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

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    A man, who was deported from the U.S. seven months ago, touches the fingertips of his nephew across a fence separating Mexico and U.S, as photographed from Tijuana

    A man, who was deported from the U.S. seven months ago, touches the fingertips of his nephew across a fence separating Mexico and U.S, as photographed from Tijuana, Mexico, March 4, 2017. Picture taken from the Mexican side of the border. Photo by Jorge Duenes/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has now laid out exactly what he wants in the “big, beautiful wall” that he’s promised to build on the U.S.-Mexico border. But his effort to build a huge hurdle to those entering the U.S. illegally faces impediments of its own.

    It’s still not clear how Trump will pay for the wall that, as described in contracting notices, would be 30 feet (9 meters) high and easy on the eye for those looking at it from the north. The Trump administration will also have to contend with unfavorable geography and many legal battles.

    A look at some of those obstacles:


    Trump promised that Mexico would pay for his wall, a demand Mexico has repeatedly rejected. Trump’s first budget proposal to Congress, a preliminary draft that was light on details, asked lawmakers for a $2.6 billion down payment for the wall. An internal report prepared for Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly estimated that a wall along the entire border would cost about $21 billion. Congressional Republicans have estimated a more moderate price tag of $12 billion to $15 billion. Trump himself has suggested a cost of about $12 billion.

    It’s unclear how much money Congress will approve. Lawmakers have been balking at his plans to sharply cut other federal spending to pay for the wall and other boosts to border security, while increasing military spending. White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters this past week that the administration was still looking at how the wall would be funded, adding that it hasn’t given up on Mexico footing the bill.

    [Watch Video]


    Roughly half of the 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) U.S.-Mexico border is in Texas and marked by the winding and twisting Rio Grande. A 1970 treaty with Mexico requires that anything built near that river not obstruct its flow. The same treaty applies to a stretch of border in Arizona, where the Colorado River marks the international boundary.

    Some fencing that is already in place along the frontier is built well off the river, in some places nearly a mile (about a kilometer) away from the border.

    Trump will have to navigate not only the treaty maintained by the International Boundary and Water Commission but also various environmental regulations that protect some stretches of border and restrict what kind of structures can be built and where. The contracting notices of March 17 say the Trump administration wants the wall dug at least 6 feet (almost 2 meters) into the ground. Along parts of the border in California, environmentally sensitive sand dunes required that a “floating fence” was built to allow the natural movement of the sand.


    Nearly all of the land along the Texas border is privately held — much of it by people whose families have been in the region for generations — and buying their land won’t be easy, as Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama discovered. Lawyers for both administrations fought in court with private landowners. Obama’s efforts to buy privately held land in the Rio Grande Valley have carried over into Trump’s term.

    The Trump administration appears to be preparing for the legal fight and included a request for more lawyers to handle such cases in its budget proposal. Spicer said this past week the administration would “take the steps necessary” to fulfill Trump’s promise to secure the southern border.

    The post Trump’s border-wall proposal faces many obstacles appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Women carry signs with pro-Trump rally participants  during the Southern California Make America Great Again march in support of President Trump, the military and first responders at Bolsa Chica State Beach in Huntington Beach, California

    Women carry signs with pro-Trump rally participants during the Southern California Make America Great Again march in support of President Trump, the military and first responders at Bolsa Chica State Beach in Huntington Beach, California, on March 25, 2017. Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Reuters

    HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — A scuffle broke out on a Southern California beach where supporters of President Donald Trump were marching when counter-protesters doused organizers with pepper spray, authorities said Saturday.

    The violence erupted when the march of about 2,000 people at Bolsa Chica State Beach reached a group of about 30 counter-protesters, some of whom began spraying the irritant, said Capt. Kevin Pearsall of the California State Parks Police. Three people were arrested on suspicion of illegal use of pepper spray and a fourth person was arrested on suspicion of assault and battery, he said.

    Two people suffered minor injuries that didn’t require medical attention, Pearsall said.

    A pro-Trump rally participant wears a U.S. flag during the Southern California Make America Great Again march in support of President Trump, the military and first responders at Bolsa Chica State Beach in Huntington Beach, California

    A pro-Trump rally participant wears a U.S. flag during the Southern California Make America Great Again march in support of President Trump, the military and first responders at Bolsa Chica State Beach in Huntington Beach, California, on March 25, 2017. Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Reuters

    An anti-Trump protester who allegedly used the eye irritant was kicked and punched in the sand by a group of Trump supporters, the Los Angeles Times reported.

    Counter-protesters said before the march began that they planned to try to stop the march’s progress with a “human wall.”

    Earlier this month, a rally in Berkeley, California, in support of Trump turned violent, and his supporters clashed with counter-protesters in several fights that led to the arrest of 10 people and left at least seven people injured.

    The post Arrests after scuffle breaks out at California Trump rally appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Police tape blocks access to the crime scene after a mass shooting at the Cameo Nightlife club in Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S. March 26, 2017. Photo By Caleb Hughes/Reuters

    One person is dead and 14 were wounded after multiple people opened fire early Sunday morning during a dispute inside a packed Cincinnati nightclub, police said.

    Cincinnati Assistant Police Chief Paul Neudigate posted on Twitter that the incident was not related to terrorism.

    “Motive is still unclear but there are no indications this incident is terrorism related,” the post said.

    There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

    Police Chief Eliot Isaac said late Sunday morning that authorities continue to search for suspects.

    Gunfire was reported at 2:20 a.m. EDT inside the crowded Cameo nightclub, located in an industrial area of the city, where police Capt. Kim Williams told the Associated Press there was “just a lot of chaos, obviously, when shots were fired.”

    “Saturday night, it is a very young crowd,” Williams said. “We have had incidents here in the past, but this is by far the worst.”

    One witness told the Cincinnati Enquirer that there was a “big brawl” before the shootings. Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black said that the fight was between two groups or individuals. He also noted that the club itself “has a history of gun violence,” and that two shootings happened there in 2015.

    Of the 15 people who were shot, one was reported killed. Some of the wounded reportedly made their way to hospitals on their own, and at least one person was in critical condition.

    “The biggest problem when you have a large crowd like this and the shots ring out, a lot of the witnesses disappear,” she said.

    The post One dead, 14 wounded in Cincinnati nightclub shooting appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Robert Levinson

    Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent and DEA agent, who disappeared in Iran in 2007, is shown in this undated handout photo released by the Levinson family. Levinson was not on the list of U.S.-Iran prisoner exchange. Photo from Levinson family/Handout via Reuters

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The family of a former FBI agent who went missing in Iran a decade ago on an unauthorized CIA assignment has filed a lawsuit against the Islamic Republic, accusing it of using “cold, cynical and false denials” to torture his loved ones.

    The lawsuit by Robert Levinson’s family in U.S. federal court comes years after the last hostage photos and video of the 69-year-old investigator surfaced in emails they say were sent by Iran so the country “would not be held responsible for his ultimate fate.” The lawsuit also describes in detail offers by Iran to “arrange” for his release in exchange for a series of concessions, including the return of a Revolutionary Guard general who defected to the West.

    “Iran has, for many years, established a pattern of seizing and holding hostages in order to extract concessions from the hostage’s home country,” the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Washington reads. “That Robert Levinson’s seizure is a part of that pattern is reflected in Iran’s multiple attempts to use Robert Levinson’s imprisonment to extort concessions from the United States.”

    The family’s lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages from Iran.

    READ NEXT: Why was Robert Levinson not included in Iran prisoner swap?

    Iran’s mission at the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment Sunday, amid Iran’s long celebration of the annual Nowruz holiday that marks the Persian New Year and the arrival of spring. Iranian media previously carried international reports on the lawsuit, without elaborating.

    Levinson disappeared from Iran’s Kish Island on March 9, 2007. For years, U.S. officials would only say that Levinson, a meticulous FBI investigator credited with busting Russian and Italian mobsters, was working for a private firm on his trip.

    In December 2013, The Associated Press revealed Levinson in fact had been on a mission for CIA analysts who had no authority to run spy operations. Levinson’s family had received a $2.5 million annuity from the CIA in order to stop a lawsuit revealing details of his work, while the agency forced out three veteran analysts and disciplined seven others.

    The lawsuit said emails to Levinson’s family and friends began in August 2007, though the only photos and video of Levinson emerged in 2010 and 2011. The video message included a demand for $3 million and the release of “certain named individuals,” the lawsuit said.

    Iranian authorities also used a meeting with an American religious organization to ask for the release of a report on its nuclear program to be delayed in exchange for Levinson, the lawsuit said. At another time, Iran asked for the exchange of the defecting general, while Levinson remained held all the while, it said.

    “For the past 10 years the Iranian government has held Robert Levinson captive while at the same time denying any knowledge or involvement in the circumstances of his capture,” the lawsuit said. “In order to maintain its false story, Iran has held Robert Levinson incommunicado.”

    The post Family of missing ex-FBI agent files lawsuit against Iran appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt is sworn in by Justice Samuel Alito (not pictured) at the Executive Office in Washington

    Director of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Scott Pruitt is sworn in by Justice Samuel Alito at the Executive Office in Washington, D.C. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump in the coming days will sign a new executive order that unravels his predecessor’s sweeping plan to curb global warming, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Sunday.

    EPA chief Scott Pruitt said the executive order to be signed Tuesday will undo the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, an environmental regulation that restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants. The 2015 rule has been on hold since last year while a federal appeals court considers a challenge by coal-friendly Republican-led states and more than 100 companies.

    Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Pruitt said Trump’s intention is to bring back coal-mining jobs and reduce the cost of electricity.

    Supporters of former President Barack Obama’s plan, including some Democratic-led states and environmental groups, argue it would spur thousands of clean-energy jobs and help the U.S. meet ambitious goals to reduce carbon pollution set by an international agreement reached in Paris in late 2015.

    Pruitt on Sunday called the Paris climate accord a “bad deal” because he said it went too easy on China and India, who like the U.S. are among the world’s leading producers of carbon dioxide.

    “So we’ve penalized ourselves through lost jobs while China and India didn’t take steps to address the issue internationally. So Paris was just a bad deal, in my estimation,” he said.

    The post EPA chief: Trump to undo Obama plan to curb global warming appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A self-driven Volvo SUV owned and operated by Uber Technologies Inc. is flipped on its side after a collision in Tempe, Arizona, U.S. on March 24, 2017. Picture taken on March 24, 2017. Courtesy Fresco News/Mark Beach/Handout via Reuters

    Uber Technologies Inc. on Saturday halted a pilot program for self-driving vehicles following an accident on Saturday in Arizona.

    The accident took place in the city of Tempe after the driver of a second vehicle made a turn and failed to yield to a self-driving Uber, police said. Two drivers were sitting in the front seats of the Uber car when the crash took place, the company told Reuters.

    Tempe Police Sgt. Josie Montenegro said the Uber vehicle, a Volvo SUV, was not responsible for the accident, which caused the car to flip on its side.

    “There was a person behind the wheel,” Montenegro said about the Uber vehicle. “It is uncertain at this time if they were controlling the vehicle at the time of the collision.”

    Nonetheless, Uber said it would suspend a self-driving car program until an investigation been conducted.

    READ NEXT: How will driverless cars make life-or-death decisions?

    The self-driving pilot program began in Pittsburgh in 2016 before branching out to Arizona. The program was briefly installed in San Francisco in December, before the California Department of Motor Vehicles stopped self-driving cars from being tested there.

    Uber said when the program rolled out that the self-driving vehicles would need humans at the wheel in many cases, such as in bad weather.

    A report released in March indicated that while Uber’s self-driving vehicles are increasing the number of miles driven autonomously, they are falling below the company’s expectations.

    Recode reported this month that in January the self-driving cars being tested accumulated 5,000 miles on the road without the assistance of a human driver, and by February that number rose to 18,000 miles per week. But the report said the cars needed a human driver to take over about once per mile.

    The post Uber supends self-driving vehicle program following Arizona accident appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Arrested oklahoma

    Photo via Getty Images

    Despite decades of leading the country in female incarceration rates and evidence that long sentences do not deter drug users, Oklahoma lawmakers are rushing to undermine recent voter initiatives that weakened punishments for drug offenses and invested in rehabilitation services.

    Oklahoma voters in November turned drug possession charges, which had been felonies with the exception of a first-time marijuana offense, into misdemeanors, capping the maximum punishment at one year in jail and a $1,000 fine, effective July 1. They also reallocated money saved toward mental health and rehabilitation services.

    In a swift response, the House passed House Bill 1482 this month with the minimum votes required, ensuring the change would not apply to people within 1,000 feet of all schools. People caught in that radius would still be charged with a felony and a first-time offense would still carry a sentence of up to five years in prison. That area encompasses about 21 percent of the population in Tulsa County, according to advocates for the state questions. The bill also does the same for anyone carrying drugs in the presence of a child — caveats that those advocates say undermine the will of the voters.

    “What that means is, if you battle addiction in one area in our state you might get help, but if you battle it in different area, it’s a felony crime and you go to prison,” said Kris Steele, former speaker of the House and champion of the initiatives. “It’s a direct assault on the will of the people.”

    “If you battle addiction in one area in our state you might get help, but if you battle it in different area, it’s a felony crime and you go to prison.” — Kris Steele, former speaker of the Oklahoma House

    The debate is pitting district attorneys and law enforcement agencies responsible for prosecuting these cases against people like Candida Ulibarri, whose methamphetamine addiction followed years of repressed trauma — and clashed with the judicial system.

    It started for Ulibarri when she was 8 years old. Her father, who was prone to violence, introduced her to marijuana and alcohol. As a child, she was molested by friends of the family and said when she told her mother, she would blame Ulibarri for “dressing provocatively.”

    “It was some shorts; little, tiny, beige, flowery shorts with fringe and a beige top with little flowers. It was just a cute little outfit,” she said. “But she accused me of being a hoochie. So I was angry.”

    She continued to drink and smoke, started running away and got into fights, which she said in retrospect were efforts to subdue the trauma she was enduring. By 13, her father showed her lines of cocaine on a glass table. She was pregnant at 14. Her baby Talysa was born with a gene mutation that gave her a brain disease and needed extra care while Ulibarri was in nursing school. She started snorting meth to keep up with the long nights.

    “I was supermom,” she said.

    After 10 months, the baby’s father died of an overdose. Within a year, Ulibarri said, Talysa’s brain had reduced to the size of a Chihuahua’s, and she died.

    About a year later, she had another baby, and then a third. She threw a cooler through the window of a truck, which belonged to a man who had fathered one of the children, after she found another girl at his apartment. She had been drinking and taking Xanax. Feeling startled by her own actions, she got into her car, backed out of her spot in the parking lot and accidentally hit him, scraping the skin of his feet and fracturing his femur.

    He charged her with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and three months before her 22nd birthday, Ulibarri was sentenced to prison for the first time. Two more times followed as she spent a significant portion of her 20s there. She was on her way to serve a fourth sentence when she demanded help instead, fighting to enroll in Tulsa’s intense outpatient program, Women In Recovery.

    Oklahoma has led the country for decades with its rate of female incarceration, a gap that continues to grow. Right now, women in Oklahoma are 2.5 times more likely to be arrested than in the rest of the country. In 2015, 60 out of every 100,000 women in the U.S. were incarcerated, while in Oklahoma, it was 155 out of 100,000, according to a bipartisan task force assembled by Gov. Mary Fallin.

    Oklahoma female incarceration

    Oklahoma has long had the highest female imprisonment rate in the nation, but in the last few years, the gap has continued to widen as the female prison population grew 30 percent since 2012. Graph from Gov. Mary Fallin’s task force report on criminal justice reform released Feb. 3, 2017

    After seven months of investigating the disparity – Oklahoma also incarcerates the second highest rate of men and its overall incarceration rate is 78 percent higher than the national average — the task force created a list of priorities.

    It found that 83 percent of female prison admissions were non-violent crimes, while 42 percent were for drug crimes alone. Incarcerated women were also significantly more likely to have a mental illness – about 70 percent of them – as well as substance abuse issues, it found.

    It also warned of a critical time, saying that Oklahoma prisons are overcrowded and unsafe and even with the ballot measures, the growth will continue “costing the state over $1.9 billion in the next 10 years unless further changes are made.”

    Oklahoma Pew Report

    Oklahoma Department of Corrections data. Analysis conducted by the Crime and Justice Institute for the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force, presented on August 8, 2016

    State Question 780, which also reclassifies felony theft of property less than $1,000 to a misdemeanor, and its companion Question 781, which were both approved in November, came with arguments that frustrated law enforcement.

    The Oklahoma Supreme Court had ruled in August that it would write the 200-word descriptions on the ballots because neither the proponents nor then-Attorney General Scott Pruitt were able to do so without bias. The police union in Oklahoma County and district attorneys across the state, worried about the toll it would take on their already-scarce resources, railed against them. In Oklahoma, misdemeanor cases are handled by the county jails while felony cases are handled by state corrections.

    “It will be a misdemeanor whether it is the first offense, the 51st or 101st offense, punishable by a fine and up to year in county jail,” said Trent Baggett, the assistant Executive Coordinator of the state’s District Attorneys Council. “The concern with that when someone is placed in a county jail, that is being paid for by the county, and many of our county jails are full.”

    Then Republican state Rep. Scott Biggs in February introduced HB 1482, named the “Keep Oklahoma Children Safe from Illegal Drugs Act of 2017,” saying voters did not understand what they had passed.

    It originally ensured a major portion of the state – anywhere within 1,000 feet of a school, college, university, day care, church, fairgrounds or recreational area – would still be a felony zone. By the time the House passed it in March, it was toned down to just schools and excluded full-time students.

    The deadline for the bill to make it off the Senate floor is April 27.

    State efforts to overstep the will of the voters are becoming more common and indicate a disconnect between the people on the ground and the representatives they voted for, according to the National League of Cities, which represents municipalities.

    “They’re running and making one case and then when they get in office they do something else,” said Brooks Rainwater, director of the National League of Cities’ Center for City Solutions. “In this type of instance the state government should be responsive to the needs of the residents of the state.”

    Steele, who championed 780 and 781, suspects that the effort to roll them back is, in part, motivated by finances.

    Court fees can play a critical role in the budgets of the law enforcers and their administrative staff. The think tank Oklahoma Policy Institute released an analysis of them in January, saying that district courts have collected about $75 million per year for their own operations. The courts depend on that money to cover their budgets, the analysis said.

    The institute analyzed income from nine counties over five years and found that felony cases consistently made more than misdemeanor and traffic ones because the fees and fines are higher. It found that in 2015, the counties collected $5.58 million from felonies, $4.05 million from misdemeanors and $4.64 million from traffic violations.


    Graph courtesy of the Oklahoma Policy Institute

    Just last year, citing financial difficulties, legislators also passed a law doubling the fines for misdemeanors and felonies, saying it would generate an extra $2.2 million a year.

    The institute’s policy analyst Ryan Gentzler compared the fines and fees in Tulsa County of one person’s misdemeanor marijuana charge to another person’s felony cocaine possession charge. The misdemeanor cost the defendant about $1,800 while the felony cost about $2,600.

    “In both cases, half of it was going to the district attorney supervision fees,” Gentzler said.

    The Women In Recovery program gives people tools to cope with the challenges of newfound sobriety, what Ulibarri refers to as “putting me in a foreign country without knowing the language.” It costs about the same as housing an inmate in state prison, around $20,000 a year, though it is privately funded.

    The program is part of what makes Tulsa the exception in Oklahoma. While Oklahoma County’s female incarceration rate jumped from 287 to 381 between 2015 and 2016, Tulsa County’s declined from 214 to 162, according to Women In Recovery.

    “[Our] outcomes prove that there are better and smarter options than putting women in prison which destroys and is damaging to individuals, children, families and communities,” said director Mimi Tarrasch. “When given access to treatment, we know that people do better.”

    Ulibarri said the program helped her quit using, get a job, confront parts of her past and regain custody of one of her daughters as she works to regain custody of the other – opportunities that she said she never had in prison.

    “I knew in my heart that once I dealt with some of these issues,” she said, “I’d become the person I am today.”

    While Tulsa’s District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler agrees that the recovery programs and other community resources are the most ideal, he thinks 780 and 781 are “a disaster,” saying resources are thin and he has to prioritize problems that he believes pose a more imminent threats to his community.

    “If you cut the amount of rope I can have some leeway with, it’s not going to accomplish anything,” said Kunzweiler. “Many drug dealers will be much more comfortable carrying a firearm because there won’t be a predicate for possession of a firearm.”

    Ulibarri disagrees.

    “Well, honestly, I feel like the people already made a vote. They already spoke,” she said. “I’ve been in prison three times, they didn’t offer me treatment … so I just feel like our voice really needs to be heard on this.”

    The post Oklahoma lawmakers, voters disagree on punishments for drug crimes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Irish and EU flags are pictured outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    By Ivette Feliciano and Zachary Green

    PATRICIA SABGA: For four generations, Michael Guinan’s family has made a living from this modest dairy and beef farm in the Irish midlands.

    MICHAEL GUINAN: This is a family farm. And my son is here with me now full time. And it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get a living for two families on the farm.

    PATRICIA SABGA: Difficult thanks to uncertainty surrounding the future trading relationship between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

    MICHAEL GUINAN: Nobody saw Brexit coming. We talked about it. We sat back and said, “Nah, it can’t happen.” But it has happened.

    PATRICIA SABGA: The United Kingdom — England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland — is the Republic of Ireland’s biggest trading partner. Around 1.3 billion dollars’ worth of goods and services criss-cross the border every week. But those commercial ties could be frayed by Brexit.

    This is the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Right now there are no border controls on goods and services moving between the two countries, because they’re both members of the European Union. But when Britain pulls out of the EU, it could trigger tariffs on Anglo-Irish trade. And when trade barriers go up, so does the cost of doing business.

    John Comer is President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association.

    JOHN COMER: I can’t see any upsides to the impending Brexit.

    PATRICIA SABGA:PATRICIA SABGA:to reach a free trade deal before Brexit is complete, the relationship would revert to rules laid down by the World Trade Organization. That could impose tariffs as high as 40 percent on Irish dairy products sold to Britain.

    JOHN COMER: If we don’t get markets that are free markets in terms of no tariffs and no quotas and no impediments, I don’t think that’ll be sustainable, and I don’t think we’d be resilient enough to withstand that dramatic impact.

    PATRICIA SABGA: Britain’s exit from the EU is not expected to be completed for at least two years, but the future is already weighing on Irish farmers, thanks to Britain’s currency, the pound, losing around 12% of its value against the Euro since the Brexit referendum.

    MICHAEL GUINAN: That immediately affected our competitiveness in the UK market. It made it more difficult to push Irish produce into the UK market at a decent price.

    PATRICIA SABGA: When farmers’ livelihoods take a hit, it can negatively impact rural merchants, when bills for things like livestock feed and farming equipment bought on credit go unpaid.

    MICHAEL GUINAN: The merchants are now finding it hard to recoup that money. As a result, that’ll impact on who they can employ and pay. So it’ll have a knock on effect there.

    PATRICIA SABGA: Brexit uncertainty is not just a problem for Irish agriculture. It’s also affecting small businesses in cities like Dublin, Ireland’s capital.

    Ian Martin’s company sells first aid and hygiene products imported from the UK. He told us his customers are concerned Brexit could raise his prices.

    They know, at the moment, the goods are coming from the UK. But if we have various tariffs coming into Europe from the UK, it’s gonna put my cost of my goods up. The goods are gonna have to come from France or Germany, which is going to put additional costs on it, because it’s going to travel further to come into the Irish marketplace.

    PATRICIA SABGA: Martin’s lack of clarity over future sales has already led him to delay hiring replacements for employees who’ve left.

    IAN MARTIN: We had a member of staff left us there last October. And we said, “Look, will we recruit a replacement for him, knowing what’s actually happening in the marketplace, or will we just consolidate and keep the decks going as they are, knowing that there’s a few big shocks gonna hit the marketplace?”

    PATRICIA SABGA: Ireland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flannigan, plays a leading role in the country’s Brexit negotiations.

    CHARLIE FLANAGAN: The object of the exercise now must be to ensure that the very close and positive relations between Ireland and Britain continues, acknowledging of course that leaving the single market, Britain has got to suffer some detriment. And we want to ensure that that detriment to the UK is not going to have consequential loss and damage for us here in Ireland.

    PATRICIA SABGA: Which places the issue the border dividing the two countries front and center.

    CHARLIE FLANAGAN: We are now faced with a situation where we will have an EU frontier right across the island of Ireland from east to west, a distance of almost 500 kilometers, and we need to ensure that in the context of the new arrangement between the UK and the European Union, that invisible border is maintained in so far as it can.

    PATRICIA SABGA: The 300 mile border dividing the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is seamless now, but it was heavily fortified during The Troubles, the 30-year sectarian conflict between Northern Ireland’s Catholic Nationalists and Protestant Unionists that formally ended with 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

    But Brexit is now polarizing Northern Irish politics along sectarian lines. Catholic Nationalists are calling for Northern Ireland to be granted a special status to stay in the EU, which would effectively push the post-Brexit border out to the rest of the UK.

    Protestant Unionists in Northern Ireland and the British government reject that idea. But Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flannigan says it’s supported by the Good Friday Agreement.

    PATRICIA SABGA: You’ve got the results of a democratic referendum that the British government has to put through, but we also have the Good Friday Agreement. Which one of those takes precedent?

    CHARLIE FLANAGAN: I think it’s fair to say that while not explicit in the Good Friday Agreement, certainly implied right the way through it was a greater level of relationship north and south. And the Good Friday Agreement implies that relations north and south will continue to grow and foster in harmony.

    PATRICIA SABGA: So it sounds like you’re saying that the Good Friday Agreement implies a special status–


    PATRICIA SABGA: –to Northern Ireland within the context of Brexit?


    PATRICIA SABGA: Either way, neither Ireland nor the UK alone will decide the future of their border.

    EDGAR MORGENROTH: Ireland is only one of 27 European countries that’s going to make that decision on what that looks like.

    PATRICIA SABGA: Edgar Morgenroth, an associate research professor at Dublin’s Economic and Social Research Institute, says border controls are a real possibility.

    EDGAR MORGENROTH: If what’s proposed by the UK, and their actions are such that it’s not in Europe’s interests, then we are likely to see proper border controls…

    PATRICIA SABGA: Which could entail physical barriers to check the movement of people and goods. That could invite a re-emergence of smuggling in black market items, including livestock, which was rife during the Troubles. That concerns John Comer, who represents dairy farmers.

    JOHN COMER: If there’s illegal or illicit transactions of cattle across borders, it will be very, very complicated. We have many members that have lands that straddle both sides of the border.

    PATRICIA SABGA: The potential for economic disruptions prompted credit rating agency Moody’s to warn earlier this month that of all European countries, Ireland is the most exposed to Brexit risk.

    But there could be a silver lining for Dublin. It’s already marketing itself as a prime landing spot for lucrative London-based financial services that may want to relocate to another English-speaking EU city with a legal system similar to Britain’s.

    CHARLIE FLANAGAN:I believe Dublin offers opportunity in terms of a skilled workforce, in terms of a really nice place in which to set up business and trade.

    PATRICIA SABGA:PATRICIA SABGA:foreign direct investment — are unlikely to fully offset the blow Brexit could deliver to Ireland’s economy

    EDGAR MORGENROTH: We are going to pick up a reasonable slice of whatever might relocate. Will that counterbalance the negative effects that come through trade? Well, our estimates suggest that it won’t, because we will only pick up some FDI, whereas we’re going to lose quite a substantial amount through the trade impacts with the UK.

    PATRICIA SABGA: So while Dublin could see a Brexit boon – back in the Irish midlands, farmer Michael Guinan is bracing for hard times.

    MICHAEL GUINAN: It’s the small people that suffer. The bigger people will probably always find a way around things. But it’s the smaller producer and the small farmer that’s gonna be hardest hit in this.

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    Caroline Dunham,

    Caroline Denham, 19, came out as transgender during her last week in high school. She lives in Charleston with her family. Photo by Corinne Segal

    CROSS LANES, W.Va. — Between the Kanawha River and the rugged mountains of West Virginia, a group of transgender teenagers and their parents are gathered in a small room at a local library to compare notes.

    It’s the second meeting of a support group founded by local resident Mary Nichols in a growing effort to navigate new territory: raising a transgender child in a state where resources for them are scant.

    While these types of meetings are novel in small cities and towns like those that dot West Virginia, they are becoming more and more common. A recent Reuters analysis showed that since the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality in 2015, about 50 cities and towns have passed LGBTQ nondiscrimination measures. The majority of them were in counties that voted for President Donald Trump, and all of them in states that predominantly did.

    For years, party lines dictated where lawmakers stood on LGBTQ issues — but now, those lines are starting to blur. And West Virginia, which overwhelmingly voted for Trump last November, is an important example of that shift, LGBTQ advocates in the state say.

    Of the 10 cities and towns in the state that have passed LGBTQ nondiscrimination measures, six did so after the Supreme Court decision to legalize marriage equality in 2015. A recent study by researchers at the Williams Institute also projected that it has the highest percentage of trans 13- to 17-year-olds of any state in the country.

    Noah Zoller, 15, is a sophomore in high school. Photo by Corinne Segal

    Noah Zoller, 15, pictured here in his family’s kitchen, is a sophomore in high school. Photo by Corinne Segal

    Noah Zoller, a 15-year-old in the support group, is one of them. “All of the people that I’m close to are pretty much accepting,” he said. “Everyone calls me what I want to be called. They respect me.” He added that he had been bullied at school, but that the administration has been supportive of him and helped put a stop to it.

    “The climate has changed,” Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia, said. “Society itself is changing. I think West Virginia is stepping forward.”

    The pivotal moment, Schneider said, came last year, with the rejection of the West Virginia Religious Freedom Protection Act, a Republican-led bill that that would have created a judicial process for people who believed their religious freedoms were being violated by government laws, such as a church that does not want to recognize a partnership against their beliefs.

    Advocates for the LGBTQ community said the bill was a veiled attempt to legalize discrimination against them.

    Rainbow flags hang outside the nightclub Atmosphere Ultra Lounge in Charleston, West Virginia, on

    Rainbow flags hang outside the nightclub Atmosphere Ultra Lounge in Charleston, West Virginia, on March 21, 2017. Photo by Corinne Segal

    When the bill was amended to ensure it could not be used to violate nondiscrimination laws, it lost support among some of its original proponents and was voted down 27-7 in the state Senate.

    “There was sort of a sense of exhaustion after that,” Schneider said. “Most legislators decided this wasn’t something they wanted to see come up again.”

    The defeat opened a door for supporters of LGBTQ to be more vocal. And for the first time, bipartisan support for LGBTQ rights in West Virginia started to gain momentum.

    After that, a bill that would bar discrimination against LGBTQ people in housing, employment and public accommodations gained so many sponsors in the state House that they had to file three identical bills last month. Civil rights advocates had tried for years to gain bipartisan support, and now 12 Republicans constituted one-third of the sponsorship.

    Republican Delegate Ron Walters co-sponsored HB 2529, one of the nondiscrimination bills. As a landlord with tenants in 24 apartments, it made sense to him, he said. “All I really care about as far as my tenants: Do they keep the place clean? Do they pay the rent on time? Anything else has no personal effect on me,” he said.

    Following the exhaustive debate last year, LGBTQ people have gained recent support in West Virginia, falling in line with its common mindset of “live and let live,” he said. “Everything has its time,” he said. “Sometimes it takes awhile to ripen. And it’s a time that’s come, particularly in that area.”

    Moreover, shutting out LGBTQ people in West Virginia could come with economic repercussions at a time when the state cannot afford to lose business, said Kelly Kimble, a former member of the Fairness West Virginia Board of Directors.

    In North Carolina, after the controversial state bill HB2 prohibited transgender people from using the bathroom that matched their gender, outcry from members of the LGBTQ community and others cost the state millions of dollars in business.

    With West Virginia’s coal industry in a decline, business leaders are increasingly cautious, Kimble said.

    “The last thing we need to do is pass a law that will cause [West Virginia] to lose more business,” she said.

    Shaunte Polk, director of the LGBTQ

    Shaunte Polk, director of the LGBTQ+ Office at Marshall University, says she was shocked at the outpouring of donations for Trans Closet, a project to provide transgender students with gender-affirming clothing. Photo by Corinne Segal

    ‘This is who I am’

    LGBTQ advocates in West Virginia say that the community still faces prejudice, but that they see an uptick in transgender people who are living openly. With it, a grassroots effort is working to increase resources for them.

    For Shaunte Polk, this change is apparent in the piles of clothes covering most surfaces of her office at Marshall University’s LGBTQ Office in Huntington, West Virginia. “We have shoes over there, someone donated fingernail polish and bracelets, and purses, and wallets … We had a real Michael Kors in here,” she says, picking through the piles.

    It’s the kickoff set of donations for the LGBTQ+ Trans Closet, a free store for trans students to pick out gender-affirming clothes in a nonjudgmental environment, Polk said.

    Some people didn’t understand the project at first, she said. “I had to tell them, like when you have students who are … maybe not as comfortable going out and shopping and getting those types of clothing, it can be a fear, a fear of being judged, especially if you are a new trans student coming out,” she said. “And so for us to eliminate that fear, they have their own special place where they can come try things on.”

    They advertised the project on campus — and soon, they were flooded with donations, both from the school and surrounding community. Even as a local radio host denounced the project and the office received several complaints, people continued to donate. “I never thought this would go as well as it did,” Polk said.

    trans closet

    Donations are piling up at the LGBTQ+ Office at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, which is conducting its first-ever donation drive for the LGBTQ+ Trans Closet. Photo by Corinne Segal

    Growing up in Beckley, West Virginia, a two-hour drive from Marshall University, Polk said she knew gay kids at school whose families kicked them out. Today, she wants to keep that from happening, in part by leading conversations on diversity at Marshall’s LGBTQ+ Office and the Center for African American Students, where she is program director.

    As part of her job, she conducts “safe space” trainings for people on campus, where she tells people, “I’m not here to change your mind. I just want you to be open and understanding of what is around you.”

    Samuel Leizear, field education director at the West Virginia University School of Social Work, also conducts trainings on transgender issues for businesses and organizations that request them. When he began offering them about a decade ago, he received two to three requests per year. Now, he receives that number every week, he said.

    “I’ve seen just in the last 10 years what appears to be a huge change in people feeling more comfortable saying, ‘Okay, this is who I am,’” he said.

    Trans students focus on health care and bathroom access

    While the push for LGBTQ rights plays out on the state level, many transgender students say they still lack resources like health care and worry about access to bathrooms.

    At the support group, five teenagers — some of them transgender, others friends or siblings — are sitting at a table with parents and older friends of the families. As the meeting starts, they are talking and laughing, grabbing markers at the center of the table to fill out nametags with their names and pronouns. They fall quiet as Nichols starts the meeting with an update on her search for therapists — specifically, where to find one that won’t “tell our kids they’re going to hell,” she says.

    It’s not looking good, she tells the group. Most therapists she’s talked to either have little experience working with young trans people or they practice conversion therapy, a practice that aims to change an individual’s sexuality or gender identity that has which has been condemned by the World Psychiatric Association.

    When it comes to finding a therapist who’s the right fit, “I think I might have better luck buying a unicorn,” she says.

    She describes two therapists that she found through referrals and online outreach and says she’s talked to several others that seem promising but have never worked with trans kids. Ultimately, she says that members of the group may need to travel to Pittsburgh, a three-and-a-half-hour drive, or Cincinnati, a three-hour drive. (“Road trip!” one of the teenagers shouts.)

    READ NEXT: Here’s what most people get wrong about the transgender community

    Other trans teenagers in the state have had problems obtaining gender-affirming health care. Caroline Denham, 19, came out as a trans woman during her last week of high school. She lives with her family in Charleston, the largest city in the state, but said the closest clinic that she found to help her medically transition was Planned Parenthood in Asheville, North Carolina, a five-hour drive that she made every three months.

    “That was the one place where I didn’t hit a roadblock, where everyone [wasn’t] confused about the process of getting hormones,” she said.

    Sam said he often sees trans people leaving the state to receive care, he said. “I have a list of trans-affirming and knowledgeable providers in the state. It’s a very short list,” he said. (The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that one-third of respondents who saw doctors had “at least one negative experience related to being transgender,” including harassment and denial of treatment.)

    Thurmond, West Virginia, population five, is the smallest town in the United States to pass an LGBT nondiscrimination measure. Thurmond was once a booming coal town, but following the decline of coal, the town lost hundreds of residents. Photo by Corinne Segal

    Thurmond, West Virginia, population five, is the smallest town in the United States to pass an LGBTQ nondiscrimination measure. Thurmond was once a booming coal town, but following the decline of coal, the town lost hundreds of residents. The town’s five residents voted unanimously in February 2015 to bar LGBTQ discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations. Photo by Corinne Segal

    Other concerns center on the public accommodations debate, which has remained at the forefront of national conversation on transgender issues.

    West Virginia was among a group of states to sue the Obama administration in May 2016, claiming that the Department of Education was “unlawful” in recommending that trans students be able to use the bathroom of their choice. That guidance was revoked by President Donald Trump’s administration in February. And in August 2016, the Fourth Circuit, a federal appeals court whose rulings cover West Virginia, ruled in favor of transgender student Gavin Grimm who sued his Virginia high school for access to the men’s bathroom.

    The Supreme Court considered hearing the case, but earlier this month, referred the suit back to the Fourth Circuit, where it awaits further review.

    Jess Davis, 16, came out as transgender two years ago. When she tried to use the girl’s bathroom at school, another student screamed at her, she said. The next day, she saw a note on a bathroom stall that read: “You’re not a girl, get out of my bathroom.”

    Politicians and other public figures around the country have said they oppose the notion that trans students should use the bathroom that matches their gender. Meanwhile, “I wake up every day to go to school terrified,” Davis said.

    This Saturday, the deadline passed to move West Virginia’s LGBTQ nondiscrimination bills out of committee, which stops it from moving to the House for a vote. (A spokesperson for West Virginia House Speaker Tim Armstead said the legislator did not support the bills.)

    Democratic Delegate Mike Pushkin, who sponsored one of the bills, said Sunday that he still believes the bills represent progress and that their support from some House Republicans “shows that it’s not a partisan issue.”

    He plans to help introduce the same bill next year. “As long as I’m here, it’s something I’m going to fight for because it’s right,” he said. “If nondiscrimination laws gain traction here, they can gain traction everywhere.”

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    FILE PHOTO - Mattis testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination to serve as defense secretary in Washington

    Retired U.S. Marine Corps General James Mattis testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination to serve as defense secretary in Washington, U.S. January 12, 2017. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/File Photo/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A U.S. counterterrorism airstrike earlier this month in Afghanistan killed an al-Qaida leader responsible for a deadly hotel attack in Islamabad in 2008 and the 2009 attack on a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team, the Pentagon said Saturday.

    In confirming the death of Qari Yasin, U.S. officials said Yasin was a senior terrorist figure from Balochistan, Pakistan, had ties to the group Tehrik-e Taliban and had plotted multiple al-Qaida terror attacks. The airstrike that led to his death was conducted March 19 in Paktika Province, Afghanistan.

    Yasin plotted the Sept. 20, 2008, bombing on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad that killed dozens, officials said. The victims included two American service members, Air Force Maj. Rodolfo I. Rodriguez of El Paso, Texas, and Navy Cryptologic Technician 3rd Class Petty Officer Matthew J. O’Bryant of Theodore, Alabama, U.S. officials said.

    The bus attack in the Pakistani city of Lahore killed six Pakistani policemen and two civilians and wounded six members of the cricket team.

    READ NEXT: Most convicted terrorists are U.S. citizens. Why does the White House say otherwise?

    Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in the statement: “The death of Qari Yasin is evidence that terrorists who defame Islam and deliberately target innocent people will not escape justice.”

    The killing of Yasin in eastern Afghanistan lends credence to Pakistani claims that its militant enemies have found sanctuaries there. The neighboring countries routinely charge each other with harboring the other’s enemies.

    Relations deteriorated earlier this year after a series of attacks in Pakistan that killed 125 people led Islamabad to close its border with Afghanistan for more than one month.

    The two countries have exchanged lists of insurgents hiding out on the other’s soil and Afghanistan has also given Pakistan the locations of 23 sanctuaries where its Taliban militants are hiding. Kabul is demanding they be closed.

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    House Speaker Paul Ryan Holds Weekly News Conference

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

    The Republican Party of “no” for Democrat Barack Obama’s eight years is having a hard time getting to “yes” in the early Donald Trump era.

    The unmitigated failure of the GOP bill to replace Obamacare underscored that Republicans are a party of upstart firebrands, old-guard conservatives and moderates in Democratic-leaning districts. Despite the GOP monopoly on Washington, they are pitted against one another and struggling for a way to govern.

    [Watch Video]

    The divisions cost the party its best chance to fulfill a seven-year promise to undo Obama’s Affordable Care Act and cast doubt on whether the Republican-led Congress can do the monumental — the first overhaul of the nation’s tax system in more than 30 years — as well as the basics — keeping the government open at the end of next month, raising the nation’s borrowing authority later this year and passing the 12 spending bills for federal agencies and departments.

    While the anti-establishment bloc that grew out of the tea party’s rise helped the Republicans win majorities in Congress in 2010 and 2014, the internal divide, complicated further by Trump’s independence, threatens the GOP’s ability to deliver on other promises.

    “I think we have to do some soul-searching internally to determine whether or not we are even capable as a governing body,” said Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota in the bitter aftermath of the health care debacle.

    Despite a commanding majority in the House, an advantage in the Senate and Trump in the White House, Republicans hardly seem to be on the same team.

    “There are some folks in the Republican House caucus who have yet to make the pivot from complaining to governing,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres. “And this is a White House controlled by a politician who is not really trying to lead a party.”

    The GOP health care bill exposed philosophical fissures masked by years of rejecting and resisting all things Obama. The legislation’s provision to repeal essential health benefits such as maternity care and emergency services was designed to appeal to hard-line conservatives who don’t think the government should be in the health care business.

    That unnerved GOP moderates, especially those in districts won by Democrat Hillary Clinton last year, who were worried about tens of thousands of constituents losing Medicaid or older voters being forced to pay more. The irony of the outsider president is both the health care debate and Trump’s proposed budget cuts to domestic programs from Appalachia to the inner cities reminded many Americans that government can do some good.

    Pulling the bill on Friday cleared out Washington, giving House Republicans a chance to cool off back home this weekend. Still, some seethed while others couldn’t hide their frustration, hardly a combination for unity and success.

    Michigan Rep. Justin Amash said he and his conservative colleagues wanted a full-blown departure from the Obama law, rather than what Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was offering, but were given little voice.

    “From the beginning of the process, I think the way it was set up did not bring the disparate parts of the conference together,” Amash said.

    New York Rep. Chris Collins, an early Trump backer in the campaign, echoed the bill’s supporters in chiding opponents for not seizing the opportunity to deliver on the perennial campaign promise.

    “I can tell you right now there’s bitterness within our conference, it’s going to take time to heal that,” Collins said.

    Ryan pledged the House would return to its campaign agenda, including legislation aimed at beefing up U.S.-Mexican border security, increasing spending on the military and public works, while also reining in the budget deficit. The GOP has to move beyond the defeat, with midterm elections next year and the historic disadvantage the president’s party typically faces in holding seats.

    “We were a 10-year opposition party where being against things was easy to do. You just had to be against it,” Ryan told reporters after canceling the vote. “And now, in three months’ time, we try to go to governing where we actually have to get … people to agree with each other.”

    Ryan’s toughest opponents were the 30 or so members of the House Freedom Caucus, the hardliners widely expected to be marginalized after Trump won, but instead a bloc that showed its strength. The GOP owes its majority numbers to the brand of conservatism born in opposition to the 2010 health care law, the tea partyers and non-conformists like Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas.

    After all that winning, former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour cast the GOP as an expansive party with multiple factions. But the former Mississippi governor said Republicans must produce something for the electorate because they “have told the American people from Day One” they would.

    For his part, Ryan insisted there is a viable governing path.

    “We will get there,” he said Friday. “But we weren’t there today.”

    Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa, and Barrow from Atlanta. Associated Press writers Kevin Freking and Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington contributed to this report.

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    This file photo shows U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as he speaks with reporters. Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst .

    This file photo shows U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as he speaks with reporters. Schumer said Sunday that Trump must be willing to drop attempts to repeal his predecessor’s signature achievement, warning that Trump was destined to “lose again” on other parts of his agenda if he remained beholden to conservative Republicans. Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst .

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s aides opened the door to working with moderate Democrats on health care and other issues while Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer quickly offered to find common ground with Trump for repairing former President Barack Obama’s health care law.

    Schumer said Sunday that Trump must be willing to drop attempts to repeal his predecessor’s signature achievement, warning that Trump was destined to “lose again” on other parts of his agenda if he remained beholden to conservative Republicans.

    MORE: Assessing the impact of the failed GOP health care bill

    Trump initially focused the blame for the failure on Democrats and predicted a dire future for the current law. But on Sunday he turned his criticism toward conservative lawmakers for the failure of the Republican bill, complaining on Twitter: “Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!”

    The Freedom Caucus is a hard-right group of more than 30 GOP House members who were largely responsible for blocking the bill to undo the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” The bill was pulled from the House floor Friday in a humiliating political defeat for the president, having lacked support from conservative Republicans, some moderate Republicans and Democrats.

    In additional fallout from the jarring setback, Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, said he was leaving the caucus. Poe tweeted Friday that some lawmakers “would’ve voted against the 10 Commandments.”

    “We must come together to find solutions to move this country forward,” Poe said Sunday in a written statement. “Saying ‘no’ is easy, leading is hard but that is what we were elected to do.”

    On Sunday, Trump aides made clear that the president could seek support from moderate Democrats on upcoming legislative battles ranging from the budget and tax cuts to health care, leaving open the possibility he could revisit health care legislation. Whether he would work to repair Obama’s law was a big question.

    READ MORE: A timeline of the Republican health care bill collapse

    White House chief of staff Reince Priebus scolded conservative Republicans, explaining that Trump had felt “disappointed” with a “number of people he thought were loyal to him that weren’t.”

    “It’s time for the party to start governing,” Priebus said. “I think it’s time for our folks to come together, and I also think it’s time to potentially get a few moderate Democrats on board as well.”

    As he ponders his next steps, Trump faces decisions on whether to back administrative changes to fix Obama’s health care law or undermine it as prices for insurance plans rise in many markets. Over the weekend, the president tweeted a promise of achieving a “great healthcare plan” because Obamacare will “explode.”

    Priebus did not answer directly regarding Trump’s choice, saying that fixes to the health law will have to come legislatively and he wants to ensure “people don’t get left behind.”

    “I don’t think the president is closing the door on anything,” he said.

    Schumer, a New York Democrat, suggested that “if he changes, he could have a different presidency.”

    “But he’s going to have to tell the Freedom Caucus and the hard-right special wealthy interests who are dominating his presidency … he can’t work with them, and we’ll certainly look at his proposals,” Schumer said.

    READ MORE: Trump and Ryan scramble to pick up the pieces after Obamacare repeal fails

    Their comments came after another day of finger-pointing among Republicans, both subtle and otherwise. On Saturday, Trump urged Americans in a tweet to watch Judge Jeanine Pirro’s program on Fox News that night. She led her show by calling for House Speaker Paul Ryan to resign, blaming him for the defeat of the bill in the Republican-controlled chamber.

    Priebus described the two events as “coincidental,” insisting that Trump was helping out a friend by plugging her show and no “preplanning” occurred.

    “He doesn’t blame Paul Ryan,” Priebus said. “In fact, he thought Paul Ryan worked really hard. He enjoys his relationship with Paul Ryan, thinks that Paul Ryan is a great speaker of the House.”

    Priebus said Trump was looking ahead for now at debate over the budget and a tax plan, which he said would include a border adjustment tax and middle-class tax cuts.

    READ MORE: Failure on health bill also hurts prospects for tax overhaul

    “It’s more or less a warning shot that we are willing to talk to anyone. We always have been,” he said. “I think more so now than ever, it’s time for both parties to come together and get to real reforms in this country.”

    Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the Freedom Caucus, acknowledged he was doing a lot of “self-critiquing” after the health care defeat. He insisted the GOP overhaul effort was not over and that he regretted not spending more time with moderate Republicans and Democrats “to find some consensus.”

    Priebus spoke on “Fox News Sunday,” and Schumer and Meadows appeared on ABC’s “This Week.”

    Associated Press writer Catherine Lucey contributed to this report.

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    A bathroom sign welcomes both genders at the Cacao Cinnamon coffee shop in Durham, North Carolina May 3, 2016. The shop installed the signs after North Carolina's

    A bathroom sign welcomes both genders at the Cacao Cinnamon coffee shop in Durham, North Carolina. Despite Republican assurances that North Carolina’s “bathroom bill” isn’t hurting the economy, the law limiting LGBT protections will cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years, according to an Associated Press analysis. Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Drake.

    RALEIGH, N.C. — Despite Republican assurances that North Carolina’s “bathroom bill” isn’t hurting the economy, the law limiting LGBT protections will cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years, according to an Associated Press analysis.

    Over the past year, North Carolina has suffered financial hits ranging from scuttled plans for a PayPal facility that would have added an estimated $2.66 billion to the state’s economy to a canceled Ringo Starr concert that deprived a town’s amphitheater of about $33,000 in revenue. The blows have landed in the state’s biggest cities as well as towns surrounding its flagship university, and from the mountains to the coast.

    North Carolina could lose hundreds of millions more because the NCAA is avoiding the state, usually a favored host. The group is set to announce sites for various championships through 2022, and North Carolina won’t be among them as long as the law is on the books. The NAACP also has initiated a national economic boycott.

    The AP analysis — compiled through interviews and public records requests — represents the largest reckoning yet of how much the law, passed one year ago, could cost the state. The law excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from statewide anti-discrimination protections, and requires transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates in many public buildings.

    Still, AP’s tally is likely an underestimation of the law’s true costs. The count includes only data obtained from businesses and state or local officials regarding projects that canceled or relocated because of HB2. A business project was counted only if AP determined through public records or interviews that HB2 was why it pulled out.

    Some projects that left, such as a Lionsgate television production that backed out of plans in Charlotte, weren’t included because of a lack of data on their economic impact.

    The AP also tallied the losses of dozens of conventions, sporting events and concerts through figures from local officials. The AP didn’t attempt to quantify anecdotal reports that lacked hard numbers, or to forecast the loss of future conventions.

    Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan — who leads the largest company based in North Carolina — said he’s spoken privately to business leaders who went elsewhere with projects or events because of the controversy, and he fears more decisions like that are being made quietly.

    READ MORE: What’s at stake in the fight over North Carolina’s ‘Bathroom Bill’

    “Companies are moving to other places because they don’t face an issue that they face here,” he told a World Affairs Council of Charlotte luncheon last month. “What’s going on that you don’t know about? What convention decided to take you off the list? What location for a distribution facility took you off the list? What corporate headquarters consideration for a foreign company — there’s a lot of them out there — just took you off the list because they just didn’t want to be bothered with the controversy? That’s what eats you up.”

    Other measures show the country’s ninth most populous state has a healthy economy. By quarterly gross domestic product, the federal government said, North Carolina had the nation’s 10th fastest-growing economy six months after the law passed. The vast majority of large companies with existing operations in the state — such as American Airlines, with its second-largest hub in Charlotte — made no public moves to financially penalize North Carolina.

    Shortly after he signed the law, Republican then-Gov. Pat McCrory issued a statement assuring residents it wouldn’t affect North Carolina’s status as “one of the top states to do business in the country.”

    HB2 supporters say its costs have been tiny compared with an economy estimated at more than $500 billion a year, roughly the size of Sweden’s. They say they’re willing to absorb those costs if the law prevents sexual predators posing as transgender people from entering private spaces to molest women and girls — acts the law’s detractors say are imagined.

    Over the past year, North Carolina has suffered financial hits ranging from scuttled plans for a PayPal facility that would have added an estimated $2.66 billion to the state’s economy to a canceled Ringo Starr concert that deprived a town’s amphitheater of about $33,000 in revenue.

    Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, one of the strongest supporters, accused news organizations of creating a false picture of economic upheaval. A global equestrian competition that’s coming to North Carolina in 2018 despite HB2 is projected to have an economic impact bigger than the sporting events that have canceled, Forest said. The Swiss-based group behind the event estimated its spending poured about $250 million into the French region of Normandy the last time it was held — 2014. The organization said the figure came from a study by consulting and accounting firm Deloitte, but the Federation Equestre Internationale declined to release the report.

    Forest declined a request for an interview based on AP’s analysis.

    “The effect is minimal to the state,” Forest told Texas legislators considering a similar law. “Our economy is doing well. Don’t be fooled by the media. This issue is not about the economy. This issue is about privacy, safety and security in the most vulnerable places we go.”

    But AP’s analysis shows the economy could be growing faster if not for projects that have already canceled.

    Those include PayPal canceling a 400-job project in Charlotte, CoStar backing out of negotiations to bring 700-plus jobs to the same area, and Deutsche Bank scuttling a plan for 250 jobs in the Raleigh area. Other companies that backed out include Adidas, which is building its first U.S. sports shoe factory employing 160 near Atlanta rather than a High Point site, and Voxpro, which opted to hire hundreds of customer support workers in Athens, Georgia, rather than the Raleigh area.

    “We couldn’t set up operations in a state that was discriminating against LGBT” people, Dan Kiely, Voxpro founder and CEO, said in an interview.

    All told, the state has missed out on more than 2,900 direct jobs that went elsewhere.

    Supporters are hard-pressed to point to economic benefits from the law, said James Kleckley, of East Carolina University’s business college.

    “I don’t know of any examples where somebody located here because of HB2,” he said. “If you look at a law, whether or not you agree with it or don’t agree with it, there are going to be positive effects and negative effects. Virtually everything we know about (HB2) are the negative effects. Even anecdotally I don’t know any positive effects.”

    An analysis by the state Commerce Department shortly before HB2 was enacted shows state officials expected the PayPal expansion to contribute more than $200 million annually to North Carolina’s gross domestic product — an overall measure of the economy. By the end of 2028, the state expected PayPal to have added $2.66 billion to the state economy.

    The same analysis of the Deutsche Bank project estimated a total impact of about $543 million by the end of 2027. The economic model has been used for more than a decade — with some updates along the way — when the state offers major discretionary tax breaks to attract jobs.

    Meanwhile, canceled conventions, concerts and sporting events ranging from the NBA All-Star Game to a Bruce Springsteen show have deprived the state of more than $196 million.

    State officials said they didn’t run the same financial analysis for CoStar, Voxpro and Adidas, so losses attributed to them were calculated using payroll numbers and other figures from the companies or state documents.

    Meanwhile, canceled conventions, concerts and sporting events ranging from the NBA All-Star Game to a Bruce Springsteen show have deprived the state of more than $196 million. The number was compiled through email exchanges and interviews with local tourism officials.

    All told, the state will have missed out on more than $3.76 billion by the end of 2028. The losses are based on projects that already went elsewhere — so the money won’t be recouped even if the law is struck down in court or repealed.

    By the end of 2017 alone, the lost business will total more than $525 million.

    Tourism officials in several cities say the numbers they report represent only a fraction of the damage the law has done. They typically track large conventions but don’t have firm numbers for when groups or tourists cancel smaller deals — or rule out North Carolina before booking.

    “The biggest impact is how many times our phones are not ringing now,” said Shelly Green, CEO of the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau.

    When Green’s bureau sought to tally cancellations, it was able to count several large sporting events and conventions that backed out, depriving the city of more than $11 million, she said. But officials found hotels and meeting planners were tight-lipped about other events.

    “There are a lot more meetings that have canceled, but we don’t have data on them,” she said.

    Elsewhere, tourism setbacks range from an estimated $100 million lost when the 2017 NBA All-Star Game moved out of Charlotte to $36,000 in spending taken elsewhere when the Lutheran Financial Managers Convention backed out of Fayetteville. Seven hundred part-time workers at Raleigh’s PNC Arena lost at least $130,000 in wages because of cancellations by Pearl Jam, Cirque Du Soleil and others.

    Other financial signals of disapproval have been more symbolic than clearly harmful.

    More than two dozen cities and states, from Honolulu to Vermont, have banned taxpayer-funded visits to North Carolina because of HB2. Most said they couldn’t estimate the money not spent on business travel. But in Providence, Rhode Island, officials refused to spend even the remaining $495 to send three city employees to a Charlotte conference after sponsors picked up most of the costs, city spokesman Victor Morente said via email.

    Dozens of investment firms have urged North Carolina to repeal HB2, but most of those contacted in recent weeks, such as John Hancock and Morgan Stanley, wouldn’t discuss any financial measures they took to penalize the state. Trillium Asset Management, which manages more than $2 billion for wealthy families and foundations, had dozens of clients request that their holdings exclude bonds issued by North Carolina state or municipal governments, Chief Executive Officer Matt Patsky said in an interview.

    What impact did selling off several million dollars of municipal bonds have? Impossible to measure, Patsky said.

    In September, despite the law, Asheville’s Chamber of Commerce announced that biotech company Avadim was adding 550 jobs. Local officials call it the biggest single job creator in area history.

    READ MORE: Parents of transgender students appeal to Trump on bathrooms

    But HB2 jeopardized another project of similar size for the left-leaning mountain city. Chamber CEO Kit Cramer said last year that another company considering bringing 500 technology jobs was balking because of HB2, adding: “That’s a loss that would be incredibly hard to swallow.” Cramer said in an email in March that the company hasn’t made a decision. She didn’t give further details; that potential loss wasn’t included in AP’s count.

    Charlotte, North Carolina’s largest city, has lost projects totaling 2,000 jobs because of HB2, Chamber of Commerce research director Chuck McShane said in an email. According to separate documents obtained through public records requests, the majority were in the PayPal and CoStar projects.

    CoStar, a real-estate research firm, was entering final negotiations to bring 732 jobs to Charlotte in September when its board backed out because of negative publicity over HB2, according to an email between a chamber executive and a city official. When the company picked Virginia, the reversal cost North Carolina at least $250 million in economic impact over the next six years, according to figures from both states.

    “I fear this will be an epidemic outcome for many projects we are still in the running for at this time,” Jeffrey Edge of the Charlotte Chamber wrote in the September email exchange first reported by The Charlotte Observer.

    Economic losses also hit smaller towns, such as those surrounding the University of North Carolina. When the San Francisco Symphony pulled out of two concerts scheduled for April 2017, the move had a ripple effect totaling about $325,000, according to Patty Griffin, of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.

    “Memorial Hall will be empty those two nights and see no revenue for tickets or concessions, and no employees will work,” she said via email. “The attendees for most of them who have dinner, drinks and desserts either before or after the performance will not come out, which impacts local restaurants.”

    Green, the Durham tourism official, said, “When you think about it, this whole thing is just such a Dumpster fire, and nobody wants to go near it.”

    The post AP Exclusive: ‘Bathroom bill’ to cost North Carolina $3.76 billion appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up Mar. 15 as he and White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner depart the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

    President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up Mar. 15 as he and White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner depart the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s son-in-law has volunteered to answer questions before the Senate Intelligence Committee about arranging meetings with the Russian ambassador and other officials, the White House confirmed Monday.

    Jared Kushner has agreed to speak to the committee, which is conducting an investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, including whether there are any ties between Trump associates and the Kremlin, the White House said.

    Kushner is the fourth Trump associate to offer to be interviewed by the congressional committees looking into the murky Russia ties. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, Trump adviser Carter Page and Trump associate Roger Stone last week volunteered to speak to the committee as well.

    The White House noted that throughout the 2016 presidential campaign and transition Kushner served as the main contact with foreign governments and officials. Trump associates’ meetings with the Russian ambassador during the transition period have come under question, in part because those who met with him were not immediately forthcoming about the meetings.

    It was not immediately clear when or how the Senate questioning would take place or whether Kushner would be under oath. An official familiar with the Senate investigation said that the details of the interview have not yet been set, and the Trump associates will speak to the committee on the committee’s terms. That these Trump associates volunteered to be interviewed does not prevent the committee from issuing a subpoena for testimony. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss details of the Senate investigation.

    Lawmakers announced investigations into possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials and whether Russia meddled in the 2016 election.

    In a House intelligence hearing March 20, FBI Director James Comey confirmed that the bureau has been conducting a counterintelligence investigation into these matters since late July.

    The post Kushner agrees to speak to Senate panel in Russia probe appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    100-year-old Marge Jetton lifts weights every morning.  "I'm for anything that has to do with health" Jetton says.  Photo by Getty.

    100-year-old Marge Jetton lifts weights every morning. “I’m for anything that has to do with health” Jetton says. Photo by Getty.

    Gertrude Siegel is 101 and hears it all the time. “Everyone says ‘I want to be just like you.’ I tell them to get in line,” she said.

    John and Charlotte Henderson, 104 and 102, often field questions from wannabes eager to learn their secrets.

    “Living in moderation,” he said. “We never overdo anything. Eat well. Sleep well. Don’t overdrink. Don’t overeat. And exercise regularly.”

    Mac Miller, who is 102, has a standard reply.

    “People ask me ‘What is the secret?’ The answer is simple. Choose the right grandparents. They were in their 80s. My mother was 89, and my father was 93,” he said.

    John Henderson and his wife of 77 years, Charlotte, live in Austin in the independent living section of Longhorn Village, a community of more than 360 seniors. They were the first people to move into the retirement community when it opened. (Sharon Jayson for KHN)

    John Henderson and his wife of 77 years, Charlotte, live in Austin in the independent living section of Longhorn Village, a community of more than 360 seniors. They were the first people to move into the retirement community when it opened. (Sharon Jayson for KHN)

    Genetics and behaviors do play roles in determining why some people live to be 100 or older while others don’t, but they aren’t guarantees. And now, as increasing numbers are reaching triple digits, figuring out the mysteries of longevity has taken on new importance among researchers.

    Although those 100 and older make up a tiny segment of America’s population, U.S. Census reports show that centenarian ranks are growing. Between 1980 and 2010, the numbers rose from 32,194 to 53,364, an increase of almost 66 percent. The latest population estimate, released in July 2015, reflects 76,974 centenarians.

    “The number of centenarians in the U.S. and other countries has been doubling roughly every eight years,” said James Vaupel, founding director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany.

    “When the baby boomers hit, there’s going to be acceleration, and it might be doubling every five or six years,” he said.

    Henderson and his wife of 77 years live in Austin in the independent living section of Longhorn Village, a community of more than 360 seniors, many of whom have ties to the University of Texas at Austin. Henderson is UT’s oldest-living former football player, arriving in 1932 as a freshman. They’re the only centenarians in the complex and are a rare breed: married centenarians.

    Charlotte Henderson said she believes being married may have helped them reach these 100-plus years.

    “We had such a good time when John retired. We traveled a lot,” she said. “We just stay busy all the time, and I’m sure that helps.”

    “We never overdo anything. Eat well. Sleep well. Don’t overdrink. Don’t overeat. And exercise regularly.”

    John Henderson’s secret to a long life? “Living in moderation,” he said. “We never overdo anything. Eat well. Sleep well. Don’t overdrink. Don’t overeat. And exercise regularly.” (Sharon Jayson for KHN)

    Bernard Hirsh, 100, of Dallas agrees. His wife, Bee, is 102. They married in 1978 when both were in their early 60s and each had been widowed, she for the second time.

    “I think it’s been such a wonderful marriage, and we’ve contributed to each other’s benefit,” he said.

    Little research exists on the effects of marriage on longevity. One 2015 Belgian study of centenarians born between 1893 and 1903 did focus on their living arrangements during ages 60 and 100 and found “in very old age, living with a spouse is beneficial for men but not for women, for whom living alone is more advantageous than living with a spouse.” The study explained that “living with one’s spouse at the oldest ages does not provide the same level of protection as it does at younger ages. This may be explained by the decline of the caregiver’s own health as the needs of his or her spouse increase. Caregiving could also have negative consequences for the health and economic condition of the spouse who is the primary caregiver, especially for older women.”

    “Especially if you’re quite old, it’s very helpful have a spouse. If you’re very old and don’t have a spouse, the chance of death is higher,” he said.

    Siegel, who lives in a senior living community in Boca Raton, Fla., outlived two husbands. She never smoked and occasionally has a glass of dry, red wine.

    “I am not a big eater. I don’t eat much meat,” said Siegel, who said she weighs 90 pounds and used to be 5 feet tall but is shrinking.

    She stays active by walking inside the building about a half-hour each day, playing bridge twice a week and exercising.

    “I feel that’s what really kept my body pretty good. It wasn’t sports. It was exercises,” she said of the routine she does daily twice a day for about 20 minutes.

    Miller, of Pensacola, Fla., also outlived two wives.

    He was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps during World War II and spent eight years in active duty, which Miller said “was not so good for me because I sat in the cockpit of a plane for 5,000 hours.”

    But, he was active as a youth — running track, playing football and spending hours surfing while living in Honolulu.

    Charlotte and John Henderson, now 102 and 104 years old respectively, have been married for 77 years. Charlotte said she believes being married may have helped them reach these 100-plus years. (Courtesy of the Henderson family)

    Miller is gluten-free because of allergies and doesn’t eat many carbohydrates. He also never smoked. And, he still enjoys a scotch in the evening.

    The Hendersons usually have wine or a cocktail before dinner. She never smoked. He quit in 1950.

    Hirsh, of Dallas, another non-smoker, attributes his long life to “good luck.”

    “I was very active in my business and did a lot of walking during the day. I was not sedentary,” he said.

    Now, exercise is limited to “some knee bends every morning to keep my legs stronger.”

    “My father died of a heart attack in his early 50s, and my mother died in her early 60s of a stroke, so I don’t think my genes were very good,” Hirsh said.

    There are certain commonalities among those who reach 100: few smoke, nearly all of the men are lean, and centenarians have high levels of the “good cholesterol.”

    Geriatrician Thomas Perls, director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston Medical Center, said research shows that behaviors have a greater influence on survival up until the late 80s, since he said most people have the right genes to get there as long as their behaviors aren’t harmful. But once people reach the 90s and beyond, genetics play a more significant role.

    “To get to these very oldest ages, you really have to have the right genes in your corner,” he said.

    As an international leader in the field, Perls’ focus is on finding the right mix of behavior, environment and genetics to produce long lives. His work includes a National Institute on Aging study called the Long Life Family Study.

    “There are always questions about environment versus genes,” said endocrinologist Nir Barzilai, founding director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, N.Y. “We are with our genes in this environment. It’s really 50-50, no matter how you look at it.”

    Barzilai’s studies include centenarians and their children, as well as efforts to slow the process of aging.

    Among those who reach the 100-year-old milestone, Perls’ said his research and that of Barzilai and others has found certain commonalities: few smoke, nearly all of the men are lean, and centenarians have high levels of the “good cholesterol.” Studies show that whatever their stress level, they manage its well. And they’re related to other centenarians or have a parent or grandparent who lived past 80.

    These lessons of long life are playing well with the public, who have made changes for the better in the 21st century, Vaupel said.

    “We don’t smoke or drink so much, and we’re better at exercise. People are taking better care of themselves. People are better educated, and the more educated know when to go to the doctor and follow the doctor’s advice,” he said, adding that people now tend to have higher income and can spend more on health care and improved diet.

    “The most important thing is we’re living longer and living longer healthy,” Vaupel said.

    KHN’s coverage related to aging & improving care of older adults is supported by The John A. Hartford Foundation and its coverage of aging and long-term care issues is supported by The SCAN Foundation.

    The post Want to live past 100? These centenarians share their secrets 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 in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2017. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan - RTX31WLO

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

    WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats on Monday forced a one-week delay in a committee vote on President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, who remains on track for confirmation with solid Republican backing.

    Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, announced that, as expected, Democrats have requested a postponement. The committee vote on Judge Neil Gorsuch now will be held April 3.

    As the committee readies to vote, three additional Democrats said they are likely to vote against the Denver-based appeals court judge. Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono said they will vote against Gorsuch, and Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy tweeted that he still was undecided but inclined to oppose him. Leahy is a senior member of the Judiciary panel and a former chairman.

    That means at least 17 Democrats and independents, led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, have announced their opposition to the Denver-based appeals court judge, arguing that Gorsuch has ruled too often against workers and in favor of corporations.

    The Democrats who have announced their opposition have also said they will try to block the nominee, meaning Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will have to hold a procedural vote requiring 60 votes to move forward. The Senate GOP has a 52-48 majority, meaning McConnell will need support from at least eight Democrats or independents.

    It was unclear whether he would be able to get the 60 votes. If he doesn’t, McConnell seems ready to change Senate rules and confirm him with a simple majority.

    Republicans had hoped that they’d see some support from the 10 Democrats running for re-election in states won by Trump in the presidential election, but four of those senators — Nelson, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin — have already said they will oppose the nominee.

    READ MORE: Top Senate Democrat opposes Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s pick for Supreme Court

    Leahy, however, signaled that he may be willing to break from Schumer and vote with Republicans on the procedural vote, while also signaling in a separate tweet he’d vote against Gorsuch in the final, up or down vote.

    “I am never inclined to filibuster a SCOTUS nom,” Leahy tweeted. “But I need to see how Judge Gorsuch answers my written Qs, under oath, before deciding.”

    Several Democrats have expressed frustration with the lack of answers Gorsuch gave during two lengthy days of questioning at his confirmation hearing last week, criticizing him for declining to give his personal views on most issues, including abortion, campaign finance and others they asked him about. They also expressed concerns that he wouldn’t be an independent voice from Trump, who nominated him in January.

    Republicans praised Gorsuch’s testimony, saying he showed humility and a deep understanding of legal precedent and separation of powers.

    “Before the hearing started we all knew how qualified the judge is. His resume speaks for itself,” Grassley said. “But last week we got to see up-close how thoughtful, articulate, and humble he is. He is clearly deeply committed to being a fair and impartial judge. And he isn’t willing to compromise that independence to win votes in the Senate.”

    California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary panel, also noted at the brief committee meeting Monday the “depth of feeling” among Democrats after Republicans blocked former President Barack Obama’s nominee for the same seat, Merrick Garland. Within hours of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February 2016, Republicans said they wouldn’t take up Obama’s eventual choice, saying the next president should have the say.

    The post Democrats force Senate panel to delay vote on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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     Riot police detain a demonstrator in Minsk, Belarus on March 25, 2017, during an unauthorized protest known as

    Riot police detain a demonstrator in Minsk, Belarus on March 25, 2017, during an unauthorized protest known as “Freedom Day,” which voiced opposition to the unemployment tax. Photo: Viktor Drachev/TASS

    A rare and large-scale protest took place in Belarus on Saturday, when hundreds took to the streets to protest a tax — the so-called “tax on parasites” — against the under-employed. By Monday, as many as 1,000 people had been arrested in connection with the unsanctioned demontrations, one Belarusian human rights group told the Associated Press. The detained reportedly included five members of the Belarus Free Theatre, an underground theater group that has held secret performances — often on taboo topics — since 2005.

    Authorities have offered no comment on the protests or the arrests, according to the Associated Press. President Alexander Lukashenko, for his part, has said the tax was meant to “stimulate” people to go to work, and punish those who don’t.

    On Facebook, the theater group, which has repeatedly been the target of arrests, reported that this was the “worst crackdown over the last seven years.” But the country is also seeing the largest protest in recent memory against authoritarian president Lukashenko, who has held control of the former Soviet country since 1994. Earlier this month, Lukashenko said the government would not collect the tax for 2016, but it will remain on the books and be collected next year. That wasn’t enough for protesters. “People don’t care, they want an end to this dictator. They say ‘basta’ – enough,” the group wrote.

    When reached by phone Monday, Belarus Street Theatre artistic director Natalia Kaliada told the NewsHour about why the theater group’s shows would go on, and why U.S. foreign policy toward Belarus is key in preventing future government crackdowns. This conversation has been edited lightly for length and clarity.

    FLOCK: How many members of the Belarus Free Theatre are detained, and what is their status?

    KOLIADA: Five members were arrested. One is with a concussion in a hospital, with a temple bone fractured. Our leading actor is in jail. But we went ahead with all of our shows over the weekend. Even though we had to replace different shows with other ones, even though artists are in jail and the hospital, the shows went ahead.

    We did this in support of political prisoners, and all who are detained, missing and injured. It is necessary for us to show we are stronger than a dictator, and to continue our campaign with [Chinese artist and activist] Ai Weiwei, called “I’m With the Banned,” in support of banned artists.

    FLOCK: Journalists and booksellers were also reportedly arrested ahead of Saturday’s protest. Do you believe the government is targeting people in the arts and journalism community?

    KOLIADA: There were hundreds of people arrested ahead of the protests Saturday. Since last February, protests have been going on all over Belarus. The internet was blocked. But last week was particularly busy. There were arrests every single day. And Nikolai Statkevich, a major opposition figure, went missing. He was eventually found in jail and released this morning.

    In this particular moment, I think authorities got very scared, and so they targeted anyone who was active. They arrested 32 journalists. Human rights defenders also got arrested on Saturday, so that people wouldn’t have anyone to be represented by.

    FLOCK: Members of the Belarus Street Theatre have been arrested many times before this. How is this time different?

    KOLIADA: Everyone in our company has been arrested or beaten up, there is no exclusion there. It has been happening since our existence. This particular week on March 30th, the Belarus Free Theatre becomes 12 years old. Unfortunately, we have to cancel our show for that. We had an opening of a new show on taboo subjects, but the show will not go ahead, because Sergey Kvachonok, our leading actor, is arrested. He is one of our leading actors and is planning to come to perform in the U.S. We hope in the future American audiences will see him on stage, and not just read news about his jailing. But this canceled show will also be replaced by another one, because we are against the ban against artists, and because we are artists against dictators.

    FLOCK: What do you think is the most important thing people outside of Belarus need to understand about these protests and arrests?

    KOLIADA: That this is a sophisticated authoritarian regime who cracked down on its own people yesterday. That this figure, [Lukashenko] in alliance with [Russian president Vladimir] Putin, is dangerous for not only the people of our country but for the whole world.

    Last week I was in Brussels talking to American and European politicians. Our major meeting was with U.S. Senator John McCain, who has given a lot of support, and who issued an immediate statement on the release of people and on Lukashenko’s need to act on it.

    When I and my colleagues had a meeting with [Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton in 2011, she and her staff worked with us for two months, and sanctions went into place against key figures in Belarus. But now the EU [the European Union] and the United States have unfortunately lifted sanctions. And it’s necessary to reintroduce those sanctions again, against those people who are responsible for the crackdown. They have to understand that the world is watching, and that their activities will be punished.

    The post Why the Belarus Free Theatre’s shows will go on, despite government arrests appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes (R-Calif) questions FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers during a hearing into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts.

    Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes (R-Calif) questions FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers during a hearing into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. House intelligence chairman Devin Nunes met on the White House grounds with the source of the claim that communications involving President Donald Trump’s associates were caught up in “incidental” surveillance, the congressman’s spokesman said Monday. Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts.

    WASHINGTON — House intelligence chairman Devin Nunes met on the White House grounds with the source of the claim that communications involving President Donald Trump’s associates were caught up in “incidental” surveillance, the congressman’s spokesman said Monday.

    The meeting occurred before Nunes disclosed at a news conference that U.S. spy agencies may have inadvertently captured Trump and his associates in routine targeting of foreigners’ communications.

    “Chairman Nunes met with his source at the White House grounds in order to have proximity to a secure location where he could view the information provided by the source,” Nunes spokesman Jack Langer said.

    Previously, Nunes, R-Calif., would not say where he met his secret source. He has still not revealed who that source is.

    READ MORE: Devin Nunes apologizes to Democrats after going to White House with monitoring claims

    Nunes’ connection to the White House has raised concerns that his committee’s investigation is not a bipartisan, independent probe. He was a member of Trump’s transition team, as well.

    The Senate intelligence committee is also conducting an investigation into Russia’s interference in the election and possible ties with the Trump campaign.

    On Monday, the White House confirmed that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has volunteered to be interviewed by the Senate committee about arranging meetings with the Russian ambassador and other officials. Kushner is the fourth Trump associate to offer to be interviewed by the congressional committees looking into the murky Russia ties. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, Trump adviser Carter Page and Trump associate Roger Stone last week volunteered to speak as well.

    Manafort, Page and Stone’s announcements last week that they would be interviewed came amid Nunes’ disclosures about the new intelligence he had seen.

    The White House was asked repeatedly last week about whether it was the source of Nunes’ information.

    On Thursday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer mocked the idea, suggesting it didn’t pass “the smell test.”

    “I don’t know why he was coming up to brief the president on something that we gave him,” Spicer told reporters, adding: “It doesn’t really seem to make a ton of sense.”

    MORE: Rep. Swalwell: Nunes ‘betrayed’ duty to independent Russia probe

    Nunes’ office said the information provided to the chairman came from “executive branch documents that have not been provided to Congress.”

    “Because of classification rules, the source could not simply put the documents in a backpack and walk them over to the House Intelligence Committee space,” Langer said. “The White House grounds was the best location to safeguard the proper chain of custody and classification of these documents, so the chairman could view them in a legal way.”

    The bizarre disclosure about the intelligence reports brought criticism from Democrats, especially those who sit on his committee and are working with him on an investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. That investigation is also looking into possible ties between Trump associates and the Kremlin. Nunes said the intelligence reports were not related to Russia.

    “The chairman is extremely concerned by the possible improper unmasking of names of U.S. citizens, and he began looking into this issue even before President Trump tweeted his assertion that Trump Tower had been wiretapped,” Langer said.

    MORE: How Nunes threw the House’s Russia investigation independence into question

    The top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, said Nunes’ meeting with his source appeared to have been “a dead-of-night excursion.”

    On Sunday, Schiff said on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” ”I think the chairman has to make a decision whether to act as a surrogate of the White House — as he did during the campaign and the transition — or to lead an independent and credible investigation.”

    Nunes’ office did not immediately say what time the chairman met his source on White House grounds.

    Any White House staffer can sign off on someone coming to the White House campus.

    AP writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

    The post House intel chairman says he met source on White House grounds appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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