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- 04/24/17--12:15: _Why kid-friendly me...
- 04/24/17--13:06: _WATCH: Spicer says ...
- 04/24/17--13:42: _In Afghanistan trip...
- 04/24/17--14:35: _Should the governme...
- 04/24/17--15:00: _Former President Ge...
- 04/24/17--15:15: _After life-shatteri...
- 04/24/17--15:19: _Senate confirms Son...
- 04/24/17--15:20: _What have we learne...
- 04/24/17--15:25: _Deadly Taliban atta...
- 04/24/17--15:30: _As anti-establishme...
- 04/24/17--15:35: _How cutting off sub...
- 04/24/17--15:40: _Coal miners’ much-n...
- 04/24/17--15:45: _The biggest stickin...
- 04/24/17--15:50: _News Wrap: Trump ca...
- 04/24/17--16:10: _Naked mole rats can...
- 04/25/17--12:39: _How Margaret Atwood...
- 04/25/17--13:22: _Column: I’m a teach...
- 04/25/17--13:32: _In Virginia school ...
- 04/25/17--14:17: _In “Ballet Across A...
- 04/25/17--15:15: _This prom season, d...
- 04/24/17--12:15: Why kid-friendly medications can be expensive for parents
- 04/24/17--15:19: Senate confirms Sonny Perdue as agriculture secretary
- 04/24/17--15:20: What have we learned from President Trump’s first 100 days?
- 04/24/17--15:25: Deadly Taliban attack on Afghan base underscores insecurity
- 04/24/17--15:40: Coal miners’ much-needed health care collides with budget showdown
- 04/24/17--15:45: The biggest sticking points fueling government shutdown talk
- 04/24/17--15:50: News Wrap: Trump calls North Korea situation ‘unacceptable’
- 04/25/17--12:39: How Margaret Atwood dreamed up the costumes in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’
- 04/25/17--13:32: In Virginia school tour, Betsy DeVos stresses needs of military kids
- 04/25/17--15:15: This prom season, donated dresses help teens believe in themselves
When prescribing medications, caring for children poses a particular challenge. They’re not just little adults. Their still-developing brains and bodies metabolize drugs differently, and what works for grown-ups can yield radically different — and sometimes dangerous — results in kids.
And now, even as high drug prices make headlines, the challenge of getting sick children the kind of medication they can take and tolerate — often by creating liquid formulations of drugs that are already on the market — is seen by some companies as a lucrative opportunity.
It is part of a pattern in which patent laws and government incentives — meant to encourage development of less-profitable drugs — enable some companies to get a leg up in the market and set high prices. The Best Pharmaceuticals for Children Act, for instance, allows for delaying the approval of competing generics if companies test their drugs in children. And the Pediatric Research Equity Act requires more companies to have pediatric-focused drugs clinically assessed in kids. These laws have spurred companies to do more in terms of testing and developing pediatric medicines. The companies can market the drugs without facing competition for a longer period of time. And as a result, the treatments cost exponentially more.
Critics say the higher price tags are out of line with the cost of developing kid-friendly remedies.
“The only R&D, if you will, that went into making these liquid is finding a solution to dissolve them in, and making sure it was stable and well-absorbed,” said Thomas Welch, who leads the pediatrics department at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, N.Y. He co-authored a letter in the New England Journal of Medicine assessing the price increase for two of these drugs, which treat hypertension and heart conditions in children.
For Carissa Baker-Smith, a pediatric cardiologist at the University of Maryland, those drugs — Qbrelis, approved last July, and Epaned, approved in 2013 — could have been a godsend. They presented an alternative to their long-available generic adult versions, which, because of their strength, meant she usually referred her young patients to compounding pharmacies for liquid formulations, a step, she said, that requires “a bit of blind trust.”
At these pharmacies, licensed specialists use approved medications to create formulations for people whose needs are not met commercially.
On the plus side, these two drugs not only meet medical needs of Baker-Smith’s patients, but they went through the Food and Drug Administration’s rigorous approval process and are produced under the agency’s manufacturing-practice regulations, which do not apply to compounding pharmacies.
But their cost yields a different kind of angst.
Liquids pose “a financial burden to families,” Baker-Smith said. She added that parents frequently ask when their child is finally ready for the less pricey tablet.
“My patients need heart transplants, or have other issues,” she said. “That’s a huge cost.”
Seizing An Opportunity
How so? Qbrelis costs 775 times as much as the generic tablet, while Epaned is 21 times costlier than the off-brand, according to Welch’s letter.
Here’s another real-world comparison. If a compound pharmacy filled a prescription for a liquid formulation using the generic liquid Lisinopril — the active ingredient in Qbrelis — it would cost up to $20 a month. The patented liquid, though, could yield a monthly bill of $500 to $1,000, depending on how large a dose the child needs, estimated Erin Fox, an adjunct associate professor of pharmacotherapy at the University of Utah. For Epaned, a monthly regimen could cost $500 to $2,000; a compound pharmacy’s formulation of a comparable generic liquid would cost $20 to $80, she said.
The two drugs are both manufactured by Colorado-based Silvergate Pharmaceuticals. By creating liquid solutions of these drugs that can be dispensed in smaller doses, Silvergate was able to obtain patents for each. It controls the market on them until at least 2030, according to the FDA’s Orange Book, a comprehensive roster of drug approvals.
The company filed legal complaints when a rival — Bionpharma — sought to introduce a generic competitor to Epaned, saying it would infringe upon its patent. Representatives from Silvergate did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
In other circumstances, drugmakers could pursue even more market protections from the FDA. For instance, if the process of reformulating the drug involved clinical trials with children, manufacturers can win an additional six months of market exclusivity.
Additionally, two FDA guides are in the works recommending that doctors default to agency-approved drugs over similar compounded medicines, unless there is a particular chemical difference that makes the compound more effective. Cost isn’t a factor.
Together, experts say, those regulations can make it easier for companies looking to profit from limited investment or innovation.
“There’s … an increasing list of companies where it was only about gaming the rules, and not about anything that can be recognized as real pharmaceutical research,” said Jerry Avorn, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who studies prescription drug policy. Silvergate, he added, appears to fit that mold.
A Safer Drug, But At A Price
Getting a compound drug can be logistically difficult for patients — not all pharmacies are certified to make them — and it assumes some trust, because the pharmacists involved aren’t held to the same manufacturing standards as for commercially available drugs. A 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak linked to the New England Compounding Center left 64 patients dead and raised consumer and regulatory concerns. Ultimately, the outbreak triggered heightened federal oversight of compounding.
Fox suggested that the value added by the new drugs — while meaningful — is counteracted when the price climbs.
“It’s better for patients if we’re using FDA-approved drugs,” Fox said. “But if no one can afford them, or if they raise prices so much other things are being impacted, then all the FDA approval in the world won’t improve access.”
These liquids do serve an important purpose, though — they’re lower-risk than compounds, and reformulating these drugs certainly requires work. But critics say the creativity involved in developing the drugs doesn’t justify its expense. And the generic enzyme inhibitors they use cost pennies.
At stake for Baker-Smith’s patients is getting needed medical care, or going without.
“There are plenty of kids who can’t take a pill. For them,” she said, getting liquid drugs “is lifesaving.”
KHN’s coverage of prescription drug development, costs and pricing is supported in part by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. You can view the original report on its website.
The post Why kid-friendly medications can be expensive for parents appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer hosts his daily news briefing on Monday.
The entire U.S. Senate has been invited to the White House Wednesday for a briefing on the escalating situation with North Korea.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says the briefing will be delivered by four top administration officials: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford.
The Trump administration has escalated its rhetoric against North Korea and has been pressuring China to lean on the country to cease its missile testing. Trump’s U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley said Monday that the United States could strike North Korea if North Korea attacks a U.S. military base or tests an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Spicer said the White House was playing host but not organizing the briefing.
The post WATCH: Spicer says White House will host North Korea briefing for Senate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
KABUL, Afghanistan — The United States must confront Russia for providing weapons to the Taliban for use against American-backed forces in Afghanistan, top U.S. military officials said Monday.
At a news conference with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at his side, Gen. John Nicholson, the American commander in Afghanistan, wouldn’t provide specifics about Russia’s role in Afghanistan. But said he would “not refute” that Moscow’s involvement includes giving weapons to the Taliban.
Earlier Monday, a senior U.S. military official told reporters in Kabul that Russia was giving machine guns and other medium-weight weapons. The Taliban are using the weapons in the southern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar and Uruzgan, according to the official, who briefed journalists on intelligence information on condition of anonymity.
Russia denies that it provides any such support to the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan until the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. Russia says contacts are limited to safeguarding security and getting the hard-line religious fundamentalists to reconcile with the government — which Washington has failed for years to advance. Russia also has promoted easing global sanctions on Taliban leaders who prove cooperative.
Asked about Russia’s activity in Afghanistan, where it fought a bloody war in the 1980s and withdrew in defeat, Mattis alluded to the increasing U.S. concerns.
“We’ll engage with Russia diplomatically,” Mattis said. “We’ll do so where we can, but we’re going to have to confront Russia where what they’re doing is contrary to international law or denying the sovereignty of other countries.”
“For example,” Mattis told reporters in the Afghan capital, “any weapons being funneled here from a foreign country would be a violation of international law.”
Mattis met with President Ashraf Ghani and other senior government officials just hours after the nation’s defense minister and Army chief resigned over a massacre of more than 140 Afghan troops at a military base last Friday.
The insurgent assault was the biggest ever on a military base in Afghanistan, involving multiple gunmen and suicide bombers in army uniforms who penetrated the compound of the 209th Corps of the Afghan National Army in northern Balkh province on Friday, killing and wounding scores. The death toll was likely to rise further.
Referring to the Russians again, Nicholson said “anyone who arms belligerents who perpetuate attacks like the one we saw” isn’t focused on “the best way forward to a peaceful reconciliation.”
Given the sophisticated planning behind the attack, he also said “it’s quite possible” that the Pakistan-based Haqqani network was responsible. The Taliban claimed it carried out the attack.
Nicholson recently told Congress that he needs a few thousand more troops to keep Afghan security forces on track to eventually handling the Taliban insurgency on their own. The Trump administration is still reviewing possible troop decisions.
Mattis on Monday offered a grim assessment for Afghan forces fighting the Taliban.
“2017 is going to be another tough year,” he said.
Kabul was the final stop on Mattis’ six-nation, weeklong tour. He is the first member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet to visit Afghanistan. As part of the administration’s review of Afghan policy, Trump’s national security adviser, Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, visited Kabul last week to consult with Nicholson and Afghan officials.
The war began in October 2001. The U.S. has about 9,800 troops in Afghanistan. They ended their combat mission against the Taliban in 2014 but are increasingly involved in backing up Afghan forces on the battlefield.
The post In Afghanistan trip, U.S. general suggests Russia is arming the Taliban appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
The insurer said in a court filing that the case should be halted pending a government report requested by President Donald Trump.
The company took the government to court in 2015 to appeal its labeling of MetLife as “systemically important” — so big and enmeshed with the financial system that its collapse could threaten the economy.
Trump last week asked federal regulators to review the decision by the Financial Stability Oversight Council. The council was created by the 2010 Wall Street overhaul law to monitor the financial system and prevent another crisis.
A federal judge sided with MetLife last year, saying the government acted unreasonably. The government then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and a ruling was expected in the next few months.
In its filing Monday, New York-based MetLife said a delay “will enable the new administration to determine whether any of FSOC’s positions in this case should be reconsidered and whether it is appropriate for the government to continue pressing this appeal.”
MetLife says the label and stricter oversight would force the company to raises prices and limit the type of products it can offer. It is the largest U.S. insurance company by assets.
“At a minimum, the findings of the forthcoming report may substantially illuminate this court’s consideration of the issues on appeal,” the company said in its court filing.
The president on Friday directed the Treasury secretary to review the oversight council’s designation process and provide a written report within 180 days. Trump’s request noted that the designations “have serious implications for affected entities, the industries in which they operate and the economy at large.”
The post Should the government label companies as ‘too big to fail’? MetLife asks court to hold off on ruling appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
HOUSTON — A spokesman for former President George H.W. Bush says the nation’s 41st president will remain in a Houston hospital for a few more days of observation while he recovers from a mild case of pneumonia.
Family spokesman Jim McGrath said Monday that the medical team at Houston Methodist Hospital hopes to discharge the 92-year-old Bush by the end of the week.
McGrath says Bush “continues to be in good spirits and is resting comfortably” at the hospital.
Bush was hospitalized April 14 for treatment of a persistent cough. Physicians say his pneumonia was treated and resolved. But he has been held while he regains his strength.
Bush served as president from 1989 to 1993. He spent 16 days in the hospital in January for treatment of pneumonia.
The post Former President George H.W. Bush to remain in hospital for observation after mild case of pneumonia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, a conversation with Sheryl Sandberg about coping with grief and resilience in the face of adversity.
That’s the subject of a new book in which she writes candidly about a personal tragedy, the loss of her husband, Dave Goldberg.
I visited her at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California. Our interview took place nearly two years after Sandberg and her husband went on vacation in Mexico with friends. Sandberg woke up from a poolside nap, saw that Dave wasn’t there, and soon went looking for him.
She found him lying on the floor of the hotel gym next to the treadmill. As they later learned, he had suffered a cardiac arrhythmia. He was just 47 years old.
As the chief operating officer of Facebook, and one of the best known female executives in the business world, Sandberg had all the resources and support one could imagine. But none of that would lessen the grief that engulfed her and their two young children.
SHERYL SANDBERG, Chief Operating Officer, Facebook: In those early days and weeks, it feels like you’re not going to get through a minute, let alone a day.
My biggest fear was that my kids would never be happy again, that their happiness would have been wiped away in that same instant we lost Dave.
There are people who had been through loss and been through real adversity who told me it gets better. And I didn’t believe them.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Ten days later, when she returned to work, it was hard to focus on running a social media giant, with 17,000 employees and more than a billion daily users.
Suddenly, one of the most successful women in business was struggling to hold it together at the office.
SHERYL SANDBERG: When Dave first died, I felt like I was in a void, like I couldn’t breathe, or catch my breath.
I thought at first — I just thought, I’m never going to get through this. I can’t contribute. I can’t even get through a meeting without crying.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A month after his death, she posted a tribute to Dave on Facebook. She wrote about mistakes she had made in the past when friends lost loved ones.
She included advice from a close friend about how to handle a father-son event. Option A, Dave, wasn’t available. Instead, the friend said it was time to grab onto option B. But he used stronger language than that. It became Sandberg’s mantra, and it’s the name of her new book.
SHERYL SANDBERG: There are things you can do, steps you can take to help yourself and your kids recover.
And I learned that resilience, it’s not something we have one set amount of. It’s a muscle, and we build it. And if this helps anyone, even just a little bit, themselves or a friend, then I think I will have found some meaning in this.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Is the book also about helping you get through it?
SHERYL SANDBERG: The book is trying to help other people hear what I couldn’t hear at the beginning.
It does get better. I will always miss Dave. I miss Dave every day. But that feeling of not being able to breathe has passed. I can breathe now. And, sometimes, I think of him and cry, but, sometimes, I think of him and smile. And my children can think of their father and smile. And I want other people going through this to know it’s possible.
JUDY WOODRUFF: “Option B” is not just about Sandberg’s personal journey and loss. It offers ideas and advice for people who’ve experienced their own trauma.
Co-written with psychologist and bestselling author Adam Grant, the book puts a big emphasis on what Sandberg calls the elephant in the room.
SHERYL SANDBERG: It’s not just the loss, or the cancer, or losing a job, or someone in your family going to jail. It’s the silence that surrounds that.
And so, when I lost Dave, I had this overwhelming grief, but also just this isolation I had never felt in my life. I had always felt really connected to my friends, neighbors and family, people I work with.
But when I came back to work, people barely spoke to me. They looked at me like I was a deer in the headlights. And I know they meant well. They were afraid to say the wrong thing, so they said nothing at all.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What’s just one of the ways that people should be able to take away from your experience about how to reach out to someone who’s going through something like this, something traumatic like this, and for those who are going through it themselves, who aren’t accustomed maybe to reaching out, or who aren’t comfortable, for whatever reason?
SHERYL SANDBERG: If you’re trying to help someone who’s facing adversity, the first and most important thing is to acknowledge the pain.
Before, if I had a colleague or a friend who had lost someone, who was going through cancer treatment, I thought bringing it up to them was reminding them. So, I was silent.
Losing Dave taught me how absurd that was. You can’t remind me I lost my husband. I know that every minute of every day. And so, when people said nothing, particularly in the beginning, how are you felt like, how are — how am I? I just lost my husband.
And they were asking. I took that as the standard American I’m supposed to — greeting. I’m supposed to say fine and move on. But they meant it. And when I learned to say, I’m not great, or I’m really sad today, or thanks for asking, I don’t want to talk about it right now, I was letting them acknowledge.
And so it’s really on both sides to acknowledge.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Sandberg also writes about how important it is not to blame yourself.
SHERYL SANDBERG: When Dave first died, I thought it was my fault.
The initial report said he’d died of head trauma from falling off an exercise machine. My brother’s a neurosurgeon, and he told me that wasn’t true.
When we got the autopsy, we realized he had died of a cardiac arrhythmia. But I still blamed myself, and I blamed myself for a long time. But when Adam told me that, because I was blaming myself, I was going to keep my kids from recovering, because I was going to keep myself from recovering, that really helped.
We have to show ourselves compassion, the same compassion we would show a friend.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Sandberg said that, ultimately, family, friends and co-workers, including her boss, Mark Zuckerberg, made a huge difference.
Not everybody may go back to a supportive environment, making it even harder for them. So, what do you say to people who are thinking, how am I going to face co-workers, what if my employer doesn’t give me the time or the space or the understanding that I need?
SHERYL SANDBERG: Yes, we have so much to do to make it easier for people at work.
I’m really lucky. Facebook has great policies. We offer a lot of bereavement leave, a lot of leave of all kinds. And we have done even more since Dave died for people. But we need our workplaces and then our public policy to give people the paid, paid time off they need, because, for a lot of people, if the time is unpaid, they can’t take it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Sandberg has become increasingly outspoken about the workplace, family life and women’s equality.
Her 2012 book, “Lean In,” served as a call to many women to become more assertive. But, to some, Sandberg’s tone smacked of wealthy white privilege. She was criticized in some quarters for failing to appreciate what single parents and non-traditional families go through.
Now she’s expanded the message to stress the role of government and society in the lives of women.
SHERYL SANDBERG: We are the only developed country in the world, the only one, without paid maternity leave. And we need that, and paid paternity leave, so men and women are equal.
We’re one of the only developed countries without paid family leave. I think a lot about going through everything I went through, and also worrying about paying a basic health care bill, about single mothers who wake up every day in this country and worry about whether they can take care of a sick child, or lose their job that they need, about the minimum wage we have.
Two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. Minimum wage hasn’t been raised at the federal level in forever. That’s unacceptable.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Unexpectedly, joy is also an essential message in the book. It’s something Sandberg feared she would never feel again.
SHERYL SANDBERG: I thought it would always feel that way. And the sadness is still here, but it doesn’t feel like I’m trapped in a void anymore.
And I have joy, and I have laughter, and I have moments with my kids where we remember their daddy with real joy, and we look at pictures and videos. And I want anyone going through hardship to know that it does get better.
We all have things we can appreciate. We all have moments that we can notice the joy. We all can find gratitude for being alive. And that doesn’t mean that every story has a happy ending, because it doesn’t. But there are things we can do to build resilience in ourselves and each other that make us stronger.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Sheryl Sandberg has not only written this book, “Option B,” about her experience. She’s encouraging people going through tragedy to form support groups to be there for each other.
The post After life-shattering loss, Sheryl Sandberg reaches out to others in grief appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Monday confirmed former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to be agriculture secretary in President Donald Trump’s administration as the farming industry looks to Washington for help amid a downturn in the market.
The Senate voted to confirm Perdue 87-11. The son of a farmer from Bonaire, Georgia, he will be the first Southerner in the post in more than two decades. He has owned several agricultural businesses, but isn’t related to or affiliated with the food company Perdue or the poultry producer Perdue Farms.
At his confirmation hearing in March, Perdue assured nervous farm-state senators that he will advocate for rural America, even as Trump has proposed deep cuts to some farm programs. He also promised to reach out to Democrats.
Still, Perdue, 70, is getting a late start on the job. Trump nominated him just two days before his inauguration, and then the nomination was delayed for weeks as the administration prepared his ethics paperwork. Perdue eventually said he would step down from several companies bearing his name to avoid conflicts of interest.
As agriculture secretary, he’ll be in charge of around 100,000 employees and the nation’s food and farm programs, including agricultural subsidies, conservation efforts, rural development programs, food safety and nutrition programs such as food stamps and federally-subsidized school meals.
Perdue will take office as farm prices have been down for several years in a row and some parts of the industry, including cotton and dairy farmers, say they need the department and Congress to rewrite agricultural policy to help revive their business.
Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said Perdue will help facilitate recovery in small American towns.
“I know he will put the needs of farmers, ranchers and others in rural America first,” Roberts said.
Perdue’s main task over the coming year will be working with Congress and coordinating his department’s input on the next five-year farm bill. Current farm policy expires next year, and lawmakers on the House and Senate agriculture committees will have to find a way to push it through Congress amid heightened partisan tensions and concerns over spending.
At his hearing, he pledged to help senators sustain popular crop insurance programs and fix problems with government dairy programs.
Perdue may also find himself in the uncomfortable position of defending agriculture in an administration that has so far given the issue limited attention, despite Trump’s strong support in rural areas. Trump has proposed a 21 percent cut in USDA programs and has harshly criticized some international trade deals, saying they have killed American jobs. But farmers who produce more than they can sell in the United States have heavily profited from some of those deals, and are hoping his anti-trade policies will include some exceptions for agriculture.
At the hearing, Perdue said he would be a “tenacious advocate and fighter” for rural America when dealing with the White House and other agencies and noted a growing middle class around the world that is hungry for U.S. products.
“Food is a noble thing to trade,” Perdue said.
Perdue will also be part of the administration’s response to a dispute with Canada’s dairy industry, which has a new lower-priced classification of milk product that Trump says is harming U.S. producers in dairy states like Wisconsin and New York. Canada changed its policy on pricing domestic milk to cover more dairy ingredients, leading to lower prices for Canadian products that compete with U.S. milk.
Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, voted for Perdue and encouraged him to come to Wisconsin to talk to affected farmers.
“I stand as a willing partner to work with Secretary Perdue and President Trump to address this urgent issue,” Baldwin said.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York also talked to Trump about the dairy issue last week in a rare phone call between the two men.
Trump has reached out to farmers on regulation, saying the government has too many rules that negatively affect farm country. That issue is expected to come up on Perdue’s first day in office Tuesday, when the president holds hold a round table discussion with farmers and sign an executive order “to provide relief for rural America,” according to the White House.
The White House hasn’t said when Perdue will be sworn in, but he is scheduled to speak to USDA staff Tuesday morning.
After Perdue, remaining nominees for Trump’s administration to be confirmed are Robert Lighthizer for U.S. trade representative and Alexander Acosta for labor secretary.
Associated Press writer Erica Werner contributed to this report.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we turn back to the political fight brewing over government funding, health care and tax reform, as President Trump nears his 100th day in office.
For all that, it’s time for Politics Monday with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR, who joins us tonight from Chicago.
And welcome to you both.
So, 100 days, we’re coming up on it this Saturday.
Amy, during the campaign, the president said he was going to get a lot done during those first 100 days. But then, just a few days ago, he was saying it’s a ridiculous standard.
AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Right, an arbitrary standard.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But what is it? How important is it? How much attention should we give it?
AMY WALTER: Yes, it’s a very good question.
You know, normally, president, especially — first-term presidents start off in their first few months in office with this reservoir of goodwill. Think of it like having a bank account that you’re flush with cash. And so you spend that money down and that goodwill down over the course of your presidency to get things done.
President Trump is starting in a very different place. He has got to find a way to fill that reservoir because, right now, it’s empty. He’s sitting at anywhere between 40 percent and 42 percent approval, the lowest for any president at this point in his tenure, for a first-term president in his tenure.
And so the question which, Judy, I feel like we have been asking since the day he that won this election is how does he fill that reservoir because, right now, he hasn’t done a particularly good job of it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Tam, you not only cover Washington. You cover the American people. You hit the road. How do you sense the importance of this measurement, this 100 days?
TAMARA KEITH, NPR: It is an arbitrary measure.
It is based on, you know, the Roosevelt administration had — FDR’s administration had incredible accomplishments. But that was done with Congress, and a lot of it didn’t originate from the White House.
One historian I talked to last week said that even Roosevelt wouldn’t have meet the standard. And yet every president is held to this standard. The problem with President Trump is that he made big all of these very promises, and specifically labeled it as his 100-days plan that he was campaigning on.
That said, as the talk of 100 days heated up last week, I was chatting with a Trump voter who said to me, you know, in my machine shop, when we get somebody new, we don’t expect them to be able to do everything on the first day.
And I think that there are a lot of Trump voters out there I have heard from who say, you know, give him a chance. There’s a very steep learning curve when it comes to running the United States.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Amy, it is like everything else. So much of this is in the eye of the beholder.
AMY WALTER: Well, that’s exactly right.
And I think the learning curve thing is very important. Remember, this is the first president we have elected in our time who has never held political office and who’s never had military office. Right? This is a big learning curve. And the people around him has a learning curve and Congress has a learning curve.
Most of the Republicans in Congress have never worked with a Republican president before. So, structurally, though, that’s first this president I think has time to sort of right the ship.
The first 100 days to me not as important as the next 100 or 200 or 400 as we get closer to the midterm elections. Structurally, his advantage is that this as a president who has all levers of power in Washington. They have the House. They have the Senate.
So, while I agree that there is a learning curve and people are going to cut them some slack, saying you’re few, get some notches, take some time before you can put some notches on your belt, at some point, if you have all the levers of power and you’re still not able to get anything done, I think that’s going to be a problem.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Part of what you have been both have referring to, Tam, is he’s raised expectations himself.
And I have been hearing analysts in the last few days, and reading them, saying he needs to lower expectations. But we do have a sense, don’t we, coming out of these first three months of what kind of presidency this is going to be? Don’t we? Haven’t we learned something from this?
TAMARA KEITH: We have certainly learned how President Trump operates. He operates on sort of an ad hoc basis, that the White House, that Oval Office is very open, that he brings people in, that he is very available, that he does — for all of his talk of the lying media and the fake news, he does a huge number of interviews, where he’s more available than past presidents.
But what we don’t know is if that is how he will govern for the rest of his term. He talks about being a very flexible person. And we with simply don’t know if that flexibility means that he will change again.
You know, like President Clinton started off with a very rough first 100 days. People widely described it as disastrous. Ultimately, he changed chiefs of staff and changed the way he ran his White House, and then, having lost the Congress, cooperated with Republicans in Congress and got some things done.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Amy, presidents do learn from their mistakes, don’t they?
AMY WALTER: That’s the goal.
AMY WALTER: Right.
And to Tamara’s point about President Clinton, he did — that was a rough 1993. And in 1994, it’s not just that he had a bad midterm election. His party lost control of the House, for the first time in 40 years.
And so, to me, what I’m looking at in terms of the number is not just where he is, President Trump is in comparison to where other presidents were in their first 100 days. But when I look at the number where he is now, at 40 or 42 percent, and look at where other presidents were close to their midterm elections who were at 40 percent or 42 percent, they lost lots of seats in Congress.
In many cases, they low control of Congress. So it is imperative for him to start getting some wins. Structurally, he has the ability to do it, but now he has got to start delivering.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And he has got to make up some ground.
AMY WALTER: Right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Tam, we did note that you’re in Chicago. President Obama was there today to make his first sort of public presentation since leaving office. So, what did you see?
TAMARA KEITH: Well, what I saw is a post-president who is trying his best to not talk about his successor.
He was on stage with six young people who are active in — sort of civically active. And he said that he believes that a big part of his post-presidency will be to try to figure out how to get the next generation involved in public life and giving back and in politics.
He talked about concerns about people simply not voting or becoming cynical. But what he didn’t talk about was President Trump. So, for those people who were hoping that President Obama would come back into public life and join the resistance, that doesn’t appear to be how he plans to spend his post-presidency.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Sounds like he is holding off.
AMY WALTER: Yes.
Well, there’s a great irony, of course, in President Obama as a face of the resistance. We talked throughout the Obama era about the so-called Obama coalition voters. But guess what? Those voters, who included a lot of young people, only turned out for one Democrat, and that was Barack Obama.
They didn’t turn out in midterm elections. They didn’t turn in the way that Democrats had hoped for Hillary Clinton. Will they then turn out for another Democrat is the big question.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot of Democrats are holding their breath, crossing their fingers, or whatever people do when they’re hoping.
Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both. See you next Monday.
TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.
AMY WALTER: You’re welcome.
The post What have we learned from President Trump’s first 100 days? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: More than a decade- and-a-half into the U.S. war in Afghanistan, the country remains wracked by instability.
On Friday, the Taliban reminded the world that it remains a force to be reckoned with. Two of the top national security officials in the Trump administration have just visited the country.
William Brangham reports.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The defense secretary’s surprise visit to Kabul underscored growing U.S. concerns about Afghanistan.
Secretary Mattis made that clear after meeting with President Ashraf Ghani and other leaders.
JAMES MATTIS, U.S. Secretary of Defense: 2017 is going to be another tough year for the valiant Afghan Security Forces and the international troops who have stood and will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Afghanistan against terrorism.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Just three days before, Taliban fighters, disguised as government troops, killed at least 140 Afghan soldiers.
Officials believe the final death toll will be higher, making this the single deadliest attack on an Afghan base in years. It happened at a compound in northern Balkh province.
Also today, at least four security guards were killed when a suicide bomber hit a U.S.-operated base in the east of the country, all this amid reports that Russia is funneling weapons to the Taliban, something the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan essentially confirmed.
GEN. JOHN NICHOLSON, Commander U.S. Forces – Afghanistan: We had the overt legitimacy lent to the Taliban by the Russian that really occurred during late last year beginning through this process they have been undertaking.
QUESTION: So, to be clear, you are not refuting that they are sending weapons?
GEN. JOHN NICHOLSON: Oh, no, I am not refuting that.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Russia has denied aiding the insurgents. But it lends urgency to the U.S. decision whether to deploy more American troops in a war that’s now in its 16th year.
For more on the situation in Afghanistan, we turn to David Sedney, who was deputy assistant secretary of defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia during the Obama administration. He’s now acting president of the American University of Afghanistan, and joins us via Skype from Kabul.
David Sedney, thank you very much for being here.
Can we — let’s talk first about this attack on Friday. The Afghan forces have already lost thousands of soldiers to the Taliban over the last few years. How significant is Friday’s attack?
DAVID SEDNEY, Former Defense Department Official: I would have to say that this is a very significant attack.
It is probably the largest attack the Taliban have ever carried out on Afghan forces. It was done with a kind of sophistication and planning that I think even surprised many people here. And it shows the Taliban have a reach and a capability that is something that people just didn’t expect.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: As you say, this attack shows, I don’t know if you want to call it the audacity, but the audacity of the Taliban.
But it is also, is it not, something of an indictment of the Afghan forces to have allowed the infiltrators who helped perpetuate this attack and to allow themselves to be caught off-guard like this?
DAVID SEDNEY: Well, I think certainly shows a failure of intelligence.
It shows that there needs to be improved leadership on the Afghan forces. But I have to say that the Afghan forces have fought bravely and well in repeated engagements with the Taliban over the last several years, after, to be frank, the Obama administration made a too hasty and poorly planned withdrawal, leaving the Afghan forces without the kind of support and the kind of leadership that they needed.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Obviously, we need as robust an Afghan fighting force as we can to counter the Taliban.
Do you think this kind of an attack will hurt recruitment going forward?
DAVID SEDNEY: I don’t think it will hurt recruitment. In fact, the experience that I have seen here is, after attack, recruitment tends to go up.
But the real issue here is not recruitment. The real issue here is leadership, leadership and mentoring. The Afghan forces have a real large number of very capable junior and middle-level officers that the United States and our allies have played a major role in training.
But the upper levels of leadership is an area where we have not given the kind of sustained attention over the last decade or so. And that’s where the real problems lie. And that’s why, as you mentioned earlier, the minister of defense, the chief of staff and some other senior generals have been replaced.
And I would have to say, many people here believe it’s well past time that that kind of change in leadership happened.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: More broadly, the top U.S. commander there, General John Nicholson, said that the security situation in Afghanistan is at a stalemate.
And I wonder, do you agree with that assessment?
DAVID SEDNEY: Yes, I do.
You have a situation where the Afghan security forces are able to prevail in direct engagements with the Taliban, but because of continuing support from Pakistan, because of the Taliban’s ability to strike anywhere anytime, and because of weakness in enablers, particularly air and intelligence, the Afghans forces haven’t been able to gain an advantage on the battleground.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We mentioned also at the returning that the Russians have been supporting the Taliban increasingly.
Can you help us understand, why do the Russians want to support them?
DAVID SEDNEY: The Russians see Afghanistan as an area, I believe, where they can try and take advantage of the United States, try and drive a wedge between us and some of our allies, and also an area where they have the ability to strengthen their long-term strategic position.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Lastly, General Nicholson also said, in order to break this stalemate, billions of dollars and thousands more U.S. troops might be needed.
Do you think that will do it? If that is granted, if the money comes, if the troops come, will that fix this?
DAVID SEDNEY: I think that those are important components, but there are two other equally or I would actually say more important components.
The first is improved Afghan leadership, both at the ministry level and at the corps level in the military. There really needs to be a replacement of many of older generals that should have been retired many years ago, and younger leaders need to be moved up.
But finally and most importantly is the role of Pakistan. Pakistan’s support for the Taliban is what makes them as capable as they are, the ability to have arms, armed men, explosives sent across the border, with no restrictions at all from Pakistan, that’s what’s enabled the Taliban to continue to fight the way they have.
And until that safe haven in Pakistan is addressed one way or another, this conflict is going to continue.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, David Sedney, acting president of the American University of Afghanistan, thank you very much.
DAVID SEDNEY: Thank you, William.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: Voters went to the polls yesterday in France, the first of two rounds to elect a new president. The field was winnowed to two candidates, neither from the establishment political parties that have governed France for decades.
It sets up a May 7 tete-a-tete run-off between a centrist newcomer and the face of the far right.
From Paris, special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports.
MALCOLM BRABANT: The two candidates still standing emerged this morning to crowds of supporters, centrist Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front. She fired the first broadside in the northern town of Rouvroy.
MARINE LE PEN, French Presidential Candidate (through interpreter): The reality is that Mr. Macron is not a patriot in any way at all. He is a hysterical, radical Europeanist. He is for total open borders.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Sunday’s opening round saw a 78 percent turnout. Macron won 24 percent of the vote. Le Pen followed with 21 percent, while conservative Francois Fillon finished with 20 percent. And far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon had 19.
This was the scene last night in Paris as news of Macron’s first-place finish reached his supporters. And this was the countdown to the final round in Le Pen’s headquarters in the Northern French rust belt town of Henin-Beaumont.
National Front supporters had been expecting her to take first place, and hid their disappointment, chanting, “We will win.”
WOMAN (through interpreter): It’s the mobilization of the people. She’s been fighting for the same cause for years, defending the people. Marine will be president.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Several times, the Front supporters burst into “The Marseillaise,” the French national anthem.
Campaign staffer Mikael Sala resents accusations that the party is racist and insists that Le Pen can be president for French people of all ethnicities.
MIKAEL SALA, National Front Campaign Staffer: Wherever you come from, she’s said a zillion times that she considers every French woman, every French man as being equal.
MALCOLM BRABANT: But political analyst Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer believes that Le Pen has progressed as far as she can go.
ALEXANDRA DE HOOP SCHEFFER, The German Marshall Fund of the United States: People realize that in the Brexit, post-Trump election context, probably, they won’t want to follow that trend. And Macron has a smart way of portraying his mission, which is to show that France is a contrarian.
MALCOLM BRABANT: She supports the popular thesis that Macron will probably win the second round with about 60 percent of the vote.
Marine Le Pen’s success may have ended decades of political domination by the traditional parties of the left and right. But France’s political establishment is in a vengeful mood. The leadership of both the Republican and the Socialist parties have described her candidacy as destructive and have encouraged their supporters to vote for Emmanuel Macron.
Sitting President Francois Hollande, whose Socialist Party had a disastrous showing, was one of those voices.
PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, France (through interpreter): There is a clear choice. Emmanuel Macron is the candidate who enables the French people to come together at this moment, which is so unusual, so serious.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Meanwhile, European financial markets surged with the news that Macron, who opposes withdrawal from the European Union, had come out on top.
Still, the vice president of Le Pen’s party, Steeve Briois, is convinced that Le Pen will pick up working-class support from the hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.
STEEVE BRIOIS, Vice President, National Front (through interpreter): A lot of Melenchon’s voters who voted for him because of anger will be able to vote for us in 15 days, because they won’t vote for an ultra-liberal, such as Mr. Macron.
MALCOLM BRABANT: But Jean-Yves Camus, a specialist in right-wing politics, believes that’s an illusion.
JEAN-YVES CAMUS, Observatory of Political Radicalism: There’s no way she can be elected, unless, of course, of a huge political earthquake or something really nasty such as a terrorist attack.
MALCOLM BRABANT: These National Front supporters were partying as if the ultimate prize was a foregone conclusion. But most people headed home early, as reality sank in that they have a major battle on their hands if they’re to emulate the victories of Brexit and Donald Trump.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Malcolm Brabant in France.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: As we have been hearing, the debate over health care coverage is tied to the larger political battle. Specifically, the president must decide whether he will continue to make payments to insurance companies to cover out-of-pocket costs and deductibles for low-income consumers.
The Obama administration lost a crucial court ruling that concluded those payments were not constitutional unless authorized by Congress. Seven million people, more than half of those covered through the insurance exchanges, qualify for these subsidies.
Robert Laszewski is a consultant who works with health insurers and other industry leaders. He watches this issue closely.
Robert Laszewski, thank you for being back with us.
ROBERT LASZEWSKI, President, Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review: You’re welcome.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, remind us, 325 million Americans, only seven million of them receive these subsidies.
ROBERT LASZEWSKI: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Why does this matter so much?
ROBERT LASZEWSKI: Well, first of all, there are 20 million people in the individual health insurance market, so it does affect 20 million people.
And the subsidies, the Trump administration can cut them off tomorrow morning. To the typical insurance company, that could be worth about $8 million a month they’d lose, because they still have to provide the benefits.
So what the insurance company does, if this gets cut off overnight, is that they will have to increase the rates not just for the seven million in the exchange, but the 20 million in the individual health insurance market. And that could easily lead to 15 percent rate increases on top of significant rate increases that are likely to come in 2018 for Obamacare.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s try to humanize this. Who exactly are the people who benefit from this?
ROBERT LASZEWSKI: The poorest people who get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare’s insurance exchanges, these are people that as an individual can make $12,000 a year to $24,000 a year.
They are people who are such low-income that they need help with the deductibles and the co-pays.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And how much money are we talking about is involved? I have seen $130-some-billion.
ROBERT LASZEWSKI: Yes, it’s about $1,000 per person.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A year?
ROBERT LASZEWSKI: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
ROBERT LASZEWSKI: So, it’s a huge amount of money for that individual. It’s a huge amount of money to the insurance company that is providing it, because the insurance company, by law, has to provide the money even if the federal government doesn’t pay for it.
So they get hit to the tune of maybe $8 million a month for every 100,000 people they cover.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, right now, President Trump appears to be dangling this as …
ROBERT LASZEWSKI: Yes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You could call it a bargaining chip in his negotiations over the budget with the Congress.
ROBERT LASZEWSKI: Right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What would happen if this money just stops flowing? What happens?
ROBERT LASZEWSKI: The first thing that happens is people’s benefits continue to flow to them. The cost-sharing would continue to at least the end of the year, because the insurance company has to provide the support. So, the money would come out of the insurance company’s pocket.
The insurance company would then turn around and increase rates for 2018, probably about 15 percent just for this, in addition to probably 15 percent rate increases typically that Obamacare would get in 2018 anyway.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And what happens to these exchanges at the national — the federal exchange and the state exchanges?
ROBERT LASZEWSKI: Well, health insurance companies have generally been losing a lot of money in the health insurance exchanges. This would make things far worse.
So, you have already got a teetering, relatively unstable situation going on now. The fundamental problem with Obamacare is, we haven’t gotten enough healthy people to sign up to pay the claims for the sick. It’s an imbalanced pool.
So the Trump administration would throw a grenade into the middle of that and make it even more unbalanced.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the exchanges, some of them could collapse? That’s what …
ROBERT LASZEWSKI: I doubt you would see the exchanges collapse. We get the into the weeds of how all this works, but the bottom line is, the insurance companies would dramatically increase the rates for all 20 million in the pool.
It would make things even more expensive. We would have even fewer healthy people, and which would, in turn, make things even more expensive next year. It continues to make things unstable.
Right now, Judy, typically, a family of four, mom and dad age 40, right now, would have to pay about $10,000 in premium for a plan with a $7,000 deductible. That’s the cheapest plan for people who don’t get subsidies. And half the people don’t get subsidies.
So, what this would is, it would just tend — it would make this far worse. Obamacare is not stable, in the sense that it’s not delivering efficient health insurance costs, and it would make that even worse. That’s what it would do.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Who is arguing to the White House to keep these payments going, and who’s arguing — trying to stop them?
ROBERT LASZEWSKI: I don’t know of anybody who is arguing that the administration should stop them.
My sense is, not only do Democrats — are they dead set against stopping them, but the Republican leadership, members of the Republican Congress privately are saying: We can’t do this. Why would we make an unstable situation even much worse?
JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see this playing out? When do you see this — we know the president is saying it could happen now, but what are you seeing in the terms of the timeline?
ROBERT LASZEWSKI: Well, the president has dangled this twice now. Once, he has said to the Democrats, you need to come to the table and negotiate repeal and replace bill with me, if you don’t, I will stop the subsidies. That was last week.
This week, he said, in order to get the budget done, I need the wall — I need the Mexican wall money, and I will give you the subsidies if you give me the Mexican wall money.
He’s now spent the subsidies twice, from a political perspective. So this is all about resolving the budget impasse and all about resolving the repeal and replace challenge that the Republicans are dealing with. And until that’s — those two things are resolved, this is going to be an issue that people are going to be worrying about.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s a tough one.
ROBERT LASZEWSKI: Yes, it is.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Robert Laszewski, we thank you very much.
ROBERT LASZEWSKI: Thank you.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Lisa, stay with us, because you mentioned this West Virginia coal miners issue several times. And you have actually done reporting. You have been to West Virginia.
Tell us more.
LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right. We just got back from West Virginia over the weekend.
And President Trump, as you know, has campaigned on a promise to reverse the fortunes of coal country. That message especially resonated in West Virginia, where he swept every single county in last year’s elections.
But now thousands of miners are in jeopardy of losing their health care if Congress doesn’t act.
This is another installment in our ongoing Chasing the Dream series on poverty and opportunity in America.
Many stories about mining start here, a coal yard in Appalachia. But this story starts here in a front yard. After 27 years underground, former miner Damon Tucker left with a list of health problems and frustrations.
DAMON TUCKER, Retired Coal Miner: I told my wife. I said, I will flip hamburgers. I will draw my pension and flip hamburgers if I have to. I’m not — I’m coming out of the mines.
LISA DESJARDINS: Flipping hamburgers didn’t happen. Lawn care did with his own one-man business near Beckley, West Virginia. But Tucker, who had open heart surgery just over a year ago, still depends on his miners health plan.
So what would it mean if your health care benefits just stopped?
DAMON TUCKER: Well, you know, I will take what medicine I can afford to pay right now, but my follow-up visits with doctors and stuff, I won’t — I won’t go. I — you know, I won’t be able to afford to go.
LISA DESJARDINS: Some 22,000 retired union miners and their widows will lose their health care if Congress doesn’t act. Many have chronic lung diseases. Their union benefit health plan supports clinics like this in Southern West Virginia and helps them pay their medical costs.
WOMAN: Take a deep breath in.
LISA DESJARDINS: These retired miners say the federal government guaranteed this health care at a key moment 70 years ago, 1946. After a massive miner strike threatened the power grid, President Truman did something historic: He stepped in to forge a deal where coal companies and the mining union agreed to fund lifelong health care and pensions.
MAN: I blame the government more than I do the coal companies.
LISA DESJARDINS: That last-century promise is colliding with today’s funding problem and critical health needs at a meeting of the Fayette County Black Lung Association.
MAN: They want to send me to a lung doctor the 1st of next month. Well, if they don’t pass that bill, then the 1st of the next month, I won’t have no insurance.
MAN: I would like to say my breathing and everything’s getting better, but it’s not. It’s getting worse.
MAN: It’ll take us going back to Washington, and protesting, and letting them know how we feel. We need to let the government know: Hey, you all promised that. We supposed to get that.
LISA DESJARDINS: How did this happen? As the coal industry declined, there were fewer miners paying into the system, and more miners retiring and drawing on their benefits. Starting in the 1990s, coal companies used bankruptcy filings as a way to stop paying their portion of the benefits.
All that led to shortfalls, and while government never intended to pay for these benefits, Congress has become a kind of funder of last resort, and has stepped in multiple times to make up the difference.
And that brings us to today. Miners’ fates are yet again in the hands of Washington politicians. But, notably, this time, miners’ health benefits run out as another deadline hits, the deadline to fund most of government.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN, D-W.Va.: How many in here are depending on this health care we’re talking about?
LISA DESJARDINS: West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, drawing packed rooms of miners at Southern West Virginia Community College, wants to solve their health care issue permanently by leveraging the overlapping crises.
He doesn’t use the word shutdown, but his moves could lead to one. He says he and other Democrats could block or delay government funding this week.
Is the only way that you could support the next funding bill if it contains a permanent fix for these health care benefits?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: As of I’m speaking of you right now, absolutely. It’s what I’m fighting for, and it’s what’s basically the only right thing to do.
LISA DESJARDINS: But West Virginia Republican Congressman David McKinley says, for now, he’s OK with less, a 20-month-or-so patch that would mean another fix needed after the 2018 election.
REP. DAVID MCKINLEY, R-W.Va.: Look, I would embrace what he’s talking about over on the Senate side, but you don’t shut government down over this. Let’s be reasonable about it, and not give false hope.
LISA DESJARDINS: Another potential divide, McKinley is considering running against Manchin for Senate next year.
Still others look at coal country, despite Truman’s involvement, and say it’s time Congress to stop funding these benefits.
RACHEL GRESZLER, The Heritage Foundation: That promise came from their employees and the union. It didn’t come from the government.
LISA DESJARDINS: Rachel Greszler from the conservative Heritage Foundation points out miners are far from the only group facing benefit problems.
RACHEL GRESZLER: If the government steps in now and says, just because you performed a very valuable service, and coal mining is crucial to our country, we’re going to bail you out, what does that say to any other worker who sees their job as very valuable, and yet their union and their employers can’t make good on the promises they provided?
KATHY VANCE, Wife of Deceased Miner: It doesn’t even look like he had started to develop black lung at that point.
LISA DESJARDINS: But Kathy Vance, whose husband, Larry, died of complications from black lung, says miners are different because the federal government was involved in their benefits from the beginning. She’s a cancer survivor herself and her widow’s benefits help with doctors visits and medicine.
KATHY VANCE: It’s just, you know, a constant worry of, are we going to have health benefits or not? He would be very angry, because, you know, he — he supported the union wholeheartedly.
LISA DESJARDINS: This crisis over miners benefits comes under one of the most pro-coal-sounding presidents in decades.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And in other countries, they love their coal. Over here, we haven’t treated it with the respect it deserves.
LISA DESJARDINS: But President Trump has been publicly silent on miners benefits. And Manchin wants more.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN: I’m very appreciate President Trump’s willingness to want to help the coal miners. We just need him now to step forward.
LISA DESJARDINS: Back outside Beckley, Damon Tucker knows many in his situation, including fellow church leader and in-law Rickie Coalson, who has black lung. Both rely on their miners benefits.
DAMON TUCKER: And it’s not like we’re asking for a handout or anything either. It was hard sweat work that — benefits that we negotiated. And all we want is just what was promised to us.
RICKIE COALSON, Retired Coal Miner: Coal miners are proud people. They’re not going to beg. Just want to be treated fair. My father was a coal miner, and his father was a coal miner. So, it’s kind of like a tradition, too. And I knew — well, I thought, when I did retire, I would have good benefits.
LISA DESJARDINS: However Congress acts, and even if President Trump’s coal boom materializes in coal country, this family’s mining tradition and frustrations ends with them. Both men advised their children not to become coal miners.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Lisa Desjardins in Josephine, West Virginia.
The post Coal miners’ much-needed health care collides with budget showdown appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: With Congress back in session, members face an end-of-the-week deadline to keep the government funded.
To dig a little deeper into the shutdown showdown, we are joined by our correspondents who cover Capitol Hill and the White House, Lisa Desjardins and John Yang respectively.
And thank you both for being here in the studio to talk about this complicated stuff that’s going on.
Lisa, let me start with you.
What are the major sticking points here when it comes to this showdown talk?
LISA DESJARDINS: There are a few.
At the top of the list is the border wall. The White House says it absolutely wants funding for that border wall. Democrats in Congress say they will not support it. You need at least eight Democrats to pass a funding bill. All the Democrats say that they are against this.
And also Republicans have a problem with the border wall. Judy, there are at least three border state Republicans who say they’re skeptical about it. There’s other sticking points, too, including miners’ benefits. That’s something Democrats they are willing to fight for as well, even if it means a delay in funding.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, John, you have obviously been talking to folks at the White House. What are they looking for? What are they worried about? And do they think they can turn this at attitude in Congress around?
JOHN YANG: Well, they’re confident the showdown is not going to happen. They certainly don’t want it to happen on their 100th day in office.
Now, that undercuts their leverage a little bit. And you will notice that they have been very careful about not drawing any lines in the sand. President Trump on Twitter talks about funding for the border wall, but when you talk to administration officials, they refer to it as border security and suggest that it could come in the form of more Immigration Customs Enforcement officers, could be more drones.
It could be anything along the border that would give them the ability to say that this bill reflects their priorities. The president also has been very careful not to say that he wouldn’t sign a bill that doesn’t include border — money for the border wall.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa, if the White House is willing to redefine the wall, turn it into something called border security along the lines of what John described, are Democrats and those Republicans opposed prepared to give?
LISA DESJARDINS: They say they’re considering it. Democrats say they made an offer to Republican leaders yesterday and that they haven’t gotten an offer back.
But this is all common. There’s going to be a lot of back and forth over the next few days. They’re open to that. I think we need to watch this miners’ benefit fight. That’s something that came up four months ago, the last time we had one of these funding cliffs, and Democrats said at that time they wanted a permanent extension of these health care benefits or else they would delay or stop funding.
And we don’t have a solution on that either. These are all things in the mix together.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And — John.
JOHN YANG: We should also point out the White House is also being careful to say that they are willing to fund Democratic priorities that they don’t like, so that they’re willing to see some give and take on this.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And John, just quickly, you were saying a minute ago the White House has essentially given up some leverage here by saying at the outset that they don’t want a shutdown.
JOHN YANG: It would be bad optics. The president says this 100-day mark is arbitrary. He calls it ridiculous. But, at the same time, it would look really bad if this happened on the 100th day.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, this is an ambitious White House we’re hearing from right now, John.
They are talking about wanting what we have just been discussing from the budget, but they’re also talking about tax reform this week. What are they looking for there?
JOHN YANG: I don’t think you are going to see a lot of details.
It’s funny. The president this, that he would announce his tax reform plan on this Wednesday just about — maybe just minutes after Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said it wasn’t going to come for quite a while.
I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of details on Wednesday. Secretary Mnuchin, the National Economic Council chairman, Gary Cohn, are going to the Hill tomorrow to talk to Speaker Ryan, Leader McConnell, the leaders of the tax-writing committees.
On Wednesday, the most you could see is, I think, probably guidelines, broad principles, middle-class tax cut, simplification of the tax code, making business rates competitive, which means cutting them, but probably not much more than that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Lisa, what are folks on the Hill saying about this?
LISA DESJARDINS: I was standing next to Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, who has been talking to the White House about tax reform for a long time.
And he actually received a call from the White House when I was standing there. He said he hasn’t been briefed on this plan yet, on what they’re going to say tomorrow. But he says what John is reporting. It will be vague.
We asked, there’s reports about a 15 percent corporate tax rate, that the president wants to make that drastic cut. To that, Hatch said, “I don’t think he will get away with that.” Essentially, that would be too much of a budget buster.
So, that’s kind of already from a Trump supporter a problem for him.
JUDY WOODRUFF: This is somebody they’d normally be counting on.
So, just quickly, less than a minute, you mentioned health care a minute ago, John, that the White House is ready to deal on that. Where are they in coming up with a new health care reform plan?
JOHN YANG: They think that their contribution has been to get the conservative Republicans and the moderate Republicans talking to each other.
They say the vote is up to the Hill, up to the speaker, the majority leader and the whip once they have the votes. They would love for it to happen before the 100 days is up, but they also realize that keeping the government opening and running takes precedence.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you hear?
LISA DESJARDINS: Judy, I woke to a wide spectrum of offices on Capitol Hill. They’re not there yet.
Maybe tomorrow night. The Freedom Caucus has an important meeting. They say there’s a little bit of optimism among Republicans. But this whole year, Judy, they have been big on aspiration, short on votes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All right. Well, I know both of you are going to be following it all this week, Lisa Desjardins, John Yang.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The countdown is on to a possible government shutdown on Saturday, President Trump’s 100th day in office.
Congress began returning to work today facing a presidential demand for funding a wall on the Mexico border. The White House and Democrats argued today over putting a down payment in the continuing resolution, or C.R.
SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: Obviously the money for military and our border security and wall have been part of that request. And that’s something that — those are the president’s priorities heading in — with respect to the C.R. and keeping the government open. I think we feel very confident where we’re headed.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., Minority Leader: If administration insists on funding for a wall in this bill, it will endanger the prospects of bill passing and raise the prospects of a government shutdown, because a border wall we believe is a pointless waste of taxpayer money.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Some Republicans oppose money for the wall as well. Democrats do want continued federal payments to make sure that the poor can afford health coverage, but Republicans may oppose that.
President Trump called in members of the U.N. Security Council today, and warned them that the situation in North Korea is unacceptable. The president met with the U.N. ambassadors over lunch at the White House. He said they may need to take firm action.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The council must be prepared to impose additional and stronger sanctions on North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile programs. This is a real threat to the world, whether we want to talk about it or not. North Korea is a big world problem, and it’s a problem we have to finally solve. People have put blindfolds on for decades.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The president complained that the U.N. has not been resolving conflicts, but he said — quote — “I think that’s going to start happening now.”
Former President Barack Obama has reemerged urging compassion in dealing with illegal immigration. He spoke today at the University of Chicago, his first public appearance since leaving office. Without mentioning President Trump by name, Mr. Obama called for greater understanding and a little historical perspective.
FORMER PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It’s not like everybody in Ellis Island had all their papers straight. The truth is, the history of our immigration system has always been a little bit haphazard, a little bit loose.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The former president said he will also focus on issues like gerrymandering and money in politics.
Workers in New Orleans today removed a statue honoring an uprising by whites after the Civil War. The operation was carried out in the wee hours, but still sparked a protest. The obelisk statue had been on display, at different sites, since 1891. Three monuments to Confederate leaders will be removed in the coming days.
The Senate has confirmed former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to be secretary of agriculture. His nomination had been held up for weeks over ethics questions. The Trump nominees for trade representative and labor secretary are still awaiting confirmation.
Wall Street rallied today, amid hopes that a centrist will win the French presidential election. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 216 points to close near 20764. The Nasdaq rose 73, and the S&P 500 added 25.
And astronaut Peggy Whitson has now broken the American record for the most accumulated time in space. As of today, she’s spent more than 534 days in orbit. President Trump, with daughter Ivanka and astronaut Kate Rubins, congratulated Whitson in a video call to the International Space Station. She’s in command there, and spoke alongside fellow crew member Jack Fischer.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This is a very special day in the glorious history of American spaceflight.
PEGGY WHITSON, NASA Astronaut: It’s actually a huge honor to break a record like this, but it’s an honor for me basically to be representing all the folks at NASA who make this spaceflight possible and who make me setting this record feasible.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Wow. Congratulations.
And when Whitson returns to Earth this September, she will have spent a total of 666 days in space. The world record is 879 days. That’s held by a Russian.
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Naked mole rats, found primarily on the Horn of Africa, are a quirky bunch. The animals rarely contract cancer, and their 31-year lifespan is practically an eternity among rodents. Scientists can now add another oddity to the naked mole rats’ repertoire: they can go for hours without much oxygen.
Naked mole rats can survive for six hours in extremely low oxygen environments, according to new research from labs in Chicago and Berlin, and for 18 minutes with no oxygen at all. The mole rat’s secret:sugar.
Your cells, like those of all mammals, typically use oxygen and glucose — a type of sugar — for fuel. Take away the oxygen, and most mammalian cells start to die.
The mole rat’s body, however, has a shortcut. Gary Lewin, a neurobiologist at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin and coauthor of the study published in Science, said he and his team found when a mole rat’s brain and heart are deprived of oxygen, its cells switch to digesting a different sugar called fructose, a process akin to what yeast sometimes does when fermenting alcohol.
By metabolizing fructose, Lewin said, the mole rats are effectively entering a form of “suspended animation” that keeps their vital organs safe. Oxygen deprivation causes damage to vital organs and features in fatal human conditions like carbon dioxide (CO2) poisoning and strokes.
“In a low oxygen environment, you have to keep your heart going, because that’s typically the first thing that goes,” Lewin said. “When conditions improve and you encounter oxygen again, you have to start breathing. [This] breathing is started by the brain.”
Unfortunately for the rodent, one of the byproducts of using fructose is lactic acid, which could result in cellular breakdown if access to oxygen isn’t restored. In the lab, the naked mole rats attempted occasionally to take a breath while lying dormant in a zero-oxygen environment, as if continuously checking for the “all-clear” signal. Add back oxygen, and the rodents awoke in seconds.
This evolutionary adaptation might allow the mole rats to survive when oxygen levels drop in their tunnel system habitats — which, the researchers argue, happens quite often. Since the mole rats are breathing in a closed environment, the oxygen supply can rapidly run out; carbon dioxide levels can be thousands of times higher in mole rat tunnels than on the surface of the Earth.
“This seems to be sort of a rescue mechanism for the mole rat’s heart and neural cells, because they can continue to use fructose even though the products of this metalysis would wind up toxic to them,” Lewin said. “But it’s more important to produce energy right away and have that risk as opposed to die and stop producing energy anyway.”
People who live in and work in pressure extremes, such as mountain climbers and deep-sea divers, tend to have a heightened metabolisms, Lewin told NewsHour. Because of this tendency, the researchers believe that the mole rat’s suffocation-fighting ability may exist in other mammals, humans included. Lewin argued that doctors might be able to use this stasis effect to fight brain damage in stroke patients, but he isn’t the first to claim such a thing.
“Just for context, there’s a 1960s paper that talks about woodchucks and their ability to breathe in low oxygen,” said Mark Roth, a cell biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center who wasn’t involved in the study. “I think people need to realize that similar findings have been published before.”
For further research, Lewin wants to test his high-altitude human hypothesis, but first, scientists have to figure out where this fructose originated inside the bodies of the rodents, because mole rat cells do not typically make it on their own.
“It’s not common in their diet,” Lewin said.
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When Margaret Atwood first published “The Handmaid’s Tale” in 1985 — which imagines a near-future totalitarian theocracy in America in which women were subjugated through assigned roles to men — she also imagined, in vivid detail, the costumes that her female characters would wear.
The so-called “Wives” would be in blue. The “Aunts” in brown. The “Marthas” in green. And the “Handmaids” at the center of her story, whose job is to bear children for the Wives, in a deep red-colored dress, like a nun’s habit, and white bonnets, called “wings,” around their heads.
Now, those costumes and the speculative fiction novel are being brought to life through a TV adaptation premiering this week on Hulu — which many have said bears striking parallels to the present. Last week, Atwood and the actress Elisabeth Moss, who plays the novel’s main character, the Handmaid Offred, sat down with NewsHour correspondent Jeffrey Brown and shared more about the meaning behind the costumes.
The deep red color, Atwood said, came from various places. For one, “German prisoners of war held in Canada [in WWII] were given red outfits because they show up so well against the snow,” she said. (In “The Handmaid’s Tale,” some Handmaids try — and fail — to escape Gilead, the hierarchical regime under which they live.)
Red was also the color of “medieval, early renaissance painting,” Atwood said, and the color worn by Mary Magdalene — who is often remembered, many would say mistakenly, as a fallen woman.
“On the other hand, red is the cross and red is blood,” Atwood said. The cross, because the Handmaids’ lives are circumscribed by a Puritan-esque theocracy, and blood, for the childbirth the women are forced to endure for the male ruling class.
Moss, who wore a red skirt and a T-shirt that said “je suis une suffragette” (“I am a suffragette”) to the interview, said that for the TV adaptation, the colors “were so specifically generated.”
“You would have no idea the different interpretations of the color red that one can come up with,” she said. “Not only the color that it should be for the show but the color that it would photograph as.”
Costume designer Ane Crabtree kept working and working at the color, Moss said, until they came up with the perfect blood red.
Blood red is the shade Atwood originally envisioned, as her narrator, Offred, describes in the book early on: “Everything except the wings around my face is red: the color of blood, which defines us.”
As for the Handmaids’ white “wings,” which the narrator says in the book are “designed to keep us from seeing,” Atwood wrote in an introduction to the book’s new edition that she was inspired by the 1940s Old Dutch Cleanser packages, which show a woman in a face-obscuring bonnet; she remembers they scared her as a child.
The color white, she told NewsHour, while considered lucky in some cultures, is not seen that way in others; “widows in India wear white and that’s considered really quite unlucky,” she said. In the TV adaptation, the bonnets are also white, and act as blinders for the women.
In general, the costumes and colors were intended to reflect the hierarchy the women live in — symbolism of dress that is not without historical precedent.
“For a very long time, before people were literate, there were rules about who could wear what,” Atwood said. “By looking at a person you could see whether they were an aristocrat or what function in society they fulfilled.”
Watch “The Handmaid’s Tale” on Hulu starting Wednesday. And on Tuesday’s episode of NewsHour, watch Jeffrey Brown’s full interview with Moss and Atwood, as well as with the series’ showrunner Bruce Miller and executive producer Warren Littlefield.
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Editor’s Note: Throughout the 2016 presidential election, President Donald Trump vowed to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created under the Obama Administration. DACA provides temporary deportation stays and work permits to more than 750,0000 undocumented immigrants, people brought to the United States illegally as children.
Katherine Huete Galeano is one such young person. She teaches junior high special education at a charter school in the Gage Park community of Chicago. Huete Galeano is in her second year of Teach for America, which has 100 undocumented members teaching 6,000 students across 11 states. Huete Galeano says Teach for America was one of the few places that recognized her skill set and life experiences that better allow her to relate to her students, many of whom share the same fears she did as a child.
The questions from my seventh and eighth graders started during the 2016 presidential election. Will my parents be taken away? Will I have to move? Will you not work here next year?
Their tears came Nov. 9. Some teachers didn’t understand why the kids were so upset, but I did. The questions continued amid mixed signals from the Trump administration on immigration and DACA and my students’ anxiety became more real. Will my parents not be there after school? Will I become a foster kid? Will I not come to school here anymore?
It was a morning like any other when my family was separated. My dad woke up early for his construction job, started his truck in the driveway and noticed a van parked nearby. The driver said they were police officers looking for one of our neighbors. My dad invited the officers into the house to wait.
My sister was getting dressed for school. My mom was eating cereal at the dining room table. I was in the shower. The next thing I remember is my mom banging on the bathroom door, telling me I had to say goodbye. The last time I saw my dad, I was in a towel. He was in handcuffs. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had an order of deportation for a man three doors down. But when my dad couldn’t produce documents, they took him away instead.
Life got a lot harder for my family after my dad was sent to Nicaragua. My mom became a single parent supporting two kids. We moved in with my aunt’s family, and I got a fast food job to help with expenses. I didn’t have anyone to confide in about the separation, so I coped by being busy all the time. I went to high school then straight to work, came home at 11 p.m., did my homework, and slept. On days I didn’t work, I was involved in school activities. I just wanted to avoid being at home.
My sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin, my life changed dramatically again, this time for the better. President Obama established Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and as an immigrant brought here as a child, I applied and received DACA status. I was finally able to get a driver’s license and work legally, and I no longer had to worry about being picked up on the way to class and deported to a country I’ve never known.
I found a position as a bilingual community educator for a rape crisis center. There I answered my calling to educate middle school kids. As graduation approached, I started looking for employment options. DACA was still new, and Teach For America was one of the few organizations that believed my background would be valuable to students. And I was eager to be the bilingual, bicultural counselor that I missed having when I was in school.
Today, I’m a special educator on the southwest side of Chicago. My charter school serves a predominantly Latinx (i.e. a gender-inclusive way of referring to people of Latin American descent) community, and I am open with students about my DACA status. The president’s executive orders on border security, proposed immigrant travel bans and arrests of DACA recipients have all of us – teachers, children and parents – on edge.
To ensure students keep coming to class, my school network has declared sanctuary status. I joined other teachers to lead a “know your rights” campaign so our families know how to resist separations that destabilize their homes and our schools. When a parent is deported, it’s almost worse than if a parent has died. Deportation is sudden. It has immediate and lasting mental health and economic impacts. For many students, the separation is a secret they are too scared or embarrassed to share.
A seventh grader recently confided in me that his dad was deported, and his mom is not sure she can sustain the household for him and his sister. While he is a citizen, his mother is undocumented. He worries that she could be detained while he’s at school, and he’ll be left alone. He was designated as a special education student and given an Individual Education Plan designed for students with emotional disturbance. Even as I work with him, I question this diagnosis. How is he supposed to concentrate on a novel if he’s thinking about his dad being taken away and afraid that his mom is next? How do we provide him the right care?
The sad fact is that even under DACA, parents who have sought a better life for their children in the states do not qualify for any relief, and families continue to be separated. I believe we need immigration policies that honor families and the stability they bring to our schools and communities.
The last time I saw my dad, I was a freshman in high school. My seventh grader will miss his dad even longer. Our shared backgrounds help me be a role model, but I cannot replace his father.
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MANASSAS, Virginia — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday highlighted the need to help the children of military families transition into new schools as their parents are moving from one assignment to the next.
DeVos visited Ashland Elementary School in Manassas, Virginia, to mark the Month of the Military Child. During a tour of the school she read a book to children about a mother who serves in the military. She donned a pair of toy bifocals like those invented by Benjamin Franklin and watched students refurbish a computer.
During the election campaign, President Donald Trump criticized the Obama administration for neglecting U.S. veterans and vowed to improve their care and benefits. DeVos’ visit to Ashland highlighted the administration’s commitment to veterans.
DeVos said military families need extra support when they relocate to a different city or country and their children must enroll in a new school. The school offers video chats with deployed parents, support groups and community resources.
DeVos praised “the way in which this community has cared for these children who are so often transitioning from school to school and from locale to locale.”
School principal Andy Jacks said parents who are stationed overseas or away from their families need to be certain that their children are doing well in school.
“While they are serving our country and protecting us, we have to be behind them, supporting them all the way so that they never worry about the education of their children,” Jacks said. “Being away, especially parents that are being deployed, they are very concerned what’s happening back there.”
Prince William County school officials said 35 percent of Ashland’s student body is connected with the military.
During a roundtable discussion at the school library, one mother at the school, Lt. Colonel Rojan Robotham, raised the issue of making child care available and affordable for families.
Trump’s administration has proposed major budget cuts that would eliminate several after-school programs targeting mostly low-income families, saying they have proven to be ineffective. The plan has prompted criticism from teacher unions and other groups.
“It’s very challenging to find quality before and after-care and care that works with a military schedule,” Robotham told DeVos. “So I am hoping if not yourself or Ivanka Trump — somebody— takes it on and really solves it for us, ’cause it’s a need.”
“I hear that,” DeVos answered.
“I hope to encourage her and others to advocate to not cut child care in general and increase more,” Robotham told reporters after the meeting with DeVos.
“I think it’s great that she is hearing it from myself and other people ’cause oftentimes you have to hear it from more than one person and different parts of the community for people to take action.”
DeVos, who has made promoting charter and private schools options a key priority, received praise for her efforts from another parent at the school. Sr. Master Sgt. Sam Look said that enlisted and junior personnel may not always afford to settle in affluent neighborhoods with good public schools, so it is important to have school-choice options.
“This school is a complete blessing, but not all schools that we have to go to as we transition from base to base are this good,” Look said. “When we don’t have choices, when you can’t afford to put your kids in a better schools or live in better neighborhoods, that becomes problematic.”
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Desmond Richardson is dancing alone on stage to the poems by Maya Angelou, in song. Richardson, the the first principal African American dancer with the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), makes full use of the stage, hitting the notes precisely; with minimal staging and performers, he’s able to the tackle big subjects, such as injustices of gender and race.
The performance, “IMPRINT/MAYA,” is just a glimpse into the vast ambitions of a two-hour program curated by Misty Copeland, the first African American woman to be promoted to an ABT principal dancer, and Justin Peck, New York City Ballet’s resident choreographer, for the Kennedy Center series Ballet Across America, a biennial showcase of innovation and diversity in ballet in Washington, D.C.
Usually, the Kennedy Center curates this program on their own. This year, they handed control to Copeland and Peck, who chose to showcase choreographers who have spent their career advancing diversity in dance and the arts.
“American ballet is this exquisitely intricate melting pot of different techniques and interpretations,” said Copeland, who has broken racial barriers in ballet and also challenged norms with her curvy physique, in a statement.
The Black Iris Project, a troupe dedicated to inspiring young people of color to pursue art, was among the performers Copeland chose. The group’s artistic director and choreographer, Jeremy McQueen, said his own experiences being typecast in the dance and theater industry inspired him to create a space for black dancers.
“When I was in Wicked, I was the only black male in the cast and there was this ‘blacktrack’ — that’s the track commonly played by a black male,” McQueen said. “It’s challenging to walk into a room with your peers, and they only want one of you as an African American.”
For Ballet Across America, the Black Iris Project performed McQueen’s “Madiba,” a performance which told the story of Nelson Mandela’s life.
“This new turn for a long-running series offered a fine presentation of sporadic gems,” Washington Post dance critic Sarah Kaufman wrote Sunday in her review of performance, which ran for six days at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. before ending this weekend. “They offered a glimpse of new talent for the center’s ballet audiences and gave an opening to a few luminaries who should return.”
In an industry where many choreographers compete to fill the same roles in classic European stories, McQueen said he often looks for lesser-told stories, and works to prepare his students — such as the ones who performed at the Kennedy Center this past week — for the struggles they may face ahead.
“As a minority, whether you’re in ballet or theater there’s typecasting, but that’s why I feel so strongly about mentorship,” he said. “We need it. I feel that I grow even more when I’m surrounded by young people who are inspired. It helps me not be jaded.”
In the spirit of mentorship, McQueen also debuted Garden of Dreams, a performance about the plight of student dancers. The students from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of American Ballet Theatre are from all over the globe, but are at the same point in their career, moving from student to professional.
Among the other performers featured in Copeland’s program was the Nashville Ballet — dancing to a composition by singer-songwriter Ben Folds — and the Complexions Contemporary Ballet, whose founders Dwight Rhoden and Richardson choreographed and performed “IMPRINT/MAYA.”
“It is really is an interpretation of the words themselves,” Rhoden said. “It’s a very intimate solo but it kind of speaks of authenticity and truth.”
Peck’s program, meanwhile, highlighted the dance company Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion, also known as A.I.M., which combined elements of hip hop with a wide range of other techniques to the live music.
“American ballet … is ultimately an evolutionary art form, requiring many voices to creatively carry forward,” Peck said in a statement.
Copeland echoed the sentiment.
“I hope that American ballet will continue to evolve in a way that really embraces who we are as artists and Americans,” she said.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: Prom season is upon us, and for many teenage girls, it’s all about the dress.
For some young women, though, getting that dress can pose a real challenge, and one organization is stepping in to try to help.
From PBS station WGBH in Boston, Tina Martin introduces us to the man behind the Believe in Yourself Foundation.
TINA MARTIN: These dresses are from designers all over the globe, but they’re not for sale. They’re free for teenagers like 17-year-old Raquel Laskowski.
RAQUEL LASKOWSKI, 17-year-old: I was like, oh, my gosh, it’s so cute.
TINA MARTIN: Raquel and other girls at the South Boston Boys and Girls Club were chosen to receive these beautiful donated dresses from the Believe in Yourself Foundation.
RAQUEL LASKOWSKI: And I think that’s really nice that someone cares enough to donate these dresses.
TINA MARTIN: The organization was founded in January by Sam Sisakhti and is based in Brookline.
SAM SISAKHTI, Founder, Believe in Yourself Foundation: About a decade ago, I started a fashion company where we sell primarily to young women. And I noticed at the time that a lot of body shaming and cyber-bullying was going on online.
TINA MARTIN: So he started thinking of a way to change that.
SAM SISAKHTI: I work with about 20,000 independent fashion designers, and I would get a lot of samples, and I used to give them to celebrities. And, at one point, I’m thinking, they have enough clothes.
TINA MARTIN: Sisakhti figured out a better use for the dresses, many of them sizes 12 and up.
SAM SISAKHTI: So, I started going into low-income areas. I didn’t really even say who I was. I would just drop off a box of clothes, a boxes of dresses. And the appreciation on their faces was like really amazing, and they are telling me now they have the confidence to go to their first dance.
RAQUEL LASKOWSKI: There are some people here that are unfortunate that don’t really have the money to get these dresses.
TINA MARTIN: So far, the foundation has given away over 200 dresses that range in cost form $60 to $200. The foundation donates dresses all across the country.
And you’re just traveling all over the world, like Santa Claus, dropping off dresses?
SAM SISAKHTI: Yes, something like that.
TINA MARTIN: Sisakhti hopes to give away between 5,000 to 10,000 dresses before the end of the year. He depends on donations, and has spent thousands of his own money.
SAM SISAKHTI: It’s really important that all the dresses are new. I don’t want these girls to feel like they are getting hand-me-downs.
TINA MARTIN: A new dress that’s letting Raquel Laskowski get all dressed up with somewhere to go.
Well, do you know where you are going to wear it?
RAQUEL LASKOWSKI: To my cousin’s party.
TINA MARTIN: Somewhere to go, and now the confidence to get there.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Tina Martin in Boston.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Bringing a smile to a lot of young women.
And that’s the NewsHour for tonight.
On Wednesday: the first 100 days of the Trump administration, a look at domestic accomplishments and setbacks.
I’m Judy Woodruff.
Join us online and again right here tomorrow evening. For all of us at the PBS NewsHour, thank you, and we will see you soon.
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