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- 04/03/17--11:59: _WATCH: Schumer says...
- 04/03/17--12:18: _Trump donates $78,3...
- 04/03/17--12:21: _Bill Nye on his ‘co...
- 04/03/17--12:35: _National Archives t...
- 04/03/17--12:49: _This poetry uses Ma...
- 04/03/17--15:45: _Rebooting U.S.-Egyp...
- 04/03/17--20:28: _5 important stories...
- 04/03/17--21:12: _Justice Department ...
- 04/04/17--07:16: _Potential border wa...
- 04/04/17--07:39: _U.S. cites abortion...
- 04/04/17--08:19: _Former Trump campai...
- 04/04/17--08:32: _White House offer o...
- 04/04/17--09:15: _Dozens dead after s...
- 04/04/17--10:18: _Trump-Xi meeting wa...
- 04/04/17--10:20: _VA says it fixed th...
- 04/04/17--10:57: _Ask the Headhunter:...
- 04/04/17--11:38: _Trump turns to fore...
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- 04/04/17--12:53: _In Missouri, hospit...
- 04/04/17--12:58: _Most young people s...
- 04/03/17--11:59: WATCH: Schumer says Trump should choose a new Supreme Court nominee
- 04/03/17--20:28: 5 important stories that don’t have anything to do with politics
- 04/04/17--07:39: U.S. cites abortion provision in cutting off UN agency funding
- 04/04/17--08:32: White House offer on health care bill gets mixed reviews
- 04/04/17--09:15: Dozens dead after suspected gas attack in rebel-held Syrian town
- 04/04/17--10:18: Trump-Xi meeting watched for clues of future relationship
- 04/04/17--11:38: Trump turns to foreign affairs in meetings with three heads of state
- an aging population
- a slowdown in global trade and
- “the unresolved legacy of the global financial crisis.”
After signaling that he would resort to a “nuclear option” over the Gorsuch vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to speak from the floor once the Senate convenes at 3 p.m. ET today. PBS NewsHour will live stream his remarks.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer says President Donald Trump should choose a new nominee to the Supreme Court.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he will change Senate rules so that Trump’s nominee can be confirmed with a simple majority in the 100-seat chamber instead of the 60 votes now required.
Schumer made the comments Monday after Democrats secured the votes to block the nominee. He dismissed the idea that Republicans have no choice but to change the rules as “a premise that no one should swallow.”
Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin is the latest Democrat to announce that he will vote with Democrats to block Gorsuch’s nomination, bringing the total to 42.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Democrats’ planned filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is a “new low” but stopped short of saying he will change Senate rules to confirm him.
McConnell has said Gorsuch will be confirmed, and how that happens depends on what Democrats do.
Speaking on the Senate floor Monday, McConnell said: “It’s not too late for our Democratic colleagues to make the right choice.”
A divided Senate panel is backing Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.
The Judiciary Committee voted 11-9 along party lines on Monday to favorably recommend Gorsuch to the full Senate. A confirmation vote is expected on Friday, but not before a partisan showdown over President Donald Trump’s choice.
— BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The post WATCH: Schumer says Trump should choose a new Supreme Court nominee appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is donating the first three months of his salary to the National Park Service.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer handed an oversized check for $78,333.32 to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke during Monday’s briefing.
The billionaire businessman turned president had promised to forgo his presidential salary. By law he must be paid, so he is donating the money. Taxpayers can write off such donations, potentially lowering their income taxes.
Zinke said he’s “thrilled” at the president’s decision to give money to an Interior agency, something he says Trump informed him about Sunday night. He said he will use the money to help on long-deferred maintenance projects on the nation’s 25 battlefields. Outstanding maintenance projects on those sites amount to about $229 million, Zinke said.
Trump’s has proposed cutting 12 percent from the Interior Department’s budget.
The post Trump donates $78,333.32, his presidential salary so far, to National Park Service appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
“These are my people,” Bill Nye said ahead of his lecture to some of the 10,000 science educators who attended the National Science Teachers Association’s (NSTA) National Conference in Los Angeles last week.
When Nye, the well-known 1990s television host of “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” vivaciously told the hall full of teachers about how science will help “change the world,“ he was met with thunderous applause. But in fact, it’s this group — teachers on the front lines — who deserve the credit, Nye said.
PBS NewsHour met Nye, CEO of the Planetary Society, at his office in Pasadena, California, ahead of his NSTA lecture last Wednesday. Nye shared his thoughts on science education in the U.S. during a Facebook Live discussion with viewers and a subsequent off-camera interview. He discussed a range of topics, including how to encourage more girls to go into STEM, climate change, and space exploration was a popular topic, too. Teachers in the audience asked about how they could build a model of Nye’s lightsails in the classroom and the significance of NASA’s flagship missions, like New Horizons, the first mission to Pluto. But the main theme of the discussion was how teachers’ passion for science can ignite passion in their students.
This conversation was lightly edited for length and clarity.
These science teachers at NSTA are pumped, they’re excited, but I think they’re probably also under some stress given things going on, especially just this week, politically speaking. I’m wondering what are you seeing with the state of science education?
Well, everybody you meet knows the acronym STEM these days: science, technology, engineering and math. Now you’ll hear STEAM (A for art). And STEAMD (D for design)! And pretty soon, they’re going to call that SCHOOL. At the science teacher convention, we do focus on science.
It’s a big concern that we have the world’s most third populous country, the world’s highest producer of carbon monoxide and other greenhouse gases with leadership right now that is nominally anti-science or in denial of climate change at any rate. So this is a big concern for teachers.
The other big problem we have here in the U.S. is school boards that get populated by people who say they don’t believe in evolution. That’s wrong and inappropriate for science class.
Given those challenges, how do you help teachers raise people’s curiosity for science and get them to have the same enthusiasm and determination that you have?
Two things…dinosaurs and space. That’s what we all love. For most of us, that really never goes away.
You want teachers who are passionate and who pass their passion on to the students. We want to get kids excited about science for their whole lives.
Now it’s generally agreed that 10 years is about as old as you can be to get a lifelong passion. We also want people to have a good grounding in science. It doesn’t mean we want everybody to become a scientist. And I will tell you as a professional engineer with a professional engineering license, we do not want society to be nothing but engineers. No, the fashion challenges alone would be very troubling.
These people at the science convention this week are on the front lines. So they fight the fight. But what is good is generally the very top students are still generally doing very well in the U.S. and Canada. But we want to engage everybody, especially now with climate change becoming an increasingly important problem.
Let’s talk about one group of young students in particular: girls. How do you empower young women, and especially young women of color, to pursue the STEM fields?
There’s a period where girls are just better at everything. And that’s right about at 14 years old. They mature more quickly. Their brains are bigger. So historically we’ve had traditions that I think we can overcome.
Now, bare in mind, I’m not objective about this. I respect the data, for sure, but my mom was really good at math and science. She didn’t become a full-time scientist, but she went on to get a doctorate. I respect that. No kidding, my mom would say, “teach a woman to fish, she’ll eat the rest of her life.” I think if you come to the science teacher convention you’ll see that everyone is working real hard to engage girls in science. And we can do this.
If you’re a parent, the big thing you can do is emphasize algebra. We have a tradition of not empowering or raising the expectations of girls in algebra, but you’ll find that the very best mathletes are girls. Let’s have high expectations in algebra because apparently algebra is the single most reliable indicator of whether or not a person will pursue a career in math and science.
I was struck what you said about your mother. Is it true she was a codebreaker during World War II?
Apparently, I mean, I don’t know what she did, but she kept it secret. She definitely was in the Navy and worked in the same room that they worked on the Enigma Code. I don’t know what she really did. Was she just a gopher in the office? But I will say objectively she was very good at puzzles. My mother really liked puzzles.
Bill Nye and the NewsHour’s Victoria Pasquantonio chat about his favorite story from “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” how to empower girls to pursue science, what he would do if he were king of the science-education forest, and what to say to a teacher who doubts climate change.
So did your parents inspire you?
Oh, yeah, boy scientist—it was my dad. And my mom’s father was an organic chemist, and she gave me his glassware to play with. In those days, chemists had to blow glass.
My nephew is a chemical engineer, so is his wife. They’re both PhDs in chemical engineering, which is unusual. But they use software, ChemDraw, that my grandfather probably never even imagined, let alone used. So different eras, people had different skills. I used to work on a drawing board. No one works on a drawing board. Now it’s electronic, as it should be.
Science education often starts in the past—
What do you mean, like geology? I hope so.
Like in terms of going back and studying it on a chronological level.
Oh, there’s a lot to that, because you see how people are thinking. They used to believe in something call caloric, which is a heat flow of some kind, and that theory didn’t work. People reasoned that heavy rocks fall faster than light-weight rocks without quite appreciating this business of aerodynamic drag. So one thing leads to another. I mean that’s not a bad thing. Do you want to start now and work backwards?
Historians don’t do that.
Yeah, I know, because the danger of that is you might think we’ve come as far as we can go—like in Kansas City. Isn’t that where it was?
<<Starts singing “Everything’s Up to Date in Kansas City” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma”>>
Things are up to date in Kansas City. They’ve gone about as far as they can go.
They’ve gone about as fur as they can go.
That’s not quite true. They’ve gone a bit further than that in Kansas City. I’ve been there. They have electric lights now.
I talked to one science teacher who wanted me to ask you, when is the last time you did long division, or had to walk in a straight line, like kids have to do at school?
On Sunday — I was doing some carpentry at home. And I had to divide something into thirds. Yeah, what?
I think his point was: Are we teaching kids the right way?
Oh, because now you can get a computer to do the division for you. You’ve got to learn basic skills, and you’ve got to learn how to use a machine. For crying out loud, it’s not one or the other.
I used a slide rule, Guy Asking Cheeky Question. And due respect, I’m of a certain age, and on a slide rule, I’d probably kick your a**. I was showing somebody how to use it on the writing staff of “Bill Nye Saves the World” [Nye’s Netflix show coming out in April], and I was getting the answers, and I had to really stop and go back. How did I get that? How did I do those three or four numbers so fast? I had to go back and go step by step. That’s what we did.
But long division. You better freaking learn how to do long division. And you better take a little bit of philosophy and do some ‘if-thens.’ Yes, you gotta do it all, man. I’m raising my voice.
What is the importance of teaching students to work in multidisciplinary groups?
It’s not important at all. Kids don’t need to learn to write. They don’t need to learn anything about math. They didn’t need to know anything about geography. Does that answer your question?
Of course! You want multidisciplinary things. Kids — everybody — has to learn how to write and work together.
Kind of like how the James Webb Space Telescope is an international collaborative effort?
Yes, it’s cheaper for each space agency when you work together. Generally, the overall cost of the mission will be higher because there is time, energy and effort spent at coordinating the organizations, but the cost per organization is much much lower. That’s the idea. It’s great. It brings out the best in us.
The post Bill Nye on his ‘codebreaker’ mom and how science teachers can change the world appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — The National Archives and Records Administration has told the White House to keep each of President Donald Trump’s tweets, even those he deletes or corrects, and the White House has agreed.
The head of the archives, David S. Ferriero, told two Democratic senators in a letter last week that the White House has assured him it’s saving all Trump’s Twitter blasts.
The archives contacted the White House about the matter because the Presidential Records Act requires such correspondence to be preserved for history. Ferriero did not say when the agency contacted White House officials to remind them about the records requirement, but officials briefed the White House counsel’s office about the law on Feb. 2, according to the archivist’s letter to Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Tom Carper of Delaware.
The archivist’s letter, dated March 30, doesn’t describe precisely how the White House is saving Trump’s tweets. The Obama administration used an automated system to keep copies of President Barack Obama’s tweets.
McCaskill and Carper raised the issue of Trump’s tweets in early March following a spate of instances in which Trump had deleted or altered earlier tweets. The two senators had previously raised concerns about Trump’s tweets in a letter to White House counsel Don McGahn.
The two senators also pressed the archives for information about reports that some White House staffers had been ordered to avoid emails or use smartphone apps that do not preserve emails because of Trump administration concerns about leaks to the media. Ferriero told them he was aware of those press reports but said that White House guidance “to all employees expressly forbids the use of such apps.” Ferriero also said he was not aware of government officials who have been instructed to avoid using email as a method of work-related communication.
Trump’s almost-daily use of his official White House Twitter account and his separate private Twitter account has been heavily scrutinized by the media and by political friends and foes since his November election and even more so since his inauguration.
Three minutes before he took the oath of office in January, Trump tweeted from his private account that he was “honered to serve you, the great American people, as your 45th President of the United States.” The misspelled word in the tweet was later altered to “honored” and then the tweet was deleted entirely.
There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.
Unlike the archives’ clear guidance on saving Trump’s tweets, the agency has not provided any guidance to government agencies about preserving communications to and from Trump’s smartphones and agencies have not requested guidance, Ferriero said.
The two senators raised concerns with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis about whether communications from Trump’s old smartphone were being preserved. Trump reportedly replaced his old unsecured Android smartphone with a secured iPhone but continued using the unsecured phone for tweeting through late March.
The senators had also written to McGahn in February, asking about reports that at least four senior Trump White House officials “maintained active email accounts on a private email system.” Newsweek had reported in January that senior adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, chief strategist Steve Bannon, counselor Kellyanne Conway and press secretary Sean Spicer all were using private email accounts on a Republican National Committee system.
Trump repeatedly criticized Democratic president opponent Hillary Clinton for her extensive use of private emails when she was secretary of state in the Obama administration.
According to an agenda of the Feb. 2 briefing with White House officials, archives general counsel Gary M. Stern and John Laster, director of the agency’s presidential materials division, explained that the president and White House counsel were “solely responsible for managing presidential records.”
The role of the archives, they added, is mostly advisory, but presidential records can only be disposed of after the White House consults the archivist in writing.
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By Marie Howe
The failure of love might account for most of the suffering in the world.
The girl was going over her global studies homework
in the air where she drew the map with her finger
touching the Gobi desert,
the Plateau of Tiber in front of her,
and looking through her transparent map backwards
I did suddenly see,
how her left is my right, and for a moment I understood.
It could be a contemporary encounter between any woman and her child: the girl studying a map for homework, her mother seeing something larger. Seeing, perhaps, how differently the left and right see the world, and how many problems that can engender.
But “The Map” isn’t written from the perspective of just any woman, but that of Mary Magdalene, the biblical figure known as both a devoted follower of Jesus, and, according to the Western Christian tradition, a repentant immoral woman, or prostitute.
“Magdalene,” a new book of poems from former New York Poet Laureate Marie Howe, who was raised Catholic, seeks to reenvision Mary Magdalene for the modern age — and tackles some of our modern-day problems in the process.
In the poem “The Map,” Mary Magdalene is portrayed as a contemplative mother, in stark contrast to how she has often been seen throughout history.
“Mary Magdalene is a woman who has been largely defined by the church fathers… as a repentant sinner, and it was assumed those sins were sexual,” said Howe. “And so I’m very interested in healing the split between the sacred and the sexual. Between Mary and Magdalene. The mother and the whore.”
In another poem called “Magdalene — The Seven Devils,” Howe imagines the seven devils that were said to have been cast out of Mary Magdalene, as told in the Gospel of Luke. In Howe’s portrait, the sins that bedevil Mary Magdalene include worry, envy and being too busy.
These are concerns, Howe said, that existed for women in biblical times — and that exist for women today. Being busy, she said, “is the devil of post-modern life… I see Mary Magdalene as being a woman who has lived throughout time and is here now.”
Just as many women today sit down to practice meditation or to pray, she said, Mary Magdalene sought meaning and understanding by following Jesus as teacher. “She wanted to find metaphysical meaning,” Howe said.
Another way of counteracting those devils in the modern era? Reading poetry, Howe said, because of how it forces the reader to return to their senses.
“[In the modern era], it’s so hard to be in the present, it’s almost unbearable,” Howe said. “But when we read a poem we come back into our body, come back into time, and forget ourselves, enough to recover ourselves.”
Listen to Howe read “The Map” below.
Marie Howe is the author of four volumes of poetry, “Magdalene: Poems”; “The Kingdom of Ordinary Time”; “The Good Thief”; and “What the Living Do.” She is the co-editor of a book of essays, “In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic.” Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, Agni, Ploughshares, Harvard Review and The Partisan Review, among others. She has been a fellow at the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College, a recipient of NEA and Guggenheim fellowships and was selected by poet Stanley Kunitz for a Lavan Younger Poets Prize from the American Academy of Poets. In 2015, she received the Academy of American Poets Poetry Fellowship, which recognizes distinguished poetic achievement. From 2012-2014, she served as the Poet Laureate of New York State.
The post This poetry uses Mary Magdalene to explore troubles that bedevil modern life appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JOHN YANG: President Trump gave a ringing endorsement to the president of Egypt today.
Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner begins our coverage.
MARGARET WARNER: In a sharp departure from his predecessor, President Trump today did what President Obama never would, welcome Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to the White House.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You have a great friend and ally in the United States and in me.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Trump made it clear he’s rebooting the U.S.-Egypt relationship to focus on fighting terrorism.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I just want to let everybody know, in case there was any doubt, that we are very much behind President El-Sisi. He’s done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation. We are very much behind Egypt and the people of Egypt.
MARGARET WARNER: The Egyptian leader, facing an Islamist insurgency in Sinai, welcomed the president’s words.
ABDEL FATTAH EL-SISI, Egyptian President: Since we met last September, I have had a deep appreciation and admiration of your unique personality, especially as you’re standing very strong in the counterterrorism field. Your excellency, very strongly and very openly, you will find Egypt and myself always beside you in this.
MARGARET WARNER: Then Commanding General El-Sisi first assumed the presidency in 2013, when he ousted the elected president, Mohammed Morsi, after mass protests against Morsi’s rule.
A harsh crackdown ensued on the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, opposition figures, journalists and others, leaving more than 1,000 dead. Tens of thousands more, including some Americans, were imprisoned, and many NGOs have been banned.
El-Sisi won his own election in 2014. But President Obama shunned him, and froze military aid to Egypt for two years. Today, Mr. Trump made no public mention of human rights, noting only that there are — quote — “a few things” — unquote — that Washington and Cairo don’t agree on.
And in a break with Mr. Trump’s track record so far, they didn’t hold a joint news conference, precluding any unwelcome questions on the subject.
Later, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer wouldn’t say whether human rights came up during the private discussions.
SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: That’s best discussed privately in terms of how we address areas that need to be discussed like that in order to make progress on them. I don’t think that should be a huge surprise.
MARGARET WARNER: Egypt currently receives $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military assistance. It’s unclear if that will survive the White House call for deep cuts in foreign aid.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Margaret Warner.
JOHN YANG: So, how much of a foreign policy shift does today’s meeting represent?
For that, we turn to Michele Dunne. She has had a 17-year career at the State Department, where she focused on Middle East policy. She’s now director of the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Michele, thanks so much for joining us.
By deemphasizing human rights and trying to — as he — as the administration officials are saying, reboot this relationship, what is President Trump trying to accomplish? What is he trying to get out of this?
MICHELE DUNNE, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: Well, I think what President Trump wants is to construct a kind of alliance of Sunni Arab leaders, because Sisi is one of several.
There was the — the Iraqi prime minister was here in Washington very recently, as was the deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia. And then right after President Sisi will be the king of Jordan.
So, I think that President Trump has the idea of sort of rallying Sunni Arab leaders to be used in various ways, whether against ISIS, against Iran, possibly in some sort of peace effort toward Israel. So I think that’s how he sees Egypt fitting in.
JOHN YANG: And is he trying to deemphasize at least the public comments and rhetoric on human rights in order to focus on this fight on ISIS?
MICHELE DUNNE: Well, yes, clearly, that’s the case.
But I want to point out, John, that’s not really new. When I think back to the beginning of President Obama’s presidency, when Mubarak was still in power in Egypt, Obama did something very similar. Obama thought that George W. Bush had been too critical of Mubarak on human rights and that he had wrecked the relationship.
So, Obama sort of reset the button with Mubarak back at that time. It’s not unusual for a new president to do this. What I think, though, that President Trump is going to figure out in time is that the situation inside Egypt, human rights abuses at a very high level, much higher than under Mubarak, political repression and a really disastrous economic situation, all of these are really going to affect what kind of an ally Egypt can be to the United States and what kind of things we can do together against these regional problems such as terrorism.
JOHN YANG: Last week, administration officials in preparation for this visit were telling us that they felt that it was better to talk about human rights questions privately and discreetly.
They said that was the way they felt they could get the best results, best chances for success. What do you think about that?
MICHELE DUNNE: Well, we will see.
I would say it’s been tried before and that the two previous administrations did try raising things privately and, eventually, out of frustration, went a little bit more public. And even in both of the last administrations, they ended up withdrawing, withholding or suspending certain kinds of aid specifically out of concerns about human rights issues, because they saw, at the end of the day, that that wasn’t separate from the stability of Egypt or Egypt’s role in the region, that it was all tied up together.
JOHN YANG: Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain have talked about putting restrictions on aid to Egypt because of human rights.
Do you think Congress will step in and maybe tie the president’s hands a bit?
MICHELE DUNNE: Well, yes, absolutely.
Congress has a lot to say, particularly when it comes to assistance, and some of the senators you mentioned and others have already sent a signal. They put out a letter shortly — a resolution, rather, shortly before Sisi’s visit. And some of them have made press statements about there’s a big crackdown on NGOs in Egypt and so forth.
And they have indicated that they will continue to seek conditions on aid and possibly even a cutting of aid. And, by the way, John, I thought one of the most interesting things that happened today during this visit was an unnamed administration officials told a news service that President Sisi, you know, has come seeking an increase in aid, and he’s going to be disappointed.
JOHN YANG: Well, talk about that. What is President El-Sisi looking for out of this relationship?
MICHELE DUNNE: Well, look, President El-Sisi, as I mentioned, he faces a difficult situation inside of Egypt. He’s much less popular than he was. People are starting to talk about even whether the military leadership is pleased with him, whether they will want him to run for president again next year when his term ends.
So, I think he’s looking to show Egyptians and especially show the Egyptian military that he can keep the relationship with the United States solid, he can keep the aid coming in.
But, as we saw from the Trump budget, they’re considering cutting a lot of this aid or converting it to loans, instead of grants. So that wouldn’t serve Sisi’s purpose at all. And the Trump administration is putting out hints that it may be going in that direction.
JOHN YANG: Michele Dunne, thanks so much for coming in and talking with us about this.
MICHELE DUNNE: Thanks, John. It was a pleasure.
JOHN YANG: Thanks.
The post Rebooting U.S.-Egypt relations, human rights concerns become a private matter appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
The Neil Gorsuch saga continues.
After additional marathon hearings on President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines on Monday in favor of Judge Neil Gorsuch. The same day, Democrats announced they had enough votes to block Gorsuch’s nomination in the Senate.
Of course, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said Republicans would resort to the “nuclear option” to get Gorsuch confirmed in the Senate.
The past week was also punctuated with the re-emergence of Hillary Clinton, after her “long walks in the woods.” And before the latest chapter in the Russian investigation threatens to wrestle control of the 24-hour news cycle, here are five important stories that may not have shown up in your Facebook feed.
1. Arkansas plans to execute eight men in 11 days
The last time Arkansas executed anyone was 2005. In two weeks, the state plans to execute eight men in 11 days.
The first two men are scheduled to die April 17, the day after Easter Sunday. Arkansas plans to lethally inject two prisoners every day on April 20, April 24 and April 27. The state sees no reason to deviate from those dates, said Judd Deere, spokesman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge in a written statement.
“Attorney General Rutledge supports the death penalty and believes it is past time for the victims’ families to see justice for the horrible murders of their loved ones,” he said.“This office is prepared to respond to any and all challenges that might occur between now and the execution dates.”
The executions are happening now because the state’s supply of lethal injection drugs will soon expire.
Why it’s important
Public support for the death penalty has dropped nationwide for four decades, and in 2016, a Pew Research Center survey found that only half of Americans favor capital punishment. Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center says no one state has executed so many people in such quick succession since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.
Managing eight executions in less than two weeks could traumatize people who conduct the procedures, critics warn. “Prison personnel are people, and they have to live with what they’re doing.” Dunham said. And the large number of executions also raises the risk of something going wrong.
Essie Mae Cableton is the mayor of Gould, Arkansas, a small town of more than 800 residents that’s also the home of death row for the Department of Corrections—that’s where this month’s executions will take place. Cableton told the NewsHour she doesn’t agree with the death penalty. When asked if executions might traumatize prison personnel who live in her town, Cableton said it was “a possibility,” but added that families of victims killed by the eight men sitting on death row were traumatized, too. But she said the justice system is not blind.
“Justice has to be carried out,” she said. “I just wish it was more fair.”
2. The comalike condition that takes hold of refugee children
A strange condition affects refugee children, but only in Sweden. Rachel Aviv of the New Yorker profiled several refugee families whose children have slipped into resignation syndrome, or uppgivenhetssyndrom, a disorder that’s described as losing the will to live.
The illness has only been documented in Sweden, a country that has extended considerable humanitarian aid to refugees for decades, but that also faces an internal debate or how many refugees to accept. The condition most often appears in children after they’re told their families are denied asylum.
One doctor told Aviv that the typical patient was “totally passive, immobile, lacks tonus, withdrawn, mute, unable to eat and drink, incontinent and not reacting to physical stimuli or pain.”
It’s a condition that’s been documented since the early 2000s among refugee children who were from former Soviet states. By 2005, more than 400 children between the ages of 8 and 15, had been diagnosed with the syndrome, Aviv reported.
One of the children Aviv profiled, Georgi from the Russian province of North Ossetia, was in that comalike state for months until his family was finally granted permanent residence. Georgi didn’t react immediately, but two weeks after the initial news, he began to open his eyes and slowly, he regained certain abilities. It takes months to recuperate from the syndrome.
Why it’s important
In an interview with NPR, Aviv was asked whether the children could have known about the syndrome. Did they fall into the condition to help their families’ chances for permanent residence in Sweden’s asylum process?
“I think everyone acknowledges that there’s a degree of psychological contagion,” Aviv said, adding that Georgi knew someone else with the condition. “It’s a little like the way anorexia emerged in the U.S. at a moment in time when people were preoccupied with body image and the media were emphasizing thinness. The illness borrows from the culture, and suddenly you have all these people who are starving themselves and doctors began diagnosing anorexia,” she said.
Aviv said it was difficult to know exactly what causes the condition, but it “seems to have become a culturally permissible way of expressing one’s despair,” she added.
3. South Africa’s black youth grapple with access to higher education
It’s been more than two decades since apartheid, a political system that instituted racial segregation, ended in South Africa. But an enormous divide still exists in the nation’s higher education system. While the number of students at South African universities has more than doubled since the end of apartheid, only 17 percent of black students enroll in universities, compared to 47 percent of whites, Buzzfeed reports.
Why it’s important
South Africa’s black youth are still grappling with questions of place, identity and access when it comes to higher education.
The education disparity has manifested in several months of protests across campuses in South Africa. A protest at the University of Cape Town over a statue of British imperialist Cecil John Rhodes became a moment called “Rhodes Must Fall.” This campaign then sparked another movement to protest the annual increase in tuition — roughly 12 percent — in fall 2015. This time it was called “Fees Must Fall.”
Adam Habib, president of the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, told The Atlantic, the education issue has global resonance.
“South Africa is not unique. It’s just the most acute manifestation of a global conflict that’s emerging,” Habib said. “We’re simply the example of what is to come in other countries unless something is done.”
4. Manatees aren’t endangered anymore
If you missed Manatee Appreciation Day, don’t worry. There’s cause to celebrate again:
The West Indian manatee is no longer considered an endangered species.
The animals affectionately dubbed “sea cows,” who swim along the shallow coastal waters of Florida and the Caribbean basin, were downlisted to “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act last week. What was once a population of a few hundred in the 1970s has today soared to more than 6,620 manatees in Florida alone, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services said in a statement.
Along with the promising swell in population, FWS says a number of programs from the Interior Department, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and local communities have helped stabilize manatees’ environment, including partnerships with the U.S. Coast Guard to reduce boat collisions and a focus on retrofitting water control devices, fishing gear cleanup and rehabilitation and rescue programs.
Why it’s important
While other endangered marine animals, like the vaquita, are close to disappearing forever, the manatee revival is a sign that intervention and partnerships between the government and animal groups can actually work.
Before you start rejoicing, though, the manatee isn’t totally in the clear. The FWS says it must continue to improve programs to sustain the current surge in population; manatees will also continued to be protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Not everyone thinks that’s enough.
Environmental groups began protesting the decision when officials first considered it last year. Their argument: the government is looking at how many animals are alive, but isn’t looking closely enough at how many manatees are being killed, and why.
Officials have pointed to three straight years of manatee populations above 6,000. But “success should not be determined by ‘how many manatees exist,’ but by how well actions keep the gentle sea cows from harm,” advocates told the Miami Herald.
The Save the Manatee Club told CNN that the government should update its manatee recovery plan. And with a record number of manatees killed by boats in Florida last year, the Center for Biological Diversity says there needs to be a greater emphasis on enforcement and education.
On the latter point: here are eight things you probably didn’t know about manatees.
5. D.C. institutions acquire a photo album that (slightly) expands the history of two African American trailblazers
Late last week, a rare image of Harriet Tubman, conductor of the Underground Railroad, emerged. It was included among 43 other previously unrecorded images from an old photo album belonging to a Quaker school teacher.
The Library of Congress and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture jointly acquired the album for $130,000 at a New York auction.
The image shows a seated Tubman, who’s also younger than she’s commonly remembered in photos later in life. In March, PBS NewsHour Weekend’s Megan Thompson reported on the new national park created in Auburn, New York, where the abolitionist spent the last 50 years of her life.
After Harriet Tubman, famed conductor of the Underground Railroad, rescued dozens of people from slavery and served in the Civil War, she settled down in the small city of Auburn in upstate New York and continued a life of service. The National Park Service recently made her property a national park, celebrating the later chapters of her life. NewsHour Weekend’s Megan Thompson reports.
A sister, 17-acre national park focusing on Tubman’s involvement in the Underground Railroad also opened in March in Church Creek, Maryland, where she initially escaped slavery in 1849.
Why it’s important
Among the collection of photos was the first known photograph of the first African American man elected to U.S. Congress. Until then, images of John Willis Menard were relegated to sketches.
Born in Kaskaskia, Illinois, on April 3, Menard would go on to win the Republican nomination for Louisiana’s 2nd congressional district in 1868. However, his seat was contested by his opponent. Menard was given the opportunity to address the U.S. House of Representatives. He was the first African American in history to do so.
“I would feel myself recreant to the duty imposed upon me if I did not defend their rights on this floor,” Menard told the House. “I wish it to be well understood, before I go further that in the disposition of this case I do not expect, nor do I ask, that there shall be any favor shown me on account of my race, or the former condition of that race. I wish the case to be decided on its own merits and nothing else,” he added.
After Menard made his case, Congress decided to not seat him.
The following year, however, Joseph Rainey of South Carolina would become the first African American to seat in the House for the 41st Congress.
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WASHINGTON — The Justice Department late Monday asked a federal judge for more time to “review and assess” a proposed agreement to overhaul the Baltimore police department, saying it needed to determine how it might conflict with the crime-fighting agenda of new Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The government’s request for a 90-day continuance came three days before a scheduled hearing before a federal judge, and just hours after Sessions announced he had ordered a sweeping review of the Justice Department’s interactions with local law enforcement, including such court-enforceable improvement plans with troubled police agencies.
It provided an early glimpse of the attorney general’s stance on police department oversight and his ambivalence about mandating widespread change of local law enforcement agencies.
Sessions, an Alabama Republican who cultivated a tough-on-crime reputation during 20 years in the Senate, has repeatedly expressed concern that lengthy investigations of a police department can malign an entire agency. That view reflects a dramatic break from an Obama administration that saw such probes as essential in holding local law enforcement accountable for unconstitutional practices.
The federal government cited several reasons for the requested delay, including new Justice Department policies that federal officials say are aimed at reducing crime as well as a new memo that seeks a review of existing or proposed consent decrees.
If granted, the request would effectively put on pause a process that could lead to a sweeping overhaul in the policies and practices of the Baltimore police force. The two sides reached agreement on a consent decree earlier this year before Attorney General Loretta Lynch left the Justice Department.
The department said it was aware of the need for police reform in Baltimore but added that the city “has made progress toward reform on its own and, as a consequence, it may be possible to take these changes into account where appropriate to ensure future compliance while protecting public safety.”
Both the Baltimore Police Department and Mayor Catherine Pugh said a delay would threaten public trust in the process.
“We want to move forward,” Pugh told The Associated Press. “We want to work with our police department. We believe there are reforms needed.”
The filing echoed a far-ranging memo made public Monday that called for an immediate “review of all Department activities,” including “existing or contemplated consent decrees,” which were a staple of the Obama administration’s efforts to overhaul agencies after racially charged incidents.
A department spokeswoman would not elaborate on which consent decrees would get a fresh look or describe the potential outcomes.
In addition to Baltimore, the review also renewed questions about the fate of negotiations with Chicago’s police department after a report released in the final days of Lynch’s tenure found officers there had violated the constitutional rights of residents for years.
Sessions has not committed to such an agreement and has repeatedly said he believes broad investigations of police departments risk unfairly smearing entire agencies and harming officer morale. He has also suggested that officers’ reluctance to aggressively police has contributed to a spike in violence in some cities.
He reiterated that concern in the memo, adding that “local control and local accountability are necessary for effective policing. It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies.”
The proposed consent decree in Baltimore came after the Justice Department released a scathing report detailing longstanding patterns of racial profiling and excessive force within the city’s police force. The review was prompted by the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man whose neck was broken in the back of a transport wagon, and whose death roiled the city.
Activist Ray Kelly said the requested delay threatened to undermine hard-fought efforts to heal the fractured relationship.
While consent decrees that are in negotiation, or have not yet been reached, could now be in the balance under new leadership, it would be harder to change the consent decrees that already exist in cities such as Cleveland, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Ferguson, Missouri.
Though there is a mechanism that permits the Justice Department to seek to modify existing agreements that are overseen by a court, most judges would not be sympathetic to amend an agreement for purely political reasons, said Jonathan Smith, a civil rights attorney in the Obama administration.
He said it was possible that a consent decree in Chicago could still be reached — both sides reached an agreement in principle earlier this year — because of political pressures.
“Whether that agreement will be any good and effective, I think is much harder to know,” Smith said.
Associated Press writer Juliet Linderman in Baltimore contributed to this report.
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SAN DIEGO — One potential bidder on President Donald Trump’s border wall with Mexico wanted to know if authorities would rush to help if workers came under “hostile attack.” Another asked if employees can carry firearms in states with strict gun control laws and if the government would indemnify them for using deadly force.
With bids due Tuesday on the first design contracts, interested companies are preparing for the worst if they get the potentially lucrative job.
A U.S. official with knowledge of the plans who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details haven’t been made public said four to 10 bidders are expected to be chosen to build prototypes.
They will be constructed on a roughly quarter-mile (400-meter) strip of federally owned land in San Diego within 120 feet (37 meters) of the border, though a final decision has not been made on the precise spot, the official said. The government anticipates spending $200,000 to $500,000 on each prototype.
The process for bids and prototypes are preliminary steps for a project that will face deep resistance in Congress and beyond.
Trump repeatedly said during the campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall, but he has since requested that Congress approve billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer funds. Democrats vow to oppose any wall funding, and many Republicans are also wary of his plans for a massive brick-and-mortar barrier.
The Border Patrol and local police would establish a buffer zone around the construction site if necessary, the U.S. official said. The San Diego police and sheriff’s departments said Monday they will respect constitutional rights to free speech and assembly for any peaceful, law-abiding protesters.
Enrique Morones, executive director of Border Angels, said his group plans to protest.
“There will be a lot of different activity — protests, prayer vigils — on both sides of the wall,” said Morones, whose immigrant advocacy group is based in San Diego. “We pray and hope that they’re peaceful.”
Michael Evangelista-Ysasaga, chief executive of The Penna Group LLC, a general contractor in Fort Worth, Texas, said he has received about a dozen death threats since publicly expressing interest in bidding, including one from a woman who told him she hired a private investigator to trail him.
Evangelista-Ysasaga said he bid in part because he wants broad immigration reform. Securing the border, he said, is a prerequisite for granting a path to citizenship to millions in the U.S. illegally.
“We didn’t enter this lightly,” he said. “We looked at it and said we have to be a productive part of the solution.”
Building a wall on the Mexican border was a cornerstone of Trump’s presidential campaign and a flashpoint for his detractors. The multibillion-dollar project along the 2,000-mile border has many outspoken critics, including the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico, which said last week that Mexican companies expressing interest were betraying their country.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement that it would pick multiple contractors to build prototypes by around June 1 and will name only the winning bidders. The agency said last month that the prototypes should be about 30 feet (9 meters) long and 18 to 30 feet (5.5 to 9 meters) high.
The winning bidders must submit a security plan with details including “fall back positions, evacuation routines and methods, muster area, medical staff members/availability, number of security personnel, qualifications, years of experience, etc. in the event of a hostile attack,” according to the solicitation. A chain-link fence with barbed wire around the construction site is required. The agency said it won’t provide security.
In a sleepy, no-stoplight town 25 miles from the Arizona-Mexico border, you’ll pass surveillance towers, border agents on patrol and checkpoints. This is life along the border, where security has been ramped up significantly since 9/11, sweeping up American citizens in its wake. William Brangham reports.
Bidders are also asked to demonstrate experience “executing high-profile, high-visibility and politically contentious” projects.
The agency, responding to questions from companies on a website for government contractors, said the Border Patrol would respond as needed if there is a hostile attack, but companies were responsible for security. The government won’t allow waivers from state gun laws or indemnify companies whose workers use deadly force.
The website for contractors lists more than 200 companies that signed up for email notifications on the design contract but it’s unclear how many of those will apply. Bidders must have done border security or similar projects worth $25 million in the past five years to qualify.
Ronald Colburn, Border Patrol deputy chief when hundreds of miles of fences were built under President George W. Bush’s administration, said companies should plan on training workers to know when to seek cover and stay put and when to retreat.
“Most of those organizations are probably fairly accustomed to that,” said Colburn, who retired in 2009. “Some of them may be learning for the first time, that kind of risk at the borders.”
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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is cutting off U.S. funding to the United Nations agency for reproductive health under an abortion-related provision in a law that Democratic and Republican administrations have used as a cudgel in the global culture wars.
The U.N. Population Fund will lose $32.5 million in funding from the 2017 budget, the State Department said, with funds shifted to similar programs at the U.S. Agency for International Development. The administration accused the agency, through its work with China’s government, of supporting population control programs in China that include coercive abortion.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the U.N. fund would also lose out on tens of millions of additional dollars it has typically received from the U.S. in “non-core” funds.
By halting assistance to the U.N. Population Fund, the Trump administration is following through on promises to let socially conservative policies that President Donald Trump embraced in his campaign determine the way the U.S. government operates and conducts itself in the world. Though focused on forced abortion — a concept opposed by liberals and conservatives alike — the move to invoke the “Kemp-Kasten amendment” was sure to be perceived as a gesture to anti-abortion advocates and other conservative interests.
The policy change comes days before Trump is set to host Chinese President Xi Jinping for a highly anticipated meeting at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. In a shift from President Barack Obama’s approach, Trump has avoided elevating human rights concerns in diplomacy, with White House officials saying those issues are most effectively advanced by raising them with foreign leaders in private.
Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called it a “grave error” that sent a dangerous message about the administration’s policies toward women. He predicted women and girls “will suffer.”
“Donald Trump should put the health and dignity of women ahead of political points and reverse this decision immediately,” said Engel, D-N.Y.
Under a three-decade-old law, the U.S. is barred from funding organizations that aid or participate in forced abortion of involuntary sterilization. It’s up to each administration to determine which organizations meet that condition. The U.N. Population Fund has typically been cut off by Republican presidents and restored when Democrats control the White House.
In a lengthy memorandum obtained by The Associated Press, the State Department said the U.N. fund partners with China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission, responsible for overseeing China’s “two-child policy.” It said the U.N. collaborates with the Chinese agency on family planning. Still, the memo acknowledged there was no evidence of U.N. support for forced abortions or sterilization in China.
The U.N. Population Fund, known as UNFPA, said it regretted the U.S. move and argued it was “erroneous” to suggest it was complicit in China’s policies.
“UNFPA refutes this claim, as all of its work promotes the human rights of individuals and couples to make their own decisions, free of coercion or discrimination,” the agency said in a statement.
Starting in 1979, China had a “one-child policy” enforced in many cases with state-mandated abortions. But the policy was eased over the years, and now allows married couples to have two children, in a nod to the aging population in the world’s most populous country.
The designation was the latest move by the Trump administration to prioritize traditionally conservative issues in the federal budget. The Trump administration has vowed to cut all dollars for climate change programming, and also restored the so-called global gag rule, which prohibits funding to non-governmental groups that support even voluntary abortions.
The Trump administration has also signaled that it no longer sees a need for the U.S. to so generously fund U.N. and other international organizations. The White House has proposed cutting roughly one-third from the State Department’s budget, with much of it expected to come from foreign aid and global organization dollars, although Congress is expected to restore at least some of that funding
The U.N. agency’s mission involves promoting universal access to family planning and reproductive health, with a goal of reducing maternal deaths and practices like female genital mutilation. The cut-off funds will be “reprogrammed” to USAID’s Global Health Programs account to focus on similar issues, said a State Department official, who wasn’t authorized to comment by name and requested anonymity.
The Kemp-Kasten amendment, enacted in 1985, led to some of the U.N. agency’s funding being initially cut off, then restored by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1993, USAID said in a report. Republican George W. Bush’s administration reversed the decision in 2002, but President Barack Obama — a Democrat — gave the funding back after taking office.
Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.
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WASHINGTON — A foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign met with a Russian intelligence operative in 2013 and provided him documents about the energy industry, according to court filings.
The Russian, Victor Podobnyy, was one of three men charged in connection with a Cold War-style Russian spy ring. According to the court documents, Podobnyy tried to recruit Carter Page, an energy consultant working in New York at the time, as an intelligence source. Page is referred to in the filing as “Male-1.”
Page briefly served as a foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign, though he split from the campaign before the election and the White House says the president has no relationship with him. He’s among the Trump associates under scrutiny as the FBI and congressional committees investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Page acknowledged in a statement Monday night that he “shared basic immaterial information and publicly available research documents” with Podobnyy. He described the information as “nothing more than a few samples from the far more detailed lectures” he delivered at New York University in 2013.
BuzzFeed News first reported on the filings.
Trump has vigorously denied that he or his associates were in contact with Russia during the election. He’s blasted the focus on his possible Russia ties as a “ruse” and has insisted that the real story is the leaking of information to the media and allegations that he and his associates were improperly surveilled by the Obama administration.
“The real story turns out to be SURVEILLANCE and LEAKING! Find the leakers,” Trump wrote in a tweet Monday morning.
Page’s contacts with Podobnyy happened about three years before Trump listed him as a foreign policy adviser to the campaign. Trump and his advisers have been vague about how Page became connected with the campaign.
The court filings include a transcript of Podobnyy speaking with Igor Sporyshev, who was also charged in the spy ring, about Page.
“I like that he takes on everything,” Podobnyy says. “For now his enthusiasm works for me. I also promised him a lot.”
Carter Page, a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, is among those alleged to have had contact with Russian officials, and was named in an uncorroborated dossier. Page, who manages an energy investment company, told Judy Woodruff in February that he had “no meetings” with Russian officials last year. He fought claims of campaign contact with Russian officials, calling recent reports “fake news” and “public relations attacks.”
Separately, The Washington Post reported Monday that the United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between an American businessman supporting Trump and a Russian close to President Vladimir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and the incoming president.
Citing U.S., European and Arab officials, the Post reported that the UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, a Trump administration objective that would be likely to require major concessions to Moscow on U.S. sanctions. The full agenda remains unclear, the newspaper said.
The meeting took place nine days before Trump’s inauguration and involved businessman Erik Prince, the Post reported. Prince, the founder of the security firm Blackwater and now the head of the Hong Kong-based company Frontier Services Group, has ties to Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon and is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
U.S. officials said the FBI has been scrutinizing the meeting in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean as part of the broader probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and alleged contacts between associates of Putin and Trump, the Post reported. The FBI declined to comment, the newspaper said.
The officials said Prince presented himself as an unofficial envoy for the president-elect to high-ranking Emiratis involved in setting up his meeting with the Putin confidant, the Post reported. The officials did not identify the Russian.
Prince was a high-dollar campaign donor — he and his family reportedly gave more than $10 million to GOP candidates and super PACs in 2016 — and was a frequent critic of both President Barack Obama and Trump’s opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.
In response to the Post story, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said “we are not aware of any meetings” and a Prince spokesman said the meeting “had nothing to do with President Trump.” Both said Prince had no role in the Trump transition.
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WASHINGTON — Republicans were entertaining a White House offer Tuesday to revise the party’s failed health care bill, as the GOP tried to resuscitate a measure that crashed spectacularly less than two weeks ago. The proposal was getting mixed reviews from conservative and moderate lawmakers alike, raising questions about whether the legislative rescue mission would work.
“We’re at the concept stage right now,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters. The Wisconsin Republican said he believed his party was moving toward consensus, but conceded he didn’t know if the House would vote on the measure before beginning a two-week recess later this week.
Vice President Mike Pence and two top White House officials made the offer Monday night in a closed-door meeting with members of the House Freedom Caucus, participants said. Opposition from the hard-line group, which has around three dozen conservative Republicans, contributed to circumstances that forced House Speaker Paul Ryan to withdraw the bill from a March 24 vote that would have produced a certain defeat.
Under the White House proposal, states would be allowed to apply for federal waivers from several coverage requirements that President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law imposes on insurers.
These would include waivers from an Affordable Care Act provision that obliges insurers to cover so-called “essential health benefits,” including mental health, maternity and substance abuse services. The current version of the GOP legislation erases that coverage requirement, but would let states reimpose them on their own.
“The biggest change was putting the essential health benefits back in,” said Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y. “That really took some Tuesday Morning group folks to yes from no,” he said, using the name of an organization of House GOP moderates.
The White House offer would also let states seek an exemption to the law’s requirement that insurers must offer coverage to people with serious diseases. Conservatives have argued that such requirements have the effect of inflating insurance costs.
Freedom Caucus members said they wanted to see the White House offer in writing — which is expected Tuesday — before deciding whether to accept it.
Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said the group would make no decisions until it reviews the language but called Monday’s session a “good meeting.”
One member of that caucus, Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., said Tuesday he remained an opponent of the legislation. He said states should be allowed to unilaterally opt out of Obama’s insurance requirements, not seek federal permission to do so.
“It is wrong to require the states to come to Washington D.C. on bended knee,” Brooks said.
Another — Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa. — said he wouldn’t commit to anything until he saw legislative language in writing, citing past problems.
“We’ve had the same kind of conversations in the past. And then when you see the language, it isn’t what you spoke about,” Perry said.
Moderates expressed a reluctance to vote quickly on a new bill.
“If leadership hasn’t learned the lessons of the failures of two weeks ago, then they’ll bring something forward where nobody knows about it and try and get it passed,” said Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio.
When Ryan pulled the legislation from the House on March 24, he faced opposition from moderate GOP lawmakers upset that it went too far with cuts in Medicaid coverage for the poor and higher premiums for many low earners and people in their 50s and 60s.
Also at the evening meeting with conservatives were White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and budget director Mick Mulvaney.
The details of the conservatives’ meeting with Pence and others were described by Meadows and another participant who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private strategy session.
The Freedom Caucus has drawn the most wrath from the White House for its opposition to the bill. President Donald Trump has tweeted threats of opposing their re-elections in 2018, and fellow House Republicans have accused them of inflexibility that led to the downfall of the bill to replace “Obamacare,” a top GOP legislative priority.
AP reporters Erica Werner and Richard Lardner contributed to this report.
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A humanitarian group said a suspected chemical attack in rebel-held Idlib province in northern Syria on Tuesday killed at least 58 people, including 11 children.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the death toll was expected to rise, because 160 people also were injured in the attack.
The gases caused symptoms including suffocation, iris shrinkage and general spasms, the group reported. It claimed warplanes from either Syria or Russia dropped the weapons. Russia’s Defense Ministry responded that none of its planes delivered any strikes in Idlib province, the Associated Press reported.
The Syrian army also has denied using any chemical weapons against civilians in Idlib province, reported Reuters.
Britain and France called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council. The council had already planned to gather for its monthly meeting on Syria on Wednesday. Their representatives urged Russia and China not to veto action related to the “war crime.”
U.N. envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura called for the perpetrators of the “horrific” attack to be held accountable.
The United Nations previously confirmed the use of sarin gas in rebel-held portions of Damascus in 2013, though it did not say which side launched the attack.
Following that attack, Syrian President Bashar Assad agreed to destroy his chemical weapons cache in a Russia-brokered deal.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer read a statement from President Donald Trump to reporters on Tuesday calling the attack against innocent people “reprehensible.”
“These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution,” the statement said. “President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons, and then did nothing. The United States stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this intolerable act.”
When asked what President Trump would do, Spicer said he was consulting with his national security team and would decide, with U.S. allies, the way forward.
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BEIJING — Chinese President Xi Jinping probably won’t give President Donald Trump a round of golf during their first face-to-face meeting this week, but he may find it worthwhile to ensure his American counterpart does not feel like he’s leaving empty-handed.
Some view the informal venue of the summit Thursday and Friday — Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida — as a sign that neither side anticipates important outcomes. Trump, however tweeted last week that he expects “a very difficult” meeting.
Trump elaborated a bit Tuesday at a White House business forum, calling North Korea a “humanity problem.” But he sought to strike a cordial tone ahead of the meeting, saying he has “a lot of respect” for Xi.
China, for its part, has remained largely sanguine about the event, with Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang telling reporters that “both sides look forward to a successful meeting so that a correct direction can be set for the growth of bilateral relations.”
Like many nations, China is still grappling with Trump’s mercurial nature after the relative transparency and predictability of the bilateral relationship under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama. Both during his campaign and after his victory, Trump complained repeatedly over China’s allegedly unfair trade practices, its perceived lack of assistance in reining in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and its drive to cement control over the South China Sea.
Some analysts believe Xi might be willing to hand Trump a symbolic victory on trade to put a positive spin on the meeting.
“Xi probably can’t accommodate Trump on sovereignty and security issues, but he has a lot of leeway on economics,” said Robert Sutter, a China expert at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Yet even if Xi is able to offer Trump deliverables, he will still have to deal with “a restless U.S. president valuing unpredictability and seeking advantage for his agenda going forward,” Sutter said.
Trump was seen as moving trade even more to the forefront when he signed a pair of executive orders Friday focused on reducing the trade deficit. Coupled together, the orders appeared to be a symbolic shot at China, which accounted for the vast bulk — $347 billion — of last year’s $502 billion trade deficit.
While aides insisted the timing was coincidental, the administration touted the moves as evidence of it taking an aggressive but analytical approach to closing a trade gap that is largely due to the influx of goods from China.
Still, Trump told the Financial Times newspaper that during his meeting with Xi, he doesn’t “want to talk about tariffs yet, perhaps the next time we meet.”
Having suffered a major blow with the failure of health care reform, Trump will be seeking to claim some kind of victory in his encounter with Xi, said June Teufel Dreyer, professor of political science at the University of Miami.
Trump’s comments on trade and other issues “portend some hard bargaining,” Dreyer said. She added, however, that slowing economic growth in China could limit Xi’s options for negotiating on trade.
“So the stage is set for a battle royal,” Dreyer said.
Meanwhile, China continues to oppose the tough measures demanded of it to address former close ally North Korea, fearing a collapse of the Pyongyang regime would bring a crush of refugees and possibly U.S. and South Korean troops on its border.
Trump told the Financial Times the U.S. is prepared to act alone if China does not take a tougher stand against North Korea’s nuclear program.
“China has great influence over North Korea,” Trump said. “And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t. And if they do that will be very good for China, and if they don’t it won’t be good for anyone.”
Add to the mix the issue of the South China Sea, where China has built and armed man-made islands despite the concerns of neighboring countries; and Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy that China claims as its own territory, and that some in Trump’s administration would like to build a stronger relationship with.
Despite such divisions, Beijing seems committed to establishing a positive relationship between the two leaders.
“It is fundamental for them to improve understanding between each other,” said Xiong Zhiyong, a professor at Peking University’s School of International Relations. “Both sides have shown their willingness to cooperate and they are expected to make a commitment for cooperation.”
China, Xiong said, realizes that Trump “is a leader with a strong personality.”
So far, few details of the summit’s agenda have been released. China has said only that Trump and his wife, Melania, would host Xi and his wife, famed songstress Peng Liyuan, at a welcoming banquet.
As personalities, Xi and Trump are a study in contrasts. A lifelong Communist Party apparatchik and son of a former vice premier, Xi has built his career with a cautious approach, avoiding controversial reforms and rarely speaking out in ways that would distract from his core message. His nearly five years as head of the ruling party have been defined by a campaign to achieve the “Chinese dream” of increasing prosperity while tackling endemic corruption.
While Trump is an avid golfer, Xi has never been known to hit the links. In fact, his administration has actually pursued a crackdown on golf-course development, pushing instead for mass participation in soccer.
Still, outwardly cordial relations with U.S. presidents are also a longstanding Chinese tradition, in recognition of the importance of the relationship. Xi had taken pains to appear at ease in the company of Obama, avoiding the rancor that characterized the relationship between the American leader and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
That approach has been borne out in pronouncements by Chinese officials and state media that have been moderate in tone.
Responding to Trump’s tweet about the trade deficit, the foreign ministry’s Zheng portrayed the issue as one in which the two countries had an equal stake.
“China will continue to work with the United States to think creatively and keeping pushing for greater balance in China-U.S. trade,” Zheng said.
At its nub, the summit is more about establishing a working relationship than making progress on any particular issue, said Su Hao, a professor of diplomacy at China Foreign Affairs University.
“The most important thing is that the top leaders are able to have direct communications on the most important major issues and candidly exchange views,” Su said.
Associated Press writer Vivian Salama contributed to this report from Washington.
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WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs told skeptical lawmakers Tuesday it has already fixed problems with its suicide hotline that were highlighted in an internal watchdog’s report released just two weeks ago.
A March 20 audit by the VA inspector general had found that nearly a third of calls to the Veterans Crisis Line as recently as November were bounced to backup centers run by an outside contractor. The rollover calls happen when phone lines are busy, leading to possible waits of 30 minutes or more.
It was unwelcome news for VA Secretary David Shulkin, who has made suicide prevention a signature issue at the troubled agency, riven with scandal since reports of delays in treatment at veterans’ hospitals last year.
Approximately 20 veterans take their lives each day. Testifying before a House panel, Steve Young, VA’s deputy undersecretary for health for operations and management, pointed to a dramatic turnaround in calls answered by the hotline since November, indicating that the most serious issues have been resolved.
The crisis hotline “is the strongest it has been since its inception in 2007,” Young told the House Veterans Affairs Committee. He described the hotline in recent months as “offering superior access for veterans during their time of need.”
Calls to the Veterans Crisis Line that rolled over to backup centers steadily declined from 31 percent in early November, to just 0.1 percent as of March 25, according to internal VA data released Tuesday. That came despite growing workloads in which weekly calls to the hotline jumped from 10,558 in November to 13,966 last month, the VA said.
As recently as mid-December, when the IG was finalizing its audit, the share of rollover calls had declined close to the VA’s goal of 10 percent. That figure dropped to less than 1 percent by early January, according to the agency.
Shulkin, who previously served as VA’s top health official, has also described the issue as resolved. “Fixing the Veterans Crisis Line was a critical step in keeping our commitment to veterans,” he said in a March 21 statement.
That drew some sharp retorts from lawmakers.
Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz, the top Democrat on the House panel, pointed to “re-occuring issues we see time and time again at VA” that were identified by the IG, such as poor training, weak leadership and lack of clear procedures. The crisis hotline has operated without a permanent director for more than year.
“These have not been addressed,” he said. “I would be very careful in saying you fixed the problems.”
Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., a physician who chairs the House committee, questioned whether the VA intended to fully implement reforms. “There is very clearly a need for more to be done — and soon — so that we can be assured that every veteran or family member who contacts the VCL gets the urgent help he or she needs every single time without fail or delay.”
VA inspector general Michael Missal said he cannot confirm the VA’s latest data, but emphasized that the Veterans Health Administration had not implemented any of the IG’s proposed improvements, dating back to February 2016. The department had previously “concurred” with the report’s March 20 findings. “Until VHA implements fully these recommendations, they will continue to have challenges,” he said.
Missal also identified fresh problems, such as inadequate procedures to measure the hotline’s success in thwarting suicide attempts.
Launched in 2007, the crisis hotline has answered nearly 2.8 million calls and dispatched emergency services more than 74,000 times, figures show. Featured in a documentary that won an Oscar in 2015, it later received negative attention after its former director reported frequent rollovers due to poor work habits. Last year, Congress passed a law requiring that all calls and messages to the hotline be answered in a timely manner.
The most recent rollover problems appear to stem from the VA’s opening of a second call center last October.
Spurred by veterans’ complaints, the IG said the department launched a follow-up review to its February 2016 audit in which the VA promised to make improvements by last September. Instead, it found many rollover calls, due in part to the VA’s decision to divert some staff from its upstate New York call center to help train new workers in Atlanta.
The IG suggested the Atlanta center was slow in becoming operational, but the VA says that rollover calls in fact began to fall significantly as workers became trained.
It wouldn’t be the first time the VA disagreed with auditors. Both the VA inspector general and the Government Accountability Office previously found the department’s figures on wait times for medical care to be misleading, which the VA disputes. The GAO still lists the VA as “high risk” for waste, fraud or mismanagement.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars organization said the latest VA data might be accurate, but said it was worried that the agency sometimes focuses too much on metrics — the number of calls received and handled. It urged better call monitoring to improve training and service.
“The VFW believes that while the number of calls going to backup centers decreasing at such a rapid rate is a positive, it is not a sign of the quality of work being provided,” said Kayda Keleher, VFW’s legislative associate.
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In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.
Question: I began interviewing with a company four months ago while I was still employed; then I lost my job in a downsizing. I didn’t see the need to disclose this to the company I was interviewing with as I thought it wasn’t relevant and would put me in a weaker negotiating position. Since then, I’ve had two interviews and was never asked, so I didn’t disclose that I’m unemployed. Now they have offered me a job, and they are doing a background check, which is fine. Should I disclose that I am not at the company I was at when they first interviewed me, or do I let them find out when they do the background check? I don’t want to be misleading and blow my chances to work with them. Thanks for your opinion.
Nick Corcodilos: Congratulations on getting an offer after four months. My guess is the offer is contingent on the background check if not on additional contingencies. Lately I hear too often about offers rescinded after they seemed real. So be careful — don’t make any assumptions or plans until you have a bona fide offer in writing. (Note to employed job seekers: Please see “Protect Your Job: Don’t give notice when accepting a new job.”)
I sense your nervousness about this, but please don’t tell yourself you’ve misled anyone. Things change in four months, and you’ve been patient.
Are you obligated to disclose?
Some might argue that you’re obligated to disclose your change in employment status even if it happened after the new employer started “processing” you. I don’t agree.
I believe certain information about a job applicant is none of an employer’s business. After all, what really matters is whether you can do the job you’re being considered for. It’ll sound extreme to some, but I don’t think your current status matters, and it should not affect whether you get hired.
To gain some perspective, let’s put this shoe on the other foot. The employer’s business may have been going gangbusters four months ago when you applied. Suppose in that time its business tanked. Suppose its CEO got indicted. Suppose a class action was filed by its employees for illegal practices. Would the employer tell you, before you accepted the offer, in the interest of transparency? I doubt it.
Get my point? There’s usually a double standard. Employers have no qualms about withholding information, but expect total disclosure from job applicants. There’s something wrong with that.
But my observations won’t protect you. This employer may learn you’re unemployed and cancel the offer. I don’t think that’s right — and it may not be legal — but I don’t control the employer. (Some jurisdictions in the U.S. either ban discrimination against unemployed people or at least discourage it.)
So you must decide whether you’re justified in keeping your new status private and how important it is to you to do so.
I think you’re right about negotiating: If they find out you’re unemployed, they may lower their offer, and you’ll be at a disadvantage. That’s a risk of disclosing. The tips in this article may be helpful: “Negotiate a better job offer by saying YES.”
As you’ve also suggested, the employer might find out you’re unemployed during the background check. If you don’t tell them, they might not care. Or, they may ask you to explain. Or, they may conclude you’ve been dishonest and just withdraw the offer without explaining why.
Make a choice
What would I do? If you want this job, I’d disclose — but do it in a way that doesn’t compromise you, because I don’t think you actually owe them an update.
Because they may try to verify your employment and so many months have passed, I think I’d tell them in passing that you’re no longer at your old company. Don’t be defensive. You could contact the HR person who’s been working with you and say something like this:
By the way – months have passed since I filled out my application. At the time I was employed at X Corp. I’ve since left the company. I just wanted to inform you so there’s no confusion. I look forward to starting work with you!
The risk is that you’ll get a lower offer. Only you can make this choice. Use your judgment – do what you think is best. I’d love to know what you decide to do and how it turns out. I hope it works out to your satisfaction.
Dear Readers: Does an employer have a right to know whether you’re employed? Would you fess up that your employment status changed? How would you handle a situation like this?
Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”
Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!
Copyright © 2016 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.
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With some of his major domestic initiatives stalled in Congress or the courts, President Donald Trump turned to foreign policy this week and meetings at the White House with several foreign leaders taking the measure of his “America First” approach to world affairs.
In a meeting Monday with Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, Egypt’s president, Mr.Trump said the United States was “very much behind Egypt and the people of Egypt.”
The visit marked a significant shift for relations between the U.S. and Egypt. Former President Barack Obama declined to meet with Al-Sisi, who assumed office in 2013 after the Arab Spring protests dismantled the Mubarak regime and President Mohammed Morsi was ousted from power. Since then, watchdog organizations have accused Al-Sisi of human rights violations.
“Inviting al-Sisi for an official visit to Washington as tens of thousands of Egyptians rot in jail, and when torture is again the order of the day, is a strange way to build a stable strategic relationship,” Sarah Margon, the Washington director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
In meeting with Trump, Al-Sisi became the first Egyptian head of state to visit the White House since 2009. But Trump also has meetings planned with foreign leaders who enjoy longstanding relationships with the U.S.
Trump is scheduled to meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the White House on Wednesday to discuss strategies to defeat ISIS. Fighting terrorism was also front and center in Trump’s meeting with Al-Sisi.
On Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping will travel with Trump to Mar-a-Lago for the weekend. The meeting will highlight several points of contention between the two countries, including on climate change and security issues surrounding North Korea and the South China Sea, said Nicholas Hope, a senior scholar at the Stanford Center for International Development.
Xi’s trip to the U.S this week is about “getting the measure of President Trump,” said Elizabeth Economy, a senior Fellow and director for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“In the eyes of most Chinese, Trump is calling the shots, and they want to know who is this man,” she said.
As a candidate, Trump took a tough stance against China on trade and other economic issues. He promised to label the country as a currency manipulator, a step his administration hasn’t taken so far.
Trump also waded into U.S.-China relations during his transition, when he broke from protocol by speaking with the president of Taiwan. The U.S. has not had diplomatic relations with Taiwan since recognizing the “One China” policy in 1979.
The call with Taiwan was one of several unconventional conversations Trump had with foreign leaders after he took office. Trump also abruptly ended a phone call in January with the prime minister of Australia, one of the United States’ closest allies.
Since then, the Trump administration has made several attempts to reach out to allies. Vice President Mike Pence pledged support for the European Union during a trip to Brussels in February. The same month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly traveled to Mexico to assure the country’s leaders that the U.S. remained a strong ally.
Xi will not be the first foreign leader to visit Mar-a-Lago. In February, Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Florida estate.
Trump has also met with leaders from Britain, Ireland, Germany and Israel. British Prime Minister Theresa May was the first foreign leader to visit Trump after he took office. The pair met at the White House in late January to discuss trade and Britain’s plans for leaving the European Union.
Trump’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House last month came after Trump criticized her on the campaign trail; Trump once declared that she did not deserve to win Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” in 2015.
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The global slowdown of productivity since the Great Recession has negative consequences for growth and income that look hard to unwind, warned International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde in a speech in Washington Monday.
Productivity “is the most important source of higher income and rising living standards over the long term,” said Lagarde. “It allows us to substantially grow the economic pie, creating larger pieces for everyone.”
While productivity had been gradually slowing for years in many advanced economies, the global financial crisis tanked productivity across advanced, emerging and low-income economies. And the downturn in productivity has persisted, providing all countries with a smaller slice of economic pie.
“Another decade of the similar trend that we’re observing at the moment, that sort of low productivity, would seriously undermine the rise in global living standards,” said Lagarde. “And we believe that slow growth could also jeopardize the financial and social stability of some countries by making it just more difficult to reduce excessive inequality and sustained private debt and public obligations.”
Governments will need to act, Lagarde said, if productivity is going to increase.
Prior to the crisis, productivity in advanced countries was 1 percent. Today, it’s a mere .3 percent, according new research from the IMF released today.
“If total factor productivity growth had followed its pre-crisis trend, overall GDP in advanced economies would be about 5 percent higher today,” said Lagarde, presenting the research at the American Enterprise Institute.
Lagarde highlighted three headwinds nations face to increasing productivity:
The last has led to weak demand, and weak demand has been “a key driving force behind sluggish investment,” states the IMF report. With economic uncertainty and tight credit, businesses prefer low-risk, low-return projects, which in turn slows technological progress and productivity, the report explains.
“Market forces alone will not be sufficient to deliver that boost to productivity,” said Lagarde. Governments will have to spend public dollars to invest in research and technology as well as unleash the entrepreneurial spirit by “removing unnecessary barriers to competition, cutting red tape, investing more in education and providing tax incentives for research and development.”
Lagarde pointed to both the lack of global demand lingering from the financial crisis and the gradual increase in trade restrictions to explain the slowdown in trade growth in recent years. Trade has “served all economies, not just some to the detriment of others,” said Lagarde.
While she did not mention Trump by name, the statement contradicts the American president’s claims that the United States is losing to Mexico and China on trade and comes as he has lauded an “America first” plan for more protectionist trade policies.
Policymakers should nurture open trade and migration policies, states the IMF study, “which have delivered sizeable [total factor productivity] gains in past decades.”
Immigration can also mitigate the effect of an aging workforce. The IMF report states that a 1 percentage point increase in migrants raises productivity in that country’s economy by up to 3 percent in the long term.
“For countries that have received large numbers of refugees, effectively integrating immigrant workers would contribute to a younger and more dynamic workforce, with growth and productivity dividends,” Lagarde said.
An aging workforce generally leads to lower productivity as workers skills tend to increase then decline as they get older, lowering innovation and productivity. Lifelong education and continuous training can combat the erosion of skills.
But training for all workers is a remedy to productivity slowdown policymakers need to pursue, Lagarde said. She cited the case of Germany, which during the height of the global financial crisis continued to have a steady unemployment rate while other countries’ unemployment skyrocketed. Why? German firms and trade unions agreed that workers would get paid less and reduced hours while demand was low in exchange for continued employment and training.
The one thing policymakers can’t do is sit back and wait, said Lagarde.
“We believe policymakers must actually take action to address the forces that are holding back innovation and technological diffusions,” she said.
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Hospitals in Missouri are grappling with a new state rule that forces them to choose between providing abortions for women in high-risk situations or receiving family planning funds for low-income women.
The policy could affect women like Robin Utz, 37, who had struggled with infertility for years. After two rounds of in vitro fertilization, she finally became pregnant.
But at a routine 20-week ultrasound, the nurse fell silent and said she needed to bring in the doctor. The baby had developed polycystic kidney disease, and the baby’s kidneys weren’t working, the doctor told the couple.
“There was therefore no amniotic fluid, and without amniotic fluid she would never develop lungs,” Utz said. “I asked what her chances were, and they said there weren’t any.”
Utz and her husband had to make a decision: terminate the pregnancy or wait until she gave birth. Most likely, doctors said, her baby would be stillborn.
“We just felt so strongly that allowing her to be born, to immediately suffer,” Utz said tearfully, “was so inhumane.”
Utz terminated her pregnancy at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. Generally, higher-risk abortions — for example when a mother’s life is in danger, or there is a severe fetal anomaly — are done in hospitals.
Utz’s care was paid for by insurance. But a new Missouri law, aimed at Planned Parenthood, cuts off a line of funding to all organizations that provide abortions in the state, including hospitals.
For years, Missouri has helped low-income women pay for family planning — but not abortion — under a Medicaid program called Extended Women’s Health Services. It is funded by both the state and the federal governments.
Federal law already prevents Medicaid from reimbursing providers for most abortions. Missouri’s new measure rejects $8.3 million in federal funds for the women’s health program, allowing the state to block state funds for other family planning services from going to abortion providers.
Other states, including Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi and Indiana, have tried to exclude abortion providers from Medicaid funds before, but courts have said that would violate a federal law that gives patients the right to choose their health care providers. Missouri hopes to get around that by rejecting the federal money. The rule has not been challenged in court.
Missouri’s Medicaid program for women’s health services currently serves nearly 70,000 low-income patients.
To make up for the lost federal funds, the state is increasing its own funding of women’s health services for low-income residents. Under the new measure, Missouri will spend $8.3 million to create its own program in place of the federal program it has opted out of.
Implications For Health Providers
The state government is also trying to determine exactly which providers perform abortions. It has sent about 500 letters to hospitals, obstetricians, gynecologists and clinics with a form that requires the providers to attest that they do not provide abortions.
So far, more than 300 providers have signed the form and will continue to get state funds, according to the Missouri Department of Social Services. Those who do not sign it will no longer be eligible for state funds for women’s health services.
The services at Barnes-Jewish Hospital are not likely to change under Missouri’s new rule. But other organizations might not continue to provide abortions under the new funding restrictions.
Washington University, which employs physicians at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and other facilities, chose not to attest.
“The new restriction … will not alter the health-care services provided by Washington University physicians,” wrote university spokeswoman Diane Duke Williams. “We remain committed to providing the full range of reproductive health-care services to our patients, including pregnancy testing, pelvic exams, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and abortion services to address specific therapeutic needs, such as a mother’s health being at risk or for fetal anomalies.”
The rule, which was passed as part of last year’s state budget, does appear to include an exception for organizations that provide abortions to save the mother’s life.
But that language is restricted to the budget’s preamble, and hospitals say the language is still unclear. As a result, Missouri’s hospital association is counseling its members not to bill the state program for any family planning services if they provide abortions, including procedures to save the life of the mother, or cases of rape or incest.
A National Trend
Like similar measures curbing funding to abortion providers in other states, Missouri’s measure was originally introduced in the wake of videos purporting to show the sale of fetal tissue by Planned Parenthood employees in Texas.
A grand jury in Texas found no evidence of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood and instead indicted two people who recorded the videos for tampering with a government record and illegally offering to purchase human organs. Those indictments were later dismissed on technical grounds, but California prosecutors charged the same filmmakers with 15 felonies last week.
After the videos were released, Missouri Rep. Robert Ross (R-Yukon) moved to cut all funding to organizations in the state that provided abortions.
“Simple amendment,” he said on the floor of the Missouri House of Representatives in March 2016. “This stops your tax dollars from being used to fund abortions.”
Several Missouri House Democrats questioned Ross, including Democratic Rep. Michael Butler of St. Louis, with whom he had the following exchange:
Butler: “Answer this for me. If women have complications through pregnancy, and they don’t have a primary doctor, where do they go?”
Ross: “Gentleman, it’s really simple. You agree with my amendment, you’re going to vote for it, or you don’t agree, you’re going to vote against it.”
The measure passed. Ross has not returned requests for comment.
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WASHINGTON — Most young Americans want any health care overhaul under President Donald Trump to look a lot like the Affordable Care Act signed into law by his predecessor, President Barack Obama.
But there’s one big exception: A majority of young Americans dislike “Obamacare’s” requirement that all Americans buy insurance or pay a fine.
A GenForward poll says a majority of people ages 18 to 30 think the federal government should be responsible for making sure Americans have health insurance. It suggests most young Americans won’t be content with a law offering “access” to coverage, as Trump and Republicans in Congress proposed in doomed legislation they dropped March 24. The Trump administration is talking this week of somehow reviving the legislation.
Conducted Feb. 16 through March 6, before the collapse of the GOP bill, the poll shows that 63 percent of young Americans approve of the Obama-era health care law. It did not measure reactions to the Republican proposal.
The most popular element of the law is allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26, which is favored by 75 percent of 18-30 year olds. It’s not just that they personally benefit — an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll conducted in January found that provision was equally popular among all adults. That proposal was included in the failed GOP overhaul.
But the Republican plan also contained provisions that most young Americans — the racially diverse electorate of the future — do not support, according to the poll. Two-thirds of young people agree with a smaller majority of Americans overall that the government should make sure people have health care coverage. And they understand that will cost more: Sixty-three percent want the government to increase spending to help people afford insurance.
Those feelings cut across racial lines and include most whites, who formed the base of Trump’s political support in the presidential election.
“I do believe the government should offer it because we pay taxes,” said Rachel Haney, 27, of Tempe, Arizona. “I do feel like it’s a right.”
GenForward is a survey of adults age 18 to 30 by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with the AP-NORC Center. The poll pays special attention to the voices of young adults of color, highlighting how race and ethnicity shape the opinions of a new generation.
Only about a quarter of young people want “Obamacare” repealed. That includes 16 percent of young adults who want it repealed and replaced as Trump has vowed and another 10 percent who want it repealed without a replacement.
Just over a third of young whites want to see the law repealed, making them more likely than those of other racial and ethnic groups to say so.
“He just wants to protect us from al-Qaida, and terrorism,” said Kervin Dorsainvil, 18, a computer technician from Port Charlotte, Florida. “I feel like health care should be much higher on the list. I feel like we have the resources, the medical technology and everything in place to provide the health care to the people. So why wouldn’t we do that?”
Young people are more likely than Americans overall to say the government should make sure people have health care. A recent AP-NORC poll of U.S. adults, conducted during and after the collapse of the GOP proposal, found just 52 percent called it a federal government responsibility to make sure all Americans have coverage.
Despite their overall approval of “Obamacare,” young Americans’ views on the law aren’t all rosy. Just a third say the law is working relatively well, while another third think the health care policy has serious problems. About 2 in 10 consider the law to be fatally flawed.
The Affordable Care Act withstood a Republican effort to “repeal and replace,” but there are problems with the current law that lawmakers acknowledge need to be addressed. We meet a few Americans who have concerns about Obamacare, then Mary Agnes Carey of Kaiser Health News joins Lisa Desjardins to discuss why affordability is an issue for some.
The law’s requirement that all Americans buy insurance or pay a fine is opposed by 54 percent of young people and favored by just 28 percent.
On the other hand, 71 percent favor the law’s Medicaid expansion, 66 percent of young adults favor the prohibition on denying people coverage because of a person’s medical history, 65 percent favor requiring insurance plans to cover the full cost of birth control, 63 percent favor requiring most employers to pay a fine if they don’t offer insurance and 53 percent favor paying for benefit increases with higher payroll taxes for higher earners.
About a quarter of young adults say they personally have insurance through their parents, while another 1 in 10 have purchased insurance through an exchange.
The poll of 1,833 adults age 18-30 was conducted using a sample drawn from the probability-based GenForward panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. young adult population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The survey was paid for by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago, using grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation.
Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods, and later interviewed online or by phone.
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