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

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    Photo by Zachary Green

    Artist Jean Oyola created a collage from eviction letters sent to his grandmother for “CitiCien,” an exhibit at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center in New York City that addresses the U.S.-Puerto Rico relationship. Photo by Zachary Green

    As Puerto Rico faces a $70 billion debt crisis, a poverty rate three times that of the U.S., borderline-insolvent public health care and retirement systems and a subsequent mass exodus, a longstanding debate has reignited over the merits of U.S. citizenship.

    In New York City, artists are grappling with these issues at “CitiCien,” an exhibit at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center that commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Jones Act, a 1917 law that granted citizenship to people born in Puerto Rico. (The exhibit’s name combines the words “citizen” and “cien,” the Spanish word for 100.) “Many of us have had to fight for our identity wherever we go, but wherever we go, we carry hope with us. It walks with us.” — Artist Jean Oyola

    Puerto Rico’s status as a commonwealth of the U.S. means that people born on the island and in the mainland diaspora must contend with their identities as both U.S. citizens and as Puerto Ricans. Puerto Rico’s colonial past has directly led to the territory’s struggles today, Vagabond Beaumont, a documentarian and visual artist who contributed to the show, said.

    “Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States. We’re always living in this sort of nether zone, in between spaces,” Beaumont said.

    READ NEXT: Beyond debt default and Zika, Puerto Rico struggles as trash piles up

    As part of “CitiCien,” Beaumont and 99 other artists with ties to Puerto Rico created art installations that describe their feelings on the Puerto Rico-U.S. relationship. The exhibit was curated by “Defend Puerto Rico,” an artistic collective seeking to connect Puerto Ricans to news and information about the island that is not widely available in the mainland U.S.

    The 'CitiCien' art exhibit at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center in New York City. Photo by Zachary Green

    The “CitiCien” art exhibit at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center in New York City. Photo by Zachary Green

    A month after Puerto Ricans were given U.S. citizenship in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to send troops to World War I, in which close to 20,000 Puerto Ricans would serve. For decades, the U.S. military used the Puerto Rican islands of Culebra and Vieques for bombing practice and a dumping ground for old munitions. The Jones Act also required Puerto Ricans to buy goods solely from American ships manned by American crews, which locals say limits business and jacks up prices.

    Today, the Puerto Rican legislature creates laws that can be overruled by a U.S. Congress that has a non-voting Puerto Rican representative. Puerto Ricans can be drafted to war, but they can’t vote for U.S. president. And the island territory often receives less funding for federal programs like Medicaid than U.S. states.

    As a commonwealth, Puerto Rico cannot file for bankruptcy, so last year Congress responded to the territory’s economic crisis by passing the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (or PROMESA, the Spanish word for “promise”). It established a bipartisan fiscal control board that would oversee the restructuring of the island’s debt and negotiate with its creditors. On March 13, the board approved an amended fiscal plan submitted by the Puerto Rican government after rejecting an initial proposal it called “unrealistic” and “overly optimistic.”

    “There’s this perception that we are our own nation,” Beaumont said. “And yet, there is this reality that we’re not really a part of the United States, but we don’t own ourselves either. We’ve always been in-between.”

    Artist Vagabond Beaumont stands next to his contribution to 'CitiCien,' center bottom. Photo by Zachary Green

    Artist Vagabond Beaumont stands next to his contribution to “CitiCien,” center. Photo by Zachary Green

    The walls inside the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center’s main lobby are lined with 12×12, black-and-white pieces celebrating Puerto Rico’s indigenous roots, West African heritage and beautiful scenery. Yet, criticisms of the territory’s colonial history and connection to the U.S. are front and center. Many of the works speak of infamous killings and suppression of Puerto Rican nationalist movements, including a period from 1948 to 1957 where Puerto Rican law prohibited displaying the Puerto Rican flag.

    READ NEXT: Puerto Rico seeks to reclaim island’s farming industry

    More personal statements address family members who left Puerto Rico for the U.S. to escape rampant poverty. In his piece, Beaumont features a photograph of his grandfather, a Puerto Rican nationalist who was born in 1913, and gained U.S. citizenship under the Jones Act before moving to New York in the 1940s. A quote from the 1957 musical “West Side Story” is transposed onto the photo; it describes a longing to return to home.

    Photo by Zachary Green

    Artist Vagabond Beaumont created this piece, center, for the “CitiCien” exhibit in New York City. Photo by Zachary Green

    “Today, we are dealing with the same reality,” Beaumont said. “Because of the debt crisis, people are fleeing the island. Not because they want to, but because they’re being forced to leave.”

    Puerto Rico’s commonwealth status has always been a hot-button issue in the territory, where political parties define themselves by platforms calling for either statehood, independence, or the status quo.

    In particular, the presence of a control board and its threats to impose austerity measures — including billions in cuts to pensions, public education and health spending — have become a source of tension in Puerto Rico and continue to incite mass protests.

    In an article for The Nation, author Nelson Denis argued the control board is another extension of U.S. control over the island:

    “Puerto Rico has been little more than a profit center for the United States: first as a naval coaling station, then as a sugar empire, a cheap labor supply, a tax haven, a captive market, and now as a municipal bond debtor and target for privatization. It is an island of beggars and billionaires: fought over by lawyers, bossed by absentee landlords, and clerked by politicians.”

    In June, Defend Puerto Rico’s curators will bring the CitiCien exhibit to the island’s capital, San Juan. That same month, Puerto Ricans will vote in a non-binding plebiscite on the island’s status for the fifth time in its history. Unlike past plebiscites, the ballot will offer only two options: Statehood or Independence/Free Association, excluding the traditional “Commonwealth” status option. Any outcome would need to be ratified by Congress.

    The PBS NewsHour Weekend spoke with other artists and curators about their contributions to the exhibit and relationship with Puerto Rico. Read what they told the NewsHour below.

    Adrian Roman, co-founder of Defend Puerto Rico and curator of “CitiCien”

    We wanted to create a bridge in communication between the people on the island and people here in the States. We have a lot of different emotions and pieces that are personal, about family, and then pieces that speak about our fight for independence dating back to the 1930s. The independence movement in Puerto Rico has been broken down, not only by the Puerto Rican government but by the U.S. government. It hasn’t been able to thrive. Every time it gets to a place where people have created a movement and are fighting for their freedom, it’s been knocked down.

    Being able to travel freely is the only true gift that we’ve been given through citizenship. Anything else we’ve had to fight for or fight against, and nothing has come easy. Where we are right now is obviously not working.

    Photo by Zachary Green

    For “CitiCien,” artist Arianna Chikki Cuesta photographed a young man struggling to pay for his cancer treatment, top right. Photo by Zachary Green

    Arianna Chikki Cuesta, artist

    I chose this young man as my subject because I wanted to shed light on how the economic crisis is affecting people who are already going through a hard time. The young man in this photo has cancer and owes a lot of money in medical bills for his cancer treatment. The location I chose is an abandoned building in Santurce, Puerto Rico, which represents all of the abandoned buildings in Puerto Rico right now. This neighborhood has been rocked by the economic crisis.

    This piece is called “Governmental Parasite.” My subject is holding on tight to his few dollars and the government is represented by this hand, which is the parasite. They live off of us and take from us until they no longer can. By holding on to his few dollars he’s saying, this is mine and I will fight for what is rightfully mine. I will fight for my island. And that’s what I wanted to express here.

    This piece by Nia Andino recalls the identification issued to Puerto Ricans in the U.S. following the Jones Act. Photo by Zachary Green

    This piece by Nia Andino recalls the identification issued to Puerto Ricans in the U.S. following the Jones Act. Photo by Zachary Green

    Nia Andino, artist

    My piece is about identity. My grandfather came here after joining the Army. I created a spoken-word piece about his journey. When he came into the U.S. after the Jones Act, there was a bureau that gave out ID cards for Puerto Ricans to identify as Americans to make it easier to receive benefits. I was thinking about coming to a new place after leaving another, and how people see you and how you see yourself. I learned a lot about how important this document was for their experience in how people treated them or saw them, especially because he was Afro-Latino, so there was this layer of not only being foreign, but also being black.

    Photo by Zachary Green

    This collage is composed of eviction letters sent to artist Jean Oyola’s grandmother. Photo by Zachary Green

    Jean Oyola, artist

    This piece took me 9 years to create because it’s a collage made from letters sent to my grandmother, evicting her from her home. I kept it in a shoebox for many years. My grandfather was a veteran, he served in the military. He had his benefits while he was alive, but when he died, benefits were denied to my grandmother, and that’s my message here. How the United States offers one thing but then hands over another. Many of us have had to fight for our identity wherever we go, but wherever we go, we carry hope with us. It walks with us. We carry our home with us.

    Photo by Zachary Green

    Daniel Alago created this piece for the “CitiCien” exhibit in New York. Photo by Zachary Green

    Daniel Alago, artist

    I was thinking about a story that my mother told me from when she was a child growing up in the town of Jayuya. There was a bombing in her town, planes going over and bombing the town so she had to hide under the house. What was really happening was that people in the Puerto Rican nationalist movement had to come in and taken over the town and had gotten into a shootout with the police officers and proclaimed Puerto Rico to be free. After that, the U.S. government sent in the National Guard. [P-47] bombers were attacking the town with bombs. So in my painting I added a picture of Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, leader of the Nationalist movement, the house my mom grew up in and then a picture of the National Guard coming into the town.

    Bonafide Rojas contributed to 'CitiCien.' Photo by Zachary Green

    Bonafide Rojas contributed this piece, top right, to “CitiCien.” Photo by Zachary Green

    Bonafide Rojas, artist

    The fact that we can’t control our own destiny is the biggest thing. If Puerto Ricans want Puerto Rico to succeed, Puerto Ricans have to be the ones In control of making our own decisions. My piece is called “In the Morning of Our Independence.” It’s a colonial history of Puerto Rico spanning back 118 years. It starts with the Americans invading in 1898, it talks about the relationship that Puerto Rico had with Spain and how they signed an autonomous charter to make them free and then couple of weeks later were invaded by the U.S. during the Spanish-American war. The piece talks about everything from the control board, to the Island’s first governor, a man who was a Confederate General in the Civil War who fought at wounded knee. I try to fit as much as I can ending at the massacres in Jayuya and Salon Boricua.

    Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi created this piece for "CitiCien." Photo by Zachary Green

    Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi created this piece for the “CitiCien” exhibit. Photo by Zachary Green

    Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi, co-founder of Defend Puerto Rico

    We in the diaspora weren’t getting stories from back on the island. We heard about the economic crisis and about people leaving the island and different things, a lot of numbers, pie charts that I believe aren’t going to motivate people to do anything about the situation. So we went there to hear stories from the people and then share those personal stories. It’s such an honor to be able to express myself on a 12 x 12 piece of work along with 100 other Puerto Rican artists.

    Mark Otura Mun created this piece for 'CitiCien.' Photo by Ivette Feliciano

    Mark Otura Mun created this piece for “CitiCien.” Photo by Ivette Feliciano

    Mark Otura Mun, artist

    I moved to Puerto Rico in 1999. I’m African-American and have no blood ties to Puerto Rico. I am not a nationalist and on a personal level am struggling with those themes and with my thoughts on what should happen to my friends and neighbors on the island. In the past, I’ve struggled with whether I have the right to have an opinion on Puerto Rico’s future. I’ve been there for 20 years and I do believe in liberty, so I wanted to offer this. The people that are around me are my family and I’m entrenched there, it is my home.

    CitiCien will be on view at the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center in New York City until March 26.

    The post ‘I will fight for my island’ — Puerto Rican artists on territory’s future appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The White House said an attempted intruder was stopped outside the White House Fence on Saturday. File photo of White House by Getty Images

    PALM BEACH, Fla. — The White House said Saturday that an individual was apprehended after jumping a low metal barrier just outside the White House fence, a week after an intrusion raised questions about lapses in security under the watch of the U.S. Secret Service.

    White House press secretary Sean Spicer wrote on Twitter that the individual “jumped bike rack on Pennsylvania Ave” but did not make it onto White House property.

    Spicer added, “Great response by @SecretService.”

    President Donald Trump was not at the White House on Saturday. He and his family are spending the weekend at his Palm Beach, Florida, resort.

    The Secret Service did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

    The incident comes about a week after a man breached a 5-foot outer perimeter fence and scaled an 8-foot vehicle gate to gain entry to the White House grounds.

    Video surveillance footage shows Jonathan Tuan Tran, 26, of Milpitas, California, climbing the fence near the Treasury Department adjacent to the White House security fence and making his way to a south entrance, the criminal complaint said. Tran, who the Secret Service said was carrying two cans of Mace, is charged with entering restricted grounds while carrying a dangerous weapon and faces up to 10 years in prison.

    Trump was inside the executive mansion at the time. He praised the Secret Service for doing a “fantastic job” apprehending a “troubled person.”

    Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told CNN on Friday that Tran was able to “look through” a White House window and roam the grounds undetected for 17 minutes while Trump was inside. Chaffetz called the incident a “complete and utter total failure.”

    The Secret Service stressed that the intruder never made it inside White House. The agency said it was still investigating and had put additional security posts, technology enhancements and new response protocols into place.

    It was the first known security breach at the White House since Trump took office two months ago.

    Similar lapses occurred during the eight years that Barack Obama was president. In September 2014, an Army veteran with mental health issues scaled a fence on the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the White House and made it deep inside the building, to the East Room, before the Secret Service could detain him. The Obamas were not at home at the time.

    The incident was one of several breakdowns by the Secret Service that ultimately led to the resignation of the agency’s director, Julia Pierson, the following month.

    Trump has to find someone new to lead the agency. Joseph Clancy, a former agent who came out of retirement to succeed Pierson, announced his second retirement last month.

    The post Spicer: Secret Service stops attempted White House intrusion appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    By Saskia de Melker and Laura Fong

    SASKIA DE MELKER: The documentary “Newtown” shows how the tragedy has shaped not only the victims but the whole town. Filmmaker Kim Snyder spent three years making the film.

    You speak with a number of people from the community in the film: the next door neighbor at Sandy Hook Elementary, a priest in the community. Why did you take this approach of looking at the entire community?

    KIM SNYDER: We felt it was really important that, that hadn’t really been done, to look at the ripple effects and the devastating trauma to an entire town, to an entire community; the effects on not just family members who lose so much, but on neighbors and on doctors and on priests and our law enforcement and our teachers. And from there evolved a sort of vision to show through multiple lenses what redefining victim as an entire community, which is something we don’t always see.

    SASKIA DE MELKER: Right after the incident, Sandy Hook Elementary neighbor Gene Rosen encountered a group of evacuated school kids on his front lawn.

    GENE ROSEN, SCHOOL NEIGHBOR Film Clip “Newtown”: They looked horrible. They were out of breath. I could tell they had been crying, but they were quiet. They were quiet in their abject fear and terror.

    KIM SNYDER: Newtown is 28,000 people, and this was a sampling of certain voices that we got to organically, where one person would introduce us to another in a very private way. But there wasn’t anyone that I met who wasn’t completely experiencing varying levels of trauma, even years out.

    SASKIA DE MELKER: Mark Barden talks about losing his son, Daniel.

    MARK BARDEN, PARENT Film Clip “Newtown”: You can only try to imagine how unbelievably difficult and challenging that is to try to interpret what your seven-year-old experienced as he was being murdered

    SASKIA DE MELKER: Melissa Malin is Mark Barden’s next door neighbor. Her son, Kyle, was in the classroom down the hall from Daniel and escaped unharmed.

    MELISSA MALIN, PARENT Film Clip “Newtown”: This guy walked into the school, and he went left. Why did he go left? Kyle was on the right. The second door on the right. Why did he go this way, and not that way? I don’t know. It’s not fair. None of this is fair.”

    SASKIA DE MELKER: You really capture neighbors who are trying to reconcile the random chaos of this event.

    KIM SNYDER: The rebuilding of that community is sort of reconciling these relationships of people just feeling so terrible for their friends or neighbors who did lose children. But at the same token, there are people, there were 300-some children in the school that day, and many of them saw things and all of them heard things that I’m sure they will never forget. And so those families go through very difficult journeys right now with their surviving children. So there’s also, I think, part of the film was to open up the need to have empathy for all kinds of different people in the town.

    SASKIA DE MELKER: Has this tragedy defined this community?

    KIM SNYDER: That’s exactly what they would say they don’t want to be defined by, the tragedy. But having said that, it’s a town that will be forever changed. It’s sort of in the DNA, I think, of the history of the town now for generations to come.

    SGT BILL CARIO, CONNECTICUT STATE TROOPER, Film Clip “Newtown”: I don’t think that any of us that were in there feel that anybody needs to know specifically what we saw. Emotionally the world needs to know to understand.

    KIM SNYDER: We want people to bear witness to this and to have the backs of not only the people in Newtown who went through this, but this sort of epidemic of all these people that I think we’re becoming at large a traumatized society from all of these gun deaths, and to decide for themselves what do we want to do about this.

    SASKIA DE MELKER: The film shows the efforts of some Newtown families, as part of the group called Sandy Hook Promise, to push for stricter background checks for gun buyers and for banning semi-automatic rifles and high capacity magazines, like those used on their children. As a result, Connecticut changed its gun laws but, along with President Obama, the families failed to persuade Congress to act on an expanded background check bill.

    KIM SNYDER: Some of them were trying to make change in terms of social action. Others were having all kinds of personal transformations and really, I think the film is as much about resilience, human resilience and collective grief as it is about the issues that underlie gun violence. We’ve screened in very politically diverse parts of the country. We’ve had NRA members come; just several days ago had a conversation with a few who have seen the film and said this is a really important film, and we all need to be able to talk about this in a more civil way. So that’s been incredibly inspiring.

    SASKIA DE MELKER: On the film’s website, Snyder points viewers to Sandy Hook Promise and the pro-gun control Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Everytown for Gun Safety.

    The pro-gun rights National Rifle Association declined to comment on the film or Sandy Hook Promise. But the pro-gun industry National Shooting Sports Foundation, which has long been headquartered in Newtown, Connecticut, told NewsHour Weekend: “We have met with representatives of this organization, and we have a respectful relationship.” While opposing a ban on semi-automatic rifle guns or high capacity magazines,“The National Shooting Sports Foundation has long worked to help keep firearms out of the hands of individuals who should not have access to them.” That’s included pushing states to send complete criminal or mental health records for everyone banned from banning guns to the federal background check system.

    SASKIA DE MELKER: You don’t ever say the shooter’s name in the film. Why?

    KIM SNYDER: My sense of it was that those people who perpetrate these kinds of crimes are given a lot of notoriety. And so we really wanted to take the lead of a lot of victim communities not to give as much notoriety to the shooters, but to really focus more on the people whose lives were taken, on the loss and on the effect on the community.

    SASKIA DE MELKER: Did you ever consider talking to anyone from the shooter’s family as a member of the community?

    KIM SNYDER: I did to be honest.The shooter’s father had given an interview that got out there in print. But he had moved away from Newtown. He really wasn’t currently a member of the community.

    SASKIA DE MELKER: In the film, Nicole Hockley talks about her six-year-old son, Dylan, who died at Sandy Hook Elementary.

    NICOLE HOCKLEY, PARENT, film clip “Newtown”: I have these memories. I have pictures. I have hair and teeth. And yet you go through these crazy motions of ‘Am I just dreaming all of this?’ I still keep expecting him to be there, but have I just gone insane? Is this real?

    SASKIA DE MELKER: Several of the parents express they don’t really want closure because that means that their child is really gone. How did you decide when to stop filming or how to end this film when there’s not really an end for this community?

    KIM SNYDER: It was really important for us to stay honest to the fact that there is no closure, and you don’t get over this. It does go on. We felt we had gotten a certain amount of perspectives over the three years, and that we had that story. And there was enough shifts, there were enough small baby step kinds of shifts in some of the people that we were involved with. So much was really about chronicling the beginnings of, or the makings of resilience more than healing.

    The post Documentary ‘Newtown’ examines a town’s lasting trauma appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Emergency services at Orly airport southern terminal after a shooting incident near Paris, France March 18, 2017. Photo by Benoit Tessier/Reuters

    ORLY, France — Yelling that he wanted to kill and die for Allah, a suspected Islamic extremist attacked a French soldier Saturday morning at Paris’ Orly Airport and wrested away her assault rifle, a French prosecutor said. Two colleagues on her patrol shot and killed the man before he could fire the military-grade weapon in the busy airport terminal.

    The attack forced the airport’s terminals to shut down and evacuate, sent passengers and workers fleeing in panic and trapped hundreds of others aboard flights that had just landed. It was the violent climax of what authorities described as a 90-minute spree of destructive criminality across the French capital by the suspect, identified as Ziyed Ben Belgacem.

    The attack further rattled France, which remains under a state of emergency after attacks over the past two years that have killed 235 people.

    Orly, Paris’ second-biggest airport behind Charles de Gaulle, has both domestic and international flights and the 8:30 a.m. (0730 GMT; 4:30 a.m. EDT) assault brought its operations to a screeching halt.

    Stopped first by police in Paris’ northern suburbs early Saturday morning for driving too fast and without lights in a small Renault, the 39-year-old Frenchman opened fire with a revolver loaded with bird shot, injuring an officer in the face, authorities said.

    He then fled by car to a bar that he frequented regularly and where he had already stopped a few hours earlier and again opened fire. No one was injured.

    Finally, in another car stolen at gunpoint, he parked at Orly. A few minutes later, he hurled himself at three soldiers on patrol in its South Terminal, throwing a bag with a gas can at the floor and wielding his 9 mm revolver, said Paris prosecutor Francois Molins.

    “With a pistol in his right hand and a bag over his shoulder, he grabbed (the soldier) with his left arm, made her move backward by three to four meters (yards), positioning her as a shield, and pointed his revolver at her forehead,” Molins said.

    According to soldiers, the attacker yelled: “Put down your weapons! Put your hands on your head! I am here to die for Allah. Whatever happens, there will be deaths,” Molins said.

    In a struggle, the attacker managed to wrest free the captive soldier’s Famas assault rifle and sling it over his shoulder. Molins said video surveillance footage appeared to show that Belgacem was “determined to see the process through to the end.”

    “Everything suggests that he wanted to take the Famas so there would be deaths and to shoot people,” he said.

    In between the moments when he ducked behind his hostage, the two other soldiers fired three bursts, eight rounds in all, that killed the attacker, Molins said.

    “Her two comrades thought it was necessary — and they were right — to open fire to protect her and especially to protect all the people who were around,” said French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

    Le Drian had said the soldier kept hold of her weapon. Molins said while she did wrestle it back from Belgacem at one point, he managed to snatch it off her in the end.

    Witnesses described panicked bystanders fleeing, flights halting, traffic chaos and planes under lockdowns. Traffic was jammed near the airport and people wheeled suitcases down the road.

    “We’d already registered our bags when we saw a soldier pointing his gun at the attacker who was holding another soldier hostage,” said Pascal Menniti, who was flying to the Dominican Republic.

    Authorities said at least 3,000 people were evacuated from the airport. Hundreds of passengers also were confined for several hours aboard 13 flights that were blocked in landing areas, and 15 other flights were diverted to Charles de Gaulle Airport.

    Passengers were allowed off their blocked planes around noon, once a search of the airport was complete, but the airport’s South Terminal did not reopen until late afternoon, authorities said.

    Despite the transportation chaos, French authorities stressed that security planning — reinforced across the country in the wake of repeated attacks — worked well.

    The soldier was “psychologically shocked” but unhurt by the “rapid and violent” assault, said Col. Benoit Brulon, a spokesman for the military force that patrols public sites in France.

    The attacker’s motives were unknown but the anti-terror section of the Paris prosecutors’ office immediately took over the investigation.

    His father and brother were detained by police for questioning later Saturday, which is standard operating procedure. Molins said a cousin of Belgacem’s also turned himself in for questioning, having spent time with the attacker in the bar the previous night.

    A search of Belgacem’s residence found cocaine and a machete, Molins said. The father and brother told police that Belgacem phoned them Saturday morning, minutes after shooting at the police traffic patrol, to say that he’d “made a mistake,” Molins said.

    The prosecutors’ office said the attacker had a record of robbery and drug offenses. Molins said he was out on bail, banned from leaving France and obliged to report regularly to police, having been handed preliminary charges for robberies in 2016.

    Molins said Belgacem was flagged as having been radicalized during a spell in detention from 2011-2012. His house was among scores searched in November 2015 in the immediate aftermath of suicide bomb-and-gun attacks that killed 130 people in Paris.

    French President Francois Hollande said investigators will determine whether the attacker “had a terrorist plot behind him.” But he ruled out any link between the attack and the two-round French presidential election in April and May, noting that France has been battling extremist threats for years.

    At a Saturday evening news conference, Molins gave reporters a timeline for Belgacem’s last hours.

    He said about 90 minutes before the airport attack, Belgacem was stopped by a police traffic patrol at Garges-les-Gonesse in northern Paris. As he showed his ID papers, he pulled out a gun and fired bird shot, injuring an officer in the face.

    Police fired back. He fled in his car.

    He then drove to the bar in Vitry, south of Paris, and opened fire. He abandoned his Renault and stole another car at gunpoint. That car was later found at Orly Airport, and Molins said video surveillance showed Belgacem was alone when he parked it.

    The military patrol at Orly was part of the Sentinelle force installed around France to protect sensitive sites after a string of deadly Islamic extremist attacks. Saturday was at least the fourth time that Sentinelle soldiers have been targeted since the force, which includes 7,500 soldiers, was created in 2015.

    Saturday’s attack comes after a similar incident last month at the Louvre Museum in Paris in which an Egyptian man attacked soldiers guarding the site. He was shot and wounded and taken into custody.

    Leicester reported from Paris. Angela Charlton, Samuel Petrequin and Nicolas Vaux-Montagny in Paris and Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen contributed.

    The post Paris Orly Airport attacker wanted to kill, die for Allah appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Homs, Syria, is where the uprising against President Bashar al Assad began in 2011. Today, the first of thousands of opposition fighters and their families began evacuating the last rebel-held neighborhoods. They’re leaving as part of a deal brokered by Russia, which backs President Bashar al Assad.

    As the Syrian civil war entered its seventh year this week, the American military presence is higher than ever before, with the Trump administration sending 400 more troops to join 500 already deployed.

    For more perspective on what’s happening on the ground and the role of the U.S. military, I’m joined from Washington by Doug Ollivant of the New America Foundation.

    Doug, half a million people dead, getting into seven years now, millions more displaced. Any end in sight?

    DOUG OLLIVANT, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Unfortunately, no. It doesn’t appear that we really do have an end in sight. We see talks of cease fires and talks of truces, and, you know, the occasional peace talk, but nothing seems to have come from this.

    The Russians are very much vested in the survival of the Assad regime. So, that seems to be a simple fact on the ground. And yet the rebellion hasn’t gone away, and neither have either al-Qaeda or ISIS. It’s complicated.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And he has time on his side. He doesn’t seem to feel any pressure to try to resolve this any sooner than needed?

    DOUG OLLIVANT: That’s absolutely right. He’s very secure in Damascus, so the battle may wax and wane out in the field, but he’s under no particular pressure where he is.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Let’s talk about this idea that the U.S. has kind of a plan to tackle ISIS in Iraq and other places, and also in Syria. What are all these additional troops going to do on the ground?

    DOUG OLLIVANT: Well, the additional troops in Syria are there to about three things. They’re there to advise — as they’ve been doing on the Iraqi side of the border. They’re there to provide fire support. There are howitzers at the space which can reach Raqqah or at least the outskirts of Raqqah. That’s also something that’s been done in Iraq. So, that’s a proven model.

    But unlike in Iraq, these troops are there, least in some part, to keep our allies from fighting each other. They’re essentially positioned between the Turkish-backed Arab forces and the Kurdish forces, both of which would probably much rather fight each other than fight ISIS

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You know, taking a city like Raqqah is going to take quite some time, and what we’re seeing in Mosul play out, I’d imagine that it would be just as hard, if not harder in Raqqah.

    DOUG OLLIVANT: It would be harder. Raqqah is a smaller city than Mosul. So, in that sense, it’s easier.

    But in Iraq, we’re blessed with an abundance of real, organized allies. We have the Iraqi army and its associated forces. We have the Kurdish Peshmerga and we can even work with the private military forces, PMUs or Shia militias. So, we essentially have three organized forces in that country that we can use as a fighting force.

    In Syria, we really don’t have any of those things. We do have the YPG Syrian Kurds, but that’s a force we essentially organized. It didn’t organize itself, as the Iraqi Peshmerga did. So, we have been essentially creating that from scratch over the last several years

    HARI SREENIVASAN: How strong is al-Qaeda in Syria today?

    DOUG OLLIVANT: Well, al-Qaeda has continued to gain strength. All the extremist factions — ISIS, al-Qaeda in Syria, which has gone through various names. Today, it’s called Tahrir al-Sham. But al-Qaeda in Syria is still just fine.

    And for that matter, Ahrar al-Sham, which doesn’t intend to impose Islam on us. They’re not like al-Qaeda or ISIS in that sense, but they’re essentially the Syrian Taliban. They want a very Islamist regime in the country.

    All three of these groups have essentially gobbled up the smaller groups. They have more resources and, therefore, the fighters have moved from the more moderate resistance groups to these more Islamist groups

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Considering how many different factions are fighting inside Syria and the different agendas that all of them have, do the major players — say, for example, the U.S. and Russia — can they possibly agree on actually fighting ISIS and al-Qaeda, versus supporting or not supporting Assad?

    DOUG OLLIVANT: It’s very, very difficult. Ultimately, getting rid of ISIS is everyone’s goal. It’s the American — not just the Americans and the Russians, but even, say, the Saudis and the Iranians, also major players in the region, and the Turks, would all like ISIS to go away. But there are other equities, and exactly how you want the chess board to look once ISIS is gone, on that, there’s no agreement between any of the major powers

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And in the meantime, the humanitarian crisis continues.

    DOUG OLLIVANT: Absolutely. As you said, half a million dead, tens of millions who have been dispersed, many of whom have, you know, drown in one of the oceans or have been picked up by human traffickers and subjected to various indignities or death. It’s a true humanitarian tragedy

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And continuing to add pressure on all the countries neighboring Syria as well.

    DOUG OLLIVANT: That’s right. In countries that don’t have much stability to begin with, places like our ally Jordan, like Lebanon, Turkey — they’ve all received literally millions of refugees, as has Europe, and none of this is helpful for anyone’s political situation, and in the case of the neighbors, even regime survival

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Doug Ollivant of the New America Foundation — thanks so much.

    DOUG OLLIVANT: Pleasure, Hari.

    The post As Syrian civil war stretches on, U.S. sends more troops appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Donald Trump is interviewed by Reuters in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, United States, February 23, 2017. Photo By Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Air Force is quietly shrinking its deployed force of land-based nuclear missiles as part of a holdover Obama administration plan to comply with an arms control treaty with Russia. The reductions are nearing completion despite President Donald Trump’s argument that the treaty gives Moscow an unfair advantage in nuclear firepower.

    The reduction to 400 missiles from 450 is the first for the intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, force in a decade – when the arsenal came down from 500 such weapons. The Air Force says the latest cut in Minuteman 3 missiles will be completed in April, leaving the deployed ICBM arsenal at its smallest size since the early 1960s.

    In 2014, President Barack Obama’s administration announced the planned ICBM reduction to tailor the overall nuclear force, including bombers and nuclear-armed submarines, to the New START accord that the U.S. and Russia sealed in 2010. Both nations must comply with the treaty’s limits by February 2018.

    The shrinking of the ICBM force runs counter, at least rhetorically, to Trump’s belief that the U.S. has fallen behind Russia in nuclear muscle. In December, he tweeted that the U.S. must “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” He has criticized New START as a bad deal.

    It’s unclear how Trump intends to conduct a nuclear expansion, which critics call unnecessary and a potential drain on funds needed for non-nuclear forces. A long-term plan to replace and modernize the current nuclear force is already underway and will end up costing hundreds of billions of dollars.

    As of March 14, the Air Force had 406 Minuteman missiles in launch-ready silos, Maj. Daniel Dubois, an Air Force spokesman, said Friday. In September the number was 417. Dubois said the number will be down to 400 by April. Also as part of the treaty’s compliance process, the Air Force in January finished converting 41 B-52H bombers to non-nuclear status.

    Michaela Dodge, a defense policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, says the U.S. should get out of New START.

    “There should be a way to reverse those decreases,” she said, referring to the 50 Minuteman missiles pulled out of their silos. “As long as Russia continues to increase the number of its nuclear warheads under New START, we should not be decreasing.”

    Russia’s warheads have surpassed the treaty limit of 1,550, and the U.S. is below the limit. But by next February, neither is expected to be above.

    Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said Moscow would honor its New START commitment.

    “It’s important for the United States to stay on schedule,” he said, arguing that such efforts “will help ensure that Russia does the same.”

    Based on military calculations, Obama declared in 2013 that the U.S. could safely reduce its nuclear force by one-third from New START levels. But negotiations to do so never took place. They seem even unlikelier after Russia’s military actions in Ukraine and Kremlin rhetoric that U.S. officials have considered reckless and dangerous. However, Trump’s suggestions of interest in a grand bargain with Russia, including nuclear reductions, could provide an avenue for fresh talks.

    After taking office, Trump ordered a review of nuclear forces, a Pentagon-led process likely to take a year or more. Among the key questions: whether to continue Obama’s weapons modernization plan and a possible withdrawal from New START. One element of the modernization plan calls for a new-generation ICBM force that could cost more than $100 billion.

    Sticking with New START would not necessarily constrain the U.S. for long. It expires in February 2021 unless both sides agree on an extension. Besides the overall warhead limit, the treaty allows each side a maximum of 700 deployed launchers, including missile silos. Russia and the United States can decide for themselves how their totals are apportioned among the three weapons categories: ICBMs, submarines and bombers.

    The 50 underground silos from which the Minuteman missiles are being removed will be kept “warm,” meaning capable of returning to active use. The missiles are being put in storage. Those decisions came after members of Congress from the ICBM base states – North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana – pushed for no elimination of silos.

    The 400 remaining deployed ICBMs would be the fewest since 1962, according to a history of the force written by Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists.

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    File photo of the White House in Washington, D.C., by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    CAIRO — Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and U.S. President Donald Trump will meet in Washington next month, Egypt’s leading state-owned newspaper said on Sunday.

    Al-Ahram said in a front-page report the two leaders will meet during the first week of April, in what will be el-Sissi’s first visit to Washington since taking office in 2014.

    El-Sissi and Trump have already shown a bond when they met in September on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. Trump, at the time the Republican presidential nominee, said there was “good chemistry” and el-Sissi, a general-turned-politician said Trump would “without a doubt” make a strong leader.

    Cairo and Washington are expected to forge closer ties under Trump following years of tension over the Obama administration’s emphasis on human rights and Cairo’s perception that it supported the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

    El-Sissi, as defense minister, led the military’s 2013 ouster of the Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi following days of massive protests against the Islamist leader’s divisive rule. His removal ushered in the start of a massive crackdown against both Islamists and secular pro-democracy activists that jailed thousands and killed hundreds in street clashes with police. The crackdown was frequently criticized by the Obama administration, which suspended some aid and sought to distance itself from el-Sissi’s government.

    Obama never invited el-Sissi to the White House.

    Egypt and the United States have been close allies for most of the nearly 40 years since Cairo signed a peace treaty with Israel, with Egypt becoming the second largest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel, with some $1.3 billion annually in military aid.

    The post Egypt’s el-Sissi to meet Trump in Washington in early April appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A male white abalone that was collected in October 2016. He arrived at Bodega Marine Lab in December 2016 and only survived two months. Scientists are trying to figure out why he died. Photo by Maggie Carson Jurow/KQED

    On a rainy winter evening, biologist Kristin Aquilino was rummaging through the trunk of her pickup truck in the Bodega Marine Lab parking lot. She was looking for a rubber spatula—a tool she needed to pry a recently captured white abalone from inside an ice chest brimming with seawater.

    Aquilino had driven the rare animal 385 miles from Los Angeles, where it was captured off the coast, and where small numbers of this endangered species can still be found. She was about to introduce the 7-inch marine snail to its new home, a research facility at UC Davis’ Bodega Marine Lab in Bodega Bay.

    Kristen Aquilino searches for a spatula so she can remove a wild-caught white abalone from inside a cooler that transported the animal from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Photo by Maggie Carson Jurow/KQED

    Now Aquilino had the unenviable task of trying to pry loose the creature’s squishy orange foot without injuring it. Any nick to this male abalone’s flesh, or chip to its shell, could cause the snail to bleed uncontrollably since its fluid doesn’t clot.

    “I’ve been studying these animals for years and this is one of the few wild white abalone I’ve seen,” says Aquilino, an abalone expert at the Bodega Marine Lab.

    That’s because there are more white abalone living in captivity than there are in the wild. And the mollusk in Aquilino’s hands is the first wild white abalone scientists have collected from the ocean in more than a decade.

    These rare creatures are incredibly difficult for divers to find in the deep waters where they live.

    “We’ve been working for six to seven years to find loner abalone along the coast,” says fish biologist Dave Witting from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    A wild white abalone was covered in so much algae that scientists say he was “extremely hard” to find. Photo by Maggie Carson Jurow/KQED

    “We spoke to old abalone divers who are long retired now, but, basically we picked their brains and found some locations,” says Witting, who collected the male abalone that Aquilino drove to Bodega Marine Lab. “He was extremely hard to find,” says Witting. “It looked like a fuzzy rock, it was very well camouflaged.”

    Not only was the abalone difficult to spot, but Witting needed a special Endangered Species Act permit to collect him—a permit that took two years to acquire. So the animal’s arrival at Bodega Marine Lab was historic.

    “This is a big moment,” said Aquilino. “They will go extinct in 10 to 15 years if there’s not a program to place them back in the wild.”

    Aquilino gingerly placed the snail inside a bright blue bucket at the lab, where her 12-person research team runs a captive breeding program to protect white abalone from going extinct.

    Like all new abalone that arrive, he received a nickname: abalone 314 or “Pi.” Researchers were hoping Pi’s arrival would introduce new DNA into the aging captive population, creating stronger offspring with more genetic diversity.

    A free diver searches for abalone off the California coast. Photo by Ken Bailey/KQED

    The Path to Extinction

    White abalone was once a delicacy at California seafood restaurants, the most highly prized of all abalone species for its soft meat. Then it disappeared from menus in 1993 when the fishery was closed due to overfishing.

    Buzz Owen, a retired commercial and recreational abalone diver, recalls his abundant abalone catches back in the ’50s and ’60s.

    “There was no limit on the number you could take,” says Owen.

    “My record was in 1961. After diving for nine hours near Catalina Island when I caught 83 dozen including some whites and greens and pinks. “That didn’t even dent this population.”

    White abalone was so popular that it was nearly eaten to extinction. These shells sit outside a Monterey market in 1930. Photo by Richard S. Crocker/Online Archive of California/KQED


    Size limits on what divers could catch were intended to protect abalone so they could mature and reproduce. But it wasn’t enough to prevent the numbers from dwindling to a crisis point. The scattered survivors were too far apart for their ejected sperm and eggs to mingle, so spawning was rarely successful.

    The government eventually realized closing the fishery wasn’t enough, so they made collection of all abalone a federal crime in 1997. (One exception for abalone diving remains: there’s still a legal, recreational red abalone fishery north of San Francisco.)

    Then in 2001, white abalone became the first marine invertebrate to receive federal protection as an endangered species after the population had declined by almost 99 percent.

    Scientists Play Matchmakers During Captive Breeding

    The success—or failure—of white abalone now depends on the breeding program at the Bodega Lab, and six other organizations, including the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and NOAA, that support the effort.

    During the first captive breeding attempt at UC Santa Barbara in 2001, the parent abalone created 100,000 juveniles, but almost all of them died due to a fatal wasting disease called withering syndrome.

    In 2003, the Channel Islands Marine Resource Institute in Santa Barbara bred the abalone again and after the Bodega lab received a permit in 2011, it bred animals in 2012.

    Captive breeding was finally turning a corner. Between 2012 and 2014, the number of abalone that survived to be juveniles increased threefold.

    There are now 8,000 juveniles living in captivity at Bodega’s lab. They haven’t been released into the wild yet because scientists still need to test methods for introduction into the ocean—an environment the animals have never experienced.

    “We’re in a make-or-break situation right now with the wild population,” says Aquilino. “We put them in this mess, so it’s up to us to save them.”

    New Abalone Brings Hope

    When Pi arrived at the Bodega Lab, Aquilino was excited about breeding him in March. White abalone only spawn once a year so timing is critical. It would be the first breeding of a newly collected abalone in more than a decade.

    But even hopeful stories don’t turn out to be happy ones. In early February, 15 weeks after Pi’s arrival to Bodega, Aquilino sent an email with “cruddy news.” He didn’t survive.

    “We don’t know why,” she later explained over the phone.

    “It was obviously very sudden and unexpected. He looked fine on Tuesday and then a day later he was no longer holding on to the side of the tank.”

    In late February, Jim Moore, a California Department of Fish and Wildlife shellfish health expert, examined the animal’s tissue, and says “Pi” may have developed a foot infection, though he couldn’t be sure.

    “We may never be able to pinpoint cause of death, that is just the way it is sometimes,” says Moore.

    But there was some good news for Aquilino and her team. A female white abalone recently captured off the coast of Southern California arrived at the Bodega lab just before Pi’s death—just in time for breeding. They named her “Green 312.”

    She was one of 13 animals that successfully spawned on March 1. For the scientists, it was a big deal.

    “Pretty cool that there are new genes in the program for the first time in 14 years!!!” Aquilino said in an email to colleagues a day after the event.

    Green 312 and four other female abalone from the original captive group produced about 14 million eggs. By the next morning, scientists woke up to find millions of embryos.

    “I was lucky enough to witness one of the embryos from the wild female hatching under the scope this morning, Aquilino wrote, “which was a first for me and super duper exciting.”

    Bodega Marine Lab and six other agencies have a five-year plan and expect to be ready in about two years for a release of thousands of young white abalone into the wild.

    “We now have enough captive white abalone to start testing the best methods for reintroduction to the wild once a permit is in place,” says Aquilino, “and we’re hopeful.”

    This report was produced by KQED Science. You can view the original report on its website.

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    WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 12: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) reads from a list of states with increasing health insurance premiums during his weekly news conference in the Capitol Visitors Center at the U.S. Capitol January 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. Ryan said that Congressional Republicans are on a “rescue” mission to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and that he and President-elect Donald Trump are in perfect sync with the process or replacing Obamacare. Photo By Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan says he will seek changes to a divisive GOP health care bill to provide more help to older people hard hit by the plan.

    A Congressional Budget Office analysis last week concluded that older people would likely pay higher premiums under the proposal to repeal and replace Barack Obama’s health care law.

    Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Ryan says he believes the CBO analysis is not accurate but agreed that people in their 50s and 60s experience higher health care costs.

    [Watch Video]

    The Wisconsin Republican says “we believe we should offer more assistance than what the bill currently does” and that it’s one of several possible revisions to help round up enough House votes for the bill.

    A House vote on the plan is scheduled for Thursday.

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    German Chancellor Angela Merkel awaits the arrival of the new European Parliament President Antonio Tajani at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, February 24, 2017. Photo by Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters

    BERLIN — Germany has rejected President Donald Trump’s claim that the country owes NATO large sums for underspending on defense.

    Trump tweeted Saturday that “Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO and the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!”

    His comments came a day after his first meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which he described as “great.”

    Berlin’s defense budget has long been below NATO’s target of 2 percent of a member’s gross domestic product.

    German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Sunday that “there’s no debtor’s account at NATO,” adding: “To tie the 2 percent of defense spending, which we want to achieve in the middle of the next decade, only to NATO, is wrong.”

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    come from away

    “Come From Away,” a Canadian musical, celebrates the generosity of Gander, Newfoundland, who accepted thousands of stranded passengers on 9/11. It opened on Broadway this week. Photo by Matthew Murphy

    On March 15, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau brought Ivanka Trump and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley to “Come From Away,” a Canadian musical that celebrates the generosity of a community that welcomed outsiders on 9/11.

    Diane Davis, who was in the audience with Trudeau, lived this story. On Sept. 11, 2001, when the American airspace closed, more than 6,500 people on 38 planes were diverted to Gander, Newfoundland, a town of about 10,000 people with an airport that served for years as a refueling stop. Davis helped to organize the volunteers and convert the town’s school into a shelter as the local population swelled by two-thirds.

    Sixteen years later, the story of a town that opened its arms to newcomers has taken on new significance as Davis, and many of the others who volunteered on 9/11, help four Syrian families adjust to life in Gander. “It’s the same people, the same organizations, the same churches, the same community halls that know [that] it’s still a good thing to do something for people,” Davis said.

    The musical, directed by Christopher Ashley, is the fifth Canadian show to make it to Broadway and was written by David Hein and Irene Sankoff, who previously wrote “My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding.” It premiered at La Jolla Playhouse in 2015 and debuted on Broadway on March 12.

    Trudeau’s visit to the show spotlighted the differences in recent policy between the U.S. and Canada, which has so far welcomed more than 35,700 Syrian refugees, as well as the close relationship between the two countries. With the arrival of Syrian families in Gander, “we’ve seen [Trudeau’s] policies play out firsthand,” Hein said.

    In remarks before the show Wednesday, Trudeau generally praised the volunteers who inspired the musical. “The world gets to see what it is to lean on each other and be there for each other through the darkest times,” he said.

    He added that the show highlighted the links between the U.S. and Canada. “There is no relationship quite like the friendship between Canada and the United States,” he said. “This story, this amazing show, is very much about that, and it’s about friendship as well.” Neither Trump nor Haley responded to a request for comment.

    On Sept. 11, Hein and Sankoff were living in a residence hall near Columbia University in New York City. In the midst of the confusion following the attacks on the Twin Towers, as people in the building tried to reach their loved ones, a musician in the building sat down to play the piano in the hall’s common space. Others soon gathered to share the music — an experience that Hein and Sankoff drew on while writing the show, Hein said.

    “Everyone came together,” he said. “There’s something about the music at the time that calmed us down, obviously, but also brought us together. That certainly resonated with us in the story of Newfoundland. The music out there, it’s sort of in the DNA of Newfoundlanders.”

    With an onstage band, that music, containing strong strains of Celtic and rock influence, is a constant, celebratory presence in “Come From Away.”

    come from away

    The cast of “Come From Away.” Photo by Matthew Murphy

    Michael Rubinoff, associate dean of Visual and Performing Arts at Sheridan College, first suggested the two write a musical about what happened in Gander in 9/11. In 2011, Hein and Sankoff traveled to Newfoundland for a planned visit of several weeks. They ended up staying for a month, talking to dozens of residents about the days that followed 9/11.

    The musical, Hein said, was essentially “us trying to tell a million stories.” And nearly every cast member portrays two sides of the story: the Newfoundlanders, furiously carting items like tampons and baby formula to converted shelters, and also the passengers, bewildered at their new rural surroundings.

    Several characters’ experiences and concerns ring familiar in the present-day U.S., including that of a Muslim traveler who must receive an invasive body search before boarding a plane to leave Gander. The show’s opening in New York City came just before federal judge issued a temporary hold on President Donald Trump’s executive order which would bar immigration from six Muslim-majority countries, his second attempt to do so following widespread protests.

    Amid the rise of xenophobic rhetoric among some politicians around the world, “A tale of an insular populace that doesn’t think twice before opening its arms to an international throng of strangers automatically acquires a near-utopian nimbus,” Ben Bradlee, theater critic for The New York Times, wrote in a review of the show.

    The story of Gander opening its doors in an emergency has become “even more relevant” in recent months, producer Sue Frost said.

    “Seeing the show onstage here, in New York, the show resonates in a way it has not resonated anywhere else … some of that has to do with timing,” she said.

    come from away

    The character of Beulah in “Come From Away,” center, was based in part on Diane Davis, a resident of Gander. Photo by Matthew Murphy

    Davis hopes the story of Gander can inspire others to reach out across cultures, she said.

    “I would hope that people seeing that story might be less fearful of someone they’ve never met before who might have some kind of a difference, whether it’s the way they dress or the language they speak or who their partner is, that maybe they would just try and reach out. And if you don’t reach out, at least don’t shun people,” she said.

    In recent months, with the help of local churches, Gander raised $60,000 to sponsor the four Syrian families and organized committees to help them with various aspects of their transition to Canada. Davis, a former French immersion teacher, worked to help the families’ eight children enroll in the same school from which she had recently retired, and to show them the local playground and grocery store.

    That was one of her goals one morning in August as she headed to the house of a Syrian family who had arrived in Gander the previous night. When she arrived, she took out her tablet, drew a swingset and a slide for the family’s five-year-old boy and asked: “Do you want to go with me to the playground?”

    He nodded his head, and Davis led the whole family down the street toward the playground. They had not yet seen the community in daylight. As they walked out the door, the boy’s 13-year-old sister looked up and down the street, and under her breath, she said, “Canada is beautiful.”

    The post ‘Come From Away’ celebrates town that opened its doors on 9/11 — and now welcomes Syrian families appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Trump Tower logo is pictured in New York, U.S., May 23, 2016. Photo by Carlo Allegri/File Photo/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The top two lawmakers on the House intelligence committee said Sunday that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week offered no evidence that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, but the panel’s ranking Democrat says the material offers circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

    “There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said. “There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”

    The House intelligence committee is to begin hearings Monday into Russia’s role in cybersecurity breaches at the Democratic National Committee, as well as President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that his predecessor had authorized a wiretap of Trump Tower. FBI Director James Comey and Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, are slated to testify.

    Intelligence officials have said that Russia was behind the theft of Democratic National Committee emails last summer. The U.S. government later concluded that the Russian government directed the DNC hack in an attempt to influence the outcome of November’s presidential election.

    “For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses,” committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said. “We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They’re also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe.”

    [Watch Video]

    Nunes said the committee will also examine whether the Russians were trying to sow doubt in the U.S. electoral system or whether they were trying to help Trump get elected to the White House.

    “We need to get to the bottom of that,” Nunes said.

    READ NEXT: Long before new hacks, U.S. worried by Russian spying efforts

    Nunes and Schiff were among a number of lawmakers who said on Sunday’s news shows they had seen no evidence that the Obama administration ordered wiretaps on Trump during the campaign.

    “Was there a physical wiretap of Trump Tower? No there never was,” Nunes said. “The information we received Friday continues to lead us in that direction.”

    Nunes added: “There was no FISA warrant I am aware of to tap Trump Tower.” FISA stands for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires investigators to seek a warrant from a secret court to wiretap a foreign suspect.

    Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Susan Collins of Maine also said Sunday they had seen no evidence that the Obama administration had placed Trump under surveillance at Trump Tower, the Manhattan high-rise that houses Trump’s residence, business office and campaign office. Collins encouraged Trump to turn whatever evidence he has of the surveillance over to the congressional intelligence panels looking into the matter.

    The president repeatedly insisted last week that former President Barack Obama had Trump Tower put under surveillance late last fall. Trump’s claims widened to two of the U.S.’s staunchest allies. He repeated an unsubstantiated claim that Britain’s cyber intelligence organization conducted the surveillance at Obama’s behest, a claim the agency GBHQ flatly denied; and mentioned during German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s first visit to the Trump White House the Obama administration’s monitoring of Merkel’s cellphone, a bruising incident in German-U.S. relations.

    “What the president said was just patently false,” Schiff said of the Trump Tower allegations, “and the wrecking ball it created has now banged into our British allies and our German allies and continuing to grow in terms of damage. And he needs to put an end to this.”

    Nunes spoke on “Fox News Sunday;” Schiff and Collins appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press;” Cotton was on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

    This report was written by Michele Salcedo of the Associated Press.

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    Rock and roll legend Chuck Berry poses for photographers during a concert in Burgos, northern Spain, November 25, 2007. Berry died at the age of 90 on Saturday. Photo By Felix Ordonez/Reuters

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    IVETTE FELICIANO, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND CORRESPONDENT: With songs like” Johnny B. Goode,” Chuck Berry helped define rock ‘in roll, building blocks for the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, and many more. Born in St. Louis in 1926, Berry taught himself to play guitar and fused the sounds of blues and country, creating a new sound and lyrics that appealed to black and white audiences alike, a rare feat for a black artist in the 1950s.

    And he spoke to changing attitudes about race and sex among teens with songs like “Brown Eyed Handsome Man.” Signed by Chess Records in 1955, his first hit was “Maybellene.” Over the next decade, Berry wrote the hits “Roll Over Beethoven,” “School Day”, “No Particular Place To Go,” “Nadine,” and “Back in the USA”.

    He was famous for improvising on stage, and the owner of the St. Louis Club Blueberry Hill, where Berry performed will into his 80s, says his guitar playing was revolutionary.

    JOE EDWARDS: Chuck Berry made the guitar a star. He took it from a rhythm background instrument into playing behind his head, and he intuitively choreographed the first great rock and roll stage moves. I mean, just on his own, whether he was playing it behind his head, between his legs.

    FELICIANO: John Lennon once said if you tried to give rock ‘n’ roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry, and Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards once confessed he’d stolen every guitar lick from him. Richards gave the induction speech when Berry was among the first class inducted into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame.

    Berry performed at the White House and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

    And then there was this tribute: when NASA launched the unmanned Voyager I spacecraft in 1977, “Johnny B. Goode” was the one rock song included among recordings that would explain music on earth. Berry was set to release an album of new songs, entitled “Chuck,” later this year.

    As news of his death spread, hometown fans gathered around his statue St. Louis’ Delmar Loop to mourn.

    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: For more on the life and influence of Chuck Berry, I’m joined here in the studio by musical journalist Alan Light. He wrote today’s “New York Times” article, “15 Essential Chuck Berry Songs”, and has also been a writer for “Rolling Stone” and editor of “Spin” and “Vibe” Magazines, and a music correspondent for NPR.

    Thanks for joining us.

    ALAN LIGHT, JOURNALIST: Thank you, Hari.

    SREENIVASAN: The significance for Chuck Berry, let’s say for someone who doesn’t follow rock ‘n’ roll and the history of it — why is Chuck Berry such an important figure?

    LIGHT: Well, in the — if you are looking at the history of rock ‘n’ roll, it’s impossible to overstate the significance of what Chuck Berry accomplished. I mean, more than anybody, this was the guy who really defined and staked out what rock ‘n’ roll would become. He defined it as a style that you know in which the guitar would be the prominent instrument, in which the lyric concerns of cars and girls and adolescents, would be the focus of where these songs were going to go.

    Listen, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards met or their friendship was based on, you know, one of them seeing the other on the train, carrying a Chuck Berry record. And it is — it’s not even just the straight line from Chuck Berry to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, but all of them have stated over and over again that they wouldn’t — they would never be — they would never have done what they did without the work that he did first.

    SREENIVASAN: You know, Bruce Springsteen said today in a tweet, “Chuck Berry was rock’s greatest practitioner, guitarist, and the greatest pure rock ‘n’ roll writer who ever lived.” That’s coming from a person who knows a thing or two about writing.

    LIGHT: About songwriting. Yes, I mean, in the end there were so many things that Chuck Berry did that were revolutionary. But ultimately, it is the song writing I think that perseveres, and it will stand above all — his eye for detail, his ear for language, the way that he put words and phrases together. You know, Bob Dylan called him the Shakespeare of rock ‘n’ roll and —

    SREENIVASAN: Again, high praise from someone who knows a thing or two —

    LIGHT: Who knows a thing or two. But knows a thing or two, you know, many lessons of which he learned from Chuck Berry. This was not just stupid throwaway teenage music. It had that spirit and it that freedom, but it also had a depth and a resonance, that’s the reason that these songs sustained 50, 60 years later.

    SREENIVASAN: And he brought a certain attitude to the table and to the performance as well.

    LIGHT: Well, absolutely. I mean, he was unapologetic. He was — you know, he was a showman. He was a performer. He was somebody who was a proud black man at a time when that was a challenging thing to be in mainstream entertainment, who could write a song like “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” that was, you know, a little bit coded but not that coded in speaking about, you know, racial divisions and affinities in this country.

    SREENIVASAN: He was also pretty savvy in marketing his music pretty early on, giving, what, deejays co-writing credits?

    LIGHT: He’d sort of picked up early on that he was getting burned by the way that these things were being handled. You know, “Maybellene” was his first big hit. And he discovered when the song came that the songwriting credit was given to him and to Alan Freed, who was the biggest rock ‘n’ hall deejay at the time, and to a guy that the record label owner basically owed a favor to.

    And so, for his first hit that he had, he was receiving a third of the proceeds. Well, you know, Chuck Berry didn’t suffer fools much and went into a very defensive business posture from there. This was somebody who insisted on full cash payment in his hand before he would go on a stage. Famously would show up, for a gig, go into the office, count the money, when he had it in hand, pick up the guitar, go out on stage, but not before then. And he really organized a career that was sort of based on trusting no one and, you know, having seen the effects of, you know, illicit or at least questionable business practices early on. It really shaped the way that he approached his career moving forward.

    SREENIVASAN: All right. Alan Light, thanks so much.

    LIGHT: Thank you.

    The post How Chuck Berry defined a generation of rock ‘n’ roll appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: The Senate confirmation hearings for President Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, begin tomorrow.

    Joining me now to look ahead at what to expect is “NewsHour Weekend” special correspondent Jeff Greenfield from Santa Barbara, California.

    Jeff, this finally takes the spotlight off of whether or not President Obama illegally wiretapped President Trump, whether or not — I mean, so many other story lines that had been building up in the Trump administration.

    JEFF GREENFIELD, NEWSHOUR WEEKEND SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. This has got to be a very welcome event because he’s facing resistance from his left and right on health care. Some Republicans have been tough on him for those unfounded accusations. But with the nomination of Neil Gorsuch, the president hit a ten strike among Republicans. Remember, a lot of Republicans are uneasy about Trump as a candidate said, we’ve got to vote for him because the Supreme Court’s at stake. And what he’s delivered is a nominee who has not only drawn unanimous praise from the right but grudging praise from the liberals, because of his temperament, he is not an Antonin Scalia-like judge who writes and foments about things like the homosexual agenda.

    So, this will be a very welcome series of hearings for the president and the White House, to take the spotlight, as you say, off some of the less pleasant events of the last couple of weeks.

    SREENIVASAN: There’s a lot of pressure from the left that’s building on the Democratic senators to stop at all costs, considering Merrick Garland didn’t get a shake.

    GREENFIELD: Absolutely. And this poses a real problem, especially for the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. He’s got 48 senators, so you would think — well, that’s enough to filibuster. The problem is that if he tries a filibuster, Senate Majority Leader McConnell could say, OK, guess what, we’re going to abolish the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, which I have to say is probably what Chuck Schumer would have done had he had a majority and a President Clinton.

    But if the Democrats say no, let’s hold back on this nominee, he doesn’t change the composition of the court, he replaces Scalia, then, as you say, you have tremendous pressure from the left of the Democratic Party who want resistance at all costs, who may even threaten primary challenges against incumbent Democrats running in red states in 2018. So, this is — this is a tight rope that Chuck Schumer is going to have to walk, and it’s really, there’s no very easy way to figure out what he does.

    SREENIVASAN: It seems sometimes the nominees get caught in the middle of all this sort of political level strategy that’s happening and building for years before them.

    Let’s talk a little bit about the hearings themselves. What can we expect?

    GREENFIELD: Well, if it’s anything like the last 30 years, you can expect this kabuki theater. Ever since Judge Robert Bork in 1987 honestly testified about his political or philosophy and judicial philosophy, and went down to defeat, nominees have been extremely reluctant to give any indication of what they actually think. They abide by what they called the Ginsburg rules, named after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who said, “I can’t talk about anything that could conceivably come before the court.”

    So, you get this a dance. A Democrat will say, do you believe there’s a right to privacy? All of them say yes. Well, does that include abortion? I can’t talk about that.

    What you’re also going to see, particularly among Democrats is — they have gone through the judge’s whole past with a fine-tooth comb. They’re going to ask him about what he did when he worked in the Bush administration, about presidential power, issues like rendition and torture. They’re going to look at cases that he’s written about, and say, well, aren’t you on the side of big business instead of regular people?

    And that’s the kind of back and forth you can expect because that’s what we’ve seen over and over again and that’s why Judge Gorsuch has been spending a lot of time before so-called murder boards. It’s kind of mock hearings where he’s being confronted with the kind of tough questions from Democrats he can expect.

    SREENIVASAN: All right. So, given that backdrop are we likely to see any exchanges that are revealing?

    GREENFIELD: It’s going to be tough. I’ve always thought that what the senators ought to do, if they really want to find out what the judge thinks, is to try to make questions, one that they can answer. If you ask the judge, are you an originalist? Do you think the Constitution was frozen in time 200 years ago? You’re not going to get a particularly interesting response.

    But if you ask, well, does cruel and unusual punishment mean the same thing it did in 1789, you might get a glimpse into how that judge’s thinking. But also, I think I suspect some Democrats are going to try to say to him, look, President Trump said he’d only appoint nominees whom will overturn Roe v. Wade. So, on what basis did he have assurance that that’s how you would vote?

    I’m not optimistic you’re going to get a meaningful exchange, but if I can quote the late Chuck Berry, you never can tell.

    SREENIVASAN: All right. “NewsHour Weekend” special correspondent Jeff Greenfield — thank you.

    The post Gorsuch confirmation hearings set to begin appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The House intelligence committee is to begin hearings Monday into Russia’s role in cybersecurity breaches at the Democratic National Committee, as well as President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that his predecessor had authorized a wiretap of Trump Tower. FBI Director James Comey and Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, are slated to testify.

    Hearings begin at 10 a.m. ET.

    More:

    Intel documents offer no evidence of spying on Trump Tower

    Congress grapples with investigating Trump’s Russia ties

    What we know about Russian meddling and Putin’s playbook

    The post WATCH LIVE: House intelligence committee hearings on Russia and the 2016 election appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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  • 03/20/17--06:27: Photos: Who is Neil Gorsuch?
  • Judge Neil Gorsuch speaks as President Donald Trump stands with Gorsuch’s wife Louise after President Trump nominated Gorsuch to a seat on the Supreme Court on January 31, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Carlos Barria

    With his confirmation hearings starting Monday, all eyes are on Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court. Gorsuch is a federal judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. He is also a native Coloradoan, known for his love of the outdoors.

    Scroll through these photos for a closer look at the man who could soon become the nation’s next Supreme Court justice. And follow PBS NewsHour’s coverage of the Gorsuch hearings this week in our live blog and on our broadcast.

    Neil Gorsuch and his sister, Stephanie Lee Pankau, in 1972. Gorsuch was born in Denver, Colorado on Aug. 29, 1967. Photo by Anne McGill Burford

    Gorsuch (right) with his father, David Gorsuch (left), and younger brother JJ Gorsuch (center), in 1988. David Gorsuch, a lawyer, died in 2001. Photo by Stephanie Pankau

    Gorsuch with his horse, Morris, and goat, Nibbles, at his home in 2007. Photo by Louise Gorsuch

    tk

    Gorsuch fishing with his daughters in an undated picture. Photo by Michael Trent

    Gorsuch, far right, poses with his class of 2009-2010 clerks in front of the Byron White United States Courthouse in Denver in 2010. Photo by Julian Ellis

    Justice Antonin Scalia and Gorsuch on a fly fishing trip on the Colorado River in 2014. Photo by Glenn Summers

    Gorsuch joined the Tenth Circuit court in 2006. The Tenth Circuit covers the states of Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico. Photo by Louise Gorsuch

    Gorsuch on Capitol Hill with former New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, right, who helped guide him through the nomination process. Photo by Hunter Hawkins

    Gorsuch chats with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Gorsuch has courted senators from both sides of the aisle since his nomination in January. Photo by Hunter Hawkins

    The post Photos: Who is Neil Gorsuch? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday accused Democrats of making up allegations that Russia interfered in last year’s election, and said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks instead.

    His tweets came just hours before a potentially politically damaging hearing in which FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers planned to testify on allegations of Russian hacking and whether there were any connections between Moscow and Trump’s campaign.

    “The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!” Trump tweeted early Monday, as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning’s cable news.

    Monday’s hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, one of several congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

    WATCH LIVE: House intelligence committee hearings on Russia and the 2016 election

    U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia meddled in the campaign to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. The FBI has also been investigating ties between Russia and Trump advisers and associates during the campaign.

    The top two lawmakers on the House intelligence committee said Sunday that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week offered no evidence that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, the president’s New York City headquarters. But the panel’s ranking Democrat says the material offers circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

    “There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”


    READ MORE: Long before new hacks, U.S. worried by Russian spying efforts

    Rep. Devin Nunes, the California Republican who chairs the committee, said: “For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses.”

    “We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They’re also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

    The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a similar hearing for later in the month.

    It is not clear how much new information will emerge Monday, and the hearing’s open setting unquestionably puts Comey in a difficult situation if he’s asked to discuss an ongoing investigation tied to the campaign of the president.

    READ MORE: Key members of Trump’s circle under scrutiny for Russia ties

    At a hearing in January, Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation exploring possible connections between Trump associates and Russia, consistent with the FBI’s longstanding policy of not publicly discussing its work. His appearances on Capitol Hill since then have occurred in classified settings, often with small groups of lawmakers, and he has made no public statements connected to the Trump campaign or Russia.

    But Comey may feel compelled to respond to Trump’s unproven Twitter assertions that President Barack Obama ordered a wiretapping of Trump Tower during the campaign. Congressional leaders briefed on the matter have said they’ve seen no indication that that’s true, and Obama’s top intelligence official, James Clapper, has publicly called the claims false.

    The Justice Department’s disclosure Friday that it had complied with congressional demands for information regarding Trump’s wiretapping tweets could allow Comey to avoid questioning by simply saying that the lawmakers already have the information they requested.

    Yet any lack of detail from Comey will likely be contrasted with public comments he made last year when closing out an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email practices and then, shortly before Election Day, announcing that the probe would be revived following the discovery of additional emails.

    The post Trump says Democrats ‘made up’ allegations of Russia interference appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Tom Merton via Getty Images

    Photo by Tom Merton via Getty Images

    A new international report from economists ranks world countries on happiness.

    The rankings are based on income and life expectancy figures, along with how people rate social support, personal freedom, corruption and generosity. Together it is used to generate a happiness score from 1 to 10. The United States ranks 14th with a 6.99.

    HAPPIEST COUNTRIES

    1. Norway 7.54

    2. Denmark 7.52

    3. Iceland 7.5

    4. Switzerland 7.49

    5. Finland 7.47

    6. Netherlands 7.38

    7. Canada 7.32

    8. New Zealand 7.32

    9. Australia 7.28

    10. Sweden 7.28

    SADDEST COUNTRIES

    146. Yemen 3.59

    147. South Sudan 3.59

    148. Liberia 3.53

    149. Guinea 3.51

    150. Togo 3.49

    151. Rwanda 3.47

    152. Syria 3.46

    153. Tanzania 3.35

    154. Burundi 2.91

    155. Central African Republic 2.69

    The post Norway is the happiest country on earth, survey says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Neil Gorsuch speaks at the White House after being nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court on January 31, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

    Judge Neil Gorsuch’s judicial record and philosophy have been picked apart since President Donald Trump nominated the 49-year-old Colorado native in January. Some questions about his stance on hot-button issues remain, but other aspects of Gorsuch’s approach to the law are clear.

    Gorsuch, a federal judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, is a textualist who narrowly interprets statutes. He also subscribes to the legal philosophy of “originalism,” popularized by late Justice Antonin Scalia (whom Gorsuch would replace on the court), which holds that the constitution should be interpreted based on the framers’ beliefs at the time it was written.

    The role of judges is to “apply the law as it is, focusing backward, not forward, and looking to text, structure, and history to decide what a reasonable reader at the time of the events in question would have understood the law to be — not to decide cases based on their own moral convictions or the policy consequences they believe might serve society best,” Gorsuch said in a speech at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Law last year.

    Gorsuch’s past speeches and writing will be closely scrutinized this week when he goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee. If confirmed, Gorsuch would become the fifth Republican appointee on the court. He’d also fill the court’s ninth seat, eliminating the possibility of a four-four deadlock that’s loomed over the bench since Scalia’s death last year. As his hearings get underway Monday, here is a closer look at his record and what it tells us about how he might rule on the court.

    Gorsuch on religious freedom

    Two of Gorsuch’s most high-profile decisions came in religious freedom cases before the 10th Circuit: Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius and Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell. Both cases dealt with religious objections to the Affordable Care Act’s so-called ‘contraceptive mandate,’ which required employers to cover contraceptives in their health insurance plans.

    In the 2013 appeals court Hobby Lobby case, Gorsuch ruled in favor of the national craft chain’s owners and their claims that their religious beliefs exempted the for-profit corporation from the ACA requirement— a decision the Supreme Court affirmed one year later in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell.

    Gorsuch wrote separately that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the deciding statute in the ruling, “does perhaps its most important work in protecting unpopular religious beliefs, vindicating this nation’s long-held aspiration to serve as a refuge of religious tolerance.”

    Two years later, in 2015, Gorsuch dissented from a denial to rehear Little Sisters, in a similar challenge brought by a non-profit order of nuns. (The Supreme Court vacated that judgment.)

    Gorsuch (center) arrives for a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Vice President Mike Pence on Capitol Hill on February 1, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

    Chevron deference

    Gorsuch made arguably his biggest waves in federal appellate circles with a withering dissent in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, a 2016 immigration case. In his dissent, Gorsuch urged reining in the doctrine of Chevron deference, a three-decade-old principle that courts should largely leave interpretation of certain statutes to regulatory agencies. Gorsuch argued that under the doctrine the judiciary ceded too much of its power.

    Chevron “permit[s] executive bureaucracies to swallow huge amounts of core judicial and legislative power,” Gorsuch wrote.

    Chevron “permit[s] executive bureaucracies to swallow huge amounts of core judicial and legislative power,” Gorsuch wrote.

    Whether his views should comfort or alarm liberals is unclear. Nonetheless, said Melissa Hart, a professor at the University of Colorado Law School, Gorsuch’s view on Chevron deference is the “standout” part of his record, and could be significant if he is confirmed.

    “It will have consequences across lots of areas of law, [including] any area of law that’s administered by an agency,” Hart said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll come to a different conclusion” than an agency about a particular law, she added. “But where he thinks the agency is wrong, it will change outcomes in cases, depending on the other justices on the bench.”

    Few ‘blockbuster cases’

    Gorsuch’s record reveals little about some of the major social issues that come before the Supreme Court, like abortion, campaign finance, and civil and LGBT rights.

    That’s because the 10th Circuit, which covers six Western states, has a fairly non-controversial docket, said Michael McConnell, a former 10th Circuit judge who served alongside Gorsuch. Cases on federal lands and water rights are more common than legal battles over hot-button, highly-politicized issues.

    “The large number of cases in any court of appeals involve the application of fairly subtle principles, and don’t produce blockbuster cases,” McConnell, the director of Stanford Law School’s Constitution Center, said.

    Even so, Gorsuch’s past writings offer some clues. Gorsuch has mulled whether courts should consider limits on campaign donations using the same strict scrutiny applied in free speech cases.

    On abortion, Gorsuch has arguably left an even bigger crumb-trail thanks to his 2006 book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia.” In the book, Gorsuch repeatedly asserts his belief in the “inviolability” of human life.

    Abortion is just one of many issues sure to arise at the hearings this week. Gorsuch’s supporters and critics alike will be paying close attention, said Elizabeth Wydra, the president of the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center.

    “Despite the process by which he was picked, replete with litmus tests and high rhetoric from Donald Trump, Neil Gorsuch has to show the Senate Judiciary Committee that he will be this fair, independent judge who will follow the law where he leads,” Wydra said.

    The post What we know — and don’t — about Neil Gorsuch’s judicial philosophy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FBI Director James Comey testifies before a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    FBI Director James Comey testifies before a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday that the bureau is investigating possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump as part of a broader probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.

    The extraordinary revelation came at the outset of Comey’s opening statement in a congressional hearing examining Russian meddling and possible connections between Moscow and Trump’s campaign. He acknowledged that the FBI does not ordinarily discuss ongoing investigations, but said he’d been authorized to do so given the extreme public interest in this case.

    “This work is very complex, and there is no way for me to give you a timetable for when it will be done,” Comey told the House Intelligence Committee.

    Earlier in the hearing, the chairman of the committee contradicted an assertion from Trump by saying that there had been no wiretap of Trump Tower. But Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican whose committee is one of several investigating, said that other forms of surveillance of Trump and his associates have not been ruled out.

    Comey was testifying at Monday’s hearing along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

    Trump, who recently accused President Barack Obama of wiretapping his New York skyscraper during the campaign, took to Twitter before the hearing began, accusing Democrats of making up allegations about his campaign associates’ contact with Russia during the election. He said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks and maybe even Hillary Clinton instead.

    “The real story that Congress, the FBI and others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” Trump tweeted early Monday as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning’s cable news.

    WATCH: House intelligence committee hearings on Russia and the 2016 election

    Trump also suggested, without evidence, that Clinton’s campaign was in contact with Russia and had possibly thwarted a federal investigation. U.S. intelligence officials have not publicly raised the possibility of contacts between the Clintons and Moscow. Officials investigating the matter have said they believe Moscow had hacked into Democrats’ computers in a bid to help Trump’s election bid.

    Monday’s hearing, one of several by congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

    The top two lawmakers on the committee said Sunday that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week offered no evidence that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, the president’s New York City headquarters. But the panel’s ranking Democrat said the material offered circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

    “There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”

    Nunes said: “For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses.”

    “We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They’re also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

    The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a similar hearing for later in the month.

    It is not clear how much new information will emerge Monday, and the hearing’s open setting unquestionably puts Comey in a difficult situation if he’s asked to discuss an ongoing investigation tied to the campaign of the president.

    At a hearing in January, Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation exploring possible connections between Trump associates and Russia, consistent with the FBI’s longstanding policy of not publicly discussing its work. His appearances on Capitol Hill since then have occurred in classified settings, often with small groups of lawmakers, and he has made no public statements connected to the Trump campaign or Russia.

    Any lack of detail from Comey on Monday would likely be contrasted with public comments he made last year when closing out an investigation into Clinton’s email practices and then, shortly before Election Day, announcing that the probe would be revived following the discovery of additional emails.

    The post Comey: FBI is investigating possible links between Russia, Trump associates appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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