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

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    Chuck Berry, vocal-guitar, performs at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Hague, Netherlands on 14th July 1995

    Chuck Berry performs at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Hague, Netherlands July 14, 1995. Photo: Frans Schellekens/Redferns

    Since Chuck Berry, king of rock ‘n’ roll, died at age 90 on Saturday, tributes have poured in from the biggest names in music.

    “Chuck Berry was rock’s greatest practitioner, guitarist, and the greatest pure rock ‘n’ roll writer who ever lived,” Bruce Springsteen wrote on Twitter. “RIP Chuck Berry, the genesis behind the great sound of rock n roll,” tweeted Alice Cooper. Mick Jagger wrote that “all of us in rock have now lost our father” and that his “music is engraved inside us forever.”

    This is no understatement. Since the 1950s, when Berry first started producing his signature blend of music that combined a rhythm and blues beat with country twang, rockers have begged, borrowed and stolen from the legendary musician. Some have even been sued for allegedly doing so.

    His songs have also been covered countless times. Berry’s hit “Johnny B. Goode” alone has been covered by dozens of artists. And a number of the most persistently popular rock songs carry his direct influence — be it through guitar licks, riffs, lyrics, storytelling or attitude. Here are 10 of them:

    1. The Beach Boys: “Surfin’ U.S.A.”

    What it sounds like: Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen”

    According to Rolling Stone magazine, the Beach Boys often found ways to incorporate Berry’s sound into their earlier songs, but “Surfin’ U.S.A.” was a direct and overt tribute:

    “Inspired by Berry’s rapid-fire references to various American cities, he recast the song as a paean to a fun-in-the-sun sport … Wilson said he intended the song as a tribute to the rock guitarist, but Berry’s lawyers used another term: plagiarism.”

    The case was settled with the Beach Boys giving publishing rights to Berry’s publisher.

    2. The Beach Boys: “Fun, Fun, Fun”

    What it sounds like: Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode”

    In the book “Inside the Music of Brian Wilson,” Philip Lambert writes that Berry’s influence can be clearly found in the song’s intro:

    “We’re alerted to a Chuck Berry influence before the lyric even begins, in a guitar introduction based closely on the beginning of ‘Johnny B. Goode’ (1958); thus we’re reminded of ‘Surfin U.S.A.’ and its debt to ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ … But in ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ the derivation is limited to the introduction, which has the same basic melody and 12-bar blues progression as the ‘Johnny B. Goode’ intro, but is then followed by other things.”

    3. The Beatles: “I Saw Her Standing There”

    What it sounds like: Berry’s “I’m Talking About You”

    Paul McCartney once told an interviewer he’d stolen the riff in “I Saw Her Standing There” from Berry, as retold in the book “Paul McCartney: Playing the Great Beatles Basslines,” by Tony Bacon and Gareth Morgan:

    “Here’s one example of a bit I pinched from someone. I used the bass riff from ‘Talkin’ About You’ by Chuck Berry in ‘I Saw Her Standing There.’ I played exactly the same notes as [his bass player] did and it fitted our number perfectly. Even now, when I tell people, I find few of them believe me; therefore, I maintain that a bass riff hasn’t got to be original.”

    4. The Beatles: “Come Together”

    What it sounds like: Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me”

    According to The Beatles Bible, Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me” was an inspiration for the major hit “Come Together.” The similarities were so striking — and even include the same line “Here comes old flat-top” — that they led to a court case. But John Lennon later argued it was just an “obscure” inspiration, according to the Beatles Bible:

    “Come Together is me, writing obscurely around an old Chuck Berry thing. I left the line in, ‘Here comes old flat-top’. It is nothing like the Chuck Berry song, but they took me to court because I admitted the influence once years ago. I could have changed it to ‘Here comes old iron face,’ but the song remains independent of Chuck Berry or anybody else on Earth.”

    5. The Rolling Stones: “Brown Sugar”

    What it sounds like: Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode”

    The Associated Press’s obit on Berry writes that the Berry inspiration in “Brown Sugar” can be heard near the end of the song:

    “You could assemble a heavenly mix tape just of the hits built around [Berry’s] guitar work. You can hear it overtly in the Rolling Stones’ ‘Brown Sugar,’ which closes with a near-verbatim homage to ‘Johnny B. Goode.’”

    6. Rod Stewart: “Hot Legs”

    What it sounds like: Berry’s guitar work

    In “Great Rock Drummers of the Sixties,” Bob Cianoi writes that “Hot Legs” had a “Chuck Berry-like sound and feel.” And in an Arizona Republic piece on Stewart hits, music reporter Ed Masley argues that “Hot Legs” “features some brilliant Chuck Berry-inspired guitar work that wouldn’t have sounded even slightly out of place on something by the New York Dolls.”

    7. Creedence Clearwater Revival: “It Came Out of the Sky”

    What it sounds like: Berry’s rhythms and storytelling

    Berry was famous for his smooth storytelling, and “It Came Out of the Sky” tells the tale of how a farmer unwittingly becomes famous after he discovers a space object in his field. In “John Fogerty: An American Son,” Thomas M. Kitts wrote that “It Came Out of the Sky” “drew on Chuck Berry rhythms, guitar licks, and crisp storytelling.”

    8. Johnny Rivers: “Memphis”

    What it sounds like: Berry’s “Memphis Tennessee”

    “Memphis Tennessee” is actually a Chuck Berry song; this is the rare case of where a cover of Berry eclipsed Berry’s original. According to SongFacts, Chuck Berry wrote and recorded the song in 1959 as “Memphis, Tennessee’” but it “languished as the B-side of his ‘Back In The U.S.A. single.’”

    “[It] was revived when the white blues guitarist Lonnie Mack covered it in 1963,” and then hit its peak in 1964 when Johnny Rivers released a live album including “Memphis” — one word — as a single. “It became a huge hit for Rivers, going to No. 2 in America and launching a career that included nine Top 10 singles,” SongFacts writes.

    9. Bob Dylan: “Subterranean Homesick Blues”

    What it sounds like: Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business”

    In a 2004 interview with LA Times critic Robert Hilburn, Dylan said his song “Subterranean Homesick Blues” was inspired directly by Berry and others. “[The song is] from Chuck Berry, a bit of ‘Too Much Monkey Business’ and some of the scat songs of the ’40s,” he said.

    10. Bob Dylan: “Thunder on the Mountain”

    What it sounds like: Berry’s “Let it Rock”

    In “Bob Dylan: All the Songs – The Story Behind Every Track,” Philippe Margotin and Jean Michel-Guesdon argue that though “Thunder on the Mountain” came from Berry, influences often play on other influences.

    Thunder on the Mountain” has a “touch of Chuck Berry’s style, particularly in the guitar licks and riffs reminiscent of ‘Let it Rock,’” they wrote. “But who in rock history wasn’t inspired by the creator of the ‘duck walk’? ‘Let it Rock’ is also reminiscent of Chuck Berry’s 1985 hit ‘Johnny B. Goode.’ Chuck Berry himself found inspiration for his legendary introductory riff in Louis Jordan [an earlier songwriter and bandleader].”

    The post Without Chuck Berry, these 10 famous rock songs would not exist appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Jibril Rajoub holds a press conference on October 12, 2016 in the West Bank city of Ramallah.  Photo by ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images.

    Jibril Rajoub holds a press conference on October 12, 2016 in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Photo by ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images.

    RAMALLAH, West Bank — A senior Palestinian official expressed newfound optimism in the Trump administration Monday, saying he was encouraged by early signs that the new U.S. president was strongly committed to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

    Jibril Rajoub told foreign reporters that President Donald Trump made clear to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a recent phone call that he was his “strategic partner” in making a “real and serious” peace between Israelis and Palestinians. After initially shunning the Palestinian leader following his surprise election, Trump called Abbas 10 days ago to invite him for a meeting at the White House. His Middle East envoy then met with Abbas in his first visit to the region.

    “There is very, very positive progress,” Rajoub said. “This was a clear-cut message that the Palestinian issue is still a key for regional stability and security and Abu Mazen (Abbas) and his political regime is the partner.”

    Rajoub insisted that the Trump administration was in a “stage of exploration” regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The latest development appeared to assuage some Palestinian fears about Trump, and about being isolated in the region as Israel appears to be growing closer to some Arab nations.

    Trump campaigned on promises to depart from decades of American policy in the region and signaled a much closer relationship with Israel than former President Barack Obama.

    His platform made no mention of Palestinian statehood, a key goal of the U.S. and international community for two decades. He promised to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to disputed Jerusalem, a move favored by Israel and bitterly opposed by the Palestinians, and he signaled much greater tolerance for Israeli West Bank settlement construction.

    But since taking office, Trump appears to have backpedaled. He seems to be in no rush to move the embassy, and during a White House meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month, he urged restraint on Israeli settlement construction. He also has left the door open to a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

    Last week’s visit of Trump’s envoy, Jason Greenblatt, looked to be aimed largely at listening to both sides.

    Rajoub, a former West Bank security chief, said Trump’s “America First” slogan also indicated that he would be less prone to supporting Israel by default. “I have to understand that it means he is not in the pocket,” he said.

    Rajoub, who heads the Palestinian Football Association and Olympic Committee, was a top vote getter at last year’s leadership election for the ruling Fatah party, placing him as a potential heir to Abbas. He said he still favored peace with Israel, but wished to mobilize the world into delegitimizing its occupation, which he called a “malignant cancer,” and said all Palestinian attacks were a result of it.

    “Who is pushing us to the violence?” he asked.

    He also had harsh words for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    “Mr. Netanyahu and the extremists are trying to spoil the environment,” he said. “Mr. Netanyahu till now is not a potential partner to the two-state solution. Mr. Netanyahu’s policies, activities, are potential partners to the expansionists and messianic groups.”

    The post Top Palestinian official: Trump committed to 2 states appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The U.S. Supreme Court building is pictured in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Carlos Barria.

    The U.S. Supreme Court building is pictured in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Carlos Barria.

    WASHINGTON— A divided Supreme Court struggled on Monday over a property rights dispute that could make it tougher for state and local governments to limit development in coastal areas.

    The case involves a family’s effort to sell part of its riverfront land in Wisconsin. The family planned to use the money from a vacant lot they own to pay for improvements on a cabin that sits on the parcel next door.

    But county officials nixed the sale for violating local conservation rules and treated the lots as a single property that can’t be split up. The family says that’s unfair and claims the government should pay what the vacant parcel is worth — up to $400,000. The government argues that when viewed as a whole, the land remains quite valuable and the family is owed nothing.

    The case has drawn interest from property rights and business groups that say such rules let the government avoid paying landowners for restricting land use. The Constitution requires compensation if government regulations take away a property’s economic value.

    During a one-hour argument, the court’s four liberal justices seemed to side with state and local officials, while conservative justices were generally more skeptical. Justice Anthony Kennedy — often a swing vote in close cases — asked tough questions of both sides.

    More than 100 cities and counties across the U.S. have similar “merger” restrictions that treat two adjacent properties as one if they have the same owner.

    READ MORE: Justices to hear property rights dispute over family’s land
    The Murrs’ lawyer, John Groen, told the justices the lots should be viewed as “independent, discrete, and separate parcels” because that is the way they were originally drawn up and have been taxed for years.

    But Justice Elena Kagan said the Murrs seem to want to rely on state law as it originally drew up the property lines, but ignore revisions to the law that treat side-by-side lots as a single parcel if they have the same owner.

    “If we’re looking to state law, let’s look to state law, the whole ball of wax,” Kagan said.

    Wisconsin Solicitor General Misha Tseytlin argued that the two lots “have merged for all relevant purposes under state law.” He said state officials also considered as a factor the reasonable expectations of the property owners.

    Chief Justice John Roberts said it seemed “a little quirky” that the Murrs are not allowed to treat the properties separately, but if they had purchased them under separate names they would be in “an entirely different situation.”

    The case began in 2004, when four siblings in the Murr family wanted to sell a vacant lot on the banks of the St. Croix River to pay for improvements on a rustic cabin that sits on the parcel next door. Their father had purchased the two 1.25-acre lots separately in the 1960s and had paid taxes separately. The lots were later transferred to the Murr siblings in the 1990s.

    County officials blocking the sale point to regulations passed in 1976 that bar new construction on lots in the area to prevent overcrowding and pollution. A “grandfather” clause exempted existing owners. But the county won’t apply that exemption to the Murrs’ empty lot alone, since it is connected to the family’s other land.

    The Murrs had viewed the vacant property as a long-term investment and say it has been assessed at $400,000.

    A Wisconsin appeals court sided with the county, saying zoning rules did not take away the property’s value because the Murrs could still use both lots as a vacation property or sell them as a whole.

    A ruling is expected by June.

    The post Supreme Court seems divided in property rights dispute appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photic sneeze reflex spurs light-induced sneezes in 10 to 30 percent of people. Photo by Peter Widmann/Getty Images

    Photic sneeze reflex spurs light-induced sneezes in 10 to 30 percent of people. Photo by Peter Widmann/Getty Images

    The sun makes me sneeze. It’s not like I get fits of uncontrollable sneezes as if I’m allergic to the sunrays. But watch me leave a movie theater at high noon on a cloudless Saturday, and you can bet a large sneeze will explode out of my body within 30 seconds.

    Since childhood, I thought sun sneezes were a malady that everyone encounters. But a few years ago, I explained to my then-boyfriend and now-husband that I could force a sneeze to happen by staring at the sun. His quizzical look revealed that sun sneezes are not normal. I’m an exception to a rule — but I’m not alone.

    My light-induced sneezes are caused by a seemingly harmless disorder called “photic sneeze reflex.” The Greek philosopher Aristotle referenced the phenomenon during the fourth century B.C., but wasn’t until 1954 that scientists first described it in medical literature. Some researchers have since applied the appropriate acronym ACHOO: Autosomal Dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst Syndrome.

    An estimated 10 to 35 percent of the population has a photic sneeze reflex.

    “It’s not a disease,” University of California, San Francisco neurologist and human geneticist Louis Ptáček told the NewsHour. “Some people find it annoying, but some people like it to some extent. They’ll say, ‘It helps me get a sneeze out.’”

    The disorder is characterized by a sudden outburst of one or multiple sneezes when a dark-adapted person — they’ve been in a darkened space for a while — is suddenly exposed to light. Sunlight is a trigger, but artificial illumination from light bulbs and camera flashes can also cause sneezes. Additionally, a not-yet-established length of time in a darkened space — called a refractory period — must pass before an individual with photic sneeze reflex will sneeze in light again.

    As it turns out, an estimated 10 to 35 percent of the population has a photic sneeze reflex. Because its prevalence is higher in individuals with a family history of the disorder, the handful of scientists who have studied the phenomena suspect a genetic, autosomal dominant — a person needs only one parent with the condition to inherit it.

    Ask your parents about ACHOO

    Photic sneeze reflex is a relatively harmless disorder that causes people to sneeze in bright light after being in a dark space. Photo by Cultura/Seb Oliver/Getty Images.

    Photic sneeze reflex is a relatively harmless disorder that causes people to sneeze in bright light after being in a dark space. Photo by Cultura/Seb Oliver/Getty Images

    A regular sneeze is a violent preemptive strike. It is a reflex meant to protect the nasal passages and lungs from infectious agents or irritants. An estimated 40,000 microscopic particles can spew out of the human body — at a rate 85 percent the speed of sound — each time we sneeze. How delightful.

    “When we sneeze, there is a huge contraction of the diaphragm all at once,” Ptáček said. “Dust or black pepper particles in the nose, for example, irritate the mucosa and leads to a sneeze reflex to prevent you being hurt by a noxious environment.”

    But why did evolution decide for some of us to sneeze when accosted by bright light? Is it a forceful warning to keep my pale, Scottish skin from the sun’s burning rays? (Answer: Likely, no.)

    The most prevalent theory postulates that neurological signals are crossed between the trigeminal nerve, which senses facial sensations like an itchy nose, and the optic nerve, which constricts the eye’s pupils when light penetrates the retina.

    But large, in-depth studies on this or other theories are lacking, with most photic sneeze reflex research based on small case studies of single families or small groups of photic sneezers.

    For example, in 2010, a Swiss study found greater stimulation of the primary and secondary visual cortex — regions of the brain that processes visual information — of 10 photic sneezers when exposed to various wavelengths of light compared to those who do not have the reflex. The optic nerve feeds information to the visual cortex.

    In contrast, Spanish researchers in 2016 found individuals with photic sneeze reflex had thickened nerves in the eye’s cornea. Those nerves exit the eye via the trigeminal nerve. In that study, however, the 13 individuals analyzed were all from the same family.

    Members of the crowd shield their eyes from the setting sun during the Australian Open 2015 tennis tournament in Melbourne. Photo by Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

    Taking a closer look at photic sneeze reflex could reveal important insights on other diseases. Photo by Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

    Ptáček studies the genetics behind episodic disorders like migraine headaches and epilepsy. His lab has collected surveys on photic sneeze reflex for years but has lacked funding to analyze the information in depth. He believes a dearth of money is to blame for few exhaustive studies.

    “It’s hard to get funding because reviewers don’t think of it as a problem,” he said. “Instead, money goes to research on diseases like Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.”

    “If we knew one or more genes that cause photic sneeze reflex, I don’t doubt that that might teach us fundamental things about reflex disorders like epilepsy.”

    In most cases, sneezes summoned by sudden changes in light are relatively harmless. But the triple threat of bright light-induced temporary blindness, an induced sneeze and subsequent eyelid closure could be threatening under special circumstances. Case studies suggest high-wire acrobats, baseball outfielders and combat pilots may be adversely impacted. From personal experience, I can attest that sneezing after driving out of a dark tunnel at 60 miles an hour can be — at least temporarily — frightening.

    Ptáček thinks taking a closer look at photic sneeze reflex could reveal important insights on other diseases.

    “If we knew one or more genes that cause photic sneeze reflex, I don’t doubt that that might teach us fundamental things about reflex disorders like epilepsy,” he said. “Some of the most important advancements in medicine come from not being focused on medicine at all.”

    The post Does the sun make you sneeze? Scientists don’t get it, either appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Mariana Bazo/Reuters, filed March 19.

    A dog stands in the debris of a destroyed home on March 19, 2017 in Huachipa, Lima, Peru after rivers breached their banks due to torrential rains, causing flooding and widespread destruction.

    The post Photo: A stranded dog stands in Lima’s debris appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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     Winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize for Literature, Derek Walcott at home in Saint Lucia. Photo by Micheline Pelletier/Corbis via Getty Images

    Winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize for Literature, Derek Walcott at home in Saint Lucia. Photo by Micheline Pelletier/Corbis via Getty Images

    Since Nobel laureate and Caribbean poet and playwright Derek Walcott died Friday, remembrances have flooded in for the complicated but mighty writer, who captured the lush beauty of the Caribbean and the brutality of its colonial history.

    We’ve collected several of these tributes, from a Caribbean street photographer, poets and other writers. Many pointed to the importance of one Walcott poem, “The Sea is History,” which argues that the history of the Caribbean cannot be stolen, because it is in the sea. The landscape was often at the center of Walcott’s work.

    Read those remembrances — along with “The Sea is History”– below. These comments have been edited lightly for length and clarity.

    From Ruddy Roye, a Jamaican street photographer whose work often focuses on the lives of the forgotten — the “raw and gritty lives,” he says — especially those of home:

    I believe when Caribbean people talk about Walcott, we talk about him under the stars after a night at the club. We sit on our cars or against the nightclub walls reminiscing about how we felt in literature class after reading one of his poems.

    We would talk about being imbued with an identity solely scraped up out of the ashes of mediocre lives. In his poetry, his grandiose sentences, Walcott was able to unlock feelings of shame that we felt about being descendants of slaves. His writings were able to inspire the best in many, especially his fellow artists who reached for the spaces to sculpt our own personalities. Caribbean people enjoy feeling like they are from the Caribbean. And Walcott’s poetry made us feel like we belonged — that we were not shaped by the hands of our colonizers but architects of our own stories.

    My favorite poem by him is “A Far Cry From Africa.” The culture that Derek Walcott helped to foster in the Caribbean (one of pride, rooted in the voices of our ancestors) is something that continues to inform my photography. I look at how black images have been defined in the past and hope that my work continues to redefine how we, the “other” here and around the globe, see black folks.

    From Patrick Sylvain, a Haitian-American poet, essayist and instructor of Haitian Language and Culture at Brown University, who also writes about landscape, as in this poem on Port-Au Prince:

    When I met Derek Walcott in the fall of 1989, I had no idea that I was in the presence of a Herculean poet. I was young and relatively unfamiliar with the Caribbean-Anglophone poets. I was with a member of the Dark Room Collective when we went to pick Walcott up from his Boston apartment, and I remember as soon as I entered I was in awe of his books and paintings. The vibrant colors, and the vivid details; such beauty, I thought. I wanted to ask him innumerable questions about St.Lucia, Trinidad, and his paintings, but I was timid, and his piercing gaze reminded me of my grandfather. I remained silent until he said to me: “Ou ka pale patois (Can you speak patois)?” His question puzzled me because I spoke Haitian Creole and not patois. I thought about it for a quick second and answered in the affirmative. He smiled at me and handed me one of his books, “mwen sav ou pa posede liv sa a (I know you do not have this book)!” The autographed book he gave me was “The Arkansas Testament,” the first book of his that I read and fell in love with. I’m thinking of the poem “Saint Lucia’s First Communion” in which the condition of children on the island exposes the ongoing dilemma of being a former colonial subject shackled by rituals and poverty.

    That Sunday, after Derek Walcott read his poems to us, I began to realize his grandeur as a poet. I purchased “Midsummer” from him. I was utterly excited by the prospect of entering the Caribbean landscape through the sensibility of a methodical and lyrical poet.

    And after our first encounter, we frequently ran into each other at restaurants, his readings, the theater, with friends. We often discussed politics and literature. Despite the controversies that often surrounded him, I knew him as a beautiful, kind, reservedly funny soul, and also as someone who cared deeply about the Caribbean. Just as Robert Pinsky, Yusef Komunyakaa, Seamus Heaney and Martín Espada have been influential in my work, Derek Walcott has encouraged me to embrace my hybridized, trans-national Caribbean self and to understand that aesthetic has no geographical boundary. And through Derek Walcott’s poetry, I am forever reminded that “The Sea Is History.”

    Derek Walcott poses during a portrait session held on May 30, 1993 in Saint Malo, France. Photo by Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

    Derek Walcott poses during a portrait session held on May 30, 1993 in Saint Malo, France. Photo by Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

    From Ishion Hutchinson, a Jamaican poet and essayist, who also examines the Caribbean’s colonial history:

    Derek’s works proves and sustains what Hemingway — an author he revered — calls “grace under pressure,” which I take to mean a duty to poetry, a faith in its craft without compromise in spite of failure or success. I am in awe of that devotion, an awe I guard jealously because I am from his world, the Caribbean — though there are marked differences in our experience of it — which he celebrates and holds accountable. I try to avoid telling anecdotes of my encounters with him because they all mean something deeply personal to me. Every single, average moment was magical and I feel talking about it reduces what I cherish and cannot voice about his presence.

    But this one I will share, about visiting him one autumn 10 years ago at Boston University, where he was teaching a playwriting class. After the session, he took the students to a Chinese restaurant, and during the walk there he and I sort of tagged along in the back. Even then I was thinking of the strangeness of walking with him, us in winter coats, leaves swirling about; the scene was like from a film. Not a lot was said, and most of it repeated questions. “You really like George Barker?” he asked me a few times, and my answer was the same yes with different words. But when I told him the Jamaican filmmaker Perry Henzell had died, he stopped in the leaves on the pavement and looked at me for a very long time. I wish now I could remember precisely what he said after the long silent stare, but it amounted to “he was a good man and a good artist.” We then walked on to the restaurant.

    From Kwame Dawes, a poet, editor and essayist who was born in Ghana, but spent most of his childhood in Jamaica. Reggae music in particular has influenced his work:

    I think I came across Walcott’s work for the first time in the 1970s, while I was in high school in Jamaica. By the time I got to university, Walcott and Kamau Brathwaite were the two major Caribbean poets. There was a tremendous amount of intellectual discussion, like there is with Michael Jackson and Prince, asking: Who is greatest? These were the lines of ideological discourse, which was a lot of nonsense because they were coming from similar grounds. I felt my experience with reading Walcott was that I struggled to understand everything he was writing, but I went back to it because of its sinuous metaphor and the intensity of language. Brathwaite was more immediately accessible, while Walcott had this ambition in writing the landscape of the Caribbean.

    I met Walcott probably in the 1990s, and I’ve met him and interviewed him on stage on several occasions. He’s known for being a bit of a curmudgeon in talking about work, but my experience is that I found him generous and thoughtful. In my work I’m often both quarreling with him and being guided by him, and I think he appreciated that — the conflicted sense of that.

    I think the poem “Sea of History” is a stunning poem and it’s so iconic. He introduces the idea of the Caribbean and creates this incredible conversation around the Caribbean person being told they have no history, or that they are deprived of a sense of history. But he says our history is in the sea. That’s where our cathedrals, our tombs are. Its Walcott facing tradition, and ruins and landscape, and saying: I still have a place in that landscape. It’s saying art that comes out of the Caribbean, comes out of the landscape. He says that we can write all we want but it’s irrelevant, because the landscape is the poem. It’s a clear political statement being made. And in the poem we see his wonderful rhetorical skills and exploration of place and identity.

    Below, read “The Sea is History,” and poems Dawes and Roye wrote after Walcott’s death:

    Derek Walcott, a Boston University English professor, sits in his home office in Brookline, MA after winning the Nobel Prize for Literature 08 October, 1992. Walcott, who was born in the West Indies, taught literature and creative writing.

    Derek Walcott, a Boston University English professor, sits in his home office in Brookline, MA after winning the Nobel Prize for Literature 08 October, 1992. Walcott, who was born in the West Indies, taught literature and creative writing. Photo by BROOKS KRAFT/AFP/Getty Images

    THE SEA IS HISTORY

    By Derek Walcott

    Where are your monuments, your battles, martyrs?
    Where is your tribal memory? Sirs,
    in that grey vault. The sea. The sea
    has locked them up. The sea is History.

    First, there was the heaving oil,
    heavy as chaos;
    then, like a light at the end of a tunnel,

    the lantern of a caravel,
    and that was Genesis.
    Then there were the packed cries,
    the shit, the moaning:

    Exodus.
    Bone soldered by coral to bone,
    mosaics
    mantled by the benediction of the shark’s shadow,

    that was the Ark of the Covenant.
    Then came from the plucked wires
    of sunlight on the sea floor

    the plangent harps of the Babylonian bondage,
    as the white cowries clustered like manacles
    on the drowned women,

    and those were the ivory bracelets
    of the Song of Solomon,
    but the ocean kept turning blank pages

    looking for History.
    Then came the men with eyes heavy as anchors
    who sank without tombs,

    brigands who barbecued cattle,
    leaving their charred ribs like palm leaves on the shore,
    then the foaming, rabid maw

    of the tidal wave swallowing Port Royal,
    and that was Jonah,
    but where is your Renaissance?

    Sir, it is locked in them sea-sands
    out there past the reef’s moiling shelf,
    where the men-o’-war floated down;

    strop on these goggles, I’ll guide you there myself.
    It’s all subtle and submarine,
    through colonnades of coral,

    past the gothic windows of sea-fans
    to where the crusty grouper, onyx-eyed,
    blinks, weighted by its jewels, like a bald queen;

    and these groined caves with barnacles
    pitted like stone
    are our cathedrals,

    and the furnace before the hurricanes:
    Gomorrah. Bones ground by windmills
    into marl and cornmeal,

    and that was Lamentations—
    that was just Lamentations,
    it was not History;

    then came, like scum on the river’s drying lip,
    the brown reeds of villages
    mantling and congealing into towns,

    and at evening, the midges’ choirs,
    and above them, the spires
    lancing the side of God

    as His son set, and that was the New Testament.

    Then came the white sisters clapping
    to the waves’ progress,
    and that was Emancipation—

    jubilation, O jubilation—
    vanishing swiftly
    as the sea’s lace dries in the sun,

    but that was not History,
    that was only faith,
    and then each rock broke into its own nation;

    then came the synod of flies,
    then came the secretarial heron,
    then came the bullfrog bellowing for a vote,

    fireflies with bright ideas
    and bats like jetting ambassadors
    and the mantis, like khaki police,

    and the furred caterpillars of judges
    examining each case closely,
    and then in the dark ears of ferns

    and in the salt chuckle of rocks
    with their sea pools, there was the sound
    like a rumour without any echo

    of History, really beginning.

    “The Sea Is History” from THE POETRY OF DEREK WALCOTT 1948-2013 by Derek Walcott, selected by Glyn Maxwell. Copyright © 2014 by Derek Walcott.
    Used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and Faber & Faber.


    FOR DEREK WALCOTT
    1930-2017

    “…For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” Paul (2Cor.1:20)

    By Kwame Dawes

    In the black box, the lights isolate emotion
    with theatrical efficiency—every gesture is art,
    as if in the clean, rehearsed moments, the word
    as the beginning of all things, and glorious yes
    of possibility, must be followed by the congregants
    saying Amen—this is the holy theatre, a world
    I have come to think of as a home place, a shelter,
    the womb of my art. So there in that black box
    deep inside a winter storm in Providence, they
    tell me the old man has slipped into his first sleep,
    and his editor calls each day to listen to the soft
    ebb and flow of the sea in his breathing. No one
    wants to say “all is silence now”, but we do know
    that after the poem is over, what remains is a soft
    pulse of the sea where we the Makaks of history
    find our cathedrals, our history, our glorious tomb.
    I did not expect the thickening pain in my throat,
    as if I could fall down and weep—I did not expect
    the moment to be like this, but it was and here
    is the beginning of our lamentation. For weeks
    I have carried in my head the calculation of greatness—
    how ambitious was the madman Lowell, how
    full of the privilege of his New England elitism,
    how it is that every time I think of the Boston police
    coming to secure him and carry him to another dark
    asylum, I can only think that I envy him the dignity
    they afforded him; and I think that the St. Lucian
    would have known that five white Boston cops
    would not sit at his breakfast table while he shivered
    and ranted and read for them “The Sea is History”,
    before deporting him to the asylum of fire and healing.
    This is the way history arrests ambition. We migrants stay
    sane so that we can live to go mad in our secret chambers.
    But the old man has slipped into his first sleep and at last
    all his promises of last poems, last words, last
    testaments, seem fulfilled. This is not yet an elegy, merely
    an effort to clear the glue in my throat, and a way
    of saying that his art comes to me burnished with
    so many grand yeses; and on this morning of grey
    chill, I have learned to pray for language, just enough
    to offer a word of company for the old man. The word
    is waves—not original, surely, but I offer it—the sea,
    the soft waves reaching the coast, the pulling back,
    the soft snore of a man waiting to leave the shore at last.

    Kwame Dawes
    Lincoln, Nebraska
    March 16th, 2017


    UNTITLED

    By Ruddy Roye

    The time has come
    when,
    words no longer respond to the pen,
    when,
    age is neither shadow
    nor fear,
    or a new smell,
    or the melted smiles that flows out as tears.
    At that moment,
    when life stops,
    when the everlasting sound
    that leaves our lips,
    is the echo of the “tock”
    and the grey hovering realization
    that this face
    will no longer stare back
    is the tick
    trying to unhitch its fangs
    from the neck and names
    of this world,
    we stare back at the face
    of the broken clock.
    to wade across the river
    bearing nothing
    with only our tired feet
    to take us around the dreamy bend,
    at the end,
    there is no light that shines
    through,
    only our rattling voices
    echoing in our throats
    before losing its roots.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, first, we want to turn to that other major story today, day one of the confirmation hearings for Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court.

    Here are some excerpts of what senators on the Judiciary Committee, as well as the nominee himself, had to say in opening statements.

    SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY, R-Iowa: Judge, welcome to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It was day one of Judge Neil Gorsuch’s hearing, as senators took turns making opening statements, and laying out partisan attacks for the week to come.

    Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley opened with an alert for the nominee.

    SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY: Judge, I’m afraid, over the next couple of days, you will get some questions that will cause you just to scratch your head. Senators will cite some opinion of yours, and then we will hear that you’re for the big guy and against the little guy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Gorsuch’s record on corporate cases was a theme that carried through the day.

    SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE, D-R.I.: Your record on corporate vs. human litigants comes in, by one count, at 21-2 for corporations. Tellingly, big special interests and their front groups are spending millions of dollars in a dark money campaign to push your confirmation.

    SEN. JEFF FLAKE, R-Ariz.: One of my colleagues said Judge Gorsuch is pro-business or against the little guy. I think the record shows that we can be confident he will read the law as written and not legislate from the bench.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For their part, Republicans spent most of the hearing praising Gorsuch’s legal resume.

    SEN. ORRIN HATCH, R-Utah: Judge Gorsuch’s legal experience is well-known. My Democratic colleagues have referred to the American Bar Association’s rating as the gold standard for evaluating judicial nominees.

    The ABA’s unanimous well-qualified rating for Judge Gorsuch confirms that he has the highest level of professional qualifications, including integrity, confidence and temperament.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: While Democrats knocked his constitutional philosophy as too rigid.

    SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-Calif.: Judge Gorsuch has also stated that he believes judges should look to the original public meaning of the Constitution when they decide what a provision of the Constitution means.

    This is personal, but I find this originalist judicial philosophy to be really troubling. I firmly believe the American Constitution is a living document, intended to evolve as our country evolves.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Republican Senator Mike Lee pushed back.

    SEN. MIKE LEE, R-Utah: Referring to you as an originalist just doesn’t stick. This is not a description that was attributed to you. The last time you stood before this committee and went through a confirmation process, nowhere in the record is there any reference to you being outside the mainstream.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All this amidst a bitter backdrop for Democrats, after Republicans last year blocked Merrick Garland, President Obama’s pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. His seat has now been vacant for more than a year.

    SEN. RICHARD DURBIN, D-Ill., Minority Whip: It was clear that Senator McConnell was making a political decision, hoping a Republican president would be elected. He was willing to ignore the tradition and precedent of the Senate, so that you could sit at this witness table today.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Fellow Coloradan Democrat Senator Michael Bennet, who helped introduced Gorsuch, acknowledged the tension.

    SEN. MICHAEL BENNET, D-Colo.: I believe the Senate has a constitutional duty to give fair consideration to this nominee, just as we had a duty to consider fairly Judge Merrick Garland. But, Mr. Chairman, two wrongs never make a right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Some Democrats also aimed their attacks at President Trump.

    SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D-Conn.: The independence of those judges has never been more threatened and never more important. And a large part of the threat comes from the man who nominated you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: As for the nominee, himself, he spoke last, giving an opening statement of his own, and promising independence.

    NEIL GORSUCH, Supreme Court Nominee: Mr. Chairman, these days, we sometimes hear judges cynically described as politicians in robes, seeking to enforce their own politics, rather than striving to apply the law impartially.

    If I thought that were true, I would hang up the robe.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Gorsuch tried to deflect some of the claims made by Democrats.

    NEIL GORSUCH: My decisions have never reflected a judgment about the people before me, only a judgment about the law and the facts at issue in each particular case. A good judge can promise no more than that, and a good judge should guarantee no less, for a judge who likes every outcome he reaches is probably a pretty bad judge.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The hearings continue tomorrow and through the week.

    The post Gorsuch in confirmation hearing promises independence from politics appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we turn now to the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. He is Democratic Representative Adam Schiff of California.

    Congressman Schiff, welcome back to the program.

    What’s the main thing that you think was clarified at today’s hearing?

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF, D-Calif.: Well, I think a number of things.

    First, I think Director Comey made the case that he had opened an investigation into potential agency with a foreign power or coordination with a foreign power. That’s not done unless there is specific and credible information or evidence that someone is colluding.

    I also think that it was significant that you had two directors directly rebuff the president’s claims that he was illegally wiretapped or wiretapped at all by his predecessor.

    But more than that, I think the main takeaway, I hope, for the country from the hearing is a recognition of just what serious business this is, because, as Director Comey says, the Russians will do this again. And we really need a thorough investigation to determine just what the Russians did, how did they do it, were there U.S. persons involved, and how do we protect ourselves from their future efforts to interfere?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I hear you say this, Congressman Schiff, and yet President Trump tweeted today that Admiral Rogers and the FBI director, Jim Comey, told Congress that Russia didn’t influence the electoral process in the United States last year.

    So, that doesn’t seem to square with what you just said.

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Well, it didn’t square with what the witnesses said at the hearing either. And that was pointed by my colleague Jim Himes, who followed up with both directors and did some real-time fact-checking on the president.

    And, of course, that’s not what the directors said. The directors can’t really comment. It’s not their mission, their job or their expertise to say what effect the Russian interference had in terms of outcomes, but clearly they interfered with the electoral process.

    And here’s the problem. If the president is going to distort what the intelligence community says in open hearing, how can we have confidence when the president comes before the country to share what the intelligence agencies have told him in closed, classified session, because the country needs to know, because the president wants to take action, where the president needs to decide what the response should be to North Korea or around Iran?

    How can we have confidence that the president is being truthful? And the short answer is, if he keeps this up, we can’t. And that’s a real danger to the country.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what does that mean, Congressman Schiff? What are you saying you’re worried that could happen?

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Well, the best example I can give is, let’s say, six months from now, the president says that Iran is cheating on the nuclear deal.

    Obviously, if Iran isn’t cheating, that’s a big problem. If he’s making this up, the way he’s making up the claim that Barack Obama wiretapped him, that’s a big problem. If the president is telling the truth, in a way, it’s a bigger problem, because, will he be believed?

    Will he be believed by the American people? Will he be believed by our allies that he needs to rally to reimpose sanctions or take some other action against Iran? Each time the president undermines his own credibility, he weakens himself, he weakens the institution of the presidency, he weakens the credibility of the entire country and our standing in the rest of the world.

    And when there is a crisis, we pay a dear price for that loss of credibility.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: On the other hand, Congressman, Republicans on the committee today were calling into question whether the intelligence community can be relied on.

    They — question after question was about leaks coming from the intelligence community and anyone who had access to that information. The president, President Trump, is saying what the intelligence community says is fake news. He’s dismissing it.

    Republicans are saying they’re leaking all over the place. So, I guess my question — and then you also had Congressman Trey Gowdy, your Republican colleague on the committee, saying that perhaps the FISA court, the courts that authorize much of their investigation, may be in trouble.

    Are you confident that an investigation is going to be thoroughly carried out here?

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Well, on the leak issue, first of all, I think we have to understand just the breadth of what people are talking about when they talk about leaks.

    The leaks that most concern me, that ought to most concern the country is when information is leaked that betrays sources and methods of information that our allies — well, that expose us to danger, because our enemies can then perpetrate attacks because we lose those confidential sources of information. Those are the most serious leaks.

    What seems to really upset the administration is a different kind of leak. It’s a leak that exposes malfeasance within the administration. What really upset the president wasn’t the fact that Mike Flynn was unmasked to the country and that Mike Flynn was exposed as having lied to the country and the vice president about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

    What really upset the president was that, essentially, he was caught in the lie. And you will remember, even after firing Flynn, he wanted to praise Flynn and castigate the press.

    That’s something very different. That’s a leak that discloses malfeasance in the administration.

    And I would say, look, this leak problem, every administration has it. And one of the things my GOP colleagues didn’t want to acknowledge today — and the president certainly doesn’t want to acknowledge — is, they can say we think, we fear, we suspect this is coming from the intelligence community. They’re a bunch of Nazis.

    That’s essentially the president’s original tweet on this. But it’s also very possible that some of these leaks are coming from the White House itself, and a division among people, staff in the White House…

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean from the Trump White House?

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF: From the Trump White House, exactly, because, of course, the Trump White House knew this information as well.

    And there have been lots of public reports about how there’s infighting among the Trump administration and to watch your back. Well, maybe somebody wanted Michael Flynn out among the president’s own team. I don’t know that that’s happened, but if we’re serious about this, I would say to my GOP colleagues, be careful what you wish for, because the trail may lead right back to the White House.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, thank you. And we will be talking to you again, I know.

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Thank you.

    The post Schiff: ‘Big problem’ if President Trump is making up his wiretap claim appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: An unusually newsy day in the nation’s capital, even by Washington standards, that make up our two leads: A House committee delves into a possible Russian role in the campaign that elected Donald Trump, and a Senate panel begins hearings on the man chosen by President Trump to serve on the Supreme Court.

    We begin with the Russia file, and Lisa Desjardins, who has been watching it all.

    LISA DESJARDINS: In a rare open hearing of the House Intelligence Committee, a rare admission from the FBI director.

    JAMES COMEY, FBI Director: I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

    And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Beside Comey sat National Security Agency Chief Michael Rogers. Both stood by the intelligence community’s earlier report that Russian President Vladimir Putin clearly favored the candidacy of Donald Trump.

    JAMES COMEY: Putin hated Secretary Clinton so much, that the flip side of that coin was he had a clear preference for the person running against the person he hated so much.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Committee Democrats and Republicans pursued sharply different lines of questioning:

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF, D-Calif.: In early July, Carter Page, someone candidate Trump identified as one of his national security advisers, travels to Moscow on a trip approved by the Trump campaign.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Ranking Democrat Adam Schiff listed contacts between Trump advisers and Russian officials and raised concern.

    REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Many of Trump campaign personnel, including the president himself, have ties to Russia and Russian interests. This is, of course, no crime. On the other hand, if the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it aided or abetted the Russians, it wouldn’t only be a serious crime. It would also represent one of the most shocking betrayals of democracy in history.

    LISA DESJARDINS: But committee Chairman Devin Nunes and other Republicans pushed to show that Russians didn’t directly change vote totals.

    REP. DEVIN NUNES, R-Calif.: Admiral Rogers, do you have any evidence that Russia cyber-actors changed vote tallies?

    ADM. MIKE ROGERS, National Security Agency Director: No, I do not.

    LISA DESJARDINS: The president soon after tweeted that: “The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia didn’t influence electoral process.”

    But, back at the hearing, Democrat Jim Himes pounced, saying a lack of manipulating votes directly is different than no influence at all.

    REP. JIM HIMES, D-Conn.: So, it’s not too far of a logical leap to conclude that the assertion that you have told the Congress that there was no influence on the electoral is not quite right?

    JAMES COMEY: Right. It certainly wasn’t our intention to say that today, because we don’t have any information on that subject. That’s not something that was looked at.

    LISA DESJARDINS: More than anything, Republicans raised alarm over leaks and stories with reportedly classified information and names in the investigation.

    REP. TREY GOWDY, R-S.C.: I thought it was against the law to disseminate classified information. Is it?

    JAMES COMEY: Oh, yes. Sure, it’s a serious crime.

    LISA DESJARDINS: South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy went farther, warning that unless the leaks are stopped, a key provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, may not be reauthorized by Congress this year.

    REP. TREY GOWDY: Trust me, you and I both want to see it reauthorized. It’s in jeopardy if we don’t get this resolved.

    LISA DESJARDINS: The hearing hit extraordinary territory. Democrats pushed on President Trump’s charges that President Obama wiretapped him.

    JAMES COMEY: With respect to the presidents tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Republican Chairman Nunes agreed, but didn’t rule out that other measures could have been involved.

    REP. DEVIN NUNES: It’s still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates.

    LISA DESJARDINS: President Trump and his aides have refused to back off the surveillance charge. They say it’s veracity is for the investigation to determine.

    Meanwhile, today, White House spokesman Sean Spicer defended the president and his campaign, but he also seemed to downplay the campaign role of two key players known for their ties to Russia, former campaign adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

    SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: Even General Flynn was a volunteer of the campaign. And then, obviously, there’s been discussion of Paul Manafort, who played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.

    LISA DESJARDINS: At the hearing, over it all was Russia, a country the NSA chief said changed its tactics in 2016.

    ADM. MIKE ROGERS: I would say the biggest difference, from my perspective, was both the use of cyber, the hacking as a vehicle to physically gain access, to information to extract that information and then to make it widely publicly available without any alteration or change.

    JAMES COMEY: The only thing that I would add is that they were unusually loud in their intervention. It’s almost as if they didn’t care that we knew what they were doing or that they wanted us to see what they were doing.

    LISA DESJARDINS: FBI Director Comey gave a warning.

    JAMES COMEY: They will be back. They will be back in 2020. They may be back in 2018. And one of the lessons they may draw from this is that they were successful, because they introduced chaos and division and discord.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Chairman Nunes closed the hearing with a stark verdict on the five-hour session.

    REP. DEVIN NUNES: There is a big, gray cloud that you have now put over people who have very important work to do to lead this country. And so the faster you can get to the bottom of this, it’s going to be better for all Americans.

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

    The post Comey confirms Russia probe, but ‘no information’ supporting Trump wiretap claim appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, on the first day of his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, March 20, 2017. REUTERS/Al Drago/POOL - RTX31W82

    Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, on the first day of his confirmation hearing, March 20, 2017, before the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Capitol Hill, in Washington. Photo: REUTERS/Al Drago/POOL

    “Haunted houses may be full of ghosts, goblins, and guillotines, but it’s their more prosaic features that pose the real danger.”

    You’d be forgiven for thinking that’s the opening line to a novel, rather than a passage from a court opinion in an otherwise dry insurance case.

    In the weeks since President Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the federal judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has been closely scrutinized for his views and qualifications. But here on the NewsHour arts desk, we’ve been most interested in his writing style, which has been described as witty, accessible and appealing. The high court nominee also has a penchant for narrative, often weaving in evocative stories or literary references.

    WATCH LIVE: Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination hearings

    With Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings ongoing this week, we spoke to several legal experts, as well as a former clerk of Gorsuch’s, who said his writing style helps make his opinions more easily understood.

    A gift for storytelling has “long distinguished the great writers on the Supreme Court from the many competent but forgettable ones,” said Ross Guberman, who wrote “Point Taken: How to Write Like the World’s Best Judges.”

    In a blog post examining Gorsuch’s particular skills as writer, Guberman writes that the judge “manages to make procedural history come alive.” Guberman points to an opinion Gorsuch issued using the Greek myth of Sisyphus, who had to forever roll a boulder up a hill, to illustrate how never-ending the case in question had become:

    We’re beginning to think we have an inkling of Sisyphus’s fate. Courts of law exist to resolve disputes so that both sides might move on with their lives. Yet here we are, forty years in, issuing our seventh opinion …

    “Rarely have I read such a masterly account of civil procedure,” Guberman wrote. (In a follow-up post on Gorsuch as writer, however, Guberman criticized the judge’s sometimes faulty syntax and grammar.)

    David Feder, a former law clerk for Gorsuch, said this kind of narrative style comes as a result of writing many drafts.

    “When I started clerking for [Gorsuch] I learned it’s no accident. It definitely takes a lot of hard work to be a good writer, and a concise writer,” Feder said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he went over 50 drafts in longer or harder opinions.”

    The judge also reads widely, according to Feder.

    Early on his clerkship, Feder said, he asked Gorsuch what he should read to improve his writing, and assumed the judge would recommend someone like legal writer Bryan Garner.

    “But he said: ‘Go read Charles Dickens, and some of the classics,’” Feder said. “That surprised me.”

    But Josh Blackman, an associate professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston, said that while Gorsuch is a talented writer like Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court justice he may replace, his language is less masterfully assertive.

    Instead of the “scorched earth” language for which Scalia was famous, Blackman argued, “you see that cool, silver fox, where he’s going to use language, but not in an aggressive way.”

    This worries Blackman a bit, who said the court’s resident “scorched earth” writer is Justice Sonia Sotomayor, an Obama appointee, and that the court’s conservative wing lacks a justice who will employ that kind of aggressive language.

    But he said Gorsuch’s writing would still resonate, in part because of the way he employs narrative, just as Scalia did.

    “Narrative can make a reader understand not only what the law is but how case came about,” Blackman said, “so that anyone who reads it will connect to it.”

    Blackman points to an opinion where Scalia cited the literary works of the Brothers Grimm to argue against restrictions on violent video games. Blackman could repeat several lines of the opinion from memory. Here’s an excerpt:

    California’s argument would fare better if there were a longstanding tradition in this country of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence, but there is none. Certainly the books we give children to read — or read to them when they are younger — contain no shortage of gore. Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example, are grim indeed. As her just deserts for trying to poison Snow White, the wicked queen is made to dance in red hot slippers “till she fell dead on the floor, a sad example of envy and jealousy.” … Cinderella’s evil stepsisters have their eyes pecked out by doves …. And Hansel and Gretel (children!) kill their captor by baking her in an oven.

    Perhaps the most famous literary reference Gorsuch has made was in his dissent over a case where a teen was arrested for fake burping and disturbing other students in class:

    If a seventh grader starts trading fake burps for laughs in gym class, what’s a teacher to do? Order extra laps? Detention? A trip to the principal’s office? Maybe. But then again, maybe that’s too old school. Maybe today you call a police officer. And maybe today the officer decides that, instead of just escorting the now compliant thirteen year old to the principal’s office, an arrest would be a better idea. So out come the handcuffs and off goes the child to juvenile detention. My colleagues suggest the law permits exactly this option and they offer ninety-four pages explaining why they think that’s so. Respectfully, I remain unpersuaded …

    Often enough the law can be “a a** — a idiot,” Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist — and there is little we judges can do about it.

    Gorsuch referenced Dickens in another opinion, on the Hobby Lobby health insurance challenge, writing:

    In many ways this case is the tale of two statutes. The ACA compels the Greens to act. RFRA says they need not. We are asked to decide which legislative direction controls. The tie-breaker is found not in our own opinions about good policy but in the laws Congress enacted.

    Another interesting use of the literary by Gorsuch, which Feder pointed to, is from an opinion in which he argued for separated and divided power among states by referencing the young adult novel (and blockbuster movie franchise) “The Hunger Games”:

    Ours is not supposed to be the government of the Hunger Games with power centralized in one district, but a government of diffused and divided power, the better to prevent its abuse.

    “He’s saying it should not be like ‘The Hunger Games’ where the Capitol rules everything,” said Feder.

    Gorsuch has employed such references, Feder said, “so that the people who go to court understand why they won or why they lost, not just their lawyers.” As a Supreme Court justice, accessible writing would be even more important, Feder added.

    Blackman, though, argues that while Gorsuch’s writing may be more accessible and popular, especially among his colleagues, it may also come with drawbacks.

    “An important question is whether the lack of punch will resonate among law students,” said Blackman, who noted that Scalia often wrote not for the lawyers but the next generation of law students “who could one day vindicate his principles.”

    Correction: This piece originally said the Brothers Grimm reference was in a Gorsuch opinion. It was an opinion by Scalia.

    The post 5 times Gorsuch referenced ‘Hunger Games’ and other literary works in his legal writing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 31: Gabrielle Douglas of the United States of America competes on the balance beam in the Artistic Gymnastics Women's Team final on Day 4 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at North Greenwich Arena on July 31, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    Gabrielle Douglas of the United States of America competes on the balance beam in the Artistic Gymnastics Women’s Team final in the London 2012 Olympic Games. Steve Penny resigned as USA Gymnastics president last Thursday, following accusations of negligence in the sport’s yearslong sexual assault scandal. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.

    Our eyes turned abroad last week, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited South Korea and said “the policy of strategic patience has ended” for its neighbors to the north; the White House said it wouldn’t repeat false claims that a British electronic intelligence agency helped with alleged (unproven) wiretapping of Trump Tower; and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, delayed by the snow, finally made her first visit to President Donald Trump, complete with an awkward handshake that wasn’t. At home, a Hawaii judge also said “not so fast” to Trump’s revised travel ban that for the second time looked to restrict which people can enter the country.

    Here are five stories — that have nothing to do with Trump, Tillerson or The Spokesperson In Chief — you might have missed in all of the globetrotting.

    1. USA Gymnastics president resigns

    Steve Penny, President of USA Gymnastics welcomes guests and media in 2001 to announce the designation of the USA Gymnastics National Training Center at Karolyi Ranch in Huntsville, Texas. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images for Hilton.

    Steve Penny, President of USA Gymnastics welcomes guests and media in 2001 to announce the designation of the USA Gymnastics National Training Center at Karolyi Ranch in Huntsville, Texas. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images for Hilton.

    Steve Penny resigned as USA Gymnastics president on Thursday, following accusations of negligence in the sport’s yearslong sexual assault scandal.

    Around the time of the Rio Olympic Games last year, the Indianapolis Star reported that the sport’s national governing body and Olympic organization routinely failed to report abuse allegations to authorities.

    A 2014 deposition showed Penny testifying that USA Gymnastics officials had to substantiate a sexual abuse complaint because the “potential for … a witch hunt becomes very real,” the Star reported.

    More reporting by the Star eventually revealed that 368 young gymnasts across the country had alleged sexual abuse by coaches and other adults. USA Gymnastics also had complaint files on more than 50 coaches, with allegations spanning over two decades from 1996 to 2006.

    Why it’s important

    Simone Biles (USA) competes in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Photo by REUTERS/Mike Blake.

    Simone Biles (USA) competes in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Photo by REUTERS/Mike Blake.

    There have been multiple abuse cases in several different sports, including USA Taekwondo, U.S. Speedskating and USA Swimming.

    For USA Gymnastics, there was a rule, as told by two former officials, that the organization would review complaints that are filed by either victims or victim’s parents.

    Penny, in another deposition, had offered an explanation over the organization’s handling of abuse allegations.

    “To the best of my knowledge, there’s no duty to report it you are — if you are a third party to some allegation,” he’s quoted as saying.

    Nancy Hogshead-Makar of Champion Women told the NewsHour in August that USA Swimming has a similar rule, which is not required by any sports law.

    “It’s sort of a random rule, but it works to keep national governing bodies from having to go and do these investigations or go and file reports with the police and other authorities,” she said.

    Judy Woodruff speaks with investigative reporter Marisa Kwiatkowski and Nancy Hogshead-Makar, lawyer and CEO of Champion Women, about legal protection for victims.

    Following the abuse allegations against USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee launched this year the U.S Center for SafeSport, which stresses the need to notify law enforcement of any suspected case of child abuse.

    2. New footage of Michael Brown raises more questions about what happened in Ferguson

    There are many versions of what happened the night 18-year-old Michael Brown, a black man, was shot by a white police officer two and a half years ago in Ferguson, Missouri.

    New video surveillance released last week by Jason Pollock, the filmmaker behind a new documentary titled “Strange Fruit,” complicates what we know — and don’t — about the case.

    The surveillance shows Brown hours before the shooting. The teen is seen entering Ferguson Market and Liquor roughly after 1 a.m., roughly 11 hours before his death on Aug. 9, 2014. He walks toward the counter and hands over an item appearing to be a small bag, obtains a shopping sack full of cigarillos and then proceeds to hand the sack of cigarillos back across the counter before leaving.

    The exchange challenges the original security video from the same store that depicts Brown shoving a convenience worker and then taking the cigarillos, the New York Times says.

    Officer Darren Wilson had a confrontation with Brown shortly after that exchange. According to reports, Wilson thought Brown matched the description of a robbery suspect.

    The two had a confrontation through the window of Wilson’s police vehicle. Wilson fired his weapon once at Brown, striking his hands. He fired at least six more times as Brown ran from the vehicle and then turned around back toward Wilson. Following Brown’s death, St. Louis County Police Chief Joe Belmar said at a news conference the 18-year-old physically assaulted the officer and while in a struggle, Brown reached for Wilson’s gun. Advocates have said that Brown was trying to surrender. A grand jury decided not to indict Wilson in Brown’s shooting, and an investigation by the Department of Justice determined that Wilson had shot Brown in self defense.

    Brown’s parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown, Sr., filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Ferguson, along with former officer Wilson and former police chief Thomas Jackson. Both resigned from the force following the incident.

    A spokesperson for The St. Louis County Police Department told The Washington Post that the department was not responsible for the video’s release.

    “Our department did not release the robbery footage video. Ferguson PD released the video of Michael Brown committing a strong armed robbery,” the spokesperson told The Post.

    Why it’s important

    A protestor holds a photograph of Michael Brown during a 2014 protest in Ferguson, Missouri. Photo by Scott Olson, Getty Images News.

    A protestor holds a photograph of Michael Brown during a 2014 protest in Ferguson, Missouri. Photo by
    Scott Olson, Getty Images News.

    Pollock’s project, recently shown at the SXSW Film Festival, reimagines Brown’s encounter with Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Pollock said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that despite the fact that Wilson was not indicted for the shooting, Brown’s death “was a murder” and that Wilson “should be in jail.”

    “It’s about the physical evidence, like the forensic evidence, the blood evidence, the audiotape,” Pollock told The Hollywood Reporter. “They don’t want us talking about that stuff because it proves a murder.”

    But in an interview with The New York Times, Jay Kanzler, a lawyer that represented the convenience store, said the new footage should be disassociated with Brown’s visit to the store later on during early-morning hours.

    “There was no transaction. There was no understanding. No agreement,” Kanzler told The New York Times. “Those folks didn’t sell him cigarillos for pot. The reason he gave it back is he was walking out the door with unpaid merchandise and they wanted it back.”

    St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch also told the Washington Post the 90-minute film was “poorly edited” and “pathetic.”

    The controversy raises questions about what evidence is released from police, and when. Brown’s case falls in line with several other cases of fatal shootings of unarmed black youth, from the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was shot by civilian George Zimmerman in 2012 to Tamir Rice, who was shot in 2014 by Timothy Loehmann, a Cleveland police officer, among several others. According to The Guardian, 32 percent of black people and 25 percent of Latinos killed by police in 2015 were unarmed, compared to 15 percent of white people.

    3. The newest tool in the fight against suicide: AI

    Flickr https://flic.kr/p/dEQi4X

    Photo by Flickr user Jon Seidman, via Creative Commons

    Researchers out of Florida State University have developed a tool it says can predict potential suicides using artificial intelligence.

    The new technology has the potential to predict suicide up to two years in advance with 80 percent accuracy, researchers say.

    How? FSU researchers analyzed a data repository containing the health records of roughly two million patients and identified more than 3,200 individuals who had attempted suicide. Machine learning took over and created a special algorithm that methodically learned to recognize the various risk factors leading up to suicide.

    “The machine learns the optimal combination of risk factors,” FSU Psychology researcher Jessica Ribeiro, told the Florida State University News. “What really matters is how this algorithm and these variables interact with one another as a whole. This kind of work lets us apply algorithms that can consider hundreds of data points in someone’s medical record and potentially reduce them to clinically meaningful information.”

    The prediction accuracy also intensifies as risk factors intensify, where accuracy could climb to 92 percent at least one week before a suicide attempt when the artificial intelligence centers on hospital patients.

    Why it’s important

    Suicide rates surged by 24 percent from 1999 to 2014, according to data provided by the National Center for Health Statistics. In 2014, more than one million adults self-reported a suicide attempt, with 9.4 million adults who also self-reported serious thoughts of suicide.

    And for several years, as reported by tech magazine Wired, Facebook has continued to invest in similar AI tools, such as the social network’s trained algorithm that flags posts concerning self-harm. Facebook already features a system where users can report posts relating to self harm and a trained algorithm then recognizes similar posts. The social network is looking to expand other preventive measures in the near future, such as the ability to reach out to someone in need via a live video stream, the magazine says.

    Ribeiro told FSU News that using machine learning to improve suicide prevention is only the beginning.

    “What we have so far is promising, but it’s just a start,” she said. “While these are not the only methods or the best ones, I think if more researchers focus on this approach we can finally see meaningful declines in the rates of suicidal behaviors, and ultimately suicide deaths, on a global scale. It’s not that far off.”

    4. An apparent cell network hack renews cybersecurity concerns

    People pass by a T-Mobile store in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Photo by REUTERS/Brendan McDermid.

    People pass by a T-Mobile store in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Photo by REUTERS/Brendan McDermid.

    Earlier this month, a cybersecurity expert told a House Democrat that hackers may have exploited a flaw in T-Mobile’s cell networks in Washington, D.C., one that would allow outsiders or foreign threats to intercept calls.

    A spokesman for Rep. Lieu confirmed to Buzzfeed News that the expert had contacted the congressman’s office to report the apparent security breach. Although Lieu’s office was unable to substantiate the claims made by the unnamed expert, it alerted the Department of Homeland Security of the potential breach.

    Why it’s important

    Lieu warned Congress about a similar threat last year.

    In a “60 minutes” segment, he allowed a team of hackers to infiltrate his iPhone through a known weakness in the Signaling System No. 7, or SS7 network, which a lot of phone carriers rely on to connect to one another within the mobile infrastructure.

    The hackers were able to eavesdrop and record his calls, view his contacts and even track his movements.

    “First, it’s really creepy. And second, it makes me angry,” Lieu told “60 minutes” correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi at the time. “They could hear any call of pretty much anyone who has a smartphone,” he added.

    While the intentional hacking demonstrated the possibility of such an attack, mobile security expert John Hering told “60 Minutes” that the average cell phone user won’t be typically be the target.

    “But our goal was to show what’s possible,” he said. “So people can really understand if we don’t address security issues, what the state of the world will be.”

    After receiving the tip from the expert, Lieu co-wrote a letter with Sen. Ron Wyden to Homeland Secretary John Kelly, questioning whether mobile carriers had taken enough preventative measures to safeguard their networks, Buzzfeed News reported.

    “We suspect that most Americans simply have no idea how easy it is for a relatively sophisticated adversary to track their movements, tap their calls, and hack their smartphones,” the letter read. “We are also concerned that the government has not adequately considered the counterintelligence threat posed by SS7-enabled surveillance,” it continued.

    5. Lab-grown chicken strips taste pretty good, apparently

    Could lab-grown chicken meat replace the poultry farm? Photo by Getty Images

    Could lab-grown chicken meat replace the poultry farm? Photo by Getty Images

    How much would you pay for a plate of chicken strips? How about $9,000? That’s the cost of a pound of experimental, lab-grown chicken meat that debuted for taste testers in Silicon Valley last week. Memphis Meats, a startup that aims to completely change the poultry industry, created the chicken meat using real animal cells. It’s the first chicken of its kind — yes, it even came before the egg.

    Reportedly, the meat tastes just like chicken, but a bit spongier.

    While the chicken is too expensive to mass produce right now, Memphis Meats hopes to create an affordable chicken product by 2021.

    Why it’s important

    Meat is delicious. (At least the majority of people think so.) But while it’s packed with protein, meat is an environmental burden. Raising animals for food contributes to deforestation, greenhouse gas production, pollution, erosion, water consumption and even the spread of diseases, like influenza. And that’s before it gets to the slaughterhouse.

    Plus, the world’s appetite for meat is growing. As more countries urbanize and incomes rise, people around the globe are shopping for meat to grill, braise, broil, roast, cure and deep fry.

    Lab-grown meats could someday make healthy proteins more affordable and available, while also reducing their environmental impacts.
    A 2011 study found lab-grown meats could reduce land use for meat production by 99 percent and cut water consumption by 90 percent.

    READ MORE: 5 stories that have (almost) nothing to do with politics

    Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with additional details about the shooting of Michael Brown, including the fact the Department of Justice found the shooting was in self defense.

    The post 5 important stories that have nothing to do with politics appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Supreme Court nominee judge Neil Gorsuch is sworn in to testify at his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill on March 20, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

    This week’s Supreme Court nomination hearing isn’t Judge Neil Gorsuch’s first appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee: He had to win Senate confirmation before taking his current spot on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

    But the breezy questioning Gorsuch received during his 2006 confirmation hearing won’t compare to the grilling he’ll get from the same Senate panel starting Tuesday. The 2006 hearing for his federal judgeship lasted all of 23 minutes; just one committee member — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — was present to question him.

    WATCH LIVE: Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court hearings and analysis

    This time around, Gorsuch will have to field multiple rounds of questions from the panel’s 20 members, and 28 witnesses will follow up with their own testimony. Monday’s hearing offered a preview, with Democrats using their opening statements to go after Gorsuch’s judicial record and views on abortion, gun control and other issues.

    The stakes are higher, too: If confirmed, Gorsuch would be the ninth justice on a Supreme Court that’s been shorthanded in the 402 days since Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February of 2016. In that time, the court, with just eight justices, has been unusually prone to deadlocking, as it did on major cases involving immigration and union dues.

    Here’s what to watch as senators begin their questioning:

    Where do Democrats attack?

    This time last year, President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats thought they had a nominee in Judge Merrick Garland, who could fill Scalia’s seat and possibly even alter the ideological tilt of the court. But Republicans controlled the Senate and chose to let his nomination expire without holding a hearing.

    Garland’s doomed nomination remains a sore subject among Senate Democrats. The day President Donald Trump nominated Gorsuch, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) went as far as to call it a “stolen seat.”

    Garland’s doomed nomination remains a sore subject among Senate Democrats.

    Several Democrats brought up Garland on Monday as well. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said the Senate Republicans’ decision to block Garland’s nomination was “a truly historic dereliction of duty by this body.” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called it “one of the greatest stains on the 200-year history” of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    Look for Democrats to continue bringing up Garland throughout the hearings. But they will also likely highlight their concerns over whether Gorsuch would stand up to President Trump’s agenda and rhetoric.

    After a private meeting with the nominee last month, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that “the bar for a Supreme Court nominee to prove they can be independent has never, never been higher.” Last Friday, the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, distributed a fact sheet highlighting Gorsuch’s views on judicial deference to federal agencies’ interpretations of statutes.

    “Judge Gorsuch’s nomination,” the fact sheet said, “is part of the Trump administration’s effort to strip federal agencies and their policy experts of the power to regulate in areas of federal law assigned by Congress.”

    Gorsuch has spoken out — at least behind closed doors — against President Trump’s criticism last month of a federal district court judge who blocked the implementation of his original travel ban. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who met privately with Gorsuch last month, said afterwards that the nominee called Mr. Trump’s rhetoric “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”

    Gorsuch, right, meets with Senator Richard Blumenthal on Capitol Hill on February 8, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

    On Monday, Blumenthal wondered if Gorsuch would be willing to stand up to the president publicly as well. “It isn’t enough to do it in the privacy of my office or [to] my colleagues,” Blumenthal said during the opening day of the hearings.

    Gorsuch’s private comments on Trump’s attacks on the courts didn’t satisfy other Democrats either. Schumer wrote in a New York Times op-ed last month that Gorsuch should have gone further.

    “A truly independent judge would have the fortitude to condemn the president’s remarks, not just express disapproval, and to do it publicly,” Schumer wrote.

    The magic number is still 60 (until it isn’t)

    Whatever approach Democrats take to oppose Gorsuch, anyone trying to put up a serious effort to block his confirmation will have to pay attention to a very important number: 60.

    Under current rules, Senate Republicans need 60 “yes” votes to overcome a filibuster and schedule a confirmation vote. But because Senate Republicans only control 52 seats in the chamber, a handful of members can tip the balance one way or the other.

    Outside groups have already aired television ads and booked significant ad buys to pressure Senators on both sides of the aisle. The Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative group, has focused its multi-million dollar ad campaign on states where Senate Democrats face tough reelection fights in 2018. The Constitutional Responsibility Project, which was formed last year to boost public support for Garland’s confirmation, has targeted Republicans like Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and Nevada Sen. Dean Heller.

    Outside groups have already aired television ads and booked significant ad buys to pressure Senators on both sides of the aisle.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has not clarified what he would do if he can’t secure the 60 votes needed to pave the way for a confirmation vote in the full Senate.

    In 2013, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid used a rule change known as the “nuclear option” to eliminate the 60-vote threshold for executive branch and non-Supreme Court judicial nominations — so the Democrat-controlled Senate could approve Obama appointees who were being blocked by Republicans. McConnell has not ruled out using the “nuclear option” to get Gorsuch confirmed.

    Gorsuch’s record

    There’s a lot we don’t know about Gorsuch’s opinions.

    Gorsuch has not had to write about the issue of abortion in his time as a federal appellate court judge, but he has penned a 320-page tome on end-of-life issues. And he’s grappled with religious liberty cases like Hobby Lobby’s challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage mandate. Both topics — abortion and religious liberty — have been before the nation’s highest court in recent terms, and both are sure to come up on Tuesday.

    Some senators have indicated keen interest as well in Gorsuch’s opinions on judicial deference to agencies and how those agencies interpret statutes — a critical issue in cases dealing with the scope of government power.

    Gorsuch has also fielded questions specifically about President Trump’s use of executive power to impose his travel ban, a policy the Supreme Court could be asked to grapple with in the coming weeks. Schumer said Gorsuch sidestepped his questions about the travel ban when he raised the issue last month during their private meeting. A quick confirmation could enable Gorsuch to be part of the court’s deliberations if it were to take the issue up in the near future.

    Follow our live coverage of Gorsuch’s hearings here.

    The post 3 things to watch in Neil Gorsuch’s exchanges with senators appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 12: House Speaker Paul Ryan reads from a list of states with increasing health insurance premiums during a news conference on January 12. Photo By Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    Republicans want to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act and fundamentally redraw health care in America. But first, they need 218 votes in the House by Thursday, when a floor vote is scheduled on the American Healthcare Act. To get them, House GOP leaders filed a package of changes to the bill Monday night.

    The changes come after the Republican leadership was criticized from lawmakers on the left and right for the first version of the bill, which was released earlier this month.

    So what exactly are they changing?

    Big Picture

    Overall, the changes take aim at three big areas.

    1) increasing government help to seniors and others paying the most for health care;

    2) eliminating the taxes under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act faster;

    3) giving states more options for Medicaid while further limiting who can sign up for the program.

    To the tax credit, add more tax deduction

    What it is: House GOP leaders now want to expand a tax deduction, allowing people to deduct health expenses that amount to more than 5.8 percent of their income.

    What it means: Many people expected Republicans to increase tax credits for older Americans. But the tax credits have not changed. Instead, the GOP is expanding a tax deduction. Yes, this is getting complicated — but also interesting. People filing their 2016 taxes already can deduct all health care expenses over 10 percent of their income. The initial GOP bill released two weeks ago would have lowered that threshold to 7.5 percent of income. Now, in the amendment, Republicans propose that deductions start once healthcare spending is over 5.8 percent of income, a policy that would start in 2018. Meanwhile, next year, a special rule would be extended so that seniors could get the expanded deduction right away.

    One note here: In their summary of the proposed changes, House GOP leaders indicated that this tweak may be meant as a pre-emptive peace offering to the Senate, where there is significant concern among Republicans that the bill will simply cost too much for seniors. The expanded tax deduction would cost roughly $85 billion, according to a House aide. The proposed spending boost was a signal that House leaders are willing to put more money on the table, and are open to Senate proposals on other ways to spend the additional funding to help cover seniors’ health care.

    ACA taxes go faster

    What it is: This new language would end ACA taxes in 2017, a year earlier than the previous GOP bill.

    What it means: The first version of the GOP bill did not repeal all ACA taxes until 2018. This latest version proposes repealing them in 2017, meaning they would all be wiped out immediately. This is a decision by Republicans to try to gain support among conservatives, who complained that the first bill was not a fast or broad enough repeal of Obamacare. At the same time, it comes with risks. Add more tax benefits and you’ve added to the pricetag. Now everybody wants to see how (and when) the Congressional Budget Office scores this one.

    Medicaid: more power for states, more limits for individuals

    What it is: States would get more power. Fewer people would be automatically eligible for the program.

    What it means: The biggest news here might be what Republicans did not change. They did not change the date for freezing the Medicaid expansion program under the ACA. It still closes at the end of 2019.

    But the proposal out Monday does limit the number of people in the program by blocking any of the 19 states which don’t have the expansion now from signing up.

    Most of all, the GOP has added more bells and whistles, in terms of flexibility, to appeal to states. That includes allowing states to choose getting their Medicaid money as a large block grant, rather than as a set amount of spending per recipient. In addition, the changes would let states add a work requirement for non-pregnant adults on Medicaid.

    What we DON’T know

    The bill’s shape may have changed, but the same questions remain.What will this mean for individual healthcare costs? How many Americans will be covered under this plan? And what would this do to government costs?

    The post Here’s how Republicans just changed their health care bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An elderly woman uses smartphone at home. Photo by Adobe.

    Living alone can be tough for seniors. Some don’t have family nearby to check on them, and they worry that if they fall or suffer a medical emergency and can’t get to the phone to seek help, no one will know.

    That’s why hundreds of police agencies in small towns, suburbs and rural areas across the country are checking in on seniors who live alone by offering them a free automated phone call every day.

    Police officials say the computerized calling systems, which are fairly inexpensive and easy to use, provide an important service to a growing senior population that is expected to reach 65 million by 2025. Already, nearly half of women age 75 and older live alone.

    And advocates for older adults say telephone check-in programs can help seniors remain independent in their homes and give them — and their family members — peace of mind.

    “It helps ensure for the elderly person or their family that a phone call is being made every morning, that everything is OK. We’ve gotten incredible feedback on this program,” said Cmdr. Jack Vaccaro, of the Lighthouse Point Police Department in Florida, which has nine seniors in its automated daily call program.

    Automated telephone reassurance systems for seniors began nearly three decades ago. They have grown in popularity in recent years and now are used by police departments from California to Massachusetts.

    Some police agencies take a more personal approach, using volunteers or dispatchers to place the calls.

    “They were just in time to save her life.”

    Police departments are becoming more sensitive in responding to the needs of older adults, said Sandy Markwood, CEO of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. For instance, she said, they are training officers in how to handle seniors with dementia. Telephone check-in programs are another way of doing that.

    “I think we’re seeing a trend with these types of programs, particularly in rural and smaller communities,” she said. “It’s a wise use of government dollars for first responders.”

    Daily Calls
    Seniors who sign up for telephone reassurance programs decide when they want to be called. They typically are required to give police the name and phone number of an emergency contact.

    Participants get a computer-generated phone call every day — sometimes recorded by the police chief or sheriff — that asks them to press a certain number if they are OK. If they don’t answer the phone, they’ll get another computer-generated call, and sometimes additional ones.

    If they still don’t answer, police usually will try to get in touch with their emergency contact before dispatching an officer to the home to check on them.

    Seniors who know they’re going to be out when the phone rings at the specified time are supposed to notify police in advance. But sometimes they forget, and dispatchers end up sending out a unit on a false call. While that does happen, police officials say it’s not a frequent occurrence so the personnel costs are minimal.

    Some agencies, such as the Winter Park, Florida, Police Department, also require participants to put a copy of their house key in a secured box similar to ones used by real estate agents, that is placed somewhere around the outside of the house. Emergency responders know the code and can open the box and enter the house, if necessary.

    The price tag for telephone reassurance systems varies.

    RUOK, the nation’s largest telephone reassurance system, is used by hundreds of police agencies, according to Bruce Johnson, owner of the Minnesota company that developed and sells the software. It costs about $1,000 to buy and set up and has no maintenance fees.

    Database Systems Corp., a Phoenix-based data management company that has sold its CARE Call Reassurance system to dozens of police departments, charges nearly $11,000 for purchase, installation and the first year of maintenance, Vice President Jerry Pizet said. After that, most agencies do their own maintenance.

    Winter Park Police Officer Randall Morrissey said his agency uses RUOK software that runs on an old laptop and was paid for with forfeiture funds. Running the program doesn’t cost the department anything, he said, other than the cost of sending out an officer on a false call, which isn’t often.

    “A lot of the seniors who sign up are concerned that they could pass and not be discovered for days,” Morrissey said. “With this program, it’s comforting for them to know they could be found.”

    That was the reason the Belton Police Department in Texas launched its telephone check-in program in 2013, according to Detective Sgt. Kim Hamilton. The impetus: an incident in which officers found an elderly woman who been had been dead on the floor of her home for at least two months without anyone knowing or checking on her.

    “That alone spoke volumes to us,” Hamilton said. “We knew there was a need to check on our senior residents.”

    ‘Economy of Scale’
    The check-in programs are less common in big cities, where large numbers of people might sign up, potentially straining budgets because more officers would be needed to check on seniors who don’t answer their phones.

    But in small cities and towns, suburbs and rural areas, the programs can be more manageable.

    “It’s economy of scale,” said Capt. Larry Murphy, of the Biloxi, Mississippi, Police Department. “With more people, the percentage of false alarms goes up and you’ve got to send out units there. If you’re in a really large city, you’d have to add more and more resources.”

    “With more people, the percentage of false alarms goes up and you’ve got to send out units there. If you’re in a really large city, you’d have to add more and more resources.”

    In Biloxi, a city of about 44,000, only 14 seniors are registered for its telephone check-in program. While many police departments want to sign up as many seniors as possible, Murphy said his tries to limit its program to “people who really need it rather than those who just want it.”

    Murphy said the automated call system has experienced on and off outages in the last few years because of lightning damage to the dispatch center. That means dispatchers sometimes have to personally call each senior, which is “resource-intensive but manageable” with a limited number of participants.

    Some police agencies that once used automated check-in systems, such as those in Brentwood, Missouri, and Amherst, Massachusetts, have stopped using them. Agencies that choose to give up the systems usually do it because participants move away or die and not enough seniors sign up to replace them.

    Police officials agree that for telephone reassurance programs to succeed in the long term, they need to be continuously marketed to new seniors. Some departments do that by publicizing them on websites, at senior centers, and in apartment complexes and churches.

    The Human Touch
    Some police agencies go beyond automated check-ins and use staff or volunteers to dial up seniors and talk to them one-on-one.

    Every weekday morning, a staffer at the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office in South Carolina makes 50 to 60 calls to see if seniors in the telephone reassurance program are OK.

    In Belton, Texas, 130 senior participants get an automated call every weekday except Wednesday, when they get a live call from one of dozens of volunteers, according to the police department’s Hamilton. “Sometimes that’s the only person the senior talks to that week,” she said.

    A part-time coordinator oversees the volunteers and is paid for through a grant from the Area Agency on Aging of Central Texas. This year’s grant was for $21,000.

    “Considering what the police have to deal with every day, this is totally the opposite end of the spectrum,” said Pam Patterson, an area agency contract manager. “It gives them an opportunity to really help seniors.”

    “Considering what the police have to deal with every day, this is totally the opposite end of the spectrum. It gives them an opportunity to really help seniors.”

    And in Belton, as in some other parts of the country, police say the program has saved lives.

    Belton police have had four “saves” so far, Hamilton said, including a man who fell to the floor in his house and stayed there from Friday, after his last check-in, until Monday, when his next call came.

    In San Diego County, California, one of the bigger areas to run a call reassurance service, the sheriff’s department’s program goes far beyond automated calls. As part of You Are Not Alone, 452 senior volunteer patrol members call 334 older adults at least five times a week and visit them at least weekly, depending on their preference.

    “We think the personal touch is a little bit better, in the event something else is going on,” said Sgt. Monica Sanchez. “Our senior volunteers are trained to see if there is food in the fridge or if there are signs of neglect. An automated program would not work for us. We like to observe and report.”

    Sanchez said the volunteers have helped save people’s lives, such as when they visited the home of an 86-year-old woman last year, got no response, and noticed her mail had been piling up. They contacted deputies, who climbed through an open window and found the woman on the floor, severely dehydrated.

    “They were just in time to save her life,” Sanchez said.

    The post Why don’t more seniors who live alone sign up for phone check-ins? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Donald Trump holds a rally at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    President Donald Trump holds a rally at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky, in March. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday warned House Republicans they could lose their seats in next year’s midterm elections if they failed to back the GOP health care overhaul and fulfill a long-promised goal to undo Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

    In a rare trip to the Capitol, the president met behind closed doors with rank-and-file Republicans, some wavering on the legislation two days before a climactic vote. Top House Republicans unveiled revisions to their bill Monday night in hopes of nailing down support.

    Trump’s message to Republicans: “If you don’t pass the bill there could be political costs,” said Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C.

    The lawmaker said Trump said House GOP seats could be at risk if the bill fails and “the danger of your not voting for the bill is people could lose their seats.”

    Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters Trump was “all-in” on repeal-and-replace, and attending the meeting “to do what he does best: to close the deal.”

    At a rally Monday night in Louisville, Kentucky, Trump underscored what he called “the crucial House vote.”

    “This is our long-awaited chance to finally get rid of Obamacare,” he said of repealing former Obama’s landmark law, a GOP goal since its 2010 enactment. “We’re going to do it.”

    Trump’s closed-door meeting with House Republicans was coming as party leaders released 43 pages worth of changes to a bill whose prospects remain dicey. Their proposals were largely aimed at addressing dissent that their measure would leave many older people with higher costs.

    Included was an unusual approach: language paving the way for the Senate, if it chooses, to make the bill’s tax credit more generous for people age 50-64. Details in the documents released were initially unclear, but one GOP lawmaker and an aide said the plan sets aside $85 billion over 10 years for that purpose.

    Enactment of the health care bill would clear the way for Congress to move to revamping the tax code and other GOP priorities.

    The leaders’ proposals would accelerate the repeal of tax increases Obama imposed on higher earners, the medical industry and others to this year instead of 2018. It would be easier for some people to deduct medical expenses from their taxes.

    Older and disabled Medicaid beneficiaries would get larger benefits. But it would also curb future growth of the overall Medicaid program, which helps low earners afford medical coverage, and let states impose work requirements on some recipients. Additional states could not join the 31 that opted to expand Medicaid to more beneficiaries under Obama’s law, the Affordable Care Act.

    In a bid to cement support from upstate New Yorkers, the revisions would also stop that state from passing on over $2 billion a year in Medicaid costs to counties. The change was pushed by Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., one of Trump’s first congressional supporters. Local officials have complained the practice overburdens their budgets.

    The GOP bill would dismantle Obama’s requirements that most people buy policies and that larger companies cover workers. Federal subsidies based largely on peoples’ incomes and insurance premiums would end, and a Medicaid expansion to 11 million more low-income people would disappear.

    The Republican legislation would provide tax credits to help people pay medical bills based chiefly on age, and open-ended federal payments to help states cover Medicaid costs would be cut. Insurers could charge older consumers five times the premiums they charge younger people instead of Obama’s 3-1 limit, and would boost premiums 30 percent for those who let coverage lapse.

    Republican support teetered last week when a nonpartisan congressional analysis projected the measure would strip 24 million people of coverage in a decade. The Congressional Budget Office also said the bill would cause huge out-of-pocket increases for many lower earners and people aged 50 to 64.

    Democrats have opposed the GOP repeal effort. They tout Obama’s expansion of coverage to 20 million additional people and consumer-friendly coverage requirements it imposed on insurers, including abolishing annual and lifetime coverage limits and forcing them to insure seriously ill people.

    Although leading Republicans are pushing to pass their Obamacare replacement bill next week, its impact on millions of Americans remains a point of worry. Some prominent interest groups directly involved in health care are expressing opposition to the plan. Jeffrey Brown talks to Dr. Andrew Gurman, president of the American Medical Association, about the group’s concerns.

    House approval would give the legislation much-needed momentum as it moves to the Senate, which Republicans control 52-48 but where five Republicans have expressed opposition. Trump used Monday’s trip to single out perhaps the measure’s most vociferous foe — Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul.

    “He’s a good guy,” Trump said of one 2016 rival for the GOP presidential nomination. “And I look forward to working with him so we can get this bill passed, in some form, so that we can pass massive tax reform, which we can’t do till this happens.”

    Enactment of the health care bill would clear the way for Congress to move to revamping the tax code and other GOP priorities. Defeat would wound Trump two months into his administration and raise questions about his ability to win support from his own party moving forward.

    Among the disgruntled were GOP lawmakers in the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, though the strength of their opposition was unclear. The group has seemed to have around 40 members, but that number may be lower now and some have expressed support or an open mind for the bill.

    Associated Press reporters Matthew Daly and Julie Bykowicz contributed to this report.

    READ MORE: Here’s how Republicans just changed their health care bill

    The post Trump warns House Republicans of political costs if they reject GOP health bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The U.S. Supreme Court building is pictured in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Carlos Barria.

    The U.S. Supreme Court building is pictured in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Carlos Barria.

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday limited the president’s power to temporarily fill vacant government posts while nominations are tied up in partisan political fights.

    The 6-2 ruling said a former top lawyer at the National Labor Relations Board had served in violation of a federal law governing temporary appointments.

    Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts said that Lafe Solomon was not allowed to serve as acting general counsel of the agency that enforces labor laws while he was at the same time nominated to fill that role permanently.

    At issue is a 1998 law aimed at preventing the president from using temporary appointments to bypass the Senate’s advice-and-consent role. The Federal Vacancies Reform Act says a person nominated for a post requiring Senate confirmation can’t serve in the same position on a temporary basis.

    But the law contains an exception if the nominee served for 90 days as a “first assistant” to the person who previously held the office. The Obama administration said the exception also covered Solomon because he had been a director at a different office at the NLRB.

    President Barack Obama named Solomon acting general counsel in June 2010 and he held the office until Nov. 4, 2013. But he never won Senate confirmation because Republicans viewed him as too favorable to labor unions.

    Gorsuch in confirmation hearing promises independence from politics

    Roberts said a close reading of the law’s text shows that the exception did not cover Solomon. He rejected the government’s argument that a ruling against it would hamstring future presidents and call into question dozens of temporary appointments made over the years.

    “This does not mean that the duties of general counsel to the NLRB needed to go unperformed,” Roberts said. “The president could have appointed another person to serve as the acting officer in Solomon’s place.”

    Roberts also dismissed arguments that historical practice supported the government. Since the law was enacted in 1998, three presidents have nominated 112 people for permanent posts who also were serving as acting officials. There was never any objection from Congress.

    Roberts said those 112 nominations “make up less than two percent of the thousands of nomination to positions in executive agencies” that the Senate has considered during that time. He said the Senate either may not have noticed a problem or opted not to reject a candidate just to make a point about the law.

    Solomon’s authority was challenged after an Arizona-based ambulance company was accused of unfair labor practices. The company, SW General, Inc., said the complaint was void because Solomon’s tenure was invalid. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit sided with the company.

    It’s the second time in recent years that the presidential appointment process has come under scrutiny by the high court. In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that Obama’s recess appointment of three NLRB members violated the Constitution. That ruling invalidated hundreds of NLRB rulings and forced the agency to reissue those decisions.

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

    The post Supreme Court limits president’s power to fill temporary posts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney speaks about U.S. President Donald Trump's budget Mar. 16 in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

    White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney speaks about U.S. President Donald Trump’s budget Mar. 16 in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

    WASHINGTON — The White House is instructing Cabinet heads and agency officials not to elaborate on President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts beyond what was in a relatively brief submission, a move Democrats decried as a gag order.

    Budget Director Mick Mulvaney wrote in a memo late last week that until the full budget release in May, “all public comments of any sort should be limited to the information contained in the Budget Blueprint chapter for your agency,” referring to the 53-page document released last Thursday.

    The budget traded a $54 billion boost for the military for crushing cuts to domestic programs like medical research, community development, foreign aid and a slew of other programs. Typically, Cabinet heads and agency officials testify before the respective congressional committees on the budget after its release.

    READ MORE: Trump budget seeks to boost defense spending, slash State Department and EPA

    Mulvaney said department and agency heads should not make “commitments about specific programs” or provide further detail about cuts to programs that went unmentioned in last week’s summary budget, which glossed over many of the most politically difficult details.

    “It is critically important that you not make commitments about specific programs if they are not expressly mentioned in the budget,” Mulvaney wrote in the memo. “Similarly, you should not address account-level details. Comments of such specifics need to wait until the release of the full budget.”

    Already, House hearings featuring Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and top National Institutes of Health officials have been postponed, leading Democrats to charge that the White House has issued a gag order to avoid negative publicity about the budget.

    READ MORE: Trump’s budget cuts drastically into science and health programs

    “Since last Thursday, when President Trump proposed staggering cuts to domestic services and investments, the administration has pulled the plug on scheduled Appropriations hearings on the NIH and the Department of Education,” said top House Appropriations Committee Democrat Nita Lowey of New York. “The administration clearly lacks the ability to defend these unjustifiable proposals.”

    Trump’s budget landed with a thud on Capitol Hill, with even the administration’s staunchest allies lining up against cuts to programs like foreign aid, after-school programs, and agriculture and education.

    “America being a force is a lot more than building up the Defense Department. Diplomacy is important, extremely important, and I don’t think these reductions at the State Department are appropriate,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press.

    “There are things on the domestic side that are extremely important,” McConnell added, saying he’ll defend the NIH and stave off a plan to eliminate funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission, which funds economic development projects in his state.

    Mulvaney also said that only Cabinet or agency heads should testify before Congress. The administration’s complete budget request is slated for release in mid-May, far later than is typical even in a presidential transition year.

    Secretary of State James Mattis is testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday in a defense panel hearing focusing on “the budget and readiness of the Department of Defense.”

    Under Mulvaney’s edict, Mattis is supposed to testify about Trump’s detailed submission for an immediate $18 billion Pentagon budget hike but say nothing about the $603 billion military budget for the budget year starting in October beyond a two-page summary issued last week.

    The post White House issues gag order to officials on budget details appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Tourists disembark from a tour bus in Havana, Cuba, on Feb. 10. Photo by Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters

    Tourists disembark from a tour bus in Havana, Cuba, on Feb. 10. Photo by Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A rare poll of Cuban public opinion has found that most of the island’s citizens approve of normal relations with the United States and large majorities want more tourists to visit and the expansion of private business ownership.

    In a poll of 840 people taken in Cuba late last year by the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago, 55 percent said that normal relations with the U.S. would be mostly good for the country.

    “I’d love for the two peoples to be even closer,” Rebecca Tamayo, an 80-year-old retired museum worker, said Monday in Havana. “If there were better relations, more products would be entering the country. There’d be more opportunity to buy things.”

    Among Cubans aged 18-29, approval of closer relations with the U.S. rose to 70 percent. An overwhelming eight of 10 respondents said they believed tourism to Cuba should be expanded.

    President Donald Trump has pledged to reverse former President Barack Obama’s 2 1/2-year-old opening with Cuba, which restored full diplomatic relations and allowed a dramatic expansion of U.S. travel to the island. Trump has said little about the matter since taking office, but his administration says it is conducting a full review of Cuba policy with an eye toward possible changes.

    Critics of Obama’s policy hope Trump will reinstate regulations limiting the ability of Americans to travel to the island. U.S. travel to Cuba has roughly doubled every year since the declaration of detente in December 2015. Critics of closer relations argue the added revenue has funded a repressive single-party system without helping ordinary Cubans.

    The reality is more complex. New tourism revenue is being captured by government-run tourism businesses, often controlled by the military. At the same time, thousands of new private enterprises, primarily bed-and-breakfasts and restaurants, are allowing many Cubans to forge livelihoods independent of the state. Meanwhile, a drop in aid from Cuba’s main patron, Venezuela, helped push the country last year into its first recession since 1993, after the fall of the Soviet Union.

    The poll reflects this complex reality, with Cubans expressing pessimism about the government’s management of the economy while supporting better ties with the U.S. and hoping for increased privatization.

    “Tourism is improving the country’s economy, but it’s still not enough, because people aren’t seeing a better quality of life,” Jorge Beltran, a 66-year-old retired accountant said Monday in Havana.

    Forty-six percent of Cubans say the island’s economic performance is poor or very poor, and most said the country’s economic fortunes haven’t changed significantly over the past three years. Still, Cubans are nearly unanimous in saying more tourism would be good for the economy, and nearly 9 in 10 say it would result in more jobs for local workers.

    Sixty-five percent of Cubans said there should be more private business ownership and 56 percent said they wanted to start their own business over the next five years.

    “It’s been demonstrated that the market economy is more efficient than a centralized economy,” Beltran said. “People who’ve started private businesses, you can see that they’re happier, they have more access to a lot of things. It’s a tremendous benefit for them.”

    The NORC survery was conducted via in-person interviews of adults across Cuba in October and November of last year. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

    Seventy-six percent said they had to be careful about expressing themselves freely. Over half of Cubans said they would move away from the country if given the chance. Of those, 70 percent said they would head to the United States, where many respondents said they had relatives.

    Nearly half of respondents said they received remittances from family or friends overseas.

    Seventy-seven percent had a positive view of the U.S.

    ___

    Weissenstein reported from Havana.

    The post Rare poll finds Cuban citizens favor better U.S. relations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Berk Ozkan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    Women jump over a bonfire on March 21, 2017 during the Newroz celebrations at Topkapi Culture Park in Istanbul, Turkey. Newroz is annual festival that marks the beginning of spring and is celebrated mainly in Iran, Afghanistan, India and Turkic republics such as Azerbaijan, Caucasus countries, Albania and Macedonia.

    The post Photo: Turkish women spring forward appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Two businessmen

    Photo by Getty Images.

    Today and every day for the rest of our lives, we will be targets of salespeople, marketers, advertisers, fundraisers and (heaven knows) politicians who want to move us in their direction. And they’ll be good at it, because they’ve learned how to put proven influence techniques — glowing testimonials, emotional tugs, last-chance opportunities — inside their appeals.

    But recently, behavioral research has shown that, by concentrating so intently on the message, the messengers have missed something crucial. Optimal persuasion is achieved through pre-suasion: the practice of arranging for people to agree with a message before they know what’s in it. Although this may seem like some form of magic, it’s not. It’s established science. In my new book “Pre-suasion,” I describe the psychology behind what pre-suaders say or do immediately prior to a persuasive communication to elevate its effect, often dramatically.

    Now, in conjunction with PBS NewsHour, I’ve developed a quiz from material in the book to introduce the concept and allow you to test your understanding of how pre-suasion operates, as well as to improve that understanding. With a better awareness of pre-suasion, you should be able to:

    1. harness its power to boost your own persuasive success and
    2. deflect that power when it’s used on you in an unwelcome way.

    In school, I never much liked quizzes. The answers so rarely seemed useful to anything but scoring well on the test (did I really need to know which state was the No. 1 apple producer in the U.S.?). The PBS Pre-Suasion Quiz is designed to be different in that regard by describing a historically little-recognized, yet potent, form of social influence that even persuasion scientists have only recently come to appreciate. If the quiz delivers valuable life lessons, that will be my reward. No need to send an apple to the teacher.

    So how did you do?

    If you got less than 60 percent, don’t fret. Most of us are unaware of pre-suasion in ads and marketing. This quiz was meant to introduce you to the concept, so you can be more alert to it in the future.

    If you got between 60 percent and 85 percent, you have a good initial grasp of pre-suasion and how it works.

    If you got above 85 percent, you’re a rare pre-suasion expert. Count me impressed.

    The post Quiz: Do you know this sneaky advertising trick? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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