, saying the millions of dollars were used as — quote — “leverage” amid the negotiations over the prisoners.
Earlier today, I spoke with the State Department’s top spokesman, Adm. John Kirby.
Adm. John Kirby, welcome.
You have said that the cash payment that went to the Iranian government was intended as leverage to gain the release of these American prisoners. How is that different from paying ransom?
JOHN KIRBY, State Department Spokesman: Well, I didn’t say that it was used — that it was a leverage payment.
Remember, this was Iranian money that they had coming to them through The Hague tribunal, and it was money that had been frozen way back in 1979. So it was their money and they were going to get it anyway.
These parallel tracks were moving forward, and they began to converge. In fact, we took advantage of the convergence in a short 24-hour period to kind of wrap it all up together.
Now, what I said is, though, while there is no connection between the $400 million and the return of our American citizens, we did, however, in those endgame hours, hold back that payment until we knew that our Americans were safe and sound and on their way out of Iran, because, in the very last few hours, Iran was playing a few games here on us.
And we weren’t quite sure that the release was going to happen. And we were worried about Iran reneging on that very lengthy negotiation process that we put in place to bring them home.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we know that there are more Americans still being held in Iran, and we know that the U.S. still owes Iran over a billion dollars in payments. Could that money be used to help gain the release of these additional Americans?
JOHN KIRBY: Well, again, we don’t pay ransom, Judy, and this wasn’t ransom. It’s a policy. The United States doesn’t pay ransom.
The $1.3 billion that you’re referring to, which was the interest payment scheduled based on the $400 million frozen assets, that has already been taken care of through the judgment fund. So that money has been paid out to Iran through a separate process.
But, in any event, regardless, we don’t pay ransom.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s turn to Syria. There have been horrific images coming out of there in the last few days, especially from Aleppo. We know that Secretary Kerry has been working on some sort of military cooperation, coordination between the U.S. and Russia. How would that work?
JOHN KIRBY: Well, there’s a couple of things here going on. Right?
I mean, there is obviously a coalition effort against Da’esh inside of Syria, which does have military components. And then there is a very strong and strident effort diplomatically to come to a political solution inside Syria.
And right now, because the cessation of hostilities hasn’t been uniformly observed and the regime keeps violating it, and Russian military activity keeps supporting those violations in some regards, but we have teams, Russian and U.S. teams, that are working through a series of proposals that were agreed to a couple of weeks ago in Moscow by the secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov to get the cessation of hostilities enforceable nationwide and in an enduring way.
We hope that they will be successful. But as the secretary said himself, this isn’t about trust and it isn’t about blind faith. This will only work if Russia is willing and able to use the influence that we know they have on the Assad regime to get these bombings to stop, to reduce the violence, to create not only a safer environment for the Syrian people, but he still believes that, if we can create some breathing space, if we can create a reduction in violence, that he can get the opposition and the regime back to the table perhaps as early as the end of this month.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, as you say, that is a big if. But even if it did work, wouldn’t it mean that President Assad would remain in power, as the Russians now currently say they want him to do? And doesn’t that contradict what the U.S. goal is, which is to remove him?
JOHN KIRBY: Well, I would say a couple of things there.
First of all, the Russians have had a long relationship with and in Syria for decades now, and we have seen in the past where their Russian — their activity, their military activity has bolstered the regime in very unhelpful ways, obviously.
But I will also say this. The Russians are a co-founder of the International Syria Support Group. The Russians signed on to the U.N. Security Council resolution which codified that process and codified the movement towards a cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access.
The Russians themselves have said in paper, in writing that they, like the rest of the international community, want to seek a Syria that is whole, and unified, and pluralistic, safe and secure.
Now, as part of all that, they have also agreed to a transitional process in Syria to get to a government that is decided upon by the Syrian people, and that’s what we’re all working towards.
Now, we have said our policy is that we don’t believe Bashar al-Assad, because of his brutality, can be a part of the long-term future of Syria. We still believe that. That is still the case. Our view is, Assad cannot be at the head of such a government.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Admiral Kirby, one other quick subject, Ukraine.
We know that the Russians have been beefing up their military presence along the border. We know that President Putin is in Crimea today, which Russia invaded two years ago. What does the U.S. think President Putin is up to, and what is the U.S. prepared to do if the Russians do go into Ukraine?
JOHN KIRBY: Obviously, increased military activity along the border is not going to be helpful to creating a secure future here and to getting us past the tensions and towards a full implementation of Minsk.
Now, the Russians have committed to Minsk implementation. We obviously want to see all sides contribute to that in a meaningful way. That means pulling back the weapons. It means pulling back the forces. It means allowing for monitors to go in and allowing for local elections.
And we aren’t there yet. And the secretary routinely discusses this with Foreign Minister Lavrov. That’s the outcome that we want to see.
On Crimea, we do not recognize the occupation of Crimea. Crimea is part of Ukraine. And we have said long ago you can’t redraw the borders of the map of Europe through the barrel of a gun, as was done in Crimea.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Admiral John Kirby at the State Department, we thank you.
JOHN KIRBY: My pleasure. Thanks for having me, Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: After our interview, spokesman Kirby made one more point about Russian military activity on the border of Ukraine. He said, while the U.S. doesn’t have perfect visibility, it also doesn’t have indications right now that they, the Russians, are prepared to go across the line.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning pregnant women to avoid traveling to Miami Beach, Florida, on account of the Zika virus. Officials say mosquitoes in the popular tourist destination transmitted the virus to at least five people. That area is just minutes from the state’s initial infection zone.
Governor Rick Scott said that Florida will remain vigilant in the face of the new outbreak.
GOV. RICK SCOTT (R-Fla): We know from our experience successfully dealing with other mosquito-borne viruses in our state that, through constant surveillance and immediate action, that we will protect our families and visitors. We will continue the same approach with the Zika virus in our state.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The CDC also suggested pregnant women and their partners — quote — “consider delaying travel to all of Miami-Dade County.”
Florida now has 36 non-travel-related Zika infections.
It was yet another day of cleanup and recovery following those deadly floods in Southern Louisiana. Some 86,500 people have now filed for federal assistance after more than two-and-a-half feet of water soaked parts of the state. Meanwhile, most schools in the Baton Rouge area are preparing to reopen in the coming days.
Firefighters in Southern California have made major progress in battling the massive wildfire burning east of Los Angeles. The fire, which first erupted Tuesday, is now about 26 percent contained. That’s up from just 4 percent yesterday. Still, the fire spans nearly 58 square miles. Early estimates say that 96 homes have already been destroyed. Some 82,000 residents remain under evacuation orders.
Violence surged for another day in Syria, as the bloody battle for Aleppo once again put civilians in the crosshairs. The fighting showed no signs of abating, in spite of international calls for a brief cease-fire to allow desperately needed humanitarian aid to reach residents.
Diana Magnay of Independent Television News narrates our report.
DIANA MAGNAY: The rebels have broken the government siege on rebel-held areas in the east, opening up one tenuous access route in the city’s south.
Some supplies have made it through, but they are vulnerable to attack. Government forces are fighting to retake rebel positions beyond this main road, but they’re being forced to retreat back into the city, or into what’s left of it. And they’re vulnerable, too, taking shelter behind a wall where they think they can’t be seen, unaware of the rebel missile headed directly for them.
Russia today launched long-range cruise missiles from warships in the Eastern Mediterranean aimed, they say, at targets in Syria belonging to Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra. They say they have nothing to do with the bombs which each day destroy more and more of Aleppo, that Russia would never strike targets in populated areas.
But civilian targets are being hit as a matter of course across Syria. Last night in Darayya, a suburb of Damascus, a field hospital was destroyed by what the Free Syrian Army says were barrel bombs filled with napalm, and just north of Homs, seven more killed today.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Fierce battles are also under way in Syria’s Northeast, where Kurdish forces are fighting the Syrian army for control of Hasakah. Syrian government warplanes have bombed that city for two straight days. Yesterday, the U.S.-led coalition had to scramble aircraft to protect American special operations ground forces who are supporting the Kurds there.
Today, the Pentagon warned Syria would be — quote — “well-advised” not to hit U.S. and allied personnel inside the country.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin touched down in Crimea today, amid renewed tensions between his government and Ukraine. It’s been two years since Russia annexed the peninsula from Ukraine. Putin’s visit came a week after he accused he called Ukrainian saboteurs of attacking Russian troops in Crimea. Kiev denies the claim, and says it’s a pretext for a new Russian invasion.
But, today, Putin met with his Security Council and he doubled down on the charges.
PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through translator): It looks like our partners in Kiev made a decision to escalate the situation and it’s clear why they are doing it, because they don’t want or can’t, for some reason, comply with cease-fire accords, as well as can’t explain their failures in social and economic policy to their own people.
JUDY WOODRUFF: At the same time, Russian military forces are building up their presence along Russia’s western border within striking distance of Ukraine. I will talk to State Department spokesman John Kirby about this right after the news summary.
Stocks fell on Wall Street today, led by declines in utility shares. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 45 points to close at 18552. The Nasdaq fell nearly two points, and the S&P 500 slipped three. For the week, both the Dow and the S&P 500 lost a fraction of a percent. The Nasdaq rose a fraction of a percent, notching its first eight-week winning streak since 2010.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Today, in the presidential campaign, a major resignation on Donald Trump’s team, new details about Hillary Clinton’s emails, and a visit to the flood zone in Louisiana.
Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
LISA DESJARDINS: For Donald Trump, a three-fold shift, first, optics. Today, no podium or stage, but the candidate on the ground, surveying flood-ravaged Baton Rouge.
DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee: They need a lot of help. What’s happened here is incredible. Nobody understands how bad it is.
LISA DESJARDINS: It was in part pushback against a vacationing President Obama, who has taken heat for not visiting. Instead, he sent Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
JEH JOHNSON, Secretary of Homeland Security: The federal government is here. We have been here. We will bee here as long as it takes to help this community recover.
LISA DESJARDINS: Louisiana’s Democratic Governor, John Bel Edwards, would prefer politicians like Mr. Obama stay away for now.
GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-La): They free up the interstate for them. We have to take hundreds of local first-responders, police officers, sheriff’s deputies and state troopers to provide security for that type of visit.
LISA DESJARDINS: This afternoon, the White House acknowledged the governor’s concerns and said the president will visit the area Tuesday.
Something else new, a shift in Trump’s tone last night in Charlotte, North Carolina:
DONALD TRUMP: Sometimes, in the heat of the, debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that.
DONALD TRUMP: And I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain.
LISA DESJARDINS: He didn’t say which words he regretted. In a third change, today, Trump put out his first ad buy of the election.
NARRATOR: In Hillary Clinton’s America, the system stays rigged against Americans.
LISA DESJARDINS: The spot will run in four key states. Hillary Clinton’s ads have been on the air for two months.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), Presidential Nominee: Today, we face a choice about who we are as a nation.
DONALD TRUMP: I would like to punch him in the face, I will tell you.
HILLARY CLINTON: Do we help each other?
DONALD TRUMP: Knock the crap out of him, would you?
LISA DESJARDINS: For Trump, changes on the trail come, no coincidence, amidst major changes in staff. Campaign chairman Paul Manafort today became the second Trump campaign chief to leave in two months, this amidst lagging polls and new questions about Manafort’s work for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine.
As for Hillary Clinton, she was off the campaign trail today, but still made headlines over her use of private email as secretary of state. The New York Times reported that Clinton told the FBI that her predecessor, Colin Powell, encouraged her to use a private email account for unclassified work. Powell confirmed writing Clinton about the benefits of private email for unclassified material.
But, unlike Clinton, Powell didn’t use a private server. Meanwhile, Clinton’s V.P. pick, Senator Tim Kaine, is on a Western fundraising swing, yesterday, in usual Republican states Idaho and Wyoming. Today, it was Oregon and Washington, this weekend, California.
With two-and-a-half months to go, it’s a race for money and votes.
For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Lisa Desjardins.
DONALD TRUMP: Good luck, everybody.
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