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- 04/07/17--13:54: _5 books for trouble...
- 04/07/17--14:03: _Why do actors and a...
- 04/07/17--14:34: _This Passover, make...
- 04/07/17--14:49: _California’s five-y...
- 04/07/17--15:30: _Former ambassador t...
- 04/07/17--15:42: _The U.S. economy ad...
- 04/07/17--15:40: _How will Trump fore...
- 04/07/17--15:45: _News Wrap: Neil Gor...
- 04/07/17--15:50: _Western allies appl...
- 04/08/17--06:26: _2 Marines demoted, ...
- 04/08/17--07:41: _U.S. vows to keep u...
- 04/08/17--08:16: _Swedish authorities...
- 04/08/17--09:12: _Where do you stand ...
- 04/08/17--09:54: _Debate over in-stat...
- 04/08/17--11:09: _This community has ...
- 04/08/17--11:37: _Basque separatist g...
- 04/08/17--12:50: _Hyundai, Kia recall...
- 04/08/17--13:20: _Trump nominates new...
- 04/08/17--13:47: _Group gives cash ai...
- 04/08/17--13:56: _Assessing the after...
- 04/07/17--13:54: 5 books for troubled times from this indie bookstore in Pakistan
- 04/07/17--14:34: This Passover, make a flourless chocolate cake from Joan Nathan
- 8 ounces (226 grams) good bittersweet chocolate such as Callebaut or Guittard.
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick/113 grams) unsalted butter or coconut oil
- 6 large eggs, separated
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
- Raspberries and blueberries for topping
- Whipped cream or ice cream (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9-or 10 inch spring-form pan with spray, or a little of the butter or coconut oil.
- Melt the chocolate and the butter or coconut oil in a double-boiler or in a microwave for a little more than a minute. Let cool.
- In the bowl of an electric stand mixer using the whip attachment, beat the egg whites with 1/2 cup (100 grams) of the sugar and the salt until soft peaks form. In a separate bowl, whip the yolks with the remaining 1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar and vanilla. Using a spatula, slowly stir in the chocolate in the egg yolk mixture. Then carefully fold in the egg whites. Don’t overmix or it will deflate.
- Bake for 28 to 35 minutes, or until the cake is fully set around the edges. You want it to be slightly gooey in the center.
- Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely, and dust with cocoa.
- Serve topped with berries and, if you like, with whipped cream or ice cream.
- 04/07/17--14:49: California’s five-year drought is over, governor declares
- 04/07/17--15:30: Former ambassador to China: U.S. cannot go it alone on North Korea
- 04/07/17--15:40: How will Trump foreign policy evolve after U.S. strike on Syria?
- 04/07/17--15:50: Western allies applaud strike on Syria amid questions of next steps
- 04/08/17--06:26: 2 Marines demoted, more investigated in nude photo probe
- 04/08/17--07:41: U.S. vows to keep up pressure on Syria after missile strikes
- 04/08/17--08:16: Swedish authorities arrest suspect in truck attack
- 04/08/17--09:12: Where do you stand on the March for Science?
- 04/08/17--09:54: Debate over in-state tuition for students in U.S. illegally
- 04/08/17--12:50: Hyundai, Kia recall 1.5 million vehicles after engine failures
- Hyundai Santa Fe Sport SUVs, 2013 to 2014
- Hyundai Sonata midsize cars, 2013 to 2014
- Kia Optima midsize cars, 2011 to 2014
- Kia Sportage SUVs, 2011 to 2013
- Kia Sorento SUVs, 2012 to 2014
- 04/08/17--13:20: Trump nominates new head of immigration agency
- 04/08/17--13:47: Group gives cash aid to rural Kenyans, then studies its effects
- 04/08/17--13:56: Assessing the aftermath of U.S. airstrikes in Syria
It’s hard to keep up with all the news here in the U.S. A fight to confirm a new Supreme Court justice. The ongoing probe into Russia’s interference in the presidential election. Uncertainty about health care reform. A rollback of environmental regulations. And a chemical attack in Syria, which led to a U.S. strike on Syria Thursday night — the first direct American attack on the Assad regime.
On the arts desk, we turn to books to try to make sense of the times we’re living in, and with so much going on in the U.S., it can be a challenge to maintain a global perspective. This week, we asked “The Last Word,” an independent bookseller in Lahore, Pakistan, for what we should be reading right now.
Aysha Raja, who opened the store in 2007, wrote in an email to NewsHour that The Last Word has been “selling books through the toughest of times” in Pakistan, including eras of terrorism and authoritarian rule. Right now, she said, as incidents of intolerance rise around her country, and the world, the store is recommending books that “celebrate the provocateur, the vilified, and the misunderstood.” Below, their five recommendations, in the staff’s words:
1. “The Power” by Naomi Alderman
“The Power” can be best described as feminist dystopian sci-fi. It takes place in a world almost exactly like ours, except women have spontaneously developed the ability to shoot electricity out of their fingers, sometimes with fatal consequences. Just like your favorite 1980s telekinetic horror movie, not only do the girls have it in spades but they can trigger it in older women. Gender relations immediately recalibrate to place women on top, and a surprisingly brutal domination ensues, challenging hitherto accepted gender norms and notions. Alderman artfully flips the script on our world using existing ancient artifacts to justify the inherent superiority of women, making this an utterly convincing narrative that makes you forget that women actually can’t shoot lightning.
2. “A Case of Exploding Mangoes” by Mohammed Hanif
Mohammad Hanif’s debut novel was published during General Musharraf’s regime and was poised to upset a lot of important people. Set during Pakistan’s military dictatorship of the ’80s, this comic political thriller offers up an array of possible motives behind the still-unsolved murder of Musharraf’s predecessor, President Zia-ul-haq. There are shady army men deploying suitcases of money, opportunistic CIA officers radicalizing to win the cold war, and a victim of the newly minted, Wahhabi-inspired legislation who would like to see him dead. This handy comic sketch of a milestone in Pakistan history will thrill and enthrall in equal measure.
3. “The Age of Anger” by Pankaj Mishra
Mishra surveys the philosophies that rose from the ashes of colonialism, the French revolution, industrialization and the rise of fascism to show us how we arrived at today; how growing discontent was consistently ignored in favor of unbridled capitalism; and how that has ultimately cost us our humanity, our freedoms, and our environment.
4. “Hip Hop Raised Me,” by DJ Semtex
Compiled by Radio 1 DJ Semtex and edited by industry insider Marium Raja, this tome serves as a reference guide, monograph and history of the most subversive contemporary movement of the modern era. Told from the unlikely vantage point of a couple of Londoners living through the heyday of hip-hop, this slickly put-together coffee table book takes us from the nascent days of DJs and block parties through to the Obama years and the next generation of rappers. What makes “Hip Hop Raised Me” a treasure are the never-before-seen photos of the titans of hip-hop, the contact sheets fizzing with energy, and the impressive infographics depicting the music genre’s evolution.
5. “Saffron Tales” by Yaseem Khan
Iran is often vilified, and misunderstood. This is both a cookbook and travelogue, so it humanizes a culture through its food. For the book, Khan travels to her ancestral home of Iran and unearths an impressive array of recipes from her meals in home kitchens all over the county. Culinary secrets are revealed with the underlying history and traditions of the region, introducing Iran to us through its food. The use of everyday ingredients and helpful instructions will ensure you develop a taste for Persian cuisine.
The post 5 books for troubled times from this indie bookstore in Pakistan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
MTV will no longer divide its acting awards based on gender, the television channel announced Thursday.
When the MTV Movie and Television Awards airs May 7, acting categories will be non-gendered. The awards ceremony, formerly known as the MTV Movie Awards, previously recognized actors in two distinct categories: Best Male Performance and Best Female Performance. The network will now award trophies to one television actor and one film actor.
Three men and three women — all cisgender — are nominated in each acting category this year.
Speaking to the pop culture website Vulture, MTV president Chris McCarthy cited the network’s target demographic as the reason for the change.
“This audience actually doesn’t see male-female dividing lines, so we said, ‘Let’s take that down,’” McCarthy said.
The announcement comes after Variety published an emailed exchange between non-binary actor Asia Kate Dillon and the Television Academy. Dillon, who was born female and identifies using “they” as a singular pronoun, inquired for which acting category they would be eligible at the Emmys. The Academy replied, “anyone can submit under either category for any reason.”
The Grammys eliminated gender-specific categories in 2011. The Academy Awards, which has received been criticized in recent years for a lack of racial diversity, still has separate categories for men and women.
The post Why do actors and actresses have separate award categories? MTV just eliminated theirs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Next week, millions of people will celebrate Passover. But what’s on the table for Seder depends on where in the world you’re feasting.
In her new cookbook, “King Solomon’s Table,” Joan Nathan culls 170 recipes from Passover celebrations through the ages, from Israel to Europe and beyond.
Nathan received this recipe from her friend Injy Farat-Lew, an Egyptian-Jew who grew up in Cairo and Paris. It’s a rich, elegant cake, wonderfully delicate yet sturdy and a relatively simple finale to your Passover Seder — or any other gathering. The consummate hostess, Farat-Lew often serves this cake when entertaining friends at her home on Martha’s Vineyard. Since the cake does not contain any flour, it’s perfect for gluten and gluten-free eaters alike.
Watch PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff talk — and cook — with Nathan on the April 7 episode of PBS NewsHour.
Yields 8 to 10 servings
Recipe courtesy of Joan Nathan “King Solomon’s Table.”
The post This Passover, make a flourless chocolate cake from Joan Nathan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
California Gov. Jerry Brown has officially declared an end to the state’s yearslong drought.
The governor signed an executive order Friday that lifted the state of emergency declaration he signed in 2014, which directed the state to take “all necessary actions” to prepare for drought conditions.
The latest order also rescinds four previous drought-related executive orders and two emergency proclamations. The order does not lift, however, the drought emergency in four counties — Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne — which still face low groundwater supplies.
Brown’s latest action follow months of heavy precipitation that filled reservoirs and ended dry conditions in many areas.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, only about 8 percent of California remains in a drought. By comparison, over 90 percent of the state faced drought conditions a year ago.
Despite these improvements, the state noted that California’s five-year drought will have lingering effects.
According to the governor’s office, the lack of precipitation reduced farm production in some regions, harmed wildlife and disrupted drinking water supplies. It also killed millions of trees and diminished groundwater levels.
The National Weather Service is also warning dry pockets are expected to persist through June.
As a precaution, the governor’s executive order aims to build on water conservation efforts state agencies have put in place. This includes prohibiting wasteful water practices and requiring urban water districts to report water use.
“This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” Brown said in a statement. “Conservation must remain a way of life.”
The post California’s five-year drought is over, governor declares appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
PBS NewsHour’s John Yang talks with former U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus about this week’s meeting between President Donald Trump and China President Xi Jinping.
President Donald Trump’s meetings with China President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida are over. But he needs to continue to work with his Chinese counterpart on dealing with the threat of North Korea’s nuclear missile program, said Max Baucus, who served as the U.S. ambassador to China under the Obama administration.
President Trump said earlier this month that the U.S. is prepared to act alone on North Korea’s nuclear program if China chooses not to act.
But Baucus, also a former Democratic senator from Montana, told PBS NewsHour’s John Yang that “we, as Americans, I think have no choice but to try to find a solution with China. We cannot do this unilaterally.”
Hitting the reclusive Asian nation economically, Baucus continued, requires coordination because “about 80 percent of the North Korean economy is dependent on China.” China is a major player in the region. “This is in my judgement the most important bilateral relationship in the world, the U.S. and China,” the former ambassador said. “We’re very interconnected,” and depend on each other for results, he added.
Find more coverage of President Trump’s meetings with President Xi Jinping here.
The post Former ambassador to China: U.S. cannot go it alone on North Korea appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
The unemployment rate ticked down .2 percent to land at 4.5 percent in March, the lowest it’s been since the Great Recession — and about what economists call “full employment” in this country. But the U.S. economy added a mere 98,000 jobs in March — far fewer than the 180,000 experts had predicted.
These two baseline numbers from the monthly jobs report are the main indicators of the labor market’s health. So how can it be that one — the unemployment rate — is so good, while the other — the number of jobs added — is so disappointing?
It’s worth noting that the two numbers come from different surveys. The unemployment rate is derived from the household survey, which asks 60,000 households each month whether their members are unemployed, employed, working part-time, etc. The payroll number is determined by the so-called “establishment survey,” which asks businesses how many jobs they added that month.
The two surveys don’t always align, as former chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors Betsey Stevenson points out:
This is good data, but data are noisy. Two measures are helpful, but they will often give two different estimates.
— Betsey Stevenson (@BetseyStevenson) April 7, 2017
While March’s unemployment rate was within the range of economists’ predictions, the number of jobs added missed economists’ predictions by more than 80,000. Prior to March, the U.S. economy had been adding an average of about 200,000 jobs a month for the past three months.
“Winter weather really wrecks havoc on the payroll data,” said Diane Swonk of DS Economics, noting winter storm Stella struck the week the survey was conducted. After an unseasonably warm February, March’s winter storms hurt hiring in industries like construction.
Early March winter storms likely a factor in lower job numbers, but 98,000 is just enough to keep up with working age population growth.
— Elise Gould (@eliselgould) April 7, 2017
Despite the disappointing payroll numbers this month, the average over the past three is still a solid 178,000 jobs per month, as economist Justin Wolfers notes.
Don't get caught up in any "slowdown" hype — payrolls growth over the past three months have averaged a healthy +178k. Not bad at all.
— Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) April 7, 2017
And as we often say here, never trust one month’s numbers. It’s better to look at longer-term trends.
There's a lot of noise in any employment report-trends matter more than individual numbers. And there are no signs of slowing in the trends.
— Betsey Stevenson (@BetseyStevenson) April 7, 2017
— Jared Bernstein (@econjared) April 7, 2017
What does the jobs report tell us about underemployment?
“The other indicators of the health of the labor market, not just the unemployment rate, but the U6, were positive, and we also saw a decline of part-time workers,” economist Mohamed El-Erian said.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ U6 includes the underemployed (part-timers looking for full-time work and the “discouraged” — those who haven’t looked for work in the past month but have in the past year) in addition to those who are officially unemployed. U6 fell to 8.9 percent, due to the decrease in unemployment and those marginally attached to the labor force, economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin said.
“We’re still not back to where we want to be with the U6,” Swonk said. “The issue is how many of those workers can we bring back [to working full time]?” We are whittling away at the number of people working part-time for economic reasons, she said. Still, there are some 5.6 million people working part time who would like to be working full time.
Our own Solman Scale, which we also call U7, adds to U6 everyone who says they want a job, even if they haven’t looked for work in more than a year. U7 also fell, ticking down to 11.1 percent. To put this in perspective, when we began calculating U7 in August 2011, it was 18.3 percent.
Labor force participation
Both labor force participation and the employment-to-population rates are historically low, suggesting slack in the labor market: People who have left the labor force aren’t coming back, presumably because they don’t think there are jobs available to them or because the jobs pay so poorly.
“We’re dealing with the inequality trifecta, which is why this issue [of labor force participation] is so threatening to economic well-being. It’s not just of income and wealth, but increasingly it’s become an inequality of opportunity — and one of that is access to well-paying jobs,” El-Erian said.
“I think there’s even a certain [number] of long-term unemployed that are just dropping out of the labor force,” Bankrate.com’s Greg McBride said. One in four of those unemployed has been unemployed for 27 weeks or more; the long-term unemployed may be so discouraged that they aren’t even looking for work or are simply retiring early, he added.
Part of the decline in the labor force participation is due to baby boomers retiring. So “the fact that [the labor force participation has] climbed a little bit despite the baby boomers retiring, that’s a pretty good sign,” Harry Holzer, professor of public policy at Georgetown, said.
What’s going on with wages?
Wage growth ticked up in March, with average hourly earnings increasing by 5 cents, following a 7-cent increase in February. Over the year, wage growth has been 2.7 percent — still short of the growth desired by economists.
“Wages are moving up, but we’d like to see it more broad based,” Swonk said, noting that some of the gains were driven by minimum wage increases on the state and local level.
Wage growth ought to continue as we get closer to full employment.
“We should be seeing a hand off of from job growth to wage growth,” El-Erian said. “The one thing that has been lacking in this job recovery has been wage growth … but as we take up slack in the labor force, we should expect wage growth to start going up at a higher rate.”
“Employers will have to work harder to attract or attain workers,” he said, noting that workers are starting to see some real wage gains.
But still wage gains aren’t where Americans want them. Part of the issue, Holzer said, is “our productivity growth has been really lousy.”
This low productivity growth was the topic of a new International Monetary Fund report released this week. Productivity, in its simplest terms, is the amount of output per hour of work. “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,” IMF chief Christine Lagarde said.
“For the last decade, it’s much harder to get wage growth without productivity growth,” Holzer said. “If you have sustained productivity growth and you maintain a fairly tight labor market, then you can get real wage growth that doesn’t feed into inflation.”
Let’s hope it happens soon.
The post The U.S. economy added a mere 98,000 jobs while the unemployment rate went down. How does that work? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We return now to our top story, the U.S. attack on a Syrian airfield.
Late today, administration officials said they’d seek new sanctions against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
For more on the airstrikes and their effects, I’m joined by retired General John Allen. He was the top commander in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013, and, in 2014, he became the special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition Against ISIS. Sarah Sewall served as undersecretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights during the Obama administration. She’s now at Johns Hopkins University. And Retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich, professor emeritus of international relations and history at Boston University.
And we welcome all three of you to the program.
General Allen, I’m going to start with you. Was this a smart move by President Trump, his administration?
GEN. JOHN ALLEN, (RET.), Former Commander, NATO forces in Afghanistan: Judy, I think it was. I think it was warranted.
The crime of attacking innocent civilians with a nerve agent puts the Assad regime in a position where this kind of an action is absolutely justified. I have been calling for this kind of an action for a long time, and I believe it was justified.
And it wasn’t just a message to Bashar al-Assad. It’s a message to his Russian patrons that the United States is just not going to tolerate this kind of action from him any longer.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Colonel Bacevich, your view? Was this the right thing?
COL. ANDREW J. BACEVICH, (RET.), Boston University: Well, what is the thing? What is the action?
If indeed, as some people suggest, this is a one-off event, then my guess is, a week from now, we won’t even be talking abut it, and it will quickly be forgotten.
If, as some people suggest, this shows a more assertive Trump administration, that somehow we’re going to ratchet up the pressure on the Assad regime, trying to produce regime change, then I would be very much interested in hearing more about how that is going to occur and, beyond that, if and when it occurs, if Assad is forced out, then what?
What do we think the United States will inherit, and what will the United States do with that inheritance? Recalling the situation after regime change in Iraq and Libya, you know, those seem to be the reasonable questions.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Sarah Sewall, how do you gauge what happened?
SARAH SEWALL, Former State Department Official: Well, it’s very difficult to know right now, Judy.
We don’t know whether this will fall into the category of a symbolic, pinprick strike that had no marginal — had no meaningful effect, or whether this could be the beginning of something that gets us much more deeply embroiled, whether it’s similar to the no-fly zones that we created in Southern and Northern Iraq after the first Desert Storm war, or whether it’s like the Kosovo campaign that was designed to produce a negotiated solution that we thought would take days, and instead took weeks, or whether it could be like the Libya intervention, where we were nominally protecting citizens, but we ended up creating a much more difficult terrorist threat throughout the region.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, General Allen, it is the case that we don’t know yet how effective this is, do we? We’re waiting to find out.
GEN. JOHN ALLEN: Well, I would say a couple of things, Judy, to the other points that have been made.
The administration is going to have to give us a sense of what their policy is. This is obviously a change from the previous administration. And military action without political context is often just ineffectual, there’s no purpose for it.
And it’s a dangerous road to get on, as the other commentators have indicated. So, it would be very helpful for us to understand what policy changes have created this strategy within which military action like this can occur.
But I think it’s been an important event, because it’s not just a very important signal to Bashar al-Assad and to President Putin. There are others around the world who should have taken very significant attention or made significant points of paying attention to this strike, Kim Jong-un, for example.
And the president just completed, by all accounts, a successful summit with President Xi Jinping of China, and we don’t — we find ourselves in an environment where there’s a similar relationship there, where there is a patron and there is a client.
And I know it has not escaped the attention of President Xi that the nuclear saber-rattling of Kim Jong-un has attracted the attention of President Trump.
And so, having held Bashar al-Assad accountable for this, we need to pay attention to Northeast Asia about a more activist United States in this regard.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Colonel Bacevich, what about that? I mean, this does send a signal to the rest of the world that this president is prepared to act.
COL. ANDREW J. BACEVICH: Well, I think it’s important to reflect on how this decision came to be made, at least how we understand that it came to be made.
A week ago, the president was largely indifferent to events in Syria. It appears that, when he saw the videotapes of the aftermath of the Syrian chemical weapons attack, he was outraged, and then basically, in about a 48-hour period, he went from being indifferent to deciding we had to attack Syria.
And I have to say that strikes me as not so much a change in policy, but really a change in impulses. We have an impulsive president. We see little in our president that suggests that he acts after serious reflection.
And so, yes, indeed, if somebody like Kim Jong-un in North Korea is reflecting on the implications of the Syrian attack, are the implications one that would cause Kim Jong-un to be more prudent, or does he say, holy cow, holy cow, we got a crazy guy on the other end of this relationship?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Sarah Sewall, how much does it matter whether there was a thought-through policy that went into that?
SARAH SEWALL: It matters enormously. It really does, Judy, because if they don’t know what their endgame is, if they don’t know what their goals are, then they don’t know what their next steps are.
I mean, let’s look at the situation from a couple of different angles. First of all, if all we’re doing is a red line on chemical weapons, that’s not immaterial, but it’s really not the point. The point is that Assad is a butcher.
And so the question becomes for the civilians, do I care if I’m being gassed or I’m being hit by barrel bombs? The problem is still there.
Second, look at the Russian issue. Now we have got a much more commingled battlefield with higher risk of actual escalation. Do we really want that? Is that a smart move? What happens if something does escalate?
Third, look at the order of battle on the ground. We talk about whether or not you can use force to get a political settlement. Who are the biggest, most powerful actors among the rebels? They’re al-Qaida and ISIS.
So, even if we’re willing to commit to try to use enough force to get a negotiated settlement, we’re actually at risk of strengthening the hand of the rebels that we have nominally vowed to fight in the war on terror.
JUDY WOODRUFF: General John Allen, this sounds — what Sarah is saying sounds like a lot of the arguments that we — President Obama perhaps used in the decision not to go in and attack after that chemical incident in 2013.
GEN. JOHN ALLEN: Well, Sarah is right.
And it’s good to see Sarah again. She was terrific at State while she was there.
Look, the environment was very different in 2013. I think we’d be in a very different world today if we had struck them. The Russians weren’t on the ground. The moderate Syrian opposition could have made significant — could have had significant value out of that strike. It would have changed Bashar al-Assad’s calculus with respect to what he could do, and it would have set, I think, the conditions for a more fruitful discussion about the political transition that would have removed him from power.
And the Obama administration and the Trump administration, I believe, are not intent, ultimately, on regime collapse, but simply the removal of Bashar al-Assad and remaining and having much of that regime remain intact, which could, in fact, continue to govern in some manner.
What we have got to be very careful about is looking for all the reasons why the United States shouldn’t act. And there are plenty. We have heard them tonight. But, at some point, the United States, I believe, has a moral obligation to act.
And selling short the decision to make this attack, I think, in some respects, doesn’t take into account some very, very serious strategic minds that are at work right now. We have a secretary of defense, we have a chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and we have a national security adviser and a secretary of state who are very serious thinkers and strategic leaders.
And I think that they are advising the president about this strike, but I think there’s much more behind this in the context of a strategy that emerges ultimately from a policy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well …
GEN. JOHN ALLEN: And I think we need to take a moment and look for that articulation by the White House of what our policy is going to be and what that strategy will be.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, as we wait for that, Andrew Bacevich, what do you see as the next step here, whether this was the right or the wrong move? What happens now?
COL. ANDREW J. BACEVICH: Well, I think the point’s been well made.
We have not heard anything that remotely resembles a strategy from this president or from this administration. We now have the president’s response to the first crisis that he has faced. And the response is one to opt for military force, which, of course, has become exceedingly routine in the way we approach the world.
But this conversation, I think, reveals the difficulty. We don’t know what is the context in which this decision was made. And I think we desperately need to hear that context, to hear some vision, to get a sense of strategy.
I’m not particularly encouraged by the fact that three out of the four people that General Allen just ticked off are generals. It strikes me that that is suggestive of a mind-set that is likely to opt for force as the preferred response to almost any situation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Sarah Sewall, I’m going to ask you to comment on that, if you want to, but also to share with us, what do you think happens next? I mean, do we just wait and see whether Assad attacks again with chemical weapons? We know that there was a report today that jets — his jets took off and attacked a rebel base in Homs today.
SARAH SEWALL: Here’s my concern, Judy, that, in the absence of a clear world view and an articulated strategy, it’s very easy for individual uses of force and for high-minded rhetoric to begin to just escalate within its own echo chamber.
And so I think it’s really hard to predict where we’re going to go from here. It’s not comforting to me that this feels reflexive and improvisational, rather than really thought out and strategic.
Since I don’t know what the goal is, I don’t know where we’re likely to go next.
JUDY WOODRUFF: In just a few seconds, what about Colonel Bacevich’s point that this is mostly generals advising the president, retired generals?
SARAH SEWALL: I do think that, as a matter of foreign policy, it is essential that civilian leadership and diplomats balance the advice from military officials.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And in five seconds, General Allen, on that point?
GEN. JOHN ALLEN: Yes. I got to — I got something to say on this.
Generals know an awful lot about fighting. They also know a lot about the consequences of war. And I know these generals. And they’re going to give the president their best advice. And they understand American power.
And if we chose to use military force, it wasn’t because former generals forced the president into that option. These are great strategic thinkers who understand all about American power. And they fully understand the consequences of the use of military force.
So, I would be careful about assuming, because they are former generals, that they immediately went to a reflex to use military force.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We’re going to have to leave it there.
General John Allen, Colonel Andrew Bacevich, Sarah Sewall, we thank you.
GEN. JOHN ALLEN: Thanks, Judy.
COL. ANDREW J. BACEVICH: Thank you.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: The long fight to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court is over. The U.S. Senate today confirmed President Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch, by a vote of 54-45. He will fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Lisa Desjardins has our report.
VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: The nomination of Neil M. Gorsuch of Colorado to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States is confirmed.
LISA DESJARDINS: The final vote was almost anticlimactic, after Republicans triggering the so-called nuclear option on Thursday. That change in Senate procedure meant a simple majority could break the Democratic filibuster against Gorsuch.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell:
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-K.Y., Majority Leader: Of course, I wish that important aspects of this process had played out differently. It didn’t have to be this way. But today is a new day.
LISA DESJARDINS: In the end, three Democrats, Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, and Joe Donnelly, joined Republicans in supporting Gorsuch. But most Democrats, like Dick Durbin, lamented how it came to be.
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN, D-Ill., Minority Whip: When the rule was changed, some senators were engaged in high-fives on the other side of aisle. I’m not sure why. I don’t think it was a time for any winning celebration. I think it was an unfortunate moment, and the question is, where will we go from here?
LISA DESJARDINS: Not all Republicans were celebrating the rule revision.
Arizona’s John McCain:
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: I am very concerned about the future, which will then, with only 51-vote majority required, will lead to polarization of the nominees as far as their philosophies are concerned.
LISA DESJARDINS: But Minority Leader Chuck Schumer promised to protect the 60-vote threshold for ending filibusters on legislation.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., Minority Leader: I hope the Republican leader and I can, in the coming months, find a way to build a firewall around the legislative filibuster, which is the most important distinction between the Senate and the House.
LISA DESJARDINS: On that at least, Schumer and McConnell agreed.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: This notion that this somehow bleeds over into the legislative filibuster is untrue. I’m opposed to it.
LISA DESJARDINS: As for Judge Gorsuch, his swearing-in as the 101st associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is set for Monday.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Lisa Desjardins.
JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump wound up his Florida summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping today. Both men spoke highly of their first-ever meeting, despite tensions over trade and North Korea. Chinese reports said Mr. Trump will visit China later this year. We will have the full story later in the program.
In Sweden, at least four people were killed today when a hijacked beer truck crashed into a department store in Stockholm. Fifteen others were hurt. Witnesses said the truck plowed into a crowd of people before smashing into the store. The Swedish prime minister called it an act of terror. It was the latest such incident across Europe. Police said they are looking for the truck driver.
More than 50,000 people marched in cities across South Africa today to protest government corruption. They carried signs and shouted slogans demanding the removal of President Jacob Zuma, after he fired the country’s anti-corruption finance minister.
KHENSANI MOGALE, Protester: I am marching because I have a 4-year-old daughter, and I feel if I don’t do something about the future of the country, nobody is going to anything.
ANNEMARIE VAN DE LINDELM, Protester: I’m here to fight, to show my support for this country, for the beauty and the future that this country has, instead of the uprising of one greedy, corrupt man.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The ailing Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu, now 85, also made a rare public appearance in support of the demonstrations. His foundation tweeted on his behalf, “We will pray for the downfall of a government that misrepresents us.”
Back in this country, a federal judge approved the agreement between Baltimore and the U.S. Department of Justice on reforming that city’s police department. The judge said — quote — “It is in the public interest to approve it,” despite the Justice Department request for a delay. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he still has grave concerns about the agreement, and that it may hinder the fight against crime.
The long-running drought in California is finally over. Governor Jerry Brown today lifted emergency conservation for nearly all of the state. He acted after a series of major winter storms brought heavy snow and rain.
U.S. job growth dropped sharply in March, to its worst showing in nearly a year. The Labor Department reported that today in its monthly summary. It said U.S. employers added a net of 98,000 jobs, despite the fact that economists expected nearly twice that many. The unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent, which is the lowest in almost a decade.
That jobs report, and the tensions over Syria, dampened the mood on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average lost about seven points to close at 20656. The Nasdaq fell one point, and the S&P 500 slipped two. For the week, all three indexes were down a fraction of 1 percent.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The White House says President Trump has sent a strong signal to the world with last night’s cruise missile strike on Syria. The attack drew widespread support today from American allies, and condemnation from the Syrians and their allies.
A flash of light and the roar of jet engines lit up the predawn in the eastern Mediterranean. Two U.S. Navy destroyers fired off 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles. Amateur video broadcast on Syrian state TV appeared to show the missiles striking home, the target, the Syrian military’s Shayrat air base.
U.S. officials say it was the launching pad for a chemical attack that killed more than 80 people in Idlib province.
Saleh Hawa, an opposition activist in Idlib, spoke to us via Skype.
SALEH HAWA, Syrian Opposition Activist: There is a kind of comfort among people that, at the end, after — maybe after seven years of suffering and pain, at the end, we have got a kind of ally. We have got a kind of protector, you can say.
JUDY WOODRUFF: News of the U.S. missile strike broke as President Trump was meeting last night at his resort in Florida with the president of China.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Both Russia and Syria claim rebel groups were responsible for Tuesday’s chemical attack, and the Russians quickly condemned the U.S. missile strike.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke in Uzbekistan.
SERGEI LAVROV, Russian Foreign Minister (through interpreter): Of course this is an act of aggression, committed on an absolutely made-up pretext. I hope these provocations will not lead to some kind of irreversible consequences.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The Russian Defense Ministry announced that the U.S. attack caused only minimal damage to the Syrian air base, and that most of the cruise missiles fell short. Indeed, opposition activists reported seeing Syrian jets take off from the base today, heading for rebel-held areas.
But White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said all 59 missiles hit their targets, from fighter jets to radar sites. Meanwhile, Western allies backed the U.S. move. In a statement, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said: “The Syrian regime bears the full responsibility for this development.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also defended the U.S. action, but urged caution.
ANGELA MERKEL, German Chancellor (through interpreter): The attack of the United States is understandable, given the dimension of the war crimes. At the same time, and I underline, more and more, it remains important and right to focus all the attention on political talks.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the missile strike was fully warranted, but may not be enough. And Syrian rebel groups also called for even stronger action against the Assad regime.
Again, Saleh Hawa:
SALEH HAWA: Right now, things are different. I think, from now on, Russian and Bashar al-Assad and Iran and all those, you know, naughty countries around the world will understand that, look, this is America. America today is different from before. America is now ready to act.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The strike was in stark contrast to President Obama’s policy. He had warned of a red line against the use of chemical weapons, but backed away from military action after a chemical attack in August 2013 killed more than 1,000 Syrians.
During the campaign, Mr. Trump also advocated against military intervention in Syria. This week, he said the chemical attack changed his view of the Syrian war and of Assad.
Mr. Trump had nothing to further add today, but at a U.N. Security Council meeting, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley didn’t rule out further action.
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations: The United States took a very measured step last night. We are prepared to do more, but we hope that will not be necessary.
JUDY WOODRUFF: On the diplomatic front, the issue is likely to top the agenda, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visits Moscow next Wednesday.
In Congress, Democrats urged the president to seek congressional approval for future moves, while Republicans generally applauded his action.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: This was a response that was required in response to the commission of war crimes. I want to emphasize, this is the beginning, not the end. But the signal that was sent around the world is very important.
SEN. EDWARD MARKEY, D-Mass.: The president has made a 180-degree pivot in one week on what the United States’ role should be in Syria. And I think that, as a result, the United States Congress should be fully involved.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We will get a deeper assessment of the U.S. strike, and its implications, right after the news summary.
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WASHINGTON — Two male Marines have been demoted and about two dozen other military members are being investigated in connection with nude photographs that were shared online, the Marine Corps said Friday.
The administrative punishments are the first from the photo scandal that included violent and disparaging comments about women in the pictures.
The two enlisted Marines made negative comments on a social media site under a photo of a woman, but their remarks were about a male senior leader, not her.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday, Marine Gen. Glenn Walters, the assistant commandant, said that commanders can punish Marines for such behavior because it violates the military code of good order and discipline.
“Good order and discipline is a requirement for all Marines and if you do something that does not promote good order and discipline in a unit then you can be held accountable,” he said. “All of these activities on social media that disparage a female Marine or any Marine for that matter is not good order and discipline and we have an adjudication process in place to assure that.”[Watch Video]
The other service members being investigated are either active duty or reserve Marines.
A number of former and current female Marines have come forward to say that their photographs and those of other female service members were posted online without their consent. The postings triggered investigations by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the Army Criminal Investigation Command. So far, only female Marines have come forward as victims.
According to Marine Lt. Col. Warren Cook, commander of 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, the two demoted Marines posted derogatory comments on the social media page “United States Grunt Corps.” He said the two unit members pleaded guilty and were demoted by one pay grade, and put on 45 days of restriction and 45 days of extra duties.
Regarding the civilians identified by investigators, two cases have been referred to state authorities, Walters said. In both cases the states decided not to pursue the matter any further, he said.
Andrew Traver, NCIS director, said that the investigative team of about 100 people has already reviewed more than 75,000 images and 150 different websites. He said that about half of the photos are of women and half are of men, and the overwhelming majority of the photos are so-called selfies — taken voluntarily by the subject.
In addition, he said, most of the photo and comment postings were done by civilians. And in the bulk of the cases, they don’t rise to the level of criminal activity, he said.
NCIS is also using facial recognition software to help women determine whether or not their photos may have been circulated on the websites. So far, he said, there have been “a handful” of matches.
Walters said that NCIS will build criminal cases when possible, but if there are no criminal charges the case will be referred to the service to determine if there were code violations and if administrative action is appropriate.
“Everything we teach in combat is about teamwork,” said Walters. “If we have some members of the team that we’re not getting the best out of because we’re treating them bad, then we’re not going to be successful on the battlefield.”
In the month since the scandal broke, the Marine Corps has issued a longer and more detailed social media policy that lays out the legal ramifications for service members who commit misconduct online. Incoming Marine recruits will now have to sign a contract acknowledging that they have read and understand the new guidelines.
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PALM BEACH, Fla. — The United States is vowing to keep up the pressure on Syria after the intense nighttime wave of missile strikes from U.S. ships, despite the prospect of escalating Russian ill will that could further inflame one of the world’s most vexing conflicts.
Standing firm, the Trump administration on Friday signaled new sanctions would soon follow the missile attack, and the Pentagon was even probing whether Russia itself was involved in the chemical weapons assault that compelled President Donald Trump to action. The attack against a Syrian air base was the first U.S. assault against the government of President Bashar Assad.
Much of the international community rallied behind Trump’s decision to fire the cruise missiles in reaction to this week’s chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of men, women and children in Syria. But a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the strikes dealt “a significant blow” to relations between Moscow and Washington.
A key test of whether the relationship can be salvaged comes next week when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson becomes the first Trump Cabinet member to visit Russia.
British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson also had planned to visit Russia this coming week, but decided Saturday to cancel the trip because of the fast moving events in Syria. Johnson, who condemned Moscow’s continued defense of Assad, said Tillerson will be able to give a “clear and coordinated message to the Russians.”
At the United Nations on Friday, Russia’s deputy ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, strongly criticized what he called the U.S. “flagrant violation of international law and an act of aggression” whose “consequences for regional and international security could be extremely serious.” He called the Assad government a main force against terrorism and said it deserved the presumption of innocence in the chemical weapons attack.[Watch Video]
The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, said the world is waiting for the Russian government “to act responsibly in Syria” and “to reconsider its misplaced alliance with Bashar Assad.”
Trump spoke by telephone Friday with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, who reaffirmed strong support for the military strike and thanked the U.S. president for his “courageous” action, according to statements issued Saturday by the White House and the official Saudi Press Agency.
Saudi Arabia, one of the most vehement opponents of Assad, said the missile barrage was the right response to “the crimes of this regime to its people in light of the failure of the international community to stop it.”
The Turkish foreign minister, whose country is a strong backer of the Syrian opposition, said the U.S. missile strikes were not enough. Mevlut Cavusoglu said Saturday that the U.S. intervention was only “cosmetic” unless it removes Assad from power. He said the most ideal process would be a political solution that leads to a transitional government.
In Florida with the president, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said additional economic sanctions on Syria were being prepared.
Thursday night’s strikes — some 60 cruise missiles fired from two ships in the Mediterranean — were the culmination of a rapid, three-day transformation for Trump, who has long opposed deeper U.S. involvement in Syria’s civil war. Advisers said he was outraged by heartbreaking images of young children who were among the dozens killed in the chemical attack.
The decision undercut another campaign promise for Trump: his pledge to try to warm relations with Moscow. After months of allegations of ties between his election campaign and the Kremlin — the subject of current congressional and FBI investigations — Trump has found himself clashing with Putin.
On Friday, senior U.S. military officials were looking more closely at possible Russian involvement in the poison attack. Officials said a drone belonging to either Russia or Syria was seen hovering over the site after the assault earlier this week. The drone returned late in the day as citizens were going to a nearby hospital for treatment. Shortly afterward, officials say the hospital was targeted.
The officials, who insisted on anonymity in order to discuss the sensitive matter, said they believe the hospital attack may have been an effort to cover up evidence of the earlier assault.
White House officials caution that Trump is not preparing to plunge the U.S. deeper into Syria. Spokesman Sean Spicer said the missile attack sent a clear message to Assad, but he avoided explicitly calling for the Syrian to leave office.
In a letter to Congress on Saturday, Trump said he “acted in the vital national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations” and as commander in chief and chief executive.
He said the U.S. “will take additional action, as necessary and appropriate, to further its important national interests.”
Trump, who is spending the weekend at his Florida resort, tweeted a brief explanation Saturday of why the military didn’t strike the runways in its bombardment of the Syrian air field, writing, “they are easy and inexpensive to quickly fix (fill in and top)!”
Still, the impact of the strikes was unclear. Despite intense international pressure, Assad has clung to power since a civil war broke out in his country six years ago, helped by financial and military support from both Russia and Iran. Russian military personnel and aircraft are embedded with Syria’s, and Iranian troops and paramilitary forces are also on the ground helping Assad fight the array of opposition groups hoping to topple him.
Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor in Washington, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Vivian Salama in Palm Beach, Florida, contributed to this report.
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Police in Sweden have arrested a man suspected of killing four people in Stockholm on Friday with a stolen truck, in what authorities are calling an act of terrorism.
The suspect was identified on Saturday as a 39-year-old man from Uzbekistan who is accused of hijacking a beer truck and slamming into a crowded section of central Stockholm and into a department store before fleeing the scene.
At least 15 people were also wounded in the apparent attack, and 10 people remain hospitalized, Reuters reported.
The suspect, whose name was not released by police, was taken into custody after a manhunt. Police said the person had previously been monitored by authorities but was not directly linked to extremist groups.
“We still cannot rule out that more people are involved,” said Dan Eliasson, head of Sweden’s national police, at a news conference.
On Saturday, as flags flew at half mast in Stockholm and people laid flowers at the site of the attack, police said they had discovered a device inside the damaged truck and were trying to determine whether it was a homemade bomb, Reuters reported.
“I cannot say at this stage that this is a bomb or some sort of flammable material,” Eliasson said. “We are doing a technical investigation.”
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On April 22, scientists and science aficionados will gather for the March for Science, a series of demonstrations planned at more than 100 cities worldwide in support of a number of scientific causes.
About 100 groups have announced their partnership with the march, including the Alliance for Science, American Federation of Teachers, Genetics Society of America, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and American Psychological Association.
The march has drawn support from a wide range of groups and causes, including those concerned that President Donald Trump’s administration has appointed people who are opposed to climate science, basic research and environmental programs. It also comes amid a campaign to urge scientists to run for office, in part to protect those programs and promote scientific approaches to public policy. The march’s mission statement states that it “defends science and scientific integrity, but it is a small step in the process toward encouraging the application of science in policy.”
We’re asking: Do you have an opinion on the upcoming March for Science? The PBS NewsHour reporting team is gathering stories from people planning to attend the march and those who will not. Whether you are involved in a scientific field or not, we want to hear from you.
Submit your story using this simple form below.
Twenty states already offer cheaper in-state college tuition to students who are in the United States illegally. Legislation making its way through the Tennessee Legislature would make that state the 21st.
Supporters in states where the tuition benefit is available say the policy has boosted Latino enrollment and has helped these students contribute to the economy. Opponents say the policy wrongly rewards immigrants who entered the country illegally.
The debate has been revived in some states as President Donald Trump pursues tougher immigration policies.
Some things to know about the issue:
THE TENNESSEE PROPOSAL
Under Tennessee’s current rules, immigrants who are in the country illegally are typically required to pay out-of-state tuition prices that can cost three times more than in-state prices. The Tuition Opportunity Bill would allow these students to pay the cheaper price if they attended a Tennessee high school for the two years immediately before graduating, earned a high-school diploma or equivalent certificate in the state, and have been accepted to a public college or university. It was proposed by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, a Republican from Chattanooga who argues that immigrants with college degrees will earn higher incomes and pay higher taxes, among other benefits. “The key to a lot of problems we have is education,” he said. Opponents worry that the bill would draw large numbers of immigrants to the state and become a financial burden to taxpayers. Gardenhire proposed a similar bill two years ago that failed by a single vote in the House.
Sixteen other states have passed laws granting in-state tuition to students who are in the United States illegally, and university systems in four others have offered the benefit on their own, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Texas was the first when it passed a law in 2001, and Florida was the latest, approving a law in 2014.
States began adopting the policy in response to a 1996 federal law that bars such immigrants from getting college benefits that aren’t offered to all U.S. citizens. To comply with the law, states established criteria to be eligible for in-state tuition regardless of immigration status. Five states, including Texas, California and Washington, went a step further and offered financial assistance to immigrants here illegally. Conversely, six other states have barred immigrants in the country illegally from in-state tuition. Some other states have sought middle ground, offering in-state tuition to those who were granted temporary protection from deportation by President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which aims to help those who were brought to the country as children.
At first glance, Tennessee might seem like an unlikely state to adopt the policy. It’s a conservative state that voted heavily for Trump, who is working to clamp down on immigration and previously promised to end Obama’s protections for those who came to the United States as children. But experts say the idea has been accepted by states at both ends of the political spectrum, including New York and California but also Oklahoma and Nebraska.
“Investing in students makes sense both from a fiscal perspective and from a human perspective,” said Tanya Broder, senior attorney for the National Immigration Law Center.
Gardenhire, the Tennessee state senator, says it doesn’t make sense to punish students who were brought here by their parents.
Still, some states have revived a debate over the policy in recent months. Republican lawmakers in Texas and Florida have proposed bills to repeal in-state tuition for students who are in the country illegally, while state attorneys in Arizona have asked a state court to block colleges from offering the benefit. “It is an issue that’s perennially debated,” said Randy Capps, director of research for U.S. programs at the Migration Policy Institute. “It’s close in a lot of states, just like it has been close in the Tennessee.”
WHAT SUPPORTERS SAY
Supporters say the policy offers a social good along with financial benefits. In states that passed the law, college enrollment rates among college-age Mexican noncitizens increased by 4 percentage points, from about 19 percent to 23 percent, according to recent research at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Graduation rates among those students increased similarly. Graduation rates among those students increased similarly. “It’s opened up higher education to a new group that otherwise wouldn’t get in,” Capps said. Enrollment growth has been even higher in states that offered student financial aid. Experts say even the lower in-state tuition costs can be too much for immigrants here illegally — who are not eligible for federal financial aid.
In Texas, the number of students granted in-state tuition under the law grew from 393 in 2001 to nearly 25,000 in 2015, according to state data. In Washington, the number grew from 25 to 1,500 students in a similar span, mostly enrolled at community colleges. In both cases that’s about 1 percent of the state’s total college enrollment. “It’s money well spent, because the students go back into the economy and pay taxes and participate like everyone else,” said Stella Flores, an associate professor of higher education at New York University who has researched the topic.
WHAT OPPONENTS SAY
The policy can also bring costs. Past efforts to repeal the Texas law have focused on increased spending, with one state analysis predicting the cost would grow to $100 million by 2020. The cost to state and local governments in Maryland is estimated to be $7.2 million a year, although researchers at the University of Maryland say the long-term benefits are greater. “In most estimates the additional tax revenues to the state significantly outweighs the initial cost,” said Tim Gindling, an economics professor behind the research.
Opponents in some states argue that the law takes college seats away from U.S. citizens and makes their state a magnet for immigrants. Conservative groups also allege the policy violates the 1996 federal law limiting benefits for immigrants who came here illegally. In a 2011 report, the Heritage Foundation criticized the Obama administration for refusing to sue states that “are incontrovertibly and brazenly violating an unambiguous federal immigration law.”
The proposal in Tennessee has been passed by two lawmaker panels and is scheduled to be considered by a third on Tuesday. It still faces several hurdles, but has drawn support from Republicans, including Gov. Bill Haslam.
In many states, uncertainty over the future of Obama’s DACA program has worried immigrants. Students who qualify for in-state tuition because of their DACA status could lose that benefit if Trump repeals the program. Some schools including Arizona State University have said they will find financial help for students if the program is eliminated.
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SPRINGDALE, Ark. — Thousands of people in this northwestern corner of Arkansas, many of them working poor, are from a faraway constellation of islands, the most famous of which is known as Bikini.
They can live and work here without visas. Their children attend local schools. They pay federal and state taxes, just like the rest of the community.
But in all but the fewest cases they will never be able to qualify for Medicaid or Medicare under current law.
The large community of people here from the Marshall Islands, located roughly halfway between Australia and Hawaii, fall into a peculiar gap of the US health care system — and it has left a great many of them in the most precarious of limbos.
While some have health insurance through their work, those who aren’t working or are elderly do not. Many don’t see a doctor unless it’s an emergency — a risky approach in a community where type 2 diabetes is startlingly common.
“Most, by the time they see us … their chronic conditions are way out of control or they have other things that could have been caught by health care maintenance, like cancers. By the time they’re seen, it’s advanced,” explained Dr. Sheldon Riklon, a family medicine doctor who is one of only two Marshallese doctors in the US and who was recently recruited to practice in northwest Arkansas.
The special status of the Marshallese is conferred by a treaty called the Compact of Free Association, commonly known as COFA. (It also covers the nations of Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia.) It was struck when the Marshalls, formerly under a US trusteeship, gained their independence in 1986.
Some see the treaty as a debt payment of sorts. For a dozen years after World War II, the US used the Marshall Islands as a nuclear testing ground; 67 nuclear tests were conducted there. Some parts of the country — whose islands have a combined landmass about the size of the District of Columbia, but stretch over 4,500 square miles of ocean — remain uninhabitable.
To this day, the US maintains control over the waters of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and retains a naval base there.
Arkansas happens to be home to the largest community of Marshallese in the continental United States. Many work in Springdale’s ubiquitous factories, where they process chickens or make candles or package baby wipes. But they aren’t US citizens and so don’t legally qualify for social safety net programs.
Some states have tried to address the situation. Oregon has passed a law adding COFA migrants back into its state Medicare program, and similar legislation is working its way through the Washington state legislature. But even without the passage of new legislation in Washington, access to health care seems easier there for the Marshallese than in Arkansas, which has not amended its Medicaid and Medicare programs.
In Springdale, people will tell you that if a family member gets really sick, they’ll head out of state.
“If their health deteriorates and they know their health condition is deteriorating, they will leave us to go to Seattle because they know that they can have better health coverage in Seattle,” said Robin Thomas, administrator of a community clinic in Springdale that serves the Marshallese community. “As long as they can work and make money, they want to be here.”
Michael Duke is an anthropologist at the University of Memphis who is studying the health needs of the Arkansas Marshallese. As he sees it, there’s inequity in their situation.
“They pay federal income taxes but they don’t get back a lot of these services that citizens get,” Duke told STAT. “It would be one thing if they didn’t pay into the system. But they are paying into the system and subsidizing Americans, and not being able to benefit from those [services] themselves.”
Some in the community need health services badly.
Riklon splits his time among several clinics in cities that are strung along Interstate 49 like beads on a necklace. Fayetteville, Springdale, Lowell, Rogers, and Bentonville, the corporate home of Walmart.
One of those clinics cares for Marshallese diabetes patients; it is operated with grant funding by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, at its Fayetteville campus. “When I treat them and I know that they have no insurance, I do my best to keep them off insulin. Because insulin is very expensive,” Riklon said.
Melisa Laelan knows that too well. Laelan, 38, is the director of the Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese, a group that advocates for the community. She is also a court translator, the first certified Marshallese court translator in the country.
A few years ago she was working at a baby wipes factory. Her mother, who was living with Laelan, had diabetes. She did not have insurance, and she didn’t qualify for Medicaid. She died of complications of diabetes.
“Her insulin was costing me $300 a month. … There were times that we had to go without those,” Laelan admitted.
Jirkai Tatak, 52, is also a diabetic. He works as a pressman, printing the local issue of the Democrat Gazette. To avoid the penalty the Affordable Care Act levies on people without health insurance, Tatak purchases the cheapest plan available to him. It covers little, he said.
Tatak cannot afford to buy insurance for his wife and their two children who live with them; the premiums would leave the family nothing to live on.
What does he do if he gets sick? “That’s the question,” Tatak replied. “That’s the question.”
It’s a question the Marshallese here have been asking for years, one echoed by local health service providers who struggle to cope with the community’s health needs.
Local lawmakers appear to have heard their concerns. In mid-March the state Legislature passed a resolution calling for the inclusion of Marshall Islands-born children in ARKids First, Arkansas’s Medicaid program for children under 19.
The state health department is drafting the rules change that will be submitted to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services for approval. Backers of the resolution hope the change can be implemented by the end of the year, if not sooner.
Sandy Hainline Williams, a nurse coordinator for the Marshallese and Latino communities at a Springdale clinic, said getting the Marshallese children into ARKids is a good place to start. Trying to get the state to change its Medicaid and Medicare rules to allow low-income Marshallese adults to qualify is a tougher challenge.
“It’s been difficult to ask to put this population into our Medicaid program as adults because we don’t have a firm grasp on how many there are. So we’re asking for an unknown sum,” she said.
Some people estimate there are between 8,000 to 10,000 Marshallese in Springdale and the surrounding area. Others say the figure may be approaching 14,000. Whatever the actual number, the city has a good-sized chunk of the global Marshallese population, estimated to be around 85,000.
Outreach workers from the Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese have been signing up members of the community for the Affordable Care Act if they can. Not everyone can afford it.
The Marshallese could qualify for Medicaid or Medicare if they become US citizens, but the path to citizenship is difficult, if not impossible, for many.
The size and makeup of Marshallese families contribute to the dilemma. People tend to live in multigenerational households — a great-grandmother and grandmother might be living with two related families in the same dwelling. A Marshallese man with a job might be helping to support his sister’s children. But insurance policies don’t typically allow people to add on grandmothers or nieces and nephews. Even if they did, the costs would be out of reach for these families.
Some of the newcomers speak little English, and don’t understand how health care delivery works in the US. In the Marshall Islands, people who need care go to a clinic, where the consultation, tests, and medicines prescribed will typically cost about $5.
“They arrived here and they did what they know how to do. They went to the emergency rooms. You can’t hit an emergency room just to be triaged for under $280 anymore. So they were mounting up $1,000 bills for nothing and just got overwhelmed financially,” Hainline Williams said.
A number of Springdale’s hospitals have charitable programs. But the application process is complex, often requiring documentation that the Marshallese don’t have.
“If you hand them a packet of papers 30 to 70 pages long, they don’t get them completed. So a lot of them didn’t make applications,” Hainline Williams said.
Jebé River, 61, a slender woman who is looking after her 12-year-old grandson, finds the situation bewildering.
Through a translator, she explained that she tried to apply for the ACA, but missed the enrollment period.
“It’s a lot easier in the islands,” she acknowledged.
This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on April 7, 2017. Find the original story here.
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The Basque militant group ETA surrendered its inventory of remaining weapons, ending some 40 years of political violence in southwest France and northern Spain on Saturday as people celebrated in the French city of Bayonne.
ETA, which stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna — Basque Country and Freedom — has killed more than 800 people since its attempt to seek its own Basque state under Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. The group had declared a ceasefire in 2011 and has been inactive since then, but had not disarmed.
A mediation group known as the Artisans of Peace organized the handover, passing on a list of coordinates to caches of 120 firearms, three tons of explosives and thousands of rounds of ammunition, according to Reuters.
“We hope that with this the movement can move forward to a long-lasting peace in the Basque country,” activist Mixel Berhokoirigoin said.
Hundreds of people held up Artisans of Peace signs in Bayonne, welcoming the announcement.
Basque student dissidents formed ETA in 1959, but the group’s first known killing was not until 1968. One of its leaders, Xabier Etxebarrieta, shot and killed an officer who had asked for his identification and was killed later by the Spanish Civil Guard, according to The New York Times.
In retaliation, ETA fatally shot Melitón Manzanas, a high-ranking police officer in San Sebastian who opposed Basque nationalism despite being Basque himself.
Etxebarrieta became “the first martyr of the revolution,” wrote Bernardo Atxaga in a 2006 article for The New York Times. People passed out pamphlets after he died, comparing him to Argentine Marxist Che Guevara while promising revenge.
“As of this moment we issue a warning. For us, Txabi Etxebarrieta is worth much more than all the members of the Guardia Civil put together. They have robbed us of him and for that they will be made to pay,” the pamphlet read.
Violence against Franco’s regime ensued and was reciprocated.
In 1973, ETA shifted the course of Spanish history by assassinating Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco, Franco’s most likely successor. When Franco died in 1975, Juan Carlos, whose grandfather had been Spain’s last ruling king, took his place.
Spain’s new democratic constitution in 1978 gave autonomous powers to a Basque government in three provinces, but ETA wanted more.
Fighting with bombings and the Anti-Terrorist Liberation Group, a Spanish paramilitary group, continued until the ETA’s last known killing in 2010.
ETA leader Mikel Kabikoitz Karrera Sarobe was arrested in Normandy that same year, and then in January of 2011 the group declared a ceasefire.
After years of diplomatic attempts to get ETA to hand over its weapons, Artisans of Peace took on the responsibility.
Spanish government officials said the group still needs to dissolve and apologize to its victims.
“The government will not change its position: terrorists cannot expect favourable treatment… much less impunity for their crimes,” Spanish Prime Minister Mariono Rajoy said in a statement.
And the leader of Basque pro-independence party EH Bildu Arnaldo Otegi said the ETA needed more resolution, too, pointing out that 300 of its members are still in Spanish and French prisons.
“From today we will put on the table all the problems we still have as a society and a nation,” he said.
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The South Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia are recalling nearly 1.5 million vehicles in the U.S., Canada and South Korea over engine problems that could cost the two companies hundreds of millions of dollars to repair.
The automakers said a defect in cars and sports utility vehicles may lead to stalled engines and an increased risk of crashes. South Korea’s transport ministry said Friday that metal debris in crankshafts could result in engine damage and the loss of motive power, according to Reuters.
The list of vehicles to be recalled in the U.S. includes:
Kia is an affiliate of Hyundai. Combined, the companies are recalling 1.19 million cars and SUVs in the United States, 114,187 in Canada and 171,348 in South Korean, safety regulators said.
“The recall is related to a manufacturing process problem,” the companies said in a statement. The engines for the vehicles recalled in the U.S. were made at a Hyundai plant in Alabama.
Hyundai said it would replace defective engines with new ones, with recalls scheduled to begin in late May.
According to documents submitted to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, owners of the defective vehicles may hear “a knocking sound” as the vehicles accelerate, the Associated Press reported. A Hyundai spokesman said those who own a recalled vehicle should contact their dealers.
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PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Donald Trump intends to nominate Lee Francis Cissna to head the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The White House announced the nomination in a statement Saturday.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services processes immigration and naturalization applications. The agency is part of the Department of Homeland Security, where Cissna currently works as director of immigration policy in the Office of Policy.
Trump has taken a firm stance on immigration since his inauguration, passing executive orders with the intention of tightening border security and restricting the arrival of travelers from certain countries and refugees.
Cissna previously served at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, in the Office of the Chief Counsel. He also is a former U.S. foreign service officer, who was stationed in Haiti and Sweden.
When it comes to humanitarian aid for Africa, traditionally it has meant taxpayer-funded programs like PEPFAR or privately-funded shipments of medical supplies, food and other goods. A non-profit organization called GiveDirectly is pioneering another approach in eastern Africa: giving cash unconditionally to the needy.
The latest project involves providing what’s called a “universal basic income,” whereby every adult in a designated area receives a regular cash payment. In tonight’s signature segment, NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Christopher Livesay reports from Kenya.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Magline Awino Ndiwa lives in a rural village in western Kenya called Kaluande South.
As a subsistence farmer, she and her husband struggle to support their five children.
MAGLINE AWINO NDIWA: Most of the money that we get is always spent on school fees, because if we don’t pay the fees, they are sent home.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: For years, she’s made tough decisions on whether to pay those fees, buy food, or improve her tiny, mud-thatched home, with its leaky tin roof. Then, last year, a U.S. based nonprofit organization called “GiveDirectly” came to her village and offered her $1000 in cash — ten times her annual earnings — and said she could spend it on whatever she wanted.
70 percent of the 281 families in this village received cash from GiveDirectly, which targets people living on less than $1 a day. Ndiwa used her cash to build this bigger house.
How has life changed now that you’ve gotten this cash?
MAGLINE AWINO NDIWA: It’s not easy to live with five children in a small house. But now I have a good home that’s not leaking and has enough space to accommodate all the children. I am happy.
MICHAEL FAYE: The big idea was giving people money to make them less poor. It almost seems so obvious.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Economist Michael Faye was one of four graduate students studying development economics who co-founded GiveDirectly in 2009. Unlike other aid groups that provide goods or services, nearly 90 percent of its donations go straight to recipients as cash.
MICHAEL FAYE: We were frustrated with many of the same things that a lot of donors are frustrated with: Nonprofits are opaque, the money has to pass through multiple hands, and only a fraction of it winds up in the hands of the poor.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Funded by private donors and foundations, including several based in Silicon Valley, GiveDirectly has distributed nearly 56 million dollars across western Kenya and Uganda since 2011, providing up to $1000 to 65,000 families with no strings attached.
People use GiveDirectly’s cash in a wide variety of ways:
Sylvanus Olweny Oluoch used the money to buy food, clothes and livestock. And build this modest new house.
Daniel Omondi Odipo used part of his GiveDirectly grant to pay his wife’s dowry.
And many recipients use the money to start a business.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Chicken broth, some candy. I see toothpaste.
Jane Aketch Orege opened this small general store and a barber shop next door.
So there’s nothing keeping a recipient of this money from doing something with it that the donor doesn’t like?
MICHAEL FAYE: That’s right. There’s obviously things that a lot of us would agree are bad — smoking, alcohol, and so on. But there are other things that we as donors think about. Maybe we think someone should spend it on education. Maybe we think they should spend it on a cow. And I think there’s a degree of self-reflection that we should have on why we have those preferences, and why we think those preferences are more important than the poor’s preferences.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: GiveDirectly’s cash is distributed through M-PESA, a widely used mobile money system that allows Kenyans to receive and send money for a small fee. If a potential cash recipient doesn’t own a cell phone, GiveDirectly provides one.
The money is given in three lump sum payments. And as part of enrolling in the program, every recipient is vetted in person.
Diana Achieng Mwaga is a GiveDirectly field officer. While leaving decisions up to the recipients, mgawa documents how they plan to spend the cash, and collects data on their lives before they receive the money.
GiveDirectly relies on outside researchers to assess the impact of their cash-transfer program.
One study published last year on GiveDirectly’s work found recipients:
Increased livestock ownership by 50 percent
Reported a significant decrease in depression
Didn’t spend more on alcohol and tobacco.
BERK OZLER: Cash transfers are not only the future, they’re the present.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: World bank economist Berk Ozler says research across the globe shows the advantages of cash as a form of aid, especially in the short term.
BERK OZLER: I think we have more and more evidence that suggests that unless you have a very good reason to give people something else, you should give them cash instead.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: While certain benefits of cash have been widely studied, GiveDirectly still has to convince the people it’s trying to help, many of whom are skeptical.
MAN IN CROWD: What is the religion behind this thing?
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Field officer Diana Achieng Mwaga has had to knock down rumors of ties to sinister religious forces.
Magline Ndiwa says, unlike her, some people in her village refused the money.
MAGLINE AWINO NDIWA: They were saying so many things: that we will be forced to give up our children, that we will die.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Mary Akoth is co-wives with Ndiwa, married to the same man. A common practice in this part of Kenya.
When you first heard about GiveDirectly what did you think?
MARY AKOTH: I was not happy because money that you have not worked for, you cannot be comfortable taking it.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: The Kenyan government also runs cash grant programs for more than 700,000 households with vulnerable children, the elderly, and the disabled, providing monthly stipends of about $20.
Gladys Wanga is a member of Kenya’s parliament.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Are you learning anything from GiveDirectly?
GLADYS WANGA: Yes, I think one of the lessons that the government programs can learn from GiveDirectly is transparency and just a level playing field for everyone. And just a tool that vets, and when you, if you meet the criteria, you’re good to go.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Wanga represents Homa Bay, an area in western Kenya where GiveDirectly has given out cash since 2015.
Have they followed through on what they claimed they were able to achieve?
GLADYS WANGA: Yes, they’ve certainly followed through. Lives have changed. They promise what they do. They don’t promise what they can’t do.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: GiveDirectly has been making lump-sum payments to the poorest individuals in Kenya for years. But what would happen if entire villages were recipients? That’s what GiveDirectly wants to find out with an experiment stretching 12 years.
The idea is to provide what’s known as a “Universal Basic Income:” Universally providing every adult in a village enough cash to cover the basic cost of living.
The concept of a Universal Basic Income has been debated in both poor and rich countries around the world. In wealthier economies, it’s been proposed as a replacement for safety net programs, a way to combat growing income inequality, and even to address job losses expected from automation.
Other countries are already experimenting with the idea. In Finland, the government has begun a universal basic income trial for some of its citizens. Governments in Canada, Scotland, and the Netherlands have also proposed trials. And in the United States, a private organization has proposed a trial in Oakland, California.
GiveDirectly’s $30 million program in Kenya will be the largest and longest experiment of its kind. Recipients will receive about $22 a month, which is close to $0.75 a day. Last October, it started providing a basic income in this village to test the model. Kennedy Aswan Abagi is the village’s elected “elder.”
KENNEDY ASWAN ABAGI: Twelve years is a long time. Hopefully by that time everybody shall have invested in something that can support their families, like rearing livestock or farming crops, so that their lives can continue smoothly.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: His village is one of 300 that will be part of the Universal Basic Income experiment. The villages will be randomly divided into four groups. Some will get lump-sum transfers, some will get money for twelve years, some for two years, and other villages will get nothing… acting as ‘controls’ to see the impact of the basic income.
ALAN KRUEGER: How much income does she usually make in a month?
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Princeton University economist Alan Krueger is one of the independent researchers that will analyze data from the basic-income experiment. He was visiting the pilot village along with GiveDirectly co-founder Michael Faye.
So this is the questionnaire that recipients go through?
ALAN KRUEGER: That’s right.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: It’s pretty weighty; how long does it take to actually get through all these questions?
ALAN KRUEGER: At the moment it’s taking just under three hours, and we’re trying to cut it down.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Participants will be asked about everything from their hopes for the future to their incomes.
ALAN KRUEGER: You don’t just focus on a single outcome, you have to look at a range of outcomes.
MICHAEL FAYE: How did you react the first time you heard about it?
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Although worlds apart, Faye believes lessons from the universal basic-income experiment in Kenya will be relevant to Europe and the U.S..
That might seem like apples and oranges to a lot of people, Kenya compared to the U.S.
MICHAEL FAYE: It is absolutely apples and oranges, and you could also say Detroit and Oakland are also apples and oranges. And as an economist, this is why you do the experiment many times, to learn what is universal and what is locally specific. But you certainly need to pick somewhere to start.
ALAN KRUEGER: I think there are aspects to economic behavior that cut across cultures, but we’ll see how much we can extrapolate from the fields here in Kenya, to other contexts.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: World Bank economist Berk Ozler has doubts about how much researchers will learn from the Basic Income experiment in both rich and poor countries.
BERK OZLER: If we’re talking about the U.S. or Finland or Switzerland or something like that, the context and the amounts will be so different. And then on the developing country side, I think that I’m worried that the amount is too large.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Ozler fears that a country like Kenya could never afford to implement a program like GiveDirectly’s for all of its citizens. He would also like to see the experiment go further, and test GiveDirectly’s cash payments against other types of charitable aid in rural Africa, such as vaccines, mosquito nets to prevent malaria or free livestock.
BERK OZLER: I’m not going to convince you that cash transfers are better. You’re not going to convince me that giving people chickens is better. So let’s just put it to the test.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: How do you measure success in a program like this?
MICHAEL FAYE: It’s almost hard at some basic level for it not to be successful, simply because you’re giving people that are living on 50, 60 cents a day money that will take them above the poverty line. The broader success is shifting the sector to a place that is based around evidence, that is transparent and honest, and puts the recipient at the center of aid programs, and not just the donor.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Aid recipient Kennedy Aswan Abagi says he plans to use his cash gifts to expand his carpentry business and invest in more livestock, and he’s thinking long term.
KENNEDY ASWAN ABAGI: Our only hope is that GiveDirectly will fulfill its promise of continuing to send us the money for twelve years, without interruption, so that we can continue investing in projects that will sustain us afterwards.
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HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: To discuss the situation in Syria, the U.S. military role there and throughout the region, I’m joined by Doug Ollivant from New America in Washington; and Kimberly Marten from Columbia University here in New York.
Doug, I want to start with you. If this was a one-off incident, how consequential is it?
DOUG OLLIVANT, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Well, if it’s a one-off that is designed with the strategic purpose of informing not just Syria, but all regimes that the United States has a zero tolerance policy on the use of chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, then it’s making that point. But in terms of the Syrian civil war itself and U.S. policy in the Middle East, probably very little
SREENIVASAN: Kimberly Marten, the concern that everybody has now is not just necessarily what Syria’s response, but what’s big brother, Russia’s, response.
KIMBERLY MARTEN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, you know, I think it’s not going to be as bad as some people have been predicting. I think Russia must have been very embarrassed by Syria’s use of chemical weapons because it really undercut Putin’s role back in 2013 in saying he had helped get rid of Syria’s weapons. And what’s truly striking is that Russia got an hour of advance notice of the strike, and there were no Russians killed and there were no Russian helicopters hit, but there were Syrian soldiers killed and there were Syrian airplanes hit.
And I think that might be an indication that Russia didn’t tell Syria that the strike was coming.
Doug, what about that? Is there enough daylight between Syria and Russia there, at least on this specific issue, considering how geographically important Syria is to Russia’s military presence in the Middle East?
OLLIVANT: Well, certainly, in the larger picture, Syria’s very important to Russia, much more important than it is to us and, therefore, they’re very vested. But I really agree with Kimberly’s analysis. The Russians had to be embarrassed by this.
It’s really hard for me to get my head inside the logic of the Syrian regime, why they would do this, why they would provoke the international community, embarrass their patrons, the Russians? This seems to make no sense to me. And I totally agree with Kimberly. It’s not at all beyond the Russians to let them feel the brunt of this attack so that they don’t do something like that again
SREENIVASAN: Rex Tillerson is supposed to go to Moscow next week. How does that conversation go?
MARTEN: Well, you know, Putin is somebody who really respects strength, and I think this might have been quite intentional as a way of showing Russia and showing Putin, in particular, that President Trump is not going to take lying down whatever it is that Russia does in the Middle East. And we have to be concerned that Russia is also increasing its military influence in Egypt, potentially in Libya, also in Afghanistan.
And so, I think a message of strength here in Syria is something that might actually benefits Tillerson in getting a good deal in Moscow
SREENIVASAN: Doug, what about that influence that Russia has been increasing throughout the Middle East?
OLLIVANT: Well, as Kimberly pointed out, it has — if not have a strong relationship with the three countries she mentioned, with Afghanistan, with Libya, with Egypt, it’s certainly trying to extend tentacles into those regimes. It’s not the same kind of relationship they have with Syria, but certainly, they’re starting to expand their influence in the region.
I still maintain this strike was much more about chemical weapons than about the Syrian civil war or Russian influence or anything else. But if the Russians are willing to take away a message of U.S. strength from this, I certainly have no problem with that
SREENIVASAN: Kimberly, this wasn’t an issue about sort of U.S. versus Russia, more specific not even about regime change, but really specifically about chemical weapons.
MARTEN: Yes, it was. It did follow a day of discussion in the U.N. Security Council about what had happened in Syria, and so it wasn’t out of the blue. It was clear that there would nothing a U.N. Security Council resolution that condemned Syria because Syria is Russia’s ally, and Russia has a veto in the U.N. Security Council. But least there was an attempt made to get the international community thinking about this. And in fact, what we see is that the majority of U.S. allies are on board behind what the U.S. did
SREENIVASAN: There was also talk that the treasury secretary said we were going to impose new economic sanctions on Syria.
Doug, is that going to have any more of an impact?
OLLIVANT: They’re pretty isolated now, so I’m not sure how much more impact this will actually have in tangible terms, but as a symbolic gesture of, again, we’re not just going to punish the poor pilots on the ground who were on the receiving end of the missiles, but the regime actors themselves who are responsible for this strategic decision that, again, sends a very, very strong message.
And, again, I suspect the people this is aimed at peripherally are not so much other players in the area but the North Koreans and maybe also the Iranians. This is a WMD message
SREENIVASAN: We’ve talked quite a bit about Syria and it’s by no means the only country in the Middle East and South Asia, where the U.S. is actively engaged. There’s Afghanistan, where the U.S. has been at war since 2001, and the spillover against Islamic militants based in Pakistan. There are still 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq where the war to topple Saddam Hussein began in 2003 and there are conflicts in Somalia and Yemen, where the Trump administration is escalating the U.S. presence, aiding one side or other.
So, Doug, thinking about this in the regional context, does this change the equation of at least how the actors in these places see the role of the United States?
OLLIVANT: Well, talking to my friends in the region, it sounds like the — the leaders in Middle East are thrilled to see this. They’re thrilled to see a strong Trump administration. The Middle East, most of these regimes were notably not happy with the last administration. Some of them were very happy to see this new administration, and they’re happy to see this show of strength.
But I think in terms of trying to apply this to all the places we’re engaged in the region, these are all very, very different. You know, the Iraq fight against ISIS is going very well. We can fairly be said to be winning there. Afghanistan is going much more poorly. In Yemen, we’re largely just supporting the Saudis.
These are all individual fights we kind of have to take one at a time.
SREENIVASAN: Kimberly Marten, does this change Russia’s thinking about the fact that the United States is willing to use force in specific instances, especially when they’re thinking about expanding geographically or other decisions that they’ve already made?
MARTEN: I think it might be sending a message that there are limits, you know? There doesn’t seem to be evidence that this is going to become a new U.S. military presence that has any kind of a permanent basis. And so, I don’t think that we’re necessarily going to see the U.S. and Russia becoming out and out military competitors against each other. But I think it does send a message that there are limits, and that if Russia says that it has these allies that are its client states, it’d better be able to control what they do
SREENIVASAN: All right. Kimberly Marten, Doug Ollivant — thank you both.
MARTEN: Thank you.
OLLIVANT: Pleasure, Hari.
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