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Last updated: Friday, July 25 2014 05:07 PM

Probing the creative brain

Friday, July 25 2014 04:49 PM

On the NewsHour tonight, in collaboration with The Atlantic, a researcher examines why creativity and mental illness is often linked.

“As a psychiatrist and neuroscientist who studies creativity, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many gifted and high-profile subjects over the years, but Kurt Vonnegut—dear, funny, eccentric, lovable, tormented Kurt Vonnegut—will always be one of my favorites.”

So begins the Atlantic piece, “Secrets of the Creative Brain,” an in-depth look at the science of genius and why creativity and mental illness so often go hand in hand. Its writer is Dr. Nancy Andreasen, who has done groundbreaking neuro-imaging research on this link.

In collaboration with the Atlantic, the NewsHour will air a piece tonight on Andreasen’s research, which looks at prominent writers, such as Kurt Vonnegut and John Cheever, their personal and family histories of mental illness and the role these conditions may play in their art. Judy Woodruff spent time with Andreasen recently in her lab.

Among the questions Andreasen addresses in her research: “What differences in nature and nurture can explain why some people suffer from mental illness and some do not?” she writes in the Atlantic piece. “And why are so many of the world’s most creative minds among the most afflicted?”

This is part of a NewsHour series on the science of the brain. On Thursday, the NewsHour aired a discussion on the largest study yet to look at genes associated with schizophrenia. On Wednesday, Miles O’Brien reported on scientists who study the brains of fruit flies and zebrafish.

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U.S. House of Representatives’ staffers blocked from editing by Wikipedia

Friday, July 25 2014 03:50 PM

Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

Following “abuse of editing privileges” by anonymous IP addresses within the U.S House of Representatives, Wikipedia has barred House staffers from contributing for 10 days. Those with registered personal accounts may still log into the online encyclopedia and edit.

house of rep block

The “persistent disruptive editing,” as confirmed by a Wikimedia Foundation communications officer, was seen on the pages of politicians, businesses and historical events. For example, the page on moon landing conspiracy theories was edited to claim that they were “promoted by the Cuban government.” Donald Rumsfeld’s title was changed from “politician and businessman” to “alien lizard who eats Mexican babies.”

The continual prank edits were cast into the spotlight by watchdog Twitter bot @congressedits. On July 8, 2014, developer Ed Summers wrote an algorithm that scans Wikipedia for changes to content made by computers in Congress and posts them to the social media account. “There is an incredible yearning in this country and around the world,” wrote Summers on his blog, “for using technology to provide more transparency about our democracies.”

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‘Giants’ take to the streets of Liverpool, England

Friday, July 25 2014 03:27 PM

Royal De Luxe Giants Take To The Streets of Liverpool

The French street theater company Royal de Luxe are marking 100 years since the start of World War I in a larger than life way.

Three giant marionettes are touring the streets of Liverpool, England during the city’s Great War centenary commemorations Friday through Sunday; marching down 15-foot wide corridors and covering 30 miles over 53 hours. The Little Giant Girl, her dog Xolo and her giant Grandmother will march separate routes, before meeting up on Sunday to tell a tale of life leading up to the start of the First World War.

There is nothing small about the production. The Grandmother alone stands at 25 feet and weighs nearly 9,000 pounds — requiring a team of 26 people to operate and move her around. The budget for the entire production is estimated, BBC News reports, to be around $3.4 million.

It is not the first time the larger than life creations have visited Liverpool. The Little Giant Girl and her uncle, a giant deep sea diver, emerged from the River Mersey in 2012.

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Gwen’s Take: Caroline Kennedy and life on the back burner

Friday, July 25 2014 02:32 PM

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy. Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy. Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

The list is long. Ukraine. Israel. Gaza. Russia. Afghanistan. Iran. Syria. Libya. Nigeria. Even the Netherlands.

The Obama administration has so many urgent items on its agenda, it is inevitable that other things get shoved aside, including nuclear standoffs and territorial disputes on the other side of the world.

Into this world of multiple distractions has walked Caroline Kennedy, heir to the Camelot legacy and now U.S. ambassador to Japan.

Kennedy’s posting to Japan raised eyebrows among diplomats who noted her chief ties there had been established during her honeymoon. But the Japanese embraced her arrival as a sign that the U.S. thought enough of the relationship to send one of its foremost celebrities.

The sheen soon dulled, especially when Kennedy criticized the annual Japanese dolphin drive hunt, which she called inhumane. Then she took Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to task for angering both China and South Korea by paying tribute at a shrine to Japanese war dead that includes those convicted of war crimes.

But when the ambassador arrived for our interview at the State Department this week, she appeared confident and certain that things on the back burner are cooking along quite well.

“I think it’s really hard to really appreciate fully here at home, when there’s so much going on in the rest of the world as well, how important Japan is as an ally of the United States,” she told me.

But Japan’s concerns are regional – especially with a nuclear North Korea periodically firing test missiles, and China claiming islands Japan says it controls.

Kennedy sees room for accommodation with China. “I think that Japan would like to have a hotline with China,” she told me. “They are really taking this very seriously. They train, they approached this very responsibly. They debate this. They’re very transparent with other countries in the region, so I think that everybody is really looking to Japan to be a helpful, solid leader on these issues.”

But Kennedy’s boss – Secretary of State John Kerry – is otherwise preoccupied, with intractable world leaders like Bashar al Assad and Vladimir Putin, and with attempts to broker an end to deadly wars in Israel, Gaza and Ukraine. As a result, the administration’s once-promised pivot to Asia appears to have languished. But Kennedy insists it’s still vibrant.

“The Asia pivot — rebalance I think is really how people see it — is absolutely happening,” Kennedy insisted. “And it’s having a major impact on the region. The president’s visit [in April of this year] was so important, and he visited our treaty partners, Japan and Korea, who are two of our strongest allies in the world, as well as the Philippines and Malaysia, announced new agreements with the Philippines. So I think that the U.S. presence in Asia is one of the reasons why it is so stable and prosperous.”

The last time I’d seen Caroline Kennedy, she was up to her ears in domestic politics – campaigning for Barack Obama and still recovering from her own abortive effort to run for office. She was tense.

She has now become the very model of a careful, well-spoken diplomat. Life’s not so bad on the back burner.

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Gaza negotiations continue to search for cease-fire deal

Friday, July 25 2014 02:04 PM

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press conference following the Friends of Syria meeting in London, on May 15, 2014. Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press conference following the Friends of Syria meeting in London, on May 15, 2014. Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/AFP/Getty Images

CAIRO — Turbulent negotiations to broker a temporary truce in the Gaza Strip are continuing against the backdrop of fresh Israeli attacks on Palestinian militants.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met twice Friday in Cairo with U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri to try to nail down a deal to bring a week-long pause in the fighting and begin as soon as this weekend.

It’s part of a plan to phase in a lasting cease-fire between Israel and the Hamas militant group in the three-week war.

Two diplomats close to the negotiations said a deal had not yet been reached but spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to be named.

Kerry, Ban and Shukri were expected to brief the media later Friday.

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Obama to host Central American leaders for immigration discussion

Friday, July 25 2014 01:17 PM

Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is summoning Central American leaders to the White House to discuss the influx of young immigrants from their countries to the U.S., hoping to show presidential action even as Congress remains deeply split over proposals to stem the crisis on the border.

The meeting comes as the administration is considering creating a pilot program giving refugee status to young people from Honduras, White House officials said Thursday. The plan would involve screening youths in their home country to determine whether they qualify for refugee status. The program would be limited and would start in Honduras but could be expanded to include other Central American countries.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, speaking Thursday in Washington, said he hadn’t heard about the plan but expected it to come up Friday. He said Central American nations have sought to pursue a unified approach. “We expect that the solution to this problem also is equal for the three countries,” he said.

Besides Molina, Obama was to host Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and El Salvador’s President Salvador Sanchez Ceren on Friday, the day after they met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill who are considering Obama’s requests for emergency funds and additional authority to send unaccompanied children back to their home countries more quickly. Those lawmakers appear unlikely to resolve their differences on either front before leaving Washington late next week for their annual August recess.

With critics claiming Obama’s own policies triggered the crisis, the president has been eager to demonstrate an aggressive approach to reducing the flow of immigrants and returning those found not to have a legitimate claim to stay here.

The U.S. has mounted a communications campaign to inform Central American residents that they won’t be allowed to stay in the U.S., and Obama sent a team to Texas this week to weigh the possibility of dispatching the National Guard to the border.

Under the in-country screening program the White House is considering, the legal standard for youths to qualify for refugee status would remain the same as it is for those who seek the status after arriving in the U.S., officials said, adding that the goal is to deter children who would not ultimately qualify for refugee status from attempting the dangerous trek. The officials briefed reporters ahead of Obama’s meeting on the condition they not be identified by name.

More than 57,000 minors have arrived since October, mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The trio of nations has become one of the most violent regions in the world in recent years, with swaths of all three countries under the control of drug traffickers and street gangs that rob, rape and extort ordinary citizens with impunity.

In recent weeks the number of children being apprehended daily has fallen by roughly half, but White House officials said seasonal patterns or other factors unrelated to the administration’s efforts may be to thank for some of the decline.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met with the Guatemalan and Honduran presidents Thursday. He said he was impressed by what the leaders were doing to crack down on human trafficking. Yet he said he also made clear the responsibility those governments had to follow through as the U.S. considers sending more money to Central America to help address the problem.

Obama has asked Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency spending, but lawmakers were looking at cutting that number down significantly. At the same time, Republicans said they wouldn’t agree to any money without policy changes to give the government more authority to turn kids around fast at the border and send them home.

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Obama meets with Central American leaders on border crisis while Congress dithers

Friday, July 25 2014 01:09 PM

U.S. Border Patrol agents escort unaccompanied minors and immigrant families from El Salvador after they crossed the Rio Grande illegally into the U.S. Thursday in Mission, Texas. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

U.S. Border Patrol agents escort unaccompanied minors and immigrant families from El Salvador after they crossed the Rio Grande illegally into the U.S. Thursday in Mission, Texas. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Border crisis in focus again
  • But solutions are stuck in Congress
  • House committee passes anti-Obama lawsuit; Democrats aim to use it politically
  • Ryan, Rubio try to strike sympathetic tones on poverty

Obama meets with Central American leaders: Fresh off his three-day West Coast fundraising swing, President Barack Obama will host a meeting at the White House Friday at 2 p.m. ET with the leaders of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador as the administration looks to stem the flow of undocumented migrants from Central America to the U.S. There will just be a photo-op and not lengthy remarks or Q&A. The discussion, which will include Vice President Joe Biden, comes as lawmakers on Capitol Hill remain deadlocked on an emergency spending measure to increase resources aimed at addressing the border crisis. The president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, said in an interview with the Washington Post that the U.S. “has enormous responsibility” for the situation at the border. The New York Times reported Thursday the administration is considering a proposal that would allow hundreds of children and young adults from Honduras to enter the U.S. “as refugees or on emergency humanitarian grounds.” The president of Guatemala, Otto Perez Molina, told the Post that the U.S. should provide at least $2 billion in aid to Central American countries in order “to attack the root of the problem.” He added that allocating the funds in that fashion “would be much more profitable than investing it on border security or border control with Mexico.”

Border bills stuck in Congress: While the president tries to look like he’s dealing with the border crisis from a head-of-state standpoint, Congress still can’t seem to get out of its own way once again. The deeply divided body can’t quite figure out what to do about it. Both parties have knocked down the amount of money the president has requested by billions. Neither side and neither chamber has passed anything with just a week to go before lawmakers take off for the month of August. The sticking point remains what to do about the 2008 child-trafficking law. Republicans want to amend it, Democrats do not. Republicans, like House Speaker John Boehner, also have insisted on sending the National Guard to the border. Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry, in fact, has mobilized 1,000 of them to the border. But NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown interviewed Shawn Moran, the head of the National Border Patrol Council, which is the border patrol agents’ union, on Thursday night’s program, and he said he had “serious concerns” about any National Guard deployment. He harkened back to an operation under President George W. Bush, in which, he said, Border Patrol agents would have to sit “right next to” and “protect” the guardsmen because they were unarmed and untrained to deal with border problems. “So we never really saw the manpower gains that we were told,” Moran said. “It seemed to be more window dressing than anything.” The border issue is just one still left on the table before Congress departs. There’s also VA reform, and, yes, the highway bill, which not everyone is happy with. The Senate could take up the short-term highway funding measure passed by the House as early as Wednesday.

It’s getting hot in here: On that summer recess, expect Democrats to hammer Republicans on their lawsuit against President Obama, which passed the GOP-controlled House Rules Committee Thursday in a partisan 7-4 vote. It could be brought to the floor and pass the full House in a party-line vote next week. “We’re going to make August very hot,” Steve Israel, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, responsible for electing Democrats to the House, told Greg Sargent. Of course, this is less about taking back the House than affecting the overall national landscape and the GOP brand. Democrats are playing on difficult terrain to pick up the seats needed to take back the House. But President Obama and the White House have leaned into the GOP lawsuit. Last month, he mocked the lawsuit. “I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something while they’re doing nothing,” Obama said, adding, “The suit is a stunt.” There is a big enough — potentially loud enough — faction within the House GOP conference that this lawsuit was one way for Boehner to attempt to mollify them and quiet talk of impeachment attempts against the president — something Boehner would likely see as really having a potential boomerang effect on the party.

Ryan, other Republicans, continue to try and re-shape GOP image: House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan unveiled a sweeping proposal Thursday that would consolidate 11 federal anti-poverty programs into an “Opportunity Grant,” to be given to states, part of a renewed push by some Republican lawmakers to soften their message on economic inequality ahead of this fall’s midterms and, more importantly, 2016. Just look at who’s making the pitches: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio called for help for single parents at Catholic University this week, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul heads to the National Urban League Friday. This Ryan proposal is different from his previous ones, because it does not set out to cut social welfare spending. It maintains the current $800 billion spending levels on programs like food stamps and housing assistance. In other words, there are no safety net cuts this time. The “reform” part of it is that it vests more power with the states to decide how they would spend the money. The federal government, Ryan said during the plan’s unveiling at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank, would take on the role of “rear guard.” Although, Washington would still have to approve those spending plans. As The New York Times’ Neil Irwin writes, this is still, at its heart, a conservative proposal; Ryan proposes paying for an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit, which the White House and Democrats have also supported, by cutting the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program and the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. But in a sign of just how different the tone of this pilot program is from Ryan’s previous flirtations with anti-poverty reform, House Democrats aimed their fire not completely at the policy details, but at Ryan’s credibility on the issue. “How do you seriously say you care about anti-poverty when you’ve spent the last several years cutting the safety net?” asked Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern. But it’s another attempt from a potential 2016 presidential candidate to change the perception of the party.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1998, President Clinton was subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury regarding the Monica Lewinsky case. Who subpoenaed the president? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Stanford (@dstan3) for guessing Thursday’s trivia: What was President Van Buren’s first language? The answer was: Dutch.

LINE ITEMS

  • While Montana Sen. John Walsh got the backing of the Montana Democratic Party to stay in the race, the U.S. Army War College said Thursday that they would be investigating the allegations that he plagiarized portions of his master’s thesis.

  • Senate Minority Leader McConnell wants funding for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system to be included in the immigration bill.

  • The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Friday to examine the political activities of the White House’s Office of Political Strategy and Outreach. Chairman Darrell Issa has agreed that the office’s executive director David Simas can testify in a deposition, instead of during the hearing. On Thursday, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel says the Obama administration has not violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits most employees in the executive branch from engaging in partisan political activity.

  • The 26 members of the Texas congressional delegation wrote a letter to Mr. Obama outlining their priorities for solving the border crisis and more strictly enforcing immigration law.

  • Republicans, and now the White House, seem interested in sending National Guard troops to the border, but there’s no agreement on what power they’d have once they got there.

  • Arizona Sen. John McCain called the botched Arizona execution earlier this week “torture” and “terrible” and “not an acceptable way of carrying” out the death penalty.

  • The transcript of the execution provides a glimpse into lawyers’ concerns and their efforts to get the U.S. District judge to halt the procedure when it wasn’t working.

  • How can you learn to talk about abortion? Attend a boot camp hosted by the anti-abortion group, Susan B. Anthony List.

  • Mr. Obama appears to be the financial saving grace for the Democratic National Committee, after his fundraising appearances helped reduce their debt by 80 percent from the start of 2014.

  • Responding to criticism for saying it’s not his responsibility to create jobs in Kentucky, Sen. Mitch McConnell touts his ability to save jobs in a new ad.

  • The super PAC Alaska’s Energy/America’s Values is out with an ad supporting Republican Senate candidate for Alaska Dan Sullivan, in which an Anchorage woman says, “he kind of reminds me of Ted Stevens.”

  • Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running for his old seat, released a new ad criticizing current Gov. Rick Scott for cutting the state’s education budget.

  • Maine Gov. Paul LePage wants to reinstate work requirements for food stamp recipients, as part of his push to get residents to be less reliant on welfare.

  • Americans dislike Congress, but they have much less negative views of their own representatives, according to a Pew Research Center poll.

  • Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss is taking one last jaunt to Europe on the taxpayers’ dime before he retires.

  • Vice President Joe Biden says, “I should have had one Republican kid to go out and make me money” during a speech at the National Urban League Thursday.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

TOP TWEETS

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Pinpointing genetic links to schizophrenia may open doors to better treatment

Thursday, July 24 2014 10:46 PM

schizophrenia

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JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: understanding the connections between human genetics and schizophrenia.

It’s part of our series on the science of the brain. Tonight, we look at a study published this week, the largest ever of schizophrenia patients. There are more than three million of them in the U.S. The study found that perhaps more than 100 genes were associated with the condition. Genetics has long been assumed to play a role.

But for the first time, researchers found genes in the immune system are among those involved. Patients have long awaited better treatments.

Dr. Steven Hyman is the director of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. His center was involved in this study. And I spoke with him yesterday.

Dr. Steven Hyman, welcome to the NewsHour.

First of all, tell us what it is like to have schizophrenia. We know that something like three million Americans suffer from this.

DR. STEVEN HYMAN, Broad Institute: That’s right. It affects about 1 percent of people worldwide, including the United States.

And what patients experience is extremely distressing and also disabling. There are three kinds of symptoms. Most famously, people have what are called psychotic symptoms, hallucinations, most often hearing voices that aren’t there, delusions, which are fixed false beliefs that are not culturally appropriate.

But also less well recognized are two other symptoms which contribute to disability. People have declines in their cognitive functions, things like memory, ability to pay attention, and ability to use their thoughts to control their emotions and behavior.

And then there’s another cluster of symptoms called deficit symptoms, where people have what is called blunted affect. That is even something very sad might not elicit a response or something very happy. They lose motivation.

The drugs we have today only treat the psychotic symptoms, and do that incompletely, and really don’t touch the other two sets of symptoms, leaving patients very disabled and great costs and challenges of course to families and society.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we know this was a large study, as they go. What are the main findings here?

DR. STEVEN HYMAN: So the most important finding is that this is the beginning of identifying specific variations in genes that contribute to the causes of schizophrenia.

And I think it’s really important, just to put in context, that not very many years ago, schizophrenia was considered an absolutely mysterious disease. When I began my psychiatric training, there were many people who thought that the way parents, especially mothers, behaved toward children psychologically was the cause of this illness.

We now know that it is largely caused by genes. Genes are not fate for any of these diseases, but genes are very influential. But there’s a big step between knowing that genes are important and actually finding the genes that are involved. And in this study, which was a large international study, 108 separate locations in the genome were with certainty associated with the causes of schizophrenia.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you’re saying a connection, but not in every case.

For example, you’re saying the genes — I know the studies show that genes that affect the immune system also show up in individuals with schizophrenia. So that means these genetic markings don’t in every case indicate causation.

DR. STEVEN HYMAN: Right. So, that’s exactly right.

Like most chronic common human illnesses, where genes are highly influential — and they’re influential in everybody — it’s just as you suggest. Different combinations of genes matter in different individuals, and we’re not yet in a stage — in a state to say, you know, these 20 genes or these 30 genes matter to this person.

But what we can do is begin to say, you know, in the population, there are now 108 known places in the genome which point us towards genes that are involved in causation. And, as you suggest, while most are in the nervous system, some of them, very intriguingly, point to the immune system as being involved.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And you were saying earlier that it’s been difficult to find medications to successfully treat schizophrenia, so why then are these findings so important?

DR. STEVEN HYMAN: Well, that’s what — that’s really — the whole reason to do these studies is ultimately to improve diagnosis and to develop treatment.

The first drugs to treat schizophrenia and, in fact, to treat, you know, depression and other psychiatric illnesses were discovered by serendipity, by prepared minds seeing unexpected effects of drugs on human beings. And the antipsychotic drugs that we use to treat schizophrenia stemmed from the discoveries made in the 1950s.

Tragically, there’s been no fundamental improvement on these drugs. So, we have been using, with improvements in terms of side effects and safety, fundamentally the same kinds of medications for more than half-a-century. And, indeed, it’s been so difficult because the human brain is not well modeled in animals, because it’s hidden behind our hard and opaque skulls. It’s been very hard to get real clues.

And drugs companies have been existing psychiatry, leaving patients with less and less hope. The key here is, if as a gene is involved causing an illness, in some sense, it’s a clue to what is going wrong, in this case in the brain, maybe the immune system, in the disease processes.

And, ultimately, as we add up these clues, people developing therapies, ultimately pharmaceutical companies, can say, OK, we’re going to target this gene, we’re going to target this pathway. And we hope, we very much hope that these clues will begin to bring industry back into the game, because, ultimately, we academics are going to do a lot of research, but it’s industry that has got to make the medicines.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, just quickly, I hear you saying, Dr. Hyman, it may be several years before these finding translate into new treatment.

DR. STEVEN HYMAN: Yes, unfortunately, because we’re all impatient, but no one is more impatient than those affected by these terrible illnesses and their families.

But the reality is that these are very early clues. They are real clues. They are not going to go away. They are going to lead us to — in important directions, but it will take many, many years to turn these into more useful treatments.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Steven Hyman, we thank you very much for talking with us.

DR. STEVEN HYMAN: My pleasure.

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Caroline Kennedy on why this is a critical time for U.S. and Japan

Thursday, July 24 2014 10:37 PM

kennedy

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GWEN IFILL: Now to my interview with the U.S. ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy.

While conflicts in the Mideast and Ukraine have dominated the headlines, Japan has been coping with its own.

Caroline Kennedy was greeted warmly when she arrived in Tokyo last year. But the region, overshadowed by conflicts in the rest of the world, is a troubled one. At sea, Japan, Russia and China continue to feud over who controls islands they have fought over since World War II.

Kennedy ruffled diplomatic feathers early on when she suggested that an annual traditional dolphin hunt was inhumane. And Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came under fire from the U.S. and others for paying tribute at a shrine to Japanese war dead that Koreans and Chinese consider offensive.

But as Abe pushes for structural and constitutional reforms, the U.S. is offering its support, especially for a plan to allow Japan’s military to expand its role beyond self-defense.

SHINZO ABE, Prime Minister, Japan (through interpreter): I have the heavy responsibility as the prime minister to protect the livelihoods of our citizens. Taking that into account, this cabinet resolution will help to begin preparations for laying the framework of a new security legislation.

GWEN IFILL: Abe’s plan has not been popular among the Japanese, who fear they will be drawn into other nation’s conflicts. President Obama visited Japan in April, stressing that he has not abandoned the so-called pivot to Asia he promised early in his presidency.

Left on the front lines of that pivot is the U.S. ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy. I spoke with her earlier today at the State Department.

Welcome, Ambassador Kennedy.

CAROLINE KENNEDY, U.S. Ambassador to Japan: Thank you.

GWEN IFILL: When you first arrived in Japan, you were greeted by throngs of people cheering you in the streets. Has that died down?

CAROLINE KENNEDY: Yes.

Actually, I wasn’t expecting it, but I think it was an incredibly moving kind of tribute to the place that America holds in the Japanese hearts.

GWEN IFILL: You said at the time that when you — you were arriving in Japan at a critical time in history for both countries. What are the critical issues that face you right now?

CAROLINE KENNEDY: Well, I think it’s hard to really appreciate fully here at home, when there’s so much going on in the rest of the world as well, how important Japan is as an ally of the United States.

And pretty much everything we do around the world, Japan is really one of our closest, if not our closest, partner. And that includes our economic relationship, our political and security relationship. Asia represents 40 percent of the world’s GDP, so this is a region that is critical to America’s future.

And we need allies and partners, and Japan is really our number one. They’re a democracy. They’re the world’s number three economy. They are absolutely committed to the U.S./Japan alliance. And we do all kinds of other things, like monitor climate change and greenhouse gases with them, scientific exploration, and student exchange.

So it’s really across the board. So there are complicated issues right now, but there are also these longstanding kind of relationships that I think are so important for the United States to build on.

GWEN IFILL: I want to get back to those complicated issues right now, but you mentioned first that there’s so much else going on in the world. We are preoccupied with what’s happening in the Middle East, what’s happening in Ukraine. I can name a half-a-dozen other hot spots before I even get to Japan.

CAROLINE KENNEDY: That’s good.

(LAUGHTER)

GWEN IFILL: Well, whatever happened to the big Asia pivot, the transpacific partnership?

CAROLINE KENNEDY: The Asia pivot, rebalance I think is really how people see it, is absolutely happening, and I think that it’s having a major impact on the region.

The president’s visit was so important, and he visited our treaty partners Japan and Korea, who are two of our strongest allies in the world, as well as the Philippines and Malaysia, announced new agreements with the Philippines.

So I think that the U.S. presence in Asia is one of the reasons why it is so stable and prosperous. And that’s been true for the last 50 years, and it’s because people have worked at this.

GWEN IFILL: In Japan, if there is any nervousness in the region, it’s about China and it is about North Korea. Let’s just talk about China first and the territorial disputes involved in the islands there. Where does that stand today?

CAROLINE KENNEDY: Well, I think, as you point out, it’s increasingly tense, and I think that — but there’s an effort being made, especially by Japan, to really open channels of communication, to set sort of safe maritime security practices, to resist the kind of destabilizing attempts to change the status quo.

So I think that Japan would like to have a hot line with China. They are really taking this very seriously. They train. They approach this very responsibly. They debate this. They’re very transparent with other countries in the region, so I think that everybody is really looking to Japan to be a helpful, solid leader on these issues.

GWEN IFILL: But still a fair amount of tension with the idea that China is on the rise.

CAROLINE KENNEDY: Well, China is certainly on the rise, but I think that China benefits a great deal from the U.S./Japan alliance. It’s one of the things that’s kept the region peaceful and prosperous and allowed their economy to grow.

GWEN IFILL: Japan agreed to turn over its weapons-grade plutonium, something the U.S. really wanted them to do, yet North Korea, nuclear-armed North Korea, still looms.

How do you justify their cooperation when they have such an existential threat so close to them?

CAROLINE KENNEDY: Well, I think Japan is as committed as we are to denuclearizing North Korea.

This is a threat to all countries, and I think that we all work very closely to eliminate the North Korea nuclear threat.

GWEN IFILL: Are their conversations under way with South Korea or with other nations in the region about how to do that?

CAROLINE KENNEDY: Oh, constantly.

It’s something that our government takes incredibly seriously. The Japanese government takes it equally seriously, and as do the South Koreans. So, this is something that is really front and center in the region, is the provocative and just — and dangerous behavior of the North Koreans.

GWEN IFILL: How are the concerns about what’s happening in the Middle East especially, and in Ukraine, and in Afghanistan, and in Iraq, and in Iran, how does that play out in Japan? Is that something which people are watching with a wary eye or is it something that just seems terribly far away?

CAROLINE KENNEDY: This is something that the Japanese are watching very, very carefully.

And, obviously, they have said they are with us on sanctions. They are with us. They are part of the G7. This is something that they are taking very seriously. And they are partners with us in a much broader way. They are partners with us in development, in humanitarian assistance in the Middle East, in Syria, in the Ukraine. They have just contributed. They are the number one donor to Afghanistan after us.

GWEN IFILL: One of the things that Prime Minister Abe has been trying to do is to change the constitution to allow Japan to take better part or greater — play a greater role in these multinational efforts in these regions we’re talking about.

Right now, the constitution allows only for self-defense. Japanese people have not reacted very well to that, even though the U.S. has encouraged it.

CAROLINE KENNEDY: Well, I think it’s going to allow them to participate in peacekeeping, and to help the United States, and so — and to protect the United States when we’re doing joint operations.

And so I think it’s something that’s a big change. The rhetoric, it’s a very complicated and confusing issue. It’s going to be legislation and it’s going to be fully debated. The initial debate happened in the spring, but there are going to be much more extensive debates. And I think that’s one of the things that we should all look to, is this is a democratic society who is going to debate this fully.

GWEN IFILL: Are you necessarily on the sidelines in that kind of debate?

CAROLINE KENNEDY: Well, this is a Japanese issue for the Japanese people.

GWEN IFILL: As a woman ambassador, one of your goals in arriving in Japan was to raise the status or address the status of women as professionals and equal parts of the economy in Japan. Have you been able to do that?

CAROLINE KENNEDY: Well, I think the prime minister has really put this front and center.

And there’s a national debate going on in Japan right now about this, and I think the business community, as well as the Japanese public, sees this as an economic issue for their future. And empowering women is absolutely critical for the Japanese future.

And so I think it’s a really exciting time to be the first woman American ambassador, because there’s so much debate, there’s so many proposals, there’s so much going on, and there’s so much — there are so many talented women there, so it’s going to be great.

GWEN IFILL: Has your celebrity and every — all that comes with that, has it been a help or a hindrance, as ambassador?

CAROLINE KENNEDY: Well, I think people have been incredibly welcoming, and I think it’s really been also very moving for me to see how much they admire America, but also President Kennedy and the ideals of public service and patriotism that he stood for.

GWEN IFILL: Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, thank you very much.

CAROLINE KENNEDY: Thank you.

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Giving traumatized kids a head start in healing

Thursday, July 24 2014 10:30 PM

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JUDY WOODRUFF: Every year, thousands of children in this country are expelled from school before they reach kindergarten. In fact, studies show that preschool children are expelled at significantly rates than those in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Special correspondent Molly Knight Raskin reports on a program in Kansas City, Missouri, that’s trying to stem this trend by looking beyond the classroom to the issues these kids face at home.

MOLLY KNIGHT RASKIN: In many ways, Desiree Kazee, is a typical 5-year-old girl. She’s bubbly, bright and affectionate. Her favorite color is pink. And she enjoys drawing and dancing.

But, two years ago, when Desiree began preschool at a Head Start program near her home in Liberty, Missouri, she didn’t seem to enjoy much of anything.

RENEE SILVER, School Therapist: She was a very angry child. She would tantrum, she would scream, she would whine, she would complain of things bothering her that might not normally bother a child.

MOLLY KNIGHT RASKIN: Renee Silver is a school therapist who worked individually with Desiree.

RENEE SILVER: She wouldn’t take no for an answer. She would want to do things when she wanted to do them. She did everything she could to try and gain control.

MOLLY KNIGHT RASKIN: In most classrooms, Desiree’s behavior would be met with harsh discipline, but in this Head Start school, the teachers don’t punish kids for acting out. That’s because all these children, including Desiree, have experienced at least one traumatic event in their short lifetimes.

JANINE HRON, CEO, Crittenton Children’s Center: This would be separation from parents. This would be incarcerated parents, substance abuse or untreated mental illness in the home, witnessing violent interactions, being abused themselves.

MOLLY KNIGHT RASKIN: Janine Hron is the CEO of Crittenton Children’s Center, a psychiatrist hospital in Kansas City. In 2008, Hron and her team developed Head Start Trauma Smart, an innovative program that evidence-based trauma therapy into Head Start classrooms.

The program was created in response to the pervasiveness of trauma in the Kansas City area. Of the 4,000 kids in Head Start, 50 percent have experienced more than three traumatic events.

JANINE HRON: This is not a one-and-done kind of a bad experience. This happens over and over and over, and it becomes rather a lifestyle of trauma.

MOLLY KNIGHT RASKIN: Studies show that one in four preschool-age children experience a traumatic event by the start of kindergarten. Because so many of these children respond to traumatic stress by acting out, they prove a challenge to teachers and caregivers, who find that traditional methods of, like scolding them or putting them in a time-out, don’t work. In fact, these methods often makes things worse, leading to suspension or expulsion.

Avis Smith, a licensed social work at Crittenton, explains why.

AVIS SMITH, Crittenton Children’s Center: Their behaviors are so extreme, that the adults don’t know how to keep everybody safe.

MOLLY KNIGHT RASKIN: In Head Start Trauma Smart, safety comes first. Molly Marx has been teaching in the program for five years.

MOLLY MARX, Teacher, Head Start: The first thing you have to do is make them feel safe. And if you’re not making them feel safe, they are not going to learn or improve. So, most of how we teach starts with complete social-emotional. I am here. I will keep you safe. Help me keep it that way.

WOMAN: This is where I would like you to sit today to make sure your body is safe.

MOLLY KNIGHT RASKIN: In training programs held year-round, Head Start Trauma Smart teachers learn to validate extreme emotions referred to as (INAUDIBLE) feelings using calm and quiet voices. They are also armed with practical and cognitive tools to help kids soothe themselves.

MOLLY MARX: In our room, the safe spot is in a really quiet corner, and it’s filled with kind of pillows and blankets. And then we have a calm down box. There are several sensory things that they can play with. We have squishy balls. We have sunglasses.

MOLLY KNIGHT RASKIN: All of the methods are aimed at quieting a tidal wave of emotions that often overwhelms these kids. Neuroscientists have found that trauma causes arrested development in children’s brains. This leaves them vulnerable to triggers that adults around them often don’t see.

AVIS SMITH: It might be a smell. It might be a touch. It might be a sound that that child experienced during that traumatic event that is a reminder for that child of what happened.

MOLLY KNIGHT RASKIN: This is the case for Desiree, who suffered traumatic events, including the incarceration of her mother and the death of a close family member. Desiree was also the victim of abuse.

The incident was so traumatizing that her father, Derek Kazee, said he saw a total shift in her personality.

DEREK KAZEE: Before everything, like, she just — she was a people person. She loved being around people. After the experience happened, she tended to turn off. She didn’t really want to be around adults. She didn’t want to be around kids. She just wanted to be at home, her safe spot.

MOLLY KNIGHT RASKIN: Derek Kazee says it wasn’t until she began the trauma program that Desiree finally felt safe enough to go to school and to share her experience with the adults there. One of them was therapist Renee Silver, who works with kids individually to reinforce the self-regulating techniques of Head Start Trauma Smart.

In one activity, Silver applies lotion to Desiree’s hands.

RENEE SILVER: I’m going to get your pinkie and your ringy and your middle.

How often do kids get that nurturing, where each finger is individualized and pointed out, and they’re getting that focused attention, where nothing else matters? And so it really helps the kids. They — it’s almost like they melt.

MOLLY KNIGHT RASKIN: And it’s not just teachers and therapists who practice these techniques.

AVIS SMITH: Bus drivers, cooks, everyone who is in the life of that child.

Derek Kazee says he often works with Desiree at home, where they both use calm down stuff like counting and deep breathing.

DEREK KAZEE: Go ahead.

She tends to just walk away and calm herself down. And usually, like, before the program, she would just, you know, have a tantrum. Now she’s more in control of her feelings and her emotions. As a parent, it makes me completely happy.

MOLLY KNIGHT RASKIN: Head Start Trauma Smart is still in its early stages, but it’s already showing promising results; 100 percent of the children enrolled have moved on to kindergarten. It’s this kind of success that Hron says she hopes will boosts the program’s growth nationwide.

JANINE HRON: If we can pull this off across the country, the dividends will be phenomenal.

MOLLY KNIGHT RASKIN: Some of the Head Start Trauma Smart results are harder to measure. But to those who care for these children, they are impossible to miss.

DEREK KAZEE: All right.

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Border Patrol agent: Serious concerns about potential troop deployments

Thursday, July 24 2014 10:22 PM

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GWEN IFILL: The influx of unaccompanied children continues at the southern U.S. border. The White House says the number coming across has decreased in the past month. But Border Patrol agents say they’re still overwhelmed.

Jeffrey Brown has another in our occasional series of conversations with people on the front lines of the crisis.

JEFFREY BROWN: Earlier this month, we talked with an immigration judge about the overwhelming volume of immigrants who’ve entered the country illegally and are ending up in the court system.

Tonight, we’re joined by Shawn Moran, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents Border Patrol agents. Moran himself has been an agent for 17 years.

And welcome to you.

I want to ask first about those recent reports that as news of more deportations has spread, the numbers of people trying to enter the country is dropping. At least apprehensions are down. Does that jibe with what you’re seeing?

SHAWN MORAN, National Border Patrol Council: Well, we are seeing a dip.

And we’re not sure exactly what the cause of it is. Historically, we have seen drops in the summertime due to the heat and humidity in South Texas and along the southwest border. Also the beast, the so-called freight train that has been bringing people through Mexico from Central America, has been derailed for the past two weeks. So we think that has also helped contribute to the dip in numbers.

JEFFREY BROWN: Specifically with the situation of so many children entering, what’s the role of the Border Patrol and how has that changed the work of you and other agents?

SHAWN MORAN: Well, our job, we are the primary law enforcement agency in between the ports of entry. So if you come across the border and you are not a U.S. citizen, you can expect to have a Border Patrol agent try to encounter you.

And with the situation in South Texas, we’re having large groups that are surrendering and wanting to take part either in asylum or to be released in some way. So our agents are being the first ones out there to arrest. And we are in large numbers doing the processing that takes place for the family groups that are then released, and also for the unaccompanied juveniles who are then released to a relative in the U.S.

JEFFREY BROWN: And it looks as though that has led to some frustration at times. There has been at least one case of a tweet sent out by a union, then later recalled, that suggested that you were being asked to do some things you are not used to doing.

SHAWN MORAN: That’s true.

Border Patrol agents, you know, we will do whatever we have to do to get the job done, but our concern is the fact that we have so many of our agents doing processing and other related duties such as baby-sitting, making food, doing medical care, that we don’t have our agents out on the border doing their primary job, which is trying to secure the southwest border and make sure that people aren’t coming across.

So it definitely has had an impact on our operations. And it does have an impact on morale when you’re doing all these things for these groups of people that are coming across the border, and then we just see them walk out the front door, essentially getting what they came here for.

JEFFREY BROWN: It’s just — it was just reported today, in fact, that the Obama administration is sending a team to the border to assess whether National Guard troops could help and what they would do. It’s something that a number of people, especially Republicans, of course, have called for already. What’s your reaction and what has been your experience in the past?

SHAWN MORAN: Well, we have some serious concerns about any potential troop deployments on the border.

The number one thing that we saw during Operation Jump Start, when President Bush sent the National Guard down, was that the talk was these people were going to be working on the border to free up Border Patrol agents. They were unarmed. They were not allowed to have any illegal alien contact, so essentially what happened is you would have a Border Patrol agent working one of our mobile cameras.

They would be removed from the truck. The National Guardsman would be put in there. And then you would put a Border Patrol right next to that truck to protect them. So we never really saw the manpower gains that we were told. It seemed to be more window dressing than anything.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, so from the perspective of your union and from Border Patrol agents, what would you like to see? What do you feel you most need?

SHAWN MORAN: Well, the thing that confounds us the most is that we’re having a border crisis, yet we don’t have 100 percent Border Patrol staffing.

During sequestration, the Customs and Border Protection reduced the amount of hours that Border Patrol agents have historically worked from a minimum of 10-hour shifts, sometimes longer if you’re working a case or you’re tracking a group, and they have reduced it. In some cases, our canine agents are working eight hours and being sent home. They are some of our most effective units out there.

And that’s leaving huge gaps in coverage, because if you can’t work the full 10 hours and you don’t have the overlap of shifts, this isn’t like a police precinct where White House a couple of minutes you can be at your post. Some of our agents are traveling up to two hours to go out and patrol the area in their assigned area.

So we think full Border Patrol staffing is the first step that any plan should have entailed.

JEFFREY BROWN: And just very briefly, all of this, of course, much caught up in politics.

SHAWN MORAN: It is.

The Border Patrol agents, we often feel like political footballs. Everybody claims to want to secure the border, but nobody seems to want to really do anything about it. And so it can be very demoralizing for a Border Patrol agent, but, luckily, we have very motivated people. They go out there and they continue to do the job under very difficult circumstances.

JEFFREY BROWN: And, Mr. Moran, finally, I would be remiss in not asking about some reports that have been in the media, especially from our colleagues at NPR, about excessive force used by Border Patrol agents, specifically about abuses of children, holding them in freezing rooms, verbal and psychological abuse.

Are those things happening? Are you looking into those things?

SHAWN MORAN: We are, but I — in 17 years as a Border Patrol agent, I have never heard ourselves referred to as freezers, so that was new when I spoke to John Burnett this weekend about this story.

I believe as a Border Patrol agent, when you encounter a child, there’s nothing that pulls at your heartstrings more. Border Patrol agents know better than anyone else how dangerous the border is. And to see a child coming across there, especially by themselves, definitely, as I said, pulls at the heartstrings and brings out the compassion.

To say that Border Patrol agents are going out there and trying to make this situation more difficult for juveniles that are here illegally, I just don’t believe it.

JEFFREY BROWN: So you don’t believe sleep deprivation or physical or psychological abuse, you just don’t think it’s happening, in spite of these reports?

SHAWN MORAN: I don’t think it’s purposely happening.

But somebody going into a cell, if they’re the oncoming desk officer and they’re in charge of knowing exactly how many people they have in custody, that could easily be misconstrued as sleep deprivation. You have to wake people up. You have to have them lift up the blankets if they have their kids under there, so that you know exactly how many people you have in custody, and that you know that the security of everyone in your custody is at 100 percent, and that nobody is being endangered by fellow detainees.

JEFFREY BROWN: And are these things being investigated, as far as you know?

SHAWN MORAN: I am sure that CDP and the Department of Homeland Security, if they have allegations made against Border Patrol agents, in the past, they have wholeheartedly investigated these.

And most of the time, I would say that they are found to be meritless. And I hope that DHS will investigate it if they believe these to be true.

JEFFREY BROWN: Shawn Moran of the National Border Patrol Council, thank you very much.

SHAWN MORAN: Thank you, sir, for having me.

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Debating the tactics and ethics of warfare on both sides of Mideast conflict

Thursday, July 24 2014 10:12 PM

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JUDY WOODRUFF: With the number of casualties rising, there is a growing focus on the tactics being used by both sides. We look at that with two experts on the law of armed conflict.

Amos Guiora, an Israeli, is a professor of law at the University of Utah. He had a 19-year career in the Israel Defense Forces and is the author of the book “Legitimate Target: A Criteria-Based Approach to Targeted Killing.” He joins us from Jerusalem. And Noura Erakat, a Palestinian, is a human rights attorney and activist. She’s also an assistant professor at George Mason University, and she has written extensively about self-defense and humanitarian law.

And we welcome you both to the NewsHour.

Amos Guiora, let me start with you. Let’s talk about the tactics and this charge by Prime Minister Netanyahu that Hamas is deliberately putting civilians in a place where they are in jeopardy, where their lives are at risk. Where does this — is there hard evidence for this?

AMOS GUIORA, University of Utah: Good evening, and thank you for having me.

With respect to the question of the human shield, I think that the pictures tell a graphic story in terms of children tragically being killed, unfortunately, and tragically, I empathize.

But I don’t think there’s much doubt that one of the reasons — not the only reason, but one of the reasons that children are dying in this conflict is absolutely because of human shielding by Hamas, whose spokesman I believe it was last week made a very public pronouncement calling on families to “make sure” — quote, unquote — that their children be in the vicinity of whether it’s the tunnels or the rocket launchers and thereby endangering children and therefore really making them human shields.

I don’t think there is any doubt that that is an egregious violation of international law. That’s A. And, B, it’s absolutely a tragedy on the human level.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Noura Erakat, how much of that is going on?  And we do read reports about it. And if it is, how does Hamas justify it?

NOURA ERAKAT, George Mason University: So, I think you asked a very pertinent question, is there any hard evidence for actual human shielding, or that Hamas is using Palestinians as human shields?

And there just isn’t. The hard, difficult truth is that Israel is targeting civilians or recklessly targeting them in ways that amount to a violation of international law. Israel has made the claim that its adversaries use human shields, as it did in 1996 in the south of Lebanon, in 2006 in Lebanon, as it did in 2008 and 2009 against Gaza.

And the U.N. reports that have been published and investigated as well as reports by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, Breaking the Silence, an Israeli — group of Israeli soldiers, all refute this claim.

And so we continue, we continue to accept this talking point without any rigorous evidence, and yet Israel refuses to subject its own evidence, supposed evidence, to public and judicial scrutiny.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Amos Guiora, if there’s no evidence of it, then why does Prime Minister Netanyahu and others and others say this?

AMOS GUIORA: Well, I think, first of all, I want to disagree with Noura, with all due respect.

And I also take you to the leaflets that were dropped by the IDF last week requesting people or warning them to leave their neighborhood prior to an attack, the knocking on doors and telling people that an attack is forthcoming.

And, unfortunately, what we are seeing is that Hamas is literally preventing people from leaving their neighborhoods and their homes. In that sense, I think at the end of the day, the responsibility clearly lays at the doors of Hamas that is preventing people from escaping areas which the IDF announces in advance, pre-warning, in accordance with international law, that an attack is forthcoming. I think that again was a violation of international law and clearly a tragedy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What about that? Again, there have been reports that the Israelis have tried to warn the civilians in Gaza to leave, but Hamas has said to them, don’t leave.

NOURA ERAKAT: Well, let’s just put this all in context.

I think everything makes more sense with context. The Gaza Strip is under Israel’s occupation, remains occupied, despite Israel’s withdrawal of 8,000 soldiers in 2005. It remains an occupying power. And it has sealed four of the five exits to the Gaza Strip. So these 1.8 million Palestinian civilians have nowhere to go.

It’s not that Hamas is preventing them from going. They literally cannot leave. They don’t even have the opportunity to become refugees. Second of all, as for the warnings, these warnings are warned by rockets that are also very harmful and that provide the Palestinians less than three minutes to leave their homes.

If we were hit with a rocket that supposedly warned us to leave right now, I think we would be so struck as to be immobilized, rather than expect the Palestinians to leave and then think, Israelis, for these supposed warnings and then the direct targeting of civilians.

Civilian families have been targeted in their homes. A U.N. shelter has been targeted despite Israel having the coordinates. We should reject these talking points and subject this to scrutiny, to judicial and public scrutiny, and not accept Israel’s evasion of accountability.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Amos Guiora, what about that and frankly the other argument that one hears that even if Israel believes that Hamas is firing rockets from civilian populated areas, they shouldn’t be firing on civilians?

AMOS GUIORA: Right, two responses.

First of all, Noura mentioned that Israel is giving Palestinians three minutes. We Israelis would love to have three minutes’ notice before rockets arrive in our vicinity. We have, depending on where you live in Israel, between 15 seconds to 90 seconds. We live outside Jerusalem, and we have 90 seconds to find a shelter.

Three minutes is much more than 90 seconds. That’s A. B, Noura mentions that Hamas — sorry — the Gaza Strip is under Israeli occupation. I remind all of us that the Palestinian Authority itself has said that Israel doesn’t occupy the Gaza Strip.

Hamas won — history is important. Hamas won elections in 2006 and Hamas controls the Gaza Strip. Decisions by Hamas over the course of the past eight years to destroy the greenhouses that Israel left, to build tunnels, to have a rocket-making industry, rather than building the Gaza Strip into what it really could have been, which would be a wonderful place for people to live, that — at the end of the day, I think that’s on Hamas.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And let me just stop you there.

AMOS GUIORA: I agree with Noura. Context is important.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I just want to ask you, and what about the notion that Israel shouldn’t be targeting civilians if it knows they’re anywhere in the vicinity?

AMOS GUIORA: I think that’s a great question.

Here’s the reality, that when you’re engaged in trying to take out rocket launchers in real time, that you’re making every possible, conceivable effort to target only the rocket launcher, but because rocket launchers are not sitting in open fields, but are embedded in the civilian community, as hard as you try to target only the rocket launcher, it is a tragic inevitability operationally that indeed collateral damage is such that innocent civilians will get killed and they are being killed.

I don’t think there’s any argument about that. But the question that we need to ask ourselves is when the rocket launchers are embedded in the civilian community, it’s all but inevitable, again tragically, that civilians will die.

If the rocket launchers were to post themselves a place far removed from the civilian population, then obviously there would be a reduction, a minimization in the loss of civilian lie. But, again, because they’re clearly embedded, they’re firing from within the civilian community, that lends itself to the loss of innocent life.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to ask you to respond to that and also to the charge that about Hamas is firing, attempting to fire on and hit civilian populations in Israel.

NOURA ERAKAT: So, let me answer the first question.

With all due respect, Amos, we’re reverting to this talking point that Hamas is using human shields. Again, there is absolutely no evidence for this. It’s Israel’s word against the United Nations, against Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights Israel, Breaking the Silence Israel, as well as the National Lawyers Guild.

What country, what other country would we accept a repeated talking point with no evidence that this is the case? That’s one. The second, the World Health Organization says that the Gaza Strip will be unlivable in the next six years, by 2020. The access to sanitized water, to hygienic water will be impossible.

This is not Hamas’ fault. This is the result of Israel’s imposition of a debilitating and cruel siege that is killing Palestinians even in the absence of rocket fire. In reference to…

JUDY WOODRUFF: To firing on the civilians in Israel.

NOURA ERAKAT: Hamas is firing on civilians. Look, it’s not controversial.

Hamas has crude rocket fire and, therefore, cannot distinguish between civilians and combatants within Israel. So it’s an ipso facto violation, but that’s not what’s in controversy. And it’s far less insidious than the fact that Israel, which we deem the only democracy in the Middle East and provide $3.1 billion a year, as opposed to the sanctions and the designating Hamas as a terrorist organization, Israel targets civilians with precise weapons technology that we provide to it.

And here is what is an actual controversy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, this is an argument that I know could go on. We are going to have to leave it there, but we will continue to look at it. We appreciate it, Noura Erakat, Amos Guiora. Thank you both.

NOURA ERAKAT: Thank you for having us.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And right after we taped that discussion, violence broke out in the West Bank. Israeli newspapers are reporting that 10,000 Palestinians marched from Ramallah and fought Israeli troops and police with rockets and firebombs. The Israelis used tear gas, stun grenades and gunfire. Palestinian news accounts said that two protesters were killed.

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UN school compound in Gaza hit by deadly strike

Thursday, July 24 2014 10:09 PM

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JUDY WOODRUFF: The battle between Israel and Hamas entered its 17th day. So far, at least 788 Palestinians and 32 Israeli soldiers, plus two Israeli citizens and an immigration worker, have been killed.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry continued his efforts to broker a cease-fire.

Emergency workers rushed victim after victim to this hospital after a U.N. school compound was hit in northern Gaza. The Palestinian Red Crescent and Hamas blamed Israeli tank fire.

IHAB MOHSEN, Hamas Spokesman: It was a shelter for the people and they thought that it’s a safe place to stay in it, and that Israel strike them and there is until now more than 20 killed people and many injuries.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Israelis said they’re investigating. But they said it may have been Hamas rocket fire that hit the school. The U.N. Agency for Palestinian Refugees has confirmed finding rockets stashed in two vacant U.N. schools in recent days.

And in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again condemned Hamas tactics after meeting with the British foreign secretary.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Israel: This use of human shields is extraordinarily cynical, it’s grotesque, it’s inhuman, but what is equally grotesque is that Israel was condemned in the Human Rights Council. It’s a travesty of justice. It’s a travesty of fairness. It’s a travesty of common sense. It’s a travesty of truth.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yesterday, the U.N. Human Rights Council had criticized Israel for the heavy civilian toll it’s taking, while warning both sides over possible war crimes.

And, today, Valerie Amos, the U.N.’s top humanitarian official, issued a fresh appeal to stop the violence.

VALERIE AMOS, UN Humanitarian Chief: We have over 118,000 people now who are sheltering in U.N. schools. We have schools that are now unable to be used for education. People are running out of food. Water is also a serious concern.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But the ferocity of the fighting continued unabated. Israeli fighter jets pounded neighborhoods in Jabalia, north of Gaza City, in the early hours. And more tanks and troops crossed into Gaza. Hamas, meanwhile, claimed it fired more rockets in the direction of Ben Gurion Airport at Tel Aviv, but no warning sirens sounded.

Last night, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration lifted its suspension on U.S. flights in and out of Ben Gurion. And Europe’s aviation agency followed suit today. On the diplomatic front, Secretary of State John Kerry returned to Cairo, in a bid to get a cease-fire. Egyptian officials talked of negotiating a humanitarian truce by next week, the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Hamas’ leader has voiced support for the idea, but only if Israel ends its economic blockade of Gaza. Israeli officials suggested a truce is not imminent, and said the army might need two more weeks to finish destroying the Hamas tunnel network.

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Two killed as 10,000 clash with police in the West Bank

Thursday, July 24 2014 10:03 PM

Violence broke out in the West Bank late Thursday when 10,000 marched to protest the Israeli incursion of Gaza. Two protesters were reported killed and dozens injured when the crowd clashed with police at a checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Protesters threw moltov cocktails, rocks and fireworks and police responded with tear gas, stun grenades and gunfire.

Thursday marks the 17th day of the conflict, which has claimed the lives of at least 788 Palestinians, 32 Israeli soldiers, 2 Israeli citizens and an immigrant worker.

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News Wrap: Air Algerie plane apparently crashed in Mali desert

Thursday, July 24 2014 10:02 PM

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GWEN IFILL: An Air Algerie flight disappeared in Northern Africa today with 110 passengers and six crew on board. The plane was flying from Burkina Faso to Algiers, but it fell off radar over Mali after the pilots reported heavy rain and asked to change course. Later, the president of Mali said wreckage had been spotted in the country’s northern desert. Nearly half of the passengers were French citizens. The rest came from a dozen other nations.

JUDY WOODRUFF: European monitors found more human remains in Eastern Ukraine today where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down last week, killing 298 people.

At the same time, two more planeloads of 74 coffins arrived in the Netherlands.

Rohit Kachroo of Independent Television News reports from the town where the bodies are being identified.

ROHIT KACHROO: For the victims brought here from the sunflower fields of Ukraine, the people of Hilversum do whatever seems appropriate. Sobbing breaks the silence, but the silence always returns. No one expects to become immune to the heartache here.

FATHER JULIUS DRESME, Saint Vitus Church, Hilversum: We feel connected with all the victims because of the fact we know them. It’s like your brother. It’s like your friend. It’s like the person with whom you are working.

ROHIT KACHROO: A hundred miles away, the second repatriation ceremony took place. It’s a little better rehearsed, but no less agonizing, military precision for a civilian procession, the pattern the same as yesterday, except twice as many coffins, twice as many hearses.

In a town that has lost three families, they watched as they waited for the bodies to arrive at the military base here.

WOMAN: It’s sort of — yesterday, I cried the whole afternoon, evening and now — so, I just can’t believe it. It’s unreal.

ROHIT KACHROO: But Hilversum is a focus for investigators, as well as mourners. A British detective is among them.

HOWARD WAY, Detective Inspector, Association of Chief Police Officers: I’m confident that we will identify them, but this will take — we’re talking in terms of weeks, months, and not days.

ROHIT KACHROO: Because of the state in which these remains were recovered?

HOWARD WAY: Because of the processes we have to take with human remains that have suffered such trauma, yes.

ROHIT KACHROO: Hilversum’s trauma is told by flowers, but this is now the town that this country looks for many of the answers, too.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In other developments, Dutch investigators said the initial look at the plane’s black boxes show no sign of tampering.

And in Ukraine, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced he’s resigning, after two parties withdrew from the government. The move clears the way for new parliamentary elections.

GWEN IFILL: The Iraqi Parliament elected a veteran Kurdish politician as president today, a key step toward trying to form a government. Afterward, Fouad Massoum was sworn in to the ceremonial position. His first task is picking a candidate for prime minister. It all came hours after Sunni militants attacked a military convoy near Baghdad. At least 52 prisoners and nine policemen were killed.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The top European human rights court has ruled that Poland let the CIA carry out what amounted to torture on Polish soil. Two terrorism suspects were imprisoned there in secret from 2002 to 2003 under the U.S. program of renditions after the 9/11 attacks. The court ordered Poland to pay the men a total of more than $300,000. Both men are now imprisoned at Guantanamo.

GWEN IFILL: Authorities in Arizona will investigate the state’s execution process, after a lethal injection last night took nearly two hours to take effect. Joseph Rudolph Wood was a convicted killer, and the first prisoner in Arizona to receive a new two-dose lethal injection.

Associated Press reporter Astrid Galvan witnessed the execution.

ASTRID GALVAN, Associated Press: Once he was sedated, he just laid there and took several gasps. I counted probably more than 600 gasps during the nearly two hours that it took for him to die. But he was sedated, so all we heard, very occasionally, was him snoring, and that was when the doctors went and checked on him and came on the microphone and said that he was sedated.

GWEN IFILL: Wood was sentenced to death for the 1989 shooting of a father and daughter at close range. Family members of the victims said they had no problem with how the execution was handled.

JEANNE BROWN, Daughter/ sister of victims: So everybody here from what I heard said that it was excruciating. You don’t know what excruciating is. What’s excruciating is, seeing your dad lying there is a pool of blood and seeing your sister lying there is a pool of blood. That’s excruciating. This man deserved it. And I shouldn’t really call him a man. He deserved everything he had coming to him.

GWEN IFILL: Earlier this year, an Ohio prisoner took nearly half-an-hour to die by lethal injection. And Oklahoma prison officials stopped an execution in April because the drugs weren’t administered properly. The condemned man died moments later of a heart attack.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In economic news, General Motors said that it expects to spend at least $400 million to compensate those killed or injured in crashes tied to faulty ignition switches. The company released the number today in its second-quarter earnings report. It said the cost may yet rise another $200 million. The ignition switch problem has been linked to 13 deaths.

GWEN IFILL: And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average lost almost three points to close below 17,084; the Nasdaq fell one point to close at 4,472; and the S&P added a point, to finish just short of 1,988.

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