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Last updated: Saturday, September 20 2014 12:45 AM

Fence jumper prompts White House evacuation

Saturday, September 20 2014 12:44 AM

Barack Obama, Michelle ObamaPart of the White House has been evacuated after someone jumped the fence at the executive mansion.

The incident occurred Friday evening shortly after President Barack Obama and his daughters left aboard a helicopter for the presidential retreat in Maryland, Camp David. A Secret Service agent at the scene says someone jumped the fence surrounding the White House. Much of the West Wing was evacuated.

Last week, on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Secret Service apprehended a man who jumped over the North Fence of the White House. Officers drew their firearms and used a service dog as they took the man in custody.

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Should public lands be a natural setting for extreme sports?

Friday, September 19 2014 10:32 PM


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the second in our two-part look at land disputes in the American West.

Last night, Jeffrey Brown looked at a fight between local residents and the federal government over closing down a canyon rich in archaeological treasures to motorized vehicles.

Tonight, Jeff has the story of a very different split over how to enjoy and experience the natural beauty.

JEFFREY BROWN: Stretch a high-tech nylon line some 400 feet above a canyon near Moab, Utah.

HAYLEY ASHBURN: Do you want to tighten it before we walk?

SCOTT ROGERS: It’s really tight, actually.

JEFFREY BROWN: Strap on a harness.

SCOTT ROGERS: I’m going to go barefoot. I like feeling the line between my toes.

JEFFREY BROWN: And step out into the air.


JEFFREY BROWN: It’s called highlining, done on public lands, a perfectly legal activity that most of us, including your correspondent, who stayed far back from cliff’s edge, would never dream of undertaking.

HAYLEY ASHBURN: I’m always a little bit nervous no matter how many I do.

JEFFREY BROWN: But Hayley Ashburn and Scott Rogers, members of a group called the Moab Monkeys, do this sort of thing several times a week.

HAYLEY ASHBURN: You are forced to narrow your focus. So, I’m thinking about the anchor on the other side and how bad I want to get there. And I’m thinking about how long it’s been since I took my last step and when I’m going to take my next step and what my foot feels like on the line.

SCOTT ROGERS: It’s this really, like, rush of overwhelming happiness, because you have done something that you were terrified of, and then you overcame that fear, and then all of a sudden you’re proud of yourself. You feel empowered, like you can do anything, really.

JEFFREY BROWN: In highlining, sky walkers are tethered to the line. As this video of Scott Rogers shows, that’s not the case in other new sports, like base jumping, in which jumpers launch themselves off stationary objects like cliffs and pull a parachute at the key moment. Timing is everything, the room for error very small.

Rogers and Ashburn know people who have died when the wind blew them back into the cliff or their parachute was opened too late. But that doesn’t stop them, and it certainly doesn’t stop them from capturing their exploits on video and posting them online.

HAYLEY ASHBURN: I love spreading the joy, because I feel like we know the secret about life, about when you do things that are scary and you overcome your fears, not only is it the most fun you will ever have, but it’s so empowering and it changes the whole rest of your life.

And doing — being out here doing what we do and making media like that is our goal, for sure.

SCOTT ROGERS: It’s taking something that is part of our life and then showing it to the world and saying, hey, look, you can have fun doing these things you didn’t even realize existed.

JEFFREY BROWN: But there’s, of course, another way of looking at and being a part of this extraordinary landscape, one that’s quieter, calmer, and sees the beauty, the drama, the extremes, if you will, in the land itself, the red rock walls, towering spires, winding rivers, plunging canyons.

In this way of experiencing the wilderness, the long walk, the light footprint, the contemplation of man’s small part in the universe take precedence.

ANDREW GULLIFORD, Environmental Author: The question is what sort of land protection do you want, and what sort of ethic do you want to evolve with the younger generation?  Part of what the struggle is right now is for quiet users to have the space they need.

Colorado historian and nature writer Andrew Gulliford says cultural shifts in how people view the outdoors have raised important new questions.

ANDREW GULLIFORD: We have a long tradition of public land use in the American West. The new kinds of outdoor activities, though, the extreme sport activities, there’s not a lot of nature involved.

So today’s generation is treating the outdoors as a dirty gym, and that’s not what was thought about 50 years ago with the 1964 Wilderness Act, with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. So those conservation laws were about preserving nature for nature’s sake. And we have got a new generation of extreme sports enthusiasts who simply want to go out, use the outdoors, photograph themselves with, you know, special little cameras, and then hit the brew pub by dark and talk about their exploits.

JEFFREY BROWN: There has been much talk about this particular exploit, the rope swing at Corona Arch, an iconic landmark just outside Moab.

The YouTube video put out in 2012 has had more than 25 million views online. It also got the attention of the federal Bureau of Land Management, which had recently taken over the arch from the state of Utah in a land swap, and which administers so much of this state and other parts of the West.

MEGAN CRANDALL, Spokeswoman, Bureau of Land Management Utah: It’s just created over time.

JEFFREY BROWN: Megan Crandall is a spokeswoman.

So we learn about this on videos that we see. How do you learn about it?

MEGAN CRANDALL: The same way you do.

JEFFREY BROWN: What was your reaction?




MEGAN CRANDALL: No, I mean, my reaction, I was just blown away. Wow, that’s incredible.

JEFFREY BROWN: And then what happens?  You have to figure out how to manage this.

MEGAN CRANDALL: Right. Certainly, we have a responsibility to manage for some of these new uses, but, as we have seen with roped activities, it was like a firestorm. It took off. It gained in popularity. And we just saw usage in that way surge.

JEFFREY BROWN: The surge of use including one death and one serious injury by rope swingers who misjudged how long the ropes needed to be.

Crandall says BLM policy is that people use public lands at their own risk, but the agency does look at a variety of factors, including damage to the rocks and the impact on those who want to experience the arch the old-fashioned way. And while they study these impacts, federal officials proposed a ban on roped activities at Corona.

MEGAN CRANDALL: What we’re doing is, we’re putting out for public comment a suggestion that we institute a temporary two-year restriction on roped activities to give us the time and space we need to really evaluate if continuing to allow those activities here is the most appropriate use of the area.

JEFFREY BROWN: The Moab Monkeys, of course, say they love the land too, and are happy to share it.

HAYLEY ASHBURN: It seems like a really long flight.

JEFFREY BROWN: But Hayley Ashburn says there are plenty of public places for those who complain about the disruption of the extreme sports.

HAYLEY ASHBURN: If they want peace, they should go to Arches or any national park. I call those no-fun-allowed zones.

JEFFREY BROWN: The national parks?

HAYLEY ASHBURN: Yes. It’s, like, going to be nice and quiet. Nobody is going to be no base jumping, and nobody is going to be bolting anything. There’s nobody going to be screaming and yelling and having a really amazing time.

JEFFREY BROWN: The BLM’s Megan Crandall suggests that argument works both ways, that there’s also plenty of room for roped activities if a ban is put in at Corona Arch.

MEGAN CRANDALL: There are other places in the Moab Field Office area where you can still engage in these activities. But at least, for us, we want to take the time to really think about whether it’s appropriate for those to continue here.

JEFFREY BROWN: The BLM is taking public comments on the issue through the end of this month.

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Alibaba’s stunning American IPO signals confidence in Chinese economy

Friday, September 19 2014 10:27 PM

China-Based Internet Company Alibaba Debuts On New York Stock Exchange

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JUDY WOODRUFF: The Chinese e-commerce giant, Alibaba, took Wall Street by storm today. The company had its initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange, and it appears to be the largest of all time; 100 million shares traded in the first 10 minutes. More than $25 billion was raised.

It’s a moment that highlights the power of China’s growing middle class.

Hari Sreenivasan has the story from our New York studios.

HARI SREENIVASAN: To give you some sense of the company’s size, Alibaba earned more last year than Amazon and eBay combined. The company was founded 15 years ago and is often described as combining elements of Google, Amazon and eBay into one Web operation.

The firm, co-founded by a former teacher, Jack Ma, is now valued at more than $230 billion. Shares opened with a frenzy today and closed at nearly $94 each. Yet, for all of that, Alibaba is hardly a household name in the U.S.

To help fill in the picture, I’m joined by David Kirkpatrick, a technology writer and founder of Techonomy, an annual conference looking how technology is changing business. He’s also author of “The Facebook Effect.”

So we have heard a little bit about Alibaba. But why was it so significant an opening today?

DAVID KIRKPATRICK, Founder, Techonomy: Well, I think the company was brilliantly market in the IPO process.

And it’s the first time a major Chinese Internet company has gone public in the United States. And it’s the most important Chinese Internet company, although there’s a lot of competition for that. There’s two other gigantic companies.

But I think also Jack Ma, who is the CEO and the founder you mentioned, is a uniquely charismatic individual who just generated enormous excitement among investors.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, they describe this as a mix of Amazon, eBay. Explain how — what does Alibaba do?

DAVID KIRKPATRICK: It’s a hard thing to explain, because Alibaba does so many different things.

It started out kind of being a broker for particularly people outside China wanting to buy Chinese goods, B-to-B, right?  That was the first big business they had. Then they got into a more eBay business inside China, where, you know, small retailers would sell to consumers, et cetera, et cetera.

And now they have this very popular business on top of those other businesses called Tmall, which is a business where established brands sell to individual consumers. Like, a major U.S. consumer brand would have a Tmall site, and then Chinese consumers would buy from them via Alibaba.

But they also have their own logistics and delivery company. They have their own payment service. They have their own money market fund, which is one of the biggest in China because it offers higher interest rates. They just bought half of a soccer team. They just bough a movie studio.

They are really unbounded in their ambitions, but they’re still primarily an e-commerce company.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And how successful are they at e-commerce?

DAVID KIRKPATRICK: So successful that they almost have a monopoly position in the Chinese Patrick.

Over 80 percent of e-commerce transaction in Chinese go over Alibaba. And e-commerce is more relatively important in the Chinese economy than it is in the U.S. economy.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And not all Chinese people are on the Internet yet.

DAVID KIRKPATRICK: No, only about half of Chinese citizens are on the Internet. And pretty much anyone of the Internet in China is likely to be an Alibaba customer.


DAVID KIRKPATRICK: So, there’s as lot of upside.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes. The specific IPO, why did so many investors, especially institutional ones, want to get in on, even at this price, which was adjusted hiring and higher throughout the week?

DAVID KIRKPATRICK: Well, as I heard somebody say today, the margins on this company are way higher than the average Internet company.

They make 40-plus operating margins, profits. That’s a really high amount of profit for an Internet company. And they have 80 percent market share in their primary market. That’s like all money investors need to hear. And the growth has been very, very strong in recent quarters.

So, you have got a fast growing company, with high margins, and dominant market share. Investors understand that kind of language.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Is this in some ways a proxy bet on the Chinese economy?

DAVID KIRKPATRICK: Yes, I think that’s a really good way to think about it. It’s a really positive way to think about it, that, in effect, by so many Westerners buying this stock at such a high price, they’re saying, China is our friend. We believe in the future of the Chinese economy. We believe in the future of, in effect, the Chinese government, because let’s face it, the way business works in China, if the government doesn’t want it to happen, it doesn’t.

So there’s a much tighter bond between the government and business in China. And even Jack Ma today said, you know, the whole way he has operated his company throughout its history is, be in love with the government, but don’t marry it. Try to do what the government wants.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, live by the government, die by the government.


HARI SREENIVASAN: What are the sort of downsides on if Chinese government policy changes that could have a ripple effect on the share price today?

DAVID KIRKPATRICK: There’s certainly a potential downside there.

But I think the Chinese government appreciates so much what Alibaba is doing economically, and also even today what it’s done for the image of China. I think you’re not going to see them coming down hard on Alibaba anytime soon. But, theoretically, you have never seen such an important company be so wedded to one government’s policies.

HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. There are obviously always investors who think this is too rich a price. What are the concerns about where the stock is priced and what the future of this company is?

DAVID KIRKPATRICK: Well, there are always concerns.

Certainly, valuation is now a very significant concern if you’re a cautious investor. It’s got a high multiple now. But there’s two sort of big other questions. And the first is the one we just mentioned, which is government influence and regulatory change, because, in China, if the government regulators decide something different that you didn’t expect, your whole business can go out the window overnight.

I don’t think that is going to happen here. The other, though, is the governance of Alibaba, the way it’s structured as a business, is extremely complex and labyrinthian and not very transparent. So investors don’t have the window into what’s really happening inside the company that they would have with a Western company. It’s not audited in the same way.

I mean, what people bought today is not even the actual assets of the company. They bought shares in a Cayman Islands-based holding company that gets profits from Alibaba, and has an ironclad deal to get the profits. At least they say it’s ironclad. But it’s not the assets of the company.

That’s a very — that’s — it’s not unusual for the Chinese Internet to have that kind of a deal, but it’s not the way, you know, Western investors typically invest.


David Kirkpatrick, thanks so much.

DAVID KIRKPATRICK: Thanks for having me.


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How will Scotland’s vote change the U.K. power balance?

Friday, September 19 2014 10:19 PM

Revelers wrapped in a St Andrew's or Saltire flag, the national flag of Scotland, sit on a bench following Scottish independence referendum result night celebrations in George Square in Glasgow, U.K., on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. Scotland voted to remain in the U.K. after an independence referendum that put the future of the 307-year-old union on a knife edge and risked years of political and financial turmoil. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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JUDY WOODRUFF: And for more on the significance of the result of the referendum and what comes next, we turn to Louise Richardson, principal and vice chancellor at the University of St. Andrew’s, and David Rennie. He’s Washington bureau chief for “The Economist” magazine.

Welcome to both of you.

Louise Richardson, I’m going to begin with you.

Were you surprised at the margin of victory for the no vote?  It was 10, almost 11 points.

LOUISE RICHARDSON, Principal and Vice Chancellor, University of St. Andrews: I think everyone was surprised by the margin of victory, but we all had so little to go on because this was such an unprecedented occasion.

And we were seeing 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds vote for the first time. We were seeing an electorate in which 30 percent had only recently registered. We were seeing a — looking at a turnout of 85 percent, so it was very difficult to predict. But I think most people were surprised by the margin of victory, yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David Rennie, were you surprised?

DAVID RENNIE, The Economist: I think so.

And, remember, the polls had looked so sort of safe and solid for the no camp until just a few weeks ago. You had the sort of 20-point lead for the camp that was going to keep the U.K. together. And then, suddenly, that lead just collapsed very, very quickly in the last two or three weeks.

And all that movement seems to be with lower-income, left-wing voters, often slightly older voters. And so there was clearly just a big shift taking place. And one of the first analyses of what happened last night is that they just didn’t turn out in quite such massive numbers as some of the more affluent pro-union voters.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Louise Richardson, we’re now being told — I’m reading that, no, there won’t be independence for Scotland, but there is going to be a big change in the relationship between Scotland and London, the home government, and as well as a change for Wales, England, for Northern Ireland.


I think this referendum in Scotland will prove to be a catalyst for constitutional change throughout the United Kingdom. And in the past few weeks, as the London parties decided that they actually could win this — could lose this campaign, even though they had been somewhat complacent for much of the campaign, they came up to Scotland. They promised what is called devo max.

They promised significant new powers for Scots if they would vote no. They promised for tax-raising powers, more powers over issues like benefits, which are very important to people who are voting. And this means, I think, that there will be more power going to Scotland, but it raises the question, what’s called in Britain the West Lothian question, of what this means for Westminster, where English members of Parliament can vote only on — Scottish members of Parliament can vote only on issues pertaining to English constituencies, but English constituents can’t vote for Scots.

So, I think there is a real sense, but especially I think in the back benches of the Tory party, that it’s time for some change. And I think we have seen Prime Minister Cameron today indicate that he’s going to address those concerns.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David Rennie, so, is it believed that the government is going to carry through on these promises?

DAVID RENNIE: Yes, I can imagine that here in the United States, this may seem a bit esoteric, something for the constitutional lawyers.

But I think what people need to understand is that what really has happened, even with the vote to stay together, is that the sleeping beast of English nationalism has been woken, because there is an English backlash today, because essentially a lot of people south of the border think the Scots were bribed to stay with some more privileges.

And what’s really happened now is that Scottish voters feel a bit like super voters. They have exclusive rights over other Scottish stuff, schools and hospitals, other things, but they also get a say, decisively sometimes, on what happens down south in England.

English voters now feel more like second-class voters, because they can only vote on English stuff, not on Scottish stuff. So, what is really happening now is, remember, the English are five-sixths of the population of this — of the United Kingdom. They feel slightly sort of shoved into second place, that the Scots have been bribed with all these promises.

And that’s a really unprecedented thing, to have English nationalism stalking around as a big political force, putting pressure on David Cameron, the prime minister.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Louise Richardson, coming out of this, the U.K. is more politically unsettled?

LOUISE RICHARDSON: Well, yes, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

I think British people are now very much engaged. It has been an extraordinary exercise in democracy these past few months in Scotland. We have never seen anything like it. Few democracies have. I think it’s worth remembering that many countries fought civil wars over whether one region had a right to secede.

And here in Britain, it’s been democratic — with a democratic vote, with everybody accepting the will of the majority, a peaceful, robust debate. So I think it is a real statement of the strength of British democracy. And if it’s a little unsettled, that’s good, because it means the public is more engaged.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But what about — David Rennie, what about the independence movement itself?  Is that going to continue?

DAVID RENNIE: Well, you have seen the leader of the independence movement, the boss of the Scottish government, resigning because of this loss.

He will be replaced, but he is kind of irreplaceable. I mean, Scotland is a small country. He was really the absolutely dominant sort of big political beast. He was the really talented politician up there. I think, personally, if I had to bet, the new few years, thing to keep an eye on is that sleeping giant the five-sixths of the country, the English nationalists.

You will see calls for an English parliament. You will demands to have English M.P.s. having exclusive rights to vote on English subjects. And let’s work out, this is a big fight about power. Scotland is basically a left-wing country. England has more or less a conservative majority, a narrow conservative majority.

The country as a whole is kind of finely balanced. It’s purple, if you like. So this is a blue country, red country, purple, gigantic power struggle that’s about to break out.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Louise Richardson, finally, what does that mean in terms of the U.K.’s relationship with other countries, the United States, Europe and others?

LOUISE RICHARDSON: Well, there can be little doubt that Britain would have been very weakened had Scotland decided to separate.

The whole question of Britain’s membership, England’s membership in the E.U. is going to subject to yet another referendum. So I think, going forward, most countries like to deal with unitary actors. And it’s — few countries can really understand the depth of domestic politics in other countries. And it looks as though English, British domestic politics are going to be more complex, which will complicate relations with other countries, but the fundamentals are unaffected.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And it sounds like that’s what you’re saying too.

DAVID RENNIE: Absolutely.

Are we going to be looking inward?  Are we still a global, outward-looking partner for America, or are there now an increasing number of English who quite fancy being something a bit like Switzerland, kind of rich and inward-looking and just shunning the rest of the world?  Those forces are definitely out there now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: David Rennie, Louise Richardson, we thank you both.


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Scotland says ‘no thanks’ to independence

Friday, September 19 2014 10:16 PM

NO THANKS monitor scotrland vote

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JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the votes are in and the no’s have it. Polls had flip-flopped in recent weeks, but in the end, Scotland’s residents decided to stay in their 307-year-old union with the United Kingdom.

A dreary mist shrouded the Scottish capital of Edinburgh this morning, matching the moods of 1.6 million people who’d voted for independence, only to see it lose.

CHERYL BURGAR, Yes Scotland supporter: It shows that still there are a lot of people in Scotland that didn’t want that. It’s not like — it’s not a landslide vote. So we think that’s a good thing overall, even if it is still no, because it’s going to show that we’re not — we’re not all happy with the way things are.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The official announcement came in the early morning hours.

MARY PITCAITHLY, Chief Consulting Officer, Scotland: The majority of valid votes cast yesterday by the people of Scotland in response to the referendum question, should Scotland be an independent country, were in favor of no.


JUDY WOODRUFF: From the no campaign headquarters, the cheer was deafening.

MAN: I’m happy that in the morning I’m going to wake up Scottish and I’m going to wake up British. I’m just so happy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The leader of the no side, Alistair Darling, was triumphant.

ALISTAIR DARLING, Leader, Better Together campaign: The people of Scotland have spoken.


ALISTAIR DARLING: We have chosen unity over division and positive change, rather than needless separation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The breakdown showed 55 percent voted to stay with the United Kingdom, while 45 percent voted to leave. And the unprecedented turnout topped 85 percent. Despite his disappointment, despite his disappointment, yes campaign leader Alex Salmond said the turnout was a huge point of pride.

ALEX SALMOND, First Minister of Scotland: This has been a triumph for the democratic process and for participation in politics.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Salmond has been at the forefront of Scotland’s pro-independence movement for decades, but, today, he announced he’s resigning as Scottish first minister.

ALEX SALMOND: We lost the referendum vote, but Scotland can still carry the political initiative. Scotland can still emerge as the real winner. For me as leader, my time is nearly over. But for Scotland, the campaign continues and the dream shall never die.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In London, with the threat of separation past, Prime Minister David Cameron renewed his promise to begin granting Scotland more powers.

DAVID CAMERON, Prime Minister, United Kingdom: We have delivered on devolution under this government, and we will do so again in the next Parliament. The three main pro-union parties have made commitments, clear commitments on further powers for the Scottish Parliament. We will ensure that those commitments are honored in full.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Even so, there were complaints from some in Cameron’s own Conservative Party ranks that the promises are too generous. And Queen Elizabeth issued her own statement, speaking of her enduring love of Scotland and urging the entire nation to work together in mutual respect and support.

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Iranian foreign minister on U.S. strategy on Islamic State, sanctions

Friday, September 19 2014 10:07 PM


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to Iran and our interview with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

He is in New York this week for the so called P5-plus-one talks on that country’s nuclear program, as questions loom over whether a deal can be reached by a late November deadline and what will happen if there is no agreement.

Earlier today, our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, asked about that, the U.S. strategy in fighting the Islamic State militant group, and why Tehran has ruled out working with Washington to defeat the organization.

MARGARET WARNER: Minister Zarif, thank you for joining us.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, Foreign Minister, Iran: Very good to be with you.

MARGARET WARNER: Today, France joined the U.S. in launching airstrikes in Iraq against the I.S., ISIS, militants. Do you think that’s going to be an effective strategy to counter these militant forces?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Well, I believe the international community should come to realize that this is a common threat, a common challenge, and it requires a common response.

In our view, the response should come from the region and supported by the international community, not the other way around. We have been cooperating with the government of Iraq and the government of — or the regional government of Kurdistan in order to defeat these terrorists, because we consider these terrorists a threat to all nations in the region and beyond because — because of all these foreign fighters that you have.

MARGARET WARNER: So you and President Obama are really on the same page on this. That is that the international community can assist maybe from the air, training and equipping, but not getting involved on the ground?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Well, I believe the Iraqis themselves are quite capable of liberating their territory.

What the international community needs to do is to prevent assistance to the terrorists, which has been coming, unfortunately, over the past three, four years from various quarters in the region and outside the region.

MARGARET WARNER: So you’re talking about Saudi Arabia, some of the other Gulf states that have helped with financing and training?  You’re talking about Turkey that’s allowed foreign fighters to cross over into Iraq and Syria?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Well, I’m not in the business of naming names.

We are willing to work with them, particularly with our friends in the region, in order to defeat this threat, but defeat it fundamentally, not simply by military action.

MARGARET WARNER: But, by all accounts, President Rouhani’s government has rebuffed overtures from President Obama’s government to actually cooperate

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Because we were not convinced that the United States government was serious.

I’m sure that what happened yesterday in the House and the Senate, approving the request of President Obama for financing the Syrian opposition, doesn’t correspond well with an attempt to fight terrorism. If you undermine the central government in Syria, that would enable the I.S. terrorists to gain even more territory.

And we see this as basically contradiction in terms of trying to defeat ISIS, but at the same time funding those who are trying to undermine the very government that is withstanding ISIS terrorists. Those forces who are operating on the ground in Syria are, unfortunately, ISIS and people of the same color.


MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Almost a majority of them. At least a majority of those who control any territory in Syria are either ISIS or Jabhat al-Nusra or other..

MARGARET WARNER: Al-Qaida-linked groups.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: … fringe al-Qaida groups.

We do not believe that supporting these groups will help the process of democratization and respect for the will of the people in Syria.

MARGARET WARNER: But you are a major patron. You are a major patron of the Syrian government. Can you not use your influence with the Syrian government to, in fact, encourage them, force them to make such an inclusive arrangement with their own opposition?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Actually, nobody can force anybody in our region. We have an influence in Iraq. We have influence in Syria. We have influence in the region. The reason we have influence is that we do not impose our will on the countries in the region.

MARGARET WARNER: Well, but many would point out that the Shiite-backed Hezbollah fighters have in fact moved up from Lebanon to assist President Assad.

But let me move on to the other major item on your plate, one reason you’re here early before UNGA week, which is the nuclear negotiations. You face a two-month deadline now to finish this second phase and really finish a deal. Do you think there’s any prospect of getting there?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Well, I think there’s every prospect of getting there, provided that people want to address the problem, not the constituencies.

There are two ways of resolving this problem. One is to try to resolve this problem, and the other one is try to appease those who do not see any resolution, whatever the parameters of that resolution may be, in their interests.

So if we abandon the second alternative and put our focus on the first alternative, then I believe that a solution is at hand. Iran doesn’t want nuclear weapons. Iran doesn’t need nuclear weapons. The only problem, if I may, is this basically infatuation, obsession with sanctions. Sanctions do not achieve any objective. Sanctions simply put pressure on the people.

MARGARET WARNER: But those in the United States that don’t trust Iran say, well, Iran has an obsession with building a gigantic nuclear infrastructure that they don’t need for energy purposes, that will be nuclear weapons-ready.

I mean, don’t you have a problem of the hard-liners on both sides, when you’re talking about constituencies?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Well, there may be lunatics everywhere.


MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: But no serious person in Iran wants to build a nuclear weapon, because people have very serious strategic calculations.

What we can suggest to people, there is a lot of mistrust to go around. I mean, Iranians don’t trust the United States. We can change that. And it’s important for all of us to try to — instead of living in the past, to try to write a new history. And writing a new history is to try to come to arrangements that would scientifically prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb.

MARGARET WARNER: So, if the Iranian government wants to persuade the rest of the world that, as you say, the intentions are purely peaceful, why not agree to the much lower level of centrifuges, number of centrifuges that the United States and the Western powers are insisting upon?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Because we’re not here to accept arbitrary decisions. We’re here to negotiate.

But what we are suggesting is not that you have to take this or leave it. We are saying that let’s consider together how best we can do this. We have agreed to limit, for a certain number of years, the number of centrifuges that will be spinning. And that is out of no necessity, simply in order to create confidence. But I’m not prepared to accept any arbitrary numbers.

MARGARET WARNER: OK. Now, of course, Iran then wants all of these sanctions rolled back and lifted. Many of those would require, to be permanently lifted, U.S. congressional approval.

As you well know, there’s a lot of opposition to that. Would Iran accept something less, for instance, just having President Obama waive those?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Well, obviously, I — I do not engage in negotiations on the air, but we understand U.S. politics. We understand the constraints that President Obama is facing.

As we don’t accept them asking us to do the impossible, we will not ask them to do the impossible.

MARGARET WARNER: So, if President Obama wanted to do something of an end-run around Congress, that would be enough assurance for you?


We deal with the government. Of course, we know the complexities, the domestic complexities involved. But as a sovereign state, we deal with the United States government as a sovereign state. We do not interfere in the internal domestic politics of the United States. If President Obama promises us to do something, we will accept and respect his promise.

MARGARET WARNER: So is an extension beyond the November 24 deadline possible?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: I don’t think so. And I’m not prepared at this stage to entertain that idea.

I’m not saying that November 24 is a doomsday. I’m saying that we should put all our energy into reaching an agreement by that time.

MARGARET WARNER: So no brinksmanship?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: I believe this issue requires statesmanship, not brinksmanship. And I’m prepared to exercise as much of that as I can possibly do.

MARGARET WARNER: Despite the political price that President Rouhani and you and your government are paying for this at home?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Well, leadership requires courage, and I hope that everybody is prepared to exercise that courage.

I believe we are at the point in history that we can. In fact, what we do has an impact on the future of our region and the future of the perceptions of two nations towards one another. So we should seize this opportunity.

MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Minister, thank you very much.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: Thank you for having me.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On our Web site, you can see more of Margaret’s interview with Foreign Minister Zarif, including his comments on Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who has been jailed in Tehran for almost two months.


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Adults with autism locked out of health coverage due to age limits

Friday, September 19 2014 10:04 PM

It’s getting easier for parents of young children with autism to get insurers to cover a pricey treatment called applied behavioral analysis. Once kids turn 21, however, it’s a different ballgame entirely.

Many states have mandates that require insurers to cover this therapy, but they typically have age caps ranging from 17 to 21, says Katie Keith, research director at the Trimpa Group, a consulting firm that works with autism advocacy groups. In addition, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently announced that all Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs for low-income families must cover comprehensive autism treatment for kids—until they’re 21.

After I wrote about the new Medicaid coverage requirements, the mother of a 23-year-old with autism wrote in asking about coverage options for her son.

Unfortunately, once someone with autism turns 21, “they fall off a cliff,” says Lorri Unumb, vice president of state government affairs at Autism Speaks, an advocacy organization.Unfortunately, once someone with autism turns 21, “they fall off a cliff,” says Lorri Unumb, vice president of state government affairs at Autism Speaks, an advocacy organization. “It’s the next big frontier that’s got to be addressed.”

Parents of older children have a few options. Some state autism mandates don’t have age caps, including New York, California, Massachusetts, the District of Columbia, Wisconsin and Indiana, according to Keith.

If an insurer denies therapy and a parent lives in one of the states that has an age cap on its autism mandate, it’s worth appealing, Unumb believes. The appeal may be bolstered, she said, by the federal mental health parity law, which bars plans from imposing quantitative or qualitative treatment limitations on mental health care that are more restrictive than those on benefits for physical health conditions.

Like dollar caps on benefits, age is a quantitative limit, says Unumb.

Although the courts have yet to address the issue, she says, “In my opinion, all of these age caps are probably invalid under mental health parity.”

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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News Wrap: Rice says U.S. ready for Syria airstrikes

Friday, September 19 2014 10:02 PM


Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

JUDY WOODRUFF: France joined the U.S. in the skies over Iraq today, conducting its first airstrikes on the Islamic State group. Military video showed attacks on a logistics depot, plus a munitions and fuel dump. Officials said dozens of militants were killed. And President Francois Hollande promised more to come ,within limits.

PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, France (through interpreter): Other actions are expected in the coming days with the same goal, to weaken this terrorist organization and come to the aid of Iraqi authorities. By that, I mean the Iraqi troops and Kurdish Peshmerga based in Iraq. There are no French troops on the ground, only planes which, in liaison with the Iraqi authorities and in coordination with our allies, are weakening the terrorist organization.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in Baghdad, car bombings killed at least 30 people at a Shiite mosque and markets. And, in Washington, Obama signed a bill to arm and train Syrian rebels for the fight against Islamic State forces.

Sectarian fighting in Yemen escalated sharply today, as Shiite rebels battled Sunni militiamen in the capital. The rebels attacked the headquarters of state TV in Sanaa, after surging out of northern Yemen in recent months. The pro-U.S. government is largely caught between the warring factions.

The World Health Organization is appealing for renewed efforts against Ebola in West Africa, despite the murders of eight health workers. Their team was attacked in a remote part of Guinea. Meanwhile, a three-day national lockdown began in Sierra Leone to slow the disease. Aid workers went door to door today with health tips and soap.

And Bloomberg News reported that the Centers for Disease Control now estimates a worst-case scenario of 550,000 cases, before the outbreak subsides.

A storm over domestic violence by pro football players drew a new pledge today from the NFL. Commissioner Roger Goodell said that new rules on personal conduct are coming. He acknowledged mishandling the case of former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice, but he said, “Now I will get it right.”

ROGER GOODELL, Commissioner, National Football League: The same mistakes can never be repeated. We will do whatever it is necessary to ensure that we are thorough in our review process and that our conclusions are reliable. We will get our house in order first.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Goodell said he doesn’t plan to resign from his post as commissioner.

Also today, President Obama launched a new effort against sexual assaults on college campuses. The It’s On Us campaign aims to send a message that it’s everyone’s responsibility. The president criticized what he called the — quote — “quiet tolerance of sexual assault.”

In the Philippines, widespread flooding from a tropical storm and monsoon rains shut down Manila today with neck-high water in places. The floods drowned whole sections of Manila after more than 10 inches of rain fell over a 24-hour period. At least three people died and some 37,000 others were displaced.

Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline has been fined nearly $5,000 million for bribing doctors in China. The police ministry said that British national Mark Reilly, who was the company’s former China manager, paid doctors to use Glaxo’s products beginning in 2009. He was ordered today to leave the country immediately.

On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 13 points to close at 17,279. The Nasdaq fell 13 to close at 4,579. And the S&P dropped a point to 2,010. For the week, the Dow gained 1.7 percent. The S&P was up 1.3 percent. And the Nasdaq rose a fraction of a percent.

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What’s your favorite Ken Burns film?

Friday, September 19 2014 10:00 PM

Ken Burns talks with Margaret Warner about his new film series, “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.”

Wednesday on PBS NewsHour, documentary filmmaker and director Ken Burns spoke with Margaret Warner about his latest series on PBS, “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.”

Burns’ popularity among our online and on-air audiences got us wondering: out of the 26 films the documentarian has created, which would you recommend if you could only pick one?

Weigh in below, and get your Ken Burns binge-watch on over the weekend.

Which Ken Burns documentary would you recommend?

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U.S. military rushes to deploy help as Ebola spread accelerates

Friday, September 19 2014 09:53 PM

The U.S. has not yet identified which units will be deployed to Liberia to help battle the Ebola outbreak. Photo by Getty Images

The U.S. has not yet identified which units will be deployed to Liberia to help battle the Ebola outbreak. Photo by Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Thousands of promised American forces will be moving into Africa over the next 30 days to set up facilities and form training teams to help the Africans treat Ebola victims, the Army’s top officer said Friday.

Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, said the disease has accelerated faster than initially thought, so the U.S. needs to get people on the ground and ramp up numbers quickly. President Barack Obama has pledged 3,000 troops, and the U.S. military commander and a small team has arrived in Liberia to do initial assessments.

Before troops are sent in, Odierno says, the Army needs to make sure they are prepared to operate in that environment, which includes health care safety.Before troops are sent in, Odierno says, the Army needs to make sure they are prepared to operate in that environment, which includes health care safety. The military units expected to deploy have not been identified.

Maj. Gen. Darryl Williams, the U.S. Army-Africa commander, arrived in Monrovia on Wednesday with a 12-person assessment team, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s press secretary. They are conducting site surveys and other planning needed to construct treatment facilities there.

Kirby added that some equipment has already arrived, including a forklift and generator, and two more aircraft are expected this weekend with 45 more military troops.

The Defense Department has requested up to $1 billion for Ebola response efforts.

Kirby said U.S. troops will not be involved in the direct treatment of patients.

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Should our sports heroes also be our role models?

Friday, September 19 2014 09:44 PM

We asked students from around the country: should our sports heroes also be our heroes in real life? Laryssa Wills of Pflugerville High School in Pflugerville, Texas, says professional athletes should be held accountable as role models. See all the student videos here.

In light of the recent domestic abuse issues plaguing members of the National Football League, we asked our student journalists to consider whether professional athletes should be considered role models.

Our Student Reporting Labs network from around the country answered our callout. Watch their video responses.

Videos were created with mentor support from Detroit Public Television, KLRU, South Carolina ETV, Vegas PBS & WHYY.

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Iranian official calls jailed Washington Post journalist ‘good reporter’ but offers few details on detainment

Friday, September 19 2014 09:37 PM

In a web-only portion of the PBS NewsHour’s interview with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, he speaks about jailed American-Iranian reporter Jason Rezaian.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Friday that the government of Tehran is doing its “best” to handle the detention of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, who was arrested with his wife on undisclosed charges in July.

When asked how long the legal process would take, Zarif said: “I cannot speak for the process. It depends on how it goes. I don’t even know all the charges.”

Rezaian, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, was working for the Washington Post at the time of his arrest. He and his wife, journalist Yeganeh Salehi, who is an Iranian national, were taken from their home on July 22. The Director General of Tehran’s Justice Department Hossein Esmaili said three days later that more details would be provided “after technical investigations,” reported the Islamic Republic News Agency.

Another American arrested with them was released on bail in August.

File photo of Jason Rezaian, correspondent at the Washington Post who is detained in Iran. Photo by Zoeann Murphy/The Washington Post via Getty Images

File photo of Jason Rezaian, correspondent at the Washington Post who is detained in Iran. Photo by Zoeann Murphy/The Washington Post via Getty Images

When asked about the detentions, Zarif told NewsHour chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner that Rezaian was being questioned on “serious charges” and that he was hoping Rezaian could “provide satisfactory answers,” which could lead to his release. Zarif said he and President Hassan Rouhani “have tried our best, in order to ensure that he receives good treatment, that he will be dealt with in the lawful way.

“I know Jason as a good reporter, as somebody who provided rather decent reporting on Iran over the past several years,” Zarif said.

He noted, though, that while the executive branch was trying to expedite the process, it doesn’t have any control over the judiciary.

Rezaian’s mother wrote in an opinion piece published by the Washington Post in August that holding two professional journalists credentialed by the Tehran government is “unconscionable”:

“We do not know why they were taken, who took them and what charges — if any — they face. I don’t even know if Jason and Yeganeh are being held together. Our family and hers have been turned upside down with fear and worry, and there has been little news to dispel that fear as we wait to find out why they are being held. While Yeganeh was allowed brief contact with her family, Jason’s brother and I have gotten no word from him.”

On Friday’s PBS NewsHour, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif discusses the U.S. effort to defeat Islamic State militants and the latest on the nuclear negotiations.

Iran’s Zarif on why Tehran won’t team up with U.S. on Islamic State group

Friday, September 19 2014 09:06 PM

Watch an excerpt of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s interview airing in full on Friday.

U.S. efforts to garner regional support for fighting Islamic State militants, including an all-out effort this week by Secretary of State John Kerry, has hit a roadblock in Iran. It’s partly because the leadership isn’t convinced the U.S. government “was serious,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told the PBS NewsHour’s chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner on Friday.

When Warner asked why Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rebuffed overtures from the Obama administration to cooperate, Zarif said, “Because we were not convinced that the United States government was serious.”

He went on to criticize U.S. plans — approved this week by Congress — to finance moderate Syrian rebels in the fight against the extremists. The rebels are engaged in a three-year civil war against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who Zarif says is working to defeat the Islamic State militants.

Zarif contended that the very forces the U.S. is seeking to aid include elements of the Islamic State group, along with other al-Qaida-linked fighters.

“If you undermine the central government in Syria — that would enable the IS terrorists to engage more effectively and to gain even more territory,” he said. “We see this as basically contradiction in terms of trying to defeat ISIS (another name for the Islamic State group) but at the same time funding those who are trying to undermine the very government that is withstanding ISIS terrorists.”

The full interview with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif airs on Friday’s PBS NewsHour.

Iran would accept Obama bypassing Congress to get sanctions lifted

Friday, September 19 2014 08:54 PM

Watch an excerpt of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s interview airing in full on Friday.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told the PBS NewsHour’s chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner on Friday that Iran would “accept” President Barack Obama’s promise to lift sanctions in ongoing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, rather than holding out for congressional action.

Negotiations between Iran and the nations known as the P5+1 — the U.S., U.K., China, France, Russia and Germany — took place this week aimed at restricting Iran’s nuclear program.

As for whether Iran would hold out for the lifting of permanent sanctions against Iran, which requires congressional action, Zarif appeared amenable to President Barack Obama lifting less restrictive sanctions instead.

“We understand the constraints that President Obama is facing,” in getting Congress to act, said Zarif. “As we don’t accept them asking us to do the impossible, we will not ask them to do the impossible.
“We do not interfere in the internal domestic politics of the United States. If President Obama promises us to do something, we will accept and respect his promise.”

When asked if Iran would back an extension to the Nov. 24 deadline for the P5+1 nations and Iran to reach a permanent deal on its nuclear program, Zarif said he wasn’t ready “to entertain that idea” at this point.

“I’m not saying that November 24 is the doomsday. I’m saying that we should put all our energy into reaching agreement by that time.”

The full interview with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif airs on Friday’s PBS NewsHour.

Kansas to start mailing ballots without a Democratic Senate candidate listed

Friday, September 19 2014 08:53 PM

Illustration by NewsHour

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach announced that election material will be mailed to overseas voters without a Democrat on the ballot, leaving an opening for Independent Greg Orman to have a shot at incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts. Illustration by NewsHour

TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has reversed course and directed county election officials to start mailing ballots to voters overseas Saturday without having a Democratic nominee listed for the U.S. Senate race.

The Democrat dropped out of the race against three-term Republican Sen. Pat Roberts at the urging of some party leaders who wanted to improve the chances that independent candidate Greg Orman would defeat the incumbent.

The Senate race in Republican-leaning Kansas recently emerged as a battleground in the national fight over control of the Senate. Some recent polls have suggested that Orman has a decent change of unseating Roberts, who emerged vulnerable from a nasty Republican primary in August.

Kobach spokeswoman Samantha Poetter confirmed Friday that the secretary of state had decided against delaying the mailing of ballots to military personnel and other U.S. citizens overseas. That was a change from his statement Thursday that the deadline for starting the mailings would be pushed back to Sept. 27.

On Friday afternoon, Kobach’s office sent a directive to county officials, telling them to move ahead with mailing the ballots. The directive, provided to The Associated Press by a county official, said Kobach’s office would provide an additional disclaimer to accompany each ballot, without being more specific.

At issue is a federal law requiring mailing of ballots to military personnel and other U.S. citizens overseas to start 45 days before an election, or Saturday. Kobach said on Thursday that 526 voters would be affected statewide.

Poetter said Kobach was taking the step as a “safety measure” to comply with the law.

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