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Last updated: Thursday, October 02 2014 08:23 AM

Big scary spiders hiding in banana cargo ships are usually harmless, researcher finds

Thursday, October 02 2014 05:24 AM

A harmless pantropical huntsman spider, which is often confused with other, dangerous spiders in international shipments. Photo from Wikimedia commons.

A harmless pantropical huntsman spider, which is often confused with other, dangerous spiders in international shipments. Photo from Wikimedia commons.

A cargo ship filled with bananas arrives in a U.S. port. As workers begin to unload, a huge spider is found bearing furry red markings and glaring eyes. Is the spider dangerous? Should the whole shipment be dumped? Fearing the arachnids could be deadly, crews often collect the spiders and send them to specialists for identification while the fate of the cargo sits and potentially spoils. It’s a costly and often unnecessary problem, according to University of California archeologist Richard Vetter.

Vetter studied 135 spider specimens found among international cargo shipments between 1926 and 2014, and published his research to the Journal of Medical Entomology. Sometimes crews think the spiders have medicinal value and send them to hospitals. But most often, without knowing if a species is dangerous, they worry their load of bananas has been spoiled by the creatures. But, Vetter found there’s no need abandon your curds and whey—just yet.

“Spiders found in international cargo, especially those in banana cartons, are typically harmless species,” they wrote. “It would be beneficial if this article curtails the hyperbole and media attention whenever a large spider is discovered in a banana shipment, and thereby, reduce unwarranted paranoia and anxiety when media stories about toxic banana spiders are unleashed onto an unsuspecting and easily frightened North American general public.”

While hitchhiking spiders may not be dangerous to humans, other invasive species traveling over in international shipments can cause widespread environmental damage. The Asian Gypsy Moth is much less intimidating than a spider in person, but the little beasts defoliate an average of 700,000 acres of U.S. foliage each year. Last November, the PBS NewsHour profiled the Asian tiger shrimp, which threatens to change the balance of wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Minnesota candidates complain about big money, but still rake it in

Thursday, October 02 2014 04:11 AM

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) a 2012 news conference to announce new legislation

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., a 2012 news conference to announce new legislation “to blunt the worst effects” of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

When it comes to money in politics, U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., often complains that there is just too much of it.

But when Franken called the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that opened the door for corporations, unions and individuals to spend unlimited amounts on candidates a “disaster” earlier this month, his impassioned Senate floor speech disguised a central fact of his campaign, and that of his Republican opponent, businessman Mike McFadden.

Both are benefiting from a sophisticated network of donors and committees that have flourished in the wake of the legal decisions Franken and others often criticize.

The U.S. Senate race between Franken and McFadden is not expected to be the most expensive statewide race in the country but both campaigns are expected to spend millions.

So far, Franken has raised $15 million and has spent about $12 million. More than $1.5 million of that has come from joint fundraising committees, which allow candidates and political parties to team-up and split the proceeds from a fundraising event.

Such funds aren’t new, but they have proliferated in recent years. After another Supreme Court decision earlier this year lifted the total amount a single donor can give to candidates, PACs, and other fundraising entities, they’ve become far more popular, said Larry Noble, general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization that focuses on campaign finance and elections.

Following the court’s ruling in McCutcheon vs. the Federal Election Commission, donors still are limited in how much they can give a candidate. But joint fundraising committees allow a single donor to cut a much larger check to be divided among candidates, Noble said.

“They allow wealthy donors to give a lot more money,” Noble said. “It makes sense for the candidate to partner with as many different entities as they can.”

When the court announced its decision this spring, Franken said it was a terrible one because it gives “wealthy, well-funded corporate interests undue influence, access, and power.”

Franken said he’s playing by a set of rules that he ultimately disagrees with. “Ordinary people in Minnesota and around the country don’t have the luxury of pouring millions into political campaigns,” Franken said.

Nevertheless, Franken and the Minnesota DFL established their joint-fundraising committee earlier this year, which so far has netted Franken’s campaign at least $192,000.

Franken said he’s playing by a set of rules that he ultimately disagrees with.

“I wish there wasn’t a need for progressives to form committees like that,” Franken said. “But because of these decisions, they do. We can’t unilaterally disarm.”

McFadden, who has so far raised nearly $4.2 million to compete against Franken, is associated with at least three joint-fundraising committees.

McFadden agrees with Franken that money plays an outsize role in campaigns.

“I’m right in the middle of the storm,” McFadden said. “My observation is that there’s way too much money in political campaigns. It’s crazy.”

But McFadden also said he’d use caution in limiting spending if it meant violating free speech rights.

That was the Supreme Court’s reasoning when it issued its controversial Citizens United ruling in 2010. At the time, the court said that the government can’t regulate corporate free speech. The decision led to the rise of super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions and individuals to benefit a few candidates, so long as the PAC doesn’t coordinate with the candidates’ campaigns.

Franken, who recently co-sponsored a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, has the backing of at least two super PACs this election cycle. And McFadden is benefiting from the backing of five political groups, including super PACs like the Heartland Campaign Fund, which is dedicated entirely to helping him win.

So far, the Heartland Campaign Fund has spent more than $50,000 on radio ads opposing Franken. It is bankrolled mostly by a single donor: West Coast Venture Capital has given the committee $100,000. The company’s owner, California businessman Carl Berg, has given McFadden at least $5,200 according to campaign finance reports.

The Supreme Court decisions have given wealthy donors maximum flexibility in how they support candidates, Hamline University political science professor David Schultz said.

“It’s really opened up the possibility for individuals and donors to make more contributions, to more entities at a greater amount than they could have done a year ago,” he said.

Take Seth MacFarlane, a top Franken donor and creator of the cartoon sitcom “Family Guy.” He has given $5,000 to Franken’s 2014 re-election bid.

But MacFarlane has also donated $10,000 to the Franken Senate Victory 2014 fund, which is a joint-fundraising committee with the Minnesota DFL party, $5,000 to the WIN Minnesota Federal PAC, which was created to help Franken and U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan of the 8th Congressional District, and $10,000 to the Minnesota DFL.

Donors, Near and Far

While both Franken and McFadden rely on wealth donors to support their campaigns, their money also comes from people who give small amounts — so small that their names aren’t listed on campaign finance reports.

More than half of Franken’s campaign support comes from small dollar donors, and most of those donations are under $100, according to his campaign.

But both candidates’ fundraising networks extend far beyond Minnesota.

Of the $4 million large donations McFadden has to detail for the government, nearly $1.5 million have come from people as far away as Alaska.

Based on the latest data from the Federal Elections Commission, roughly 75 percent of Franken’s large dollar donations come from out of state.

“It suggests both sophistication in terms of knowing how to convince people from elsewhere in the country they ought to give to your race,” Schultz said. “But it also suggests the level of importance donors attach to that particular race.”

Despite all the money pouring in, whether the Minnesota Senate race ends up being one of the most contested in the country — and the most expensive — may not be clear until the last weeks of the election, Schultz said.


“Franken, McFadden complain about big money but still rake it in” from Minnesota Public Radio (c) 2014. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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Netanyahu, Obama are old allies navigating new challenges

Thursday, October 02 2014 01:51 AM

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu briefly met today, renewing their famously frosty, and occasionally tendentious relationship after a seven-month hiatus. The leaders spoke to reporters and listed a raft of pressing issues for discussion: Iran’s nuclear program; the onslaught of Islamic State in the Middle East and the wider, regional conflagration; and the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The latest attempt to solve that decades-old conflict was shelved earlier this year as the two sides — despite exhaustive but fruitless mediation by Secretary of State John Kerry — reached yet another impasse. A key and ongoing issue: Israeli settlement activity.

Today, it was revealed by an Israeli anti-settlement group — Peace Now — that the municipality of Jerusalem had approved construction of 2500 new homes in Givat Hamatos, a development in East Jerusalem that would complete a ring of Jewish housing around East Jerusalem, between Arab neighborhoods of the city and the West Bank; in essence, a buffer. This new development would cut off the predominantly-Arab Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Safafa from the West Bank town of Bethlehem, to the South of the city.

These Jewish housing developments are considered by Palestinians, the international community and the United States as settlements on land claimed by Palestinans as their own. East Jerusalem (and its iconic Old City) was captured by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War and annexed. Successive U.S. Administrations have made demands of Israel to cease this very type of settlement activity and expansion not only in the Jerusalem area but around the West Bank, the core of a future Palestinian State. The decision revealed today received a harsh condemnation from White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest (as shown below) who was questioned near the beginning of his daily briefing.

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Liberian Dallas residents worry about Ebola in their neighborhood

Wednesday, October 01 2014 11:12 PM

Some residents of refugee-rich Vickery Meadow in northeast Dallas are concerned that a man with Ebola had spent time in the neighborhood. Photo by Stella M. Chavez/KERA News

Some residents of refugee-rich Vickery Meadow in northeast Dallas are concerned that a man with Ebola had spent time in the neighborhood.
Photo by Stella M. Chavez/KERA News

Ebola was the talk of Vickery Meadow in northeast Dallas Wednesday. It’s a refugee-rich neighborhood with a significant West African population – and it’s where a man was visiting before he became the first person in the United States diagnosed with the Ebola virus.

The man, identified as Thomas Eric Duncan, went to nearby Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where he’s in an isolation ward. He was in serious, but stable condition Wednesday, health officials said.

Refugees and immigrants from across the world live in Vickery Meadow, often in close quarters. While many called home to Africa and expressed fear at the spread of the disease, they also hoped that people and especially children would keep level heads.

Doctors will “take care of everything,” one woman says

Najat Boka was looking for products at a local African beauty supply store.

She said she trusted the doctors to treat the patient well and to keep the people caring for him safe.

“For the people who are here, they have nothing to do with this disease,” Boka said. “Since we have our doctor and he came from there and they took care of him, they’re going to take care of everything.”

“God, it’s really close to here”

Paula Ly is a cashier at a convenience store in Vickery Meadow. It’s a gathering place. People from different countries come through the store, wanting to send money to family overseas, including West Africa, which has been ravaged by Ebola.

“I hear Ebola – I heard about it yesterday – God, it’s really close to here,” Ly said. “And, oh, it’s just scary what’s going on. I hear like that person, I thought you know they live from here and they visit the family over there. … This kind of sick. Everybody’s scared. I just think like when you know when they pass by an airport, how come they don’t check?”

Ly sighed.

She often asks her customers sending money back to Liberia about how their families are doing in West Africa.

“Some people just say: Their family is OK,” she said. “Some just say … all their family is gone. It’s sad, too, thinking about it. … They cannot go visit over there. If family passes away, they can only send money to help.”

“Going to buy … some hand sanitizer”

Health officials say Ebola is spread through direct contact with blood or bodily fluids, such as urine, saliva and vomit. Ebola is not spread through the air or by water. Laurence Jones, who lives in Vickery Meadow, is wondering about what happened to the patient between the first time he visited Texas Health Presbyterian, which sent him home, and the second time, when he returned via ambulance and was sent to an isolation ward.

“My concern is the patient himself and his family members’ timeline between Wednesday and Sunday,” Jones says. “Did they go to the pharmacy? They sent him home with antibiotics. You sneeze on your hand but you grab the door handle of the pharmacy. How many people have touched that pharmacy? They say it’s exposure. That’s exposure to me.”

He continued: “I’m concerned about our community here. We’re a five-mile radius from the hospital. … You ride the DART train, everyone rides the DART train. The pharmacy. Tom Thumb. Kroger. Who’s to say one of their kids or a family member just a simple wiping of the noise? We’re exposed.”

Jones added: “I’m going to buy me some hand sanitizer right now – as soon as I leave here. You just never know.”

“We have to be aware”

Rickey Cole was hanging out at a barbershop in Vickery Meadow. He doesn’t live in the neighborhood, but he’s concerned.

“We have to be aware,” he said. “It’s good awareness right now. We have to be cautious of Ebola. It’s good the media has made us aware of it. It’s just really a serious epidemic right now. We all have to be very careful of what we’re doing right now. … As long as he’s getting treatment, I’m sure we’re going to be OK. … It’s here. It’s not just about Africa. It’s about everybody. Everybody’s involved in this. It’s not just one group of people. We all need to be aware of it.”

Across North Texas, residents react

KERA’s Courtney Collins spent time in another part of Dallas, talking with North Texans to get their reaction to the news that a man in a Dallas hospital has Ebola:

“My name is Felicia Jones, I’m from Dallas, Texas, and I’m 30 years old. Frightened, scared, for not only me and my family but other people as well.”

“My name is Forrest Collins, I’m from Denton, Texas, and I’m 20 years old. It makes sense that it would be Dallas. It’s a huge trade center and commerce and everything. I’m not going to bar my doors or put hand sanitizer anywhere.”

“My name is Sonya Rosenfeld and I’m from Dallas. Well, I’m only eating off plates of people that I know. Other than that, there’s really not much that I can you can do.”

“Sharon Plugey from Dallas, Texas. We’re the country that can take care of it if anyone can. So I figure they’ll take care of it and now that it’s here maybe it’ll speed up the process.”

This post originally appeared on KERA’s website on October 1.

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What went wrong at the Secret Service?

Wednesday, October 01 2014 10:50 PM

RESIGNED julia pierson monitor

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HARI SREENIVASAN: We begin with the shakeup at the Secret Service. The agency’s embattled director Julia Pierson has resigned after a series of incidents that punctured presidential security.

JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary:  Director Pierson offered her recommendation — her resignation today because she believed that it was in the best interest of the agency to which she has dedicated her career.

HARI SREENIVASAN: From White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, the official announcement this afternoon. Pierson offered to resign, and the president accepted.

JOSH EARNEST: Over the last several days, we have seen recent and accumulating reports raising questions about the performance of the agency, and the president concluded that new leadership of that agency was required.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Just yesterday, Pierson, a 30-year Secret Service veteran, had apologized for security lapses before a House panel yesterday.

JULIA PIERSON, Director, Secret Service: This is unacceptable, and I take full responsibility. And I will make sure that it does not happen again.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Pierson was called to account for a series of revelations, that, in 2011, it took four days for the Secret Service to realize shots had hit the White House and that, last month, a fence jumper with a knife made it deep inside the mansion. But the director’s answer left lawmakers from both parties cold.

REP. STEPHEN LYNCH, (D) Massachusetts: I wish to God you — you protected the White House like you’re protecting your reputation here today.

HARI SREENIVASAN: After the hearing ended came yet another disclosure, that two weeks ago, while the president was in Atlanta, a security guard with a gun and a record of assault and battery got on an elevator with him.

Today, Pierson told Bloomberg News it’s in everyone’s interest that she resign, but she said — quote — “It’s painful to leave as the agency is reeling from a significant security breach.”

Meanwhile, the accused fence jumper, Omar Gonzalez, appeared in federal court. His lawyer entered a not guilty plea to federal and local charges.

For more on the Pierson resignation, we turn to Carol Leonnig of The Washington Post. She’s broken several major stories on the Secret Service’s lapses, and she joins us now from The Post’s newsroom.

So, what tipped the scales? As of this morning, the White House seems to still express confidence in her. Why did she resign?

CAROL LEONNIG, The Washington Post: Well, if you saw the White House briefing, Josh Earnest was asked sort of pointedly that exact same question, and he was asked, was this because lawmakers had increasingly sort of lost confidence in her after her pretty unremarkable performance on the Hill yesterday?

And he said, no, the president had concluded we needed an agency change in leadership as a result of, you know, this — these recent and accumulating accounts of bad performance in the agency.

I mean, you have to think about all the things the president has been learning in the last couple of days, one, the details about how a shooting at his home was fumbled by the Secret Service in 2011, the fact that he got on an elevator with an armed security guard who had not been checked by the Secret Service and had a criminal history, unbeknownst to them, and that a fence jumper actually made it a lot further into the house than the director of the Secret Service had told anyone, including in a criminal complaint about that fence jumper.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, will it be enough? Will the resignation be enough? What’s the reaction been from lawmakers?

CAROL LEONNIG: Well, certainly, lawmakers think her resignation is a step in the right direction, most of the ones that I have talked to today.

But I think that, you know, if you’re a Secret Service agent or officer, what you’re looking for is that second part of the press release, which is the top-to-bottom review of the agency. I mean, this is an agency with this amazing, elite reputation of yore that has really taken a bruising, and — because of these security lapses.

And the agents who love it and work for it dutifully want it to be fixed as much as anybody who was on Capitol Hill and on that Oversight Committee. They want to see higher-quality leadership. They want to see intensive training. They don’t want any more complacency. They want to see staffing that’s commensurate with all the added chores that the Secret Service has received since 9/11.

They — they are looking forward to the challenge of doing this job well and returning their focus to the core mission.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And, briefly, what do we know about Joseph Clancy, the man who is in the interim seat?

CAROL LEONNIG: Yes, I have interviewed a few people who worked with him and know him well. They described him as genteel, lovely, a real gentleman, a conflict avoider, somebody who really likes to be around others and is not going to rock the boat.

He’s going to be a very good caretaker until a permanent replacement is found, is what I have heard from folks who knew him.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Carol Leonnig of The Washington Post, thanks so much.

CAROL LEONNIG: You bet.

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News Wrap: Hong Kong protesters boo Chinese flag on National Day

Wednesday, October 01 2014 10:45 PM

newswrap

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HARI SREENIVASAN: In other news of this day, Texas officials announced more than a dozen people, including children, could have had contact with an Ebola patient now hospitalized in Dallas.

The man contracted the disease in Liberia, but wasn’t diagnosed until after he arrived in Texas on September 20. We will have a full report and talk to the head of the Centers for Disease Control in just a moment.

But, first, today’s other headlines.

The Ebola news helped fuel a sell-off on Wall Street. Airline stocks were hit hard over fears that people will be worried about flying. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 238 points to close at 16,804; the Nasdaq fell 71 points to close at 4,422; and the S&P 500 slipped 26 to 1,946.

Twin car bombings in Syria struck near an elementary school in the city of Homs today, killing at least 32 people. Officials said at least 10 children died in the first blast, when school was letting out. The second bomb exploded as parents frantically searched for their sons and daughters. To the north, activists reported Islamic State militants beheaded nine Kurdish fighters captured near Kobani. The victims included three women.

A car bomb in Baghdad today killed 15 Iraqis and wounded 40 more. It was the latest in a continuing surge of violence that left more than 1,100 people dead in September alone. The United Nations reported that number today. It doesn’t include killings in areas held by Islamic State fighters.

A nearly month-old cease-fire in Ukraine did little to stop the fighting in Donetsk today. Rebel forces closed in on the city airport and, a few miles away, at least 10 people died when shells struck a minibus and nearby school. No children were killed, but glass lay everywhere after the attack as students and adults emerged from basement shelters. Each side blamed the other for the attacks.

Crowds of protesters are still building in Hong Kong, with leaders now threatening to storm government buildings. That came today as China marked its National Day.

Lucy Watson of Independent Television News is in Hong Kong.

LUCY WATSON: Their Hong Kong, their protest, and their vision for democracy, which continue to surge through this city. And these are the faces of this uprising, young outnumbering the old, their commitment to this campaign spanning night and day, on the day that celebrated the founding of communist China.

The flag-raising, Hong Kong’s protesters jeered at. And their cause fascinates, but baffles mainland Chinese tourists, but inspires others.

Kenny Woo traveled here just to support it, but doubts its success.

“It’s difficult to succeed when faced with the Communist Party,” he says. “Mainland Chinese wouldn’t do this. They’re too scared to tell the truth and protest” — unlike here, where unity has become power and so many want to be involved. And, tonight, those numbers strengthened; 150.,000 people have turned out today, all believing a compromise is possible.

And it’s a tactical move to keep these demonstrators peaceful. Yes, it makes Beijing uneasy. But if China wants to be considered a real global superpower, how can it possibly respond to polite protest with extreme violence while the world watches?

Lee Jaw Ren is a chief organizer and a man with a clear agenda.

LEE JAW REN, Protester Organizer: We may escalate our action to try to, you could say, occupy more places.

LUCY WATSON: So this campaign has direction, a new wave of actions planned, as resolve hardens.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In Washington, the visiting Chinese foreign minister said what happens in Hong Kong is China’s business and no one else’s. He warned, all countries should respect China’s sovereignty.

The death toll rose again today in Japan’s volcano eruption. It’s now 47. Military rescuers used helicopters today to recover more bodies near the peak of Mount Ontake. They found victims buried in ash and caught between boulders. The volcano erupted in ash and smoke on Saturday, with no warning.

Back in this country, a federal appeals court blocked parts of North Carolina’s new voting law, saying it is likely to disenfranchise black voters. The Republican-backed law eliminated same-day voter registration during early voting. It also banned any ballot cast outside an assigned precinct. Republicans said they will appeal the ruling.

Today marked one year since the launch of President Obama’s online health insurance marketplace. Healthcare.gov at first received a mountain of criticism from Congress and the public for glitches and long wait times. But, as of August, 7.3 million people were enrolled for coverage. The next open enrollment starts next month.

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Officials try to reassure public of Ebola containment while tracking possible exposures – Part 1

Wednesday, October 01 2014 10:40 PM

EBOLA  texas us flag monitor

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HARI SREENIVASAN: We further explore the efforts to contain and deal with the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S. Officials sought to reassure Americans there are systems in place to control its spread, even amid local reports of a possible second case and new confirmation that others appear to have been exposed.

The Ebola patient at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas was identified today as Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian visiting the U.S. Officials also announced that five schoolchildren are among 12 to 18 people who came in contact with Duncan, and they are now being closely watched.

Texas Governor Rick Perry:

GOV. RICK PERRY, (R) Texas: These children have been identified and they are being monitored. And the disease cannot be transmitted before having any symptoms.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Not much is known about Duncan, except that he traveled from Liberia with a stopover in Brussels, Belgium, on September 19, then flew on to Dallas the next day.

Under screening policies at many West African airports, he was checked for signs of fever before boarding in Monrovia, but wasn’t sick then. Then, six days after arriving in Dallas, he went to an emergency room with a fever and was sent home. Two days later, he returned and was admitted.

DR. EDWARD GOODMAN, Epidemiologist, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital: Since his arrival on Friday, he wasn’t vomiting or having diarrhea. And, therefore, there was no exposures. So we really think there is very little likelihood that any health care worker was exposed on Friday, and certainly virtually zero exposure starting Sunday.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Ambulance workers who transported Duncan tested negative for Ebola, but they’re now under quarantine. Doctors say they’re tracking all of Duncan’s movements, but state health officials say Dallas is equipped to stop Ebola’s spread.

DR. DAVID LAKEY, Commissioner, Texas Department of State Health Services: This is not West Africa. This is a very sophisticated city, a very sophisticated hospital. And the dynamics are so significantly different than they are in East Africa — excuse me — in West Africa — that the chances of it being spread are very, very, very small.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Back in Liberia, some 2000 people have already died from the disease, with thousands more infected. The chief of the U.N. mission there appealed again for help.

KARIN LANDGREN, U.N. Special Representative to Liberia: The world is absolutely not doing enough yet. We are still challenged to outrun the disease. And as long as the new cases continue to increase the way they are, as long as we look around and don’t see spare bed spaces in Ebola treatment units, we know we aren’t winning yet.

Ebola needs to be tackled here, or it will be on everyone else’s doorstep, and the Texas case shows us this.

HARI SREENIVASAN: U.S. Navy engineers have now broken ground on a new Ebola facility in Liberia to house 25 patients.

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How the U.S. is equipped to isolate Ebola – Part 2

Wednesday, October 01 2014 10:35 PM

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HARI SREENIVASAN: U.S. Navy engineers have now broken ground on a new Ebola facility in Liberia to house 25 patients.

Dr. Tom Frieden is the director of the Centers for Disease Control, the government’s top point person on all of this. And he joins me now for the latest.

So, local officials are saying that there is a possibility that a second person — is that confirmed?

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Absolutely not.

We’re in the early stages of the investigation. This is going to be a very intensive set of work. Today, our team on the ground interviewed about 100 workers at the hospital to really parse out, were people exposed, and if so how, so that we can make sure we have a roster of everyone who was exposed and then track each one of them for 21 days to see if they become ill.

HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. So tracking is not the same as quarantining. You said, for example, while we were watching the videotape that those ambulance workers are not under quarantine now?

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN: The details really have to be worked out locally. Our general approach is to say, if someone has been exposed, they need to check their temperature twice a day. We would check their temperature at least once a day. And then if there are any symptoms at all, they need to be isolated immediately.

But the bottom line here is that we know how to stop Ebola. We have two things in this country that they don’t have and they need in West Africa. One is good infection control in health care facilities, so it doesn’t spread there. And the second is good core, tried-and-true public health. Find contacts, trace them, monitor them. If they’re sick, isolate them.

If you do those two things, you can stop Ebola, and that’s what I’m confident will happen here.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And so also about those five children that were reported to have had contact with the person that’s infected, any idea how we monitor that and all the people that those children might touch?

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN: Very important point to be clear about. If someone is exposed to a person with Ebola, they cannot spread it to others unless they get sick and until they get sick. So even if you have been exposed, if you’re not sick, you’re not shedding the virus. You can’t make other people sick.

HARI SREENIVASAN: OK, so one of the things we have been hearing consistently is that there is this travel that’s happening outside of countries, outside of West Africa. Why not — there’s a bunch of questions that we had on Facebook. Why do they continue to let people travel back and forth? Shouldn’t there be restrictions at least until the situation is under control in Africa? That came from Annemarie Casey on our Facebook page.

How do you control it?

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN: Well,  First off, months ago, we recommended that Americans restrict nonessential travel.

But, paradoxically, if we were to isolate the country from others, that’s actually going to increase risk to the rest of the world. You have to think it through for a minute. To get there, you have to fly. To fly, you have to have airlines going and coming back. If people there feel that they’re isolated from the rest of the world, they will leave more.

So, both within countries and between countries, if we try to seal borders, we’re going to do more harm than good. We’re going to spread the disease more than we stop spread of it. This is something that’s very important to understand. It’s crucial to isolate patients, but isolating communities or countries is counterproductive.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And when you have isolated this patient now that is in the U.S., and as you have increased the kind of depth of your dive on who he has touched, what are pieces of information that you have learned now?

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN: Well, it will be days, as we interview others and follow and get more information, until we know how many people really might have been exposed.

We take kind of a concentric circle approach. Who are those who really did have a lot of contact, who we are going to need to be very careful to monitor? Who are those who might have just had the slightest of contact, but out of an abundance of caution, we’re going to also monitor? That’s something that we will be sorting through over the next day or two.

HARI SREENIVASAN: What kind of treatment is he likely to get?

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN: Well, it turns out that, for Ebola, even without experimental medicines, there is a lot that can be done just to improve the patient’s outcome by providing fluids and balancing their electrolytes, that kind of intensive care that gets provided.

We’re really hoping for his recovery, but, last we heard, he was quite sick.

HARI SREENIVASAN: OK. And we have heard that he might have come in contact with as many as 100 people. Is that true?

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN: I have not heard that number. There are a lot of rumors, rumors about cases, rumors about contacts. Let’s take things one step at a time.

What we know is, we have one patient with Ebola in the U.S. He is being cared for in a hospital in isolation. We’re going to identify who might have had contact with him, and we will have that information over the next day or two.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Given the kinds of laws of probability and the number of people who are traveling aircraft all over the world, is it statistically likely that there might be others, whether they’re coming to the United States or elsewhere?

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN: I think, with what we’re seeing in West Africa, with many thousands of cases, it is highly likely that we will see Ebola in other parts of the world, particularly neighboring countries or other parts of Africa.

Even if you were to stop flights — and that’s not being done — but, even if you were, people travel. They travel by various routes, over land. Borders are porous. They have sometimes citizenship in multiple countries. So this idea that we can somehow seal it off is not going to work. We have to recognize that the way to keep ourselves safe is to help stop the outbreak there.

That’s the most effective. In fact, that’s the only way that we’re going to ensure that we’re safe. So, yes, we’re going to do things here, but we have got to address the problems there.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the CDC, thanks so much.

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN: Thank you.

The post How the U.S. is equipped to isolate Ebola – Part 2 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

What questions do you have for acting legend James Earl Jones?

Wednesday, October 01 2014 10:34 PM

On Thursday, PBS NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown will sit down for an interview with actor James Earl Jones — currently starring in “You Can’t Take It With You” on Broadway in New York City — and we want your questions.

A celebrated actor of stage and screen, Jones’s career has spanned more than six decades from a Tony Award-winning performance in “The Great White Hope” (and an Academy Award nomination for the same role in the movie version) to voice acting roles, including Darth Vader in Star Wars and Mufasa in Disney’s The Lion King.

In the revival of “You Can’t Take It With You,” which opened last week, Jones leads a cast of 20 playing an eccentric older man who lives by the philosophy, ”don’t do anything that you’re not going to enjoy doing.”

We’re asking: Do you have questions for Jones? Share your suggestions in the comments below, or share with @NewsHour on Twitter or post to Facebook, and your question may be asked.

And if you could hear James Earl Jones say anything, what would it be? Tell us below.

The post What questions do you have for acting legend James Earl Jones? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Why the Mideast peace process is at a standstill

Wednesday, October 01 2014 10:30 PM

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HARI SREENIVASAN: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama met at the White House this morning to discuss the derailed peace process with Iran and the fight against the Islamic State.

Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner has been reporting on what happened as the leaders spoke behind closed doors.

So, after the cameras were off, what happened in there?

MARGARET WARNER: Well, Hari, it didn’t go entirely well, and that was somewhat surprising.

The expectation was that, after this tension-filled year over the Iran nuke talks, over the Gaza war, over the crash and burn of the peace process, that the two leaders would pretty much agree to agree on certain things, paper over their differences and focus on the fight against Islamic State or ISIS.

But, instead, Israeli officials came out and said, well, that they still had the exact same concerns on the Iran nuke talks, even though that was Netanyahu’s number one item, that the U.S. and these world powers are pursuing a deal that will leave Iran with some kind of centrifuge capability and enrichment capability that they think will make them a threshold weapon state.

And, two, just — I think Netanyahu had only just returned to New York when the with White House spokesman came out, Josh Earnest, and totally unloaded on the announcement today of plans to build new Israeli settlements in Arab East Jerusalem, and he said it called into question the entire commitment of the Israeli government to any kind of negotiated settlement and it would alienate the government from even its closest allies.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, that leads me to ask about the peace plan that Secretary of State Kerry has been working so hard on. Where is that?

MARGARET WARNER: Dead for now, totally dead for now. He labored for nine months, as you know, suspended in April.

The only thing that could break the logjam to, say, everyone who is involved in it, is if President Obama would come forward for with the principles the U.S. believes in and just make everyone respond. He doesn’t think either of these leaders, Abbas or — Palestinian President Abbas or Netanyahu has the stroke or will internally, domestically, to do it.

Two, he’s not about to pick a fight with Israel on the eve of an American election. But, number three, he’s really focused on the fight against ISIS. And, actually, interestingly, Israel is giving not only rhetorical support to that, but real — some behind-the-scenes support, one on intelligence. They have excellent intelligence with Syria.

And, two, allowing some overflights over Israeli territories on some of these strikes.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, something interesting that Netanyahu said was — let me quote this — “A commonality of exists between Israel and some Arab states.”

What’s he mean by that.

MARGARET WARNER: It’s interesting.

First of all, they have always had commonality, the Gulf states, Jordan, and Egypt, against Iranian influence. But during the Gaza conflict, Israelis were heartened by the fact that the Gulf states and these other countries were very muted in their criticism of civilian deaths.

Then the emergence of this sort of intense ISIS fight has had Netanyahu and his government thinking if there is a way to partner with some of these — quote — “moderate,” they call them, Arab states to try to put leverage on actually the Palestinians, or give them diplomatic cover and money to actually get back to the peace table.

Now, some would say that hasn’t been the only obstacle to peace. But, of course, an announcement — apparently, President Obama, they discussed — Netanyahu came in with specific ideas. They did discuss those ideas. President Obama made clear it would have to be a two-way street. And certainly announcements like the settlements are not the kind of gesture that would advance that or make it comfortable for these states to join in any kind of overt coordinated campaign with the Israelis.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Margaret Warner, thanks so much.

MARGARET WARNER: Thank you.

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Cutting higher ed costs for Chicago’s disadvantaged students

Wednesday, October 01 2014 10:20 PM

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HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, back here at home, some news about college.

Two separate pushes were announced today in Chicago aimed at improving access to higher education among lower-income students.

Jeffrey Brown has the story.

JEFFREY BROWN: The moves, announced separately, will eliminate costs at one of the nation’s most elite universities and at the city’s community colleges.

University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer announced a plan that will replace loans with grants, simplify the application process, and ensure that some students don’t have to take jobs during the academic year. University officials said the changes will build on programs for lower-income students at the school, such as Anthony Downer.

ANTHONY DOWNER, Student, University of Chicago: I knew I wanted to attend a top college, but the question for my family and so many other low-income families was, how will we pay for it?

JEFFREY BROWN: Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel also announced a separate plan to provide free community college tuition to all Chicago public high school students who graduate with a 3.0 grade-point average or better and are ready for college-level math and English.

MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL, Chicago: We live in a time where you earn what you learn. The big factor in determining whether people complete school, drop out of the school is cost.

JEFFREY BROWN: The proposals come amid growing pressure on colleges and universities to enroll and graduate more disadvantaged students. And they follow similar moves around the country.

Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the state of Tennessee, for example, are providing free tuition at community colleges with the hope of raising low graduation rates. Among top-tier schools, several have policies guaranteeing lower-income families don’t have to pay for college.

Still, disadvantaged students remain poorly represented on many of their campuses.

Here to tell us more about these initiatives are Robert Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago, and Cheryl Hyman, chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago.

Well, welcome, both, to you.

Cheryl, to you first.

CHERYL HYMAN, Chancellor, City Colleges of Chicago: Hi.

JEFFREY BROWN: Why is this necessary? What’s the problem that is preventing more students from attending college?

CHERYL HYMAN: It is extremely necessary because we want to make sure that all Chicagoans have a chance to succeed. We want to make sure that we shift the paradigm of community colleges from those being solely focused on access to those that are coupled with access and success.

Now, what does success mean? Success means that all of our students graduate with a credential of economic value, which Mayor Emanuel and I addressed in 2011, when we launched College to Careers, but that we remove the barriers that exist as well.

And so one of the main barriers that a lot of students face nowadays, particularly with the increase in student debt, is finances. And so we believe that when a student is performing well, and they are college-ready coming out of high school, we should try to remove every possible barrier we can to help them succeed.

JEFFREY BROWN: And how many…

CHERYL HYMAN: And so it’s incredibly important that we do that.

JEFFREY BROWN: Excuse me.

How many graduates do you think there will be that will hit that GPA and other marks that are required? How many students are you talking about that you think you can reach here?

CHERYL HYMAN: So we’re thinking that the first year, there will be about 2,000 that will qualify.

We’re anticipating that we will get somewhat in the upper numbers of at least half and continue to grow that number to come to us. What we do know is that at least about 1,500 students graduated who could have taken advantage of this that didn’t go to college at all. And we want to ensure that that doesn’t happen again.

JEFFREY BROWN: And can you tell us briefly just how this would be paid for? Because the mayor was — wasn’t giving specifics today from what I gather.

CHERYL HYMAN: Yes.

So, it’s important to know that students will still be able to take advantage of applying for their federal and Pell assistance. We want them to take advantage of every financial opportunity. But, back in June, I talked about in a speech that I delivered to the City Club how City Colleges have been able to concentrate our capital investment through our College to Careers.

So through our College to Careers program, we have been able to consolidate programs and strategically make investments in very specific colleges and not duplicate those investments, because we have each one of our colleges now singularly focused on one area.

So now, instead of duplicating investments in nursing in five places, we’re building a new $251 million school where we can make those investments in one place.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right.

CHERYL HYMAN: And through those efficiencies, we have saved about $10 million.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, let me ask Robert Zimmer, the University of Chicago.

In asking you why you’re doing what you’re doing, the charge has been out there that many elite schools have just not done enough to attract lower-income students, and that’s exacerbating big problems within our culture over income inequities.

How do you plead to that?

ROBERT ZIMMER, President, University of Chicago: Well, the reason we undertook this program in the first place was our belief in the importance of education and the power of that education to transform lives and to change the trajectory of families.

If we’re going to be acting on that belief in the strongest possible ways, we are in fact going to have to do more to attract lower-income families and moderate-income families into elite institutions, such as the University of Chicago.

So this was a program. It wasn’t our first program. But it is a continuation of a set of programs that are designed specifically to address the issue you raised, namely, that there are many outstanding, academically qualified students of lower family income who can in fact succeed very well at an elite institution, like the University of Chicago, and that we have to do more to get them in.

JEFFREY BROWN: Other schools have tried various things. We have done some reports on those efforts on this program, and, yet, the numbers don’t budge a whole lot. I wonder, have you looked at what has been tried? Have you seen what the problems are? And have you figured out exactly, sort of specifically, how to raise those numbers?

ROBERT ZIMMER: Yes.

We have done a great deal of analysis on this. And we have what we believe is a comprehensive program to systemically address the set of issues that we see as being barriers to students applying to our elite institutions.

This includes issues around expectation of student debt, which we are eliminating. It includes issues around application fees, simplicity vs. complexity of the entire process. It includes a feeling that one is going to be able to have additional support to participate fully in the life of the institution. And there is the question of preparing students for careers afterwards.

JEFFREY BROWN: And I ask you, just very briefly, do you have a specific goal, a number of students you feel you need to attract to get the diversity you want?

ROBERT ZIMMER: Well, right now, we expect this program to be relevant to about half of our students when it’s fully phased in.

That would be if our numbers remained about the same right now. But we do expect that number to increase, and we are walking for it to increase. Half right now would mean approximately or close to 3,000 students, and we certainly want to see that number increase.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Robert Zimmer of the University of Chicago, and Cheryl Hyman of City Colleges of Chicago, thank you both very much.

CHERYL HYMAN: Thank you very much.

ROBERT ZIMMER: Thank you.

CHERYL HYMAN: Thank you.

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Paul Ryan discusses ‘Way Forward’ on economic opportunity, future of the GOP

Wednesday, October 01 2014 10:15 PM

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HARI SREENIVASAN: If you’re a politician, nothing says you’re thinking about running for president like writing a book. And that’s what brings us to former vice presidential candidate and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.

Yesterday, Judy Woodruff spoke with the Republican Budget Committee chairman about his new book, “The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea.”

JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressman Paul Ryan, welcome.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), Wisconsin:  Good to be with you, Judy. Thanks for having me this evening.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So we’re talking to you about your book. You make public here more of your personal story than I think we have ever heard from you, in particular about the death of your father when you were a teenager. Why did you decide to share that now?

REP. PAUL RYAN: Well, I think it’s important that you talk about the tragedies in your life, the things that have happened that form you.

I thought it was important to explain why I think the way I think, and, more importantly, how some tragedies can hit families and you can bounce back from them. Good things can come from these difficult circumstances and difficult challenges.

And it was a very formative part might have life. And that’s why I talked about these things, in an effort to try and explain why I think what I think and why I do what I do. And I also wanted to put forward a positive agenda of solutions to show how we can get things right in America, and how our own family needed the safety net, how our community was there for us when we needed it, my mom, and myself, and my grandma, and how important these programs in this kind of a society, a civil society, is to me and how personal it is to me.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So you do write — if there’s a personal side of the book, there’s very much a public and a political. You talk about the Republican Party, how it needs to open up.

But I guess one of the questions to you is, how hard is that to do, when many, certainly Democrats, some independents, see the Republican Party as a party that has at least in the past been perceived as against doing programs for the poor, against expanding Medicaid health benefits?

How do you see the challenge for the Republican Party?

REP. PAUL RYAN: I think we do have a challenge. That’s one of the reasons why I wrote this book.

I think we need to show not just what we’re against, but what we are for and how we are applying critically important principles to the problems of the day to offer better solutions. Here are better ideas for health care retirement security. Here are better ideas for economic growth. Here’s our agenda for getting — helping get people out of poverty, for real welfare reform, to move people from welfare to work, for economic growth, for a stronger foreign policy to make us more safe and more secure.

I think, just because we don’t like the current policies in place or the track we are on, we should not just simply be an opposition party. We need to be a proposition party, an alternative party:  Here is a better way forward for our country. Here are better solutions. And this shows you the kind of opportunity society we’re trying to create to reignite the engines of economic opportunity, to reconnect people with the America idea, which is this great idea that the condition of your birth doesn’t determine the outcome of your life, and that we want to have a dynamic society where everybody is involved, where everybody can participate, in an economy of inclusion, so that everybody can reach their potential.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Someone who has looked at your book sent me these statistics just this week, Congressman. That is that corporate earnings — this is since the financial collapse in 2008 — corporate earnings have gone up at an analyzed rate of over 20 percent, while disposable income for the average person has gone up annually at only about 1.4 percent.

What would you do about that?

REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes.

So, the wealthy are doing fine. The wealth effect, with the Federal Reserve and the stock market, they’re doing fine. But this kind of prosperity is not trickling down. So we’re basically seeing what you would call trickle-down economics now, I would argue. We have crony capitalism. We have top-heavy government.

We don’t have government that is responsive to people’s needs. And we don’t have the kind of organic economic growth you need to get people into the work force. And so I articulate a whole host of ideas, from tax reform, to job training reform, to better poverty-fighting solutions, to try and get people back into the economy, so they can get better take-home pay, better jobs, better opportunity, but, more importantly, get people back out of the doldrums that they’re in.

Look, Judy, our labor force participation rates, tens of millions of people who are either not working full-time or working part-time or not in school. When you have got almost 20 percent of 21-to-44-year-olds who are not in school or working at all, we have a problem in America today.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

REP. PAUL RYAN: And what I would argue is, we need better, faster economic growth and we need the kind of economic growth that is bottom-up, that actually gets everybody on at least some rung of the economic ladder, so they can start climbing, so we can get the bridge to a better life, which is a better job.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I do want to make time for at least one foreign policy question. And that is, you have said that President Obama was wrong not to negotiate a so-called status of forces agreement in Iraq to leave some U.S. troops there.

REP. PAUL RYAN: Right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You have said that that might have helped prevent what has happened with the Islamic State recently.

So, my question is, are you saying U.S. troops should have stayed in Iraq and would still be there today…

REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … meaning 10, 11 years in Iraq?

REP. PAUL RYAN: I do think we should have had a status of forces agreement, where we would have had a footprint of soldiers there embedded with the Iraqis, helping enable the Iraqis, helping make sure that they can keep their military organized and coordinated and help the political coalition stay together.

And I would argue, because of our precipitous withdrawal, that hurt us and it helped us lose the gains we got. And I think we would have done a far better job, as the military asked at the time, and recommended at the time, we would have done a far better job of keeping the Iraqi military organized and together.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You have said you are thinking about whether to run for president. Mitt Romney, who chose you as his vice presidential running mate, has hinted that he is still thinking about it. You have said just in the last day or so that you wouldn’t run if he ran. Why not?

REP. PAUL RYAN: Because I think he’d make a great president. I supported him in the last election. I wish that he would have won. I wish that we would have won.

And I would defer to Mitt, because I think he’s the right time guy for the time. I don’t think he’s going to run. He’s been pretty clear about that. I, for myself, that’s a decision I’m not right now thinking about, because I think we have issues to deal with today. But this is something for 2015. I’m going to make a decision in 2015 about that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressman Paul Ryan, the book is “The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea.”

We thank you.

REP. PAUL RYAN: Thank you, Judy.

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Previous terms cut short by convictions, iconic former mayor of Providence runs again

Wednesday, October 01 2014 10:10 PM

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HARI SREENIVASAN: They say that the third time is the charm, and that’s what voters are being asked to consider in Providence, Rhode Island, as the twice former mayor runs again, despite his two previous felony convictions and a prison term.

The “NewsHour”‘s Domenico Montanaro takes us there with this report.

VINCENT “BUDDY” CIANCI, Independent Mayoral Candidate: How you doing?

MAN: How are you, Buddy?

BUDDY CIANCI: Good. Nice to see you.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: In Providence, the improbable. Former Mayor Vincent Buddy Cianci, whose previous two reigns were each cut short by felony convictions, is running again.

WOMAN: We hope you win again.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: To the shock of his detractors.

WOMAN: I think it’s an embarrassing disgrace.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: The delight of his supporters.

MAN: The perfect candidate to bring Providence back to where it needs to be.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: The amazement of nearly everyone.

MAN: Some of this stuff is kind of like out of “Alice in Wonderland.”

DOMENICO MONTANARO: He’s leading in the polls.

MAUREEN MOAKLEY, University of Rhode Island: He’s not only back. He’s not only running. But he may indeed win.

MIKE STANTON, Author, “The Prince of Providence: The Rise and Fall of Buddy Cianci”: Absolutely, he could win.

BUDDY CIANCI: Look it, I have been there, done it, bought the T-shirt. I know how to fix the problems in this city, and that’s why we’re ahead in the polls.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: Cianci was once America’s longest-serving mayor, holding office 22 years in all. His first go-round started in 1974, when he ran as a Republican on an anti-corruption platform.

NARRATOR: Cianci is so incorruptible, he headed up the anti-corruption strike force in this state.

MIKE STANTON: He really does embody the best and worst of American politics throughout his long and checkered career.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: Mike Stanton, now a professor at the University of Connecticut, is a former Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist for The Providence Journal.

MIKE STANTON: He was like a breath of fresh air to a city that was really dying after the 1960s and the flight to the suburbs, and he became a great cheerleader.

I mean, Gerald Ford had him speak at the Republican National Convention. And, at the same time, there were nearly two dozen people arrested or convicted in his first administration involving kickbacks for street paving and snowplowing and other municipal contracts.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: But it was his personal life that did him in, in 1984, when he had his police bodyguard bring him the man he thought was having an affair with his estranged wife.

MIKE STANTON: Buddy, you know, slapped him and punched him and threw a drink in his face.

WOMAN: The facts show the defendant threw an ashtray at him.

MIKE STANTON: And he had a lit cigarette, and he kind of tried to jab it in the man’s eye. He ultimately pleaded guilty as he was about to go to trial. And he resigned his office. And we thought that would be the end of the Buddy story.

BUDDY CIANCI: How are you? How are you? How are you?

DOMENICO MONTANARO: But, by 1990, Buddy was back, winning a three-way race as an independent by just a few hundred votes. And Providence was on the cusp of a renaissance, a record that Cianci is running on today.

NARRATOR: This was the city of Providence. Then a new mayor was elected, and that mayor’s leadership changed everything.

BUDDY CIANCI: We built the skating rink across the street. We did the zoo, built the mall, moved the rivers. This city was one of the five best cities to live in, according to “Money” magazine. It was one of the five renaissance cities, according to USA Today.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: But Scott MacKay, former chief political columnist for “The Providence Journal,” now political analyst for Rhode Island Public Radio, says Cianci doesn’t deserve as much credit as he claims.

SCOTT MACKAY, Rhode Island Public Radio: You know, this — this whole revival of downtown Providence was something that took about 25 years, a whole bunch of different folks governors, mayors, senators. But Cianci happened to be in office at the apex of all of this, and he was just brilliant at taking credit.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: MacKay’s co-panelist, political science professor, Maureen Moakley, takes a more generous view of Cianci’s roles.

MAUREEN MOAKLEY: They may not have been his ideas, but he got it. He He understood that it mattered for the city. And he made — he did everything to make it happen.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: Yes, says MacKay.

SCOTT MACKAY:  He probably is the best cheerleader the town ever had. The problem is, he didn’t pay attention to day-to-day running of city hall and the finances. And, you know, there’s a conga line of people who worked for him who ended up being criminals.

We have got his chief of staff, his top aide, you know taking a grand in a bribe and the FBI taping it, and he didn’t look like a virgin.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: An FBI investigation, dubbed Plunder Dome, culminated in 27 charges of corruption against Cianci. In 2002, he was found guilty on one count of racketeering conspiracy and sentenced to prison.

How do you reassure voters that there won’t be corruption in a third administration?

BUDDY CIANCI: Well, you know, what reassurance do people have? No one wants to sit in prison for four-and-a-half years. You have got a lot to think about.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: What did you learn from that time?

BUDDY CIANCI: Never to come back. And, frankly, I did my time. I did it like a man. I paid the price. And the law says I can run. And I’m running.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: At age 73, he’s doing what might be unthinkable anywhere else, in a bid to burnish a tarnished legacy.

In the old Italian American neighborhood the Federal Hill, older Italian Americans are closing ranks. Philip Almagno (ph), a former city councilman, was chief of weights and measures in Cianci’s second administration.

Do you think he should be mayor again?

MAN: Absolutely.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: Anthony Anarino (ph) was Cianci’s tax collector.

So, what was it like working for Buddy?

MAN: It was an adventure. He was always on you, made sure everything got done.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: Do you think he had his hands clean?

MAN: Well, number one, they didn’t find nothing on him.

MAN: They didn’t prove anything.

MAN: They didn’t prove anything.

MAN: Not as far as I’m concerned.

MAN: Yes, me, too.

MAN: Twenty-nine — 28 charges, and you charge him with one, RICO Act? Give me a break.

MAN: In my opinion, he shouldn’t have done 30 minutes in jail.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: Across town in the city’s posh East Side, the feeling is very different.

WENDY SCHILLER, Brown University: People are literally terrified that he will win again.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: Wendy Schiller teaches political science at Brown.

WENDY SCHILLER: There’s a real divide between the old-timers who remember the glory days of Buddy Cianci, and the people here who want to look forward to the future and give Providence a new fresh start, a new reputation.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: Still, the concerns haven’t stopped Cianci’s momentum.

BUDDY CIANCI: I feel good.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: The most recent poll has him in the lead, 38-32, over his closest challenger, Democrat Jorge Elorza.

JORGE ELORZA, Democrat Mayoral Candidate: I’m running for mayor here in Providence.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: Elorza, a political novice who grew up in a tough part of the city’s West Side, is a Harvard Law grad and former housing court judge.

Are you ready for the fight?

(LAUGHTER)

JORGE ELORZA: Absolutely. And we will take the fight to him.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: If it wasn’t for Cianci, Elorza would likely be cruising into office.

JORGE ELORZA: How are you, sir?

DOMENICO MONTANARO: Providence, after all, hasn’t had a Republican mayor since Cianci’s first campaign 40 years ago.

JORGE ELORZA: Very nice to meet you.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: And the current GOP candidate, Dan Harrop, is polling at just 6 percent.

DANIEL HARROP, Republican Mayoral Candidate: This is the Buddy Cianci show, featuring Dan Harrop and Jorge Elorza, and that’s what the election is becoming.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: Harrop, a psychiatrist, puts Providence voters on the couch.

DANIEL HARROP: Why are you really considering doing this again? I have often considered this as somewhat like battered spouses, is that they’re fearful of the future, so they stay with the batterer and want to keep with them because at least it’s what they know.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: But Providence is a very different city than the one Cianci led 40 years ago. His Italian American base is shrinking. More than 60 percent of city residents are nonwhite minorities, with Latinos making up the largest group by far.

It’s a group that Elorza, son of Guatemalan immigrants, is courting. But African-Americans could be a swing group, and Cianci is counting on them.

MAN: People, so vote for Buddy Cianci to find better jobs and homes for our families.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: Despite Cianci being the most recognizable figure in the race, arguably in Providence history, 21 percent in the polls said they hadn’t yet made up their minds, bad news for Buddy, says Wendy Schiller.

WENDY SCHILLER: He’s a well-known candidate, so if 21 percent are undecided and they know you well, they’re likely leaning in the other direction.

BUDDY CIANCI: Hi. How you doing?

DOMENICO MONTANARO: It’s up to Cianci to convince voters beyond his loyal base that he has earned that chance.

WOMAN: Good luck.

BUDDY CIANCI: Thanks a lot.

DOMENICO MONTANARO: Whether he succeeds could determine how this controversial figure is remembered, as the comeback kid or part of the city’s dark past.

 

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Poet finds solace in elegy of departed son’s wild energy

Wednesday, October 01 2014 10:05 PM

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HARI SREENIVASAN: Last night, we shared a story about painful choices facing families with loved ones on life support.

Tonight: another look at dealing with loss, as a father copes with the death of his son through poetry.

Jeffrey Brown is back with that.

JEFFREY BROWN: Gabriel Hirsch was a high-spirited, restless, and often reckless child and young man who suffered from a variety of developmental disorders and bounced through different doctors and schools.

Still, his boundless energy drew others to him, and he lived a volatile, but full life, until he died in 2011 at age 22 of cardiac arrest after taking a party drug.

EDWARD HIRSCH, Author “Gabriel: A Poem”: I became desperate that I would forget things.

JEFFREY BROWN: His father is Edward Hirsch, a highly acclaimed poet who has now written something unlike anything he has done before, a book-length elegy for his son titled “Gabriel.”

EDWARD HIRSCH: “Unbolt he doors. Fling open the gates. Here he comes, chaotic wind of the gods. He was trouble, but he was our trouble.”

JEFFREY BROWN: Edward Hirsch and I talked recently at a park near his home in Brooklyn, New York, and I asked first what drove him to write the book.

EDWARD HIRSCH: I suppose, in some ways, it began to feel inevitable to me, because I just didn’t know what else to do with myself. And I was overwhelmed by grief.

And at a certain point, I thought, what am I going to do with my grief? And so writing poetry seemed something I could do. I found a comfort in trying to solve some poetic problems, because there were human ones I just couldn’t solve.

JEFFREY BROWN: Edward Hirsch has a very prominent day job as president of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, a post he’s held for 11 years, after several decades in academia.

It was months after his son’s death, he says, before he could go back to work, and poetry came later still.

There’s a passage here that struck me midway in where you say, “Lord of misadventure” — you’re speaking of Gabriel — “I’m scared of rounding him up and turning him into a story.”

EDWARD HIRSCH: Part of the book is a kind of picaresque novel about the adventures of Gabriel, about what Gabriel was doing. And in telling his…

JEFFREY BROWN: And there are a lot of adventures.

EDWARD HIRSCH: And there are a lot of adventures. And many of them made me laugh.

JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. Yes.

EDWARD HIRSCH: And that was one of the joys of writing the book.

But I was aware that when I was telling his story, as I had become his inadvertent biographer, that I was — by its very nature, you have to choose things. You have to summarize. You have to make decisions about narrative.

And I suddenly realized, I’m turning my son into a story. I just didn’t want to simplify him. I didn’t want to sum him up. I wanted to try to be true to the full complications of the way he was as a person.

JEFFREY BROWN: In “Gabriel” the book, each page is a separate poem. Hirsch writes of his son’s trials and loves, of his own guilt at not helping enough, even of the medications Gabriel took as he and his parents sought help.

EDWARD HIRSCH: You have all these medications which were — which have these names. And I had just never seen the names of these medications in a poem.

JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

EDWARD HIRSCH: So you have to figure out how do you — how do you do it and how do you make…

JEFFREY BROWN: And they’re real. They played a real part in his life, your life.

EDWARD HIRSCH: They were crucial.

JEFFREY BROWN: But how do you make them — turn them into a poem?

EDWARD HIRSCH: And how do you turn them into a lyric poem in particular?

I’m just desperate for Gabriel to come through as a person. Of course it’s not the person. It’s my poem. It’s my representation. But I’m desperate for people to have a feeling for what he was like. And that energy, that impulsiveness, which was so exciting and erratic is part of what I’m trying to capture in my poem.

JEFFREY BROWN: And of course the elegy as a poetic form has a long, long history. Right?

EDWARD HIRSCH: The elegy has been going as long as there has been poetry.

JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

EDWARD HIRSCH: It’s one of the root impulses of poetry, the lamentation for the fact that we die and the people we love die. And there’s something unacceptable about it. And we have to try to come to terms with that.

JEFFREY BROWN: But it sounds as though you also didn’t want — I think you used the word consolation. You didn’t want the consolation that a poem can bring or a kind of — I don’t know if closure is the right word. What did you want?

EDWARD HIRSCH: Despite the consolations of writing poetry, and despite the joys of writing poetry, the poem is not the person, and you would really prefer to have the person back, and that there’s a sense of a limitation of what art can do.

I mean, I believe in poetry. And I have spent most of my life advocating for poetry, but I’m aware of what poetry can and can’t do, and there are some things it just can’t do.

JEFFREY BROWN: Like?

EDWARD HIRSCH: It can’t give me my son back. And it can’t give us the people back. It can give us some representation of them. It can do something. It does something better than almost anything else in the world can do, but it’s not life.

And it’s in relationship to life. And there are some things it just can’t — it can’t give you.

“I didn’t know the work of mourning is like carrying a bag of cement up a mountain at night.”

JEFFREY BROWN: Near the end of the poem, Hirsch writes of his realization of just how much grief is shared by people around him, everyone, he writes, bearing such a heavy load.

EDWARD HIRSCH: “Look closely and you will see almost everyone carrying bags Of cement on their shoulders. That’s why it takes courage to get out of bed in the morning and climb into the day.”

But when you get to be a certain age, you start looking around and you realize that everyone is suffering some kind of a grief. And if you — if you don’t see it there, it’s only because you don’t know them very well. And people carry — that’s why I call it their invisible bags of cement.

But a lot of people feel that they’re carrying huge weights, and they’re hiding it. And I think it’s important in my poem that I acknowledge that, I recognize it. The poem tries to reach out and open out to these people to a recognition that I’m not the only one carrying around the bag of cement. A lot of people are carrying it, in fact, almost everyone.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, the book is “Gabriel: A Poem.”

Ed Hirsch, thank you so much.

EDWARD HIRSCH: Thank you.

HARI SREENIVASAN: You can hear Edward Hirsch and read more excerpts from his work “Gabriel: A Poem” on our Arts page at NewsHour.PBS.org.

 

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Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigns

Wednesday, October 01 2014 09:30 PM

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson testifies at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the White House perimeter breach on Sept. 30 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigns amid White House security breach. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

UPDATED at 5:30 p.m. EDT: WASHINGTON (AP) — Secret Service Director Julia Pierson abruptly resigned Wednesday in the face of multiple revelations of security breaches, bumbling in her agency and rapidly eroding confidence that the president and his family were being kept safe.

President Barack Obama “concluded new leadership of that agency was required,” said spokesman Josh Earnest.

High-ranking lawmakers from both parties had urged her to step down after her poorly received testimony to Congress a day earlier — and revelation of yet another security problem: Obama had shared an elevator in Atlanta last month with an armed guard who was not authorized to be around him.

That appeared to be the last straw that crumbled trust in her leadership in the White House. Earnest said Obama and his staff did not learn about that breach until just before it was made public in news reports Tuesday.

“Today Julia Pierson, the director of the United States Secret Service, offered her resignation, and I accepted it,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement. He announced that Joseph Clancy, retired head of the agency’s Presidential Protective Division, would come out of retirement to lead the Secret Service temporarily.

Taking further steps to restore trust in the beleaguered agency, Johnson also outlined an independent inquiry into the agency’s operations.

That trust was shaken by a series of failures in the agency’s critical job of protecting the president, including a breach Sept. 19, when a knife-carrying man climbed over the White House fence on Pennsylvania Avenue and made it deep into the executive mansion before being stopped.

Republicans quickly served notice that Pierson’s resignation and the inquiry ordered by Johnson would not end their investigation.

“The Oversight Committee will continue to examine clear and serious agency failures at the Secret Service,” said the panel’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. “Problems at the Secret Service pre-date Ms. Pierson’s tenure as director, and her resignation certainly does not resolve them.”

Pierson’s permanent replacement will probably face a grueling confirmation process before Congress.

In an interview with Bloomberg after her resignation was announced, Pierson said, “It’s painful to leave as the agency is reeling from a significant security breach.”

“Congress has lost confidence in my ability to run the agency,” she said. “The media has made it clear that this is what they expected.”

“Congress has lost confidence in my ability to run the agency,” she said. “The media has made it clear that this is what they expected.” She said she met Johnson on Wednesday and “after that discussion I felt this was the noble thing to do.” She added that her departure would “take pressure off the organization.”

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, a leader of the congressional inquiry, called her resignation “the right thing to do, it had to happen, but there are some systemic challenges that must be addressed.”

Some revelations came from whistleblowers who contacted Chaffetz, and he suggested more damaging stories may emerge. “Unfortunately there are more out there and we’ll see how that goes,” he said.

After a congressional hearing Tuesday into the Sept. 19 breach and an earlier one, reports emerged of still another. Earlier in September, Obama had shared an elevator in Atlanta with a private guard who was not authorized to be around him with a gun. That was the first known Secret Service failure to unfold in the presence of the president. The first family was not at the White House when the recent intruder entered.

The White House learned about the Atlanta episode only about when lawmakers and the public did — when the Washington Examiner and The Washington Post reported it, Earnest said.

Obama had not been told about it previously, Earnest said. This, despite Pierson’s statement to the committee that she briefs the president “100 percent of the time” about threats to his personal security and those at the White House. She said the only time she had briefed him this year was after the Sept. 19 White House intrusion.

The man accused of running into the White House on Sept. 19, Omar J. Gonzalez, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in a brief appearance in federal court. He is accused of unlawfully entering a restricted building while carrying a deadly weapon, which is a federal charge, and two violations of District of Columbia law — carrying a dangerous weapon outside a home or business and unlawful possession of ammunition.

Wearing a standard prison-issue orange jump suit, Gonzalez sat attentively at the defense table but did not address the court as his lawyer entered the plea.

As for Pierson, support for the Secret Service director unraveled quickly after her defensive testimony Tuesday, which left key questions unanswered.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, the No. 3 Senate Democrat, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican, were both to issue public calls for her resignation on Wednesday afternoon, their offices said.

Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, top Democrat on the committee, said in multiple interviews Wednesday that Pierson was no longer the best person to lead the Secret Service.

“There has to be accountability when that is not the case,” added House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who also backed calls for an independent investigation.

Pierson is the latest administration official to leave in the midst of controversy. Others include:

  • Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned last May, taking the blame for what he decried as a “lack of integrity” in the sprawling health care system for the nation’s military veterans.
  • Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of health and human services as the “Obamacare” insurance marketplace failed spectacularly in its launch, stayed on to oversee repairs before Obama accepted her resignation months later.

Associated Press writers Erica Werner, Josh Lederman and Calvin Woodward contributed.

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