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- 10/04/16--21:41: _5 takeaways from th...
- 10/05/16--10:33: _Obama urges Floridi...
- 10/05/16--10:47: _Federal contractor ...
- 10/05/16--11:02: _Where do the presid...
- 10/05/16--11:23: _Signing up for Medi...
- 10/05/16--12:56: _Report cites barrie...
- 10/05/16--13:08: _U.S. again lashes o...
- 10/05/16--14:06: _Paris climate agree...
- 10/05/16--15:15: _The amazing, compli...
- 10/05/16--15:20: _In Florida, control...
- 10/05/16--15:25: _What’s next for U.S...
- 10/05/16--15:30: _The controversial f...
- 10/05/16--15:35: _Will the short-staf...
- 10/05/16--15:40: _How the Trump and C...
- 10/05/16--15:45: _News Wrap: Obama pr...
- 10/05/16--15:50: _U.S. officials brac...
- 10/06/16--11:22: _Trump, once a data ...
- 10/06/16--11:34: _The rising opera st...
- 10/06/16--11:43: _Clinton, Trump paus...
- 10/06/16--12:13: _Theranos to shutter...
- 10/04/16--21:41: 5 takeaways from the vice presidential debate
- 10/05/16--10:33: Obama urges Floridians to take Hurricane Matthew threat seriously
- 10/05/16--10:47: Federal contractor arrested for taking classified information
- 10/05/16--11:02: Where do the presidential candidates stand on the Islamic State?
- 10/05/16--11:23: Signing up for Medicare? Read this cautionary tale first
- Enroll at the right time. Medicare has a bewildering mix of enrollment periods. You need to use the right one.
- Choose the right mix of Medicare coverage. There are only two main paths here. One is Original Medicare (Parts A and B), perhaps with a Medigap supplemental policy plus a Part D prescription drug plan. The other is a Medicare Advantage plan, which usually includes a Part D plan.
- Understand what these various parts of Medicare cover and how to use them.
- 10/05/16--12:56: Report cites barriers to more diverse police departments
- 10/05/16--13:08: U.S. again lashes out at Israeli settlements in West Bank
- 10/05/16--14:06: Paris climate agreement to enter into force on Nov. 4
- 10/05/16--15:15: The amazing, complicated science of the Nobel winners explained
- 10/05/16--15:20: In Florida, controlling Zika is no simple matter
- 10/05/16--15:25: What’s next for U.S. involvement in Syria?
- 10/05/16--15:30: The controversial force joining the fight against ISIS
- 10/05/16--15:35: Will the short-staffed Supreme Court keep a ‘low profile’ this term?
- 10/05/16--15:40: How the Trump and Clinton campaigns are reacting to the VP debate
- 10/05/16--15:45: News Wrap: Obama praises Paris climate agreement
- 10/05/16--15:50: U.S. officials brace for powerful hit from Hurricane Matthew
- 10/06/16--11:22: Trump, once a data skeptic, spending millions on data
- 10/06/16--11:34: The rising opera star who traded layups for librettos
- 10/06/16--12:13: Theranos to shutter blood-testing labs and centers
There was something for everyone. And — in terms of sorting out a clear election frontrunner — possibly nothing for anyone. In their only debate of 2016, the vice-presidential candidates launched into blistering attacks on their opponents’ running mates, stretched time limits into oblivion and also did include significant, thoughtful policy discussions.
Here are five takeaways from the match-up between Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, and Gov. Mike Pence, R-Indiana.
Pence brought the folksy charm
The folksy Midwesterner in Pence came out in full force on Tuesday night. As Kaine interrupted him repeatedly, especially early on in the debate, Pence shook his head, laughed and broke in with the occasional admission of “Nonsense.” But he rarely lost his cool (though he did betray a sense of frustration when Kaine brought up Trump’s past controversial comments.) Instead, Pence came across as a polite everyman, complete with a storybook small-town Indiana childhood that included church on Sunday, a police-officer uncle and a corn field backyard. He even channeled Ronald Reagan by responding to one attack by Kaine with the repurposed Reagan debate line, “There they go again.”
Pence’s stage presence stood in marked contrast to Kaine — or, for that matter, to Vice President Biden, another folksy politician who opted for an amped-up attack-dog approach in his vice-presidential debate with Paul Ryan in 2012. But Pence’s down-to-earth personality has its drawbacks on the debate stage as well. At times, his slow, measured delivery seemed a bit too slow, as if he was struggling to keep up with the faster-thinking Kaine on complex policy issues or was pausing to form his answer. And his penchant for aw-shucks honesty sometimes backfired, like the moment when Kaine criticized his position on Syrian refugees, and Pence responded by saying, “If you’re going to be critical of me on that, that’s fair game.” Approving an opponent’s attack is never a good strategy in debates, but Pence stayed true to his brand. It appeals to Republican voters. Whether it’ll help with moderates remains to be seen.
Interrupting rarely works
The Clinton campaign seemed to benefit in the perception of Donald Trump’s repeated interruptions in the first presidential debate. But in a surprising reversal, the team decided to try the treacherous tactic repeatedly itself in the vice presidential debate. Yes, both Sen. Kaine and Gov. Pence interrupted one another, but Kaine was the first and the most audible. He first interrupted about eight minutes into the debate, on Pence’s second answer. (The Indiana governor was charging that Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state led to an emboldened Russia, and Kaine charged back.)
In the first 45 minutes of the debate especially, Kaine struggled to make his interruptions lead to solid moments of connection with the audience. Instead he seemed to trip into a difficult-to-discern tangle of words with Pence and with moderator Elaine Quijano. Pence too lost points at times from this technique. But he seemed to be able to pause after most breakneck verbal fights and regain audience attention. Kaine later was able to make strong anti-Trump arguments, but mostly when he was not interrupting.
Thus, let us proclaim the debate lesson of 2016: choose your battles carefully. Choose your interruptions even more carefully.
Rules do work. And if you have them, use them
Beginning with that first interruption, the candidates controlled the debate. That is not necessarily a negative. Many moderators, including NewsHour founding father Jim Lehrer, believe candidates should be given wide leeway to discuss, debate and argue. But he also advises that moderators must guide the conversation.
This debate went beyond free-form and seemed to lose its value for lack of clear application of rules. While Quijano asked the candidates not to interrupt one another, both quickly figured out that she was not going to do more beyond that. They tested her boundaries and found they were few as the debate regularly veered wildly off the subject she had introduced. Again, that kind of debate can be valuable to see the temperaments of the candidates. But in this case, Quijano had set up nine clear segments and topics. And the candidates blasted past both the topics and her attempts at setting time limits. It may have made it easier for voters to shore up their disdain of politics, but it did not make it any easier to determine what the candidates’ ideas would mean for Americans.
There was actual good policy
Just as the debate seemed to plunge into a Lord-of-the-Rings-worthy freefall, it recovered. At the 25-minute mark, Quijano asked, “Do we ask too much of police officers in this country, and how would you specifically address (their concerns)?” This opened up an important and thoughtful discussion that touched on police fears, stop and frisk, and racial profiling. And this did what debates do best: show a stark contrast between the two campaigns. It was not the last time this would happen.
The two men both clearly grasp foreign policy and offered competing but substantive takes on nuclear weapons, the Iran nuclear deal and how Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump interact with Russian leaders. Also in the realm of thoughtful policy debate: Immigration. Kaine and Pence both spelled out their candidates’ plans and pushed back at each other. And in what may be the most overlooked line of the night, Pence pledged to work with Kaine and the Senate on immigration reform down the road.
Evenly-matched debates don’t produce big winners or losers
Hillary Clinton emerged the clear winner in the first presidential debate. But she won against an opponent with significantly less debating experience, so she went in with a clear advantage. (It only hurt Trump further that he didn’t prepare.) The vice-presidential debate, on the other hand, was between two veteran politicians who both have a relatively solid grasp of policy details. Both Kaine and Pence participated in numerous debates before — though never on the national stage — and came into Tuesday night’s showdown with the expectation of giving solid performances.
Their equal footing ensured that neither candidate would dominate the debate. Kaine and Pence got some good points in; Kaine on Trump’s tax records, for example, and Pence on the Clinton Foundation. But they were able to effectively parry each other’s attacks, meaning that neither one went unchallenged for long. That makes for an unsatisfying conclusion for supporters on both sides who wanted their candidate to come out the clear winner. But it also means that both Kaine and Pence avoided major gaffes and got their main talking points in while keeping the focus firmly on the top of the ticket. In a vice-presidential debate, that’s all the participants can hope for.
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Wednesday told residents of Florida and other states along the path of Hurricane Matthew take the threat seriously.
Government officials are worried about complacency, especially in South Florida, which hasn’t seen a major hurricane in 11 years.
Obama said the hurricane will be building in strength as it makes its way to Florida. Even if states don’t see the full force of the hurricane, there is still the potential for devastating effects from tropical force winds and storm surge.
“If you get an evacuation order, just remember that you can always rebuild, you can always repair property, we cannot restore a life if it is lost,” Obama said.
Obama received a briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s headquarters. Some of the officials in attendance included Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Craig Fugate, the administrator for FEMA.
FEMA has deployed personnel to emergency operation centers in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. It’s also positioning commodities and other supplies at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and in Albany, Georgia.
“We hope for the best but we want to prepare for the worst,” Obama said.
Obama also asked Americans to remember that Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the world, has been hit hard by the hurricane. He asked them to visit the website for the Center for International Disaster Information — cidi.org — to learn how to help.
“We anticipate they are going to need substantial help,” Obama said. “There may be similar needs in places like the Bahamas.”
The post Obama urges Floridians to take Hurricane Matthew threat seriously appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — A contractor for the National Security Agency has been arrested on charges that he illegally removed highly classified information and stored the material in his house and car, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
Harold Thomas Martin III, 51, of Glen Burnie, Maryland, was arrested by the FBI in August after authorities say he admitted to having taken government secrets. A defense attorney said Martin did not intend to betray his country.
The arrest was not made public until Wednesday, when the Justice Department released a 5-page criminal complaint that accused Martin of having been in possession of top-secret information.
Among the classified documents found with Martin, according to the FBI, were six that contain sensitive intelligence — meaning they were produced through sensitive government sources or methods that are critical to national security — and date back to 2014. All the documents were clearly marked as classified information, according to a criminal complaint.
The complaint does not specify what documents Martin was alleged to have taken. The arrest was made around the same time that U.S. officials acknowledged an investigation into a cyber leak of purported hacking tools used by the NSA. The tool kit consists of malicious software intended to tamper with firewalls, the electronic defenses protecting computer networks. Those documents were leaked by a group calling itself the “Shadow Brokers.”
The arrest could turn into another embarrassment for the U.S. intelligence community. It would be the second case of an intelligence worker illegally removing secret data from the NSA in recent years. The agency monitors and collects sensitive information and data, mostly from overseas.
At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama takes the situation “quite seriously. And it is a good reminder for all of us with security clearances about how important it is for us to protect sensitive national security information.”
The New York Times first reported the arrest of an NSA contractor who worked for Booz Allen Hamilton. The complaint does not identify the agency Martin worked for as a contractor, but a U.S. official familiar with the investigation confirmed it was the NSA. Booz Allen said in a statement that after learning of the arrest of one of its employees, it reached out to law enforcement authorities to offer its cooperation and fired the worker.
At Martin’s home, investigators found stolen property valued at “well in excess of $1,000,” the complaint said. He voluntarily agreed to an interview.
“Martin at first denied, and later when confronted with specific documents, admitted he took documents and digital files from his work assignment to his residence and vehicle that he knew were classified,” according to the complaint, despite not having the authorization to do so. “Martin stated that he knew what he had done was wrong and that he should not have done it because he knew it was unauthorized.”
Martin has been in custody since a court appearance in August, when he was arrested.
“There is no evidence that Hal Martin intended to betray his country,” his public defenders, James Wyda and Deborah Boardman, said in a statement. “What we do know is that Hal Martin loves his family and his country. He served honorably as a lieutenant in the United States Navy, and he has devoted his entire career to serving his country. We look forward to defending Hal Martin in court.”
Greg Mickley, who lives several houses down from Martin, said his family was barbecuing on a Saturday afternoon in August when they heard a loud bang.
“They threw, we’re guessing, a flashbang (stun grenade) in his house and raided and went in the house, and they were there for 11 hours — in and out, and they had him outside in cuffs,” Mickley said, recalling the afternoon of the arrest.
Speaking at a cybersecurity conference Wednesday, the Justice Department’s top national security official, Assistant Attorney General John Carlin, confirmed the arrest of “an individual who’s involved in taking classified information.” He said the arrest generally pointed to the threat posed by insiders.
The complaint charges Martin with unauthorized removal and retention of classified materials, which carries a maximum one-year sentence, and theft of government property — an offense punishable by up to 10 years.
In 2013, NSA contractor Edward Snowden stole substantial classified information from NSA. He leaked the records to journalists, revealing the agency’s bulk collection of millions of Americans’ phone records.
The disclosures off a fierce debate that pit civil libertarians concerned about privacy against more hawkish lawmakers fearful about losing tools to combat terrorism. Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans pushed through a reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act last year that ended the program.
Snowden fled to Hong Kong, then Russia, to avoid being arrested, though he does face criminal charges in the United States. Snowden now wants a presidential pardon because he says he helped his country by revealing secret domestic surveillance programs.
After news broke of Martin’ arrest, Snowden tweeted: “Am I correct in reading they didn’t charge him under the Espionage Act? Under this administration, that’s a noteworthy absence.” The Justice Department could, however, still bring new or additional charges in a grand jury indictment.
Associated Press writers Ben Nuckols and Deb Riechmann and Brian Witte in Glen Burnie contributed to this report.
The post Federal contractor arrested for taking classified information appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — The Islamic State group seized swaths of land in Iraq and expanded its territory in Syria in a dramatic blitz in 2014, taking advantage of unrest in both countries. The militant group slaughtered civilians in its march to try to establish a radical caliphate, and has spawned a string of deadly attacks across Europe, the Middle East and the United States.
In response, the U.S. and a coalition of allies launched a sustained campaign of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria in 2014, and have been training, advising and supporting local forces in both countries. Recently, the U.S. added Libya to its airstrike targets to root out extremists at the request of the Libyan government. While still a potent force, IS militants have lost much of the territory they overran. Meantime. they’ve stepped up attempts to inspire followers abroad to strike on their own, with some devastating results.
WHERE THEY STAND
Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, has described a three-part strategy that involves crushing IS “on its home turf” in the Middle East, disrupting their infrastructure on the ground and online, and protecting America and its allies. All are current elements of the Obama administration’s strategy, so it’s not clear what would change or if she would accelerate any portions of it. She’s vowed: “We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again. And we’re not putting ground troops into Syria. We’re going to defeat ISIS without committing American ground troops.”
Donald Trump promises to “bomb the hell” out of IS, also known as ISIS, and level the oil facilities it controls.
He has provided no details, including whether he would increase U.S. airstrikes or commit ground troops. And U.S. airstrikes have already been doing precision bombing of oil facilities for some time.
Trump has also said he believes in enhanced interrogation techniques, which can include waterboarding and other types of torture that are against the law and that many experts argue are ineffective.
WHY IT MATTERS
The Islamic State group has specifically targeted the U.S. and the West, using its networks, online communications and social media to attract foreign fighters to the front lines and followers in other countries to take up the fight overseas.
As the group comes under increasing pressure from the airstrikes and U.S.-backed forces in Iraq and Syria, it has turned greater focus on inspiring lone-wolf attacks that are far more difficult to predict and prevent.
In San Bernardino, for example, investigators found that Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife pledged allegiance to the Islamic State militants before the December attack that left 14 dead.
The group has also been linked as a possible inspiration, or claimed responsibility, for the November attacks in Paris; the subway and airport bombings in Brussels; the Orlando, Florida, nightclub shootings, the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice, France, the knife attack at a mall in Minnesota, and more. There are signs that accused New York bomber Ahmad Khan Rahami was radicalized abroad by Islamic extremists, though any ties to IS are tenuous.
President Barack Obama says IS militants have figured out that if they can persuade “a handful of people or even one person to carry out an attack on a subway, or at a parade or some other public venue, and kill scores of people as opposed to thousands of people, it still creates the kinds of fear and concern that elevates their profile.”
The administration, however, has been criticized by some for not moving more aggressively and quickly to drive the group from its strongholds in Iraq and Syria. Some members of Congress have called for a stronger U.S. military response. And officials have expressed frustration over the slow-moving effort to disrupt the militant group’s online presence.
The post Where do the presidential candidates stand on the Islamic State? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Editor’s Note: Journalist Philip Moeller, who writes widely on aging and retirement, is here to provide the answers you need in “Ask Phil.”
Today’s column is an excerpt from Phil’s new book, “Get What’s Yours from Medicare: Maximize Your Coverage, Minimize Your Expenses,” published Oct. 3. The book is a companion guide to “Get What’s Yours: The Revised Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security,” written by Phil and Making Sen$e’s Paul Solman and Larry Kotlikoff.
As Phil notes, “The book (and I) owe much to the many PBS readers whose questions have helped identify problems and confusion about Medicare and how it works.” We hope you enjoy this next excerpt and keep sending Phil your Medicare questions.
— Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e Editor
There are three really big deals about getting Medicare right:
And now on to Phyllis.
Let this story be your cautionary guide for the more practical roadblocks that Medicare may erect. Phyllis is pretty much always the sharpest tack in the box. While she loved being a partner in a big corporate law firm, she finally retired from the firm when she turned 75. Like many sharp tacks, however, Phyllis was no match for Medicare. And when she explained her problems to me, she repeatedly used the phrase “No one told me.”
Fortunately, Phyllis’s efforts to properly enroll in and use Medicare have not had disastrous consequences — no financial or health care catastrophes. She got covered in time, seems to have avoided late-enrollment penalties and more or less got the coverage she wanted. But as she makes clear, these results are due primarily to her remaining healthy and needing to take a grand total of one prescription medication — an inexpensive blood pressure pill.
Phyllis’s employer did provide her notice of the impending end of her employer health coverage. But its statement did not explain the specifics of her existing coverage and the things she would need to replace with Medicare.
Phyllis never would assume what a legal client needed or how opposing lawyers might behave. But she, like too many other Medicare newcomers, did assume that Medicare was a relatively straightforward process.
“I absolutely did” make that assumption, she recalls. “My assumption was that 30 days or so before I needed Medicare, I could go and apply,” and everything would be taken care of.
At the outset, she didn’t know she needed to contact Social Security and not Medicare to enroll in Medicare. She didn’t know about prescription drug coverage or that it was called Part D of Medicare. She didn’t even know that Medicare Advantage plans existed. And she didn’t know that her cellphone needed to have a full charge before calling Medicare for help, because her wait times often would be so long that her phone would run out of juice while she was still on hold!
No one told her. “I had Part A,” she said, because she already was receiving Social Security retirement benefits. “I thought all I needed was Part A. I thought I could get Part B automatically. I didn’t know I needed to apply to Social Security for Part B.”
Phyllis’s first phone call with the Social Security Administration began to make her see that 30 days was a laughably short time frame, even for someone as skilled as she in figuring out how things worked. Social Security, it turns out, does a lot of Medicare enrollment work and is the official Medicare traffic cop when it comes to determining if people have enrolled for various parts of Medicare on a timely basis.
Adding Part B, which covers doctors, outpatient and medical equipment expenses, along with Part A hospital insurance, would provide her with what’s called Original Medicare coverage. It also would qualify her to purchase other types of Medicare insurance, including a Part D drug plan and either a Medigap policy or a Medicare Advantage plan.
After waiting on hold for more than an hour, Phyllis was told by the Social Security Administration representative that she could apply for Part B online. She was uncomfortable with that, so the rep provided her detailed instructions about how to download and complete a Part B application form. This guidance included how she should address and mark the envelope to make sure it went to the right place. She did this weeks in advance of her employer coverage ending. After waiting and waiting for a response, she finally called the local office again, waited on hold for more than an hour a second time and was told no one at that office had ever seen her application form.
During the first of what became three trips to a Social Security office, Phyllis tried to sign up for Medicare. The office was located in a congested area, with street parking whose meters permitted no more than two hours of parking time. So Phyllis thought it would be prudent if she scheduled an appointment. The Social Security website provides information on how to do this, but she was told by someone in the local office that it did not do visits by appointment.
Being a walk-in, as she later learned, guaranteed long delays. And when she wanted to go refill her parking meter and avoid a possible parking ticket, she was told she would lose her place in line if she left the office. Phyllis found another Social Security office farther away, where parking was not a problem.
While she was signing up for Part B, no one told Phyllis about the need for Part D prescription drug coverage or even about the existence of Medicare Advantage plans, which are formally designated as Part C of Medicare. They have become an increasingly popular alternative to Original Medicare, and now are the choice of more than 30 percent of Medicare users. More than 40 million people have Part D drug plans. But the first that Phyllis learned about signing up for a Part D plan was shortly before being dinged with a late-enrollment penalty. Four months after signing up, she had still not seen any evidence that she actually had a Part D plan and acknowledged that penalties might still be possible.
Phyllis wound up with Original Medicare, the hoped-for Part D plan and a Medigap policy. This is one of two classic paths into Medicare. The other involves a Medicare Advantage plan, usually bundled with Part D drug coverage. She later admitted she chose her Medigap insurer because it was the only company that answered the phone when she called.
“All my assumptions were wrong,” she says. Although her coverage didn’t begin until August 2015, Phyllis quickly realized she might have made key mistakes and began a new round of research to get ready for Medicare’s annual open enrollment period, which runs each year from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.
Open enrollment is the annual equivalent of a Medicare do‑over. It permits people to choose new plans, usually with no adverse coverage or pricing consequences. It’s a great deal, but like
much else about Medicare, people often don’t understand how it works.
No one told them.
Published by arrangement with Simon & Schuster Inc. Copyright © 2016 by Philip Moeller.
The post Signing up for Medicare? Read this cautionary tale first appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — A lack of trust in law enforcement and burdensome hiring criteria are among the barriers to creating more diverse police agencies, according to a federal report Wednesday.
The report, from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, examines the challenges to diversity in law enforcement and singles out individual agencies it says have taken innovative steps to encourage the recruitment of minority officers. It suggests that police departments eager for a more diverse workforce should be open to hiring applicants with past drug use or criminal records instead of automatically screening them out.
The lack of diversity among law enforcement agencies has become an urgent concern in recent years amid signs of strained relations between police departments and minority communities.
A scathing Justice Department report last year on the police department in Ferguson, Missouri, raised concerns that the police force was overwhelmingly white even though the city was majority black. The Obama administration’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, meanwhile, recommended that agencies promote diversity in race, gender and cultural background as a path toward better relationships with their communities.
“One of the issues that can have a big impact on (trust) is whether law enforcement agencies reflect the communities they serve, whether they look like the communities they serve,” Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates said Wednesday in announcing the report’s release.
The report cites a 2013 survey from the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics showing that racial or ethnic minorities make up about 27 percent of full-time sworn officers in the more than 12,000 local police departments across the country. That percentage, though higher than it was 30 years ago, still means that minorities are underrepresented in law enforcement in many communities, the report said. And while the lack of diversity is especially acute in small-town police agencies, the problem is not limited to those departments, officials say.
“Our own federal agencies, our own DOJ agencies, are not nearly as diverse as they could be,” Yates said, echoing remarks from FBI Director James Comey, who has described the lack of diversity in his own agency as a “crisis.”
The report acknowledges that minorities may be deterred from joining their police forces because of strained relations, a lack of trust in law enforcement, an application process that screens out individuals who might otherwise be qualified — such as through credit checks or questions about past drug use — and a promotion process that can put minorities at a disadvantage.
The report praises the police in Richmond, California, for following up with applicants when a drug issue arises rather than automatically disqualifying them. It also singles out the police department in Beaufort, South Carolina, for creating partnerships with local academic and military institutions as well as for hiring an officer from the Dominican Republic and paying for English classes to help him improve his language skills.
The post Report cites barriers to more diverse police departments appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Wednesday once again condemned Israel for plans to construct housing on land claimed by the Palestinians, saying a new project announced last week profoundly hurts efforts to forge a two-state solution to the long-running conflict.
In unusually strong statements, the White House and State Department lashed out at a proposal announced last week to construct a significant new settlement of up to 300 housing units and establish an industrial zone in the West Bank. Both Israel and the Palestinians responded quickly with statements accusing each other of being the real obstacle to peace.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said every U.S. administration since 1967 has opposed Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories, and the Obama administration has publicly restated that view because of the concern that settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem undermines the goal of a two-state solution.
“The actions of the Israeli government in announcing this settlement undermine the pursuit of peace,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. He added that the U.S. had also received public assurances from the Israeli government that contradicted the settlement announcement.
“I guess, when we’re talking about how good friends treat one another, that’s a source of serious concern as well,” he said.
At the State Department, spokesman Mark Toner said moving ahead with the project would be “another step toward cementing a one-state reality of perpetual occupation that is fundamentally inconsistent with Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.”
“Such moves will only draw condemnation from the international community, distance Israel from many of its partners, and further call into question Israel’s commitment to achieving a negotiated peace,” he said.
Toner said the proposal was “deeply troubling” because Israel announced the proposal so soon after the U.S. agreed last month to a new 10-year, $38 billion military aid package for Israel. He also said it was “disheartening” as the announcement came the world was mourning the death of former Israeli leader Shimon Peres. U.S. officials said the administration was particularly disturbed because the announcement came as President Barack Obama was visiting Jerusalem last week for the Peres’ state funeral.
“It is deeply troubling, in the wake of Israel and the U.S. concluding an unprecedented agreement on military assistance designed to further strengthen Israel’s security, that Israel would take a decision so contrary to its long-term security interest in a peaceful resolution of its conflict with the Palestinians,” Toner said. “Furthermore, it is disheartening that while Israel and the world mourned the passing of President Shimon Peres, and leaders from the U.S. and other nations prepared to honor one of the great champions of peace, plans were advanced that would seriously undermine the prospects for the two-state solution that he so passionately supported.”
In Jerusalem, the Israeli foreign ministry said only 98 units had been approved and said they do not constitute a new settlement. It said the new housing would be built on state-owned land in an existing settlement and would not change its boundaries or geographic footprint. It said the construction is necessary to relocate Jewish residents from another area who must leave their homes due to a court order.
“Israel remains committed to a solution of two states for two peoples, in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state of Israel,” the ministry said in a statement. “The real obstacle to peace is not the settlements — a final status issue that can and must be resolved in negotiations between the parties — but the persistent Palestinian rejection of a Jewish state in any boundaries.”
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat fired back, saying the proposal “affirms Israel’s resolve to destroy the two-state solution” and demanding the international community take action.
“Israel continues to impede international efforts to achieve peace in Palestine and the region amidst the complete inaction by the international community to hold Israel accountable for the crimes it continues to commit against the land and people of Palestine,” he said. “Concrete measures and actions against all Israeli settlement activities should be taken in accordance with international law and United Nations resolutions.”
The U.S., which has repeatedly criticized Israel for such projects over decades, has refrained from imposing consequences.
On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also condemned the plans for the construction near Shiloh, west of Ramallah.
Palestinians want their new state in the West Bank with east Jerusalem as its capital.
Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
The post U.S. again lashes out at Israeli settlements in West Bank appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
With the backing of the world’s largest polluters, the Paris climate agreement will enter into force on Nov. 4, the United Nations said Wednesday.
The Paris accord, under which countries agree to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, needed 55 countries totaling 55 percent of the world’s emissions to take effect.
Last month, the list of ratifying countries surpassed the needed number, though the total amount of emissions was still under the 55 percent threshold. The European Union’s ratification this week put the emissions tally over the top.
The agreement goes into effect 30 days from meeting those goalposts, which means Nov. 4.
“We have seen extraordinary momentum from all corners of the globe to bring the Paris agreement to life this year,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after the European Union came on board.
It’s up to each nation to determine how it will harness its greenhouse gases. President Barack Obama said at a climate event at the White House this week that even with the commitments of all the signatories, “it would still not be sufficient to deal with the pace of warming that we’re seeing in the atmosphere.
“What it does do is set up for the first time the architecture, the mechanism whereby we can consistently start turning up the dials and reducing the amount of carbon pollution that we’re putting into the atmosphere,” he said.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, it’s time for our weekly segment about the Leading Edge of science and technology.
And, this week, there’s plenty of science in the news with the Nobel Prizes.
Hari Sreenivasan has more from our New York studios.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The latest winners are in the field of chemistry, and the Nobel went to a trio of scientists who helped pioneer tiny molecular machines in the world of nanotechnology. These are specially designed molecules that can produce controlled movements. And there’s talk they could some day be useful in the world of medicine.
Our science correspondent, Miles O’Brien, is here to walk us through the significance of this and the other Nobels awarded this week. He joins us tonight from San Diego.
Miles, Drs. Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Fraser Stoddart and Bernard Feringa, for the design and synthesis of molecular machines. How small are we talking?
MILES O’BRIEN: Well, think of a nanometer.
A nanometer is — well, there are 80,000 of them in a human hair. That will give you an idea. We’re talking very small. Imagine machines at the molecular level that can do work, and some of the applications that we’re thinking about are potentially drug delivery inside our system, and many others where tiny machines can pack a punch.
Another application they’re looking at potentially, Hari, is creating computer storage capability at the atomic level. Well, if you’re storing things at the atomic level, you basically need a processor that is at the molecular model.
And so nanomachines are potentially revolutionary. We’re still very early on, though, in that game.
HARI SREENIVASAN: How do you build something that small?
MILES O’BRIEN: It’s basically a chemical process that you engage with, and that is part of their insight.
And, you know, basically, the researchers are saying that we’re kind of like the Wright Brothers at this point. We built a flying machine, but how could you possibly have conceived of the 747 at the time that occurred?
These mechanisms, these tiny nanomachines, have the capability of revolutionizing medicine, revolutionizing computer storage, and really who knows what, because we can’t imagine that 747.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, let’s shift to physics.
The Nobel was given to David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz for something called topological phase transitions and phases of matter. I need an advanced degree just to understand what the prize was for.
MILES O’BRIEN: Yes, yes, it’s — this is a tough one. It’s a lot of mathematics and physics. And it’s difficult, frankly. It’s tough sledding.
But it is a very human moment involved. There is a very human moment involved. Dr. Kosterlitz got the word in his car. Listen to his response.
QUESTION: We run the official Web site for the Nobel Prize. Have you already heard the news of the announcements to the physics…
DR. MICHAEL KOSTERLITZ, Nobel Prize Winner: No, haven’t heard anything. I’m talking from an underground car park in Helsinki, Finland, right now. So, I can barely hear you.
QUESTION: It has just been announced in Stockholm that you are one of the recipients of the 2016 Nobel Prize in physics.
DR. MICHAEL KOSTERLITZ: That’s incredible. That’s amazing.
MILES O’BRIEN: What a way to get the news, eh?
So, here’s what this is all about, phase changes. You might remember this from high school. Phase changes occur — it’s the difference between steam becoming — condensing down to water, and then ultimately freezing into a solid. Those are phase changes we understand.
When it gets to the quantum level, the way things shift from phase to phase, we don’t understand as well. As a matter of fact, the quantum world is like a parallel universe. Things react and do things very differently.
Topology is a technique where you identify basic shapes, whether something has like a single hole or two holes or is solid. And the Nobel Committee used a pretzel and a bagel and a muffin to try to illustrate this point.
But by understanding that mathematics, scientists hope to get greater insights into what happens at the quantum level as things move from phase to phase. This might one day lead to superconducting materials that can do their job at room temperature. So far, that’s been a very elusive goal, Hari.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Monday, the Nobel for medicine was handed out to just one individual, Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi, for something called autophagy. What is that?
MILES O’BRIEN: Autophagy is recycling at the cellular level. It happens inside our bodies.
For many years, scientists have known about lysosomes. Lysosomes are parts of our cells that take things that you don’t necessarily want there, potentially toxins, and breaks them down into their constituent parts to be reused by the body.
What scientists never really understood was, how does the bad stuff get to the lysosome? And that’s where autophagy comes in. Autophagosomes are essentially the dump trucks, the trash trucks of our body delivering stuff to our cells to be recycled.
Now, this is potentially very exciting, because this might be at the very heart of the very mechanisms that create cancer, for example, or neurological diseases. And in the case of embryonic development, if you can see and understand this, you can learn about how an embryo might develop.
So there’s tremendous potential there for medicine, lots of papers generated out of this one particular discovery by this one individual. Very unusual.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Miles, if there was a Nobel Prize for explaining the Nobel Prizes, you should be in contention.
Thanks so much for joining us tonight from San Diego.
MILES O’BRIEN: You’re welcome, Hari.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Last week, the U.S. Congress finally agreed on more funding to fight the Zika virus. The money comes months after health officials asked for it and places like Florida grapple to slow the virus’ spread.
In Miami, as William Brangham reports, the crisis has put pregnant women particularly on edge.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Beyond the famous sugar-white sands of South Beach in Miami, there’s a clear sense of unease about the growing public health crisis here.
GOV. RICK SCOTT (R-Fla.): This means Florida has become the first state in the nation to have local transmission of the Zika virus.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Over the last few months, officials have been waging an all-out war against mosquitoes, spraying pesticides from the air, going door to door in some neighborhoods, checking plants and standing water, and plastering the city with warning signs, telling residents how to protect themselves from Zika.
There are now over 940 documented cases of Zika in the state of Florida and over 230 in Miami-Dade County alone. But the epicenter is here in Miami, and the largest number of locally-acquired Zika infections have occurred in these two neighborhoods.
How are people in Florida doing with this?
SAMMY MACK, Health Reporter, WLRN: The pregnant women that I have talked to, and their partners, or people who know pregnant women are taking it very seriously, and there’s a lot of anxiety there. There’s a lot of anxiety there.
Pregnant women should avoid nonessential travel to the county.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Sammy Mack is a health reporter for WLRN, the local NPR station in Miami. While she’s eager to cover this big story, Mack has ended up in the middle of in it in a way she’d rather not. She’s also four months pregnant.
SAMMY MACK: It became an issue of, OK, how — how am I going to cover this thing that is happening in the middle of my beat, in a way that is not putting me at any kind of additional risk?
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Mack took one of the free Zika tests offered by the state, but the results took weeks, and those delays can limit the options for pregnant women.
SAMMY MACK: I waited five weeks to get my results back.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In the middle of a pregnancy?
SAMMY MACK: In the middle of a pregnancy.
If women don’t get their test turned around quickly and are waiting four weeks, six weeks, eight weeks, whatever it is, that may affect their window to decide to terminate the pregnancy. Florida restricts abortion past 24 weeks.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Thankfully, Mack’s results were negative. But she has to remain vigilant. All it takes is one mosquito bite.
And, as a journalist, this story is unfolding in areas she’s not supposed to go.
SAMMY MACK: I now have bug spray that I give out to everybody.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Is that right?
SAMMY MACK: Yes. Yes.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Individual doses for people?
SAMMY MACK: Yes. Yes. I ordered a huge pack online, and I hand them out to people who are going to the places that I’m not going to.
DR. ELLEN SCHWARTZBARD: Hi, Tiffany.
TIFFANY ANDERSON, Expectant Mother: Hey, Dr. Schwartzbard. How are you doing?
DR. ELLEN SCHWARTZBARD: I’m good. How are you?
TIFFANY ANDERSON: I’m good. Thanks.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Tiffany Anderson and her husband, Jay, are expecting their first child in just two weeks, and they too have had to adapt to this potential risk to their unborn child.
DR. ELLEN SCHWARTZBARD: I know you have been very cautious throughout your whole pregnancy, protecting yourself from mosquito bites with regards to Zika.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Their OB/GYN, Dr. Ellen Schwartzbard, has been advising Tiffany and all her patients to be vigilant.
The Andersons used to live just on the edge of one of the neighborhoods with active Zika transmissions, but they have since moved into this house a few miles away. Tiffany also took a Zika test a month ago. She was negative. And they have changed their behavior to make sure she stays Zika-free.
TIFFANY ANDERSON: We don’t really spend a lot of time outdoors. We won’t go to restaurants where we’re going to be eating outdoors, even if it’s outside of what the designated Zika transmission zone is, just because it’s constantly changing and enlarging and…
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And that’s just what your daily life has to be now.
JAY ANDERSON, Expectant Father: It’s just minimizing exposure.
TIFFANY ANDERSON: Exactly.
JAY ANDERSON: It’s scary. And when you’re scared, especially when you’re scared for your unborn child, and especially when it’s your first child, you try and focus on what you can control. And there’s only a few things that you can.
TIFFANY ANDERSON: And I now carry insect repellent around in my purse, whereas, before, it might have been perfume. But I stopped wearing — my perfume now of choice is now DEET. So…
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Dr. Christine Curry is one of the main doctors treating pregnant women who do have Zika in Florida. Right now, she’s caring for 15 pregnant women, and eight who’ve already given birth.
None of the babies born to Zika-infected mothers here have shown signs of the birth defect known as microcephaly. It’s not clear how often an infected woman will pass the virus to their child in utero, or how many babies with the virus will develop complications.
Where do you think we are in our understanding of Zika?
DR. CHRISTINE CURRY, OB/GYN, University of Miami Health System: At the very beginning. We’re less than a year into this, and so I think that it’s still going to take another few years for us to both understand the consequences during pregnancy.
And then it’s going to take years to know, the babies that were infected, what do they look like compared to uninfected babies when they’re six months old or 1-year-old, or when they hit school age?
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: As public health officials try to understand this virus better, they’re also dealing with a protest over Florida’s efforts to curtail its spread.
PROTESTERS: No more Naled!
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Even though the EPA and the CDC have said that the spraying of the pesticide Naled is both safe and effective, its use has triggered a backlash.
SAMMY MACK: The tension around it is with people who are — fall into a couple of categories. One, there are people who are concerned that the outcome of using this chemical might be worse than the risks of Zika. There are people who are just — kind of don’t believe that Zika is actually a problem, and they have been very loud at some of these meetings.
PROTESTERS: No! No! No!
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Dr. Curry spoke at one of these public hearings.
DR. CHRISTINE CURRY: With your permission, I would like to face this direction while I speak.
DR. CHRISTINE CURRY: I am much more comfortable with patients than politicians.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Trying to convince concerned residents that, while no one wants pesticides in their neighborhoods, Zika is not to be taken lightly.
DR. CHRISTINE CURRY: And I want you to know that Zika is a thing. And while we don’t fully understand it, the women who are positive have higher rates of birth defects, and higher rates of stillbirth, and higher rates of miscarriages, and higher rates of ultrasound images that are ugly and scary.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Thanks in part to aerial spraying, Wynwood, one of the two Miami neighborhoods that was seeing active transmissions, it has now been declared Zika-free.
But cases in Miami Beach have only grown. In the 12 days since we visited Miami, Florida officials have discovered at least 14 additional locally transmitted cases.
For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m William Brangham in Miami, Florida.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: The French government today announced a renewed push for a cease-fire in Syria, after a previous deal failed. The two architects of that accord, Secretary of State Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, spoke again today by phone.
Meantime, the push by Syrian forces to retake Aleppo’s rebel-held sectors continued, as a humanitarian catastrophe mounted.
As rescuers on the ground in Eastern Aleppo sifted through the ruins by hand, United Nations satellite images from high above showed the sweeping destruction. The Syrian military announced today it’s reducing the land and air bombardment to let some 275,000 civilians evacuate.
Pablo Marco leads the Doctors Without Borders mission in Syria. He spoke, via Skype, from Amman, Jordan:
PABLO MARCO: Unfortunately, we have got at different moments promises from the Russian government and also from the Syrian government about the cease-fires, truces, a reduction of fighting, and, honestly, we need to see it happen before believing it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Prospects for peace were briefly brighter last month, when Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov brokered a cease-fire.
But Syrian and Russian airstrikes quickly resumed in a new and devastating offensive against Aleppo, and an aid convoy was bombed near the city.
On Monday, the State Department severed direct contact with Russia on the issue of Syria.
JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: Together, the Syrian regime and Russia seem to have rejected diplomacy in furtherance of trying to pursue a military victory.
JUDY WOODRUFF: At the White House today, top advisers grappled with what to do next. The Washington Post reported military strikes against Syrian government forces are an option.
So far, President Obama has refused to go that far, and The New York Times obtained a recording of Secretary Kerry voicing frustration last month to the Syrian opposition.
JOHN KERRY: I have argued for use of force. I stood up. I’m the guy who stood up and announced we’re going to attack Assad because of the weapons. And then, you know, things evolved into a different process.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Syria is also echoing across the presidential campaign, as in last night’s vice presidential debate.
GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), Vice Presidential Nominee: The United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike military targets of the Assad regime.
SEN. TIM KAINE (D), Vice Presidential Nominee: The notion is, we have to create a humanitarian zone in Northern Syria. It’s very important.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But the ravaged landscape of Aleppo begs the question: If peace ever does come, will there be anything left to save?
And to talk about what comes next in Syria, I’m joined now by Derek Chollet. He’s a former assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration. He’s now at the German Marshall Fund. Randa Slim, she’s director of the Track II Dialogues initiative at the Middle East Institute. And New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.
And welcome all three of you to the program.
Let me just each one of you to say in brief, how did we get to this point five years in, half a million people dead in Syria, millions more displaced? How did we get here, Derek Chollet?
DEREK CHOLLET, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense: Well, it’s a very difficult confluence of issues.
It’s a proxy war that is being fought by many countries in the region, and, of course, the Russians, with many different interests at play. It’s a brutal regime, in the Assad regime, that is willing to take any measure, no matter how immoral or war criminal acts, to persecute its goals.
And it’s very much driven by fears in the United States, legitimate fears, I believe, about escalation of any U.S. military involvement, and what that may lead to in terms of an enduring U.S. commitment, military commitment, inside of Syria.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Nick Kristof, how did we get here?
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, The New York Times: Well, I think that President Obama resisted the suggestions by Hillary Clinton, by David Petraeus, and others to become more engaged, partly because it seemed plausible, in 2012 or even 2013, that Assad was going to fall anyway.
And, you know, why get engaged if what we want is going to happen anyway? And that was, indeed, plausible, but it also proved wrong. And I think also, more broadly, in a place like Syria, you know, there are no good options. And in a situation like that, it’s always easiest in any given day, if you don’t have a good option, to say, well, let’s see what we’re going to do tomorrow.
And that’s how bit by bit you end up losing half-a-million lives with no end in sight.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Randa Slim, how do you see this? How did we get here?
RANDA SLIM, Middle East Institute: I think we started, the administration, putting the right set of objectives in 2011, when the president said that Assad must step aside, because it was rightly diagnosed that the primary driver of the conflict, and still is the case today, is the Assad regime.
However, I think the administration proved unwilling and — to put together the strategy and to deploy the necessary tools to make that happen. I think, as Nick said, there was a strong assumption that Assad will fall or that Assad can be convinced to transition out. I think time and again, this has proven to be a wrong assumption.
But, also, I think the other factor is that we were facing an opponent with a coalition supporting it that has been willing to endorse and to engage in any kind of tactic, in any kind of awful kinds of intervention to stay in power.
And so we have this coalition now made up of Russia, made up of Iran, made up of Hezbollah, supporting Assad that is very — has a clear — I would say, that has a clear objective, that has a clear strategy, and that is willing to deploy any tool at its disposal, no matter what — how onerous it is, to achieve that objective.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me turn back to Derek Chollet.
Given all this, given where we are, what is the path forward? And can the U.S. do something on the own?
DEREK CHOLLET: Well, it’s very difficult to see a clear path forward, given the extent to which the Russians are now involved in this situation and the brutality that Assad has shown.
That said, I think it’s important for your viewers to remember the United States military has been bombing Syria every day for the last two years. Now, the targets the U.S. military has been hitting and the special operators on the ground have been in support of the Kurds and Arab tribes in Syria. The targets are counter-ISIL.
And there are some things to do that we could do in terms of expanding the aperture of the airstrikes, perhaps putting some of the regime targets at risk that would be risky, but I believe would limit the risk of escalation that the president has rightly been concerned about.
There’s no question the U.S. military has the capability to take out a regime. We have shown three times over the last 15 years that the U.S. military can take down regimes. We did it in Afghanistan. We did it in Iraq. We did it in Libya.
The challenge is — Judy, as you suggested in your opening piece, is, what comes next, and what can the U.S. do about what comes next? And I think that has been a limiting factor on the president’s decision to get more involved militarily in trying to bring about a transition inside Syria.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Nick Kristof, you have written about this extensively. What realistically is the path forward for the U.S.? We are late in the Obama administration. There is going to be another president in the next few months. What is a realistic path forward?
NICHOLAS KRISTOF: Well, I mean, I think what we need to aim for is a cease-fire and a kind of de facto partition of Syria among the sides, with at least the fighting stopping, and then wait, and maybe some time down the road, one can put the pieces back together again.
But to get that cease-fire, to stop the killing, then you need leverage. The Syrian government has responded only — not to moral appeals, but only when it feels threatened. And so, in 2013, when it feared that it was going to be — it was going to suffer airstrikes then, indeed, it agreed, you know, we will have hand over chemical weapons.
Many, many of the members of Parliament in Syria fled the country because there was a credible military threat. And so I think that John Kerry feels legitimately that his efforts to negotiate a cease-fire were enormously undercut because the White House wouldn’t give him that kind of leverage.
And, you know, look this is hard. It may not work. But we have in fact imposed a de facto no-fly zone over parts of Northern Syria to protect U.S. military advisers on ground. We could crater runways, for example, that Syrian military aircraft take off of.
And these aren’t perfect solutions, but I think they’re better than letting hundreds of thousands of people die in the coming years.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Randa Slim, is any of this realistic? We heard the vice presidential nominees last night bring up solutions. We just heard what Derek and Nick have said.
Does any of this, does it show any relation of what could, politically, realistically take place?
RANDA SLIM: To what realistically takes place in the United States?
I don’t think that, with this administration, given the time frame that’s left in its tenure, you know, five weeks, less than five weeks away from the election, I don’t think that this administration would engage in any kind of military option that bears risks, and especially high risks.
And any option right now in Syria is going to be a risky option. I think what we need to do and what is realistic is to alleviate the human suffering. There is — for example, we have now 250,000 to 270,000 people that are under siege by the Syrian regime and its supporting coalition in Eastern Aleppo, and that are being basically starved to death.
And so airdrops of humanitarian aid, airdrops over this region of medicine, of food, massive airdrops of medicine and food in the short-term, could help at least alleviate the human suffering of these people.
I think we also need to, in the short-term, to enable the armed groups, the opposition that’s still in Eastern Aleppo to stay there, and we need to enable the armed groups that are fighting against ISIL and that are fighting against the regime to continue to fight against ISIL, against the regime.
But there is this element here that we always are forgetting, that there are regional parties that have high stakes in this conflict, either the United States or Russia today. And these are countries that are going to continue to wage their proxy wars in Syria and to, in a way, help change the dynamics on the ground in ways that best serve the interests of the Syrian parties.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
So, given that, Derek Chollet, is the next president going to have any more success than this one did? And we recognize the next president could have a different approach to Syria.
DEREK CHOLLET: Well, I think, as Nick Kristof said, this is a very difficult problem.
And there have been never been easy, risk-free solutions in Syria, whether we’re talking in 2011, 2012, or today. There are a set of options that the next president will — I’m certain will consider, in terms of the attackers that targets that we’re hitting with our airstrikes, in terms of the kinds of support we’re giving the Syrian option, the kinds of weapons we are providing them, in terms of the targets we are directing the Syrian opposition the hit, in terms of the number of special operators on the ground to work with the Syrian opposition to try to make them more cohesive and capable.
But none of those measures are going to take away the fundamental difficulty of the situation and the dilemma that we’re facing, nor is it going to take away the significant risk that’s entailed with any sort of U.S. military engagement in Syria.
And I think that’s a risk we all need to be honest about and aware of as — because I think — as we potentially escalate further into this conflict with no end in sight perhaps.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, very quickly, just to give both Nick and Randa time for a final comment, at least will there be a time for an opportunity for a fresh start with a new president?
Quickly to Nick and then to Randa.
NICHOLAS KRISTOF: Well, you know, I think there is going to be an opportunity, but I think Russia and Syria are both frantically trying to change the attacks on the ground, so that there is less room for the next president to maneuver.
But, at the end of the day, I mean, I guess — I think that President Obama had a plausible strategy a few years ago, but one that, in retrospect, just has failed. And after a half-a-million deaths, after the rise of ISIS, after a global refugee crisis, then I think the one thing that should be pretty clear now is that it’s time to reevaluate and look for a new approach.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Randa Slim, what do we look for?
RANDA SLIM: I think — as Nick said, I think the next president will be evaluating what we need to do in Syria. But also, as Nick said, I think the next president will be facing less options to deal with.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Meaning what? Meaning that — because the Russians are now…
RANDA SLIM: Meaning — meaning that there will be — I mean, meaning, if Aleppo were to fall in the next — in the next few weeks, I think that will create a new fait accompli that will make the regime and that will make the coalition supporting the regime less willing to engage in the political process which the American administration has always wanted and advocated for.
I think it means that at — that this next president needs to explore carefully, but also seriously, what kind of military tools could be deployed to create the conditions on the ground for this political process.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s complicated, and it’s painful. And, as all three of you said, it is hard.
Derek Chollet, Randa Slim, Nicholas Kristof, we thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the second of our three reports this week on the fight for Iraq.
Militia groups, made up mostly of Shia fighters, and many backed by Iran, have become instrumental in the battle to drive ISIS from Iraq. But their presence on the battlefield makes them a controversial force, one with which the United States has deadly familiarity.
Tonight, again in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, special correspondent Jane Ferguson and producer Jon Gerberg report.
JANE FERGUSON: These young men are holding the line on a remote hilltop north of Tikrit. They fire at any movement across the oil fields on the horizon, where ISIS snipers are dug in. Conditions are rudimentary. Each fighter has little with him beyond his gun.
AHMED, Shia Militia Fighter (through translator): The end of ISIS is on my mind.
JANE FERGUSON: Ahmed is not part of the Iraqi army. He is a member of Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as Popular Mobilization Unit.
They are predominantly Shia militias, and radical Sunni group ISIS, or Da’esh, as they’re called here, is their sworn enemy.
AHMED (through translator): My ambition is the end of Da’esh in Iraq. I came in response to the fatwa, the doctrine to defend my country, my sacred places. My wish in life is the end of Da’esh in Iraq.
JANE FERGUSON: Like thousands of other Shia Iraqis, Ahmed heard the call of Iraq’s senior Shia leader, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who in June 2014 issued a religious command, or fatwa, to take up arms and drive ISIS from Iraq.
Iraq’s security forces had collapsed when ISIS rushed in from Syria and seized a third of the country, killing Shias, who they believe to be heretics. So, while the military was in chaos, tens of thousands of young Iraqi men flocked to the militias instead.
AHMED (through translator): The fatwa opened the door for us, so we volunteered with the Hashd militia. Ours is a belief and a will. We came because of our belief, not for a salary or anything else. We came because of our belief and our principles.
JANE FERGUSON: These troops have come from southern Iraq, and they’re holding the front line in this whole area. The Iraqi army are nowhere to be seen, and they are camped down here, with ISIS positions just over the front line.
Many of these fighters, who have lived for months on the front lines now, were civilians with no military experience until they faced ISIS.
JUMAA AL-AYAME, Shia Militia Fighter (through translator): Even the army didn’t take in volunteers in such numbers. We have huge numbers. We came like this, no training centers, nothing.
JANE FERGUSON: Their presence has been essential to the battle. ISIS has been pushed back from many areas, and the Hashd militias have played a major role in battles against the group.
But the actions of heavily armed Shia fighters in Sunni areas of Iraq have been deeply divisive. They’re also accused of war crimes, such as beheadings, killings, and torture of Sunni residents in areas they have fought in. Human Rights Watch has called on the Iraqi government to rein them in, saying that, in vengeance for ISIS atrocities, they have attacked Sunni communities.
Belkis Wille is senior Iraq researcher for Human Rights Watch based in Kiev. We spoke with her via Skype.
BELKIS WILLE, Human Rights Watch: These are segments of the population that are being singled out for allegiance with ISIS, whether or not these individual members of the community are actually affiliated with ISIS. And the Popular Mobilization Forces has chosen to really single out this community and to carry out these revenge attacks on them outside of the military structure.
They have this ability to carry out these abuses, to carry out these revenge attacks with complete impunity.
JANE FERGUSON: When Fallujah city was retaken from ISIS in June, the Hashd al-Shaabi were accused of detaining over 1,000 men who fled the city. Some 600 are still reportedly missing.
This is a problem for the U.S.-led coalition. The Hashd al-Shaabi militias are fighting alongside U.S.-backed Iraqi army forces and benefiting from American airstrikes.
COL. JOHN DORRIAN, Coalition Spokesperson: Prime Minister Abadi has said that those alleged abuses definitely need to be investigated, and those responsible, if they did occur, need to be held to account.
So, we’re going to work with the Iraqis on making sure that we set conditions to reduce as much as we can the possibility for human rights abuses. But it’s a very complicated battlefield.
JANE FERGUSON: Shia militias like these are funded and supported by Iran and are a powerful tool of influence for the Iranian regime on their neighbor Iraq. There is plenty of bad blood between them and the U.S. military.
Some of these groups were responsible for killing American soldiers during the war here, seen by many as Iran’s way of bleeding the U.S. effort, says Michael Eisenstadt. He served as both a civilian and an army officer in Iraq during the occupation. He is now at the Washington Institute.
MICHAEL EISENSTADT, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy: Many of them were involved in a low-level insurgency against the United States and have American — the blood of American soldiers on their hands. We don’t want to operate in the same battle space as them. It creates a lot of problems.
JANE FERGUSON: Yet, as a major force fighting ISIS, they are technically on the same side as the U.S. in this war. However, their commander views America with deep suspicion.
JAFAR HASSAN, Shia Militia Fighter (through translator): Hashd al-Shaabi doesn’t trust America. They’re not here to fight ISIS. We are here to fight ISIS and fight them properly.
JANE FERGUSON: In fact, to him, the Americans have other intentions beyond ISIS or even Iraq.
JAFAR HASSAN (through translator): They want to control Arab countries and establish bases close to Iran. They have intentions against Iran, clearly.
JANE FERGUSON: But America’s support of Iraq’s security forces has effectively brought the U.S. into an indirect alliance with Iranian-backed groups. That is not by choice, says Eisenstadt.
MICHAEL EISENSTADT: But they also play a role in Iraq’s efforts to emerge as the dominant outside power in Iraq and to kind of supplant the U.S. in this role. We don’t have control over who participates in the fight on the ground, although we’re putting a lot of pressure on the Iraqi military not to rely on these groups.
JANE FERGUSON: After this battle, the tens of thousands of young recruits to the Shia militias will have to find a new purpose.
AHMED, Shia Militia Fighter (through translator): When Da’esh ends in Iraq, I’m going to work. When this fatwa was first issued, I was sitting doing nothing. If I finish, I will go back to the way I was.
JANE FERGUSON: They are, however, unlikely to all return home. And the continued existence of armed militias beyond full government control could destabilize Iraq long after ISIS is gone.
For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Jane Ferguson in Tikrit, Iraq.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: From the race for the White House, we turn to the start of a new term at the Supreme Court, and to Jeffrey Brown.
JEFFREY BROWN: And a most unusual term it is, with an empty seat since the death of Antonin Scalia last February. It’s been at least 25 years since the court began a term with just eight members.
We look at that and at a case argued today about racial bias and the death penalty.
And we welcome back our own favorite court watcher, Marcia Coyle of “The National Law Journal.”
MARCIA COYLE, The National Law Journal: Thanks, Jeff.
JEFFREY BROWN: Welcome back. Time to get to work. Right?
MARCIA COYLE: Absolutely.
JEFFREY BROWN: OK.
So, a term in which the court begins shorthanded, what impact are we seeing, might we see? What jumps out at you?
MARCIA COYLE: Well, I think, right now, what we see has to do with the kinds of cases that the court has already accepted for decision.
There are no potential blockbuster issues on the docket of the kind that seemed to mark just about every term of the Roberts court since it began in 2005.
JEFFREY BROWN: There have always been a couple at least.
MARCIA COYLE: That’s right.
And, instead, the cases that we’re seeing, there is a healthy dose of patent, arbitration, bankruptcy, and there are more narrow technical statutory interpretation cases.
But I would say, Jeff, there have been other terms that began rather low-key, low-profile, and it only takes one to raise the profile. The justices will continue to add cases through the middle of January. But without knowing what’s in every justices’ mind, I have a feeling this court right now is happy to have a low profile during this election campaign.
JEFFREY BROWN: And we should just say — I mean, we talk about this often, but the court gets to decide what cases it will take.
MARCIA COYLE: It does.
JEFFREY BROWN: So, you’re suggesting that the thinking might be, let things simmer a little bit, or maybe some cases that are too hot for an eight-member panel might be worth not taking.
MARCIA COYLE: I think so, because, certainly, in the calculus of accepting a case, they have to think, will we be able to get five votes, a majority, to decide it?
And if that’s questionable, they may veer away from that particular case.
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, now, no blockbusters, but a lot of cases I see with a theme around race or racial bias.
MARCIA COYLE: Yes.
JEFFREY BROWN: One was argued today, a death penalty case.
MARCIA COYLE: That’s right.
In fact, race plays a central role or even a smaller role in three types of cases this term, criminal justice cases, the drawing of electoral maps, and even mortgage lending.
But, today, the court focused on criminal justice and Duane Buck’s case. Buck is a Texas death row inmate. His trial back in the mid-1990s, his own defense counsel at that trial introduced an expert witness who testified to a stereotype, a terrible stereotype that’s been debunked for years now.
He testified that, because Buck was black, he was more likely to be dangerous in the future. Future dangerousness is a special issue that Texas jurors have to agree unanimously to in order to impose the death sentence, and they did so here.
JEFFREY BROWN: So, he’s not — in this case, just to be clear, he’s not challenging the conviction.
MARCIA COYLE: No.
JEFFREY BROWN: He’s challenging the sentencing, which — with the claim that it was based on a racial bias.
MARCIA COYLE: That’s exactly right.
JEFFREY BROWN: So, what happened in the court today? What was the argument?
MARCIA COYLE: Well, the court seemed sympathetic to Mr. Buck. Even Justice Alito said that what happened in that trial was indefensible.
But the problem for the court is really, how are they going to deal with this? This is a very procedurally complicated case. And the chief justice asked Buck’s attorney, what do you want us to do here? Do you want to us say, on one hand, this was a clear violation of the Constitution, Mr. Buck, he gets a new sentencing hearing?
Or do we address the issue that the attorney actually raised, and that is, did the lower federal appellate court use the right standard in denying Buck what we call a certificate of appealability, which would have enabled him to go back to a federal district court, reopen his habeas petition to argue that he deserves a new sentencing hearing?
JEFFREY BROWN: So, in this case, the possible outcomes are unclear.
MARCIA COYLE: That’s right.
JEFFREY BROWN: But the sentiment seemed to be…
MARCIA COYLE: I think so. It seemed pretty clear across the bench that they definitely had a problem with what happened at his trial.
JEFFREY BROWN: Just in our last minute, let me come back to the larger picture, because you said no blockbusters.
MARCIA COYLE: Yes.
JEFFREY BROWN: But there are a few out there that they might take. Right?
MARCIA COYLE: Oh, absolutely.
Just because they may be small or narrow or low-profile doesn’t mean they’re unimportant or uninteresting. The court has, for example, an interesting religion case. Trinity Lutheran Church in Missouri is challenging Missouri’s denial of state grants to it to resurface a playground, claiming that it discriminates against religious institutions, that violates the First Amendment.
The Oregon rock group the Slants is involved in a trademark case. Their mark was turned down by a federal agency because it disparaged Asian Americans. A federal appellate court struck that law down as violating the Constitution. The Obama administration is asking the Supreme Court to take a look at it.
JEFFREY BROWN: And some very high-profile — there’s a transgender case that could…
MARCIA COYLE: This is in the wings, right.
JEFFREY BROWN: In the wings.
MARCIA COYLE: There’s a petition from a Virginia county school board that’s challenging a lower court’s order that a transgender boy should be able to use the boys’ bathroom.
And there’s also an interesting case, sort of continued fallout from same-sex marriage, where a Colorado baker said his religious beliefs prevented him from baking a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission found that the baker violated the public accommodations law. The baker has brought a petition to the Supreme Court.
They could definitely raise the temperature of the court if it takes it.
JEFFREY BROWN: Absolutely.
OK, Marcia Coyle, “The National Law Journal,” welcome back.
MARCIA COYLE: Thank you. My pleasure, Jeff.
JEFFREY BROWN: And online, there’s more on the case of Duane Edward Buck on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the race for the White House.
Thirty-seven million people, it turns out, watched last night’s debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence. That’s according to Nielsen estimates. That is less than half the number of viewers who tuned in to last week’s debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Lisa Desjardins reports.
LISA DESJARDINS: The candidates at the top of the ticket returned to the trail one day after a contentious vice presidential debate. In swing state Nevada, Republican Donald Trump praised running mate Mike Pence’s debate performance.
DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee: He was cool. He was smart. He was — I mean, you just take a look at him. He was meant to be doing what he’s doing, and we are very, very proud of Governor Mike Pence.
LISA DESJARDINS: Democrat Hillary Clinton had no public events, but traveled to Washington, D.C., for a fundraiser and to prep for the next presidential debate set for Sunday.
And it could be every bit as combative as the Kaine-Pence face-off. The statistics-driven 538 blog counted more than 40 interruptions from Pence, more than 70 by Kaine.
GOV. MIKE PENCE (R), Vice Presidential Nominee: She had a Clinton Foundation accepting contributions from foreign governments.
SEN. TIM KAINE (D), Vice Presidential Nominee: You are Donald Trump’s apprentice. Let me talk about this…
GOV. MIKE PENCE: Senator, I think I’m still on my time.
SEN. TIM KAINE: Well, I think — isn’t this a discussion?
ELAINE QUIJANO, Moderator: This is our open discussion.
SEN. TIM KAINE: Yes, let’s talk about the state of…
GOV. MIKE PENCE: Well, let me interrupt — let me interrupt you and finish my sentence, if I can.
LISA DESJARDINS: But while Kaine may have lost style points for that approach, Democrats stressed that Pence didn’t always directly defend Trump’s record, including his refusal to release tax records.
SEN. TIM KAINE: Every president since Richard Nixon has done it, and Donald Trump has said: I’m doing business with Russia.
The only way the American public will see whether he has a conflict of interest…
GOV. MIKE PENCE: No, he hasn’t said that.
SEN. TIM KAINE: He has, actually.
ELAINE QUIJANO: Senator, your time is up.
GOV. MIKE PENCE: Well, thanks. I’m just trying to keep up with the insult-driven campaign on the other side of the table.
SEN. TIM KAINE: You know, I’m just saying facts about your running mate.
GOV. MIKE PENCE: Yes.
SEN. TIM KAINE: And I know you can’t defend.
LISA DESJARDINS: The Clinton campaign quickly put out a video ad contrasting Pence’s words with Trump’s.
SEN. TIM KAINE: Donald Trump said, keep them out if they’re Muslim.
GOV. MIKE PENCE: Absolutely…
DONALD TRUMP: Total and complete shutdown of Muslims.
LISA DESJARDINS: But Kaine raised questions with his statement on the Iranian nuclear agreement negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry, but teed up by sanctions that Clinton brokered.
SEN. TIM KAINE: She worked a tough negotiation with nations around the world to eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons program without firing a shot.
GOV. MIKE PENCE: Eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons program?
SEN. TIM KAINE: Absolutely, without firing a shot.
LISA DESJARDINS: In fact, Iran did agree never to acquire nuclear weapons, but opponents of the deal point out Tehran will keep some nuclear ability and could renege.
So, with 34 days left, the campaigns are fighting over facts and fighting for every vote.
For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Lisa Desjardins.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: The United Nations announced the Paris agreement on climate change will take effect on November 4. It reached the threshold when more than 55 nations generating at least 55 percent of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions signed on. President Obama walked out to the White House Rose Garden to hail the development and its implications.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Today, the world meets the moment. And if we follow through on the commitments that this Paris agreement embodies, history may well judge it as a turning point for our planet. So,this gives us the best possible shot to save the one planet we have got.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The agreement calls for countries to report progress on reducing emissions, but doesn’t set binding limits.
The U.N. Security Council agreed unanimously today that Antonio Guterres of Portugal should be the United Nations’ next leader, its secretary-general. The former prime minister also served as U.N. high commissioner for refugees for 10 years. He would succeed Ban Ki-Moon. The Council votes tomorrow on recommending Guterres to the General Assembly.
In Afghanistan, Kunduz endured a third day of fierce fighting. Government forces in the provincial capital repelled fresh Taliban assaults, with the aid of U.S. helicopters. Smoke billowed over the city center, as hundreds of civilians began leaving. Local officials said they were forced out by the Taliban.
Tensions are building tonight between Iraq and Turkey, nations that have been allies in the fight against the Islamic State group. The Iraqi Parliament today denounced Turkey’s plans to keep troops at a camp inside Iraq for another year.
The Turkish foreign minister responded in Istanbul that it’s much ado about nothing.
MEVLUT CAVUSOGLU, Foreign Minister, Turkey (through translator): The camp was set up within the knowledge of Iraqi administration. Baghdad officials have visited this camp and have even provided financial support to it in the past. This problem occurred because of internal conflict of Iraqi policy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The two nations are also at odds over Iraqi plans for retaking the city of Mosul from ISIS. The Turks are warning against using Shiite militias in the mainly Sunni region. We will take a closer look at those militias later in the program.
The U.S. Justice Department has charged a Maryland man with stealing secrets from the National Security Agency. A criminal complaint unsealed today names Harold Thomas Martin. He was a contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton. The same firm employed Edward Snowden, who, in 2013, revealed the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records.
On Wall Street, rising bond yields and oil prices boosted bank and energy stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 112 points to close at 18281. The Nasdaq rose 26, and the S&P 500 added nine.
And the world’s oldest man has finally celebrated his bar mitzvah. Israel Kristal is now 113 years old. He grew up in Poland, but missed his coming-of-age ceremony because of World War I. He ultimately survived both World Wars and the Auschwitz death camp, and now lives in Israel. His family, including almost 30 great-grandchildren, joined him for the bar mitzvah last weekend.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Rescue workers in Haiti are struggling to reach victims of Hurricane Matthew tonight, while officials in the southeastern U.S. are urging residents to get ready. The big storm is churning north, with sustained winds of 120 miles an hour.
For Haiti, it shapes up as the worst disaster since the devastating earthquake of 2010. In the port city of Les Cayes, already-flimsy homes are now piles of debris, and people are wading through knee-deep water.
MAN: Our homes are completely destroyed. We have lost everything. We need help as fast as possible. We cannot be left behind.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Other towns are cut off, while the U.N. reports at least 10,000 people are in shelters, and hospitals are full.
In the capital, Port-au-Prince, the River Grise was close to topping its banks today.
Charles Patrick Almazor spoke to us from Port-au-Prince. He’s with Partners in Health, an international aid organization.
CHARLES PATRICK ALMAZOR: Because of the flooding, we expect more cases of cholera and more cases of diarrhea-related diseases. So, we are trying to get prepared for that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The disaster prompted Haitian officials to postpone the presidential election, set for next week.
From Haiti, the storm rolled across the sparsely populated eastern tip of Cuba, and destroyed dozens of homes in Baracoa.
WOMAN (through translator): It was a disaster. Everything was a disaster. There is nothing left here. This was like never seen before.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Next on Matthew’s path, the Bahamas. It pounded the southern islands with heavy rain all day, and the eye could reach Nassau tomorrow morning. By Thursday night, the storm is expected to be off South Florida. Then, over the weekend, it’s on course to whirl up the East Coast toward the Carolinas, before veering back out into the Atlantic.
Florida Governor Rick Scott says the state may see its largest evacuation ever.
GOV. RICK SCOTT (R-Fla.): Regardless if there’s a direct hit or not, the impacts will be devastating. I cannot emphasize it enough that everyone in our state must prepare now for a direct hit.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In South Carolina, people flocked for water and supplies today, and Governor Nikki Haley announced a scaled-back plan to evacuate a quarter-million people. President Obama added his own warning at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I want to emphasize to the public this is a serious storm. If there is an evacuation order in your community, you need to take it seriously.
JUDY WOODRUFF: If it does make landfall, Matthew would be the first major hurricane to strike the U.S. mainland since 2005.
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WASHINGTON — Donald Trump once called data “overrated” in politics. But with Election Day swiftly approaching, the Republican presidential nominee is spending millions of dollars on data and digital services in an effort to land donations and win over voters.
Ushering Trump toward a more analytical approach are Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, and Brad Parscale, the campaign’s digital director and a veteran Trump Organization consultant. Both men — friends — are new to politics and have built a team largely without Washington operatives, whom they dismiss as overpaid and overrated.
“People underestimate our data and digital because we haven’t been outspoken about what we’re doing,” Parscale said in an interview.
Modern political campaigns gather up as much data as possible to raise money and identify, reach and turn out voters. They use voter registration files, commercially available information about consumer habits and beliefs, and much more.
The most effective campaigns — think President Barack Obama’s — will arm their employees and volunteers with those analytics to knock on the right doors and make the right phone calls. Data also underpin effective media and digital outreach. “Digital” encompasses mobile apps, advertisements on websites, short videos on social media platforms such as Facebook and Snapchat, and more.
The Trump analytics team has become increasingly confident in its work, saying the campaign has raised more than $150 million online and produces tens of thousands of different kinds of online content every day to keep up the cash flow and connect with voters. On big-news days — such as the debate coming Sunday — the team creates 100,000 pieces of digital content.
“We are data-driven all throughout the campaign,” Parscale said. “We don’t spend a single dollar unless we know exactly what it’s going to buy, who it’s going to help us reach.”
Trump is up against Hillary Clinton’s seasoned team. Her director of analytics, Elan Kriegel, helped secure Obama’s re-election victory four years ago. Dozens of data analysts have toiled away at her Brooklyn, New York, headquarters since the first days of her campaign in the spring of 2015.
The Clinton campaign also could be better positioned to make use of the data; as of August, she has more than 800 employees across the country, compared with Trump’s 130 employees and roughly 100 consultants.
“The Trump campaign could say they are doing the best, hugest, most amazing data campaign in the history of mankind, but they’re still not on par with Clinton,” said Chris Wilson, who was director of research, analytics and digital strategy for Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign. “Anything they are doing now is like sticking a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.”
Kushner has overseen Trump’s digital strategy since November. Parscale, whose firm is in San Antonio, Texas, has worked as a consultant to the campaign since its first day last year. This is his first national political campaign, but he has been a consultant to the Trump Organization since 2011.
The close relationships — and trust — among Parscale, Kushner and Trump have helped convince a once-skeptical Trump that it’s wise to spend precious campaign money on data.
“I’ve always felt it was overrated,” Trump said of data analytics in an AP interview in May. “Obama got the votes much more so than his data processing machine. And I think the same is true with me.”
Yet Trump elevated Parscale to digital director June 21, and Parscale recently began working mostly from Trump Tower in New York. He sits next to Steve Bannon, chief executive officer of the Trump campaign and the former head of Breitbart News.
Parscale also has started weighing in beyond exclusively digital topics, including advising on television and radio placements — an echo of how Kriegel operates within Clinton’s campaign.
He is the main liaison to the campaign’s new media buyer, National Media, and its offshoot American Media and Advocacy Group. The Alexandria, Virginia-based consultants pioneered how campaigns buy TV ad slots to reach specific audiences, one reason the Trump campaign recently abandoned its other media buyers in favor of them.
Trump’s increased commitment to digital and data shows up in his latest campaign finance reports.
His campaign spent $11 million — almost one-third of its budget — on Parscale’s firm Giles-Parscale in August, a 60 percent leap from its July payments. The Texas firm has dozens of employees working to produce and disseminate Trump content and purchases all of Trump’s digital ads, in addition to handling online fundraising.
In August and July, the campaign paid Cambridge Analytica $350,000 for data. The firm, funded in part by Trump supporter and billionaire financier Robert Mercer, pairs its vault of consumer data with voter information.
Trump’s campaign also works off the Republican National Committee’s data analytics, which the party has spent more than $100 million building since the last presidential election.
“Because of the data investment we have made in the past four years, our nominee has been able to run the most effective and efficient campaign in history,” said Sean Spicer, the RNC’s chief strategist and an adviser to the Trump campaign.
The data approach isn’t perfect: People outside the country and liberal, longtime Democrats — including those who are known to despise Trump — have reported getting Trump campaign mail and emails.
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who cannot contribute to American politicians because he is not a U.S. citizen, tweeted that he had received Trump fundraising emails. Democrats Amber and Steven Mostyn, Houston attorneys who have given millions of dollars to pro-Clinton efforts, also posted photographs on Twitter of Trump solicitations aimed at them.
The Trump campaign says it does not vet all of the names on the very large email lists that it purchases to prospect for donors.
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Most opera singers start training seriously when they’re still in pigtails and knee socks. But one rising star in the classical singing world got a late start because she was headed for a career as a professional basketball player.
When J’Nai Bridges’ pro sports ambitions suddenly fell apart following a disagreement with her team’s coach, the high school senior started focusing intently on developing her voice.
“I like to say that opera chose me,” Bridges said with a laugh, “because I didn’t grow up listening to or going to the opera.”
Now, at the age of 29, the American mezzo-soprano is performing major roles for some of the world’s most renowned companies including the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Los Angeles Opera and the Bavarian State Opera.
This season, she made her San Francisco Opera debut as the maid Bersi in “Andrea Chenier,” a tale about a poet who was killed in the French Revolution. Next year, she will debut at Vancouver Opera as Sister Helen Prejean in “Dead Man Walking.”
Bridges has been hailed as one of the rising stars in the opera world. She has won numerous prizes and awards including the 2016 Richard Tucker Career Grant, first prize at the Francisco Vinjas Competition and a Marian Anderson award. A native of Lakewood, Washington, Bridges earned her master’s degree in music from the Curtis Institute of Music and her bachelor’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music.
“I love the fact that I’ve been given this gift to sing and touch people,” she said.
This report originally appeared on PBS member station KQED. Local Beat is an ongoing series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Like thousands of other Americans, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton scrambled their plans Thursday in Florida, where Hurricane Matthew threatened to wreak havoc on efforts to comb the state for votes in the campaign’s final stretch.
The ferocious storm barreling toward the coast, the Clinton campaign moved staff and out-of-state volunteers working on the east coast of Florida to hotels and other housing inland and was closing all offices in the affected areas until safe to return, the campaign said. Sensitive to being seen as trying to capitalize on the storm, the campaign temporarily pulled its ads running on local Weather Channel stations in Florida.
The Trump campaign scrapped plans to hold a rally farther up in the coast in North Carolina, and canceled a Florida event featuring Trump’s daughter, Ivanka.
Trump offered prayers for those in the path.
“Hoping the hurricane dissipates, but in any event, please be careful,” the Republican tweeted.
Far away, both candidates continued to prepare for their second debate, a town hall-style faceoff on Sunday. Trump was to holding his own town hall Thursday in Sandown, New Hampshire, an event that could serve as a dry run. Clinton was to hold fundraisers in New York.
Along the Southeast coast, the Category 4 storm, carrying winds up to 125 mph, was likely to bring dangerous conditions to Georgia, South Carolina and, possibly, North Carolina. But its impact on delegate-rich Florida was what had the campaigns on high alert. The state is a must-win for Trump and an intense battleground for get-out-the-vote operations.
Vote-by-mail ballots are being sent to voters across the state this week, leaving the potential for ballots to arrive just as voters temporarily abandon their homes. So far, a record 2.5 million people — nearly one-third of those who voted in 2012 — have made requests for the early ballots.
The timing of the storm raised questions about how the campaigns will handle problems from mail-in ballots that haven’t been received, as well as whether local officials will seek an extension of the Oct. 11 voter registration deadline.
Officials said they were hoping that any disruption to voting this time would be less severe than what occurred with Superstorm Sandy, which struck New Jersey and New York in the week before the 2012 presidential election and kept many voters away from polls.
At least half of Florida voters typically cast ballots early, either by mail or in person, compared with just a fraction in New York and New Jersey.
Early in-person voting in Florida doesn’t begin until Oct. 24, two weeks before Election Day on Nov. 8.
Neither New York nor New Jersey comes anywhere close to Florida’s stature when it comes to this year’s presidential campaign. Candidates and outside groups are on track to spend $11 million this week on television advertising in the state — the most in any week of the general election, according to Kantar Media’s political ad tracker. They’re set to continue big spending next week, with $8.4 million on deck.
As of Thursday morning, neither campaign had announced plans to pull down ads because of the storm, although that could change quickly. Florida Power & Light estimates 1.2 million customers could lose power, leaving campaigns little reason to waste money in some markets.
In one of the markets expected to take the brunt of the storm, Miami, planned spending is unchanged this week and next, Kantar Media shows.
The storm posed unusual challenges and opportunities for the candidates, particularly Trump, who is trying to prove his leadership.
The New York businessman has sometimes appeared clumsy in his response to crises — including sending out tweets in which he seemed to pat himself on the back for predicting terror attacks.
In the aftermath of the flooding in Louisiana earlier this year, Trump and his running mate, Mike Pence, rushed to the Baton Rouge area to tour the floor damage. During the trip, Trump criticized the president and later Hillary Clinton for failing to do the same, despite request from local officials to steer clear.
Both campaigns canceled events in Florida. President Barack Obama had planned to campaign for Clinton in Tampa on Wednesday.
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No news is good news when it comes to the fortunes of blood-testing company Theranos.
And yesterday, there was news.
Company CEO Elizabeth Holmes posted an open letter Wednesday announcing that Theranos will shut down its two clinical labs and its handful of remaining blood-testing centers. That will result in layoffs for about 340 employees–approximately 40 percent of the company’s workforce–in Arizona, California and Pennsylvania.
Holmes said in her letter, addressed to “stakeholders,” that the company will now focus on the development of a portable blood-testing device, which Holmes unveiled at a scientific conference in August.
Theranos calls that product a miniLab, and at least some lab experts who we and other media outlets spoke to did not think it represented a significant advance in the field.
Holmes’ announcement yesterday comes in the midst of the company’s appeal of severe sanctions imposed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which among other penalties banned Holmes from owning or running any clinical laboratory for two years. The sanctions stem from deficiencies at Theranos’ Newark, California lab, including problems with a blood-clotting test that CMS judged to be life-threatening. That lab has been closed since July, when regulators revoked the company’s license to operate it.
Theranos has another lab in Scottsdale, Arizona, so now that will be shuttered as well. But because the government’s sanctions preclude Holmes from owning or operating any lab, it’s unclear how Holmes could have stayed with the company should Theranos have wished to keep its Arizona open. And Holmes, apparently, isn’t going anywhere. At least, that seemed to be the case in mid-July, when Theranos issued a sort of FAQ about what the government’s sanctions meant for its operations.
“The clinical lab is just one of Theranos’ many opportunities to provide access to high-integrity, affordable and actionable health care information, and the company will continue to carry out its mission under the leadership of its founder and CEO, Elizabeth Holmes,” the company said..
In her open letter yesterday, Holmes said Theranos had installed a new executive team “leading our work toward obtaining FDA clearances, building commercial partnerships, and pursuing publications in scientific journals. We are fortunate to have supporters and investors who believe deeply in our mission of affordable, less invasive lab testing, and to have the runway to realize our vision.”
We sent Theranos and Hill+Knowlton Strategies, which Theranos uses for media relations, a query as to how the shuttering of its consumer blood-testing business might affect its appeal of the sanctions. Hill+Knowlton said Theranos would have no comment beyond Holmes’ open letter “at this time.”
CMS has said it routinely negotiates with companies that its penalizes, but the circumstances for which it lifts sanctions did not seem to apply to Theranos. CMS also said at one point that closing down its labs would not be enough to prevent the penalties from being implemented.
If Theranos has no further comment right now, here’s someone who does: Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou, whose investigative reporting heralded the beginning of the end for Theranos’ status as a golden child of Silicon Valley “disruption.” Carreyrou yesterday indulged in a victory tweet:
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Litany of Woes
We won’t go into the specifics of the many developments that have led to Theranos in just a year’s time becoming what–it’s probably fair to say–is a corporate pariah. (See our cartoon history of the company here for more.) Theranos made its name by touting what it said was a revolutionary diagnostic technology, which allowed for dozens of blood tests from just a few drops of blood–and for extremely low prices. A high-profile partnership with Walgreen’s opening dozens of Theranos blood-testing centers within the pharmacy chain’s stores then gave its technology the imprimatur of a major health care provider. Investors piled on, bestowing the company with a $9 billion valuation, according to Forbes, $4.5 billion of which would accrue to Holmes.
But it all came tumbling down–rapidly. The lab testing community had already been grumbling that Theranos had never published in a a single word of proof in a peer-reviewed journal that its methods worked. Then came Wall Street Journal articles alleging, among other improprieties, that Theranos failed to report tests showing its vaunted tech may not be accurate. CMS soon threatened its sanctions, which were based on an unrelated lab inspection.
Scientific studies emerged that showed Theranos’ test results deviated from norms; Walgreen’s bailed; the company invalidated tens of thousands of patient blood tests; lawsuits proliferated; the SEC and U.S. Attorney’s Office for Northern California opened investigations; and an attempted comeback at the annual meeting of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry was a bust– attendees had fully expected, at long last, some hard validating data, but instead got what some characterized as a marketing presentation for a not overly exciting new product.
Plus there’s the whole Jennifer Lawrence thing. …
More to come, we’re sure.
Here’s yesterday’s full open letter from Holmes on Theranos’ website:
For our stakeholders,
After many months spent assessing our strengths and addressing our weaknesses, we have moved to structure our company around the model best aligned with our core values and mission.
We have decided to close our clinical labs and Theranos Wellness Centers, which will impact approximately 340 employees in Arizona, California, and Pennsylvania. We are profoundly grateful to these team members, many of whom have devoted years to Theranos and our mission, for their commitment to our company and our guests.
We will return our undivided attention to our miniLab platform. Our ultimate goal is to commercialize miniaturized, automated laboratories capable of small-volume sample testing, with an emphasis on vulnerable patient populations, including oncology, pediatrics, and intensive care.
We have a new executive team leading our work toward obtaining FDA clearances, building commercial partnerships, and pursuing publications in scientific journals.
We are fortunate to have supporters and investors who believe deeply in our mission of affordable, less invasive lab testing, and to have the runway to realize our vision.
I look forward to sharing more with you as we progress along the way.
This report was produced by KQED. You can view the original report on its website. This posted has been edited. It originally said that Theranos does not have an in-house spokesperson, which it does.
The post Theranos to shutter blood-testing labs and centers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.