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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now a novel beloved by several generations of readers is a major dramatic television series, and it comes riding a wave of interest, after the election of President Donald Trump.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

    ACTRESS: When they slaughtered Congress, we didn’t wake up. When they blamed terrorists and suspended the Constitution, we didn’t wake up then either.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In this world, America’s democracy and Constitution have fallen, replaced by a theocratic autocracy called Gilead.

    ACTOR: I have to let you go.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A place where women have lost the right to work or own property, where many of them are property.

    ACTRESS: You girls will serve the leaders and their barren wives. You will bear children for them.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The so-called handmaids are valued, and controlled, for their ability to reproduce in a future America where most women are infertile.

    Designated by their bonnets and red dresses, they are kept under an ever-watchful eye.

    ACTRESS: There’s an eye in your house.

    MARGARET ATWOOD, Author, “The Handmaid’s Tale”: I made sure that every horrific detail in the book had happened sometime at somewhere. So, think of it as a cake in which I made the cake, but all of the raisins and chocolate chips are real.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The series “The Handmaid’s Tale” is based on the classic 1985 novel of the same name by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. She calls it speculative fiction.

    MARGARET ATWOOD: I get in trouble over making a distinction between sci-fi and spec fiction, but my only point is that there is a difference between a galaxy far, far away and this planet, really could happen now.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Atwood mixed elements of totalitarian systems of the past, including the Soviet system, and strains of American life, from the Puritans to the rise of the Christian right in the 1980s.

    The novel found an audience from the start and has kept it, never going out of print, and joining high school and college reading lists across the country.

    ACTOR: Only a very few women could bear children. These women were called handmaids.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s been adapted for opera, ballet, and the 1990 film starring Robert Duvall and Natasha Richardson, and now this Hulu series starring Elisabeth Moss, who read the book as a teenager, playing Offred, a handmaid just assigned to a new household.

    ELISABETH MOSS, Emmy-nominated Actor: And the glass is shatter-proof, but it isn’t running away they’re afraid of. A handmaid wouldn’t get far. It’s those other escapes, the ones you can open in yourself given a cutting edge or a twisted sheet and a chandelier.

    I love that the heroine of the book is an anti-heroine, that she’s a human, that she’s a wife, a mom, is a normal person and then is sort of picked up, taken, and dropped into this scenario and has to figure out how to survive.

    She does a sort of thing that often prisoners will do, which is, they have to adapt to the prison environment, and they have to hold their enemies closer than their friends.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The series is striking in how disturbing it is, both in the dark version of society it portrays, and, at the same time, its beautiful look, a combination sought by series showrunner Bruce Miller and executive producer Warren Littlefield.

    WARREN LITTLEFIELD, Executive Producer, “The Handmaid’s Tale”: You recognize this world. It’s a beautiful world. They want it to be cleaner. They want the food to be healthier. They’re trying to raise fertility rates. Those are all good things. That’s very inviting. So, we come into our world and it feels pretty good, until you look closely.

    BRUCE MILLER, Showrunner/Screenwriter, “The Handmaid’s Tale”: Dystopia in our time had been synonymous with rubble and dust and robots and scrounging around for food. And this is just a different kind of dystopia. It doesn’t have dirty in it. It’s just a terrible reality.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I asked Miller and Littlefield about working on this series where so much is about what happens to women.

    BRUCE MILLER: You know, I tried my best along the way to shore up that part of my personality that I couldn’t change, that part of who I am that I couldn’t change, by hiring, you know, as many people who were kind of spectacular women’s voices, either with Reed Morano, our director, or Lizzie Moss, of course, our star, but also our writing staff is prominently women. I think we had all female directors, except for…

    WARREN LITTLEFIELD: Four out of five of our directors for the 10 hours are women. And many of our department heads, our wardrobe and production designer. We really built a very strong core of women who brought this show to life, because — for that very reason. We’re not.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The idea for the series and the shooting began well before the election of Donald Trump, but, since November, Atwood’s book has returned to the bestseller list, and the series is generating many questions of parallels to today.

    ELISABETH MOSS: There’s a huge sort of awakening amongst people my age and people in their 20s and younger with what’s happening now, as far as, oh, wait, someone can actually take that away from us? It’s a brand-new concept to a lot of women.

    MARGARET ATWOOD: I think one of the things that’s happened to them is, rights were won for them long ago, and they just took them for granted.

    Their interests were other. And then, suddenly, bang, a lightbulb goes on, maybe somebody’s going to take these rights away. And that may happen in all areas of life, including health care, minimum wage, and including forcing people to have babies.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That’s not very hopeful.

    MARGARET ATWOOD: Well, it’s not me making this absence of hope.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: But you can write the future. You could write a more hopeful future, hmm?

    MARGARET ATWOOD: I could, but I would have to make it plausible, would I not? So, I do believe that America is quite an ornery and diverse place, and I don’t think people are going to roll over easily for this.

    But a totalitarian gets serious the moment at which it fires on a protest crowd.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The first three episodes premiere Wednesday on Hulu. After that, episodes will come out weekly.

    For the PBS NewsHour I’m Jeffrey Brown.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we have more online. Author Margaret Atwood explains her inspiration for the blood-red costumes worn by the handmaids in the novel and in the new adaptation.

    You can find that and more on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.

    The post In dystopian ‘Handmaid’s Tale,’ a warning for a new generation not to take rights for granted appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Almost all of us have wondered at one point or another about the taxes we pay: Where does the money go?

    Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer not only wondered. He decided to make the information available in the form of a new public research tool.

    Last week, Ballmer launched USAFacts, an interactive Web site listing revenues and expenditures at all levels of government federal, state and local, all of it free to the public in digestible, searchable form.

    I spoke yesterday with Mr. Ballmer, who is also the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, about his latest venture, and I started by asking why he wanted to do this.

    STEVE BALLMER, Former CEO, Microsoft: Almost three years ago, when I retired, my wife and I were talking about our philanthropic work and how does one help give opportunity, particularly to kids growing up in very disadvantaged situations.

    And my initial kind of sense was, the government does that primarily, and what we should mostly do is pay our taxes. My wife said, no, I don’t think that’s quite right for us. We need to do more. We can do better.

    But it got me kind of rummaging around in government data. And I soon found that, as good as the search engines were, it was really hard to bring together not just a picture of what was going on with disadvantaged kids, but how all the money was spent, not just at the federal level, but at the state and local level, not only to target kids, but then you have to understand what the tradeoffs were.

    And that’s how I got started really working on USAFacts.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what does it tell you that somebody can’t find someplace else easily?

    STEVE BALLMER: Well, remember, we use all government data sources, so everything else is findable. I’m not going to pretend we invented that much.

    On the other hand, what we have tried to do is organize things in some sensible ways. We used the Constitution as the purpose of government as our organizing framework. Businesses have to have an organizing framework when they report to their shareholders. It seemed that’s the most natural framework to use for government.

    We found a few, two to three — three to four areas underneath each one of the preamble of the Constitution points, and so you have kind of a holistic view, not only of where the money is coming in, but where the money is coming out, and at least as well as they’re measured today, what kind of impact government may be having or at least what’s going on in the areas in which government focuses.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you say to people who — these days, a lot of people say they don’t trust government, that they don’t believe the information, the data that government puts out? What do you say to them?

    STEVE BALLMER: Well, I would say, look, it’s the best thing we have. It’s the best data. It’s created by professional people.

    If I was in government and running government, I think I would use the government data, because I wouldn’t know where else to look, quite frankly. And if I didn’t like that data, I would work hard to make sure it got better and better and better, whether it was at the state or local or federal level.

    People may have skepticism. I’m not one of those folks.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What is an example, Steve Ballmer, about information that you find on this site that you think is important and exciting?

    STEVE BALLMER: Well, I will just give you one example of something that I found interesting.

    You look at homeownership percentages in the United States. And off the top of my head, I want the say they run around 60 percent of people own a home. It might be plus or minus a little bit.

    You look at the mortgage interest deduction, which is designed, I think, to promote homeownership, and then you can look at what percentage of that mortgage interest deduction amounts are going to people in the bottom 20 percent by income, the next 20 percent and so on?

    And one might ask the question: Is the mortgage interest deduction doing a better job, a worse job, if it’s supposed to promote homeownership and savings? Because home ownership is the biggest form of savings in this country. Different people will look at that data and draw different conclusions, but that’s just an example of the kind of thing you can pull out of USAFacts and develop a point of view about.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, does this project answer all your questions about, what’s government doing for people, or are there many, many more questions you have that you still can’t get answers to?

    STEVE BALLMER: Well, there are many, many more questions, some of which we think we can get answers to.

    The data is out there, but it is going to take more work to pull together and put in a comprehensible form. We can tell you, for example, what reading proficiency is for fourth graders across the country, but it would be interesting to look at that in the state of Washington or Mississippi or California. That kind of data needs to be added in.

    The data we have is not always very current. Some of that is government data can be a little slower to get published. But some of that is state and local governments publish their data, and then there is a process today of rolling that up at the federal level that takes quite a while.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Two other quick things.

    One is, I saw there are several — there have been several other attempts over the last number of years to set up a site like this with information accountability. Many of those have had a hard time staying alive. How committed are you to keeping this going?

    STEVE BALLMER: I’m very committed.

    It’s — we have a philanthropic interest, my wife and I. And while we don’t choose to use, you know, sort of a tax deductibility on this project, to me, it’s kind of a civic opportunity. Hopefully, people find it of value.

    We will stick with it. And we’re very focused in on outcomes for government with respect to the amount of tax that goes in and the amount of expenditures that go out.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Steve Ballmer, thank you very much.

    STEVE BALLMER: Appreciate it, Judy. Thanks very much to you.

    The post Website USAFacts offers a new way to follow your tax money appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    On the campaign trail, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump both agreed that in order to revitalize the middle class, good-paying manufacturing jobs have to stay in America.

    As the White House moves forward with tax reform and trade policies, Sanders reaffirmed his commitment towards protecting middle-and-working-class Americans from large corporations, indicating it’s an area on which he’d be open to working with Trump.

    “We have lost our manufacturing base and it’s an issue that has got to be dealt with,” Sanders told PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff in an interview Tuesday. “We have to fundamentally rethink our trade policies and make them work not for the CEOs of large corporations, but for working people.”

    “If Trump wants to develop a rational trade policy that demands that corporations start investing in this country instead of China, that’s something that we can work on,” he added.

    On Tuesday, Trump and his cabinet took initial steps toward that goal by imposing a 20 percent tariff on Canadian lumber, citing unfair trade practices by Canada.

    Sanders said he didn’t know enough about the specifics of the lumber deal to assess how it could affect America’s trade policy or the middle-class.

    READ MORE: Can President Trump bring back manufacturing jobs?

    Facing a potential government shutdown on Saturday, Sanders — who is the ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee — said he hopes there will be “a long term agreement” on funding. He said he cannot support appropriating billions of dollars for a border wall at the same time Trump’s administration considers cuts that hurt “the needs of working people,” such as programs that provide health care and education.

    Sanders spent part of his Congressional recess earlier this month “running around the country” with DNC chairman Tom Perez, speaking to crowds of supporters in mostly red states about how to rebuild the Democratic Party. Their idea: embracing a 50-state policy and grassroots activism.

    “In the last eight years, the Democrats lost 900 legislative seats all over this country,” he said. “That is a failed approach toward politics.”

    MORE: Can Democrats find a rallying cry that wins with voters?

    The Vermont Senator said that a progressive Democratic Party that fights to increase the minimum wage, rebuilds infrastructure and improve the healthcare system will win over middle-class voters who supported Trump in November’s election.

    Sanders plans to reintroduce a bill to make the national minimum wage $15. Despite a Republican-controlled Congress and Trump in the White House, he claims that it can be signed into law because “it’s what the American people want.”

    His plan gradually increases the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 by 2024.

    “It is not a radical idea to say that in America, if you work 40 hours a week, you should not be living in poverty,” he said.

    Watch Sanders’ full interview with Woodruff on Tuesday’s PBS NewsHour.

    The post Bernie Sanders says he could work with Trump on trade policy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: About 65,000 undocumented students graduate from U.S. high schools each year. Most are protected from deportation because of an Obama administration policy, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which allows those brought here illegally at a young age to go to school and get work permits.

    President Trump tried to reassure those young people, often called dreamers, again this week that he doesn’t plan to go after them. But a lawsuit filed last week claimed one dreamer has been deported, and DACA students are on edge.

    Special correspondent Kavitha Cardoza of our partner Education Week traveled to Los Angeles and spoke to three DACA recipients to see how their lives have changed.

    We have agreed to use only their first or middle names. This is part of our weekly series on education, Making the Grade.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: Twenty-five-year-old Jose has something in common with President Trump: They both graduated from the prestigious business school Wharton. Unlike many of his classmates, Jose didn’t choose a career on Wall Street.

    JOSE, Undocumented Teacher: Teaching sixth grade math is the most challenging thing I have ever done in my life. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: His students know he is a DACA recipient, at a time when the federal government is cracking down on undocumented immigrants.

    JOSE: I had a lot of students in tears asking me if I was going to be taken away, and if they could hide me. I had students asking me, if their parents were deported, if they were going to be allowed to leave with them, or if they would become a part of the foster care system here.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: Immigration arrests are up 33 percent nationwide, compared to the same three months last year. For Jose and others, this adds to the climate of fear.

    STUDENT: ICE has basically set up shop at the Mexican grocery store. And they are there throughout the day. Now my mom is like, when we need to go to the store or something, we go out — we go out at night.

    STUDENT: It’s hard for me to talk about, because I know there might be a chance that, like, my parents can be taken away. And that just scares me.

    JOSE: I tell my students that they are important, that their families are important, that our community is important.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: Of the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., more than 750,000 have been granted DACA status. To qualify, they would have had come to the U.S. as children, be in high school or graduated, with no felony record.

    Randy Capps is with the Migration Policy Institute.

    RANDY CAPPS, Director of Research for U.S. Programs, Migration Policy Institute: We don’t usually punish children for the sins of their parents. Even if they had crossed the border illegally, they didn’t know they were doing it. They were too young to know that.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: He says the DACA population has the support of many Republican, business and university leaders.

    Even President Trump, known for his tough talk on the campaign trail:

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: … has softened his stance.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to show great heart. DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me, I will tell you. To me, it’s one of the most difficult subjects that I have, because you have these incredible kids, in many cases, not in all cases — in some of the cases, they’re having DACA, and they’re gang members, and they’re drug dealers, too. But you have some absolutely incredible kids. I would say mostly.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: Trump’s change in tone has not been popular with some of his supporters, like Iowa Representative Steve King. He says he will never be convinced that the DACA program makes sense, because illegal is illegal.

    REP. STEVE KING, R-Iowa: If you reward people for breaking the law, you get more lawbreakers.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: He says DACA recipients compete for jobs with U.S. citizens and are an economic drain.

    According to a 2007 Congressional Budget Office report, undocumented immigrants overall do access more services than they pay in taxes. But DACA recipients, who came to the states as children, are mostly U.S.-educated and far more likely to move up the economic ladder.

    King disagrees, on principle.

    REP. STEVE KING: It’s an injustice to our founding fathers, to the people who have fought and bled and died for this freedom that we have to simply give it away to people that have violated the law, while we have at least five million people outside America that are in line, that do respect our laws, that are waiting to come into America.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: California has the highest number of DACA recipients. It’s also among of the most welcoming. DACA students here can get state loans for college, in-state tuition, and even a driver’s license.

    Yet, this year in California, financial aid applications for all undocumented students were down nearly 60 percent, because students feared revealing their status might put them at risk. Then a media campaign helped bring those numbers up.

    For Yael, a DACA student receiving financial aid at UCLA, today’s rhetoric reminds her of how she felt in high school.

    YAEL, Undocumented College Student: I wasn’t able to say I’m undocumented without just bursting into tears. It was just, like, painful, painful and heavy shame that I felt.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: Yael came to the U.S. when she was 4. She volunteers to help other undocumented immigrants in her free time.

    YAEL: I feel privileged to be here at UCLA. When I think about my future, unfortunately, everything seems really uncertain right now.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: For high school senior Elena, classes are a refuge.

    ELENA, Undocumented High School Student: I motivated myself to take challenges, like honors, A.P. Classes, extracurricular activities.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: Elena came here when she was 6. She has more than the typical teenage concerns.

    ELENA: The fear that my parents might be deported makes me feel both sad and scared at the same time. Like, sometimes, going to school, I’m worried. I’m like, what if I don’t see my mom again?

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: Elena volunteers for the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program.

    ELENA: When I was a little girl, I didn’t really have someone to be there for me, because my parents, of course they didn’t understand the language. So, when I had the opportunity to be in this program, it was like, yes, I really want to do it, because I want to help someone. Maybe they’re in my situation or like a similar situation, so I want to be there for them.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: If President Trump doesn’t deport DACA recipients, Representative Steven King says he will feel betrayed.

    REP. STEVE KING: They can take up the task of rebuilding the countries that they came from. The education that they have with them, the language skills, the cultural skills, the experience of being here in America, I think it could be a fantastic improvement, and one of the best things that America could do for everyone south of our border.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: But Jose echoes thousands of other DACA recipients when he says he can’t imagine returning to Mexico, a country he left when he was just 2.

    JOSE: Losing my job, losing the ability to teach my kids, being separated from my family, losing everything that I know, I don’t think it can get any worse than that.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: I’m Kavitha Cardoza of Education Week, reporting for the PBS NewsHour from Los Angeles, California.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, online, a special education teacher in Chicago who has DACA status remembers the day her family was separated by deportation.

    That’s at pbs.org/newshour.

    The post Immigration crackdown fears fuel uncertainty for undocumented students appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: As we touched on earlier, there is a trade dispute brewing between the U.S. and its northern neighbor.

    William Brangham is back with that story.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: President Trump’s decision to slap tariffs on certain lumber imported from Canada escalated tensions between the two nations.

    And the president has already said he wants to renegotiate or overhaul NAFTA this summer.

    Today’s move drew a pointed response from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said, “You cannot thicken this border without hurting people on both sides of it.”

    At a meeting with farmers this afternoon, President Trump came back with some tough words of his own.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: People don’t realize Canada has been very rough on the United States. Everyone thinks of Canada as being wonderful. And so do I. I love Canada. But they have outsmarted our politicians for many years, and you people understand that. So, we did institute a very big tariff.

    QUESTION: And do you fear a trade war with Canada?

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, not at all.

    QUESTION: Why not?

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They have a tremendous surplus with the United States. Whenever they have a surplus, I have no fear.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, let’s get some further explanation about this move, and what it means for the broader trade agenda of the new president.

    Greg Ip covers all this for The Wall Street Journal, and he joins me now.

    Welcome back to the NewsHour.

    GREG IP, The Wall Street Journal: Thank you.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, who would have thought that we’d have our first trade flare-up of the Trump administration with Canada, of all places. Explain, what is this fight all about?

    GREG IP: It does sound like a surprise, but it shouldn’t be surprising.

    And, remember, the Canada-U.S. trade relationship is still the world’s largest. And a relationship that size always generates disputes. And this particular dispute didn’t fall out of a clear spring sky. It’s been going on for literally decades.

    It’s rooted in the different way Canada and the United States charges forestry companies for the trees that they cut down and turn into lumber. In the United States, they have a market-based system. There is an auction. Companies compete against each other to buy the trees.

    In Canada, the provincial government is basically assigned a fee that turns out to be lower than the market price American companies pay. The United States claims that’s an unfair subsidy. And so this has been an ongoing source of dispute between the two countries.

    The dispute that is under way this week actually began under the prior administration. There had been, if you will, a truce between the two countries. That truce expired.

    The Obama administration had been negotiating with the Canadians to come up with a permanent solution. And they failed. And so even though this is being portrayed as the first salvo by Trump’s tough trade regime, in fact, it’s quite possible that, if Hillary Clinton were president, we would be in the same place.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Let’s say Trump is successful and he puts this tariff on imported Canadian lumber. As a consumer here in the U.S., would impact would we likely see?

    GREG IP: Well, remember, tariffs are in the end taxes. And somebody has to pay that tax.

    And in this case, that tax will be paid by the buyers of that lumber, which is the home builders primarily and the people who buy those homes. The National Association of Home Builders estimates that there’s about $15,000 worth of lumber in a typical new home, a single-family home in the United States. This tariff will add about $1,200 to the price of that home.

    Now, it’s been the case that because the market had already anticipated something like this, lumber prices have already started to move up, so you won’t necessarily see an immediate impact from this point forward.

    But I think one thing people are forgetting is that trade disputes are two-sided. When the United States imposes tariffs on a partner like Canada, there is always a possibility that Canada will say that’s not fair and retaliate. And at that point, you have to ask the question, which Canadian industry will suffer because the Canadians have imposed tariffs — excuse me — which U.S. industry will suffer because the Canadians retaliated against it?

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We’re seeing this Trump move on wood. He also had some very strong complaints about Canadian milk. Last week, we saw him making some noises about steel in China. There might be a move on aluminum coming up.

    Are we starting to see now a Trump trade policy emerge?

    GREG IP: I think we are.

    When he was first elected, there was a lot of fear of a trade war. They listened to Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign. Oh, we’re going to put a 45 percent tariff on China, a 35 percent tariff on Mexico. We haven’t seen any of that.

    It’s clear now that Trump and his administration doesn’t want the start a trade war, i.e., big tariff on a whole country that triggers retaliation. What we are seeing is a very careful and meticulous review of all the tools they have available and to use those to start bringing cases against countries under existing law that they think are unfair.

    Now, that doesn’t look like a trade war, but it could look like a lot of border skirmishes that add up. We still don’t know, though, what the end result is. The reason we have things like NAFTA and the World Health Organization is so that, when there is a dispute like this, as there always will be, it’s contained, you don’t get an escalating tit-for-tat spiral.

    And the real test will be, if Canada takes this to a panel with NAFTA or the WTO, and wins, will the Trump administration abide by that ruling?

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Well, we have seen a lot of instances where the president has talked very tough standing on the sidelines, and then, when push comes to shove and he gets close with foreign leaders, or starts these negotiations, he becomes a little more conciliatory.

    Let’s say a trade war or a trade fight really does break out. Do you think he will escalate or de-escalate?

    GREG IP: At this point, it’s impossible to say, and I think it would be unwise for us to speculate too far, because I don’t think they really know.

    But I think we know this much about Trump so far: He believes he’s a deal-maker. He likes to bargain. Part of bargaining is that you talk really tough. You ask for the moon, you settle for the topsoil. He says — he beats up on the Mexicans, he beats up on the Canadians, but the point is not to abrogate the treaty and have the two of us basically putting up walls and blocking trucks at the border.

    It’s to come up with a deal that both sides feel they can live with. And I think that that’s probably where we’re going to end up. I think that Trump has people working for him who are ultimately deal-makers. And the Canadians are the same way. They’re grownups about this.

    That’s why you saw the prime minister of Canada not respond to Trump with the same rhetoric, but to talk about the strength of the relationship and the desire for a deal.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The president has also said, as we touched on a little bit, that he wants to renegotiate NAFTA. How would that actually look? How could that unfold? What likely might we see?

    GREG IP: So, I think one of the interesting things is that this dispute did erupt while that renegotiation is under way.

    Wilbur Ross, taking questions from the press today, said he had actually preferred to have kept those things separate, because, as we discussing a minute ago, this softwood lumber dispute is a very old dispute that almost follows a dynamic entirely of its own that is actually somewhat independent of the issues of the issues that are bothering the president on NAFTA.

    Unfortunately, because they could not get an agreement within the legislative window, it will end up getting sucked into that agreement. And it’s very hard to say exactly how it turns out.

    We know from, for example, drafts that the administration has circulated on Capitol Hill, there are a few things they would like to change about NAFTA. They would like to, for example, have the ability to impose tariffs just because imports are surging from Canada or Mexico, not necessarily because they’re being sold unfairly.

    They want the ability to not have — to be able to — they want more freedom to use our countervailing the subsidy laws against Canada and Mexico. Will the Canadians and Mexicans accept that as a price worth paying to preserve the special agreement? Will they say, no, we’d rather have no agreement? All those things remain to be seen.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Greg Ip of The Wall Street Journal, thank you very much.

    GREG IP: All right, thank you.

    The post How a tariff on Canadian lumber could backfire on the U.S. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on these political battles we have been talking about and the challenges facing Democrats, I spoke this afternoon with Senator Bernie Sanders, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee.

    And I started by asking whether he thinks an agreement will be reached to avert a government shutdown.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, I-Vt.: Well, I certainly hope there’s going to be an agreement, not a short-term, but a long-term agreement.

    I do not and will not support billions of dollars going to a border wall at the same time as the Trump administration wants to throw 24 million people off of health insurance, cut back on education, cut back on the needs of working people. That is not something that I will support.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator, today at the White House, the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, announced with regard the trade that the White House, the president wants to slap in essence a tariff on Canadian lumber.

    You and the president often were at least in the same — or what appeared to be on the same page when it came the trade during the campaign. What do you think of this move today?

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I don’t know enough about it to comment intelligently.

    But what I do know is that, when we have had trade policies for decades now that have cost us millions of decent-paying jobs, as profitable corporations shut down in America, they go to China and they go to Mexico.

    We have to fundamentally rethink our trade policy and make them work not for the CEOs of large corporations, but for working people. So, if Trump wants to develop a rational trade policy which demands that corporations start investing in this country, rather than China, that’s something that we can work on. But, right now, I just don’t know enough about the specifics of the lumber situation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, is there a specific move you would like to see the president make on trade?

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, as I have said, I want to see a trade policy which works for American workers.

    Right now, what we have seen for a very long time is large corporations shutting down plants in this country, plants that are often profitable, in order to get cheap labor all over the world. And that is one of the reasons why the middle class in this country is disappearing.

    We have lost our manufacturing base, and that’s an issue that has got to be dealt with.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In that connection, Senator, you’re reintroducing legislation to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, I believe, by 2024.

    This is something that’s had a tough time getting through Congress in the past. You now have the Republican-controlled Senate, House, a Republican White House. Is this realistic?

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Of course it’s realistic. It’s what the American people want.

    It is an outrage that we have a $7.25-an-hour federal minimum wage. And when we talk about why the middle class is in decline, why people are working two or three jobs, working 50, 60 hours a week, it’s because wages in this country are much too low.

    So, we have got to raise the minimum wage over a period of years to the year 2024 to $15 an hour. When people — Judy, it is not a radical idea to say that, when you have massive income and wealth inequality, the very rich becoming much richer, it is not a radical idea that to say that, in America, if you work 40 hours a week, you shouldn’t be living in poverty.

    That’s what the American people want, and that’s what we are going to introduce.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator, and I think this is in connection with that, you said in an interview two days ago, the Democratic Party — you said this as an independent, that the Democratic Party is failing, that it needs the change.

    Are you saying there should be a litmus test to be a Democrat? What does one have to believe to be a Democrat?

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Judy, here is the reality. And I don’t think it’s just me saying it.

    Right now, you have the Republicans controlling the White House, right-wing extremist Republicans controlling the White House, the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate, two-thirds of the governors chairs, and in the last eight years, Democrats have lost 900 legislative seats all over this country.

    That is a failed approach toward politics. So, in my view, the Democrats need to do several things. Number one, Democrats need to become a 50-state party. You can’t have a great party on the West Coast and the East Coast. You need to have a party in all 50 states. That’s not the case right now.

    And that’s why I have been running around the country to Republican states to galvanize people to get involved in the political process.

    Second of all, you need a Democratic Party which is a grassroots party, which makes decisions from the bottom on up, not just from the top on down.

    In my view, it is not a question of Trump having won the election, it’s a question of Democrats having lost the election. Democrats need a strong progressive agenda which says to the working class of this country, we are going the stand and fight for you, we’re going to raise the minimum wage, pay equity for women, we’re going to rebuild the infrastructure, and we’re going to guarantee health care to all people as a right. We’re going to make public colleges and universities tuition-free.

    We understand that there is enormous pain in this country. We’re going to stand with working people. We’re going to take on the billionaire class. We’re going the take on the drug companies and the insurance companies. We’re going the take on Wall Street. That’s where I think the future of the Democratic Party lies.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And my question is, does that mean that some Democrats are not acceptable?

    For example, the special congressional election in Georgia last week, you initially didn’t endorse the Democrat, Jon Ossoff. And you said he wasn’t a progressive.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Judy, don’t believe everything you read in the corporate media.

    Jon Ossoff never asked me for an endorsement, never asked me. Of course I want him to win the election, and of course I want the Democrats to gain control of the U.S. House. Just so happened he never asked me for an endorsement.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I guess the broader question is, does a Democrat have to toe a certain line? You have said Democrats have to do well in red states.

    So, for example, a Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, Joe Manchin in West Virginia, are these Democrats, you consider under the tent that you would like to see, under the umbrella of the Democratic …

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Go ahead.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I think those decisions are going to be made by the people in North Dakota, where I think Heidi is quite popular. They will be made by the people in West Virginia.

    It is not my job to tell the people in 435 congressional districts or in 50 states who they should be supporting. What a grassroots party is about is people getting excited, getting involved in the local political process, saying, we want her to run for office, we want him to run for office, and we’re going to get involved and make sure that he or she wins.

    That’s what I think the future of the Democratic Party is, not a few people in Washington saying, sorry, no good, or that’s OK.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So you’re saying it’s all right with you that the Democratic Party has elected members who, for example, disagree with you on trade, who may disagree with you on the corporate tax rate, on issues like abortion?

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Right.

    Look, this is America. Between you and me, Judy, I would wish — I would love it if everybody in America agreed with me on every issue. I can’t get my wife to agree with me on every issue, let alone the American people. It’s called democracy. That’s what it’s about.

    So, I think — you know, I have supported candidates whose views are very different than mine on the need the break up Wall Street banks, on the war in Iraq, on trade issues. Of course I have supported those people.

    My hope is that we’re going to see — and I believe it is the case — we’re going to see more and more strong progressives running for office. That’s my hope. That’s my desire. But that is up to — that decision is going to be made by people in 50 states and 435 congressional districts.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Bernie Sanders, very good to talk with you. Thank you.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Thank you, Judy.

    The post Bernie Sanders on making Democrats a 50-state party appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Two adelie penguins stand atop a block of melting ice on a rocky shoreline at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay, in East Antarctica in this 2010 file photo. Photo by Pauline Askin/Reuters

    Two adelie penguins stand atop a block of melting ice on a rocky shoreline at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay, in East Antarctica in this 2010 file photo. Photo by Pauline Askin/Reuters

    Antarctic penguin populations have dropped more than 25 percent on average over the past two decades, according to a new report released Tuesday from the nonprofit environmental group Oceanites.

    Climate change is leading to a precipitous decline in several penguin populations on the Antarctic Peninsula, according to the group, which completed the first comprehensive survey of the region’s species in 24 years using satellite images.

    The Antarctic Peninsula — home to 3.2 million breedings pairs spread across five penguin species: the emperor, adélie, gentoo, macaroni, and chinstrap — is one of the fastest warming areas on the planet.

    Despite a recent but brief cooling period of less than two degrees Fahrenheit since the late 1990s, the Antarctic Peninsula’s average temperature has warmed by five degrees Fahrenheit over the last 60 years, according to the Oceanites report. The winter months have seen a steeper increase — with average temperatures that are nine degrees Fahrenheit warmer than those in the late 1960s.

    As a result, snow is melting faster on the peninsula, and the area has now experiences rainfall — something that was not seen until 25 years ago. Researchers say those two factors pose a deadly threat to penguin breeding grounds.

    Three penguin species — the adélie, chinstrap and gentoo — typically breed on dry ground in the summer. If they cannot find dry ground and instead breed on the wet surface, their eggs and chicks can drown or freeze.

    A chinstrap penguin on Half Moon Island in the South Shetlands, off the Antarctic peninsula. Photo by Reuters

    A chinstrap penguin on Half Moon Island in the South Shetlands, off the Antarctic peninsula. Photo by Reuters

    Some species have been hit particularly hard. Both the adélie penguin population on Petermann Island and the chinstrap colony at Baily Head on Deception Island declined by more than 50 percent.

    Warming in the Antarctic Peninsula is also causing sea ice to melt rapidly and form more slowly, threatening the penguins’ food source. Penguins feed off krill, and krill feed off the algae that grow under sea ice. Less ice means less algae for krill larvae to feed on.

    Researchers argue the lack of krill is mostly responsible for the declining adelie populations, which rely heavily on the small crustaceans and less on fish relative to other penguin species. Gentoo penguin populations, in contrast, are actually increasing because they have switched from eating krill to fish.

    “Adaptation is key. Gentoos survived in the winter because they adapted,” said Ron Naveen, the founder of Oceanites and the organization’s lead investigator on the report. “The chinstraps and Adélie penguins are kind of the losers because they haven’t adapted yet.”

    But even penguins that primarily eat fish may not be spared in the long run. Dyan deNapoli, a penguin expert who was not involved in the study, said the warming temperatures are also harming fish populations.

    “One of the things that happens with rising ocean temperatures, is that the cold water currents — that the fish and krill are in — get pushed deeper and further away from the penguins’ breeding and foraging grounds; making it difficult for them to find enough food to eat,” deNapoli, who has worked for penguins with 15 years, said.

    Penguins are also threatened when large ice shelves, which the penguins cross to reach their breeding grounds, collapse because of higher temperatures.

    “As they are trying to walk across, they have to climb over sea ice and could get trapped and die because the ice shelf is not smooth,” deNapoli said. She said predicted sea level rise could also wipe out penguins’ breeding grounds, forcing them to travel further inland.

    The report does contain some good news. A handful of penguin colonies live in areas largely untouched by the rising temperatures and are faring better than their counterparts.

    The adélie penguin populations in East Antarctica and the Ross Sea, for example, are growing. Scientists believe ocean and wind currents have largely shielded those regions from the warming trend.

    Still, Naveen warned penguins are a harbinger of the struggles humans will face in adapting to climate change.

    “What happens to penguins, happens to us all. We’re all biological creatures,” Naveen said, adding that humans, like penguins, have four basic needs for survival: food, home, health and offspring.

    The post Why some penguin populations are shrinking on Antarctica appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: One of the biggest obstacles to keeping the United States government funded beyond this Friday’s deadline may have been averted today.

    Correspondent Lisa Desjardins starts us off.

    LISA DESJARDINS: The president was at the Capitol this morning for a Holocaust remembrance event.

    QUESTION: Mr. President, are you going to insist on border funding?

    LISA DESJARDINS: But he ignored shouted questions about a government funding bill, this after numerous reports that Mr. Trump told conservative journalists last night that he’s open to delaying a border wall down payment until September.

    Democrats on Capitol Hill declared a kind of victory on the issue.

    SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., Minority Leader: Now, last night, we received a bit of good news, not just for Democrats, but for the country, that the president is easing off his demands for a border wall in the government funding bill.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats have insisted that border wall money would jeopardize the larger funding bill. And not all Republicans support it either.

    SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER: Now, we Democrats have been opposed to including the wall in this bill since the beginning of the negotiations. There’s no plan to make Mexico pay for it, as the president promised it would. There’s no plan to resolve the eminent domain issues on the border, and the money is better used elsewhere.

    LISA DESJARDINS: The president was quick to insist that whenever the funding comes, his plan to build a border barrier is alive and well. This morning, he tweeted: “Don’t let the fake media tell you that I changed my position on the wall.”

    He followed up at a White House event this afternoon.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to have the wall built. I mean, I don’t what people are talking. I watch these shows and the pundits in the morning, they don’t know what they’re talking about. The wall gets built, 100 percent.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Even if the border wall issue drops away, other obstacles could still derail the spending bill, for one, health benefits for coal miners. Thousands of miners will lose their health care this weekend if Congress doesn’t act.

    Lawmakers on both sides, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, favor it, but have to find funding.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky., Majority Leader: I’m in favor of the permanent fix on miners health care. It’s my hope that that will be included in the final package.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Other problems? Democratic sources say Republicans want the bill to give religious businesses more leeway to opt out of coverage for women’s reproductive health.

    For now, the clock is ticking for Congress to pass a long-term spending bill before Saturday, President Trump’s 100th day in office.

    And sources have now confirmed to us that Republicans’ latest offer to Democrats on the spending plan has dropped the border wall money altogether. Also, senators from both parties say they think it’s now likely there will have to be some kind of short-term deal for a few days. They’re not even sure that they could write and passes a larger bill by Friday.

    All that means, Judy, is that probably we will be talking about this spending fight into next week.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, going into next week. So, if the White House is dropping the demands for its funding for the border wall, Lisa, what are the remaining sticking points?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Right.

    Well, among those sticking points are women’s health, say Democrats. They say that Republicans, as they have brought up many times in the past few years, would like this bill to include more exemptions on religious grounds for funding contraception and other women’s health issues for employers.

    Now, that goes along with the Hobby Lobby case and other things. Democrats firmly say that’s not something they will support. But some Republicans, Judy, say they’re not sure that they really will go to the mattress, so to speak, over that issue, that they might be wiling to take that issue down the road a ways.

    What are the other problems? Honestly, Judy, it’s not quite clear. There’s a lot of frustration up here, and it seems there is just a lot of tying up of very loose ends.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa, stay with us.

    I’m going to bring in John Yang, who is at the White House reporting for us.

    John, tell us. If the president has, in essence, backed down on the demand that they fund this border wall right now, what’s the rationale? We hear the president saying when the cameras with were him earlier today, it’s still a priority, it’s going to happen soon, but he’s dropped it as a demand.

    JOHN YANG: He dropped it as a demand because they realize the — or acknowledge the political reality that they weren’t going to get it without a big fight, without jeopardizing or threatening a government shutdown.

    They’re putting it off. It’s still their top priority. They still — Mr. Trump says he will still build this wall in his first term, and they’re putting off this fight until September — the next fiscal year, the spending year that begins in October. Remember, this money is only until the end of September. They’re going to work to the next spending year to get money. They say they have got enough money to do planning, but there is no indication of why they think this fight will be any easier in fiscal year 2018.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa, back to you.

    If the White House has clearly moved its position in the last 24 hours, are Republicans and Democrats now looking at the president as somebody who is a whole lot easier to deal with than they thought?

    LISA DESJARDINS: It depends on who you speak with.

    I think Democrats will tell you, those that speak to you, you know, off microphone, will say they think that the Democrats — the Republicans, the White House completely misplayed this. They think this has added to enormous leverage that they didn’t feel that they had here at the Capitol until this week.

    You talk to Republicans, some of them will say, again, off microphone, that they’re relieved that this has come off the table. There is enormous skepticism and some all-out problems with the idea of a border wall, especially when it really hasn’t been clearly defined in their eyes.

    So there’s mainly relief, I would say, at the U.S. Capitol, but I do think there are real questions about the strength of this president in negotiating with Congress and perhaps making some strong-arm moves that have backfired against him, at least this week.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, John, this is all coming as the president approaches his 100-day mark. Is there concern at the White House that the president is not seen as a strong leader?

    JOHN YANG: Well, I tell you, Judy, you know, the president himself says this is an artificial deadline. He calls it ridiculous.

    And Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, echoes that. But at the same time, the communications office is really working hard on this. We have a series of briefings this week, a number of executive orders being signed, Cabinet secretaries coming into the Briefing Room to talk to reporters, to talk about what they have done, a big, splashy new Web page on the WhiteHouse.gov Web site talking about what they have done in this first 100 days.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right. We’re watching it all closely. And I know the two of you are.

    John Yang, Lisa Desjardins, thank you.

    The post As Trump softens border wall money demand, will other barriers derail spending bill? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A federal judge in San Francisco has blocked President Trump’s order on so-called sanctuary cities. It sought to withhold some federal funds from localities that don’t cooperate with U.S. immigration authorities. The district judge said today that the president has no authority to take that step. His ruling is in effect nationwide while a lawsuit against the order is being heard.

    The bulls had the run of Wall Street today, and the Nasdaq hit a milestone. The rally was fueled by strong earnings at Caterpillar, McDonald’s and other companies. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 232 points to close at 20996. The Nasdaq rose 41 points, to close above 6000 for the first time ever. And the S&P 500 added 14.

    Congress is back in session, and raising new questions about contacts between Trump advisers and the Russians. Leaders of the House Oversight Committee said today that former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn broke the law by taking money from Russian organizations in 2015. As a retired general, he was barred from doing so.

    Republican Chairman Jason Chaffetz and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings spoke after reviewing classified material.

    REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, D-Md.: There is no evidence, as the chairman said, anywhere in these documents that said he reported the funds he received for this trip. There is also no evidence that he sought permission to obtain these funds from a foreign source.

    REP. JASON CHAFFETZ, R-Utah: He was supposed to seek permission and receive permission from both the secretary of state and the secretary of the Army prior to traveling to Russia, to not only accept that payment, but to engage in that activity.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: An attorney for Flynn defended his actions.

    Meanwhile, Representative Cummings complained that the White House refused to hand over relevant documents on Flynn. Separately, a Senate subcommittee announced that it will hear next month from former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, who played a role in Flynn’s firing. The former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will also testify.

    Russia denied again today that it is arming Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. That is after the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said that he wouldn’t refute such reports. In Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed the claims.

    SERGEI LAVROV, Foreign Minister, Russia (through interpreter): As to statements about alleged supplies of arms by us to the Taliban, these are unprofessional, they are baseless. Whatever negative things they say about Russia now, simply look into it. No one is providing a single fact that would prove such negative statements.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Russia has said that it does maintain ties with Taliban officials, but only to push for peace negotiations.

    North Korea held mass live-fire exercises today for the 85th anniversary of its military, but it didn’t carry out a nuclear test, as feared. Instead, Pyongyang marked the occasion with celebrations. Many people left flowers at the statues of the country’s former leaders.

    Turkish warplanes targeted Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria today, drawing criticism from the U.S. Turkey’s military released video of the operations, and activists in Syria said more than 20 combatants were killed. Most belonged to a Syrian Kurdish militia that is fighting the Islamic State. Turkish officials claimed the group is linked to rebels who are battling the government of Turkey.

    The state of Arkansas has carried out the nation’s first double execution in 17 years. It happened last night, when two men were put to death within three hours.

    William Brangham has our report.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For 12 years, the death chamber at the state prison in Varner, Arkansas, sat unused. But last night, both Jack Jones and Marcel Williams died there. Both had been on death row for more than 20 years, both for rape and murder. Jones went first, as witnesses looked on.

    DAVID LIPPMAN, KTHV Reporter/Execution Witness: He said: “I’m so sorry. I’m so genuinely sorry. I hope someday you can learn more about me to learn that I’m not a monster.”

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The daughter of Jones’ victim, Mary Phillips, had survived the attack in 1995. She was just 11 years old.

    LACY PHILLIPS SEAL, Victim’s Daughter: I’m glad it’s done. I’m glad that part of my life is — that chapter is closed.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Lawyers for Marcel Williams charged that Jones had been gulping for air as he died. But after a brief delay, Williams was given the lethal injection as well. He’d expressed remorse last month.

    MARCEL WILLIAMS: To those I hurt, I’m sorry is not enough. I wish I could take it back, but I can’t.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The mother of Stacy Errickson, the woman killed by Williams in 1994, said he’d finally gotten what he deserved.

    Arkansas has now put three men to death in the last week. This sudden rush is because one of the state’s lethal injection drugs, midazolam, expires at the end of April, and the drugmakers, citing concerns over how the drugs were obtained and how they are being used, are trying to block the state from getting any more.

    Governor Asa Hutchinson defended the process.

    GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON, R-Ark.: I don’t want to go back to these victims’ families and say, well, we’re worried about how this looks, or the speed of this, and so we’re not going to be able to carry out the will of the jury and courts and the sentencing.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The state hoped to execute eight men this month. Four have been blocked by courts. A final execution is set for Thursday.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m William Brangham.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Also today, a special commission in Oklahoma recommended a continued moratorium on executions until the system for carrying them out is reformed.

    And first daughter Ivanka Trump got a rough reception today at a women’s summit in Berlin, Germany. At one point during a panel discussion, the audience groaned and hissed as she argued that her father is a — quote — “tremendous champion” of enabling women and families. Later, she dismissed the reaction as — quote — “politics” and said, “I’m used to it. It’s fine.”

    Still to come on the NewsHour: the White House and Congress attempting to avert a government shutdown; Senator Bernie Sanders weighs in on what Democrats need to do to get back on top; a new tariff President Trump has levied against Canada, and much more.

    One of the biggest obstacles to keeping the United States government funded beyond this Friday’s deadline may have been averted today.

    The post News Wrap: Michael Flynn accused of breaking the law by House Oversight leaders appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Donald Trump speaks during a joint news conference April 20 at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo.

    President Donald Trump speaks during a joint news conference April 20 at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo.

    President Donald Trump is set to unveil a broad guide Wednesday to his approach to tax reform. More details will reportedly come in June, but Mr. Trump has hinted at one specific expectation.

    “It will be bigger, I believe, than any tax cut ever,” the president told AP’s Julie Pace on Friday. “Maybe the biggest tax cut we’ve ever had.” This is the kind of rhetoric that ignites our happy research hearts at NewsHour. What would it take, we wondered, for Trump to pass the biggest tax cut ever?

    READ MORE: Did President Trump deliver on his 100-day contract with voters?

    First, let’s define terms. We are turning to a go-to metric: constant (inflation-adjusted) dollars per gross domestic product. This allows us to compare tax cuts in terms of what they meant to their times and economy. Next, we want to share our key source: This comparison chart from the U.S. Treasury.

    We used them to find the biggest tax cuts (per GDP) since 1940:

    1. Reagan, 1981: 2.89 percent of GDP. The Economic Recovery Act of 1981 was the first of two large tax cut bills passed under the 40th president. It significantly dropped income tax rates and added a host of other tax-decreasing changes.
    2. Truman, 1945: 2.67 percent of GDP. The Revenue Act of 1945. As World War II closed, the government moved income tax rates back downward. The top rate shifted from 94 percent to 87 percent. Corporate rates moved from 40 percent to 38 percent.
    3. Obama, 2013: 1.78% of GDP. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 came about after long wrangling over the fiscal cliff (memories!). It was a budget compromise deal between Republicans and Democrats. It came under President Obama, but largely made some Bush-era tax cuts permanent.
    4. George W. Bush, 2001: 0.7% of GDP. The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act, known as EGTRRA, was the largest single tax cut under Bush 43, and was passed by June of his first year. Bush went on to pass several other tax cuts and would likely move up the list in terms of total tax cuts during a single presidency.

    During the 2016 campaign, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimated Trump’s tax cut proposal would amount to 2.6 percent of GDP, putting him third on our list.

    MORE: What have we learned from President Trump’s first 100 days?

    So, with GDP next year forecast in the neighborhood of $20.1 trillion, Trump would need tax cuts worth $58 billion to achieve the largest tax cut ever (by this measure).

    For perspective, Congress has had difficulty settling issues involving a few billion dollars. (Example: the coal miners’ fight that may risk a government shutdown. See our story, we think it’s worth watching.) But working in Trump’s advantage is that Republicans generally agree on a broad approach, collapsing rates and simplifying the tax code. But there are a lot of devils in the details of any tax cut, much less the “biggest ever.”

    The post What would it take for Trump to sign ‘the biggest tax cut we’ve ever had’? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FILE PHOTO: U.S. director Jonathan Demme poses for photographers during a photocall at the Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy, September 3, 2008. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo - RTS140XF

    American director Jonathan Demme in Venice, Italy, in September 2008. Credit: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

    Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme, who is best-known for the 1991 horror-thriller film “The Silence of the Lambs,” has died at 73 of esophageal cancer and complications from heart disease, IndieWire reports.

    In addition to “The Silence of the Lambs,” one of only three films to ever win Academy Awards in all five major award categories, Demme also made comedies, documentaries and concert films. Among them: “Stop Making Sense,” a seminal 1984 concert film about the post-punk rock band the Talking Heads, “Philadelphia,” which in 1993 was the first big-budget Hollywood film to tackle AIDS, and “Something Wild,” a 1986 quirky comic thriller starring Melanie Griffith and Jeff Daniels, which influenced prominent screenwriters such as Bret Easton Ellis, who similarly mixed violence with pop culture and comedy in his 1991 book, and then film, “American Psycho.”

    In a 2012 interview with NewsHour correspondent Jeffrey Brown, who asked Demme about the tremendous range of films he made, the director said he was “guided by my enthusiasm.”

    “It’s sort of like, that script has a story in my view, my humble opinion, [that] is worth telling,” he said. “There is so much going on in our country and in the world today … We’re getting the headlines for a second, shaped by corporate delivery most of the time, but what’s really the story there? Well, I’m turned on by that kind of stuff.”

    What enthused Demme had an impact on many in the industry. When director Paul Thomas Anderson, known for dark, often unsettling films, was asked which filmmaker influenced him most, he replied: “Jonathan Demme, Jonathan Demme, Jonathan Demme” — especially for the way it shaped Anderson’s film “Boogie Nights.”

    In a conversation between Demme and Anderson at the Austin Film Festival in 2015, Anderson asked Demme about his trademark use of “subjective camera,” a technique in which a film shows exactly what is in the actor’s point of view, often followed or prefaced by the actor looking directly into the lens. Demme used this technique both in “Something Wild” and “The Silence of the Lambs.”

    “You want the audience to be in the character’s shoes,” Demme explained. “The more deeply into the character’s shoes the audience is, the more they’re going to care about what’s going on.”

    Demme’s concert documentary “Stop Making Sense,” for which he shot the Talking Heads for three nights in Hollywood’s Pantages Theater during their 1983 tour, is widely considered one of the best concert films ever made. In a bizarre David Byrne interview the musician conducted with himself, Byrne said he chose Demme to direct the film because “he knew what not to do” and “he also saw things as an outsider.”

    Demme also made the Neil Young concert film “Neil Young: Heart of Gold” and a 2016 concert film on Netflix for Justin Timberlake.

    Demme’s 1993 drama “Philadelphia,” which highlighted how the AIDS epidemic was stigmatized, is credited with helping Americans understand the disease for the first time. In an interview 20 years after the film’s release, Rita Charon, who directs Columbia University’s Program in Narrative Medicine, said “after seeing the film, people said, ‘Oh my God, is that what’s happening?’ Through art and creativity, it changed the national conversation about the disease.”

    As for “The Silence of the Lambs,” the most well-known of Demme’s films — and perhaps one of the most terrifying films ever made — it is also the first and only horror film to win an Oscars Best Picture.

    In an interview on the 25th anniversary of the film, screenwriter Ted Tally said the movie “broke all the rules” in being a “talky” and “intellectual” horror film, and for having a woman, actress Jodie Foster, in a lead role. Demme played with techniques such as breaking the fourth wall repeatedly throughout, especially with his psychopath character Dr. Hannibel Lecter. He also shot in night vision when Clarice is stuck in killer Buffalo Bill’s house, and played with eyeline to establish how the audience should view each of his characters.

    In a collected book of interviews with Demme, when he is asked how he turned words on a page into a movie, he said it was all about interpretation and emotion. “If I get turned on by a script, it’s my job to make the viewers of the movie feel the way I felt,” he said.

    The post What director Jonathan Demme, who made ‘Silence of the Lambs,’ brought to filmmaking appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Illustration by Getty Images

    Medicare Administrative Contractors should be the major protectors of consumer interests here, and their record is not promising in terms of how they are executing this responsibility, writes Phil Moeller in his weekly column, Ask Phil. Illustration by Getty Images

    Editor’s Note: Journalist Philip Moeller is here to provide the answers you need on aging and retirement. His weekly column, “Ask Phil,” aims to help older Americans and their families by answering their health care and financial questions. Phil is the author of the new book, “Get What’s Yours for Medicare,” and co-author of “Get What’s Yours: The Revised Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security.” Send your questions to Phil.


    Medicare is an enormous bureaucracy, and I seldom descend into the belly of this beast. It’s a confusing place, driven by arcane and extremely complicated rules. These rules have an enormous impact on the cost and quality of health care received by Medicare beneficiaries, but connecting the dots often results in complex, long-winded exercises that can easily produce more confusion than clarity.

    However, as Ask Phil readers know well, I am nothing if not a glutton for such punishment if it helps shed some light on the Medicare issues that consumers face. So I will don my spelunking gear and get right to it.

    Medicare awards multi-year contracts to outside companies to manage its health benefit programs and pays them more than $800 million a year to do this work. These programs are overseen by a national network of companies called Medicare Administrative Contractors, widely known as MACs.

    Basic Medicare, for example, is used by roughly two-thirds of Medicare enrollees. It includes Part A coverage for hospitals and skilled nursing homes and Part B for doctors, outpatient services and durable medical equipment.

    MACs who oversee Parts A and B generate a flurry of benefits paperwork for claims in the form of Medicare Summary Notices, sending out more than 200 million of them annually. For Medicare consumers and their families, these notices are needed to monitor the accuracy of their medical charges and Medicare’s payments of their claims.

    These Medicare Summary Notices, unfortunately, are often incorrect, not only because the MACs can make mistakes, but also because the health care expenses levied on Medicare beneficiaries by doctors, hospitals, home health care companies, drug makers, insurance companies, equipment makers and others often are wrong.

    About one in nine of all Part A and B claims request improper payments. If you apply this 11 percent error rate to the roughly $375 billion in Part A and B claims in recent years, you wind up with more than $41 billion in improper payments.

    The overwhelming reason for these errors is that the claims include insufficient documentation. Now, there could be lots of reasons for this. Medicare is, after all, wickedly complicated and uses a very sophisticated system of medical coding that would challenge IBM’s Watson.

    The MACs should be the major protectors of consumer interests here, and their record is not promising in terms of how they are executing this responsibility.

    But when investigators took a closer look at the nature of these improper claims, they found that nearly $40 billion of them involved requested overpayments and only slightly more than $1 billion were for underpayments. The only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from this is that medical providers — aka the health care industry — game the system by regularly inflating or, in Medicare lingo, “upcoding” their bills.

    While these improper claims now comprise 11 percent of all Part A and B claims, as recently as 10 years ago, it was only 4 percent. In short, there are more bad actors today. And in some areas of basic Medicare, the error rate is much, much higher than 11 percent. The error rate last year for all durable medical equipment was more than 46 percent, and it was 42 percent in home health services. For data junkies, here are the details of improper Medicare payments last year.

    This is not, it should be clear by now, a new problem or one whose dimensions are unknown. The MACs should be the major protectors of consumer interests here, and their record is not promising in terms of how they are executing this responsibility.

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, of which Medicare is a part, has an Office of Inspector General that regularly churns out reports about MACs’ performance problems and shortcomings in Medicare’s efforts to address them. So does the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

    Ultimately, the MACs are the responsibility of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which oversees Medicare. One of the perennial requests in outside assessments of the MACs is that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services step up its game in overseeing the contractors and requiring them to do a better job of educating and policing providers.

    A major tool for overseers here are periodic MAC reports to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services about improper billing, which include details of what they’re doing about it and any areas of special concern. I asked the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for access to these documents, but the agency declined. If I wished, a spokesman said, I could file a request to get them under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA. FOIA requests routinely linger at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for many months before being processed, thus effectively killing most inquiries.

    I also asked if the agency had ever disciplined a MAC or cancelled a contract because of poor performance on billing errors. The spokesman said, “The answer across the board is no. MACs are not singularly responsible for reducing improper payment rates; it’s a joint venture between both CMS and the MACs.”

    I am sure this is as reassuring to you as it was to me.

    And now, on to this week’s reader missives.


    Linda – Louisiana: I am about to turn 70, and my teeth have gotten really bad — breaking off, losing crowns, cavities, etc. My only option is to have my remaining teeth extracted and get dentures. I have no husband or other income and simply cannot afford to have these dental procedures done. Is there any way of getting help? My Social Security this year is $1,857 per month before deductions. I realize that is a little higher than the average. However, when it comes to paying rent, utilities, some food and home needs plus my medications and insurances, there just isn’t money to pay thousands of dollars for dental issues even though my teeth are causing me more problems than ever and are getting worse daily.

    Dental issues are a huge problem for older Americans, along with hearing and vision needs. Medicare doesn’t cover routine care in any of these areas.

    Phil Moeller: I am sorry to hear about your dental problems. I wish I had some great ideas, but I don’t. Dental issues are a huge problem for older Americans, along with hearing and vision needs. Medicare doesn’t cover routine care in any of these areas. It does cover some surgically necessary procedures, although I don’t know that it would cover mass extractions. Meager though your income is, you probably make too much to qualify for Medicaid, which does cover dental work.

    The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging has local offices around the country. I suggest you contact the office closest to you and see if they can suggest resources for free or reduced-price dentistry. I am sure this question is posed to them all the time. There are dental “fairs” held in cities around the country where dentists volunteer to treat people who can’t afford regular dental care. Maybe they know of such fairs near you.

    I’m sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.


    Harold – Indiana: Nobody asked me if I wanted Medicare, or I would have said, “No.” But I was automatically enrolled anyway and now have Part B. I don’t want it. My wife carries insurance for me, and I do not need the Social Security Administration to force me to pay an extra premium. What can I do?

    Phil Moeller: You’re right. You do not have to get Medicare.

    If your wife is employed and you are covered under her plan, you can continue using her insurance even if you’re 65 or older. When she retires, both of you can get Medicare.

    If your wife is already retired, however, and your coverage is through her retiree insurance, it’s quite possible you would need to get Medicare. In most employer retiree plans, Medicare is needed and becomes the primary insurer at age 65.

    But on the assumption that she is still working and has active employer group health insurance, you should call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 and tell them you want to cancel Part B and have any premiums refunded to you.

    Unfortunately, even though Social Security messed up here, it can be a hassle to drop Part B. Along with a form to end this coverage, the agency also may require you to submit a proof of employer insurance form or even come in to a local office to do this in person.

    I hope you don’t have too hard a time doing this, but if you do, please let me know.


    John – California: I will turn 65 this August. I have medical insurance and plan to continue working. My human resources department is telling me I don’t need Medicare until I retire. Is this the right thing to do?

    Phil Moeller: Most likely, your HR folks are correct. So long as you continue working and have group health insurance through your employer, you do not have to get Medicare when you turn 65 and will not face any late-enrollment problems when you eventually retire and then get Medicare.

    However, I urge people to take advantage of their Medicare option by reviewing their health coverage and making sure they will be better off — both financially and in terms of coverage — by staying on their employer plan. Consider giving it a free look. With many employer plans reducing coverage, raising rates and installing high-deductible plans, it’s always possible you’d be better off with Medicare.


    Ron – Ohio: When I retire and get Medicare in January of 2018, will Medicare use my 2016 tax return to determine if I owe a high-income surcharge? We have substantial income now, but it will drop dramatically when I retire. Based on current rates, I am looking at a $389.80 Part B monthly premium and $72.90 for Part D. I feel like I could be hosed for my successful executive career when I retire. Am I reading this correctly?

    Phil Moeller: You’re right about there normally being a two-year lag, meaning your 2016 tax return would be used as the basis for your 2018 IRMAA determination (IRMAA stands for Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amounts). However, because you’re going to file for Medicare so early in the year, it’s possible Social Security, which manages IRMAA, would use your 2015 return.

    Hopefully, this will not matter to you. The IRMAA rules include waivers based on “change of life” events. One of these is simply the act of retirement and the attendant decline in income. It’s called “work stoppage” on the IRMAA appeal form.


    Ted:  First, let me say thank you for your book, “Get What’s Yours.” I am now 69, and until I read your book, I did not know that my wife and three children under the age of 16 were eligible for benefits. I filed for child-in-care spousal benefits and child benefits. Recently, I received over $19,000 in back payments and will go forward with an additional $1,908 a month.

    I do have one question, please, regarding widow’s benefits. Should I die, will my wife be able to claim widow’s benefits at age 60 if she has not worked in the United States and never contributed to Social Security?

    Phil Moeller: Stories like yours are the reason we wrote the book. I am so glad it’s been helpful to you.

    Your wife does not need to have contributed to Social Security or worked in the U.S. to be eligible for a widow’s benefit in the event of your death. And while she may qualify to receive this benefit as early as age 60, it will be reduced by early claiming reductions and will not reach its maximum value unless she delays taking it until her full retirement age. There can be many good reasons for not delaying, of course, but I wanted to make sure you were aware that deferring benefits will increase the size of the monthly payment she would receive.


    Mike – Virginia: I’m a military retiree. It’s mandatory for me to convert from Tricare Prime to Medicare at age 65. I will not retire from work until the end of December. Can I sign up for Medicare as mandatory, but not collect a Social Security check until January?

    Phil Moeller: You do not need to collect Social Security benefits just because you’re signing up for Medicare. The two decisions are separate. Your note indicates you want to wait until next January to claim Social Security. I’d urge you to consider waiting even longer. Once you’ve reached your full retirement age, benefits rise at the rate of 8 percent a year if you delay claiming them. They peak at age 70.

    The post Medicare’s contractors approve $41 billion in billing errors. What’s being done to fix it? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FILE PHOTO: A man is silhouetted against a video screen with a Facebook logo as he poses with a Samsung S4 smartphone in this photo illustration August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo - RTS13XE0

    After a series of incidents in which violent content was posted to Facebook, the social media giant is looking for ways to remove these kinds of videos quickly. Credit: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

    A Thai man recorded himself killing his infant daughter on Facebook Live Monday night before taking his own life.

    Thai officials said the video showed 20-year-old Wuttisan Wongtalay hanging his 11-month-old daughter from the rooftop of an abandoned hotel on the island of Phuket. Facebook took the video down from its website Tuesday afternoon.

    Thai authorities said Wongtalay killed himself shortly after hanging his daughter. It is unclear if his own death was also broadcast on Facebook.

    Police Maj. Prawat Tantibhussapun told CNN that officials responded to the incident Monday night after relatives saw the livestream and alerted authorities.

    “This is an appalling incident and our hearts go out to the family of the victim,” Facebook said in an emailed statement. “There is absolutely no place for content of this kind on Facebook and it has now been removed.”

    [READ MORE: A murder video posted online raises debate about Facebook’s responsibility]

    Facebook came under widespread criticism earlier this month when a man posted a video of himself killing an elderly man in Cleveland. That video was not broadcast live, although the man did use Facebook Live to talk about the murder.

    Facebook said last week that it was seeking ways to remove such videos quickly.

    “As a result of this terrible series of events, we are reviewing our reporting flows to be sure people can report videos and other material that violates our standards as easily and quickly as possible,” the company said. “In addition to improving our reporting flows, we are constantly exploring ways that new technologies can help us make sure Facebook is a safe environment.”

    In the Thailand incident, Wongtalay’s wife said she did not blame Facebook or the people who shared the video on their feeds.

    “I understand that people shared the video because they were outraged and saddened by what happened,” 21 year-old Chiranut Trairat said.

    Trairat told the Associated Press that her husband was abusive and that he had spent a couple years in prison before they started dating.

    The post Thai man livestreams himself killing daughter, then takes own life appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said Wednesday he wants to eliminate the agency’s broad powers to monitor telecom companies such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast for bad behavior. Credit: REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

    NEW YORK — Internet companies are readying for a showdown with a Republican-controlled government over a policy near and dear to their hearts: net neutrality.

    Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said in a Wednesday speech that he wants to ditch the Obama-era rules, hated by telecoms, that prevent broadband and wireless companies from interfering with the sites and apps that consumers use. He wants to undo their legal basis and to eliminate the FCC’s broad powers to monitor Verizon, AT&T and Comcast for bad behavior.

    Pai, the nation’s chief telecommunications regulator, said he will seek an FCC vote at a May 18 meeting. The FCC plans to release an official proposal for the vote on Thursday.

    Pai doesn’t have an immediate plan to replace net neutrality, but is seeking input on how to “approach” its core: three hard-and-fast rules that bar broadband providers from steering users toward (or away from) particular internet sites and services. Existing net-neutrality rules mean companies like Comcast and Verizon — which offer their own video services they’d very much like subscribers to use — can’t slow down Netflix, can’t block YouTube, and can’t charge Spotify extra to stream faster than Pandora.

    He said the 2015 rules were unnecessary and have hurt broadband investment, a point contested by activists and companies that support net neutrality.

    [READ MORE: FCC may scale back net neutrality]

    The internet industry, which considers net neutrality essential for its business, hasn’t stood still as Pai telegraphed his intentions, and it may be keeping some of its most potent tactics in reserve.

    Many internet companies have already been running the Washington playbook — lobbying Congress, schmoozing government regulators, and signing letters of protest. Boston tech companies and venture capitalists met with Sen. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, last Friday to discuss defending net neutrality.

    Smaller companies have made the loudest noises so far. Engine, a policy group for startups, called up small internet companies to keep them updated and got more than 800 signatures for a letter that urges the FCC not to dismantle the net neutrality rules.

    Etsy brought sellers to meet with legislators or their staff members in Washington last month, although the company says the visit involved other issues in addition to net neutrality. Roku, the streaming-video gadget maker, hired lobbyists to set up D.C. meetings for the first time.

    The industry’s giants, however, have mostly stayed silent beyond offering blanket statements of support for net neutrality. The Internet Association, which speaks for Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix and Uber, earlier called on Pai to support net neutrality, and Wednesday issued a statement warning that his changes would “result in a worse internet for consumers.”

    Meanwhile, the FCC chairman has also been looking for allies. Pai traveled to Silicon Valley last week to meet with big tech companies, a visit that was “extremely well received,” according to Oracle senior vice president Ken Glueck. (Oracle sides with the telecom industry in opposing net-neutrality rules.)

    Pai attended an event held at Cisco, with attendees from Oracle, Apple, Facebook, HP, Salesforce and Intel, Glueck said. (Pai said he met with Oracle, Cisco, Intel, Facebook and other companies.)

    At least one big supporter of net neutrality — Netflix — has tempered its rhetoric recently. The streaming-video company said in January that weaker net neutrality wouldn’t hurt it because it’s now too popular with users for broadband providers to interfere with its service. The company added that it still supports net neutrality “on a public policy basis.”

    [READ MORE: Before you lament the end of your Internet privacy, read this]

    The tech industry is pretty good at getting consumers on its side when it decides to fight for a cause.

    In 2012, internet companies took on the entertainment industry in a fight over online piracy. Thousands of websites, including Wikipedia, one of the internet’s most well-trafficked sites, temporarily went dark to protest legislation that would have given the government power to “blacklist” sites from the internet.

    Companies collected millions of signatures and asked users to protest to lawmakers. The bills, which aimed to curb illegal downloads and sales of movies and songs as well as other products, were dropped.

    In 2014, smaller companies held an “internet slowdown” event to remind users of the net-neutrality fight. Sites such as Reddit, Etsy and WordPress displayed a “site loading” icon intended to signify the slowdowns users could theoretically expect without net neutrality. John Oliver also dedicated a show segment to the topic, which raised awareness of an otherwise jargon-y, abstract issue.

    But until Wednesday, there had been no net-neutrality development to rally around.

    “Next steps haven’t been figured out yet,” Kickstarter general counsel Michal Rosenn said in an interview two weeks ago.

    “I certainly think we will try every possible avenue, including reaching back out to John Oliver,” said Engine’s executive director, Evan Engstrom.

    The post FCC chief lays out attack on ‘net neutrality’ rules appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Mnuchin addressed Trump’s tax returns Wednesday. Watch live in the player above.

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump “has no intention” of releasing his taxes returns to the public, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Wednesday, asserting Americans have “plenty of information” about the president’s financial matters.

    For decades, presidents have released their tax returns. But Trump has so far refused, suggesting he would share the tax documents only after the Internal Revenue Service completes an “audit” of them. He’s never disclosed proof of an audit.

    Mnuchin appeared to close the door completely Wednesday.

    “The president has no intention. The president has released plenty of information and I think has given more financial disclosure than anybody else. I think the American population has plenty of information,” he said, inaccurately characterizing the president’s disclosures.

    The comment came as the secretary briefed reporters on the president’s new proposal to overhaul taxes. Democrats have sought to use the tax debate to pressure Trump to release his returns, arguing the information is necessary to evaluate how Trump’s tax proposals would affect his personal wealth and his business’ bottom line.

    [READ MORE: Why seeing Trump’s tax returns really matters]

    Mnuchin declined to comment on how Trump would benefit from his proposals. He and other administration officials left the room as reporters shouted questions about how the plan would affect the Trump family.

    Trump, a billionaire, owns a global real estate, marketing and property management company, which at the start of his presidency he placed in a trust that he can revoke at any time. His daughter and son-in-law, White House advisers, are also holding onto significant business assets. And Trump’s adult sons run his Trump Organization.

    Trump officials have offered varying explanations for why the president does not disclosure his returns.

    White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway said in a television interview in January that the fact that he won the election without putting out the information shows that “people didn’t care” about it.

    Trump’s sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr. have made similar points in various interviews.

    There’s evidence the president has been thinking about the issue in recent weeks. He asked his friend and Las Vegas business partner Phil Ruffin, a fellow billionaire, whether he should put out the returns, Ruffin said.

    “I advised him not to,” Ruffin said. “It’s a waste of time, and he’ll spend years explaining them and never get to accomplishing any of his goals.”

    Ruffin said he told the president that Democrats would hire “armies of accountants” to pore over the documents and “make an issue out of any and everything.”

    [READ MORE: White House says Trump paid $38 million in taxes, made $150 million in 2005]

    Even with Mnuchin’s seemingly definitive answer, the issue of Trump’s tax returns isn’t likely to go away. Democrats have threatened to hold up his tax proposals until they see the returns.

    Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called Trump’s tax plan “unprincipled” — and one that “will result in cuts for the one percent, conflicts for the president, crippling debt for America and crumbs for the working people.”

    Democrats also have been pushing for a vote on a bill that would require the president and all major-party nominees to publicly disclose their previous three years of tax returns with the Office of Government Ethics or the Federal Election Commission.

    The Democrats have initiated a petition process that would lead to a House vote if they can get a majority of lawmakers to sign it — an unlikely prospect, but one that gives Democrats a chance to highlight which Republicans declined to help with their effort.

    The post WATCH: Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says Trump has ‘no intention’ of releasing tax returns appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Supporters of Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche!, or Onwards!, and candidate for the 2017 presidential election attend a campaign political rally in Saint-Herblain near Nantes, France, April 19, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

    The 24-hour news cycle is filled with politics coverage, but not everything gets the attention it deserves. Here are five politics stories you may have missed in the past week:

    White House aides grapple with newfound celebrity — 4/19. From Kellyanne Conway to Sean Spicer, anonymity is not an option. — Politico

    New Jersey Residents Brace For Trump’s Weekend Whirlwinds To Blow Their Way — 4/24.
    As Mar-A-Lago prepares to close for the season, Trump’s golf club in Bedminster prepares for the president. — NPR

    ‘Dreamers’ Are Not Target of Immigrant Crackdown, Cabinet Officials Say — 4/23. The White House says DACA recipients will remain protected. — New York Times

    Court: Texas House map intentionally diluted minority votes — 4/20. Judges find that Texas lawmakers gerrymandered districts by racial lines. — Texas Tribune

    Macron’s strong finish in the French election shows populist wave may be ebbing — 4/24. The frontrunners in France’s presidential election offer two very different visions for the future of the country. — Washington Post

    READ MORE: 5 overlooked politics stories that are worth your time (April 18)

    The post 5 overlooked politics stories that are worth your time appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    San Diego Natural History Museum Paleontologist Don Swanson pointing at rock fragment near a large horizontal mastodon tusk fragment.

    San Diego Natural History Museum Paleontologist Don Swanson pointing at rock fragment near a large horizontal mastodon tusk fragment. Photo by San Diego Natural History Museum

    Twenty-four years ago, construction workers building a new highway near San Diego stumbled upon a skeleton that may rewrite the entire history of the Americas.

    Researchers found signs of human manipulation on the 130,000-year-old remains of a mastodon — an ancient and extinct relative of the elephant — at what’s now called the Cerutti Mastodon site, they said in a study published Wednesday in Nature. Here’s the rub. Almost all previous evidence points to humans arriving in the Americas approximately 20,000 years ago. This discovery could change that.

    A view of two mastodon femur balls, one faced up and once faced down.

    A view of two mastodon femur balls, one faced up and once faced down. Neural spine of a vertebra exposed (lower right) and a broken rib (lower left). Photo by San Diego Natural History Museum

    Needless to say, this report has sparked controversy, like “paleontologists-all-over-America-pulling-out-their-hair” controversy. Here’s what you need to know.

    What they found:

    • Starting in the winter of 1992, Richard A. Cerutti and other paleontologists from the San Diego Natural History Museum began excavating the Cerutti Mastodon site.
    • The team discovered bones from a young adult male mastodon — tusks, molars, vertebrae, ribs, paw bones and more than 300 fragments — centered around a large cobble stone. The researchers also found wear-and-tear patterns on other stones that suggest they were used as hammers In the last five years, researchers used uranium dating to determine the bones were 130,000 years old. They couldn’t use traditional carbon dating because the mastodon’s collagen had eroded.
    • “It makes ours the oldest archaeological site in the Americas — older by a factor of 10,” San Diego Natural History Museum paleontologist and study coauthor Thomas Deméré at a press briefing Tuesday. “Currently the oldest widely accepted date of human presence in the new world is 14,000 to 15,000 years ago.”

    Why you should believe this finding:

    • Spiral-fracture patterns on the mastodon bones suggest they were broken soon after the mastodon died
    • Only long bones like femurs showed fractures, whereas more fragile bones like the ribs were intact. If more recent, wholesale disturbances — like cars or large construction machinery trundling over the buried archaeological site — had broken the bones, then the ribs would likely have fractures, too.
    • Study co-author Steven Holen of the Center for American Paleolithic Research in Hot Springs, South Dakota said there was also no evidence of other natural processes, like:
      • Geologic disruption: Surrounding sediments were relatively light, so wouldn’t have caused bone breakage. Also the sediments exhibited “low-energy deposition,” meaning water hadn’t tossed around the bones and led to these breaks.
      • Animals trampling on the bone: Trampling tends to produce different breaks, and past studies suggest trampling doesn’t normally occur near elephant death sites
      • Carnivore chewing: Carnivores gnaw on the ends of bones, while these mastodon bones were broken in the middle.)
    • The mastodon bone fractures mirror those seen when elephant bones are shattered with large hammers, rock hammers and rock anvils, as in previous archaeological finds in Africa and recreation experiments conducted by the team. People in Africa have been breaking up elephant limb bones with this pattern for 1.5 million years, Holden said.
    • “What’s truly remarkable about this site is you can identify a particular hammer that was smacked on a particular anvil,” said University of Wollongong archaeologist Richard Fullagar, a coauthor on the study who specializes in stone artifacts. “The fragments of those hammers and anvils can then be refitted to the stones.”
    A boulder discovered at the Cerutti Mastodon site thought to have been used by early humans as a hammerstone.

    A boulder discovered at the Cerutti Mastodon site thought to have been used by early humans as a hammerstone. Photo by Tom Deméré, San Diego Natural History Museum

    Why you should be skeptical:

    • Genetic analysis of human remains, collected outside the current study, have long suggested that Native American populations are linked to early humans who crossed the Bering land bridge from Siberia and settled in the Americas about 15,000 to 20,000 years ago.
    • No human remains were found at the Cerutti Mastodon site. That isn’t too surprising, given human remains in extremely old geologic deposits are rare. Researchers, for instance, have only found two examples of human remains for the Clovis culture, which existed about 13,000 years ago in the Americas.
    • Due to warmer temperatures and sea level rise, the Bering land bridge should have been underwater 130,000 year ago. So these humans either crossed earlier, or made some portion of the journey by boat. Elsewhere in the world during this time period, early humans had popped up on the islands of Crete and Sulawesi. So, the use of watercrafts isn’t beyond the realm possibility. Also, neanderthals lived in
    • John McNabb, a Palaeolithic archaeologist at the University of Southampton, UK, told Nature News that it’s curious the site “yielded no other traces of human presence,” such as those related to animal butchery.

    If the study holds up, what happened to these “Cerutti” Americans?

    The best-known and controversial archaeological claims for early human entry into the Americas are from the Calico Hills in California (originally thought to be 80,000–50,000 years old or even older), Pedra Furada in Brazil (40,000−20,000 years old) and Old Crow in the Yukon Territory of Canada.

    However, the interpretations of site context, the nature of the stone items, and the human ‘signature’ on fossil faunas offered in support of these claims have been criticized.

    In these cases, the findings could be explained as the outcome of geological or biological processes that superficially mimic human-made items, or the associations of the dated sediments with the artefacts are questionable.

    ***

    Time will tell whether this evidence will bring a paradigm change in our understanding of processes of hominin dispersal and colonization throughout the world (including in what now seems to be a not-so-new New World).

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    The post Analysis: A new study says settlers arrived in the Americas 130,000 years ago. Should we believe it? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In a Wednesday interview with PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff, Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney said any shortcomings of President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office should be attributed to a dysfunctional Congress and recalcitrant Democratic opposition, both of which had thwarted the administration’s efforts.

    “A lot of the stuff that was entirely within our control, I think we’ve actually exceeded our own expectations,” Mulvaney told Woodruff. “Yes, we’ve not gotten healthcare done, yes we’re just starting tax reform today, but keep in mind those are the things we had to work with Congress and Congress turned out to be a lot more broken that we thought it was.”

    READ MORE: What have we learned from President Trump’s first 100 days?

    Mulvaney suggested measuring the benchmark of Trump’s early presidency in not just the things he’s accomplished — largely, executive orders and the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch — but also the things he’s “undone.”

    “We’ve undone a lot of the regulatory regime that the previous administration put in,” Mulvaney said. “We’ve undone a lot of the damage they did with our executive orders so we’ve actually been able to reduce the role of government in your life a great deal the first 100 days. We take that as a huge success.”

    Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin unveiled a tax proposal from Trump on Wednesday that would make large cuts to corporate and personal taxes, though details on how the president plans to accomplish that aren’t expected for several weeks.

    READ MORE: Trump proposes dramatic cuts in corporate and personal taxes

    Mulvaney said the cuts are “trying to drive the economic benefit here to the taxpayers in the middle. The folks who are in the middle class, who are paying the taxes.”

    Watch Mulvaney’s full interview with Woodruff on Wednesday’s PBS NewsHour.

    The post Trump has undone a lot of ‘damage’ in his first 100 days, Mulvaney says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And finally tonight, Hari Sreenivasan is back with an appreciation of an Oscar-winning director.

    ANTHONY HOPKINS, Actor: Quid pro quo. I tell you things, you tell me things, not about this case, though, about yourself.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: After years making B-movies, Jonathan Demme’s first major commercial success was 1991’s “Silence of the Lambs,” and, for many, would remain his best-known film.

    The dark thriller, based on a book, followed Jodie Foster as an FBI field agent on the hunt for a serial killer, using the counsel of a psychopath named Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins.

    ANTHONY HOPKINS: What is your worst memory of childhood?

    JODIE FOSTER, Actress: The death of my father.

    ANTHONY HOPKINS: Tell me about it, and don’t lie, or I will know.

    JODIE FOSTER: He was a town marshal, and one night, he surprised two burglars coming out of the back of a drugstore. They shot him.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: It earned Demme the Academy Award for best director.

    KEVIN COSTNER, Actor: To Jonathan Demme for “Silence of the Lambs.”

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And it remains the only horror film to ever win for best picture.

    JONATHAN DEMME, Director: Hi, mom. And thanks for transferring your love of movies to me. And thanks, dad, for making me think I could actually be part of this industry. And thank you.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Mike Sargent is a film critic for Pacifica Radio.

    MIKE SARGENT, Film Critic: At the time, a thriller and horror were kind of seen to be the same thing. And a movie about a serial killer is not the kind of movie that really gets acclaim.

    So, he took something that could’ve been considered pulpy, and really turned it into high art. He really elevated the form.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But Demme did more than crime thrillers. Over his career, he made indie films, dramas, documentaries, comedies and concert movies, too, including 1984’s “Stop Making Sense,” a stylized look at the band the Talking Heads.

    DENZEL WASHINGTON, Actor: So, you were concealing your illness.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In 1993, Demme directed “Philadelphia,” one of the first major Hollywood films to confront the HIV/AIDS crisis. It starred Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of a gay lawyer infected with HIV.

    DENZEL WASHINGTON: Didn’t you have an obligation to tell your employer you had this dreaded, deadly, infectious disease?

    TOM HANKS, Actor: That’s not the point. From the day they hired me to the day I was fired, I served my clients consistently, thoroughly, with absolute excellence. If they hadn’t fired me, that’s what I would be doing today.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Five years later, Demme directed the adaptation of Toni Morrison’s novel “Beloved,” starring Oprah Winfrey.

    OPRAH WINFREY, Actress: Could stay the night, if you had a mind to.

    DANNY GLOVER, Actor: You don’t sound too steady in the offer.

    OPRAH WINFREY: Oh, it’s truly meant. It’s just I hope you will pardon my house.

    DANNY GLOVER: “My house.” I like the sound of that.

    MIKE SARGENT: He was definitely someone who I think was sensitive to issues of race and sexuality and things like that.

    TOM HANKS: What I loved the most about the law?

    DENZEL WASHINGTON: Yes.

    TOM HANKS: Is that every now and again, not often, but occasionally, you get to be a part of justice being done.

    MIKE SARGENT: I think he stacks up there in the top 25 of great American directors, I would say, I would say, for the kind of films he did and the amount.

    If you look at the body of work he did, and what he produced, and the people whose careers he really helped, I think he was more than significant. I think he will be looked back on even greater than he was when he was here.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Demme continued to work up until his death this morning. He passed away from esophageal cancer at his home in New York. He was 73 years old.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And he made a string of remarkable movies.

    The post Remembering Jonathan Demme, acclaimed director of eclectic, edgy films appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump has long said he wants to build a hardened wall across the U.S.-Mexico border to reduce the flow of drugs and illegal immigration.

    But what would a continuous wall from California to Texas mean for wildlife in the area?

    William Brangham is back again with a report from Arizona. It is part of our weekly series examining the leading edge of science.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Tens of thousands of migrants risk their lives each year crossing this dangerous, remote desert between the U.S. and Mexico.

    Some have found creative ways to get over or around the steel fences built to keep them out. But many of the wild plants and animals here in the Sonoran Desert can’t do that. These miles of fencing divide their natural habitat and threaten their survival.

    At least 50 species near the border are already endangered, like the Sonoran pronghorn, the gray wolf and the ocelot.

    SERGIO AVILA-VILLEGAS, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: Nature has no borders. Nature knows no political boundaries.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Sergio Avila-Villegas is a wildlife biologist with the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson. He’s spent the last 16 years studying this area.

    He took us to the Coronado National Memorial in the Huachuca Mountains on the Arizona-Mexico border. He says the border fence — you can see it there in the distance — means animals have to range farther afield to find food, water and mates.

    There’s this one, what seems to my eye a very thin fence that runs across the border, but you’re saying this really does have a major impact on the species that live here?

    SERGIO AVILA-VILLEGAS: From a sparrow perspective, from a grasshopper perspective, and from even plant perspective, this is a very difficult thing to overcome, and this blocks reproduction of plants and animals.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In one study from 2011, biologists found border fences increased the risk of population decline and extinction, especially for endangered species.

    Another study from the same year found border security infrastructure could interfere with black bear breeding. Before the border fence between the U.S. and Mexico went up about 10 years ago, conservationists tried to stop it, but ultimately lost that fight.

    Eighty percent of Arizona’s border with Mexico has some kind of barrier. Gaps do occasionally exist where wildlife can pass, but finding those places isn’t easy.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I would build a great wall.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Now that President Trump plans to build what may be a continuous wall from California to Texas, Avila-Villegas and other scientists worry this will only accelerate the extinction of some animals.

    SERGIO AVILA-VILLEGAS: Long-term, this could be a division of genetical populations, where a group of animals from one side cannot reproduce with another group of animals, breaking the connectivity, creating some genetical problems. The survival of the species is at risk.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Species like this jaguar, which was spotted several times in Arizona over the last few years.

    Historically, these jaguars roamed from the Southwest United States down through the Amazon Basin, all the way to Argentina. Scientists estimate this big cat now occupies less than half of its original range because of habitat loss and poaching. There may be fewer than 50,000 breeding adults left.

    SERGIO AVILA-VILLEGAS: If there’s an impermeable barrier, we are losing the opportunity to have the third largest cat in the world to recover its populations in the United States. Jaguars deserve an opportunity to live in this place too.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The Coronado National Memorial is considered a critical habitat zone, meaning it would normally be protected by the Endangered Species Act.

    But Congress wanted the fence built quickly. In 2005, it allowed the Department of Homeland Security to bypass all environmental laws during construction, including the requirement to study what this fence would do to wildlife.

    Congressman Rob Bishop, Republican from Utah, thinks those exemptions aren’t enough. He’s introduced legislation that would extend those legal waivers to Border Patrol agents, who do have to obey environmental laws.

    REP. ROB BISHOP, R-Utah: So, everything from California to Texas is almost all federal property, and over half of that is in a wilderness designation, which has specific requirements for what can and cannot be done.

    That’s where the Border Patrol is prohibited from doing their job, and that’s the mistake, because that becomes the avenue for most of the illegal entrants into this country. And I think it has a direct correlation to the amount of federal land and the amount of restrictions the Border Patrol has on how they can do their jobs on that corridor.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Border Patrol can’t build bases, towers, or roads without permission from other federal agencies, like the Fish and Wildlife Service. They’re also not allowed to drive over protected lands, a rule smugglers don’t have to follow.

    CYNDI TUELL, Environmental Lawyer: We have one of the largest wilderness areas in a national wildlife refuge in Southern Arizona, and Border Patrol has been driving over it for close to a decade.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Cyndi Tuell is an environmental lawyer and border lands conservation advocate who says she’s seen Border Patrol in places they’re not supposed to be.

    CYNDI TUELL: The main focus of my work as a conservation attorney is to try to get Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security to follow the law. If they’re one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the country, they very much need to be complying with the law themselves.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: She spends part of her time travelling the backcountry, looking for signs of Border Patrol’s impact on public lands. She says their vehicles can crush vegetation and erode soil, and that habitat is destroyed when they build bases and surveillance towers.

    CYNDI TUELL: Every time I’m out here, though, I interact with a Border Patrol agent, or I see the signs of militarization. I see tanks. I see heavily armed men. I see vehicle tracks two or three miles into a wilderness area that I know shouldn’t be there.

    GIL KERLIKOWSKE, Former Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection: Customs and Border Protection has to be able to be on the borders, whether it’s in environmentally sensitive land or not.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Gil Kerlikowske served as the commissioner for customs and border protection from 2014 until the new administration took over. He’s now a fellow at Harvard University.

    GIL KERLIKOWSKE: I think it’s very difficult for those agents and their vehicles and other types of equipment to be in an area and not to leave some type of footprint.

    But I would mention that, as often as hard as they work to try and reduce their environmental impact, I think there’s always going to be, as a result of that human intervention, some type of an effect on the environment.

    SERGIO AVILA-VILLEGAS: The infrastructure seems to be a one-solution-fits-all for many different problems, and I don’t think it’s addressing the root causes. And I really think that the environment is paying the ultimate price for this.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Have you and the conservation community made those concerns known to the Border Patrol and the Customs and Border Protection?

    SERGIO AVILA-VILLEGAS: A lot of our concerns have been voiced through the conservation and science community to the Department of Homeland Security. They don’t go anywhere. The Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security have no mandate to listen to these concerns.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We asked the Department of Homeland Security if they have required any passageways for wildlife in the solicitations they have put out to contractors who want to build the new wall.

    They have told us that the current plans — quote — “will not result in significant environmental impacts. As a result, for this particular project, DHS is not planning for mitigation.”

    President Trump ordered 5,000 more agents be hired and deployed along the border, and plans for his wall are now being drafted. The few wildlife corridors that do remain could soon be closed for good.

    From the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, I’m William Brangham for the PBS NewsHour.

    The post Nature knows no borders. Border security can take a heavy toll on endangered wildlife appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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