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Analysis, background reports and updates from the PBS NewsHour putting today's news in context.

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    Congressman James Lankford (R) participates in the U.S. Senate debate in Tulsa, Oklahoma, June 18, 2014.  REUTERS/Nick Oxford  (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR3UJXM

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Today, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee announced that the first public hearing on the investigation into Russian interference in the election would begin on March 20.

    At the same time, Democrats in the Senate are calling for a special counsel to investigate.

    We have heard recently from Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

    Tonight, we turn to a Republican. He is Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma.

    Senator Lankford, thank you very much for being with us.

    So, the House committee has announced when its hearing beginnings. What about the Senate? Is the House going to go first?

    SEN. JAMES LANKFORD, R-Okla.: Well, the House was doing an open meeting there.

    We have actually done hearings for several months now behind closed doors, as most of the Intelligence hearings are held. These are dealing with highly classified documents, procedures, people, that remain classified and should remain classified. So a lot of work will be held behind closed doors, quite frankly.

    And then we will actually bring things out when it’s appropriate and when we have actually some things to be able to contribute to the national conversation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Are you subpoenaing witnesses?

    SEN. JAMES LANKFORD: We are working through the process of getting witnesses. I’m not going to say whether we have to subpoena any of them at this point.

    But I would say the witnesses that we have asked for, we have been able to get access to without having to do a subpoena. But we will work through that process.

    This is very similar. I know you will remember, in December, President Obama in his press conference was asked about the administration investigation into all this process, and he said at that time, in December, the American people are going to be somewhat frustrated by an investigation that deals with intelligence, because we can’t put out all the sources and methods.

    We want to still be able to guard what we’re doing in foreign intelligence in the days ahead. So, we will put out what we can possibly put out, but a lot of the work will be very quiet.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think it is a good idea to look at President Trump’s tax records in order to get an understanding of his possible business connections with Russia?

    SEN. JAMES LANKFORD: So, that’s been an accusation that has sat out there, but it has had no validity.

    I have yet to have anyone who has been able to point to anything, because the description there is that he had some sort of secret business dealings with Russia. No one has stepped forward to be able to actually make that accusation.

    Typically, it’s people saying, hey, we want to go search. We want to go look. And I know that there are people that are frustrated that he didn’t put his tax records out. And so I think this is kind of their vehicle to get it and then hopefully to be able to — once they get it in their hands, to be able to slip it out into the media at some point and leak it out.

    But, right now, there’s no reason to even go do that. And there’s a constitutional issue between the Congress reaching to a sitting president and requiring him to turn over personal documents.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you’re saying, at this point, you and others, the majority on the committee, assume the tax records are not relevant?

    SEN. JAMES LANKFORD: Yes, I have yet to see anything that would say those are relevant.

    Now, there are a lot of issues we have got to delve into, but I have not seen that that’s a relevant document for us to get.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump, in connection with all this, tweeted over the weekend that President Obama ordered a wiretap of him during the campaign in his offices in New York. He suggests that he has evidence of this.

    Are you aware of any evidence of that?

    SEN. JAMES LANKFORD: I would just say to the White House, if they have evidence of that, they can turn that over to our committee and we will follow that up as part of our ongoing evaluation.

    But that would be something the president should turn over to Congress as we’re walking through our investigation

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you take the president at his word, then, that there is indeed evidence? Because — I’m asking because the president has in turn called on Congress to investigate this.

    SEN. JAMES LANKFORD: Well, it would help, obviously, if the White House turned those document over, so we could include that into our investigation.

    We’re walking through a very thorough process, multiple different agencies in an extremely bipartisan way. The Intelligence Committee is not a partisan committee. We work behind closed doors. It’s not showboating. We’re not trying to actually get some kind of leverage. This is a national security issue.

    And this is an issue we dealt with, with Russia for decades. They have tried to manipulate elections all around the world. They go back in the United States as far as putting a KGB person onto President Carter’s campaign decades ago.

    But they have never done it so overt and so aggressive as they did this time. So it is to our national benefit to get this right and to be able to have a good investigation, because this is not a partisan issue. This is a security issue for a very long time, and we have got to address it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, have you asked the White House to turn such evidence over to the committee?

    SEN. JAMES LANKFORD: Yes, I would say what you and I have just talked about before, I have said plenty of places publicly. I won’t say what we have done privately. How about that?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think it was appropriate for President Trump to say this without providing that evidence?

    SEN. JAMES LANKFORD: I think it’s difficult to say that, because the natural question from every one of the American people is, really, when did that happen? How did that happen? And I think it’s something the president is going to have to address in the days ahead.

    But I will allow the White House to be able to respond to that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator, there is a new story today you’re aware of, WikiLeaks releasing thousands of pages of these documents which we’re only beginning, really, to see what’s in that material, looking at what the CIA’s methods are for hacking, allegedly hacking, into everything from iPhones to cars, televisions.

    What do you know about that? And how serious a security breach could this be?

    SEN. JAMES LANKFORD: So, let me give you a series of things to this.

    WikiLeaks is not saying where they got it. They are just saying that they have this information and that it was out there. I would remind people there’s a tremendous amount of fake news out there.

    I’m not making an accusation here, but there is quite a bit out there that people create, being able to release out and to say this looks genuine and so we will put this out. Quite a few of these documents like this, we get a chance to look at later and find out they’re really not genuine after all.

    So, I would caution people first to be able to jump to conclusions of this. Second, when we deal with any kind of what is actually an intelligence process, any time anyone, WikiLeaks or anyone else, releases out, gets access to this, it does two things.

    It always asks the question of, how did it come from, where did it come from at any point, if it’s proved to be genuine? That has to be corrected.

    The second part of it is, it means that any adversary out there anywhere in the world, whether it be any government, whether it be any terrorist organization suddenly gets information. That is toxic to the American people.

    The folks in the intelligence community are not targeting American citizens. There are very strict, clear laws that protect U.S. persons from anyone in the intelligence.

    But I would be very frank with you. We are very aggressive to try to get information about terrorist organizations, foreign entities that mean to do us harm. And I’m glad that we do.

    If someone means to do harm to the United States, to any United States citizen, we should try to find out first, rather than react to it after the fact. And people who try to release out any methods that are out there are damaging the national security of the United States.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator James Lankford, Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, we thank you.

    SEN. JAMES LANKFORD: Thank you.

    The post Sen. Lankford: Trump tax records not relevant to Russia probe appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Vilmarys Cintron (left), with her daughters, bought a home and started a daycare business. Photo by Geoff Hargadon for Compass Working Capital

    Vilmarys Cintron (left), pictured here with her daughters, bought a home and started a daycare business. Photo by Geoff Hargadon for Compass Working Capital

    Sherry Riva became aware of the difficulties that families trying to climb out of poverty face while she was working at a transitional women’s shelter.

    “Despite our best efforts, so many of the women we were serving were still a paycheck away from being back on our doorstep,” she said.

    Riva came to realize that poverty assistance programs shouldn’t just focus on income but also on creating savings and assets, such as a home or business. That way, if people encounter a surprise expense, such as a major car repair, it won’t send them into a downward financial spiral.

    She formed the nonprofit Compass Working Capital in 2005 to provide financial counseling to low-income families in the Boston area, teaching them how to budget, pay off debt and start saving toward their long-term goals, such as buying a home or sending their children to college.

    Five years later, Compass began working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Family Self-Sufficiency initiative, which allows people in subsidized housing to put extra income into a savings account rather than increasing their rental contribution. Under the partnership, Compass provides financial coaching through a free, five-year program that helps the clients learn how to manage those funds.

    “It’s a client-driven model, so this is not our coaches telling clients what we think they should do.” — Sherry Riva

    Riva and her 30-member team are now helping about 1,200 families in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. They’re working to share the public-private financial coaching and savings model with other states as well.

    At the beginning of the program, clients attend group sessions to learn about the program and take financial education classes. Participants are then assigned a financial coach, who meets with them one-on-one to set short-term and long-term goals.

    “It’s a client-driven model, so this is not our coaches telling clients what we think they should do,” Riva said.

    Often, clients will decide to purchase a home, which in certain areas can be pricey. So even after strengthening their credit and saving enough for a down-payment, they might have trouble finding a home they can afford, she said.

    Compass helps connect clients with other programs and resources, such as first-time homebuyer assistance, that can help in that situation. Compass itself is funded through the federal housing authority and philanthropic donations.

    Riva said 141 people have graduated from the five-year program so far.

    Potential clients learn about Compass’ program through postcard campaigns and posters advertising its services in public housing developments. But the best recruiting tool is through word of mouth, Riva said.

    “Once we have a family participating in the program, they tend to go and share their success and their experience with their friends and neighbors,” she said.

    One of the program’s success stories is single mother Vilmarys Cintron, who grew up in subsidized housing and was raising her children there as well. She completed the Family Self-Sufficiency program, bought a home and started an in-home daycare business. In November, she spoke at the group’s graduation, bringing practically everyone to tears, Riva recalled.

    “To see that cycle of poverty being broken,” was meaningful not just for the graduates but for herself, Riva said. “On days where I feel stressed about the day-to-day work, I remember stories like hers, which should be the norm and not the exception.”

    View more of our Social Entrepreneurship profiles and tweet us your suggestions for more groups to cover.

    The post This nonprofit helps put families on a path out of poverty appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    (L-R)U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, and  U.S. Representative Greg Walden hold a news conference on the American Health Care Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Thayer     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTS11VMO

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now let’s go back to the big debate emerging over the health care law, and explore some of the key ideas behind the Republicans’ plans.

    The House bill does keep some of the most popular provisions of the law, like preventing insurers from denying coverage for preexisting conditions. It still has penalties for a lapse in coverage, but it doesn’t mandate coverage in the same way. It also shifts how the government would provide financial help, while eventually reducing the number of people on Medicaid.

    John Yang picks it up from there.

    JOHN YANG: To help break down the impact of these proposed changes, I’m joined by two experts who watch health care closely. Lanhee Chen is a fellow at the Hoover Institution who advised Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio in their presidential campaigns. And Sabrina Corlette is a professor at Georgetown University’s Health Care Policy Institute.

    Thank you for joining us to you both. Welcome to you both.

    I think you can both agree that, as this moves through the legislative process, the details will change, but I think the philosophical changes in direction are clear now.

    Lanhee Chen, let me start with you.

    This shifts — what we’re seeing proposed is to shift from requiring that everyone have insurance, to have a series of carrots, really, to get people to buy insurance themselves on the open market. Why is that the better approach?

    LANHEE CHEN, Former Policy Director, Mitt Romney Campaign: Well, one of the issues, frankly, with the Affordable Care Act is that you had situations where insurance was become unaffordable.

    In fact, if you look at 2015 as an example, 19.2 million Americans either could not afford health insurance because they got what was known as a hardship exemption, or they paid the penalty relating to Obamacare’s individual mandate.

    So one of the things that this tries to do is to encourage the purchase of insurance, but, as you say, to do it as an encouragement, rather than as a penalty. Now, where a penalty does apply is when an individual doesn’t make the decision to acquire coverage and that coverage lapses, and then they would be subject to a penalty to get back into the system.

    But the approach, as you note, is fundamentally different.

    JOHN YANG: But, Lanhee, how does this — how does this move premiums down?

    LANHEE CHEN: Well, I think there’s a couple of things.

    First of all, the idea is to create marketplaces that are healthier by providing more competition and a greater choice of plans. Now, obviously, this provision alone doesn’t do that, but the idea behind the Republican approach is to move in that direction.

    Now, some of that lowering of costs is constrained in this piece of legislation because it has to comply with this budgetary oddity known as reconciliation. But, overall, the Republican strategy is to lower costs by expanding choice and reducing the number of mandates on plans.

    JOHN YANG: Sabrina Corlette, is that effective? Is that going to work?

    SABRINA CORLETTE, Center on Health Insurance Reforms, Georgetown University: Well, here’s one of those things where details really do matter.

    And, in fact, I would argue that this requirement they have in there that is an attempt to replace the ACA’s individual mandate will actually drive premiums up, because I think more young people will look at that and say, I’m not going to face a penalty if I don’t sign up for coverage, so I’m going to hold off on buying insurance.

    And so the only people buying insurance will be those who are sick. And if insurers have to just cover sick people, they will raise premiums, and those will go up.

    JOHN YANG: Lanhee Chen, that gets to a point that many critics are saying, that the federal help to buy for these insurance premiums favors, they say, the young and the healthy over the sick and the old. What do you say to that?

    LANHEE CHEN: Well, I have a tough time with that argument, John, frankly, because, first of all, the tax credits in the Republican plan are based, first of all, on age. That is the primary factor on which they’re differentiated.

    Therefore, those who are older will get more assistance than those who are younger. Furthermore, the broader idea here is to lower the cost of plans to get more people in. It is the case in the previous regime, under Obamacare, that you did have fewer people in the marketplace because premiums were increasing, for example, from 2015 to 2016 by an average of 25 percent.

    So, the goal here, again, lowering the cost of plans, so that the help that is provided by the government will buy more coverage. That is the idea and the concept behind the Republican proposal.

    JOHN YANG: Sabrina Corlette, he’s correct that the tax breaks go up with age, but, also, it allows the insurance companies to charge much higher premiums for older insured people.

    SABRINA CORLETTE: Right, right.

    So, this bill would allow insurance companies to charge older people up to five times the amount of a younger person. But the tax credits only go up two times. So, you’re essentially handing an older person a two-foot rope to get themselves out of a 10-foot hole.

    The other thing is that, overall, the tax subsidies are much less generous than they are under the Affordable Care Act. And they’re not income-related. So lower-income people get less, relative to their income, and many of them will not be able to afford this coverage.

    We don’t have numbers yet from the Congressional Budget Office about how many people will end up losing coverage. But we do have numbers that — from Wall Street analysts that estimate up to 10 million people will lose coverage under this bill.

    JOHN YANG: Lanhee Chen, how do you respond to that, about the number of people who will go uncovered by this?

    LANHEE CHEN: I think there are a couple of things. We will have to wait and see what the Congressional Budget Office ends up deciding on this.

    But it is the case, first of all, that the Republican philosophy, the conservative philosophy has always been that you expand access by lowering costs. So it is the case that if you are able to get some of these regulation out of the way — now, granted, the House bill doesn’t actually do a lot of that, because, again, it has to comply with these arcane budgetary rules.

    But were there to be legislation, let’s say, in phase two, as Donald Trump says, of health reform that got these regulations out of the way, the idea would be to lower the cost of plans, to expand access, and therefore affect that number of uninsured.

    Another thing they could do, briefly, is, they could look at trying to create a steeper means test on the tax credits, such that poorer people would benefit more than they do under the current proposal.

    JOHN YANG: Lanhee Chen, what do you say to the conservatives who worry that these tax credits are essentially a new entitlement?

    LANHEE CHEN: Well, I would make a couple of arguments.

    First of all, we already have a tax code that subsidizes health care, largely through the purchase of health insurance through your employer; 160 million Americans take advantage of this tax break already. What Republicans are trying to do with this proposal is to equalize, to a certain degree, the treatment of health insurance purchased individually vs. through employers.

    And I would also say that it’s just a reality that we have got to deal with questions of coverage. And if you don’t help people who are outside of the employer marketplace, you are going to see even more significant degradations in coverage. So this is an important step forward in that regard.

    JOHN YANG: And then, finally, Sabrina Corlette, what’s your view on the changes that are coming in Medicaid, or would be coming in Medicaid if this plan is passed?

    SABRINA CORLETTE: Well, this is one thing that I think is really important for people to know, is that this bill goes way beyond repealing the ACA’s Medicaid expansion.

    This really is a radical restructuring of a program that’s been around for 50 years. It’s a financial lifeline for not just low-income families, but families who have people with — kids with disabilities, older people who need long-term care. Close to 50 percent of births in this country are funded by the Medicaid program.

    So we are looking at potentially cutting this program that will affect far beyond the people just that got coverage through the ACA.

    JOHN YANG: Sabrina Corlette, Lanhee Chen, thank you very much.

    LANHEE CHEN: Thank you.

    The post How would the American Health Care Act affect cost and access? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Rod Rosenstein, nominee to be Deputy Attorney General, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in  Washington March 7, 2017.  REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RTS11TNB

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: The nominee for the number two position at the Justice Department faced close questioning about investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Rod Rosenstein would oversee the probe if he is confirmed. That is because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself last week.

    At his Senate confirmation hearing, Rosenstein fended off Democrats urging that he recuse himself, too, and appoint a special outside counselor.

    ROD ROSENSTEIN, Deputy Attorney General Nominee: I know this is the issue du jour on Capitol Hill. But I anticipate that, if I were the deputy attorney general, we’d have a lot of matters coming before the department over time, and I would approach them all the same way.

    I would evaluate the facts and the law, consider the applicable regulations, consult with career professionals in the department, and then exercise my best judgment.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: At least one Democrat, Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal, said that he will try to block the Rosenstein nomination unless he does commit to a special counsel.

    New threats at Jewish Community Centers and the Anti-Defamation League today. Phoned-in claims of bombs and even a sniper came in at least eight cities. In response, all 100 U.S. senators wrote to the FBI and the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security. They said — quote — “Failure to address these and deter these threats will place innocent people at risk.”

    A federal judge has refused to stop completion of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, as American Indian tribes wanted. Today’s ruling coincided with the start of a four-day protest on the National Mall. It will culminate in a march on the White House. The court fight will continue, but the pipeline builders say the oil could begin flowing next week.

    Emergency crews struggled today to contain fast-moving wildfires that have killed six people in four states. The fires are sweeping across hundreds of square miles in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado. They have already forced more than 10,000 people to flee.

    Elsewhere, hundreds of homes were damaged overnight by severe storms across the Midwest. More than 30 twisters were reported in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Illinois.

    DUANE COFFEY, Storm Victim: We’re lucky. Small children and two adults, they were scared. Everybody was scared, but we stuck together and made it through it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This afternoon, the governor of Missouri declared a state of emergency in the wake of the storms.

    U.S.-backed forces scored gains against Islamic State fighters on two fronts today. In Syria, militia groups cut a main road out of Raqqa, the de facto ISIS capital. And, in Iraq, army units pushed deeper into Western Mosul after a late-night commando raid. The troops battled into a complex of government buildings. That sets up an assault on Mosul’s Old City, where militants are dug in with thousands of civilians.

    The European Union’s top court ruled today that member states do not have to grant humanitarian visas to asylum seekers. Belgium and other countries had warned that it would mean another flood of migrants. Meanwhile, Hungary’s Parliament voted to confine migrants at border camps built from shipping containers, pending action on their asylum requests.

    A Chinese telecom firm has agreed to pay nearly $900 million for violating U.S. sanctions. The Justice Department says ZTE Corporation illegally shipped American-made equipment to Iran and North Korea.

    On Wall Street, stocks slipped for the third time in four days. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 29 points to close at 20924. The Nasdaq fell 15 points, and the S&P 500 gave up nearly seven.

    And the White House is receiving visitors again. Tours resumed today for the first time since the inauguration, and the first group got a presidential welcome. Mr. Trump greeted a crowd that included Alabama fifth graders on a school trip. Prominent in the background, a portrait of former first lady Hillary Clinton, his election rival.

    The post News Wrap: Justice Department nominee faces questions over Russia investigation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A copy of Obamacare repeal and replace recommendations produced by Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives (left) sit next to a copy of the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare (right) as U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price addresses the daily press briefing Mar. 7 at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Carlos Barria.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The battle over the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is now joined in earnest. Republicans in the House of Representatives pressed forward today, in the face of resistance from Democrats and from inside their own party.

    Lisa Desjardins reports from Capitol Hill.

    LISA DESJARDINS: It was day one of Republicans’ push to sell their long-awaited replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

    Greg Walden chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee and helped author the bill.

    REP. GREG WALDEN, R-Ore.: Introduction of this bill is just the first step in helping American families across the country obtain truly affordable health care and we’re eager to get started.

    MAN: I encourage you to read the bill.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Named the American Health Care Act, Republicans are keeping some and changing some of the Affordable Care Act. The first big change? Medicaid. Obamacare expanded Medicaid to include roughly 12 million more people, lower-income adults. Republicans would end that expansion in 2020, but allow those enrolled at that time to stay on Medicaid.

    For the rest of Medicaid, some 55 million people, there is potentially sweeping change. Republicans would move from paying for all health care costs now to setting a limit on spending per person.

    Democrats like Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth are outraged, saying that will cut benefits to millions.

    REP. JOHN YARMUTH, D-Ky.: Over the long term, what it’s going to mean is, the people who need the care the most, people who are working hard and need the coverage, will get less of it, and the states will have to shoulder more of the burden.

    LISA DESJARDINS: But Republican leaders mounted an all-out offensive, with Vice President Mike Pence visiting senators at the Capitol, and President Trump meeting with House leaders at the White House.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think, really, we’re going to have something that’s much more understood and much more popular than people can even imagine.

    LISA DESJARDINS: The largest issue for the Republican bill is what we don’t know. We don’t yet know if this bill will mean fewer people with health insurance. We also don’t know how much anything will cost, including new tax credits.

    Those tax credits are another big issue and change. The Affordable Care Act gives direct tax subsidies for low- and middle-income Americans. Republicans would instead give refundable tax credits and rework who gets them. Individuals making under $75,000 would get a full credit based on age, $2,000 dollars for the youngest, increasing to $4,000 for those over 60.

    But those tax credits are raising concern from the right. Republican Congressman Dave Brat says the credits are more massive government spending.

    REP. DAVE BRAT, R-Va.: Where is it coming from? It’s coming from the federal government. And it’s a new entitlement program. And so for the folks out there, they may not know — go Google it — we have a $100 trillion entitlement problem.

    LISA DESJARDINS: He’s not alone. Republican Congressman Justin Amash called the bill Obamacare 2.0 in a tweet. And Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and other Republicans held a news conference to push back.

    SEN. RAND PAUL, R-Ky.: We are united on repeal. But we are divided on replacement.

    LISA DESJARDINS: That could be a serious issue in the Senate, where the GOP can afford to lose only two votes and still pass their bill without help from Democrats.

    But, as some raised doubts, others in the party moved to Answer them, like Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

    TOM PRICE, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary: This is all about patients, and in order to provide that transition and in order to make it so that nobody falls through the cracks, we have got to have a system that allows for individuals to gain the kind of coverage that they want.

    LISA DESJARDINS: And House Speaker Paul Ryan insisted that the bill will get the votes it needs in the House.

    REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., Speaker of the House: We will have 218 when this comes to the floor. I can guarantee you that.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Tomorrow, day two, may be more important, as the bill heads to possible committee votes.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Lisa Desjardins at the Capitol.

    The post Resistance to House GOP health care bill comes from both sides appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A copy of Obamacare repeal and replace recommendations produced by Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives (left) sit next to a copy of the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare (right) as U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price addresses the daily press briefing Mar. 7 at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Carlos Barria.

    A copy of Obamacare repeal and replace recommendations produced by Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives (left) sits next to a copy of the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare (right) at the daily press briefing Mar. 7 at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Carlos Barria.

    We have a new blueprint for health coverage in America. And with its new answers come new questions. After reading the House GOP legislation, here are some of the most important changes and unknowns.

    What’s it called?
    The bill is called the American Health Care Act. So AHCA. It is 123 pages, and you can download it here.

    What does it do?
    It’s not a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare. Rather, it repeals some parts and keeps others.

    • It would enact a sweeping reform of Medicaid, which provides health care for low-income, disabled and other resource-strapped Americans.
    • It also changes some important policies for health insurers, allowing them to charge more based on age and also to charge a penalty for lapsed coverage. (See below for more details on this).

    What’s repealed?

    A nurse at a clinic in Boston gives a child an influenza vaccine injection. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters.

    A nurse at a clinic in Boston gives a child an influenza vaccine injection. The new GOP health care bill would end no-cost preventative care, such as for vaccines and contraception. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters.

    • Taxes: Republicans would repeal all taxes in the ACA. That includes a tax on medical devices and a 3.8 percent surtax on investment and other income of families earning over $250,000 a year.
    • Subsidies: It would end the ACA’s form of subsidies for low and middle-income families.
    • Mandate penalties: The bill would also repeal the penalties associated with the individual and employer mandates. (It adds a new coverage penalty — see below).
    • Medicaid expansion: The legislation would trigger a delayed repeal of the Medicaid expansion program — sunsetting it after 2020. The expansion provided Medicaid to so-called “able-bodied adults” earning under 138 percent of the poverty line. Those in the expansion plan before 2020 can keep their Medicaid coverage as long as they qualify.
    • Preventive Care: Finally, the bill would repeal the “essential benefits” required by the ACA. That means insurers would not have to provide any certain type of coverage. This would end no-cost preventative care, including for cancer screenings, vaccines and contraception.

    What is kept?

    • Exchanges: The Obamacare exchanges can remain. Republicans allow states to keep those in place.
    • Pre-existing conditions: In addition, the ACA’s protection for those with pre-existing conditions remains. Insurers cannot drop those individuals.
    • Under age 26: Similarly, parents can continue to keep children on their health insurance until age 26.
    • Mandates: The individual and employer mandates technically remain, for now. This bill only zeroes out the penalties. The requirements for health insurance may be repealed in future legislation, but not this bill.

    What is new?

    Protesters gather outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Vista, California in 2015. Photo by      REUTERS/Mike Blake.

    Protesters gather outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Vista, California. The GOP health care overhaul would cut funding to Planned Parenthood and all health operations that offer abortion services Photo by REUTERS/Mike Blake.

    • Medicaid shift: The bill goes beyond the ACA to make sweeping changes in Medicaid. It would end the current pay-for-all-services program and transform Medicaid so that it pays a set amount per person. It would give states more flexibility for how to use that money, but it is not yet clear if that will lead to dramatic overall funding cuts.
    • New age-based rates: This proposal boosts the amount insurers can charge older Americans. The ACA allows insurers to charge an older person no more than three times more than a younger person. Republicans increase that to five times more.
    • Lapsed coverage penalty: Republicans would allow insurers to charge an extra 30 percent for those who go without insurance for more than 63 days.
    • Tax credits: The ACHA would offer a new set of tax credits to help lower and middle-income Americans buy health coverage. The full credit goes to those earning under $75,000 as an individual or $150,000 as a family. It increases by age so that those under 30 would get $2,000 a year, and slides up so those over 60 would receive $4,000.
    • HSA: The GOP bill makes it easier and allows for larger savings into Health Savings Accounts.
    • Funding for states: The plan also offers $100 billion over ten years for states to use essentially as they see best to reach populations with health coverage problems.
    • Planned Parenthood funding cut: The bill would cut funding to Planned Parenthood and all health operations that offer abortion services.

    What still needs answers?

    • How many people would be uninsured under this plan?
    • How much will it cost, particularly the tax credits?
    • Where does the funding come from to balance those costs? (Republicans say they got some help by delaying tax repeals a year, but many suspect large amounts of savings may be from the changes to Medicaid.)

    The post Everything you need to know about the new GOP health care bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The lobby of the CIA Headquarters Building in Langley, Virginia. Photo by REUTERS/Larry Downing/File Photo .

    The lobby of the CIA Headquarters Building in Langley, Virginia. Photo by REUTERS/Larry Downing/File Photo .

    WASHINGTON — WikiLeaks has published thousands of documents that the anti-secrecy organization said were classified files revealing scores of secrets about CIA hacking tools used to break into targeted computers, cellphones and even smart TVs.

    The CIA and the Trump administration declined to comment on the authenticity of the files Tuesday, but prior WikiLeaks releases divulged government secrets maintained by the State Department, Pentagon and other agencies that have since been acknowledged as genuine. In another nod to their authenticity, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said he was very concerned about the release and has sought more information about it.

    The hacking tools appeared to exploit vulnerabilities in popular operating systems for desktop and laptop computers developed by Microsoft. They also targeted devices that included Apple’s iPhones and iPads, Google’s Android cellphones, Cisco routers and Samsung Smart TVs.

    Some of the technology firms said they were evaluating the newly released documents.

    Some questions and answers about the latest WikiLeaks dump and its fallout:

    Where do these documents come from?

    WikiLeaks said the material came from “an isolated, high-security network” inside the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence, the spy agency’s internal arm that conducts cyber offense and defense. It said the documents were “circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.” It did not make it clear who was behind the leak, leaving several possibilities: espionage, a rogue employee, a theft involving a federal contractor or a break-in of a staging server where such information may have been temporarily stored.

    How many files were leaked? What period do they cover?

    WikiLeaks said 7,818 web pages and 943 attachments were published, but were just the first part of more material to come. WikiLeaks said it has an entire archive of data consisting of several million lines of computer code. The documents appear to date between 2013 and 2016. WikiLeaks described them as “the largest-ever publication of confidential documents on the agency.”

    Are these legitimate CIA documents?

    A spokesman for the CIA said the agency would not comment “on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents.” Trump administration spokesman Sean Spicer declined comment as well. But WikiLeaks has a long track record of assembling and releasing secret files from the U.S. and other governments. Security experts who reviewed the material said the documents appeared to be authentic. Jake Williams, a security expert with Georgia-based Rendition Infosec, who has dealt previously with government hackers, said that frequent references in the files to operation security gave them the stamp of legitimacy. “It rings true to me,” Williams said.

    What do these documents contain?

    The files describe CIA plans and descriptions of malware and other tools that could be used to hack into some of the world’s most popular technology platforms. The documents showed that the developers aimed to be able to inject these tools into targeted computers without the owners’ awareness.

    The files do not describe who the prospective targets might be, but the documents show broad exchanges of tools and information between the CIA and National Security Agency and other federal intelligence agencies, as well as intelligence services of close allies Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

    The purported CIA documents range from complicated computer coding to organizational plans to sarcastic comments about the tools’ effectiveness. Some of the tools were named after alcohol references, including Bartender, Wild Turkey and Margarita. Others referenced recent popular movies, including “Fight Club” and “Talladega Nights.” One hacking tool, code-named “RickyBobby,” after the character who is a race car driver in “Talladega Nights,” was purportedly used to upload and download information “without detection as malicious software.”

    The documents also include discussions about compromising some internet-connected televisions to turn them into listening posts. One document discusses hacking vehicle systems, appearing to indicate the CIA’s interest in hacking recent-model cars with sophisticated on-board computer systems.

    How are technology firms responding to these revelations?

    Microsoft said it was looking into the reports that its operating systems were potentially vulnerable to many of the malware and other hacking tools described in the purported CIA documents. The maker of the secure messaging app Signal said the purported tools described in the leaked documents appeared to affect users’ actual phones, but not its software designs or encryption protocols. The manufacturer of the popular Telegram mobile messaging app said in a statement that manufacturers of cellphones and their operating systems, including Apple, Google and Samsung, were responsible for improving the security of their devices. It said the effort will require “many hours of work and many security updates” and assured its customers that “If the CIA is not on your back, you shouldn’t start worrying yet.”

    The post WikiLeaks CIA files: Are they real and are they a risk? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price (R) on Monday gestures at a stack of papers that he said were the Affordable Care Act and the repeal and replace paperwork produced by House Republicans. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Over the strong objections of key conservatives and Democrats, House Republican leaders are forging ahead with a health care plan that scraps major parts of the Obama-era overhaul.

    The House Ways and Means Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee intended to convene what were expected to be marathon sessions Wednesday to start voting on the legislation.

    President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence back the plan to repeal Barack Obama’s health care law, and Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is confidently predicting it will pass the House.

    But many fellow Republicans don’t seem to be listening.

    On Tuesday, less than 24 hours after the GOP health bill came out, a powerful conservative backlash threatened to sink it.

    “As the bill stands today, it is Obamacare 2.0,” according to a statement by the billionaire Koch Brothers’-backed Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks groups. “Millions of Americans would never see the improvements in care they were promised, just as Obamacare failed to deliver on its promises.”

    Those sentiments were echoed by some GOP lawmakers on the right.

    Closer to the political center, Gov. John Kasich. R-Ohio, expressed deep doubts in a statement that took issue with plans to curb Medicaid coverage expanded under the former president.

    “Phasing out Medicaid coverage without a viable alternative is counterproductive and unnecessarily puts at risk our ability to treat the drug-addicted, mentally ill and working poor who now have access to a stable source of care,” Kasich said.

    “The right way to fix Obamacare is by Republicans and Democrats working together,” he added.

    At the White House meeting Tuesday, Trump made clear to House Republicans that he would be personally engaging with individual lawmakers who oppose the bill as the party’s leadership tries to round up votes, according to a lawmaker present who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private gathering.

    Not long after, Trump appeared to be making good on his promise, tweeting at Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has criticized the bill.

    “I feel sure that my friend @RandPaul will come along with the new and great health care program because he knows Obamacare is a disaster!” Trump wrote.

    He plans to reconvene the group next week and was to meet with conservative leaders Wednesday to discuss the issue.

    Opposition was building among influential groups.

    The American Medical Association said Wednesday that the bill “would result in millions of Americans losing coverage and benefits,” while making coverage “more expensive — if not out of reach — for poor and sick Americans.”

    AARP said the bill would “dramatically increase” health care costs for people age 50 to 64, and put the health care of millions at risk. The organization, which has nearly 38 million members, was pivotal to the passage of Obama’s law in 2010.

    But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent congressional leaders a letter in praise of the plan, calling it “absolutely critical in taking steps to restore choice, flexibility and innovation to the nation’s health care markets.”

    Democrats remained unified in opposition. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said the Republican approach would mean “higher cost for less health care, plain and simple.”

    Republicans are pushing forward even without official estimates from the Congressional Budget Office on the cost of the bill and how many people would be covered, although GOP lawmakers acknowledge they can’t hope to match the 20 million people covered under the health law.

    Aiming to reduce the role of government in health care, the GOP plan would repeal unpopular fines that Obama’s law imposes on people who don’t carry health insurance. It would replace income-based subsidies, which the law provides to help millions of people pay premiums, with age-based tax credits that may be skimpier for people with low incomes. Those payments would phase out for higher-earning people.

    The Republican legislation would limit future federal money for Medicaid, which covers low-income people, about 1 in 5 Americans. It would loosen rules that Obama’s law imposed for health plans directly purchased by individuals, while scaling back subsidies.

    Democrats say the bill would leave many people uninsured, shifting costs to states and hospital systems that act as providers of last resort. The bill also adds up to big tax cuts for the rich, cutting more than 20 taxes enacted under Obama’s heath law with the bulk of the savings going to the wealthiest Americans.

    Conservatives say the GOP’s new system of refundable tax credits would be a costly new entitlement, and they’re demanding a vote on a straightforward repeal-only bill.

    The post GOP push on health plan; conservatives, Democrats oppose it appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A member of the audience records Pope Francis as he speaks at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., in 2015. Photo by Rob Carr/Reuters

    The season of Lent is upon us. This is a holy season for Christians who seek to identify with Jesus Christ’s 40 days of fasting as he prepared to be tested and later crucified. In order to identify with Christ’s self-sacrifice, Christians often join in a symbolic fast, giving up certain foods such as meat or chocolate or even giving up certain practices. The Conversation

    In recent years, fasting from the internet or other forms of technology has become popular. Fasting from technology is encouraged by many religious leaders as the ideal way for individuals to reflect on their daily dependency on technology. Sometimes called taking a “digital Sabbath,” it refers to the Christian and Jewish practice, in which one day a week is set aside as sacred.

    On such a day, secular practices such as using media are halted in order to help believers focus on God and their faith. This is based on the premise that the best way to critically engage with technology is to unplug from it. It’s a way to remember that true communication is unmediated by technology and grounded in being with one another in the “real world.”

    Unplugging from social media or limiting one’s internet use for a set period such as during Lent can be helpful for some individuals. My research, conducted over two decades, however, shows that some of core assumptions on which digital fasting is based on can be problematic or misguided.

    Technology can, in fact, be good for religion. The question is, how do we engage with technology thoughtfully and actively?

    Media and immoral values?

    First, let’s look at how religious groups interact and make decisions about new forms of media.

    In my recent book, “Networked Theology,” my coauthor Stephen Garner and I discuss how some religious communities believe the media primarily promote immoral values and frivolous entertainment. Therefore, they insist interaction with media via digital devices should be controlled, just as is done during a digital fast.

    In “Networked Theology,” we explain how abstaining from media is based on an assumption often referred to as “technological determinism.” It is a theory that argues media technology shapes how individuals in society think and act. Technology is presented as the central factor driving society, and its character is often described as selfish and dehumanizing.

    This view presents the internet as a medium that creates environments that disconnect us from reality. For example, YouTube could be seen to promote entertainment culture over wisdom, Facebook encourages self-promotion over community-building and Twitter facilitates tweeting whatever comes to one’s mind rather than listening.

    People are not passive users

    The truth is digital media is increasingly a part of daily routines. People learn, do business and communicate with technology. Often technology enhances our daily lives, such as eyeglasses correcting vision or the telephone helping people communicate across time and space.

    The problem, however, comes when we assume that people have only two options: to engage technology and inevitably be seduced by it, or refuse to use it in order to resist its power.

    Digital fasting follows this second option. It presents individuals as slaves of technology. Taking the occasional timeout from the all-powerful grip of technology is done in order to simply regroup and prepare to again face its irresistible seduction.

    In my view, such an approach places too much emphasis on the assertion that technological devices now dictate most people’s lives. It also does not take into account that technology users have the ability to make their own choices about how they approach it. So people can choose to use technology in ways that fulfill spiritual goals.

    In “Networked Theology,” we argue that digital technology can be reshaped by users. As others have written, we agree that people should take more responsibility for the time spent with their devices.

    Deepening devotion with technology

    So, instead of resisting technology during Lent, individuals could use this space of holy reflection to actively consider how to integrate technology to support their spiritual development.

    Religious groups have the ability to determine the culture technology promotes, if only they take time to prayerfully create their own “theology of technology.”

    I describe part of this process as being “techno-selective.” What this means is reflecting on the technology we select and how and why we use it. It also means being proactive in shaping our technologies so they enhance and not distract from our spiritual journeys.

    A digital Lent can become about considering how our devices can help us do justice, practice kindness and demonstrate humility in our world. For example, people could ask if their postings on Facebook are helping in creating a positive or more abusive world? Or, whether the apps they use or their cellphone etiquette promotes peace and social change?

    Apps for social justice

    In the last five years I have been working with a team of students at Texas A&M University to explore how social and mobile media are being developed that can support a variety of religious beliefs and practices. We found there are religious apps to help people do that. Internet memes also provide unique insights into common stereotypes about religion within popular culture.

    Memes can be crafted to counter such misconceptions. For example, the wearing of hijabs, or head scarves, by Muslim women is viewed by many outside the religion as oppressive, but wearing the veil and modesty are themes frequently affirmed in memes created by Muslims.

    Further, our research on religious mobile apps has found increasing numbers of apps are available that help individuals stay faithful in their religious practices on a daily basis. Apps can help with the reading of sacred texts, provide religious study aids, help locate kosher or halal products to maintain a holy lifestyle and connect people with places of worship and also to other beliefs.

    Prayer and meditation apps can help users remember when to pray and become more accountable in these daily spiritual practices.

    Also apps designed to encourage involvement in social justice causes, such as TraffickStop, Lose Weight or Donate and CharityMiles, help raise awareness of key issues and even help users link their daily practices, such as what they eat, to micro-donations to social justice organizations.

    A digital Lent?

    Lent is a great time for religious individuals and groups to pause and consider not only their own technological practices and how they shape our world but also the ways in which digital resources can be integrated into their communities to support their beliefs.

    So instead of giving up Facebook for Lent, consider doing Lent digitally.

    Practicing 40 days of technoselectivity might actually have a longer-term impact socially and spiritually on one’s daily life. It could even deepen religious devotion.

    This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

    PHOTOS: Why we carry these tokens of faith

    The post Column: Why you shouldn’t swear off social media for Lent appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is expected to field questions about the GOP’s health care overhaul in the daily news briefing Wednesday.

    Spicer is expected to begin speaking at 1:30 p.m. EST. Watch live in the player above.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Spicer may address latest on GOP health care plan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Amazon Echo, a voice-controlled virtual assistant, is seen at its product launch for Britain and Germany in London, in 2016. Photo by Peter Hobson/Reuters

    After several months of pushback, Amazon has agreed to release user data from an Amazon Echo device involved in a high-profile Arkansas murder trial.

    The device, a popular, hands-free artificial intelligence assistant named “Alexa” that responds to human directives, contains audio recordings that prosecutors say could could provide information in the murder of Victor Collins, 47, who was found dead in his hot tub on Nov. 22, 2015, in Bentonville, Arkansas.

    James Bates, 31, was charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence in the case.

    Benton County Prosecuting Attorney Nathan Smith wrote in an email that prosecutors were “pleased” with Amazon’s decision.

    “I am pleased that we will have access to the data from the Defendant’s Echo device since the Defendant consented to its release,” Smith said. “As with any case, our obligation is to investigate all of the available evidence, whether the evidence proves useful or not.”

    Smith said he could not provide details on the recordings or if they would be used in court because the case is still under investigation.

    Amazon had argued against the data’s release in February, saying the Echo recordings were protected under the First Amendment. According to a court order, Bates consented to the disclosure, which then prompted Amazon to agree to the release of the data March 3.

    Amazon declined to comment for this story, but did provide the official court order to the NewsHour, acknowledging the defendant’s consent.

    Kathleen Zellner, Bates’ legal counsel, said in a statement to the NewsHour: “Because Mr. Bates is innocent of all charges in this matter, he has agreed to the release of any recordings on his Amazon Echo device to the prosecution.”

    This case depicts yet another legal battle over the use of technology-based evidence and privacy laws. Other similar cases include Apple’s toe-to-toe with the FBI over the hack of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone.

    Carrie Leonetti, an associate law professor at the University of Oregon, said the Bates case highlights an important ongoing open issue in the field of constitutional criminal procedure.

    “In my mind, as well as the minds of a lot of other privacy experts, the Echo has been a ticking constitutional time bomb, along with a lot of other features of smart homes and the internet of things,” Leonetti, who teaches criminal and constitutional law, said.

    “The same issue has arisen with the NSA’s pattern analysis of American’s ‘telephony metadata,’ cell-site location tracking of suspects via subpoenas to the phone company, and GPS cell-phone tracking,” she added.

    A hearing set for today on the Amazon Echo case is now canceled following the defendant’s consent.

    READ MORE: How can I stop my TV from spying on me?

    The post Amazon releases Echo data in murder case, dropping First Amendment argument appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A researcher in Dr. Sue Sisley's lab pours out a sample of marijuana it received from the federal facility responsible for growing marijuana for clinical research. When she received marijuana for a PTSD trial last year, Sisley says the packages contained mold and lead, and weren't as potent as she requested. Photo by Rebecca Matthews.

    A researcher in Dr. Sue Sisley’s lab pours out a sample of marijuana produced by the federal facility responsible for growing cannabis for clinical research. When she received marijuana for a PTSD trial last year, Sisley says the packages contained mold and weren’t as potent as she requested. Photo courtesy of MAPS.

    Sue Sisley, a primary care physician in Scottsdale, Arizona, recalls the moment she picked up the carefully wrapped package fresh from the delivery truck. Nearly two years after Sisley and her colleagues were awarded a grant to study marijuana as a treatment for 76 military veterans suffering from chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, her shipment of the drug was finally in hand.

    But minutes later, as she opened the packets to weigh the drug – as required by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration – her enthusiasm turned to dismay. It didn’t look like marijuana. Most of it looked like green talcum powder.

    “It didn’t resemble cannabis. It didn’t smell like cannabis,” Sisley says. What’s more, laboratory testing found that some of the samples were contaminated with mold, while others didn’t match the chemical potency Sisley had requested for the study.

    There’s only one source of marijuana for clinical research in the United States. And “they weren’t able to produce what we were asking for,” Sisley says.

    It’s unclear whether mold, lead or discrepancies in potency has been a problem in prior cannabis studies, because until now, it appears that no one looked.

    In January — four months and three rounds of testing after that first delivery — Sisley and researchers working with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) were finally able to enroll their first subjects. But the delay and the reasons behind it have raised questions about the reliability of the facility responsible for supplying marijuana to every clinical study in the country.

    The marijuana came from a 12-acre farm at the University of Mississippi, run by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Since 1968, it has been the only facility licensed by the DEA to produce the plant for clinical research. While eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana — and all but a handful allow at least some medical cannabis — growing the plant in large quantities remains forbidden under federal law. For all practical purposes, that means that any medical study that wants to use marijuana on human subjects must go through the University of Mississippi.

    Rick Doblin, MAPS’ director, says this recent episode “shows that NIDA is completely inadequate as a source of marijuana for drug development and research.”

    “They’re in no way capable of assuming the rights and responsibilities for handling a drug that we’re hoping to be approved by the FDA as prescription medicine,” he says.

    The demand for the facility’s product has surged in the past year, mirroring interest from medical researchers. Through mid-October 2016, the agency says it had fulfilled 39 requests for marijuana, from 10 different researchers. That’s a jump from the 23 requests it filled in 2015, the most recent numbers available, according to an April letter from the DEA to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass).


    A video from the University of Mississippi shows its cannabis garden.

    It’s unclear whether mold, lead or discrepancies in potency has been a problem in prior cannabis studies, because until now, it appears that no one looked.

    NIDA says this is the first time researchers have expressed concern about mold or potency testing. Neither the agency nor the University of Mississippi tests samples for mold before they’re shipped.

    Sisley says researchers have taken too much for granted. “There’s no telling how many subjects in past studies were exposed,” she says.

    The uncertainty highlights a broader challenge in the growing field of cannabis research: there’s little consensus on what testing is appropriate or on what findings constitute a hazard.

    The uncertainty highlights a broader challenge in the growing field of cannabis research: there’s little consensus on what testing is appropriate or on what findings constitute a hazard. Scientists and officials say they would love to have more guidance.

    “Our biggest concern is patient safety,” says Mike Van Dyke, chief of toxicology with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which is funding the MAPS-sponsored study on PTSD. “The lack of a federal regulatory structure makes it a huge challenge. We don’t have all the information we’d like to have.”

    Mixed signals on standards

    A researcher in Dr. Sue Sisley’s lab prepares to weigh a sample of marijuana received from the federal facility responsible for growing marijuana for clinical research. Photo courtesy of MAPS.

    A researcher in Dr. Sue Sisley’s lab prepares to weigh a sample of marijuana received from the federal facility responsible for growing marijuana for clinical research. Photo courtesy of MAPS.

    As part of the original study protocol, the marijuana that Sisley received was tested at an independent laboratory in Colorado, which found a high level of total yeast and mold (TYM) in several samples. The tests also found that the potency of some samples didn’t match what study organizers had ordered, or what it says on the certificate of analysis from the federal supplier.

    One sample, billed as having a 13 percent level of THC — the main psychoactive compound in marijuana — had just 8 percent when tested at the independent facility in Colorado. Other samples were off by lesser amounts. Subsequent testing at the University of Illinois-Chicago confirmed the presence of total yeast and mold.

    The Chicago tests also found all four samples contained trace amounts of lead, though well below the levels generally considered to be hazardous, at least for adults.


    Amsterdam cafe owner Michael Veling explains pot potency to PBS NewsHour by comparing it to liquor.

    On the state level, testing requirements for recreational and medical marijuana vary widely. Most states require some testing for heavy metals such as lead, but not for pesticide residue. Yeast and mold testing is required in most states where cannabis is sold legally. The failure rate – frequently defined as a total mold and yeast count higher than 10,000 “colony-forming units” per gram (CFU/g) — is not officially tracked in Colorado. But state records show that approximately 7 percent of samples tested last year did not pass “microbial” standards, a category that includes bacterial contamination as well as TYM. Colorado only requires microbial testing for marijuana sold on the recreational market, not for medicinal use.

    The Chicago tests found total yeast and mold (TYM) counts in Sisley and team’s samples ranging from 23,000 to 64,000 CFU/g.

    NIDA says it suspects the mold problem was introduced on the receiving end, when the Colorado lab accidentally left samples in a refrigerator for two days, instead of keeping them frozen at -10 to -25 degrees Celsius, as called for by handling instructions.

    But Rebecca Matthews, who oversees clinical trials for MAPS, says the elevated TYM counts were found in samples that never left the freezer before testing. In the samples that were inadvertently defrosted, TYM counts were even higher, as much as 110,000 CFU/g.

    Nevertheless, Sisley and the team ultimately concluded after months of research that it was safe to proceed with the study. They began in January. In an internal memo that outlines their reasons for moving forward, they wrote that there’s no agreement on whether tests for TYM should be required, and no guidance from NIDA or the FDA.

    One reason for that is a high TYM count does not always constitute a health risk, says Kevin McKernan, an entrepreneur and geneticist who is looking to improve the quality of testing in the realm of cannabis research. Certain types of fungus, notably a group of species known as aspergillus, can cause a variety of health problems when smoked, especially in people with compromised immune systems. But, many other mold varieties are considered harmless, McKernan says.

    MORE: Until research unlocks medical understanding of marijuana, patients experiment

    Immunocompromised patients were already excluded from Sisley’s MAPS-sponsored study.

    NIDA says its own tests show THC levels closer to what was expected – in the 10 to 12 percent range, instead of the 8 percent that MAPS found. It says it’s reviewing MAPS’ results and protocols to try to understand the discrepancy. NIDA also says it tested for heavy metals before shipping the material, and found nothing above acceptable levels.

    Tighter control, broader playing field

    Dr. Sue Sisley points to marijuana samples she received as part of a study that's testing whether marijuana can have a positive effect on veterans with PTSD. Photo courtesy of MAPS.

    Dr. Sue Sisley points to marijuana samples she received as part of a study that’s testing whether marijuana can have a positive effect on veterans with PTSD. Photo courtesy of MAPS.

    NIDA is also taking some steps to tighten oversight. In January, it announced a grant to McKernan’s two Massachusetts-based companies, Medicinal Genomics and Courtagen, to develop a DNA-based test that would identify specific types of harmful mold and bacteria in marijuana.

    Beyond quality control issues, some critics say the Mississippi farm doesn’t provide researchers with enough options. For example, the potency of marijuana in NIDA’s collection tops out at 13 percent THC. That’s less than half the level in the most potent strains sold in states where the drug is legal and regularly tested.

    That means “if you’re trying to do a study where you imitate what patients do in the real world, you can’t,” Sisley says.

    “If you’re trying to do a study where you imitate what patients do in the real world, you can’t.” – Dr. Sue Sisley

    Van Dyke echoes her concern. “It’s an important issue. The products in Colorado are different from the products produced by NIDA, and there’s untapped demand to study those products that people are really using.”

    In an email to NewsHour, the agency says it’s growing new material that will likely contain higher THC levels. NIDA officials insist they’re keeping up with demand, and in 2014, increased its production and diversified the strains of marijuana it grows.

    Another criticism stems from NIDA’s practice of achieving higher THC concentrations by mixing different strains together, rather than growing new plants.

    In its April 2016 letter, the agency told Warren the Mississippi facility has “approximately 185” batches of cannabis, at varying concentrations of THC and CBD. Different varieties, the letter says, “may be blended to achieve specific cannabinoid concentrations of interest to researchers.”

    Critics, including Sisley, say that mixing strains is a lost opportunity. Every cannabis plant contains several hundred unique compounds, which some believe may significantly alter the drug’s effects. If different plants are mixed together, scientists have a harder time tracking those effects.

    READ MORE: Meet the federal government’s pot dealer

    Many scientists were heartened this summer when the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced that it would license additional bulk growers, ending NIDA’s monopoly.

    According to the DEA, 16 organizations have submitted the paperwork to launch the application process, which comes with a $3,047 fee. None of those applications have been approved, however, and the agency says there is no set timeline to take action.

    The delays in Sisley’s study are energizing those who say the federal government needs to speed things up.

    Frustrated by her experience, Sisley is hoping to take a more hands-on approach. One of the DEA applicants is the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI), where she is the principal investigator. SRI has submitted a proposal to grow cannabis from tissue culture rather than seedlings, a more sterile method of producing the plant.

    She doesn’t mince words about the setback.

    “We waited 20 months to get going, and then we got this sub-optimal study drug,” she says. “The longer we allow this monopoly to continue, the more efficacy [of the] research will continue to be thwarted.”

    The post Scientists say the government’s only pot farm has moldy samples — and no federal testing standards appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A camera man films a statue of a girl facing the Wall St. Bull, as part of a campaign by U.S. fund manager State Street to push companies to put women on their boards, in the financial district in New York. Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    On the evening before International Women’s Day, the famed Wall Street Bull found something standing in its way: A bronzed little girl, hands on hips and feet set apart, staring down gender inequality.

    McCann New York advertising agency erected the statue for its client State Street Global Advisors in order to highlight the finance industry’s gender inclusivity, lack of equal pay for women and issues with diversity.

    “Today, we are calling on companies to take concrete steps to increase gender diversity on their boards, and have issued clear guidance to help them begin to take action,” State Street Global Advisors CEO Ron O’Hanley said in a statement.

    A woman poses next to a statue of a girl facing the Wall St. Bull, as part of a campaign by U.S. fund manager State Street to push companies to put women on their boards, in the financial district in New York. Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    A statue of a girl facing the Wall St. Bull is seen, as part of a campaign by U.S. fund manager State Street to push companies to put women on their boards, in the financial district in New York. Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    State Street is a money management company with nearly $2.5 trillion in investments, the Washington Post reported. The bronze statue is also a representation of State Street wants the statue to represent their call to action for 3,500 companies and their shareholders to increase the amount of women in leadership positions and on corporate boards.

    “We want to use our power as an active steward of financial interests to really create change,” Anne McNally, head of public relations for State Street, told the NewsHour. She added the bronze girl “really is that reminder to corporations across the globe.”

    The bronze girl statue, created by artist Kristen Visbal, showed up suddenly much the same way artist Arturo Di Modica’s bronze bull was erected overnight in front of the New York Stock Exchange in 1989. It was later made a permanent installation in the financial district.

    People look at a statue of a girl facing the Wall St. Bull, as part of a campaign by U.S. fund manager State Street to push companies to put women on their boards, in the financial district in New York. Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    State Street Corp worked with the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation to keep the statue for a week, but McNally is negotiating for least a month if not a permanent residence for the bronze girl.

    “We would absolutely be open to it being a permanent installation to that work of art,” McNally said. “We feel very strongly that she is a partner to the bull. She’s daring and confident and symbolizes the can-do spirit of women taking charge today and inspires the next generation of leaders.”

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    Air Force General Paul Selva attends a 2014 Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing in D.C. Photo by Gary Cameron/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A senior U.S. general on Wednesday accused Russia of deploying a land-based cruise missile in violation of “the spirit and intent” of a nuclear arms treaty and charged that Moscow’s intention is to threaten U.S. facilities in Europe and the NATO alliance.

    “We believe that the Russians have deliberately deployed it in order to pose a threat to NATO and to facilities within the NATO area of responsibility,” Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a House Armed Services Committee hearing.

    Selva said he sees no indication that Moscow intends to return to compliance with the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which bans an entire class of weapons — all land-based cruise missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (310 and 3,410 miles). The treaty was a landmark in arms control in the final years of the Cold War.

    Selva’s accusation takes on added political significance in light of President Donald Trump’s stated goal of improving relations with Russia, even as Moscow is perceived by U.S. allies in Europe as a military threat of growing urgency. The alleged treaty violation comes amid multiple congressional investigations of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The FBI also is probing ties between Russia and Trump associates during the campaign.

    Trump has said little about the INF treaty but on multiple occasions has questioned the value of a separate, more recent treaty that limits the number of strategic nuclear weapons the United States and Russia can deploy to 1,550 warheads each, starting in 2018. Trump has said it unfairly advantages Russia. And he has said the U.S. should expand its nuclear weapons capability, although he has not explained what he meant.

    Even before Trump’s election, the Pentagon was weighing implications of a shift in Russian nuclear doctrine that seems to lower the threshold for the combat use of nuclear weapons. The Russians have framed their new thinking as “escalate, to de-escalate,” meaning possibly using a small number of nuclear weapons to persuade an opponent not to escalate the conflict and possibly lead to all-out nuclear war.

    “We have to account … for what that means,” Selva said Wednesday.

    “We’ve begun an investigation of a series of potential strategy changes,” he said, in part by conducting war games and military exercises.

    The Obama administration had hoped to talk Moscow into returning to compliance with the INF treaty but seemed to make no progress. Russia has claimed U.S. missile defenses violate the threat. Asked how the U.S. might respond now that Russian cruise missiles are deployed for potential use, Selva said the military is preparing a set of options to be considered this year by the Trump administration as part of a broader nuclear policy review.

    Selva said he could not publicly discuss those options. When pressed he said the plan is to “look for leverage points to attempt to get the Russians to come back into compliance,” adding, “I don’t know what those leverage points are.”

    The Obama administration had accused Moscow of violating the INF treaty, but Selva’s statement was the first public confirmation of recent news reports that the Russians have deployed the nuclear-capable cruise missile.

    The New York Times, which was first to report the Russian missile deployment, said last month that the Russians have two battalions now in the field. One is at a missile test site at Kapustin Yar and one was moved in December from the test site to an operational base elsewhere in the country. Russia denies that it has violated the INF treaty.

    Some in Congress have expressed alarm at the alleged Russian deployment. Sen. John McCain, the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, last month called on the Trump administration to ensure that U.S. nuclear forces in Europe are ready.

    “Russia’s deployment of nuclear-tipped ground-launched cruise missiles in violation of the INF treaty is a significant military threat to U.S. forces in Europe and our NATO allies,” McCain, R-Ariz., said, adding that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin was “testing” Trump.

    In response to questions at the hearing on Wednesday, Selva said U.S. officials have been talking to Moscow about the alleged treaty violation. He seemed unconvinced that the discussions would be fruitful.

    “I don’t have enough information on their intent to conclude other than they do not intend to return to compliance” with the treaty, he said. “Absent some pressure from the international community and the United States as a co-signer of the same agreement,” there is no logical reason to believe that Moscow intends to end its violations, he added.

    MORE: Once a superpower, how strong is Russia now?

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    Photo by Robert Daly/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — The Senate has voted to repeal a key Obama-era regulation governing teacher training and evaluation.

    Senators voted 59-40 on Wednesday in favor of rescinding regulations issued by the Department of Education in October. The bill now goes to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature.

    The regulations stipulated that federally funded teacher preparation programs must be evaluated based on the academic outcomes of those teachers’ students.

    Republican senators opposed the rules, saying they represented federal overreach and that such matters should be left for states to deal with.

    Senators were using an expedited process established through the Congressional Review Act, a regulation is made invalid when a simple majority of both chambers pass a joint resolution of disapproval and the president signs it.

    WATCH: How Betsy DeVos could reshape national education policy

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    A woman holds a placard during a rally on March 8, 2017 for gender equality and against violence towards women on International Women’s Day in Kiev, Ukraine. Photo by Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters.

    On International Women’s Day, women around the world celebrated by marching in more than 50 countries, taking off from work to make clear what “A Day Without A Woman” would look like and wearing red in solidarity. In New York, a bronze statue of a girl was installed to stare down the iconic Wall Street Bull over gender inequality.

    The day was first observed in 1908 in New York City, where women marched for suffrage and workplace improvements. After several years of continuous demonstrations across the U.S. and Europe, March 8 was officially designated as International Women’s Day. The date is significant because it was the day a women’s march in Pretograd, Russia led to the start of the Russian Revolution.

    This year, the United Nations used the day to shine a light on the 2030 Agenda, an ambitious plan to ensure girls and boys have equal access to education, that discrimination and violence against women are halted, and that forced marriage and female genital mutilation end.

    Below, see photos of International Women’s Day demonstrations from around the world.

    Bangladeshi activists and garment workers attend a rally on March 8, outside National Press Club during International Women’s Day in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo by Zakir Chowdhury/Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

    Thousands of demonstrators attend a rally for International Women’s Day on March 8 in Melbourne, Australia. Marchers were calling for de-colonisation of Australia, an end to racism, economic justice for all women and reproductive justice, as well as supporting the struggle for the liberation of all women around the world, inclusive of trans women and sex workers. Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

    Nigerian women gather on March 8 to protest violation and sexual abuse against women during the World International Women’s Day in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    Costumed women shout slogans during a march on March 8 as part of International Women’s Day in Kiev.  Photo by Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images

    Georgian feminist supporters attend a rally on March 8 to mark the International Women’s Day in front of the Georgian parliament in central Tbilisi. Photo by Vano Shlamov/AFP/Getty Images

    An activist takes part in “A Day Without a Woman” strike on International Women’s Day on March 8 in Washington. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters.

    Palestinian women take part in a demonstration on March 8 to protest against sexual discrimination during the International Women’s Day in front of the unknown soldier’s monument in Gaza City, Gaza. Photo by Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    A man and his dog walk past the sculpture of a woman covered in paper and ropes as part of a performance to protest the lack of visibility of women in public spaces, on March 8, International Women’s Day in Oviedo, Spain. The covered statue is “La Pensadora” (The female Thinker) by Spanish artist Jose Luis Fernandez. Photo by Eloy Alonso/Reuters.

    A statue of a defiant girl stands facing the Charging Bull sculpture in the Financial District of New York on March 8. State Street Global Advisors, a nearly $2.5 trillion investor and unit within State Street Corp., installed the bronze statue in front of Wall Street’s iconic charging bull as part of its new campaign to pressure companies to add more women to their boards. Photo by Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, on this International Women’s Day, she is as beloved as ever. And now, the poet Emily Dickinson is getting even more attention and a new look, in books, online, on film, and in a major museum exhibition.

    Jeffrey Brown reports from New York.

    JEFFREY BROWN: She is at once among the most known and most mysterious of American cultural figures, Emily Dickinson, subject of an exhibition at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York titled, “I’m Nobody! Who Are You?” the first line of one of her most famous poems.

    Who was Emily Dickinson? Scholar Marta Werner offers this:

    MARTA WERNER, D’Youville College: She is a constant summons to me to think about language and its preciseness, and not only its preciseness, but its power.

    WOMAN: These are the days when skies resumed the old.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Here, visitors can listen to readings of the poems, while examining remnants of a circumscribed 19th century life lived almost completely in one town, Amherst, Massachusetts, the only known painting of Dickinson as a child with her siblings, a daguerreotype of her as a young woman, the only authenticated photo of the poet.

    There’s also a lock of her auburn hair, a replica of cut and pressed botanical specimens, and another of the rose wallpaper in the bedroom to which she retreated in her later years.

    This exhibition, with some 100 rarely seen items, is eager to present a different, fresh take on Dickinson.

    Curator Carolyn Vega:

    CAROLYN VEGA, Curator: The stereotype that was attached to her very early on of this total recluse, of this woman in white who never left her bedroom, who penned these amazing verses, like, in a vacuum almost, in total seclusion, has really stuck to her.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You’re fighting that?

    CAROLYN VEGA: Yes, we’re fighting that, or just bringing it into context a little bit.

    JEFFREY BROWN: This Emily Dickinson engaged with her times, including the Civil War years, through her reading and a constant correspondence with friends, leading thinkers, and others.

    Often, she sent poems, sentences, stanzas and entire poems written on scraps of paper and envelopes, even chocolate wrappers, a new book, “Envelope Poems,” as well as the recent “The Gorgeous Nothings,” document this aspect of her work.

    SUSAN HOWE, Poet: By God, she broke the glass ceiling in poetry. And Emily Dickinson is like a beacon of verbal power that will not be silenced.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For Susan Howe, a leading contemporary poet and Dickinson scholar, the powerful voice of Dickinson is best heard and seen in these original manuscripts, the unusual line breaks, alternative word choices, poems as virtual works of art.

    SUSAN HOWE: Ultimately, she leads me to the fundamental mystery of all poetry, which is the relation between the ear and the eye. Every mark on paper is an acoustic mark. Dickinson breaks down the barriers between poetry, prose and ear and eye.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Marta Werner, a leader expert on Dickinson’s manuscripts, showed me an example.

    MARTA WERNER: She talks about wanting to hinder time.

    And as the poem unfolds, the way that the writing almost stumbles, right, performs that hindering of time, but you’re seeing, to some extent, the mind thinking.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The first editions of Dickinson’s poetry came out only after her death in 1886, and, from the beginning, editors ignored her idiosyncrasies and formatted her writings into a more conventional style.

    She wrote some 1,800 poems, but only 10 were published in newspapers during her lifetime.

    MARTA WERNER: It’s unsigned. It’s anonymous. Her name, you know, never appeared in print during her lifetime with any of her poems. It’s dropped in, in the middle of this other column. What comes after it is a little piece on how to use chloroform.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: Dickinson was thought to be reticent about seeing her work, as well as her image in public, so we can only wonder what she’d think of “A Quiet Passion,” a film due in April starring Cynthia Nixon.

    But there’s no denying the continuing fascination with the woman and love of her work, as at marathon readings put on by the Library of Congress, and the restoration under way of her Amherst home.

    And now both scholars and everyday fans have access to a trove of original manuscripts and more online, digitized from the collections of Amherst College, Harvard University and the Boston Public Library.

    Marta Werner offered a personal story that drove home the connection many feel, how her dying father, a scientist, shared his favorite poems.

    MARTA WERNER: It was his idea. He started to write me letters. And then he would ask me to send back my list of poems. This was a very extraordinary thing.

    I think there’s a lot of people like my father who love her and can’t quite say why.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The enduring power and mystery of one of America’s greatest poets.

    From the Morgan Library and Museum in New York, I’m Jeffrey Brown for the PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now a closer look at what could change if the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, is repealed and replaced. The battle is expected to last through the spring, or longer.

    Tonight, we are starting an occasional series on the potential impact if the current Republican leadership plan becomes law.

    First up, the tax credits that go to uninsured people to enable them to buy coverage.

    To qualify under the current law, this is dependent on your income and where you live. The Republican bill is shifting those criteria. Income matters, but age is much more crucial.

    To get a refundable tax credit, some people over 60 could qualify for $4,000 a year. Those between 40 and 50 years old could qualify for $3,000 a year. People under 30 could get $2,000.

    Here’s the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Kevin Brady, talking about the Republican approach.

    REP. KEVIN BRADY, R-Texas: I think a key element of the tax credit is that it is really targeted and tailored to the individual. It is a credit that is immediately available to them. It grows and increases with age because your health care costs go up as you get older.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: To help break all this down, I’m joined by Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News. She follows this closely.

    Welcome back to the program, Julie. So, why did the Republicans decide to change these criteria?

    JULIE ROVNER, Kaiser Health News: Well, one of the problems with the existing credits is that not enough young, healthy people were signing up. So this is an effort to say, we want to get more young, healthy people into the pool.

    And, now, while the credits are smaller for younger people, they’re also going to reduce their premiums by changing how insurers can charge. Right now, insurers can only charge three times as much for older people as younger people. They’re going to make that five times as much. So that’s going to make premiums much less expensive for the younger people, hence, even the smaller tax credit will go further.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So how much is this expected to change the group of people who then will be able to be eligible for the tax credit?

    JULIE ROVNER: Well, it’s not entirely clear. It’s going to change who are winners and losers. Older people will, obviously, have to pay more.

    Even though they get twice as big a tax credit, they could be charged five times as much in premiums. So it’s not at all clear that it’s going to entice that many more younger people to join up.

    Republicans also wanted to sort of scale back how complicated the tax credits are under the current Affordable Care Act, and this would definitely do that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do we have a way of knowing how much premiums would change in cost?

    JULIE ROVNER: Well, we don’t, other than the facts that premiums could — premiums could change for a lot of different reasons.

    But one of the important things here is that premiums vary by where you live because health care cost different amounts in different parts of the country. So, if you live in a low-cost part of the country, that same flat tax credit would go much further than if you live in a much more expensive part of the country.

    The current Affordable Care Act tax credits take that into account, because they are based on how much the insurance costs in your area. These are not.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, that geography issue is another significant change here.

    JULIE ROVNER: That’s right.

    It’s really the way it all acts together. It’s not just the tax credits. It’s the tax credits, plus what they’re based on, plus how old you are, plus where you live, and a little bit of income. The Affordable Care Act tax credits are based almost exclusively on your income. They basically say you only have to spend a certain percentage of your income to afford health insurance.

    That’s not what these tax credits would do. And the Republicans hope that there would be insurance available that would match or at least almost match these tax credits, so that people could afford to buy coverage.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, we see, Julie, that among the more conservative Republicans, they are still unhappy with this approach.

    JULIE ROVNER: They are very unhappy. They call it Obamacare-lite.

    They are tax credits. They’re available to people even who don’t owe any taxes. And Republicans say that’s a new entitlement, and why should they be voting for a new entitlement, if they were going to repeal the old one?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And the leadership defense of it is what?

    JULIE ROVNER: Well, the leadership defense of it is, they want people — they don’t want to throw people off of their coverage. There are a lot of people who got coverage based on the existing tax credits.

    There might be different people who could afford insurance on the new tax credits, but at least they wouldn’t be taking them away and telling everybody, we’re not going to be giving you any help anymore. You’re on your own.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And quickly, Julie, under this new proposal, would there be a lapse in coverage, some kind of penalty? What is in there to protect people who are now covered?

    JULIE ROVNER: Well, rather the individual mandate, where people are required to either have coverage or pay a penalty, what this says is, if you have a lapse of more than 63 days, and then you sign up again, you have to pay 30 percent more for a year.

    So, there would be a penalty when you re-up, basically, instead of a penalty for not having coverage.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Julie Rovner, we thank you.

    JULIE ROVNER: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And next time, we’re going to take a closer look at the Medicaid changes proposed in the American Health Care Act.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: There’s a giant crack in an ice shelf of the Antarctic that’s been the source of much attention this winter, and is raising new concerns over the larger stability of the ice there.

    Miles O’Brien has the story, the focus of this week’s Leading Edge.

    MILES O’BRIEN: If glaciology is all that it is cracked up to be, this long, fast-growing rift in the Antarctic ice is a huge iceberg in the making, one of the largest ever seen, about the size of Delaware.

    Welcome to the Larsen Sea Ice Shelf, teetering on the edge of breaking away from the glacier.

    So, we have known about this for quite a while, right?

    KELLY BRUNT, University of Maryland: We have certainly known about the bulk of this rift for a while. It’s this accelerated propagation that’s really new.

    MILES O’BRIEN: It’s moving fast.

    KELLY BRUNT: Moving fast.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Kelly Brunt is a glaciologist at the University of Maryland and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

    She used a wall of monitors there to show me the growing rift, fueled in part by rising air and sea temperatures. If the glaciers in West Antarctica all dropped into the water, global sea level would rise by more than 15 feet.

    Brunt showed me the big picture, a composite of images from several satellites. This is how the glacier ice flows here.

    KELLY BRUNT: Ice flows from the center of the continent out to the edges, much like syrup on the center of your pancake flowing towards the edges. And you can see there are areas where it’s moving pretty slowly, and then there are areas where it’s moving very quickly. And those quick places are generally in our areas of ice shelves.

    MILES O’BRIEN: So, when we think about ice, we think about something static. It’s not static, is it?

    KELLY BRUNT: Not at all. Actually, it’s highly dynamic. You can see from this image it looks to me a lot like a river system.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Ice shelves are connected to the glaciers that sit on land, but they are also floating, like ice cubes in a glass of water.

    KELLY BRUNT: If you had a drink with ice cubes in it, as those ice cube melts, they don’t add to the height of the water in the glass. So when ice shelves break down and collapse, they do not have a direct impact on mean sea level rise.

    However, they have an indirect effect. These ice shelves buttress the flow of the ice upstream, the ice that’s flowing into the system. And when you lose that buttressing force, you allow the upstream glaciers to flow faster. So that’s similar to putting more ice cubes into the glass and letting those melt.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Ice falls off the edge of glaciers all the time. It is part of a natural process called calving. Kelly Brunt says it is important to judge the size of the piece that breaks off relative to the size of the glacier that is behind it.

    She says your fingernails offer a handy model.

    KELLY BRUNT: If you break your fingernail inside the white part of your fingernail, you probably don’t think much of it. If you break it below the white part, you put a Band-Aid on it, you think about it and you keep an eye on it.

    If you lose your whole fingernail, I don’t know what happens. It’s pretty catastrophic. This represents losing the whole fingernail.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Like so many features in Antarctica, the Larsen Ice Shelf is named for a famous 19th century explorer. And it is disappearing, section by section, identified by letters.

    Larsen A disintegrated in 1995. And, in 2002, a series of satellite images captured the end of Larsen B in dramatic fashion over the course of six weeks. The piece that broke off was the size of Rhode Island.

    KELLY BRUNT: Losing this much ice, losing ice that represents roughly the state of Rhode Island in a month-and-a-half, just far exceeded anybody’s expectations of what could happen in the time scale that it could happen.

    MILES O’BRIEN: So, it was kind of like, we have to rethink things here a little bit. I mean, this is a wakeup call.

    KELLY BRUNT: This was absolutely a wakeup call.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Scientists track the ice using a half-dozen U.S. and European satellites, including Landsat, which gathered these images. But some of their best data came from a satellite called ICESat. Launched in 2003, it ceased operation in 2009. It precisely measured the glaciers using laser beams.

    KELLY BRUNT: This is quite a few years of ICESat data merged together to get a sense in meters per year how our ice sheet is changing.

    And you can see, the big picture here is that our ice sheets are changing where they are in contact with both our warming atmosphere and a warming ocean. So, it’s basically along the fringe of the continent.

    MILES O’BRIEN: When ICESat failed, NASA started tracking the ice using radar and lasers on board low-flying aircraft.

    The IceBridge program is NASA’s largest air campaign ever, but it still could not match the eye above the sky.

    It goes without saying that you would view these satellites, the capability to look at this, as essential?

    KELLY BRUNT: What we’re talking about is a calving of an iceberg that’s a size of a state. To get that, you really need a satellite to be able to see all of it in one shot.

    It’s a function of scale and repeatability to go back and look at that area again with the satellite that makes these the perfect tools for looking at the large-scale change that we’re seeing in this region.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Next year, NASA plans to launch a new and improved satellite to watch the ice. Most likely, the Larsen C Ice Shelf will be long gone by then. As the climate warms, there is no end in sight to the steady loss of ice here.

    Miles O’Brien, the PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: At least 13 protesters were arrested in New York City today, as strikes and rallies unfolded across the globe in the name of women.

    International Women’s Day became A Day Without Women in some American cities. Thousands stayed away from work and took to the streets partly to demonstrate contributions that women make to the economy.

    NELINI STAMP, Protester: There is a massive resistance movement that is growing. We are a part of it. But we need to put our bodies on our line.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In Washington, a march to the White House targeted a reinstatement of the so-called global gag rule. It denies foreign aid to groups that provide abortions or related services.

    SERRA SIPPEL, President, CHANGE: This is about denying health providers from providing health care, just information about women’s options and choices.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Overall, the marches were smaller than the one million or so who turned out after President Trump’s inauguration, but leading women in Congress appeared outside the Capitol dressed in red, the color associated with the labor movement and today’s strike.

    California Democrat Barbara Lee pushed back against criticism that only privileged women could afford to stay home.

    REP. BARBARA LEE, D-Calif.: We also recognize that there are millions of women are unable to walk out because they might get fired or cannot afford to lose their meager incomes. So, we walked out for them, too.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Teachers at the Washington rally said much the same, as the strike forced some school systems to close, leaving families to find last-minute child care.

    KELLI WRIGHT, Teacher: There’s power in numbers. And I happen to work for a school district that had to close because we all took leave. So, if we just keep fighting for stuff like this and we stand our ground, then change can come.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, another crowd rallied at the Department of Labor, calling for pay equity and other rights, at a time when American women earn 80 cents for every dollar a man makes.

    President Trump tweeted a general statement of support this morning. “I have tremendous respect for women,” he said, “and the many roles they serve that are vital to the fabric of our society and our economy.”

    And first lady Melania Trump and the president’s daughter Ivanka hosted a small White House luncheon in honor of the day.

    Meanwhile, protests played out internationally, from Mexico City, to Istanbul, Turkey.

    For more on the women’s movement and what today’s events represent, we turn to Farida Jalalzai. She’s author of the book “Shattered, Cracked and Firmly Intact: Women and the Executive Glass Ceiling Worldwide.” She teaches political science at Oklahoma State University. And Rebecca Traister, writer-at-large for “New York” magazine and author of the book “All the Single ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of An Independent Nation.”

    And we welcome both of you to the program.

    I’m going to start with you, Farida Jalalzai.

    What do you think today’s protests marches say about the state of the women’s movement in this country right now?

    FARIDA JALALZAI, Oklahoma State University: I think it states that it’s essentially strong. It’s burgeoning.

    I think it’s a moment that women have seized on to say, we’re not going to just stop the post-inauguration activities. We’re here. We’re trying to build on momentum, and we’re trying to bring to the floor lots of different issues that are about women’s empowerment.

    But, in many ways, it’s larger than that. And so I’m very optimistic, from what I have actually seen as an academic, thinking that it could have just been a point that fizzled. And I’m seeing that there’s this building of strength and just even conversations that we’re having today that we wouldn’t have had a year ago, actually. I’m very surprised, and pleasantly so.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Rebecca Traister, you’re nodding your head. What is it about today? I mean, there were marches in some places, not everywhere. What did it say?

    REBECCA TRAISTER, Author, “All The Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation”: Well, I think — I think it says that the kind of mass reaction and mass resistance that we saw in such huge numbers in January is — it remains, that women are engaged politically, that they’re interested in working together.

    As Farida said, it’s not — these are not issues we’re seeing anymore in the way that we have historically, as compartmentalized, as just about reproductive rights. You had a reproductive rights demonstration. You had a wage demonstration.

    This is in concert with women who have been striking around the world. There is an international — there is history of this strike and this movement around the world. This is the United States working in solidarity with women globally, which is new on this scale.

    And I think what you’re seeing is women in huge numbers participating in political resistance and raising their voices in ways that we have not seen in decades in this country. And it wasn’t a one-off in January. You see another mass uprising today.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: At the same time, Farida Jalalzai, what percentage of American women are represented by something like what happened today? We know not every woman’s views are represented here.

    FARIDA JALALZAI: Well, you’re not going to represent everybody’s views, but I don’t think that the conversation has been limiting at all in terms of being more broad.

    In fact, I think it’s just been the opposite, where, when you look at the leadership, say, for example, of the women’s march in D.C., this was led by and it spoke to lots of diverse women. And if we can’t capture all women, you know, that’s something that it can’t be disappointing, because there’s no way that we could capture every single heart and mind of every single woman, but that it’s, I think, more broad than what we would maybe expect it to be, maybe limited to maybe white, privileged, upper-class women.

    It’s not. The discussion and I think the representation has actually been much broader. And, in many respects, it’s because the demands have been there for it to be broad.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Rebecca Traister, how much room is there in the women’s movement for debate and discussion around questions like pay equity, equal rights for women, and all of its interpretations?

    REBECCA TRAISTER: Well, the women’s movement itself has always been, by definition, cacophonous, full of dissent. It’s been motivated by dissent.

    In part, that’s because it’s a majority movement. When you talk about women’s liberation or women’s equality, you’re talking about the liberation and equality of more than half of our population. And when you try to organize around a majority, what you get is an enormous array of perspectives, experiences, races, classes, economic positions.

    And, of course, if you’re going to try to work on a movement that extends to represent all those different positions and perspectives, it’s going to be full of dissent, and differ people thinking that we should operate in different ways. That’s a sign that the movement is healthy.

    And I think it is — the fact that there is dissent within those — amongst the people who are participating is a sign that people are engaged and feel passionate about taking a hand in what direction we’re going to go.

    The fact that women oppose it as well, you know, that there are conservative women, we wouldn’t have had patriarchal power structures if there weren’t women there to support it. That’s nothing new. There are always going to be women who in some way disagree about the direction that women’s rights should go.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Farida Jalalzai, both of you are suggesting the women’s movement of today is a movement that has evolved since the ’60s and the — 1960s and 1970s.

    How do you measure success for the kinds of statements these women today are making?

    FARIDA JALALZAI: That’s a really difficult question to answer, but I will give it my best shot.

    Measuring success, sustained activity, asking, claiming different aspects of representation be represented fully. I think a lot of it is raising a lot of these policy areas and being broad, and not just focusing on even women’s empowerment, but how do you empower marginalized groups?

    And part of it does have to, I think, in some ways, be linked to the political elites. You know, there’s a lot to be gained from mass movements. And I would like that to also be in accordance with more women actually running and attempting to be the lawmakers.

    And I have this belief that, when you have women towards maybe the bottom end as citizens who are articulating demands, that I also want to see greater representation of women within political — the political realm as policy-makers.

    And, to me, that’s the success, the sustained conversation, the policies that are ultimately proposed and hopefully passed, and also the ways that we can say the diversity amongst public officials has broadened, to include people of different genders and races.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    Rebecca Traister, what about that? How do you measure — clearly, part of this is getting more women elected with these views, but what more?

    REBECCA TRAISTER: More women elected, more women running, even if they don’t — more women participating in the process.

    And the other half of that, which we have seen in an unprecedented way — not in my memory have I ever seen so many people participating in the act of political resistance, not just the demonstrations, but the calling and writing their representatives, finding out about policy and legislation.

    I have never seen so many people, women and men, as politically engaged as they have been. And we can see some of the fruits of that being brought to bear. We see public officials being hesitant on health care reform, you know, on repealing Obamacare.

    A month ago, I would have sat here and told you that’s going to be the first — they have been promising they’re going to repeal it. It’s a bad idea.

    The numbers of people who are calling their representatives and saying, don’t do this, who are holding town halls, and that is being enabled by the mass women’s movement, because the success of the marches and protests like this are making people feel like, wait, I want to be a part of this movement that resists this power structure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we see a lot of energy around what’s going on today.

    REBECCA TRAISTER: That’s the crucial thing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And today is just a snapshot. It’s something we’re going to continue to watch.

    Rebecca Traister, Farida Jalalzai, thank you both.

    FARIDA JALALZAI: Thank you.

    The post What a day on strike says about the women’s movement appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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