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

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    An Australian Green Tree frog sits on top of a sulcata tortoise walking by a reflective puddle.

    On the surface, this photo looks fun, but it is staged. And its origins highlight the cloudy intersection of wildlife photography, animal welfare issues and photojournalism integrity. Photo by Riau Images/Barcroft Images/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

    Take a look at the photo above. It looks whimsical, or so thought some at the NewsHour last Thursday, when it was posted as part of our Photo of the Day series. But soon after, members of the science desk raised their suspicions about the photo.

    It seemed lucky for the photographer to capture such an odd behavior in nature. Too lucky … Plus, the picture was reminiscent of a viral photo from 2015, involving a frog “riding” a beetle. That photo had been discredited as staged, and people accused the photographers of animal cruelty.

    So like a Sherlock-Holmes-meets-Dorothea-Lange, I dug into whether or not the frog-riding-turtle photo was legit. What we found highlights the cloudy intersection of wildlife photography, animal welfare issues and journalistic integrity of photography in an age of digital consumption.

    “In case you’re wondering, frogs don’t normally ride tortoises … “

    NewsHour sourced the photograph from Getty Images, via the company’s “editorial” listings. Editorial photos are journalistic, meaning the image should capture news events, nature and other phenomenon in an unaltered state. That’s opposed to Getty’s “creative” listings, which encompass photos that are valuable for illustrating concepts or for advertising, but are typically manipulated, creatively lit or staged. Think stock photos like “woman laughing alone while eating salad.”

    Our photo in question displayed an Australian green tree frog — or “dumpy frog” — riding on a sulcata tortoise. It was taken in West Sumatra, Indonesia. Neither of those animals are native to this region.

    Getty licensed the image from Barcroft Media, which in turn got it from Riau Images, an Indonesian photo agency. Barcroft told Newshour that the image metadata never indicated whether it was staged or not.

    The photographer, Yan Hidayat, told Newshour in a translated email interview that he had purchased the animals in Jakarta as pets and then staged the image. He has a number of posed photos featured on Getty Images. He explained that all of the animals in his portfolio are bought from a pet store, except for the snails, which he found in his garden. When the juvenile pet-store frogs and turtles grow up, he releases them.

    Hidayat said that Riau Images had never inquired into how he took the photos.

    In case you’re wondering, frogs don’t normally ride tortoises, according to a representative for Society for the Study of Reptiles and Amphibians who spoke with NewsHour — which may have been what subconsciously triggered our BS detectors in the first place.

    A green frog sits like a human with a snail on its head.

    A Wallace’s Flying Frog sits in an unnatural way with a snail on its head. Wallace’s Flying Frogs are not native to Padang, the area where this photograph was taken. The same photographer behind the staged photo at the top of the story — Yan Hidayat — captured this one too. Photo by Riau Images/Barcroft Images/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

    Hidayat is hardly the sole peddler in the cottage industry of staged frog photos. When we searched “frog” in the “news” section of Getty on March 23, 2017, the first page returned 46 photos of frogs. All of the well-lit and professional photos on that webpage came from Indonesia. None were native to the area in which they were photographed. Fifteen of those 46 photos featured frogs that had been stacked on other animals — turtles, snails and other frogs — or vice versa, as if someone was hosting a menagerie-style rodeo.

    When we inquired about the photo, Getty provided this statement: “Whilst we do have an editorial policy and robust measures in place to ensure our content ingestion process upholds these standards, we recognize that in this case the image was incorrectly assigned as editorial. We are working with Barcroft to conduct a review of their full collection in order to affirm they are appropriately labelled and assigned.”

    Newshour removed the image and replaced it with the caption “ The photo has been removed from this post, because it may have been staged and may have resulted in cruelty to the animals involved.”

    A cruel stage in the digital world

    Though the genre of documenting animals in implausible positions has garnered internet acclaim, some accuse the photographers of animal cruelty. One post on the Chinese forum Weibo attempted to tackle how many macro animal photos from Indonesia might have been staged and involve animal cruelty. The user points out unnatural poses, non-native animals and inconsistencies with the captions. (The critique is translated here.)

    While several animal photos on Getty are clearly staged — many from Hidayat — animal cruelty is difficult to confirm with a single snapshot.

    Some artists use taxidermy in their photography to create life-like positions. For example, Simen Johan’s photo series “Until the Kingdom Comes” involves some live animals, some taxidermied, some frozen and many digitally altered. The gallery describes his work as “intricate digital constructs.

    But the killing and mounting of animals for photography isn’t a widespread habit, said Chris Palmer, the director of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking at American University, who co-wrote guidelines for ethical wildlife filmmaking.

    A green frog curled up inside a leaf.

    A red-eyed green frog (Agalychnis callidryases) photographed at the Montibelli private wildlife reserve, in the municipality of Ticuantepe. This photograph does not show signs of staging, as the frog is native to Nicaragua and sitting inside a leaf is normal behavior. Photo by INTI OCON/AFP/Getty Images

    Taxidermy takes time, resources and expertise, and then you’re typically stuck with a single, fixed pose. You would never get a photo series of a turtle walking across the water if it was dead. Plus, taxidermy frogs hardly look alive.

    Palmer has never seen a photographer killing and stuffing an animal just for a photo. And while it may happen somewhere in the world, “to do all that to take a picture would be kind of like using a sword to cut butter. It would be overkill,” he said.

    However, Palmer believes posing animals for photography is unethical, even if the animals are alive.

    “There are two angles to this,” he said. “I think one is the effect on the animals. Are they being harassed? Are they being mistreated?”

    The other issue is normalizing the manipulation of animals.

    “It’s not ok, they don’t want to be picked up, they don’t want to be moved and put here and put there. And we need a more caring, more ethical approach to animal photography,” Palmer said.

    Journalistic integrity is also at stake. The North American Nature Photography Association guidelines encourage animal photographers to provide image captions that describe whether or not the photo is natural. Someone seeing or sharing a staged photos may think that it presents natural behavior for the animals, which falls into the arena of “fake news,” Palmer continued.

    However, Hidayat didn’t try to suggest that his photos were accurately documenting nature.

    “Sorry, this has been a mistake,” he explained in an email. “I never explained how the photographs were taken. The blame is on me, and I hope this is a lesson for me to learn.”

    The post When whimsical wildlife photography isn’t what it seems appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer fielded questions at Thursday’s news briefing. Video by PBS NewsHour

    WASHINGTON — The White House refused to say on Thursday whether it secretly fed intelligence reports to a top Republican investigating possible coordination between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign. Fending off growing criticism, the administration invited lawmakers from both parties to view classified material it said relates to surveillance of the president’s associates.

    The White House’s invitation letter to lawmakers came amid a quickly rising storm over Rep. Devin Nunes, who heads the House intelligence committee. The New York Times reported that two White House officials — including an aide whose job was recently saved by President Donald Trump — secretly helped Nunes examine intelligence information last week.

    The House panel’s work has been deeply, and perhaps irreparably, undermined by Nunes’ apparent coordination with the White House. He told reporters last week that he had seen troubling information about the improper distribution of Trump associates’ intercepted communications, and he briefed the president on the material, all before informing Rep. Adam Schiff, the committee’s top Democrat.

    Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday, Schiff said he was “more than willing” to come to the White House to view the new materials. But he raised concerns that the White House may have provided the information to his Republican counterpart first, and if so, why.

    “If that was designed to hide the origin of the materials, that raises profound questions about just what the White House is doing,” Schiff said. He vowed that the matter would not distract from the investigations into Russia’s election meddling, saying, “if that’s the objective here, it will not be successful.”

    Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said Thursday the material the White House wants the House and Senate intelligence leaders to view was discovered by the National Security Council through the course of regular business. He would not say whether it was the same material Nunes had already seen.

    The Times reported that Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the NSC, and Michael Ellis, a White House lawyer who previously worked on the House intelligence committee, played a role in helping Nunes view the materials.

    Cohen-Watnick is among about a dozen White House officials who would have access to the types of classified information Nunes says he viewed, according to current and former U.S. officials. He’s become a controversial figure in intelligence circles, but Trump decided to keep him on over the objections of the CIA, according to the officials. They spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the internal matter.

    Cohen-Watnick and Nunes both served on the Trump transition team.

    READ MORE: A Hawaii judge just extended a ruling to block Trump’s travel ban. What’s next?

    The post WATCH: After NYT report on Nunes, Spicer invites lawmakers to view intel material appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Graduating students of the City College of New York sit together in their caps and gowns as they listen to U.S. first lady Michelle Obama's address during the College's commencement ceremony in the Harlem section of Manhattan, New York, U.S., June 3, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar - RTX2FKNP

    Will double majoring lead to a higher-paying job? Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    Students are bombarded with an array of competing opportunities during college, all with the promise that each will lead to a better job or higher earnings upon entering the “real world.” The Conversation

    One such option is the double major, in which a student earns two bachelor degrees at once, sometimes in entirely different disciplines. But will doing so lead to a higher-paying job? Is it worth the “lost” time that could have been spent in other activities such as internships or student government?

    In college, I earned several degrees, which led to a broader education that I believe enriched the quality and creativity of my thinking and improved my career prospects. As an economist-in-training, however, I wanted hard data to back up my anecdotal experience.

    To do this, I crunched some numbers from the Census Bureau on over two million full-time workers and analyzed them to see if there’s a connection between earning multiple degrees and financial gain in the years following graduation.

    Double-majoring on the decline?

    While double majors have been a popular way to balance a deep study of the humanities with traditional degrees in the sciences, basic tabulations suggest that the percent of workers with a double major has been roughly constant, or even decreasing, over the past six years depending on how one restricts the sample.

    For example, looking at all individuals between ages 20 and 29, only 12.5 percent of the population had a double major in 2015, which is down from 14.2 percent in 2009, according to my calculations from the American Community Survey (ACS) Census data. At the same time, the percent of workers within the same age range with any kind of college degree grew from roughly 23 to 36 percent.

    READ MORE: Will picking the right college major land you a better job?
    On the one hand, double-majoring can help students avoid becoming overly specialized, exposing them to new ways of thinking and communicating with others outside their primary area. On the other, it creates a trade-off with other educational opportunities.

    In 2013, the National Commission on Higher Education Attainment went so far as to urge universities to “narrow student choice” to promote degree completion – perhaps by restricting or even banning the completion of double majors.

    While the number of college graduates in the workforce is growing, the number of double majors is shrinking.  Francesco Corticchia/Shutterstock

    While the number of college graduates in the workforce is growing, the number of double majors is shrinking. Francesco Corticchia/Shutterstock

    What existing research says

    Previous research on whether a double major pays off has shown mixed results.

    A 2011 paper found that a double major, on average, yields a 3.2 percent earnings premium over a peer with only one degree. The paper noted that the premium ranged from nothing at liberal arts colleges to almost 4 percent at “research and comprehensive” universities.

    READ MORE: These college majors will get you a well-paying job

    A more recent study, published in 2016, concluded that liberal arts students who tacked on a second degree in either business or a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) field earned somewhat more than their single-major peers. But the authors noted that there was no premium when compared with a single STEM or business degree.

    Both of these papers, however, are based on relatively small cross-sections of individuals, which makes them less representative and limits their statistical power. In addition, they focus on single years – 2003 and 2010, respectively – which means the results may be affected by any transient economic conditions that occurred that year.

    What my research showed

    In my own analysis, I examined data on over two million full-time workers aged 20 to 65 over a six-year period (2009-2015) using Census Bureau data. The bureau provides the largest source of publicly available information on individuals and households, helping to ensure that the analysis is both representative and detailed. The data set included information on each individual’s earnings, occupation, undergraduate degrees and a wide range of other demographic data.

    My results showed that liberal arts students who take on a second degree in a STEM field earned, on average, 9.5 percent more than their liberal arts peers with only one major, after controlling for individual demographic factors, such as age, years of schooling, marital status, gender, family size and race. Students who combined a liberal arts degree with a business major earned 7.9 percent more.

    You might be thinking that this isn’t really a surprise. Of course STEM majors will earn more than their liberal arts counterparts. While my analysis already controls for the fact that STEM and business majors generally earn more than their counterparts, I wanted to dig a little deeper. So I restricted the sample to compare STEM-liberal arts double majors with those with a single STEM degree. Although the premium shrinks, engineers and scientists who take on an extra liberal arts degree earned 3.6 percent more, on average.

    READ MORE: If you grew up poor, your college degree may be worth less

    I also wanted to see if the premium exists when comparing people in similar occupations. For example, consider two journalism school grads, one with a single degree, the other with a second in engineering. Naturally the one who becomes a working journalist, which generally pays poorly, will earn less than his classmate who decided journalism wasn’t for her and got a job at Google.

    So, controlling for occupation, I found that the returns to double-majoring in liberal arts and STEM were 5.2 percent, and 3.4 percent with a business degree. In other words, even when we look within narrow occupational categories, those who double-majored across fields tended to earn more than those with a single degree.

    So should I double major?

    So for those of you about to head to college, should you go for a double major? Or should you advise it to your kids?

    As with anything, it depends. I tried to make my analysis as robust as possible, but it’s still not entirely clear whether the connection between the double degrees and higher earnings is causal. However, my results do suggest it’s more than mere correlation.

    READ MORE: 6 rules to help you make the best college decision

    Furthermore, an association with higher earnings doesn’t mean the double major is right for everyone, particularly since the premium varies based on an individual’s own career path and preferences. Every college student needs to weigh the pros and cons of every potential opportunity, from picking up a second degree to joining student government.

    My research suggests, however, that students who are eager to expose themselves to more frames of thinking and disciplinary knowledge may well be investing in the very foundation that prepares them for a successful and innovative career.

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

    The post Does it pay to get a double major in college? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Pedestrians walk over a crosswalk in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    Pedestrians walk over a crosswalk in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Pedestrian deaths are climbing faster than motorist fatalities, reaching nearly 6,000 deaths last year — the highest total in more than two decades, according to an analysis of preliminary state data released Thursday.

    Increased driving due to an improved economy, lower gas prices and more walking for exercise and environmental factors are some of the likely reasons behind the estimated 11 percent spike in pedestrian fatalities in 2016. The figures were prepared for the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety offices.

    But researchers say they think the biggest factor may be more drivers and walkers distracted by cellphones and other electronic devices, although that’s hard to confirm.

    Walking and miles driven are up only a few percentage points, and are unlikely to account for most of the surge in pedestrian deaths, said Richard Retting, safety director for Sam Schwartz Transportation Consultants and the author of the report. Meanwhile, texting and use of wireless devices have exploded, he said.

    “It’s the only factor that that seems to indicate a dramatic change in how people behave,” Retting said.

    The report is based on data from all states and the District of Columbia for the first six months of 2016 and extrapolated for the rest of the year. It shows the largest annual increase in both the number and percentage of pedestrian fatalities in the more than 40 years those national records on such deaths have been kept, with the second largest increase occurring in 2015. Pedestrian deaths as a share of total motor vehicle crash deaths increased from 11 percent in 2006 to 15 percent in 2015.

    “This latest data shows that the U.S. isn’t meeting the mark on keeping pedestrians safe on our roadways,” said Jonathan Adkins, the safety association’s executive director. “Every one of these lives represents a loved one not coming home tonight, which is absolutely unacceptable.”

    Traffic fatalities overall jumped 6 percent last year, pushing deaths on U.S. roads to their highest level in nearly a decade and erasing improvements made during the Great Recession and economic recovery, according to data released last month by the National Safety Council, a leading safety organization. The council estimates there were more than 40,200 traffic deaths in 2016. The last time there were more than 40,000 fatalities in a single year was in 2007, just before the economy tanked. There were 41,000 deaths that year.

    More than twice as many states reported an uptick in pedestrian fatalities than had decreasing numbers.

    But pedestrian deaths are sharply outpacing fatalities overall, climbing 25 percent from 2010 to 2015, according to Retting’s research. Total traffic deaths increased about 6 percent over the same period.

    “We cannot look at distracted driving solely as an in-vehicle issue,” said Kelly Nantel, a spokeswoman for the safety council. “That discounts the impact distraction could have on pedestrians.”

    On the other hand, “walking is working,” she said. “Just as we need drivers to be alert, pedestrians have to be, too.”

    Another factor in pedestrian deaths is alcohol. Thirty-four percent of pedestrians and 15 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes were intoxicated at the time, Retting said. But there is no indication that there has been a change in drinking habits that would account for the spike in deaths, he said.

    More than twice as many states reported an uptick in pedestrian fatalities than had decreasing numbers.

    The problem is greatest in large population states that have urban areas where people do a lot of walking. Delaware, Florida and Arizona had the highest rates of pedestrian deaths relative to their populations, while North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming had the lowest.

    The striking increase in pedestrian deaths has grabbed the attention of the National Transportation Safety Board, the government panel that investigates accidents and makes safety recommendations. The board held a forum on pedestrian safety last year, and currently has an investigation underway to broadly examine the causes and potential solutions to the problem.

    Pedestrians “are our most vulnerable road users,” said NTSB member Bella Dinh-Zarr.

    People are “more easily distracted than when we didn’t have so many easily accessible, essentially, computers in our palms,” she said. “We look at that as an increasing risk for pedestrians.”

    READ MORE: Urban designers transformed these five spaces into pedestrian paradise

    The post Pedestrian deaths spiked in 2016. Distraction is partly to blame, early data shows appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Denmark's Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen talks to reporters during the European Union summit in Brussels, Belgium. Photo by Yves Herman/Reuters

    Denmark’s Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen talks to reporters during the European Union summit in Brussels, Belgium. Photo by Yves Herman/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump held his first meeting Thursday with Denmark’s Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, declaring that the two countries enjoy a “truly great relationship.”

    Loekke Rasmussen is the latest wary European ally to visit the White House since Trump took office, looking to ease concerns that the new administration will honor multilateral agreements with Europe and take a firmer stance against Russian aggression.

    Trump greeted Loekke Rasmussen at the entrance to the West Wing. The leaders shook hands before heading to the Oval Office for their talks.

    During a brief appearance before the news media, Trump said Loekke Rasmussen is a “wonderful man doing a wonderful job.”

    “We have a truly great relationship and we’re working together on many fronts,” Trump said, as Loekke Rasmussen sat alongside him. “We’re going to have certain exchanges that I think will be very fruitful.”

    Loekke Rasmussen said it was “nice to be here.”

    Since taking office, Trump has vowed to uphold the longstanding NATO military alliance after previously declaring it “obsolete.” But he recently declared that Germany owes “vast sums of money” to NATO and the U.S. “must be paid more” for providing defense.

    As Britain triggers its exit from the European Union, a move Trump supported, Denmark is also looking for economic assurances from EU trade partners.

    WATCH: Brexit countdown begins with formal notice from UK

    The post Trump to meet Denmark’s prime minister amid Brexit, NATO concerns appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    White House Senior Advisor Steve Bannon attends a March roundtable discussion held by President Donald Trump with auto industry leaders in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    White House Senior Advisor Steve Bannon attends a March roundtable discussion held by President Donald Trump with auto industry leaders in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    MIAMI — President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Steve Bannon will not face charges related to his registration to vote in Miami despite spending most of his time elsewhere, Florida prosecutors announced Thursday.

    The Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office concluded in a memo that there was not enough evidence to prove any crime. Bannon registered to vote in the county on April 2, 2014 after leasing the first of two houses in Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood, then switched his registration to the Sarasota area last year.

    Bannon never voted in Miami-Dade County, the prosecutors said. They also said there was insufficient evidence to prove Bannon falsely claimed to reside in Florida on a voter registration form, which is a felony.

    The memo says the amount of time a person spends at a given address is not proof alone of residence. Bannon spent much time while registered to vote in Florida in other states, most notably California and New York.

    “Especially in our increasingly mobile society, a person may spend the majority of his or her nights at one (or multiple) locations, but legally reside at another under Florida law,” the memo says. “The old adage of ‘where you lay your head is home’ is only part of the residency analysis.”

    Lawyers for Bannon didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comment. But in the memo, attorneys Thomas Scott and Ed Pozzuoli were quoted as telling investigators they had reviewed the matter and found “no actionable conduct” by Bannon.

    To prove a violation, prosecutors concluded they would have to prove Bannon did not intend to live in Miami-Dade County when he originally registered to vote in 2014.

    The investigation by the prosecutor’s Public Corruption Unit found that Bannon first leased a home in Coconut Grove in April 2014 along with his ex-wife, Diane Clohesy. Clohesy told prosecutors that Bannon did stay in the house from time to time between 2014 and 2016.

    Bannon’s office paid the rent and records also showed his name was on the lease and on another lease for a separate home in the same area, which he rented in January 2015. Bannon also took out accounts with utilities in his name for those residences.

    Miami political consultant A.J. Delgado told investigators she met with Bannon at the first home and saw “boxes, papers and effects in the house that indicated to her that (he) was living at the house.” Delgado also said Bannon referred to the place as “my house.”

    Bannon also had an active California driver’s license, the investigation revealed, but the address had not been updated since March 2013. Bannon also was linked to several other properties in New York and California but none were listed as his main residence for tax reasons, the memo says.

    To prove a violation, prosecutors concluded they would have to prove Bannon did not intend to live in Miami-Dade County when he originally registered to vote in 2014.

    “The investigation did not uncover sufficient evidence to do so,” they wrote.

    WATCH: How Steve Bannon helped bring a nationalist, populist agenda to the White House

    The post Trump adviser Steve Bannon will not face charges in Florida vote probe appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch (R) meets with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) on Capitol Hill in D.C. in February. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch (R) meets with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) on Capitol Hill in D.C. in February. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A Democratic senator facing a tough re-election is warning her party there is a political risk in voting to block President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

    Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who says she is torn over how to vote, highlighted the dilemma for Democratic senators running next year in states that Trump won.

    Should they vote for Judge Neil Gorsuch and anger their liberal base? Or vote to block Gorsuch and prompt Republicans to permanently change Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster? The rule change would allow Gorsuch to be confirmed quickly and also make it easier for the majority party to confirm justices in the future.

    “It is obviously a really difficult situation, that both alternatives, I think, have a lot of danger,” McCaskill told reporters on Thursday.

    McCaskill’s comments came after The Kansas City Star released an audio recording of her talking to Democratic donors over the weekend. In the recording, which the Missouri Republican Party gave to the newspaper, McCaskill says the decision is difficult because if the filibuster is eliminated, Trump could nominate another justice without having to compromise with Democrats, and “all of a sudden, the things I fought for with scars on my back to show for it in this state are in jeopardy.”

    After the recording was released, McCaskill confirmed the recording to reporters in the Capitol, saying her words speak for themselves.

    “I said honestly I hadn’t decided, which you guys all know, and I said honestly I was torn, which I think everybody knows.”

    If confirmed, Gorsuch would replace another conservative, Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016. But if one of the more liberal justices dies or retires, Trump’s next pick could fundamentally alter the balance of the court. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 84 and Justice Stephen Breyer is 78. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the pivotal vote closest to the court’s center, is 80.

    In Judge Neil Gorsuch’s third day of questioning, Democratic senators pressed the Supreme Court nominee on how he interprets the Constitution as well as the effect of partisan politics on the court. Judy Woodruff analyzes today’s hearing with Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal, Amy Howe of Scotusblog.com, Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute and Pam Karlan of Stanford Law School.

    READ MORE: What we learned from Neil Gorsuch’s marathon confirmation hearing

    In the recording obtained by the paper, McCaskill says she’s comfortable voting against Gorsuch, “but I’m very uncomfortable being part of a strategy that’s going to open up the Supreme Court to a complete change.”

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said last week that Democrats would filibuster the nomination. With a 52-seat majority, Republicans need eight Democrats to vote with them to break the 60-vote threshold to move forward.

    It’s unclear if they will have those votes — of the 10 Senate Democrats who are up for re-election in states Trump won, five have already said they will vote against him. McConnell has made it clear he will change the rules if he doesn’t get the votes, meaning they could proceed to a final confirmation vote with only a simple majority.

    In all, 33 Democrats have said they will oppose Gorsuch. Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell announced her opposition Thursday, saying she has concerns about his record.

    Changing Senate rules would not be unprecedented. In 2013, Democrats were in the majority under the leadership of Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada and upset about the blockage of President Barack Obama’s nominees to a powerful appellate court. The Democrats pushed through a rules change lowering the vote threshold on all nominees except for the Supreme Court from 60 to a simple majority.

    READ MORE: Explainer: What is the ‘nuclear option’? And how will it affect Neil Gorsuch’s nomination?

    The post McCaskill ‘torn’ over Gorsuch vote, warns Dem donors of political risk in filibuster appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A sign to inform the visitors that the National Gallery of Art is closed in Washington, D.C. during the government shutdown in 2013. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    A sign to inform the visitors that the National Gallery of Art is closed in Washington, D.C. during the government shutdown in 2013. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Government shutdown or no shutdown?

    President Donald Trump and Republican leaders are trying to salvage priorities like his wall along the Mexico border and immediate increases in defense spending without stumbling into a politically toxic government shutdown in another month. The temporary government-wide spending bill runs out at midnight April 28, and Trump needs Democratic help in getting the legislation done.

    “It’s always been a negotiation and they’ve never been able to pass one without Democratic votes,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday.

    Said Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., “We’re probably going to need bipartisan votes to keep the government open.”

    Behind the scenes, lawmakers are working on the $1 trillion-plus legislation to keep the government running through Sept. 30, the end of the budget year. The emerging spending compromise, aides and lawmakers say, is shaping up pretty much as it would have if former President Barack Obama were in the Oval Office.

    The key complications are Trump’s requests for $30 billion for an immediate infusion of cash for the Pentagon and $3 billion for additional security measures on the U.S.-Mexico border, including $1 billion to build fencing and a levee wall along 60 miles or so (about 100 kilometers) in Texas and near San Diego.

    Trump repeatedly said during the campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall, but the administration has made clear U.S. tax dollars will finance it.

    Democrats like Pelosi vow to oppose any wall funding, but are open to other security measures such as drones and sensors. Many Republicans, however, are also wary of Trump’s vision for a massive brick-and-mortar wall.

    “It might not be a physical wall everywhere, which has always been my point,” said GOP Rep. Steve Pearce, who represents New Mexico’s entire southern border. “So we’ll take a look at it when they get it a little more developed.”

    Collins, a key Trump ally, told reporters the wall could be handled in another, additional bill. “We don’t need to deal with that” in the catchall spending bill, he said.

    White House press secretary Sean Spicer countered, “Obviously we don’t want the government to shut down, but we want to make sure we’re funding the priorities of the government.”

    After last week’s failure on health care, GOP leaders and the White House appear wary of a battle with Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York that could leave divided Republicans saddled with the blame for a government shutdown.

    “We’re not going to have a government shutdown,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told CBS News in an interview broadcast Thursday. “The president doesn’t want to have a government shutdown.”

    For Republicans, last week’s collapse of the effort to repeal Obamacare and the ongoing drama over the investigation into Russian connections with the Trump campaign have put the majority party on a rocky road. Judy Woodruff speaks with Lisa Desjardins about how Republicans see their path ahead on health care and tax reform.

    The X factor is the Trump White House, which aides and lawmakers say hasn’t sent clear signals about how hard it wants to push for items to place in the win column. April 29 — the potential shutdown day — also will mark the 100th day of Trump’s presidency, a date not lost on Republicans.

    For now, the negotiations are being handling by top lawmakers on the House and Senate Appropriations committees, a pragmatic-minded group with a time-tested history of producing results. Conservatives don’t have anything to gripe about yet since the bill is being written in secret, but they may resent getting it rammed past them in the scramble to avert a shutdown.

    “Let’s get the process right now,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a member of the staunchly conservative House Freedom Caucus. “Good process brings good policy, which makes good politics,” he said.

    The plan, Ryan told reporters Thursday, is for the House to send a 10-bill package of non-defense spending measures — and some but not all of Trump’s supplemental spending request — to the Senate, where it would be merged with a bipartisan $578 billion House-passed Pentagon spending measure.

    One potential scenario is for some measures to be drafted as detailed, account-by-account legislation, but with more controversial agencies, such as the IRS and Health and Human Services, being financed at current levels.

    Defense hawks insist that won’t work for the complex Pentagon budget.

    “Our first priority is the men and women in uniform and I’m not going to put them at greater risk even if I have to shut down the government,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

    Ryan’s plan is built on the hope that far-right lawmakers don’t revolt.

    Congress leaves Washington for a two-week spring break next Friday. That would leave just one week to process the as-yet-unfinished spending package through the House and Senate. Hiccups are to be expected, but a shutdown is probably unlikely since lawmakers could quickly pass another stopgap bill to keep the government’s doors open for a week or so.

    “We’ve got a government shutdown deadline approaching us. We’ve got the health care bill and all the troubles it has engendered,” said former Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky. “I’ve just got to believe that reason will prevail.”

    WATCH: After health care fail, can Republicans enact their agenda?

    The post To preserve Trump priorities, GOP would like to avoid a government shutdown appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Frida Kahlo. Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images

    Frida Kahlo. Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images

    Can you name five female artists? Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe … that’s two.

    If you can’t think of more, know that most people the National Museum of Women in the Arts spoke to for a recent Women’s History Month campaign couldn’t, either — even those who considered themselves art savvy. Ask someone to name five artists, they said, and many people will give you the names of men.

    The museum, based in Washington D.C., approached strangers with the question as a way to highlight the work of women visual artists, as well as the persistent gender inequality in the art world.

    “There’s not one reason” for the imbalance, said Amy Mannarino, director of communications and marketing for NWMA. “Historically, women were not allowed the same opportunities as men, such as to go to art school, or to paint from living figures,” like the nude model, which was key to an artist’s training. “But we now have more women in art schools than men, and they are still not getting as much opportunity,” she said.

    Some startling statistics about the visibility of female artists today: Pieces by women artists often make up only 3 to 5 percent of permanent collections in the U.S. and Europe. Of 590 major solo shows held stateside between 2007 and 2013, only 27 percent were devoted to women, according to a survey by The Art Newspaper. And a famous and recurring billboard by the anonymous female art collective the Guerilla Girls — “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?” — points out that as recently as 2012, less than 4 percent of artists in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s modern art section were women (though there are many female nude paintings).

    The Met did not immediately provide NewsHour with a current number of female artists on display.

    There has long been a gender imbalance at art galleries, too. In 1986, the Guerilla Girls released a report card showing that most of the major New York galleries showed only one or two women — if any at all. In 2015, Pussy Galore, a collective that also fights discrimination in the art world, released an updated report card that found representation at galleries had improved, but not by much. All but five of the 34 New York galleries surveyed had less than 50 percent female representation. Many had as low as five or seven percent.

    The disparity is striking, but what’s behind the numbers is not so simple. The seminal essay on the topic, written in the 1970s by art historian Linda Nochlin, argued that the problem was partly systemic. Institutional power structures such as art academies, museums, galleries or other systems of patronage, she wrote, have long favored male artists in a way that made it “impossible for women to achieve artistic excellence, or success, on the same footing as men, no matter what the potency of their so-called talent, or genius.”

    In 2015, curator Maura Reilly wrote in Art News that despite signs of progress since Nochlin’s essay, institutions were still dominated by white, straight, privileged men, which had far-reaching effects.

    “[It] trickles down into every aspect of the art world—gallery representation, auction price differentials, press coverage, and inclusion in permanent-collection displays and solo-exhibition programs,” she wrote.

    A just-released 2017 report by the Association of Art Museum Directors gives a face to these power structures. At museums with budgets exceeding $15 million, it found, men hold 70 percent of positions. Women fare better in smaller budget museums, and overall, women now represent almost half of all directorships. But they still make less money than men in those positions — on average about 73 cents to the dollar.

    There’s something interesting going on with how the art world values work made by female artists, too. At auctions, work by men has long sold for more than women. The highest-selling work by a woman — a piece by Georgia O’Keefe — went for $44.4 million in 2014, but dozens of pieces by men have sold for more than that.

    This may be because more art is often presented at auction by male artists than women– despite the increasing availability of female artists. Artfinder, an online art marketplace that attracts about equal numbers of male and female artists, found in a recent study that its female artists sell more art, more quickly, and for a greater total value.

    “It’s still quite easy to find people in the high end art world whose opinion is that women artists just aren’t out there,” Jane Verity of ArtFinder said. “But at least 50 percent of the art we have is from women. So it felt like we should start shouting about it.”

    NWMA is shouting about it, too. Over the last month, its #5WomenArtists campaign has attracted participation from 500 organizations in 30 different countries. Among the female artists shared were Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, currently on display at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington D.C., Ukrainian folk artist Iryna Bilianska, Detroit photographer-activist Leni Sinclair and African-American visual artist and museum founder Margaret Taylor Burroughs.

    To learn about more women artists, take our quiz above, or check out these artist profiles on NWMA’s site.

    The post Few people can name five female artists — can you? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    On Thursday, the SES-10 satellite hitched a ride on the world's first reflight of an orbital class rocket. Photo by SpaceX

    On Thursday, the SES-10 satellite hitched a ride on the world’s first reflight of an orbital class rocket. Photo by SpaceX

    On Thursday, SpaceX successfully launched the SES-10 satellite, and made history in the process by reusing a rocket for an orbital launch for the first time. The accomplishment fulfills one of SpaceX’s foundational goals of lowering the average cost of space transportation by recycling rockets.

    “Let’s make [a rocket] reusable, which means you’ve got to strengthen stages, you’ve got to add a lot of weight, a lot of thermal protection, you’ve got to do a lot of things that add weight to that vehicle, and still have a useful payload to orbit.” Elon Musk told the National Press Club in 2011. Cheaper launches could greatly assist the company’s other endeavor of jumpstarting the colonization of Mars. Musk views reusable rockets as key to landing on and departing from the Red Planet.

    Here’s why. The mass of reusable rocket must include the necessary hardware to make it back down in one piece. On average, only two to three percent of any rocket’s starting weight actually reaches orbit. “Of that meager two to three percent…you’ve got to add all that’s necessary to bring the rocket stages back to the launch pad and be able to refly them, and still have useful payload to orbit,” Musk said in 2011.

    Solving this aerospace puzzle lowers the price of launching equipment to the Red Planet by an order of magnitude — and bypasses the need for a space crew to rebuild a whole rocket from scratch, in the case they want to travel back to Earth.

    The used rocket was originally part of the CRS-8 mission, which sent supplies to the International Space Station in April 2016

    The used rocket was originally part of the CRS-8 mission, which sent supplies to the International Space Station in April 2016. Photo by SpaceX

    The used rocket was originally part of the CRS-8 mission, which sent supplies to the International Space Station in April 2016 and was SpaceX’s first to land on the ocean barge named Of Course I Still Love You. The rocket, once again, nailed the landing on the barge becoming not only the first SpaceX rocket to launch twice, but also the first to land twice.

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

    “It’s been 15 years to get to this point… it’s taken us a long time with a lot of difficult steps along the way,” Elon Musk said after the launch. “It’s a great day, not just for SpaceX but for space industry as a whole.”

    Today’s launch transported SES-10, a satellite operated by Luxembourg-based telecommunications giant SES, into orbit. Shortly after the launch, the satellite coasted into a geostationary orbit over Brazil with the aim of servicing most of Latin America.

    SpaceX webcast of the SES-10 launch.

    SES’s pursuit for the first ride on a reused rocket began in early 2016. SES Chief Executive Karim Michel Sabbagh told SpaceNews last year that his company wanted a hefty price cut — 50 percent — on the launch, given its pioneering, yet uncertain, nature.

    The post SpaceX makes history with launch and landing of a used rocket appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A sign is pictured at the entrance to a Planned Parenthood building in New York in 2015. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    A sign is pictured at the entrance to a Planned Parenthood building in New York. File Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    The debate over abortion and women’s health entered a new phase Thursday as Congressional Republicans delivered what’s arguably their first real blow in years to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

    In a dramatic vote in the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking 51st vote on a bill that would let states block more than $200 million in Title X funding from going to Planned Parenthood or any organization that provides abortions. “Title X” refers to the federal family planning program, established in that section of the 1970 Public Health Service Act.

    The move reversed a rule protecting abortion provider, something President Barack Obama put in place on his second-to-last day in office. The bill has already passed the House and now moves to President Donald Trump’s desk. He is expected to sign it.

    So, what just happened?

    The bill and original rule

    This bill repeals a rule that went into effect on Jan. 18, as Obama was leaving office. The rule barred states from distributing Title X funding based on whether an organization provides abortion services.

    What does this GOP bill do?

    It will be up to states to decide if abortion providers can access this funding. In recent years, more than a dozen states have tried to block Title X funding to Planned Parenthood and abortion providers. Planned Parenthood says it serves roughly 1.5 million people under Title X.

    How did the funding work exactly?

    Under federal law, taxpayer dollars cannot fund most abortions. But Title X funding could pay for other family planning services at clinics which separately provide abortions. The vote Thursday means states can now block the funding for other family planning services at clinics which also provide abortions.

    How can this pass without 60 votes in the Senate?

    It falls under a special category of legislation – repealing rules passed in the final 60 legislative days of an outgoing administration. Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress has an easier path toward rolling back such rules.

    The measure passed the House 230-188 in February on a mostly party-line vote, with just two Republicans in that chamber voting against the bill.

    How did the vote go down?

    The 50-50 split vote came after two Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted no and forced GOP leaders to call on Vice President Pence to cast the deciding vote.

    The vast majority of votes for the legislation were from men, who make up 80 percent of the 115th Congress. But the bill did receive support from two dozen Republican women in Congress, and was sponsored by women in both chambers, including Republican Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn) and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). They, along with other Republicans, argued that family planning funding and policy should be handled by the states.

    How are Democrats reacting?

    “As a direct result of the vote today, extreme politicians in states across the country will have the power to [block the rights of women],” said Sen. Patty Murray, (D-WA), the highest-ranking female senator in the leadership of either party.

    “As a woman I am angry,” she continued. “I am furious about what attacks like this mean for our daughters and granddaughters.”

    After a line of Democrats came to the Senate floor to oppose the measure, Murray pointed out that most Republicans who voted for the measure opted not to defend it on the Senate floor.

    “What is most striking is the deafening silence from [a] group of almost entirely male politicians who are making it harder for women” to get the health care they need, she said.

    How is Planned Parenthood reacting?

    The organization issued a statement which read, in part, “Four million people depend on the Title X family planning program, and this move by DC politicians would endanger their health care. This would take away birth control access for a woman who wants to plan her family and her future. Too many people still face barriers to health care, especially young people, people of color, those who live in rural areas, and people with low incomes.”

    How are groups on the right reacting?

    Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony list, also issued a statement. She praised Republicans for “ensuring that states are not forced to fund America’s abortion giant, Planned Parenthood” and she pointed to the next fight. “Today’s vote makes it clear Congress also has the votes to send to President Trump a reconciliation bill that defunds Planned Parenthood of more than $400 million in taxpayer funding and instead funds community health centers,” she wrote.

    “This legislation does not prevent Planned Parenthood or any other entity from receiving Title X funds,” Ernst said immediately after the vote. “If states [want] to distribute Title X sub-grants to Planned Parenthood, this legislation to overturn the Obama Administration’s rule won’t prevent them from doing so.”

    The post Why the Senate voted to block funding for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A family that claimed to be from Turkey is arrested after crossing illegally into Canada from the U.S. Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters

    A family that claimed to be from Turkey is arrested after crossing illegally into Canada from the U.S. Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters

    Canada, known for setting out the welcome mat for refugees, has attracted hundreds of asylum-seekers over the past few months. These immigrants, mainly from Africa and the Middle East, are entering illegally from the U.S., though the exact reason is unknown.

    In January and February, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police caught 1,134 people entering Canada illegally, or away from designated checkpoints, amounting to almost half of the number for all of last year, the Associated Press reported. In 2016, the total number was 2,464.

    Most of the people entering Canada were in the U.S. legally, judging from their documents, Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told reporters, according to Reuters. It’s not clear if the election of President Donald Trump and his policies on immigrants and refugees were motivating factors for them to leave. Some of the immigrants had been planning their move since early 2016, which made it appear unrelated to the election, Goodale said.

    A steady stream of asylum-seekers have entered Canada illegally over the past few months. Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters

    A steady stream of asylum-seekers have entered Canada illegally over the past few months. Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters

    But others did express hopes for a better life in Canada. “We didn’t see any future there (in the U.S.), so that’s why we came over,” Pakistani refugee Mohammed Ahmed told NPR.

    After President Trump signed his initial executive order suspending the refugee program, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that “Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith.”

    A man, who claimed the family was from Sudan, watches as his wife and daughter make their way illegally across the U.S.-Canada border. Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters

    A man, who claimed the family was from Sudan, watches as his wife and daughter make their way illegally across the U.S.-Canada border. Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters

    Despite the warm reception from the prime minister, a Reuters/Ipsos poll released March 20 showed that 48 percent of Canadians thought those who crossed over illegally should be deported, while 36 percent said they should be allowed to stay. Concerns over safety were the predominant reason.

    Canada, which has a population of 35 million, has set a target of admitting 300,000 immigrants in 2017, including 25,000 refugees. By comparison, the Trump administration has indicated in executive orders that it intends to bring 50,000 refugees into the U.S., a drop from 85,000 during the previous year. And in 2015, about 1.38 million foreign-born people moved to the U.S., according to the Migration Policy Institute.

    A man who claimed to be from Sudan and kept saying "I just want to be safe" is handcuffed by a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer after he illegally crossed the U.S.-Canada border on March 20. Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters

    A man who claimed to be from Sudan and kept saying “I just want to be safe” is handcuffed by a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer after he illegally crossed the U.S.-Canada border on March 20. Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters

    Back in Canada, when people enter illegally, they are detained and questioned by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Once they are deemed to not pose a national security risk, they are sent to the Canada Border Services Agency to be screened with other asylum-seekers.

    After they are cleared to stay, Canada offers financial, language and logistical assistance. In addition, individuals can privately sponsor refugees for a year after their arrival in Canada.

    There’s no simple explanation for the influx of asylum-seekers. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told CTV during a recent visit to Ottawa that he has discussed the recent surge in asylum-seekers crossing into Canada with his Canadian counterparts, and they were just as puzzled.

    “Those that have been in the business – your ministers – longer than I have are equally as perplexed as to why people who, generally, as a group, have come to the United States legally … enter Canada between points of entry,” he said.

    Two men who claimed to be from Yemen cross the border and enter Hemmingford, a village in Quebec, Canada, on March 20. Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters

    Two men who claimed to be from Yemen cross the border and enter Hemmingford, a village in Quebec, Canada, on March 20. Photo by Christinne Muschi/Reuters

    The post More people are entering Canada illegally, but no one knows for sure why appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    United States Defense Secretary James Mattis (L) holds a press conference with British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon (R) at Lancaster House on March 31 in London, England.  Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images

    United States Defense Secretary James Mattis (L) holds a press conference with British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon (R) at Lancaster House on March 31 in London, England. Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images

    LONDON — U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is expressing worry about what he calls “reckless” actions by North Korea, alluding to its nuclear weapons and missile programs.

    Mattis spoke at a news conference Friday in London with his British counterpart, Michael Fallon.

    Mattis raised the North Korea issue in response to a reporter’s question about Iran. Mattis suggests that North Korea is a more urgent problem.

    North Korea is reportedly preparing a new nuclear test. Mattis says North Korea has “got to be stopped.”

    A reporter noted that Mattis, as head of U.S. Central Command in 2012, had said Iran was the main threat facing the United States. In responding, Mattis quickly pivoted to North Korea, which has rattled Washington with threats to attack the U.S. with nuclear missiles.

    “In the larger scheme of things,” Mattis said, North Korea is the more urgent threat.

    “This is a threat of both rhetoric and growing capability,” Mattis said, adding that the North Koreans are acting “in a very reckless manner” and “have got to be stopped.”

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    White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer holds the daily press briefing Mar. 29 at the White House in Washington, U.S. Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.

    White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer holds the daily press briefing Mar. 29 at the White House in Washington, U.S. Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.

    WASHINGTON — The White House refused Thursday to say whether it secretly fed intelligence reports to a top Republican lawmaker, fueling concerns about political interference in the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

    Fending off the growing criticism, the administration invited lawmakers from both parties to view classified material it said relates to surveillance of the president’s associates. The invitation came as The New York Times reported that two White House officials — including an aide whose job was recently saved by President Donald Trump — secretly helped House intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes examine intelligence information last week.

    Nunes is leading one of three investigations into Russia’s attempt to influence the campaign and Trump associates’ possible involvement.

    Late Thursday, an attorney for Michael Flynn, Trump’s ex-national security adviser, said Flynn is in discussions with the House and Senate intelligence committees about speaking to them in exchange for immunity. The talks are preliminary, and no official offers have been made.

    “General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit,” Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, said in a statement.

    Other Trump associates have volunteered to speak with investigators, but have not publicly raised the issue of immunity.

    Flynn, a member of the Trump campaign and transition, was fired as national security adviser after it was publicly disclosed that he misled the vice president about a conversation he had with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Flynn’s ties to Russia have been scrutinized by the FBI and are under investigation by the House and Senate intelligence committees.

    READ MORE: Flynn told to leave after losing Trump trust, spokesman says

    The House panel’s work has been deeply, and perhaps irreparably, undermined by Nunes’ apparent coordination with the White House. He told reporters last week that he had seen troubling information about the improper distribution of Trump associates’ intercepted communications, and he briefed the president on the material, all before informing Rep. Adam Schiff, the committee’s top Democrat.

    Speaking on Capitol Hill Thursday, Schiff said he was “more than willing” to accept the White House offer to view new information. But he raised concerns that Trump officials may have used Nunes to “launder information to our committee to avoid the true source.”

    “The White House has a lot of questions to answer,” he declared.

    Instead, the White House continued to sidestep queries about its role in showing Nunes classified information that appears to have included transcripts of foreign officials discussing Trump’s transition to the presidency, according to current and former U.S. officials. Intelligence agencies routinely monitor the communications of foreign officials living in the U.S., though the identities of Americans swept up in that collection is to be protected.

    The Senate intelligence committee, which has thus far taken a strikingly more measured and bipartisan approach to its own Russia investigation, responded to the White House’s invitation by asking for the intelligence agencies “that own the intelligence documents in question to immediately provide them directly to the Committee.”

    In Russia, President Vladimir Putin said there was nothing to the allegations of election meddling.

    Did Russia interfere in the U.S. campaign, he was asked at a forum in the northern Russian city of Arkhangelsk? Injecting a bit of humor, Putin answered by quoting George H.W. Bush from the 1992 U.S. presidential campaign.

    “Read my lips: No,” he said, pronouncing the last word in English for emphasis.

    READ MORE: Devin Nunes faces growing pressure to recuse himself from Russia probe

    In Washington early last week, White House officials privately encouraged reporters to look into whether information about Trump associates had been improperly revealed in the intelligence gathering process. Days later, Nunes announced that he had evidence, via an unnamed source, showing that Trump and his aides’ communications had been collected through legal means but then “widely disseminated” throughout government agencies. He said the collections were not related to the Russia investigation.

    Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said Thursday the material the White House wants the House and Senate intelligence leaders to view was discovered by the National Security Council through the course of regular business. He would not say whether it was the same material Nunes had already seen.

    A congressional aide said Schiff did not receive the White House letter until after Spicer announced it from the White House briefing room.

    Spicer had previously dismissed the notion that the White House had funneled information to Nunes, saying the idea that the congressman would come and brief Trump on material the president’s team already had “doesn’t pass the smell test.” The White House quickly embraced Nunes’ revelations, saying they vindicated Trump’s explosive and unverified claim that President Barack Obama wiretapped his New York skyscraper.

    Nunes has said the information he received did not support that allegation, which has also been disputed by Obama and top intelligence officials.

    The Times reported that Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the White House National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, a White House lawyer who previously worked on the House intelligence committee, played roles in helping Nunes view the materials.

    Sean Spicer says the material the White House wants House and Senate intelligence leaders to view was discovered by the National Security Council through the course of regular business.

    Cohen-Watnick is among about a dozen White House officials who would have access to the types of classified information Nunes says he viewed, according to current and former U.S. officials. He’s become a controversial figure in intelligence circles, but Trump decided to keep him on over the objections of the CIA and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, according to the officials. They spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly by name.

    Cohen-Watnick and Nunes both served on the Trump transition team.

    Stephen Slick, a former CIA and NSC official, said it would be “highly unusual and likely unprecedented” for a member of Congress to travel to the White House to view intelligence reports “without prior authorization.”

    Nunes has repeatedly sidestepped questions about who provided him the intelligence reports, though he pointedly has not denied that his sources were in the White House. House Speaker Paul Ryan, in an interview with “CBS This Morning” that aired Thursday, said Nunes told him a “whistleblower-type person” provided the information.

    A spokesman for Ryan later said the speaker was not aware of Nunes’ source and continues to have “full confidence” in the congressman’s ability to run the Russia investigation.

    Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.

    The post White House tells lawmakers in Russia probe: Come see intel yourselves appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton on Friday criticized President Donald Trump’s proposal to slash billions of dollars from diplomacy and jabbed rhetorically at her former rival, remarking on her penchant for “talking about research, evidence and facts.”

    The former first lady, New York senator and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee addressed an awards ceremony at Georgetown University and focused on advancing the rights of women and girls. Clinton said a rising tide of women’s rights lifts all nations and stressed that global progress depends on the progress of women.

    Clinton, who also served as secretary of state during the Obama administration, insisted that the Trump administration’s proposed deep cut of roughly 31 percent for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development would make the U.S. less secure while undercutting the country’s standing worldwide.

    “Turning our backs on diplomacy won’t make our country safer,” Clinton said.

    Under the Trump budget proposal unveiled early this month, the United Nations and dozens of its affiliated agencies would face significant cuts and possibly an end to U.S. contributions. Dramatic reductions in U.S.-led health, development and climate change initiatives would require other donors to fill the gaps.

    Clinton was greeted by chants of “Hillary! Hillary!” but drew the loudest applause when she remarked, “here I go again, talking about research, evidence and facts.”

    The Trump administration has repeatedly been criticized for making false claims. Senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway earlier this year defended disputed numbers on the inaugural crowd from the White House as “alternative facts.”

    Clinton stressed the need for spending on diplomacy by quoting Defense Secretary James Mattis, who said cutting funds for the State Department means he has to buy more ammunition.

    The post WATCH: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticizes Trump’s proposed budget cuts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson takes part in a NATO foreign ministers meeting Mar. 31 at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. Photo by REUTERS/Virginia Mayo/Pool.

    U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson takes part in a NATO foreign ministers meeting Mar. 31 at the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. Tillerson said Friday that “the United States sanctions will remain until Moscow reverses the actions that triggered our sanctions.” Photo by REUTERS/Virginia Mayo/Pool.

    BRUSSELS — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says Washington will ease sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine only when Moscow respects commitments to help restore peace.

    Tillerson said Friday that “the United States sanctions will remain until Moscow reverses the actions that triggered our sanctions.”

    He said separate sanctions imposed over Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula “must remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine.”

    Tillerson called on Moscow to use its influence over separatists to help stop the violence and attacks on peace monitors.

    Fighting between Ukraine government forces and separatist rebels has killed more than 9,800 people since April 2014.

    A 2015 peace deal helped reduce the scale of fighting, but violence has continued and attempts at a political settlement have failed.

    The post Tillerson says U.S. will uphold Russia sanctions until it respects pledges appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Billy, the blue power ranger. Courtesy: Lionsgate

    Billy, the Blue Power Ranger, who is on the autism spectrum. Courtesy: Lionsgate

    Sesame Street will add a new friend to the neighborhood next month when it debuts Julia, the first muppet with autism.

    And when the “Power Rangers” movie hit the box offices Friday, it offered a new take on some of the characters in the superhero series — including Billy, the blue ranger, who is also on the autism spectrum. (The franchise also sought to broaden the diversity of its roster through Trini, the yellow ranger questioning her sexual orientation.)

    The two new fictional children’s characters are garnering widespread praise from autism advocates who have long criticized Hollywood’s portrayals of the disorder.

    Sesame Street first created Julia as an online character in 2015 as part of a broader initiative to provide parents with educational resources on autism. She was so well-received that the television show decided to bring her to life. The first episodes with Julia will air April 10 on PBS and HBO.

    “Our goal was to try to help destigmatize autism and increase awareness, understanding and empathy,” said Sherrie Westin, Sesame Workshop’s executive vice president of global social impact and philanthropy.

    Power Rangers’ creator Haim Saban expressed a similar goal in his decision to place Billy on the autism spectrum.

    “With the feature film, we wanted to continue to reinforce core brand messages of inclusivity, diversity and empowerment,” Saban said in an emailed statement to the NewsHour.

    In both portrayals, writers were careful to avoid caricatures. Billy’s signs of autism are at times as subtle as expressing anxiety in new situations or shouting when his peers are trying to stay quiet.

    Autism awareness advocates say television has been doing a better job of portraying autism on screen. NBC’s hit television show Parenthood, for example, was praised for a featuring a character who was diagnosed with Asperger’s.

    “Parenthood,” Sesame Street and Power Rangers, though, remain rarities.

    “Autism has been portrayed in the media inaccurately and in largely damaging ways,” said Mark Osteen, a professor at Loyola University Maryland who teaches a course on neurodiversity in film. He is also the parent of 27-year-old son with autism.

    One of the most prominent examples, he said, is “Rain Main,” the 1988 movie starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman, who plays his autistic older brother. Like many portrayals of people with autism in the 1980s and 90s, Hoffman’s character is also a savant.

    “The characters then, nearly all of them were freakish and had some amazing skill. There was very little interest in exploring the nature of autism,” Osteen said.

    More recent depictions have also come under scrutiny. Disability advocates criticized the TV show “Glee’s” attempt at a character with autism as insensitive, and said the 2016 film “The Accountant” with Ben Affleck once again fell into the savant stereotype.

    Sesame Street executives said they recognized how difficult it was to accurately depict autism because children can have varying degrees of autism and as a result often act in unique ways. That is why Sesame Street’s team consulted with members of the autism community before launching Julia’s character.

    Julia’s creators said they took certain characteristics from children in the moderate range on the autism spectrum. As a result, Julia often does not respond to her friends immediately and speaks less often than her peers. In one interaction, another muppet, Abby Cadabby, notices Julia likes to flap her arms—a common characteristic of kids with autism—and makes a game out of it, pretending they are butterflies.

    “The hope is that children with autism will be able to identify with Julia and feel less alone,” Westin said. “I think the biggest opportunity is to use Julia with the other characters to help explain autism.”

    Disability advocates say the thoughtfulness put into both the Sesame Street and Power Rangers’ characters paid off.

    “To show people with disabilities in the light of power, that is something extraordinary,” said Charles Archer, CEO of the THRIVE NETWORK.

    In the case of the Power Rangers, Archer pointed out that Billy finds his power in interacting with his fellow power rangers. Julia, who has a multitude of friends, is generally happy in contrast to other fictionalized people with autism who are often depicted as depressed or lonely.

    Archer said helping children understand autism at an early age provides exciting prospects for the next generation.

    “It means they are going to grow up into teens and adults understanding that if someone has social anxiety and might learn differently or work differently than you do, that doesn’t mean that they cannot have productive lives,” Archer said.

    As a parent, Osteen called the new shows, which notably have broad appeal, “immense progress” and said he only wishes his own son, Cameron, could have grown up with similar characters.

    “That would have been wonderful, not only for the other kids in school to recognize ‘Oh yeah, that’s like Cameron,’ but also for him to be able to watch that and say, ‘he’s like me’ or ‘she’s like me.’”

    Osteen said that would have helped his son realize he was not alone.

    The post How these new Sesame Street and Power Rangers characters are changing Hollywood’s portrayal of autism appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R) talks to Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger after his meeting Mar. 16 with the Major Cities Chiefs of Police Association at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Yuri Gripas.

    U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R) talks to Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger after his meeting Mar. 16 with the Major Cities Chiefs of Police Association at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. Sessions told law enforcement leaders gathered Friday near Ferguson that the Justice Department will work with them to battle the rising tide of violent crime in America. Photo by REUTERS/Yuri Gripas.

    ST. LOUIS – Ferguson, Missouri, has become “an emblem of the tense relationship” between law enforcement and those it serves, especially minority communities, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday during a visit to St. Louis.

    Sessions, speaking to a gathering of law enforcement leaders at the federal courthouse that sits roughly 12 miles from Ferguson, said the Justice Department will work with them to battle the rising tide of violent crime in America. He said he supports “proactive, up-close policing when officers get out of their squad cars and interact with everyone on their beat that builds trust, prevents violent crime, saves lives and creates a good atmosphere.”

    But Sessions said that sort of police work has become increasingly difficult in what he called “an age of viral videos and targeted killings of police.”

    “Unfortunately, in recent years law enforcement as a whole has been unfairly maligned and blamed for the crime and unacceptable deeds of a few in their ranks,” Sessions said. “Amid this intense public scrutiny and criticism, morale has gone down, while the number in their ranks killed in the line of duty has gone up.”

    Ferguson, he said, has become “an emblem of the tense relationship between law enforcement and the communities we serve, especially our minority communities.”

    Ferguson became a flashpoint after 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, was killed by white officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014. Months of often violent protests followed the shooting. A St. Louis County grand jury and the Justice Department cleared Wilson of wrongdoing in November 2014, and he resigned that same month.

    But the Justice Department investigation under then-Attorney General Eric Holder found significant racial profiling and bias in both Ferguson’s police department and municipal court. The city and the Justice Department settled a lawsuit last year that requires significant changes in policing. That process is ongoing.

    Sessions is taking a far different approach than Holder. Civil rights investigations of police were common during the Obama administration. Sessions has suggested that civil rights investigations hinder police, causing them to back off out of fear of scrutiny of their every move. In fact, some have labeled the phenomenon the “Ferguson Effect.”

    Civil rights investigations of police were common during the Obama administration. Sessions has suggested that civil rights investigations hinder police, causing them to back off out of fear of scrutiny of their every move.

    President Ronald Reagan chose Sessions for a federal judgeship in the 1980s, but the nomination was rejected amid concerns about racially charged comments and his failed prosecution of three black civil rights activists on voting fraud charges.

    Denise Lieberman, a St. Louis lawyer with the civil rights group Advancement Project, said Sessions’ approach is concerning at a time when allegations of violence by police are at an all-time high.

    “We also know that the role of the Department of Justice is absolutely critical to ensuring that policing agencies are complying with the law, and they are a crucial step in bringing accountability to policing,” Lieberman said. “We see that right here in Ferguson.”

    Sessions told the St. Louis audience he has ordered the creation of a crime-fighting task force that brings together the leaders of the FBI, DEA, ATF and U.S. Marshals Service. He said battling the heroin and opioid epidemic is a crucial element of the fight to stem violent crime.

    The post Sessions calls Ferguson an emblem of tense relationship with police appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is expected to address the investigations into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 elections — as well as former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s offer to testify in exchange for immunity — at a Friday news briefing.

    On Friday, President Donald Trump says his former national security adviser is right to ask for immunity in exchange for talking about Russia.

    Trump tweeted early Friday: “Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!”

    Flynn’s attorney said Thursday that the retired general is in discussions with the House and Senate intelligence committees on receiving immunity from “unfair prosecution” in exchange for answering questions.

    Flynn was fired from his job as Trump’s national security adviser after it was disclosed that he misled the vice president about a conversation he had shortly after the election with the Russian ambassador.

    Flynn’s ties to Russia have been scrutinized by the FBI and are under investigation.

    READ MORE: Michael Flynn is seeking immunity before he’ll testify to Congress

    The post WATCH LIVE: Spicer expected to address Russia investigations in news briefing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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