Tuesday, July 31, 2012

BRAZIL - South American Powerhouse

"The Man Behind Brazil's Booming Economy: Former Brazilian President Cardoso" PBS Newshour 7/30/2012

Excerpt

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): Next, charting the rise of Brazil as a new and growing power on the global stage.

Jeffrey Brown profiles one of the men who helped build it.

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): Yes, Brazil is still a soccer power. And, yes, it's still famous for its music and Carnival.

But, today, Brazil is something much more. A nation of 200 million, it's now the world's sixth largest economy, an energy giant with a booming manufacturing sector and growing middle class, in short, an economic and democratic power very much on the rise, and decidedly not the nation Fernando Henrique Cardoso was born into.

SYRIA - Civil War Update 7/30/2012

"Refugees and Rebels Flee Syrian Conflict Areas as Government Troops Advance" PBS Newshour 7/30/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: Ten days into the battle of Aleppo, nearly 200,000 residents have fled the city limits. John Ray of Independent Television News reports. Then, Margaret Warner talks to GlobalPost's James Foley from Syria about the systematic advances of government troops as they attempt to regain control and oust rebels in northeast Syria.

Monday, July 30, 2012

COLORADO - Killer Schizophrenic

This is in the no-kidding category...

"Alleged Colorado Shooter Saw Schizophrenia Expert" PBS Newshour 7/27/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: Lawyers defending alleged shooter James Holmes stated Holmes sent a notebook with violent drawings of a mass killing to Lynne Fenton, a psychiatrist and schizophrenia expert, who met with Holmes in weeks prior to the shootings. Margaret Warner talks to Washington Post's Carol Leonie about how mental health will affect the case.

CHINA - Scandal Update, Murder Afoot

"Chinese Politician's Wife Charged for Murder of British Businessman" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 7/27/2012

MARGARET WARNER (Newshour): And to China, where a high-stakes crime and politics story continues to unfold.

The wife of an ousted Communist Party official has been charged with homicide.

The news came in Thursday evening's broadcast from state-run CCTV. Gu Kailai, seen here with her charismatic then-popular politician husband Bo Xilai, is to be tried for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. Authorities charge Gu and a family aide killed Heywood at this hotel in Chongqing last November.

ZHANG YU, CCTV (through translator): According to Xinhua, the state news agency's release, the investigation results show that Gu Kailai and her son had conflicts with British citizen Neil Heywood over economic interests. Gu Kailai poisoned Neil Heywood to death in the consideration that Heywood posed a threat to her son's security.

MARGARET WARNER: At the time, Bo was the populist party boss of Chongqing, angling for a more powerful post in the party hierarchy, his wife a successful lawyer and businesswoman. Their son, a reputed party boy, was at Harvard's Kennedy School. He had earlier studied in England with Heywood's help.

In a statement yesterday, the British Foreign Office said, "We are dedicated to seeking justice for Heywood and his family, and we will be following developments closely."

The indictment was the latest twist in a scandal that's rocked China's secretive Communist Party leadership, exposing its rifts and infighting. It began in February when this man, Wang Lijun, the former Chongqing police chief, fled to the U.S. Consulate in nearby Chengdu and implicated Gu Kailai in Heywood's death.

In April, Bo was stripped of all his party posts, including his seat on the ruling Politburo. He's now under investigation by the party, reportedly for corruption and domestic spying, among other things. His wife, Gu, will stand trial in the eastern city of Hefei, hundreds of miles from Chongqing, where Bo remains popular. Conviction could mean the death penalty.

Authorities are expected to proceed quickly to trial, possibly within 10 days. That would dispose of the matter well before the Communist Party Congress convenes this fall to name new leadership for the nation.


"Murder Scandal Causes Political Fallout in China's Communist Party" (Part-2) PBS Newshour 7/27/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: A year ago, Bo Xilai had been a rising Chinese politician in Chongqing Party. But all that changed after his wife was implicated and now indicted for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. Margaret Warner talks to the Atlantic's James Fallows about the impact the trial will have on Chinese leadership in the near future.

ECONOMY - Growing, But Not Enough (reprise)


"U.S. Economic Growth Continues at Sluggish Pace" PBS Newshour 7/27/2012

Excerpt

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): The great recession officially ended three years ago, but the latest look at the U.S. economy today suggests a full recovery is still a long way off. The struggle was highlighted in a report from the Commerce Department.

Consumer spending powers the U.S. economy, but Americans weren't hitting the stores this spring, and when they did, they weren't spending nearly as much. As a result, economic output, measured as the gross domestic product, rose at an annual rate of just 1.5 percent from April through June. The Commerce Department did raise its estimate of first-quarter growth to 2 percent.

Still, that's not considered sufficient to encourage hiring and bring down unemployment.

At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney pointed to 12 straight quarters of growth, but acknowledged it's not enough.


ALSO:

"U.S. economy still growing -- but not by much" by Steve Benen, Maddow Blog 7/27/2012

"Shields and Brooks on Economic Forecast, Mitt Romney Overseas, and Campaign Ads" PBS Newshour 7/27/2012

Friday, July 27, 2012

AMERICA - Great Lakes Environment Update

"An Old Fashioned Strategy to Keep Asian Carp at Bay in the Great Lakes: Eat Them" PBS Newshour 7/26/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: To keep Asian carp, an invasive species, from taking over in the Great Lakes, scientists and fishermen are employing an simple strategy: Catch them and eat them. But they have found that there are some pragmatic issues -- as well as marketing issues -- to overcome. Ash-har Quraishi of WTTW Chicago reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): Now an update on an important fishing story in the Great Lakes region.

We have chronicled the problems that a particularly invasive species, Asian carp, have posed for the past few years. But now scientists are thinking it may be time to come up with a new solution.

OLYMPICS - London Countdown and Preview

"Countdown Begins for Olympic Games as Torch Travels Past London Landmarks" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 7/26/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: As the torch for the Olympics traveled through London, anticipation for the opening ceremonies was palpable. Independent Television News' Geraint Vincent reports from London while final preparations are completed for the start of the 2012 Games.





"Olympics Preview: Reporting Results in Record Time; A Runner with 'Cheetah Legs'" (Part-2) PBS Newshour 7/26/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: Olympics-watchers have more options than ever for following the Games as they happen. Ray Suarez talks to sports writer Christine Brennan from London about security, how to watch and what to watch, including high-profile swimming, track and field and gymnastics match-ups, plus the story of a South African double-amputee runner.

SYRIA - Civil War 7/26/2012

"Syrian Rebels Brace for Government Advance; Aleppo Civilians Caught in Crossfire" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 7/26/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: Syrian troops have positioned themselves on the edge of Aleppo, preparing to retake the city from rebel control. In response, rebels have reinforced their weapons stockpiles for the expected assault. Meanwhile, Aleppo's three million civilians are caught between the two forces. Independent Television News' Alex Thomson reports.




"On Syrian-Turkish Border, 'Underdog' Rebels Have Carved Out a Buffer Zone" (Part-2) PBS Newshour 7/26/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: Pockets of Syria have fallen under the control of rebel fighters, the anti-Assad opposition forces known as the Syrian Free Army. Judy Woodruff speaks to NPR's Kelly McEvers about her recent trip to five towns along the Turkish border in rural Syria.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

SYRIA - Civil War 7/25/2012

"Syrian Regime 'Relentless' in Attack; 'Hard-Line Islamic Influence' Among Rebels" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 7/25/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: Fighting continued for a fifth day in the Syrian city of Aleppo. Reports and footage reveal that alongside rebels, al-Qaida fighters are present on the battlefront. Independent Television News' Alex Thomson reports on the evidence that suggests al-Qaida might be using the Syrian revolution for its own devices.




"Arab Nations Consider How to Apply More Diplomatic Pressure on Syria" (Part-2) PBS Newshour 7/25/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: Though the League of Arab States approved NATO's intervention in Libya, it is still unclear whether the 22-member organization will take action in Syria, where conflict began 16 months ago. Judy Woodruff talks to Youssef Amrani, Morocco's delegate-minister for foreign affairs, about the role of the Arab League in Syria.

ENVIRONMENT - Greenland Ice Sheet Melts in 4 Days

"Greenland Goes Green: Ice Sheet Melted in Four Days" PBS Newshour 7/25/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: On July 8, NASA satellite imagery showed about 40 percent of Greenland's top ice layer intact. By July 12, only four days later, 97 percent of the ice had melted. Margaret Warner asks NASA's Thomas Wagner for scientific explanation of the massive thaw.



Significant excerpt

MARGARET WARNER: So, you're basically talking about the weather?

THOMAS WAGNER, NASA: Yes, and that is one way to thing about it. Climate is sort of long-term weather. But short term, you can get extreme variations. And we're seeing an extreme variation in Greenland.

MARGARET WARNER: So, you're saying you can't really attribute this to climate change?

THOMAS WAGNER: No.

And that's one of the things. We spent a long time trying to word the document that we put out describing it. And we said, look, there is evidence that this has happened before. Now, that doesn't mean -- we really don't know the explanation for this one. If it happens again, if it starts to happen repeatedly, then we have an indication that there might be a real shift going on in the Arctic system there.

NASA Images

AMERICA - New Orleans, Most Corrupt Police Department in U.S.

"Citing Corruption and Abuse, Feds Mandate Major Reform for New Orleans Police" PBS Newshour 7/25/2012

Excerpt

GWEN IFILL (Newshour): For years, the New Orleans Police Department has labored under a long shadow of misconduct, investigations, charges and criminal convictions. Now the city has agreed to major reforms.

New Orleans now faces a sweeping federal mandate, to reform a police department plagued by corruption and abuse for decades.

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: This consent decree will allow us to move forward, and move forward together, and will enable the people of New Orleans to have, in the words of Mayor Landrieu -- and I quote him -- a world-class police department.

GWEN IFILL: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder formally outlined the deal yesterday, an agreement Mayor Mitch Landrieu estimates will cost roughly $11 million a year to put in place. Landrieu said it will fundamentally change the culture of the New Orleans police once and for all.

The planned reforms include mandatory training for officers in the use of force, routine stops and searches and bias-free policing, new standards for recruiting to increase diversity on the force, and videotaping of interrogations involving suspected homicides and sexual assaults. The department must also install video cameras in all patrol cars.

ERIC HOLDER: This consent decree belongs to the entire community and includes ideas that were brought to us by community members, front-line officers and experts alike.

AMERICA - Detroit, World-Class Art Scene

"Where Detroit Industry Has Floundered, World-Class Art Scene Flourishes" PBS Newshour 7/25/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: In Detroit, where the population has dropped by 2 million, abandoned and neglected buildings are a normal sight. But look more closely, and beautiful murals and graffiti appear everywhere. Correspondent Spencer Michels reports on how artists, flocking to the city, are helping to spark the ailing economy.

SPENCER MICHELS (Newshour): When they lit off fireworks in Detroit, a preview of the Fourth of July, Detroiters flocked to the city's downtown riverfront. It was a reason to rejoice in a city that hasn't had much good news of late.

Police were on the alert for possible gang violence, and the crowd knew this might be the last celebration because of the city's huge budget problems. The crowd reflected the demographics of the city, a city that today is 82 percent African-American, about 8 percent white and 7 percent Hispanic.

It's a place where first whites, and then blacks, fled to the suburbs, where the population has dropped nearly two million people since 1950, to just 700,000. Like the Detroit River, where ships used to ferry tons of materials to the Ford plants, the city of Detroit has undergone major changes.

After a decline in livability, residents say the town is now coming back, and along with it the arts are flourishing. The easiest place to find it is on the side of abandoned buildings. There is so much that when these artist-decorated houses burned recently, hardly anyone paid attention, just another fire in a city very used to things going up in smoke.

Still, graffiti is everywhere in Detroit and some of it is spectacular.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

POLITICS - Fed is Worried About Economic Growth

"Fed Leaning Closer to New Stimulus if No Growth Is Seen" by BINYAMIN APPELBAUM, New York Times 7/24/2012

Excerpt

A growing number of Federal Reserve officials have concluded that the central bank needs to expand its stimulus campaign unless the nation’s economy soon shows signs of improvement, including job growth.

The question is expected to dominate the agenda when the Fed’s policy-making committee meets next week, with some members pushing for immediate action while others seek to delay a decision at least until the committee’s next meeting in September, so they can see a few more weeks’ worth of economic data.

The Fed’s chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, told Congress last week that the options under consideration included a new round of asset purchases, or “quantitative easing,” often described as QE3. As part of any such program, officials increasingly favor expanding the Fed’s holdings of mortgage-backed securities for the first time since 2010.

Mr. Bernanke and other Fed officials are convinced that such a step would further drive down long-term interest rates and improve the pace of economic growth, but they are concerned that the benefits would be modest and the costs uncertain.

The Fed also could take the smaller step of extending its forecast that short-term interest rates would remain near zero beyond late 2014, but many economists regard such a step as unlikely to provide a significant jolt to growth.

Any significant action by the Fed will reverberate in a presidential election that may be decided by the health of the economy. Republicans have urged Mr. Bernanke to refrain from taking additional steps, arguing that the costs were likely to exceed the benefits, while Democrats have pressed for a new round of stimulus.

COMMENT: Of course Republicans don't want anything done. It's just an extension of their no-governance policies AND they don't want a election issue that would hurt their Obama-is-to-blame chant (aka forget history, Republicans were NOT in charge 2000-2008 and did NOT block everything Obama in 2011).

HISTORY - Sally Ride, NASA Astronaut, Dies at 61

"Sally Ride, 61, Left Major Imprint on Space Program, Inspired Young Scientists" PBS Newshour 7/24/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: Known for being the first American woman in space, Sally Ride dedicated her life to inspiring young people to engage in science, using space travel as a means to an educational end, rather than her own personal thrill ride. Judy Woodruff talks with science correspondent Miles O'Brien about Ride and her legacy.

SALLY RIDE, NASA astronaut: The moment of ignition, there's absolutely nothing like it. There's so much power, so much thunder. You know that something you have no control over at all is happening for the next eight-and-a-half minutes.

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): It was 1983, and Sally Ride made history as the first American woman in space. The first Russian woman had made it 20 years before. Ride reflected on the experience in a NASA interview 25 years after her mission.

SALLY RIDE: And I remember unstrapping from my seat, floating over to the window, and that's when I got my first view of Earth. I could see coral reefs off the coast of Australia, huge storms swirling in the ocean. I could see an enormous dust storm building over Northern Africa and then starting its way across the North Atlantic toward us. Unbelievable sights.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Ride was just 32 during that first flight, and she said at the time she thought her age was more important than her gender.

SALLY RIDE: I guess that I was maybe more excited about getting a chance to fly early than I was about getting to be the first woman. I'm more excited about that opportunity than I am about being the -- as you say, a footnote in history.



"From the Vault: Roger Mudd's 1987 Report on Sally Ride" by Jenny Marder, PBS Newshour 7/24/2012

SYRIA - Civil War 7/24/2012

"As Rebels Advance, Syrian Government Retaliates with Attack Helicopters" PBS Newshour 7/24/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: Syrian government troops faced stronger and more intense advances by rebels forces. President Bashar al-Assad's regime retaliated with heavy artillery and the use of attack helicopters. Independent Television News' Alex Thomson reports on the damage in Aleppo and Damascus, the two Syrian cities seeing the brunt of battle.



Assad Warcriminal

HEALTH - 2012 AIDS Conference, Sir Elton John

"Elton John on AIDS: Compassion Is Part of the Cure" PBS Newshour 7/24/2012

Excerpt

GWEN IFILL (Newshour): Next, advocates from around the globe are in Washington this week for the 19th International AIDS Conference. This year's keynote speaker was musician, songwriter, and performer Sir Elton John, whose 20-year-old foundation has raised more than $275 million to fight the disease.

In his speech and in his new book, "Love Is the Cure," Sir Elton told the story of how Ryan White, the young Indiana boy who contracted HIV through a blood transfusion, inspired him to create the foundation. White's death in 1990 also spurred passage of the Ryan White Care Act, the nation's largest domestic program for people living with HIV/AIDS.

I sat down with Sir Elton this morning after he spoke at the Russell Senate Office Building.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

SPORTS - NCAA Sledgehammer Falls on Pen State

"NCAA Fines and Penalties Will Have Lasting Impact on Penn State Football Program" PBS Newshour 7/23/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: The NCAA imposed a $60 million sanction on Pennsylvania State University for perpetuating a 'football first' culture that failed to stop one ex-coach's sexual abuse of children. Ray Suarez speaks with University of Maryland's Kevin Blackistone and University of Pennsylania's Scott Rosner about the future for Penn State football.

COLORADO - James Holmes Prelim

"As Colorado Shooter Appears in Court, More Details on How He Obtained Weapons" PBS Newshour 7/23/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: At a preliminary hearing, Colo. shooting suspect James Holmes remained silent and stoic. Gwen Ifill speaks with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), University of Denver's Dave Kopel and the Pew Research Center's Mike Dimock on whether shootings influence public opinion on issues such as gun control and gun safety.

GWEN IFILL (Newshour): The world got a look today at the man who allegedly gunned down scores of people in Aurora, Colo., on Friday. He appeared at his initial court hearing as police pieced together what led up to the assault in a movie theater.

MAN: Please be seated.

GWEN IFILL: It was the first time he had been seen publicly since Friday's shootings, and James Holmes cut a bizarre figure, his hair dyed bright orange, his eyes dazed.

It was unclear if he was on medication, but the 24-year-old stared blankly or nodded off. And he never spoke as the judge explained the murder charges against him.

Afterward, District Attorney Carol Chambers said the state is considering asking for the death penalty. But she wants to hear from the victim's family.




Two significant excerpts

DAVID KOPEL, University of Denver: So if you had some kind of law that said, oh, every time somebody buys over 500 or 1,000 or whatever number you want to say of ammunition, that the federal government has to get notified, well, you wouldn't find anything of interest because that's such a common kind of thing to do.


REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D-Ill.): I think most Americans do think that sensible gun safety legislation is important. But can you just imagine if those who were holding guns legally in that theater stood up, as some have suggested they should have, and started shooting at this shooter and we would have had a real shoot-out at the neighborhood theater?

COMMENT: So, Mr. Kopel, why would just reporting large ammunition sales infringe on anyone's rights? It would just alert law enforcement of a potential risk and give them an opportunity to take a close look at the purchaser

As to Rep. Schakowsky's comment, ABSOLUTELY correct.

NRA's Rule #1


IRAQ - Al Qaeda's New Offensive

"15 Iraqi Cities Suffer Bomb Attacks as Al Qaeda Warns of New Offensive" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 7/23/2012

Excerpt

MARGARET WARNER (Newshour): The bombings and shootings tore through Iraq on the fourth day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It was the worst day of violence there in two years.

Suspicion fell on the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaida in Iraq, known for mounting closely coordinated strikes. In recent days, the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was said to have used the group's website to announce a new offensive, code-named ‘Breaking the Walls.'

ABU BAKR AL-BAGHDADI, Al-Qaida in Iraq (through translator): At the top your priorities regarding targets is to chase and liquidate the judges, the investigators and the guards.

MARGARET WARNER: Today saw 37 separate attacks in 15 cities. Most hit government, military and police targets.




"Iraq Attacks are Worst Insurgent Violence in Years" (Part-2) PBS Newshour 7/23/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: Monday's deadly attacks come just as tension between Sunnis and Shiites has increased and just after al-Qaida leadership declared they intend to free prisoners and assassinate court officials. Margaret Warner talks to Al-Jazeera's Jane Arraf in Baghdad about what the attacks mean for the possible resurgence of al-Qaida.



COMMENT: As I've said in the past, we (the West) need to remember that the region, and Iraq, has a very long history and culture of tribalism. The people's loyalty is 1st to their tribe, 2nd to the country. Then overshadowing that is fanatic Islamic religion.

SYRIA - Clash in Two Largest Cities

"Forces Clash in Syria's Two Largest Cities" PBS Newshour 7/23/2012

Excerpt

GWEN IFILL (Newshour): Syria acknowledged for the first time that it has chemical and biological weapons. But as fierce fighting there continued, the Syrian foreign minister said the weapons wouldn't be used to crush the rebels. President Obama said Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad would be held accountable if his regime did use chemical weapons.

We have two reports about the war in Syria from Independent Television News, beginning with John Irvine on the shelling in the country's second largest city, Aleppo. He filed his story from Beirut, Lebanon.

Monday, July 23, 2012

SPACE - New Heat Shield Test

"NASA says test flight of new heat shield a success" Seattle PI 7/23/2012

NASA says an experimental heat shield for future spacecraft landings has successfully survived a test launch that brought it through the earth's atmosphere at speeds of up to 7,600 mph.

The demonstration launch occurred Monday at the Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore. The agency says the Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment separated from the launch vehicle's nose cone about 280 miles over the Atlantic Ocean off North Carolina after a 20-minute flight. A high-speed Navy Stiletto boat is attempting to retrieve the 680-pound heat shield.

The purpose of the launch was to determine whether a space capsule can use an inflatable outer shell to slow and protect itself as it enters an atmosphere at hypersonic speed during a planetary entry and descent.

NASA Link

IRAQ - Insurgent's New Offensive

"Iraq Insurgents Kill Nearly 100 After Declaring New Offensive" by YASIR GHAZI and ROD NORDLAND, New York Times 7/23/2012

Excerpt

In a coordinated display intended to show they remain a viable force, Iraqi insurgents launched at least 37 separate attacks throughout the country on Monday morning, setting off car bombs, storming a military base, attacking policemen in their homes and ambushing checkpoints, Iraqi authorities said.

At least 97 people were killed and more than 300 wounded in the single bloodiest day this year, according to local Iraqi officials in the many areas where attacks took place.

The attacks, coming in the early days of Ramadan, the month-long Muslim religious rite, were predicted Sunday in an audio message attributed to the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Bakir Al Baghdadi, and posted on the group’s Web site. Mr. Baghdada vowed that a new offensive, which he called Breaking Down Walls, would begin soon.

The offensive was without precedent this year at least in sheer number of attacks, spread over so many locations in a third of Iraq’s 18 provinces, from north to south. It was sure to raise concerns about the government’s ability to contain the violence, six months after the last American troops left the country.

“I think Al Qaeda in Iraq made a big joke of the government and the Iraqi security forces,” said Khalid Fadel, a military analyst and former instructor at the Iraqi Military College. “They were so clear that they were going to launch attacks during Ramadan, and the government said that they have information of about 30 terrorist groups entering the country, but still the security forces are unable to prevent the attacks.”

Mr. Baghdadi said in the Qaeda statement that “we are returning again to dominate territories we used to dominate, as well as more.” He depicted the attacks as part of a battle launched by Sunnis against the country’s Shiite leaders.

SYRIA - Yes, We Have Chemical Weapons

"Syria Says It Has Chemical Weapons" by AP, Wall Street Journal 7.23.2012

The Syrian regime Monday said it had the capability to use its chemical and biological weapons in case of a foreign attack, in its first ever acknowledgment that it possesses weapons of mass destruction.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi vowed, however, that Damascus would not use its unconventional arms against its own citizens. The announcement comes as Syria faces international isolation, a tenacious rebellion that has left at least 19,000 people dead and threats by Israel to invade to prevent such weapons from falling into rebel hands.

Syria's decision to reveal the long suspected existence of its chemical weapons suggests a desperate regime deeply shaken by an increasingly bold rebellion that has scored a string of successes in the past week, including a stunning bomb attack that killed four high-level security officials, the capture of several border crossings and sustained offensives on the regime strongholds of Damascus and Aleppo.

"No chemical or biological weapons will ever be used, and I repeat, will never be used, during the crisis in Syria no matter what the developments inside Syria," Mr. Makdissi said in news conference broadcast on Syrian state TV. "All of these types of weapons are in storage and under security and the direct supervision of the Syrian armed forces and will never be used unless Syria is exposed to external aggression."

While the statement Mr. Makdissi read out promised not to use the weapons against the Syrian people, he later noted that Syria isn't facing an internal enemy in the rebellion, which the regime has described as being funded from abroad and driven by foreign extremists.

The Syrian government later tried to back off from the announcement, sending journalists an amendment to the statement read out by Makdissi adding the phrase "if any," in attempts to return to their previous position of neither confirming or denying the existence of unconventional weapons.

Syria is believed to have nerve agents as well as mustard gas, Scud missiles capable of delivering these lethal chemicals and a variety of advanced conventional arms, including antitank rockets and late-model portable antiaircraft missiles.

On Monday, Iraqi state TV said the country's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki formally authorized the entry of Syrian refugees into his country. For years, Iraqis would head to Syria to escape widespread sectarian fighting during the worst of violence in their homeland between 2005 and 2007.

COMMENT: We (the world) should be worried, he could pull a 'Saddam Hussein' but use them on the Syrian people.

CAMERA - Cannon's Latest



"Canon EOS M: It's like a DSLR crammed into a point-and-shoot body" by Rosa Golijan, MSN GadgetBox 7/23/2012


You can stop looking at leaked photos. The Canon EOS M is finally official. The little beast of a device marks Canon's entry into the world of mirrorless, interchangeable-lens cameras — and it's hard not to love it at first sight.

In a sense, the EOS M is an itty-bitty version of the Rebel T4i DSLR — it has the same 18-megapixel APS-C sensor, the same DIGIC 5 image processor, and the same auto-focus technology. It just happens to be the size of some point-and-shoots, rather than a typical DSLR.

While the EOS M is intended to go into competition against mirrorless cameras from the likes of Olympus, Panasonic, Sony and Nikon, it's worth noting that among those, only Sony's NEX line has a DSLR sensor like the Canon. The rest use smaller sensors, which allows for smaller lenses and a more compact experience overall, but it may limit quality.

And like those other mirrorless cameras, video is more than an afterthought. According to the folks at Canon, the EOS M will be a little video powerhouse. The camera offers a full HD mode, with continuous focus tracking. It can shoot 1080p video at 24, 25, or 30 frames per second. There are built-in stereo microphones and room to plug in an external microphone as well (though there's no headphone jack).

As far as the still image side of things goes, the EOS M will put point-and-shoots to shame but may not excite serious shooters too much. It can handle low-light situations quite well, but it lacks an optical viewfinder and some of the controls shutterbugs might crave.

While the EOS M has its own lens mount, and therefore its own line of lenses, its appeal grows by leaps when you add in the Mount Adapter EF-EOS M, a little $200 accessory that makes the camera compatible with all of Canon's EF and EF-S lenses.

Yes, that's pretty darn awesome. You can read more about that detail — as well as the rest of the EOS M specs — on Canon's website.

The Canon EOS M will be available in October, for $800, and include an EF-M 22mm f/2.0 STM kit lens. The camera will be offered in black and white versions. (The white model will only be available through Canon's own online store) The mount adapter will be available in October as well.

AMERICA - New York Chinese-Americans and Soldier's Death

"NY Chinese-Americans decry soldier's death" Chron.com 7/23/2012

Chinese-Americans in New York are decrying the suicide of a soldier who allegedly was hazed because of his ethnicity.

About a dozen held a news conference Monday in Manhattan before leaving for a North Carolina court martial. The group included community members, elected officials, and others who are making a documentary on the case.

Military officials say Pvt. Danny Chen shot himself last year in Afghanistan after weeks of physical and emotional abuse.

The court martial for Sgt. Adam Holcomb of Youngstown, Ohio, starts Tuesday at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

Holcomb is one of eight soldiers charged. He faces nearly 18 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

Chen's parents left for North Carolina on Sunday.

HEALTH - 2012 AIDS Conference

"AIDS Conference Returns to U.S. For First Time Since 1990" PBS Newshour 7/20/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: Ray Suarez talks to Dr. Diane Havlir, U.S. Co-Chair of AIDS 2012 and Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and Joseph Elias, Global Village Coordinator, about the AIDS Conference being held in Washington D.C. and how the gathering hopes they can 'begin to end the AIDS epidemic.'

Saturday, July 21, 2012

COLORADO - Shooting, in 3 Parts

"Batman Premiere Proves Tragic as 12 Killed, 59 Wounded in Colorado Shooting" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 7/20/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: A premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises" in suburban Colorado turned into a mass murder scene when a gunman fired upon the audience, killing 12 people and wounding 59 others. Tom Bearden reports from Colorado about the eyewitness accounts of the shootings.





"A 'Horrific Scene' at the Theater, a Command Center at the High School" (Part-2) PBS Newshour 7/20/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: Ray Suarez speaks with Associated Press reporter Peter Banda, who gathered witness accounts of the shooting scene. Then, the Denver Post's Kurtis Lee describes the searches and reunions of victims, friends and loved ones at nearby Gateway High School in Aurora, Colo.





"Brooks, Dionne, Woodruff on Campaign Strategy, Outsourcing and Gun Control" (Part-3) PBS Newshour 7/20/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: New York Times columnist David Brooks, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, Judy Woodruff and Jeffrey Brown discuss positive-versus-negative campaign strategy, the future of American capitalism and whether gun control will become a campaign issue in light of the mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater.


Friday, July 20, 2012

NATIVE AMERICANS - They KNOW Climate Change

"Native American Communities Affected by Climate Change Plan for the Future" PBS Newshour 7/19/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: Native Americans from Maine to Washington state convened for a conference this week at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. Their goal: To discuss the effects of climate change on tribal communities. Hari Sreenivasan reports.

JUSTICE - Single-Drug Executions

"Texas Uses Single-Drug Lethal Injection in Execution" PBS Newshour 7/19/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: Since 1982, Texas had used a three-drug cocktail in lethal injections for death row executions. But now the state has switched to a single-drug injection due to production shortages of other lethal drugs. Jeffrey Brown talks to The Associated Press' Michael Graczyk about the change.

SYRIA - UN, Around and Around We Go

"China, Russia Veto U.N. Sanctions Resolution Against Syria" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 7/19/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: Despite harsh condemnation from other members of the U.N. Security Council, China and Russia vetoed a resolution that would have pressured Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime to end violence against the uprising there. A Russian official said the measure would give Western countries leverage in overturning the government.

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): Recriminations flew at the United Nations today after a new push to punish Syria came to naught again. As diplomacy failed, a Syrian human rights group reported more than 250 people died today in fighting across the country, and Damascus itself slid closer to chaos.

SUSAN RICE, U.S. ambassador to the U.N.: The Security Council has failed utterly in its most important task on its agenda this year.

JEFFREY BROWN: The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, minced no words after Russia and China once again vetoed a resolution that threatened sanctions on Syria.

SUSAN RICE: One can only hope that one day, before too many thousands more die, that Russia and China will stop protecting Assad and allow this council to play its proper role.

JEFFREY BROWN: It was the third time Moscow and Beijing have blocked U.N. efforts to make Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stop the attacks on his own people. And this latest veto drew condemnation from country after country.





"Fears Mount Over Assad's Stockpiles of Chemical Weapons" (Part-2) PBS Newshour 7/19/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: In addition to the diplomatic tension with China and Russia, reports that some of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapon stockpiles were recently moved have increased fears. Jeffrey Brown talks to Leonard Spector of the Monterey Institute of International Studies and Julian Barnes of The Wall Street Journal.





COMMENT: When it comes to Russia their ONLY concern is the Naval Base in Syria. They are NOT really concerned about the Syrian people.

OPINION - The Rich Behind the Throne

"The Fox in the Hen House: No More Rich Behind the Throne Now Rich on the Throne" by Cliff Wilson, Cliff's Notes 7/15/2012

There was a time when being rich in America meant having much land or owning a mercantile business in a city - accumulating wealth and leaving it to one's offspring so they could enjoy a good life if they continued to work at the business or maintain the farm. Now being wealthy means accumulating vast fortunes of money by investing and using money to make more money - producing nothing of intrinsic value and then leaving vast fortunes to your children who proceed often to simply spend it and do little productive, perhaps continue to invest and financially back others hard at work.

There was a time when the most respected Americans were those who worked as teachers, public servants like the policeman, the firefighter, the librarian - the proverbial people in your neighborhood. They performed services for the many who worked at producing goods or growing things. They educated our children and protected us from criminals and catastrophes.

That America now exists only in the history books; it is "gone with the wind" as much as the mythical old south is. And, today America is one in which two classes struggle, not the age old haves and have-nots, but, the me-first vs. the society first. Those who feel that they belong to the village and those who see the village as a place to reside in while making one's fortune.

This year in America is a Presidential election year. These quadrennial exercises in choosing the national leader often reflect where America is. In the 1820's Jackson stood for the "man on the make" the young farmers and the mechanics and craftsmen of the cities vs. those who represented old money (Southern planters and northern bankers). The Republican party was founded in the mid-1850's not only on the platform of no extension of slavery but also the expansion of the economy into the west, cheap sale of government land and the federal government supporting a transcontinental railroad. The 1932 election was a contest between those conservatives who believe that doing nothing would solve the nation's economic problems and liberals who believed they could reform capitalism in ways that would preserve a free economy in America at the same time as protecting the livelihood and the quality of life of all our citizens. FDR, the liberal Democrat, saved the New Deal while most of the western world fell under the rule of dictators.

This year the new Republican party - the tea party radical right wing Republican party- advocates a combination of the better to do nothing philosophy and the help the rich and let what may trickle down. Republicans offer American not a mouthpiece of the super rich classes but an actual robber baron himself in Mitt Romney. I guess the superrich believe that rather than just controlling the President it’s time they had one of their own in the office. And the Democrats offer for re-election Barack Obama, a centrist Democrat, who accepts the basic tenets of capitalism but also adheres to the injunction of Abraham Lincoln (also of Illinois) that the function of government is to do the things that people can’t do for themselves.

It appeared in the 195o’s and 1960's that both parties had accepted the basic role of the federal government to protect the economic and civil rights of all our citizens. Even the Reagan revolution now appears as a modest effort to curtail some of the more liberal aspects of the post-New Deal years. But now we begin a new era - Republicans would put in the White House the fox to guard the chickens of America. At the turn of the 20th century when America faced a serious economic crisis President Theodore Roosevelt speaking softly from his bully pulpit faced down J. P. Morgan. The President if the one elected official who has the moral authority to speak for the entire nation and now the radical right wing tea party Republicans would put a J. P. Morgan in the White House to face down all the Theodore Roosevelts. A President of the 1% will misgovern and mislead the 99% unlike FDR who was called a traitor to his 1% because he proposed programs to benefit the 99%.

SYRIA - Rebels Take Border Posts

"Border Posts Fall Into the Hands of Syrian Rebels" by NEIL MacFARQUHAR and TIM ARANGO, New York Times 7/19/2012

Excerpt

Rebel fighters in Syria, building on the momentum gained by their brazen assassination of three top security officials a day earlier, seized all four border crossings with Iraq and one into Turkey on Thursday, while also claiming for the first time to have captured a pocket of Damascus after intense street fighting.

The government fought back hard, with no indication that its far superior military machine had lost its edge against an opposition still working predominately with small-caliber weapons. Helicopters blasted the northern Damascus suburb of Qaboun with rockets, while the armed forces warned residents of a wide area of the southern part of the capital to evacuate ahead of an assault. Thousands of people fled to neighboring Lebanon.

“They threatened them and gave them 24 hours to leave their homes or they will be shelled,” said Ali Salem, an activist reached via Skype. Even residents in the western Damascus neighborhoods of Mezze and Kafr Souseh, who were not warned, fled in droves as shells thudded into their neighborhood from military positions on the Qassioun mountain above Damascus.

But the government tried to project an aura of calm, even as it unleashed its forces in a manner similar to the devastating assaults on restive cities like Homs, where neighborhoods were effectively flattened and all the residents driven out.

President Bashar al-Assad appeared for the first time since the bombing attack Wednesday that killed three senior security officials. The Syrian leader showed up on state television to swear in the new defense minister to replace the one assassinated in a bomb attack.

The ceremony for Gen. Fahd Jassem al-Freij — the broadcast showed the two men interacting without any sound — seemed to take place in Damascus in one of the presidential palace’s reception rooms, its wall décor a series of distinctive antique doors inlaid with mother-of-pearl that used to grace homes in old Damascus.

Wire service reports said that Mr. Assad had fled to Latakia, the coastal city where he has a home, just one of the many rumors swirling around the capital in the wake of the stunning assassinations. One opposition activist said that only the women and children of the Assad family had flown to the coast — not unusual for a hot July weekend.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

HEALTH - Public Hospitals Serving Uninsured

"New Documentary Explores Challenge to Public Hospitals in Serving Uninsured" PBS Newshour 7/18/2012

Excerpt

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): ..... A new documentary chronicles what life is like for patients and doctors at a busy, safety net hospital in California.

And again to Jeff, who recorded this conversation recently.

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): The daily life of a large, under-resourced, urban public hospital, a new documentary offers no experts and no statistics, just a rare fly-on-the-wall look inside an overwhelmed and at times overwhelming system and its impact on patients and staff.

"The Waiting Room" -- and there is indeed a lot of waiting going on -- is set in Highland Hospital in Oakland, California. The film has been screening at film festivals around the country and has already won several awards. It will get a national theater release in the fall, and will air on PBS' "Independent Lens" next year.

AMERICA - The Salmon People

"Swinomish Tribe Works to Adapt to Shrinking Salmon Supply" PBS Newshour 7/18/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: Washington salmon depend on the cold water from glacial lakes to survive. But as temperatures increase and glaciers shrink, salmon populations are declining, threatening the way of life for the Swinomish Indians, also known as the "salmon people." In collaboration with KCTS-9's Earthfix Project, Hari Sreenivasan reports.

HUMAN RIGHTS - Boy Scouts and Gay Youth

"Boy Scouts Uphold Policy to Exclude Gay Youth" PBS Newshour 7/18/2012

Although, IMHO, the Supeme Court's decision is correct and the Boy Souts have the right to decide membership issues. BUT they are still homophobes, which means they are afraid, afraide of difference.

Paraphrase from a X-Files epasode:
  • Dunce: I know I should NOT be afraid, but I am.
  • Dr. Werber: Do you know why?
  • Dunce: Because of the voice... The voice in my head.
  • Dr. Werber: What's it telling you?
  • Dunce: To be afraid, very afraid. It's telling me that extreme harm will come if we treat gays as equals. I'll go hide under my bed now.

Excerpt

SUMMARY: The Boy Scouts of America announced Tuesday it had reaffirmed its ban on openly gay youth and adults becoming scouts and leaders. Jeffrey Brown and the Los Angeles Times' Molly Hennessy-Fiske discuss why this decision is as much a business concern as it is one of values.

OLYMPICS - Britain's Largest Peacetime Operation

"Olympics Organizers Grapple with Security Concerns" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 7/18/2012

GWEN IFILL (Newshour): A little more than a week before the torch is lit at the London Olympic Games and organizers are still grappling with a series of problems. They range from a decision today to trim opening night ceremonies that would have lasted past midnight to much more serious concerns, like a shortage of private security guards.

The British Home Office wrestled today with what to do about the security issue.

Keir Simmons of Independent Television News begins our coverage with this report.

KEIR SIMMONS: Already, the government is drafting in 3,500 extra military. They were continuing to set up camp in East London today. They may need plenty of space. Another 2,500 could be called upon.

Such is the failure of G4S to provide security staff. The company is training more people. But the opening ceremony is now desperately close.

The issue they are facing in here tonight comes down to this. Do they trust G4S if it says it now has enough staff, and get blamed if that turns out to be wrong again? Or do they call in even more service men and women and get criticized if they aren't needed? And they need to make the decision in the next 24 hours.

ITV News has learned that the home secretary overruled a plan to cut training like this in order to get more security guards. One proposal was even to teach G4S employees on site whilst they were already working. The idea that this was even suggested has some deeply worried.

KEITH VAZ, Home Affairs Select Committee: The concern yesterday was whether or not G4S would have the numbers on the day. The concern today is that those who turn up perhaps have not been trained as well as they should be to pick up those pieces of information and those telltale signs which mean that they should stop people.

KEIR SIMMONS: Tonight, the prime minister was visiting troops in Afghanistan. Some of the military working at the Olympics will have been serving here just weeks earlier.

DAVID CAMERON, British Prime Minister: When it comes to the Olympics, we have to have -- be ready for any contingency. We have to make sure they're a safe and secure Olympics. I salute and applaud what the military have done to step in, and I think they're doing an excellent job. If there are further steps we have to take, of course, we will take them.

KEIR SIMMONS: All the same, in Coventry and at venues across the country today, police were again needed, because too few G4S staff have turned up.

"Planning for the 2012 Olympics, Britain's 'Largest Peacetime Operation'" (Part-2) PBS Newshour 7/18/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: ith a little more than a week until the Olympic opening ceremonies, issues such as transportation, weather and security have arisen. Gwen Ifill talks with Stephen Wilson of the Associated Press and Kevin Wamsley of Western University about whether organizers are fully prepared for the start of the games.


SYRIA - Major Blow Puts Regime on Defensive

"Bomb Kills Top Syrian Officials, Deals Major Blow to Assad Regime" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 7/18/2012

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): Syrian rebels dealt a stunning blow to the Assad government today, a bombing that wiped out part of the country's power elite. The attack in Damascus raised new fears in Washington and other capitals.

The bomb exploded in a meeting of Syrian Cabinet and top security officers, the most serious assault yet on the core of the regime, among the dead, the defense minister, Daoud Rajha, and President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, who was the widely-feared deputy defense minister. One other senior official was killed, too.

State television confirmed the killings and blamed unspecified terrorists.

IMRAN AL-ZOUBI, Syrian Information Minister (through translator): The two field marshals today, the defense minister and deputy defense minister, are not the first of our martyrs, although we hope that they are the last.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The opposition Free Syrian Army claimed responsibility. A member of the Syrian National Council, the political arm of the resistance, said it showed the expanded scope of the rebellion, after 17 months of what is now a civil war.

OMAR SHAWAF, Syrian National Council: It sends a message to the regime that the hands of the Syrian people and the Syrian Free Syrian Army can reach anyone inside Damascus and even Bashar Assad itself. He is not safe anymore.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Syrian president's whereabouts were unknown. But fallout from the bombing was felt far beyond Damascus.

In Egypt, the head of the Arab League said the consequences were not yet clear.

NABIL ELARABY, Arab League Secretary-General (through translator): What happened in Syria today will have a huge effect on the situation in Syria, and at this point we do not know the repercussions. The fear is that the violence escalates. We look for a peaceful transition into a free democratic Syria.

JUDY WOODRUFF: For now, peace seems far away. Instead, the fighting that has engulfed much of the country has now exploded in Damascus. The Free Syrian Army calls its offensive there 'Damascus Volcano.'

In the past four days, Syrian opposition activists have been reporting and showing pitched battles in sectors of the city, tanks in the streets, even helicopter airstrikes on neighborhoods. At the same time, there have been several more high-level defections by senior Syrian military officers and diplomats.

Even so, the stability of the regime remains difficult to determine.

In Washington today, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta registered growing U.S. concern over the situation.

LEON PANETTA, U.S. Defense Secretary: The violence there has only gotten worse and the loss of lives has only increased, which tells us that this is a situation that is rapidly spinning out of control.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In particular, Panetta pointed to Syrian stockpiles of chemical weapons. According to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal, the regime has begun to move nerve agents and other weapons from secure facilities.

LEON PANETTA: It's something that we have made very clear to them, that they have a responsibility to safeguard their chemical sites, and that we will hold them responsible should anything happen with regards to those sites.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In the meantime, the U.N. Security Council delayed a vote on extending the observer mission to Syria and possibly approving new sanctions at the request of the special envoy, Kofi Annan.

And while the world pondered what may come next, cries of "God is great" echoed in the streets of Syria as word spread of the bombing in Damascus.

"With Assad Regime on the Defensive, Eyes Turn to Political Transition" (Part-2) PBS Newshour 7/18/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: With violence escalating in Damascus, some analysts consider the Syrian conflict at a tipping point. Judy Woodruff discusses likely political transitions for Syria with the U.S. Institute of Peace's Steven Heydemann and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Frederic Wehrey.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

ECONOMY - Reprise, States' Fiscal Problems

"States Plagued by Fiscal Problems, Pension Payments" PBS Newshour 7/17/2012

Excerpt

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): The troubles with the U.S. economy and the possible fallout were on full display today. A task force report told of states facing ever-deeper budget holes.

But the chairman of the Federal Reserve withheld any promise of immediate help. Ben Bernanke came before the Senate Banking Committee acknowledging that the economy has suffered a series of setbacks: a slump in hiring and job growth, a slowdown in manufacturing activity and reduced spending by consumers.

But while citing the trends, the Fed chair wouldn't commit on if or when the Central Bank might act again to boost growth.

BEN BERNANKE, Federal Reserve chairman: We're looking very carefully at the economy, trying to judge whether or not the loss of momentum we have seen recently is enduring and whether or not the economy is likely to continue to make progress towards lower unemployment and more satisfactory labor market conditions. If those conditions -- if that doesn't occur, obviously, we have to consider additional steps.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

POLITICS - Today's Dictators

"How to Be a Modern-Day Dictator" PBS Newshour 7/16/2012

aka "How NOT to Be Bashar al-Assad"

Excerpt

HARI SREENIVASAN (Newshour): 2011 brought the year of the protester. Demonstrations rocked Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Yet, despite this wave of pro-democracy movements, the number of free countries declined for the sixth year in a row. That's according to the Freedom House Research institute.

One reason for that is authoritarian regimes are learning to manipulate political system without using brute force for suppression. A new book by William J. Dobson, "The Dictator's Learning Curve: Inside the Global Battle for Democracy," tackles that subject.

For two years, Dobson traveled the world to examine regimes that managed to rule with a velvet glove, in spite of their iron-fisted policies.

POLITICS - Bribery? GOP Money

"Did GOP Money Man Sheldon Adelson Violate Bribery Law?" PBS Newshour 7/16/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: One of the largest Republican donors in the 2012 election, gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson, is now under investigation for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, an anti-bribery law. Ray Suarez discusses the charges against Adelson with ProPublica managing editor Stephen Engelberg.

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): And to our second money and politics story, this focused on an investigation of a leading Republican donor.

Ray Suarez has the story.

RAY SUAREZ (Newshour): You may not know him by name, but gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson is one of the largest Republican donors in the 2012 election.

Adelson and members of his family are reported to have given more than $20 million to GOP-leaning super PACs, including some backing Newt Gingrich during the primary. Now Adelson is donating to the Restore Our Future super PAC. That group supports Mitt Romney and collected $20 million in June, a record month for a super PAC.

A new investigation finds Adelson may have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by paying a Macau lawyer hundreds of thousands of dollars, all in a bid to get approval for his projects in Macau, a special administrative region in China. Billions in profits were on the line.

China bans casino gambling in the rest of the country. The story was filed by "Frontline," ProPublica and the investigative reporting -- investigative reporting program at the University of California.

MEDIA - The Impact of YouTube

"Pew Study: More Viewers Choose YouTube for Breaking News" PBS Newshour 7/16/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism released a study Monday showing that news consumers are increasingly trading traditional media for YouTube. Jeffrey Brown discusses the challenges and opportunities traditional media sources now face with Pew's Tom Rosenstiel and The New York Times' Brian Stelter.



NOTE: The embed-video-code I use in my posts are from YouTube's Newshour channel.

Monday, July 16, 2012

ENERGY - The Texas 'Smart Grid'

"In Austin, Charged up About Smart Power" PBS Newshour 7/13/2012

Excerpt

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): Next, an energy story about electricity and a so-called smart grid.

This month's big storms and power outages have prompted questions about whether there's a more efficient system for managing power and electricity.

NewsHour science correspondent Miles O'Brien explores the approach that one community in Texas is taking.

WALL STREET - Robber Barons Afoot

"Staggering Losses at JPMorgan; Banking Scandal in Britain" PBS Newshour 7/13/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: Jeffrey Brown talks to Bloomberg's Dawn Kopecki about the losses at JPMorgan Chase and the role of government regulators in monitoring the banking industry. Plus, they discuss the scandal over the manipulation of the Libor.

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): The continuing questions surrounding the behavior of big banks, and the regulators who watch over them was at the center of financial news again today. The fallout arrived quickly on two fronts this morning.

JPMorgan Chase's latest report put losses from a failed trading strategy at $5.8 billion, nearly three times the original estimate. In a conference call this morning, CEO Jamie Dimon voiced hope that the problem is now contained.

JAMIE DIMON, Chairman, JPMorgan Chase: Obviously, with this one, we shot ourselves in the foot, but that is one of the things you hold capital for -- for things you're surprised about. We learned a lot. I can tell you this has shaken our company to the core.

JEFFREY BROWN: At the same time, the bank also reported a profit of $5 billion for the second quarter.

Meanwhile, new questions arose about the Federal Reserve and a banking scandal in Britain. Barclays has acknowledged it under-reported borrowing costs in 2007 and 2008 to manipulate the so-called LIBOR, an international benchmark lending rate that affects everything from mortgages to student loans to credit cards.

Today, the Federal Reserve's New York branch said that, in 2008, its then-president, Timothy Geithner, now the treasury secretary, warned Britain's Central Bank that there were signs of trouble. A Fed summary read: "Suggestions that some banks could be under-reporting their LIBOR in order to avoid appearing weak were present in anecdotal reports and mass- distribution e-mails, including from Barclays."

More than a dozen other banks, including Citigroup and J.P. Morgan Chase, are also under investigation in the LIBOR scandal.

SYRIA - Conflict Update

"New Despair After Syria Massacre" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 7/13/2012

Excerpt

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): A fresh atrocity in Syria stirred new condemnation today, and new despair over how to stop the killing. The opposition claimed the military and Alawite militias loyal to President Assad had slaughtered Sunnis. Accounts of how many died ranged from 70 to more than 200.

We begin with a report from Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News.




"Diplomatic Process 'Paralyzed' in Syria Conflict" (Part-2) PBS Newshour 7/13/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: Judy interviews Elizabeth Kennedy, Associated Press bureau chief in Beirut. They discuss the latest massacre, Russia's support, the chemical weapons stockpile and a warning by Hillary Clinton to the U.N. Security Council.

Friday, July 13, 2012

CHINA - Youth Migration

"Urban Migration for Young Chinese on the Rise" PBS Newshour 7/12/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: Tens of millions of Chinese villagers have moved to the cities in China, but they find living conditions harsh and establishing meaningful relations difficult. Because of the Household Registration System, they have fewer rights than those born in the cities. Sharron Lovell from our partner GlobalPost reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): ....Making a move from the country to the big city, it's a cultural shift well known in many Western societies, and now it's becoming common for young Chinese men and women, too.

MEDIA - Facebook 'Likes' as Votes in Elections?

"An Election on Facebook: Old Media Enters New World" PBS Newshour 7/12/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: Do "likes" on Facebook translate to votes? Howard Kurtz and Lauren Ashburn of Daily-Download.com examine that issue with Ray Suarez and also explore why traditional news outlets are partnering with social media sites this election year.

AFRICA - Niger Famine

"Amidst Drought and Famine, Niger Leads West Africa in Addressing Crisis" PBS Newshour 7/12/2012

Excerpt

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): ..... a looming famine in West Africa and one country's move to address chronic food shortages.

Our story is part of the Food for 9 Billion series, a multimedia project that explores the challenges of feeding a growing world in a time of social and environmental change. It's a NewsHour partnership with the Center for Investigative Reporting, Homelands Productions, and American Public Media's Marketplace.

Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports from Niger, one of eight drought-stricken countries where relief officials say millions of people are at risk of starvation.

AMERICA - Penn State Scandal, Report and Lessons

"Report Finds Penn State Shares Responsibility in Sandusky Abuse Case" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 7/12/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: A report by former FBI director Louis Freeh concludes that leaders at Penn State, including head football coach Joe Paterno, did not do enough to protect the children who were abused by former assistant coach Jerry Sundusky. Judy Woodruff talks to Cate Barron of The Patriot-News and Mark Dent of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.





"What Are the Lessons from the Penn State Scandal?" (Part-2) PBS Newshour 7/12/2012

Excerpt

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): And -- and we return to the Penn State story with a wider perspective on what's happened and what should be taken from it.

For that, we're joined by Teresa Huizar, executive director of the National Children's Alliance, which works with groups around the country to provide services for victims of child abuse, Elizabeth Letourneau, a researcher and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Scott Berkowitz, founder and president of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, or RAINN, the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

FBI - Flawed Forensic Evidence Investigation

"Justice Dept., FBI to Review Flawed Criminal Forensic Evidence" PBS Newshour 7/11/2012

Excerpt

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): A major look at the FBI's handling of forensic evidence is under way.

Yesterday, the Justice Department announced that it will conduct a review of thousands of criminal cases, dating back to 1985, where hair and fiber analysis led to convictions. The examinations were detailed in a front-page article in today's Washington Post.

Included were the stories of two men wrongfully convicted on flawed hair analysis. They have since been exonerated by DNA testing, one just yesterday.

The Justice Department review comes after The Washington Post identified those two men and others as part of a report on forensic errors by FBI labs.

National reporter Spencer Hsu wrote today's piece. And he joins us now from the Post newsroom.



AFGHANISTAN - Effective Aid?

"With New Pledge of Support to Afghanistan, How Best to Ensure Effective Aid?" PBS Newshour 7/11/2012

Excerpt

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): Earlier this week, representatives from more than 70 countries pledged $16 billion in aid to Afghanistan at a donors meeting in Tokyo. In return, the government of President Hamid Karzai pledged to crack down on corruption.

The latest moves by the international community come as the stage has been set for some critical transitions.

Ray Suarez has our story.

RAY SUAREZ (Newshour): The U.S. and its NATO partners have already begun drawing down forces and are preparing to hand off control of security operations to the Afghans.

To prepare for that milestone, the U.S. has spent more than $19 billion on civilian development projects. American tax dollars built roads, schools, and hospitals, and taught farmers new planting techniques. The U.S. and its allies believe continued international aid is critical for Afghanistan's long-term stability.

But the violence hasn't abated. On Sunday, six American troops were killed by a roadside bomb in the eastern province of Wardak. In the Afghan capital today, thousands protested the recent execution-style killing of an Afghan woman accused of adultery. The street justice was captured on video.

And the governor of Helmand Province in the south told reporters American assistance was key to securing past gains.

NORTHERN IRELAND - Religious Conflict

A reminder, religion is NOT all good, especially by fanatics that believe their religious beliefs are the ONLY true belief (aka intolerance). This applies to Northern Ireland and Fundamentalist Muslims (Taliban, Iran, etc).

Also note that one of the attitudes displayed in this video is people are 'different' just because of their religion. IMHO this is saying 'they' are not people.

"Peace in Northern Ireland, But Religious Divide Remains" PBS Newshour 7/11/2012

Excerpt

SUMMARY: Protesters have been out on the streets of Belfast in recent days in advance of Thursday's annual parade honoring Protestant King William's victory over his Catholic rival in 1690. Special correspondent Kira Kay reports on the ongoing religious tension -- 14 years after Ireland's sectarian conflict formally ended.

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): Protesters have been out on the street in Belfast for the past two days in advance of an annual parade tomorrow. NewsHour special correspondent Kira Kay looks at the ongoing religious tensions 14 years after Ireland's sectarian conflict formally ended.

KIRA KAY: It's a compelling sight: the parades that wind their way down the Shankill Road in the heart of Belfast's Protestant community.

This parade is one of the first of the so-called marching season, when during the summer months, Protestant Northern Ireland residents loyal to the United Kingdom commemorate a series of historic moments. The largest takes place tomorrow, July 12, honoring Protestant King William's victory over his Catholic rival in 1690.

HEALTH - Alzheimer's Gene?

"In Preventing Alzheimer’s, Mutation May Aid Drug Quest" by GINA KOLATA, New York Times 7/11/2012

Excerpt

A study of a rare gene mutation that protects people against Alzheimer’s disease provides the strongest evidence yet that excessive levels of a normal brain substance, beta amyloid, are a driving force in the disease — bolstering hopes that anti-amyloid drugs already under development might alter the disease’s course or even prevent it.

So far, the drugs have not succeeded. But scientists not connected with the new study said it suggested that the drug companies’ big bets on anti-amyloid treatments could yet pay off.

The implication for drug development “is hugely important,” said Dr. David Altshuler, a genomics expert at Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute of Harvard and M.I.T.

And Dr. Samuel Gandy, an Alzheimer’s researcher who directs the Mount Sinai Center for Cognitive Health, called the finding the most significant in the field in two decades, since researchers first reported a mutation that leads to the disease.

The protective mutation, whose discovery was reported online Wednesday in the journal Nature, is highly uncommon — it is not the reason most people do not develop Alzheimer’s. But what intrigues researchers is how it protects the brain.

Mutations that cause Alzheimer’s lead to excessive amounts of beta amyloid in the brain; by contrast, the protective mutation slows beta amyloid production, so people make much less.

“This paper provides strong evidence that it would work in the general population if you did it right,” Dr. Altshuler said.

Scientists at the drug companies agreed. “We are thrilled,” said Ryan Watts, one of the authors of the new paper and head of the neurodegeneration labs at Genentech, which is developing two drugs to reduce brain amyloid levels.

Dr. Richard Mohs, leader of neuroscience early clinical development at Eli Lilly, said the company was “very encouraged by these study results.” They show, he said, that despite an initial failure, the strategy of focusing on drugs to reduce beta amyloid levels is “a logical path for the development of effective therapies that may slow disease progression.”

Many questions remain, of course. Most people do not have the protective gene mutation, but as common as Alzheimer’s is, most people do not get it. It is not clear why. And most who develop Alzheimer’s do not have one of the rare gene mutations that cause it. The reasons for their disease are unclear.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

RUSSIA - The Floods of 7/7/2012

"After Russian Floods, Grief, Rage and Deep Mistrust" by ELLEN BARRY, New York Times 7/10/2012

Excerpt

Forty-six new graves were cut on Tuesday in a field outside this city, where catastrophic flooding has left behind a slime of mud and anger.

Everyone here had a story of the pitch-black hours of Saturday morning, of being trapped inside homes as water rose to 6 and then to 8 and 10 feet, listening to the screams of neighbors and fear-maddened animals.

So it came as a shock, and then as the focus of anger, when officials acknowledged that they had been aware of a threat to Krymsk at 10 the previous night, but had not taken measures to rouse its sleeping residents.

The flood in this city of 57,000 in southern Russia is the first disaster to hit the country since Vladimir V. Putin returned to the presidency, amid uncertain public support for his government. Its aftermath has riveted national attention as a measure of the state’s effectiveness, including visits from celebrities and volunteer efforts backed by pro-government and opposition political parties.

Mr. Putin has been damaged in the past by appearing indifferent to disasters — most acutely in 2000, when he failed to immediately return from a vacation to handle the sinking of a nuclear-powered submarine, the Kursk. Russia declined initial rescue offers from other countries, and all 118 sailors trapped onboard died.

The official death count in the floods had risen to 172 by Tuesday. Inside a ruined pastry shop, which had the sickly smell of something rotting, Sergei Viktorovich, 45, described waking in the darkness to the sensation of moisture in his bed, then reaching for his phone on a bedside table to find that it was already lost in the water.

“If they knew at 11, why didn’t they warn us? What are we, hunks of meat? Are we not people?” he said, offering his patronymic, not his surname, because he said he feared retribution from the police. “We are the young people, so we swam, but what about our grandmothers? How many grandmothers drowned?”

He said those emotions were barely restrained when the region’s governor, Aleksandr Tkachev, met with residents on Sunday. “If there weren’t so many police around,” he said, “they would have thrown rocks at him.”

Whatever the ultimate repercussions — firings, compensation, criminal charges — a visit to Krymsk offers a view of the gap that has opened between Russians and their government. Rumors have taken on such force that, on Monday, word of a second wave of water sent many people running.

“Even if Tkachev was saying the same things as the people standing in line for humanitarian aid, they still wouldn’t believe him,” said the journalist Oleg Kashin in a commentary on Kommersant FM radio. “Because this is not about the fact that the official story is different from the victims’ story, but that people don’t trust the authorities, on any subject — on natural disasters, or elections, or soccer.”

WEATHER - It's on Steroids

"Extreme Weather Records 'Like a Baseball Player on Steroids'" PBS Newshour 7/10/2012

Excerpt

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): The past 12 months are the warmest ever recorded in the United States since record-keeping began in 1895. That word comes as a new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says climate change, including human factors, has increased the odds of extreme weather.

The severe storms that finally broke the deadly heat wave in the United States blew in with their own set of dangers this week. In Greensboro, North Carolina, residents are struggling to recover from flooding and power outages brought on by slow-moving storms yesterday. In Fredericksburg, Va., violent thunderstorms pummeled a cheerleading facility.

GIRL: We were scared, and we were just, like, praying to God and hoping that we weren't going to die.

GIRL: And we saw it. It just came in on us.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And in Houston, Texas, they sent ball players scrambling for cover.

The scares come after high temperatures are being blamed for at least 46 deaths and loss of power for close to a million people last week. For over 11 consecutive days, temperatures exceeded 100 degrees across much of the country.

Meanwhile, out West, wildfires fueled by near-record droughts have raged for weeks in Colorado, forcing residents to leave their homes. Nationwide, fires burned 1.3 million acres in June alone, the second highest acreage burned in June of any year.

Now the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, is reporting the first half of this year was in fact the hottest on record, with 170 all-time heat records matched or broken.

NOAA has issued a report attempting to assess the role climate change, including human factors, played, if any, in six global extreme weather events in 2011. About one of those, the report asked if the human influence on climate made the 2011 Texas drought more probable. It concluded that it did.

The report also examined climate change's role in last year's drought in East Africa, heat wave across Europe and floods in Thailand. Regarding Thailand, the report said climate change cannot be shown to have played any role in the excess rain and flooding.

For more on all this, we turn to Thomas Karl, director of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, which oversaw the studies.