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Tibet has "remained a mysterious country," says the Dalai Lama, and the mystery extends even to himself. Ever since the spiritual leader fled to Dharamsala, India, after being forced by the Chinese to leave his home country in 1959, his only information about Tibet has come from eyewitness accounts. He tries to meet with every refugee who makes it through the Himalayas.

And therefore it was neither the photographer York Hovest, nor the reporter Jrg Eigendorf, but the Dalai Lama himself who asked the first questions during their interview in Dharamsala. He wanted to know the details about Hovest's time in Tibet. Whether there were still monks in the monasteries where the Dalai Lama once studied and took his exams. How exactly the surveillance cameras of the Chinese worked. And whether it was not somehow possible to plant a few trees 5,000 meters above sea level. Page by page, he went through Hovest's book, 100 days in Tibet.

But in the end it was still an interview.

Your Holiness, do you think that you can return to your homeland one day?

Yes, I am sure of that. China can no longer isolate itself, it must follow the global trend toward a democratic society. I can already feel that change among Chinese students. I heard there are more than 200,000 Chinese students studying abroad nowadays. A few years ago when I met students, they were serious and reserved. Today they smile. Those are signs of change.

Is this the reason you have become almost conciliatory toward China during the past few months?

A new era has begun with the presidency of Xi Jinping. He wants to create a more harmonious society than the one under his predecessor, Hu Jintao. In former years, it was the era of economic growth, which has created a lot of resentment and envy.

“ Deep down in their hearts, 95 percent of all Tibetans still feel and think very Tibetan. They are strongly connected to their culture.

- The Dalai Lama

If China reforms, what happens to Tibet?

Whoever wants a harmonious society can't rely on violence and suppression. Harmony comes from the heart. It is based on trust. Harmony and distrust are mutually exclusive. This is good for Tibet.

How Tibetan is Tibet these days?

The Chinese did not manage to destroy our culture, which is 3,000 to 4,000 years old. Those who criticize different beliefs and cultures actually make them stronger. Deep down in their hearts, 95 percent of all Tibetans still feel and think very Tibetan. They are strongly connected to their culture. This even applies to those who work for the Chinese.

What do you mean by "thinking and feeling Tibetan"?

This is to practice and internalize Tibetan Buddhism, which is the teaching of compassion, wisdom based on intelligence and interdependence. We believe in being reborn over and over again, until we attain enlightenment.

Do you need to be anxious about the Tibetan culture?

We still have a big problem: Without proper teachers and proper training, keeping up a religion is very difficult. Prior to 1959, there were outstanding scholars in Tibet. But most of them were arrested, some were killed, some fled.

So there aren't enough scholars in Tibet who could train new monks?

We have trained some monks here in India who have returned to Tibet. But this is rare. The danger is that religion becomes a mere ritual. It's not sufficient to ring a bell, you know. Monks have to master the doctrine and the meditation. They need to be good in both. This requires thorough training.

“ Without proper teachers and proper training, keeping up a religion is very difficult. ... The danger is that religion becomes a mere ritual. It's not sufficient to ring a bell, you know.

- The Dalai Lama

Why do you think Chinese President Xi Jinping is serious about the change he began?

He resolutely fights corruption. And corruption is the main source of mistrust. Xi Jinping is brave. He has alienated large parts of the old cadres. Some high-ranking Chinese officials have been arrested. The president seriously thinks about values. During his visit to Paris in March this year, he even referred to Buddhism as an important part of the Chinese culture.

Could Buddhism play an important role in China's transformation?

Maybe. The leader of the Communist Party saying something positive about Buddhism is definitely new. He has Buddhists in the family; his mother even practices Tibetan Buddhism. And many Chinese people are fascinated by our religion.

But monks are still burning themselves in Tibet, human rights are still violated blatantly.

Yes, that's terrible. And it hurts to see that. But we have to accept that Tibet will always be in the neighborhood of China. We cannot move it anywhere else. Although the two countries have a bad relationship at the moment, that wasn't and will not always remain this way. I hope for change being carried from outside into China. It is good that China was integrated into the world economy. I've always said so. What matters now is that the modern world supports China becoming a democratic country — with rule of law, human rights and freedom of press. So integration is good, for Tibet as well.

i i

The Dalai Lama, shown here as a child, says in his dreams he dies at the age of 113. He also says he wishes to be reborn "as long as sentient beings' suffering remains." Bettmann/Corbis hide caption

itoggle caption Bettmann/Corbis

The Dalai Lama, shown here as a child, says in his dreams he dies at the age of 113. He also says he wishes to be reborn "as long as sentient beings' suffering remains."


You are now 79 years old. Can you imagine that you won't have a successor?

Yes, indeed, I can. The institution of the "Dalai Lama" was important mainly because of its political power. I completely gave up that power in 2011, when I retired. Politically-thinking people must therefore realize that the more than four centuries of having a Dalai Lama should be over.

But isn't your spirituality more important than political power?

Tibetan Buddhism is not dependent on one individual. We have a very good organizational structure with highly trained monks and scholars. Over the past five decades, step by step we have built up a strong community here in India.

So the Tibetans do not need a Dalai Lama anymore?

No, I don't think so. Twenty-six hundred years of Buddhist tradition cannot be maintained by one person. And sometimes I make a tough joke: We had a Dalai Lama for almost five centuries. The 14th Dalai Lama now is very popular. Let us then finish with a popular Dalai Lama. If a weak Dalai Lama comes along, then it will just disgrace the Dalai Lama. (The Dalai Lama laughs.)

How old do you want to become?

The doctors say I could become 100 years old. But in my dreams I will die at the age of 113 years.

You have written and said that you can affect your rebirth.

I hope and pray that I may return to this world as long as sentient beings' suffering remains. I mean not in the same body, but with the same spirit and the same soul.

It is said that whoever has achieved enlightenment will not return.

The first Dalai Lama became 80 years old. There his disciples said that he was ready for a place in heaven. He replied: "I have no desire for any of these heavenly places. I want to be reborn, where I can be of use." This is my wish, too.

Jrg Eigendorf writes for the German newspaper Die Welt.



Dalai Lama


I watched the season premiere of Law & Order SVU, and I was excited to see that it covered a topic I've reported on for the last year — sex trafficking of women in Mexico — and that a very rich cast of Latino actors were featured on the show. But man, that good feeling stopped almost as soon as I heard them speak.

The Spanish and Spanglish used in the show was embarrassing. When it comes to Latinos on the screen, Hollywood keeps missing the mark on the way we speak.

One of the SVU story lines focused on a young Mexican prostitute who has been trafficked to the U.S. a year or two ago. Somehow, she speaks fantastic English, just with an accent, to the NYPD detective during a long interrogation. After that, she spontaneously starts talking in very dramatic Spanish to a non-Latina detective she just met.

As someone who regularly speaks English, Spanish and Spanglish (that mix of English and Spanish), this made no sense. For American Latinos, there are certain unspoken rules about what language you speak, and to whom. I know if I ever speak to my parents (native Argentines) in Spanglish, I will get immediately corrected with the word I'm looking for — but can't remember — in Spanish. And if I ever speak to my mom in English — well, I don't do that (she pretends she can't hear me over the phone.)

I'm not alone. Other NPR listeners have chimed in on how they navigated the family politics of language. Twitter user Yvonne Hennessy wrote: "Abuelitos [grandparents] = Spanish. Nuclear family & primos [cousins]= Spanglish or English.

Gisela Castanon wrote in to say, "My parents were from Mexico & both were bilingual in Spanish and English... the rule was cuando te hable en espaol me contestas en espaol, y cuando te hable en ingls,e contestas en ingls. When I talk to you in Spanish, you reply in Spanish, and when I talk to you in English, you reply in English."

Listener Marly Perez wrote, "I speak Spanglish with my sister, but not with my relatives. It's Spanish only. They don't get annoyed if I do — they just call me out on it."

If you're a Spanglish speaker, it's not just your family calling you out. Anti-immigration activists in the U.S. are also fervent critics. They point to Spanglish as a symbol of everything that's wrong with Latino immigration. Look! They aren't assimilating! Hispanic invasion! Destruction of the English language! Gah! Interestingly, that distaste is shared by plenty of Latin Americans, who wrinkle their noses at the mere mention of "Spanglish."

As a South American myself, I've heard plenty of snide inside jokes about "those" Latinos in the U.S. who don't fully master the Spanish. In certain circles, Spanglish is seen as a "contamination" of the Spanish language. A few years back, the Spanish Royal Academy created a small controversy when it inducted the word "Spanglish" into its dictionary, but defined it as "deformed elements of vocabulary and grammar from both Spanish and English." Ouch.

But for some Latin cultures, losing Spanglish would also mean losing their identity. Listener Paola Cap-Garca wrote, "it's definitely a part of everyday living in Puerto Rico, not just the US Latino experience....I think we're taught to think Spanglish is a failure, that it's 'imperialist' or that it's 'uneducated' or 'unattractive,' but I've come to accept/appreciate it...I like the hodgepodge."

I like the hodgepodge too, but only when it's done right. Too many U.S. movies and television shows get it wrong, even when they pride themselves in being authentic. Many people singled out the show Breaking Bad, and the character Gustavo "Gus" Fring, for falling flat on language. Tamara Vallejos writes, "Gus' Spanish and accent were so painful to listen to, and it made me super angry that such a pivotal and fantastic character would have such a giant, noticeable, nails-on-a-chalkboard flaw."

I will say there are examples of Hollywood doing it right. The film Chef is a great example. The film stars Sofia Vergara, but with a script that doesn't force her to overdo her accent or screech her way through the boisterous Latina stereotype (which is how many of us see her in her Modern Family). In the film, she isn't playing a Latina stereotype. She's playing a concerned mom who happens to be Latina. The Spanish and Spanglish happens when it's supposed to, and it just flows very naturally.

This is the way it's supposed to be, and it's the way it could be. There are over 50 million Latinos in America, and surely scriptwriters can find one of us to check the script with.

Until then, I have this thought: Here's a word I love in the Spanish language: ningunear. It's a verb that comes from the noun ningun, or "none." It literally means to turn someone into nothing, to condescend. Dear Hollywood: stop with the ninguneo.


Breaking Bad



Kari Fiotti moved back to Omaha, Neb., in 2009 after a decade living in Italy. She had divorced her husband and returned to the U.S. to start a new life.

Then, Fiotti, 44, took a pricey fall.

"When I came back, I fell and I broke my wrist without insurance," she says.

Her doctor, she says, rejected her offer to make partial payments. So, like millions of Americans, her debt — which had grown to $1,640 with interest and fees — was turned over to collectors.

Fiotti soon learned how hard they would try to collect her unpaid bills.

Court records show that the collectors sued Fiotti, but that she didn't show up in court for the hearing about her case.

In May of last year, Fiotti suddenly realized, "My bank account's at zero and I'm like, whoa, what's going on?"

Debt collectors had seized her bank account because she didn't have enough to cover the debt. Fiotti says she was stunned. "You're taking everything that I have," she says. "You're not just taking a portion of it, you're taking my livelihood."

Fiotti says she was doing clerical work making about $10 an hour. She had a kid in college and no savings. She says she had to overdraw her checking account just to take out $50 to buy groceries. In the end, a friend put Fiotti in touch with a lawyer, and she now has the debt behind her.

This story was co-published by NPR and ProPublica, an investigative journalism organization.

For more on this story:

Read the ADP report on wage garnishment. The nation's largest payroll services provider released its report after studying 2013 payroll records for 13 million employees, at the request of ProPublica.

From NPR: Millions Of Americans' Wages Seized Over Credit Card And Medical Debt

From ProPublica: Unseen Toll, Wages Of Millions Seized To Pay Past Debts

From ProPublica: Old Debts, Fresh Pain: Weak Laws Offer Debtors Little Protection

If you have firsthand experience being sued over a debt, NPR and ProPublica would love to hear from you. Use this form to send a tip confidentially. A reporter may follow up with you.

This week, NPR and ProPublica are reporting on a striking change in the way debt collectors pursue people in this country. On the heels of the worst recession in generations, 1 in 10 working Americans between the ages of 35 and 44 is getting his or her wages garnished. That means their pay is being docked — often over an old credit card debt, medical bill or student loan.

But just how much money can collectors legally seize from people's wages and bank accounts? The answer is more than you might think.

In about half the states in the country, collectors can seize 25 percent of your paycheck. In all but a handful of states, they can take everything in your bank account.

An Explosion Of Wage Garnishment Cases

In recent years, debt collectors have been filing millions of lawsuits against working Americans that are resulting in wage garnishments. That's according to an analysis by the payroll services company ADP.

Those who fall into this system find their futures determined by laws that consumer advocates say are outdated, overly punitive and out of touch with the financial reality faced by many Americans.

Lawyers and judges involved in these cases say it's common for people who are sued by debt collectors to not show up in court to defend themselves. They say some people seem to just stick their heads in the sand, while others get overwhelmed or just confused by the court documents.

The debtor's absence makes it easier for collectors to garnish wages and seize bank accounts.

The Law's Silence On Bank Seizures

Federal law regulating debt collection is silent on perhaps the most punishing tactic of collectors: It doesn't limit or prohibit them from cleaning out debtors' bank accounts.

State laws, while often more comprehensive, vary significantly. Only a handful, for instance, automatically protect a minimum amount of funds in a debtor's account.

When garnishment protections do exist, the burden is usually on debtors to figure out if and how the laws protect their assets.

"In an awful lot of states, the information that the employee gets is going to be very, very confusing," says William Henning, a law professor at the University of Alabama and chairman of a committee drafting a model state law on wage garnishment.

Back in 1968, when lawmakers passed the landmark Consumer Credit Protection Act, it specifically limited how much of a debtor's pay could be seized. But it made no mention of bank account garnishments. As a result, a collector can't take more than 25 percent of a debtor's paycheck, but if that paycheck is deposited in a bank, all of the funds can be taken.

Carolyn Carter, director of advocacy at the National Consumer Law Center, says the lawmakers didn't address bank seizures because they simply weren't common at the time. In today's collection environment, she said, "the wages that are deposited in a bank account become suddenly much more vulnerable than anyone realized."

Since the late 1960s, debt collection has changed in other ways that lawmakers couldn't have anticipated. Today, buying old debt is an industry in itself. And big debt-buying firms hire teams of lawyers to crank out lawsuit after lawsuit seeking to collect. Carter says it's time for lawmakers at the state and local level to revisit and reform existing laws.

'I Honestly Dread Paydays'

Like any American family living paycheck to paycheck, Conrad Goetzinger and Cassandra Rose hope that if they make the right choices, their $13-an-hour jobs will keep the lights on and put food in the fridge and gas in the car.

But every two weeks, the Omaha, Neb., couple is reminded of a choice they didn't make and can't change: A chunk of both of their paychecks disappears before they see it, seized to pay off old debts.

Twice, debt collectors have scooped every penny out of Goetzinger's bank account and even attempted to take his personal property.

“ It makes you feel hopeless that you're working for no reason and that you're never going to be able to succeed.

- Cassandra Rose

For Goetzinger, 29, it's the consequence of a laptop loan he didn't pay off after high school; for Rose, 33, it's a reminder of more than $20,000 in medical bills racked up while uninsured. The garnishments, totaling about $760 each month, comprise the single largest expense in their budget.

"I honestly dread paydays," Goetzinger says, "because I know it's gone by Saturday afternoon, by the time we go grocery shopping."

On a recent evening after Rose got her 11- and 12-year-old daughters upstairs to bed, the couple explained that the children need dental work. They need some crowns on their teeth. "I don't want my daughter walking around with a big silver tooth," Goetzinger says. "When you have to choose between keeping the power on for the rest of the week and getting teeth done, unfortunately, teeth falls to a lower priority."

Rose puts it this way: "It makes you feel hopeless that you're working for no reason and that you're never going to be able to succeed."

William Reinbrecht, a Nebraska attorney who represents people who are getting their wages garnished, says often there are other debts waiting in line. So when one gets paid off, the next garnishment kicks in.

"It's a little like debtors prison," he says. "It makes a subclass of people that are crushed by all of this, and they can't, no matter how hard they work, improve their economic position."

Are Working-Class Americans Being Asked To Pay Too Much?

For most workers, the unexpected loss of a quarter of their wages would make life difficult. For low-income workers, it can be particularly devastating.

The Consumer Expenditure Survey, produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, reports that, for a worker with annual wages between $20,000 and $30,000, the average amount spent on basic costs such as housing, transportation, food and health care is about $26,000. The average income for that population is also about $26,000.

A recent survey by the Federal Reserve asked thousands of consumers whether they could afford an emergency expense of $400. Less than half of respondents said they could without borrowing money or selling something. Nearly 20 percent said they could think of no way they might cover such a cost.

So how did the federal lawmakers in 1968 set 25 percent as the allowable limit for garnishments? Like many laws, it was the result of closed-door compromise.

At the time, House Democrats argued that debtors could often afford to lose very little.

"For a poor man — and whoever heard of the wage of the affluent being attached? — to lose part of his salary often means his family will go without the essentials," argued Rep. Henry Gonzalez of Texas, in a speech on the House floor.

In the end, the House version of the consumer protection bill limited garnishment to 10 percent of income. But the Senate's version didn't limit garnishments at all. When a compromise bill finally emerged from a committee of lawmakers from both houses, the limit was 25 percent. Forty-six years later, that's still the law in more than half of states.

The 1968 law did seek to protect the poorest workers, but did so by setting a standard tied to the minimum wage. Time has eroded what even then was a modest protection. The federal minimum wage in 1968 was $1.60; adjusted for inflation, that's $10.95 in current dollars. With $7.25 the current minimum wage, federal law only protects workers from garnishment if they earn under about $11,310 annually. Even for a wage earner without any dependents, that wage is beneath the poverty line.

The Law Demands That You Pay Your Debts

Robert Foehl, a general counsel for ACA International — a trade association for debt collectors, says collectors play an important role in the economy. And sometimes, he says, "a creditor might have no other avenue for recovering their debt except through a legal process" such as wage garnishment.

In St. Louis, Mo., Associate Circuit Judge Chris McGraugh has presided over many collections cases. He says people will admit, for example, that they ran up a big debt on a credit card and didn't pay it. And the judge says he tells them "the law demands that you pay your debts!"

But at the same time, McGraugh says, he still sees some serious problems.

He says lawyers for debt collectors will sometimes ask for delays or continuance on cases if they see a debtor is taking time off from work to show up in court. They will do that several times over weeks or months until the person finally gives up and doesn't come to court anymore, allowing the debt collector to get a default judgment against the debtor.

McGraugh says he also finds payday loan cases unsettling because the court ends up enforcing a triple-digit interest rate that the person can never escape.

"You're talking about a person who takes out $200 and years later ends up with a $4,000 debt running at an interest of 200 percent." McGraugh says he finds those cases "egregious."

McGraugh says before he became a judge in 2012, he practiced all kinds of law, from car accident injury cases to death penalty defense. And he thought he knew the legal system pretty well.

"I had practiced law for 25 years. I had no idea something like that was occurring, and as such, I don't think most people know that that's occurring and this is allowed to happen," he says.

consumer debt


Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, says newly released recordings of conversations between Federal Reserve officials show that the same kind of cozy relationships that led to the 2008 financial crisis still dominate Wall Street.

In an interview with Morning Edition, Warren says the recordings provide definite proof of that relationship.

"You really do, for a moment, get to be the fly on the wall that watches all of it, and there it is to be exposed to everyone: the cozy relationship, the fact that the Fed is more concerned about its relationship with a too-big-to-fail bank than it is with protecting the American public," Warren says.


Transcript: Sen. Warren's Full NPR Interview On Financial Regulation

Warren talked to Morning Edition days after ProPublica and This American Life ran stories about Carmen Segarra, a former bank examiner for the Federal Reserve in New York, who in 2012 surreptitiously recorded conversations by Fed officials considering regulatory decisions on Goldman Sachs.

The recordings don't reveal anything outright illegal. Instead, they reveal Fed officials discussing "legal but shady" transactions and then wringing their hands over how to delicately bring them up with the bank.

Warren, who before coming into office led an effort to create the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, says that trepidation is another thing wrong with regulators today.

"A regulator doesn't say to a big financial institution: 'Hey! Step right up here. Get your toes on the line, and so long as you can make a legal argument that you have not crossed the line then, hey, we're — we're all cool here,' " she says. "That's not the way regulation of large financial institutions is supposed to work — they're supposed to be using judgment. And remember, part of this judgment is about whether or not there has been compliance with the law. The fact that Goldman could mount a legal defense here is not really the point of these tapes. The point of these tapes is that the regulators are backing off long before anyone's in court making a legal argument about whether or not they came right up to the line or they crossed over the line."

The bottom line, Warren says, is that the United States needs regulators "who understand that they work for the American people, not for the big banks."

Much more of Steve Inskeep's conversation with Warren is on today's Morning Edition. Click here for your local NPR member station.

Goldman Sachs

Elizabeth Warren

For five decades, the official U.S. policy on Cuba was one of silence. But the real U.S. relationship with Havana involved secret negotiations that started with President Kennedy in 1963, even after his embargo against the island nation, say the authors of the new book Back Channel to Cuba. In fact, nearly every U.S. administration for the past 50 years has engaged in some sort of dialogue with the Cuban government, they say.

Back Channel to Cuba

The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana

by William M. Leogrande and Peter Kornbluh

Hardcover, 592 pages | purchase

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Co-authors Peter Kornbluh of the National Security Archive and William LeoGrande of American University outline these relationships based on recently declassified, or otherwise obtained, documents dating back to the Kennedy administration.

The documents reveal a series of secret meetings that took place in hotels, airport lounges and restaurants from New York to Paris to Guadalajara and involved intermediaries like the chairman of Coca-Cola, who served as President Jimmy Carter's representative, to Carter himself.

Kornbluh and LeoGrande sat down with Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep ahead of the book's release to discuss their findings.

Interview Highlights

On why the talks were secret

Kornbluh: [Officials] were worried that either the Soviets would be spying on their telephone conversations or the U.S. NSA would be spying on their conversations, so they worked out a way to communicate with each other without anybody else knowing. ... This is a theme that runs through the entire history that we've recorded. Cuba issues are so sensitive that when high-level policymakers wanted to have a dialogue, they wanted to keep it secret from other parts of the bureaucracy that might object.

On Henry Kissinger's secret negotiations and contingency plan

Kornbluh: Henry Kissinger really was the secretary of state who secretly, I think, really pushed hard to create a window of opportunity for normalizing relations with Cuba. ... He told his emissaries that he was using the same kind of modus operandi to approach the Cubans that he had used with Chairman Lai in China. And, for a period of 18 months, there was a series of secret meetings, culminating in an actual negotiation session, a three-hour session in room 727 of the Pierre Hotel in New York.

Eventually, the political sensitivities about Cuba came back to haunt this effort. The Cubans had sent 36,000 troops into Angola, and for Kissinger that made things not only politically untenable, but for his strategic view of the world, he could not believe that this small country would disrupt the superpower kind of equilibrium as he was trying to play it. He was so angry; he actually ordered a set of contingency plans to attack Cuba if Cuba expanded its presence in Africa.

On the use of intermediaries and informal channels

LeoGrande: Peggy Dulany, David Rockefeller's daughter, carried a message from Fidel Castro to George Shultz during the Reagan administration, in which Fidel said he was willing to be constructive in trying to help settle the conflict in southern Africa. ... And we actually have a Cuban document in which Fidel is talking to the president of Angola and explaining why he used Peggy Dulany, as opposed to just going through normal diplomatic channels. And he says to the president of Angola, "You know, when you send a message through the [diplomats] it takes months before you hear anything back, and sometimes you never hear anything at all."

With fewer than five weeks until election day, the political landscape continues to be tilted against President Obama and his party. The battle for control of the Senate — the biggest prize this year — remains close and could tip either way.

Likely voters were asked, "Do you approve or disapprove of the job being done by Barack Obama as president?" and, "Do you approve or disapprove of the way (Named Incumbent) is handling his/her job as a member of the U.S. Senate?" NPR/Democracy Corps/Resurgent Republic poll hide caption

itoggle caption NPR/Democracy Corps/Resurgent Republic poll

Those are the findings of NPR's latest bipartisan poll of likely voters, conducted by Republican Whit Ayres of Resurgent Republic and Democrat Stan Greenberg of Democracy Corps.

The poll concentrated on the Senate battleground — the 12 states that will determine control of the Senate next year. It found an electorate where nobody likes anybody. The president, the Republicans and the Democrats were viewed with equal disgust — their favorability ratings all in the low 40s. This is a disgruntled group of voters, says Ayres, which this year happens to be good news for his party.

"The direction of the country is overwhelmingly perceived to be in the wrong direction. Barack Obama is exceedingly unpopular in the Senate battlegrounds," he says. "The generic party preference for a Senate candidate favors the Republicans by three points. So the playing field still tilts strongly to Republicans in these 12 battleground states."

Democrat Greenberg doesn't try to sugarcoat the outlook for his party. But he points out that although not that much has changed since we last polled the Senate battleground in June, the president is a little more popular today, mostly because the public supports his military action against ISIS.

Likely voters were asked, "What are the most important issues when deciding whom to vote for in the election for U.S. Senate?" NPR/Democracy Corps/Resurgent Republic poll hide caption

itoggle caption NPR/Democracy Corps/Resurgent Republic poll

"The mood is bleak, the president's not popular," Greenberg says, "but it's not entirely stable. That is, we're looking at a president that is slightly improved. ... The Democratic candidates, incumbents, are a net positive in their own personal favorability and their job approval. And so they're clearly withstanding the trend that we're talking about."

There's another phenomenon this year that shows up in the poll. In the battleground, Democrats and Republicans are equally energized, highly likely to vote, and they are not up for grabs. Big majorities of both parties say their minds are made up.

"But these elections are still within a point or two, and so despite this consolidation, the campaigns matter and can still impact both on preference and on turnout," Greenberg says.

Ayres says he agrees. "Democrats are locked in, the Republicans are locked in, and that's why it's so important the independents prefer a generic Republican by 53 percent to 37 percent — 16-point preference," he says.

Rebecca Janes from Arkansas describes herself as an independent and a home-schooler mom. She plans to vote for Republican Rep. Tom Cotton for Senate. She says she wants to send a message to Obama. "I will try to check and balance our current administration at every point I am able to with my vote," she says.

Janes says Obamacare is her most important issue, and across party lines Obamacare is still among the top three issues for voters this year. Jobs and the economy are No. 1, of course.

But the poll also shows that Democrats have been successful at driving an agenda aimed at their top targets — female voters. Democrats in our poll rank a candidate's position on women and women's issues just behind the economy.

Gwen Clements, a registered Democrat and out-of-work dental assistant from Kentucky, plans to vote for Alison Lundergan Grimes for Senate. Or rather, she plans to vote against the incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell.

"For one, I'm a woman," she says. "And he has voted against everything for women — the fair pay, the violence."

Republicans need to pick up six Senate seats to win control, and the NPR poll shows the 12 battleground Senate races continue to tilt to the right. But there's no sign yet that a big electoral tsunami is coming, the way it did to help Democrats in 2006 or Republicans in 2010.

"The definition of a wave is when one party wins many seats by one or two percentage points, where every close race goes their way," Ayres says. "The overall environment is very promising for Republicans now, but there's not yet evidence of a wave comparable to 2006 or 2010. But one could easily develop. It's like on a hot, muggy summer day, you know the environment is right for thunderstorms even if none are yet visible on radar, but you'd better keep an eye out for them."

Greenberg says in election after election, "we've watched ... Republicans expecting to win control at the Senate, and it's broken at the end for the Democrats, winning almost all the competitive Senate races. That could happen here too. Republican party is very unpopular, president's not very popular, I recognize. Both are at work, but it could tilt one way or the other."

And that's the suspense of this election. History and the number of red states voting tells us that the GOP should win the Senate. But Republicans have fallen short of expectations in the past two cycles. This year, things look very good for a Republican Senate takeover, but the battleground races are still too close to call to make that guarantee.

Note on Methodology: This survey was conducted from September 20-24, 2014 using a list of 2006 voters, 2010 voters, and new registrants. The survey is of 1,000 likely 2014 voters in the most competitive Senate races across the country, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for Democracy Corps, Resurgent Republic, and NPR. Unless otherwise noted, the margin of error for the full sample is = +/- 3.10% at 95% confidence.

There has been a crowded docket in our preeminent sport. Let's take just three cases. The defendants: the NFL, Roger Goodell and football itself.

The NFL first. If American banks, which nobody likes, are too big to fail, then the NFL, which everybody likes, is too popular to fail. Probably too big by now too. Despite all the negative news recently, has it really been damaged? Why, one of its smallest franchises, the Buffalo Bills, just drew a record price. Do you see any indication that fans have, in disgust, turned to Gilligan's Island reruns Sunday afternoons? Not to mention Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights.

Long ago Walter Winchell used to address his radio audience: Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea. Well, Mr. and Mrs. NPR and all the planes in the air: Do you have any friends who have sworn off watching NFL games? Have you?

Sweetness And Light

The Washington Football Team That Must Not Be Named

Verdict: guilty on all counts. As punishment, by popular demand, we sentence the NFL to more playoff games for us to watch.

Next up for trial: Roger Goodell. He, the boyish blond, with a shoeshine and a smile; lifetime league functionary, promoted to a $40 million-a-year position thanks to the Peter Principle. Back more than a year ago I said here that he wasn't up to the job. It's only become more obvious since. Long before he was "ambiguous" about what might have happened to Ray Rice's fiancee on that elevator, he was disingenuous about his sport's dangers, ignorant of team bullying and team bounties. He doesn't even have the courage to tell the owner of the Washington franchise that his team's nickname is racist.

Sweetness And Light

Deford: Is Goodell Good Enough To Lead The NFL?

Verdict: guilty on all counts. The court hereby orders the NFL to hire someone from outside the football family of stature, honor and sensitivity to be the new commissioner.

And lastly on trial this morning: football itself. A new study shows that almost one-third of NFL players will suffer long-term cognitive problems. Granted, that's professionals, but obviously younger brains are at jeopardy on all gridirons. What mother or father can any longer willfully allow a son to play such a game with such odds?

Verdict: Football is dangerous to your brain.

The court orders that some brave college conference with high academic standards — like the New England Small College, the Midwest, the North Coast, the Southern California IAC — have the courage to lead the way and drop football.

That's called a no-brainer.

Roger Goodell



The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

Novelist Nicholas Sparks has been accused of racial and religious discrimination, in a federal lawsuit brought by a former employee on Thursday.

Saul Hillel Benjamin, the ex-headmaster of the Epiphany School of Global Studies, a North Carolina private school co-founded and funded by Sparks and his wife, Catherine, states that he discovered a hostile environment while working at the school and The Nicholas Sparks Foundation.

Among other allegations, Benjamin's complaint says the best-selling author sought to block the recruitment of black students and teachers, supported the bullying of LGBT students and questioned Benjamin's own Jewish background and Quaker faith.

And the complaint isn't short on incendiary language. The Guardian reports that the lawsuit accuses Sparks of endorsing students who "sought to enact a 'homo-caust' against a group of gay students," of having publicly claimed that Benjamin suffered from Alzheimer's disease and, according to The Associated Press, of generally fostering "a veritable cauldron of bigotry toward individuals who are not traditionally Christian, and especially those who are non-white."

Sparks' attorney denied the accusations, according to the AP, and his publicist released a statement from Sparks' entertainment lawyer, Scott Schwimer, that reads: "As a gay, Jewish man who has represented Nick for almost 20 years I find these allegations completely ludicrous and offensive."

Writers Group Pulls For Amazon Probe: The Authors Guild, a century-old professional society of more than 8,500 published writers, went public Thursday with its attempts to invite government scrutiny of Amazon's business practices. According a statement on its website, last summer the Guild — not to be confused with Authors United, another writers' advocacy group seeking investigations of Amazon — "prepared a White Paper on Amazon's anticompetitive conduct, circulating it to the United States Department of Justice and other government entities." The group says it met with members of the Justice Department on Aug. 1 to make their pitch in person.

The news comes as Amazon's pricing dispute with Hachette Book Group roils on, and as Authors United prepares a letter of its own to the DOJ.

Bots Plot Conquest, Libraries First: Robots, the imminent overlords of Earth (give it 50 years or so), are lulling us into a false sense of security with yet another blatant ploy: playing librarians. Say hello to Nancy and Vincent, the humanoid bots coming to Connecticut's Westport Library. No word yet on when, precisely, they'll become self-aware.

Citizen Can't: "If this were a domestic tragedy, and it might well be, this would be your fatal flaw — your memory, vessel of your feelings," writes Claudia Rankine, in "Citizen," a devastating prose poem out now in Granta.

Whoops, My Dear Watson: Anthony Horowitz, the man behind an upcoming James Bond novel, has a few issues to sort out with Sherlock Holmes first. Sarah Lyall reports in the New York Times that advance reading copies of Horowitz's Sherlock novel Moriarty contain some not-so-subtle clues to his writing process. Notes to his copy editor have been mistakenly left in, littering the text in all-caps — including this frank assessment: "I'M NOT CHANGING THIS."

nicholas sparks

Sherlock Holmes

Book News



In a sign of potential improvement in their frosty relationship, North and South Korea will engage in high-level talks by early November. The revelation came as a delegation of North Korean officials ventured south to Incheon for Saturday's closing ceremonies in the 2014 Asian Games.

That trip brought a chance for South Korea's Prime Minister Chung Hong-won to meet with the military and political leaders, in what the Yohhap News Agency says is "the first time that a sitting South Korean prime minister has met with high-ranking North Korean officials since their prime ministerial talks in 2007," when Kim Jong-Il was still in office.

The news emerges as a survey found more than half of South Koreans support reunification with the north. The Chosun Ilbo reports that in the survey of 1,200 South Koreans, only 14 percent said they view North Korea as an enemy. But nearly 90 percent also said the country would never give up its nuclear weapons, and three-quarters of respondents said North Korea might "launch an armed provocation."

Before today's meeting, the health of North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-Un, had been a subject of rampant speculation, after a video showed him limping.

"North Korea's state media confirmed that he suffered from discomfort. I think there is no reason to disbelieve it," South Korea's Ministry of Unification spokesman Lim Byeong-cheol tells The Korea Times. The agency goes on to report that Kim has edema in at least one ankle joint, requiring surgery.

Kim Jong Un

South Korea

North Korea

The Democratic National Committee is running a Spanish language ad on radio stations in North Carolina and Georgia, where there are competitive U.S. Senate races.

"Republicans think we're going to stay home," the ad says. "It's time to rise up."

Democrats see opportunity in Southern states with fast-growing minority populations and an influx of people relocating to the Sun Belt. In Georgia, there's a push to register new voters in hopes of turning a red state blue.

Becks Nix spends most weekends at festivals, like the Fall Festival at Atlanta's Candler Park, working a voter registration booth for the gay rights group Georgia Equality.

"Are y'all registered Georgia voters?" Nix asks passersby.

Anastasia Fort says she needs to check because she just moved to a new neighborhood. Nix tells her how to make sure she's on the voter rolls.

"Because things are tight," Nix says, "we feel like it's even more important that people are not only registered but are actively engaged in what's going on."

Fort admits she's not so engaged. Her friend Steve Stuglin is shocked.

"You're not following? I mean Michelle Nunn's got a chance," he says.

Michelle Nunn is the Democrat in a tight race with Republican David Perdue for an open U.S. Senate seat. Stuglin moved here from Detroit six years ago, bringing his Democratic politics with him. He says Democrats could make gains in Georgia if their voters would just turn out.

"They think it's a lost cause, it's never gonna happen, it's a red state, just deal with it," Stuglin says.

But Democratic operatives say Georgia's days as a reliably red state are nearing an end, in part driven by demographics.

In 2000, 75 percent of Georgia's electorate was white. Now it's just more than 60 percent white.

"While demography can be destiny, destiny needs help," says Democrat state Rep. Stacey Abrams. She's House minority leader in the Georgia Assembly, and founder of the New Georgia Project, an aggressive campaign to register minority voters.

"There are 800,000 unregistered African-American, Latino and Asian voters in the state of Georgia," Abrams says.

Asian Americans are the fastest growing minority in the South, with Latinos close behind. Both groups have settled in Atlanta's bustling suburbs.

The New Georgia Project has been canvassing door to door and conducting drives to sign up voters. Abrams says they've registered 87,000.

Georgia doesn't register by party, but the group has targeted populations that tend to vote Democratic.

The question is, will they?

Along with the Senate race, Georgia also has a tightly fought contest for governor. Democrat Jason Carter, President Jimmy Carter's grandson, is challenging the Republican incumbent Nathan Deal.

Emory University political scientist Andra Gillespie says Republicans still have the edge in Georgia. She doesn't expect this Democratic new-voter push to bear fruit this cycle, even though the registration numbers are impressive.

"The more important number for me is not whether or not you register 87,000 people to vote," she says. "It's whether or not you can get those 87,000 people to the polls."

Carter, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, spent last Sunday urging voter turnout in African-American churches around Atlanta.

He says what's happening here can alter the political landscape.

"Georgia is changing dramatically," Carter says. "There's no doubt that Georgia is next in line as a national battleground state."

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Republican Gov. Nathan Deal visits a charter school in Riverdale, Ga., with rapper Ludacris. David Goldman/AP hide caption

itoggle caption David Goldman/AP

Republican Gov. Nathan Deal visits a charter school in Riverdale, Ga., with rapper Ludacris.

David Goldman/AP

Republicans are taking note of the change. Gov. Deal also campaigned at an African-American church in Macon on Sunday, and appeared at a school last week with the rapper Ludacris.

Deal spokesman Brian Robinson says Republicans have to expand their electorate.

"That is our battle," Robinson says. "Changing the way people identify themselves by party over the next 20 to 30 years."

On the front line of that battle is Leo Smith, minority-engagement director for the state GOP. For the past year, he's been touting Republican values.

"These are ideas of liberty and freedom that Grandmama and them used to talk about," he says. "God bless the child that's got his own. Keep the man outta your house. Man don't work, man don't eat. All those were sort of black value systems that I grew up with that sound really Republican."

Smith acknowledges his work is cut out as he sits in the state GOP office surrounded with portraits of the top Republican office holders in Georgia — all white men.




Rochester, N.Y., was once the imaging capital of the world, home to Kodak, Xerox and the eye care company, Bausch + Lomb.

Led by these companies, the manufacturing sector once employed 60 percent of Rochester's workforce. Now, that's less than 10 percent. And so, like many cities in this country, Rochester is trying to build something new from its manufacturing heritage.

If you want to understand the story of Rochester, says historian Carolyn Vacca, you need to come to High Falls, where from a bridge visitors see a waterfall and a panoramic view of downtown.

"We are in the heart of what was the center of Rochester, historically, and is still, somewhat, today," she says.


Xerox CEO: 'If You Don't Transform, You're Stuck'

Part of the appeal to settlers was what she calls the "good dirt" around the Genesee River. "When Revolutionary soldiers came through the area they were coming from New England, where the dirt basically was good for holding rocks together at that point. And here, the soil is so fertile, so they immediately recognized the value of that and went home and told people there's a place we can get land where you can be a successful farmer," she says.

Farmers used the good Rochester dirt to grow grain. They needed somewhere to sell it, and that spawned flour mills — so many, in fact, that Rochester became known as Flour City. That legacy faded, though. The old mills along the river closed down — but the manufacturing seed had been planted. Eastman Kodak grew out of that.

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The Genesee River's High Falls are at the center of Rochester's history of manufacturing. Mills, and later Kodak, sprang up around it. Mike Bradley for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Mike Bradley for NPR

The Genesee River's High Falls are at the center of Rochester's history of manufacturing. Mills, and later Kodak, sprang up around it.

Mike Bradley for NPR

For decades Rochester was Kodak.

At its peak in the 1980s, Kodak employed 60,000 people in the city. Today, it's just 2,300. It's been a painful collapse. And once again, in 2014, Rochester is trying to use its fertile soil to grow something new.

"Nobody ever wants to let go, obviously, not of something like Kodak that not only was so dominant, but had such a quality brand name. But, recognizing that we have to, we've moved on and created new things — new prospects for the future, building on what we had in the past," Vacca says.

'Just Gut Feel'

There are former Kodak employees at work in new places — like Exelis, which makes parts that may be in the Thirty Meter Telescope, one of the largest. When complete, it will peer out beyond the Milky Way, to the edge of the observable universe — 13 billion light-years away.

Mike Ognenovski, who is now with Exelis, worked at Kodak for 27 years, and sees parallels between the two companies. For example, Exelis uses polishers on its glass to make lenses, machines similar to ones used at Kodak on its camera lenses.

"The tradition is there. It just has another name. Now we're called Exelis," Ognenovski says. "The Kodak heritage technology that was there, that is essentially in the bedrock of what Kodak stood for back when George Eastman built it, is still there."

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Exelis is housed in a former warehouse and repair facility for Eastman Kodak.

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Mike Bradley for NPR

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The Exelis factory has more than 16,000 square feet, but only 80 people work here.

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Mike Bradley for NPR

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A magnetorheological finishing machine, used to finish high-quality optics.

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Mike Bradley for NPR

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An employee works in a clean room at Exelis. Mike Ognenovski, the company's vice president of operations, says he wants to make the work here "more of a science versus an art."

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The preparation area for a clean room. Employees change into suits to control contamination.

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That said, this picture is far from perfect. You look at this factory: making incredible things with machines both old and new, but there's almost no one here. The factory has more than 16,000 square feet, but only 80 people work here.

"You look at the folks that are on this floor right now working, they're highly skilled, and what we want to do is make the work more of a science versus an art. Where optics in the past traditionally tends to be more art and that's where the optician came in," Ognenovski says. "So that means a lot of years of experience, a lot of manual labor, touching and feeling and just gut feel."

Gut feel. Touching things. Making things with your hands. That was American manufacturing.

Where Is The Blue Collar?

Now, it's less art, more science. And this is exactly the challenge today. Even when a place like Rochester seems to be figuring it out, this deeper problem remains. There are very few jobs for the blue-collar worker.

It's a conundrum Nabil Nasr thinks about every day. He's the associate provost and director of the Golisano Institute for Sustainability at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Among his many duties, Nasr's work seeks to help manufacturers remain competitive globally, and he thinks a lot about the future of manufacturing.

"Manufacturing today is not what it used to be. In the past, for example, Kodak used to make very sophisticated, high-precision lenses in a very primitive process that was very time-consuming," Nasr says. "Today, we're making very sophisticated computerized equipment that can make some of these lenses in a fraction of the time they used to spend in making those lenses before."

That takes skill. And there are RIT students training for the kinds of jobs they have at Exelis. But that still leaves the question: Where is the blue-collar worker today? What options are there for them?

"This is a serious issue, and I think there are a lot of people left out of the manufacturing sector, and there are a lot of barriers," Nasr says.

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As associate provost and director of the Golisano Institute for Sustainability at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Nabil Nasr thinks a lot about the future of manufacturing. Mike Bradley for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Mike Bradley for NPR

As associate provost and director of the Golisano Institute for Sustainability at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Nabil Nasr thinks a lot about the future of manufacturing.

Mike Bradley for NPR

There are high-paying openings, he says, but not everyone is qualified for them because they require expertise and education. "They really want to get these jobs but they aren't able to because it would take them a long time to get there, and they're not able or willing to actually spend that time to get there," Nasr says.

The U.S. leads the way in many types of research and technology, but as we've heard about for years now, new technology means fewer jobs. And when workers are needed, companies can find them cheaper abroad. So, what does all this mean for the U.S.? Where does the modern factory fit into American life? Nasr says policymakers, big companies and communities have to come up with a plan.

"Manufacturing is so critical. I serve on an advisory board in Singapore. They want to take the best knowledge they can get to provide them with advice," he says. "Obviously, it's a small country but it's just phenomenal to see the will and the desire to make things happen and the metrics they develop, and the partnership between the government and industry, and of course they have a strong industrial policy."

Singapore is just one country in a global race. We'll be hearing in the coming weeks how the U.S. is cultivating its manufacturing sector to make sure it stays competitive.




The price of oil has been falling — a drop that you may already have noticed at the pump. Gasoline prices have dropped noticeably since June, and oil is now well below $100 a barrel.


Monthly Europe Brent spot price

Source: Energy Information Administration

Credit: NPR

That decline has happened even as conflicts have flared in or near oil-producing regions. Normally, oil prices are expected to spike higher amid turmoil — so why have they been trending lower?

The global price did rise to just under $112 a barrel in June, when ISIS first swept into northern Iraq. But the price of crude has trended down since then — despite the U.S. decision to enter that fight, despite the conflict in Ukraine and despite sanctions levied against Russia, one of the world's largest oil producers, for its role there.

Then there's the fight between Islamist militants and the government in Libya, a significant oil producer.

So why, then, are petroleum prices falling?

"There are two factors to keep in mind," says Robin West, a senior adviser at IHS Global Insight. "One is supply, and one is demand."

It really is as basic as that, West says. "Frankly, the global economy is slow. Demand is low, and so there's very little growth in demand. And so, supply is strong, and demand is fairly weak."

The International Energy Agency made that point last week, when it said a weaker economic outlook in China and Europe is causing a remarkable slowdown in global demand growth. And demand is declining, West says, as global supplies surge due to the energy boom in North America — including shale oil production from North Dakota and Texas.

"There's another 3 billion barrels a day that's coming into the market and staying in the market," he says. "This has really changed the global supply-demand balance very substantially" — and helped bring more stability to the market.

Michael Levi, senior fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations, says it is true that a surge in North American production has added significantly to global supplies. But he doesn't believe it is responsible for the decline in oil prices of the past three months.

"I think the U.S. oil boom has helped stabilize prices over the last few years, but that's because it's been a surprise," Levi says. "And it no longer is a surprise. And that leads me to conclude that people are expecting too much from it, in terms of stabilizing oil prices in the future."


Sanctions Target Russian Oil, But Will That Persuade Putin?


Militants' Advance In Iraq Agitates Oil Markets


How The Islamic State Smuggles Oil To Fund Its Campaign

Levi says the added production from North America has lulled market participants into believing they're in an era of stability.

"I think there is excessive complacency in the ability of the global oil market to absorb disruptions that we haven't seen yet," he says.

There are good reasons the current conflicts haven't pressured prices higher, Levi says. Syria's production is minimal, Libya's has been impaired for some time, and sanctions against Russia would hurt production in the future — not current production.

"On the flip side, no one expects Vladimir Putin to cut his own oil exports in order to inflict harm, because he can't sustain his spending, his state, his budget, without the revenues from oil sales," Levi notes.

Fadel Gheit, managing partner and head of oil and gas research at Oppenheimer & Co., says oil prices will still spike higher when severe disruptions occur. But he thinks global supply will continue to grow and keep prices in check.

He predicts that will happen as fracking technology improves, reducing the costs of production.

"The break-even point continues to decline. Yes, we needed $80 [per barrel] oil for the North Dakota Bakken oil development to continue," he says. "Now, it's about $65. Five years from now, it could be $50, or even $40."

Gheit argues that will lead to a long-term decline in the price of oil — a decline that we're already beginning to see.

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