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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump has been observed to change his stated position on issues, sometimes within days or even hours of what he last said.

    The president and his team have said he’s being flexible, and that many people have changed their views to match his. But he has made some moves that reverse statements he made during the campaign, in particular on economic policy.

    Hari Sreenivasan in our New York studio has our — has more.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: For President Trump, it’s all about pointing out that he’s done what he said he’d do. He tweeted last night that his administration has kept promises on the border, on energy, on jobs, on regulations.

    But he’s also made a series of reversals in recent days. In an interview yesterday with The Wall Street Journal, he said he will not label China as a currency manipulator. That’s a stark departure from his posture throughout the presidential campaign that he’d brand Beijing on day one.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We are going to stand up to China on its massive currency manipulation, because they are beating our companies.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And just 11 days ago, he told The Financial Times that the Chinese were the — quote — “world champions” of cheapening their currency to boost exports.

    Then came his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Now Mr. Trump says Xi’s government is not currently manipulating its currency, and that claiming otherwise might jeopardize Chinese cooperation on North Korea.

    In the same interview, the president said he wouldn’t release guidelines for tax reform legislation until he gets health care done. That underscored what he said during a FOX Business interview a day earlier.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have a great health care plan that I think will happen, and, if it happens, then I go immediately to tax reform.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But that’s a 180 from last month, after House Republicans failed to rally the votes to repeal and replace Obamacare.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: So, now we’re going to go for tax reform, which I have always liked.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And on the subject of taxes, in the FOX interview, the president declined to say outright that he’d support the so-called border adjustment tax to give U.S. companies favorable treatment on exports and imports.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: When I hear border adjustment, adjustment means we lose. We lose. So, I don’t like the term border adjustment.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The president also didn’t rule out keeping Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen for another term. And he said he likes the fed’s low-interest rate policy. During the campaign, he said the opposite on both Yellen and interest rates.

    Ditto on the Export-Import Bank. On the campaign trail, he called it unnecessary. In The Wall Street Journal interview, he praised it for helping small businesses and overseas companies that buy American.

    Let’s try to unpack some of the reasoning behind these changes and their impact.

    Carol Lee of The Wall Street Journal interviewed the president on Wednesday. And Robert Costa covers the White House for The Washington Post.

    Carol, let me start with you.

    Currency manipulation, not something we talk about very often, but the president did talk a lot about this on the campaign trail. And what he said to you was the opposite of what he’s been saying for a very long time.

    CAROL LEE, The Wall Street Journal: That’s right.

    During the campaign, then-candidate Trump promised many times — it was one of his go-to lines — that he wouldn’t only label China a currency manipulator, but do it on day one of his presidency.

    And when he spoke to us yesterday in our interview, he was asked about this, and his response was twofold. One, he said, China is no longer a currency manipulator, so he doesn’t need to label them a currency manipulator, that they have been — haven’t been manipulating their currency, he said, since he took office; they have been doing it for some time before that. But he — that was his first reasoning.

    And, number two, he said, even if they were manipulating their currency, now is not the time, because he needs China to take steps to help him implement a policy that confronts North Korea, the North Korea threat. So, it’s two reasons, but it’s a pretty significant reversal, because it’s one that he — a promise that he made multiple times on the campaign trail, and now he’s saying he doesn’t need to do it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Robert, health care, according to these interviews, is back on the table.

    How come? You famously got the phone call after the health care bill didn’t make it to the floor. And he said that it’s not health care. It’s, we’re moving on the taxes.

    What happened, do you think?

    ROBERT COSTA, The Washington Post: There’s a big push from the Republican base to have the GOP majorities in the Congress and, of course, the White House follow through on the promises they made during the 2016 campaign.

    You saw this on the ground this past week in the Kansas House special election. You see it ahead of next Tuesday, where there is a special House election in Georgia. Republicans want to see action on health care and on taxes.

    That’s why, as much as the president told me and others that he may shelve the health care bill for the moment and look for Democrats down the line to come back to the bargaining table, he’s at the top of a party that wants movement. And that’s why we see Congress during this recess starting to reengage on that issue.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Carol, was there some rationale that he offered to you all about why his thinking is changing on these things?

    CAROL LEE: Well, there were different rationales for different changes that he made.

    He discussed the one about currency manipulation. He also talked about his views on the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, who he was sharply critical of during the campaign. And he said he met her, he liked her, he respects her. And he left open the possibility of nominating her again.

    He spoke about Russia, about China. There was one particular instance where very early on in the interview he talked about President Xi of children, and meeting him, and how he went into that meeting telling him that he thought it was easy for China to pressure North Korea, that they had a lot of power over North Korea, and he should be able to easily handle that issue.

    And he said that President Xi then went into the history of China and Korea, and within 10 minutes, President Trump said that he realized it’s not so easy for China to just take care of the North Korea problem, because they don’t have as much power as he thought they did.

    So, there is — you know, he kind of walked through his thinking on that. And so he’s a little more sympathetic to the Chinese in terms of what they’re able to do to help him on the North Korea issue.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Robert, how much of this — I mean, what Carol is saying, certainly some part of it is the president realizing that things are much more complicated when you’re actually behind the desk.

    How much of it is also the forces that are at work inside the White House, the different power struggles that you have been documenting?

    ROBERT COSTA: The political environment inside of the West Wing is certainly a factor as President Trump thinks through his decisions.

    Based on my reporting, there are certain people right now who have very influential voices in the ear of the president, in particular Gary Cohn, the president’s top economic adviser,a former Goldman Sachs executive, Dina Powell, the deputy national security adviser and a former George W. Bush official in that White House, as well as Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, and his daughter Ivanka.

    They come out of a more centrist Republican and even Democratic mold, when speaking of Cohn, who is still a registered Democrat. And they’re urging the president privately to more in a more mainstream, centrist direction.

    You also have H.R. McMaster, the new national security adviser, who is a Republican hawk. So, these non-interventionist instincts that we saw during the campaign with the president seem to have faded a bit with the Syria strike and now this action in Afghanistan.

    And you see Stephen Bannon, the populist nationalist at the president’s side, being demoted, still in the White House, but not as influential.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Carol, speaking of Stephen Bannon, he didn’t do him any favors. He sort of almost distanced himself from him, or at least minimized his role during the president’s interview with you.

    CAROL LEE: He did. It was a very interesting moment.

    We asked him what to make of his comments the previous day in The New York Post, where he said that — you know, he really distanced himself from Steve Bannon, said that he’s his own — the president said he’s his own strategist and tried to diminish that role.

    And we said, well, what should we make of those comments? And the president’s response was, well, you know, he’s a guy who works for me, which is a really understatement. And he said — he also said, I am my own strategist.

    And, in saying that, it was something that he repeated again, it was very clear that he is trying to set the tone that he wants — that he’s in charge, and he not only was frustrated with some of the overshadowing that was happening with Steve Bannon and some of the parodies that were out there about him and how he was controlling Trump.

    I think the president also then, as Robert reported, got very frustrated with the infighting, particularly between Steve Bannon and his son-in-law. And he said that he told them that they needed to work it out. We asked him if he planned on having the same team in six months. And he said, I like my team, but I don’t know. Maybe I will make some changes. Maybe I won’t.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Robert, finally to you, how do you cover a president like this who tells The Financial Times 10 days before Carol’s interview something company different than what he tells Carol, and then perhaps, the next time you talk with him, it’s going to be something else?

    ROBERT COSTA: In a way, it’s almost predictable, having covered the president for a few years, as has Carol, very deeply over the last few years.

    You know that this is a nonideological president. Unlike President Obama, who was mounting his own version of a liberal progressive project, or George W. Bush with his compassionate conservatism, or even with Ronald Reagan, decades ago, with his conservative movement, with Trump, you have a president who, at the center of it all, wants to do what’s best for him, his own popularity, his own standing, rather than necessarily his party or an ideology.

    So, he is susceptible to shift with the political winds and to make decisions.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right.

    Robert Costa of The Washington Post, Carol Lee of The Wall Street Journal, thank you both.

    ROBERT COSTA: Thank you.

    CAROL LEE: Thank you.

    The post What’s making President Trump shift views on domestic policies? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The last week has seen significant changes in the way the Trump White House views the world. And what began as a presidency emphasizing retrenchment on the home front has been quickly refocused on the U.S. role abroad.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: USA! USA!

    JUDY WOODRUFF: He bills himself the America first president, but it’s world affairs that have risen to the top of his agenda lately. Syria’s use of chemical weapons, the U.S. response, and President Trump’s own words have raised fresh questions about his foreign policy.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Right now, the world is a mess. But I think, by the time we finish, I think it’s going to be a lot better place to live.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Still, on Syria, for one example, there are competing messages. Defense Secretary James Mattis said Tuesday the priority remains defeating the Islamic State, and not removing President Bashar al-Assad, despite last week’s poison gas attack.

    JAMES MATTIS, U.S. Secretary of Defense: This was a separate issue that arose in the midst of that campaign, the use by the Assad regime of chemical weapons, and we addressed that militarily.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But Mr. Trump sounded a harsher note yesterday, calling Assad an animal, and worse.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: That’s a butcher. That’s a butcher.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The issue dominated Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s tense visit to Moscow yesterday. Tillerson said relations with Russia were at a low point. Mr. Trump agreed, but said he hopes for an eventual thaw.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It’d be a fantastic thing if we got along with Putin and if we got along with Russia, and that could happen. And it may not happen. It may be just the opposite.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Today, the president tweeted: “Things will work out fine between the USA And Russia. At the right time, everyone will come to their senses and there will be lasting peace.”

    Another obstacle to that lasting peace is North Korea’s nuclear testing and missile program. The president has dispatched an American aircraft carrier group to the region, and he’s pressing China’s President Xi Jinping to help bring the North to heel.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He’s a terrific person. We spent a lot of time together in Florida. And he’s a very special man. So, we will see how it goes. I think he’s going to try very hard.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That vow comes amid reports that Pyongyang may be readying for another nuclear test. And Japan warns the North may now be able to load a missile warhead with nerve gas.

    For more on the challenges facing the Trump White House, and its options going forward, we turn to two men with deep military and diplomatic knowledge.

    Ambassador William Burns retired from the State Department in 2014, after serving as deputy secretary of state under President Obama. He also was ambassador to Russia and to Jordan over his 33-year diplomatic career. He is now the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. And Retired Admiral James Stavridis, he served as NATO supreme allied commander from 2009 to 2013, the first Naval officer to hold that position. After 37 years in the U.S. Navy, he now serves as dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

    And we welcome both of you to the NewsHour.

    Right now, we’re thinking we remember all this analysis during the campaign that this was a president who was going to be reluctant to use U.S. force abroad, to project the United States militarily.

    But, Admiral Stavridis, with now this news today of dropping a bomb in Afghanistan, the strike on the airfield in Syria, the threat, in effect, toward North Korea, are we seeing something very different, a president who is very prepared to use military force?

    ADM. JAMES STAVRIDIS, (RET.), Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander: I think, if you look at the personality involved, there’s always been a persona of toughness about Donald Trump, so I’m not shocked or even really surprised at this.

    It does fly in the face of some of his campaign rhetoric, Judy, but I do think that the strike in Syria, which I believe is really the one to concentrate on, is a fairly well-thought-out strategic message that says the United States will use force, we intend to be at the table in the Middle East, and I think has hopefully a sobering impact both on China and on North Korea.

    The big bomb today is really a tactical move. It is a big bomb, but it is not going the change facts on the ground or send a big signal. It’s the strike in Syria to focus on.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ambassador Burns, do you see a strategy in all of this right now?

    WILLIAM BURNS, Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State: I think every new administration undergoes a lot of changes on first contact with reality.

    But I have to admit that the pace and scope of the changes we have seen even in the last few days in the Trump administration really do make your head spin a little bit. And I think the big question is whether or not the tactical shifts, the reactions, the impulses add up to a strategy, in other words, a coherent and disciplined approach to America’s role in the world, which lays emphasis on our alliances, on our ability to mobilize other countries around the world to deal with common problems, that sees them not as millstones, as the Trump campaign rhetoric often held, but as huge assets which set us apart from lonelier major powers, like Russia and China.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But apply that question, Admiral Stavridis, to the situation in Syria, because — what you just referred to.

    I mean, on the one hand, you have the administration saying this was just a one-off, it was an attempt to send a signal to President Assad that the U.S. will react if he uses chemical weapons again. On the other hand, you have the president describing President Assad as an animal, as we have heard.

    It isn’t entirely clear, I think, to everyone watching what the U.S. approach to Syria is.

    ADM. JAMES STAVRIDIS: I completely agree, both with your comment and with Ambassador Burns.

    I think it is interesting to note that all this occurs with an overlay of the NATO secretary-general coming to Washington and having a — by all accounts, a very good meeting with President Trump, I think, bolstering the point that Ambassador Burns is making is that America is so much better, so much stronger together with our allies, with our friends.

    And I hope that, in Syria, NATO can be brought along to be part of a coalition against the Islamic State and perhaps over time against Assad. We will see. But the salient point here is the use of force and the willingness to do so. I agree with Ambassador Burns, we have yet to see a coherent strategy emerge.

    Let’s hope that we do, and let’s hope it includes the ideas of allies, partners and friends.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Apply the question, Ambassador Burns, the one you just raised a minute ago, to what we’re seeing in Syria, and connect that to this what appears to be new approach the Russia.

    The president sounded very complimentary toward Vladimir Putin again for months and months. Now he is saying Putin is on the wrong side of this major question in Syria.

    WILLIAM BURNS: Well, it was an illusion to think that the Trump administration was going to be able to pull off a grand bargain, a total normalization of U.S.-Russia relations, because there’s too much of a disconnect, I think, right now in the way each of us, Putin’s Russia and the United States, sees our role in the world and sees the question of international order.

    But I have to admit I’m surprised with the speed with which things have flipped over the course of just the last week or so.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How does what you’re hearing, Admiral Stavridis, the administration say and do about Russia fit into what you just described a moment ago with regard to NATO and the fact that this does now seem to be a president who is ready to work with NATO?

    ADM. JAMES STAVRIDIS: I think it’s a reflection of the fact that there has been a reset. We used to talk a lot about the reset with Russia, which hoped to move us in a positive direction. Here, we see a reset of reality.

    Exactly as Ambassador Burns says, it’s a wave of Russian bad behavior washing over. That, Judy, has a very salutary effect on NATO. Its stock goes up as Russia’s stock goes down, precisely because, in order to work with Russia, we have to project strength to Russia.

    That means using the NATO alliance as part of that. I would say that we should confront Russia where we must, on Syria, cyber-attacks on the United States, on the invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, confront where we must, but cooperate where we can. Let’s find some zones of cooperation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s so much more I want to ask you both about, including China, but I don’t want to let you get away, Ambassador Bill Burns, without asking about just the president’s approach, this unpredictability, this notion that he’s keeping America’s allies and adversaries off-balance.

    Is that a strategy, in and of itself?

    WILLIAM BURNS: I mean, occasionally, unpredictability can be a useful thing.

    But I think you have also got to be careful about, you know, the importance of consistency in American foreign policy. Whether it’s friends or foes, we generally get further in the world when we’re consistent and coherent in how we approach our strategy in the world, because, otherwise, friends begin to doubt our resolve, or sometimes doubt our leadership, and foes are attempted to try the take advantage when they’re not sure the approach the United States is going to take.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Admiral Stavridis, what about that?

    ADM. JAMES STAVRIDIS: Agree completely.

    And I will simply add to it that, again, we want to be tactically surprising. We don’t want to telegraph our raid or the weapons system we’re going to use or where the next carrier strike group is going to pop up.

    But, strategically, we need consistency, we need a plan. And that is yet to be seen from this administration. I do feel that the last few days, we have seen things moving in a better direction. Let’s be hopeful that that kind of strategic consistency evolves, that we keep tactical surprise when we need to. Together, they will help us create a positive foreign policy.

    WILLIAM BURNS: And if you want to pursue the kind of strategy that Jim Stavridis was just describing, you have got to be able to sustain the institutions that help you to carry that out.

    And when you propose a budget that would essentially gut some of those institutions, reduce by 30 percent, at least in the projection, you know, the State Department’s budget, the budget for foreign assistance, you’re creating a situation in which you’re almost inevitably going to over-rely on the use of force as your tool of first resort, and you’re going to miss opportunities diplomatically, as well as using foreign assistance smartly with regard to key fragile states to try to avoid the kind of conflicts and failures that ultimately drag in the U.S. military, at far greater cost.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All of which is worth taking another long look at that.

    Ambassador Bill Burns, Admiral James Stavridis, we thank you both very much.

    WILLIAM BURNS: Thanks so much.

    ADM. JAMES STAVRIDIS: Thanks, Judy.

    The post Have crises abroad changed President Trump’s view of the world? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. military blasted Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan today with the biggest non-nuclear bomb in the American arsenal. The target was a tunnel complex in Nangarhar province near the Pakistani border. The bomb contains 11 tons of explosives, and had never been used in actual combat.

    President Trump said it shows the U.S. is taking the fight to ISIS.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If you look at what’s happened over last eight weeks and compare that to really what’s happened over the last eight years, you will see there’s a tremendous difference. Tremendous difference.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just last week, a U.S. Army special forces soldier was killed in the same area where the bomb was dropped.

    Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is out with a fresh denial of any role in a poison gas attack which last week killed 87 people, including children. The U.S. responded a few days later with a cruise missile strike on a Syrian military air base. Assad spoke with Agence France-Presse and said he would agree to an impartial investigation.

    BASHAR AL-ASSAD, President of Syria (through interpreter): We don’t have any chemical weapons. We gave up our arsenal a few years ago. Even if we have them, we wouldn’t use them, and we have never used our chemical arsenal in our history.

    Our impression is that the West, mainly the United States, is hand in glove with the terrorists. They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, the Syrian army claims that the U.S. coalition hit an Islamic State chemical weapons warehouse last night and killed hundreds of people.

    Separately, the Pentagon acknowledged another strike in Syria mistakenly killed 18 rebels who were battling ISIS.

    The European Court of Human Rights ruled today that the Russian government used excessive force in reacting to a school siege back in 2004. More than 330 people died in the southern Russian city of Beslan. About half were children. Heavily armed Islamic militants associated with the Chechen Republic stormed the school, triggering a nearly three-day stand-off. Russian forces used tanks and grenade launchers to end the siege.

    Moscow vowed to appeal today’s ruling.

    Back in this country, President Trump signed legislation that lets states deny federal funds to Planned Parenthood. It also includes other groups that provide abortions. The action rescinds an Obama era rule that said states could not block the money.

    And, on Wall Street, it followed financial stocks lower today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 138 points to close at 20453. The Nasdaq fell 31, and the S&P 500 gave up 16.

    Still to come on the NewsHour: the international challenges facing the Trump administration; changing course, the president’s shifting views on domestic policies; the deported — Mexico secures its own border; and much more.

    The post News Wrap: U.S. uses biggest non-nuclear bomb against ISIS in Afghanistan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Jay Som, a successful D.I.Y. artist performing today. Credit: Cara Robbins

    Jay Som, a successful D.I.Y. artist performing today. Credit: Cara Robbins

    The do-it-yourself movement in music has been on the rise since the inception of social media. Back in 2007, David Byrne pointed out that “an album can be made on the same laptop you check your email.” Years before, in 2003, MySpace offered a platform for unknown artists to upload their music to the masses; pop star Lily Allen was one of its successes. YouTube, meanwhile, gave rise to a small-town Canadian artist named Justin Bieber.

    Today, D.I.Y. artists — who make music cheaply and largely on their own — are increasingly able to profit from their music. More independent music sites, including NoiseTrade, Pledge Music, and notably, Bandcamp, now give artists their own platform, often with a way to ask fans to pay for the music they hear. Bandcamp, which has a pay-what-you-want model, has paid more than $100 million to artists on its site. While the returns from streaming services such as Spotify and SoundCloud for artists are notoriously minimal, those services have also increased many independent artists’ exposure.

    Among the artists who have seen success from this model is Melina Duterte, who performs under the stage name “Jay Som.” In 2015, Jay Som put together a collection of songs in her bedroom, uploaded it to Bandcamp as an untitled album and expected little to come of it. In an interview with Rookie Magazine last fall, she described the collection as “songs I didn’t want anything to do with anymore.”

    But through Bandcamp the album reached the ears of Chad Heiman, an agent at Salty Artist Management, which represented rising singer-songwriter Mitski. After Jay Som joined Mitski’s tour as an opener, she quickly attracted media attention and started headlining venues across the country.

    Video by PolyvinylRecords

    Despite that success, Jay Som says she is sticking with the small label, at least for now. And she continues to sing, write, mix, produce, play and record her own music. When Jay Som came to D.C. for a show last week, PBS NewsHour caught up with her about how she’s making it as a D.I.Y. artist — and where the D.I.Y. music scene goes from here.

    This conversation has been edited lightly for length and clarity.

    DAYANA MORALES GOMEZ: What does it mean to be D.I.Y.-er right now? Do you see yourself as D.I.Y.?

    JAY SOM: I guess I am D.I.Y. because I wear multiple hats for this project … I am the songwriter and producer; I do the mixing, and recording and all instruments. It really is a do-it-yourself kind of project, only because I’ve been doing that for a long time and I save money that way. And also I like to work by myself. I really like retaining control. There’s something very nice and independent about it.

    DAYANA MORALES GOMEZ: How did MySpace, Facebook, Bandcamp or other independent music sites help you launch?

    JAY SOM: I think it was pretty integral to why I am here today. MySpace and Bandcamp and SoundCloud made my music accessible, especially during this time, this age of music. It’s so easy to just put your music out by yourself. And Bandcamp allowed that. If I didn’t have any of those streaming services, I don’t think anyone would ever hear my music. I wasn’t actively showing it to people. I wasn’t making physical copies or making tapes. I was just literally just putting my music up on these sites and that was it. I wasn’t sharing them anywhere. And what happened was it was spread through word of mouth and also pockets of listeners online and it just kept spreading that way. It’s a very positive thing. It also shows how many bands there are.

    DAYANA MORALES GOMEZ: How does a smaller label give you autonomy as an artist?

    JAY SOM: Polyvinyl [my label] was probably one of the only labels that said, “Yeah, we’re okay with you doing your own [music] by yourself. That’s fine.” Other labels said, “Yeah, we’re going to put you in the studio. We got to do this and like work with other people.” And I said no to that.

    DAYANA MORALES GOMEZ: How has D.I.Y. changed since you’ve been doing it or in the past few years? Can artists make more money doing it on their own now?

    JAY SOM: For me personally, my work ethic and foundation with music is still D.I.Y. since I wear multiple hats for this project. But I do have a wonderful team of people that have been helping me every step of the way. In general, it’s pretty easy to be strictly D.I.Y. since the Internet makes music, shows and publicity so accessible. [And] there are so many services and sites online where you can set up your own shop to be in direct communication with people that want to buy your music/merch. A lot of people also start their own labels to retain more control.

    “If I didn’t have any of those streaming services, I don’t think anyone would ever hear my music.”

    DAYANA MORALES GOMEZ: You write about personal subjects, but also like to be alone. How is music bridging that gap? What are you trying to get across?

    JAY SOM: I think as the months have been passing by and the more tours I do, I realize that I’m not just making music for myself, anymore. That’s been a big realization — that these people are listening to my music and making some sort of connection. And that’s really one of the only things that I want, is that anyone just can listen to it and find something that they like. And if they don’t like it that’s fine. But hopefully people like it.

    DAYANA MORALES GOMEZ: You sold out this venue. People are listening.

    JAY SOM: Yeah it’s really been crazy. Every show has been sold out — almost every show.

    DAYANA MORALES GOMEZ: Even though you are independent, has anyone tried to shape your look one way or the other?

    JAY SOM: I think that’s more of a — I feel like there’s some people that like want to token-ize my life and on the surface level where it’s like: I only want to talk about how you’re a woman, you’re an Asian American woman. Someone wants to talk about the struggles that I went through rather than talk about how I’m a human. But at the same time it’s important to talk about these stories. I went on a tour with Japanese Breakfast [a solo indie rock project] and Mitski [a singer-songwriter based in New York] last year and that changed my life. That tour was three Asian American women billed for one tour. If I had that, when I was a kid, I’d probably cry because that’s so rare. At every show there were young girls and young girls of color coming to the show. … There aren’t enough women in music. I think with women in general but especially women of color in music, you have to work like five times harder to be taken seriously.

    DAYANA MORALES GOMEZ: And has living where you do shaped your sound?

    JAY SOM: Yes. Oakland and San Francisco really showed me the beauty of the arts and music community in big cities. There are so many hardworking people there that have been working way harder and longer than I have to keep the D.I.Y. arts scene thriving. It’s so hard to live there and be a musician but that doesn’t mean that the music scene is dead.

    The post As DIY music scene grows, rising star Jay Som talks about making it on her own appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Video by PBS NewsHour

    Leigh Orf chases tornadoes across America’s central plains, but not from inside a pickup truck. His preferred vehicle is a computer.

    Orf, a University of Wisconsin-Madison meteorologist, creates computer simulations of supercell thunderstorms — and the twisters they spawn — from the safety of his lab. Even when they don’t yield twisters, supercells are some of the most powerful and deadly forms of severe weather, and like many in his field, Orf wants to understand their inner mechanics.

    Think of half a million computers essentially working together in one big computer.

    He and his team use Blue Waters — one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world — to run many of their models. This spring, the group released the most detailed simulations ever of an EF-5 tornado, the same brand of high-powered storm that struck El Reno, Oklahoma, with deadly force in 2011.

    Together, their simulations reveal two tornado development features: a horizontal tube of air known as a “streamwise vorticity current” that helps initiate and maintain twisters and a parade of vortexes — called “misocyclones”– that both anchor and spin a tornado after it forms.

    The NewsHour asked Orf how his simulations could one day improve tornado forecasting.

    Questions and answers have been edited for brevity.

    Why do you use computer simulations to study supercell thunderstorms?

    Supercell thunderstorms form under specific atmospheric conditions, and they are very long lived. Meteorologists spend a lot of time studying them because they produce the vast majority of fatalities and damage. But only a small fraction of supercells produce tornadoes, and only a small fraction of that fraction produce the kind of tornadoes that we’re trying to study.

    Orf’s most recent simulation recreates a deadly EF-5 tornado that struck El Reno, Oklahoma in 2011. Photo courtesy of David Bock/NCSA

    Orf’s most recent simulation recreates a deadly EF-5 tornado that struck El Reno, Oklahoma in 2011. Photo courtesy of David Bock/NCSA

    The reason we are studying them is because when you think of 2011 with Joplin, Missouri, Tuscaloosa, Alabama [and] El Reno, Oklahoma, these were the big, long-track EF-5 tornadoes that just do incredible amounts of damage and, if people can’t get out of the way of those storms, a lot of fatalities. I use computers to simulate those types of tornadoes at very high resolution, and then I use techniques to visualize that data at very high fidelity.

    When one of your computers predicts the conditions are ripe for a tornado, does that guarantee a storm will happen?

    We are not guaranteed that these tornadoes will happen. It’s much like the real atmosphere where it’s challenging to predict whether a supercell will produce a tornado at all. We are letting the simulation evolve using the model and equations of physics, and many times we don’t get a tornado or we get a very weak tornado. These really strong tornadoes only occur in some of our simulations, and this is what is significant about this particular work. We’ve finally managed to get one of these storms to be simulated at high resolution.

    How do your simulations work? What kinds of information goes into them?

    A computer model like the one we’re using essentially emulates or simulates the real atmosphere as faithfully as we scientists know how to make it work. We use the equations of physics to essentially grow a cloud in a specific environment. We’re choosing an environment that is very well known to produce very strong supercell thunderstorms to see what happens when tornadoes start to form.

    The streamwise vorticity current, depicted in yellow in this supercomputer simulation, seems to be important to maintaining the strength of a tornado. Photo courtesy: David Bock/NCSA

    The streamwise vorticity current, depicted in yellow in this supercomputer simulation, seems to be important to maintaining the strength of a tornado. Photo courtesy of David Bock/NCSA

    The way these models work is you have to initialize them with atmospheric conditions, such as temperature, pressure, winds and humidity. Then, to start the model, you sort of give the atmosphere a kick. You basically force an updraft, which starts to grow the cloud. From there on, the model just integrates forward in time.

    What is Blue Waters, and why is it important to your team’s work?

    The Blue Waters supercomputer is funded by the National Science Foundation. It is housed at the University of Illinois, which also provides some funding and support for it. It is the world’s most powerful supercomputer on a college campus dedicated to research. It has over 700,000 processing cores. So, think of half a million computers essentially working together in one big computer.

    I have done other work on other computers that were more modest, but you really need supercomputers to capture the flow features we are interested in. On Blue Waters, a typical simulation will take about three days to complete, and that’s after it actually starts running. Because when you are on a supercomputer, you have to submit your work to a cue, and you often have to wait a while before it actually runs.

    (Full disclosure: The NSF is a supporter of PBS NewsHour.)

    So what lies ahead for your team? What do you hope will come out of this research?

    We’re just starting to chip away at our data and quantitatively analyze the simulated storm. But as far as far as the bigger picture, the whole reason we do this kind research is essential to produce better forecasts of when these tornadoes are going to happen. Too many people still die from tornadoes around the world, but in the United States too. [Tornadoes have killed nearly 850 people in the U.S. since 2010.]

    Volunteer Madison Welch (L) consoles Amy Jennings, who found a picture of her father in the rubble of her mother's home after a tornado struck Joplin, Missouri May 25, 2011. Tornadoes have killed nearly 850 people in the U.S. since 2010. Photo by Eric Thayer/Reuters

    Volunteer Madison Welch (L) consoles Amy Jennings, who found a picture of her father in the rubble of her mother’s home after a tornado struck Joplin, Missouri May 25, 2011. Tornadoes have killed nearly 850 people in the U.S. since 2010. Photo by Eric Thayer/Reuters

    We want to be able to say, “In an hour, there’s going to be a tornado. That tornado is going to produce winds of 250 miles-per-hour, and it’s going to go from this region in a city to another region.’” Something very targeted and focused, and we can’t do that yet. We have a false alarm problem when we issue warnings when the tornado is not happening. And then we have the problem where the tornado is already happening, but we haven’t issued a warning.

    The challenge is to do a much better job at producing these warnings even before the storm has formed. And the first step is to first understand the storm. You can’t forecast a storm until you understand it, and we’re just getting to the point where we’re understanding what’s going on.

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    The post To save lives, supercomputers dive into the hearts of nature’s worst tornadoes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    "Veterans for Trump" bumper stickers sit on a chair before a campaign event with Donald Trump, presumptive 2016 Republican presidential nominee, on veterans reform in Virginia Beach, Virginia, U.S., on Monday, July 11, 2016. Trump said he expects to choose his running mate for the GOP presidential ticket in the next three or four days and is leaning toward a political pick to balance out his outsider status, according to a Monday interview with the Washington Post. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    “Veterans for Trump” bumper stickers sit on a chair before a campaign event in Virginia last July. As a candidate, Donald Trump made veterans issues a top priority. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    As a candidate, Donald Trump made veterans services a top issue. He promised to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs, saying often that veterans aren’t treated with the respect they deserve. He put out a 10-point policy plan, and even went so far as to say he would personally respond to veterans’ complaints if he won the election.

    President Trump’s campaign plan for reforming the VA, though light on specifics, boiled down to two main goals: holding the agency’s employees more accountable and improving veterans’ access to health care.

    Now, nearly three months into his administration, Mr. Trump is facing a number of barriers to achieving one of his main promises on the campaign trail.

    Of course, the VA’s problems began long before Trump took office. It has struggled to reduce wait times for veterans seeking health care and hire employees in understaffed facilities. And the department’s decades-old infrastructure is in desperate need of costly upgrades, even while the agency has been criticized for wasteful spending — all issues which extend back several administrations.

    Secretary David Shulkin, the person Trump appointed to lead the agency, has already faced questions from critics about his ability to enact meaningful change. In a phone interview, Shulkin said Trump had already taken steps to deliver on his promise to improve veteran care. Still, Shulkin acknowledged the president’s mission won’t be easy.

    “I do think it is going take a combination of investing in the right types of devices to modernize the system as well as managing the system differently to fix the VA,” Shulkin told the NewsHour. “The president and I have talked about what it’s going to take to get the VA fixed, and he has provided us with the budget and the resources in order to accomplish that.”

    Holding the VA accountable

    Tapping Shulkin to lead the VA represented Trump’s first step towards reforming the agency. It was in many ways an unexpected choice from an outsider president who opted for non-politicians — like Rex Tillerson at the State Department and Steve Mnuchin at Treasury — to lead other federal agencies. Shulkin, a medical doctor, served as the VA undersecretary of health under former President Barack Obama. He is the only cabinet member who served under the previous administration.

    After Shulkin was nominated, some lawmakers were openly skeptical, fearing his appointment meant the department would not get the overhaul it needed with an insider at the helm. It was a question Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, put to Shulkin during his confirmation hearing.

    “How can you assure veterans [that] some of the big focuses that President Trump has talked about are going to happen on your watch, when, to be honest, you’ve been part of the outgoing administration?” Sullivan asked. Shulkin responded that he should be replaced as secretary if he can’t deliver on Trump’s promises.

    Others saw Shulkin’s nomination as an opportunity to move more quickly on reform.

    “There’s still a lot that Dr. Shulkin has to prove to us as secretary, but given some of the options and names that were tossed around, we landed in a place we are pretty optimistic about,” said Allison Jaslow, a former Army captain and the chief of staff for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “People didn’t need a secretary spending six months on getting the building to work for him.”

    U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin (2nd L) meet with representatives of veterans organizations at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX31JEQ

    President Donald Trump and Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, center, meet with representatives of veterans organizations at the White House on March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

    Veterans groups have met with Shulkin several times since Trump took office, and advocates say they feel they have input with policymakers at the agency.

    Still, under Shulkin, the VA’s efforts to increase accountability have been met so far with mixed results. A recent report on the veterans suicide hotline, in particular, offered a reminder of how far the agency still needs to go to meet veterans’ basic needs.

    An inspector general audit in March found that nearly one third of all calls to the Veterans Crisis Line were transferred to an outside contractor because of busy phone lines, potentially putting some veterans on hold for 30 minutes or more.

    The House Veterans Affairs Committee questioned agency officials about the problem earlier this month, warning the VA that it needed to follow through on promises to fix the issue. The agency has answered nearly 2.6 million calls from the hotline and dispatched emergency responders in nearly 70,000 cases, according to the panel’s chairman, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Md. But VA data shows on average 20 veterans still commit suicide every day, Roe said.

    “There is very clearly a need for more to be done — and soon — so that we can be assured that every veteran or family member who contacts the VCL [Veterans Crisis Line] gets the urgent help he or she needs every single time without fail or delay,” Roe said at the hearing.

    Under Shulkin, the VA’s efforts to increase accountability have been met so far with mixed results.

    Shulkin told PBS NewsHour the inspector general report was using outdated information. In recent weeks, 99 percent of phone calls have been answered, Shulkin said, thanks to the hiring of 200 new crisis line responders.

    The controversy played out as Republicans have sought other ways to improve accountability at the VA.

    Last month, The House of Representatives passed the “VA Accountability First Act of 2017,” a bill that would expand the VA secretary’s authority to fire or demote employees based on poor performance or misconduct. The bill passed on a largely party-line vote, with support from only 10 Democrats.

    But it’s facing opposition from unions who argue the measure would hurt job security and workers’ rights.

    “Backhanded efforts to eliminate employees’ workplace rights do nothing to improve the VA or veterans’ care,” David J. Cox, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees union, said in a statement. “In fact, it leaves our nation’s veterans without the advocates who are empowered to speak up on their behalf every day.”

    Veterans’ health care funding

    Delivering on Trump’s other main veterans-related campaign pledge — improving health care accessibility — is arguably even harder. Depending on who you ask, the root cause of the problem has to do with a lack of federal funding, or the agency’s inability to operate more efficiently with the funding it has.

    Currently, nearly 57 percent of the agency’s budget is taken up by mandatory spending on veterans benefits programs such as pensions, insurance, and compensation for families of soldiers killed in the line of duty. The remaining 43 percent of the budget is discretionary spending — and 88 percent of that funding goes towards medical programs.

    Trump included $78.9 billion in discretionary spending for the VA under his proposed budget, a 6 percent increase from current fiscal 2017 levels. The president also asked Congress for an additional $3.5 billion to continue the Veterans Choice Program, the system by which veterans receive health care from private providers. Congress voted last week to extend the program, which was set to expire in August 2017.

    Most veterans groups praised the proposed budget increase, saying it showed the president is making veterans a priority. Trump “said veterans deserve it, and we agree,” American Legion Executive Director Verna Jones said.

    The Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center is pictured in Phoenix, Arizona June 11, 2014. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents will investigate allegations of wrongdoing at an Arizona office of the Veterans Affairs department that became a political problem for President Barack Obama and forced the VA chief to resign. On Monday, the VA released an internal audit that found more than 100,000 veterans were subjected to a wait of 90 days or more for healthcare appointments, and widespread instances of schemes to mask the delays to meet targets for bonuses. REUTERS/Samantha Sais (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY HEALTH CRIME LAW) - RTR3TAA8

    The Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona was at the center of a controversy in 2014 over wait times for patients and widespread instances of schemes to mask the delays to meet targets for bonuses. An internal VA audit led to the resignation of then-VA chief Eric Shinseki and reforms in Congress. Photo by REUTERS/Samantha Sais

    But previous attempts to reform the VA indicate that flooding the agency with more money isn’t enough to improve veterans’ health care. Under Obama’s watch, the VA’s annual budget increased 85 percent over eight years to more than $160 billion a year by the time he left office, though most of the boost in funding was for mandatory spending on non-health care programs.

    Yet despite the uptick in funding — the agency’s budget increased every year under Obama — health care outcomes haven’t improved as much as some policy experts would like.

    “If you look at the budget of the VA and simply divide it by the number of people enrolled in the VA, there’s more than enough money to fund veterans’ health care,” said Avik Roy, a health care policy advisor and president of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity. “The problem is too much of the money is being spent not on veterans’ health care, but on other institutional priorities like keeping open empty facilities that nobody uses.”

    A 2017 NPR investigation found that at least some of the money already allocated to improve veterans health care has failed to do so.

    The VA hired roughly the same number of people it would have brought on without the $2.5 billion Congress set aside through the 2014 Veterans Choice Act to hire more medical staff, according to data compiled by NPR. The report also found that the extra staff was not used to address the agency’s greatest need: the VA hospitals with the longest wait times. (Shulkin responded to the criticism, in an appearance on NPR, by pointing to the fact that Congress only gave the department 90 days to create the Veterans Choice Program. He said if the VA had been given more time, things would have been done differently.)

    Those who follow the VA say the hiring issue goes beyond funding.

    “The VA is short staffed, but the root of that problem isn’t necessarily having more money to hire more people,” said Dr. Kenneth Kizer, an under secretary of Veterans Affairs in the Clinton administration. “The problem is the hiring process.”

    Kizer, who is credited with overhauling the agency in the 1990s, said human resources rules have become so burdensome that it often takes the department a year after deciding to hire someone to get them into the job.

    U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to the Veterans of Foreign Wars conference at a campaign event in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. July 26, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri - RTSJQMO

    Trump speaks to the Veterans of Foreign Wars conference in Charlotte last July. Photo by REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

    In the days after Trump took office, veterans groups feared his federal hiring freeze — announced in a presidential memorandum soon after inauguration — would compound the VA’s staffing problems. But the freeze allowed exceptions for public safety, and the VA took advantage of that language to exempt 41,000 out of 45,000 vacant positions. The Trump administration rolled back the hiring freeze Wednesday, with a top official cautioning that agencies still would not be able to hire “willy-nilly.”

    Shulkin argued the hiring freeze was part of the president’s push to make government work more effectively, and said his department would consider ways to downsize where needed.

    “If we are not utilizing our facilities appropriately, I think we have to look at do we need those facilities,” Shulkin said in the NewsHour interview, a few days before the hiring freeze was lifted. He added that the question is “always going to be, how do we expand services where the need is there, and how do we shrink services where this a better way of doing it or a different way of delivering services.”

    More private health care?

    If Congress approves Trump’s proposed budget increase for the VA — which is a big if — Shuklin said he plans to use the majority of that money to provide better health care services at the local level.

    Part of that includes creating a more integrated health care system between the VA and the private sector, likely through an expanded version of the Veterans Choice Program started under Obama.

    The fight over the program’s policy details have exposed a broader debate over the privatization of veterans’ health care. Nearly a third of veterans now receive health care services from the private sector, but stumbling blocks remain to boosting access to private care.

    The fight over the program’s policy details have exposed a broader debate over the privatization of veterans’ health care.

    The program was created in 2014, after reports of veterans waiting months to see a doctor in the VA system. An inspector general’s report found that 17 veterans died while waiting for treatment at a VA facility in Phoenix.

    Congress responded by passing the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, a $16 billion program to hire more VA personnel and allow veterans to receive health care at non-VA facilities.

    Despite those efforts, the agency has struggled to reduce wait times. The most recent VA data shows that of 4.5 million appointments at VA medical facilities in February, 96.8 percent were completed within 30 days. That is only slightly higher than the average of 96.5 percent in February 2016.

    Individual facilities are also still being scrutinized for failing to make needed reforms. Just this week, an inspector general report found the VA’s Washington, D.C., medical center lacked effective systems to manage medical equipment and supplies. The facility’s director was fired shortly after the report was released.

    “Patient safety is paramount, and we took these actions with that specific concern in mind,” Shulkin said at a press conference Thursday. “We will focus immediately on the items the inspector general listed in its report and look to address other concerns as we uncover those that are not in the report.”

    Earlier this month, the VA launched a new website that lets patients track wait times and other performance data. Yet as the VA attempts to make needed changes, demand is expected to rise in the coming years, as more veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan require health services.

    “If we don’t fix what is already a broken system, as our generation starts to uncover injuries, we’re going to have a harder time getting our care, or our care covered,” said Jaslow with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

    A veteran watches as U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to the Veterans of Foreign Wars conference at a campaign event in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., July 26, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri - RTSJQPP

    Veterans watched as Trump spoke to the Veterans of Foreign Wars conference in Charlotte last year. Photo by REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

    For the VA to increase access to health care, many experts say it would also need to change a small but important provision in the Veterans Choice Program known as the 40-mile rule. The program currently allows veterans who live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA facility to apply for a Choice Card, which can be used at a private medical center. Some advocates say that is still too restrictive and are lobbying to reduce or eliminate the mileage requirement altogether.

    Adjusting the mileage requirement would take an act of Congress, however. That could get bogged down quickly if lawmakers try to come up with a one-size-fits-all fix for veterans who are spread out across the country and have a wide range of health care needs.

    “One of the problems is that Congress wants one rule that applies to everybody, which is really hard when you are operating a national system that operates in so many different environments,” Kizer said.

    Transferring medical records between private and VA medical facilities isn’t easy. Advocates have also raised concerns about patient privacy if more veterans’ care is integrated with the private sector. And some critics don’t see the move towards private care as a good thing, while others view the Veterans Choice Program as way to let the private sector step up to fill in the gaps in the VA system.

    “We think that is really what that future of VA care should look like. There should be more choice,” said Dan Caldwell, the policy director for Concerned Veterans for America, an advocacy group funded by the conservative billionaire Koch brothers.

    Shulkin said he recognizes those challenges, and aims to build what he called “a system that is increasingly seamless between care in the community and care in the VA health care system.”

    As Shulkin takes on health care and other veterans issues, he told NewsHour he’s focused on something less tangible: winning back veterans’ trust. “When we look at what our overall objective is, it’s really to regain the trust of the veterans we serve,” Shulkin said. “Everything we are doing is surrounding the ability for veterans to know we are there for them.”

    That could be a tall order. In 2015, only 47 percent of veterans surveyed by the VA said they trusted the agency. Last year, the number crept up to 60 percent — a marked improvement, but still a long way from where many think it should be.

    During a meeting last month with veterans advocates, Trump reiterated his commitment to improving veterans services. But many of his campaign promises, such as his pledge to create a “private White House hotline” for veterans, remain unfulfilled.

    Trump promoted the hotline proposal in a speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ national convention last July. He said: “I will instruct my staff that if a valid complaint is not acted upon, then the issue be brought directly to me, and I will pick up the phone and fix it myself, if need be.”

    The post Can President Trump keep his promises to veterans? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    YES: Street vendor Hikmet Gunduz, 52, in Diyarbakir says, "I like President Erdogan's character. He is a bit angry and a bit authoritarian but his heart is full of love." Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    YES: Street vendor Hikmet Gunduz, 52, in Diyarbakir says, “I like President Erdogan’s character. He is a bit angry and a bit authoritarian but his heart is full of love.” Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    Turks vote Sunday on a referendum that would expand President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers, including allowing him to dismiss the parliament.

    “I like President Erdogan’s character. He is a bit angry and a bit authoritarian but his heart is full of love.”

    Erdogan argues that switching Turkey from a parliamentary to a presidential republic would help streamline the process of reforms, but critics worry it would tighten his grip on opponents.

    Opinion polls show a narrow lead for those voting “yes.” Reuters reported on some of the reasons Turks are basing their vote in this report and in the photos below.

    NO: Businesswoman Dilsat Gulsevim Arinc, 68, in her cafe in Cesme in Izmir province defines herself as "modern and a Kemalist". "I don't want someone to rule us like a sultan on his throne. I don't think a 'No' result in the referendum will stop Erdogan but it would be a useful lesson for him. He is too authoritarian. If things go on like this, it will not take more than 10 years for Turkey to come to an end." Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    Businesswoman Dilsat Gulsevim Arinc, 68, in her cafe in Cesme in Izmir province defines herself as “modern and a Kemalist.” Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    NO

    “I don’t want someone to rule us like a sultan on his throne. I don’t think a ‘No’ result in the referendum will stop Erdogan but it would be a useful lesson for him. He is too authoritarian. If things go on like this, it will not take more than 10 years for Turkey to come to an end.”

    YES: Hotel owner Aynur Sullu, 49, in Cesme a town in Izmir province says, "I am modern, rightist, nationalist and Kemalist. Under the rule of the AK party, we are stronger. We have a better economy, and better health and education systems. It is a big lie that there is an unemployment problem. We have freedoms. Anyone can drink raki or swim in a bikini. And now women with headscarves have freedom too." Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    Hotel owner Aynur Sullu, 49, in Cesme, a town in Izmir province. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    YES

    “I am modern, rightist, nationalist and Kemalist. Under the rule of the AK party, we are stronger. We have a better economy, and better health and education systems. It is a big lie that there is an unemployment problem. We have freedoms. Anyone can drink raki or swim in a bikini. And now women with headscarves have freedom too.”

    NO: Fisherman Cengiz Topcu, 57, in Rize on the Black Sea coast says, "I am a patriot. In the past Erdogan was a good man but recently he has changed in a bad way. I want a democracy, not the rule of one man. Systems ruled by one person lead to military coups." Topcu said he thought that Turkey's biggest problems are unemployment and terror. He is also concerned about the environment, "In the past, there were lots fish in the Black Sea, but now it is polluted. The chemicals from the factories along the rivers pollute the rivers and these rivers carry the poison to the sea. There are no more fish around." Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    Fisherman Cengiz Topcu, 57, in Rize on the Black Sea coast. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    NO

    “I am a patriot. In the past Erdogan was a good man but recently he has changed in a bad way. I want a democracy, not the rule of one man. Systems ruled by one person lead to military coups.” Topcu said he thought that Turkey’s biggest problems are unemployment and terror. He is also concerned about the environment: “In the past, there were lots fish in the Black Sea, but now it is polluted. The chemicals from the factories along the rivers pollute the rivers and these rivers carry the poison to the sea. There are no more fish around.”

    YES: Cleaner and farmer Fatma Peker, 58, in her tea field in Surmene a town in Trabzon province says, "I love my President Tayyip Erdogan very much. He is powerful and a Muslim. Our biggest challenge is terrorism. Germany, the Netherlands, England, the United States -- they all support the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). While they are torturing Muslims, they allow PKK members to do whatever they want. In 10 years' time, Turkey will be the strongest country in the world." Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    Cleaner and farmer Fatma Peker, 58, in her tea field in Surmene a town in Trabzon province. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    YES

    “I love my President Tayyip Erdogan very much. He is powerful and a Muslim. Our biggest challenge is terrorism. Germany, the Netherlands, England, the United States — they all support the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). While they are torturing Muslims, they allow PKK members to do whatever they want. In 10 years’ time, Turkey will be the strongest country in the world.”

    NO: Author Ahmet Umit, 56, at an international conference about his books in Istanbul says, "Turkey's main problem is social consensus. The constitutional changes should solve our existing problems and improve our democracy. But they won't. What we need is not the rule of one man or one party. What we need is independent executive, legislative and judiciary powers and an independent media; not a system where one owns all the power. If you lose your country, what would a victory in the referendum mean?" Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    Author Ahmet Umit, 56, at an international conference about his books in Istanbul. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    NO

    “Turkey’s main problem is social consensus. The constitutional changes should solve our existing problems and improve our democracy. But they won’t. What we need is not the rule of one man or one party. What we need is independent executive, legislative and judiciary powers and an independent media; not a system where one owns all the power. If you lose your country, what would a victory in the referendum mean?”

    YES: Food vendor Adil Aydin, 47, in his shop in Diyarbakir says, "I will vote 'Yes' but it's not from my heart. I will vote 'Yes' because there isn't any leader who could rule better than Erdogan. In the past, other countries didn't care about what Turkey's leader said, but now they are all listening to Erdogan." Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    Food vendor Adil Aydin, 47, in his shop in Diyarbakir. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    YES

    “I will vote ‘Yes’ but it’s not from my heart. I will vote ‘Yes’ because there isn’t any leader who could rule better than Erdogan. In the past, other countries didn’t care about what Turkey’s leader said, but now they are all listening to Erdogan.”

    NO: A retired manufacturer and head of an Alevi association Muzaffer Aksakal, 65, in Istanbul says, "If the 'Yes' wins, parliament will be useless and the right to declare war or peace will be in the hands of a single man." Aksakal belongs to the Alevi religious minority, which make up about 15-20 percent of Turkey's 80 million people. Alevis draw from Shiite, Sufi and Anatolian folk traditions and practice distinct rituals which can put them at odds with their Sunni Muslim counterparts, many of whom accuse them of heresy. "Erdogan government always follows racist politics. Alevis are under pressure. The system ignores the Alevis." Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    A retired manufacturer and head of an Alevi association Muzaffer Aksakal, 65, in Istanbul. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    NO

    “If the ‘Yes’ wins, parliament will be useless and the right to declare war or peace will be in the hands of a single man.” Aksakal belongs to the Alevi religious minority, which make up about 15-20 percent of Turkey’s 80 million people. Alevis draw from Shiite, Sufi and Anatolian folk traditions and practice distinct rituals which can put them at odds with their Sunni Muslim counterparts, many of whom accuse them of heresy. “Erdogan government always follows racist politics. Alevis are under pressure. The system ignores the Alevis.”

    YES: Housewife Pinar Ayyildiz Ozen, 41, in her kitchen in Cesme a town in Izmir province says, "Erdogan is a reliable leader, he means a lot for Turkey. In the past, it was difficult to buy a washing machine. Now when one is broken, we buy a new one rather than have the old one repaired. If Erdogan rules for another 10 years, it would be good. Erdogan is the leader of the Muslim world." Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    Housewife Pinar Ayyildiz Ozen, 41, in her kitchen in Cesme, a town in Izmir province says. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    YES

    “Erdogan is a reliable leader, he means a lot for Turkey. In the past, it was difficult to buy a washing machine. Now when one is broken, we buy a new one rather than have the old one repaired. If Erdogan rules for another 10 years, it would be good. Erdogan is the leader of the Muslim world.”

    NO: Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Member of Parliament Didem Engin, 39, at a campaign event in Istanbul says, "The ruling party wants to raise a religious generation but we need a generation that innovates and questions." Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Member of Parliament Didem Engin, 39, at a campaign event in Istanbul. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    NO

    “The ruling party wants to raise a religious generation but we need a generation that innovates and questions.”

    YES: Web editor Mustafa Goktas, 47, in Istanbul says, "I am a religious conservative. Erdogan is like us. He understands us. He understands our needs. He is the man of the nation." Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    Web editor Mustafa Goktas, 47, in Istanbul. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    YES

    “I am a religious conservative. Erdogan is like us. He understands us. He understands our needs. He is the man of the nation.”

    NO: Restaurant owner Haluk Ozakin, 32, in his store in Diyarbakir says he was working for Diyarbakir municipality but was fired when pro-Erdogan parties took control of it. "I will say 'No' because there is a war environment in this country. There is a lot of violent pressure on us. Erdogan is a cunning man. The people who are voting 'Yes' don't even know what are they voting for. Our biggest problem is the absence of democracy and this war environment." Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    Restaurant owner Haluk Ozakin, 32, in his store in Diyarbakir says he was working for Diyarbakir municipality but was fired when pro-Erdogan parties took control of it. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    NO

    “I will say ‘No’ because there is a war environment in this country. There is a lot of violent pressure on us. Erdogan is a cunning man. The people who are voting ‘Yes’ don’t even know what are they voting for. Our biggest problem is the absence of democracy and this war environment.”

    YES: Souvenir shop owner Ilter Etike, 31, in Cesme says, "Erdogan is a political genius. I love him. For democracy, these changes are necessary. If Turkey says 'Yes' in the referendum, there will be stability and it will help to solve the PKK problem. Once this is solved, Turkey will become one of the 10 biggest economies of the world within 10 years." Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    Souvenir shop owner Ilter Etike, 31, in Cesme. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    YES

    “Erdogan is a political genius. I love him. For democracy, these changes are necessary. If Turkey says ‘Yes’ in the referendum, there will be stability and it will help to solve the PKK problem. Once this is solved, Turkey will become one of the 10 biggest economies of the world within 10 years.”

    NO: Retired teacher Melek Algin Iyidinc, 60, in her garden in Artvin says, "I am a socialist and atheist. I have never voted for the AK Party. Erdogan is not a person who settles with the power he has. He is an authoritarian, always asking for more power. There should be a point at which the people of this country stop this. The referendum gives us this opportunity. It's time to say no." She said Turkey's biggest problems are the lack of democracy, the economy and the environment: "The government recently gave license to mining companies to dig our green forests. It is going to cause a big environmental disaster. Only when these mining projects are cancelled can I have hope again for our future." Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    Retired teacher Melek Algin Iyidinc, 60, in her garden in Artvin. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    NO

    “I am a socialist and atheist. I have never voted for the AK Party. Erdogan is not a person who settles with the power he has. He is an authoritarian, always asking for more power. There should be a point at which the people of this country stop this. The referendum gives us this opportunity. It’s time to say no.” She said Turkey’s biggest problems are the lack of democracy, the economy and the environment: “The government recently gave license to mining companies to dig our green forests. It is going to cause a big environmental disaster. Only when these mining projects are cancelled can I have hope again for our future.”

    YES: Mayor of Umraniye district of Istanbul and founder member of the ruling AK Party Hasan Can, 63, in Istanbul says, "The current system promotes instability. We need stable and decisive development. If the change that is planned with this referendum is approved, no one will be able to stand against Turkey. All our problems will be solved. Unemployment and terrorism will be solved." Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    Mayor of Umraniye district of Istanbul and founder member of the ruling AK Party Hasan Can, 63, in Istanbul. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    YES

    “The current system promotes instability. We need stable and decisive development. If the change that is planned with this referendum is approved, no one will be able to stand against Turkey. All our problems will be solved. Unemployment and terrorism will be solved.”

    NO: Galatasaray University student Pelin Isilak, 19, in a bazaar in Istanbul says, "I am against Erdogan but would also be against my father if he asked for so much power." Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    Galatasaray University student Pelin Isilak, 19, in a bazaar in Istanbul. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    NO

    “I am against Erdogan but would also be against my father if he asked for so much power.”

    YES: Associate professor of pathology, Dr. Sevdegul Aydin Mungan, 40, in her laboratory in a university hospital in Trabzon says, "I am a humanist and a patriot. I had serious problems because of my headscarf while I was a student and then as an academic at the university hospital. I had friends wearing headscarves who left school and had mental problems. I am grateful to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan because under his rule I was aware again that I was human. I had the right to work with clothes that expressed my way of being. Erdogan is in love with his nation. If 'Yes' wins, we will become a more respectful and powerful country. But some countries are not comfortable with Turkey becoming more powerful." Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    Associate professor of pathology, Dr. Sevdegul Aydin Mungan, 40, in her laboratory in a university hospital in Trabzon. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    YES

    “I am a humanist and a patriot. I had serious problems because of my headscarf while I was a student and then as an academic at the university hospital. I had friends wearing headscarves who left school and had mental problems. I am grateful to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan because under his rule I was aware again that I was human. I had the right to work with clothes that expressed my way of being. Erdogan is in love with his nation. If ‘Yes’ wins, we will become a more respectful and powerful country. But some countries are not comfortable with Turkey becoming more powerful.”

    NO: Retired banker Mehmet Emin Erelvanli, 62, in Cesme says, "Journalists are being jailed. He appoints ministers, judges, prosecutors, university rectors etc. He already has enough power but is still asking for more. If this goes on, it will end very badly." Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    Retired banker Mehmet Emin Erelvanli, 62, in Cesme. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    NO

    “Journalists are being jailed. He appoints ministers, judges, prosecutors, university rectors etc. He already has enough power but is still asking for more. If this goes on, it will end very badly.”

    YES: Housewife Merve Songur, 37, in Istanbul says, "I will say 'Yes' because all these changes are necessary for the good of this country. Erdogan is a real leader, to love him is different from any other kind of love. The European Union has double standards; they think Muslims are terrorists." Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    Housewife Merve Songur, 37, in Istanbul. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    YES

    “I will say ‘Yes’ because all these changes are necessary for the good of this country. Erdogan is a real leader, to love him is different from any other kind of love. The European Union has double standards; they think Muslims are terrorists.”

    NO: Armen Demirjiyan, 55, a bookseller and member of a small Armenian community in largely Kurdish Diyarbakir says, "I am a leftist. I will vote for 'No'. One man should not rule the country." Belonging to Turkey's Armenian community raises different issues for Demirjiyan. "I discovered that I was Armenian when I was 27 years old. My uncle said it at my father's funeral. The AK Party did not do enough for Armenians. Armenian schools are still teaching according to the Turkish system. Turkey's biggest problem is that it does not recognize the Armenian massacre as genocide. If Turkey continues this way, it will be like Syria. Turkey must be a member of the EU." Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    Armen Demirjiyan, 55, a bookseller and member of a small Armenian community in largely Kurdish Diyarbakir. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters

    NO

    “I am a leftist. I will vote for ‘No’. One man should not rule the country.” Belonging to Turkey’s Armenian community raises different issues for Demirjiyan. “I discovered that I was Armenian when I was 27 years old. My uncle said it at my father’s funeral. The AK Party did not do enough for Armenians. Armenian schools are still teaching according to the Turkish system. Turkey’s biggest problem is that it does not recognize the Armenian massacre as genocide. If Turkey continues this way, it will be like Syria. Turkey must be a member of the EU.”

    The post Yes or no? Turks explain how they plan to vote in Sunday’s contentious referendum appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Kendrick Lamar performs at the 2016 Global Citizen Festival at Central Park in New York. Photo by Andrew Kelly/Reuters

    Kendrick Lamar performs at the 2016 Global Citizen Festival at Central Park in New York. Photo by Andrew Kelly/Reuters

    Damn, King Kendrick has a new album out.

    Kendrick Lamar follows his universally lauded 2015 album “To Pimp a Butterfly” with “DAMN.” The new album is packed with thematic overtures and bon mots his fans will parse in the coming days.

    His contemporaries, like Future and Drake, may command the charts, but Lamar’s work tends to inspire conversations and dissections. His fans explore his albums like grad students working on term papers. This is because Lamar is dedicated to elevating the stories of what it means to be black in America, often wrapped in religious and political overtones.

    As Lamar’s mother says at the end of “Real”: “Tell your story to these black and brown kids in Compton. Let ’em know you was just like them, but you still rose from that dark place of violence, becoming a positive person.”

    He allows his albums to unfurl like a movie, like when he included recorded answering machine messages in 2012’s “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City,” or when he imagined a one-on-one conversation with the late Tupac Shakur in “Butterfly.”

    In “DAMN.”, one of the threads Lamar tugs is a Fox News discussion over the Compton rapper’s performance of “Alright” at the 2015 BET Awards. The hook from the song: “We ‘gon be alright!” — could often be heard at Black Lives Matter protests.

    Watch an extended clip from that 2015 segment below:

    The Fox News segment showed clips of Lamar’s performance where he rapped atop a police car and the American flag flapped in the background. An excerpt of the reporters’ back-and-forth leads off this new album, providing the outro to the song “BLOOD.”

    “Lamar stated his views on police brutality with that line in the song, quote: ‘And we hate the popo, wanna kill us in the street fo’ sho’ … ‘”

    Oh please, ugh, I don’t like it.

    Back when the segment aired, Lamar told TMZ Live: “How can you take a song that’s about hope and turn it into hatred? The overall message is ‘We’re gonna be alright.’ It’s not the message of ‘I wanna kill people.'”

    Lamar criticizes Fox News at least two more times on the new album, including a moment where Geraldo Rivera, from the same segment, said: “Hip hop has done more damage to young African-Americans than racism in recent years.”

    Rivera responded to Lamar on Friday in an 18-minute video posted to Facebook. “I have no beef with Kendrick Lamar,” he said.

    “I think too much of hip hop, too much of rap, has really portrayed the cops as the enemy, as the occupying army,” Rivera said. “It’s an us against them, where this very popular powerful art form, this poetry, is being used to really set young people, young minorities, black and Latino principally, against the officers who are sworn to protect them,” he added.

    Lamar’s preoccupation with that idea is one that may feel familiar to minorities, and to rappers that came before him. On the subject of police targeting black Americans, Tupac rapped about it, as did N.W.A.

    What it feels like to have brown skin — from the disparities in arrests, the longer sentences handed out in court to the systemic racism prevalent in American society — have been long documented by rappers who have tried to keep the stories of their communities in the public consciousness.

    And in 2015, at the height of “Butterfly,” Kendrick Lamar did so in a one-off performance alongside the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. Held at the Kennedy Center, the show happened at a time when the arts center sought to present more hip-hop events than it had in the past.

    The audience included people who may not have previously attended a concert at the Kennedy Center, a venue that often stages ballets, operas and other theatrical productions. When Lamar first appeared on stage, lured by the orchestra, he began with a song I’ve heard some say they’d skipped while listening to “Butterfly.”

    “This **** ain’t free!” he rapped, as if to say: Did you hear that?

    The post Why Kendrick Lamar’s new album is preoccupied with Fox News appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff speaks  during the League of Women Voters' candidate forum for Georgia's 6th Congressional District special election to replace Tom Price, who is now the secretary of Health and Human Services, in Marietta, Georgia, U.S. April 3, 2017. Picture taken April 3, 2017.  REUTERS/Bita Honarvar - RTX34R1E

    Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff speaks at an April 3 candidate forum for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District special election. Photo by REUTERS/Bita Honarvar

    A special election to fill a longtime Republican House seat in Georgia has turned into a national referendum on Donald Trump’s presidency, as well as an early test of the left’s ability to turn its opposition to Mr. Trump into electoral success.

    The seat, which Republican Tom Price held for six terms before he became Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary earlier this year, has traditionally been an afterthought for the party. Republicans have controlled the district — which was held by Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker — since 1979. Price won re-election last year by 23 points.

    But Trump only carried the district, which covers a swath of moderate suburbs north of Atlanta, by 1.5 points in 2016. Next week’s special election features 18 candidates. Jon Ossoff, the Democratic front-runner for the seat, is hoping to capitalize on Trump’s small margin of victory to score an upset win that would resonate nationwide with Republicans seeking re-election next year.

    The 2016 presidential election “was a wake up call that Americans have lost faith in our political institutions,” Ossoff, a 30-year-old former congressional aide and documentary filmmaker, told PBS NewsHour in an interview.

    Ossoff is leading his nearest competitor by double digits, according to polls, but is expected to fall short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. If none of the 18 candidates in the race — five Democrats, 11 Republicans and two independents — win a majority of the vote on Tuesday, the two top finishers will face each other in a June 20 runoff.

    In a recent poll of likely voters, Ossoff came in first with 39 percent, followed by Republican Karen Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, who finished second with 15 percent. The poll was conducted in the first week of April by the right-leaning polling form RHH Elections.

    The Georgia race comes on the heels of a hotly contested special election in Kansas last week. James Thompson, a Democrat backed by a group tied to Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, lost by seven points in a deeply conservative congressional district that Trump carried by 27 points in 2016.

    The race, the first federal election since Trump’s victory last fall, was a sign of the growing energy among political groups on the left. Activists have staged marches and spoken out at town hall meetings with congressional lawmakers in the months since Trump took office, drawing comparisons to the conservative Tea Party movement that sprang up after Barack Obama’s election in 2008.

    Donations from liberal donors and groups across the country have helped fuel the rise of a Democratic frontrunner.

    In Georgia, donations from liberal donors and groups across the country have helped fuel Ossoff’s rise. Handel raised $463,000 through early April, campaign finance records show. Ossoff’s campaign raised more than $8.3 million through April 5, according to FEC filings. Of that, 95 percent has come from donors outside of Georgia.

    “The excitement levels we’re seeing right now are unprecedented,” Rebecca DeHart, the executive director of the Georgia Democratic Party, said. Democrats see the race as “a referendum on the Trump administration,” she added.

    The energy on the left, coupled with the party’s strong showing in Kansas, has put pressure on Republicans to deliver in Georgia. Another tight finish, or an outright loss, could set off alarm bells among GOP lawmakers, who are preparing for three more special elections this year. But the attention on the race has also raised expectations for Ossoff, a first-time candidate who has been suddenly thrust into the national spotlight.

    “Ossoff has become the symbol of the resistance” on the left in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, said Tharon Johnson, a Democratic strategist based in Atlanta.

    Residents and a wide variety of supporters listen to candidates speak during the League of Women Voters' candidate forum for Georgia's 6th Congressional District special election to replace Tom Price, who is now the secretary of Health and Human Services, in Marietta, Georgia, U.S. April 3, 2017. Picture taken April 3, 2017.  REUTERS/Bita Honarvar - RTX34SDX

    Residents and a wide variety of supporters listen to candidates speak during the League of Women Voters’ candidate forum for the special election to fill Tom Price’s seat. Photo by REUTERS/Bita Honarvar

    Becky Arrington, 63, a voter who lives in the district and considers herself a member of the liberal opposition, said she was jolted by Trump’s victory. “After the election I was stunned for a while,” she said.

    For Arrington and others in the district, the special election has offered an opportunity to convert pent-up frustration into electoral action. Arrington said other steps, like lodging complaints with a politician’s office, haven’t gone far enough.

    “How many times can we call a senator?” said Arrington, who has hosted a training session for phone banking and canvassing, as well as a question and answer session for Ossoff, at her home.

    “People are really coming out and are pretty brazen” in support of Ossoff, she said. “They aren’t alone and they do have a voice.”

    Despite an emboldened Democratic base, conservatives in the state remain bullish about their chances of winning the special election.

    “Georgia Democrats are desperate to find some relevance after being beat in November,” said Ryan Mahoney, the communications director for the Republican National Committee.

    “Georgia Democrats are desperate to find some relevance after being beat in November.” —
    Ryan Mahoney, RNC communications director

    “I’m still a little baffled at the positive outlook the [Democrats] have on this,” said Seth Weathers, a Republican consultant who served as the Trump campaign’s state director in Georgia.

    But in an election that was supposed to be a sure thing for the GOP, the Republicans vying for Price’s seat have had trouble differentiating themselves from the pack. Mahoney said the field of 11 GOP candidates signaled the party’s strength in the district, and “reflects the excitement in the electorate for a race like this in an off-election year.”

    In a phone interview, Judson Hill, a former Republican state senator who is in the top five in polls, cited his “strong record of being a fiscally conservative leader in the state.”

    Handel, the Republican frontrunner, also cited her experience as a state official. Washington is “a climate where we need individuals” who know how to govern, Handel told the NewsHour. “That’s very suited to my skillset.”

    Other Republicans in the race have focused on their outsider status.

    Bob Gray, a business executive who served briefly on the Johns Creek City Council, has not shied away from drawing parallels between himself and Trump, who touted his business acumen and lack of political experience on the campaign trail last year.

    Gray said he did not consider running for state or federal office until Trump was elected. Now, “I’m running to save the American dream,” he said in an interview. “I don’t recognize the country anymore.” Further echoing Trump’s campaign rhetoric, Gray said his candidacy “has threatened the political establishment” in the state.

    Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump holds up a CNN national poll showing him with a commanding lead as he speaks at a campaign rally at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia February 29, 2016. REUTERS/Philip Sears - RTS8OC0

    Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Valdosta, Georgia February 29, 2016. Trump won the state by five points, but carried Price’s district by just 1.5 points. Photo by REUTERS/Philip Sears

    But Republicans in the race have been divided on whether to tie their candidacy to Trump and his policies.

    Soon after taking office, Trump had the highest disapproval numbers of any new U.S. president in the history of modern polling, according to a CNN/ORC poll. More recent numbers show Trump’s approval rating remains low, at 39 percent. The White House has been distracted early on by several investigations into ties between Russia and Trump’s campaign. And the Trump administration and Republican-controlled Congress have also suffered setbacks on immigration and health care.

    Given the tense political climate, some Republicans in the race have been wary to associate themselves too closely with Trump. As Hill put it, “the president is not on the ballot here.”

    Ossoff has capitalized on the moment. When he announced his candidacy in early January, he promised to “make Trump furious.” Since then, Ossoff has made his attacks on Trump a central theme of his campaign.

    The strategy appears to be working. Whereas in the race in Kansas, in a district Trump won by a large margin, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas campaigned with the Republican candidate, and the president and Vice President Mike Pence recorded calls urging Republicans to vote, in the Georgia special election — a district where Trump only narrowly edged out Hillary Clinton — national Republicans have largely stayed away.

    “If Donald Trump was so popular” in the area, said Johnson, the Democratic strategist, “Air Force One would have landed [here] a long time ago.”

    Weathers, Trump’s 2016 campaign chief in Georgia, insisted Democrats were overconfident. Winning a seat held for decades by Republicans is a “pipe dream,” he said.

    But in a sign of how seriously Republicans are taking the race, conservative groups like the Congressional Leadership Fund — a super PAC dedicated to protecting the party’s majority in the House — are spending millions of dollars in ad campaigns against Ossoff. One mailer from the Congressional Leadership Fund accused the Democrat of colluding with Osama bin Laden because he accepted money from broadcaster Al-Jazeera for a documentary film.

    In his interview with the NewsHour, Ossoff called the attack ads “troubling” and said they reveal the “predictable cynical Washington operatives’ approach to politics.”

    DeHart, the head of the Georgia Democratic Party, was more blunt. Republicans “are absolutely terrified,” she said. “If they didn’t think we had a shot, we shouldn’t see the funds coming in the state they way it is.”

    As the race enters its final days, Democratic voters expressed cautious optimism. If nothing else, Arrington said, the campaign demonstrated that the political landscape has changed under Trump.

    “All bets are off,” she said. “We can’t look at anything the same as we have in the past.”

    The post Georgia special election is next test for GOP’s success under Trump appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An Arco, Idaho, resident gets in his car after checking on nearby animals last month. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

    An Arco, Idaho, resident gets in his car after checking on nearby animals last month. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

    ARCO, Idaho — Just before dusk on an evening in early March, Mimi Rosenkrance set to work on her spacious cattle ranch to vaccinate a calf. But the mother cow quickly decided that just wasn’t going to happen. She charged, all 1,000 pounds of her, knocking Rosenkrance over and repeatedly stomping on her. “That cow was trying to push me to China,” Rosenkrance recalls.

    Dizzy and nauseated, with bruises spreading on both her legs and around her eye, Rosenkrance, 58, nearly passed out. Her son called 911 and an ambulance staffed by volunteers drove her to Lost Rivers Medical Center, a tiny, brick hospital nestled on the snowy hills above this remote town in central Idaho.

    Lost Rivers has only one full-time doctor and its emergency room has just three beds — not much bigger than a summer camp infirmary. But here’s what happened to Rosenkrance in the first 90 minutes after she showed up: She got a CT scan to check for a brain injury, X-rays to look for broken bones, an IV to replenish her fluids and her ear sewn back together. The next morning, although the hospital has no pharmacist, she got a prescription for painkillers filled through a remote prescription service. It was the kind of full-service medical treatment that might be expected of a hospital in a much larger town.

    View of Arco, Idaho's West Grand Ave. on March 7, 2017. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO

    View of Arco, Idaho’s West Grand Ave. on March 7, 2017. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO

    Not so long ago, providing such high-level care seemed impossible at Lost Rivers. In fact, it looked as if there wouldn’t be a Lost Rivers at all. The 14-bed hospital serves all of Butte County, whose population of 2,501 (down from 2,893 in 2000) is spread over a territory half the size of Connecticut. Arco, the county’s largest town, has seen its population drop 16 percent since 2000, from 1,026 to 857 last year. “Bears outnumber people out here,” is how hospital CEO Brad Huerta puts it.

    The medical center nearly shut its doors in 2013 due in large part to the declining population of the area it serves — almost becoming another statistic, another hospital to vanish from rural America. But then the hospital got a dramatic reboot with new management, led by Huerta, who secured financing to help pay for more advanced technology, upgraded facilities and expanded services. He also brought in more rotating specialists, started using telemedicine to connect the hospital to experts elsewhere and is now planning to open a surgery center and a long-term care rehabilitation wing. If Lost Rivers had closed, the alternative would have been hospitals in Idaho Falls or Pocatello, each more than an hour away across high-altitude prairie. Instead, “I don’t have to go across the desert for hardly anything,” said Rosenkrance, resting at the hospital the morning after the cow attack.

    Nurse Celeste Parsons treats patient Mimi Rosenkrance, 58, as she recovers from being trampled by a mother cow protecting her calf. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

    Nurse Celeste Parsons treats patient Mimi Rosenkrance, 58, as she recovers from being trampled by a mother cow protecting her calf. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

    Rural hospitals are facing one of the great slow-moving crises in American health care. Across the U.S., they’ve been closing at a rate of about one per month since 2010 — a total of 78, or about 6 percent. About 14 percent of the U.S. population lives in rural counties, a proportion that has dropped as the number of urban dwellers grows. Declining populations mean a smaller base of patients and less revenue. And the hospitals are caught in a squeeze: Because many patients in the countryside are older and sicker, they require more intensive and often expensive care.

    Faced with these dramatic economic and demographic pressures, however, some hospitals are surviving — even thriving — by taking advantage of some of the most cutting-edge trends in health care. They are experimenting with telemedicine, using remote monitors to track patients and purchasing high-tech equipment to perform scans and other types of exams. And because many face physician shortages, they are partnering with universities and increasingly relying on nurse practitioners, paramedics and others to deliver care. In parts of rural Oregon and Washington, veterans can get counseling through a tele-mental health program. Physicians in Iowa and North Dakota have access to virtual emergency room support.

    “Being in a rural place does not preclude high-quality medicine.”

    At Lost Rivers — a dramatic rural health turnaround story — Huerta’s strategy was to use technology and innovation to offer the kind of high-quality medical care that would keep patients like Rosenkrance coming back. “Necessity is the mother of invention,” Huerta said. “Small hospitals like mine are always going to be under the gun. You have to get really creative.”

    In the decades to come, America’s heartland and hinterlands will continue to be home to the people who run the country’s farms, forests and fisheries, and its wilder regions will continue to draw visitors who crave nature and recreation. And those people will need medical care. As a result, rural health researchers say hospitals like Lost Rivers are important test cases. They show that, despite daunting obstacles, rural America need not be left behind when it comes to health care. In fact, because they are being forced to innovate faster than their urban counterparts, they can provide a glimpse into the future of medicine.

    “Being in a rural place does not preclude high-quality medicine,” said Tom Ricketts, senior policy fellow at the Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “They are under a lot of pressure, but there are rural places you can point to as places you would say, ‘This is how things ought to be done.’”

    Where Folks Wear ‘Multiple Hats’

    It’s a Tuesday afternoon at Tara Parsons’ flower shop. She cleans up as she waits for customers — or for an emergency call. Parsons, a fourth-generation Arco resident, is not just the town florist; she is also the county coroner, a sheriff’s dispatcher and a volunteer emergency medical technician. This afternoon, she is on ambulance duty.

    Tara Parsons, 42, prepares flowers for a customer. Parsons, who runs the Touch of Country Floral and Gifts shop in Arco, also serves as the town’s coroner and volunteer EMT. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

    Tara Parsons, 42, prepares flowers for a customer. Parsons, who runs the Touch of Country Floral and Gifts shop in Arco, also serves as the town’s coroner and volunteer EMT. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

    “We all wear multiple hats out here,” she said.

    The town of Arco was founded in the 1870s as a junction for horse-drawn stagecoaches. Its quirky claim to fame is that in 1955, it became the first town in the world to be powered by nuclear energy, a credit to the Idaho National Laboratory down the road toward Idaho Falls. Every summer, to celebrate its history, the town puts on a celebration that features a rodeo and a softball tournament.

    The streets are lined with shuttered and boarded-up storefronts, some with their signs still on display: the Galloping Goose, the Sawtooth Club. Residents talk nostalgically about the town’s heyday, when there were banks, a bowling alley and a movie theater, back when residents drove to Idaho Falls only twice a year, to get school supplies and do Christmas shopping.

    Now, most of the businesses are gone. The town still has a lumber shop, a hardware store and a few auto garages. There’s also a bar, a gym and a dollar store. And around the corner there’s the local diner — Pickle’s Place — where people come day and night for fried pickles and biscuits and gravy.

    Pickle's Place restaurant on the outskirts of Arco, Idaho. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO

    Pickle’s Place restaurant on the outskirts of Arco, Idaho. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO

    Like so many other residents, Butte County clerk Shelly Shaffer has a personal connection to the hospital: Her mom worked there, her sister was born there, and she used to take her children there. Lost Rivers Medical Center — which also has two outpatient clinics — is one of the town’s biggest employers.

    “It would be devastating if we didn’t have our hospital,” she said.

    That was the direction they were headed. When Huerta, the CEO, arrived four years ago, he found the nearly 60-year-old hospital in disarray — dilapidated facilities, fearful employees, reluctant patients and a financial mess left behind by the former CEO. The hospital’s bank account held just $7,000 and morale was at an all-time low. “We were the poster child for everything that was wrong with rural health care,” he said. “It had been a slow, steady decline from neglect.”

    Shannon Gamett, 28, a nurse at Lost Rivers, said paydays were nerve-wracking: “We would run as fast as we could to the bank to cash [a paycheck], or it might not clear.”

    After borrowing money to pay his employees, Huerta campaigned to pass a $5.5 million bond for Lost Rivers. He asked locals if it was worth $5 a month — one six-pack of beer or two movie rentals — to keep the hospital running. They answered “yes” at the polls, and the hospital emerged from bankruptcy. Next, Huerta set his sights on overhauling the badly outmoded facilities. One of his top priorities was the laboratory, which he said looked like a high school science classroom from the 1950s.

    The Mello Dee Club Bar and Steakhouse in Arco. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

    The Mello Dee Club Bar and Steakhouse in Arco. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

    Gene Davies, owner and mechanic at Gene Davies Automotive in Arco. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

    Gene Davies, owner and mechanic at Gene Davies Automotive in Arco. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

    He instituted a new philosophy: If it doesn’t happen at a “real” hospital, it doesn’t happen at Lost Rivers. That meant ending some local practices, nixing little things like letting staff members wear scrubs of any color they fancied, and big things, like allowing people to bring their horses in for X-rays. “I said, ‘I have no problem doing this, but you tell me what insurance the horse has,’” he recalled. “The practice stopped immediately.”

    To bring in more revenue, he applied for grants and got the hospital a trauma center designation (the first level IV trauma center in Idaho) so it could get paid more for the care it was already providing. He saved money by inviting the town’s residents to help renovate clinic exam rooms and by moving the medical records to a cloud-based system that didn’t require more information technology employees.

    Prognosis Unclear

    Despite Huerta’s efforts, however, the long-term success of Lost Rivers is not guaranteed. “If you don’t have enough people to support a clinic or a hospital, it has no economic reason to be there,” said Ricketts, the Sheps Center fellow. “It just disappears.”

    Arco and Butte County officials hope the local economy will get a boost from a planned expansion of Idaho National Laboratory, which conducts nuclear energy testing and research. Residents also are mounting a campaign to get the Craters of the Moon, a national monument in Butte County, designated as a national park.

    “It would literally put us on the map,” county clerk Shaffer said.

    But even if that happens, Huerta knows he can’t expect a big influx of new residents. Rural parts of the United States saw an absolute decline in population following the 2008 financial crisis, a trend that has since stabilized. But there is little or no growth. So Huerta has to concentrate on keeping the patients he has — and giving them a reason to keep coming. And it’s working: The hospital is now making a small profit and has some reserves on hand for future projects.

    Ruby Horn, who turned 100 on March 16, laughs while telling stories inside her Arco, Idaho, residence last month. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

    Ruby Horn, who turned 100 on March 16, laughs while telling stories inside her Arco, Idaho, residence last month. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

    “If you are not offering the services, people are going to go somewhere else,” Huerta said. “And as medicine advances and reimbursement is still pegged to volume, you have to find ways to keep that existing population here.”

    One big challenge for Lost Rivers and many other rural hospitals is that their patients tend to be older — and thus sicker and costlier to treat. People 65 and older account for about 18 percent of the rural population, compared with 12 percent in urban areas, according to the National Rural Health Association. An older patient base can strain hospitals because Medicare, the public insurance program for the elderly, doesn’t pay hospitals as well as private insurance does. Elderly patients also may need more intense care than small hospitals can provide.

    Rural hospitals have a higher percentage of patients on Medicaid, the public insurance for poor people, which pays notoriously low rates to providers.

    Some seniors move to Arco precisely because there is a hospital in town. But for others, what Lost Rivers offers simply isn’t enough.

    Residents Ray Westfall, 82, and his wife, Winona, recently put their house on the market after deciding it was time to move to Utah, closer to family and more specialized health care. Westfall has neuropathy in his legs, which causes numbness most of the time. He gets around with a walker. Winona has dementia.

    “We can get some care here at the local hospital, but mostly we have to travel to Idaho Falls,” he said.

    Westfall is a regular at Parsons’ flower shop. On a recent Tuesday, he bought a bouquet for his wife — carnations, her favorite.

    Parsons said many of the emergency calls she responds to are for older folks who’ve suffered strokes, fallen at home or are struggling to breathe. One 99-year-old woman she took to the hospital on this morning had fallen in her living room.

    Parsons said she has known many of her patients for years, through her parents or grandparents. As they grow old and get sick, she picks them up in the ambulance and drives them to Lost Rivers.

    “And before long, I’m doing their funeral flowers,” she said.

    Telemedicine: A New Frontier

    At first the Bengal Pharmacy, on the bottom floor of Lost Rivers Medical Center, looks like any other pharmacy, with racks of over-the-counter cold medications, bandages, reading glasses and medical supplies. Shelves of prescription medications sit behind the counter. But it has no pharmacist on site; instead, technicians and students from Idaho State University in Pocatello shuffle about, filling prescriptions.

    Their supervisor is a pharmacist at the university, about 80 miles away, who checks their work remotely. Patients who want to talk to him go to a small private room with a phone and video link. The pharmacy is named for the university’s mascot.

    For rural hospitals, telehealth can make otherwise faraway services accessible to people where they live, said Keith Mueller, director of the Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis at the University of Iowa. That can be critical, especially during the winter when snowstorms sometimes cut off access to rural towns.

    “We can, in effect, bring the provider to the community without physically doing so,” Mueller said. “Even in urban areas, people want more and more convenience in how we receive our services. Here we are talking more about necessity.”

    Shane Rosenkrance fills a prescription for his wife, Mimi, after she was discharged from Lost Rivers Medical Center following a cow-related injury. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

    Shane Rosenkrance fills a prescription for his wife, Mimi, after she was discharged from Lost Rivers Medical Center following a cow-related injury. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

    At Lost Rivers, patients can have telemedicine appointments with a psychiatrist. And doctors can get virtual guidance from specialists in trauma, emergency care and burns. But new technologies sometimes take getting used to. “When you lose that hometown community pharmacist, that human touch, when you turn it over to computers, that’s a concept that people have difficulty with,” said Martha Danz, who sits on the hospital’s board.

    Leon Coon, 83, said the concept is a bit foreign to him. “I just don’t do that stuff,” said Coon, who works loading hay. “I’m a little old-fashioned.” Sipping coffee at the truck stop early on a Wednesday morning, Coon said he doesn’t even text, so he’s a bit wary of technology that puts him in touch with a pharmacist all the way in Pocatello. But then again, he said he doesn’t rely on the medical system much at all.

    “Anytime you go to the doctor, it’s just like a mechanic,” he said. “They’re going to find something wrong. I feel good most of the time, so I just don’t go.”

    Shane Rosenkrance, whose wife got trampled by the cow, said he remembers when there were five community drugstores in the valley. Now, he is grateful to have the one pharmacy — even if the pharmacist isn’t actually behind the counter. “To have health care, you have to have a pharmacy,” he said. “And through technology, they are able to do it.”

    A patient uses a telephone in a private room to talk to a pharmacist at Idaho State University after receiving his medication at Lost Rivers Medical Center. The center has no on-site pharmacist and instead relies on telemedicine to fulfill the hospital's needs. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

    A patient uses a telephone in a private room to talk to a pharmacist at Idaho State University after receiving his medication at Lost Rivers Medical Center. The center has no on-site pharmacist and instead relies on telemedicine to fulfill the hospital’s needs. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

    Telemedicine is hardly a panacea. The projects often depend on grants or government awards, because rural hospitals’ operating margins are slim. And some of the telemedicine and remote monitoring technologies require high-speed internet, which isn’t always reliable or cost-effective in rural areas.

    “You can’t do home monitoring everywhere,” said Sally Buck, CEO of the National Rural Health Resource Center. “You can’t do telehealth everywhere.”

    Telemedicine also may raise more questions than it answers for some patients, and even create a need for in-person follow-ups. Orie Browne, the medical director for Lost Rivers, said he tries to keep patients from having to travel. But if someone needs more advanced medical care — or a specialist that Lost Rivers doesn’t have — he will refer them to another hospital. The hospital has a helicopter pad, and patients with emergencies that can’t be handled at Lost Rivers can either be flown out by helicopter or transferred by ambulance.

    “Ego is a dangerous thing,” he said. “If there is anyone who can do a better job, I’m going to get [my patients] there.”

    Lost Rivers Medical Center CEO Brad Huerta describes his acquisition of a CT scanner. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

    Lost Rivers Medical Center CEO Brad Huerta describes his acquisition of a CT scanner. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

    Nevertheless, Huerta said, he hopes to expand telemedicine, including such services as oncology. Huerta recognizes that Lost Rivers doesn’t have the staff or the expertise to do it all. He believes the hospital should try to do more when it can, and refer out the rest.

    “We aren’t trying to do brain surgery,” he said. “We’re not doing Level I trauma. But colonoscopies? Tele-oncology? People in rural areas get cancer too, and it’s demanding driving hours back from a chemotherapy session.”

    Rounding Up Doctors

    Browne started work at Lost Rivers one recent day in March, then drove 45 minutes to one of its outpatient clinics in Mackay, 26 miles away. One of his first patients was Elizabeth Galasso, 59, who was worried because her heart rate was racing.

    “I was scared,” Galasso said, speaking with a hoarse voice as she sat hunched on the exam table. “I felt my heart pounding clear down into my stomach.”

    An EKG showed her heart was beating normally. Browne told her it was likely a panic attack, but suggested a stress test just to make sure. He told her that her age, her smoking history and anxiety all put her at risk for heart disease.

    “But I think things are going to be just fine,” he said. Galasso reached over and hugged him.

    Browne, who took over as Lost Rivers’ medical director in 2015, said he was drawn to the outdoor activities in the area — and the variety of rural health care. He used to have a private practice in Idaho Falls and rotated into Lost Rivers for a week at a time. Now, he spends his days bouncing between the emergency room, the hospital inpatient beds and the primary care clinic. “That’s good for a person who gets bored easily,” he said.

    Dr. Orie Browne, Lost Rivers' medical director, examines a patient last month. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

    Dr. Orie Browne, Lost Rivers’ medical director, examines a patient last month. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

    Many doctors, however, don’t feel the same pull. Rural hospitals and clinics have long struggled to recruit doctors. In rural areas, there are roughly 13 physicians — of any kind — per 100,000 people, compared with 31 in urban areas, according to the National Rural Health Association.

    Doctors and other medical providers can be enticed by programs that repay their school loans if they work in a rural area. Some medical schools have programs designed specifically for students who plan to practice in rural or underserved communities. Another way to make treatment more accessible in rural areas is to expand the responsibilities of nurse practitioners, physician assistants and even paramedics.

    Lost Rivers relies on nurse practitioners and physician assistants to provide care for patients in the clinics and the hospital. In addition to Browne, the medical center has four part-time primary care physicians, some who live hours away and come in once a week. Various specialists, including a cardiologist and an orthopedist, also rotate into the medical center’s outpatient clinics about once a month. And an MRI machine gets driven to the hospital once a week.

    Tim Tomlinson, a podiatrist who lives in Twin Falls and drives 100 miles to Arco once a week, spent a recent morning seeing a lineup of patients. One was a man who had to have a toe amputated after a horse stepped on his foot, another a diabetic who needed a skin graft checked on his foot.

    Tomlinson said he’s gotten paid late before, and he has seen the hospital nearly shut down more than once. But he keeps coming because he has developed a practice — and he thinks its important patients have access to specialty care. Lost Rivers isn’t unique in its difficulties, he noted. “All those small towns are struggling as young people move out, leaving mostly old people,” he said. “That puts a drain on the hospitals.”

    Browne goes over medical records with Hammond Britton, of Moore, Idaho, at Lost Rivers Medical Center. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

    Browne goes over medical records with Hammond Britton, of Moore, Idaho, at Lost Rivers Medical Center. Photo by M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

    Patients are living longer with chronic diseases now, so the demand for elderly care is only going to increase. If not the rural clinics and hospitals, Tomlinson said, “who’s going to deliver it?”

    Even with the decline in the nation’s rural population, many people are rooted in rural America because of family or because they like the outdoors and a slower pace of life. One of them is Gene Davies, who has lived in Arco more than 60 years, runs a mechanic shop straight out of a different era. Handwritten signs sit on a wooden chair next to the door: “Gone to Dr.” “Be back tomorrow.” “Hope to be back Monday.”

    Davies said he appreciates the remoteness of the region. “I ain’t got no plans to go anywhere else,” he said. “I’ve seen enough of the other world. I don’t want it.”

    Rosenkrance, the cattle farmer, said she’s not going anywhere, either. She’s been coming to the hospital since she was a child, when she ran through the halls while her father worked in the pharmacy. Now her husband teases her about having a standing reservation in the emergency room.

    Just before discharging Rosenkrance, nurse Celeste Parson told her she needed to rest physically and mentally. The accident had left her with a concussion, a lacerated ear and a black eye. Then Parson issued her the most important instruction: Don’t do anything that could cause another blow to the head.

    “We would really like you to rest up for at least a week,” Parson said. “But the doctor knows for you, two or three days is more realistic.”

    As she grabbed an ice pack and her purse, Rosenkrance reflected on the importance of Lost Rivers for residents across the whole valley.

    “This hospital is a big deal,” she said. “It’s saved a lot of lives.”

    KHN’s coverage in California is funded in part by Blue Shield of California Foundation. Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit health newsroom whose stories appear in news outlets nationwide, is an editorially independent part of the Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the original report on its website.

    The post In remote Idaho, a tiny medical center charts a path for stressed rural hospitals appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, the latest installment in our series of essays.

    Tom Nichols, author of the book “The Death of Expertise,” shares his Humble Opinion on the demise of experts.

    TOM NICHOLS, Author, “The Death of Expertise”: A few years ago, a mischievous group of pollsters asked American voters whether they would support bombing the country of Agrabah.

    As you might expect, Republicans tended to support military action, while Democrats were more reluctant.

    There’s only one problem: Agrabah doesn’t exist. It’s from the animated Disney film “Aladdin.” Only about half the people surveyed figured this out, and liberals and conservatives gleefully pointed fingers at each other.

    For experts in foreign affairs, however, there was no way around the alarming reality that so many Americans had a well-defined view on bombing a cartoon.

    I’m one of those experts. I teach both civilians and military officers about national security affairs. In my career, I have advised the Pentagon, the CIA, and political leaders from both major parties.

    Increasingly, however, laypeople don’t care about expert views. Instead, many Americans have become insufferable know-it-alls, locked in constant conflict with each other, while knowing almost nothing about the subject they are debating.

    How did this happen? How is it that people now not only doubt expert advice, but believe themselves to be as smart, or even smarter, than experienced professionals? Parents who refuse to vaccinate a child, for example, aren’t really questioning their doctors. They’re replacing their doctors. They have decided that attending the university of Google, as one anti-vaccine activist put it, is the same as going to medical school.

    People who have no idea how much the United States spends on foreign aid think that they’re the peers of experienced diplomats. Experts in almost every field can tell similar stories.

    There’s a lot of blame to go around for all of this. The smartphones and tablets that we carry around all day that we think can answer anything are only part of the problem. The American educational system, from grade school to graduate school, encourages students to think of themselves and their views as special. An A is now a common grade.

    The news media, while trying to tell people what they need to hear, must compete for ears, eyes, and clicks, and so are also forced to ask them what they’d like to hear.

    And even if we manage to avoid the intellectual saboteurs of the Internet, we’re still all too likely to get our news and views from social media, where a silly meme from your aunt Rose in Schenectady competes for your attention with actual information.

    We need to find our way back from this ego-driven wilderness. Historically, people return to valuing expert views in times of trouble or distress. We’re all willing to argue with our doctors until our fever is out of control.

    Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. But that’s where we’re headed. And unless we start accepting the limitations of our own knowledge, then each of us is failing in our obligation to participate in our democracy as involved, but informed citizens.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you can find more expert views from our series In My Humble Opinion. That’s on our Web site.

    The post The problem with thinking you know more than the experts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The NBA playoffs games begin this weekend, and they come as one of the game’s superstars just broke a historic record this week.

    John Yang has the story.

    JOHN YANG: Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook did something this season no player has done in 55 years. He averaged double digits in points, assists and rebounds, a triple-double.

    The last NBA Player to do that? Oscar Robertson with the old Cincinnati Royals in the 1961-’62 season. What’s more, Westbrook was the league’s leading scorer this year, averaging 31 points a game, including this game winner.

    OSCAR ROBERTSON, Retired NBA Player: When Russell was on this journey, I felt that I just had to be here.

    JOHN YANG: Robertson, a Hall of Fame point guard who was a 12-time All-Star and league MVP, honored Westbrook before the Thunder’s final regular season game.

    And joining us from Cincinnati now is Oscar Robertson, who, by the way, was the first African-American president of a pro sports labor union and brought the lawsuit that led to free agency in the NBA.

    Mr. Robertson, thanks so much for joining us.

    Help us understand this accomplishment. Put it into context. How difficult is it to achieve a triple-double, and why did it take so long for someone to match your accomplishment in the ’61-’62 season?

    OSCAR ROBERTSON: Well, I don’t know, because I guess they weren’t counting that much about triple-doubles to begin with.

    But I do believe — and I have said this to many of my friends who are basketball players — when Kevin Durant left Oklahoma, it opened the door for Russell Westbrook. And he came through it with a lot of vigor, and look what he’s done with it.

    He had to attack. They had a team. They probably didn’t think the team would be worthy enough because Kevin Durant left. But Russell Westbrook stepped up to the plate and delivered.

    JOHN YANG: But to do this, to get the triple-double, you have got to be an all-around player. You have got to have the power drive to score.

    You have got to have the hustle to rebound and the sort of playmaking for the assists. So, is that why this is such a rare accomplishment?

    OSCAR ROBERTSON: No, I think the rarity of it is that the assists are going to be there and the scoring, of course, because he’s a tremendous basketball, offensive basketball player.

    The real key is, can you get the rebounds? And I was speaking to him the other, and he agreed, said that was the toughest thing to get is the rebounds sometimes.

    And you get with a certain team. And now, in this electronic age, and you have to be able to go inside to help your big people rebound, if you don’t have a dominated rebounding team, like — and I don’t think Oklahoma State has got much of a rebounding team compared to some of the other teams in the league.

    JOHN YANG: How did you feel about Westbrook breaking your record for the number of double-triples in a season and also matching — having double-triples for — averaging double-triples for the full season?

    OSCAR ROBERTSON: Well, I thought about it, and I just said I felt happy.

    I felt very happy for Russell, because it was a tremendous treat, historic in nature, because — you know, it’s just a funny thing that, when I did these things in the ’60s, no one even knew anything — knew what a triple-double was.

    But Russell — this is a new age now in basketball. People are — you’re seeing, this year, they drew more fans than they have in the history of basketball. And Russell Westbrook has stepped up to the plate.

    When he’s on the court, man, everybody wants to see him play. And this is really something. And I think, as people think about it a little bit, they are going to think much more than they do right now.

    JOHN YANG: When you were in Oklahoma City with Westbrook the other day, you charted The chant, “MVP.”

    Why do you think he should be MVP this year?

    (LAUGHTER)

    OSCAR ROBERTSON: Look what he did. He broke a record. It’s been there 55 years. Why shouldn’t he be the MVP?

    So, I think what he’s done has been marvelous. As I said before, he took a team that people didn’t think was going very far, although I don’t — some other teams have gotten more wins than they have, but, as far as being electrifying and drawing fans to the arena to see them play, he is the MVP of the league.

    JOHN YANG: And talk about electrifying the fans and drawing them in, this weekend, of course, the playoff start. On Sunday, Westbrook will be facing off against another top candidate of the MVP, James Harden of the Houston Rockets.

    What do you think of that matchup?

    OSCAR ROBERTSON: I think this is what championship basketball is all about.

    You get the play the tough, best competition. It’s going to be more spirited. The fouls will be harder. And the drives will be a little bit with more definition to them.

    It’s going to be difficult for anybody that gets through there, because they’re in a difficult conference with San Antonio, with the Clippers and, of course, the Golden State Warriors.

    JOHN YANG: What do you think? What are you looking for in the playoffs this year? You going to make a prediction for us?

    OSCAR ROBERTSON: Well, I will just go what has gone, what has happened so far.

    I think Golden State is the team to beat. They have shown that they can — they have a team that can adjust to play against almost anybody. And even though Durant’s been out, he’s back now, and so they haven’t — they didn’t miss a beat when he was out. So, they’re going to move forward. And I’m sure they’re going to be the team to bet on the West Coast.

    On the East Coast, it’s up in the air. There is no real dominant team. Cleveland looked like they were dominant for a while, but they have got some injuries. And, as LeBron said, we’re not playing tough enough.

    So, I guess something is going to happen pretty soon whereby that may change. If it doesn’t change, they’re not going to win the championship.

    JOHN YANG: We will see starting this weekend.

    Oscar Robertson, thanks so much for joining us.

    The post How NBA’s Russell Westbrook achieved a rare triple-double appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we turn to politics, starting with the backlash some GOP lawmakers are facing in their home districts this week.

    WOMAN: Answer it!

    MAN: Answer it!

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s the second major congressional recess of the year, and Republicans are again facing tense encounters with their constituents.

    Take last night’s raucous town hall in Mesa, Arizona.

    AUDIENCE: Shame on you! Shame on you!

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Republican Senator Jeff Flake was booed lustily during an exchange on health care.

    WOMAN: Mr. Flake, why is it that, in Germany, we have had a universal health care system since …

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    WOMAN: Wait a minute.

    Since 1871?

    SEN. JEFF FLAKE, R-Ariz.: Well, thank you for that. I just — I don’t happen to agree. I think the free market system …

    (BOOING)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And in South Carolina on Monday.

    REP. JOE WILSON, R-S.C.: Obamacare is denying services, delaying services.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Representative Joe Wilson heard it from voters who parroted the charge he once hurled at President Obama.

    AUDIENCE: You lie! You lie! You lie!

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Wednesday night, Colorado constituents demanded that Representative Mike Coffman break with President Trump.

    WOMAN: I would like to know when you are going to stop voting with the president who has a 35 percent approval rating, and start fighting for Coloradans?

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    REP. MIKE COFFMAN, R-Colo.: When I disagree with the president, I will speak out with the president. But I’m not going to do it every other day. It’s when it’s something significant.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Attendees at that event had to show an I.D., and limit signs to notebook size.

    Other Republicans have opted against holding mass voter events at all. Instead, some are conducting tele-town halls over the phone and social media.

    A big question is, will the anger translate beyond town halls? This week in Kansas, in a rock-solid Republican district, the GOP only narrowly won a special election for the House seat vacated by Mike Pompeo, who’s now director of the CIA. There’s another closely watched special House election next Tuesday in Georgia to replace Tom Price, the new secretary of health and human services.

    And with that, we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Welcome, gentlemen.

    So, David, what do you make of all this hostility at some of the town halls?

    DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: Yes, I think there are two issues here.

    One is the hostility of the town hall. I’m not sure what to make of that. I think it means that progressives are as enraged as the Tea Party people were of several years ago.

    The larger issue is the shift in the polls in that Kansas race and some of the other races and the shift that we see in the polls generally. And that’s less — that’s not only the fact progressives are more energized, but it’s also the drifting away of Republicans from the Trump administration.

    And it’s not happening on a state level, so this is Trump-related. And so, if I were a House member with — maybe if I had won my last seat, and I am Republican, by 10 or 15 points, I think I would be more nervous than ever before in my career.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you attribute all this to?

    MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Well, first of all, Judy, the Joe Wilson segment was particularly appropriate, South Carolina.

    It was September 2009 where Joe Wilson, I think, changed American politics. He was a member of the House of Representatives then, as he is now. President Barack Obama was addressing the Congress on Medicare, joint session, and the president said illegal undocumented immigrants wouldn’t be covered under the health care plan.

    And Joe Wilson broke all customs, traditions and stood up and said, “You lie, you lie,” and he was reprimanded officially by the House of Representatives. He had to apologize. He apologized personally. He raised $1.5 million the next week.

    And that’s when it — learned that there wasn’t a consequence to such behavior. And it sort of, I think, really raised to a different level the polarization and the personalization of our politics, that anything goes as long as you raise money.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It was kind of a turning point.

    MARK SHIELDS: I really feel that way.

    So, I agree with David. I think there is energy, there’s no question, and passion, just as there was then against President Obama in 2009, 2010. There isn’t any trace of any racial component to the opposition to President Trump, but there is passion.

    And I think that’s what you see. What I would be worried about, Democrats should be, that this looks orchestrated, that it looks planned, that the Democratic National Committee sent out a message saying, get in Jeff Flake’s grill, so that it’s not just a question of spontaneity, of people expressing their own opposition or criticism about policies, but, instead, sort of organizing.

    If it starts to ring of an organized effort, I think it hurts. As far as the special House elections, they’re always aberrational, but if the Democrats are going to win the House in 2018, they have to win districts like the one in Georgia, which…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The one that is up next Tuesday.

    MARK SHIELDS: … Mitt Romney won by 20 points and Donald Trump only won by two.

    It’s twice as college-educated a population, electorate as the reset of the state. And this is the kind of place they have to break through.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What determines, David, whether Democrats stay energized or not?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, we have learned that hatred is the organizing — the great organizing principle in politics.

    And, of course, they have done so poorly in the midterms because their output, their turnout tends to be low in those races. You know, to me, it’s very hazardous to linearly project out. We have seen in the last week the Trump administration shift in a radical way.

    And so something really bad could happen, something really good could happen, but the odds that the future a year from now will look like the present, those strike me as infinitesimally low.

    We’re in a position there is just wide variance on what could happen. And so I’m not sure it makes much sense to think, what is 2018 going to look like, because there are probably — as many days as there are between now and then, that’s how many changes of directions we’re probably going to see.

    MARK SHIELDS: One quick measure of prospects is the ability to translate that enthusiasm into contributions.

    And the Democratic candidate in Georgia, Jon Ossoff, who is really untried, untested, I mean, a young man, 30 years old, with a very thin resume, has raised over $8.5 million.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Much of it from out of state.

    MARK SHIELDS: Most of it overwhelmingly from out of state.

    When the Democrats did last capture the House from the Republicans in 2006, one of the reasons they did is that the Democrats, under Rahm Emanuel’s leadership, now the mayor of Chicago, devoted incredible effort to recruiting candidates who fit with the districts in which they ran.

    That’s when they ran Blue Dog Democrats, conservative to moderate Democrats in conservative to moderate areas. Since then, they have kind of turned over the nominating process to national liberal groups and whomever they support.

    And I think that’s been a mistake and I think they have paid for it at the polls.

    DAVID BROOKS: If I could make one quick comment about the town halls, I probably wouldn’t go to them.

    Like, I love political discussion. But having people shout at each other, even if you agree, it’s just — I think it’s bad in general. Whether you agree with them or not, it’s just not a conversation. It’s just umbrage and it’s a little bit theatrical.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But they used to be very quiet, didn’t they? This is a big change.

    But, David, you mentioned a minute ago something that I do want to ask you both about. And that is what appears to be a change in position by the president on a number of things, around trade, around NAFTA, that he’s going to declare China a currency manipulator on day one, that he’s going to get health care passed.

    And that’s a different issue, that you have to have Congress go along.

    DAVID BROOKS: Janet Yellen at the …

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Janet Yellen, the chairman of the Federal Reserve.

    DAVID BROOKS: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What’s going on here? Are these genuine changes of opinion? What — how do you see it?

    DAVID BROOKS: Certainly struck by it.

    There are a lot of data points all of a sudden. And most people, if they — especially if you’re an academic or an writer, if you spend many months arguing that China’s a manipulator, a currency manipulator, you don’t just then turn on a dime.

    But Donald Trump is different. He’s a marketing guy. He’s a business guy, whatever is working for him at the moment. And it seems, from this many data points, he’s making the conclusion that the populism and the Bannon-ism is not working, and he’s going to go to something else.

    Now, what exactly that else thing is, we don’t really know. It could be sort of a corporatism. It could be, let me trust my business guys, let’s go to the CEOs, and let’s — those guys, I can trust.

    There seems to be some instinctual sense that he’s shifting teams of who he wants to be his key advisers. And with Trump, because he knows so little, it’s not him personal initiating policy. The crucial question is, who is he listening to?

    And there’s a clear shift, at least in one week, that there has been a radical shift in his advisee team.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But it is a remarkable number of issues that the president appears, Mark, to be taking the opposite stand from what he said during the campaign.

    MARK SHIELDS: No, you’re right, Judy.

    Even during the campaign, when he said things that were inconsistent or occasionally contradictory, the defense, the rebuttal of this on the part of his supporters was, hey, he may not always be — but he says what he means, and he means what he says, and the guy just doesn’t say it all of the time with polish, but he says it with conviction.

    Well, his convictions turned out to have the shelf life of a used kleenex. They just disappear. So, you know, now he’s moved toward orthodoxy, sort of a Republican orthodoxy, business — pro-business orthodoxy, international responsibility, America is the — if not the policeman of the world, then certainly a projector of force and influence in maintaining security around the world.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I mean, just in the last week, the bomb that was dropped in Afghanistan, the strike in Syria, right.

    MARK SHIELDS: The bomb in Afghanistan.

    But in both Afghanistan and Syria, there wasn’t any consequence of — real likely consequence of any national retaliation to the United States. They were enormous acts. I mean, they got the world’s attention.

    North Korea is different. And tough talk in North Korea is not going to stop Kim Jong-un from — I don’t think, from a nuclear test. And I think the consequences in North Korea and our dealing with North Korea really are enormously consequential and very, very serious, and should be of concern to everybody involved.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, David, the president, it seems to me, has been pretty loose with the tweets. He’s been saying, if China doesn’t help us get North Korea in line, we will go it alone, we will do it ourselves.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

    One is always unnerved. The North Korea situation is unnerving. But I have to say, I think the president has had a good week on the subject. The shift in China, the harsher tone from China toward North Korea, the, in effect, drawing a red line against North Korea and also against us, that’s a win.

    That’s a very significant development, that China is clearly upset, clearly concerned about what’s going on, and they’re willing to step into North Korea and say, don’t cross that line. And so that is a significant shift.

    And one has to give some credit to Donald Trump. And two things have happened. One is the Syria thing happened, and the sense that the U.S. is sort of active again in the world, which it hasn’t been for many years.

    And, second — and I made this point last week, and Mark didn’t respond favorably to it — which is, there is some advantages and disadvantages to having an unpredictable guy as president.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    DAVID BROOKS: Disadvantages if you’re an ally, but some advantages toward the enemy, because they don’t know what’s happening.

    And I do think the more assertive U.S. has had some role in this and progress on the North Korea thing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A week later, where are you?

    MARK SHIELDS: A week later, I accept David’s apology.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARK SHIELDS: No.

    I mean, Judy, I mean, unpredictability is not the defining — shouldn’t be the defining characteristic of a presidency. I mean, the ability to take new information and to change direction, you know, yes, and change policy, is there any indication that there is any thought been given to this policy?

    I mean, the great consolation that people in Washington take, whether they should or they shouldn’t, is James Mattis, General McMaster, you know, that these are people of seriousness, Rex Tillerson, people of stability and consequence. They don’t have anything comparable at the home — on the domestic side.

    And, you know, that’s it. I just don’t think you can have somebody do it on whim and by tweet. And I really — David’s far more sanguine about North Korea and China right now than I am.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, I’m not saying sanguine. I’m saying progress.

    But I do think this emphasizes a point, is that we could be moving toward an administration where Trump is less dominant and less influenced by Bannon, who I think was a very bad influence, and you get a team of advisers who are building a structure around him, and the McMasters and Gary Cohns and maybe the Jared Kushners.

    And so we could be going into something that looks a little more like Cabinet government than we have seen in a while, where Gary Cohn does what he wants on economic policy, Jeff Sessions continues to do what he wants in a more populist on immigration policy, and we’re looking to the second tier to actually making more decisions, and maybe the top guy is just out doing his tweets.

    MARK SHIELDS: Gary Cohn better be careful. He better not be on a “Saturday Night Live” skit featured as the dominant figure in the White House.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Referring back to Steve Bannon.

    MARK SHIELDS: He better not be on the cover of TIME magazine.

    That, in itself, I think — I mean, Donald Trump, whatever else he is, we know, is sensitive to, aware and keenly interested in publicity and who gets attention. And I have to think that Steve Bannon’s star wasn’t elevated or helped by the kind of attention he got in the press.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: “Saturday Night Live” is — an unforgettable image of him as the — death, not just the Grim Reaper, but death.

    MARK SHIELDS: Right. That’s right, and the dominant figure with his puppet.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you both.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: Today is Good Friday, when Christians around the world commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, ahead of Easter Sunday.

    One of the largest public displays occurs each year in Seville, Spain, but declining faith among the Spanish people is threatening a longtime pillar of the Catholic Church, its cloistered convents.

    Jeffrey Brown has that story. It’s part of our continuing series Culture at Risk.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Everywhere you turn in Seville, tradition and history, reminders of a rich religious past.

    But rarely seen, Seville’s cloistered convents, cities within cities behind high walls, a piece of the fabric of the community, yet separate and apart, places like the convent of Santa Ines, founded in 1372 by Maria Coronel, whose body still lies in repose in the church’s chapel.

    Prioress Maria Rebecca Cervantes Cisneros joined the sisterhood when she was just 13 years old.

    MARIA REBECCA CERVANTES CISNEROS, Prioress, Santa Ines Convent (through interpreter): Many people might say that a person doesn’t know what she’s doing at that age, but I think that it is a gift from God, and that he is free to call for you whenever he wishes. And, to this day, I do not regret having heeded that call.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yet, in Spain today, few women heed that call. Only about 15 percent of the population even attends mass.

    Twenty-five years ago, there were 41 cloistered convents in Seville, the highest concentration in Spain. Today, just 15 active ones remain, and at Santa Ines, eight nuns, practicing what’s known as their vocation, watch over this entire complex.

    Six of them come not from Spain, but from Mexico, including the prioress.

    MARIA REBECCA CERVANTES CISNEROS: Here in Europe, there’s a very general crisis of vocations. Perhaps there’s also a lack of knowledge. Maybe we need to promote ourselves more, because people aren’t very familiar with us. Many people think that the life of a contemplative is like a useless life.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Convents like Santa Ines here in Seville are hidden treasures from an earlier era, once small, but bustling communities, now fewer inhabitants now, and walls that are decaying.

    The murals lining the courtyard, which illustrate biblical stories and are said to date to the 1400s, are cracking and flaking away. So, too, are many of its Spanish tiles. Some are held in place by fabric. The structural beams supporting the entrance to the outside world, through which everyday citizens enter daily to buy sweets through the turnstile, are cracked, in danger of collapsing.

    Weeds grow out of every nook.

    PABLO LONGORIA, World Monuments Fund: This is one of the two, three convents that is in worst shape.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Pablo Longoria directs projects in Spain for the world monuments fund, which last year added Seville’s convents to its endangered heritage watch list.

    With his help, we were given rare access during the season of Lent. Even still, many of the nuns preferred to remain away from our cameras.

    PABLO LONGORIA: Convents are very old buildings that were usually kept by the donation of citizens, religious people that would give the convents money and products, and by the nuns. So, 50 years ago, you would have 80 nuns in this convent. Now you have eight left.

    JEFFREY BROWN: With much less support.

    PABLO LONGORIA: With much less support and with many more years. The average age must be 75 to 80 years.

    JEFFREY BROWN: While Santa Ines has imported its nuns from Mexico, at Santa Paula, another convent less than a mile away, most of the 20 nuns are from India. Santa Paula was established in 1473 by the Order of Saint Jerome and, thanks to the largess of the noble family of a former prioress, is in better shape.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Which is your favorite?

    WOMAN: This.

    JEFFREY BROWN: This one?

    The nuns here sell their sweets from a shop, and even have a small museum often open to the public. But with only about a third of its former population, the problem of maintaining this huge place remains.

    This massive church portal, designed by Italian sculptor Nicola Pisano and dating to 1504, combines Gothic, Moorish and Renaissance styles, but it’s been slowly destroyed by water damage, spiders nests, an overall lack of care.

    MARTA VILLANUEVA, Architect (through interpreter): It’s more dark here. That’s because of the water.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Marta Villanueva has been coming here since she was a little girl, and followed her father into the field of architectural restoration. She’s now working on a two-year project to restore this portal, funded by a $200,000 grant from the U.S.-based Annenberg Foundation.

    MARTA VILLANUEVA (through interpreter): This facade is absolutely one of a kind. There are no others like it in all of Spain. The most unique aspect is the capacity it has to unite different currents, both aesthetically and in thought. It’s a synthesis of the culture that was enriching all of Seville.

    JEFFREY BROWN: But, she says, the needs of this convent and others far outstrip the means of the nuns’ orders, which own them.

    MARTA VILLANUEVA (through interpreter): This type of monument needs continual maintenance, and that requires means to see them through. The resources aren’t always there.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The World Monuments Fund is attempting to bring stakeholders together in Seville, the religious orders, the surrounding communities and the regional government, to catalogue the damage and prioritize the greatest needs.

    PABLO LONGORIA: The best case scenario is, we find, through careful study of the building, a way to make it sustainable through time, a way in which the nuns can stay, they can keep their traditions.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Many convents have been lost already, abandoned or converted into offices for the municipal government, museums or event spaces.

    JAVIER RODRIGUEZ BARBERAN, University of Seville: You feel here like if you work in a part of the convent.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Javier Rodriguez Barberan is a professor of art history at the University of Seville and, like many here, grew up around the convents.

    JAVIER RODRIGUEZ BARBERAN: Imagine there are no nuns inside the convent. You can see beautiful building, you can see beautiful works of art, but it’s no more a convent. It would be a museum. It would be a hotel. It would be a restaurant, I don’t know, but no more a convent.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Which would mean the life of the place is gone.

    JAVIER RODRIGUEZ BARBERAN: Exactly. Exactly.

    JEFFREY BROWN: At Santa Ines, Prioress Cervantes is asking the regional government to make good on a decades-old pledge to help restore her convent. She hopes they won’t have to close this sanctuary, but is at peace in any case.

    MARIA REBECCA CERVANTES CISNEROS (through interpreter): Even though we are concerned about the shortage of vocations and such, I think you simply forget the present, leave it aside and give your life and devotion to the vocation we have received as a gift, and the rest is up to God.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Jeffrey Brown in Seville, Spain.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now an investigation that uncovered decades of sexual abuse at one of the nation’s elite private preparatory schools, and the extent to which the school hushed it up.

    Hari Sreenivasan has that story from our New York studios.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The report released last night focused on a dozen former teachers at the prestigious boarding school in Connecticut, Choate Rosemary Hall.

    It recounts the experiences of 24 adult alumni who were allegedly abused between 1963 and 2010. Investigators said the offenses ranged from kissing to groping to rape.

    Choate hired a law firm with no previous ties to the school to lead the investigation.

    Jonathan Saltzman was part of The Boston Globe Spotlight team that helped break the story. And Paul Mones is an attorney who has represented sexual abuse survivors at private schools and other institutions. He is not involved in any of the Choate cases.

    Jonathan, I want to start with you.

    You and your team launched this series a while back about this happening at elite prep schools in the Northeast. What did this report reveal to you?

    JONATHAN SALTZMAN, The Boston Globe: Well, we had reported on about 110 private schools in New England that had faced allegations of sexual abuse over the past 25 years.

    And we mentioned Choate. But this report was initiated in response to that story, and it laid out in extremely graphic detail the accounts of about 24 survivors of abuse.

    And as you said in your introduction, some of these are extraordinarily graphic descriptions of abuse, rape. And, to me, the most startling thing about the report was that, first, the school named 12 teachers that they said had abused kids. That’s an extraordinary number, and we haven’t seen that before in other schools.

    And then what they also did was they essentially owned up to the fact that they had never reported these cases of abuse to child welfare authorities in Connecticut, even though it had been required.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: There is an incident that was mentioned in the report of what would likely qualify of at least attempted rape that happened in a swimming pool on a field trip in Costa Rica.

    But the headmaster to the board of trustees essentially labeled it — pointed to heavy drinking and inappropriate behavior. And then we find out that the teacher in question was still employed as a principal at a different school until last week.

    JONATHAN SALTZMAN: That’s right.

    Choate got in touch with that public school in Litchfield, Connecticut, very recently. And I spoke to a lawyer for that school district in Litchfield last night. And they said that they had — that when this teacher applied, he used a slight variation of his name, and that he never mentioned that he’d worked at Choate.

    And that’s a running theme that we found in a number of our stories, this whole passing the trash syndrome, which is that schools let teachers go quietly, they hush it up, and the teachers resurface somewhere else.

    PAUL MONES, Sexual Abuse Attorney: What I found particularly, if I could just comment quickly on it, particularly interesting is that the school only acted, only acted after the Boston Globe story. They would have been comfortable sitting on their hands if The Boston Globe didn’t call.

    This is typical of the behavior of large institutions wherein sexual abuse happens among their ranks. And so they follow the same pattern as the Catholic Church.

    There is one interesting part of the report, in fact, where, in the summer of 2012 — 2002 — I’m sorry — it was reported that they received reports a teacher had molested a student. They called that teacher back to the school and basically let this teacher quietly leave, in fact, even say — and I’m sure you remember this — where the teacher would then get a recommendation to go work at a boys school.

    You have to remember that the Boston Globe stories on the Catholic Church, where this identical behavior was happening, was — started the criminal — the review of the criminal cases in January or February of 2002.

    And so it’s not like this happened many years ago. Sometimes, we say, oh, in the Boy Scout cases I have had or the church cases, oh, it was the ’60s or the ’70s. These are, like, super smart people in an elite institution, and you only have to — you have to believe they never read The New York Times or The Boston Globe or listened to the TV or had any knowledge whatsoever of sexual abuse to act in such an opprobrious way to the welfare of the children even as late as 2002.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Paul, you have taken on — your clients have taken on a lot of different types of institutions. And you have described child abuse as almost a perfect crime. Explain.

    PAUL MONES: Right.

    It’s a perfect crime because the victims remain silent. The perpetrators — we underestimate the perpetrators, because these are very smart people. In the cases of private schools, we know that private schools survive or they are best known for congeniality, conviviality, informal relationships, calling the teachers by their first name, coming over to the teacher’s house for studying, maybe for a glass of wine, you know, when the kid is 16 — 15 or 16 years old.

    And so it’s this breeding ground. But these people are very — perpetrators are very smart, and they know how to take advantage of a place that doesn’t have many boundaries.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Jon Saltzman, we asked Choate if they would appear, and they said they would not.

    But they did send us a statement. It says: “We profoundly apologize. The conduct of these adults violated the foundation of our community, the sacred trust between students and the adults charged with their care. We honor and thank the survivors of sexual misconduct who came forward.”

    That is part of their statement.

    Considering that this report only goes until 2010, what’s happening now at the school? And how are they trying to prevent this from happening again in the future?

    JONATHAN SALTZMAN: Well, it’s a good question.

    The school says that they are — they have heightened awareness about this, that in one of the cases they reported — there was one case that they reported to child welfare authorities. And this was around in 2010.

    They discuss greater training, things like that. And I should point out that some other attorneys that I spoke to who said — agree with Paul that this is a litany of horribles, did give the school credit for being as frank as they were in this report.

    I spoke also to one of the alumni, and — who is the only one identified as being abused, because she came forward to us, and she gave them credit for being as frank as they were.

    And I will give you an example of how frank they are. This report — I have never seen this in another report from a school — has a label on the top of it saying that it contains graphic material and is not suitable reading for children.

    That’s a pretty telling thing to put on a report.

    PAUL MONES: Right.

    And I read that and I thought, really? You know, it was good enough to sweep under the rug. And I understand that, but I thought — I was turned of by that. I thought that, yes, it was that graphic, but now they’re saying you have to have — you know, keep it away from unwanted eyes.

    I viewed this as being a — the only reason, as I said — I will have to reiterate this — if The Globe didn’t come knocking, if there wasn’t a rising march of voices of students from private schools yelling for relief, Horace Mann School, St. George’s School around the country, they would have done nothing at all.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, gentlemen, we will see you on TV tonight. Thank you very much.

    PAUL MONES: OK. Thanks a lot.

    JONATHAN SALTZMAN: Thanks, Hari.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The United States’ involvement in Afghanistan was brought into stark relief yesterday with a massive airstrike in the country’s east.

    After nearly 16 years, thousands of casualties and billions of dollars, where does the American effort stand? And is the country any closer to being stabilized?

    William Brangham begins our coverage.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The video shows a remote mountain valley suddenly consumed by a blast equal to 11 tons of TNT. The weapon, called a Massive Ordnance Air Burst, or MOAB, was used for the first time on the battlefield yesterday in this strike against Islamic State forces.

    GEN. JOHN NICHOLSON, Commander U.S. Forces, Afghanistan: This was the right weapon against this target.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In Kabul today, the top American commander in Afghanistan, Army General John Nicholson, called its use a tactical decision, not a strategic change in policy.

    GEN. JOHN NICHOLSON: The enemy had created bunkers, tunnels and extensive mine fields, and this weapon was used to reduce those obstacles, so we can continue our offensive.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The target area was a district in Nangarhar province, where last weekend a U.S. special forces soldier was killed. It, along with neighboring Logar and Kunar provinces, are rife with Islamic State activity.

    At the same time, the Taliban also continues to control and contest broad swathes of the Afghan countryside. The Taliban and ISIS have claimed responsibility for a series of recent attacks in Kabul that have shaken the capital.

    Afghan officials say Thursday’s blast killed 36 Islamic State militants, but no civilians. ISIS denied anyone was killed. Afghan citizens appeared divided on using the bomb against ISIS, or Da’esh, as it’s also known.

    MAN (through interpreter): We are very happy, and these kinds of bombs should be used in future as well, so ISIS is rooted out from here.

    MOHAMMED AMAN, Kabul Resident (through interpreter): Da’esh is the enemy of Afghanistan. But there are children there, and they had casualties from this bombing. The whole world condemns this action.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The U.S. still has nearly 9,000 troops in Afghanistan, and General Nicholson has said the NATO force there needs a few thousand more troops to train and advise Afghan forces.

    It’s those local forces who continue to take major casualties in the fight against the insurgents. That ongoing fight will surely be on the agenda when President Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, visits Kabul in the weeks ahead.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m William Brangham.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on all of this, we turn to Pamela Constable. She’s the Washington Post bureau chief in Kabul and Islamabad.

    We’re watching — catching her, that is, on one of her trips home.

    Pam, we’re glad that you’re here to talk about the developments of the last few days, but also to take a look at the bigger picture in Afghanistan.

    First of all, Kabul, capital city, how stable is it? What does it feel like?

    PAMELA CONSTABLE, The Washington Post: Well, you know, it’s a contradiction.

    It’s a very busy, active city. If you walked around it in the middle of the day, you would think you were in the middle of any other big, poor, but busy city. But there’s a great feeling of uncertainty and tension at this time.

    There’s been a series of very bad suicide bombings, most recently the one at the military hospital last month, which was extremely shocking, I think, to Kabul residents, who had gotten used to a certain sense of stability and security. And I think a lot of that is gone now.

    It’s also a city that really shows the difficulties Afghanistan’s having economically. The streets are full of beggars, full of drug addicts, full of people who are really struggling and looking for jobs, so it’s a bit of a sad picture.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you attribute it to?

    PAMELA CONSTABLE: Oh, that’s a big question.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s a big question.

    PAMELA CONSTABLE: Many things.

    I think first and foremost has to be security. I mean, you have got a very persistent, very sophisticated Taliban insurgency, which is really doing lots and lots of attacks across the country, as well in the capital.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And getting stronger.

    PAMELA CONSTABLE: Well, certainly holding its own, certainly able to carry out very frightening and persistent attacks, certainly not close to winning, but they’re certainly doing pretty well.

    Then you have ISIS, which is known there as Da’esh, which is a whole other can of worms, as they say, a very different sort of enemy, more ruthless, less interested in winning hearts and minds, more foreign-based, more extreme compared to the Taliban, and, obviously, of greater concern to the neighbors.

    Russia, for example, is very concerned about ISIS, and less so about the Taliban, which they appear to be reaching out to in many ways. So, that’s number one. And then following that is a long list. There’s corruption, there’s poverty, there is tribal and regional problems, and there’s the persistent divisions within the government itself.

    So, people are quite frustrated, and I think very disillusioned by the lack of progress on a lot of fronts.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Where do — many people place the blame there. I mean, do they blame the U.S. for not keeping more troops on the ground? Do they blame the Afghan government?

    PAMELA CONSTABLE: I mean, there’s a tendency to always blame the guy in charge. And, of course, that’s President Ghani.

    And he deserves some of the blame. I think he probably took on more than he could chew. I think he aimed very, very high. I think he created unrealistic expectations of what was possible, given all the obstacles.

    I think he’s made a good-faith effort. I think he’s done a lot, but he’s also been really bombarded by so many problems, corruption being a major one, administrative lack of capacity, and these terrible struggles that have gone on within the government, because, as you know, it wasn’t an elected government, per se. It was sort of a forged or forced power-sharing government.

    And it’s never really gone that well. And I think that has really hampered them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, today, The Washington Post, one of your colleagues, has a piece today about the growing involvement — you mentioned it a moment ago — of Russia and Iran.

    PAMELA CONSTABLE: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How is all that affecting the stability there?

    PAMELA CONSTABLE: The interest of Iran is an old one.

    Iran is a neighbor with lots of trade and traffic back and forth. It’s obviously Shiite. There are many, many, many Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan. So, it’s a neighbor, but it’s always been a neighbor that had lots of political interest in having influence of all kinds. That’s not new.

    What’s relatively new is Russia, which obviously is a much more powerful country, not a neighbor, but close enough, that’s showing every sign of wanting to get involved, for the first time since the ’80s, when, obviously, they backed the government there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you now have, as William reported, the U.S. commander reportedly asking for — reportedly asking for thousands more U.S. troops to go in there. Is there a sense that that could make a difference?

    PAMELA CONSTABLE: I don’t know the answer to that.

    I think it certainly would make an important psychological difference. You asked a minute ago about what Afghans want. They are very ambivalent. The Afghan administration, both military and civilian, very much want more American military support.

    Particularly, what they want is air combat support, not necessarily ground troops. They say that, if they had better combat air support from NATO, from the U.S., they could handle things on the ground. But, anyway, they certainly want more help. The Afghan people are rather ambivalent.

    There’s been — there’s a real sort of leftover bitterness and resentment and sort of complicated legacy of the Western involvement there militarily. So, the jury is still out.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And after 16 years, it doesn’t get any simpler.

    PAMELA CONSTABLE: No, it doesn’t.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Pam Constable of The Washington Post, thank you very much.

    PAMELA CONSTABLE: Very glad to be here.

    The post As U.S. bombing shifts attention to Afghanistan, is the country any closer to stable? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: North Korea issued a new warning today to the United States. It came amid signs the North might be getting ready for another nuclear test.

    The vice foreign minister charged that the Trump administration is — quote — “more vicious and more aggressive” than President Obama’s.

    HAN SONG RYOL, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister (through interpreter): We are taking into account the most aggressive and dangerous option that the U.S. might come up with, and we have also got our options, our countermeasures ready in our hands, which means we will go to war if they choose.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s rising speculation that Pyongyang could carry out a nuclear or a missile test tomorrow. That’s when the North marks the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-Sung, who founded the hard-line communist state in 1948.

    Russia, Syria and Iran say they have sent a — quote — “strong message” to the U.S. not to attack Syria again. Their foreign ministers met in Moscow today. They warned that another U.S. military strike could have grave consequences for regional and global security. President Trump ordered a cruise missile barrage in Syria last week, after accusing its government of a poison gas attack.

    In Turkey, voters headed toward a momentous decision: whether to approve greatly expanded powers for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Sunday’s referendum has sharply divided the country, and European election observers say the government has tried to intimidate the opposition. Erdogan lashed out at them today.

    RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkish President (through interpreter): Now they say, if the result is yes, that means there are a lot of problems. Who are you? First of all, you should know your place. This is not your duty. You can’t talk about what will happen if the result is yes or no.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Erdogan has carried out a sweeping crackdown since an attempted coup last year.

    Back in this country, death penalty opponents rallied in Little Rock, Arkansas, against plans to execute seven death row inmates by the end of the month. The protest featured celebrity speakers and hundreds of others. The first execution is scheduled for Monday night. Arkansas has not put anyone to death since 2005, but officials say the state’s supply of a lethal injection drug is about to pass its expiration date.

    A federal judge in San Francisco is being asked to block President Trump’s executive order on so-called sanctuary cities. It withholds federal funding from cities that won’t cooperate on deporting undocumented immigrants. San Francisco and Santa Clara counties argued today for a nationwide injunction against enforcing the funding ban.

    The Trump White House says that it will not release logs of its visitors. Today’s announcement was a break from President Obama’s practice, but Trump administration officials say that it is in line with what previous presidents did. They cited privacy and national security concerns.

    And Christians around the world marked this Good Friday with solemn observances. Pope Francis presided at the traditional Way of the Cross procession in Rome, with thousands in attendance. And in this country, hundreds of people walked the Brooklyn Bridge in New York behind a man carrying a cross.

    The post News Wrap: North Korea issues warning to U.S. amid speculation of another nuclear test appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Credit: Gucci

    Credit: Gucci

    After years of major fashion houses facing criticism for lack of racial diversity — both on runways and in print — Gucci’s Pre-Fall 2017 campaign, Soul Scene, is an incredible display of style and black culture.

    Akua Shabaka, a model featured in the campaign, said she was surprised when she found out she’d been cast for a Gucci campaign with all black models. “When I found out it was for Gucci, I automatically thought, ‘Oh, I’m going to be the only black girl there,'” she told NewsHour. Instead, she discovered she was a part of a group of black models cast from all over the black diaspora.

    The lively images, shot by British fashion photographer Glen Luchford, capture a sense of fun and sophistication revered by the tastemakers and youth of the 1960s. Inspiration came from England’s underground Northern Soul movement, sparked by the prominent uprising of black American soul music of the 1960s, as well as Malian photographer Malick Sidibé, who died in 2016. Sidibé was well known for black and white photography that captured the exuberant black youth and party culture in his hometown of Bamako, Mali.

    Credit: Gucci

    Credit: Gucci

    In a press release, Gucci said its Creative Director, Alessandro Michele, was inspired by an exhibit called, “Made You Look” at the Photographer’s Gallery in London. The exhibit, which featured the work of Malick Sidibé, focused on black masculinity and dandyism.

    Gucci did not respond to a request for interview from NewsHour.

    Since Gucci’s posting of the newest campaign on social media, fans have been applauding the iconic brand for their inclusiveness. The Model Alliance, a nonprofit labor group for models, told NewsHour the new fashion line was important. “Through social media, the consumers are calling out racism in the industry, which is really powerful,” said Meredith Hatton, the Creative Lead at the alliance.

    Credit: Gucci

    Credit: Gucci

    Fashion lovers and Instagram users at large took notice earlier this year when Gucci released nine mysterious “audition” videos on its account. In the auditions, the models were asked about their “spirit animals” and what it meant to have soul; they also showed off a few dance moves. The models wore afros and other natural hair styles, in defiance of mainstream beauty standards.

    Just a month before the audition videos were posted, Gucci was called out for their lack of diversity by major casting director James Scully, who told Business of Fashion: “It’s time you really investigate what these people are doing on behalf of your company … Gucci gets two thumbs down for lack of diversity.” In a follow-up interview after the Soul Scene campaign launched Thursday, Sully said it “could reset the damage done and start the business back on the road of inclusiveness.”

    Credit: Gucci

    Credit: Gucci

    The post Why Gucci’s newest campaign features all black models and dancers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Hiker stands on top of Mount Sheridan, overlooking Heart Lake in the Red Mountains of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

    A hiker stands on top of Mount Sheridan, overlooking Heart Lake in the Red Mountains of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, on August 9, 2011. Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

    KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Calif. — U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is personally encouraging National Park Service employees to report any forms of workplace harassment they experience or witness, he said Friday during a two-day swing through parks, including Yosemite, where the former superintendent retired following complaints of bullying.

    Zinke underscored that he will not put up with any workplace harassment, an issue that surfaced last year and part of the reason for his visit to California.

    Rangers should feel good coming to work, he said.

    “I don’t expect them to cry on the way home,” Zinke told reporters gathered inside a grove of trees at Kings Canyon National Park, calling for a cultural shift in the entire parks system. “If you see it, you know, stand up. Let’s all correct it together.”

    Investigations began last year when employees at Yellowstone National Park complained about a pervasive “men’s club” environment that encouraged the exploitation and abuse of female workers. At Yosemite, famous for stunning granite rock formations and plunging waterfalls, employees had complained that the superintendent created a toxic work environment. Harassment in the national parks became the subject of congressional hearings.

    The Interior Department’s inspector general this week released reports revealing that Yosemite’s former superintendent belittled employees, using words such as “stupid,” ”bozo” and “lazy,” and was biased against women.

    READ NEXT: Report: Inappropriate actions toward women at Yellowstone

    Former Yosemite Superintendent Don Neubacher denied harassing employees or creating a hostile work environment. He told investigators he was very busy, and that if he seemed dismissive, it was not intentional.

    “At Yosemite, you work at a fast pace, and I do think some people want to ponder things for a long time, which we don’t have time for,” he said.

    [Watch Video]

    Yellowstone National Park instituted new sexual harassment training that had been ongoing for employees and managers long before government investigators began looking into the claims, park Superintendent Dan Wenk said.

    “We started dealing with this situation even before we had the allegations and not because of any specific knowledge of things in Yellowstone,” Wenk said Thursday. “There were issues throughout the national park system last year.”

    Zinke on Thursday emailed park service employees and managers, outlining their responsibility for creating an environment free of “hostile, intimidating, or offensive” behavior, and instructing them on steps to take to report different levels of harassment that could include criminal behavior.

    In his California trip, Zinke also met in Sacramento with Gov. Jerry Brown, where the two talked about the state’s aging water infrastructure and challenges providing water to a growing population and its vital farmland.

    Zinke said he’s not a proponent of selling off public land, but he said the country must produce more energy domestically, an issue of national security. Zinke said he won’t allow the parks to be closed in any future budget fights that could shut down government.

    A former military commander, Zinke wore a yellow hardhat, leather gloves and firefighter garb in a visit to Kings Canyon National Park, joining a hot-shot crew of firefighters to burn piles of dead trees on fire. He looked at the giant, 2,000-year-old sequoia trees and visited areas recently blackened by wildfire during California’s five-year drought that killed millions of trees.

    Woody Smeck, superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, said his parks have not been ensnared in the controversy revealed elsewhere. Zinke made his expectations clear that he is set to change the culture and end harassment, Smeck said.

    “It’s an expectation I share,” Smeck said. “I try to push with employees that it’s about respecting individuals, respecting each other, valuing our differences.”

    Yosemite Ranger Jamie Richards said Zinke — in his first ever visit to Yosemite — toured the park and met with the interim superintendent. Zinke also met briefly with 150 of Yosemite’s workers, answering questions.

    “He gave a very strong message of his zero-tolerance for any form of harassment,” Richards said. “We are a team.”

    Associated Press writer Mead Gruver contributed to this report.

    The post Interior Secretary: No harassment allowed at National Parks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    New York Public Library. Courtesy: NYPL

    New York Public Library. Courtesy: NYPL

    It’s National Library Week, the week of the year we get to give extra love to our libraries — school, public, academic, special — and the librarians who work there. To celebrate, we asked the New York Public Library — perhaps the most-visited library in the country, with among the highest circulations and largest collections of books — what we should be reading right now.

    Here are eight of the staff’s top picks, “the titles they’re passionate about — the ones they can’t stop talking about and can’t wait to share,” Nora Lyons of NYPL wrote NewsHour in an email. In their words:

    Credit: Penguin/RandomHouse

    Credit: Penguin/RandomHouse

    1. “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi
    An amazing panoramic look at the different but interconnected lives of one family. Full of heartache, reality and empowerment, Gyasi’s writing, characters and stories will take your breath away. –Katrina Ortega, Hamilton Grange branch

    Credit: Harper

    Credit: Harper

    2. “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” by Yuval Noah Harari
    “Homo Deus” is great, accessible science writing. It uses the history of humanity to explore the various ways in which our scientific pursuits might shape the future. Come for the knowledge Harari provides, but stay for the jaw-dropping observations on artificial intelligence, the way humans treat animals, big data and bioethics. (This is a super fun read, I swear.) –Nancy Aravecz, Jefferson Market branch

    Credit: Macmillan

    Credit: Macmillan

    3. “The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe” by Kij Johnson
    In this feminist take on Lovecraft’s “Dreamlands,” a professor and her cat companion chase her student across an amazing fantasy world, filled with petty gods and hungry monsters. –Judd Karlman, Pelham Bay branch

    Credit: Mariner Books

    Credit: Mariner Books

    4. “Facing Unpleasant Facts” by George Orwell
    Orwell’s novels are well-known classics, but his essays have slipped under the radar a bit — which is unfortunate, because whether he’s recording his experiences of the Blitz, explaining why he had to shoot an elephant, or laying down the law on the proper way to make tea, they are insightful and sharply observed. One can trace the threads of thought that became 1984, as well as discover much that applies to our current state of affairs. –Kay Menick, Schomburg Center

    Credit: Viking Books for Young Readers

    Credit: Viking Books for Young Readers

    5. “Akata Witch” by Nnedi Okorafor
    American-born Sunny Nwazue is constantly unsure where she fits in — she’s an African albino, born in America but living in Nigeria and an outsider in her own family. When she discovers she has the ability to perform juju magic, she must uncover her true identity and join her friends to stop a serial killer. Fun, exciting and great for Harry Potter fans. –Anna Nellis, Eastchester branch

    Credit: Balzer + Bray

    Credit: Balzer + Bray

    6. “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas
    One minute Khalil is explaining Tupac’s “Thug Life” to Starr; the next minute he is fatally shot by a police officer. Already well-versed in micro-aggressions and code-switching, Starr grapples with telling her side of the story, one that contradicts what the police are saying. Full of painful truths, family love, and most importantly, Starr’s radiant voice, this story matters. –Caitlyn Colman-McGaw, Programming

    Credit: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

    Credit: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

    7. “Stef Soto, Taco Queen” by Jennifer Torres
    Stef doesn’t really love or hate her family’s taco truck, Tia Perla, but she’s definitely tired of it. When Stef is just about to get what she wants (goodbye, “Taco Queen!”), she realizes how important Tia Perla is to her family and finds she must do what it takes to save her. A wonderfully written tale of self-acceptance, love, and friendship, this book is one to revisit again and again. –Alexandra Abenshon, Webster branch

    Credit: Penguin/RandomHouse

    Credit: Penguin/RandomHouse

    8. “Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing” by Kay A. Haring
    A fun, vibrant biography about the life of the NYC-based artist Keith Haring. Complete with beautiful illustrations, this picture book features many of the artist’s own works – including the story of making a giant mural celebrating the Statue of Liberty’s 100th anniversary, created by Haring and 900 kids. –Richard Dowe, Mosholu branch

    More from our favorite writers, readers and book sellers:

    The post The 8 books librarians can’t stop talking about right now appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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