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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: Today is the 22nd anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing; 168 people died in that attack carried out by Timothy McVeigh.

    McVeigh sympathized with armed right-wing militia groups. These groups are still active, gaining members online, and honing their combat skills in training camps.

    The NewsHour’s P.J. Tobia went inside one of these camps to produce this report.

    P.J. TOBIA: This is the kill house, part of a training ground for a right-wing militia in the American South.

    CHRIS “BLOOD AGENT” HILL, Georgia Security Force: It’s for conducting military operations in urban terrain. We want to practice and rehearse moving out to these structures, covering each other, taking cover and concealment everywhere we can find it.

    P.J. TOBIA: These men and women call themselves the Georgia Security Force.

    CHRIS “BLOOD AGENT” HILL: Our common goal is to provide for security for ourselves, our friends and our families, and the other people in our states, if and when the need should arise to do so.

    P.J. TOBIA: Their leader, Chris Hill, A.K.A. Blood Agent, says the need could arise at any time.

    CHRIS “BLOOD AGENT” HILL: I think, what the government gives, the government can take away. If they’re providing the security for us, they can take it away.

    P.J. TOBIA: They’re part of the 3 Percent Militia, one of the nation’s largest armed right-wing groups. They believe only 3 percent of colonial Americans fought the Revolutionary War, yet were able to overthrow British rule.

    Historians say the number of male colonists who fought in the conflict, closer to 25 percent. According to the Anti-Defamation League, more than 10,000 people identify as 3 Percenters. They have a presence in nearly every state. Their ideology? A mix of anti-government conspiracy theories.

    CHAD “KILL ZONE” LEGERE, Georgia Security Force: It could be our own government overreaching. If we end up with a tyrant in office, no one knows what could happen in 15 years, but at least we’re going to be prepared.

    P.J. TOBIA: 3 Percenters suspect Islam and foreigners. Recent refugees represent both.

    CHRIS “BLOOD AGENT” HILL: It’s an unarmed invasion.

    P.J. TOBIA: And some militia have answered with violence.

    Recent, militia members have allegedly participated in high-profile felonies, from plots to bomb federal buildings, attacks on immigrant communities and murders.

    J.J. MACNAB, Author, “The Seditionists”: Yes, they pose a big threat to public safety.

    P.J. TOBIA: J.J. MacNab is an expert on these groups. She travels the country, leading training seminars for law enforcement on militia and other right-wing extremists. She says the groups have committed or planned hundreds of violent attacks.

    J.J. MACNAB: They range from plots to kill cops, for example, blow up a police headquarters. There’s a lot of resisting arrest. They don’t believe that cops have any authority over them.

    MAN: Two at a time, two at a time.

    P.J. TOBIA: There are more than 500 militia groups in the U.S., more than double the number in 2008, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Most of them are right-wing and anti-government.

    In addition to the 3 Percent Militia, there’s the Oath Keepers, formed in 2009. They’re primarily current and former law enforcement and military personnel. Oath Keepers showed up in Ferguson, Missouri, during the protests in the summer of 2015. They said they were there to help keep the peace and protect reporters working for the conspiracy-fueled Web site Infowars.

    Meanwhile, thousands have flocked to older groups like the Sovereign Citizens Movement, tax resisters who deny the legitimacy of the American government.

    J.J. MACNAB: There’s a lot of attempts to bomb, a lot of attempts to build bombs. Some of them have dabbled in biological weapons, such as ricin.

    P.J. TOBIA: The Georgia 3 Percenters say they are strictly a defensive force. In our time together, they repeatedly renounced violence and criminality.

    Chris Hill says his group is careful about who they accept and train.

    CHRIS “BLOOD AGENT” HILL: Well, we go through a vetting process. Each member has to be interviewed by a board of no less than four to five ranking members from several different states. We look for red flags. If an individual seems radical or they’re missing some screws, then we’re going to keep that person to the side. They’re not going to be cleared hot.

    P.J. TOBIA: These men claim their militia gives them a sense of shared identity.

    DEVIN “BOOGEYMAN” BOWEN, Georgia Security Force: We have basically built it as a family. I don’t have a lot of family, so it’s family that I don’t have, a lot of like-minded people, but yet we also stand for the same cause.

    CHRIS “BLOOD AGENT” HILL: I’m seeing a conflict in morals and values in the country that make me question, is this really happening? Crybabies are going to demand transgender bathrooms. At the end of the day, your rights end where mine begin. You know, don’t push your belief on me.

    P.J. TOBIA: Especially if those beliefs are Islamic.

    CHAD “KILL ZONE” LEGERE, Georgia Security Force: Any terrorist organization cannot be trusted. And, unfortunately, a lot of them, you know, are stemming off from the Muslim religion, you know, from Islam.

    P.J. TOBIA: In the last year, the FBI has disrupted major planned attacks against Muslims by men affiliated with militias. The FBI is the lead agency in these kinds of investigations.

    Militias have long been active in the U.S., but they have been recently energized by two key events: last year’s occupation of an outside wildlife refuge in Oregon by anti-government activist Ammon Bundy, and the 2014 standoff in Nevada, where Bundy’s father, backed by militiamen, squared off with federal officials over grazing rights on public lands.

    Chris Hill was one of those militiamen at Bundy ranch.

    CHRIS “BLOOD AGENT” HILL: I was pissed off. I was angered seeing peaceful people being pushed around, and this bureaucratic agency is training their weapons down on a family because maybe they owe taxes because the cows eat corn.

    P.J. TOBIA: For the Georgia 3 Percenters, Donald Trump’s election sends a signal.

    CHRIS “BLOOD AGENT” HILL: With a Trump victory, that gives me a little bit of hope, where I had none, that we can turn the tide against these communist, Marxist, socialist ideas of governing.

    P.J. TOBIA: J.J. MacNab says Trump’s presidency also changes the target of militias’ rage. They can no longer focus on President Obama or candidate Clinton.

    J.J. MACNAB: I don’t have a good feeling about where this is going. What happens right now when Trump paints targets on people, when he paints targets on the press?

    He went off about a state senator who did something a sheriff didn’t like in Texas. Well, let’s take him down. He says he’s joking, but this movement doesn’t have a sense of humor.

    P.J. TOBIA: Despite the FBI’s recent arrests, MacNab says federal law enforcement isn’t doing enough.

    J.J. MACNAB: They have done almost nothing to monitor and counter this movement. It started in 2009, right after Obama took office.

    P.J. TOBIA: In that year, DHS released a memo to law enforcement, detailing the threat posed by right-wing extremists.

    J.J. MACNAB: But because it had a line saying that veterans returning home from war were at risk of being approached by this movement, Homeland Security disavowed it, and they terminated the division that tracked this movement.

    P.J. TOBIA: The man who led that division of DHS is Daryl Johnson.

    DARYL JOHNSON, Former Department of Homeland Security Official: There was basically a political firestorm that erupted.

    P.J. TOBIA: And you lost your job.

    DARYL JOHNSON: Pretty much.

    P.J. TOBIA: Johnson says he was forced to resign and now runs a consulting business with government contracts.

    What kind of capabilities for monitoring these groups does the DHS Have now?

    DARYL JOHNSON: Yes, so, since I left in 2010, Homeland Security had one analyst that was looking at these problems, these domestic terrorist issues, and, eventually, that lone, single analyst left. And so today they have no — no one looking at this threat.

    P.J. TOBIA: In response to NewsHour’s questions about militia groups, a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said that, since 2009, they have improved their analysis of domestic terrorism and continue to work with the FBI to investigate these groups.

    The spokesman denied that Johnson was forced out of the agency, adding that Johnson’s 2009 report was withdrawn because of incomplete sourcing and poor analytic tradecraft.

    But J.J. MacNab says the lack of federal law enforcement attention has had deadly consequences, like when two Arkansas police officers were gunned down by tax-resisting Sovereign Citizens in 2010.

    J.J. MACNAB: A police chief in West Memphis, Arkansas, had two of his officers killed by a Sovereign Citizen and two others shot. He reads all the things that he got from the FBI, and while they had told him in incredible detail what the risks of al-Qaida were, they had never mentioned any homegrown extremism that wasn’t Islamic.

    P.J. TOBIA: Both Johnson and MacNab say that militia have successfully recruited police and active military personnel.

    DARYL JOHNSON: We have a lot of returning veterans, military members who have fought in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and they bring that mentality with them, that training that they had in the military, that kind of desensitized, dehumanized Muslims in these war zones and in these conflicts.

    And so, when they come home, a lot of them carry that sentiment with them, and it reflects itself in the modern-day militia today.

    J.J. MACNAB: With law enforcement, that’s particularly problematic, because if, for example, an agency wants to investigate someone they suspect of building a bomb, will one of their members, one of the police officers who is part of that group tip off the criminal?

    There’s a recent leak that came out of an FBI manual that talked about how there were white supremacists, for example, in certain police departments, but the FBI couldn’t tell the police departments that it was a problem, because they were worried that that would tip off the white supremacists they were investigating.

    P.J. TOBIA: We asked to speak to the FBI about the monitoring of domestic militias and militias recruiting veterans. The bureau declined, but a spokesperson said, “Our focus is not on membership in particular groups, but on criminal activity.”

    The FBI added that they want to protect the rights of all Americans.

    Members of the Georgia Security Force claim that they, too, are committed to protecting those rights by any means necessary.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m P.J. Tobia in Monroe County, Georgia.

    The post Why armed militia groups are surging across the nation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: Is the scientific community finding its political voice?

    Science correspondent Miles O’Brien looks into what is behind street protests here staged by members of a profession not generally known for their activism.

    It’s part of our weekly Leading Edge series.

    WOMAN: Who is ready to stand up for science?

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    MILES O’BRIEN: They are scientists, and on this February Sunday in Boston, they were conducting an experiment they’d just as soon avoid.

    Facing a White House that is pushing across-the-board steep cuts in federal science funding, they are taking to the streets. Their hypothesis? In order to keep their work alive, they must dive into the political fray.

    GEOFFREY SUPRAN, MIT Scientist: Today, science fights back.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    GEOFFREY SUPRAN: I think, scientists, it’s not in our natural nature to shout, to make a loud noise, but, apparently, we can do it when come together.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Geoffrey Supran is a renewable energy modeler at MIT. He was there among a few hundred protesters in Copley Square, one of several protests staged by scientists since Donald Trump became president.

    The administration has proposed double-digit cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes of Health, and a 20 percent across-the-board cut to research on climate change.

    GEOFFREY SUPRAN: As scientists, it’s actually our responsibility, and as citizens, to warn the public when we see danger. You know, if you see something, say something. And we feel the civic duty.

    MILES O’BRIEN: The protesters here hope this rally is merely a prelude to something much bigger, a march en masse in Washington and hundreds of other cities all over the world on April 22.

    Kishore Hari is one of the organizers of the Earth Day events.

    KISHORE HARI, March for Science: Science has been political since the time of Galileo. Nothing has changed between now and then. But it’s important that we are nonpartisan because this is a march for science, and that unifies everyone around the world.

    MILES O’BRIEN: But the idea has drawn controversy from some scientists, who are concerned march organizers are also advocating a host of other liberal social causes.

    The rally in Boston happened in the midst of the annual meeting of the largest scientific society in the world, the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    The organization is supporting the political mobilization of many of its members.

    Physicist and former Democratic Congressman Rush Holt is the CEO.

    RUSH HOLT (D), Former U.S. Congressman: This would be — it’s purported to be a demonstration for science, the very idea of science, the essence of science. Isn’t that a wonderful idea?

    NAOMI ORESKES, Harvard University: This rally isn’t about promoting a particular policy. It’s about promoting the idea that the scientific enterprise as a whole improves our lives.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Naomi Oreskes is a scientist and a professor of the history of science at Harvard University. She has written extensively about the role of politics, special interests and science. For most of history, she says, scientists had to be politically and publicly engaged in order to fund their research.

    But, in the U.S., that changed after World War II, when federal funding started flowing into laboratories.

    NAOMI ORESKES: We lost the sense of a kind of civic obligation, or reciprocal obligation, that if we expect the taxpayer to pay for what we do, that we also should — that they have an expectation that we should be spending time explaining it.

    And I think that breakdown, that reciprocal communication breakdown, has had real consequences in our lifetimes.

    MILES O’BRIEN: During that same time, the political pushback against science grew, whether the realm was evolution, acid rain, the ozone hole, or climate change.

    NAOMI ORESKES: The scientific community made a mistake in not taking that more seriously. And so now we’re in a situation where it’s become a crisis. And now the scientific community, I think, realizes that we have a very serious problem on our hands.

    RUSH HOLT, CEO, AAAS: Scientists, as a rule, are not comfortable being out there politically, but we should. Putting science into politics and into society is something that they can do and should do, probably must do.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Naomi Oreskes is writing a new book, science fiction that imagines a society that embraces climate change science and renewable energy.

    Geoffrey Supran is helping her with this. After all, renewable energy is what his research is all about.

    GEOFFREY SUPRAN, MIT Scientist: This is where we make next-generation LEDs and solar cells. It’s essentially a continuous vacuum facility.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Supran was here in his lab at MIT when President Obama visited in 2009, leaving his autograph on a vacuum chamber used to make better solar cells and brighter LEDs.

    He was sitting in the same place when it dawned on him and his colleagues that most of the technology to tackle climate change already exists, but the political will to do something doesn’t. He says, for his generation of scientists, that is a call to action.

    GEOFFREY SUPRAN: There’s a cultural shift throughout that young people are, I’m proud to say, taking the lead, I think. And so we’re really starting to see the scientific community adjusting to the landscape and preparing itself better to deal with the political realities of today.

    And if they don’t get it, let’s run for office and vote them out.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    MILES O’BRIEN: Some scientists are hoping to do just that.

    MAN: Shaughnessy, tell us a little bit about today.

    WOMAN: Today, we had our first candidate training for scientists who are thinking about running for office.

    MILES O’BRIEN: A science advocacy group called 314 Action, which is encouraging scientists to run, says 3,000 have signed up for its candidate training program. 314 Action has some 101-level political how-to videos to help them take the leap out of the lab.

    TRACY VAN HOUTEN, Jet Propulsion Laboratory: Hi, Heather. This is Tracy Van Houten, and I’m the aerospace engineer who is running for Congress here in this district.

    MILES O’BRIEN: A handful have thrown their slide rules into the ring. Tracy Van Houten is an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who works on Mars rovers.

    TRACY VAN HOUTEN: I was in Washington last week, and then the president’s budget came out, and I was there advocating on behalf of STEM education.

    MILES O’BRIEN: She ran for in a special election for a vacated congressional seat in Los Angeles.

    TRACY VAN HOUTEN: If we really care about doing the big things in the world, for me at some point, it just didn’t feel big enough anymore to focus on answering mankind’s questions about the universe. I needed to kind of return my focus here on Earth to help out in the community here.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Tracy Van Houten didn’t succeed in her experiment. She lost in the primary. Despite her aspirations, she is most at home in a clean room. The smoke-filled room is a new frontier.

    WOMAN: Science is not what?

    AUDIENCE: Silence!

    WOMAN: Thank you.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Scientists may find it hard to make the transition, but many of them believe this is a phase change they are compelled to investigate.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Miles O’Brien in Boston.

    The post Scientists dive into the political fray appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets in protest again today. Two demonstrators were killed, as a political crisis in this failing state deepens.

    Our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, reports.

    MARGARET WARNER: Organizers dubbed it the Mother of All Marches. Hundreds of thousands of opponents to socialist President Nicolas Maduro flooded Caracas.

    RICHARD BLANCO, Opposition Lawmaker (through interpreter): Today, people are in the street demonstrating peacefully, seeking a democratic exit to a situation that is already overflowing. Here, the president of the republic is playing with fire.

    MARGARET WARNER: The peace was broken almost immediately, as protesters clashed with police and government supporters. National Guard troops fired tear gas, and a teenage boy died after being shot in the head.

    Demonstrators have tried repeatedly in recent days to reach the capital city’s downtown. Each time, they were turned back by riot police. At least five people were killed, and hundreds arrested.

    Brian Ellsworth of Reuters, speaking to us by Skype from Caracas, said tensions have been building.

    BRIAN ELLSWORTH, Reuters: This has been sort of the culmination of that, about two-and-a-half weeks of all these demonstrations. The opposition called this big demonstration and said, all over the country, we need to be protesting against the government.

    MARGARET WARNER: These latest protests erupted last month, after the pro-government Supreme Court took over the powers of the national legislature controlled by the opposition. After an international outcry, the court reversed itself. But the criticism continued.

    JULIO BORGES, President, Venezuelan National Assembly (through interpreter): They haven’t done anything. The Supreme Court has installed a coup d’etat it cannot correct.

    MARGARET WARNER: The oil-rich nation is also mired in an economic crisis, with skyrocketing, triple-digit inflation, rampant crime and food shortages.

    The opposition wants Maduro’s removed, new elections and the release of political prisoners, including opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who was jailed in early 2014. In February, Lopez’s wife went to the White House with Florida Senator Marco Rubio. President Trump tweeted a photo with her, saying: “Venezuela should allow Leopoldo Lopez, a political prisoner, out of prison immediately.”

    That same month, the U.S. Treasury Department designated Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami for sanctions on drug trafficking charges.

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson today:

    REX TILLERSON, Secretary of State: We are concerned that the government of Maduro is violating its own Constitution and is not allowing the opposition to have their voices heard.

    MARGARET WARNER: Maduro has blamed the U.S. for trying to foment a coup.

    PRESIDENT NICOLAS MADURO, Venezuela (through interpreter): The time for combat has arrived, my fellow patriots. The hour has arrived to decide the future and the destiny of our country.

    MARGARET WARNER: Maduro came to power four years ago, upon the death of his charismatic predecessor, Hugo Chavez. Maduro has struggled ever since. Chavez himself survived a brief coup in 2002, and accused the United States of trying to subvert him.

    Riding on high world oil prices, Chavez had created subsidies and price controls, raising living standards for the poor, but no longer.

    Again, Brian Ellsworth:

    BRIAN ELLSWORTH: Once oil prices collapsed in 2014, the country basically hadn’t saved money during the oil boom. Private enterprise has a really hard time producing goods and services, which means we basically don’t have them.

    MARGARET WARNER: The Maduro regime is also under pressure from its Latin American neighbors. Eleven countries called this week for a time frame to hold elections.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Margaret Warner.

    The post Unrest in Venezuela continues as political tensions rise appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: Back here in Washington, the U.S. Supreme Court grappled once again with the relationship between church and state.

    At the center of today’s legal fight, a school playground.

    Jeffrey Brown has more.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Can the state of Missouri give money to repair the playground of a church-run day care? And what have we learned in the first days of Justice Neil Gorsuch on the bench?

    Marcia Coyle, chief Washington correspondent for The National Law Journal, was in the courtroom today.

    Hello again, Marcia.

    MARCIA COYLE, The National Law Journal: Hi, Jeff.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Let’s get right to it. The case is Trinity Lutheran vs. Comer.

    And it starts with a fairly ordinary setting, a playground.

    MARCIA COYLE: A playground.

    Trinity Lutheran Church in Missouri operates a day care center, and that day care center has a playground. It applied for a state grant in a program that funds the refurbishing of playgrounds by the use of recycled tires. Now, it complied with all …

    JEFFREY BROWN: A good project, right, to help all kinds of …

    MARCIA COYLE: It would seem so.

    It fulfilled all the requirements for the grant, but it was denied a grant. And the explanation was that the state constitution prohibits the use of public funds to either directly or indirectly support religious institutions.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I’m going to read the exact language from the Missouri state Constitution.

    “No money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, or denomination of religion.”

    MARCIA COYLE: Now, the church decided to challenge this denial, and it went to court claiming that the denial of its application was a violation of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, and also the Equal Protection Clause.

    JEFFREY BROWN: OK, so we heard the arguments today.

    MARCIA COYLE: We did.

    And just — the church did lose in the lower courts, which is why the church brought it to the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, remember, the Free Exercise Clause doesn’t require government to subsidize religion. In fact, it requires government not to interfere with religion.

    And during the arguments today, my general sense was that there was more sympathy than not for the church. I think probably the most skeptical justice of the church’s position was Justice Sotomayor. She said there’s a lot history in the states, of state laws not providing direct support to churches. The church won’t close its doors here if it doesn’t refurbish its playground. There’s no effect on religious beliefs.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Even if it’s a secular purpose in this case, she still thinks there’s a case to be made for not giving it to the church.

    MARCIA COYLE: That’s right.

    The church’s lawyer said that there is actually coercion here, that the church is being penalized because of its status as a religious organization.

    We also heard on the other side Justices Alito and Breyer, for example, gave a whole series of hypotheticals to the state’s attorney, saying, can the constitution require a state to deny police services or fire services to religious institutions?

    And the state’s lawyer said, well, no. And Justice Breyer said, well, what’s the difference here with the playground where you’re trying to keep little children from falling and breaking their ankles?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Even some of the more liberal justices were arguing — or seemed to be argue in favor of the church.

    MARCIA COYLE: In favor, yes, exactly.

    And the state’s argument comes back to this: Look, we don’t want to get entangled with churches. This is a neutral program. We don’t want to be selecting among churches. And we don’t want to be sending a check directly to a church for a physical improvement.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now, the reason people watch these things is not only because of a playground, but larger implications.

    MARCIA COYLE: Absolutely.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In this case particularly because there are bigger societal questions for about, for example, school voucher programs.

    MARCIA COYLE: Yes.

    In fact, a lot of the religious organizations that are supporting the church in this case really believe that this could say a lot about states that do now have obstacles to school vouchers. And it also may have an impact on a whole range of state-funded programs that do not accept applications or support religious organizations.

    JEFFREY BROWN: OK. In our last minute, the first week of Justice Neil Gorsuch, you got to watch him. I happened to be there myself on Monday.

    MARCIA COYLE: I know you were.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What did you see?

    MARCIA COYLE: Well, he’s very well-prepared. He was very active on a hot bench, although I think by late today he was getting a little tired. He wasn’t asking as many questions as he did that first day.

    He injects a certain amount of humor, and he seems to have a testy side to him.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A little bite.

    MARCIA COYLE: Every now and then, yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. When he wants to, he can go back and forth quite sharply.

    MARCIA COYLE: Yes, he can.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    All right, we will be watching the future of Justice Neil Gorsuch and all things with you.

    Marcia Coyle, thanks as always.

    MARCIA COYLE: Thank you, Jeff.

    The post Should states fund repairs at church schools? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Democrats came close, but Republicans managed to avoid a potentially brutal loss in Georgia, for now, forcing a run-off in a closely watched special congressional election.

    JON OSSOFF (D), Georgia Congressional Candidate: This is already a victory for the ages.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thirty-year-old Democrat Jon Ossoff fell just short of an outright win in Tuesday’s crowded special election. But by capturing 48 percent of the vote, the filmmaker and former congressional aide easily outpaced the other 17 candidates.

    JON OSSOFF: We have shattered expectations.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    JON OSSOFF: We will be ready to fight on and win in June.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The seat in Atlanta’s suburbs came open when Tom Price was tapped by President Trump to his Cabinet. No Democrat has won here since 1979. And now Ossoff faces a run-off against Karen Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, and the top Republican, with 20 percent of the vote.

    KAREN HANDEL (R), Georgia Congressional Candidate: On June 20, we keep the Sixth District red and kick a little Ossoff.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Handel never mentioned President Trump last night, but today said she wants his help.

    QUESTION: Do you think that President Trump will come to Georgia and campaign with you?

    KAREN HANDEL: I would hope so. It is all hands on deck for us.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For his part, the president compared the result with last week’s close Republican win in Kansas. He tweeted: “Dems failed in Kansas and are now failing in Georgia. Great job, Karen Handel.”

    But Democratic Party’s national chair, Tom Perez, praised the Ossoff showing.

    TOM PEREZ, Democratic National Committee Chairman: Just a few weeks ago, they were saying a Democrat can’t get over 42 percent, 43 percent of the vote. He got 48.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Georgia race generated national interest and a flood of money. Ossoff raised $8.2 million, 18 times more than Handel. In total, Republicans and Democrats spent more than $13 million. And outside groups funneled in nearly $8 million, with more than half of that on ads attacking Ossoff.

    The Republicans face at least two more special elections in the months ahead, in Montana and South Carolina.

    So, can Democrats turn anti-Trump sentiment into actual wins in upcoming races?

    For that, we are joined by Stu Rothenberg, senior editor of Inside Elections. And Dante Chinni, he’s director of the American Communities Project. It’s a county-by-county look at the U.S. electorate. He is also a columnist for The Wall Street Journal.

    And we welcome both of you back to the program.

    Stu, more than $8 million, unheard of amount of money in this district. Why couldn’t the Democrat, Jon Ossoff, pull this off, get over 50 percent?

    STUART ROTHENBERG, Inside Elections: Well, Judy, this is a very Republican district. You have to understand that — by more than a dozen points.

    Republicans, when you look at past Republican performance, Mitt Romney winning it overwhelmingly. Tom Price won it very comfortably, over 60 percent of the vote. So, it’s a tough lift for any Democrat.

    And I think Ossoff did exceed expectations. And now we will see what happens with the run-off. Again, it’s always about turnout, isn’t it?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For sure.

    Dante, what did Democrats do right? What did Ossoff do right, and where could he, should he have done better?

    DANTE CHINNI, American Communities Project: I think what they did right is, they found a good district to run in, frankly.

    This is a district that — Donald Trump only won this district by 1.5 points, even though Price won it by quite a bit. And it’s the kind of district that is really made for what the Democrats are now. It’s extremely well-educated. It is diverse. It’s not super diverse. It looks a little bit like the country at large in terms of the white non-Hispanic population.

    This is a district that is made for where the party is right now. And this is the — these are the kind of people, the kinds of voters that the party is resonating with.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Stu, that doesn’t sound like every single district out there that Democrats need to win.

    STUART ROTHENBERG: No.

    Well, look, Judy, this is a Republican district, but not a Trump district, and there are other districts out there. There are 20 — I think it’s 23 Republicans sitting in the House — in House districts that were won by Hillary Clinton. The Democrats need 24 seats.

    So, this is the kind of district that’s part of the mix, highly educated, high-income district that doesn’t take to Donald Trump’s style, his personality, and some of his issue agenda.

    But there are other issues, other districts out there that Democrats are going to have to win, and win first, frankly, before a district like this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk for a moment about Donald Trump, Dante Chinni.

    Is there a clear sense at this point how much difference he made or didn’t make in the outcome here?

    DANTE CHINNI: I think it’s way too early to know what kind of difference he made in terms of helping keep Ossoff under 50 percent.

    I think, though, that if you look at what happened in this district, look, as Stu was saying, this is a district where Romney ran up — I think he won by 23 points. In 2008, John McCain won this by close to 20 points, I think 18 or 19 points.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: These are mainstream Republicans.

    DANTE CHINNI: Yes. So, this is a district where I think, if you were just looking at the numbers, you would say Donald Trump probably didn’t help — helped the Democrat much more than he helped Karen Handel.

    And so the question — when I saw the question asked of her, do you want Donald Trump to come down here, look, you’re going to say what you’re going to say. He’s president of the United States. You’re a Republican seeking a seat in Congress. You’re never going to say, don’t come down here. But when I look at that, just…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: She said, I hope so.

    DANTE CHINNI: Yes. Yes.

    When I look at that district, I don’t — who knows? Who knows? I don’t see the benefit in Donald Trump going down there for the Republican. I see — that’s the kind of thing, actually, that could help Jon Ossoff.

    Look, there are splits in the Republican Party, as Stu was saying. There are different kinds of districts. This kind of district is not a good district for Trump. OK? This is the kind of district where too much Trump is going to maybe turn off a lot of the voters in this place. Remember, we’re not just talking about Republicans. There are moderates.

    And moderates, this is not …

    STUART ROTHENBERG: In fact, the Democratic strategy is to make the race a referendum on Donald Trump, because, otherwise, it becomes about party, partisanship, which is bad for Ossoff.

    DANTE CHINNI: Yes.

    STUART ROTHENBERG: So he needs to make this — look, he’s a young kid with not a lot of experience, not a lot of credentials. He doesn’t even want the race to be about himself.

    He wants it to be about the president.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I think both of you were saying this is going to be tough for Ossoff to win the run-off.

    STUART ROTHENBERG: Well, because it’s such a Republican district. But if you add up the Republican votes and Democratic votes, it’s likely to be close. I regard the district, the race as a tossup.

    DANTE CHINNI: Yes, I think Stu is probably right.

    I think the political environment is so unsettled right now. And normally, you would say, June, that’s not that far away. June in this 2017 feels about a million years from right now. Who knows what Donald Trump is going to tweet. Ossoff is not — he’s a young candidate, inexperienced candidate. A lot of things could happen.

    But, yes, I agree. Looking at it right now, it looks like as tossup.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, having said all this, Stu, what lessons can Democrats take away from this for these other places, not just the special elections this year, but for next year?

    STUART ROTHENBERG: Well, I think they’re going to have to nationalize and any and all elections and make it about a midterm president who is not particularly popular.

    Trump’s job approval, it depends on what poll you look, 39 percent, 40, percent, 42 percent, whatever it is. So, they want these elections to be about Donald Trump and the more controversial elements.

    They are going to need to recruit good candidates in a large number of congressional districts to put those districts in play. If they can do that, then it depends. We don’t know what Trump’s job approval is going to be like a year-and-a-half from now. We don’t know what issues we’re going to be talking about.

    So, the dynamic needs to kind of feed a sense of change and a referendum on trust for the Democrats to win back the House.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And redistricting in the geography, the demography of these districts isn’t favorable to Democrats, right?

    DANTE CHINNI: No, but it’s changing. Right?

    This is because there are the demographics of the two parties as we understand them now, and the demographics of the two parties as they existed back in 2012.

    Look, I think that Donald Trump is taking — and I think a lot of people is think this — is trying to take the party in a different direction, the GOP in a different direction. He wants to talk about populism. He wants to talk to the people that are left behind.

    Georgia 6 is not full of people who are left behind. There’s 58 percent of the population here who has a bachelor’s degree. The 10 best-educated districts in the country, nine of them are Democratic with Democratic members in Congress. The 10th is Georgia 6. It is an outlier in some ways.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Stu, for those districts where Democrats believe they have some kind of decent shot next year …

    STUART ROTHENBERG: I think there will be enough districts in play so that the House is in play.

    It is not there now. Democrats are just starting recruiting. They’re going to have to have a good fund-raising cycle. They’re going to need a good environment. They’re going to need the president’s job approval to be down around 40 percent. And if that happens, then they will be able to run — make the midterm a referendum on him. And the Republicans will try to run a different race. They will try to localize it. They will try to discredit the Democratic candidates.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot of ifs.

    DANTE CHINNI: Yes.

    And there are a lot of these inherent splits in the party. Look, is Donald Trump the guy who is going to take the party and say, I’m anti-trade, I’m not pro-trade, I don’t like the global economy?

    There are a lot of Republicans who do quite well in the global economy, thank you very much. And this is a very complicated kind of issue environment that has to play out. Where does he take the party?

    And when he takes the party in that direction, what happens to these different sides of the party? We don’t know that. We will find out a lot more six months, 10 months from now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: April 19, we don’t expect perfect future prediction from both of you, but you generally get it very right, very close to right.

    Dante Chinni, Stu Rothenberg, thanks very much.

    STUART ROTHENBERG: Thanks, Judy.

    DANTE CHINNI: Thanks a lot.

    The post What’s to come as Georgia special election moves into a runoff appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Bill O’Reilly is out at FOX News.

    In a statement today, the company said: “After a thorough and careful review of allegations against him, the company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Mr. O’Reilly will not return to FOX News Channel.”

    The popular TV host and commentator has been the face of the network for nearly two decades. That all began to unravel after a New York Times revealed that FOX paid some $13 million to settle allegations of sexual harassment filed by women O’Reilly worked with.

    Mr. O’Reilly has long denied those allegations. And in a statement late today, he said: “It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims. But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today.”

    With these latest developments, and what this ouster may mean for a safer workplace, I spoke a few moments ago to Michael Schmidt, a reporter with The New York Times team who help break the most recent story, and Noreen Farrell. She’s executive director of the civil rights organization Equal Rights Advocates.

    I started by asking Schmidt what changed the minds of the Murdoch family. They’re the owners of FOX News.

    MICHAEL SCHMIDT, The New York Times: Well, we wrote our story two-and-a-half weeks ago, where we said that Mr. O’Reilly had settled harassment cases with five women, including two in the past year, since Roger Ailes had left the network.

    And at the time of our story, the Murdoch family was really standing by Mr. O’Reilly. They looked like they wanted to keep him on. But what happened was that he began to lose advertisers. First, he lost Mercedes-Benz, the first one to go, and then dozens and dozens of companies, went up to about 50.

    And what you had was an 8:00 hour, the prime time on the network, that had just a few ads running on it. And at the same time, FOX had brought in an outside law firm to do an investigation into Mr. O’Reilly, and there was a real trickle of women that came in that were saying different things about Mr. O’Reilly that the network didn’t know about.

    So they sort of saw these two things emerging, and the dynamics in the Murdoch family changed, and that’s where we got to today, where they basically dismissed him.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But it wasn’t just about money, or was it?

    MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Well, the Murdoch family hasn’t really spoken about this.

    But what we do know is that the younger — Rupert’s younger sons, youngest son, really care about the culture of the network and sort of modernizing it. And what happened was is that after Roger Ailes left last summer, they that said they were going to change the culture and that it was going to be different at FOX and that women were going to feel comfortable there and there weren’t going to be issues.

    But what happened was is that, over that period of time, they learned about a deal Mr. O’Reilly had cut with a woman in 2011. They allowed Mr. O’Reilly to cut two more deals. Then this was exposed, and it put pressure on them.

    There were protests outside of the network. There was a plane that flew a banner around New York City calling for Mr. O’Reilly’s ouster, and there was real public pressure on them. And I think the sons really won out here.

    Rupert has extreme loyalty to Mr. O’Reilly, who was one of the founding hosts will of the network when it started 20 years ago.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael Schmidt, as somebody who has covered network news, covered related stories, is this an earthquake in television news?

    MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Well, I think Mr. O’Reilly’s probably the most recognized host in cable television.

    He certainly had the highest ratings. He certainly had, if not the, or close to the highest revenues. And he was a real voice for conservatives in this country. He sort of spoke to old-school American values and really preached them.

    And that preachiness and his tone, you know, rubbed some people the wrong way, but it also brought in some really, really high ratings. And he really established himself and had a real voice, more so than anything. And particularly to FOX, he was seen as very important because, at the 8:00 hour, he would bring in a lot of ratings, and then 9:00 and 10:00 would have big ratings as well.

    So, the question FOX, I think, they were afraid of is, well, if we take O’Reilly out of 8:00, is the ratings not just going to go down for 8:00, but 9:00 and 10:00? And that’s what the world that they’re walking into now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Noreen Farrell, we’re hearing Michael described old-fashioned family values that Bill O’Reilly stood for. But his leaving is about something very different, isn’t it?

    NOREEN FARRELL, Equal Rights Advocates: Yes, and I think this is actually a pretty remarkable moment in the cultural Zeitgeist of sexual harassment, because we’re seeing the power of men and women as consumers to influence workplaces that are not their own.

    And I think, you know, to all the companies that pulled out of Bill O’Reilly’s show, I think many women in America thank them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think, Noreen Farrell, this is going to have an effect on the workplace broadly, or are we — I mean, there were those who predicted that back when Roger Ailes left FOX.

    NOREEN FARRELL: Well, I think, more and more, we’re seeing that there are different strategies that influence workplaces that create incentives that clearly 50 years of federal and state laws prohibiting sexual harassment have not.

    And that includes people who organize online, who are really public about protests, who influence companies that are affiliated with companies where there are bad practices, because, look, this happened in two weeks. This probably would take a lawsuit 10 years.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael Schmidt, is there a sense — I know you have been talking to a lot of employees at FOX — that there is no more tolerance for sexual harassment at FOX anymore?

    MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Well, I’m not sure that the employees are convinced of that, because the Murdochs said last summer that there wouldn’t be any more tolerance for this, and that they had done away with this.

    They had brought in a firm to investigate Mr. Ailes, and they said they had turned the page and that things were going to change. But then the employees look, and they look the how the network stood by Mr. O’Reilly, knowing all the things they that did when our story ran and continued to support him in the days after that. And we’re two, two-and-a-half weeks out from the story now.

    So, the question for employees is, how is FOX going to prove itself to them that they are, indeed, serious about this issue? I guess getting rid of Mr. O’Reilly sends a certain message, but going forward, what will be different? And I think that’s what they really wonder.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Noreen Farrell, when you and Michael were on the program a couple of weeks ago, when this story first broke, I think I asked you a version of this same question, but that is, are women in other workplaces who have reason to feel threatened, who are experiencing sexual harassment, do they take away — are they empowered as a result of this? Can they take away any advice for how to handle their own situations?

    NOREEN FARRELL: I certainly think this is a good day for women who want to stand up for their rights in the workplace.

    I do think it remains to be seen, whether or not Mr. O’Reilly is given a golden parachute or just his walking papers, about how committed this company is to really eradicating sexual harassment in its workplaces.

    But, certainly, I think that this is a day that women who — and men who believe sexual harassment has no place in the workplace can feel good.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Michael Schmidt, do you expect — I mean, is your reporting telling you that there will be a large severance for Bill O’Reilly, as there was for Roger Ailes? I guess he got, what, $20 million?

    MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Well, what’s interesting here is that FOX renegotiated Mr. O’Reilly’s contract while they knew our investigation was going on, and while they knew that these settlements had occurred.

    It’s believed that, in that contract, FOX was able to get some sort of leverage over Mr. O’Reilly that, if something went wrong, they had a better way of getting out of it. So ,does that mean that FOX can get out of the contract without having to give him a lot of money? We don’t know those details yet.

    But we do know that Mr. O’Reilly was making at least $20 million a year, and has brought in millions of dollars in books for himself and in different paraphernalia that he sells on his show. And, you know, so the question is, what kind of hit is Mr. O’Reilly taking and what will he be doing going forward?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you, Michael Schmidt and Noreen Farrell. We appreciate it.

    NOREEN FARRELL: Thank you.

    The post What Bill O’Reilly’s exit means for the future of Fox News appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The battle for a U.S. House seat near Atlanta has come down to a run-off, in a race seen as a referendum on President Trump.

    A Democrat easily led Tuesday’s voting, but faces a run-off with a Republican, in a district that has voted Republican for years. We will have a full report later in the program.

    In Britain, the House of Commons overwhelmingly approved Prime Minister Theresa May’s call for an early national election. She proposed holding the vote in June, instead of waiting until 2020, while Britain is also negotiating its exit from the European Union.

    Before today’s vote, may urged lawmakers to give the government the strongest possible hand in the Brexit talks.

    THERESA MAY, British Prime Minister: Leaving the election to 2020 would mean that we would be coming to the most sensitive and critical part of the negotiations in the run-up to a general election, and that would be in nobody’s interest.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: May ruled out holding televised debates during the brief election campaign.

    Turkey’s national electoral board today refused to annul Sunday’s referendum that greatly expanded the president’s powers. The main opposition party brought the challenge, and its deputy chairman insisted the appeals process is a long way from over.

    BULENT TEZCAN, Turkish Politician (through interpreter): The internal legal process is now closed with the high electoral board decision, but we are determined to employ all legal ways. We are responsible for both ourselves and for the 49 percent of the Turkish people who voted for no. We will fulfill our responsibility.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The opposition says it will go to Turkey’s constitutional court, and, if need be, to the European Court of Human Rights.

    In Syria, evacuations of thousands of people resumed today from four besieged villages. It was part of an exchange deal involving two rebel-held towns near Damascus and two pro-government villages in the north. Civilians and fighters were transported by bus. The exchange was delayed after a suicide bomber attacked a convoy on Saturday, killing more than 120 evacuees.

    Vice President Pence used an aircraft carrier as the backdrop today to warn North Korea yet again. He addressed some 2,500 sailors aboard the U.S. Ronald Reagan in Tokyo Bay, and he promised an overwhelming response if North Korea tries something.

    VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: The United States of America will always seek peace, but under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The White House faced questions today about announcements last week that another carrier was sailing for the Koreas, at a time when it was still headed the opposite way. Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended the president’s statements, and his own.

    SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: What I was asked was, what signal did it send that it was going there? And I answered that question correctly at the time, that it signaled foreign presence, strength, and a reassurance to our allies. That’s a true statement.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: As of today, the USS Carl Vinson carrier group and its entire strike group were still en route to waters off the Korean Peninsula.

    Two more Russian long-range bombers have been spotted off Alaska. It was widely reported today that the aircraft were detected last night, about 40 miles from the Alaskan coast. A similar flyby happened Monday.

    Political discord was in the air today as President Trump hosted the Super Bowl champions New England Patriots. Several players cited opposition to him or his policies as a reason for staying away. Star quarterback Tom Brady said that he was dealing with a personal family matter.

    The ceremony was overshadowed by news that former Patriots star Aaron Hernandez hanged himself overnight in his prison cell. He was serving a life sentence without parole for murder.

    Newly filed reports show that the Trump inaugural committee raised a record-shattering $107 million. That nearly doubles the record that was set by President Obama, eight years ago. The biggest contributors included casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, plus Bank of America, Boeing and others.

    Mr. Trump’s nominee to be deputy secretary of commerce has withdrawn. Todd Ricketts, the co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, said that he is not able to resolve conflicts of interest.

    And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 118 points, thanks partly to a drop in oil prices. It closed at 20404. The Nasdaq rose 13, and the S&P 500 slipped four.

    The post News Wrap: Georgia congressional race moves into a runoff appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Inmates Bruce Ward(top row L to R), Don Davis, Ledell Lee, Stacy Johnson, Jack Jones (bottom row L to R), Marcel Williams, Kenneth Williams and Jason Mcgehee are shown in this booking photo provided March 21, 2017. Two were scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Arkansas on April 17. Photo courtesy Arkansas Department of Corrections/Handout via Reuters

    Inmates Bruce Ward(top row L to R), Don Davis, Ledell Lee, Stacy Johnson, Jack Jones (bottom row L to R), Marcel Williams, Kenneth Williams and Jason Mcgehee are shown in this booking photo provided March 21, 2017. Two were scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Arkansas on April 17. Photo courtesy Arkansas Department of Corrections/Handout via Reuters

    Updated 9:25 p.m. EST | The federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a second temporary order that expires now at 9:15 p.m. CT to give the court enough time to deliberate Ledell Lee’s case, according to the Arkansas Attorney General’s office.

    After the Arkansas Supreme Court rejected Lee’s emergency stay motion, his lawyers filed a federal civil rights lawsuit to give him more time for DNA testing. Legal challenges on both sides remain as Ledell Lee’s execution approaches. The Arkansas Department of Correction announced it would move up Lee’s execution to the slot that had belonged to Stacey Johnson, the prisoner whose execution was blocked late Wednesday.

    By 4:30 p.m. CT, the Arkansas Supreme Court gave the state permission to use its lethal injection drug for executions. The decision clears the way for the scheduled execution of the men who had not received a stay. Among the death-row inmates who could still be put to death is Ledell Lee, whose original execution was scheduled for late Thursday.

    But several state and federal complaints are still pending, which could still delay or block Lee’s execution despite the latest high court decision. The U.S. Supreme Court denied three separate stays of execution for cases involving at least one of the men on Arkansas’s death row.

    **

    A week ago, Arkansas planned to execute seven men in 11 days. Now, the state may not put anyone to death before May 1, when its supply of lethal injection drugs expires.

    Late Wednesday, the Arkansas Supreme Court blocked the execution of Stacey Johnson, which was scheduled for Thursday night. That halves the original number of eight men that Gov. Asa Hutchinson planned to put to death: two per day on April 17, April 20, April 24 and April 27.

    The decision came two days after the U.S. Supreme Court denied Arkansas’ request to execute Don Davis, who has waited on death row for nearly three decades for the 1990 murder of Jane Daniel. Davis was scheduled to die the day after Easter Sunday; and prison personnel served him his final meal before hearing the high court’s decision. Before that, Bruce Ward and Jason McGehee both received delays in their execution.

    Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Alice Gray also verbally granted a temporary restraining order Wednesday on the state’s use of lethal injection drug, vecuronium bromide. This order blocked the execution of Ledell Lee, also originally set for Thursday, along with the seven other men who were originally scheduled to die before the state’s supply was set to expire at the end of the month. (It also applies to one other man on death row who has not been scheduled for execution.) The company McKesson Medical-Surgical, Inc., sold these drugs to Arkansas Department of Correction and has argued in court the state misrepresented how it intended to use the drug.

    Normally, doctors use the drug as a general anesthesia to relax muscles before surgery.

    Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has fought these decisions and will continue to press for the state to continue with the executions, said her spokesman, Judd Deere. Rutledge is waiting for the Pulaski County judge to write the order she issued Wednesday so Rutledge can appeal it. At this time, Rutledge is unable to appeal an order delivered orally, but she filed a motion for emergency stay with the Arkansas Supreme Court asking for action.

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

    “A final factor that the Court should consider is the fact that McKesson sold the vecuronium bromide to the ADC in the summer of 2016 and then after the ADC declined to return the drug, McKesson rested on its laurels until filing its first complaint late in the day on Friday, April 14, 2017—with executions scheduled for Monday, April 17, 2017,” her motion said.

    Nina Morrison has worked for 15 years as an attorney with the Innocence Project and now represents Ledell Lee. She argued that, for decades, Lee’s prior defense did not demand DNA analysis of evidence linked to his case or proper mental evaluation for Lee.

    “What is very unusual is having a rush to execution for someone who has never once had a lawyer consult with a DNA expert or properly analyze DNA issues in the case,” Morrison said.

    Morrison said judges are expected to deliver decisions on the various motions in place by a 2 p.m. CT deadline today.

    READ MORE: What’s next in the fight over Arkansas executions

    The post How a series of court rulings may derail Arkansas’ original plan to execute 8 men appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Iran is failing to fulfill the “spirit” of its nuclear deal with world powers, President Donald Trump declared Thursday, setting an ominous tone for his forthcoming decision about whether to pull the U.S. out of the landmark agreement.

    As he often had during the president campaign, Trump ripped into the deal struck by Iran, the U.S. and other world powers in 2015 and said “it shouldn’t have been signed.” Yet he pointedly stopped sort of telegraphing whether or not the U.S. would stay in.

    “They are not living up to the spirit of the agreement, I can tell you that,” Trump said of the Iranians, though he did not mention any specific violations. Earlier this week, the administration certified to Congress than Iran was complying — at least technically — with the terms of the deal, clearing the way for Iran to continue enjoying sanctions relief in the near term.

    In a news conference alongside Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni, Trump also said:

    • The U.S. is committed to a strong Europe, though he didn’t say directly whether he prefers that the European Union stay intact.
    • He sees no military role for the U.S. in stabilizing Libya.
    • It’s possible he may soon be able to strike deals with Congress on both health care and funding legislation to head off a government shutdown.

    On Iran, Trump and his top officials have been walking a narrow line as they seek to show an aggressive stance. While disparaging the nuclear deal and accusing Iran of fomenting violence and terrorism throughout the Middle East, Trump has avoided committing to abandoning the agreement, a move that would be staunchly opposed by U.S. businesses and European allies.

    Yet the president seems keenly aware that his indecisiveness about the deal’s future is a step back from his campaign declaration that as president he would rip it up or renegotiate.

    He said of Iran, “I think they are doing a tremendous disservice to an agreement that was signed.”

    Under the deal, brokered during the Obama administration, Iran agreed roll back key aspects of its nuclear program in exchange for relief from certain economic sanctions. Critics have said it’s unfathomable that the U.S. would grant sanctions relief to Tehran even as it continues testing ballistic missiles, violating human rights and supporting extremist groups elsewhere in the Middle East.

    By design, the nuclear deal does not address those Western grievances, meaning Tehran can be in compliance even as it violates U.N. resolutions and remains a U.S.-designated state sponsor of terrorism. The U.S. has continued to punish Tehran for those activities with non-nuclear sanctions that also fall outside the purview of the deal.

    Trump hasn’t given a timeline for when his administration’s review of Iran policy — including whether to stick with the deal — will be complete. But the U.S. must decide next month whether to renew a waiver so that Iran can continue receiving sanctions relief.

    The president joined Italian Premier Gentiloni for a White House news conference at a tense time for Europe, which was reeling anew from a deadly attack in Paris on Thursday ahead of a pivotal presidential vote in France on Sunday. The French election is being seen as a bellwether for whether the move toward nationalism and separation from the European Union, displayed by Britain’s move to leave the EU, will continue spreading to other European countries.

    Trump didn’t specifically weigh in on the French election, nor would he say outright whether he supported countries staying in the EU. But he said a strong Europe is “very, very important” to the United States.

    “We will help it be strong, and it’s very much to everybody’s advantage,” Trump said.

    Weeks after he said he was moving on after a failed attempt in Congress to replace the Affordable Care Act, Trump said “there’s no give-up” and predicted a proposed GOP overhaul of Obama’s health care law was gaining popularity.

    And, with a funding deadline looming to keep the government running, Trump said it was possible Congress would manage to accomplish it all next week or “shortly thereafter.”

    “I think we’ll get both,” he said.

    Grappling with other national security concerns, Trump said he did not see a role for the U.S. in Libya, adding that the U.S. “has right now enough roles.” Trump has criticized the Obama administration for a 2011 military intervention that he says created a power vacuum that led Libya to slip into chaos.

    Trump also voiced optimism that the U.S. had successfully enlisted China to try to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.

    “We don’t know whether or not they’re able to do that, but I have absolute confidence that he will be trying very, very hard,” Trump said, referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

    READ MORE: Trump’s campaign rhetoric on trade deals softens as president

    The post WATCH: Trump says Iran not living up to ‘spirit’ of nuclear deal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A Somali family lives in a makeshift shelter after fleeing from drought-stricken regions in Baidoa, west of the capital Mogadishu. Photo by Feisal Omar/Reuters

    A Somali family lives in a makeshift shelter after fleeing from drought-stricken regions in Baidoa, west of the capital Mogadishu. Photo by Feisal Omar/Reuters

    The al-Qaida-affiliated militant group al-Shabab is trying to improve its reputation by delivering food to parts of Somalia that are suffering from drought.

    Al-Shabab blocked food aid and killed some humanitarian workers during the last major famine in 2011, severely damaging its image. So this time, the group is taking a softer approach, claiming to have distributed food in the six central and southern regions of Bay, Bakol, Mudug, Hiraan, Lower Shabelle and Galguduug.

    “This is a resilient group. They do learn their lessons,” said J. Peter Pham, vice president for Research and Regional Initiatives and director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council. The militants learned that part of their military defeat was due to the improved training of peacekeepers, but also their own handling of the 2011 famine, he said.

    Al-Shabab has taken over parts of southern and central Somalia in order to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state, and has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks around the country.

    Somali soldiers stand guard on June 26, 2016 at the scene of the terror attack on a hotel in Mogadishu that killed at least 11 people the previous day and was claimed by al-Shabab militants. Photo by Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images

    Somali soldiers stand guard on June 26, 2016 at the scene of the terror attack on a hotel in Mogadishu that killed at least 11 people the previous day and was claimed by al-Shabab militants. Photo by Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images

    The new government under President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed cannot enter al-Shabab territory for safety reasons, and they are loathe to engage the terrorist group directly when trying to deliver aid.

    Otherwise, the Somali government would appear complicit, such as using al-Shabab-friendly contractors, or risk accusations of diverting international aid to the militants, said Pham.

    “It underscores the resilience and adaptability of the terrorist group and underscores the weakness of the internationally backed government that al-Shabab is out there under its own banner distributing aid,” he said. “Progress clearly has been made (under the new government), but still there’s a long way to go.”

    Reena Ghelani, deputy director for the Coordination and Response Division at the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told reporters on a conference call Thursday that al-Shabab is taking advantage of people’s suffering and it makes access to all areas by the international community even more crucial. “It’s important people have access to aid to avoid this exploitation,” she said.

    President Mohamed, who took office in February, formed a National Drought Response Committee to collect donations from the Somali diaspora and distribute aid. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for $5.6 billion in international aid for the four countries.

    An internally displaced Somali woman receives basic food supplies at a distribution center organized by a Qatar charity in Baidoa on April 9. Photo by Feisal Omar/Reuters

    An internally displaced Somali woman receives basic food supplies at a distribution center organized by a Qatar charity in Baidoa on April 9. Photo by Feisal Omar/Reuters

    Upwards of 20 million people are facing starvation and famine in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and northeastern Nigeria, according to U.N. estimates.

    A famine is declared when 20 percent of the population is starving and 30 percent of children under 5 are suffering from malnutrition, Arif Husain, chief economist at the World Food Program, told reporters. Aid groups hope that sounding the alarm earlier than in 2011 will prevent thousands of deaths.

    “We’re better funded now” than in 2011, thanks to the earlier call to action, said Husain. However, even if the current rainy season produces more rain than in past drought years, people still need food assistance to get them to the next harvest, he said.

    The post Al-Shabab militants try food to win hearts and minds in Somalia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A variety of medicinal marijuana buds in jars are pictured at Los Angeles Patients & Caregivers Group dispensary in West Hollywood, California U.S., October 18, 2016. Photo by Mario Anzuoni/REUTERS

    A variety of medicinal marijuana buds in jars are pictured at Los Angeles Patients & Caregivers Group dispensary in West Hollywood, California U.S., October 18, 2016. Photo by Mario Anzuoni/REUTERS

    If you believe budtender wisdom, consuming a strain called Bubba Kush should leave you ravenous and relaxed whereas dank Hippie Chicken should uplift you like a dreamy cup of coffee. But if you take pure, isolated delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC—the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana—you’ll experience “a high that has no specific character, so that seems boring,” says Mowgli Holmes, a geneticist and founder of a cannabis genetics company Phylos Bioscience.

    What gives cannabis “character,” in Holmes’s view, are the hundreds of other chemicals it contains. These include THC’s cousin cannabinoids such as cannabidiol, along with other compounds called terpenes and flavonoids. Whereas terpenes are generally credited with giving pot its varied fragrances—limonene, for example, imparts a snappy, citrusy perfume—the cannabis industry and some researchers have espoused the controversial idea that such compounds can enhance or alter THC’s psychoactive and medicinal properties.

    This so-called “entourage effect” refers to this scrum of compounds supposedly working in concert to create what Chris Emerson describes as “the sum of all the parts that leads to the magic or power of cannabis.” Emerson is a trained chemist and the co-founder of a designer marijuana vaporizer products company called Level Blends. Product designers like him believe they can create THC vaping mixtures tuned with different concentrations of each terpene and cannabinoid for specialized effects.

    The idea that botanical marijuana creates a synergistic chemical effect, fingerprinting the experience with “uplifting” or “relaxing” or “munchy” notes, is highly contentious.

    The conventional science on this topic is scant. But cannabis breeders (often working illegally in the past) have long been crossing plants to develop distinctive strains that purportedly do different things, and breeders are using genetics to make that process more precise and efficient.

    “We have a huge set of cannabis genomic data that will, hopefully, allow us to ID genetic markers associated with chemical results and certain patient outcomes,” Holmes says. “We’re just getting started.” Holmes hopes breeders might eventually be able to generate cannabis plants or products that are personalized to each individual patient or recreational user’s needs.

    But many scientists see the whole thing as a pipe dream. The idea that botanical marijuana creates a synergistic chemical effect, fingerprinting the experience with “uplifting” or “relaxing” or “munchy” notes, is highly contentious.

    “The lay public has really taken on the notion of the entourage effect, but there’s not a lot of data,” says Margaret Haney, a neurobiologist at Columbia University and cannabis researcher. “The cannabis field can say anything and it does. I’m not against marijuana. I want to study it carefully. We know it can affect pain and appetite but the large majority of what’s being said is driven by anecdotal marketing. These guys are really trying to make money.”

    There are a few arguments that entourage effect proponents use to bolster the theory: For one, non-THC cannabinoids do have some neurochemical action as they can affect—often in different ways—cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system. The most commonly cited example is cannabidiol, or CBD. A number of scientists believe CBD actually mitigates the famously stoning and paranoia-producing effects of THC by blocking some cannabinoid receptors.

    “The biggest influence [in the entourage effect] is CBD,” says psychopharmacologist Ethan Russo, a cannabis researcher in Washington State and medical director of the biochemical research company Phytecs. About 10 milligrams of THC can potentially cause toxic psychosis—or THC-induced, psychotic-like symptoms such as delusions—in about 40 percent of people, he says. On the other hand, Sativex—a multiple sclerosis medication not approved in the U.S. that GW Pharmaceuticals (where Russo worked for many years) started selling in the U.K. in 2010—“has equal amounts of THC and CBD,” he adds. “At amounts of 48 milligrams of THC, only four patients out of 250 exposures had this toxic psychosis. So this is a very important demonstration of this synergy,” he says, noting other cannabinoids might have similar synergistic effects that have not been studied yet.

    THC-only pills have been available by prescription in the U.S. since the 1980s under the brand name Marinol, which is synthetically produced THC dissolved in sesame seed oil. Russo says people often discontinue Marinol due to negative side effects, which he believes come partly from the absence of marijuana’s other cannabinoids.

    “They get anxious, dysphoric [and] scattered,” he says. “It interferes with their ability to function.”

    "As is often the case with cannabis, lore is law," said Mowgli Holmes, a geneticist and founder of a cannabis genetics company Phylos Bioscience. Photo by Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

    “As is often the case with cannabis, lore is law,” said Mowgli Holmes, a geneticist and founder of a cannabis genetics company Phylos Bioscience. Photo by Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2016 approved another oral THC formulation called Syndros: pure, synthetically produced THC dissolved in alcohol. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration startled many marijuana proponents last month when it placed Syndros on Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act, making it federally legal to prescribe. Despite the active ingredient being exactly the same THC molecule, the plant and most other forms of marijuana remain firmly in Schedule I—along with heroin, LSD and other drugs the DEA says have no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.

    “THC alone is a lousy drug. It is a very poor therapeutic index,” Russo says. “I’ll tell you right now, [Syndros] won’t be exciting or gain a lot of traction either.”

    The entourage effect gained some ground in 2011 when Russo published a paper in the British Journal of Pharmacology reviewing the potential interactions between THC and various cannabinoids and terpenes. For example, he cites work suggesting alpha pinene—a terpene that gives some marijuana a fresh pine scent—might help preserve a molecule called acetylcholine, which has been implicated in memory formation. “So one main side effect of THC is short-term memory impairment,” he says. “People go, ‘Uh…what were you saying?’ That can be prevented if there’s pinene in the cannabis.”

    Still, there is no hard evidence that the entourage effect is real. Double-blind clinical trials, the gold standard for research studies in medicine, have never been conducted to investigate the effects of marijuana’s terpenes or its cannabinoids other than THC.

    “With marijuana, most of what you’re dealing with is anecdotal evidence,” Phylos’s Holmes says. “But the truth is there’s very, very little data.”

    “We don’t understand how all these things are working in concert. But I put everything on the line for this, because I know this so strongly.”

    And as is often the case with cannabis, lore is law, Holmes says. The entourage effect idea has firmly taken root in the cannabis industry and among consumers. Marijuana dispensaries have begun listing and advertising various cannabinoid ratios and providing detailed terpene profiles in certain strains and products. Laboratories specialize in testing weed for these compounds. Companies such as NaPro Research and Phylos have begun working out how to breed cannabis varieties with specific levels of popular terpenes—including limonene and pinene as well as myrcene, which some believe potentiates THC’s effects—for a designed experience.

    Holmes says he does not like the fact that entourage effect supporters’ best evidence lies in anecdotes, but he thinks they still tell an important part of the story. “Mainly it makes me pissed off that we can’t do very basic studies about what’s really true,” he says. “But you have thousands and thousands of people reporting the same thing. It gets hard to ignore.” Studies are difficult because of marijuana’s Schedule I status, putting research licenses out of reach for many scientists.

    And anecdotes are not enough for Columbia’s Haney and many others who agree with her.

    “People have preconceived notions that a terpene will work for them,” says Barth Wilsey, a medicinal cannabis researcher at the University of California, San Diego. “The internet is great but it has a lot of fake news and it’s incredible what people are saying.” In order to learn how effective these compounds are, Wilsey says, “they have to do randomized clinical trials, where random people get real terpene and the fake terpene.”

    Haney says she has only seen evidence against the entourage effect. In recent studies (including Haney’s own) directly comparing the effects of plant marijuana with oral THC formulations such as Marinol and Syndros, the results suggest there is little—if any—difference between them. “I wanted to get into whether [Marinol is worse than marijuana], because that was the lore: ‘We need to legalize marijuana because Marinol is no good,’” she says. “So we did the study, and it’s not a lousy drug. It works for pain. It works for appetite. Marinol works quite well.”

    Even cannabidiol might be overhyped, Haney says. “There are promising data on potential medical use but the data suggesting it dampens the marijuana high are really not compelling when you look at the original sources,” she notes. “Yet this notion has swept the field.” Drugs like Sativex—the half-CBD/half-THC formulation—do not seem too different from just THC to her, either.

    Russo admits the scientific literature is lacking but he remains firm in his belief in the entourage effect. Photo by Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

    Russo admits the scientific literature is lacking but he remains firm in his belief in the entourage effect. Photo by Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

    Russo admits the scientific literature is lacking but he remains firm in his belief in the entourage effect. “Do we need better studies to prove the concept? The answer is yes,” he says. “I believe in this because I’ve known for 40 years the differences between different cannabis. They smell different. They taste different. They have different effects.”

    And many in the cannabis industry stand with him.

    “We’ve done a lot of focus groups and data collection and analysis when we started [Level Blends], and 80 or 85 percent of people fall right into the effect we say they will get,” Emerson says. “We don’t understand how all these things are working in concert. But I put everything on the line for this, because I know this so strongly.”

    Haney says marijuana may actually have an entourage effect but it is impossible to know without more information. “I would love to do a study comparing strains,” she says. “I would love to directly compare but I’m unable to work with any marijuana on the street or in dispensaries.” The placebo effect is very powerful, she notes. And if you believe smoking a bud will give you a bright, cerebral experience spilling with creativity or that a THC pill will make you anxious and paranoid, then that is what you will probably feel.

    This article is reproduced with permission from Scientific American. It was first published on April 20, 2017. Find the original story here.

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    One police officer was killed and two others were injured Thursday in a shooting in central Paris. The gunman appears to have died in an encounter with police, local media reported.

    French police tweeted that the suspect fired on police while stopped at a red light near the Champs Elysées, a major tourist destination.

    The French Interior Ministry tweeted that two other officers were “seriously injured.”

    Police, along with the U.S. Embassy in Paris, are asking people to avoid the area.

    The shooting comes days before the first round of voting in the French presidential election.

    France has been under a state of emergency since late 2015, when a series of coordinated attacks across the city killed 130. In February, an assailant, shouting “Allahu akbar!”, attacked soldiers guarding the Louvre. He was shot and killed by authorities.

    PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

    The post Gunman dead in Paris after killing one officer, injuring two others appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A worker chats with residents at a newly built section of the U.S.-Mexico border fence at Sunland Park, U.S. opposite the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Photo taken in January. Photo by Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

    A worker chats with residents at a newly built section of the U.S.-Mexico border fence at Sunland Park, U.S. opposite the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Photo taken in January. Photo by Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — White House budget director Mick Mulvaney says that Democratic negotiators on a massive spending bill need to agree to funding top priorities of President Donald Trump such as a down payment on a border wall and hiring of additional immigration agents.

    Mulvaney told The Associated Press in an interview that “elections have consequences” and that “we want wall funding” as part of the catchall spending bill, which lawmakers hope to unveil next week.

    The former GOP congressman from South Carolina also said that the administration is open, though undecided, about a key Democratic demand that the measure pay for cost-sharing payments to insurance companies that help low-income people afford health policies under the Affordable Care Act.

    The $1 trillion-plus legislation is leftover business from last year’s election-season gridlock and would cover the operating budgets of every Cabinet department except for Veterans Affairs.

    Talks on the measure have hit a rough patch as a deadline to avert a government shutdown looms late next week. Trump’s presidency is approaching the symbolic 100-day mark, but his GOP allies in Congress have been tempering expectations that the president would emerge as a big winner. Democratic votes are likely to be needed to pass whatever bill emerges from the talks, and Senate Democrats could bottle it up entirely if they object to provisions that they deem to be “poison pills” — such as the money for the wall.

    GOP leaders on Capitol Hill are eager to avert a shutdown, and the slow pace may make it necessary to enact another temporary spending bill to avert a shutdown next weekend.

    “A shutdown is never a desired end and neither is it a strategy,” Mulvaney said.

    Mulvaney said the White House delivered an offer to negotiators Wednesday night, with funding for the border wall a top demand. Other items on the White House priority list, Mulvaney said, are a $30 billion request for a cash infusion for the military and a controversial provision to give the administration greater latitude to deny certain federal grants to “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with immigration enforcement by federal authorities.

    “We want wall funding. We want (immigration) agents. Those are our priorities,” Mulvaney said. “We know there are a lot of people on the Hill, especially in the Democratic Party, who don’t like the wall, but they lost the election. And the president should, I think, at least have the opportunity to fund one of his highest priorities in the first funding bill under his administration.”

    In a sleepy, no-stoplight town 25 miles from the Arizona-Mexico border, you’ll pass surveillance towers, border agents on patrol and checkpoints. This is life along the border, where security has been ramped up significantly since 9/11, sweeping up American citizens in its wake. William Brangham reports.

    Democrats have taken a hard line against any money for the border wall and insist that the measure include the “Obamacare” payments to insurance companies.

    At issue are cost-sharing payments that are a key subsidy under the health care law to help low-income people enrolled through the law’s insurance marketplaces with their out-of-pocket expenses. Trump has threatened to withhold the payments as a means to force Democrats to negotiate on health care legislation.

    The cost-sharing payments are the subject of a lawsuit by House Republicans, and Trump threatened in an interview with The Wall Street Journal last week to drop the payments, which experts warn would severely disrupt Obamacare’s marketplaces.

    Mulvaney said the White House isn’t enthusiastic about Democratic demands on the Obamacare payments but is open to them as part of a broader agreement.

    “The president has been quoted several times and said he’s inclined not to make them and I can’t tell you that I’m interested in dissuading him from that position,” Mulvaney said. “That being said, if it’s important enough to the Democrats, we’d be happy to talk to them about including that in sort of some type of compromise.”

    Added Mulvaney: “If Democrats are interested and serious about compromise and negotiation, the ball is in their court.”

    READ MORE: Where does the immigration debate stand under President Trump?

    The post Spending bill must include down payment for border wall, Trump’s budget chief says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A screengrab from Google Maps shows the Tuscarawas River just outside of Navarre, Ohio.

    A screengrab from Google Maps shows the Tuscarawas River just outside of Navarre, Ohio.

    Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas-based pipeline operator that owns the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, is coming under renewed scrutiny for two spills that released more than 2 million gallons of drilling fluid into Ohio wetlands earlier this month.

    A violation notice made public this week indicates about 50,000 gallons of drilling fluid — a thick gel-like substance used to cut through rock during pipeline construction — was released near Richland County, Ohio. The spill was discovered April 14, according to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency . An estimated 2 million gallons spilled in another incident discovered April 13 near the Tuscarawas River south of Navarre. Both spills were connected to the company’s construction of the Rover Pipeline, a $4.2 billion dollar project that will route through Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Michigan and Ontario, Canada.

    Energy Transfer Partners said the Richland County leak has been completely cleaned up.

    “We are currently working to complete the cleanup at the other site in Stark County and anticipate returning to construction shortly,” Alexis Daniel, a spokesperson for Energy Transfer Partners, told NewsHour.

    Daniel said the leak was “not harmful to the environment,” but an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency filing notes the spills “impacted water quality.” Both spills contain “bentonite,” a mineral used to help cat litter clump when it gets wet and does not break down easily in water, making it difficult to remove large clumps from aquifers.

    Construction on the Rover Pipeline began two weeks ago after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which controls the natural gas industry, granted Energy Transfer Partners a permit in February.

    According to Energy Transfer’s website, the pipeline is scheduled to be ready for service in by mid-2017. Once completed, the Rover Pipeline will transport up to 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day to markets in the Midwest, Northeast, and Canada, with direct deliveries to Ohio.

    The Sierra Club is calling for the halt of the Energy Transfer Rover, saying the two spills “prove that the fossil fuel industry is unable to even put a pipeline into use before it spills dangerous chemicals into our precious waterways and recreation areas.”

    The Dakota Access Pipeline was halted by the Obama administration after concerns from Standing Rock Sioux and other Native American tribes said the pipeline threatened tribal drinking water.

    Three days into his presidency, Trump reinstated DAPL, which is now laid underneath Lake Oahe.

    Energy Transfer CEO Kelcy Warren told NewsHour pipeline approvals would happen after Inauguration Day. Trump, considered friendly to the oil and gas industry, said he planned to expedite environmental reviews — including the one that allowed DAPL to move forward Trump also gave the green light to the Keystone XL pipeline, a project Obama had also rejected in 2015.

    “The process is so long and cumbersome that they give up before the end. Sometimes it takes many, many years and we don’t want that to happen,” Trump said while signing an executive order in January.

    Democratic lawmakers, including Massachusetts Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, are urging the government step in to stop construction of other FERC approved pipelines across the country.

    The post The Rover Pipeline leaks millions of gallons of drilling fluid into Ohio wetlands appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a meeting with the Organized Crime Council and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Executive Committee in D.C. in April. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a meeting with the Organized Crime Council and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Executive Committee in D.C. in April. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    HONOLULU — Hawaii’s Democratic lawmakers on Thursday criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions after he expressed amazement on a radio show that a “judge sitting on an island in the Pacific” could stop the president’s travel ban.

    U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono responded by trying to give Sessions a civics lesson on Twitter, saying Hawaii has been a U.S. state for 58 years.

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

    The senator said later in a telephone interview the remarks showed a lack of awareness about the separation of powers between the judiciary and executive branches.

    U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson last month blocked President Donald Trump’s executive order prohibiting new visas for people from six Muslim-majority countries and temporarily halting the U.S. refugee program. The Trump Administration appealed the ruling.

    Sessions told the “Mark Levin Show” he’s confident the president will prevail with his administration’s appeal of Watson’s travel ban ruling.

    “I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the President of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power,” Sessions said.

    Hirono also said Sessions’ remarks suggested he is prejudiced against Hawaii.

    “Why isn’t a federal judge from Hawaii as able as any other judge from anywhere to issue rulings?” Hirono asked.

    She told Session on Twitter “we won’t succumb to your dog whistle politics.”

    Both Hirono and Sen. Brian Schatz emphasized that Sessions voted as a senator to confirm Watson as a judge.

    Schatz chided Sessions more on Twitter by telling him the island where Watson made the ruling is named Oahu.

    “It’s my home. Have some respect,” he said.

    U.S. Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior said in an email that Sessions was questioning one judge’s ability to block the president’s executive order for the travel ban.

    “Hawaii is, in fact, an island in the Pacific — a beautiful one where the Attorney General’s granddaughter was born,” Prior said. “The point, however, is that there is a problem when a flawed opinion by a single judge can block the President’s lawful exercise of authority to keep the entire country safe.”

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

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Next, another installment of Brief But Spectacular, where we ask interesting people to describe their passions.

    Tonight, we hear from illustrator Catia Chien on what it means to create from the inside out. Her latest picture book is “Things to Do.”

    CATIA CHIEN, Illustrator: When I was growing up, I didn’t actually have bedtime stories or anything like that. I grew up in a pretty dysfunctional family. There was a lot of emotional upheaval.

    I did grow up with comics. Comic books really gave me a way out of that loneliness. There’s this comic book character named Monica. It was a constant that I had in my life. I could read stories about Monica and her friends.

    I thought that if I grew up and I could do that for another child, like, that would be worthwhile.

    I definitely feel that I wasn’t seen when I was a child. When I moved to the U.S., I didn’t have a voice. English was difficult for me to speak. That was when I really connected with the value of art and expression.

    There is a sense of wanting to find belonging when you have experiences of being an outsider, and wanting to create something that feels really true to yourself,because you’re constantly comparing yourself to something else, and it doesn’t quite match.

    The process of creating from the inside out, it’s really a process of mattering.

    When I teach, a lot of students ask me like, what do you use, what is your tool, and stuff like that.

    It goes much deeper than that. It goes into, like, who are you? What do you actually want to say? What matters to you? From that place, everything is possible. You will find a way to get it out.

    One of the best things that I things that I do with the kids is that I say, let’s all close our eyes and all pretend to be an illustrator. I guide them through a series of visual things that they’re experiencing through their imagination.

    So, when I did “A Boy and a Jaguar,” I had them experience the jungle, and they jump into a lake, and then they look in the lake, and what’s reflected back to them is the face of a jaguar.

    There was this kid in the back of the room that was really loud and rowdy, didn’t want anything to do with me. And he raised his hand and he said, “I didn’t know that I could go there.”

    That’s the meaning of empathy, a story that’s not your own that you can step inside of. That’s empathy.

    My family, in terms of how they have responded to my work, it’s so practical. You know, it has to do with like, is that paying you?

    I have long ago understood that that’s not where the gold is. You know, you will chase that forever, and then, at the end of your life, you think, like, what have I done?

    The feeling of actually belonging, it’s self-created. Arriving at the process of creating something from the inside out, it’s really just a validation of existing. It matters that we add to the conversation, so it’s not just one voice that’s being told in picture books. It matters.

    My name is Catia Chien. And this was my Brief But Spectacular take on creating from the inside out.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Find more of our Brief But Spectacular videos online at pbs.org/newshour/brief.

    The post For this artist, the process of creating is believing you matter appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now: race, crime and imprisonment. That’s the focus of the newest addition to the NewsHour Bookshelf.

    Jeffrey Brown has that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Mass incarceration and its devastating effect on black Americans and neighborhoods, it’s a subject that’s attracted much attention in books and policy circles in the last decade.

    A new take on the issue comes in the book “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America,” based in part on the experience of author James Forman Jr. as a public defender in Washington, D.C. Forman is now a professor at Yale Law School and joins me now

    Welcome to you.

    JAMES FORMAN JR., Author, “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America”: Thank you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Let me pick up on that experience of being a public defender.

    What did you see there that made you rethink the story of mass incarceration?

    JAMES FORMAN JR.: Well, I went into the job because I viewed this as the civil rights issue of my generation, one in three black men under criminal justice supervision.

    And when I got to local courts of Washington, D.C., what I saw was case after case with African-American judges, prosecutors, bailiffs. D.C. has a significant African-American representation in operation of this criminal justice system. And that system was very harsh.

    I had one case where a judge before locking up my client lectured him on Martin Luther King. He said, Martin Luther King fought and died for your generation to be free, and you’re out here messing it up, carrying a gun, getting high, disrespecting your family and the neighborhood.

    So, that’s the thing that really told me there was a story here.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You know, a number of books and thinkers have looked as this over the last number of years, mass incarceration through the lens on institutional racism, right, even a continuation of the history of slavery in this country.

    Are you challenging the story, filling it in? What do you see yourself doing here?

    JAMES FORMAN JR.: No, I think that story is correct and powerful and urgent.

    So, what I see what I’m doing is adding to it, because there’s a part of the story that we haven’t focused on yet. And it’s the part of the story of this generation of African-American decision-makers that came in at the end of the civil rights movement and took office, became police chiefs, became prosecutors, became judges. What were they doing during the…

    JEFFREY BROWN: Became the attorney general. You talk about Eric Holder.

    JAMES FORMAN JR.: Absolutely, who …

    JEFFREY BROWN: Give us an example, though, I mean, of what — a specific example, like Holder?

    JAMES FORMAN JR.: Well, OK, so somebody like Eric Holder comes in as the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia in the early 1990s, and he gives a big speech where he says, crime and violence are destroying our communities. He says, the black people of D.C. are no more free than the black people of Selma, Alabama, were in 1955. But what’s keeping us down, what’s keeping us locked inside is crime and violence and criminal gangs.

    So, in response to that, he promoted a program called Operation Cease-Fire, where police would stop cars on any pretext, of a minor traffic violation, speeding, tinted windows, you name it, because they wanted to search those cars for guns.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, with good intention, the best intentions, of protecting the black community, but you’re suggesting all of that helped foment what’s come in the mass incarceration.

    JAMES FORMAN JR.: Exactly.

    I mean, the story — my story is a tragedy, right, because it is a story of best intentions in many cases. You have people, often, they don’t — part of the story is that people didn’t know what was going to happen next.

    So, in the 1970s, they chose not to decriminalize marijuana. That was a big debate in D.C. at the time. And when — they didn’t do it. And they said, well, it’s not that big of a deal if we don’t decriminalize marijuana, because nobody’s really going to prison, no one’s losing their job for a marijuana conviction.

    But then, later in the ’80s and in the ’90s, we passed laws that said you can’t get a student loan, you can’t get public housing, you can’t get a job if you have a marijuana conviction. So, a decision they made at time A later turns out to have these devastating effects.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, when and why did these attitudes change? Or have they shifted sufficiently?

    JAMES FORMAN JR.: Well, they have shifted in part.

    So, I think the big thing that’s happened in the last few years — and the Black Lives Matter movement is a part of this, important writers like Michelle Alexander and Bryan Stevenson and Ta-Nehisi Coates have really promoted this issue.

    And attitudes in the black community have started to change, as people more and more see mass incarceration as a racial justice issue. But one thing that hasn’t changed is, we still don’t really talk about people who have committed violent crimes. When we say we’re going to try to reduce mass incarceration, our whole focus so far has been on nonviolent drug offenders.

    And I argue in the book, that’s not going far enough.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Why is it important to recognize the role of African-Americans in bringing about mass incarceration?

    You know, why is it important to fill in or tell the story, take the story further the way you have?

    JAMES FORMAN JR.: Well, part of it, honestly, is, you know, I’m just that kind of person who, if I go to a movie, and there’s no black characters, somebody asks me at the end of the movie, what did you think about it, I say, well, it was OK, but there were — there were no — where were the black characters?

    I mean, I think that black people have been central to every part of American history. And so I don’t want to watch a movie, I don’t want to read a book, I don’t want to study history that doesn’t show the role that African-Americans were playing.

    So, that, to me, is really, at a basic level, the number one reason. But it’s also because, factually, we were there, right, in D.C., in Atlanta, in Memphis, in Los Angeles, in Chicago, in New York. You have substantial African-American representation. And I just don’t think we can write us out of the picture.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Let me ask you, finally, I mean, we started with a personal story, you as a public defender, talking about the unfinished work of the civil rights movement.

    You’re also the son of a very prominent civil rights leader, James Forman. Connect the dots for me, the kind of work as a public defender, but, more importantly, the mass incarceration problem now to the civil rights movement. How do you see it?

    JAMES FORMAN JR.: Well, they have this similarity.

    Both of them have — that is to say, Jim Crow and mass incarceration both have led to a whole part of the population being locked out of opportunity by being defined by a certain status, either your race or the fact that you have a criminal conviction.

    And that means you can’t get a job, you can’t get public housing, you can’t get student loans, you can’t live freely as an American citizen. And so I think, really, what the civil rights movement was about was finding the most acute thing that was harming black people, which at the time was Jim Crow, and responding.

    And I see the movement to fight mass incarceration in much the same way today.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, the new book is “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America,”

    James Forman Jr., thank you very much.

    JAMES FORMAN JR.: Thank you.

    The post Former public defender explains why we need to go further on fighting mass incarceration appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: The airline industry and its business model have been in the crosshairs of late, particularly since the United Airlines story captured worldwide attention.

    Many travelers have been asking, how do airlines make money, and do those profits come at the expense of passenger comfort and convenience?

    Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman, has been exploring the turbulent business of aviation.

    It’s part of his weekly reporting on Making Sense of economic news.

    WOMAN: Oh, my God!

    WOMAN: Oh, my God.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The whole world was watching, watching United Airlines last week, as its skies proved a lot less friendly than advertised.

    But a flight we took recently had a much happier ending: No passenger was bloodied and dragged from the plane, which took off from tiny Windsor Locks, Connecticut, and landed barely five hours later in Dublin, Ireland, for an affordable $549 round-trip, including four-day hotel stay for some of the passengers.

    There’s a larger theme of our story, however, that an industry notorious for losing money has been making it, hand over fist, at the expense of often helpless consumers, but that competition may be on the verge of rescuing us at long last.

    STEPHEN KAVANAGH, CEO, Aer Lingus: The president was kind enough to put knots in this twine.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Aer Lingus CEO Stephen Kavanagh keeps an old globe gifted to his predecessor in the 1960s by the president of Ireland.

    STEPHEN KAVANAGH: The first knot being based in Ireland, and the second knot was the technical range of aircraft at the time. And his ambition was that Ireland would become a gateway point. And 50 years later, we believe we’re delivering on that ambition.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Now, Aer Lingus wasn’t exactly a cash cow as a government service.

    Aer Lingus was owned by the Irish government up until when?

    STEPHEN KAVANAGH: 2006.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And it lost money in all that time, right?

    STEPHEN KAVANAGH: Yes. Well, most of the time, yes.

    PAUL SOLMAN: When I told sophisticated business people that I was doing this story, they said, oh, airlines, an industry that always in the end loses money.

    So, are you just in a up phase of what eventually is going to be a down industry?

    STEPHEN KAVANAGH: There’s no doubt that the business is cyclical. And there’s no doubt that that industry over many years has had difficulty in returning its cost of capital to shareholders.

    PAUL SOLMAN: By difficulty, you mean it hasn’t.

    STEPHEN KAVANAGH: It hasn’t.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But smaller, fuel-efficient planes can now reach well beyond the knot on that 1960s string. Indeed, these are boom times for airlines, and not just Aer Lingus.

    What explains the turnaround? The answer demands a bit of ancient history and ancient footage as well. For decades, governments, including the U.S., strictly regulated fares and routes, if they didn’t own the carriers outright. Fares worldwide were high, routes plentiful, planes often half-empty. But profits were rare to nonexistent.

    Then, in 1977, President Jimmy Carter anointed Cornell economist Alfred Kahn to deregulate.

    ALFRED KAHN, Economist: It’s the greatest thing I ever did in my life, other than have children.

    (LAUGHTER)

    PAUL SOLMAN: Kahn thought market forces would bring air travel to all. He didn’t worry much about profits. When I visited him in Ithaca, New York, in 2003, he was proud of his legacy.

    ALFRED KAHN: What I did has been extraordinarily beneficial to millions and millions and millions of people every year who couldn’t afford to travel, who now can visit their grandparents, which now strikes home to me, go home for vacation from college, who can travel and indeed can be tourists.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But a key part of Kahn’s plan never materialized: antitrust enforcement. Thus, deregulation spurred a wave of mergers, speeded up when business was walloped by 9/11 and then the crash of ’08.

    Bankruptcies abounded. Today, the U.S. fleet has shrunk to just four main carriers, which control 80 percent-plus of the U.S. market. No wonder passengers are at the mercy of the major airlines: flights jam-packed, routes slashed, service to smaller airports dumped.

    Yes, fares have dipped, but costs have dipped more, thanks to new planes, cheap fuel, do-it-ourselves software, and union work outsourced to contract workers.

    Meanwhile, fees have so metastasized here in the U.S., one low-cost airline now differentiates itself by mocking them.

    ACTOR: Is this your first flight?

    NARRATOR: On Southwest Airlines, we don’t charge fees for stuff that should be free.

    PAUL SOLMAN: U.S. airlines alone made an estimated $20 billion last year. Fees accounted for an estimated $3.8 billion, itinerary change charges another $3 billion. Selling miles to credit card companies has been estimated to bring in upwards of $10 billion more. Hey, even Southwest is now under pressure to impose fees to increase profits.

    In justifying the profits of Aer Lingus, which itself has merged with British Airways and Iberia, CEO Kavanagh might as well be speaking for the industry as a whole: It has achieved greater efficiency.

    So, your story is: We finally figured out how to do it right.

    Is that true?

    STEPHEN KAVANAGH: We have figured out what you need to manage.

    KEVIN DILLON, Executive Director, Connecticut Airport Authority: Airlines are extremely profitable at this juncture.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Kevin Dillon runs Connecticut’s Airport Authority. With only four carriers dominating the domestic market, he has to pay to bring new business to his underserved airport.

    KEVIN DILLON: Our passengers out of this catchment area for many, many years have driven down to New York or driven up to Logan.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Connecticut offered $13 million dollars in cash and guarantees.

    But they still had to bribe you to get you to do this.

    DECLAN KEARNEY, Director of Communications, Aer Lingus: Well, but if what you’re referring to is that we’re getting support from the airport and from Connecticut, yes, it’s helpful, as was we put a lot of commercial risk into launching a route. The fact that they would share some of the risk, we think is totally fair.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Aer Lingus spokesman Declan Kearney stressed that the company too is making an investment, $50 million in equipment, crew and fuel costs, promotion. But the bottom line is that the profits from overbooked flights, infuriating fees and cheaper costs are luring competitors once more.

    We first reported this torrent of competition last year, when no-frills Norwegian Airlines began flying to the balmy isle of Guadeloupe from New York and Boston for $69. Norwegian is about to start flying to Scotland from Connecticut, as we flew affordably to Dublin.

    As we enjoy a brief pub interlude, remember the advantages of competition on flights to Dublin or anywhere else: low fares, no fees, comfy planes from which no one is in danger of forcible removal, because of the profits that beckon. And one last time, why the profits?

    Two main reasons, claims Aer Lingus CEO Kavanagh.

    STEPHEN KAVANAGH: That there has been some level of consolidation in North America, where it’s possible for airlines as businesses to generate sustainable levels of profitability. And the other is, capital is more disciplined as to where it’s deployed.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Investors are more disciplined, he means, in that they now demand immediate profits, or simply sell their airline stocks.

    But maybe the discipline in North America is just consolidation, right? I mean, it may be that if there were more vigorous pursuit of antitrust in America, you would have more competitors competing on price, and then airlines wouldn’t be making any money again.

    Kavanagh’s answer to this question may be the moral of this story.

    STEPHEN KAVANAGH: That is undeniably true. If you have full freedom of access to a market, where capital is cheap, where there isn’t a discipline of a return, then that isn’t a stable market. And, in airlines, no business in that type of environment is capable of generating sustainable return.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Which would suggest that, once competition hits full-throttle, consumers may then again be flying high, while the airline industry will be coming back down to earth.

    For the PBS NewsHour, Paul Solman, reporting from Dublin, Ireland, and 15 miles north of Hartford, Connecticut.

    The post Why airline profits are flying high appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: But first: The ouster of Bill O’Reilly from the FOX News Channel is an earthquake inside the conservative news media machine that many say, over the years, has contributed to the polarization of America.

    Tonight, we look at one aspect of the two Americas what we’re calling news divisions.

    White House correspondent John Yang went to Arizona recently to examine how people get their news and the impact that has on how they see the world.

    JOHN YANG: Marcus Huey, Ken Block, and Delia Salvatierra all live in the Phoenix area and call themselves news junkies. But that’s where the similarity ends. Their sources of news are as different as their politics.

    Salvatierra is a Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton.

    DELIA SALVATIERRA, Democrat: The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and The New Yorker are sort of the foundational things that I surround myself with.

    JOHN YANG: Huey is a Republican who voted for President Trump.

    MARCUS HUEY, Republican: As a voting member of the Republican Party, I would say anything that comes out of FOX, I pretty much take to the bank. If something comes from Laura Ingraham, I pretty much take that to the bank.

    JOHN YANG: And Block, an independent, voted for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

    KEN BLOCK, Independent: I kind of bounce all over the board. I have Twitter and a news feed on my phone. So, you know, I take a little bit of everything.

    JOHN YANG: None of that surprises Thom Reilly, director of the nonpartisan Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University. He’s one of the authors of new a study examining where voters get both news and commentary.

    THOM REILLY, Morrison Institute for Public Policy, ASU: Well, voters today basically have this cafeteria type format, where they can choose from personalized news sources that not only serves to inform them, but also reinforces their world view.

    We want to hear stuff that we believe in, or just kind of particularly in a very polarized world. So, I do think we’re seeing this, people going back to what — they feel safe.

    JOHN YANG: The researchers found that the proliferation of news sources on cable TV and the Internet has upended the relationship between news outlets and their audiences. Instead of voters being shaped by news, Reilly says news is being shaped for voters.

    THOM REILLY: What we’re seeing is that, particularly with a lot of Internet sources, is they’re appealing to a base, and they’re attracting a wide audience, and it’s growing. And they’re responding to what voters want, instead of vice versa.

    JOHN YANG: It used to be that politicians and candidates would appeal to a base, but now you’re saying that news outlets are appealing to their base?

    THOM REILLY: And they’re shaping it, yes, yes.

    JOHN YANG: Democrat Salvatierra grew up in a conservative Republican household and found her own brand of politics in college at the University of California, Berkeley. She now runs her own immigration and criminal law practice.

    DELIA SALVATIERRA: I think the press has become increasingly important. And I think once the new administration attacked certain organizations as fake news, it only empowered me to listen to those news organizations even more.

    And whereas before I could flip back and forth between maybe FOX News and CNN, I don’t trust FOX News, because it is so overwhelmingly endorsed by the administration.

    JOHN YANG: But you’re deliberately seeking out opinions, commentary that reinforce your views?

    DELIA SALVATIERRA: Yes, I think so. I think I do that naturally. I wish that I could tolerate watching FOX News a little bit more, but I can’t, because it’s usually the same time that I’m watching Anderson Cooper or Don Lemon, and they’re asking questions. They’re asking legitimate questions. They’re pushing the envelope. And they’re asking the questions that I have, that are aligned with my views.

    JOHN YANG: Huey, the Republican, is a retired small business owner. He and his wife, Lorri (ph), view the world through a very different news prism.

    MARCUS HUEY: I try to get up a little bit before 7:00 — 7:00, I’m in the breakfast room. I have FOX News on. I have The Wall Street Journal down in front of me, and then I have my iPhone next to me. And if there’s no breaking, urgent news on the TV, then the first thing I do is, I will go check my phone, and look through my Facebook wall to see anything that I might have missed through the night.

    JOHN YANG: You said whatever you hear from Laura Ingraham and from FOX, you feel pretty much — you feel confident in?

    MARCUS HUEY: I have a track record and history with them. And I feel they both have been reliable and haven’t really let me down that often.

    Breitbart, I feel good about it, but if it’s some kind of a startling headline, I might hold back and look for other opinions. CNN and MSNBC, I feel it may not be fake news, but I feel that those organizations, unfortunately, I think they would like to see Trump be a one-term president.

    JOHN YANG: Block, an Uber and Lyft driver, says he voted Libertarian last year as a default.

    KEN BLOCK: The thing I’m most pleased with is the fact that Hillary Clinton didn’t get in the White House. That was my concern. I couldn’t vote for Trump at the time, no, and I don’t know if I could now.

    JOHN YANG: A self-described cynic, Block grew up in a Democratic household and became the black sheep Republican. With what he calls the recent political circus, he declared himself an independent.

    While he drives, he prefers a right-leaning talk radio station. At home, he watches CNN and NBC News in the morning and at dinner time. His smartphone, with his Twitter account, is never far away. He is an equal-opportunity critic when it comes to some of the news sources most frequently mentioned by voters in the Arizona State Morrison Institute study.

    Who do you distrust the most?

    KEN BLOCK: Wolf Blitzer.

    JOHN YANG: Why?

    KEN BLOCK: He has just become more of a grandstander than anything else. Everything is breaking news, every day, every moment. Everything can’t be breaking news. It’s not possible.

    JOHN YANG: Do you watch FOX?

    KEN BLOCK: Not so much anymore. I used to. I felt that was one-sided, more so than the combination of all the other outlets. And I guess there was an element of distrust.

    As citizens, we don’t know what we don’t know. We’re only given so much information.

    JOHN YANG: How do these three voters, with their selected sources for news, view one current big story?

    Do you believe that the Russians tried to interfere with the election?

    DELIA SALVATIERRA: Has suspicion around this issue remained? Absolutely.

    MARCUS HUEY: Do I believe they tried to influence the election for Donald Trump? That seems like a stretch. You have the Clintons, who have received tens of millions of dollars, either through — personally or through their foundation, from the Russians. In my mind, I would think that, if Putin has somebody he would be cheering for, it would be Hillary Clinton.

    KEN BLOCK: I believe that they did. I don’t know if it’s to the extent they are being accused of, but I believe that they did.

    JOHN YANG: The Arizona State Morrison study found that independents like Block can help bridge the alternative realities of polarized partisans.

    THOM REILLY: If you talk to different people, and you’re open to different ideas, that perhaps on a larger national scale can lead to more compromise.

    JOHN YANG: As he drives his customers, Block says sometimes the best way to get along is simply to change the channel.

    KEN BLOCK: A lot of times, my customers have just gotten off a plane, and they will hear something that just happened, and, oh, turn it up, turn it up, turn it up. Or, conversely, they will say, I have been listening to that all day. Can you please turn that off? Can we have some music?

    JOHN YANG: If they can agree on that.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Yang in Phoenix.

    The post How politically polarized media is driving our alternative realities appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: There is news in the Russia file. New documents reveal plans for Russia to influence the U.S. presidential election.

    William Brangham has that report.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Reuters reported today that a think tank controlled by the Russian government outlined detailed plans how to swing the 2016 U.S. election toward Donald Trump.

    In two different papers, the think tank said Russia should use social media and Russian-backed media to bolster Trump and to undermine faith in America’s electoral system.

    For more on these developments, I’m joined now by Ned Parker — he’s one of the reporters who broke the story — and by John Sipher. He served 28 years in the CIA’s clandestine service, stationed in Russia and Eastern Europe. He’s now with the consulting firm CrossLead.

    Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

    Ned Parker, I would like to start with you.

    Can you tell us a little bit more? What is it that you found? What did you report today?

    NED PARKER, Reuters: Right.

    Well, we found are that there are two documents drafted by an in-house policy shop for the Kremlin that reports back to President Vladimir Putin. And this organization is also headed by former foreign intelligence service officers.

    This organization called the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies drafted two reports last year, one in June and one in October. The first in June talked about, how do you influence the U.S. electorate through a media and social media campaign to overturn the policies of then-President Obama and promote — persuade the U.S. public to chose a new U.S. administration that would promote policies beneficial to both Russia and the United States?

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And, Ned, just staying with you for a second, is this evidence, is this in line with what U.S. intelligence agencies believe the Russians did, in fact, do during the election?

    NED PARKER: Right.

    I think that’s the significance of these documents. They came in after the election. The second document, which is from October, talked about how Hillary Clinton was likely to win the election, so it made sense to change tack in terms of propaganda, and rather than work for her defeat and a new administration under Donald Trump, instead, they should push for a weak Clinton administration, and to bring question about the integrity of the U.S. electoral process through different media and social media information packets.

    Now, getting these two documents after the election, it sort of crystallized what the U.S. already knew about motive and intent, including the hacking, for instance, which there was forensics all over the place linking the hacking of the DNC and the Clinton campaign to Russia’s military intelligence.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: John Sipher, you worked in Russia. You worked against the Russians and with the Russians. Does this then conform to your understanding of how they operate?

    JOHN SIPHER, Former CIA Officer: Well, certainly, it does. And this institute was actually an internal part of the SVR, the former KGB.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: This is not some separate think tank, like we would think of in the U.S.?

    JOHN SIPHER: No, it was an internal sort of analytical unit, which then separated and tied itself to the presidential administration, headed by longtime-serving KGB officers. In fact, the head of it now was in fact the head of the SVR, which is their external intelligence service.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Is this the kind of evidence, John Sipher, that gave U.S. intelligence agencies the confidence to say, we think Russia did meddle in the election?

    JOHN SIPHER: I think this is another piece in that puzzle certainly. I don’t think it’s a big surprise. President Putin hardly needed this group to tell him by June of 2016 that he should start trying to influence the election or to, you know, find a candidate that was pro-Russian, when we already by that time, all of us sort of knew that.

    However, I think the — I do think this is part and parcel of a longer effort that we see now in Europe. So, the Russians are now trying to influence elections in Germany and Russia and in Bulgaria. And, in fact, Mr. Reshetnikov, who ran this institute, is tied to possible efforts to assassinate the Montenegrin prime minister in Montenegro. And that may be, in fact, why he lost his job in January.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Ned Parker, in these two documents, as you have discovered them, was there any mention of WikiLeaks or the computer hacking that intelligence agencies also believe the Russians were involved in?

    NED PARKER: No, there is no mention of WikiLeaks or the hacking, but I think you have to see these as they were described to myself and my colleagues, John Walcott and Jon Landay. They were described as part and parcel of a campaign.

    So, the Kremlin is a very top-down, authoritarian culture. So when these documents passed around, they only reinforced what everyone knew to do. So, when you actually started to see the WikiLeaks dumps happening, the Russian-affiliated media outlets, like U.S. — like Russia Today and Sputnik and the troll factories outside of St. Petersburg that pump news out on Twitter and other outlets on the Internet, they were able to amplify the voice and the reach of the hacked, stolen materials from the Clinton campaign and DNC.

    So, they reinforced each other.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: John Sipher, is it really that easy for the Russian government to say, you three news agencies, start pumping out stories that are anti-Clinton or pro-Trump? Is that — does it work that obviously?

    JOHN SIPHER: It’s funny because, in my time in government, especially in the last years, we often talked about an all-of-government approach, so, if we’re going into Afghanistan, all of our agencies and institutes had to work together.

    We have never been quite as good at it as the Russians, because that’s a centralized state. And the intelligence services, from which Mr. Putin came, were the central sword and shield of the government. And, therefore, yes, they do a very good job of a coordinated approach to use diplomatic, intelligence, military and political power as one.

    So, I’m not surprised at all by this.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Ned, you heard John mention earlier that the concern obviously is that the Russians, they did it to us back in 2016. We have elections coming up in France and elsewhere in Europe.

    Did the intelligence officials that you talked with for this reporting, did they give you any sense that they believe that the Russians are going to be involved in those elections as well?

    NED PARKER: I think that’s sort of — it’s an open secret. Right?

    You look at France, and Marine Le Pen makes no secret of her affection for Russia. So, I think that’s seen as part and parcel for the course.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: John Sipher, one last question before you go.

    I understanding there is — there’s also reporting about a mole hunt that is going on within the CIA right now. From your time in the CIA, what can you tell us about that?

    JOHN SIPHER: Yes, that’s unfortunate.

    Any organization or enterprise has to worry about the insider threat and this type of thing happening, to include the CIA. In my time in government, I have seen, and we have caught spies, like Aldrich Ames and Hanssen at the FBI.

    Almost always in that case, it is an intelligence source of ours that lead us to find out who that person is. So, I wish them the best of luck in figuring this out, and hopefully they can find out who it is before too long, certainly.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, John Sipher, Ned Parker of Reuters, thank you both very much for being here.

    JOHN SIPHER: Thanks.

    The post Russian think tank planned to influence the U.S. election, new documents reveal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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