Wednesday, August 31, 2016

ENVIRONMENT - EPA Poised to Expand Pollution

"California and EPA Poised to Expand Pollution of Potential Drinking Water Reserves" by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica 8/30/2016

As the western United States struggles with chronic water shortages and a changing climate, scientists are warning that if vast underground stores of fresh water that California and other states rely on are not carefully conserved, they too may soon run dry.

Heeding this warning, California passed new laws in late 2014 that for the first time require the state to account for its groundwater resources and measure how much water is being used.

Yet California's natural resources agency, with the oversight and consent of the federal government, also runs a shadow program that allows many of its aquifers to be pumped full of toxic waste.

Now the state — which relied on aquifers for at least 60 percent of its total water supply over the past three years — is taking steps to expand that program, possibly sacrificing portions of dozens more groundwater reserves.  In some cases, regulators are considering whether to legalize pollution already taking place at a number of sites, based on arguments that the water that will be lost was too dirty to drink or too difficult to access at an affordable price.  Officials also may allow the borders of some pollution areas to be extended, jeopardizing new, previously unspoiled parts of the state's water supply.

The proposed expansion would affect some of the parts of California hardest hit by drought, from the state's agriculturally rich central valley to wine country and oil-drilling fields along the Salinas River.  Some have questioned the wisdom of such moves in light of the state's long-term thirst for more water supplies.

“Once [the state] exempts the water, it's basically polluted forever.  It's a terrible idea,” said Maya Golden-Krasner, staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, which is suing California to force it to complete an environmental impact assessment of the proposed aquifer changes.  California, she said, is still offering breaks to its oil industry.  “We're at a precipice point where the state is going to have to prioritize water over an industry that isn't going to last.”

California is one of at least 23 states where so-called aquifer exemptions — exceptions to federal environmental law that allow mining or oil and gas companies to dump waste directly into drinking water reserves — have been issued.

Exemptions are granted by a U.S.  Environmental Protection Agency division that has had difficulties in record keeping and has been criticized for its controversial management of groundwater reserves.  A 2012 ProPublica investigation disclosed that the federal government had given energy and mining companies permission to pollute U.S.  aquifers in more than 1,000 locations, as part of an underground disposal program that allows toxic substances to be disposed of in nearly 700,000 waste wells across the country.

In many cases, the exact locations of the exemptions and the precise boundaries of areas where aquifer pollution was allowed had been left poorly defined, raising concerns that waste might reach adjacent drinking water.  Several states, including California, have since admitted they've allowed that to happen.

As droughts have worsened and aquifers have become more cherished, the implications of aquifer exemptions have become more serious, even as regulators have continued to issue these legal loopholes.

The federal Safe Drinking Water Act distinguishes between underground aquifers that are too salty or dirty to ever be used and those that are pure enough to drink from, defining the latter as an “underground source of drinking water.”  Protection of drinking water is required under the law, and any polluting of it through waste disposal, oil and gas production, or mining is a crime.  Companies, however, can file petitions to change how an aquifer is classified, arguing that it either has already been polluted or is too deep underground to likely be used.  Even if water is relatively clean, if the EPA approves a change in definition, an aquifer is no longer considered a “source of drinking water,” and is no longer protected.

Applications to exempt an aquifer are supposed to undergo extensive scientific scrutiny, and today they usually do.  But when the Safe Drinking Water Act was initially implemented, the federal government traded away much of that scrutiny as a compromise to win state and industry support for the new regulations.  The EPA granted blanket exemptions for large swaths of territory underlying California and Texas oil fields, for example, and did the same in other states with large energy and mining industries.  Documents from California, dating to 1981, estimate that at least 100 aquifers in the state's central valley were granted exemptions.

It's not always clear where the aquifers polluted under these early exemptions are located.  For decades, both state officials and the federal government have struggled just to identify the precise places where the permits they issued applied, and where pollutants were being injected into groundwater.  A spreadsheet listing thousands of exempted aquifer locations nationwide, provided to ProPublica in 2012 by the EPA in response to a Freedom of Information request, listed incomplete location coordinates for a majority of the exemptions, describing them merely by the county or township in which they are located .  When pressed for more information, an EPA official admitted that was all the information the agency had.

California's exemption records are only slightly more precise, and no less problematic.

Most of them appear to be best described in the appendices of a tattered 1981 document, yellowed with age.  (State officials suggested to ProPublica this week that other records exist but could not produce them.)  Overlying sections of a simple map of the state's vast central valley, hand-drawn boundaries are sketched over areas equivalent to thousands of acres and shaded in.  There are only vague descriptions like depth and name of the geologic formation, but nothing as precise as latitude and longitude coordinates, for the borders of the shaded areas.  “Unfortunately, what we do not have is an easy-to-use, enumerated list,” Don Drysdale, a spokesman for the California Department of Conservation, wrote to ProPublica in an email this week.  The state has never endeavored to measure the total volume of water it has allowed to be spoiled.

The waste being injected into exempted aquifers is often described as merely “salt water.” Indeed, only “non-hazardous” substances are supposed to be pumped into aquifers, even with exemptions.  But under concessions won by the oil industry and inserted into federal law, oilfield production waste — including chemicals known to cause cancer and fracking materials — are not legally considered “hazardous,” a term with a specific definition in federal environmental law.  According to the California Department of Conservation, which regulates the state's oil and gas industry, “drilling mud filtrate, naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM), slurrified crude-oil, saturated soils, and tank bottoms” are all allowed to be injected into aquifers as “non-hazardous” material.

Despite the substantial wiggle room granted by law, California has come under fire for not managing its roughly 52,000 waste wells properly.  In 2011, the EPA sharply criticized the state for keeping poor records, mismanaging its environmental reviews, and failing to follow federal law.  It suggested that the state's autonomy over its groundwater regulations could be revoked, and that the EPA would impose federal oversight.

To fend off that change, California launched its own review and, in 2014, began to uncover extraordinary lapses: Thanks to poor record keeping and confusion over which aquifers had been written off, the state found more than 2,000 wells were injecting toxins not into exempt areas, but directly into the state's drinking water aquifers.  In 140 cases wastewater was being put into the highest quality aquifers, raising concerns in the state capitol about the threat to public health.  California shut down some 56 waste wells last year until it could sort out the mess, and it passed improved regulations that will give the state's water agency a role in the approval process.  Still, it has allowed injection to continue until the end of this year in 11 drinking water aquifers that it has to reevaluate because neither the feds nor state officials are sure whether they exempted them in the 1980s.  The state is also allowing injection to continue until next February in other drinking water quality aquifers pending the approval of new aquifer exemptions that would extend that indefinitely.

Those 11 aquifers have been the focus of much of the state's renewed attention, but California still hasn't confirmed the borders of the hundreds of legacy exemptions in other aquifers that date back to the 1980s.  Without taking this step, the state's top water official said, there's no way to know how much clean water California still has.

“That's part of the whole point,” Felicia Marcus, chair of the California State Water Resources Control Board told ProPublica, “not injecting into aquifers that people are depending on now, but also to go back and make sure we were not too loose on it in the past.  Certainly the discovery of all these mistakes puts us on red alert.”

Now California — with Marcus' blessing — may fix the problem by expanding the boundaries of exempted areas rather than identifying and restricting them.

The Department of Conservation is poised to consider as many as 70 new aquifer exemptions, redrawing some to include areas where companies have been injecting waste illegally into drinking water.  In the state's central valley, where a substantial portion of the nation's fruits and nuts are grown using groundwater, three applications for aquifer exemptions around the Fruitvale, Round Mountain and Tejon oil fields — all in or near Bakersfield — are already undergoing state reviews that would precede approval by the EPA.

And in February the state submitted final plans to the EPA to exempt a new portion of the Arroyo Grande Aquifer in Paso Robles, allowing oil companies to inject waste or fluids to help in pumping out more oil.  In that case, Marcus and the state's Water Resources Control Board — the agency in charge of the quality of the state's water supply — say they agreed to allow the exemption because the aquifer was already of poor quality and would not be used in the future.  Marcus said she was convinced the contaminants injected there could not migrate underground in ways that would affect other, cleaner water sources nearby — that they would be sealed in by the geologic structure of the region.

Still, the areas California is writing off are surrounded by underground water reserves that get used every day.  An exemption might cover the water soaked up in one particular layer of rock, at a certain depth, even while wells extract water from aquifers above or below it.  And, according to Golden-Krasner, the state's assessment that pollution will remain confined is often dependent on an oil company maintaining a specific pressure underground, making the future of the clean water vulnerable to human error.

In our 2012 investigation, ProPublica found numerous cases in which waste defied the containment that regulators and their computer models had promised, and contamination spread.  In many instances, injection wells themselves punched holes in the earth's seal and leaked.  In others, faults and fissures in the earth moved in ways that allowed trapped fluids to migrate.  Several of the problems documented had occurred in California.

The area around Bakersfield affected by the majority of the new aquifer pollution applications is also home to one of the state's largest underground water storage facilities, the Kern Water Bank, relied on by California farmers.  It lies directly above at least one of the exempted aquifers and is pierced by dozens of oil wells.  The state's water board supports the exemptions, but their close proximity to drinking water could be reason to worry, acknowledges Jonathan Bishop, the chief deputy director of the Water Resources Control Board.

“Are we concerned that wells going through aquifers that have beneficial use be maintained and have high integrity?  Yeah,” Bishop said.  “They do go through drinking water aquifers in many locations, not just in Bakersfield.”

Opponents of the exemption program are infuriated by the fact that applications are evaluated on an isolated basis, without any consideration of the state's larger water supply issues.  The original criteria for aquifer exemptions set out in federal statute never contemplated that in California and plenty of others states, multiple exemptions could be granted in close proximity or that polluted areas could be sandwiched between clean water reserves.  Neither state nor federal codes call for any broader analysis of the cumulative risk.

“Their whole review is from the perspective of can we check the boxes on federal criteria and the state law,” said John Noel, who covers oil and gas issues for the environmental group Clean Water Action.  “Nobody is asking the question, if we exempt these five aquifers what is the long term supply impact?  How much water are we writing off?”

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

ELECTION THREAT - Russian Hack of Voting System

"FBI WARNS OF ELECTION HACK" by Ellen Nakashima, San Diego Union-Tribune 8/30/2016

NOTE: This is from the online edition of the newspaper, therefore no article link.

Agency alerted Arizona officials that Russians were behind assault on state’s voting system

The FBI is investigating a series of suspected foreign hacks of state election computer systems and websites, and has warned states to be on the alert for potential intrusions.

Hackers have targeted voter registration systems in Illinois and Arizona, and the FBI alerted Arizona officials in June that Russians were behind the assault on the system in that state.

The bureau described the threat as “credible” and significant, “an eight on a scale of one to 10,” Matt Roberts, a spokesman for Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan, said Monday.  As a result, Reagan shut down the state’s voter registration system for nearly a week.

It turned out that the hackers had not compromised the state system or even any county system.  They had, however, stolen the user name and password of a single elections official in Gila County.

Roberts said FBI investigators did not specify whether the hackers were criminals or employed by the Russian government.  Bureau officials on Monday declined to comment.

The Arizona incident is the latest indication of Russian interest in U.S. elections and party operations, and follows the discovery of a high profile penetration into Democratic National Committee computers.  That hack produced embarrassing emails that led to the resignation of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and sowed dissension on the eve of Hillary Clinton’s nomination as the party’s presidential candidate.

The Russian campaign is also sparking intense anxiety about the security of this year’s elections.  Earlier this month, the FBI warned state officials to be on the lookout for intrusions into their elections systems.  The “flash” alert, which was first reported by Yahoo News, said investigators had detected attempts to penetrate election systems in several states and listed internet protocol addresses and other technical fingerprints associated with the hacks.  In addition to Arizona, Illinois officials discovered an intrusion into their elections system in July.  Although the hackers did not alter any data, the intrusion marks the first successful compromise of a state voter registration database, federal officials said.

“This was a highly sophisticated attack most likely from a foreign (international) entity,” said Kyle Thomas, director of voting and registration systems for the Illinois State Board of Elections, in a message that was sent to all election authorities in the state.

The Illinois hackers were able to retrieve voter records, but the number accessed was “a fairly small percentage of the total,” said Ken Menzel, general counsel for the Illinois elections board.

State officials alerted the FBI, he said, and the Department of Homeland Security also was involved.  The intrusion in Illinois led to a week-long shutdown of the voter registration system.

The FBI has told Illinois officials that it is looking at foreign government agencies and criminal hackers as potential culprits, Menzel said.

At least two other states are looking into possible breaches, officials said.  Meanwhile, states across the nation are scrambling to ensure that their systems are secure.

Until now, countries such as Russia and China have shown little interest in voting systems in the United States.  But experts said that if a foreign government gained the ability to tamper with voter data — for instance by deleting registration records — such a hack could cast doubt on the legitimacy of U.S. elections.

“I’m less concerned about the attackers getting access to and downloading the information.  I’m more concerned about the information being altered, modified or deleted.  That’s where the real potential is for any sort of meddling in the election,” said Brian Kalkin, vice president of operations for the Center for Internet Security, which operates the MS-ISAC, a multistate information-sharing center that helps government agencies combat cyberthreats and works closely with federal law enforcement.

Nonetheless, the Senate minority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, asked the FBI Monday to investigate evidence suggesting that Russia may try to manipulate voting results.  In a letter to FBI Director James Comey, Reid wrote that the threat of Russian interference “is more extensive than is widely known and may include the intent to falsify official election results.” Recent classified briefings from senior intelligence officials, Reid said, have left him fearful that President Vladimir Putin’s “goal is tampering with this election.”

Reid argued that the connections between some of Donald Trump’s former and current advisers and the Russian leadership should, by itself, prompt an investigation.  He referred indirectly in his letter to a speech given in Russia by one Trump adviser, Carter Page, a consultant and investor in the energy giant Gazprom, who criticized U.S.  sanctions policy toward Russia.

“Trump and his people keep saying the election is rigged,” Reid said.  “Why is he saying that?  Because people are telling him the election can be messed with.”  Trump’s advisers say they are concerned that unnamed elites could rig the election for Clinton.  Reid argued that if Russia concentrated on “less than six” swing states, it could alter results and undermine confidence in the electoral system.  That would pose challenges, given that most states have paper backups, but he noted that hackers could keep people from voting by tampering with the rolls of eligible voters.

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, has told Congress that manipulation or deletion of data is the next big cyberthreat — “the next push on the envelope.”  Tom Hicks, chairman of the federal Election Assistance Commission, an agency set up by Congress after the 2000 Florida recount to maintain election integrity, said he is confident that states have sufficient safeguards in place to ward off attempts to manipulate data.  For example, if a voter’s name were deleted and did not show up on the precinct list, the individual could still cast a provisional ballot, Hicks said.  Once the voter’s status was confirmed, the ballot would be counted.

Hicks also said the actual systems used to cast votes “are not hooked up to the internet” and so “there’s not going to be any manipulation of data.”  However, more than 30 states have some provisions for online voting, primarily for voters living overseas or serving in the military.

This spring, a DHS official cautioned that online voting is not yet secure.

“We believe that online voting, especially online voting in large scale, introduces great risk into the election system by threatening voters’ expectations of confidentiality, accountability and security of their votes and provides an avenue for malicious actors to manipulate the voting results,” said Neil Jenkins, an official in the department’s Office of Cybersecurity and Communications.

Private-sector researchers are also concerned about potential meddling by Russians in the U.S. elections system.  Rich Barger, chief information officer at ThreatConnect, said that several of the IP addresses listed in the FBI alert trace back to a website-hosting service called King Servers that offers Russia-based technical support.  Barger also said that one of the methods used was similar to a tactic employed in other intrusions suspected of being carried out by the Russian government, including one this month on the World Anti-Doping Agency.

“The very fact that (someone) has rattled the doorknobs, the very fact that the state election commissions are in the cross hairs, gives grounds to the average American voter to wonder: Can they really trust the results?” Barger said.

Nakashima writes for The Washington Post.  The New York Times contributed to this report.

Monday, August 29, 2016

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 8/26/2016

"Shields and Brooks on the alt-right and a general lack of trust in Clinton" PBS NewsHour 8/26/2016


SUMMARY:  In the presidential election arena this week, the two major-party candidates called each other racists, and questions arose over Donald Trump's support among alt-right enthusiasts.  As for Hillary Clinton, she seems to be focusing on casting herself as the lesser-of-two-evils option.  For analysis, we turn to syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.


"100 years later, National Park Service lands still grant us ‘breathing space'" PBS NewsHour 8/25/2016


SUMMARY:  One hundred years ago today, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act, creating the National Park Service.  To reflect, Jeffrey Brown takes his Bookshelf segment outdoors to Virginia's Great Falls Park.  He's joined by Terry Tempest Williams to discuss her new book, which narrates the stories of America's "sacred lands," the power they offer visitors and the challenges of maintaining them.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  It was a hundred years ago today that President Woodrow Wilson signed what was called the Organic Act, creating the National Park Service.

Jeffrey Brown takes our Bookshelf outdoors.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  Terry Tempest Williams, author, naturalist and environmental activist, grew up in Utah surrounded by national parks.

TERRY TEMPEST WILLIAMS, Author, “The Hour of Land”:  They were our backyard.  And with our family business, laying pipe in the American West, it was this wonderful juxtaposition between intrusion in the land and protected land.

JEFFREY BROWN:  The story of the land, right?

TERRY TEMPEST WILLIAMS:  So, I feel like the American West is in my bones in the deepest way.  And I also felt conflicted at a really young age, because I saw my father, my uncle, my grandfather, my brothers digging trenches in the land.

And yet I saw prairie dogs on the side of the trenches.  And my impulse was to protect them from the very destruction that was putting food around our table..

JEFFREY BROWN:  One hundred years since the creation of the National Park Service, the contradictions and controversies over America's public lands continue.

But there is no denying the popularity of the parks themselves, Great Smoky Mountains in the East, Yosemite in the West, Yellowstone, the oldest park, established in 1872, and so many more, large and small, natural landscapes and historic monuments, some 412 parks and sites in all.

And attendance records continue to be broken, with more than 300 million visits last year.  In “The Hour of Land,” a Terry Tempest Williams, who still lives in Utah, has written part natural history, part memoir, part call for preservation.

We talked at Great Falls Park, a small, but dramatically beautiful National Park Service site just 15 miles from Washington, D.C., with the Potomac River crashing over and through rock formations and turkey vultures hovering overhead.

So, what happens to you when you go out into a park?


JEFFREY BROWN:  The miraculous?  Nothing less than that, huh?

TERRY TEMPEST WILLIAMS:  I mean superlatives.  This is about superlatives.

Just seeing this, all of a sudden, you say, OK, I remember what matters, and I am very, very small.  And, you know, humor returns, deep breathing returns, and that sense of affection.

"National parks explorer urges Americans to ‘get out there and see’ them" PBS NewsHour 8/26/2016


SUMMARY:  Last June, Darius Nabors embarked upon a journey: in honor of the National Park Service's 100th birthday, he would explore the country’s 59 national parks in 59 weeks.  “I traded the modern conveniences of life...for beautiful sunrises, beautiful sunsets and just beautiful views of our country,” he says.  We followed up with him as he set out for his last destination: Maine’s Acadia National Park.

VOTE 2016 - The Ultra Alt-Right

aka 'The Nazi Want-to-Be Followers of the Trump-the-Bully'

"Why the ‘alt-right' is coming out of online chat rooms to support Trump" PBS NewsHour 8/25/2016


SUMMARY:  Donald Trump is appealing to voters who reject mainstream conservative ideals.  These members of the so-called "alt-right" have typically taken their frustrations to the internet, rather than to the polls.  John Yang interviews the Washington Free Beacon's Matthew Continetti and The Washington Post's David Weigel about the alt-right's "hierarchical" tendencies and potential impact on conservatism.

JOHN YANG (NewsHour):  Today, Hillary Clinton debuted a fresh line of attack against Donald Trump.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), Presidential Nominee:  That is what I want to make clear today.  A man with a long history of racial discrimination, who traffics in dark conspiracy theories drawn from the pages of supermarket tabloids and the far, dark reaches of the Internet, should never run our government or command our military.


JOHN YANG:  This comes a little more than a week after Trump made Steve Bannon his campaign's CEO.

Bannon is on leave from his job as executive chairman of Breitbart News, a Web site Bannon has called a platform for something called the alt-right.  It's a movement that lives largely online, rejects mainstream conservative politics, and is linked to nationalist and white supremacist sentiments.

Clinton said Trump has echoed alt-right rhetoric.

HILLARY CLINTON:  All of this adds up to something we have never seen before.  Now, of course, there's always been a paranoid fringe in our politics, a lot of arising from racial resentment.  But it's never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it, and giving it a national megaphone, until now.

JOHN YANG:  Clinton's campaign backed up their candidate's message online with this new video that includes a Ku Klux Klan member expressing support for Trump.

MAN:  Donald Trump would be best for the job.

QUESTION:  For President?

MAN:  Yes.

MAN:  I am a farmer and white nationalist.  Support Donald Trump.

BRIEF BUT SPECTACULAR - Dr.  Danielle Sheypuk

"A psychologist on 'making disability sexy'" PBS NewsHour 8/25/2016


SUMMARY:  Dr. Danielle Sheypuk is attempting to derail the stigma around sex and people with physical disabilities.  Born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2, Sheypuk knows what it's like to have a disability -- and a sex life.  But she worries that popular culture tends to show only able-bodied individuals having sex in traditional ways.  This is her Brief but Spectacular take on how “anything can be sexy.”

WAR ON ISIS - Combined Operations in Syria

"Turkish, U.S.  forces launch operation in Syria; Biden calls for Kurds to halt advances" PBS NewsHour 8/24/2016


SUMMARY:  Backed by U.S. forces, the Turkish military has launched a major operation inside Syria, sending warplanes and ground troops to retake territory held by the Islamic State.  Vice President Joe Biden also called upon Kurdish rebels in the area to stop advances into Turkey, saying they would not receive U.S. support otherwise.  Judy Woodruff speaks with the Atlantic Council's Aaron Stein for more.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Turkish military forces launched a major operation inside Syria today to retake the strategic border town of Jarabulus from ISIS.

Turkish and American jets attacked from above, as Turkish tanks and special forces moved into the town.  Syrian rebel groups were also part of the operation.

Beyond ousting ISIS from the area, Turkey has another motive for attacking on Jarabulus, to stem the ambitions of the main U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish Militia, known as the YPG, which has been taking over territory from ISIS.

Vice President Biden was visiting Turkey today, and he called upon the Kurds to limit their advances.

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN:  We have made it absolutely clear to the elements that were part of the Syrian democratic forces, the YPG that participated, that they must move back across the river.  They cannot, will not and under no circumstances get American support if they do not keep that commitment, period.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  We examine the significance of all of this now with Aaron Stein.  He's a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

Aaron Stein, thank you for being here.

AARON STEIN, Atlantic Council:  Thank you for having me.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, what is the significance of this incursion across the border into Syria?

AARON STEIN:  I think the biggest one is, it denies ISIS one of its last major crossing points across the Turkish-Syrian border.

Jarabulus has historically been a place where they have moved men and material across.  So, by Turkey moving in alongside of its host of Arab groups, ISIS loses territory along its border, ISIS goes weaker.  And this is a good thing for the U.S.  and Turkey.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  But if it hadn't been for this move, it's possible that the Syrian Kurds would have been in that territory sooner or later, is that not right?

AARON STEIN:  Yes, I think that's the issue here, is that the United States is having to thread a very fine needle.  It's having to thread the needle very finely here.

But it has to, one, prosecute the war against ISIS, where the Syrian Kurds have become the most prominent ground force and the one capable of taking the most territory, while managing ties with a NATO ally who is very wary of the Syrian Kurds moving up to its border.

INSIDE LOOK - The Clinton Foundation

"A glimpse inside operations at the Clinton Foundation" PBS NewsHour 8/24/2016

aka 'Clinton Foundation, Guilt by association'


SUMMARY:  The Clinton Foundation has been subject to increasing scrutiny in the presidential race, as its funding and Hillary Clinton's role as secretary of state appear ever more intertwined.  Clinton vowed this week to change donor restrictions if she wins.  Hari Sreenivasan speaks with James V. Grimaldi of the Wall Street Journal, Columbia University's Doug White, and foundation president Donna Shalala.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Now to the 2016 presidential race, and the growing scrutiny over Bill and Hillary Clinton's namesake foundation.

DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee:  It's impossible to tell where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  That was Republican nominee Donald Trump (aka Bully Trump) today in Tampa, Florida.

The Clinton Foundation, a nonprofit, was started back in 1997, and in less than two decades, has grown into a philanthropic giant.  In 2014, the foundation took in $338 million and had $250 million in expenses, geared toward improving global access to AIDS drugs, speaking out on women's rights, and more.

But some of the countries that contribute to the Clinton Foundation struggle with human rights issues of their own, like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Kuwait.

And a recent Associated Press analysis found that about half of the 150 people from outside government who met with, or spoke by phone with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state either donated or pledged donations to the Clinton Foundation.

This morning, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook responded.

ROBBY MOOK, Clinton Campaign Manager:  By our count, there were 1,700 other meetings that she had.  You know, she was secretary of state.  She was meeting with foreign officials and government officials constantly.  So, to pull all of them out of the equation, cherry-pick a very small number of meetings, is pretty outrageous.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  And in a statement posted on Monday, Bill Clinton said that, if Hillary is elected, the foundation would — quote — “accept contributions only from U.S. citizens, permanent residents and U.S.-based independent foundations, and not foreign or corporate entities.”  He also said he would step down from its board, and stop fund-raising for it.

DONALD TRUMP:  The amounts involved, the favors done, and the significant number of times it was done require an expedited investigation by a special prosecutor immediately, immediately, immediately.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Still, the Republican ticket has seized on the Clinton Foundation as a line of attack in recent days.

But as Trump's campaign stop today made clear, the questions swirling around the philanthropic group could keep on swirling as the campaign moves into the final stretch.

We dig into the details now, with Doug White, former director of Columbia University's graduate fund-raising management program, and an adviser to nonprofit groups and philanthropists, and James Grimaldi, investigative reporter for The Wall Street Journal.

Doug White, let me start with you.  What's the core critique of how the foundation operates?

DOUG WHITE, Former Director, Columbia University Fundraising Management:  Well, right now, the core critique should be what its mission is accomplishing around the world.  We don't know the specifics on that, but they are doing a lot of good work around the world, from my estimation.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  And so is there an appearance of impropriety or a conflict of interest in how the foundation works or whether or not it increased access to Secretary of State Clinton?

DOUG WHITE:  There is most definitely an appearance of impropriety.  There's no question about that at all.

My concern is what kind of influence prior to now that has been into Secretary Clinton's office, and then, as — if she becomes President, what will the influence be then?

I don't want to have a President who is that enhanced by the donors of other — by another charity, so that when we have questions that are dealing with the issue of international relationships, we have to separate that from what a foundation is all about.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  James Grimaldi, what are the meetings that Secretary of State Clinton took that are raising these concerns?

JAMES GRIMALDI, The Wall Street Journal:  Well, there was a recent Associated Press report that analyzed the calendars of Secretary Clinton.

And they looked at all the private meetings for the first half of her tenure at the State Department, because that's all that's been released under the lawsuit they have under the Freedom of Information Act.  There were 145 meetings, and about 85, I believe, of those meetings were with Clinton Foundation donors.

So, that raised the question about whether those meetings meant that if you paid money to the donation or gave some sort of gift that you were going to get expedited treatment at the State Department.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Even if this is a limited cross-section of all the meetings that she took, is there evidence or are there issues where she advocated on behalf of companies that might have contributed to the foundation?

JAMES GRIMALDI:  Yes, so I took a look at that question.

We broke down all of the donors for the Clinton Foundation.  We categorized them by size.  And then we looked at the largest corporation.  Of those corporations, we then compared them with lobbying records that are filed with the United States Congress.

When we did that, we found that 60 corporations that were lobbying the State Department while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state had given $26 million to the Clinton Foundation.  In addition, they had participated in commitments, they call them, charitable projects, with the Clinton Foundation, valued by the foundation at more than $2 billion.

Those are sort of big numbers in terms of that.  The billions didn't go to the Clinton Foundation.  They went to charities and charitable activities, but the Clinton Foundation rightly takes some credit for those.

So the question is, when these favors that Hillary is doing for certain companies or these companies are seeking favors from Secretary Clinton, were they giving because they were hoping she was going to help them out?

Now, in certain cases, we know that she actually did help certain companies out.  But, in those cases, they were probably for logical, rational reasons any secretary of state, for example, lobbying the Russians to buy jets from Boeing, lobbying Algeria to buy $2 billion worth of generators from General Electric.

But we also know that both of those companies, as well as others like Microsoft, Wal-Mart who had asked for favors and gotten them, also had given gifts to the Clinton Foundation, either before, during or after those favors were performed by Secretary Clinton.

TOO MUCH INFO - WikiLeaks Becomes a Danger to Personal Privacy

"Why is WikiLeaks publishing private individuals' personal information?" PBS NewsHour 8/23/2016


SUMMARY:  WikiLeaks has revealed classified information to the public for over a decade.  A new Associated Press report found that the website has also published personal details about private citizens, including the names of two teenage rape victims and a Saudi citizen arrested for being gay.  Some of the leaks have the potential to endanger lives.  William Brangham speaks with AP's Raphael Satter for more.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  For a decade, the anti-secrecy Web site WikiLeaks has published online millions of original documents and other material — leaks that have exposed the inner workings of the National Security Agency, the U.S. military and State Department, the Saudi government and, most recently, the Democratic National Committee.

But a new report by the Associated Press says that many private individuals are caught up in the disclosures.

William Brangham has more.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  The AP went through a sampling of the tens of thousands of documents WikiLeaks released in the last year, and found many personal details about private citizens, Social Security numbers, medical files, sensitive family and financial information.

In what the AP calls particularly egregious, WikiLeaks published the names of two teenage rape victims, as well as the name of a Saudi citizen who'd been arrested for being gay.  That revelation could endanger the man's life because, in Saudi Arabia, being gay is punishable by death.

Joining me now from Paris is Raphael Satter, one of the AP reporters who wrote this story.

Raphael, thanks for being here.

I wonder if you could tell us, what made you, first off, want to do this deep dive into WikiLeaks in the first place?

RAPHAEL SATTER, Associated Press:  I covered the Saudi files released back in 2015, and there was an enormous amount of newsworthy information in there.

But as we were going through the files with my colleague Maggie, who co-wrote today's story, we noticed that there was a lot of irrelevant information in there, too, including a few medical files.  Now, at the time, we sort of shrugged it off.  We thought, well, maybe there are a couple of stray files in there.

But we flagged it for further research.  And, finally, this year, we have gone back and done some digging.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  We mentioned that there was the mention of the Saudi man who had been arrested for homosexuality.  What sorts of other things did you find in this — in these documents?

RAPHAEL SATTER:  We found all kinds of things.

If it's personal or sensitive or family-related, we found it.  So, we found details of custody battles.  We found parents writing to authorities about missing children.  We found details of elopements, of divorces, of partners who had sexually transmitted diseases, partners who had AIDS, people who were in debt, in distress, in all kinds of financial difficulty, and, of course, some of the cases that you mentioned earlier, that is to say, people who were raped, including children who were raped.

STONE COLD - CO2 to Rock

"To combat climate change, these scientists are turning CO2 into rock" PBS NewsHour 8/23/2016


SUMMARY:  Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a major contributor to global warming.  But what if there were a way to turn that gas into rock and store it safely, thousands of feet underground?  One power plant in Iceland is attempting to do just that, through a process called “Carbfix.”  Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports, in the first of his “Breakthrough” series.

MALCOLM BRABANT, Special correspondent:  I'm standing about 1,000 feet up a volcano that last erupted about 2,000 years ago.  The temperature underground here is about 620 degrees Fahrenheit.  According to geologists, this volcano could blow at any time.  But that could be any time within the next 1,000 years.

The process of turning carbon dioxide into rock is happening about 6,000 feet below my feet silently.  But up here, you can really sense the visceral power of Mother Nature.  The only sensation I can compare it to is being rather close to the launch of a space shuttle.

WOMAN:  This is Hellisheidi geothermal power plant.  The thermal energy is transported towards Reykjavik, where we heat our houses and take showers and so forth.

EDDA ARADOTTIR, CarbFix Project Director:  So, as a byproduct of the ongoing energy production, geothermal gases like CO2 are emitted to the atmosphere.  But we have been working towards reducing these emissions, capturing them and reinjecting them into the ground and turning them into rock.

MALCOLM BRABANT:  The techniques pioneered here are said to be safer than the alternative of storing CO2 as a gas underground, with its expense and potential for leaks.

Under the right conditions, nature takes hundreds of years to transform CO2 into stone.  What the scientists have done is to accelerate the process exponentially.

EDDA ARADOTTIR:  This represents methods that can be used for fighting global warming and climate change.  And to that respect, it's a powerful box.

So, this is calcium carbonate.  And this is what the CO2 injected into the basalt turns into after the chemical reactions have occurred.  This one is not representative of what we would see if we were to drill a core or dig a hole into the bedrock where we are injecting the CO2.  Rather, we would see something like this, where we have the calcium carbonate in smaller particles.

ESSAY - Author Peggy Orenstein

"Why we should be thinking of sexual intimacy in terms of pizza" PBS NewsHour 8/23/2016


SUMMARY:  In her new book “Girls & Sex,” Peggy Orenstein suggests that we re-think sexual intimacy, in both education and our everyday lives.  While she acknowledges the importance of the national debate on campus sexual assault, Orenstein also urges us to broaden our definition of "sex" and talk candidly about what happens after consent -- arguing that if we don't guide our teenagers, pop culture will.

TRANS IN AMERICA - Update on Texas Ruling

"How a legal ruling on transgender bathroom access affects schools" PBS NewsHour 8/22/2016

NOTE:  Many business, like Starbucks, already have 'any gender' restrooms.  This allows more efficient use because it gives two restrooms that anyone can use because they are just alike and lock behind the user.  No more waiting if only one restroom is in use, like you can have if there's men's and women's restrooms.  So why cannot schools do the same?  Are we stuck with outdated idea on design?  Just make a shower + restroom an individual unit that locks behind the user, therefore are non-gender specific.  Lockers would be in the only 'public' area.


SUMMARY:  Just in time for the start of school, a federal judge in Texas has blocked the Obama administration's directive regarding transgender bathrooms and locker rooms.  That rule said that students should be able to choose the facilities that match their gender identity.  William Brangham talks with Education Week's Evie Blad about how schools are responding.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  This ruling is the second setback in recent weeks for transgender advocates.  Earlier this month, the Supreme Court said a Virginia school board could block a transgender student from using the boys bathroom while the higher court decides if it will take up these broader case.

Yesterday's decision is the first to say that the Obama administration's directive could be blocked nationwide.  Those directives instructed school districts to allow trans students to use the bathroom of their choice.  Texas is one of 13 states challenging the constitutionality of the directive.

In this case, the judge wrote that the administration had exceeded its authority under Title IX, the 1970s-era law banning sex discrimination in schools.

To help us wade through the meaning of all this, I'm joined now by Evie Blad, who is the Education Week reporter who's been covering this story.

So, Evie, what does this ruling say, and how significant is this?

EVIE BLAD, Education Week:  It's very significant, in that it's the first time we have heard a federal court weigh in on a nationwide basis.

There are several cases winding their way through the federal courts now, but the only one that has had a ruling so far applied only in one circuit.  And it's significant, in that the school year is about to start, and this judge is saying, nationwide, that the Obama administration's regulations under Title IX, its civil rights guidance, doesn't need to be implemented.

So what that means is if a school doesn't want to create a policy allowing transgender students to use the rest room of their choice, it doesn't have to.  But if a school has a policy that it wants to have, it can keep that policy.  It just doesn't have a federal directive to do so.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  So, Texas was one of a bunch of states that had objection to these rules.  What is the essence of their objection?

EVIE BLAD:  Well, there are two primary things that you will see in these lawsuits.

One is something that we're all familiar with, which is the argument that folks are making about privacy rights of students.  Does my student or my child who isn't transgender have a right to use a restroom that doesn't have transgender students in it?

CULTURE AT RISK - ICC at The Hague, Prosecutes Cultural Vandalism

"International Criminal Court brings a cultural vandal to justice" PBS NewsHour 8/22/2016


SUMMARY:  Four years ago, 16 holy tombs in Timbuktu, dating back to the 14th century, were demolished in an attack by Islamic militants.  In the first-ever war crimes trial for cultural destruction, one of the men involved admitted his guilt and voiced regret at the International Criminal Court.  Jeffrey Brown talks with DePaul University's Patty Gerstenblith for more on the challenges of prosecuting these crimes.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  It's a first for the International Criminal Court at The Hague, a trial dealing with the destruction of cultural heritage.

It's over the deliberate wrecking in 2012 of historic earthen buildings and religious shrines in the West African nation of Mali.

Jeffrey Brown has the story.  It's part of our ongoing series Culture at Risk.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  Sixty holy tombs dating back to the 14th century, all reduced to rubble in a wave of violence unleashed on Timbuktu by Islamist militants four years ago.

Today, one of those responsible stood in front of the International Criminal Court and admitted his guilt.

AHMAD AL-FAQI AL-MAHDI, Former Islamist militant (through translator):  I regret all the damage that my actions have caused.  I regret what I have caused to my family, my community in Timbuktu, what I have caused my home nation, Mali.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Prosecutors say Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi directed the destruction of nine mausoleums and damage to a mosque.  He'd been recruited to lead a vice squad by a group of Islamist rebels, affiliated with al-Qaida, who seized control of Northern Mali in 2012.

AHMAD AL-FAQI AL-MAHDI (through translator):  I was influenced by a group of deviant people from al-Qaida, and they were able to influence me, to carry me in their evil wave, through actions that affected the whole population.

JEFFREY BROWN:  The rebels were eventually driven out by French troops in 2013.  The heaps of rubble they left behind have since mostly been rebuilt with help from UNESCO.

In recent years, cultural relics across Northern Africa and the Mideast have been targeted by militant groups, most dramatically by the Islamic State at sites including the ancient cities of Palmyra, Syria, and Nimrud in Iraq.  Unlike Mali, those countries are not subject to the jurisdiction of the ICC.

Mahdi, who, in the plea bargain faces 11 years in prison, today called for an end to such acts.

AHMAD AL-FAQI AL-MAHDI (through translator):  I would like to give a piece of advice to Muslims all over the world, not to get involved in the same acts I got involved in, because they are not going to lead to any good to humanity.

ENDING HUNGER - Daniel's Table

"Meet the couple on a mission to end hunger in their town" PBS NewsHour 8/22/2016


SUMMARY:  The idea started at David and Alicia Blais' dinner table: what if they could end hunger in their town?  Their traveling trailer delivers meals to 200-300 people a night, motivated by the memory of their son, Daniel.  Special correspondent Tina Martin of WGBH reports from Framingham, Massachusetts.

NATO & EU - Russia's False Stories

"EXPERTS: RUSSIA PUSHES FALSE STORIES" by Neil MacFarquhar, San Diego Union-Tribune 8/29/2016

NOTE:  This is from the online edition of the newspaper, so no link to article.

They say Kremlin relies on disinformation to sow discord in U.S., Europe

With a vigorous national debate under way on whether Sweden should enter a military partnership with NATO, officials in Stockholm suddenly encountered an unsettling problem: a flood of distorted and outright false information on social media, confusing public perceptions of the issue.  The claims were alarming: If Sweden, a non-NATO member, signed the deal, the alliance would stockpile secret nuclear weapons on Swedish soil; NATO could attack Russia from Sweden without government approval; NATO soldiers, immune from prosecution, could rape Swedish women without fear of criminal charges.

They were all false, but the disinformation had begun spilling into the traditional news media, and as the defense minister, Peter Hultqvist, traveled the country to promote the pact in speeches and town hall meetings, he was repeatedly grilled about the bogus stories.

“People were not used to it, and they got scared, asking what can be believed, what should be believed?” said Marinette Nyh Radebo, Hultqvist's spokeswoman.

As often happens in such cases, Swedish officials were never able to pin down the source of the false reports.  But numerous analysts and experts in U.S. and European intelligence point to Russia as the prime suspect, noting that preventing NATO expansion is a centerpiece of the foreign policy of President Vladimir Putin, who invaded Georgia in 2008 largely to forestall that possibility.

In Crimea, eastern Ukraine and now Syria, Putin has flaunted a modernized and more muscular military.  But he lacks the economic strength and overall might to openly confront NATO, the European Union or the United States.  Instead, he has invested heavily in a program of “weaponized” information, using a variety of means to sow doubt and division.  The goal is to weaken cohesion among member states, stir discord in their domestic politics and blunt opposition to Russia.

“Moscow views world affairs as a system of special operations, and very sincerely believes that it itself is an object of Western special operations,” said Gleb Pavlovsky, who helped establish the Kremlin's information machine before 2008.  “I am sure that there are a lot of centers, some linked to the state, that are involved in inventing these kinds of fake stories.”

The planting of false stories is nothing new; the Soviet Union devoted considerable resources to that during the ideological battles of the Cold War.  Now, though, disinformation is regarded as an important aspect of Russian military doctrine, and it is being directed at political debates in target countries with far greater sophistication and volume than in the past.  The flow of misleading and inaccurate stories is so strong that NATO and the EU have established special offices to identify and refute disinformation, particularly claims emanating from Russia.

The Kremlin's clandestine methods have surfaced in the United States, too, U.S. officials say, identifying Russian intelligence as the likely source of leaked Democratic National Committee emails that embarrassed Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.  The Kremlin uses both conventional media— Sputnik, a news agency, and RT, a television outlet — and covert channels, as in Sweden, that are almost always untraceable.  Russia exploits both approaches in a comprehensive assault, Wilhelm Urme, a spokesman for the Swedish Security Service, said this year when presenting the agency's annual report.  “We mean everything from internet trolls to propaganda and misinformation spread by media companies like RT and Sputnik,” he said.

The fundamental purpose of dezinformatsiya, or Russian disinformation, experts said, is to undermine the official version of events — even the very idea that there is a true version of events— and foster a kind of policy paralysis.

Moscow adamantly denies using disinformation to influence Western public opinion and tends to label accusations of either overt or covert threats as “Russophobia.”

“There is an impression that, like in a good orchestra, many Western countries every day accuse Russia of threatening someone,” Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said at a recent ministry briefing.

Tracing individual strands of disinformation is difficult, but in Sweden and elsewhere, experts have detected a characteristic pattern that they tie to Kremlingenerated disinformation campaigns.  “The dynamic is always the same: It originates somewhere in Russia, on Russia state media sites, or different websites or somewhere in that kind of context,” said Anders Lindberg, a Swedish journalist and lawyer.

“Then the fake document becomes the source of a news story distributed on far-left or far-right-wing websites,” he said.  “Those who rely on those sites for news link to the story, and it spreads.  Nobody can say where they come from, but they end up as key issues in a security policy decision.”

Although the topics may vary, the goal is the same, Lindberg and others suggested.  “What the Russians are doing is building narratives; they are not building facts,” he said.  “The underlying narrative is, ‘Don't trust anyone.'”  The weaponization of information is not some project devised by a Kremlin policy expert but is an integral part of Russian military doctrine — what some senior military figures call a “decisive” battlefront.

“The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness,” Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff of the Russian Armed Forces, wrote in 2013.  A prime Kremlin target is Europe, where the rise of the populist right and declining support for the EU create an ever more receptive audience for Russia's conservative, nationalistic and authoritarian approach under Putin.  Last year, the European Parliament accused Russia of “financing radical and extremist parties” in its member states, and in 2014 the Kremlin extended an $11.7 million loan to the National Front, the extreme right party in France.

“The Russians are very good at courting everyone who has a grudge with liberal democracy, and that goes from extreme right to extreme left,” said Patrik Oksanen, an editorial writer for the Swedish newspaper group MittMedia.  The central idea, he said, is that “liberal democracy is corrupt, inefficient, chaotic and, ultimately, not democratic.”

Another message, largely unstated, is that European governments lack the competence to deal with the crises they face, particularly immigration and terrorism, and that their officials are all U.S. puppets.

MacFarquhar writes for The New York Times.

WESTWORLD - Gets an Upgrade

1973 starring Yul Brynner

HBO's 2016 Westworld series by Michael Crichton
Starring Anthony Hopkins

Monday, August 22, 2016

OPINION - Shields and Rubin 8/19/2016

"Shields and Rubin on Trump's staff shift and Clinton's ‘self-inflicted' damage" PBS NewsHour 8/19/2016


SUMMARY:  This week, the Trump campaign underwent possibly its biggest overhaul yet -- the candidate made major staffing changes and publicly said he regrets some past comments.  Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is excelling in the polls, but her emails and foundation still haunt her.  For the political scoop, Judy Woodruff speaks with syndicated columnist Mark Shields and The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  It's Friday, and so we turn to politics, and the analysis of Shields and Rubin.  That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Jennifer Rubin, the opinion writer for The Washington Post.  David Brooks is away this week.

We welcome you.


JUDY WOODRUFF:  And good to have you back, Mark.

MARK SHIELDS, syndicated columnist:  Good to be here.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, let's talk about this upheaval in the Trump campaign, phases one and two.  We have a new — Mark, a new campaign manager.  We have Paul Manafort out after some stories about his work in Ukraine.

We know that one of the new folks coming in is from Breitbart News, Stephen Bannon.  What do we make of all this?

MARK SHIELDS:  Well, first of all, Judy, every campaign is ultimately, inevitably a mirror reflection of the candidate.

The criminality and paranoia of the Nixon campaign began with Richard Nixon.  The discipline and, I would say, the insularity of Jimmy Carter's campaign began with Jimmy Carter.

And I think that's true of every campaign.

This is a year unlike any year, when voters are so angry with Washington.  They think Washington is awash in money, that money buys influence, buys access, puts the fix in.

So, what does — Donald Trump, who has an advantage over Hillary Clinton of 3-1 on someone who would change Washington, he hires the ultimate insider, the guy who gets, according to reports, various reports, got $12 million in cash for representing the pro-Russian, pro-Putin interests and parties in Ukraine.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  This is Manafort.

MARK SHIELDS:  Paul Manafort, the ultimate insider.  So, now Paul Manafort is gone, amidst charges that this is just Washington as usual, the worst kind.

And who does he bring in?  He brings in Stephen Bannon, who's never run a campaign before, who has done a good job of running a Web site.  It's been very successful.  And he lines himself up with Roger Ailes, Roger Ailes, the recently deposed chief of FOX News, the bete noire of every liberal in the country, many of whom are sort of lukewarm toward Hillary Clinton, and who has just left amidst a flurry of serious allegations about sexual harassment of women and misconduct.

So, I don't know.  I mean, it just — if personnel is policy, these self-inflicted wounds on the part of Trump are just, if not mortal, they're seriously damaging.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  How do you see all this, Jennifer?

JENNIFER RUBIN, The Washington Post:  Well, I think several strands of the campaign came together all at once.

One is this very odd relationship, maybe not even relationship, that Donald Trump has with Vladimir Putin and the number of advisers around him who are overtly pro-Russian, who have made money in Russia.  So, that's one strand.

The next strand is, there is no campaign.  As you were saying, there is no one really running the store.  There is something more to a campaign than the candidate showing up and giving a speech.  There's ad buys, there's ground game, there's all sorts of elements.

And I see none of that.  And, apparently, Mr.  Manafort didn't do that.  Maybe he tried and Donald didn't let him.  Maybe he didn't know how to do that.  So, that's the second strand.

A third is, he's behind.  And the national polls, I think, underestimate the trouble he's in.


JENNIFER RUBIN:  He is trailing in virtually every poll in every battleground.  And now we have new battleground states.  They're called Georgia and Arizona, which is unheard of.


"A portrait of turmoil in South Sudan, from behind the lens" PBS NewsHour 8/19/2016


SUMMARY:  South Sudan, the world’s newest country, is again on the brink of a civil war.  Photographer Sebastian Rich has covered the conflict in the country for more than four decades, and he is there now on a mission with UNICEF, documenting the turmoil and the toll it has taken on civilians.  The area is plagued by malnutrition and the lowest education levels in the world.  John Yang speaks with Rich.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The world’s newest country, South Sudan, established in 2011, again stands on the brink of civil war.  A peace deal signed last year between rival governing factions is in tatters.  More than one-sixth of the country’s 12 million citizens have been displaced, and the humanitarian crisis there is worsening by the day.

John Yang has the story.

JOHN YANG (NewsHour):  For that view, we turn to photographer Sebastian Rich, who has covered conflict zones for more than four decades.  He has been to South Sudan many times.  He is there now on assignment for UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency.

He joins us now via Skype from Juba, the capital.

Sebastian, thanks for joining thus evening.

First of all, tell us how it feels now, what the situation is like on the ground now.

SEBASTIAN RICH, Photojournalist:  Well, the situation is a little more tense than it was, obviously, before the recent fighting.

The recent fighting has put the people, the ordinary people in the street.  They’re much more tense than they were.  There’s not so many friendly faces.  If you walk in the streets of Juba now, you’re not greeted the same way you were a couple of months ago or even a year ago, when I came last year.

JOHN YANG:  And how is this affecting the children that you’re covering, that you’re there watching, looking at behalf on UNICEF, particularly the issues of malnutrition?

SEBASTIAN RICH:  Well, it’s affecting the children very badly.

And there’s 250,000, a quarter-of-a-million children suffering from severe acute malnutrition.  And that’s not including the children who just got malnutrition, the first stages of.

So, what’s happened is that the children who were actually starting to recover from severe acute malnutrition before this recent fighting, when the fighting happened, those children couldn’t come back to the hospitals to get their follow-up treatment and children that had started to get malnutrition couldn’t get to the hospitals either.

So now we have this huge increase in malnutrition and severe cases of malnutrition.  And UNICEF is trying its very, very best to keep on top of this disaster.

THE $400 MILLION - 'Leverage' ?

"Leverage:  The ability of a small investment to produce a large return." - Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary

"Payment to Iran was used as ‘leverage' for hostage release, admits State Department" PBS NewsHour 8/19/2016


SUMMARY:  In January, Iran released American hostages in a development coinciding with a U.S.  payout of $400 million -- money that had been owed for decades.  The Obama administration previously denied a connection between the two events, but on Friday, the State Department modified its response, saying the money was used as “leverage.” Judy Woodruff talks to department spokesman Adm. John Kirby for more.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The January release of American prisoners from Iran was accompanied by a $400 million payment, money the Islamic republic had been owed for decades from a weapons sale that was never completed between the United States and Iran because of the revolution there.  The Obama administration announced the payment at the time.

But, lately, critics have alleged that the payment's proximity to the release amounted to a ransom, a charge the administration denies.  But, yesterday, the State Department modified its response, saying the millions of dollars were used as — quote — “leverage” amid the negotiations over the prisoners.

Earlier today, I spoke with the State Department's top spokesman, Adm. John Kirby.

Adm.  John Kirby, welcome.

You have said that the cash payment that went to the Iranian government was intended as leverage to gain the release of these American prisoners.  How is that different from paying ransom?

JOHN KIRBY, State Department Spokesman:  Well, I didn't say that it was used — that it was a leverage payment.

Remember, this was Iranian money that they had coming to them through The Hague tribunal, and it was money that had been frozen way back in 1979.  So it was their money and they were going to get it anyway.

These parallel tracks were moving forward, and they began to converge.  In fact, we took advantage of the convergence in a short 24-hour period to kind of wrap it all up together.

Now, what I said is, though, while there is no connection between the $400 million and the return of our American citizens, we did, however, in those endgame hours, hold back that payment until we knew that our Americans were safe and sound and on their way out of Iran, because, in the very last few hours, Iran was playing a few games here on us.

And we weren't quite sure that the release was going to happen.  And we were worried about Iran reneging on that very lengthy negotiation process that we put in place to bring them home.

LOUISIANA - Historic Floods

"How Louisiana plans to rebuild after historically damaging floods" PBS NewsHour 8/18/2016


SUMMARY:  As the Louisiana flooding begins to subside, the state looks toward rebuilding.  The disaster affected over 20 parishes, including areas outside flood zones -- meaning residents there do not have flood insurance.  William Brangham speaks with Billy Nungesser, Louisiana's lieutenant governor, about how the state is planning to use FEMA funds, the help of volunteers and Red Cross shelters to recover.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  As the flood waters start to recede, the hard work of assessing and rebuilding begins.

CLEVE BROWN, Baton Rouge Resident:  Basically, we lost everything, you know, other than our lives.  Couple of hours, we probably had six-foot of water.  Water is probably one of the worst Mother Nature beasts there is.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  An estimated 40,000 homes were damaged in the flooding that inundated Baton Rouge and Lafayette, killing at least 13 people.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson got a first hand look today.

JEH JOHNSON, Secretary of Homeland Security:  The federal government is here.  We have been here.  We will be here as long as it takes to help this community recover.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  Four thousand people are still living in shelters across the state.

GAIL MCGOVERN, Red Cross President and CEO:  This is the largest operation that the American Red Cross has responded to since 2012, Superstorm Sandy, and driving s around the affected area, it's really devastating.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  In the most damaged areas, only about one out of every eight homes is covered by flood insurance, because these areas weren't considered likely to flood.

CLEVE BROWN:  No one was expecting this.  This is, I mean, you can see, I might have gotten from here at it's worst to up here.  So, that's why no one was expecting it.  So, they're not going to have flood insurance.  They were, you know, they thought they were high and dry.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  More than 9,000 insurance claims have been filed so far.

For more on how Louisiana is doing, I'm joined now by the state's lieutenant governor, Billy Nungesser.  He joins us from Louisiana Public Broadcasting in Baton Rouge, where many of our colleagues there have also been flooded out of their homes.

SYRIA - The Haunting Image

"Will the haunting image of an injured Syrian boy make a difference?" PBS NewsHour 8/18/2016


SUMMARY:  Airstrikes are a constant in Aleppo, Syria.  But this week, global attention was captured by a haunting snapshot of one strike's aftermath: A 5-year-old boy bloodied, dust covered and dazed.  Such images have a history of going viral.  But do they make an impact?  Hari Sreenivasan asks Susan Moeller, a professor of journalism at the University of Maryland, and the New York Times' Anne Barnard.  *An editor's note:  The 1972 napalm airstrike in Vietnam that led to the iconic photo of a naked, burned Young girl running down a road that is mentioned in this conversation was conducted by the air force of South Vietnam, not the United States.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  It's hard not to be moved by images like that, but some pictures capture the world's attention more than others.

We begin with an image that emerged last night from the frantic attempts to rescue people caught in the aftermath of air strikes.  And again, another warning:  Some images in this story may disturb some viewers.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Airstrikes are Aleppo's terrible routine.  This one hit an apartment a building in the city's rebel-held area.  Amateur video captured the frantic scramble to save lives amid horror.

Then, a boy, pulled from the rubble, sits in an ambulance.  He's dazed, bloodied, covered in dust.  He wipes his face.  His name: Omran Daqneesh, age five.  He survived without major injuries.  So did his parents and three young siblings.

Almost immediately, his image swept across social media worldwide, making Omran the latest symbol of heartbreak in the now-five year old conflict.

There one comment I can disagree with, "And so, pictures like this hopefully, whatever your political stripe, remind you that we’re talking about just ordinary human beings." - Anne Barnard

Sorry, there is at least one NON-human in Syria, Assad.

TURNING THE TABLE - A Wall Street Millionaire

"The Wall Street millionaire bringing healthy food to those in need" PBS NewsHour 8/18/2016

REF:  “The Love of Money” by Sam Polk, New York Times 1/18/2014


SUMMARY:  Sam Polk was making millions on Wall Street when he had a life-changing revelation:  he wanted to help those in need.  His focus became so-called "food deserts," regions with limited access to healthy food.  Polk founded Everytable to serve nutritious meals at minimal prices for low-income populations, but higher prices for customers who can afford them.  Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now, economics correspondent Paul Solman spends a little time with a former hedge fund trader turned social entrepreneur, someone who wants to turn the table on food shortages in inner cities by launching an array of eateries in both high-end and lower-income neighborhoods.

It's part of our series “Making Sen$e”, which airs Thursdays on the “NewsHour”.

PAUL SOLMAN (NewsHour):  Sam Polk was formerly a top dog at one of the world's top hedge funds.

SAM POLK, Former Hedge Fund Trader:  My dad was this sort of Willy Loman character, this sort of out-of-work salesman that could never make ends meet.  So when I was on Wall Street, my entire life's goal was to make more money than the next guy.

DORCIA WHITE-BRAKE, Groceryships Graduate:  Just going to pour a little bit of salsa inside.  It's like your own little bowl.

MAN:  Wow, nice.

PAUL SOLMAN:  Dorcia White-Brake is a teacher's aide in Los Angeles.  Three kids, no car, the nearest supermarket miles away.

DORCIA WHITE-BRAKE:  So I can have, you know, good healthy food that tastes good.  I have to take a bus and a train.

SAM POLK:  When I was 27, I had been on Wall Street for five or six years and I was at this club in Las Vegas, and it was this super-exclusive club and there was $1,000 bottles of champagne, and beautiful women all around.  My life finally looked like I'd always wanted it to look.  But I basically felt empty.

DORCIA WHITE-BRAKE:  So, basically, I waited six months for this application.


DORCIA WHITE-BRAKE:  Yes, and I got it and I turned it in and then it seemed like an eternity.  I was waiting and waiting and finally I got a call.

PAUL SOLMAN:  Got a call to join the Los Angeles non-profit Groceryships Program, started by Sam Polk.

SAM POLK:  I started Groceryships when I came to understand that people are living in food deserts, where there's very little produce for sale and tons and tons of fast food.

CYBER WAR - NSA Code Breach

"Analyzing the NSA code breach in the context of recent cybersecurity events" PBS NewsHour 8/17/2016


SUMMARY:  On Saturday, programming code for National Security Agency hacking tools was shared online.  The content appears to be legitimate, but it is not clear if it was intentionally hacked or accidentally leaked.  Hari Sreenivasan speaks with The Washington Post's Ellen Nakashima and Paul Vixie of Farsight Security about where this development fits in the context of other recent cybersecurity breaches.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  The National Security Agency's primary mission is to spy on the electronic communications of countries and people overseas.

Over the weekend, though, sophisticated code the NSA developed to penetrate computer security systems was posted online.  This serious breach comes amid the ongoing revelations of the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other organizations, allegedly by groups linked to Russian intelligence.

For more on this, we turn to The Washington Post national security correspondent Ellen Nakashima, and Paul Vixie.  He designed and built some of the software that is the backbone of the Internet today.  He is now chairman and CEO of Farsight Security, a computer security firm.

Ellen Nakashima, what happened this weekend?  What got released?

ELLEN NAKASHIMA, The Washington Post:  Over the weekend, apparently on Saturday, mysteriously, a cache of NSA hacking tools was released online through file-sharing sites such as BitTorrent and Dropbox.

It really wasn't noticed until about Monday, when the computer security community started commenting on it and questions arose as to whether or not the NSA had been hacked.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  So, Paul Vixie, if these lock picks, these digital tools to try break into different systems out are out in the open now, these are the tools that the American government was using, what is the consequence, if it is in the public sphere?

PAUL VIXIE, Farsight Security:  Well, I think, every day, everybody is trying to hack everybody.  So, this is not huge news.

What's big news about it is that these tools were built by the U.S. government.  Some of the lock picks, as you call them, are now obsolete.  They are relying on vulnerabilities that have since been closed, because the files are about 3 years old.

But at least one of them is active against a very current piece of equipment from CiscoAnd it is going to lead to a lot of break-ins while the patches are prepared and shipped and then applied.