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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 look at a new film about the brutal Syrian civil war.

    Hari Sreenivasan has that story.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The French government said today its analysis of samples from a chemical attack in Syria earlier this month prove that the government of Bashar al-Assad was responsible.

    That attack was one more flash point in a war that has now entered its seventh year, and it is the subject of a searing new documentary called “Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS.”

    It debuts at the Tribeca Film Festival this week here in New York, and will air later this summer on National Geographic.

    It is co-directed by the journalist and author Sebastian Junger, who also narrates the film.

    Thanks for joining us.

    SEBASTIAN JUNGER, Co-Director, “Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS”: Thank you.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Why make this right now?

    SEBASTIAN JUNGER: We started about two years ago.

    We wanted to explain why the Syrian civil war happened, how it evolved, and particularly why ISIS came out of it. ISIS is a kind of rare phenomenon. And we wanted to explain that to the American people.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But there’s a family that you intersperse throughout this documentary. They are making their way out of Syria, or attempting to as they go along. And there’s a real telling clip early on in the film where there’s a father just trying to comfort his kids.

    Take a look.

    MAN (through interpreter): Don’t be afraid, dear. Don’t be afraid.

    (CRYING)

    MAN (through interpreter): Honestly, I’m about to explode. I can’t express what is happening inside of me. I have to smile against my will, so the kids don’t get scared.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, this is juxtaposed with a phrase that you have from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad saying, we don’t indiscriminately bomb anyone.

    And here we have a family who clearly could be the target of this.

    SEBASTIAN JUNGER: Yes. I mean, that clip shows a nighttime bombing by the Syrian government, by the Syrian air force. Assad is just lying. Plenty of politicians do, and he’s one of them.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: One of the interesting things, there’s also a little map that you have throughout this film about how massive this tiny country, this tiny war has gotten, meaning how many other global partners or parties are involved in this.

    It’s not just the reason. I mean, you have proxies in Russia and the United States involved, but you also have so many countries around it that are involved now.

    SEBASTIAN JUNGER: Yes.

    I mean, wars a little like tumors. You know, they sort of like drawn draw in more and more blood supply, and they grow. And so there’s arms going in. There’s oil coming out. There’s antiquities coming out. There’s people coming out. And there’s jihadis going in.

    And it’s the whole ecosystem. And even on the sort of diplomatic level, on the sort of national level, there are a good dozen countries that are directly involved in the mechanics of that war, and some very, very powerful players in the world.

    So, it’s like a bar fight that, you know, the longer it goes on, the more people are involved, until everyone is fighting, and one of the rationales for stepping in early and trying to stop these civil wars before they get this kind of critical mass.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Speaking of stepping in early or later, one of the things that you point out is that there’s a legacy that goes all the way back, perhaps, to the de-Baathification in Iraq and how that contributed to what is happening in Syria.

    And also you take a fairly pointed look at President Obama and the red line and the United States’ inability to do anything after that red line was crossed.

    SEBASTIAN JUNGER: Oh, there are huge missteps by the United States, the invasion of Iraq arguably being one of them.

    After we invaded Iraq, the de-Baathification put on the street tens of thousands of Baath Party members who weren’t necessarily loyalists, but they were sort of expelled from government, expelled from the military, expelled from their jobs.

    And then we helped install a Shia government in Baghdad that really starting preying on these people, killing them. And so of course those people saw ISIS as — ISIS presented themselves as their protectors. And so, you know, of course, that — you know, that worked quite well for ISIS.

    And had that not happened — and, you know, this analysis comes from American generals. This isn’t some sort of far-out left-wing analysis. These are American generals looking back at the war in Iraq and thinking, my God, was that a mistake.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And the ripple effects now it has even going all the way up into Europe and even political repercussions of the migrant influx into Europe.

    SEBASTIAN JUNGER: Yes.

    In the modern world, and maybe even the ancient world, you really can’t say that someone else’s problems aren’t your problems. They will eventually reach you. My first war was Bosnia. It was a war that a lot of people sort of ignored, but it started just pumping millions of refugees out of Eastern Europe into neighboring countries, and along with that came a lot of problems, including organized crime into allied countries, countries that we’re allied with.

    So, eventually, President Clinton stepped in and put a stop to it. But there are real consequences. And in Syria, it’s a sort of cauldron of an awful lot of things that will affect us, refugees, terrorism, and a huge nexus of sort of illegal activity, arms sales, drugs, antiquities.

    And wars are not something you want happening in the world, and they will affect everybody, including people in the United States. I think people don’t quite understand that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Sebastian Junger, thanks for joining us.

    SEBASTIAN JUNGER: Thank you.

    The post Sebastian Junger on the consequences of not stepping in on Syria appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: As President Trump nears his 100th day in office, White House correspondent John Yang begins our look at his accomplishments and setbacks, with a focus on the home front.

    JOHN YANG: For President Trump, today’s tax announcement amounted to a campaign promise kept.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It’s a great plan. We’re going to put people back to work.

    JOHN YANG: It comes as he nears his 100th day in office. President Trump dismisses that milestone as not very meaningful and a ridiculous standard, even as administration officials aggressively push his accomplishments online and on-camera.

    SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: When you think about what he’s started, it’s been a huge, hugely successful first 100 days.

    JOHN YANG: Mr. Trump came to the White House intent on shaking things up, changing how Washington works. He and his advisers have focused on asserting executive action. He is on track to sign the most executive orders in his first 100 days since World War II.

    But like other presidents bent on changing Washington, he’s run into obstacles in Congress and in the courts.

    There have been clear victories. Administration officials tout the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, though Republicans had to change Senate rules to do it.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And I got it done in the first 100 days. That’s even nice.

    JOHN YANG: And he moved quickly to revive construction of the Keystone pipeline with executive action. The courts have stymied other executive actions, like his immigrant travel ban, and, just yesterday, his effort to strip federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities.

    While stinging from those court actions, administration officials say the president’s tough talk has led to a sharp drop in illegal crossings over the southern border since January, reversing a nearly 20-year trend.

    Mr. Trump has also reversed himself on some campaign promises, such as not declaring China a currency manipulator, as he had pledged to do in campaign rallies across America.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: What should have done years ago.

    JOHN YANG: And now the White House is working to turn around the most embarrassing setback of his first 100 days, the initial failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, a signature pledge of his campaign.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We were very close. It was a very, very tight margin.

    JOHN YANG: That episode shook some administration officials’ confidence in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s ability to deliver votes.

    REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., Speaker of the House: We came really close today, but we came up short.

    JOHN YANG: On tax reform and on other major legislative initiatives in the near future, such as the promised infrastructure rebuilding, there are indications the White House intends to chart its own course as they search for the victories the president wants to turn his vision of making America great again into a reality.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Yang at the White House.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on President Trump’s first 100 days, and how he compares to his predecessors, I am joined by Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, and presidential historian and NewsHour regular Michael Beschloss.

    And we welcome both of you to the program.

    Michael, I’m going to start with you.

    First, remind us quickly, where did this 100-day standard come from?

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, Presidential Historian: It came from Franklin Roosevelt. He had 100 days that started a couple days after — a few days after he was inaugurated.

    And he was trying to deal with the Great Depression and had this amazing success with Congress, getting all this legislation, fixing the banks, trying to relieve the poor, Tennessee Valley Authority, Public Works, a kind of legislative record that we probably will not see again.

    And every president since then has hated it, because they’re measured against this almost-unreal standard.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Barbara Perry, here we are, almost 100 days in for President Trump. How does he compare to his predecessors at this point?

    BARBARA PERRY, University of Virginia Miller Center: Depends on what you want to compare him on.

    So, if you want to look at, let’s say, executive orders, certainly, in terms of the numbers, he would be right up there in the categories of most presidents.

    But, as Michael said, in reference to legislation, I think FDR passed 76 laws in the first 100 days through a very amenable Congress. Obviously, Trump is not going to come anywhere near that record, and probably no other president will either.

    But I would say, certainly on executive orders, on the Supreme Court appointment of Neil Gorsuch, he gets A’s in terms of getting what he wanted based on some of the promises that he made during the campaign.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael, how do you see him compared to others?

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: I think I would say it a little differently, because Trump made such a point before the campaign just before the election, saying, elect me. This is a referendum on my 100-day action plan. I will get all these things through Congress with a Republican Congress, which he has had.

    And, in retrospect, as you do say, this has been 100 days with almost nothing of great importance, despite the fact that he had promised health care reform and big tax reform, which he’s getting to this week and a number of other things, border wall.

    So, if you’re looking at the 100 days largely as a legislative standard — and that is what is usually is in history — Trump is really pretty low down on the list.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Barbara, Michael referenced where this 100-day standard comes from, but how often do presidents get a lot done early on in their administration?

    BARBARA PERRY: It depends on the president, of course.

    If you look at someone like Lyndon Johnson, who had, of course, two first days — first 100 days, one after the Kennedy assassination, and then being elected in his own right, but particularly after the 1964 election, in 1965, as he moved forward with the Great Society, Medicare and Medicaid, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, so we will point to a president like that.

    Again, no one will ever again standard of FDR in legislation. I also look out where they come out in the first 100 days on approval ratings, which is a fascinating parlor game to play. We know this president coming in, of course, came in with the lowest entering approval rating of any president.

    But it also doesn’t matter necessarily if you make a mistake, because the person with the highest rating after 100 days is John F. Kennedy, after the Bay of Pigs. But the way he handled that issue by going before the American people and saying, I’m responsible for this, I’m the responsible officer of the government, caused his approval ratings to spike even further.

    So he comes in with an 83 percent rating. We know Trump’s approval ratings is down in the low 40s at this point.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Dig a little deeper there, Michael, in terms of how Donald Trump has done compared to other presidents. You started to talk about this a moment ago with the setting of the standard. But how does he stack up?

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Well, you know, a lot of this, you know, what presidents do, above and beyond their congressional record, is, do they expand the base that they had on Election Day?

    Donald Trump, you know, got, what, 47 percent of the popular vote. Now he is down to about 40, which would suggest that, if anything, he’s alienated some of the people who voted for him.

    Usually, with presidents you see — and this is true of almost every president back to FDR — the opposite. They get elected, they say, I need people who didn’t vote for me, who are skeptical of me. I’m going to reach out to them. I’m the president of all the people.

    And you see the numbers go up because people appreciate the fact that they are reaching out. That is the one thing Donald Trump — and this has been his own choice — has not done. He’s essentially said, I’m happy with my base. I will play to them. I am not going to make a big effort to reach out to Democrats and independents in Congress or out among the American people.

    And I think the numbers show that he’s paid for that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: One other feature of this presidency has been his unusual attacks, if you will, Barbara, on the judiciary. Time and again, he has singled out the courts, judges, justices when he didn’t like what they ruled.

    BARBARA PERRY: He has, which is a little odd, in the sense that his sister is a federal judge, and a circuit judge at that.

    But he is following in the footsteps of some other presidents, and we can point directly to FDR, for example, who took on the judiciary headlong, not necessarily even in the first term, but certainly once he was reelected by a landslide in ’36, and famously, or infamously, tried to pack the court.

    But I always go back to a speech that he gave in which he said, the two branches of government, president and Congress, are pulling a wagon. There are two horses pulling in the same direction, and the court, particularly the Supreme Court, which kept striking down his many pieces of New Deal legislation, is pulling in the opposite direction.

    That was a metaphor that the American people could understand. But they never supported in the main or for the majority his court-packing plan.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, it’s not so unusual, Michael. But it is — there has been a frequency we haven’t seen.

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: I think that’s right.

    And Reagan talked about unelected judges. But in Trump’s case, you have had — and this is historically unusual — two big executive orders within these first 100 days, including most recently sanctuary cities, and earlier on the travel ban.

    Each time, he would say, almost in anger, this was something that an unelected judge did, or something that a so-called judge did. And it’s sort of the opposite of conservatism, because one of the things that is most fundamental in being a conservative is having respect for the democratic institutions that we think are important.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s talk, finally, Barbara, about what the first 100 days tells us about the rest of a presidency. To what extent can we look at Donald Trump’s first few months in office and say this forecasts whether he’s going to be successful or not?

    BARBARA PERRY: Well, I’m from Louisville, Kentucky, originally, and we’re about to do the Kentucky Derby, so I say a horse can stumble out of the gate or it can be running last in the first third …

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Absolutely.

    BARBARA PERRY: … and still come on to win.

    So, to the point about low approval ratings and Michael’s point about not necessarily accomplishing all of the list of things he said he would do in the 100 days doesn’t mean that he won’t be reelected or that he will have a failed presidency.

    And if you think of someone like Bill Clinton, who had a rather chaotic start in a host of ways in those first 100 days, and even up to the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and people were saying, oh, it’s the shrinking presidency and the shrinking Bill Clinton as president, and yet he came on strong. And we know that he was reelected in ’96.

    So, it’s not a Ouija board. And, as a professor, I would say to the students in the first third of the semester, if they scored lower than they wanted on the first test, I would say, you have more tests to do, you have a term paper, participate in class.

    So, Trump still has many more things on which to be graded.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you see this first …

    (CROSSTALK)

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: I totally agree with that.

    And that is that it’s a standard that historically doesn’t tell us a lot, because think of all these presidents and what turns out to be important about their administration, these moments like Kennedy and the missile crisis, or Johnson and the Vietnam escalation, or George W. Bush and 9/11.

    None of those things happened in the first — during the first 100 days. So, if we were having a great conversation like this 100 days into each of those presidencies, we wouldn’t have been able to predict what historians now think was really turning out to be pivotal.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael Beschloss, Barbara Perry, thank you both.

    MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Thank you, Judy.

    BARBARA PERRY: Thank you, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, tomorrow, we will take a look at the Trump administration’s successes and setbacks overseas within its first 100 days.

    The post How Trump’s first 100 days compares to past presidencies appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now a very different view of the president’s tax plans.

    William Brangham takes it from here.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In addition to cutting the corporate rate and reducing the number of tax brackets, the president’s blueprint calls for eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax, or AMT, as well as the estate tax.

    It would also eliminate any taxes on the first $24,000 of a couple’s earnings. And it would cut all itemized deductions, except for two big ones, mortgage interest and charitable giving.

    I’m joined now by Jared Bernstein. He’s an economist who served in the Obama administration. He’s now a fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

    Welcome.

    JARED BERNSTEIN, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: Thank you.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: First reaction to the president’s tax proposal?

    JARED BERNSTEIN: There are a lot of problems with this proposal.

    I can think of three or four right off the top of my head, first of all on the revenues. This is a tax plan, even though we don’t know all the details yet, what we do know suggests very clearly that this is going to lead to a loss of north of at least $3 trillion to the treasury, and it could be as much as $6 trillion. That’s over 10 years.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, potentially big deficit hits.

    JARED BERNSTEIN: Big deficit. Big deficit debt hits.

    And there are argument that the growth effects of these tax cuts will offset those revenue losses, those arguments are completely unfounded. There’s just not a shred of evidence, not a shred, that tax cuts pay for themselves in the totality, which is what they’re suggesting.

    That’s not to say that tax cuts can’t have some growth effects, but they tend to be really quite small. So, that’s the first point. The growth point was number two.

    The third point — and I really think Director Mulvaney got this pretty backwards — was, this tax cut plan exacerbates after-tax inequality. That means most its benefits accrue to those at the very top of the scale.

    We can go through some of the details, some of the pieces that you announced that generate that effect, but it mostly has to do with this very sharp cut in the corporate rate and this pass-through rate that you heard him talk about.

    And, finally — and this relates to this pass-through problem — this tax plan oppose up a huge loophole. Every high-end earner has an incentive now to become an independent business, an S Corp, an LLC, to take advantage of a pass-through rate is now going to be 15, 20 percentage points below what they would otherwise pay.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Secretary Mnuchin in his briefing today — and you heard Mick Mulvaney make the same argument — they argue that these taxes are geared largely to middle-income earn earners.

    You don’t see any evidence that there’s targeted tax breaks for them in this?

    JARED BERNSTEIN: Just a slightest bit, which is this increase in the standard deduction. So, that’s going to help some folks at the bottom.

    But that’s tiny. The vast majority of the revenue losses that I was describing, the trillions that are not going to be flowing to the treasury if this tax cut ever becomes law, very much swamp anything to the middle class.

    Let me give you an example. This sounds to me very similar to a House plan that was written by Paul Ryan quite recently. And with that plan, the top 1 percent, their after-tax income went up 11 percent. That’s about $240,000. OK?

    The middle class, their income went up 0.1 percent, which we can just call zero. That’s 60 bucks. So that’s the kind of imbalance we’re looking at here. And that’s what I mean when I say this really exacerbates a problem we already have, which is one of high levels of inequality.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You heard Judy and Mick Mulvaney talk about these pass-through companies and the huge tax cut that they’re going to be getting.

    Can you explain what those companies are and what that tax cut would mean?

    JARED BERNSTEIN: These are the small businesses, but they’re not the moms and pops. That was another misleading part of that.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Well, they argue that this is — that that is largely a tax cut for small business.

    JARED BERNSTEIN: So, that’s — well, it is a tax cut for some small business, but which small businesses are we talking about?

    The moms and pops, you think about the corner store, they’re already paying a low rate on their pass-through income, something close to the 15 percent that we’re talking about. The ones who get the huge break here are high-end small businesses, you know, law firms and private equity funds and hedge funds.

    And, again, the point here is that, if you’re being paid a high salary, you now — which you have to pay on your personal income side, which, under their plan, would be 35 percent, you now have a very big, very tempting incentive to go to your boss and say, starting tomorrow, you’re no longer paying me a paycheck. I’m Jared Bernstein LLC, and I’m going to tap that 30 — that 15 percent loophole.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You’re a veteran of a lot of tax battles in the Congress and the Senate and the administration. Isn’t this just the opening salvo of the Trump administration? This is their beginning of their negotiating position?

    JARED BERNSTEIN: It is an opening salvo. I think that’s an important point and we shouldn’t forget that.

    The problem is that the — this opening salvo goes completely in the wrong direction. We are a society, an economy, a government that is going to need more revenues in the future, not less. Think about demographics alone. The share of elderly people in our country is going to go from 15 to about 21 percent over the next couple of decades. Now, that’s baked in the cake. That’s going to happen.

    That creates certain budgetary pressures. So, the idea that we’re even starting with an opening salvo that’s going to keep, you know, $3 trillion, $4 trillion, $5 trillion over 10 years of going into the coffers at the treasury is starting from precisely the wrong place.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Jared Bernstein, thanks very much for your analysis.

    JARED BERNSTEIN: My pleasure.

    The post An argument for how Trump’s tax plan could exacerbate inequality appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: On this day when the White House is unveiling the outline of a tax system overhaul, and negotiating down to the wire over a federal spending plan to fund the government through September, I sat down with Mick Mulvaney, the head of the Office of Management and Budget.

    I spoke with him at his office this afternoon, before there were reports of a deal on health care subsidies.

    Director Mick Mulvaney, thank you very much for talking with us.

    MICK MULVANEY, Director, Office of Management and Budget: Judy, thank you for having me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I do want to start by asking you about taxes. That’s the big announcement coming from the administration today.

    MICK MULVANEY: Sure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The proposal, among other things, calls for increases in the standard deductions, individuals and families.

    MICK MULVANEY: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Big cuts in corporate business taxes.

    What is the administration trying to accomplish with this proposal?

    MICK MULVANEY: Getting economic growth back where it’s supposed to be.

    I think what we have forgotten for the last decade is that America used to be a fast-growing economy. If you look over the course of our 200-plus years, we’re supposed to grow at about 3 percent, on average, and that’s where we have been since World War II, at the very least, even further back than that.

    But, for the last decade, we have been growing at less than 2 percent. That doesn’t sound like much, but if you think about it in terms of the power of compound interest, when you take an economy our size that only grows 2 percent a year for a decade, instead of 3 percent a year, the difference between those things are tremendous.

    Folks who are 30 years old have never had a job during a time when the economy was growing at 3 percent. And it’s entirely different. When I was a young person, if you got fired, you could find another job. If you wanted to quit, you could go start your own company.

    We haven’t had that for 10 years now. And we’re trying to get back to that. And that is what is driving not only everything we do at the White House, but specifically this tax plan.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A number of the analysts who have looked at say, when you put together the proposed business tax cuts, some of the individual cuts, and when you look at the proposal to do away with some of the taxes that are now in the Affordable Care Act, in essence, it’s the top 1 percent of Americans, 1 percent of American, high-income level, who are going to benefit the most from this.

    How do you answer that?

    MICK MULVANEY: I’m not sure how could they could come to that conclusion.

    I would be curious to know what assumptions they’re making regarding the value of deductions. For example, we get rid of all the deductions on the personal side, except, I think, let’s see, charity and some of the home interest deduction.

    So, I’m not sure how you could make that conclusion, unless you’re making some wild assumptions about the nature of those deductions.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Where do you see the benefits falling, what income?

    MICK MULVANEY: Middle class. Middle class and business, writ large, both large business and small business.

    In fact, it should be one of the largest reductions on small business, what we call S Corporations, in the history of S Corporations. So, we’re 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, and the places where they work.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We know the tax cuts for these so-called pass-through businesses, owner-owned businesses, are going to be among the beneficiaries. We know President Trump, it’s the kind of business he has.

    How much does he stand to benefit? And I ask people of because people are saying, we don’t know what his tax income situation is. He has said he’s not going to release that. How does the public know that he doesn’t stand to benefit significantly?

    MICK MULVANEY: Well, I actually don’t care about whether or not someone else benefits. I care about whether I benefit, I being just anybody. Right?

    As long as I’m better off, why should I care if somebody is as well? What I look at through is the lens of the business I used to run. I owned a restaurant. It was a fast, fresh Mexican restaurant. In fact, I rolled burritos the day that I announced I was running for Congress.

    And this would be a huge benefit to us, to the point where S Corporations right now pay tax at the pass-through rate, which is typically the highest individual rate of the owners of the business.

    You take that number to 15 percent, it allows me to keep a lot more money in my business. And what I would have done, had I still been in that line of work, is start preparing to open another restaurant.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I also want to ask you about the revenue loss that comes from all these tax cuts.

    The administration at one point was talking about a border tax, some kind of adjustable tax at the border. That doesn’t appear to be part of the proposal right now. How do you address significant drop in revenue, at a time when the country is — has deficits that are historic?

    MICK MULVANEY: Sure.

    And we can talk about deficits more. And I want to. But let’s talk about — you asked a couple different things, which is the border tax. Keep in mind that this is the first round of discussions. It’s not a pre-cooked bill. It’s not prepackaged. This is sort of our principles, so just because it’s not in this first round of principles doesn’t mean it won’t be in a final version of the bill.

    The president is interested in trying to figure out a way to tax imports, especially from countries that tax our exports.

    Regarding the revenue loss, keep in mind that the corporate income tax only generates, I think, about only $300 billion a year. So, you can do a fairly good bit within the corporate tax, and not cost a lot of revenue.

    And, finally — and you have heard Secretary Mnuchin talk about this today — we’re hoping for really, really good growth from these numbers, from this tax reform.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, as you know, when big tax cuts instituted during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, that growth didn’t materialize. They ended up having to raise taxes again by the end of his administration.

    MICK MULVANEY: Actually, that’s not true. We did get really good growth from the Reagan years.

    You saw GDP grow at very high rates as we came out of the recession, something that didn’t happen at the end of the recession in 2007-2008. President Obama chose to deal with his recession by increasing regulations and getting government more involved in the economy.

    President Reagan decided to do the exact opposite. President Reagan got a tremendous result in terms of economic growth. President Obama gave us eight years without 3 percent growth. So, I do think history shows us, if we do the tax reform right, that we can put people back to work and grow the economy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I want to move on to the budget.

    MICK MULVANEY: Sure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You finish up the fiscal year later on. Right now, we don’t know if there’s an agreement on a spending — on a spending plan for the rest of this year. Where does that stand right now?

    MICK MULVANEY: That is a really, really good question, and I don’t know either, which bothers me a little bit, because I’m the budget director.

    But we had thought we had a deal on Monday. The Democrats had objected to our inclusion of the bricks-and-mortar portion of the border wall. They said that that was a poison pill. And to sort of drive home their point, they said, well, now we want these cost-sharing payments, cost — the CSR payments, cost-sharing reduction payments to the insurance industry as part of the Obamacare.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    MICK MULVANEY: And they said — they put that on after they found out our request for the wall.

    Well, we took the wall request away on Monday. And we’re still waiting for the Democrats to let us know where they stand. So, we thought we had a deal on Monday, almost 48 hours ago now, and we have no idea where the Democrats are.

    We don’t know if they’re doing internal polling that maybe says they’re going to benefit from a shutdown. We’re really — we’re not concerned yet, but I’m a little surprised that we haven’t buttoned this up.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is the administration, are you, the president, prepared to go ahead with a spending arrangement that doesn’t include these payments to — subsidy payments to insurance companies that help low-income Americans?

    MICK MULVANEY: Well, that’s the whole idea, is that the bipartisan bill that is being — that I think has been negotiated now for three months, two months, on the Hill never included those payments until about two weeks ago.

    So, we just assumed when we gave up on our immediate demands for the bricks-and-mortar wall that the Democrats would do the same thing. And for some reason, they’re not being straightforward yet about what they want to do on those payments.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The White House, you mentioned the wall, the fact that the president initially said this was something he felt very strongly about. It had to be — there had to be money in there to pay for a bricks-and-mortar wall.

    What signal that does it send, though, that he — that was a centerpiece of his campaign.

    MICK MULVANEY: Yes.

    The day after we sign the bill that keeps the government open for the last five months of the fiscal year — our fiscal year ends the end of September — the discussions begin immediately for the larger budget for the full 2018 fiscal year. In fact, that’s the budget we happen to be working on today as well.

    We’re doing ’17 and ’18 at the same time. Those conversations will have actually already started in terms of what wall funding will be in 2018. So, I don’t think it’s fair to say he’s dropped anything. We simply said, look, this is the last five months of the fiscal year. There’s very little we can get built in five months anyway, so let’s focus instead on things we agree on.

    The Democrats say they support border security. In 2006, for example, then-Senator Obama voted for a lot of the stuff we’re asking for right now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, it’s not a lessening of his — that this is a priority for him?

    MICK MULVANEY: It’s simply a recognition of the fact that we only have five months left in the year anyway. That’s the only discussion we’re having right now, and that there are other things we can agree on.

    So, let’s agree on them. Let’s fund the government and let’s start talking about 2018.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Final question. We’re coming up on the 100-day mark.

    MICK MULVANEY: I’m familiar with it. Yes, I have heard a little bit about it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For President Trump.

    As you know, there are critics, even friends of the administration out there, who are saying, this has been a rocky beginning for this administration, that you haven’t been able to get as much done as you wanted. Pulling back — Obamacare hasn’t been repealed and replaced, the border wall that we have just been discussing.

    How do you see these first 100 days?

    MICK MULVANEY: A lot of the stuff that was entirely in our control, I think we have actually exceed our own expectations.

    You can talk about the number of bills that the president has signed. I think there’s been at least 13, more than any president since World War II, the number of executives orders that we have issued. Again, it’s not just number of these things, but what they have done.

    By passing this legislation, we have undone a lot of the regulatory regime that the previous administration put in. We have undone a lot of damage they did with our executive orders. So, we have actually been able to reduce role of government in your life a great deal in the first 100 days.

    We take that as a huge success. I think President Trump is the first president since the 1880s to have a Supreme Court justice in the first 100 days. Yes, we have not gotten health care done. Yes, we’re just starting tax reform today.

    But keep in mind those are things we had to work with Congress, and Congress turned out to be a lot more broken than we thought it was. In fact, one of the reasons we think the Democrats have not responded on our funding proposals for this year is that they don’t want to give it to us within the first 100 days.

    So, that’s how poisonous the atmosphere is that we’re working in, that they sort of agreed in principle. They want to say yes, but they won’t say yes until after the 100 days to deny that to the president. That’s just absurd. And the folks back home pay the price for that, which is unfortunate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, thank you very much.

    MICK MULVANEY: Thanks, Judy.

    The post Mulvaney: Trump tax plan benefits middle class and ‘the places where they work’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Trump administration is out with the broad strokes of what it says would be the largest tax reform in U.S. history. The plan’s main features, released today, include cutting corporate tax rates to 15 percent from 35 percent.

    It would also consolidate existing income tax brackets into just three, ranging from 10 percent to 35 percent. And it would double the standard deduction, while repealing the estate tax.

    At a White House briefing, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin promised the plan will not make the deficit worse.

    STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. Treasury Secretary: This will pay for itself with growth and with reduced reduction of different deductions, and closing loopholes.

    We will be working very closely, as I said, with the House and Senate to turn this into a bill that can be passed and the president can sign, and there’s lots and lots of details going into how that will pay for itself.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Republican leaders said the plan offers critical guideposts for a tax overhaul, but Democrats called it a massive tax break for the wealthy.

    On another issue, Secretary Mnuchin said today that President Trump — quote — “has no intention” of making his own tax returns public.

    Congress moved closer today to trying to prevent a government shutdown on Saturday. Democrats said one stumbling block apparently fell away when the White House agreed to continue subsidies for millions of poor people under Obamacare.

    Meanwhile, conservative House Republicans announced that they will back a newly revised plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. It is not yet clear if moderates will go along.

    There is word that President Trump has settled on a course of action against North Korea. A top national security official says it begins with diplomacy, but includes a range of options. That word came as all 100 senators took a bus caravan to the White House for a classified briefing.

    Democrat Chris Coons of Delaware was among those who spoke afterwards.

    SEN. CHRIS COONS, D-Del.: I was encouraged that they chose to brief the entire Senate. And I think the — it was a sobering briefing, in which it was clear just how much thought and planning is going into preparing military options, if called for, and a diplomatic strategy that strikes me as clear-eyed and well — well-proportioned to the threat.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: House members had their briefing later at the Capitol.

    And North Korea issued a new warning that it will — quote — “go to the end,” apparently meaning a nuclear strike, if there is an all-out war with the U.S.

    China today unveiled its first domestically built aircraft carrier, the latest step in a major naval expansion. The vessel slowly slipped into the water in the port city of Dalian to much fanfare. It is expected to become operational by 2020, after undergoing sea trials.

    President Trump today decried a new legal blow to his immigration policy. On Tuesday, a federal district judge in San Francisco blocked his order to withhold funding from so-called sanctuary cities, which seek to protect many of those who are undocumented. The president tweeted that the decision was — quote — “ridiculous” and he vowed to appeal. He lumped that in with criticism of the 9th Judicial Circuit, where appellate courts also blocked his travel ban.

    Later, he echoed that complaint:

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I’m never surprised by the 9th Circuit.

    (LAUGHTER)

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: As I said, we will see them in the Supreme Court.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Trump also told The Washington Examiner newspaper that he has considered proposals to split up the 9th Circuit.

    Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security formally opened a new office to help victims of crimes by undocumented immigrants. Secretary John Kelly said that it will help shine a light on victims as part of the president’s push on illegal immigration. Multiple studies show that native-born Americans are more likely to commit crimes than are immigrants.

    The Trump administration is going to review so-called national monument designations for millions of acres of federal land. They go back to President Clinton’s time in office. Mr. Trump ordered the review at the U.S. Interior Department today. It is aimed at what he called a — quote — “massive federal land grab” that bars drilling, mining and other uses.

    Environmental and Native American tribal groups denounced the action.

    And Wall Street gave a little ground today. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 21 points to close at 20975. The Nasdaq fell a quarter of a point, and the S&P 500 slipped one point.

    The post News Wrap: Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says tax reform plan will pay for itself appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is calling an inquiry into former national security adviser Michael Flynn “appropriate.” The Pentagon’s acting inspector general has begun an inquiry into Flynn, the retired Army officer who was President Trump’s first national security adviser.

    Spicer says the administration welcomes the inquiry announced Thursday by Maryland Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings.

    The probe is of payments received by Flynn from Russia’s state-sponsored RT television network and a Turkish-owned company linked to Turkey’s government, and whether they qualify as coming from foreign governments, and whether Flynn properly informed military authorities about them.

    Spicer adds that Trump “made the right call at the right time, and it’s clearly paid off” when he decided in February to fire Flynn from the sensitive national security post.

    And Spicer says that Flynn’s security clearance was handled by the Obama administration.

    READ MORE: What we know about the latest developments in the Russia investigations

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    Peter Uribe, a Chilean immigrant, once considered a career in soccer but a foot injury years ago and his reluctance to get health care for it, has left him hobbled and dependent on his skills as a carpenter and sometimes sculptor to make a living. Photo by Doug Kapustin

    Peter Uribe, a Chilean immigrant, once considered a career in soccer but a foot injury years ago and his reluctance to get health care for it, has left him hobbled and dependent on his skills as a carpenter and sometimes sculptor to make a living. Photo by Doug Kapustin for KHN

    BALTIMORE — Peter Uribe left Chile at 21 with his wife and 2-year-old daughter, landing in Baltimore and finding steady work in construction. His social life revolved around futbol, playing “six or seven nights a week in soccer tournaments,” he said.

    A couple of years after his arrival, he broke his foot during a game and afraid of the cost, didn’t seek medical care.

    “Some of my family warned me that if I went to the hospital and couldn’t pay the bill, I’d get a bad credit record,” said Uribe, 41, who made about $300 a week and had no health insurance. “I wanted to buy a car or a house someday.” Instead, he hobbled through workdays and stayed off the field for three years; the residual pain is sometimes disabling, even two decades later.

    For reasons both economic and cultural, Hispanic men are loath to interact with the health system. Women across all races are more likely to seek care than men. But the gender gap in the Hispanic community is especially troubling to health care providers. Studies show that Latino men are much less likely than Latinas to get treatment.

    That is true even though Hispanic men are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to be obese, have diabetes or have high blood pressure. Those who drink tend to do so heavily, contributing to the group’s higher rates of alcoholic cirrhosis and deaths from chronic liver disease. Many take risky jobs such as construction workers and laborers, and are more likely to die from on-the-job injuries than other workers, government data show.

    Hispanics’ share of the population is expected to widen from nearly a fifth now to a quarter by 2045. As that number grows, researchers worry that the nation could face costly consequences as long-ignored conditions lead to serious illness and disability.

    “It could literally break the health care system,” said José Arévalo, board chairman of Latino Physicians of California, which represents Hispanic doctors and others who treat Latinos.

    And now, some medical professionals fear the effects of President Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigrants.

    “When the community faces this kind of stress, I worry that people will do unhealthy things, like abuse alcohol, to deal with it,” said Kathleen Page, co-director of Centro SOL, a health center at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, and founder of the city’s Latino HIV Outreach Program. “That means they may not work as much,” she added. “They’ll have less money, which means they’re less likely to seek care.”

    Welcomed by Baltimore officials, immigrants have driven the city’s Hispanic population, tripling it to 30,000 since 2000.

    Here, as elsewhere, evidence suggests that for many Hispanic men, seeking health care is an extraordinary event. Hospital data show they are more likely than Hispanic women, white women and white men to go to the emergency room as their primary source of treatment — a sign that they wait until they’ve no choice but to get help.

    Some care providers say medical institutions haven’t done enough to keep Hispanic men healthy, or to persuade them to get regular exams.

    “There’s been an ongoing need for institutions to become more culturally attuned and aware of bias,” said Elena Rios, president of the National Hispanic Medical Association, which represents the nation’s 50,000 Latino physicians.

    There are some significant differences in health risk and illness rates among Hispanic subgroups — Puerto Ricans are more likely to be smokers, for example. Compared with Hispanics born in the U.S., those born elsewhere have much lower rates of cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure. Overall, Hispanics live longer than whites.

    But these advantages may be dissipating as Latinos become Americanized and adopt unhealthy habits such as smoking and diets high in fatty, processed foods.

    “I tell people we live longer and suffer,” said Jane Delgado, a clinical psychologist and Cuban-American who serves as president of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health.

    Researchers who investigate gaps in cancer testing have found that all ethnic groups and genders have seen a decrease in late-stage colon cancer diagnoses and deaths in recent years — except Hispanic men, who get screened at the lowest rates of any race or ethnic group.

    Often, health problems arise after immigrants come up against an insurance barrier. A few years after Jose Cedillo came to Baltimore from Honduras, the 41-year-old cook noticed his legs were often numb or painful. Worried about finances, he eschewed treatment and continued to work, before finally going to a clinic where he was diagnosed with diabetes.

    In the seven years since, his health has so deteriorated he can’t work, is frequently homeless and spends long stints in the hospital. As an immigrant who came to the U.S. illegally, he is not eligible for government-paid insurance or disability payments. And he can’t afford medicine. Instead, he said, “I’ll drink alcohol to numb the pain.”

    Jose Cedillo, a 41-year-old former restaurant worker from Honduras struggles to get health care for his diabetes. His immigration status compounds his issues and often finds himself without a job and homeless on the streets of Baltimore. Photo by Doug Kapustin for KHN

    Jose Cedillo, a 41-year-old former restaurant worker from Honduras struggles to get health care for his diabetes. His immigration status compounds his issues and often finds himself without a job and homeless on the streets of Baltimore. Photo by Doug Kapustin for KHN

    Part of the problem is that Spanish speakers are underrepresented among medical professionals. After arriving here, Uribe’s family members frequently brought along an English-speaking nephew or niece when they could afford to see doctors. Otherwise, “we’d travel a long ways to find a doctor who spoke Spanish,” he said.

    Hospitals frequently lack cultural understanding and bilingual staffing, administrators admit. Though Latinos make up nearly 20 percent of the population, only 5 percent of physicians and 7 percent of registered nurses are Hispanic. That gap has widened as more Hispanics have come to this country during the past three decades, according to a UCLA study released in 2015.

    “Too often, people don’t understand what you’re saying, they don’t know what you’re going to charge them, what dietary restrictions you might place upon them,” said James Page, vice president for diversity at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “It creates a trust issue for Hispanics. We’ve got to get better at serving them.”

    That is particularly true in mental health. Only 1 percent of psychologists in the U.S. are Hispanic, meaning that Spanish-speaking men who do seek therapy will probably struggle to find it.

    In Baltimore, there is only one Spanish-language support group for men who suffer from anxiety and depression, local psychologists and Latino advocates say. The city employs one Spanish-speaking substance abuse counselor. A small handful of bilingual social workers citywide offer reduced-rate counseling sessions, and only three psychiatrists offer therapy sessions conducted in Spanish.

    For Peter Uribe, the key to maintaining his family’s health is getting help paying for care. His wife and brother both suffer from epileptic seizures, and his brother’s despondency caused Uribe to become depressed, he said. In 2015, he obtained insurance for his family through a charity program. With the help of now-affordable medicines, his wife’s seizures waned, and he sought help for chronic depression. Since he now speaks English, finding counseling help is easier.

    In January, after intervention from a Latino advocacy group, the charity renewed the Uribes’ policy for two years. Peter Uribe calls it a godsend:

    “I honestly have no idea what we’d do without it.”

    Michael Anft is a Baltimore-based journalist and writer whose work regularly appears in AARP: The Magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education and other publications. Daniel Trielli, a data journalist at Capital News Service at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, contributed to this report.

    The Annie E. Casey Foundation supports KHN’s coverage of health disparities in east Baltimore.

    Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. You can view the original report on its website.

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    African elephants walk with their young on the Serengeti. Photo by Cathy Hart/Design Pics Perspectives and Getty Images

    African elephants walk with their young on the Serengeti. Photo by Cathy Hart/Design Pics Perspectives and Getty Images

    The ancient Chinese practiced copromancy, the diagnosis of health based on the shape, size and texture of feces. So did the Egyptians, the Greeks and nearly every ancient culture. Even today, your doctor may ask when you last had a bowel movement and to describe it in exquisite detail.

    Sure, it’s uncomfortable to talk about. But that’s where science comes in, because what we don’t like to discuss can still cause harm. Irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, gastrointestinal infections and other poop-related ailments cost Americans billions of dollars annually.

    But trying to stem these problems was not our main motivation for trying to figure out some of the physics of defecation. It was something else, much more sinister.

    From personal observation, into the lab

    When parenthood hits, it hits hard. One of us is a working dad who survived by learning a new set of skills, one of which was fecal analysis. Years of diaper changes and then potty training turned me from a poo-analysis novice to a wizened connoisseur. My life passes by in a series of images: hard feces pellets like peas to long feces like a smooth snake to a puddle of brown water.

    Unlike the ancients, we didn’t believe that we could predict the future from children’s stool. But we did think it was worth trying to understand where all these shapes come from. Having a laboratory to answer questions about the everyday world is one of the distinct pleasures of being a scientist.

    As fluid dynamicists, we joined forces with colorectal surgeon Daniel Chu, and two stalwart undergraduates, Candice Kaminski and Morgan LaMarca, who filmed defecation and hand-picked feces from 34 mammalian species at Zoo Atlanta in order to measure their density and viscosity.

    We learned that most elephants and other herbivores create “floaters” while most tigers and other carnivores create “sinkers.” Inadvertently, we also ranked feces from most to least smelly, starting with tiger and rhino and going all the way to panda. The zoo’s variety of animals provided us with a range of fecal sizes and shapes that served as independent pieces of evidence to validate our mathematical model of the duration of defecation.

    We also placed the feces in a device called a “rheometer,” a precision blender that can measure the properties of liquid-like and solid-like materials such as chocolate and shampoo. Our lab shares two rheometers with Georgia Tech physicist Alberto Fernandez-Nieves. We have since categorized the rheometers as the “clean rheometer” and the “David Hu rheometer” – which has seen its fair share of frog saliva, mucus and feces.

    The secret to the speed

    What else did we learn? Bigger animals have longer feces. And bigger animals also defecate at higher speed. For instance, an elephant defecates at a speed of six centimeters per second, nearly six times as fast as a dog. The speed of defecation for humans is in between: two centimeters per second.

    The relationship between body mass M and defecation time. Symbols represent experimental measurements; dashed line represents best fit to the data; solid line represents the theoretical prediction. Yang et al, DOI: 10.1039/C6SM02795D, CC BY-ND

    The relationship between body mass M and defecation time. Symbols represent experimental measurements; dashed line represents best fit to the data; solid line represents the theoretical prediction. Yang et al, DOI: 10.1039/C6SM02795D, CC BY-ND

    Together, this meant that defecation duration is constant across many animal species – around 12 seconds (plus or minus 7 seconds) – even though the volume varies greatly. Assuming a bell curve distribution, 66 percent of animals take between 5 and 19 seconds to defecate. It’s a surprisingly small range, given that elephant feces have a volume of 20 liters, nearly a thousand times more than a dog’s, at 10 milliliters. How can big animals defecate at such high speed?

    Mucus on the surface of rat feces shines at t = 0 and evaporates in less than 30 seconds. Yang et al, DOI: 10.1039/C6SM02795D, CC BY-ND

    Mucus on the surface of rat feces shines at t = 0 and evaporates in less than 30 seconds. Yang et al, DOI: 10.1039/C6SM02795D, CC BY-ND

    The answer, we found, was in the properties of an ultra-thin layer of mucus lining the walls of the large intestine. The mucus layer is as thin as human hair, so thin that we could measure it only by weighing feces as the mucus evaporated. Despite being thin, the mucus is very slippery, more than 100 times less viscous than feces.

    During defecation, feces moves like a solid plug. Therefore, in ideal conditions, the combined length and diameter of feces is simply determined by the shape of one’s rectum and large intestine. One of the big findings of our study was that feces extend halfway up the length of the colon from the rectum.

    A unified theory of pooping

    Putting the length of feces together with the properties of mucus, we now have a cohesive physics story for how defecation happens. Bigger animals have longer feces, but also thicker mucus, enabling them to achieve high speeds with the same pressure. Without this mucus layer, defecation might not be possible. Alterations in mucus can contribute to several ailments, including chronic constipation and even infections by bacteria such as C. difficile in the gastrointestinal tract.

    Beyond simply following our scientific curiosity, our measurements of feces have also had some practical applications. Our defecation data helped us design an adult diaper for astronauts. Astronauts want to stay in space suits for seven days, but are limited by their diapers. Taking advantage of the viscosity of feces, we designed a diaper that segregates the feces away from direct contact with skin. It was a semifinalist in the NASA Space Poop Challenge earlier this year.

    It just shows that physics and mathematics can be used everywhere, even in your toilet bowl.

    David Hu is an associate professor of mechanical engineering and biology and an adjunct associate professor of physics at Georgia Institute of Technology.

    Patricia Yang is a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology.

    This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article

    The post Why it takes you and an elephant the same amount of time to poop appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks with the media following a conference meeting on Capitol Hill in D.C. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks with the media following a conference meeting on Capitol Hill in D.C. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The White House and Republican leaders worked Thursday to wring votes out of resistant moderate GOP lawmakers for the House health care bill, but remained shy of the support they’d need to fully rouse the measure back to life.

    Centrist Republicans were the primary target of the lobbying, a day after the conservative House Freedom Caucus announced its support for a revised version of the legislation. The fresh backing from that group exhumed the bill from the legislative graveyard, but leaders still need moderates who’ve resisted the effort to jump aboard.

    White House officials and party leaders were eager for a vote this week if possible, before the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency, which falls this Saturday. But Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., wants to avoid an encore of last month’s embarrassment, when he abruptly canceled a vote on a health care overhaul because of opposition from moderates and conservatives alike.

    Ryan told reporters that leaders were making progress but added, “We’re going to go when we have the votes.” He noted that he had spoken earlier this year about a 200-day legislative plan because of the complexity of revamping the nation’s health system, its tax code and border security.

    In at least one instance, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spoke to one recalcitrant conservative who is now a yes vote. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., said he’d already decided to switch to backing the revamped bill on Wednesday before he got two phone calls from Pence, who on the second call handed the phone to Trump.

    “Donald Trump expressed his appreciation for the position I was taking,” Brooks said Thursday. “That gives you a good feeling inside about what you’re doing.”

    Seventy years ago, President Truman forged a deal where coal companies and the union agreed to fund lifelong health care pensions. The government never intended to pay for these benefits, but Congress has become a funder of last resort. Now some 22,000 retired union miners and their widows will lose their health care if Congress doesn’t act. Lisa Desjardins reports from West Virginia.

    The recast bill would let states escape a requirement under former President Barack Obama’s health care law that insurers charge healthy and seriously ill customers the same rates. They could also be exempted from Obama’s mandate that insurers cover a list of services like maternity care, and from its bar against charging older customers more than triple their rates for younger ones.

    Overall, the legislation would cut the Medicaid program for the poor, eliminate Obama’s fines for people who don’t buy insurance and provide generally skimpier subsidies.

    Conservatives embraced the revisions as a way to lower people’s health care expenses. Moderates saw them as diminishing coverage because insurers could make policies for their most ill — and expensive — customers too costly for them to afford.

    “No bill is going to solve every issue,” said Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., who crafted the newest edition of the legislation with Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., who heads the hard-line Freedom Caucus. MacArthur is a leader of the roughly 50-member moderate House Tuesday Group, but it is unclear that he has won over many of their votes and he conceded that some lawmakers “are struggling to get to yes.”

    The American Medical Association said it opposed the newly reshaped bill, as it did the original legislation.

    The doctors’ group said letting insurers boost premiums on people with pre-existing conditions “will likely lead to patients losing their coverage.” It also said a provision requiring insurers to cover such people “may be illusory” because companies could make such policies unaffordable.

    Some lawmakers and GOP aides suggested leaders were less than 10 away from the 216 votes Republicans will need to prevail. Others were more cautious, and there was little overt indication of new support from the party’s moderates.

    Many of them oppose the legislation, citing its cuts in Medicaid, its less generous federal subsidies for people buying insurance and estimates that 24 million people would lose coverage.

    “I still think there’s a lot of work to be done” before a vote can be held, said Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, a member of the House GOP leadership.

    Associated Press writers Erica Werner, Kevin Freking, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

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

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    President Donald Trump is expected to sign an order Thursday at 4:45 p.m. ET from the Veterans Affairs headquarters in Washington, D.C. that would create a new Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection within the agency. PBS NewsHour will live stream the event.

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday creating an accountability and whistleblower protection office at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    Trump, who made improving veterans’ care a prominent issue as he campaigned for office, was to issue the order while visiting the VA. It will create a new Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection within the department. The eventual head of the office will report directly to VA Secretary David Shulkin.

    Shulkin said the purpose is to help identify “barriers” that make it difficult to fire or reassign employees deemed unfit to work at the department and serve veterans.

    Another function will be to help shield whistleblowers from retaliation.

    The office is a byproduct of a 2014 scandal in which as many as 40 veterans died while waiting months for appointments at the VA medical center in Phoenix.

    The House has passed a bill to make it easier for the VA to fire, suspend or demote employees for poor performance or bad conduct, and the Senate continues to work on its version of the measure. Shulkin said Trump’s decision to create the office before Congress sends him a bill speaks to his commitment to accountability at the VA.

    The government’s second-largest department has struggled to improve care for more than 9 million veterans it serves. A Choice program intended to reduce wait times by giving veterans more access to the private sector has suffered long delays of its own, while the VA has suffered staff shortages that has worsened a backlog of disability claims.

    The rate of suicide also remains persistently high, with 20 veterans taking their lives each day.

    Several senators expressed bewilderment at a hearing Thursday as to why the VA struggles with the same problems year after year. A recent report by the VA inspector general, for instance, found that troubled veterans who called a suicide hotline were often bounced to a backup center. The VA had promised to fix those problems last year.

    Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., who chairs the Senate appropriations panel, referred to a “disconnect” in which the VA has shown little improvement in reducing suicide despite increased money for the effort. “I want to know what resources are required,” he said.

    VA inspector general Michael Missal told the panel that when he raises issues with the VA “there’s an urgency,” but then there is sometimes an “opposite effect where recommendations are not being closed out quickly.” Until the VA implements the inspector general’s recommendations for improvement, Missal said the VA would “continue to have challenges.”

    Shulkin insists he’s made accountability a top priority and legislation would help.

    Trump is “asking through his executive order for the VA to do everything that it can internally,” Shulkin said at a White House briefing on Wednesday. “But we know that that’s not going to be enough to get done what I want to get done, which is to be able to, once we identify people that need to leave the organization, to get them out quickly. So I do need legislative help as well.”

    Veterans’ organizations agreed that the VA needed to do more.

    “Secretary Shulkin’s hands will be tied until Congress passes strong accountability legislation,” said Mark Lucas, executive director of Concerned Veterans for America. Lucas said the office was a “positive first step” but not enough to fix the culture at the VA.

    The new office will also investigate reports of retaliation against VA employees who expose illegal or unethical conduct, Shulkin said. “We will take actions” if it is determined that an employee whistleblower has been subject to retaliation for coming forward, he said.

    Existing VA employees will staff the office, despite departmentwide staff shortages and the decision to leave thousands of positions unfilled.

    Carolyn Clancy, VA’s deputy undersecretary for health, told senators that the VA urgently needs to reduce a shortage of mental health professionals and are actively filling vacancies. But she acknowledged that the VA had put in place recent hiring restrictions for many benefits, human resources and administrative positions, despite VA’s difficulty in recruiting front-line caregivers in many parts of the country.

    The Associated Press reported Wednesday on an internal VA memo describing the hiring restrictions, citing a need to be leaner as it develops plans to expand care to the private sector. Shulkin separately said he didn’t have dollar figures for how much the new VA accountability office would cost, but said it will require a “substantial commitment.”

    Regarding the federal hiring freeze, Clancy said that “technically it’s been lifted, but we have to submit formal plans. We are developing formal plans for streamlining the VA.”

    READ MORE: Can President Trump keep his promises to veterans?

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    Patricia Altschul during her 2015 Kentucky Derby party.

    Patricia Altschul during her 2015 Kentucky Derby party.

    Throwing a flawless event is a science and Patricia Altschul has cracked the formula. A celebrated hostess, Altschul reveals her fail-safe tips and tricks in her new book “The Art of the Southern Charm.”

    “It’s a blueprint for living a fabulous life, Southern style, because I believe Southerners do [entertaining and hospitality] better,” she said. Altschul, a native of Richmond, Virginia, began hosting dinner parties for friends when she was a newlywed living in Washington, D.C. They were casual affairs and couples would bring dishes to contribute to cut down on costs.

    The Art of Southern Charm

    She now lives in Charleston, South Carolina and is a cast member on Bravo’s hit reality television show, “Southern Charm,” which follows Altschul and eight others, including her son Whitney, as they navigate life in the Holy City. Her punctiliously planned parties are featured regularly on the program.

    “Patricia is on a whole ‘nother level,” says Cameran Eubanks Wimberly, a friend and fellow “Southern Charm” cast member. “I have never been to anything as nice as a party that Patricia has thrown.”

    Eubanks Wimberly said her demeanor immediately puts guests at ease. “She is very calm, very collected, and she makes everybody, no matter who you are, feel extremely welcome in her home, which is wonderful. She doesn’t care where you’re from … as long as you’re a good, fun person, she’ll hang with you.”

    Instagram Photo

    Altschul makes sure all guests are properly introduced when they arrive so people are more friends than strangers by the time dinner is served.

    “Try to get everyone together rather than spread out because the cozier you are, the more comfortable and intimate people feel. You can purposefully seat people together or will get along. After a drink or two and people are chatting, it’s time to move into the dining room. By then, they’re loosened up.”

    Some of the keys to Altschul’s successful hosting are in her wardrobe. She likes wearing caftans, especially when entertaining at home, because of their comfort and versatility. She has recently started her own line of custom caftans that offer pet owners bohemian-style gowns printed with their four-legged friend’s picture.

    While preparing for parties, Altschul likes to have a “dressing drink.”

    “I have a dressing drink for two reasons. If I’m entertaining at the house, I really don’t have time to sit and have a nice cocktail because I’ll be getting up and greeting people, showing them around, or introducing them, and I don’t want to be doing it holding onto a cocktail. If I’m attending an event, I know I’m not going to get what I want where I’m going — and I like my martini.”

    Altschul delves into proper guest etiquette in the book as well. Among her strict rules: No cell phones during parties.

    “People put them on the table like an accessory or part of the dinner service. I have what I call ‘phone shaming,’” Altschul said. “If I see a phone I say ‘no phones, put them away, they’re not allowed.’” She is also a stickler for RSVPs. “Its definitive — you must RSVP,” she said. Staying after a party has ended is another pet peeve of hers. “It’s a constraint on everyone’s time and the host or hostess is probably tired.”

    To ace hosting duties at your next get-together, Altschul suggests the following tips:

    1. Plan ahead. Don’t wait until the day of the party to get everything done. She says this allows you to be calm and relaxed for the party. “If you’re stressed, it shows and it makes people uncomfortable.”
    2. Write everything down, including whom you are inviting and what food you are planning to serve.
    3. Call and invite people at least a month in advance. “It’s not a spontaneous event — you’re investing your time and money,” she said. Speaking to someone on the phone also allows for a more personal connection and you’re likely to get an RSVP sooner.
    4. Host the party in your home. It’s less intimidating and much cozier than meeting at a restaurant.
    5. If you’re planning a dinner party on a budget, serve well-prepared food such as spaghetti and meatballs, salad, and homemade cookies for dessert. “The whole purpose is to get together and have fun; it’s not a gourmand roundtable,” she said. Altschul suggests allocating funds towards better alcohol.

    No Southern soiree would be complete without both food and liquor. Below are two of Altschul’s tried and true recipes that will bring the South to your table, no matter which side of the Mason-Dixon you call home.

    Ham Biscuits

    Ham biscuits are a staple at any Altschul party. Below is her recipe for classic Southern buttermilk biscuits.

    Ingredients:

    Sliced ham (Edwards Virginia brand preferred)

    2 cups flour

    4 teaspoons baking powder

    1/4 teaspoon baking soda

    2 tablespoons Crisco

    3/4 teaspoon salt

    2 tablespoons butter

    1 cup buttermilk

    Directions:

    Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Add Crisco and butter until batter reaches a crumbly consistency. Add buttermilk and stir until dough forms. Place the dough on a floured surface and dust with flour. Fold the dough into itself several times and form a round that’s about an inch thick. Use a biscuit cutter to cut individual biscuits. Line up on a cookie sheet. Bake fifteen to twenty minutes, until golden. When the biscuits have cooled, slice them open, and fill with ham.

    General Lee’s Artillery Punch

    Punch is a great option if you’re hosting a crowd. Since this drink is strong, Altschul suggests serving it in punch cups, which are smaller than traditional glasses.

    Ingredients:

    3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

    2 cups superfine sugar

    1 pint bourbon

    1 pint cognac

    1 pint Jamaican rum

    3 bottles good-quality champagne

    Directions:

    Mix alcohol with lemon juice and sugar and let sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours to mellow it out. When ready to serve, pour over a block of ice in a punch bowl and top with thinly cut slices of orange and small strawberries.

    For more entertaining advice, etiquette tips, and recipes, check out “The Art of the Southern Charm” and catch Altschul “Southern Charm” every Monday at 9 p.m. on Bravo.

    The post 5 ‘Southern Charm’ secrets for entertaining from Patricia Altschul appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Robert W Scherer Power Plant, operated by Georgia Power in Juliette

    Photo by Chris Aluka Berry/Reuters

    It has been reported that today there will be a meeting in the White House where the President’s key advisers will discuss whether the United States should remain a party to the Paris climate agreement. With this in mind, we reflect in this essay on the history of international climate negotiations, observe why this is a pivotal moment and explain why we think that the U.S. should remain in the Paris agreement.

    In the five decades since the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, remarkable economic growth around the world has inevitably been accompanied by significant environmental challenges. While tremendous progress has been made to address concerns about air and water quality, hazardous waste, species extinction and maintenance of stratospheric ozone, leaders around the world continue to struggle to address the threat of global climate change in the face of the steady accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

    The necessity of international cooperation

    There is broad scientific consensus that human-based emissions of greenhouse gases — including carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel combustion and land-use changes — will change the earth’s climate in ways that will have serious environmental, economic and social consequences. Sixteen of the warmest years on record have occurred since 2000, including 2016, which was the warmest of all. At the same time, winter arctic sea ice is at its lowest extent in recorded history.

    READ MORE: Column: What does Trump’s victory mean for climate change policy?

    Increased temperatures — which might be welcome in some places — are only part of the story. More important are changes in precipitation, decreased snowpack, glacier melting, droughts in mid to low latitudes, decreased cereal crop productivity at lower latitudes, increased sea level, loss of islands and coastal wetlands, increased flooding, greater storm intensity, species loss and spread of infectious disease.

    These biophysical impacts will have significant economic, social and political consequences. Estimates of economic damages of unrestrained climate change vary, with most falling in the range of 1 to 3 percent of world GDP per year by the middle of the current century.

    In order to have a 50-50 chance of keeping temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius (a long-term political goal acknowledged by most national governments), it would be necessary to stabilize atmospheric concentrations at 450 parts per million, which in principle could be achieved by cutting global emissions by 60 to 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.

    Reducing emissions will not be cheap or easy, but the greatest obstacles are political. The severe political challenges are due to the fact that greenhouse gases mix in the atmosphere, and so the location of damages is independent of the location of emissions. Any political jurisdiction that takes action incurs the direct costs of that action, but the climate benefits are spread globally. Hence, for any country, the direct climate benefits of taking action will likely be much less than the costs, despite the fact that the global benefits may exceed, possibly greatly, the costs. Therefore, due to the global common nature of the problem, meaningful international cooperation is necessary.

    The Paris climate agreement: a breakthrough after 20 years

    The countries of the world have been struggling to come up with a solution since they agreed in 1992 to establish the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. After more than 20 years of negotiations, an important, historic breakthrough came with the signing of the Paris climate agreement in 2015, a path-breaking approach that increased the scope of participation from countries accounting for just 14 percent of global emissions (in the current, second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol) to countries accounting for 97 percent under the Paris agreement.

    READ MORE: Column: Don’t be fooled. CO2 emissions still tied to economic growth

    Contrary to some claims, China, India, Brazil, Korea, South Africa, Mexico and the other large emerging economies do have obligations under this new approach. Far from being a “bad deal” for the United States, as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt has asserted, the Paris agreement is actually the answer to U.S. prayers going back to the U.S. Senate’s bipartisan (95-0) Byrd-Hagel Resolution in 1997, which rejected the Kyoto approach and called for an agreement that would include not only industrialized countries, but the large emerging economies as well. That is precisely what the Paris agreement has finally delivered!

    Will the U.S. remain part of the process?

    This is a pivotal moment. President Trump’s recent executive order, in which he laid out his plans to roll back much of the Obama administration’s climate policy, was silent on the Paris agreement, reportedly reflecting disagreements among the president’s closest advisers.

    During the campaign last year, the president said he would “cancel” the Paris agreement. But because the agreement has already come into force, under its rules, any party must wait three years before requesting to withdraw, followed by a one-year notice period. The U.S. is part of the Paris agreement for the next four years. Any White House announcement of pulling out of the pact will have no direct effects for this presidential term.

    At a time when the U.S. wants cooperation from a diverse set of countries around the world on matters of national security, trade and a host of other issues, it would be counterproductive in the extreme to willingly become an international pariah on global climate change.

    In theory, the president could try to bypass that four-year delay by taking the one-year route of dropping out of the overall United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — signed by President George H.W. Bush and ratified by the Senate in 1992. But that could require another two-thirds vote of the Senate, would be challenged in the courts and would be unwise in the extreme, given that the U.S. would then be the only one among 197 countries in the world not to be a party to the Climate Convention. At a time when the U.S. wants cooperation from a diverse set of countries around the world on matters of national security, trade and a host of other issues, it would be counterproductive in the extreme to willingly become an international pariah on global climate change.

    Key support inside and outside the administration

    Fortunately, key voices in the administration have argued for remaining in the Paris agreement. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has stated that it is better for the U.S. to be at this table of ongoing negotiations. More broadly, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said in congressional testimony that he views climate change as a national security threat.

    Remarkably, support for the Paris agreement is broad-based within U.S. private industry — from electricity generators, such as PG&E and National Grid, to oil companies, such as Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon-Mobil, BP and Shell (the last two having large operations within the U.S.), and a very long list of manufacturers, including giant firms such as General Motors. Even some of the largest coal producers, such as Arch Coal, Cloud Peak Energy and Peabody Energy, have told the president about their support for the U.S. remaining in the agreement. This broad support is due to a simple reality — leaders of successful businesses make decisions not on the basis of ideology, but based on available evidence.

    READ MORE: Will a surprising Supreme Court move shake the Paris climate accord?

    True enough, there is also opposition from some especially vocal coal industry executives, and the president seems to have shaped his domestic climate policies around their interests, with his repeated pledge to “bring back coal.” But the job losses in coal mining over the past decades have been due to technological change (increased productivity) in the coal sector and more recently by low natural gas prices, not by environmental regulations (particularly not by regulations, such as the Clean Power Plan, that have not even been implemented).

    The Paris agreement provides flexibility

    The U.S. could stay in the Paris agreement and seek to revise the Obama-era numerical target of a 26 percent reduction in emissions below 2005 levels by 2025, an approach recommended by North Dakota Republican Representative Kevin Cramer. This is possible because the specific national targets and actions pledged under the Paris agreement are not actually part of the agreement itself, and they are not binding under international law. However, by 2016, U.S. energy-related emissions were already down by 14 percent below 2005, so it is not clear that the existing pledge even needs to be reassessed. Also, state climate policies in California, Oregon, Washington and the Northeast will remain in place and likely be strengthened. And more than half of all states have renewable energy policies; just since Election Day, the Republican governors of Illinois and Michigan have signed legislation aimed at increasing solar and wind generation. At the federal level, important tax credits for wind and solar power continue to receive bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress.

    Putting it all together

    In summary, climate change is a serious threat, which requires international cooperation because of its global commons nature. After 20 years of negotiations, the path-breaking Paris climate agreement, with its exceptionally broad participation, is the answer to long-standing, bipartisan appeals and provides an excellent foundation for progress.

    After 20 years of negotiations, the path-breaking Paris climate agreement, with its exceptionally broad participation, is the answer to long-standing, bipartisan appeals and provides an excellent foundation for progress.

    The president cannot “cancel” the agreement, and it would take four years for the U.S. to withdraw. Pulling out of the foundational United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change might be quicker, but would be unwise in the extreme, jeopardizing U.S. relationships with countries around the world on a host of pressing issues, ranging from national security to international trade.

    Fortunately, key voices in the administration have argued for keeping the U.S. in the Paris agreement, and support from the business community is unusually broad and deep. If necessary, the U.S. can seek to revise the specific U.S. pledge under Paris made by the Obama administration while remaining a party to the agreement. But given the pace of emissions reductions already achieved, combined with ongoing state and federal climate policies, it is not clear that those targets need to be changed.

    In light of the diverse set of considerations that should bear upon this U.S. decision, we find the arguments for the country remaining in the Paris climate agreement to be compelling. The truth is that in the 47 years since the first Earth Day, much has been accomplished. But much of that remarkable progress could be undone in the short span of four years or less. We are confident — or at least hopeful — that this will not happen.

    This op-ed was adapted from an essay in the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements.

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    The supermoon rises over the United States Capitol dome in Washington, D.C. in November. Photo by Gary Cameron/Reuters

    The supermoon rises over the United States Capitol dome in Washington, D.C. in November. Photo by Gary Cameron/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Congress is doing the bare minimum to keep the country running, readying a short-term spending bill to keep the lights on in government past Saturday, when President Donald Trump will mark his 100th day in office.

    The short-term legislation will carry through next week, giving lawmakers more time to complete negotiations on a $1 trillion government-wide spending bill for the remainder of the 2017 budget year. The government is currently operating under spending legislation that expires Friday at midnight, so action is required before then.

    In addition to the failure to come up with a spending deal that could pass ahead of Trump’s 100-day mark, the House GOP looked unlikely to give Trump a victory on health care before then. A revised health care bill has won the support of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, holdouts on an earlier version that collapsed last month, but GOP leaders were struggling to round up votes from moderate-leaning Republicans.

    “I don’t know if it’s bringing anyone over,” said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who said he had been lobbied by leadership but still opposed the legislation because it undoes an expansion of Medicaid under former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. “There’s much of Obamacare that has to be fixed. That part of it is critical,” Smith said.

    Trump himself unleashed a tweetstorm of criticism of Democrats involved in negotiations on the spending bill, accusing them of trying to close national parks and jeopardize the safety of U.S. troops.

    “As families prepare for summer vacations in our National Parks – Democrats threaten to close them and shut down the government. Terrible!” Trump tweeted.

    “Democrats jeopardizing the safety of our troops to bail out their donors from insurance companies. It is time to put #AmericaFirst,” he wrote.

    Democrats dismissed such accusations.

    “We are never going to shut government down. In fact, we don’t even have the power to do so,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., referring to Republicans. “They have the majority. They have the president. They have the Senate. They have the House. Any shutting down of government, the ball is in their court.”

    President Trump came to office intent on shaking up Washington. While he’s run into obstacles in Congress and the courts, there have been clear victories. John Yang offers a recap of the president’s domestic moves, and presidential historian Michael Beschloss and Barbara Perry of the University of Virginia Miller Center sit down with Judy Woodruff to discuss how he compares to his predecessors.

    Nonetheless, leaders in both parties projected certainty that a deal would ultimately be reached on the spending legislation, which covers all government agencies and is leftover business from last year.

    “Talks on government funding legislation have continued throughout the week on a bipartisan, bicameral basis,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., adding that the short-term extension will allow time for a final agreement to be completed and voted on next week.

    The talks involving congressional Republicans and Democrats had progressed relatively smoothly after the White House earlier this week had backed off a threat to withhold payments that help lower-income Americans pay their medical bills and Trump dropped a demand for money for the border wall.

    After the U.S.-Mexico wall issue and the Obamacare controversy were addressed, negotiators turned to a lengthy roster of unfinished issues, many of which involve extraneous policy “riders” on the environment and financial services regulations.

    Negotiations continued throughout Thursday toward an agreement that might not be revealed until early next week.

    “Now we’re making progress — we’re not there yet,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “I think there’s been a real desire, I give Leader McConnell credit. I think he had a real desire to get this done. And unfortunately the president stood in the way for quite a long time. So that’s why we’re a little delayed.”

    Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor, Kevin Freking and Alan Fram contributed to this report.

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

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to another in our Brief But Spectacular series, where we ask people to describe their passions.

    Tonight, we hear from artist and performer Bill Bowers, who teaches mime, a theatrical technique that uses gestures, instead of words. He’s at New York University.

    BILL BOWERS, Mime: I am from a big, quiet family in Montana. I was an incredibly shy younger person.

    I am also a gay man, which the word gay didn’t even exist back then, but I knew about silence early on for all of those reasons. I got older and learned that there was an art form about not talking. I thought, oh, my God, that’s perfect. I’m in.

    I loved mime once I learned more about it. When I had a chance to put my focus on being a mime performer, I really went in that direction.

    A story came on the news that Marcel Marceau was embarking on his 80th birthday world tour. And I thought, I have got to study with Marcel Marceau. I sought him out. I was intimidated by him. He was a very famous, very old French mime. And all of that came into the room with him.

    He talked about himself in the third person a lot. He said: “People say Marceau is genius. I say, no, Marceau is not the genius. Genius is where Marceau and the people meet.”

    A lot of times, what happens for me, especially performing in the U.S., is people hear that it’s a mime show, and they don’t want to come. I mean, if I heard there was a mime show, I probably wouldn’t come.

    (LAUGHTER)

    BILL BOWERS: It’s actually not about you as the performer. It’s about the connection you make with an audience. And the space between you is where this thing can happen.

    What I find really interesting with audiences for my show is that, if you sit in silence, something happens. A lot of people end up feeling more than they ever imagined.

    I think mime provides this quiet space that’s harder and harder to find in the world. And if you sit with yourself for any period of time, you’re probably going to feel something.

    And I think a lot of the world right now is putting stuff in front of actually feeling. Maybe if we sit and let — silence is right now, just together.

    My name is Bill Bowers, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on silence.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How often do you hear silence on television?

    Well, you can find more of our Brief But Spectacular videos online. That’s at pbs.org/newshour/brief.

    The post The art of silence, from the mouth of a mime appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Judy Woodruff speaks with John Kasich, author of Two Paths: America Divided or United in the studio on Thursday, April 27, 2017. Photo by Abbey Oldham.

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: One year ago, as a presidential candidate, Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich told an audience that voters faced a choice: one based on solutions and the other based on paranoia, exploiting the fears and anger that could drive America into a ditch.

    Now Governor Kasich has written a new book, “Two Paths: America Divided or United.” It’s the newest addition to the NewsHour Bookshelf.

    And Governor Kasich joins me now.

    And thank you for being here in our studio.

    GOV. JOHN KASICH, R-Ohio: Such a pleasure to be with you, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, thank you.

    You’re here to talk about the book. And we’re going to, but I do want the start with our lead story tonight, NAFTA. As you know, President Trump …

    GOV. JOHN KASICH: Well, are we in or out? I can’t quite tell.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, yesterday, the president announced that he was going to terminate U.S. involvement in NAFTA.

    GOV. JOHN KASICH: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But then, a little after that, he said he’s changed his mind, that he wants to renegotiate it.

    You have been someone with strong views on NAFTA. You have described yourself as a free trader. You heard the president go after you and after NAFTA during the campaign. But what do you make of what’s going on right now?

    GOV. JOHN KASICH: Well, I mean, it’s pretty amazing.

    One minute, you say it’s over, and the next minute, you say it isn’t. So, I — that’s kind of not the way I have seen things work throughout my career.

    But, it’s — as I asked you, it’s 23 years old. There’s nothing wrong with taking another look at it. But I believe that trade is good. I actually went to the Oval Office with President Obama in the lame-duck trying to get the Pacific trade agreement passed.

    I will tell you why. One is that it was good for us economically to be able to work with these fledgling countries. And, secondly, it was good strategically, because we look at the pivot to Asia, right? So, in our own neighborhood, we have Canada and Mexico. I mean, Canada’s been a great friend of ours, and Mexico has great potential.

    I mean, their problem is corruption, but have great potential. And I think these relationships have benefited all of us. And there’s never anything wrong with taking a look.

    But I hope it doesn’t just go away. The idea they want to tweak it, look at it, talk, I’m all in favor of that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it’s not just the president who has a problem with NAFTA.

    Earlier on the show, we interviewed a congressman from your state of Ohio, Tim Ryan, a Democrat, who says NAFTA has cost hundreds of thousands of jobs in this country. He talked about how the jobs that have replaced those jobs, those salaries are lower.

    How do you — what do you say to those …

    GOV. JOHN KASICH: I don’t think he’s right.

    I think that NAFTA, on balance, has been slightly our way. But it’s also resulted, I think, in the ability to — look, part of the thing about trade is, it makes everybody get better because there’s a competition.

    Now, if a country is going to cheat, if a country is going to not follow the rules, then I think we need an expedited process, so that people don’t lose their jobs once the bureaucracy goes through the process of hearing the case. I’m all in favor of that.

    But the idea that — you know, that America should withdraw, lock the doors, pull down the blinds, and all the problems we have in this country is because of NAFTA, I think is such an overstatement. I don’t agree with it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk about the book.

    You take the reader on a tour of the country during your campaign last year. And among other things, you say that fear was the driving emotion of last year’s election.

    GOV. JOHN KASICH: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What did you mean by that?

    GOV. JOHN KASICH: Well, I grew up in a town where people — if the wind blew the wrong way, people found themselves out of work.

    So, there’s a lot of people who are either underemployed, unemployed or their kids can’t get a job. And there’s a lot of reasons for it. And so there’s two ways to deal with it. You can either tell people, well, you don’t have something because somebody else took it, and I’m a strongman, and I can fix it.

    Or you can look at them and say, I understand your problems. They’re complicated. And we’re going to work our way out of them.

    But, today, people look for, I like a pill, I would like an app, everything will be great, just fix it tomorrow.

    And it’s not that simple. Now, we need an entirely new way of training workers, Judy, of educating our young people. And that’s a long, long interview which some day I would love to do with you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    GOV. JOHN KASICH: But, at the end, you want to bring people together.

    And it’s not just a book about politics. It’s also a book about the fact that we all need to start listening to one another. We can’t be divided. Nothing works if we’re always fighting.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, and along those lines, you say — on Election Day, you said America chose, I think you called it the path to darkness.

    What needs to be done from keeping Americans from doing that again? And, by the way, the people who voted for Donald Trump, all the polls are showing they would stick with him.

    GOV. JOHN KASICH: Well, it’s early. I mean, we’re only 100 days in.

    And, look, I went and saw him. They invited me to the White House. I spent a large — a long meeting with him. And he listened to the things that I had to say. And it was very, very cordial.

    So, I root for him. I don’t want a president — I root for every president. You know, that doesn’t mean you’re silent. It doesn’t mean — you can praise them when they do a good job, but you can criticize them when they do a poor job.

    But I think the answer is, for all of us — I will give you one little lesson. Why doesn’t everybody every day read spend at least 10 minutes reading something they don’t agree with, so we can begin talking to another — one again?

    And I believe that the strength of this country comes from the bottom up. In other words, we have to work to solve problems where we live, rather than worrying about what the heck is happening in Washington all the time.

    What about your neighbor, what about your family, what about your community? Do something to become a healer and a lifter. And, in that process, I think we can get America back on the strong, right, positive track, which is what I believe Americans really want.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I think a lot of people would agree with you. At the same time, they would ask, is it realistic?

    And with regard to the president, what has he done? I mean, just in picking up on your theme, finally, what has he done that you have seen is going to unify the country and raise it to a higher point?

    GOV. JOHN KASICH: Well, I do think the strike in Syria was a positive.

    And I will tell you why. I went the Munich, at the invitation of Senator McCain, to the defense conference. And a lot of world leaders were like, what is going on with America?

    That action, which can be interpreted many different days for whatever reason, I saw it as a way the reassure our friends and allies and leaders around the world that we’re not going away, that we are going to play a role in international affairs. That was very good.

    I don’t like the knock-and-talk policy, where we’re going into homes and checking things, and even in some case with ICE dividing families. We don’t need any more broken families.

    I will say I’m glad that I’m not hearing so much about Twitter anymore. But, listen, when I was in the White House, Judy — this is an interesting story. When I became governor, I had a rocky time. And my wife said to me, you’re the father of Ohio. Why don’t you act like it?

    And I told the president that story. And I think he will get better. At least we should hope and pray that he will be a unifier. That’s what we need in America.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we hope to have another conversation with you. There’s so much to talk about.

    The book is “Two Paths: America Divided or United.”

    Governor John Kasich, thank you.

    GOV. JOHN KASICH: Thank you. Thank you very much.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: One of the big battles of the president’s first 100 days that remains unresolved is the fate of Obamacare.

    But one thing that experts across the political spectrum agree on is that health care in America often costs too much.

    A new book looks at the multiple causes of this and calls the whole thing “An American Sickness.”

    It’s the focus of our report from economics correspondent Paul Solman. It’s part of his weekly series, Making Sense.

    NARRATOR: If you have high blood sugar, ask your doctor about Farxiga.

    NARRATOR: Diarrhea and abdominal pain.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Feel like you’re seeing more prescription drugs ads lately?

    Well, you are.

    NARRATOR: Side effects including dehydration, swelling, bruising and/or diarrhea, numbness, gas, and runny nose.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Spending on pharmaceutical ads is up 62 percent since 2012, in the world’s only country, besides New Zealand, to even allow TV drug advertising.

    NARRATOR: Linzess works differently from laxatives.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Pills for millions of us.

    NARRATOR: It can help relieve your belly pain.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Pills for far fewer.

    NARRATOR: A circadian rhythm disorder.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But, regardless, the drug companies charge pretty much whatever they want. In fact, says Elisabeth Rosenthal:

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL, Author, “An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back”: When one manufacturer puts a price up to a new high level, everyone else just says, oh, look, he got away with it, and lifts their prices up to that level too.

    PAUL SOLMAN: A journalist and former practicing physician, she’s now editor in chief of Kaiser Health News. Rosenthal has written a new book, “An American Sickness,” chronicling how and why American health care costs are by far the highest in the world.

    It boils down to one basic truth:

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Prices will rise to whatever the market will bear.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And while the health care market in the U.S. isn’t exactly a free market, it’s market-driven enough to push profits above all, and thus the prices we all wind up paying.

    And so, as a consequence, we spend 20 percent of our entire GDP, our entire economic output every year, on health care. And it’s been going up.

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: We spend two or three times what other countries do on health care, without getting better results, which is the key here. We’re not getting a good deal for all the money we spend.

    PAUL SOLMAN: We’re not living longer?

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: We’re not living longer. I think one of the most damning studies I have seen recently that was that people with cystic fibrosis, which is a very serious primarily lung disease, live longer in Canada than they do in the U.S.

    And this is a treatment-heavy disease with a lot of technology, new medicines. And we like to think, well, at least we do that better than everywhere else in the world.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Yes, yes. I thought that.

    We don’t, but we sure pay more for it. Why? Because of what the market will bear, says Rosenthal, but also because:

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Around the world, there are very few developed places, perhaps none, that have no mechanism for some kind of price control.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Really?

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: I think we’re pretty unique in that.

    Other countries will say, here’s the maximum price. Go ahead and compete below that. And in other countries, there’s policy that you can charge a lot when you have a wonderful new technology, but as it gets older, that price has to keep coming down. And what we see in the United States, pretty much uniquely, is, as technologies get older, sometimes the price can go up, and can go up a lot.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Case in point, MRI scans, a now-venerable procedure, which can still cost thousands of dollars.

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: In Japan, that same test would cost $100 to $150, because, in Japan, those prices have to go down over time. You can’t say, wow, this was a great new technology 30 years ago, and so we’re going to raise the price because it’s even greater now. It’s not. It’s basically the same.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Or consider Gleevec, a breakthrough cancer drug when it was approved by the FDA in 2001.

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Fifteen years later, the price is four times what it was when it came on the market.

    PAUL SOLMAN: One hundred and twenty thousand dollars a year, despite so-called copycat Gleevecs and even off-patent generic versions.

    So, how come?

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: We’re stuck buying American, even though the price of pharmaceuticals in other countries is a third to a half of what we pay here, and sometimes way less. There’s one wonderful story in the book about an oncologist, Dr. John Siebel, who, his grandkids had pinworm?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Pinworm?

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Pinworm, it’s a little infection that kids get.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Right.

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: The drug for that, which is called albendazole, in the rest of the world, costs pennies. And it used to cost pennies here too. But when he went online to check out the prescription, it cost something like $5 a pill. So, he ordered it from Canada.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And was it legal to do that?

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: It’s technically illegal.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, you’re outing him here — in the book, I mean, and now here on television?

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: I am.

    But I think a lot of people are so outraged right now. You know, he’s not a criminal normally. But he’s just like, this is extortion. I’m not going to pay.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Extortion because we don’t allow foreign competition, do allow health care providers to consolidate, from ever-bigger pharma to ever-bigger hospitals.

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: In the ’80s and ’90s is, there was consolidation of hospitals. And a lot of those in the early phases were about efficiency. But, at a certain point, consolidation in local markets becomes effectively monopoly.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And this is the classic dilemma of mergers and acquisitions, right?

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Exactly.

    PAUL SOLMAN: You acquire another company because you will then have market power to buy things in bulk and therefore more cheaply, and you won’t be repeating the things that you each individually were doing.

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Right.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But, then, if there are no competitors left, you can charge whatever you want.

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Right.

    And we have reached the level of consolidation in many markets in health care where there isn’t, effectively, competition.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And as providers consolidate, so do payers. There are now just five mega-health insurers, and only that many because judges blocked Anthem’s $48 billion deal to buy Cigna, Aetna’s $37 billion bid for Humana.

    Yes, insurers have an interest in paying as little as possible, but that interest has evolved into a nightmare cat-and-mouse game between insurers and providers. In Rosenthal’s book, it’s one of the rules of what she calls the dysfunctional medical market.

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: There are no standards for billing. There’s money to be made in billing for anything and everything.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Ah. So, this is when you get charged for it even if the doctor only says, hi, how you doing, see you later.

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Billing and collections became an industry. We started using codes for medical billing. And that has spawned this crazy, crazy industry.

    MAN: So, they actually take every little service your doctor did. They take all those little things.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The Khan Academy tries to explain it all in a 12-minute online tutorial that, as Rosenthal points out, is five minutes longer than its video explaining Newton’s Second Law of Motion.

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: It’s endlessly complex, so that now there are coding degrees and coding specialists and professors of coding. The insurers have coders to make sure the hospitals are coding correctly. The doctors learn coding so they can make sure their office will get the money they deserve for what they have done.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But isn’t insurance the problem here? Since we’re not paying for things ourselves, we don’t care what the drugs cost, what the procedures cost?

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Well, when insurance was covering everything, no one cared. Everyone was price-insensitive.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Right. So, we should have skin in the game.

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Skin in the game has worked in other countries where prices are controlled. But a 10 percent co-payment on an MRI that’s billed for $10,000, your co-payment is $1,000. And we’re no longer talking skin in the game. We’re talking, I like to say a kidney in the game, you know?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Or you’re getting skinned.

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Right.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Last question.

    We spend about $3 trillion on health care in this country. If we rationalized the system, so that it was no more expensive, given the same level of outcome as, say, Germany, we’d shave a trillion or two off the number, right?

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: I’ll tell you, at this point, even if we stopped going up, it would be a great achievement. Start turning the ship around, get back to $2.5 trillion, that would still be more than anyone else spends per capita.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But that’s a half-a-trillion dollars that wouldn’t go to doctors, hospitals, insurers, investors.

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: Right.

    Yes, somebody’s got to take the hit. But, right now, you know, I think a lot of the political people, the congressmen, the senators, are responding to lobbying from pharma, from the hospital industry, from insurers. And it’s so much not about what’s good for health care, and so much about what’s good for revenue.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Elisabeth Rosenthal, thanks very much.

    ELISABETH ROSENTHAL: It was a pleasure to be here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Online, Elisabeth Rosenthal offers six questions you should be asking at your doctor’s appointments.

    That’s at pbs.org/newshour.

    The post Why the U.S. pays more for health care than the rest of the world appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: We take a look at the foreign policy accomplishments and setbacks during the first 100 days of the Trump administration.

    Hari Sreenivasan will bring us two viewpoints.

    But we begin with this report from correspondent Margaret Warner.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first.

    MARGARET WARNER: That mantra typified President Trump’s world view as a candidate and as a newly inaugurated president.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.

    MARGARET WARNER: The slogan was a signal that Mr. Trump planned to focus his presidency on improving Americans’ economic prospects here at home, not getting embroiled in messy conflicts overseas.

    But, in his first 100 days, global crises have challenged Mr. Trump with frequent and treacherous tests. One of Mr. Trump’s early dilemmas, an April 4 sarin gas attack that killed more than 80 Syrian civilians in a town held by opponents of President Bashar Assad.

    The president’s response? On April 7, 59 Tomahawk missiles were fired on a regime air base identified as the chemical attack’s launch site. It was the first direct American assault on the Syrian government in the country’s six-year civil war.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: That’s a butcher. So, I felt we had to do something about it.

    MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Trump’s campaign hopes for a fresh start with Russia had already dimmed amid investigations into Moscow’s alleged election meddling. The gas attack by its ally, Assad, inflamed matters further, prompting tough words from U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

    NIKKI HALEY, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations: Assad has no incentive to stop using chemical weapons as long as Russia continues to protect his regime from consequences.

    MARGARET WARNER: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did go to Moscow a few days later. But after a two-hour meeting with President Vladimir Putin, he emerged to say relations were — quote — “at a low point.”

    Mr. Trump also has shifted on America’s commitment to the NATO alliance, which he derided during the campaign.

    But on April 12, standing with NATO’s secretary-general, he had this to say:

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete.

    MARGARET WARNER: Perhaps the gravest challenge thrust on Mr. Trump came from North Korea’s February 12 firing of an intermediate-range ballistic missile, followed by five others, and apparent preparations for a sixth nuclear test.

    North Korea’s aggressive pursuit of these weapons has bedeviled the president’s three predecessors, but it’s become too urgent to ignore.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: North Korea is a big world problem, and it’s a problem we have to finally solve. People put blindfolds on for decades, and now it’s time to solve the problem.

    MARGARET WARNER: After meeting at his Florida estate with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the president is counting on Beijing to pressure Pyongyang to abide by U.N. resolutions.

    Still, Washington has made clear all its options are on the table, moving an aircraft carrier group to the waters off the Korean Peninsula, and deploying an anti-missile defense system to South Korea. Two other military fronts remain active as well.

    In the fight against ISIS, Mr. Trump has added more forces in Syria, and kept up airstrikes there and in Iraq. And, in Afghanistan, as the Taliban gains ground, the U.S. targeted ISIS caves and tunnels this month with the so-called Mother of All Bombs.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Margaret Warner.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: To dig deeper into the president’s overseas record to date, I’m joined by James Carafano. He’s currently vice president at the Heritage Foundation. He had a 25-year career in the Army and writes extensively about U.S. foreign policy. And David Rothkopf is the CEO and editor of “Foreign Policy” magazine and the author of “National Insecurity: American Leadership in an Age of Fear.”

    James Carafano, let me start with you.

    As Margaret pointed out, the president has in these 100 days pivoted from campaign mode certainly towards the center on a lot of different issues. While he was campaigning, he repeatedly criticized President Obama for even the possibility of taking military action in Syria, but here he is, faced with the reality on the ground, and he sends 59 Tomahawk missiles in.

    Is this a one-off?

    JAMES CARAFANO, Heritage Foundation: I think it is.

    First of all, I think there’s nothing more worthless than 100 days’ measurement in foreign policy. You kind of jump up — you jump into foreign policy in kind of the middle of where things are, so you don’t start with a fresh start.

    And many, many issues, Syria, North Korea, almost every big foreign policy issue on the table today isn’t going to get resolved in 100 days. So, 100 days kind of tells you nothing.

    But I think there are indications in what the Syria mission said. So, the president isn’t interested in an aggressive foreign policy that could overextend and create high risk. He’s not interested in regime change or nation-building.

    But he is interested in protecting U.S. interests in key parts of the world, particularly in the Middle East, Western Europe and Asia. And in the Middle East, the administration is trying the stabilize the refugee population, stabilize Iraq, defeat ISIS and al-Qaida.

    And Assad in a sense was destabilizing the region and expanding the war with a chemical weapons attack. And so the 59 cruise missiles were a pretty serious message to President Assad that you are conflicting with our interests, and here’s a warning to just back off.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: I take your point that 100 days, a lot of times, you’re walking into the middle of existing foreign policy, but candidates are also to blame for making promises that they maybe can’t keep.

    That said, if this is a one-off, is there a consistent and cohesive Trump doctrine of foreign policy that’s emerged in these 100 days for you?

    JAMES CARAFANO: Well, there is. And I say that because I worked on the presidential transition team and talked to the candidate doing candidate briefings and worked with ambassadors during briefings at the convention in Cleveland.

    So I have been watching these guys a long time. And there is a focus. And there are three regions of the world that are vitally important to the United States where peace and stability is really important, Western Europe, Asia and the Middle East. And the administration is primarily focused on returning peace and stability to those three areas and dealing with the kind of challenges that are on — that everyone says are the big — Russia is the great destabilizing influence in Europe.

    In the Middle East, it’s ISIS, and it’s al-Qaida, influence of Iran. And in Asia, it’s the relationship between the United States and China and North Korea. And that’s where the administration is putting its focus.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: David Rothkopf, James outlined a foreign policy that seems to be fairly clear. Is that clear for somebody who didn’t help President Trump write this?

    (LAUGHTER)

    DAVID ROTHKOPF, CEO and Editor, “Foreign Policy”: No.

    I don’t think there’s anything clear about Trump’s foreign policy. In fact, I don’t think there’s anything like a policy about Trump foreign policy.

    It has been marked by reversals. First, he was against the one-China policy. Then he was for it. Yesterday morning, he was against NAFTA. Then he was for it. He was pro-Russia. Then he has gotten a little bit cooler on Russia.

    But, secondly, there have been a whole series of inconsistencies in his policy. Is he concerned about Europe, the support for right-wing nationalists like Marine Le Pen or the support for Brexit suggests that he’s not clear on what is actually in the interests of Europe or the United States there.

    The Syria strike, while encouraging on some levels, actually doesn’t seem to be in the context of any kind of coherent policy. And you do see ratcheting up elsewhere. We have also seen him embrace dictators and authoritarians, from Sisi in Egypt, to the Erdogan regime, where he called up Erdogan to congratulate him on his undermining of democracy.

    In terms of North Korea, again, there’s been bluster. There’s also been incoherence. He hasn’t been able to locate where his carrier battle groups have been. He was instructed, as he himself said, by the Chinese leader on the nuances of all of this.

    And, of course, on top of that, you have the blemish, and this very serious blemish, of appointing a national security adviser who lasted 24 days in office and may well end up in jail, appointing Steve Bannon, who supported white supremacist views,to the National Security Council, and then asking him to step down, and not having virtually any of the senior positions at the State Department or the Defense Department filled right now.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, David, I won’t accuse you of not having a laundry list prepared on this answer.

    But I think something that David, and, Jim, both, you can agree on is that foreign policy problems are complex, when they often require allies.

    So, David, I want to ask, what are the sort of — the sequence of events, the missile strikes into Syria, sending the carrier group toward the Korean Peninsula, the largest non-nuclear bomb into Afghanistan, what’s the message that sends to our allies and adversaries, David?

    DAVID ROTHKOPF: Well, I think if they were in the context of a coherent policy, they might send a message that we’re likely to be more forceful.

    The problem is that if you strike Syria and then you don’t follow up, or you strike Syria and then you play footsie with the Russians, or you send a carrier battle group, but you don’t actually know where it is and you don’t know what you’re going to do to follow up with it, then it sends the message that is more like bluster.

    It’s a little bit more like Trump on the campaign trail, talking big, but not really having a clear plan about how to deliver.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: James Carafano, I don’t expect any human to take an office of the presidency and know everything about everything.

    JAMES CARAFANO: Right.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But, as David points out, when the president has a meeting with Xi Jinping, and he’s actually being schooled on North Korea from the Chinese president, or Angela Merkel is telling him that he cannot have unilateral deals with a E.U. member nation, what does this say about the people that he has surrounded himself with who should be briefing him perhaps a lot better when he walks into these meetings?

    JAMES CARAFANO: Well, I think the commentary we had is typical is kind of the unserious commentary and analysis that we have had with the Trump presidency.

    If you want the focus on a whole bunch of points that you want to pick up, which are — kind of reflect the showman and the public discourse, that’s fine, but ignores kind of the serious part of the president.

    So, there’s a showman part and there’s a serious part. And when the president does the serious part, he acts very serious. And I — two data points on this. We get an average of about five foreign delegations a day visiting the Heritage Foundation since the election.

    And I have talked to every minister who has been in town. I have talked to even heads of government like President Sisi, and that have met with the president and met with his senior team.

    And, uniformly, they come back to me — and these are our allies across Europe and the Middle East and Asia — and they say they think this is a serious administration. They do feel reassured on that.

    And if you actually look at the team he has around him, H.R. McMaster, Mattis, Kelly, Tillerson, Vice President Pence, Ambassador Haley, it’s actually a really, really good team. And it’s a team that works together. And, more importantly, it’s a team that the president takes really seriously and works with. And they have confidence in the president as well.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, James Carafano, David Rothkopf, we will have you back the try to finish this. This could take all show.

    Thank you.

    The post What 100 days of foreign policy says about Trump as a leader appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A political fight is brewing about access to the Internet. The new head of the FCC, the Federal Communications Commission, wants to clear away regulations about who controls and polices the flow of content on the Internet.

    William Brangham has that.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: We’re talking here about what’s known as net neutrality, not the easiest concept to grasp, so bear with me.

    Almost all of us in America get our Internet access via one main provider. These are the telecom and cable giants like Verizon, Comcast, Charter, Time Warner. They provide the infrastructure that delivers the bounty of the Web to our homes and phones: sites and apps like Google, Netflix, Facebook, Instagram, you name it.

    The telecoms build the highway. The others guys are like the cars traveling that highway.

    The idea of net neutrality is that the telecoms have to treat that highway as an open road. They can’t pick and choose which Web sites or services get to you faster or slower. The fear is that, if they do have that power, they will be tempted to favor their content, their sites, their own videos over a competitor’s.

    But the telecoms argue that’s not fair, they should be able to control that flow, and be able to charge more for faster access.

    In 2014, the Federal Communications Commission under President Obama wanted to lock in these net neutrality rules, but it faced intense pushback by the industry.

    The fight even spilled into pop culture, with this from HBO’s John Oliver:

    JOHN OLIVER, Host, “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”: If we let cable companies offer two speeds of service, they won’t be Usain Bolt and Usain Bolt on a motorbike. They will be Usain Bolt, and Usain bolted to an anchor.

    (LAUGHTER)

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But those net neutrality rules did pass and have been in place for the last three years.

    But Ajit Pai, President Trump’s new FCC chairman, now wants to get rid of those rules, arguing they’re too burdensome. And this week, he began the process of rolling them back.

    And FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai joins me now.

    Welcome to the NewsHour.

    AJIT PAI, Chairman, Federal Communications Commission: Thank you for having me.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, you, I understand, are not a fan of these net neutrality rules from a few years ago. What is your principal concern?

    AJIT PAI: Well, I favor a free and open Internet, as I think most consumers do.

    My concern is with the particular regulations that the FCC adopted two years ago. They are what is called Title II regulations developed in the 1930s to regulate the Ma Bell telephone monopoly.

    And my concern is that, by imposing those heavy-handed economic regulations on Internet service providers big and small, we could end up disincentivizing companies from wanting to build out Internet access to a lot of parts of the country, in low-income, urban and rural areas, for example.

    And that, I think, is something that nobody would benefit from.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Is there evidence, though, that these rules have disincentivized those companies? There are — businesses are doing very, very well. They’re spending billions on the spectrum.

    AJIT PAI: There is significant evidence that investment in infrastructure has gone down since the adoption of these rules.

    For example, there is a study by a highly respected economist that says that among the top 12 Internet service providers in terms of size, investment is down by 5.6 percent, or several billion dollars, over the last two years.

    And amongst smaller providers as well, just literally this week, 22 Internet service providers with 1,000 customers or less told us that these Title II regulations have kept them from getting the financing that they need to build out their networks. And, as they put it, these net neutrality regulations hang like a black cloud over our businesses.

    And so what we’re trying to do going forward is figure out a way that we can preserve that free and open Internet that consumers want and need and preserve that incentive to invest in the network that will ultimately benefit even more consumers going forward.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I know there is a whole other group of Internet companies, Facebook, Google, Instagram, those types of companies that have said to you, these rules are not a hindrance to us. We have been able to thrive and survive under these rules. Don’t change them.

    What do you say to them when they argue this to you?

    AJIT PAI: Well, two different points.

    First, if you look carefully, a lot of those companies don’t say that they like Title II specifically, these particular regulations. What they say is that they care about the principles of a free and open Internet.

    And so I actually think there is a decent amount of common ground there. And it’s just a matter of finding the appropriate legal framework to reach that common ground.

    But the second point I would make is that these companies are the best evidence of the success of the light-touch regulatory framework that originated in the Clinton administration, and that’s something that I favor.

    From the dawn of the commercial Internet in the 1990s until 2015, we had light-touch regulation, where the agency or where the country monitored the market, let it develop organically, and then took targeted action if necessary, if there was an example of anti-competitive conduct.

    And it’s under that light-touch framework that the companies like Google, like Facebook, like Netflix were able to become globally known names. And that’s the kind of success that we want to promote in the future with light-touch regulation.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: One of the issues here is whether or not we treat broadband like a utility. And if it’s treated like a utility, the requirement is that you as the provider are not allowed to put your finger on the scale and slow one person down or speed somebody else up.

    And I just want to pose a hypothetical to you.

    AJIT PAI: Sure.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Let’s just say Comcast created a new TV series, and it just so happened that that competed with a Netflix series very similarly.

    If these rules go away, how is there not an incredible incentive for Comcast to slow Netflix down coming into my house and make their video, the Comcast video, very robust?

    AJIT PAI: So, under that hypothetical, one of the things that’s important to remember is that it is a hypothetical.

    And we don’t see evidence of that happening in the marketplace on a widespread level.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: There have been some examples of ISPs blocking certain things. The Google Wallet was blocked. Skype was blocked. One Canadian telecom blocked pro-labor sites.

    I mean, they’re — it’s not like this doesn’t happen.

    AJIT PAI: Well, there are isolated cases, but if you look at the FCC’s own records, there are only scattered anecdotes to support this.

    And the argument I have made is that, in order to justify preemptive regulation of all 4,462 Internet service providers, you should have pretty concrete evidence of an overwhelming market failure.

    But, secondly, the other argument I would make is that the hypothetical is a classic question of competition and consumer protection law.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, you would feel comfortable telling consumers, you can trust the Comcasts, the agencies, the Verizons, to not do that, to not put their finger on the scale and promote their stuff, at the expense of someone else’s?

    AJIT PAI: Not at all.

    I would say, as a government regulator, that we don’t put faith in any single particular sector of the economy, a particular company. We put our faith in the rule of law. And the rule of law, which includes antitrust law and consumer protection law, is basically administered by the federal government agencies and state agencies that are charged with executing that law.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Back when the FCC was first talking about changing these rules a few years ago, there was something like four million comments posted. And the overwhelming majority of those were people saying, we want net neutrality. We want to know that these protections are in place.

    Does that evidence not sway you that maybe these rules shouldn’t be dismantled?

    AJIT PAI: Well, I certainly understand that there is a wide variety of public interest in this particular issue.

    But when I meet with consumers — and I have met with folks from Kalamazoo, Michigan, down to Carthage, Mississippi, from Barrow, Alaska, to Diller, Nebraska, what they tell me is that the concern is not that their Internet service provider is blocking lawful traffic or doing something like that. It’s that they want more competition. They want better, faster and cheaper Internet.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, thank you very much for being here.

    AJIT PAI: It’s great to be with you.

    The post FCC chair Ajit Pai explains why he wants to scrap net neutrality appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: President Trump’s tough talk and threats over the North American Free Trade Agreement and the push to revisit the 23-year-old deal.

    It’s been a central theme for the president and a source of anger and anxiety among some voters.

    At the White House, John Yang starts us off.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Rather than terminating NAFTA, which would be a pretty big shock to the system, we will renegotiate.

    JOHN YANG: With the visiting president of Argentina looking on, President Trump told reporters he made his decision after talking to the leaders of Mexico and Canada.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I was going to terminate NAFTA as of two or three days from now. The president of Mexico, who I have a very, very good relationship, called me, and also the prime minister of Canada, who I have a very good relationship. And I like both of these gentlemen very much. They called me. And they said, rather than terminating NAFTA, could you please renegotiate?

    JOHN YANG: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today terminating the 23-year-old deal would cause a lot of problems.

    JUSTIN TRUDEAU, Canadian Prime Minister: I highlighted that, quite frankly, whether or not there was a better deal to come, there were an awful lot of jobs, an awful lot of industries right now that have been developed under the NAFTA context. And a disruption like canceling NAFTA, even if it, theoretically, eventually might lead to better outcomes, would cause a lot of short- and medium-term pain for an awful lot of families.

    JOHN YANG: There have been conflicting reports about Mr. Trump’s intentions on NAFTA, reflecting the internal debate and division among his advisers.

    Big business and agricultural interests had argued against outright canceling the deal, which brought down most trade barriers between the United States, Canada and Mexico. Unhappiness with NAFTA was a signature campaign issue.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I’m going to renegotiate NAFTA, one of the worst trade deals ever signed in the history of our country, perhaps the worst ever signed in the history, frankly, of the world.

    JOHN YANG: The move comes as the administration gets tough on trade as it nears the 100-day mark. This week, the White House announced new tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber imports, and the president said U.S. milk was being blocked from Canadian markets.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If I’m unable to make a fair deal for the United States, meaning a fair deal for our workers and our companies, I will terminate NAFTA.

    JOHN YANG: While the president said negotiations are starting today, in fact, the United States has to give legal notice of its intent to renegotiate. Then comes a 90-day period of consultation before any talks can begin.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Yang at the White House.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now for one perspective on the latest signals from the White House on American trade negotiations, I spoke with Representative Tim Ryan. He’s a Democrat from Ohio who agrees with the president that NAFTA has hurt the U.S. more than it’s helped.

    REP. TIM RYAN, D-Ohio: Well, it certainly has devastated communities. A lot of the promises that were made, that we were going to have trade surpluses with Mexico, never came to fruition.

    We have about a $4 billion trade deficit every single month. We have lost about 160-some-thousand jobs up to 2013 directly related to trade with Mexico primarily. And the jobs that kind of replaced those jobs are about $7,000 a year less in pay.

    So, it has wiped out entire communities. I understand, in the aggregate, sometimes, a lot of free trade proponents say that it’s good in the aggregate, but when it’s not in the aggregate, it’s wiped out a lot of communities like the ones I represent in Northeast Ohio.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what do you make of the president’s statements over the last day or so? He started out saying that he wanted to terminate the U.S. participation in NAFTA, and then later on, he said, no, I will negotiate, now that I have talked to the leaders in Mexico and Canada.

    REP. TIM RYAN: Well, it certainly is not the first day of these 100 days where the president has said some inconsistent statements back-to-back. He’s been doing that throughout his presidency.

    So, it worries me, because I think he may be a little too flippant with how he handles this situation. While I know NAFTA has devastated many communities, maybe unwinding NAFTA in a way that isn’t prudent can do even more damage.

    These are supply chains that have been integrated over the last almost 30 years. And so it’s going to take time and effort and patience and a lot of work to reestablish a more fair trading regime. And I get the sense that the president doesn’t have the attention span, quite frankly, to be able to sit down and hammer those kind of things out.

    And when you see his tweets and you see his statements that conflict each other within hours of each other, it makes you worry that maybe he’s just not the guy to handle this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, we heard him in the campaign say that NAFTA was one of the worst deals ever made in the United States. It sounds like — are you saying you’re worried the the’s not going to follow through on this?

    REP. TIM RYAN: Well, I’m worried that he may follow through in a way that doesn’t make things better. He may actually make the problem worse, if he doesn’t sit down and pay attention and work this the way it needs to be worked.

    We have seen the devastation that it caused, and we know it needs fix, but is he the person to sit down and actually fix it? And the fact that he doesn’t quite understand the ramifications, quite frankly, even the process — he said they already started negotiating, when the fact of the matter is you have to send a letter to Congress to even begin the process of having the conversation within your own country, within your own Congress, within the industry groups that would be affected by it.

    That’s a 90-day process before you even start the negotiations with the other countries. And the fact that he didn’t even know that before he made his statements, both — the statement — is worrisome to me that he may actually, through trying to — excuse me — renegotiate NAFTA, he may actually make the process worse.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You said a minute ago that you hear these arguments ultimately the U.S. will benefit. You don’t see that yet.

    But there are — you have fellow Democrats, Congressman Ron Kind of Wisconsin, for example, who says, you undo NAFTA, he says you’re going to decimate the dairy industry in his state. He said half the industry will be wiped out if NAFTA goes away.

    What do you say to him?

    REP. TIM RYAN: This is exactly why you need to be very methodical and very thorough in your negotiations, in your conversations with how you’re going to handle all of these scenarios, whether it’s pharmaceuticals, whether it’s the dairy industry, local foods, food protection.

    All of these issues are on the table once you open this thing up, and so you need people and you need a president that’s going to be able to understand that, when you move one piece on the chessboard, a lot of other pieces are going to move simultaneously. And I don’t think he quite understands that.

    And really the reality too, is, Judy, is that automation in the next decade or so is really going to be the 800-pound elephant in the middle of the room that we need to satisfy. That’s a whole other show you could do, but it’s not just NAFTA. It’s not just trade.

    The main issue coming down the pike is automation, displacing workers, whether it’s in manufacturing, driverless cars, in the retail sector, in grocery stores. Automation is going to be the thing displacing.

    So, I don’t want him to — there’s no plan in this administration to be able to deal with that main issue that is really going to face most workers in the American work force in the next couple of decades.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We hear you.

    Representative Tim Ryan, thank you very much.

    REP. TIM RYAN: Thanks, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we will get a different perspective on NAFTA from Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich later in the program.

    The post As Trump weighs options, what are the hazards of unwinding NAFTA? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The U.S. military has taken more casualties in Afghanistan as it battles fighters of the Islamic State. Two troops were killed overnight and a third was wounded. They’d gone with Afghan forces on a raid in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border.

    A U.S. special forces soldier was killed there earlier this month, and, days later, the U.S. dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on caves in the region.

    The Pentagon’s inspector general confirmed today that his office is investigating President Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. It involves payments Flynn received from Russia’s state-supported TV network and from a Turkish businessman after he left the military in 2014.

    The top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, Representative Elijah Cummings, said today that Pentagon documents made the rules clear.

    REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, D-Md.: The Constitution prohibited him from accepting any foreign government payments without advance permission. The Pentagon’s warning to General Flynn was bold, italicized and could not have been clearer.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Flynn’s attorney insisted the Pentagon was given documents that implied he was being paid for a trip to Russia.

    Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Sean Spicer disputed Cummings’ claim that the White House refused to turn over material the committee wanted.

    SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: With all due respect, he got the documents that he requested. Our job — they sent a form letter to multiple agencies asking for a copy of this. What we did was properly refer him to the issuing agency and department and said, this is where you got it, and he got it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Spicer also charged that the Obama administration was responsible for Flynn’s security clearance. And he said President Trump — quote — “made the right call” when he fired Flynn in February over his contacts with the Russians.

    China today welcomed a softening in the U.S. tone on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. On Wednesday, top Trump administration officials tamped down speculation that a military confrontation is brewing. They said the focus is on diplomacy. China’s Foreign Ministry called it a positive message.

    Israel has struck across the border into Syria, blasting an arms depot of the militant group Hezbollah. The strike apparently targeted advanced weapons from Iran and earmarked for the militants. Video on social media showed early morning explosions at an airport outside Damascus. Later, the Israeli military said that it intercepted a projectile fired from Syria.

    The U.S. Congress moved today to keep the government running for another week, past Friday’s midnight deadline. A one-week funding extension will prevent a shutdown, while talks continue on a long-term spending bill through September, the end of the federal fiscal year.

    House leaders traded blame today for holding up the negotiations.

    REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., Speaker of the House: Democrats are dragging their feet. Even if we get an agreement let’s just say in 10 minutes, we simply can’t process the paperwork that long, and we have a three-day rule. We people need to be able to read the bill.

    REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif., House Minority Leader: I assume that they have the votes to pass their extension. We are never going to shut the government down. In fact, we don’t even have the power to do so.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump weighed in with a series of tweets accusing Democrats of trying to shut down national parks and harming the safety of troops overseas.

    The Kentucky physician who was dragged from his seat on a United Airlines flight has reached a settlement with the carrier. Dr. David Dao’s attorney says that it’s for an undisclosed amount of money. Dao’s treatment at the hands of Chicago aviation police was captured on cell phone video and sparked widespread public outrage. United also announced today that it will start offering up to $10,000 to passengers who give up their seats.

    Wall Street had a quiet day. The Dow Jones industrial average gained six points to close at 20981. The Nasdaq rose 23, and the S&P 500 added one point.

    And they’re cheering at NASA for the space probe Cassini. Overnight, the spacecraft passed through the gap between Saturn and its famous rings. On the way, it got the closest look ever at those rings and at the planet’s atmosphere. Images of a massive swirling storm are among the highlights. Cassini has been orbiting Saturn for 13 years and it will crash into the planet in September.

     

    The post News Wrap: Two U.S. troops killed in Afghan raid appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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