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News Wrap: Canadian prime minister pledges stronger law enforcement after attacks

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GWEN IFILL: Canadian police announced today they have found no connection between two fatal attacks this week on soldiers. That word came as Parliament cheered the man who put an end to yesterday’s shooting assault.

(APPLAUSE)

GWEN IFILL: A hero’s welcome awaited Sergeant at Arms Kevin Vickers at the opening of the day’s session of Parliament. He was visibly emotional as lawmakers stood in thunderous applause.

(APPLAUSE)

GWEN IFILL: It was Vickers, a former Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman, who shot and killed the gunman stalking the halls of Parliament yesterday. The incident touched off panic, as police rushed in and lawmakers and staffers scrambled to get out.

STEPHEN HARPER, Prime Minister, Canada (through interpreter): The goal of these attacks was to instill fear and panic in our country, and to interrupt the business of government.

GWEN IFILL: Today, just 24 hours after the chaos, Prime Minister Stephen Harper insisted Canada will not be intimidated.

STEPHEN HARPER: We will be vigilant, but we will not run scared. We will be prudent, but we will not panic. And, as for the business of government, well, here we are in out seats, in our chamber in the very heart of our democracy and our work goes on.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

GWEN IFILL: And in a chamber often divided by politics, unity was the message of the day.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, Leader, Liberal Party of Canada: Yesterday’s events were a shared national tragedy. It is fitting that we have come together in this place immediately to let the world know that Canada’s values are strong, our institutions are resilient, and our people are united together.

(APPLAUSE)

THOMAS MULCAIR, Leader of the Opposition: It only strengthened our commitment to each other and to a peaceful world. Now, let us not become more suspicious of our neighbors. Let’s not be driven by fear, because, in Canada, love always triumphs over hate.

GWEN IFILL: Police now say the lone gunman, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, was a recent convert to Islam with a long record of violent crimes.

They released security camera video today showing the gunman running into the Parliament building with a rifle. Minutes earlier, he’s seen entering the National War Memorial grounds, where he shot and killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo, a member of the honor guard.

Back at the Parliament, lawmakers paused for a moment of silence in remembrance of Cirillo. Family members of the shooter condemned his actions.

In a statement, his mother, Susan Bibeau, said: “We wish to apologize for all the pain, fright and chaos he created. We have no explanation to offer. I don’t understand and part of me wants to hate him at this time.”

Police now say Zehaf-Bibeau had recently applied for a passport, apparently intending to go to Syria, but he wasn’t under surveillance.

BOB PAULSON, Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police: I can confirm that Zehaf-Bibeau wasn’t one of the 90 high-risk travelers that the RCMP is currently investigating. According to some accounts, he was an individual who may have held extremist beliefs.

GWEN IFILL: His attack came just days after another Canadian with Islamist militant ties rammed two soldiers with his car near Montreal, killing one, before being shot dead by police. Investigators said they have found no connection between the two incidents, but Prime Minister Harper pledged aggressive action.

STEPHEN HARPER: In recent weeks, I have been saying that our laws and police powers need to be strengthened in the area of surveillance, detention, and arrest. They need to be much strengthened, and I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that work which is already under way will be expedited.

(APPLAUSE)

GWEN IFILL: But the city of Ottawa stayed on edge. At one point today, as the prime minister and his wife laid flowers at the war memorial, police drew their guns and forced a man to the ground. He was later arrested for disturbing the crime scene.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And in other news of this day, six West Africans who traveled to Connecticut are being quarantined for possible exposure to Ebola. Officials said today the family arrived on Saturday, planning to live in the U.S. They will be monitored for 21 days.

There was also word that a New York hospital is testing a man with Ebola-like symptoms who worked for Doctors Without Borders in West Africa. We will hear from the president’s top science officer on stopping Ebola after the news summary.

GWEN IFILL: In Nigeria, suspected Boko Haram militants kidnapped at least 25 girls in a remote northeastern town. It came amid ongoing talks aimed at freeing more than 200 other girls seized by the Islamist group in April. The abduction also raised further doubts about a cease-fire announcement last week.

JUDY WOODRUFF: New questions surfaced today about the U.S. strategy to confront Islamic State forces. The Washington Post reported moderate Syrians will be trained to defend themselves, but not to try to retake territory. The report cited unnamed U.S. and allied officials. Islamic State militants already control large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq.

GWEN IFILL: The Maryland man who allegedly jumped the White House fence last night was ordered held without bond today. Dominic Adesanya was quickly arrested by uniformed Secret Service agents and their dogs. He was unarmed, but he’s charged with punching and kicking the dogs and making threats.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said today the challenge is to balance security with public access.

JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary: I think the point is, it certainly would be possible to build a multistory bomb-proof wall around the 18-acre White House complex of the White House, but that, I don’t think, would be striking the appropriate balance that I described earlier.

GWEN IFILL: Last month, another fence jumper made it past five layers of security and into the White House.

JUDY WOODRUFF: California’s prison system will end its policy of locking down inmates based on race. Guards have frequently invoked the policy after racial violence among inmates, regardless of whether they’re directly implicated. The settlement would end a longstanding civil rights lawsuit.

GWEN IFILL: A batch of strong earnings reports sent Wall Street surging again today. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 216 points to close near 16,677; the Nasdaq rose almost 70 points to close at 4,452; and the S&P added 23 to finish at 1,950.

The post News Wrap: Canadian prime minister pledges stronger law enforcement after attacks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

The obstacles and dangers of reporting on Syria

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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to covering a horrific conflict in the world’s most dangerous country for journalists and the limitations that’s placing on what the world finds out about.

Hari Sreenivasan reports.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Joining me now to discuss the dangers of covering Syria and how it impacts our understanding of the conflict is veteran international correspondent Deborah Amos. She has been reporting on the Syrian civil war since its beginning in 2001 for NPR. And John Daniszewski, the senior managing editor for international news at the Associated Press.

The PBS NewsHour is a subscriber to the AP.

Deborah, I want to start with you. You have covered this conflict and you have covered the region for quite some time. How difficult is it to cover Syria vs. anywhere else in the region?

DEBORAH AMOS, NPR: Oh, it’s very, very tough. And it has gotten tougher over time.

You are up against two problems. One is the so-called Islamic State. They will kill you if you cross the border and they catch you. And then you have the Assad government that restricts visas. Right now, there are no visas for U.S.-based correspondents, people who hold U.S. passports.

And they have an army that makes sure that you cannot come into the country. So the problem is, you have two main groups who do not want you to be there and have it in their power to keep you out. It is dangerous not only inside Syria now, but also on the border.

My last reporting trip, for the first time ever in my career, I wasn’t allowed to say where I was, because I was there for three-and-a-half weeks, and it was considered by my company that it was dangerous to say. And that has now become a policy. It is very unusual to do that.

HARI SREENIVASAN: John, you are in the position of deciding when to send reporters and when not to. But what is so specifically challenging, besides was Deborah just said, about covering this conflict, given that the AP covers conflicts all over the globe?

JOHN DANISZEWSKI, Associated Press: Yes.

Well, I think every conflict involves making difficult choices. We try to very carefully weigh the risks against the advantages of going to any certain place. And right now, we consider Syria to be at the top of the most extremely dangerous places in the world to report from. And that has been a problem.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, Deborah, I want to ask, what stories are we missing from there when we have such limited access for Western reporters or any reporters to get in and find the stories?

DEBORAH AMOS: I think we’re actually missing a lot.

It’s obvious that we aren’t — we aren’t being able to report the bad news. But we also can’t report developments there. I will give you an example. In my hotel, the last time I was in Southern Turkey, there was a contingent of police officers from Aleppo, a town that has been under siege for more than a year, split between the regime and the rebels.

These police officers came from the rebel side of the city. And their programs are being funded by the United States, by Norway, by the Dutch government. There were three dozen Aleppo police, including women, in my hotel for the training programs.

Now, I would love to be able to go to Aleppo and follow them on the beat for a day. I can’t do that. So I really can’t report on if this U.S.-funded program is going well or not inside Aleppo. I think that we are missing nuance that is always important and that we have always been able to report on any conflict zone.

And it’s just not getting reported inside Syria.

HARI SREENIVASAN: John Daniszewski, are you hearing similar from your reporters, hearing stories that you can’t report on?

JOHN DANISZEWSKI: Yes.

We get reports from things that are going on inside Syria, and they are very difficult to verify. We’re relying in this conflict, I think to a greater extent than ever, on user-generated content, social media, the photos that people there send out. But we have very high standards which of those we will use and how we verify them.

So, you know, even in the middle of the night last night, we were chasing one particular report in the city of Kobani. And we were never able to satisfy it, to satisfy ourselves that it was verified that we could report it.

But we do have means. We do have contacts inside we can reach out to. We do have very experienced journalists in the area who are picking up reports and sifting through them. It is a sort of pillar of conflict coverage to talk about what is happening to those caught in the middle. And that is a really a bit of what we are missing right now.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, Deb Amos, with all that said, how do you do it? Your assignment is still to get stories from Syria. Who do you talk to? What videos are you watching to be able to corroborate these facts on the ground?

DEBORAH AMOS: You know, I often think we are like foreign correspondents of a hundred years ago, where people would stand at the docks and they would interview people as they got off big ships.

So what we do is, we’re at the borders of Turkey, where we can talk to people when they come across. You can go to hospitals on the border. You can interview people who have been wounded in some of the fights inside. And you can piece together, if you do enough of this, what it is like in a particular battlefield.

You can interview people who are coming out of Raqqa, where the so-called Islamic State is ruling. And you can ask them details about, what is life like? And you can eventually build a picture. But that is really what we have to do. You have to go down, and it’s piece by piece by piece to build a picture of what is going on inside Syria.

It’s not impossible. And you can see from both the AP point of view and mine that that is what we are doing. It is painstaking work. We are watching the videos. You have to verify all those videos. It is doable. But I just wonder what we are missing.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, John Daniszewski, so what about the market incentives or disincentives when it comes to freelancers? A lot of time, they will end up risking their lives and going places because they might be more nimble than a large institution.

Well, what does the Associated Press do to try and keep people out of harm’s away by trying to go in and get that one shot?

JOHN DANISZEWSKI: Well, first of all, we won’t send a freelancer to cover something that we wouldn’t ourselves go to do.

And we have rules about not taking material from people whom we don’t know, who are not insured, who do not have proper protection. And so we have sent reporters into Syria in the past. We’re not doing it right now because of the dangers discussed earlier. And we’re not sending freelancers in right now either.

And we — and I think across all news organizations in the industry, there is a very robust discussion going on right now. what can we do, both in the mainline — or the established news organizations and how can the freelancers organize themselves to better protect themselves and be better prepared to face a hostile environment?

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, John Daniszewski from the Associated Press and Deborah Amos from NPR, thanks so much for your time.

DEBORAH AMOS: Thank you.

The post The obstacles and dangers of reporting on Syria appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Islamic State group earning $1 million per day in black market oil, U.S. says

WASHINGTON — Islamic State militants are raking in money at a remarkable rate, earning about $1 million a day from black market oil sales alone, a Treasury Department official said Thursday.

David Cohen, who leads the department’s effort to undermine the Islamic State’s finances, said the extremists also get several million dollars a month from wealthy donors, extortion rackets and other criminal activities, such as robbing banks. In addition, he said the group has taken in at least $20 million in ransom payments this year from kidnappings.

“With the important exception of some state-sponsored terrorist organizations, IS is probably the best-funded terrorist organization we have confronted,” Cohen, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. “It has amassed wealth at an unprecedented pace.”

The group extracts oil from territory captured across Syria and Iraq, and sells it to smugglers.

“They rob banks. They lay waste to thousands of years of civilization in Iraq and Syria by looting and selling antiquities.”IS, led by Iraqi Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, wants to create a caliphate, or Islamic empire, in the Middle East. IS initially tried to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, but other groups, including al-Qaida central command, turned against IS because of its brutality.

Unlike the core al-Qaida terrorist network, IS gets only a small share of funding from deep-pocket donors and therefore does not depend primarily on moving money across international borders. Instead, it obtains the vast majority of its revenues through local criminal and terrorist activities, Cohen said.

He acknowledged that the Treasury’s tools are not particularly well-suited to combating extortion and local crime.

On Wednesday, PBS NewsHour examined the roll of social media for the Islamic State militants when recruiting new members.

“They rob banks. They lay waste to thousands of years of civilization in Iraq and Syria by looting and selling antiquities,” he said. “They steal livestock and crops from farmers. And despicably, they sell abducted girls and women as sex slaves.”

In the Iraqi city of Mosul, Islamic State terrorists are reportedly going door to door and business to business, demanding cash at gunpoint, he said.

“A grocery store owner who refused to pay was warned with a bomb outside his shop. Others, who have not paid, have seen their relatives kidnapped. … We’ve also seen reports that when customers make cash withdrawals from local banks where ISIL operates, ISIL has demanded as much as 10 percent of the value.” Cohen said, using an acronym for the group.

But oil is the biggest money-maker.

“It is difficult to get precise revenue estimates … but we estimate that beginning in mid-June, ISIL has earned approximately $1 million a day from oil sales,” Cohen said. Other estimates have ranged as high as $3 million a day.

The Treasury said IS is selling oil at substantially discounted prices to a variety of middlemen, including some from Turkey, who then transport the oil to be resold. “It also appears that some of the oil emanating from territory where ISIL operates has been sold to Kurds in Iraq, and then resold into Turkey,” he said.

Cohen said the Syrian government also has allegedly arranged to buy oil from IS.

He noted that U.S-led airstrikes on the group’s oil refineries are threatening the militants’ supply networks, and that Turkey and the Kurdistan regional government — the official ruling body of the predominantly Kurdish region of northern Iraq — are working to prevent IS oil from crossing their borders.

Cohen acknowledged, however, that IS moves oil in illicit networks outside the formal economy, making it harder to track.

“But at some point, that oil is acquired by someone who operates in the legitimate economy and who makes use of the financial system. He has a bank account. His business may be financed, his trucks may be insured, his facilities may be licensed,” he said.

“We not only can cut them off from the U.S. financial system and freeze their assets, but we can also make it very difficult for them to find a bank anywhere that will touch their money or process their transactions.”

Deb Riechmann is a reporter for the Associated Press.

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20 years later, commemorating a war averted

Former
         President Jimmy Carter (center) waves to the press after he crosses the border into North Korea through the border truce village
         of Panmunjom for a four-day visit aimed at easing the peninsula's nuclear crisis on June, 15 1994. Photo by Choo Youn-Kong/AFP/Getty
         Images

Former President Jimmy Carter (center) waves to the press after he crosses the border into North Korea through the border truce village of Panmunjom for a four-day visit aimed at easing the peninsula’s nuclear crisis on June, 15 1994. Photo by Choo Youn-Kong/AFP/Getty Images


Editor’s Note: A U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework, signed 20 years ago Tuesday, was intended to replace North Korea’s nuclear power plant program with light water reactor power plants in the interest of nuclear nonproliferation, but the deal eventually broke apart.


Across Europe and scattered parts of the old British Empire, 2014 has been a centenary year in books and commemorations that ask yet again how great nations sleepwalked into the catastrophe of World War I. More happily this week, in an auditorium in Washington, former officials took note of how the U.S. and North Korea barely avoided slipping into a major war 20 years ago.

The conference came with a title much less resonant than “The Guns of August”, perhaps the most widely read book on the outbreak of World War I. Indeed the conference title was so veiled, “The 20th anniversary of the 1994 U.S-DPRK Agreed Framework,” that many graduate students walking past at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies had no idea what was being discussed inside.

Unlike the 25,000 or so books on the start of World War I, the U.S.-North Korean crisis of 1993-94 has produced barely one book (“Going Critical: The First North Korean Nuclear Crisis”) and remains mostly wrapped in the fog of nuclear physics and some unorthodox diplomacy with a country largely isolated from the rest of the world, the province of a handful of specialists and diplomatic historians.

Even so, as the conference participants repeatedly noted, the U.S. efforts to stop North Korea from developing nuclear weapons came close to a war that could have killed as many as a million people on the Korean peninsula. Many of them would have been South Koreans who were not directly involved in the standoff, 40 years after their country had been reduced to rubble in the Korean War. Yet, by 1994 and despite heavy coverage by the PBS NewsHour and other major news outlets, the Clinton administration had made no major effort to warn the American public that the two nations were on the edge of war. Only a last-minute diplomatic mission to North Korea by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who traveled with a CNN crew, brought the story out of the realm of specialists and into the universe of 24 hour cable television

Months later, a pact emerged in which North Korea agreed to freeze a program that produced bomb-grade plutonium, and the allied nations would provide the country two light water reactors to serve its power needs. That deal, the Agreed Framework, has become wrapped in domestic political controversy in the 20 years since and led to more years of diplomatic negotiations that seemed as endless as they were fruitless.

The Framework eventually collapsed in 2002 amid U.S. charges that the North Koreans were cheating. North Korea is now believed to have material for as many as 10 nuclear bombs. It has conducted three nuclear tests as well as test firings of missiles that might carry nuclear warheads at increasingly long distances, though not yet as far as the continental United States.

With that mixed legacy, the conference participants who all played key roles in the original drama insisted the U.S. decisions of 1993-94 averted a war and could have led to more diplomatic breakthroughs had events broken the right way in Washington and Pyongyang at the turn of the century.

Once again, the speakers demonstrated that the most vivid history is told through anecdotes and sometimes in self-deprecatory humor. Providing much of both was Robert Gallucci, an assistant secretary of state then and since an academic and foundation executive. Even his key role was an accident.

The crisis erupted in the spring of 1993, when the International Atomic Energy Agency accused North Korea of secretly trying to develop weapons grade plutonium and threatened to go to the U.N. Security Council. North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

From the beginning, the U.S. and its Asian allies of South Korea and Japan saw the crisis as a nuclear proliferation issue. But Gallucci and other speakers said North Korea’s real aim was to use the nuclear issue as a wedge to create a diplomatic opening and relationship with the United States. The recently installed Clinton administration agreed to talk with the North Koreans but did not want to give them a high-level or well-known American interlocutor, such as Assistant Secretary of State Winston Lord. Hence, as Gallucci acknowledged, he got the nod, an official totally unknown to the North Koreans and who had only been to the peninsula once in his career.

From the beginning, the talks in New York came with bizarre touches. The Korean delegates decorated their ill-fitting suits with lapel pins bearing a picture of their leader Kim Il Sung. Gallucci said he never went into a negotiation with such a slim briefing book, an indication that Washington thought Pyongyang would quickly accede to the idea of joining the Asian economic miracle in exchange for intrusive inspections and an American promise not to invade their country. The Korean negotiator cited an obscure passage from “Gone with the Wind” — the wagons roll but the dogs keep barking — that totally baffled the Americans. Both sides finished off the first round of talks at an elegant French restaurant. The Koreans poured Tabasco sauce over their food.

Not surprisingly, the talks in New York and later Geneva went nowhere and in following months the U.S. stepped up preparations to end the North Korean nuclear program by force, an airstrike on the Yongbyon nuclear plant and/or even an invasion of the North. A military buildup, as many as 140,000 American military in or around the peninsula, moved apace. By spring 1994, Americans in Korea were quietly sending their school age children home, weeks ahead of their final exams.

Gen. Gary Luck, the top American commander in Korea, recounted a conversation with President Bill Clinton. The general assured the president U.S. forces could reach the Yalu River in six months but suggested he keep two figures in mind — one million, one trillion. “What do you mean?” the president asked. “One million killed and one trillion spent,” the general responded. The president said, “No one told me that before.”

James Laney, the U.S. ambassador to Seoul, described how he and Luck were growing increasingly worried, and Laney kept his fellow Georgian Jimmy Carter up to date on developments. Gallucci also was briefing Carter, a nuclear engineer who understood the technical issues involved.

Carter had a standing invitation to visit North Korea, and with mixed feelings, President Clinton and his top officials decided he should go.

Gallucci described the situation in the Cabinet Room of the White House, the secretaries of state and defense and other top aides awaiting word from the former president on his meeting with Kim Il Sung. Secretary of Defense William Perry made a reference to “The Guns of August”, and insisted the U.S. could not fail to do the right thing just because North Korea might do the wrong thing. An aide entered the room, announcing President Carter was on the line. Everyone there expected he wanted to talk to President Clinton. Instead, the aide said, “He wants to talk with Gallucci.”

Gallucci said he saw his career dissolving in front of him. “At least I had the money to take a cab home.”

Gallucci reported to the room what Mr. Carter told him: North Korea would allow international inspectors back if the U.S. agreed to continue negotiations. Some in the room said that was not good enough. And then Gallucci added, Carter said he is going on CNN.

“You told him not to go on CNN,” someone said, and Gallucci responded he did not make such suggestions to a former president. There was much moaning and groaning. Secretary of State Warren Christopher said to Gallucci, half a question, half a statement: “You did say something to him.”

The meeting broke up to watch Carter on CNN, with Vice President Al Gore saying it was time to turn lemons into lemonade.

And it was Gallucci who was sent to the White House press room, to a corps of reporters clamoring for administration reaction to the Carter statement. He expected the reporters to ask if war had been avoided or was imminent; instead the first questions were whether President Clinton had subcontracted American policy to a former president.

The Carter trip and the subsequent Agreed Framework came in for much criticism, especially from Republicans. When they took control of Congress after the 1994 mid-term elections, they refused to appropriate money to carry out the U.S. obligations of the deal.

But Gallucci said Mr. Clinton has not been “given enough credit for being courageous and flexible to solve this situation short of war.”

Gallucci also reminded that two constants remain over the decades. The U.S. agreed to a less than ideal arrangement 20 years ago, partly in the belief that the North Korean regime would soon collapse. Now, after three generations of rule by the one family, the same predictions for North Korea are still voiced in Washington.

Finally, Gallucci added: “One thing is the same now and in 1994. We were really ignorant of North Korea then, even though we have some real experts. We are still ignorant of North Korea.”

Michael D. Mosettig was the PBS NewsHour’s foreign affairs and defense editor from 1985 to 2012. He now watches wonks push policy in Washington’s multitude of think tanks and writes occasional dispatches on what those scholars and wannabe secretaries of state have in mind for Europe, Asia and Latin America.

The post 20 years later, commemorating a war averted appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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