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News Wrap: More than 300,000 have made Mediterranean Sea crossing, says UN

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JUDY WOODRUFF: The United Nations refugee agency announced a striking figure today: The number of refugees and migrants making the dangerous Mediterranean Sea crossing to reach Europe this year has now passed the 300,000 mark. That’s more than 40 percent higher than the record number who made the crossing in all of 2014.

And that number doesn’t include the 2,600 people who have died this year on the journey. We will have an on-the-ground report on this growing crisis right after the news summary.

A U.S. government program that collects the telephone data of millions of Americans can continue for the next few months. That was the ruling of a panel of federal appeals court judges today that favored the Obama administration’s position on the NSA surveillance program. The program expires in November and Congress has passed legislation to replace it with a new program.

For more on the ruling and what it means, I’m joined by Devlin Barrett of The Wall Street Journal.

Devlin, welcome.

So, what was it that the judges were asked to rule on?

DEVLIN BARRETT, The Wall Street Journal: Well, the — a lower court judge found that the program was almost certainly unconstitutional, and the government appealed that decision.

What this panel said today was, they reversed that lower court finding, in the sense that they said, look, we’re not — we’re going to overturn what’s called a preliminary injunction. We’re not going to let that stand. And we’re going to toss the case back to lower court judge.

And so now that judge has to make some more findings of fact. But what the judges also did, beside just sending it back to the judge, they said they have a lot of skepticism about whether the person who is suing can prove that his phone records were taken as part of this program.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So what’s the practical effect of this? What does this mean for the NSA and whether it can continue this collection of the so-called metadata?

DEVLIN BARRETT: Right.

Well, that collection in its current form is only going to continue until the end of November under a law that was passed the summer.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Anyway?

DEVLIN BARRETT: Right.

So, to a certain extent, what you’re seeing is, the lawyers and judges on each side of this issue in some sense getting their last licks in on this issue before a lot of it becomes moot anyway. But, until then, there are still going to be fights both in courts in New York and in courts in D.C. about whether any of this was ever legal.

And certainly the privacy groups would love to get a ruling, more rulings that say, no, it wasn’t. But, in the meantime, just this week, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said, yes, this program is still legal and will continue until the end of November, per the law, and it is not a violation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, does the fact, though, that three appellate judges have now held the way they have, does that weigh the scales in one way or the other, do you think, more on whether this collection is constitutional?

DEVLIN BARRETT: At this point, both sides have a bunch of rulings that they can point to that back up their claims. There is an equally important appeals court decision in New York that says that Congress never intended for the government to ever do this when it passed the law.

So I think a lot of this is undecided. It will be interesting to see if anyone gets a decisive blow, one last blow in, before the November deadline.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Devlin Barrett of The Wall Street Journal, we thank you.

DEVLIN BARRETT: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Appreciate it.

Tropical Storm Erika has claimed the lives of four people after barreling through the eastern Caribbean island of Dominica, and that number is expected to rise. It dumped 15 inches of rain there, triggering landslides and flooding. At least 20 people are still missing. The storm is now located south of the Dominican Republic, moving west with maximum sustained winds of 50 miles per hour. It’s expected to hit South Florida on Monday, where Governor Rick Scott has already declared a state of emergency.

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), Florida: We don’t know how much land it’s going to go over. We don’t know how much water we’re going to get. But, clearly, the storm track is continuing to move a little bit west.

Historically, as you know, in storms and hurricanes, we get more water in the state the more the storm track goes west.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Forecasters do anticipate that Erika will likely weaken to a tropical depression before it reaches Florida.

Greece swore in a caretaker government today, ahead of next month’s national election. The new prime minister, Vassiliki Thanou, is the first woman to run the country. Her temporary cabinet will be responsible for overseeing the implementation of several of the conditions vital to a new financial bailout by the Europeans and the IMF. Alexis Tsipras resigned only seven months into his tenure as prime minister after a revolt from within his radical-left party from those opposed to bailout terms that he agreed to.

Lawmakers in Japan set new targets for employers to hire and promote more women as managers. The rules are an attempt to close what has long been one of the starkest gender gaps of any developed country. Women currently account for only 11 percent of supervisors in Japan. The new law is effective for the next 10 years and applies to companies with more than 300 employees.

A former archbishop charged with sexual abuse of children has been found dead before he could stand trial for his alleged crimes. Jozef Wesolowski would have been the highest-ranking Vatican official to come before a tribunal. But he fell ill before the trial’s July start date. Already defrocked, he died while under house arrest in Vatican City. Initial findings indicate his death was from natural causes.

After a volatile week of trading, markets were mixed both in the U.S. and overseas today as a midweek rally faded. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 12 points to close at 16643. The Nasdaq rose more than 15 points and the S&P 500 added one point. For the week, the Dow gained more than a percent, the Nasdaq rose 2.5 percent and the S&P was up nearly 1 percent.

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Death toll rises for desperate refugees and migrants in Europe

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JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s more tragedy to report tonight as desperate refugees and migrants continue to make their way toward and through Europe. Hundreds are feared dead just off the coast of Libya, and the number of victims found dead in a truck in Austria rose to more than 70.

Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News reports.

LINDSEY HILSUM: The first coffins of the 71 people found dead in a truck at the roadside yesterday may be the only time they have been treated with dignity in weeks, 59 men, eight women, four children amongst the bodies of Syrian identity documents.

HANS PETER DOSKOZIL, Burgenland Police Chief (through interpreter): We have confirmed that the insulating layer on the sides of the truck didn’t allow any air to pass through. We can neither rule in or out whether they insured that air came through the cooling system or the roof. I believe that, most likely, the people in this lorry suffocated.

LINDSEY HILSUM: The truck passed no border controls when it entered Austria from Hungary because both countries are in the E.U. Schengen Area.

JOHANNA MIKL-LEITNER, Austrian Interior Minister: I think the solution is not to make more border checks. I think the best solution is to find easier ways to Europe, because on the one side, you can protect the refugees. On the other side, it is the best in the fight against the criminals.

LINDSEY HILSUM: This morning’s scenes on the Libyan coast make that appear even less likely. Up to 200 people drowned from two boats trying to reach Italy. Deaths at sea, deaths in a refrigerated truck, coffins or body bags, it’s primarily Eritreans Africans who set out from Libya, but Syrians were also amongst those rescued yesterday.

AYAMN TALAAL, Migrant (through interpreter): We have been forced to take this route. It’s called the route of death. We now call it the graveyard of the Mediterranean.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Such images do little to prick the conscience of those who believe Europe can neither absorb migrants seeking a better life, nor refugees fleeing conflict. But this morning at Austria’s overcrowded refugee camp at Traiskirchen, just south of Vienna, we found volunteers bringing aid.

WOMAN: We want to do something, not only talking, not only listening, not only reading on Facebook and all that social media, doing, helping.

WOMAN: So, we asked our friends if they have clothes, spare clothes, because people are collecting things in their homes and actually here they could use.

LINDSEY HILSUM: The building, once the imperial artillery cadet school, was converted in 1956 to house Hungarians fleeing the Soviets. Now it’s sheltering people fleeing through, not from Hungary. Since Amnesty criticized the conditions in which nearly 5,000 refugees live, individual Austrians have started to help.

WOMAN: People here are very, very, very good. They respect Syria, and they give us many help, from clothes and the — anywhere — anything we want.

LINDSEY HILSUM: That’s good.

WOMAN: Yes.

LINDSEY HILSUM: So what is your dream? What are you hoping to do?

WOMAN: Dream? I hope to study here, because, in Syria, I was studying mechanical engineering, yes, power engineering. Yes? And I hope to complete my university here.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Across Europe, not least here in Austria, politicians fear anti-immigrant pressure groups, hence the tough anti-foreigner talk. But there are other voices, other views.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Lindsey Hilsum reporting.

Today, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that European Union ministers will be looking into rapid changes to the asylum system.

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Nations hope to reel in Arctic overfishing

Polar bears romp in the northwestern Murmansk region of Russia on Aug. 13, 2015. Photo by Alexander Petrosyan/Kommersant
         via Getty Images

Polar bears romp in the northwestern Murmansk region of Russia on Aug. 13, 2015. Photo by Alexander Petrosyan/Kommersant via Getty Images

On Monday, the United States hosts the leaders of 20 nations at a conference on critical issues facing the Arctic. One topic at the conference in Anchorage, Alaska, is potential overfishing in the central Arctic Ocean.

Although the administration says commercial fishing isn’t widespread in the Arctic now, warming temperatures are melting the sea ice and creating opportunities for large-scale fishing, along with competition among nations to do it.

The five countries surrounding the Arctic – Canada, Denmark representing Greenland, Norway, Russia and the United States – signed a declaration in July saying they wouldn’t authorize their vessels to fish until an international agreement was put in place to manage the practice.

But they want to bring more nations on board, and one of the sessions addresses unregulated high seas fisheries. In addition to the Arctic nations, the State Department has invited leaders of other countries with interests in the Arctic, including China, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the European Union.

President Barack Obama, who made waves in May among the conservation community for approving Royal Dutch Shell’s lease to drill two oil exploration wells off the Alaskan coast, plans to speak at the conference’s conclusion.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA's Aqua satellite image shows the sea ice off Greenland
         on July 16, 2015 in this image released on Aug. 24, 2015. As the northern hemisphere experiences the heat of summer, ice moves
         and melts in the Arctic waters and the far northern lands surrounding it. Photo: NASA handout via Reuters

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite image shows the sea ice off Greenland on July 16, 2015 in this image released on Aug. 24, 2015. As the northern hemisphere experiences the heat of summer, ice moves and melts in the Arctic waters and the far northern lands surrounding it. Photo: NASA handout via Reuters

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Greece swears in its first female prime minister

Greece's top Supreme Court judge Vassiliki Thanou attends a swearing in ceremony as the country's caretaker Prime Minister,
         at the Presidential Palace in Athens, Greece, August 27, 2015. Thanou, 65, will be sworn in on Thursday to head a caretaker
         government that will lead the country to elections expected on September 20. A vocal anti-austerity advocate, she made a name
         for herself as a judge who openly battled against wage cuts imposed on the Greek judiciary to appease European and International
         Monetary Fund lenders. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis - RTX1PY5M

Greece’s top Supreme Court judge Vassiliki Thanou attends a swearing in ceremony as the country’s caretaker Prime Minister, at the Presidential Palace in Athens, Greece, August 27, 2015. Thanou, 65, will head a caretaker government that will lead the country to elections expected on Sept. 20. Photo by Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

Greece saw its first female prime minister, Vassiliki Thanou, sworn in on Thursday as the new head of the financially troubled nation’s caretaker government. New elections will be held next month.

Thanou, Greece’s top Supreme Court judge, was appointed by President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and takes over at a time of financial turmoil for the country which has jeopardized its eurozone membership.  

Former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned last week after holding the position for seven months. Tsipras, who was part of the leftist Syriza party, saw a split in his own party after negotiating a new bailout deal.  

Tsipras has said he needs a stronger mandate in order to implement tougher austerity measures. After he stepped down, party opposition leaders tried to form a new government to no avail.

Tsipras has indicated he will run again in the next elections, which are expected on Sept. 20, in the hopes of achieving an outright majority.

Meanwhile, Thanou historically has been vocal against austerity measures and the bailout. Her new Cabinet, sworn in Friday, will implement several austerity measures that are conditions of the new bailout, according to the Associated Press. She also signed a decree dissolving Parliament.

Among the new Cabinet members is Giorgos Houliarakis, the chief negotiator in the third bailout package, who will serve as finance minister. Diplomat Petros Moliviatis will serve as foreign minister and popular Greek singer Alkistis Protopsalti as tourism minister.    

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BBC News

Paris talks focus on train security

European ministers and officials are set to hold emergency talks in Paris following last week's foiled gun attack on a French train.

UN warning over EU migrant deaths

The UN says "much more is required" to prevent fatalities among migrants fleeing to Europe, after hundreds are reported dead in recent days.

Year-long 'Mars isolation' begins

A team of Nasa recruits begins a year-long isolation in a dome near a barren volcano in Hawaii, to simulate life on Mars.

Storm Erika kills 20 in Dominica

Tropical Storm Erika leaves at least 20 dead on the Caribbean island of Dominica, with the devastation setting it back 20 years, its PM says.