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

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    U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a news conference Mar. 7 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Schumer and other Democrats sent a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky warning them about adding billions of dollars to an upcoming spending bill for a U.S.-Mexico border wall. Photo by REUTERS/Eric Thayer.

    WASHINGTON — Top Senate Democrats are warning Republicans controlling Congress against adding billions of dollars for President Donald Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall to an upcoming $1 trillion-plus catchall spending package.

    The warning from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and others came in a Monday letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The letter also warns against adding other “poison pills” such as provisions to roll back environmental or consumer protections and urges additional money for domestic programs to match the administration’s planned Pentagon increases.

    “We believe it would be inappropriate to insist on the inclusion of (wall) funding in a must-pass appropriations bill that is needed for the Republican majority in control of the Congress to avert a government shutdown so early in President Trump’s administration,” said the letter, which was provided to The Associated Press. Trump crisscrossed the country last year campaigning for the wall, claiming that he could convince Mexico to pay for it.

    READ MORE: Paul Ryan: Congress will pay billions for border wall

    At issue is a huge package of leftover spending bills for the fiscal year that began back in October. Congress faces an April 28 deadline to complete the measure and avert a partial government shutdown. It’s separate from Trump’s upcoming partial budget submission for the 2018 budget year that begins on Oct. 1. That proposal is expected on Thursday.

    The funding issue is sure to prove difficult to solve — a partial shutdown of the government late next month appears to be a real possibility — and would require a capacity for bipartisan compromise that hasn’t been on display yet in the Trump era.

    The letter from Democrats implicitly threatens a filibuster showdown if Republicans try to attach to the must-do legislation controversial Trump agenda items. Any filibuster and shutdown confrontation would spark a high-stakes political battle.

    While the letter says it would be “inappropriate” to include money for the border wall, it says Democrats would “strongly oppose” other provisions, including moves against Wall Street regulations or even an attempt to “defund” Planned Parenthood. Schumer demurred when asked last week whether he would lead a filibuster over funding for the wall, but Monday’s letter appears intended to show that Democrats are unified against the idea. Trump also is preparing a request for additional border control and immigration agents.

    READ MORE: Here’s what the Mexico border wall looks like now

    “All 12 appropriations bills should be completed and they should not include poison pill riders such as those that roll back protections for our veterans, environment, consumers and workers and prohibit funds for critical health care services for women through Planned Parenthood. We strongly oppose the inclusion of such riders in any of the must-pass appropriations bills that fund the government,” the letter states.

    Democrats’ votes are needed to pass the measure through the Senate, unlike the chamber’s agenda so far this year, including Trump’s Cabinet nominees, a looming measure to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, and a spate of bills to repeal recent Obama administration regulations. But talks have barely begun, and the undermanned Trump administration has yet to weigh in with its expected request for money for the wall and Pentagon buildup.

    Money for Trump’s border wall is just the beginning of the political complications facing the must-do measure, which would advance as Republicans and Trump are grappling with their controversial health care law repeal. It could be difficult to avert a clash between Trump and Schumer, and tea party GOP forces are sure to be upset with whatever outcome Democrats eventually agree to.

    The post Democrats warn against funding Mexico border wall in catchall spending bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    EDITOR’S NOTE: A look at the veracity of claims by political figures

    WASHINGTON — Some of Donald Trump’s boasts from the first weeks of his presidency were dashed by developments in recent days. For example, builders of the Keystone XL pipeline were let off the hook from a buy-American requirement that Trump had promised.

    On another front, though, there’s now some substance behind his cherry-picking claims that jobs are growing under his watch. A robust jobs report gave him a fresh load of cherries.

    Over the past week, Trump took credit when it was not always due and assigned blame that was misplaced. Two of his Cabinet members went rogue on science and history: One dismissed the consensus on the leading cause of global warming, and the other lumped slaves together with immigrants.

    A look at some of those recent claims by Trump and his team:

    TRUMP, in a tweet Tuesday: “122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield. Just another terrible decision!”

    THE FACTS: Wrong administration, for the most part.

    A national intelligence report says 122 men who were held at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. base in Cuba, were confirmed to have re-engaged in hostilities after their release. But 113 of them were freed during George W. Bush’s presidency and only nine during Obama’s. The report said an additional 86 released prisoners were suspected of returning to militant activities; nearly all of those prisoners were let go under Bush.


    SEAN SPICER: Trump press secretary, in a tweet Friday: “Great news for American workers: economy added 235,000 new jobs, unemployment rate drops to 4.7% in first report for @POTUS Trump.”

    THE FACTS: Spicer accurately cited the official unemployment rate, a statistic his boss repeatedly denounced as bogus when it reflected favorably on Obama.

    During the campaign and again after his election, as Obama-era unemployment dropped to and hovered at healthier levels, Trump claimed the real jobless rate was on the order of 40 percent or more. He got that number by counting people who could conceivably work, including millions who don’t want to because they are retirees, students or otherwise out of the workforce by choice. “The unemployment number, as you know, is totally fiction,” Trump said in December after his victory.

    READ MORE: Steady jobs growth clears the way for interest rate hike

    Now, the 4.7 unemployment rate for February — down from 4.8 percent — is being hailed as evidence of Trump’s employment revival. Challenged about the inconsistency, Spicer cracked that Trump had specifically told him in reference to the unemployment reports: “They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.”

    There was more good news for Trump’s first full month in office: gains in pay as well as the addition of 235,000 jobs.


    TRUMP, in a video Monday about Exxon Mobil investments in the Gulf region: “This is something that was done to a large extent because of our policies and the policies of this new administration. I said we’re bringing back jobs. This is one big example of it.”

    THE FACTS: That’s a big stretch because the company’s “Growing the Gulf” program involves investments that started in 2013 and are continuing until 2022 at least. The company’s announcement added details to its plan to spend $20 billion over 10 years on refineries, chemical and liquefied natural gas plants along the Gulf Coast. It was latest in a string of corporate announcements about jobs and spending that date back to plans made when Obama was president.


    SPICER, at a briefing Wednesday: “If you’re looking at the CBO for accuracy, you’re looking in the wrong place.” He added: “I mean they were way, way off the last time in every aspect of how they scored and projected Obamacare.”

    READ MORE: Fact Check: Spicer’s Pre-emptive Attack on the Nonpartisan C.B.O.

    THE FACTS: Though no projection can be flawless, the Congressional Budget Office is the best place to look for accurate, nonpartisan forecasts of the impact of legislation, according to many Republicans, Democrats and independent analysts whose high esteem for the office is a rare point of consensus in politically charged Washington.

    The congressional scorekeepers were largely right on most broad points about Obama’s health care law, not way off on “every aspect.” They correctly predicted that insurance coverage would expand substantially and that employer-sponsored coverage would not plunge.

    Spicer accurately called them out on one front: CBO forecasters thought 23 million people would be enrolled in the law’s exchanges last year, and the number proved to be about 12 million. Experts said CBO was off on that estimate in part because it overestimated the extent to which the individual mandate, which penalizes uninsured people, would prompt them to buy coverage.

    The office will be scoring the expected impact of a Trump-backed plan to “repeal and replace” Obama’s law. Spicer’s criticism appeared designed to soften the ground if the CBO predicts the new plan would result in widespread loss of health coverage.


    BEN CARSON, housing and urban affairs secretary, in a speech Monday to his staff: “There were other immigrants who came here on the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less.”

    THE FACTS: In history’s eyes, that statement was at least a faux pas, because slaves are not considered immigrants.

    READ MORE: Ben Carson refers to slaves as ‘immigrants’ in first speech to HUD

    Carson, the only black Cabinet member, later amended his comment, calling slaves “involuntary immigrants.”

    Rana Hogarth, a history professor and expert on American slavery at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said comparing slaves to immigrants was “inappropriate and wildly inaccurate.” She said immigration “suggests a desire of a person to make the journey.”


    SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, White House spokeswoman, on why Trump’s directive on the use of U.S. steel and pipe does not apply to the Keystone XL project, March 3: “It’s specific to new pipelines or those that are being repaired” and since “the steel is already literally sitting there, it would be hard to go back.”

    THE FACTS: With that explanation, Trump’s story about demanding U.S. content in two pipeline projects vaporized. Keystone XL would not be subjected to the requirement. Nor would the Dakota Access pipeline, because it’s all but complete.

    Keystone pipeline won’t use U.S. steel despite Trump pledge

    Trump had earlier described “getting ready to sign Keystone and Dakota” directives reviving both projects and coming up with the idea of inserting a clause ensuring “we’re gonna make that pipe right here in America.” The material “comes from the United States or we’re not building it.”

    No such clause was inserted. Instead, he signed an executive action calling for pipelines to be made from U.S. materials “to the maximum extent possible and to the extent permitted by law.” That’s short of a mandate and, in any event, excludes the two pipelines.


    TRUMP, in one of a series of tweets March 4: “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

    THE FACTS: Trump’s startling accusation that Obama tapped his phones during the campaign was presented without evidence when he made it and nothing has emerged in the week since to support it.

    READ MORE: House committee wants evidence for Trump’s wiretap claim

    FBI Director James Comey privately asked the Justice Department to dispute the claim because he believed it to be untrue, lawmakers from both parties were baffled by it and Trump’s aides could not explain the basis of it.

    As if to explain the Obama administration’s taste for snooping generally, Spicer asserted that Fox News Channel reporter James Rosen “had his phones, multiple phones, tapped,” by the Obama administration. That’s not what happened, as far as is known. Eric Holder, then the attorney general, got a judge’s permission to look through records of Rosen’s phone calls and emails from 2009 as the government sought to identify the leaker for a Rosen story about North Korea. That tells who was on a call and when, but not what was discussed.


    SCOTT PRUITT, EPA administrator, in a CNBC interview Thursday, on the impact of carbon dioxide, or human activity, on global warming: “No, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

    THE FACTS: That’s contrary to a scientific consensus and the conclusions of a variety of U.S. government agencies, including his own.

    Pruitt was asked specifically about carbon dioxide as a cause for global warming. He answered more generally, saying there is “tremendous uncertainty” about the impact of human-generated heat-trapping gases.

    READ MORE: EPA chief: Carbon dioxide not primary cause of warming

    In either case, he’s swimming against a tide of research.

    All man-made greenhouse gases— carbon dioxide, methane, halocarbons and nitrogen oxide — are responsible for about 60 times more added warming than natural causes, according to calculations from the Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change organized by the United Nations. Just carbon dioxide alone contributes 33 times more added warming than natural causes.


    Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein, Matthew Daly, Christopher S. Rugaber, Jesse J. Holland and Andrew Taylor in Washington, Ben Fox in Miami and David Bauder in New York contributed to this report.

    The post AP FACT CHECK: Cabinet members go rogue on science, history appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WASHINGTON — A veteran Iowa Republican congressman says America can’t restore “our civilization with somebody else’s babies” and warns of a liberal effort to break down Western civilization.

    Rep. Steve King, in a tweet Sunday, paid tribute to a Dutch politician who opposes immigration and has spoken against Islam. It came as the Dutch prepare for an election Wednesday.

    King, who has served in the U.S. House since 2003, said Geert Wilders “understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

    In an interview Monday on CNN, King said he stood by his remarks. King said, “I meant exactly what I said,” and noted that he delivers the same message to countries in Europe.

    “We need to get our birth rates up or Europe will be entirely transformed within a half a century or a little more,” King said.

    King said he wants Americans to promote its own birth rate and culture to avoid the same fate.

    Rep. Steve King (R-IA) talks with CNN’s Chris Cuomo to defend a controversial passage in a tweet supporting Dutch politician Geert Wilders which read, “we cannot defend our civilization with someone else’s babies.”

    When asked whether he is promoting a kind of white nationalism, King said the debate isn’t about advancing a particular race but rather advancing American culture and Western civilization.

    “This is an effort on the left, I think, to break down the American civilization, the American culture and turn it into something entirely different. I’m a champion for Western civilization,” he said.

    Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, took issue with King’s comments.

    “First of all, I do not agree with Congressman King’s statement,” Kaufmann said in a press release. “We are a nation of immigrants, and diversity is the strength of any nation and any community.”

    King is known for making racially charged commentary. Last year, at the Republican National Convention, King questioned contributions to civilization by nonwhites. In 2013, he described children in the country illegally as having “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’ve been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

    The post Rep. Steve King: U.S. doesn’t need ‘somebody else’s babies’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel holds a news conference Mar. 10 after a EU Summit at the European Council headquarters in Brussels. Merkel heads to the U.S. this week for a meeting with President Donald Trump. Photo by REUTERS/Eric Vidal.

    BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel heads to Washington on Monday ahead of her first meeting with President Donald Trump. The encounter between the trained physicist and veteran politician, renowned for her measured comments and reserved style, and the billionaire real-estate outsider whose off-the-cuff tweets and undiplomatic approach have rocked American politics could produce an interesting dynamic.

    But despite the difference in styles, hopes are high that Europe’s most powerful leader will be able to use her savvy and experience to dispel some of the angst that has grown internationally over the first weeks of Trump’s administration.

    Though she’s talked by phone with Trump, Tuesday’s meeting in person with the new president will present her with a good opportunity to get a read of “who is calling the shots” and “who has the president’s ear,” said Sylke Tempel, an expert with the German Council on Foreign Relations.

    READ MORE: Trump and Merkel to discuss NATO, terrorism in next week’s meeting

    “You can only find that out when you’re there, and this is a situation where she’s particularly good because she observes things,” Tempel said.

    In Merkel’s 12 years as chancellor she worked well with both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and she’s also demonstrated that she won’t be pushed around by leaders who try to use what Tempel called “macho” tactics with her.

    “Putin tried that on her, Erdogan tried that and there are quite a few others,” Tempel said. “She has an enormous amount of patience, an internal calm and self-confidence, and the kind of personality that would say ‘I’ve seen macho characters come and go, and I’ve seen men making a lot of mistakes.'”

    In addition to establishing a relationship with Trump and getting a firsthand read of the new White House dynamics, there are a wide range of issues that Merkel is expected to address.

    With Trump’s “America first” economic leanings, his questioning of multilateral trade deals and enthusiastic endorsement of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, Merkel’s main goal is expected to be to impress upon the president her view that a strong EU is also in Washington’s strategic and economic interests.

    Alluding to this, she told Parliament on Thursday that she plans to emphasize that “even if in parts of the world we see protectionist and nationalist approaches on the rise, Europe may never isolate, seal itself off or withdraw.”

    She’s bringing with her a trade delegation that reportedly includes the heads of both BMW and Siemens, whose companies together employ around 120,000 people in the U.S. in their factories and related businesses.

    READ MORE: Merkel supports international cooperation in advance of Trump presidency

    Trade between the U.S. and Europe is “advantageous for both sides,” Merkel said after meeting German business leaders in Munich on Monday.

    “Talking directly is always much better than talking about each other,” she said. “That will be my motto on this visit, which I am looking forward to.”

    Trump has vocalized several other differences with Merkel, notably on the campaign trail last year when he called her decision in 2015 to allow 890,000 asylum seekers into Germany a “disaster” and said that “Hillary Clinton wants to be America’s Angela Merkel.”

    Trump has also openly suggested that NATO is obsolete and has urged European countries to live up to commitments to spend at least 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense, though U.S. Vice President Mike Pence reassured Europeans in Munich last month that America’s commitment to the alliance was “unwavering.” Trump has elicited European concerns on multiple other issues, too, including his more friendly approach to Russia and his position on climate change.

    In pointed remarks about Germany specifically, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro last month said that the country was using a “grossly undervalued” euro to “exploit” the U.S. and EU, and last week singled out the U.S. deficit with Germany as “one of the most difficult” trade issues Washington faces.

    Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble scoffed at the idea Germany was somehow using currency manipulation to bolster exports, telling a group of foreign reporters in Berlin last week that the trade surplus was due to “the competitiveness of German industry” — in other words, Germany makes products Americans want to buy.

    Despite the differences, Merkel told Parliament she would emphasize how much the U.S. and Europe have in common.

    “I am deeply convinced that the trans-Atlantic partnership based on common values is in all of our interests, not only for us Europeans,” she said.

    “I’ll hold my talks with President Donald Trump in this spirit. Precisely because the nature of the trans-Atlantic relationship has changed, Europe has decided to take more responsibility in the future, both in our own neighborhood and beyond.”

    The post Merkel heads to U.S. for first meeting with Trump appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Emily Dickinson is back. Perhaps she never really went away. But in recent months, she has begun popping up in film, books, online and in a major museum exhibition.

    “A Quiet Passion,” a film about the poet’s life starring Cynthia Nixon, is due out in April. Amherst College, Harvard University and the Boston Public Library have digitized a collection of her original manuscripts. And a new exhibition on Dickinson — called “I’m Nobody! Who Are You?” — opened in January at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York.

    NewsHour Arts Correspondent Jeffrey Brown visited the museum, where visitors can listen to Dickinson’s poems, view the only known painting of the reclusive poet and even see a lock of her hair.

    While there, Brown also interviewed leading contemporary poet and Dickinson scholar Susan Howe, who read for himThere’s a certain Slant of light” — one of Dickinson’s most-beloved poems.

    When asked to unpack the poem line by line, here’s what Howe had to say:

    It seems to me to be the essential New England landscape poem of winter … It’s both a landscape, but also a profoundly metaphysical statement.

    When the dead, when the soul leaves the body, there’s this extraordinary distance. If you have seen a dead body, it’s true. The distance — it’s an impossible distance between the soul and the body, between life or death. But that she would say ‘a certain slant of light,’ that is so perfect.

    [Like] late four in the afternoon, when the light is so intense and there’s that word — ‘slant’ — it’s the perfect word. And then, she [writes]  that it ‘oppresses like the heft of cathedral tunes.’ Well, she’s not living in a cathedral. America’s not a place, or certainly not New England, of cathedrals. There are churches, but [she used] the syllabic ‘cathedral’ and then, ‘the heft.’ What an odd word to use: ‘heft.’

    That is so Noah Webster, because Noah Webster is a Calvinist dictionary. The Webster Dictionary before the Civil War is Calvinist and Dickinson uses her dictionary. If you’re really reading Dickinson, you need to go to Webster and see how he defines the word ‘heft’ — not the Oxford. And then the ‘H’s’: ‘heavenly,’ ‘hurt,’ it does give us heavenly hurt. It gives a kind of hurt in the soul.

    ‘We can find no scar,’ — where that word ‘scar’ speaks to ‘slant’ — but ‘internal difference where the meanings are,’ that is just so fabulous. Because you know the way you feel when you sit in the late afternoon light? It’s so lonely, it’s like it’s just internal. It’s a difference in what the actual meanings that we don’t talk about — but feel — are.

    And ‘the seal despair’ that she [writes], ‘an imperial affliction.’ We’re back with ‘cathedrals’ and ‘imperial.’ Imperial in America — imperial affliction. The L’s, the syllables, it’s just brilliant word use in such brevity.

    Howe’s comments have been edited lightly for clarity.

    In the video below, Brown takes us inside the Morgan Library and Museum’s new Dickinson exhibit:

    The post Watch poet Susan Howe read this Dickinson poem on life and death appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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

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

    Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump said he predicted rates for health insurance will go “down, down, down” if Congress passes the House GOP health care bill.

    Trump says the number of plans available to consumers will go up with changes to the law.

    The president is meeting with about a dozen people affected by the Obama health care law at the White House. House Republicans are trying to dismantle Obama’s law, but their plan to replace it has opposition within the GOP.

    Trump says even if Republicans don’t do anything, “It’s going to blow itself off the map.”

    The meeting comes ahead of a Congressional Budget Office analysis that is expected to find that fewer Americans would be covered under the Republican plan.

    PBS Newshour will update this story as it develops.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Spicer expected to address GOP health care overhaul in news briefing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson flies to Asia tomorrow for high-stakes visits to Japan, South Korea and China, as tensions in the region mount over North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, but not flying with Tillerson, the State Department press corps, a significant change from prior administrations.

    This comes amid reports that Tillerson has been sidelined by the White House on some major international issues, and that it wants to slash State’s budget by 37 percent.

    Here to walk us through all this and more is chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner.

    Margaret, welcome.

    So, what do you make of all this?

    MARGARET WARNER: Judy, there is just no doubt this — Rex Tillerson is the lowest-profile secretary of state in modern times.

    He has not uttered a word publicly in the United States since arrival comments when he joined state on February 2. Overseas, he does give prepared remarks, but never takes a question from reporters.

    This issue about taking the press corps on such an important trip, that began with Henry Kissinger, who recognized it was very useful. He could background reporters, get U.S. policy out there, help shape the coverage.

    I’m told that, at the G20 meeting in Germany, where his prepared remarks were very well-received, he had a private meeting with the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov. Obviously, there are a lot of issues there. And he didn’t want to do a joint press conference with Lavrov or have anything to say.

    And his aides said, look, if you don’t say something, the Russians get to characterize this meeting.

    So, he went before the American reporters who were there and he read a short statement, took no questions.

    Here in Washington, he has not been included in allied leaders, important allied leaders’ visits like the Japanese prime minister or Benjamin Netanyahu. He didn’t even present the annual human rights report 10 days ago, which secretaries always do in the Briefing Room to demonstrate how important that issue is to the U.S.

    And, in fact, the State Department didn’t have a daily press briefing, as they have had ever since the ’50s, until about 10 days ago.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, how much influence, Margaret, is it believed that he has internally?

    MARGARET WARNER: That remains something of a mystery, Judy.

    And we can’t discount him. Here’s the former CEO of ExxonMobil. Tonight, he’s going on a really important mission, as you explained in your intro, tomorrow. He’s having dinner tonight with the president and with the national security adviser, General McMaster.

    And, so far, there haven’t been opportunities to see. We know he had influence getting Iraq off the Muslim country travel ban list, for example, but, on other big issues, we don’t really know whether he’s going to have influence.

    For example, climate change, he’s in favor of staying within the climate change treaty. But what has been happening, in the absence of statements of policy from the State Department, is that policy is made by presidential tweet. He wasn’t involved in former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn saying Iran was officially on notice after this missile test.

    He wasn’t consulted when Trump said, with Netanyahu, I’m agnostic on whether it’s a one- or two-state solution.

    That upends policy, but I’m told that was negotiated privately between the Israelis and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law.

    And the big concern among the veteran diplomats, Judy, is what is the role of this sort of shadow NSC that Bannon, Steve Bannon, who is a real America-firster, has established called the Strategic Initiatives Group? And is that going to really run the show?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, finally, Margaret, is there a sense that there is a design behind all this, that there’s a plan?

    MARGARET WARNER: That is the question that people are asking. Did he understand this low profile was part of his job? Did he know that his choice for deputy could be rejected by the president?

    And he is now in a department without any policy people to advise him. One person said to me, it’s like a ghost ship. You hear the wind in the sails, but there’s no one’s on deck.

    Is he being sidelined by a sort of Bannon-Kushner operation inside the White House? Somebody who knows him well from ExxonMobil said she’s really mystified that — quote — “He’s not the person I knew.”

    She saw him as a large, in-charge CEO.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Fascinating and, as you said, Margaret, a change from previous administrations going back to Richard Nixon.

    MARGARET WARNER: Absolutely.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Margaret Warner, thank you.

    The post Why is Rex Tillerson keeping a low profile? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now reaction to the analysis of the Republican health care bill by the budget office of Congress.

    As we report a few moments ago, it is forecasting that 24 million fewer people would be insured after a decade and it would reduce the deficit by more $300 billion over 10 years.

    Our John Yang gets some analysis now.

    JOHN YANG: And, for that, we turn to two experts who watch this all closely, Zeke Emanuel, who is one of the original architects of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. He’s chair of the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy. And Lanhee Chen, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, who advised both Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio in their presidential campaigns.

    Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

    Dr. Emanuel, let me start with you.

    The big headline number out of this, 24 million fewer with health insurance after a period after this. That is more than who were added to the rolls by Obamacare. What’s your reaction?

    DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, Former White House Special Adviser: Well, by 2026, one in five Americans are going to lack health insurance if this plan goes through, according to the CBO.

    And lest Americans think, oh, this is only people on Medicaid or people who got Obamacare, the CBO estimates seven million people who have employer insurance today will lose coverage. So, if you’re getting coverage through your employer, it’s not guaranteed under this plan.

    And the big, positive news for the Republicans sounds puny in comparison. All those people losing coverage, and the deficit goes down $34 billion per year. This sounds like no home run at all for them, and a real albatross.

    One out of five Americans, no health insurance, maybe that’s acceptable in some places like Texas, but I don’t think across the country, it’s something we’re going to find very tolerable.

    They also point out that the extensive coverage under this plan, what your insurance actually covers, is going to go down, so people are going to be responsible for more out of their own pocket. They are going to have skinnier health insurance, more deductibles. And, again, that is something that has proven unpopular.

    Why the Republicans want to encourage that is beyond my comprehension. I think this points out it’s a loser bill. We need to go back to the drawing board and try to get a bipartisan bill. I think there is a compromise, but only when the Republicans give up on this kind of approach.

    JOHN YANG: Lanhee Chen, an albatross, a loser bill, what do you say?

    LANHEE CHEN, Former Policy Director, Mitt Romney Campaign: Well, that’s certainly one perspective.

    I would argue that, in fact, this bill is a very good start. I think, clearly, it’s not perfect. There are improvements that need to be made in the bill.

    But let’s just start with a couple of things. First of all, obviously, the Congressional Budget Office estimates do reveal that in fact the bill is going to cut the deficit, it’s going to cut spending over the next 10 years and provide almost $1 trillion in tax relief over the years — over the next 10 years.

    So I think those are points you are going to hear supporters of the law point to. Clearly, on the coverage numbers, the 24 million number is a big number. I think they have got some work to do there.

    The challenge is that, without an individual mandate, without a massive and costly expansion to Medicaid, you’re not going to see the same kind of coverage numbers that you saw out of the Affordable Care Act. I think Republicans need to be willing to accept that at least as presently constituted, their plan is not going to get to the same levels.

    Now, the question becomes, are people going to have more choices? Are premiums going down? And indeed the CBO report finds that beginning in 2020, premiums are going to go down and consumers are going to have more choices.

    The reason why consumers might want to buy skinny down plans is because they don’t want to pay for all of the excessive benefits that are mandated and required by the Affordable Care Act. So, in fact, it’s a quite reasonable response to what we have seen from the over-regulation created by the ACA over the last 10 years.

    Now, in the employer marketplace, let me just make one point. The CBO when they estimated the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, upon passage also noted that many millions of Americans would lose their coverage in the employer marketplace. It’s not unusual to see shifting between marketplaces as it’s created by a large-scale reform such as the ACA or the current bill that Republicans are considering.

    JOHN YANG: Lanhee Chen …

    EZEKIEL EMANUEL: Let’s just be clear; $600 billion or so of this change is going to be tax cuts to the wealthiest 2 or 3 percent of Americans, the insurance companies, the drug companies.

    We’re going to see Americans get less insurance. Lanhee Chen said that.

    All right, which part of the essential benefits that the government is so-called mandating don’t you want? Hospital care? Emergency room care? Drug care? Doctor care? Preventative services?

    LANHEE CHEN: Zeke, I would like for Americans to be able to choose the benefits they want. I don’t believe that it makes sense for Washington to mandate the same plans broadly across the board.


    EZEKIEL EMANUEL: Lanhee, what you’re doing is not giving them choice.

    What you’re doing is saying, we’re taking away the money and we’re going to let you choose with no money. Health care is extremely expensive. It’s $10,000 on average per American. Americans don’t have that kind of money.

    LANHEE CHEN: It is, and the Affordable Care Act has made it less affordable.

    EZEKIEL EMANUEL: And they need subsidies.

    And we — no, the Affordable Care Act didn’t make it less affordable. It made it more affordable.

    LANHEE CHEN: Twenty-five percent increase in premiums silver plan year over year from 2016 to 2017 sounds less affordable to me, Zeke.

    EZEKIEL EMANUEL: In fact, the silver plan is low than the CBO predicted in 2010. It’s actually been — we have been able to control health care costs and that has gone on.

    You tell me the one service on the essential benefits you’re going to get rid of that is going to be better for people. No Republican can say …


    EZEKIEL EMANUEL: That’s the one they want to throw out.

    LANHEE CHEN: I’m not in the business of telling people what benefits they should and shouldn’t have.

    Look, the bottom line here is this.

    EZEKIEL EMANUEL: Lanhee, just tell me what benefit you don’t want.

    LANHEE CHEN: What this plan will do is, it will allow people to choose the plans — there are things that I would choose. They are not going to be the same as the things someone else would choose, Zeke. That’s the point here, that this is not a decision Washington should be making.

    And that’s the point that supporters of the law have been making. But, look, at the end of the day the AHCA actually, as you know, leaves the essential health care benefits in place for now, because they can’t be removed through reconciliation.

    You know that better than anybody else.


    JOHN YANG: You talked about premiums would be going down.

    But the CBO found that there is going to be a difference by age. By 2026, premiums for a 21-year-old would be 20 to 25 percent lower, for a 40-year-old, 10 percent lower. But, for a 64-year-old, one year before Medicare, 20 percent to 25 percent higher.

    LANHEE CHEN: Well, yes, the notion of insurance again is about …


    EZEKIEL EMANUEL: People who are sick and who need it are going to be …


    JOHN YANG: Hold on. Hold on. Let him answer. Let’s let Lanhee Chen answer that.


    The point is that any time you create an insurance marketplace, you are going to have people coming in and out of it. You’re going to have people of different ages.

    And it is the case that there is going to be variation across age categories. Look, the Affordable Care Act increased premiums significantly for younger people. It did bring the premiums down for older people because of the way the law was structured.

    So, there are always going to be winners and losers in these situations. We have got to take look at exactly what happens. But, remember, what the AHCA, What The Republican proposal does is to create an additional subsidy to help people who are older.

    Now, arguably, you could tweak That subsidy to give them even more support. That may be a change want to look at. But the notion that there will be differences in costs of premiums across age is not surprising any time you have a large health reform.

    JOHN YANG: Thirty seconds, Dr. Emanuel. You want to respond?


    EZEKIEL EMANUEL: Wait a second.

    And you take the subsidies way down, so you give people less money to buy insurance. This is a double whammy, which is, we’re going to allow the premiums to go up, and, by the way, the amount of coverage is going to go down, because the essential benefits are going down.

    So — and we should also mention that by 2022 …


    LANHEE CHEN: The essential benefits aren’t touched by the law, Zeke. You know that.

    EZEKIEL EMANUEL: They’re actually going to send the premiums up for all people 15 to 20 percent.

    So, yes, by 2026, a decade from now, premiums for the younger will come down, but, before that, they are going to actually go up. So this is hardly a very good thing if you’re going to say we’re going to make it cover everyone and we’re going to make it cheaper. It’s not going to be cheaper.

    JOHN YANG: Time, gentlemen. Time. I’m sorry. We are going to have to leave it there.

    EZEKIEL EMANUEL: Yes. Thank you.

    JOHN YANG: Dr. Emanuel, Lanhee Chen, thanks for joining us.

    EZEKIEL EMANUEL: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And that’s a debate thanks to hear. Thanks to both of them.

    And we want to hear what people think on all sides of the health care debate. If you’re concerned about health care reform, you can go online, find a brief questionnaire and share your experience.

    The post Two views on the pros and cons of the GOP health care bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: The Northeastern U.S. is bracing for a late winter snowstorm that could bring up to 20 inches of snow tonight. A blizzard watch is in effect through tomorrow evening for New York City, parts of New Jersey and Connecticut.

    Preparations were under way today in New York and elsewhere, with mayors urging people to stay inside and not take chances.

    MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, D-N.Y.: This kind of snow coming down this intensely, again, it’s dangerous. It’ll be dangerous to be on the roads. I want to urge everyone now to make plans to not be out on the roads tomorrow, first and foremost for your own safety, but second and very important, so that all of the good people at the sanitation department can do their job and clear the roads.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Even before it arrived, the storm caused disruptions. Airlines canceled some 6,000 flights, and New York City called off school tomorrow.

    The state of Washington went to federal court today to stop President Trump’s revised travel ban. The executive order temporarily blocks refugees and travelers from six Muslim-majority countries. California is joining Washington’s suit, along with Minnesota, New York and Oregon. Hawaii has already filed its own challenge.

    The White House is now saying the president wasn’t speaking literally when he accused President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower. Adviser Kellyanne Conway suggested over the weekend that it might have been some other form of surveillance. Today, she acknowledged that she has no evidence.

    Press Secretary Sean Spicer followed up at the daily White House briefing.

    SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: He doesn’t really think that President Obama went up and tapped his phone personally. But I think that there’s no question that in the Obama administration that there were actions about surveillance and other activities that occurred in the 2016 election.

    The president used the word wiretap in quotes to mean broadly surveillance and other activities.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The House Intelligence Committee also asked that the Justice Department to provide any evidence of wiretapping by today.

    The U.S. Senate moved this evening to confirm Seema Verma to oversee the government’s Office and Medicare and Medicaid. The Indiana health care consultant will be charged with directing key changes, if congressional Republicans push through heir replacement for Obamacare.

    In Syria, last year was the most dangerous yet for children since the civil war began six years ago. The U.N. Children’s Relief Agency, UNICEF, reports that at least 652 Syrian children were killed in 2016. That’s up 20 percent from 2015. The number recruited to fight doubled to more than 850, with some acting as executioners and suicide bombers.

    The U.S. military confirms that it’s begun deploying attack drones to South Korea to counter what it calls North Korea’s continued provocative actions. The move follows Pyongyang’s recent nuclear and missile tests. and it comes just days after the Pentagon sent an advanced anti-missile system to the South.

    Scottish leader, Nicola Sturgeon, called today for a new referendum on independence. The nation’s first minister in Edinburgh, and said most Scots oppose leaving the European Union, and that’s cause to reconsider independence.

    NICOLA STURGEON, Scottish First Minister: Right now, we’re on a path not just to Brexit, but to hard Brexit, that will have profound implications for our economy, our society, our culture, our place in the world, sense of who we are. And we have no control over that. We voted against it, but nevertheless that is the direction the U.K. government is intent on taking us in.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In a 2014 referendum, 55 percent of Scottish voters rejected independence. The British Parliament would have to authorize a new vote.

    And on Wall Street, stocks mostly searched for direction. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 21 points to close at 20881. The Nasdaq rose 14 points, and the S&P 500 added about a point.

    The post News Wrap: Northeast hunkers down for late winter storm appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Seema Verma, the businesswoman Trump selected to oversee Medicaid, the health care program for 74 million low-income Americans, has said the program is structurally flawed by policies that burden states and foster dependency among the poor. Photo by Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s pick to run Medicare and Medicaid won confirmation Monday from a divided Senate as lawmakers braced for another epic battle over the government’s role in health care and society’s responsibility toward the vulnerable.

    Indiana health care consultant Seema Verma, a protégé of Vice President Mike Pence, was approved by a 55-43 vote, largely along party lines. She’ll head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a $1 trillion agency that oversees health insurance programs for more than 130 million people, from elderly nursing home residents to newborns. It’s part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

    Verma, a first-generation American whose parents emigrated from India, takes over at CMS with the agency facing sweeping changes under the House Republican health care bill backed by Trump.

    That legislation would roll back key elements of former President Barack Obama’s health care law, including its Medicaid expansion for low-income people. More significantly, the GOP bill would limit overall federal financing for Medicaid in the future. Taken together, those changes could reverse the Obama era’s historic health insurance gains.

    With a background in public health, Verma says she wants government programs to improve health, not just pay bills. She’s been critical of Medicaid, saying “the status quo is not acceptable” for the federal-state insurance program that covers more than 70 million low-income people.

    In Indiana, Verma designed a Medicaid expansion along conservative lines for Pence. Most beneficiaries are required to pay modest premiums. And the program uses financial rewards and penalties to steer patients to primary care providers instead of the emergency room. Critics say the plan has been confusing for beneficiaries and some have incurred penalties through no fault of their own.

    At her Senate confirmation hearing, Verma defended her approach by saying that low-income people are fully capable of making health care decisions based on rational incentives.

    She also said she does not support turning Medicare into a voucher plan under which retirees would get a fixed federal contribution to purchase private coverage from government-regulated private insurance plans. Her boss, HHS Secretary Tom Price, is a prominent advocate of such an approach. Medicare covers more than 56 million seniors and disabled people.

    Some state officials are welcoming Verma’s arrival as a sign that Medicaid has come of age at an agency where it traditionally came in second to Medicare.

    With Verma’s confirmation and Price as health secretary, Trump has two of the most senior HHS officials in place. Last Friday, the president nominated Dr. Scott Gottlieb to run the Food and Drug Administration. Nonetheless, many senior political appointee positions at HHS remain unfilled.

    The post Senate confirms Trump pick to head Medicare and Medicaid appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Congressional Budget Office is out tonight with its analysis of the Republican health care bill. It includes the nonpartisan agency’s best estimates on cost, coverage and other issues.

    Our Lisa Desjardins has been looking at the numbers, and she joins me now.

    Lisa, what’s the headline here?

    LISA DESJARDINS: There are several, but let’s start with a very big one. What will this mean for health insurance coverage for Americans?

    The Congressional Budget Office looked at the numbers and found that this Republican bill in just the first year, next year, would mean some 14 million Americans who have insurance now wouldn’t have it. The ranks of the uninsured would go up and they would continue to go up.

    Next year, that’s because, Judy, they say the mandate ends. So people would choose no longer to have coverage because there is no mandate penalty. That shifts in 2024, where we see now another 24 million Americans or a total of 24 million Americans over now uninsured. And it grows because of the Medicaid changes, largely Medicaid cuts.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you were telling that members of Congress, that the White House and others have already been commenting on this.

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right.

    We had very quick reaction from congressional Democrats. Let’s start with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

    REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif., House Minority Leader: The CBO has reported that the Republican bill pushes 24 million people out of health care, off of health coverage. This is a remarkable figure. It speaks so eloquently to the cruelty of a bill that the speaker called an act of mercy. I don’t know if he thinks it’s an act of mercy to all the people who will lose coverage

    LISA DESJARDINS: And, Judy, Republicans didn’t waste time either.

    The White House — new Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price spoke. He thinks these numbers on CBO coverage are wrong.

    TOM PRICE, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary: It basically says that we will be right back at pre-Obamacare status with about 40 million people uninsured in this country.

    We believe that the plan that we’re putting in place is going to insure more individuals than currently are insured. So, we think that the CBO simply has it wrong.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa, CBO, Congressional Budget Office, also looked at what is going to happen to premiums and their costs. What did they say about that?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Right. That is the other big personal effect of this.

    And is a mixed bag. Let’s look at what the CBO found there. In the next two years, the Congressional Budget Office found that actually this plan will increase premiums overall. They say that’s because healthy people will leave. The mandate penalty is removed and people that don’t have to have care will leave.

    But then, after that, they say, that the premiums will actually go down. And that’s because there will be more choices, that there will no longer be these bronze plans, silver plans. There will be bare-bones insurance plans that are not allowed now. And they think more people will choose them, premiums will go down.

    But one very important note, Judy. They think it’s by age. So premiums will likely go up for older Americans in general.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Which people we will of course be paying attention to across the board.

    And, finally, Lisa, what about the effect on the budget?


    This is something Republicans care about dearly. The CBO found something that Republicans like. They say that this Republican plan would save over $300 billion in the deficit over the next 10 years. How does it do that? Well, a large part of that is the Medicaid cuts, over $800 billion in Medicaid cuts in this.

    But Republicans for a long time have felt that Medicaid spending was out of control. They’re reining it in here. That’s going to be a very big debate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Lisa Desjardins, I know you have only had an hour or two to look at this. It came out after 4:00 Eastern this afternoon. Thank you.

    And we will continue to look at the impact of the CBO report.

    LISA DESJARDINS: My pleasure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.

    The post What the CBO sees ahead for the GOP health care bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Members of the South Asian community and others attend a peace vigil for Srinivas Kuchibhotla, the 32-year-old Indian engineer killed at a bar Olathe, Kansas, in Bellevue, Washington on March 5, 2017. Photo by AFP PHOTO/Jason Redmond.

    Members of the South Asian community and others attend a peace vigil for Srinivas Kuchibhotla, the 32-year-old Indian engineer killed at a bar Olathe, Kansas, in Bellevue, Washington on March 5, 2017. Photo by AFP PHOTO/Jason Redmond.

    Last week, Republicans unveiled a new health bill (and it’s going great, President Donald Trump says), women and Native Americans marched on Washington and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s fashion faux pas lit Twitter on fire.

    But there’s a great big world out there beyond the House, the Senate and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Here are five stories you may have missed that have (almost) nothing to do with the president.

    1. Attacks on Indian tech workers in the U.S. are causing concern in India

    Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian engineer, was shot and killed in Kansas in late February. A white gunman reportedly shouted “go back to your country” before opening fire inside a bar, killing Kuchibhotla and injuring his friend and a bystander who tried to intercede.

    Nearly two weeks later, witnesses reported a different gunman shouting a similar threat before he shot and wounded Deep Rai, a Sikh man, in Kent, Washington. Both incidents are being investigated as hate crimes.

    Around the same time, Harnish Patel was shot and killed in front of his home in Lancaster, South Carolina. Authorities are still trying to determine the motive for the attack. An attorney for the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office told Buzzfeed News that there currently weren’t enough facts that pointed to Patel being “killed for a racial reason.”

    These attacks have dominated headlines in India, where media coverage is questioning why there’s been a muted response among U.S. authorities and the public to the shootings targeting South Asians. Others have criticized President Donald Trump, arguing that his anti-immigration rhetoric and policies are fueling the incidents, deepening the fear felt by South Asian and immigrant communities. At Kuchibhotla’s funeral, friends and family members held up “Down With Trump” signs.

    Why it’s important

    A week after Kuchibhotla’s death, his widow Sunayana Dumala wrote on Facebook, “the question that is in every immigrant’s mind, DO WE BELONG HERE?”

    Indian Americans are among the most highly skilled immigrant groups in the U.S. Years ago, Kuchibhotla was issued an H-1B visa, a special immigration status that allows foreigners to work for American companies in specialized technology jobs. About 70 percent of 85,000 H-1Bs issued in 2015 were given to workers from India, CNBC reported. However, there have been several proposals to roll back the number of H-1B visas issued every year, to combat what some argue amounts to foreign outsourcing inside the U.S., CNN reported.

    The gunman had asked about Kuchibhotla’s visa moments before opening fire, said Alok Madasani, his friend and colleague who was also wounded in the attack.

    Following the Kansas shooting, a video produced by the anti-immigrant website SaveAmericanITJobs.org and posted online last August is getting renewed attention, raising concerns about rising hate directed against foreign technology workers. The video, shot at a park in Columbus, Ohio playground, showed Indian children at play and included narration arguing that foreign workers on visas to the U.S. are a threat to technology jobs in the country. “It is proof on the ground how guest workers are not only taking over jobs, but also taking away the real estate and parks. The USA Ohio IT Workers have disappeared to oblivion,” the description originally read.

    Before asking “Do we belong?” in her post, Dumala described how she and her husband came to the U.S. and their hopes of building a life in America.

    Now, after her husband’s death, “It’s so unfortunate that this dream of ours is now shattered.”

    2. Lawsuit says NFL teams violated federal law in how it handled painkillers

    Head trainer Pepper Burruss (L) and two other medical staff of the Green Bay Packer assist injured Packer defensive tackle Grady Jackson #75 during a 2004 game against the Carolina Panthers. Burruss was one fo the trainers and coaches whose memos were obtained in a court filing reported by the Washington Post. Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images.

    Head trainer Pepper Burruss (L) and two other medical staff of the Green Bay Packer assist injured Packer defensive tackle Grady Jackson #75 during a 2004 game against the Carolina Panthers. Burruss was one fo the trainers and coaches whose memos were obtained in a court filing reported by the Washington Post. Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images.

    The National Football League is no stranger to scandals — about how it deals with domestic violence, its treatment of concussions … or, of course, Spygate.

    Now, the league is accused of violating federal law for handling and distributing prescription painkillers. A series of investigations by the Washington Post shows a long history of teams giving players painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications “in numbers far beyond anything previously acknowledged or made public.”

    The news came from the Post’s analysis of court documents from more than 1,800 former football players, who are claiming in a lawsuit against NFL teams that they suffered “long-term organ and joint damage, among other maladies, as a result of improper and deceptive drug distribution practices.”

    One of the more shocking revelations from the 127 page filing analyzed by the Post: The average NFL team doled out thousands of doses of painkillers on or before game day — about six or seven injections or pills per player per week, the Post says.

    “The filing likens painkillers to performance-enhancing drugs and says while players often felt compelled to use them to contribute to their teams, medical staffs felt pressured to administer them to remain competitive,” the Post reports.

    Read the full investigation, and see the Post’s full series on the NFL’s medical standards.

    Why it’s important

    A pharmacist counts out pills of Vicodin at a pharmacy. Vicodin is one of the drugs a lawsuit claims was over-distributed to NFL players. Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images.

    A pharmacist counts out pills of Vicodin at a pharmacy. Vicodin is one of the drugs a lawsuit claims was over-distributed to NFL players. Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images.

    The issue of painkillers in the NFL had been documented years before the Post’s investigation.

    In 2011, a study of 644 retired NFL players from ESPN and the National Institute on Drug Abuse showed 52 percent used prescription painkillers while on contract with the NFL. “71 percent said they misused the drugs then … and those who misused prescription painkillers while playing were three times more likely to misuse the drugs after their careers,” the study says.

    “Federal law lays out strict guidelines for how teams can handle and dispense prescription drugs,” the Post points out. The court filings, as reported by the newspaper, go on to show that coaches and trainers largely disregarded those guidelines.

    “It makes you think, are the physicians looking out for the health of the players, or are they just trying to keep them on the field?” Arthur Caplan, director of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, told the Post.

    The case has gotten farther than many experts anticipated. The Post obtained the court filing because it went to discovery — many cases against the NFL are dismissed before that point. One reason for the early success of this case could be that the lawsuit goes after each of the NFL’s 32 teams instead of the league itself.

    The case is the latest in a series of concerns about what happens to football players after they retire. It could raise questions about what constitutes performance-enhancing drugs, and also about how far some teams will go to keep stars in the game. As with other sports scandals, a lot of what matters here is how the league will respond to it.

    For now: A spokesman told the Post that “NFL clubs and their medical staffs are all in compliance with the Controlled Substances Act.” The allegations “are meritless and the league and its clubs will continue to vigorously defend these claims,” he added.

    3. Pope Francis says he’d be open to considering married priests

    Pope Francis waves after delivering his

    Pope Francis waves after delivering his “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message Dec. 25, 2016 from the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Photo by REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/File Photo.

    For centuries, the Roman Catholic Church has reserved the priesthood for unmarried men, who pledge to act “in persona Christi” — which, in this case, means committing your life to God rather than a spouse and taking a vow of celibacy.

    Last week, Pope Francis told Germany’s Die Zeit that he was open to exploring whether “viri probati” — or married men of proven faith — could be ordained in remote communities to help fight a growing shortage of priests.

    That doesn’t mean practicing priests would suddenly have the option to marry, he said. But “in the Church, it is always important to recognise the right moment, to recognise when the Holy Spirit demands something. That is why I say that we will continue to reflect about the viri probati.”

    Why it’s important

    For years, leaders have worried about the dwindling number of Catholic priests, in America and beyond. In 1972, there were 851 Catholics per priest, according to the New York Times, citing data from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. Today, that number has grown to 2,500 Catholics per priest.

    That ratio is as many as 8,000 Catholics per priest in Brazil, which is one of the most sparsely-served regions of the Catholic church — along with Latin America, Asia and Africa. These regions have been asking for help as they face major shortages of priests.

    The church allows priests in eastern sects of the Catholic Church to be married. In 2009, the church also began to allow Anglican priests who convert to Catholicism to be married. But the subject of allowing marriage more broadly hasn’t been discussed on an open platform — until now.

    “This is now an open topic in the church today,” Father Thomas Reese told the New York Times, “whereas under John Paul II or Benedict, you could not talk about this.”

    This is just the latest statement by Pope Francis — who assumed leadership of the church in 2013 — to rock the church’s more conservative core.

    Though he’s yet to indicate he’d be open to women priests — one of the church’s more divisive debates — Francis has encouraged priests to be more open to gay and lesbian members, taken a softer stance on divorce, supported taking action on climate change and given priests permission to forgive the sin of abortion during the 2015-16 Year of Mercy, a celebration of forgiveness that occurs every 50 years.

    A boy takes selfies with Pope Francis during a visit  Feb. 19 at the parish of St. Mary Josefa of the Heart of Jesus in Rome. Photo by REUTERS/Remo Casilli.

    A boy takes selfies with Pope Francis during a visit Feb. 19 at the parish of St. Mary Josefa of the Heart of Jesus in Rome. Photo by REUTERS/Remo Casilli.

    Pope Francis, who as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio focused on the poor in his native Argentina, has also waded into global discussions on poverty and what to do about migrants and refugees. In his first papal exhortation, he blasted capitalism and inequality and global leaders’ failure to do much about it.

    Francis’ more radical statements have been embraced by members of the church who feel it needs to attract — or woo back — younger, more socially liberal Catholics as it looks toward the future. But it’s angered traditionalists who feel the pope is undoing centuries worth of doctrine.

    To those critics, one man told the Boston Globe: “I think God is in heaven, laughing at all the distinctions we make about religion.”

    4. The Dark Web dwindles by a third

    Illustration about 'Darknet', logo of the Tor Browser, which provides access to the Darknet. Binary codes are shown in the background on January 13, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. Photo by Florian Gaertner/Photothek via Getty Images.

    Illustration about ‘Darknet’, logo of the Tor Browser, which provides access to the Darknet. Binary codes are shown in the background on January 13, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. Photo by Florian Gaertner/Photothek via Getty Images.

    Services under the Dark Web, the encrypted network that exists beyond visible search engines, are dwindling, Forbes reported last week.

    The biggest host of Dark Web sites, Freedom Hosting II, was breached and shut down in February by anonymous hackers. Before that, the online provider served roughly 15 to 20 percent of all sites on the Dark Web. The anonymous hacktivists that took down the site claimed child pornography comprised more than half of Freedom Hosting’s data and in 2013, the Dark Web host fell under the radar of law enforcement, resulting in a number of child pornagraphy prosecutions, as reported by The Verge.

    Privacy researcher Sarah Jamie Lewis, who’s been tracking the development of Dark Web sites with an investigation tool called OnionScan, found that there are roughly 4,400 active hidden services remaining after the Freedom Hosting breach.

    An excerpt from the OnionScan report reveals “at least three of the largest databases in the dump were forums related to sharing and discussing child sexual exploitation.”

    The report also highlights the vanishing of SIGAINT, one of the largest Dark Web email providers, as one of the causes for the network’s decline.

    “This is a major blow considering many were personal or political blogs and forums,” Lewis said in an interview with The Verge. “In the short term, a lot of diversity has disappeared from the dark web.”

    Why it’s important

    The Dark Web, also sometimes referred to as “Darknet” or “Deepnet,” serves as the underbelly of the visible Web and is only accessible by using “Tor,” a specific type of anonymous software. The network serves various purposes, such as discreet communication when speaking in public may prove dangerous. The Dark Web also provides an avenue for activists or journalists to facilitate the exchange of information in certain countries — like Syria, China and Egypt — where citizens live under highly censored Internet regulations.

    But the Dark Web also houses certain illegal activities, such as the exchange of drugs, black market weapons and pirated entertainment. Notorious examples of the Dark Web include the site “The Silk Road,” a service dedicated to the buying and selling of recreational drugs. And in August 2015, 10GB of user data stolen from Ashley Madison, a site for adulterous encounters, was published on the Dark Web’s servers.

    Though a large amount of services have disappeared, The Dark Web has not gone completely radio silent. But this could be a ripple effect, OnionScan reports.

    “We believe that the Freedom Hosting II takedown not only removed many thousands of active sites but also may have affected other hosting providers who were hosting some infrastructure on top of Freedom Hosting II.”

    5. Archeologists pull huge statue from underneath street of Cairo

    Egyptian workers stand as a statue that might be of revered Pharaoh Ramses II, who ruled Egypt over 3,000 years ago, is raised at the Matariya area in Cairo, Egypt. Photo by REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany.

    Egyptian workers stand as a statue that might be of revered Pharaoh Ramses II, who ruled Egypt over 3,000 years ago, is raised at the Matariya area in Cairo, Egypt. Photo by REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany.

    Underneath the busy streets of Cairo, Egypt, lies a previously undiscovered statue of an Egyptian Pharaoh.

    Archaeologists from Egypt and Germany uncovered the head and torso of a statute that resembles one of Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs, Ramses II, Reuters reported. The remnants were found near the ruins of Ramses II’s temple within Heliopolis, an ancient city located in the eastern part of today’s Cairo. The statue, now in fragments, is 3,000 years old and once stood 26-feet tall, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

    “We found the bust of the statue and the lower part of the head and now we removed the head and we found the crown and the right ear and a fragment of the right eye,” Khaled al-Anani, an antiquities minister for Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry, told Reuters.

    The Antiquities Ministry, Egypt’s department dedicated to the investigation and conservation of the country’s history, has praised the discovery as “one of the most important ever.”

    Why it’s important

    King Ramses the Second ruled Egypt for 66 years, first taking the throne while in his early twenties around 1279 B.C. Rameses II was known for his architectural ventures, such as the temples of Abu Simbel and the Ramesseum. His architectural influence can still be seen throughout Egypt’s landscape today.

    Though some sites are open to the public, Egypt’s political instability since the Arab Spring uprising of 2011 and various other attacks in certain parts of the country have kept tourists from visiting historic locations. In 2011, the number of tourists visiting Egypt dwindled to 9.8 million from more than 14.7 million in 2010, according to the Israel-based newspaper The Jerusalem Post.

    This might help. Experts are extracting the remaining pieces of the discovery before the restoration process begins, The Jerusalem Post reported.

    5 important stories you shouldn’t miss

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    Nigel Farage — One of the architects behind Brexit.

    The U.K. voted to leave the European Union in a result that, like the US presidential election, divided the nation smack down the middle. That’s if we can call our now even lonelier little cold rock in the North Atlantic an empire nation—some quite obviously still think so.

    Just hours after the referendum result, the value of the British pound dropped to an all time low. In fact, in the space of a few traumatic hours the UK economy went from the fifth largest in the world to the sixth.

    Prime Minister David Cameron resigned and Scotland instantly jumped at this bright shining golden opportunity to implement yet another new independence referendum of their own.

    Voting results showed that the older generations were the biggest supporters of the leave campaign. On the morning of the referendum result, a young writer named Steve Hogarty for City A.M. Twittered: “I know it’s not very ‘politically correct’ to say it out loud but in the wasteland of ruined Britain I am going to hunt and eat old people.”

    The most alarming and astonishingly implausible reason I heard for leaving the European Union was “so that (Brits) could get our nice blue passports back.” To clarify our present ones are red!

    Two weeks ago, I took my own little litmus test. I interviewed some of the good residents and tourists in Washington, D.C. on their thoughts and hopes for the new administration. I also asked them in a portrait photograph to give me a gesture that summed up their feelings towards the administration. I bring you the same from London.

    Nigel Paul FarageBritish politician, broadcaster and political analyst who was the leader of the UK Independence Party from 2006 to 2009 and again from 2010 to 2016.

    GESTURE: Confident on Brexit

    Farage is a champion of Brexit and Donald Trumps new English best mate.

    “We will leave the E.U., there is no doubt of that. We will be successful. The British people must take back what is rightfully ours. This is Teresa May’s biggest test. In fact this is THE acid test. England needs to wake up and smell the coffee.”

    Elaine SkatesFrom Rugby in the North of England, Chief Executive of a National NGO and mother of two small children. Elaine is photographed outside the British houses of Parliament, London.


    “I think Brexit is absolutely absurd for this country. There are no benefits at all for this country. Already NGO’s are nervous and are not getting the funding because their donors are not sure what is going to happen next. Too many people voted on single issues. There was not enough information from both sides telling us what was going to happen either way. Already my weekly shopping bills have gone up by at least 10 pounds a week and we haven’t even left the E.U. yet. The markets, the wholesalers — no one knows what is going to happen next.”

    Alex Irvine38 years old, an action sports photographer from Aberdeen, Scotland on location in London’s Parliament Square photographing the city’s skateboarders.


GESTURE: All the politicians can F*** OFF

    “I feel great disappointment that we are destined to leave the E.U. All this seems to be very similar to Donald Trump’s terrible vision of the future. I just hope these terrible ideas do not come to fruition. What’s wrong with everybody? Why cant we all just be pro DNA — not defined by race, skin color, geography? And f*** religion.

    Michael CrickChief Political Correspondent, Channel Four News.

    GESTURE: My head just wants to explode with too much information!

    “Brexit has transformed British politics completely. It has dominated television news. Like the presidency of Donald Trump, Brexit has shown that both governments have been out of touch with the vast populace of both countries. Both Washington and London have lived in a vacuum. As a political journalist and commentator, it is of course very exciting, but an incredibly complicated story. At times, with so much information, my head just wants to explode. Goodness knows where it will all end.”

    Sasha Chayter27 years old, from Toronto, Canada. Working in Starbucks, Central London.


GESTURE: Not sure what to make of it all

    “Just about all my friends working in Starbucks are immigrants and are very worried about their status here in the U.K. Naturally, as a Canadian, I have a more liberal view on immigration, as does my government. I think here in the U.K. and in the United States people were not given enough information about what they were voting for. I am really worried about all my friends.”

    Alex McGrotty,32 years old, from Glasgow, Scotland. Currently busking outside the Houses of Parliament in London

    GESTURE: Oh no! What have they done?

    “I don’t agree with Brexit. It’s really stupid and my views are so strong I am sure you couldn’t publish them. But I will say that since we have been as one in Europe, there have been no European wars. I believe that being in the EU has kept wars at bay.”

    A rather unpleasant chap outside Buckingham Palace

    GESTURE: Ignore

    Question: “Excuse me sir can I ask you about Brexit and how you fee…”

    (interruption with menacing answer filled with expletives.)

    My response: Ahhh -mmmmm, absolutely couldn’t agree with you more ,bye !

    The post A British photojournalist asked people around London to sum up their feelings about Brexit with one gesture appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions is promising his Justice Department will lead the charge in helping cities fight violent crime, and police chiefs are ready with their wish-lists.

    More technology to trace guns after shootings. More grant money. More intelligence analysts to help dismantle gangs. More protective gear and equipment. As the head of one police officers’ union put it, “We need more of everything.”

    But Sessions, who cut his teeth as a federal prosecutor in Mobile, Alabama, at the height of the drug war in the 1980s, has inherited a federal government that built itself to fight terrorism since 9/11 and, more recently, to combat cybercrime.

    Since taking office, Sessions has spoken repeatedly about a spike in murders. He and President Donald Trump ordered the creation of a crime-fighting task force, bringing together the heads of the major law enforcement agencies. And they seem to be counting on tighter border security to stop a flow of drugs and reduce crime.

    READ MORE: Sessions’ tough on crime talk could lead to fuller prisons

    But they have yet to detail how federal law enforcement should juggle priorities or offer new money for crime-fighting, especially in the face of Trump’s plan to slash nonmilitary budgets. Some clarity could come Thursday when the administration unveils its budget proposal.

    “He’ll find out very quickly that you can’t pull people off all these other things just to go do that,” said Robert Anderson, who was the FBI’s most senior criminal investigator until his retirement in 2015. Anderson joined the bureau in the 1990s, when combating violence and drugs was its top challenge. “Now he’s walking into a much different Justice Department and FBI.”

    WATCH: Trump promises to boost defense spending

    Kerry Sleeper, assistant director of the FBI office that works with local law enforcement, said that after decades of declines in violence, police chiefs are coming to grips with a new uptick and asking for federal help.

    What they’d like to see:

    • In Milwaukee, Police Chief Edward Flynn said he would like an expansion of the work done in that city by the Justice Department’s Violence Reduction Network. It teams officers with deputy U.S. marshals and agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Drug Enforcement Administration to target high-crime areas. “It’s encouraging to have an incoming administration take an interest in the spikes in violence in central cities,” he told The Associated Press.
    • In Baltimore, which recorded 318 homicides last year, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis has said he would like federal agencies to double the number of agents assigned to cities experiencing spikes in violence.
    • In Chicago, singled out by the White House for its surge in shootings, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson has said he would welcome more agents and money for mentorship and after-school programs to help kids in violent neighborhoods and, in turn, reduce crime.
    • Other cities want help processing evidence, tracing guns and prosecuting drug traffickers and dealers as they combat heroin and opioid addiction.

      More chiefs are asking the FBI for its help with intelligence-gathering to thwart crime, said Stephen Richardson, assistant director for the FBI’s criminal division.

      Making violent crime a priority is a departure for a Justice Department that has viewed as more urgent the prevention of cyberattacks from foreign criminals, counterterrorism and the threat of homegrown violent extremism. And while local police say they want more help fighting violence, such a plan could put new pressure on Justice Department agencies already strapped for resources.

      “Our budget’s been eroding,” Thomas Brandon, acting ATF director, told a congressional committee last week. The ranks of the agency’s special agents hit an eight-year low in fiscal year 2013 and have not grown dramatically since then.

      WATCH: In hearing, Sessions says he’ll put law above his own views

      Sessions’ focus fits his background. His career as a prosecutor began when there was bipartisan agreement in Washington that the best way to fight crime was with long, mandatory prison sentences. And he views today’s relatively low crime rates as a sign that those policies worked. Just last week, he underscored his priority in a memo to the nation’s federal prosecutors that they should use all available resources to take down the worst offenders.

      In contrast, the Obama administration’s Justice Department focused its aid to local police on improving community relations.

      The federal government has long played a role in fighting crime through grants and partnerships. Agents assigned to field offices work with local police to share intelligence on gangs and shootings, hunt fugitives and probe bank robberies, among other things. Constance Hester-Davis, special agent in charge of the ATF’s field division in New Orleans, said her agents routinely work alongside local counterparts, even attending community meetings.

      “At the end of the day, crime is a state and local concern,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a law enforcement think tank. “However, what police chiefs say is the federal government does have a responsibility, particularly when they prosecute.”

      Such cooperation can work. Oakland, California, police saw killings fall from 126 in 2012 to 85 in 2016, two years after FBI agents were embedded in the homicide unit. Ten agents now share an office with Oakland detectives, offering help gathering evidence, collecting DNA, chasing leads and bringing federal prosecutions that carry longer sentences in far-away prisons. Detectives solved at least 60 percent of their cases last year, compared to about 30 percent in 2010, said Russell Nimmo, FBI supervisory special agent on the Oakland Safe Streets Task Force.

      READ MORE: Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for attorney general, could influence immigration policy

      “It’s very complementary to what our mission is,” Nimmo said. “We’re a big organization. The challenge for our leadership is determining how many resources to allocate to each of those competing priorities.”

      Richardson, who formed the first FBI task force in Louisiana to combat violent criminals, said the new focus will mean shifting resources in ways that are yet to be seen. The FBI is finalizing a strategy to “surge” resources, including agents, in certain cities this summer.

      “We won’t be able to do all the cities we’d like to at once,” Richardson said. “I firmly believe it will make a difference.”

      The post How a tight budget could complicate Sessions’ vow to fight crime appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Math pi-oneer, William Jones. Photo by William Hogarth/National Portrait Gallery

    One of the most important numbers in maths might today be named after the Greek letter π or “pi”, but the convention of representing it this way actually doesn’t come from Greece at all. It comes from the pen of an 18th century farmer’s son and largely self-taught mathematician from the small island of Anglesey in Wales. The Welsh Government has even renamed Pi Day (on March 14 or 3/14, which matches the first three digits of pi, 3.14) as “Pi Day Cymru”.

    The importance of the number we now call pi has been known about since ancient Egyptian times. It allows you to calculate the circumference and area of a circle from its diameter (and vice versa). But it’s also a number that crops up across all scientific disciplines from cosmology to thermodynamics. Yet even after mathematicians worked out how to calculate pi accurately to over 100 decimal places at the start of the 18th century, we didn’t have an agreed symbol for the number.

    From accountant to maths pioneer

    This all changed thanks to William Jones who was born in 1674 in the parish of Llanfihangel Tre’r Beirdd. After attending a charity school, Jones landed a job as a merchant’s accountant and then as a maths teacher on a warship, before publishing A New Compendium of the Whole Art of Navigation, his first book in 1702 on the mathematics of navigation. On his return to Britain he began to teach maths in London, possibly starting by holding classes in coffee shops for a small fee.

    Shortly afterwards he published Synopsis palmariorum matheseos, a summary of the current state of the art developments in mathematics which reflected his own particular interests. In it is the first recorded use of the symbol π as the number that gives the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.

    We typically think of this number as being about 3.14, but Jones rightly suspected that the digits after its decimal point were infinite and non-repeating. This meant it could never be “expressed in numbers”, as he put it. That was why he recognised the number needed its own symbol. It is commonly thought that he chose pi either because it is the first letter of the word for periphery (περιφέρεια) or because it is the first letter of the word for perimeter (περίμετρος), or both.

    Finding pi. Photo via Synopsis palmariorum matheseos_

    In the pages of his Synopsis, Jones also showed his familiarity with the notion of an infinite series and how it could help calculate pi far more accurately than was possible just by drawing and measuring circles. An infinite series is the total of all the numbers in a sequence that goes on forever, for example ½ + ¼ + ⅛ + and so on. Adding an infinite sequence of ever-smaller fractions like this can bring you closer and closer to a number with an infinite number of digits after the decimal point – just like pi. So by defining the right sequence, mathematicians were able to calculate pi to an increasing number of decimal places.

    Infinite series also assist our understanding of rational numbers, more commonly referred to as fractions. Irrational numbers are the ones, like pi, that can’t be written as a fraction, which is why Jones decided it needed its own symbol. What he wasn’t able to do was prove with maths that the digits of pi definitely were infinite and non-repeating and so that the number was truly irrational. This would eventually be achieved in 1768 by the French mathematician Johann Heinrich Lambert. Jones dipped his toes into the subject and showed an intuitive grasp of the complexity of pi but lacked the analytical tools to enable him to develop his ideas further.

    Scientific success

    Despite this – and his obscure background – Jones’s book was a success and led him to become an important and influential member of the scientific establishment. He was noticed and befriended by two of Britain’s foremost mathematicians – Edmund Halley and Sir Isaac Newton – and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1711. He later became the editor and publisher of many of Newton’s manuscripts and built up an extraordinary library that was one of the greatest collections of books on science and mathematics ever known, and only recently fully dispersed.

    Despite this success, the use of the symbol π spread slowly at first. It was popularised in 1737 by the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler (1707–83), one of the most eminent mathematicians of the 18th century, who likely came across Jones’ work while studying Newton at the University of Basel. His endorsement of the symbol in his own work ensured that it received wide publicity, yet even then the symbol wasn’t adopted universally until as late as 1934. Today π is instantly recognised worldwide but few know that its history can be traced back to a small village in the heart of Anglesey.

    The Conversation

    Gareth Ffowc Roberts is emeritus professor of Education at Bangor University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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    White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney speaks with reporters during a daily press briefing Feb. 27 at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.

    White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney says he doesn’t trust the Congressional Budget Office’s prediction that 14 million Americans will lose health care insurance in the next year under the Republican plan.

    In interviews Tuesday on MSNBC and Fox News “Fox & Friends,” Mulvaney noted that the CBO was wrong in estimating coverage under former President Barack Obama’s plan. Mulvaney said the office is wrong now too.

    He said, “I don’t believe the facts are correct.” Mulvaney said the CBO is “really good at counting numbers but maybe not that good about counting coverage.”

    READ MORE: 24 million could lose insurance under GOP health care plan, new report says

    CBO had predicted 23 million people would enroll in online marketplaces when Obama’s law was enacted but the actual number was 12 million, largely because it overestimated how the individual mandate would prompt people to buy coverage.

    The findings from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office could make prospects for the legislation backed by President Donald Trump even tougher, with a few House and Senate conservatives already in open revolt and moderate Republicans queasy about big cuts to the Medicaid safety net for the poor.

    Critics of GOP health care legislation have gotten fresh ammunition from a report that says the bill would increase the ranks of the uninsured by 14 million people next year alone, and 24 million over a decade.

    PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff talks with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR about the difficulties of selling the American Health Care Act.

    New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, says the Republican health care plan could be “devastating” to state budgets.

    Cuomo told MSNBC on Tuesday that he is concerned about the plan to dramatically reduce Medicaid funding. CBO says the plan would reduce budget deficits by $337 billion over a decade. The largest savings would come from reductions for Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for low-income Americans, and elimination of Obama’s subsidies for individuals buying coverage.

    Cuomo says he’s heard “rumors” that the GOP plan could cut as much as $3 billion for a state like New York. He says, “I can’t make up $3 billion dollars. It would wreak havoc on the state.”

    But the bill’s supporters at the White House and Capitol Hill show no sign of retreat. Instead, they are attacking the parts of the CBO report they didn’t like while touting the more favorable findings, including smaller deficits from their bill and lower premiums over time.

    The post Budget chief: ‘I don’t believe the facts are correct’ in analysis of GOP health care plan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President Barack Obama holds his final news conference Jan. 17, 2017 at the White House in Washington, D.C. For a second consecutive year, the Obama administration set a record for times federal employees told citizens, journalists and others that despite searching they couldn't find a single page of files that were requested.

    U.S. President Barack Obama holds his final news conference Jan. 17, 2017 at the White House in Washington, D.C. For a second consecutive year, the Obama administration set a record for times federal employees told citizens, journalists and others that despite searching they couldn’t find a single page of files that were requested. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration in its final year in office spent a record $36.2 million on legal costs defending its refusal to turn over federal records under the Freedom of Information Act, according to an Associated Press analysis of new U.S. data that also showed poor performance in other categories measuring transparency in government.

    For a second consecutive year, the Obama administration set a record for times federal employees told citizens, journalists and others that despite searching they couldn’t find a single page of files that were requested.

    And it set records for outright denial of access to files, refusing to quickly consider requests described as especially newsworthy, and forcing people to pay for records who had asked the government to waive search and copy fees.

    READ MORE: Obama administration sets new record for withholding FOIA requests

    The government acknowledged when challenged that it had been wrong to initially refuse to turn over all or parts of records in more than one-third of such cases, the highest rate in at least six years.

    In courtrooms, the number of lawsuits filed by news organizations under the Freedom of Information Act surged during the past four years, led by the New York Times, Center for Public Integrity and The Associated Press, according to a litigation study by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. The AP on Monday settled its 2015 lawsuit against the State Department for files about Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state, at AP’s request, and received $150,546 from the department to cover part of its legal fees.

    The AP has pending lawsuits against the FBI for records about its decision to impersonate an AP journalist during a criminal investigation and about who helped the FBI hack into a mass shooting suspect’s iPhone and how much the government paid to do it.

    Of the $36.2 million in legal costs fighting such lawsuits last year, the Justice Department accounted for $12 million, the Homeland Security Department for $6.3 million and the Pentagon for $4.8 million. The three departments accounted for more than half the government’s total records requests last year.

    The figures reflect the final struggles of the Obama administration during the 2016 election to meet President Barack Obama’s pledge that it was “the most transparent administration in history,” despite wide recognition of serious problems coping with requests under the information law. It received a record 788,769 requests for files last year and spent a record $478 million answering them and employed 4,263 full-time FOIA employees across more than 100 federal departments and agencies. That was higher by 142 such employees the previous year.

    A spokesman for former President Obama did not immediately respond to an email request for comment late Monday. The White House under Obama routinely defended its efforts under the information law in recent years and said federal employees worked diligently on such requests for records.

    MORE: How a senior Obama adviser views his record

    It remains unclear how President Donald Trump’s administration will perform under the Freedom of Information Act or other measures of government transparency. Trump has not spoken extensively about transparency. In his private business and his presidential campaign, Trump required employees and advisers to sign non-disclosure agreements that barred them from discussing their work. His administration has barred some mainstream news organizations from campaign rallies and one White House press briefing. And Trump broke with tradition by refusing to disclose his tax returns.

    Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is traveling to Asia this week on a small plane without a contingent of journalists or a designated pool reporter who would send reports to the broader diplomatic press corps, departing from 50 years of practice.

    Overall, in the final year of Obama’s administration, people who asked for records last year under the law received censored files or nothing in 77 percent of requests, about the same as the previous year. In the first full year after Obama’s election, that figure was only 65 percent of cases. The government released the new figures in the days ahead of Sunshine Week, which ends Sunday, when news organizations promote open government and freedom of information.

    Under the records law, citizens and foreigners can compel the U.S. government to turn over copies of federal records for zero or little cost. Anyone who seeks information through the law is generally supposed to get it unless disclosure would hurt national security, violate personal privacy or expose business secrets or confidential decision-making in certain areas.

    MORE: The Obama Years

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    Job seeker Arnulfo Lopez (R) listens to a pitch as he looks for work at a career fair in San Francisco, California July 14, 2015. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith – RTX1KAMG

    Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

    In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

    Question: How far down the employment ladder do the Ask the Headhunter principles of the job market go? Do personal referrals and recommendations help at all levels?

    READ MORE: Ask the Headhunter: Should I just quit, or find a new job first?

    My daughter worked an entry-level position for a clothing chain in New York and left the store to move to California. Her three managers said they would act as references. Since she did what needed to be done instead of just what she was told to do, they wanted to keep her with the company, even if it wasn’t in their store. She followed the chain’s instructions and brought a completed application to a California store that has openings listed on its website. Despite that, they told her they don’t have any openings.

    Does the principle of getting a position by being recommended by someone known to the manager apply at this level? Or do stores fill entry-level positions with people they don’t know?

    Nick Corcodilos: Personal referrals help at all levels, but only if a personal referral is made. Based on what you report, no personal referral was made.

    Personal referrals help at all levels, but only if a personal referral is made.

    Your question is about how your daughter can get a job using insider referrals. But the real story here is how employers waste proven talent. First, let’s help your daughter get the job.

    I think hiring by insider referrals is actually more likely with lower-level jobs than higher-level jobs, simply because it’s not very risky. Even if the manager makes a mistake, it’s not like they just hired a pricey executive.

    It’s faster

    If the employer has good information about a candidate, it’s just a quicker hire.

    It’s easier

    Because lower-level jobs attract more applicants than higher-level jobs, the employer usually loves to avoid culling through thousands of applicants. Hiring by trusted referrals is much less work.

    No referral was made

    I think your daughter didn’t get an interview because her old managers are lazy. They urged her to apply at the new location because they think so much of her and offered to be references, but it ended there. They basically told her to apply like thousands of other people would.

    READ MORE: Ask the Headhunter: My boss gave me a promotion, but HR won’t agree to my raise. What now?

    Those managers didn’t pick up the phone to call managers at the California location to actively recommend her in advance of her applying. That means they did nothing.

    If they want to help her and help their company, they should pick up the phone. Their offer to be references — after she applies, after she’s selected for an interview and after someone in HR asks for references — is useless in helping her get in the door. References aren’t referrals.

    How to say it

    If I were your daughter, I’d contact her old bosses, tell them what happened, send them copies of the open job postings and say this:

    Your faith in me and your recommendation to the California store mean a lot. Would you please call the manager of the store in California, explain your thoughts about me and suggest she or he interview me? Your call will make me stand out among other applicants they don’t know — and it will help them fill the job faster and with less work.

    What I really want to suggest she say in the last part is, “It will help them fill the job faster and with less work, you dopes!” But of course, she should not add that.

    How employers waste talent

    Here we have an employer that could easily benefit by hiring proven talent – a valued worker moving from one store to another. It should be a slam dunk. But it seems to be a loss, partly due to the managers at the old store and partly due to the company’s failure to actively promote internal employee mobility.

    If those three managers won’t make the referral and recommendation, then they’re not helping your daughter, and they’re hurting their company. Wasting talent is worse than letting people steal clothes off the rack. (See “References: How employers bungle a competitive edge.”)

    I hope your daughter makes that call, and I wish her the best.

    Dear Readers? Have you ever gotten a new job in your own company with a solid internal referral? Have you helped someone in your company make an internal move?

    Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

    Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

    Copyright © 2016 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

    The post Ask the Headhunter: How companies lose great hires with wasted referrals appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A life insurance company is turning to the hot, but still unproven, field of epigenetics to try to bet on how long you’re likely to live. Photo by Alex Hogan/STAT

    The life insurance business is all about betting on how long you’re likely to live. Now, one company is turning to the hot, but still unproven, field of epigenetics to try to make that bet more scientific.

    GWG Life, which buys life insurance policies from people who don’t want or can’t afford them anymore, last month started requiring those people to turn over a saliva sample. Its quarry: patterns of DNA methylation. In layman’s terms, it analyzes the samples to see whether certain genes are switched on or off at hundreds of specific spots.

    In theory, that could help the company predict your life span. In theory.

    “Is that more predictive than whether someone smokes or drinks or has a hobby of alligator wrestling? I don’t see that,” said Mark Rothstein, a bioethicist at the University of Louisville who studies the use of genetic and epigenetic information.

    GWG is just the latest in a rush of entrepreneurs peering into DNA for clues about how fast people are aging.

    Several companies have started marketing mail-order tests to measure the lengths of people’s telomeres. (Those are the caps of DNA at the end of chromosomes; frayed telomeres have been linked to disease risk.) A California biotech called Zymo Research last year launched a service that uses DNA methylation analysis to help researchers determine the biological (as opposed to the chronological) age of a sample.

    READ MORE: House Republicans would let employers demand workers’ genetic test results

    Then there’s GWG, which hopes that its model will not only boost its own business but transform the entire life insurance industry.

    “We just think that we may have stumbled on something that has some pretty broad and important applications for a much larger industry,” GWG chief executive Jon Sabes said.

    Based in Minneapolis, GWG operates in most states and bought 315 life insurance policies last year. Its sales pitch: We’ll pay you up front for your policy. We’ll pay your premiums for the rest of your life. And when you die, we get the insurance money.

    “Is [DNA methylation] more predictive than whether someone smokes or drinks or has a hobby of alligator wrestling? I don’t see that.”

    To make a profit, it’s crucial for companies like GWG that operate in this somewhat macabre niche to accurately predict how long each policy holder is likely to live. (They don’t want to pay out too much up front to people who are likely to stay alive for many years, postponing the company’s payday.)

    The problem: They’re bad at such predictions.

    “For the past 10, 15, 20 years, they’ve been very poor at judging how long people are living. People have lived a lot longer than the [companies that] bought those policies thought they would,” said Steve Weisbart, an economist at the Insurance Information Institute who studies life insurance.

    READ MORE: Fruity with a hint of double helix: A startup claims to tailor wine to your DNA

    Sabes was convinced there must be a better way. He tasked his team with finding an “InsUber” — a technology that would do for life insurance what the ride-sharing app has done to transportation.

    That quest led Sabes to Steve Horvath, the UCLA biostatistician behind a predictive method now known as “Horvath’s clock.” Horvath reported in 2013 that he had developed a statistical model to estimate the biological age of tissue from noting whether chemical tags known as methyl groups are attached at 353 spots in a person’s DNA. The model was seen in the scientific community as intriguing — but still preliminary.

    Last September, Horvath coauthored a meta-analysis evaluating a handful of epigenetic clocks (some developed in his lab) to see how well they predicted longevity. They identified one algorithm as the best of the bunch — and GWG quickly swooped in to option it.

    “What we’re trying to do is like precision medicine, but ‘precision insurance.’”

    A key developer of that algorithm and the lead author of the meta-analysis was Brian Chen, a trained epidemiologist who has worked closely with Horvath. Chen recently signed on with GWG. The company isn’t using the saliva samples it’s collecting to set prices yet; it’s still refining how to deploy its prediction models.

    “What we’re trying to do is like precision medicine, but ‘precision insurance’ — and so you get more customized, personalized rates,” Chen said.

    Several independent scientists questioned whether the technology is ready for prime time.

    “I would doubt whether it gives a prediction of life expectancy … that is by itself accurate to any useful extent,” said John Greally, a geneticist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine who has studied DNA methylation.

    As for Horvath, he told STAT by email that he’s “not a businessman and cannot comment on the commercial utility” of his work.

    Sabes and Chen acknowledged that the algorithm isn’t perfect. But Sabes said it doesn’t have to be.

    “The level of accuracy, so to speak, has to be at such a high level before it has economic value in most applications,” Sabes said. But in the life insurance industry, he said, “if you can just be a little bit better, it can have a pretty big implication, because we work in the law of averages.”

    GWG currently tries to predict life expectancy by looking at policy holders’ medical records, reviewing their prescription drugs, and conducting phone interviews. (It plans to continue to take these factors into account even after it integrates epigenetics.) To get life insurance in the first place, consumers often need to fill out questionnaires about their family history, or submit to a urine or blood test.

    READ MORE: Genetic test costs taxpayers $500 million a year, with little to show for it

    Laws at the federal level and in most states prevent health insurers and employers from requiring genetic information or discriminating on that basis. (A bill moving through Congress, however, would let employers demand workers’ genetic test results, with financial penalties for those who refused.)

    The bar is much lower for life insurers, which if challenged must simply convince state regulators that there’s a plausible scientific basis for using a certain factor in underwriting. So, for instance, if a customer’s medical records show she tested positive for a gene variant linked to breast and ovarian cancer, the insurer could take that into account when setting premiums.

    In the past month, GWG has collected saliva samples using a sponge from about 40 of the people from whom it’s bought policies, Sabes said. Only a few refused.

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on March 13, 2017. Find the original story here.

    The post This insurance company wants to analyze your saliva to predict when you’ll die appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    President Donald Trump speaks Mar. 13 during a meeting about healthcare at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

    President Donald Trump speaks Mar. 13 during a meeting about healthcare at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump told Americans he’d do it all on health care: “insurance for everybody,” better coverage and lower consumer costs. By the reckoning of nonpartisan budget analysts at Congress, that’s not what will happen if the Republican bill he’s backing becomes law.

    The Congressional Budget Office is respected for nonpartisan rigor in its estimates of the costs and impacts of legislation, but no projection is infallible — particularly when it comes to large, complex programs. For example, the agency overstated the number of people expected to buy insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care law, misjudging how many would join because of the threat of tax penalties.

    A look at how statements by Trump and his team compare with the CBO’s estimates.

    TRUMP: “We’re going to have insurance for everybody. There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.” — to The Washington Post, Jan. 15.

    CBO: It estimates the bill would leave 14 million fewer people insured in the first year, 24 million fewer by 2026.

    In the first year, the biggest reason for fewer insured people would be the repeal of penalties that Obama’s law imposes on uninsured consumers deemed able to afford coverage. Republicans don’t see a problem with that, arguing that the government should not mandate coverage. But CBO said other consumers would decide to go without coverage in the first year because of higher premiums.

    In following years the main reason for a drop in the number of insured would be that the Republican bill scales back Medicaid for low-income Americans.

    READ MORE: 24 million could lose insurance under GOP health care plan, new report says


    TRUMP: People covered under the law “can expect to have great health care. It will be in a much simplified form. Much less expensive and much better… lower numbers, much lower deductibles.”

    CBO: It says cost-sharing payments in the individual market, including deductibles, “would tend to be higher than those anticipated under current law.” Cost-sharing subsidies would be repealed in 2020, “significantly increasing out-of-pocket costs for nongroup (private) insurance for many lower-income enrollees.”

    MORE: How would the American Health Care Act affect cost and access?

    TRUMP, at a Cabinet meeting Monday: “Obamacare, all of a sudden, the last couple of weeks, is getting a false rep that maybe it’s OK. It’s not OK, it’s a disaster and people understand that it’s failed and it’s imploding. And if we let it go for another year, it’ll totally implode.”

    CBO: Not in the view of the budget experts. They described the market for individual policies under Barack Obama’s health care law as “stable.” They said it is likely to remain stable under the proposed GOP replacement legislation, too.

    Two views on the pros and cons of the GOP health care bill


    MICK MULVANEY, Trump’s budget director: “If you have coverage that doesn’t allow you to go to the doctor, what good is it in the first place? …Democrats took all of this credit for giving people coverage, but ignored the fact that they had created this large group of people that still could not go to the doctor.” — Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

    THE FACTS: Republicans gloss over reality when they make this argument. While deductibles are high for the Affordable Care Act’s private insurance plans (averaging $3,000 last year for a standard silver plan), the law requires preventive care to be covered at no charge. And more than half of the people enrolled in the health law’s insurance markets get an extra subsidy when they go to seek care. It can reduce a deductible from several thousand dollars to a few hundred. The GOP bill would repeal those subsidies.

    READ MORE: Budget chief: ‘I don’t believe the facts are correct’ in analysis of GOP health care plan

    Other evidence points to tangible benefits from Obama’s coverage expansion. For example, government researchers have found fewer Americans struggling to pay medical bills. A 2015 report found that problems with medical bills had declined for the fourth year in a row. Most of the improvement was among low-income people and those with government coverage, and it coincided with the ACA’s big coverage expansion.


    TOM PRICE, health and human services secretary: “I firmly believe that nobody will be worse off financially in the process that we’re going through.” — NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sunday.

    CBO: There are losers as well as winners, the analysts found. Generally, older people are bound to face higher costs because the legislation would let insurance companies charge them up to five times more for premiums than they charge young people. They can only be charged three times more now. The bottom line, the analysts say, would be “substantially reducing premiums for young adults and substantially raising premiums for older people.”

    Everything you need to know about the new GOP health care bill


    MICK MULVANEY, Trump’s budget director: “Actually I don’t think the costs will go up at all.” — ABC’s “This Week,” Sunday.

    CBO: It estimates that some costs indeed will go up, at least for a few years. The analysts say average premiums in the private insurance market would rise in 2018 and 2019 by 15 percent to 20 percent, compared with current law, then start to come down. By 2026, average premiums could be 10 percent lower, compared with current law. One reason: insurers could eliminate a current requirement to offer plans that cover a set percentage of the cost of certain benefits.

    How will new GOP tax credits compare with health insurance premiums?

    Associated Press writer Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.

    The post AP fact check: Trump’s promises on health care appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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