Friday, September 28, 2012

EDUCATION - North Dakota, Pressures on School System

"In N.D., Oil Boom Brings Student Boom and Schools Struggle to Accommodate" PBS Newshour 9/27/2012


JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): Now to our American Graduate series on the high school dropout problem.

Tonight, we explore the pressures on a public school system in a city that's unexpectedly benefiting from economic good times.

Ray Suarez has our story from North Dakota.

RAY SUAREZ (Newshour): There is no better economic view in the U.S. than the one seen from above Williston, North Dakota. A rapidly expanding oil boom has taken root below, bringing with it widespread prosperity and an unemployment rate that sits at just 1 percent.

This city's fortunes are in stark contrast to most of the nation. Real estate is profitable. Blue-collar jobs are abundant. And much of the globe, including Asia, the Middle East and Europe, is investing in the local economy.

But as opportunities and new residents pour in, it is clear that Williston, home to 12,000 people just a few years ago, is dramatically changing.

COMMENT: The solution use by the Williston school district of pre-fab class rooms could be use by many school districts in other states that have to do with fluctuating school-age population vs funding.

LIBYA - U.S. Consulate Attack Update

"New Evidence Shows Attacks on U.S. Consulate in Libya Linked to Terrorists" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 9/27/2012

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): And we turn to Libya.

The State Department is temporarily withdrawing more staff from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli for what it called security reasons, that according to a senior official in New York late today.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is still trying to determine who was responsible for the assault on the American mission in Benghazi that killed a U.S. ambassador earlier this month.

LEON PANETTA, U.S. Defense Secretary: I think, pretty clearly, it was a terrorist attack.

JEFFREY BROWN: At the Pentagon today, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta seemed to have little doubt about what happened at the U.S. Consulate in Libya more than two weeks ago.

LEON PANETTA: There's a group of terrorists obviously conducted that attack on the consulate and against our individuals.

What terrorists were involved, I think, still remains to be determined by the investigation. But it clearly was a group of terrorists who conducted that attack against that facility.

JEFFREY BROWN: What seemed clear today, though, had seemed less so just days ago.

The original explanation for what happened the evening of September 11 (2012) was that an America-made movie denigrating Islam had incited a mob, which had then stormed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.

That attack left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.

But in the weeks since, even as protests spread across the Muslim world over the anti-Muslim film, a chorus of doubt grew over whether militant extremists, including al-Qaida, had planned the attack to coincide with September 11 (2001).

And the entire issue, perhaps inevitably, grew into a political dispute.

Earlier this week, eight leading House Republicans sent the president a letter saying they were -- quote -- "disturbed by the public statements made by members of the administration that would lead the American public to believe this attack was a protest gone wrong, rather than what it truly was, a terrorist attack on the anniversary of 9/11."

Campaign in Ohio yesterday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told FOX News he thinks the president is concealing the truth.

Traveling with President Obama in Ohio yesterday, a White House spokesman said the administration has followed an ongoing investigation carefully. He said president believes it was a terrorist attack.

Islamist militants with ties to al-Qaida are a growing concern in North Africa. This video shot in July shows one such group destroying ancient shrines in Mali.

Yesterday, at a special U.N. meeting, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned of a rise of extremism in two regions of North Africa known as the Sahel and Maghreb and explicitly linked al-Qaida to the attack on the consulate.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Terrorists are seeking to extend their reach and their networks in multiple directions.

And they're working with other violent extremists to undermine the democratic transitions under way in North Africa, as we tragically saw in Benghazi.

The United States is stepping up our counterterrorism efforts across the Maghreb and Sahel, and we're working with the Libyan government and other partners to find those responsible for the attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi and bring them to justice.

JEFFREY BROWN: CNN reported last week that, before his death, Ambassador Stevens had expressed concerns over the rise of Islamic extremism in the region in his private diary.

"Benghazi Attack Conclusively Linked to Terrorism, But Who Shares Responsibility?" (Part-2) PBS Newshour 9/27/2012


SUMMARY: With the Benghazi attacks attributed to terrorism, concerns arise over the weakness of government and police in the region to prevent attacks like these to spread. Jeff Brown talks to the New York Times' Steven Lee Myers and Georgetown University's Dan Byman for more on who is responsible and the ties to al-Qaida.


"Security Fears Hobble Inquiry of Libya Attack" by DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, ERIC SCHMITT, and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT; New York Times 9/27/2012

IRAN - Nuclear Program Issue Update

"Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Urges U.N. to Halt Iran's Nuclear Program" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 9/27/2012

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): Israel's prime minister warned again today that Iran is well on its way to creating a nuclear weapon, and said the world needs to act.

Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the United Nations. As he has often before, Netanyahu condemned Iran and its nuclear program and called on other leaders to do the same.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Israel: You see, at stake is not merely the future of my country. At stake is the future of the world. And nothing could imperil our common future more than the arming of Iran with nuclear weapons.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Israeli prime minister said the hour is -- quote -- "getting late" to stop Iran as it continues its nuclear work.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I speak about it now because the Iranian nuclear calendar doesn't take time out for anyone or for anything.

I speak about it now because, when it comes to the survival of my country, it's not only my right to speak. It's my duty to speak.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The prime minister's remarks came two days after President Obama also spoke out against Iran.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. And that is why he United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has long insisted that the country's nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes. And during his own speech yesterday, he denounced potential military action by Israel.

PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, Iran (through translator): Testing new generations of ultra-modern weaponry and the pledge to disclose these armaments in due time is now being used as a new language of threat against nations to coerce them into accepting a new era of hegemony.

Continued threats by the uncivilized Zionists to resort to military action against our great nation, is a clear example of this bitter reality.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Earlier this week, Iran unveiled a new long-range reconnaissance drone, and the country's Revolutionary Guard said it tested new missiles as well.

Prime Minister Netanyahu noted that while international sanctions by the U.S. and other countries have hurt the Iranian economy, they didn't stop its nuclear program.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: There's only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs. And that's by placing a clear red line on Iran's nuclear weapons program.

And I believe that, faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down. And this will give more time for sanctions and diplomacy to convince Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons program altogether.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Using a drawing of a bomb with a fuse for illustration, Netanyahu literally drew a red line at the point before Iran reaches the final level of uranium enrichment, a step he says could be reached by next spring or summer.

The United States has not gone as far, but the topic is expected to be discussed when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with the Israeli prime minister later this evening.

"Israel's Flirtation with Military Action Against Iran Puts U.S. in Tricky Spot" (Part-2) PBS Newshour 9/27/2012


SUMMARY: Benjamin Netanyahu's comments about drawing a 'red line' on Iran's nuclear aspirations added pressure to the U.S.'s role in mediating. Judy Woodruff talks to Georgetown University's Paul Pillar and Washington Institute for Near East Policy's Robert Satloff on whether Iran is more of a threat for Israel than others in the region.

"Netanyahu Raises With 'Red Line'; Obama Still Keeping Cards Close" by Margaret Warner, PBS Newshour 9/27/2012

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Magic Marker line -- drawn with dramatic flourish today across the throat of a cartoon gunpowder bomb -- was meant to set a "red line" for Iran, the point beyond which the Iranians cannot go in their uranium-enrichment program without triggering a certain military response.

But the Israeli leader's U.N. speech can also be seen as issuing another kind of "red line" to the United States. That is, Israel won't try to take out Iran's nuclear facilities before the presidential election here, but if Iran's uranium program proceeds at the current pace for another nine months and the United States doesn't strike, Israel will.

It's the speech Netanyahu had wanted President Obama to give -- backed up by the threat of U.S. military action. But in an hour-long phone conversation between the leaders two weeks ago, President Obama made it clear he wasn't going to do it.

He and his advisers saw too many downsides. Setting a red line would commit the U.S. to military action down the line, at a time of the adversary's choosing. What's more, said one official, "wherever you set the line, you're telling the other side they can go right up to it without any risk at all."

At the same time, the President is committed to preventing, not containing, a nuclear-armed Iran. And his advisers share the Israelis' concern that protracted negotiations can provide cover for a country to achieve nuclear weapons status right under the nose of the international community. North Korea is the classic example. "We've seen this before. It's 'wait, wait ... oops!'" said one Israeli diplomat.

None of the players -- Americans, Europeans, Israelis or Iranians -- expect anything to happen on the negotiating front before the presidential election here. Tehran is awaiting the Nov. 6 outcome, too. But soon after, expect to see the U.S. and its negotiating partners -- the four other members of the Security Council, plus Germany -- table or revive another proposal designed to test the Iranians' seriousness, backed up by tougher sanctions if Russia and China can be persuaded. Then, if that doesn't work, Netanyahu's timetable to military action may well unfold.

There are a couple of ironies here. Despite Mitt Romney's more bellicose talk about backing Israel and confronting Iran, the Israelis believe it would take longer for a President Romney to take military action than it would President Obama. Any new president wants his team to do their own review and reassessment of policy and plans, after all, before committing the U.S. to such a fateful military course.

Another irony: Netanyahu faced push-back from the Israeli public and military establishment last month when he publicly flirted with the idea of Israel taking to the skies over Iran in defiance of Washington. If the next President doesn't hew to his timetable next year, Netanyahu would have to carry out the threat he made today... or very publicly back down.

COMMENT: On the issue of Iran's nuclear program, for the U.S. (and the West), it is extremely dangerous folly to NOT take military action to stop them.

They are a nation (including their President) that have constantly espoused the destruction of the U.S. and the West, one can imagine the consequences of a nuclear armed Iran. Reminder, they are religious fanatics in their beliefs, this is NOT JUST a matter of politics.

As to Mr Pillar's comments in video (all due respect to his credentials) he is forgetting that in such a secretive government we CANNOT know for sure just what Iran is doing. We can only know what they allow 'us' to see.

JOBS - The Truth About Bureau of Labor Statistics' Job Reports

"The 386,000 jobs we didn't know about" by Steve Benen, Maddow Blog 9/27/2012

When August's disappointing job totals were released a few weeks ago, it was considered important news. With that in mind, this seems like at least as big a story.

The government's estimates of job creation are not particularly accurate, a point that is often made and often ignored. On Thursday morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics provided another reminder. The agency said it probably undercounted the extent of job creation between April 2011 and March 2012 by 20 percent.

The agency, which issues a much-discussed monthly estimate, also issues regular revisions of those estimates, which regularly receive much less attention. One of the most important revisions uses state unemployment insurance tax records – records filed by nearly all employers, which include actual counts of the numbers of people they employ -- to check the accuracy of a full year of its monthly estimates.

And what did the BLS revision show? That over the last 12 months, the economy added 386,000 jobs that up until now had not been reported. That may not sound like much, but it's a 20 percent jump over the 1.94 million jobs thought to have been created overall over that same period.

Also note, this is a net total: the private sector created 453,000 additional jobs, while Republican austerity measures forced the public sector to shed an additional 67,000 jobs.

As a political matter, Pat Garofalo notes another salient angle: even if the early 2009 job losses are held against President Obama, he's now broken into positive territory for his first term. It also means more jobs were created in Obama's first four years than during George W. Bush's first four years -- and Bush didn't inherit a global economic catastrophe.

It's very likely Mitt Romney was looking forward to arguing next week that the economy hasn't added any new jobs during Obama's term. The talking point was always ridiculous when considered in context, but now, the talking point is off the table entirely.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

ECONOMICS - 'In the Center Ring' Greece, Again

"Protesters March on Greek Parliament to Protest Wage Cuts and Privatization" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 9/26/2012


JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): The trouble in Greece today and in Spain overnight brought the plight of Europe's debt-ridden countries squarely back into the spotlight.

Street battles erupted in Athens, as nearly 70,000 people staged the largest demonstration since May of last year.

We have a report from James Mates of Independent Television News.

JAMES MATES: It's a sight that has become all too familiar in central Athens. A day supposed to have been about a general strike and peaceful protest turned quickly into ugly violence.

The police were prepared, but against volleys of petrol bombs, they could do little more than stand their ground and wait with tear gas and stun grenades to turn the mob back.

This is the first violent protest since a new government was elected three months ago, a government that is forcing through yet another round of punishing spending cuts.

In a country where one in four are already unemployed, perhaps one shouldn't be surprised that public anger at times tips over into violence. The morning had seen tens of thousands march on parliament demanding the government change course.

They know it's hopeless, of course. Their leaders are deep in negotiations with Europe and the IMF about cutting wages and pensions by anything up to 30 percent, and this in a city where already one in three businesses has closed.

MAN: We have to do something for our future to have a regular job, to have a family.

MAN: All of Europe should have a voice against these policies.

JAMES MATES: And there will be little reassurance of promises of no more cuts after these.

KYRIAKOS MITSOTAKIS, Greek parliamentarian: There is no scope for any further reductions in wages and pensions beyond this specific package. This is a commitment that the government has made.

JAMES MATES: The Greeks have been told that before.

KYRIAKOS MITSOTAKIS: Yes, they have been told that before. But should the government not meet that commitment, in my mind, that would mean the end of this government.

JAMES MATES: The protest was brief. It was all over within a couple of hours, but there are many difficult votes ahead now here in the Greek parliament and no one expects that to have been the end of the trouble.

"Spanish and Greek Responses to Debt Crisis Unleash Backlash from Citizens" (Part-2) PBS Newshour 9/26/2012


GWEN IFILL (Newshour): The violence in Athens came hours after police and demonstrators fought in the streets of Madrid, Spain. On Tuesday evening, 6,000 people marched on the national parliament building, protesting new austerity measures. Some threw rocks and bottles, and police fired rubber bullets; 38 people were arrested.

The scenes of unrest roiled European markets, and major indexes there fell 1 to 2 percent today.

For more on the economics and the politics at play in Europe, I'm joined by Jacob Kirkegaard of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

EDUCATION - 2012 Teacher of the Year Speaks Out

"2012 Teacher of the Year on What Helps Teachers and Students Succeed" PBS Newshour 9/26/2012


GWEN IFILL (Newshour): Now, to another of our American Graduate reports.

This week, the NewsHour is offering a series of stories and interviews about the nation's high school dropout crisis.

Ray Suarez talks with the nation's top teacher.

RAY SUAREZ (Newshour): How do you engage children, reduce the chances they will drop out and increase their chances of success?

Tonight, we put some of those questions to the Council of Chief State School Officers' 2012 teacher of the year, Rebecca Mieliwocki. She joins me now from Burbank, California, where she teaches seventh grade English at Luther Burbank Middle School.

ELECTION 2012 - Early and Absentee Voting

"Candidates Push Early Voting on Campaign Trail" PBS Newshour 9/26/2012


SUMMARY: Though Election Day is nearly six weeks away, some voters have already cast their ballots. Thirty-five states have early voting or no-excuse absentee voting. Gwen Ifill talks to George Mason University's Michael McDonald for more on the process of early voting and its potential impact on the 2012 election.

COMMENT: I have been an absentee voter since my Navy days. In addition, years ago California implemented the policy that voter could register as permanent no-fault absentee voters, thereby forgoing having to register absentee every election.

I consider absentee voting a better method because I receive all voting materials, including the ballot, weeks in advance of any election. This makes it much easier (and more time) for me to research issues and candidates before voting, in the comfort of my own home.

Absentee voting also eliminates the need to 'make it to the polls' on election day. Come election day I have already mailed in my vote.

TURKEY - The Spillover From Syrian Civil War

"Free Syrian Army Rebels Take Refuge in Turkey, Funnel Weapons Across Border" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 9/26/2012

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): And we return to the war in Syria, one of the pressing issues facing world leaders at the United Nations this week.

Margaret Warner sat down with Turkey's foreign minister yesterday in New York to discuss the crisis.

Her report begins with a look at how the conflict has jumped the Turkey-Syria border.

MARGARET WARNER (Newshour): As civil war engulfs their homeland, thousands more Syrians flee every month, many of them heading north into Turkey.

RAWIYA DIP, Syrian refuge (through translator): They bombarded us with aircraft and mortars when we were in our homes. My family and villagers fled to the Turkish border.

MARGARET WARNER: The U.N. Refugee Agency estimates about 85,000 Syrians are now living in camps inside the Turkish border.

They're among some 250,000 Syrians who've sought refuge in neighboring states; 100,000 arrived in August alone, amid some of the deadliest fighting since the Syrian uprising began 18 months ago.

On the front line of the crisis, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had harsh words this month about the outside world's response.

PRIME MINISTER RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkey (through translator): Syria is going through a huge humanitarian crisis. Unfortunately, as usual, the international community is merely watching the slaughter, massacre and the elimination of Muslims.

MARGARET WARNER: Erdogan also accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of leading a regime of state terrorism.

For months, leaders of the outgunned rebel force, the Free Syrian Army, have sheltered inside Turkey, funneling weapons across the border. But last weekend, they said they're moving their headquarters back into Syria.

For Turkey, the Syrian conflict also threatens its own internal stability. Tensions are building in Turkey's Hatay Province, along western Syria. Minority Alawites there have split with the Sunni majority to demonstrate for the Assad regime. And Kurdish rebels in southern Turkey, along the Syrian and Iraq borders, are staging new attacks in their long-running bid for self-rule.

The Turkish military has struck back, and the death toll is rising.

"Turkish Minister Says Violence in Syria is Threat for Turkey's Internal Security" (Part-2) PBS Newshour 9/26/2012


SUMMARY: Turkey's prime minister Tayyip Erdogan voiced his outrage over violence in Syria, accusing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of "state terrorism." Margaret Warner talks to Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu for more on Turkish concerns over the Syria's civil war and why this is also a matter of internal security for Turkey.

MEDIA - Google Virtual Tour of Great Barrier Reef

"Google releases 'underwater street view' of Great Barrier Reef, more" Fox News 9/26/2012


A new partnership between mapping giant Google and The Catlin Seaview Survey, a major scientific study of the world’s reefs, allows you to surf through the world’s oceans with the first underwater panoramas in Google Maps.

The company has updated its Street View feature to incorporate the amazing images of the Great Barrier Reef, Hanauma Bay in Hawaii, and other sites in Australia, the Philippines and more.

“Whether you’re a marine biologist, an avid scuba diver or a landlocked landlubber, we encourage you to dive in and explore the ocean with Google Maps,” wrote Brian McClendon, vice president of Google Maps and Earth, in a blog post unveiling the new feature.

He called the new images “the next step in our quest to provide people with the most comprehensive, accurate and usable map of the world.”

A cruise through the new art work reveals stunning sights: a sea turtle swimming among a school of fish, a manta ray adrift, and the reef at sunset. Or visit the entire collection and choose a virtual destination yourself.

The images were captured with a specially designed underwater camera, the Catlin Seaview SVII. It takes rapid-fire 360-degree images every 3 seconds while traveling at a speed of approximately 2.5 miles per hour. Images are then stitched together and published online to create the virtual dive, the company explains.

There are currently only two SVII’s in in the world, according to the Seaview Survey. One is named Sylvia after oceanographer, aquanaut and author Sylvia Earle, the second Ron after the legendary shark photographer Ron Taylor.

OPINION - Election 2012 Liberal View

The Rachel Maddow Show
MSNBC 9/25/2012
Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

JOBS - Is Online Job Hunting Effective?

"Is Applying for Jobs Online Not an Effective Way to Find Work?" PBS Newshour 9/25/2012


JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): Next, a new dispatch from the difficult job market.

NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman has long chronicled just how tough it is to get hired. Tonight, he looks at how one of the big changes in recent years, applying online, is not working for many seeking a job.

It's part of his ongoing reporting Making Sense of financial news.

PAUL SOLMAN (Newshour): At McLean Bible, a megachurch in Vienna, Va., the appropriately mega career network ministry. In a labor market increasingly dominated by online job search, this weekly event features sessions on taking psychological tests, selling yourself to interviewers.

MAN: And I have been working in the consulting industry for the last 15 years. And, quite frankly, I love it.

PAUL SOLMAN: Marketing the brand that is you.

MAN: Your resume is going to tell me what you have done in the past. Your marketing plan is going to tell what you want to do in the future.

COMMENT: After retiring from the U.S. Navy (22yrs) of the civilian jobs I've had only one was by me 'knocking at the door.' ALL the others were gotten via online. My last job of 5yrs (from which I have fully retired) was a SURPRISE offer from my posting on the Monster jobs site.

But IMHO a job seeker should NOT rely on just online job offers. Do apply online, BUT then follow up by going to the business and talk to a living human being and give your written resume, or if the job is not local, mail your resume.

EDUCATION - Average SAT Scores Drop

"Average Scores for SAT Tests Drop as Pool of Students Who Take Test Widens" PBS Newshour 9/25/2012


SUMMARY: Many parents and teachers have looked to SAT scores as a measure for the quality of education students receive. This year, national average scores on SAT reading and writing tests edged down while math scores remained stagnant. Ray Suarez talks to College Board's Jim Montoya and University of Oregon's Roger Thompson for more.

RAY SUAREZ (Newshour): The latest scores are out for the high school class of 2012, the new freshmen starting work at colleges across the country. And the news is not good. The College Board, which oversees the SAT, reports that 57 percent of seniors do not seem ready for college based on their test scores.

The board also reported that reading scores have fallen to their lowest point in four decades. Out of a perfect score of 800 in each category, the mean reading score fell slightly to 491, writing dropped by a point to 481, and math dropped one point to 505.

Since 2008, reading and writing scores have dipped, while math has remained stable. What do these scores tell us about students' readiness?

We get two views. Jim Montoya is a vice president of the College Board. He is a former dean of admissions for Stanford University.

And Roger Thompson is the vice provost for enrollment management at the University of Oregon. The state system has more than 24,000 students; 20,000 of them are undergraduates.

Significant excerpt

JIM MONTOYA, College Board: Well, what we are to conclude is that students need to take more rigorous courses in high school.

We have to have higher expectations of our students.

What we know is this, that of those students who complete a core curriculum, four years of English, at least three years of mathematics, at least three years of science, and at least three years of social science, compared to those who students who didn't complete a core curriculum, those students completing a core curriculum scored 144 points higher on the SAT.

PERSONAL ASIDE: 'In a galixy far, far away,' when I when to high school, I took a 'core' curriculum AND college prep courses.

POLITICS - Voters' View vs Pollsters' and Historians' View

"Where They Stand: How Voters, Pollsters and Historians Judge Presidents" PBS Newshour 9/25/2012


SUMMARY: The National Interest's Robert Merry argues presidencies rise and fall as voters judge presidents' performance. Merry decided to explore how voters' perceptions compared with those of historians. He joins Judy Woodruff to talk about his new book, "Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians."

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): Finally tonight, a new book compares how historians view presidents with how voters view them.

It comes from journalist Bob Merry, editor of "The National Interest" magazine. "Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians" identifies the greats, near-greats, acknowledged failures, and those whose legacies have fluctuated.

AMERICA - President Obama's Foreign Policy

"At U.N., President Obama Delivers 'Tough Love Speech,' Condemns Violent Protests" PBS Newshour 9/25/2012


SUMMARY: In addressing the 2012 United Nations General Assembly, President Obama condemned 'mindless violence' in anti-American protests, said Syrian President Assad's regime must end and affirmed support for new democracies that rose from the Arab Spring. Judy Woodruff talks to Margaret Warner for reaction on the president's remarks.

"In the Face of GOP Criticism, Addressing Obama's Foreign Policy Challenges" PBS Newshour 9/25/2012


SUMMARY: In Pueblo, Colo., and at the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative, Mitt Romney lambasted President Obama's handling of foreign affairs after the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya. Gwen Ifill talks to former U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Burns and Council on Foreign Relations' Richard Haass about the president's foreign policy.

GWEN IFILL (Newshour): And we return now to President Obama's United Nations speech and what it tells us about his administration's foreign policy challenges.

For that, we turn to Harvard University professor and former U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Burns and Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

President Obama's Full UN Speech (30:19 min)

POLITICS - Sports Teaches Rabid Republican a Lesson?

"Scott Walker discovers the value of union workers" by Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog 9/25/2012

What does it take for one of the nation's most infamous union-busting Republicans to discover the value of union workers? Apparently, a blown call on Monday Night Football does the trick (thanks to B.W. for the tip).

Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who made a national name for himself by going after public employee unions last year, posted a message on Twitter calling for the return of the NFL's locked-out unionized officials after a disputed call led to a Seattle Seahawks 14-12 victory over the Packers on Monday night.

"After catching a few hours of sleep, the (hash)Packers game is still just as painful. #Returntherealrefs," Walker tweeted early Tuesday. [...]

The NFL locked out the officials in June after their contract expired. The league has been using replacement officials, and through three weeks of the regular season there has been much criticism over the way some games are being handled.

Walker's spokesman Cullen Werwie tried to spin the governor's post on Tuesday, saying it wasn't meant as a pro-union political statement.

No, of course not. This is simply a matter of an anti-union Republican, unimpressed by the results generated by the free market, preferring to see qualified, union workers return to the job so they can provide him with a level of skill, professionalism, and expertise to which he's accustomed.

Why would anyone read something into that?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

IRAQ - The Spillover From Syrian Civil War

"Syrian War’s Spillover Threatens a Fragile Iraq" by TIM ARANGO, New York Times 9/24/2012


The civil war in Syria is testing Iraq’s fragile society and fledgling democracy, worsening sectarian tensions, pushing Iraq closer to Iran and highlighting security shortcomings just nine months after American forces ended their long and costly occupation here.

Fearing that Iraq’s insurgents will unite with extremists in Syria to wage a two-front battle for Sunni dominance, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki recently ordered guards at the western border to block adult men, even husbands and fathers with families in tow, from crossing into Iraq along with thousands of refugees seeking to escape the grinding war next door.

Farther north, Iraqi officials have another concern, also related to the fighting across the border. Turkish warplanes have stepped up attacks on the mountain hide-outs of Kurdish insurgents galvanized by the war in Syria, underscoring Iraq’s inability to control its own airspace.

The hardening of the antagonists’ positions in Syria — reverberating across Iraq — was made clear Monday at the United Nations when the new special envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, gave a bleak appraisal of the conflict to the Security Council and said he saw no prospect for a breakthrough anytime soon.

The Syrian war’s spillover has called attention to uncomfortable realities for American officials: despite nearly nine years of military engagement, an effort that continues today with a $19 billion weapons sales program, Iraq’s security is uncertain and its alliance with the theocratic government in Tehran is growing. Iraq’s Shiite-dominated leadership is so worried about a victory by Sunni radicals in Syria that it has moved closer to Iran, which shares a similar interest in supporting the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.

There is already some indication that Sunni insurgents in Iraq have tried to coordinate with Syrian fighters to set off a regional sectarian war, Iraqi tribal leaders said.

“Fighters from Anbar went there to support their sect, the Sunnis,” said Sheik Hamid al-Hayes, a tribal leader in Anbar Province, in western Iraq, who once led a group of former insurgents who switched sides and joined the Americans in fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq.

AMERICA - Health Care, Why So Expensive?

"A PBS Documentary Asks Why is U.S. Health Care So Expensive?" PBS Newshour 9/24/2012


SUMMARY: "Money and Medicine," a documentary set to air Sept. 25 on PBS, investigates some of the most notorious factors in driving U.S. health care costs. Ray Suarez speaks with director Roger Weisberg about how some of those costs are moving the nation toward financial crisis while still producing relatively mediocre medical results.

PBS "Money and Medicine - Preview"

EDUCATION - The Underperforming, Fallen Behind, or Failing Students

"Why Students Who Underperform, Fall Behind or Fail Classes Drop Out of School" PBS Newshour 9/24/2012


RAY SUAREZ (Newshour): In addition to those who leave school without a diploma, there are millions more who are underperformers, failing classes, and falling behind.

What happens when students drop out?

Are American schools any good at providing a flexible path to graduation for those who have already checked out? Are schools doing enough to grab kids with potential before failure and negative reinforcement leads them to drop out?

My guests' lives and work makes them unusually qualified to tackle those questions.

Stephanie Krauss is a former dropout who runs the Shearwater Education Foundation in Saint Louis, which operates a charter high school for high-risk students.

Adam Steltzner is a NASA engineer we profiled earlier this year. He helped design the landing for the Curiosity mission to Mars, but once came close to dropping out of high school himself.

And we also profiled Professor Victor Rios, a former gang member and high school dropout who now studies young men like himself. He teaches sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

SYRIA - Civil War Stalemate

"Silent Stalemate on the Streets of Homs as Rebel and Regime Snipers Face-off" PBS Newshour 9/24/2012


SUMMARY: Syrian rebels forces and Assad regime troops wage battle silently from a hidden front line, as the use of snipers have made any movement a fatal action. Homs, the city where the Syrian uprising began, is at stalemate. Independent Television News' Bill Neely reports.

GWEN IFILL (Newshour): And we turn to Syria spiraling deeper into civil war.

Peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi briefed the U.N. Security Council today for the first time since taking on his post. He said the situation is bad and getting worse.

We have an on-the-ground look at the conflict from Bill Neely of Independent Television News. He reports from the city of Homs.

REMINDER: The reason I post so many articles on the Middle East, or the Arab world, is that since 9/11 we MUST pay close attention to what is happening in the area. It is the violent Islamic fanatics from there that are a threat to our nation, the West in general, AND to the peaceful Muslims of the world.

AMERICA - More on the Corruption of Money in Our Politics

"Political Ad Spending Doubled in 2012, More Drastically in Battleground States" PBS Newshour 9/24/2012


SUMMARY: Political ad spending has doubled overall, but in critical battleground states the numbers are more drastic. In 2008, 519 presidential campaign ads aired in Colorado Springs, Colo. Four years later, the number has jumped to 1,445. Gwen Ifill talks to NPR's Ari Shapiro about the blitz of campaign ads in a Republican leaning city.

Monday, September 24, 2012

PAKISTAN - Anti-American Violence

"Anger Over Drone Strikes, Anti-Islam Film, Provokes Deadly Protests in Pakistan" PBS Newshour 9/21/2012


JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): The bloodshed in Pakistan today marked a new spike in anti-American violence.

Gunfire and arson raged in city after city. And the death toll of at least 19 was the worst single-day count since an anti-Islamic video surfaced.

The Pakistani government had declared this a national holiday, Love for the Prophet Day, and encouraged peaceful protest. Some 15,000 people filled the streets in the southwest city of Karachi.

MOHAMMAD ARSHAD, Pakistan (through translator): We want to show the world that Muslims are one and united on this issue. We are all ready to die for the Prophet Mohammed. We have left our family to join the protest and will remain here until the protest is over.

JEFFREY BROWN: But things quickly turned violent, as crowds burned cars, theaters and a bank, and some opened fire on police. At least a dozen people were killed, including three officers.

There were more deaths in Peshawar, to the northwest, where rioters set fires, and police fired back with tear gas and live rounds. And in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, police battled hundreds of protesters to keep them away from the U.S. Embassy.

Protests were largely peaceful in Indonesia, Egypt, Iraq, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, but no less anti-American, with crowds burning flags and effigies of President Obama.

SYRIA - Vicious Tactics in Civil War

"Anti-Government Syrians Defend Themselves With Suicide Bombs and Grenades" PBS Newshour 9/21/2012


SUMMARY: As tactics to win Syria become vicious between opposition forces and the Syrian regime's military, war crimes are commonplace. But United Nations investigators report Islamist militants may be pushing anti-government fighters to radical extremes. French photojournalist Mani and Independent Television News' Jon Snow report.

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): And now to a small town in Syria that has been turned upside-down by the civil war. Large numbers of civilian deaths have hardened and even radicalized much of the population.

French photojournalist Mani shot this story last week when he was embedded with an elite brigade of the Free Syrian Army in the western part of the country.

It's narrated by Jon Snow of Independent Television News.

EDUCATION - Suppressing College Hazing

"For Perpetrators and Victims, Suppressing Temptation of College Hazing Rituals" PBS Newshour 9/21/2012


RAY SUAREZ (Newshour): Students, faculty and trustees at Florida A&M University, commonly known as FAMU, gathered yesterday for a town hall on hazing. It was their latest effort to deal with an issue that made headlines last November.

That's when drum major Robert Champion died after he was severely beaten in a hazing ritual by members of the school's popular marching band.

Eleven FAMU band members now face felony hazing charges. And, on Sunday, the school played its first football game in decades without the marching band. The band is suspended for a year.

Yesterday, the student body vice president said he hoped the town hall would mark a turning point.

MICHAEL JEFFERSON, Florida A&M University: We have had these before, but none like this. Today was different. Today was a conversation. Today was inclusion. Today, you saw students that were a part of it and that were excited about it, that were standing up saying, I commit to end hazing.

RAY SUAREZ: That may be easier said than done.

HEALTH - 4 Distinct Types of Brest Cancer (updated)

"Study Divides Breast Cancer Into Four Distinct Types" by GINA KOLATA, New York Times 9/23/2012


In findings that are fundamentally reshaping the scientific understanding of breast cancer, researchers have identified four genetically distinct types of the cancer. And within those types, they found hallmark genetic changes that are driving many cancers.

These discoveries, published online on Sunday in the journal Nature, are expected to lead to new treatments with drugs already approved for cancers in other parts of the body and new ideas for more precise treatments aimed at genetic aberrations that now have no known treatment.

The study is the first comprehensive genetic analysis of breast cancer, which kills more than 35,000 women a year in the United States. The new paper, and several smaller recent studies, are electrifying the field.

“This is the road map for how we might cure breast cancer in the future,” said Dr. Matthew Ellis of Washington University, a researcher for the study.

Researchers and patient advocates caution that it will still take years to translate the new insights into transformative new treatments. Even within the four major types of breast cancer, individual tumors appear to be driven by their own sets of genetic changes. A wide variety of drugs will most likely need to be developed to tailor medicines to individual tumors.

“There are a lot of steps that turn basic science into clinically meaningful results,” said Karuna Jaggar, executive director of Breast Cancer Action, an advocacy group. “It is the ‘stay tuned’ story.”

The study is part of a large federal project, the Cancer Genome Atlas, to build maps of genetic changes in common cancers. Reports on similar studies of lung and colon cancer have been published recently. The breast cancer study was based on an analysis of tumors from 825 patients.

“There has never been a breast cancer genomics project on this scale,” said the atlas’s program director, Brad Ozenberger of the National Institutes of Health.

The investigators identified at least 40 genetic alterations that might be attacked by drugs. Many of them are already being developed for other types of cancer that have the same mutations. “We now have a good view of what goes wrong in breast cancer,” said Joe Gray, a genetic expert at Oregon Health & Science University, who was not involved in the study. “We haven’t had that before.”

The study focused on the most common types of breast cancer that are thought to arise in the milk duct. It concentrated on early breast cancers that had not yet spread to other parts of the body in order to find genetic changes that could be attacked, stopping a cancer before it metastasized.

The study’s biggest surprise involved a particularly deadly breast cancer whose tumor cells resemble basal cells of the skin and sweat glands, which are in the deepest layer of the skin. These breast cells form a scaffolding for milk duct cells. This type of cancer is often called triple negative and accounts for a small percentage of breast cancer.

But researchers found that this cancer was entirely different from the other types of breast cancer and much more resembles ovarian cancer and a type of lung cancer.

"First Comprehensive Genetic Analysis of Breast Cancer Could Change Treatment" PBS Newshour 9/24/2012

EGYPT - Morsi On Closer U.S. Ties

"Egypt’s New Leader Spells Out Terms for U.S.-Arab Ties" by DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and STEVEN ERLANGER, New York Times 9/22/2012


On the eve of his first trip to the United States as Egypt’s new Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi said the United States needed to fundamentally change its approach to the Arab world, showing greater respect for its values and helping build a Palestinian state, if it hoped to overcome decades of pent-up anger.

A former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mr. Morsi sought in a 90-minute interview with The New York Times to introduce himself to the American public and to revise the terms of relations between his country and the United States after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, an autocratic but reliable ally.

He said it was up to Washington to repair relations with the Arab world and to revitalize the alliance with Egypt, long a cornerstone of regional stability.

If Washington is asking Egypt to honor its treaty with Israel, he said, Washington should also live up to its own Camp David commitment to Palestinian self-rule. He said the United States must respect the Arab world’s history and culture, even when that conflicts with Western values.

And he dismissed criticism from the White House that he did not move fast enough to condemn protesters who recently climbed over the United States Embassy wall and burned the American flag in anger over a video that mocked the Prophet Muhammad.

“We took our time” in responding to avoid an explosive backlash, he said, but then dealt “decisively” with the small, violent element among the demonstrators.

“We can never condone this kind of violence, but we need to deal with the situation wisely,” he said, noting that the embassy employees were never in danger.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

HEALTH - The Very Dangerous Drug Called 'Bath Salts'

"BATH SALTS, The Drug That Never Lets Go" by Jenny Marder , PBS Newshour 9/20/2012


Dickie Sanders was not naturally prone to depression. The 21-year-old BMX rider was known for being sweet spirited and warm -- a hugger not a hand-shaker. The kind of guy who called on holidays. Who helped his father on the family farm. Who spent countless hours perfecting complicated tricks on his bike.

Yet on Nov. 12, 2010, Sanders was found dead on the floor of his childhood bedroom. He had shot himself in the head with a .22 caliber youth rifle.

The suicide was the culmination of five days of strange behavior that began shortly after Sanders snorted a powdery substance he bought from a friend. Instead of the brief high he was seeking, he experienced days of insomnia, along with waves of terror and frightening delusions, including an incident where he “saw” 25 police cars outside his parents' kitchen window and then slit his own throat with a butcher knife. That incident landed Sanders in the hospital with stitches. For a few hours, the hallucinations subsided.

“I don't like the way this is making me feel," Sanders told his stepmother, Julie, as the two awaited his release from the hospital. "I promise I won't do anything again. I'm done.”

But the paranoia flared up with a vengeance that night, and back home, Dickie's father lay in bed with his son, arms wrapped around him, until he finally nodded off. It's unclear when Dickie woke up, made his way downstairs to his bedroom and found the rifle he had won in a shooting contest years before. No one heard the gunshot.

An autopsy revealed a powerful stimulant in his system: methylenedioxypyrovalerone, also known as MDPV.

MDPV is a common ingredient in a street drug known as "bath salts." Sanders' death occurred the month after Mark Ryan, director of the Louisiana Poison Center, began to receive the first string of calls from emergency rooms around the state about patients taking the drug. For such a benign name, the symptoms were dangerous and bizarre. People were showing up just like Sanders had -- paranoid, agitated, violent and hallucinating.

“These guys were seeing things like monsters, demons and aliens, and those were consistent terms,” Ryan said. “We didn't ask, ‘Are you seeing monsters and aliens?' They were telling us that.”

We didn't ask, 'Are you seeing monsters and aliens?' They were telling us that.

Soon after Dickie Sanders died, Ryan teamed with Kentucky's poison control center and began to build a database of every bath salts case recorded in the two states. In the report, they listed behaviors brought on by the drugs. One patient high on the substance repeatedly fired guns out of the house at strangers. Another broke all the windows in a house and then wandered barefoot through the broken glass. A third left her 2-year-old daughter in the middle of a highway because she “had demons.”

“Bath salts” are nothing like the epsom salts often added to bathwater; it's just the most common code name given to a specific type of synthetic drugs made in underground labs and marketed as household items. The drugs have been camouflaged as plant food, stain remover, toilet bowl cleaner and hookah cleaner. They've been sold online and in "head shops," businesses that sell drug paraphernalia. The boxes usually contain a foil wrap or plastic bag of powder, though sometimes they take the form of pills or capsules. The color of the powder ranges from white to yellow to brown, the price from $30 to $50. And nearly every box has a label that says “not for human consumption.”

When bath salts first appeared in 2010, the products were crudely packaged -- a label from an ink-jet printer slapped onto a plastic container, Ryan said. But over time, they began to look increasingly more professional and often specifically tailored to the place. Products in Louisiana donned names like Hurricane Charlie, NOLA Diamond, Bayou Ivory Flower. Bath salts had also surfaced in Illinois, Kentucky and Florida, but Louisiana was hit especially hard.

The product that Sanders snorted was called Cloud 9. At the time of his death, he was in a drug program for marijuana abuse, actively attending group meetings and undergoing frequent drug tests. He was told that the drug was legal, a great high and wouldn't show up on a drug test.

Cathleen Clancy is associate medical director at the National Capital Poison Center in Washington D.C., where they catalog the effects of bath salts on the area's emergency room cases. Users are often hyper-agitated, hot and sweating, she said. Their heart rate is dangerously high, their blood pressure is up, and seizures are common.

Often even high doses of common sedatives don't help them. Doctors instead must turn to antipsychotics or other powerful medications.

Early on, doctors began noticing something else that was strange. Compared with other drugs, bath salts didn't follow a normal dose-response pattern. With cocaine or methamphetamine, the drug entered the bloodstream, and, within hours, began to wear off. Not so for bath salts.

“Some patients were in the hospital for 5 days, 10 days, 14 days,” Ryan said. “In some cases, they were under heavy sedation. As you try to taper off the sedation, the paranoia came back and the delusions."

As Ryan was scrambling to grasp the scope of the problem in Louisiana, scientists 1,000 miles away were beginning to tease out the drug's chemistry. What was it about this substance, they wondered, that could make a man cut his own throat or a mother leave her 2-year-old in the middle of a highway?


What few people knew was that the chemical components of the drug long predated the Louisiana outbreak. In the 1970s, a medicinal chemist named Richard A. Glennon was studying what it would take to convert a stimulant drug to a hallucinogen and vice versa in order to determine how these substances work in the brain. He knew that small modifications to a drug's molecular structure could result in major changes in its effects. By introducing an oxygen atom to the side chain of amphetamine, he created something called a beta-keto amphetamine. Beta-keto amphetamine was what we now call cathinone, and at the time, in the U.S., it was a new class of stimulant.

“We didn't expect any type of activity from it, but we found out it was an active stimulant,” Glennon said. “And it was at least as potent, if not more potent, than amphetamine.”

Scientists would soon realize, it behaved like no stimulant anyone had ever seen.

Shortly after, a group from the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) visited Glennon's lab. One of the scientists informed Glennon that his compound was identical to the active ingredient of a plant called Catha edulis, or khat, a plant native to East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula that produces an amphetamine-like high when chewed or brewed as tea.

“He said, ‘Eureka, this is the active constituent of khat,'” Glennon recalled. “So we found ourselves in possession of a lot of the early pharmacological data on this.

Few things make amphetamine more potent than it already is. But add an extra methyl group - a carbon atom bound to three hydrogen atoms - and you get the more potent methamphetamine. Glennon made the same change to his cathinone, and the already powerful stimulant became suddenly even more powerful. In 1987, he published his results in the journal, Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior. The title of the article was "Methcathinone: A New and Potent Amphetamine-like Agent." It was the first time the term "methcathinone" had been used.

Soon after his paper was published, Glennon received a letter in the mail from a scientist at the Lensoviet Technological Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia. What Glennon was calling methcathinone, the scientist told him, already existed in the Soviet Union. Methcathinone had sprung up as a major drug of abuse there in the 1970s and had increased tenfold in the eighties. There, they were calling it ephedrone, or "Jeff" on the streets.

Glennon's 1987 article, the Russian scientist wrote, was the only published reference he could find on methcathinone. He went on to write that despite its popularity in the Soviet Union, the widespread drug problem had been kept quiet by Soviet authorities for "political motives."

In the past four decades, Glennon has published more than two dozen papers and book chapters on cathinone, its effects and how it compares to other drugs.

In 1993, cathinone was classified by the federal government as a Schedule I substance, a category that includes heroin and LSD, and is reserved for drugs with a high potential for abuse and "no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States."

For decades though, synthetic cathinones were less of a real problem in the U.S. and "more like a theoretical, scientific problem," Glennon said. That is, until 2010.

At the same time Mark Ryan was battling the rapid rise of bath salts in the deep South, the mysterious new drug was brought to Glennon's attention. One common ingredient in bath salts was a stimulant called mephedrone. Glennon, who now runs at lab at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy, noticed that mephedrone bore a strong resemblance to compounds he had synthesized years earlier. Mephedrone is a synthetic cathinone.

He set out to learn more. In April 2012, his lab and two others at VCU School of Medicine won a joint five-year grant from NIDA to synthesize the ingredients in bath salts and study the drug's effect on brain transporters embedded in frog cells and in lab rats. They were determined to find out what it did to the brain and how, exactly, it produced such powerful effects.

Meanwhile, in Louisiana, lab tests were showing that, in addition to mephedrone, nearly every single blood and urine sample from bath salts users contained another ingredient, the same ingredient found in Dicki Sanders' blood: MDPV. MDPV is also a synthetic cathinone. But, scientists would soon realize, it behaved like no stimulant anyone had ever seen.


It's impossible to talk about bath salts without talking about dopamine -- a natural neurotransmitter involved in the basic experience of pleasure. Chocolate, sex, gambling, nicotine, even the buzz of a smartphone in a pocket, all cause a rush of dopamine in the brain's reward center, the nucleus accumbens. Tiny dopamine molecules surge forth from nerve cells in the brain to send a cascade of signals to other nerve cells, and then they retreat back into the cell in a process called reuptake. It's the constant release and retreat of this chemical that causes feelings of pleasure, exhilaration and a sense of well being.

Dopamine also has profound effects on memory, learning, motivation and motor control. When the dopamine balance gets upset, it can wreak havoc on these parts of the brain. Parkinson's disease is an example of dopamine gone wrong.

Except for one thing: MDPV is as much as 10 times stronger than cocaine.

HEALTH - Life Expectancy Declines For Some

"Life Spans Shrink for Least-Educated Whites in the U.S." by SABRINA TAVERNISE, New York Times 9/20/2012


For generations of Americans, it was a given that children would live longer than their parents. But there is now mounting evidence that this enduring trend has reversed itself for the country’s least-educated whites, an increasingly troubled group whose life expectancy has fallen by four years since 1990.

Researchers have long documented that the most educated Americans were making the biggest gains in life expectancy, but now they say mortality data show that life spans for some of the least educated Americans are actually contracting. Four studies in recent years identified modest declines, but a new one that looks separately at Americans lacking a high school diploma found disturbingly sharp drops in life expectancy for whites in this group. Experts not involved in the new research said its findings were persuasive.

The reasons for the decline remain unclear, but researchers offered possible explanations, including a spike in prescription drug overdoses among young whites, higher rates of smoking among less educated white women, rising obesity, and a steady increase in the number of the least educated Americans who lack health insurance.

The steepest declines were for white women without a high school diploma, who lost five years of life between 1990 and 2008, said S. Jay Olshansky, a public health professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the lead investigator on the study, published last month in Health Affairs. By 2008, life expectancy for black women without a high school diploma had surpassed that of white women of the same education level, the study found.

White men lacking a high school diploma lost three years of life. Life expectancy for both blacks and Hispanics of the same education level rose, the data showed. But blacks over all do not live as long as whites, while Hispanics live longer than both whites and blacks.

“We’re used to looking at groups and complaining that their mortality rates haven’t improved fast enough, but to actually go backward is deeply troubling,” said John G. Haaga, head of the Population and Social Processes Branch of the National Institute on Aging, who was not involved in the new study.

The five-year decline for white women rivals the catastrophic seven-year drop for Russian men in the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, said Michael Marmot, director of the Institute of Health Equity in London.

The decline among the least educated non-Hispanic whites, who make up a shrinking share of the population, widened an already troubling gap. The latest estimate shows life expectancy for white women without a high school diploma was 73.5 years, compared with 83.9 years for white women with a college degree or more. For white men, the gap was even bigger: 67.5 years for the least educated white men compared with 80.4 for those with a college degree or better.

ELECTION 2012 - FactCheck Stump Speeches, Romney

"Romney’s Stump Speech" (Part 2 of 2) by Robert Farley, 9/20/2012


Presidential Campaign Puffery


To the strains of Kid Rock’s “Born Free,” Mitt Romney took to the stage at a minor league baseball park in Nashua, N.H., on Sept. 7 flanked by his wife, Ann, and delivered a standard — albeit slightly longer — version of his stump speech.

But unless you were at Holman Stadium that day, saw it on the local TV news or read about it the next day in the Union Leader, you probably didn’t hear anything about it. That’s true of most stump speeches.

While the Nashua stump speech was very much a local event, presidential candidates tend to deliver very similar versions of the same speech over and over as they make their long-form pitch to audiences around the country. Just as with our previous analysis of Obama’s stump speech, we found numerous instances of candidate spin in what Romney had to say. For example:
  • Romney says Obama “said by now [unemployment] would be down to 5.4 percent.” But Romney is referring to a speculative report issued at the beginning of Obama’s presidency containing projections — not promises. Those projections relied on prevailing economic models that quickly proved to have underestimated the depths of the recession at that time.
  • Romney says median family income dropped $5,000 under Obama. That’s an exaggeration. The true loss of inflation-adjusted, median family income was $3,290 during Obama’s first three years. Romney’s figure is based on a report that covers a period that includes 13 months before Obama took office.
  • Romney says health insurance premiums have gone up $2,500 under Obama. The actual increase has been $1,700, most of which was absorbed by employers and only a small part of which is attributable to the health care law.
  • Romney blames Obama for the cost of gasoline doubling, but that’s misleading. Gasoline prices happened to be unusually low when Obama took office due to the recession and financial crisis.
  • Romney cited a Chamber of Commerce survey as evidence that small-business owners are less likely to hire because of the health care law. But experts warn not to place too much weight on the survey because it was an opt-in, online survey.
  • Romney said Obama “cut Medicare by $716 billion to pay for Obamacare,” but these cuts in the future growth of spending prolong the life of the Medicare trust fund, stretching the program’s finances out longer than they would last otherwise.
  • Romney said the health care law is “killing jobs in small business.” But CBO says the law would have a “small” impact on jobs, mainly affecting the amount of labor workers choose to supply. Those getting subsidies, for instance, might work less hours since they’re paying less for health care.
  • Romney said he would bring health care costs down by “finally deal[ing] with malpractice costs,” but experts say medical malpractice doesn’t make much of a dent in health care spending.

There are other misleading claims — including bluster on the Keystone XL pipeline and a claim that Obama has lived up to a “promise” about “skyrocketing” energy costs. And, of course, no Romney speech is complete without a reference to Obama’s comment, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that,” a quote that has been lifted out of context.

Full quotes and our analysis of the accuracy of claims in Romney’s stump speech are contained in the Analysis section..... (in the full article).

Note to readers: This is the second part of a two-part series examining the factual claims made by both major candidates. We posted our findings about President Barack Obama’s stump-speech claims in a previous Featured Article.

Full article contains analysis and source list.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

AMERICA - Report on 'Operation Fast and Furious'

"Justice Department Reports on Faulty Gunwalking Operation Along U.S. Border" PBS Newshour 9/19/2012


JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): Two top government officials have stepped down in the wake of an internal report that cites Justice Department failings in a probe of illegal gun sales in the Southwest.

It was the latest turn in a story that's provoked a confrontation between congressional Republicans and Attorney General Eric Holder.

Jeffrey Brown reports.

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): The report faulted the department for errors in judgment and management failures in Operation Fast and Furious. In the 471-page report, Inspector General Michael Horowitz referred 14 people, including senior official Lanny Breuer, for possible disciplinary action.

The report found no evidence that Attorney General Eric Holder was informed of the operation before the scandal broke. That happened after the shooting death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in December 2010.

The report said lower-level officials should have briefed Holder on the situation earlier on.

For more on the findings, we're joined by Evan Perez, who covers the Justice Department for The Wall Street Journal.

MYANMAR - Sanctions Eased

"U.S. Eases Sanctions as Myanmar Passes Democratic Reforms" PBS Newshour 9/19/2012


SUMMARY: Though significant steps have been taken, tensions remain between reform and hardline Burmese politicians. Margaret Warner talks to U.S. Campaign for Burma's Jennifer Quigley and Open Society Foundation's Maureen Aung-Thwin for more on what the U.S. role should be in encouraging Myanmar's path to greater democracy.

MARGARET WARNER (Newshour): Today, the Treasury Department removed Myanmar's president and house speaker from a list of individuals barred from doing business or owning property in the U.S.

I'm joined now by Burmese-born Maureen Aung-Thwin, who was taken off the Myanmar government's blacklist in the last few weeks. She directs the Open Society Institute's Burma Project.

And Jennifer Quigley, advocacy director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma. Both were at the congressional medal ceremony today.

CHICAGO - Schools Back in Session, Update

"Students of Chicago Public Schools Back in Class, Broader Reform Issues Remain" PBS Newshour 9/19/2012


SUMMARY: Chicago students head back to class as Chicago Public Schools and teachers unions compromise on the issues that led to a seven-day strike. Jeffrey Brown talks to American Enterprise Institute's Michael McShane and Stanford University's Linda Darling-Hammond for more on the broader education reform issues involved.

POLITICS - Bob Woodward on the Price of Politics

"Bob Woodward on 'The Price of Politics,' Fiscal Fight Over the Debt Ceiling" PBS Newshour 9/19/2012


SUMMARY: In summer 2011, a partisan Congress sparred with the White House on how to solve the U.S. debt crisis. Judy Woodruff talks to journalist Bob Woodward about his new book, "The Price of Politics," about how Washington's politicians couldn't look past their own political aspirations in order to forge a deal.

JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): ..... we turn from presidential politics to the related topic of partisan gridlock in Washington.

Yesterday, I sat down with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodruff He's written 17 books that look inside the White House, Congress, and other branches of American government.

He's back this month with "The Price of Politics," chronicling the failure of the president and congressional leaders last year to reach a grand bargain on how to attack the budget deficit and the debt.

ELECTION 2012 - Voters Highly Engaged

"U.S. Voters Are Highly Engaged: Pew Poll Suggests Big Turnout for 2012 Election" PBS Newshour 9/19/2012


GWEN IFILL (Newshour): The presidential candidates are in hand-to-hand combat. The polls are tight. But what's driving the voters?

President Obama appears to be leading for now, but a number of new polls out this week show it's about more than just the horse race. It's about leadership.

A Pew Research Center survey released today finds President Obama outpaces Mitt Romney 51 percent to 37 percent when voters are asked which candidate has good judgment in a crisis.

And even though voters still think the nation is on the wrong track, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows 42 percent of voters are optimistic the economy will improve next year. That's up six points in a single month and 15 points since July.

But the electorate remains divided.

According to Pew, 69 percent of Romney voters say they are angry at Mr. Obama; 49 percent of Obama voters say the same thing about Mr. Romney.

So what does this tell us about the mood of the electorate?

For that, we turn to Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center, and Mark Blumenthal, senior polling editor of Huffington Post.

HEALTH - Transplant Kidney System Flawed

"In Discarding of Kidneys, System Reveals Its Flaws" by KEVIN SACK, New York Times 9/19/2012


Last year, 4,720 people died while waiting for kidney transplants in the United States. And yet, as in each of the last five years, more than 2,600 kidneys were recovered from deceased donors and then discarded without being transplanted, government data show.

Those organs typically wound up in a research laboratory or medical waste incinerator.

In many instances, organs that seemed promising for transplant based on the age and health of the donor were discovered to have problems that made them not viable.

But many experts agree that a significant number of discarded kidneys — perhaps even half, some believe — could be transplanted if the system for allocating them better matched the right organ to the right recipient in the right amount of time.

The current process is made inefficient, they say, by an outdated computer matching program, stifling government oversight, the overreliance by doctors on inconclusive tests and even federal laws against age discrimination. The result is a system of medical rationing that arguably gives all candidates a fair shot at a transplant but that may not save as many lives as it could.

“There is no doubt that organs that can help somebody and have a survival benefit are being discarded every day,” said Dr. Dorry Segev, a transplant surgeon at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

For 25 years, the wait list for deceased donor kidneys — which stood at 93,413 on Wednesday — has remained stubbornly rooted in a federal policy that amounts largely to first come first served. As designed by the government’s Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, which is managed under federal contract by the nonprofit United Network for Organ Sharing, the system is considered simple and transparent. But many in the field argue that it wastes precious opportunities for transplants.

One recent computer simulation, by researchers with the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, projected that a redesigned system could add 10,000 years of life from just one year of transplants.

Currently, the country is divided into 58 donation districts. When a deceased donor kidney becomes available, the transplant network’s rules dictate that it is first offered to the compatible candidate within the district who has waited the longest. Additional priority is given to children, to candidates whose blood chemistry makes them particularly difficult to match and to those who are particularly well matched to the donor. If no taker is found locally, the electronic search expands to the region and eventually goes national.

The kidney matching system does not, however, consider the projected life expectancy of the recipient or the urgency of the transplant. By contrast, the systems for allocating livers, hearts and lungs have been revised to weigh those factors.

As a result, kidneys that might function for decades can be routed to elderly patients with only a few years to live. And when older, lower-quality kidneys become available, candidates atop the list and their doctors can simply turn them down and wait for better organs. If that happens too often, doctors say, a kidney can develop a self-fulfilling reputation as an unwanted organ.

Complicating matters is a race against the clock that starts as soon as a kidney is recovered and placed on ice for evaluation. Because kidneys start to degrade during this “cold ischemic time,” surgeons typically hope to transplant them within 24 to 36 hours.

But that short window can be devoured by testing, searches for a recipient and long drives or flights to transport the kidney. The organ procurement organization in each district is allowed to make offers to only a few hospitals at a time — usually three to five — and the hospitals have an hour to respond.

ELECTION 2012 - FactCheck Stump Speeches, Obama

"Obama’s Stump Speech" (Part 1 of 2) by Brooks Jackson, 9/19/2012


Presidential Campaign Puffery


It’s the oldest form of political communication. Before there was Twitter or Facebook, before there were 30-second television ads, or super PACs, or even radio or newspapers — there was the stump speech. Ancient Greek politicians spoke directly to citizens in the Agora in Athens 2,500 years ago; 19th-century American politicians stood on tree stumps to deliver their direct pitches to voters. And today’s politicians are still at it.

Day after day, sometimes several times a day, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney make their case directly to voters. Most of what they say doesn’t make the news, because they’ve said it before, over and over, and reporters are seeking whatever is new.

But voters should take a few minutes to pay attention. Each man is making his best case for why he deserves to be elected. Voters, however, should also beware. The claims candidates make don’t always square with the facts.

In this article, part one of a two-part series, we examine examples of Obama’s factually exaggerated or misleading claims from two of his recent campaign speeches. We’ll go through Romney’s stump speech at a later time.

There’s plenty here to criticize. Like any candidate, Obama is not pretending to give a detached or balanced picture to his audience. He’s making a sales pitch, leaving out or glossing over inconvenient facts, twisting others and sometimes stating things that aren’t so. To cite just a few examples:
  • Obama correctly states that manufacturing jobs have increased by more than half a million since hitting bottom, but he fails to mention that the number regained is less than half the total lost since he took office.
  • He claims that “renewable” energy production has doubled on his watch, which isn’t true (only wind and solar have doubled).
  • He claims he’d increase the tax rate on high-income earners to no more than they paid under Bill Clinton, when the truth is they’d pay more because of new taxes imposed to pay for the Affordable Care Act.
  • He says “independent analysis” validates that his plan would cut $4 trillion from the deficit. But that total is inflated by $1 trillion in “savings” from winding down wars that he has promised to end anyway.
  • He accuses Romney of proposing to raise taxes by $2,000 on middle-income taxpayers, when Romney has stated clearly that he wouldn’t do any such thing.
  • He attacks Romney’s plan for Medicare as a “voucher” system that would leave seniors “at the mercy of insurance companies,” when the fact is, it’s structured the same as the system Obama’s health care law sets up for subsidizing private insurance for persons under age 65.

There’s more — on automobile fuel efficiency, on imports and on exports. The president even complains of “all the cynicism that’s being fed to you through these negative ads,” as though his own campaign wasn’t spending 69 percent of its own millions on ads attacking Romney.

Full quotes — and our dissections of the misleading claims in the president’s current stump speech — are contained in the Analysis section that follows.

Note to readers: This is the first part of a two-part series examining the factual claims made by both major candidates. We will post our findings about Mitt Romney’s stump-speech claims in a subsequent Featured Article.

Full article includes analysis and sources list.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

KOFI ANNAN - History of Promoting Peace

"Kofi Annan on 40 Years Trying to End War, Promote Peace at the United Nations" PBS Newshour 9/18/2012


SUMMARY: Kofi Annan has worked for more than 40 years at the United Nations trying to bring the international community together to resolve conflict, suffering and violence. Jeff Brown talks to Annan about his work at the U.N., his role promoting peace in Syria and his new book, "Inventions: A Life in War and Peace."

ASIA - China vs Japan, Island Dispute

"On Anniversary of Japanese Invasion, Chinese Protest Fueled by Land Disputes" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 9/18/2012

GWEN IFILL (Newshour): And we turn now to Asia, where a land dispute has revived longstanding tensions between China and Japan.

Margaret Warner has more.

MARGARET WARNER (Newshour): Chinese police stood three rows deep today, keeping crowds of protesters at bay outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing.

The demonstrators brandished posters of Mao Zedong, founder of China's communist state. Others set Japanese flags aflame and lobbed eggs and plastic bottles.

Officially, the protest marked a 1931 incident that triggered Japan's invasion and occupation of China.

But the immediate spark was a land dispute in the here and now. It involves five uninhabited islands and three reefs in the East China Sea known as the Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan. The waters are rich in fishing grounds and promising oil and gas deposits and close to important shipping lanes as well.

Last week, Japan reignited the long-smoldering issue when it bought the islands from private Japanese owners. The Chinese responded by sending patrol ships into the waters around the islands, drawing objections from Tokyo.

SATOSHI MORIMOTO, Japanese defense minister (through translator): Well, there are no doubts that the Senkaku islands are an integral part of Japanese territorial land and international law.

So I deeply regret that the Chinese government vessels have intruded into Japan's territorial sea space.

MARGARET WARNER: Then, over the weekend, large protests erupted in Chinese cities, targeting Japanese embassies and businesses. In some places, they turned violent.

Major Japanese companies, including Toyota, Honda and Canon, temporary closed operations and urged their Japanese employees to stay indoors. Yesterday, the Chinese government moved to tamp down the demonstrations, stepping up police presence and announcing arrests.

But then reports surfaced of two more Japanese activists landing on one of the islands.

Chinese activists have done the same in the past month. And, today, Chinese media released images of more than 20 Chinese fishing vessels arriving at the islands, a move the foreign minister defended in Beijing.

HONG LEI, Chinese Foreign Ministry (through translator): China is no longer a victim of bullying. China will not see its territories violated.

The Japanese purchase of the islands will not get in its way. We urge them to take seriously the Chinese people's demand, correct the mistakes, stop their violations, and get back to the consensus with China and negotiate.

MARGARET WARNER: Amid the tensions, U.S. defense secretary Leon Panetta was in Japan yesterday and China today. In Japan, he urged caution on both sides.

DEFENSE SECRETARY LEON PANETTA: It's in everybody's interest, it is in everybody's interest for Japan and China to maintain good relations and to find a way to avoid further escalation.

MARGARET WARNER: Today, after meeting with Panetta, China's defense minister, General Liang Guanglie, refused to rule out any options in dealing with Japan.

GEN. LIANG GUANGLIE, Chinese defense minister (through translator): In the future, we will continue to follow very closely the evolvement of the situation with regards to this dispute. And we reserve the rights for further action. Of course, that being said, we still hope for a peaceful and negotiated solution to this issue.

MARGARET WARNER: Secretary Panetta continues his three-day visit to China tomorrow.

"National Pride is at Heart of China and Japan Dispute Over Islands" (Part-2) PBS Newshour 9/18/2012


SUMMARY: As Chinese protesters have been taking out frustrations on Japanese foreigners and businesses, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Douglas Paal and the Atlantic magazine's James Fallows discuss how the conflict between Japan and China is just as much about national pride as it is about potential natural resources.