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- 04/29/17--11:53: _Can zapping your ne...
- 04/29/17--12:57: _On Trump’s 100th da...
- 04/29/17--14:07: _Looking back at LA ...
- 04/29/17--14:19: _Corporations go ove...
- 04/29/17--14:35: _Climate marchers ur...
- 04/29/17--14:44: _What a president’s ...
- 04/29/17--23:44: _Column: 5 questions...
- 04/30/17--06:03: _Journalists honor p...
- 04/30/17--06:25: _At 100 days in, Tru...
- 04/30/17--07:08: _Investments in Russ...
- 04/30/17--08:39: _Philippines says Tr...
- 04/30/17--08:47: _‘I knew that it wou...
- 04/30/17--09:53: _More states adopt ‘...
- 04/30/17--11:13: _Drones keep elephan...
- 04/30/17--12:06: _LGBTQ groups fear T...
- 04/30/17--13:08: _Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, ...
- 04/30/17--13:25: _Half targeted by IC...
- 04/30/17--13:26: _Hospitals are cutti...
- 04/30/17--14:10: _Beyond 100 days, Tr...
- 05/01/17--11:17: _Government relaxes ...
- 04/29/17--11:53: Can zapping your neck help you quickly learn a foreign language?
- 04/29/17--14:07: Looking back at LA riots after beating of Rodney King
- 04/29/17--14:19: Corporations go overseas to avoid U.S. taxes
- 04/29/17--14:35: Climate marchers urge Trump to protect environment
- 04/29/17--14:44: What a president’s first 100 days actually tells us
- 04/29/17--23:44: Column: 5 questions to ask during your hospital stay
- 04/30/17--06:03: Journalists honor press freedom at a dinner without Trump
- 04/30/17--06:25: At 100 days in, Trump seems both outsider and insider
- 04/30/17--07:08: Investments in Russia become focus in congressional race
- 04/30/17--08:39: Philippines says Trump called Duterte to affirm alliance
- 04/30/17--09:53: More states adopt ‘click it or ticket’ laws, but do they work?
- 04/30/17--11:13: Drones keep elephants away from people in Tanzania
- 04/30/17--12:06: LGBTQ groups fear Tennessee bill would roll back civil rights
- In state law, “undefined words shall be given their natural and ordinary meaning.” The bill also specifies that interpreting state laws should not involve “forced or subtle construction that would limit or extend the meaning of the language, except when a contrary intention is clearly manifest.”
- SB 30 was introduced first. It was sponsored by Republican state Sen. Janice Bowling and written by David Fowler, President of the Family Action Council of Tennessee. SB 30 specified that the words “husband,” “wife,” “mother” and “father” should be “given their natural and ordinary meaning.” The meaning of those words, the bill said, should be “based on the biological distinctions between men and women.”
Neither Farmer nor Stevens responded to requests for comment. Fowler, whose organization opposes same-sex marriage and rights for transgender people, told the NewsHour Weekend in an email that he wrote SB 30 to address the changing ways that judges interpret language, especially around civil rights issues. “Judges increasingly look for ways to infuse new meaning into words to suit their policy preferences,” Fowler wrote.
- You can see it below:
- They say the bill could enable discrimination. The bill does not specify what “undefined words” should be given their ordinary meaning — but LGBTQ advocates worry that Tennessee laws that use gender-specific words like “husband” and “wife” could be interpreted in ways that invalidate same-sex marriage, which was legalized by the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.
Tennessee Equality Project spokesperson Chris Sanders said he fears that the bill could also encourage courts to interpret laws around divorce and adoption in ways that exclude LGBTQ people. “Would those couples eventually prevail in court? Of course they would. But in the meantime, their adoption is held up. Or their divorce is held up,” he said.
Jennifer C. Pizer, law and policy director at Lambda Legal, called the bill “unnecessary” and “confusing.” She said advocates fear that, “if Gov. Haslam signs the bill into law, it will create significant confusion and will be taken (improperly) by some people as legitimizing discrimination, thereby increasing the mistreatment of LGBT people in Tennessee, and same-sex couples in particular, in a state without public accommodations, housing or private sector employment nondiscrimination protections in state law.”
- They argue it echoes anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. By specifying that words should be interpreted by their “natural” meaning, the bill evokes rhetoric used by people who oppose same-sex marriage that being LGBTQ is “unnatural,” Sanders said.
- The bill reiterates a common legal rule. Specifically, all courts abide by the “plain meaning” or “ordinary meaning” rule, which obliges them to interpret words based on their usual meaning. That rule, “has been long and consistently applied by courts” in Tennessee, the state’s attorney general Herbert H. Slatery III pointed out in an April 13 opinion on the proposed legislation.
- The bill could conflict with Obergefell v. Hodges, but would likely be overruled, Slatery added, “if gender-specific words in [state laws] were construed according to the proposed legislation.” In other words, a family law that specifies “husband” and “wife” could lead a judge to deny the existence of same-sex marriage. But if that conflict brought such a case to court, the Supreme Court’s ruling would prevail, Katherine Franke, a professor and director for the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School, told the NewsHour Weekend.
“State laws cannot be read to conflict with the Tennessee or the U.S. Constitution,” she said. “The state of Tennessee cannot get around the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges … by defining the terms ‘husband,’ ‘wife,’ or ‘spouse’ in such a way that ignores the Supreme Court’s ruling and the rights contained in the U.S. or Tennessee constitutions.”
Tennessee law already says that “[w]ords importing the masculine gender include the feminine and neuter,” leading courts to interpret gender-specific language in a gender-neutral way, Slatery pointed out in his opinion. In the case of a conflict between existing state law and the proposed legislation, he wrote, the gender-inclusive state law would prevail.
- It could discourage judges from interpreting the law in ways that advance civil rights. “I think [the bill] can’t be used to undue rights that are already secured under the U.S. Constitution, like same-sex marriage, but it could signal to judges that they shouldn’t interpret the law in innovative ways,” Franke said.
Valorie Vojdik, a professor at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville College of Law, called the bill “deeply misguided” and said it could complicate cases related to gender identity and transgender rights. “It raises questions and concerns over how the law could be applied to cut off transgender rights,” she said.
- But it’s not likely it will make a legal difference. “I really don’t think that [HB 1111] itself has that much power or impact,” Carrie Russell, director of undergraduate studies at Vanderbilt University, said.
Others said that the bill’s conflicts with existing state law and the Supreme Court mean that it’s not likely to be effective in curtailing LGBTQ rights. “Senate Bill 1085/House Bill 1111 technically does nothing to change the meaning of terms such as ‘husband,’ ‘wife,’ ‘spouse,’ ‘father,’ ‘mother,’ ‘male,’ or ‘female’ as interpreted by Tennessee courts,” Franke wrote in an email.
- 04/30/17--13:08: Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, first Cuban-American in Congress, to retire
- 04/30/17--13:25: Half targeted by ICE had traffic convictions or no record
- 04/30/17--13:26: Hospitals are cutting jobs across the nation
- 04/30/17--14:10: Beyond 100 days, Trump faces more legislative challenges
- 05/01/17--11:17: Government relaxes nutrition standards for school lunches
Someday it may be possible for a soldier to stick a tiny electrode behind her ear in order to learn a foreign language more quickly.
That’s the goal of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency initiative that announced this week providing more than $50 million in funding for eight teams to research how to improve people’s ability to learn new things by stimulating the peripheral nervous system, which consists of the nerves that fan out from the brain and spinal cord.
Specifically, many teams are looking at the vagus nerve, a nerve near your neck that connects up to the brain and down to the gut.
Electric shocks delivered to the vagus nerve have shown promise in treating depression and epilepsy, and products are already on the market for those purposes. But those are implants — they require surgery to install and remove. Researchers hope that they can design noninvasive devices to stimulate the vagus nerve that could sit behind the ear or on the neck, where the nerve comes close to the surface of the skin.
DARPA’s goal isn’t to treat illness, but rather to enhance healthy people.
Some research has shown that stimulating the vagus nerve during learning can have an effect, albeit in highly controlled laboratory environments.
But there are lots of open questions. Is it best to zap the nerve before you learn something, while you’re learning it, or afterward? How strong should the pulse be? How do you make sure that you’re not sending damaging electrical signals to other parts of your body connected to the vagus nerve?
To find answers, some teams are studying mice, rats, or pigs. Others are going straight to humans.
Xiaoqin Wang, a biomedical engineering professor at Johns Hopkins University who is part of the DARPA project, is starting human trials in a matter of months.
He’s trying to see how stimulating the vagus nerve will impact the ability of people to learn new words.
Words that sound similar but mean very different things are particularly challenging to learn in a new language. Take “rock” and “lock,” for example. Wang will teach test subjects sets of words, while some receive small electrical shocks via earpiece stimulators. Others will be learning the natural way. Wang will compare the two groups to determine the effect of the stimulation.
Of course, there are other, less high-tech stimulants, said Kevin Otto, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Florida who is part of the DARPA project. Coffee. Sleep. Pharmaceuticals. But those impact your entire body.
Other research is trying to electrically stimulate the brain itself to improve cognition via what’s called transcranial magnetic stimulation. But still, scientists say, that approach delivers electricity over a large area.
Direct nerve stimulation, on the other hand, could allow them to target changes to a specific part of your brain — once scientists can figure out how everything is connected.
“It’s not just activating the brain, it’s getting the right cells within that area,” said Justin Williams, chair of biomedical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who is leading one of the teams under the DARPA initiative. “That’s where we think that activating the periphery might have some benefit.”
Otto is particularly excited about embedding tiny electrodes in bundles of nerves to stimulate individual cells, which might be more precise than putting a patch on your neck and hoping for the best. The vagus nerve connects to important organs, like your heart, he noted.
“It’s relatively important that, while trying to change the brain, you don’t significantly change the heart,” Otto said.
Despite DARPA’s stated goal of enhancement, researchers receiving money from the agency noted the therapeutic value of the research.
“You can envision that if we could come up with a kind of way to non-invasively control brain chemistry with high fidelity, that there’s a lot of human conditions we could improve,” Williams said. For example, learning disabilities in children, or memory disorders in adults.
But for every beneficent use of this technology, one could imagine a dangerous one. Could a device that speeds up learning also slow it down?
To address questions like this, DARPA is funding an ethics workshop that should happen within the year, according to the program’s announcement.
This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on April 28, 2017. Find the original story here.
The post Can zapping your neck help you quickly learn a foreign language? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
On President Donald Trump’s 100th day in office, thousands of protesters were marching to the White House and around the country for a People’s Climate March that has become more political with the new administration.
The march originated in New York in 2014 to pressure global leaders ahead of the landmark Paris Agreement, which includes agreements from 195 countries to take steps to keep global warming below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
“There was a simple demand – act,” Paul Getsos, National Coordinator for the People’s Climate Movement, said in a statement.
The 2014 march was the first of its kind, momentous and star-studded, with hundreds of thousands of people and celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio from across the country carrying witty signs about caring for the earth. In 2015, the U.S. along with the other countries finalized the deal and then-President Barack Obama continued to make climate change a priority in his last years in office.
— Nathalie Baptiste (@nhbaptiste) April 29, 2017
But in spite of a consensus among scientists that climate change is real and man-made, Trump denounced Obama’s actions on the issue during his presidential campaign. Calling climate change a “hoax,” he vowed to “cancel” the pact. And since he was elected, the administration has continued to downplay climate science and the effects fossil fuels have on the earth.
On Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it would remodel its website, appearing to remove climate data and detailed information about a Clean Power Plan. The agency is led by Scott Pruitt, the former Attorney General of Oklahoma, who unsuccessfully sued the federal government in 2012 for allowing the agency to put limits on the release of carbon dioxide from cars, power plants and natural gas wells.
Saturday’s march was planned before November’s presidential election took place. But this year, it is one of several international demonstrations that have followed Trump’s inauguration, including a March for Science last weekend, that have an air of resistance. It was as large as the inaugural People’s Climate March, with people carrying signs that focused on climate justice and targeted top officials, including Pruitt and Trump.
— 350 dot org (@350) April 29, 2017
April is already the warmest on record for the District of Columbia. On Saturday, the temperature was projected to hit the low 90s, while the current record for the date is 91 degrees. The irony was not missed by the indigenous people, scientists, labor activists, human rights lawyers, researchers, students, elected officials and others who were joining the demonstration in person or online.
rosariodawson: RT APEN4EJ: Thnk u to our indigenous allies for grounding us this morning w/ a water ceremony befor… pic.twitter.com/fC4Wtv0ccH
— RTBanks (@tabanks360) April 29, 2017
— JakeInDC (@JakeDC_Politics) April 29, 2017
— Brian Lipinski (@BLipinskiWRI) April 29, 2017
— Don Yu (@dyu663) April 29, 2017
— John K. Delaney (@JohnKDelaneyJKD) April 29, 2017
The post On Trump’s 100th day in office, march calls for action on climate change appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
The post Looking back at LA riots after beating of Rodney King appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: My economic team is developing historic tax reform…
PATRICIA SABGA: From the White House to Capitol Hill, Republicans are determined to lower the 35 percent corporate tax rate — the highest of any developed economy.
Matt Gardner is a Senior Fellow with the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a liberal, Washington-based think tank.
MATT GARDNER: The biggest, most profitable corporations are now finding it almost routine to escape paying the 35 percent tax. In some cases, they’re easily finding ways to avoid paying any income tax at all.
PATRICIA SABGA: That’s because even though the U.S. taxes income earned anywhere in the world, the tax code allows American companies to defer paying taxes on income earned by their foreign subsidiaries indefinitely, as long as the profits are not returned to the parent company in the U.S.
Here’s a simple example: An American company that earns 1 billion dollars in profits on sales in the United States would face a U.S. tax bill of 350 million dollars before deductions, credits and write-offs.
But if the company records those profits to an overseas subsidiary in say, Ireland, where the corporate tax rate is only 12.5% — it would owe the Irish government 125 million dollars before any adjustments, and nothing to the U.S Treasury as long as the money is not brought home.
PATRICIA SABGA: When a major corporation basically shifts a lot of its profits overseas how then do ordinary Americans end up footing the bill?
MATT GARDNER: The most direct way is through large scale spending cuts, less direct spending on all the things that make the United States a good place to live: healthcare, transportation, education, all the public services that we find most vital.
PATRICIA SABGA: One legal maneuver companies use to minimize their U.S. tax bill is to sell or license intangible assets, like software or drug patents, to a lower tax foreign subsidiary. When a product made with that intellectual property is sold, the foreign subsidiary records the income. And because of that, U.S. taxes can be deferred.
MATT GARDNER: We counted 10,000 tax haven subsidiaries among Fortune 500 corporations. Deferral creates a clear incentive for companies to shift their activities offshore, but more damagingly, it creates a clear incentive for them to pretend they’re shifting their activities offshore.
PATRICIA SABGA: Pretending to shift activities offshore is also the main critique of another legal tactic known as an inversion. That’s when an American company changes its corporate citizenship by acquiring a firm based in a lower tax country or jurisdiction. Since the 1980s, more than 50 American companies have pulled this off…with 25 such deals in the past five years alone.
Samsonite, the century-old luggage maker, moved its tax address from Massachusetts to Luxembourg, where the corporate tax rate is 19 percent. Restaurant Brands International, parent of fast-food chain Burger King, relocated its headquarters from Florida to Canada, where the corporate tax rate is 15 percent. But the number one destination for tax inversions is Ireland where at 12-and-half-percent, the corporate tax rate is nearly two-thirds lower than the U.S.
The biggest company to change its tax address from the United States to Ireland is medical device maker Medtronic, which still maintains a hefty presence in its native Minnesota.
Medtronic’s operational headquarters and its top executives are in the United States. But its official headquarters is here, in Dublin, Ireland, in that building behind me. That change of address was engineered two years ago, when Medtronic bought Covidian, an Irish-based medical device maker.
This modest building in Dublin may be Medtronic’s global headquarters, but the company employs around 4-thousand people in Ireland, compared to more than 43-thousand in the United States.
MATT GARDNER: They went out of their way to guarantee that they weren’t going to move employees out of Minnesota, that everything from a U.S. perspective would remain exactly as it was before.
PATRICIA SABGA: Medtronic declined NewsHour Weekend’s request to be interviewed.
In a written statement, the company said: “The Covidien acquisition was driven by a strategic decision to combine the companies and become the world’s premier medical technology and services company. The deal allows us to accelerate our three core strategies — therapy innovation, globalization, and economic value…”
MINISTER CHARLIE FLANNIGAN: We don’t offer any sweetheart tax deals to any individual companies.
PATRICIA SABGA: Ireland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flannigan, makes no apologies that 12 of the 20 biggest companies in Ireland have roots in the United States. He says multinational companies have brought hundreds of thousands of jobs to his country and pay their fair share of Irish taxes.
MINISTER CHARLIE FLANNIGAN: We will continue with a very attractive rate of corporation tax. But we also offer something that perhaps might not be as evident in the United States, and that is a very skilled and adaptable workforce.
PATRICIA SABGA: Veronique de Rugy is a Senior Fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University — a conservative think tank partially funded by the Koch Brothers. She says corporate taxes ultimately fall on workers.
VERONIQUE DE DERUGY: Economics 101 — we know now that the person writing the check is not necessarily the one shouldering the burden of the tax. 70 percent of the burden of the corporate income tax falls on the workers in the form of lower wages.
PATRICIA SABGA: When the Trump Administration unveiled, its one-page outline for rewriting the tax code this week, it featured a cut in the corporate tax rate from 35 to 15 percent.
The White House also wants a one-time “tax holiday” that would allow American companies to repatriate that 2.6 trillion dollars in overseas cash at a reduced, though as yet reduced rate.
SECRETARY STEVEN MNUNCHIN: Which will bring back trillions of dollars that are offshore to be invested here in the United States to purchase capital and to create jobs.
PATRICIA SABGA: In addition, the White House wants to stop taxing profits earned overseas. That’s also a staple of the tax reform blueprint put forward by House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady.
The Ryan-Brady plan would cut the corporate tax rate to 20 percent — not 15 — and would introduce a new tax on imports to offset the revenue loss.
Republican Illinois Congressman Peter Roskam chairs the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Tax Policy.
REP. PETER ROSKAM: Tax cuts have to pay for themselves. Our argument is this will create growth, and that pays for itself.
PATRICIA SABGA: The proposed new tax is called a Border Adjustment Tax — a 20 percent levy on imports, which Roskam says, will encourage companies to produce more in the U.S. and keep profits here.
REP. PETER ROSKAM: Right now, if you’re a manufacturer in the Chicago area, if you’re in my constituency and you’re making a product, the cost of your product includes the income tax that the company pays for that. Then when it’s exported and it goes into another jurisdiction, it goes to, let’s say Germany, for example. The Germans move that in, and they tax it as well. Our weakness here is that the inverse is not true. So if you’re a German manufacturer, and you’re making something in Stuttgart, Germany, when it comes to the United States, we don’t tax it. So literally our products are double taxed, theirs are not taxed.
PATRICIA SABGA: The CEOs of 16 American exporting giants which underpin millions of American jobs — including Boeing and Caterpillar — agree.
In a letter to Congress, they said the border adjustment tax is a “critical element” of tax reform “that ensures goods and services produced abroad face the same tax burden as those produced in the United States.”
But more than 100 American companies and trade groups that rely on cheap imports — including retailer Wal-Mart, which alone employs one-and-a-half million Americans — oppose a border adjustment tax. They say it would increase their costs, leaving them little choice but to raise prices for consumers.
But Congressman Roskam says that’s unlikely, because a border adjustment tax will increase of the value of the dollar and effectively lower the cost of imports.
REP. PETER ROSKAM: As these border adjustment moves in, the dollar gets stronger. The price of imports gets lower, and we can make transition rules that are reasonable for companies.
PATRICIA SABGA: Many economists, including Veronique de Rugy, question whether the dollar would rise sufficiently.
VERONIQUE DE DERUGY: The idea that the dollar will adjust not only perfectly and completely to the border adjustment tax but also quickly is an article of faith.
PATRICIA SABGA: In February, President Trump said a border adjustment tax: “could lead to a lot more jobs in the United States.”
But this week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the White House does not support it “in its current form.”
The White House says its corporate tax cuts will pay for themselves through higher economic growth. But with many economists warning the plan could add trillions to the federal budget deficit, there are serious differences to bridge to parlay frustration with the corporate tax code into fundamental change.
REP. PETER ROSKAM: We can’t stay here. This current tax code is a failure. There is a massive amount of money, and whether it’s $1 trillion, $2 trillion, $3 trillion, or $4 trillion, it’s too much money that’s stuck overseas. And we need to create an environment where that money can come back.
MEGAN THOMPSON: This 100th day of the Trump administration drew tens of thousands of demonstrators to the nation’s capital — this time for what was called the People’s Climate March.
The march began on Capitol Hill and made its way along Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House — demonstrators protesting Trump administration environmental policies.
Chief among them, dismantling president Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which limited carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal to produce electricity.
The marchers also oppose President Trump’s desire to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate change accord, which committed the U.S. and 194 other nations to reduce emissions that cause global warming by 25 percent by the year 2025.
SHARON HILL: I’m here to make a statement about the stupidity of denying climate change. And it’s urgent. We need to do something now. it’s important to live.
MEGAN THOMPSON: Also motivating those in attendance: the White House has proposed cutting the Environmental Protection Agency budget by 30 percent.
And just yesterday, the president signed an executive order to expand offshore drilling for oil and gas in once protected Arctic and Atlantic waters.
JEREMY SYMONS: If something isn’t done, the stakes are enormous, because they are talking about more pollution, that’s gonna put more pollution in the air, like arsenic and mercury, and in our water, that affects the air our kids breath, and the water they drink.
MEGAN THOMPSON: Looking to next year’s midterm congressional elections, march organizers said they’ll support candidates with strong environmental records.
MARCHERS: I believe that we will win! I believe that we will win!”
MEGAN THOMPSON: Smaller People’s Climate Marches took place in dozens of other cities. The marches occurred one week after the Earth Day Marches for Science, which had demanded respect for fact-based, scientific research in public policy.
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Editor’s Note: A trip to the hospital can be devastating on a family’s finances. With 46 percent of Americans unable to cover a $400 emergency expense and the average hospital stay costing $4,300 a day (according to 2013 numbers), it’s no wonder that medical bills are the leading cause of personal bankruptcy and has been for years.
Below, reporter and former practicing physician Elisabeth Rosenthal has five questions you should ask during your hospital stay to make sure you get the right care and soften the blow of the medical bills you’re likely to face. It’s from Rosenthal’s new book, “An American Sickness: How Healthcare became Big Business and How You Can Take it Back.”
You can protect your financial health while in the hospital by asking the right questions. Unless you are on Medicare or are a member of an HMO, your stay is (for now) most likely being billed intervention by intervention, visit by visit, item by item. Take these precautions:
1. Hospitals have built a huge oversupply of private rooms, though insurers frequently won’t cover their cost.
If you are assigned to a private room, make it clear that you did not request it and would be happy to occupy a room with another patient. Otherwise, you might be hit up to pay the “private room supplement” by your insurer.
2. In the pages of admitting documents you’ll have to sign, there is inevitably one concerning your willingness to accept financial responsibility for charges not covered by your insurer.
Before you sign, write in “as long as the providers are in my insurance network.” You don’t mind paying the required co-payments or deductibles, but not out-of-network charges. For every medical encounter, Olga Baker, the San Diego lawyer, adds a “limited consent” clause to the chart, indicating that “consent is limited to in-network care only and excludes out-of-network care.” It has worked well for her, and at the very least, this annotation will give you a basis for arguing later.
3. Be clear on the terms of your stay in the hospital: Are you being admitted or held on “observation status”?
Ask point-blank. The answer will have big implications for your wallet. Hospitals can keep you for up to three days (two midnights) on observation status. Though you will be in a hospital bed, you will be considered an outpatient and be responsible for outpatient co-payments and deductibles, which are generally far higher than those for an inpatient stay. If you are on Medicare, the government insurer will not count days on observation status toward its required three days of hospitalization required for coverage of a stay in a rehabilitation center or nursing home after discharge. Ask why you cannot be fully admitted. If there’s not a good answer, insist on going the inpatient route.
4. If you’re feeling well enough, ask to know the identity of every unfamiliar person who appears at your bedside, what he or she is doing and who sent him or her.
If you’re too ill, ask a companion to serve as gatekeeper and guard. Write it all down. Beware the nice doctor who stands at the foot of your bed each day and asks if everything’s going OK. That pleasantry may constitute a $700 consultation. There’s an epidemic of drive-by doctoring on helpless inpatients. These medical personnel turn up whether you need or want them, with the intent of charging for their services. Remember that you can say no. Everything done to you or for you in the hospital will be billed at exorbitant rates.
5. If the hospital tries to send you home with equipment you don’t need, refuse it, even if it’s “covered by your insurance.”
This is a particular concern if you’ve had an orthopedic procedure. Avoid $300 bills for slings you could buy for $10 at a pharmacy, $1,000 knee braces, and $2,500 wheelchairs, all billed to insurance and cluttering up your front closet.
For more on the topic, watch economics correspondent Paul Solman’s full interview with Rosenthal.[Watch Video]
The post Column: 5 questions to ask during your hospital stay appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — Prominent Washington journalists, if not Hollywood stars, celebrated the First Amendment during the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, an event that lacked the glitter of past years because of the absence of the president of the United States.
With President Donald Trump sending his regrets, the attention was no longer focused on an in-person roasting of the commander in chief and his humorous remarks about politics and the press. The red carpet that once featured Oscar winners, TV stars and a few major-league athletes barely turned heads.
Instead, speakers at the dinner promoted press freedom and responsibility and challenged Trump’s accusations of dishonest reporting.
The stars of the night were Watergate reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who recounted what they learned about journalism from their reporting for The Washington Post that helped lead to President Richard Nixon’s resignation more than 40 years ago.
“Like politicians and presidents sometimes, perhaps too frequently, we make mistakes and go too far,” Woodward said. “When that happens we should own up to it. But the effort today to get this best obtainable version of the truth is largely made in good faith. Mr. President, the media is not ‘fake news.'”
The evening was not without humor aimed at the press and Trump.
“We’ve got to address the elephant that’s not in the room,” cracked the entertainment headliner, Hasan Minhaj of “The Daily Show” on TV’s Comedy Central. “The leader of our country is not here. And that’s because he lives in Moscow. It’s a very long flight. As for the other guy, I think he’s in Pennsylvania because he can’t take a joke.”
Trump was indeed in Pennsylvania, having scheduled a rally in Harrisburg to mark his 100th day in office. He began his remarks with a lengthy if familiar attack on the news media while dismissing the dinner and its participants.
“A large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in our nation’s capital right now,” Trump said. He added: “And I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from Washington’s swamp, spending my evening with all of you and with a much, much larger crowd and much better people, right?”
Trump became the first president since Ronald Reagan in 1981 to skip the event — and Reagan was recovering from an assassination attempt.
The official WHCA dinner began in 1921. In recent decades, the event offered Washington’s press corps an opportunity to wear black tie and stunning gowns while mixing with celebrity guests. Most people trace that development to 1987, when Baltimore Sun reporter Michael Kelly brought Fawn Hall, the secretary at the center of the Iran-Contra affair.
Jeff Mason, the WHCA president, said before the event that this year’s dinner would have been different even if Trump had attended, “based on the tension that has existed in the relationship and some of the things he has said about the press. We were preparing for a different dinner, either way.”
The correspondents’ dinner was briefly upstaged Saturday afternoon when late-night TV star Samantha Bee of “Full Frontal” pulled in celebrities for the first “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner,” among them Alysia Reiner of “Orange Is the New Black,” Retta of “Parks and Recreation” and Matt Walsh of “Veep.”
Bee’s taped show, a tongue-in-cheek tribute to American news organizations, featured actor Will Ferrell and other guests roasting Trump and his allies. It singled out the Committee to Protect Journalists, the nonprofit group that will receive proceeds from the broadcast.
The WHCA awards and this year’s recipients:
— Aldo Beckman Memorial Award winner: Greg Jaffe of The Washington Post for stories on President Barack Obama’s speeches and policies that contrasted the realities of 2016 with the hopes of 2008.
— Merriman Smith Award winner for outstanding White House coverage under deadline: Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico for his coverage of the historic meeting between Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro.
— Edgar A. Poe Award winner: David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post for stories on Donald Trump’s philanthropic claims.
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HARRISBURG, Pa. — President Donald Trump is turning from his dramatic debut as an outsider president to focus on advancing his plans to cut taxes and get tough on trade deals.
“We are not going to let other countries take advantage of us anymore,” he said Saturday in Harrisburg at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center. “From now on it’s going to be America first.”
But even as he returned to friendly political turf in Pennsylvania, Trump seems caught between his role as an outsider candidate and that of a now-elected negotiator.
He’s still figuring out how to deal with the very insiders he vowed to drain from Washington’s “swamp.” He’s spent 100 days being educated on the slow grind of government even in a Republican-dominated capital, and watching some of his promises —from repealing former President Barack Obama’s health care law to temporarily banning people from some Muslim nations — fizzle.
Even with his return to Pennsylvania, Trump seemed torn between who he was courting. He opened the rally with an extended attack on the media, pointing out that he was choosing to stay away from the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.
“I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles way from Washington’s swamp,” he said, “spending my evening with all of you and with a much, much larger crowd and much better people, right?”
He then suggested that he might attend the dinner next year — but added that he’d also consider returning to Pennsylvania.[Watch Video]
The state was critical to Trump’s victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in November. Trump won Pennsylvania with 48 percent of the vote, the first time the state had voted for a Republican presidential candidate since George H.W. Bush in 1988.
Trump visited the AMES Companies in Pennsylvania’s Cumberland County, a shovel manufacturer since 1774. With that backdrop he signed an executive order directing the Commerce Department and the U.S. trade representative to conduct a study of U.S. trade agreements. The goal is to determine whether America is being treated fairly by its trading partners and the 164-nation World Trade Organization.
Trump’s rally Saturday night in Harrisburg offered a familiar recapitulation of what he and aides have argued for days are administration successes, including the successful confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, his Cabinet choices and the approval of construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Meanwhile, North Korea’s missile launch Saturday signaled its continued defiance against the U.S., China and other nations, on which Trump tweeted: “Bad!” Asked during an interview for CBS’ “Face the Nation” if military action would follow a nuclear test by the North, Trump responded: “I don’t know. I mean, we’ll see.”
At the 100-day mark, polls suggest that Trump’s supporters during the campaign remain largely in his corner. Though the White House created a website touting its accomplishments of the first 100 days, Trump has tried to downplay the importance of the marker, perhaps out of recognition that many of his campaign promises have gone unfulfilled.
“It’s a false standard, 100 days,” Trump said while signing an executive order on Friday, “but I have to tell you, I don’t think anybody has done what we’ve been able to do in 100 days, so we’re very happy.”
Trump is turning to what he’s billed as the nation’s biggest tax cut. It apparently falls short of Reagan’s in 1981, and tax experts are skeptical that the plan would pay for itself, as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has claimed.
The economy, so far, has been Trump’s ally. Polls show that Americans feel slightly better about his job performance on that subject than his job performance overall.
Associated Press writers Jon Lemire and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.
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GREAT FALLS, Mont. — The leading candidates for Montana’s only congressional seat tangled Saturday over money, including taxes, campaign financing and $240,000 in investments by the Republican candidate that financial disclosures link to index funds with substantial holdings in Russian firms that are under sanctions by the U.S. government.
The investments gave Democrat Rob Quist fresh ammunition to lob at Greg Gianforte during their only televised debate before the May 25 special congressional election. Libertarian Mark Wicks also took part in the debate.
The sanctions were put in place by the Obama administration three years ago because of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Money was a key issue of the debate, with Quist and Wicks teaming up against Gianforte to denounce the amount of cash he has thrown not only into the race for congress but also the $6 million of his own money he spent on his failed bid for governor last year.
Quist urged voters to “make a statement that Montana cannot be bought and cannot be for sale.”
Gianforte, who made millions when he sold his software company, RightNow Technolgoies, to Oracle has been unapologetic about his wealth.
“I can’t be bought, and my allegiance will be to you,” Gianforte spoke into the camera.
During the hour-long debate held in the studios of KRTV in Great Falls and televised across the state, Quist pounced on Gianforte’s investment during a question focused on North Korea.
“I was really dispirited to hear the other day that Mr. Gianforte has a quarter of a million dollars in stocks in Russian companies that are on the sanctions list,” Quist said.
Quist latched onto the revelations first reported by the Guardian, a British newspaper, on Friday.
Gianforte initially declined to respond to Quist’s charges, but asked for an opportunity to do so when Quist brought up the matter again.
“Anyone who invests in emerging markets around the world have investment in Russia,” Gianforte responded. He called it a small portion of his investments and pledged to put his investments in a blind trust.
The campaign has acknowledged about $150,000 in investments with VanEck Vectors Russia and about $92,000 with IShares MSCF Russia. Both companies deal in exchange-traded funds, which are similar to mutual funds.[Watch Video]
Gianforte’s assets range between $96 million and $327 million, according to disclosures he is required to file with the U.S. House.
Montana’s only House seat became vacant in March when Ryan Zinke resigned to become U.S. Secretary of Interior.
David Parker, a professor of political science at Montana State University and a longtime observer of Montana politics, said the candidates performed adequately in reaffirming their views among voters who already support them.
“The person who had the most to gain was Rob Quist, and to a certain extent Mark Wicks, because he hasn’t been on a statewide stage yet. So in that sense, Quist comes out well,” Parker said. “I think a lot of the impressions on Gianforte were already formed.”
National Republican groups are spending heavily in the race to keep the seat. National Democrats have also begun investing money in the race, but the party’s priority appears to be in backing another candidate in a June special election in Georgia.
With just 26 days left until the special election, the candidates have little time left to gain traction with voters.
During the debate, the candidates tackled topics ranging from abortion to tax policy, and from gun rights to health care, including the repeal of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act.
Even before Saturday’s debate began, there were questions over whether Quist would be allowed to wear his cowboy hat during the debate. It’s no small detail for a candidate who is trying to charm voters with his folksy, everyman persona to contrast with Gianforte’s more aggressive and all-business demeanor.
But Gianforte, who boastfully campaigned for governor as an entrepreneur who knew how to bring prosperity to the state, was more understated in his approach during the debate. He depicted himself as an engineer who would be a problem-solver in Washington.
Wicks pleaded with viewers to consider him a sensible alternative to the two major party candidates, saying he would be an independent voice in Congress for Montana.
Wicks offered the most memorable analysis of the night, when he compared Gianforte to a luxury car, Quist as a utility truck and himself as the workhorse that will tow folks out of trouble.
“I see Mr. Gianforte as a luxury car. It’s really smooth and comfortable getting down the road. But at the end of the day, it just wants to be parked with the other luxury cars down at the country club.”
He described Quist as “a little half-ton pickup” that is tiny and bright with a good sound system that will eventually end up at the side of the road.
“Now me? I’m the work truck,” Wicks said.
The post Investments in Russia become focus in congressional race appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
MANILA, Philippines — U.S. President Donald Trump has called Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte and expressed Washington’s commitment to their treaty alliance and his interest in developing “a warm, working relationship,” a Filipino official said Sunday.
Presidential spokesman Ernie Abella said Trump mentioned he was looking forward to visiting the Philippines in November to attend an East Asia summit that Duterte will host with several world leaders and that Trump invited Duterte to visit the White House.
“The discussion that transpired between the presidents was warm, with President Trump expressing his understanding and appreciation of the challenges facing the Philippine president, especially on the matter of dangerous drugs,” Abella said in a statement.
A White House statement described late Saturday’s call as “very friendly” and said the U.S.-Philippine alliance “is now heading in a very positive direction.”
Abella’s remarks reflect the friendlier attitude Duterte has taken with Trump versus the antagonistic stance he had toward President Barack Obama, who he once asked to “go to hell” for criticizing the Philippine leader’s bloody anti-drug crackdown. During Obama’s final months in office, the Philippine president moved to build closer economic ties with China and Russia while repeatedly threatening to end his nation’s longstanding military alliance with the U.S.
Duterte’s apparent dislike for Obama began when the U.S. State Department expressed concern over his drug war — which has left thousands of suspects dead — and asked Philippine government officials to take steps to stop extrajudicial killings.[Watch Video]
At one point Duterte suggested he may even move to abrogate a 2014 defense agreement that allows U.S. military access to five Philippine military camps.
He has walked back most of those threats but has proceeded with his efforts to align closer with China.
On Sunday, three Chinese navy ships, including a guided-missile destroyer and a guided-missile frigate, were welcomed in Davao city, Duterte’s southern hometown, by officials, including presidential daughter and city Mayor Sarah Duterte, military officials said.
Asked if the rare Chinese naval visits were a sign that Duterte was backing away from Washington, Department of National Defense spokesman Arsenio Andolong said: “We are not veering away from the U.S. but rather we are expanding our relations with our fellow nations in the global community.”
Abella said without elaborating that concern over North Korea also came up in Trump’s talk with Duterte.
Duterte suggested in a news conference Saturday that the Trump administration should back away from an intensifying standoff with North Korea, not in surrender, but to avoid risking a nuclear holocaust that could smother Asia.
“It would be good for America to just restrain a little bit and if I were President Trump, I’ll just back out, not really in surrender and retreat, but just to let the guy realize that, ‘Ah, please do not do it.'” Duterte said.
Washington, he said, should not play into provocations of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“It behooves upon America, who wields the biggest stick, just to really be prudent and patient. We know that we are playing with somebody who relishes letting go of his missiles and everything,” Duterte said.
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About a year and a half ago, then-President Barack Obama at the White House reunited second-generation fast food worker Terrence Wise with his mother, whom Wise had not seen for 10 years.
Obama explained at the workers’ rights summit that neither Wise, who lives in Kansas City, Missouri, or his mother, who lives in North Carolina, “make enough money to visit each other.”
The Obama administration had invited them there because Wise has helped push for a higher minimum wage across the country.
Wise started organizing in 2013, when he was making $7.25 an hour at McDonald’s and he encouraged his colleagues to make Kansas City among the first seven cities to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Four years later, Wise makes $9 an hour (though he says he still has to work two jobs), groups in more than 300 cities have joined the Fight for $15 movement and local government officials in Kansas City have supported him.
But many state lawmakers in Missouri represent suburbs, small towns and rural areas that are mostly Republican and hold most of the state’s political power, which can cause conflicts with Democratic cities.
In 2015, while Kansas City voted to raise the minimum wage to $13 an hour, the state passed a law that prohibits any jurisdiction in Missouri from adopting a higher minimum wage than the state — $7.70 an hour. The law was backed by politicians worried that a patchwork of different wages would be a nuisance for employers. Missouri is one of 26 states to preempt local minimum wage laws, according to the National League of Cities.
In defiance, the Kansas City Council voted again this year to raise the minimum wage as the state House voted on a stronger preemption bill, which awaits a vote in the State Senate.
Meanwhile, Wise has persisted. In an interview with the NewsHour Weekend, he explains how preemption affects him and his family and why he sees it as a speed bump, not a wall.
What would a $4 raise at this point mean to you?
I can tell you personally for me it does not mean a new Mercedes. It does not mean a new $200,000 home. It simply means I know I could come home at night and there would be food on the table. I know that my growing girls, I could afford clothes for them to wear. Just recently, last week, I had my lights shut off. They’re back on now, but to have that peace of mind knowing that with that increase in wage, those are things that I would not have to worry about. Toilet paper, basic necessities, those are the things that most concern me on a day-to-day basis.
How did it feel when the state two years ago preempted Kansas City?
I like to acknowledge how we got here. Councilman Jermaine Reed, Mayor Sly James, they didn’t just wake up one morning and want to give workers a minimum wage increase. Let’s just be clear. Workers have been organizing and going on strike. We fasted out in front of City Hall. We’ve camped out in tents with our children in the heat, which may seem like a dramatic action, but what’s going on in our houses is dire every day.
We have to struggle with paying rent and keeping food on the table and conditions have not been getting better over the years. To win a vote, even from city council, to have a minimum wage increase here in Kansas City, only to have preemptive laws written in the capital to take these wage increases away from working families, it may seem like a solution for them, but really they’re on the wrong side of history. They really are.[Watch Video]
It’s hurtful when I look at my kids, it’s hurtful when I come home at night to know that that could have been money going towards my girls’ college education or going towards getting a home of my own here in Kansas City. It does a lot to me mentally as a father.
What kind of wages do you make?
Four years ago I was making $7.25. Before we started organizing and fighting here in Kansas City, I hadn’t had a raise at work for three years. And right after the first strike here in Kansas City, the next day back at work, my employer offered us a raise. Alone, I could not get a raise by myself, but with my coworkers and allies around the community, I was able to get a raise from my employer. Right now, at $9 an hour, I know that wouldn’t be the case had I not four years ago began to organize and fight for better. And we’re still not at a level where we can take care of our families and help in our local economies, but we’ve seen small progress.
Do you think it’s harder to fight this fight in a red state?
I’ve learned to stand up and fight for better. I’ve learned that women weren’t just handed their rights in their country. They had to fight long and hard for it, as well as black people in this country had to fight for their civil liberties. For me, it’s the richest nation on Earth. It’s the United States of America, whether you’re in Alaska, Hawaii, New York, California or the great Midwest. And we also know that anybody who works in this nation should make a living wage. I don’t care if you live in a red state or a blue state.
We’re also not blind to the fact that racism plays a big role in economics as well. So I know it really down south, where we know Jim Crow laws once existed and segregation was at its height at one time. We know that wages are lower down south. And we know that where we were once great in industrial work in the great Midwest where unions were strong, Chicago and the Midwest. And up north, we see higher wages, where more multiracial workers come together and organize and fight for more.
So that’s how we know we have to fight for racial and economic equality all in the same. Because it’d be one thing to receive a higher raise here in Missouri or any state but still not be treated fairly, or have racial justice in other cities as well. So we know it’s a tough, long, hard fight, but it’s one that we’re committed to. We have to keep going.
How long did you anticipate raising the minimum wage would take?
It’s really easy, because, what we’re doing may seem different. You see workers going on strike, workers organizing. But when you look back at history, people stood up and did this before and faced a lot more danger. They were killed, hung for these things, to fight for these civil liberties and these rights. And then when you look back in history, these weren’t short fights. There were slaves for over 150 years in this country. These were long, hard fights.
I knew that it would be a long, hard fight, and I know that if we win $15, if McDonald’s sits down with me tomorrow and gives me a union and $15, you better believe we still gotta fight to keep that. You gotta keep organizing, you gotta keep building power to keep what you’ve already won.
Critics have said that the minimum wage is not for a parent or a family wage, it’s supposed to be for a teenager. What do you think about that?
We know that these jobs are held by adults, working adults. We know the working class has changed over the years. These are things that we know. We know that minimum wage, not only here in Kansas City but across the country, has not been keeping up, it’s been stagnant. Wages have not been on the rise here. And living wage should be available for everyone. The minimum wage should be a living wage.
How has the journey been over the past four years?
When it first started in 2013, Kansas City was one of the first seven cities to join the movement; it’s over 300 cities now. Early on, you know, I’d just never seen a movement or anything where workers were standing up and taking action. I’d never read about that in school or been a part of that my working life. So to become a part of that, it was new, and I was also very scared. And you know, I never knew about organizing and fighting for better. Not only racial but economic justice as well.
Fast forward four years now and seeing the changes we’ve made and the victories we’ve won and the allies we’ve won, it’s been incredible.
This transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.
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In his 28 years with the Utah Highway Patrol, Lt. Lee Perry has seen a lot of carnage from crashes in which motorists weren’t wearing seat belts. One crash in 2013 really struck home: He arrived at a scene where two teen passengers in a truck had been ejected in a rollover and discovered one was the son of a family friend. Both teens died.
Perry, who is also a state representative, later met with the mothers of the two teens, who urged him to take action. He did. He sponsored a bill that would let police stop a car and ticket people solely for not wearing a seat belt — a move designed to act as a deterrent to scofflaws by increasing the chances they could get pulled over and possibly pay a $45 fine.
When his bill became law in 2015, Utah became the 34th state, along with the District of Columbia, to have a “primary seat belt,” or “click it or ticket,” enforcement law.
“I’m hoping this will not only save lives, but it will save tax dollars,” Perry, a Republican, said. “We spend a lot of money on hospital costs, and commerce gets shut down on our highways for long periods of time if we have to block them when there’s a serious accident and someone is ejected. When you start to look at the dollars and cents, it made sense.”
Right now, 15 other states have “secondary enforcement” laws, which mean police can only ticket people for a seat belt violation if they get pulled over for another reason. (New Hampshire is the only state that does not require adults to wear seat belts.)
But that may be changing, as the nation experiences the most dramatic two-year increase in road-related fatalities in decades. Bills that would toughen enforcement are pending in Alabama, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Vermont. And Mississippi enacted a law expanding primary enforcement. (A move in Utah to revert to secondary enforcement next year was beaten back in the Legislature.)
Not everyone is convinced the tougher laws reduce fatalities. And some opponents say the laws are another example of government interference and can lead to racial profiling.
Massachusetts state Rep. Jeffrey Roy, who is sponsoring a primary enforcement bill in his state, said he understands some may feel it impinges on their individual rights but he thinks it will motivate more people to wear seat belts, which will save lives.
“I’ve heard the Big Brother argument that if I want to be a danger to myself, that’s up to me,” said Roy, a Democrat. “But the minute you cross the line and become a danger to others, I think a statute is needed. Your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose.”
Source: “Seat Belt Use in 2015—Use Rates in the States and Territories,” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Note: New Hampshire does not require adults to wear seat belts. The most recent national numbers are from 2016. State by state numbers are from 2015.
Copyright © 1996-2017 The Pew Charitable Trusts. All rights reserved.
Seat Belt Use Up
Over the years, seat belt use nationally has jumped from nearly 71 percent in 2000 to 90 percent in 2016, according to a survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which sends observers to randomly selected sites each year.
Federal officials estimate seat belt use in passenger vehicles saved about 14,000 occupants’ lives in 2015. Nearly half of the 22,400 occupants killed in crashes that year were unbuckled.
Because some people don’t buckle up, safety experts say primary enforcement laws are needed to pressure motorists into it.
“Secondary enforcement laws lack teeth. Cops have to find another reason to pull you over,” said Kara Macek, spokeswoman for the Governors Highway Safety Administration. “Primary laws are really the only effective ones.”
There’s evidence the pressure works. NHTSA last year found that 92 percent of drivers used seat belts in states with primary enforcement, compared to 83 percent in states with secondary enforcement or none at all.
The primary enforcement laws vary considerably. Laws in some states apply only to occupants in the front seat, others also apply to those riding in the rear. Some laws cover everyone in the vehicle, others cover only adults and children of a certain age. Some states allow police to ticket drivers and passengers, others only drivers. One common element: Almost every state has primary enforcement for children in safety seats.
Penalties also vary. In Utah, for example, drivers and passengers 16 and older can be ticketed. For a first offense, police can only issue a warning. But on a second one, they can issue a $45 citation, though it can be waived if the violator completes an online, 30-minute safety course.
A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that analyzed data from 2000 to 2014 in states that upgraded from secondary to primary enforcement questions whether the tougher laws are still effective in reducing traffic deaths.
“There’s no evidence that these laws are reducing fatalities,” said Sam Harper, an associate professor at McGill University who co-authored the study.
Harper said earlier studies that showed primary enforcement laws saved lives were done when seat belt use was much lower, cars were less safe, road design wasn’t as good, and there were no speed cameras. Nowadays, he said, more people buckle up regardless of whether a state has primary or secondary enforcement laws.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit research group funded by auto insurance companies, takes a different view of primary enforcement laws. It says they do reduce fatalities and deter motorists from bad behavior.
Chuck Farmer, a vice president at the institute, estimates that moving to primary enforcement reduces traffic deaths by about 7 percent. He said police in primary enforcement states also run successful traffic stop operations such as “Click It or Ticket,” in which they target motorists not wearing their seat belts.
“Secondary states can’t do that,” he said. “People in those states realize the police aren’t out there enforcing seat belt laws, so they’re not as worried about getting pulled over if they don’t wear them.”
Too Much Government Intrusion?
Foes of the tougher laws argue they tread on individual liberties and can be a tool for racial profiling.
In Nevada, where a measure failed this session, traffic safety experts and a trauma surgeon were among those who testified in favor of the bill at a March hearing. But several people opposed the legislation, including Janine Hansen, state president of Nevada Families for Freedom, a conservative advocacy group. She called it another example of government interference in people’s lives.
“I think we’re becoming more and more of a police state and it really concerns me,” she testified.
Hansen said her brother was killed in an auto accident in 2002 and was not wearing his seat belt, but he had made a conscious decision to do that because he didn’t want the government telling him what to do.
“Passing another law isn’t going to make people who are already acting irresponsibly by not wearing their seat belt do it,” she said. “They’ve already made a choice.”
Lobbyists from public defenders offices in Clark and Washoe counties also opposed the Nevada bill. They worried that a primary enforcement law would lead to minorities getting stopped and ticketed more often than whites. That has been a common concern in other states, especially among civil rights groups.
But Farmer of the insurance institute said several studies have shown no difference in ticketing rates for minorities and non-minorities in states with primary enforcement laws. “I can understand that concern but there’s no evidence,” he said.
One 2011 NHTSA study not only found no evidence of racial profiling but concluded that the percentage of tickets issued to minorities remained the same or decreased slightly after states moved from secondary to primary enforcement.
However, a recent American Civil Liberties Union study of Florida, which has a primary enforcement law, reached a different conclusion. It found that black motorists were stopped and ticketed for seat belt violations nearly twice as often as white motorists statewide in 2014.
“When you look at the data, there are troubling patterns of significant racial disparities,” said Nusrat Choudhury, an ACLU staff attorney. “This raises a concern that racial profiling may be taking place.”
Choudhury said unlike most states, Florida requires police to collect data on the race and ethnicity of those stopped for seat belt violations, but no one had analyzed that data until her group did.
“Promoting seat belt use is important to public safety,” Choudhury said. “But it should be done fairly and without bias. That’s frequently not the case.”
This story was produced by Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts. You can view the original report on its website.
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CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: The massive elephant footprints are still visible in Kusekwa Elias’ cornfield. Just outside the Serengeti national park in rural Tanzania, he says an elephant pillaged the field two days earlier.
KUSEKWA ELIAS: There is no animal we hate here more than elephants. The elephants destroy our food. Children sleep hungry. Sometimes you cultivate acres, only to find out the elephants have eaten them all.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: To keep elephants safely apart from people and their crops, park rangers are training with remote-controlled drones a few miles away. It sounds like a swarm of bees, and that’s precisely the idea.
NATHAN HAHN: So we’re trying to turn them around and get them going back. So there’s the matriarch is being vigilant, while the rest leave.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Nathan Hahn is a researcher with the American non-profit “Resolve.” In this training exercise, an elephant stands its ground against the drone. But quickly backs away.
NATHAN HAHN: There they go…
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: For more than two years, Hahn has been studying the use of drones to prevent what’s known as human-elephant conflict, when elephants cross paths with human beings.
NATHAN HAHN: Human-elephant conflict, it’s a big problem anywhere there’s elephants and people coexisting. And it’s very, it’s very tough to deal with. Elephants need a lot of resources and a lot of space to move. And people also need that same space and resources to develop and grow economically. So you get this butting of heads around park boundaries where wildlife is.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: The Serengeti ecosystem in Tanzania is made up of Serengeti national park, and a network of game reserves and wildlife management areas just outside of it. Inside the park, there are clear rules meant to protect both animals and humans: for instance, you can drive only on marked roads and must stay in your vehicle at all times. But just outside the park is another story. Nothing stops animals, including elephants, from wandering into areas where people live.
While the African elephant population has fallen 30 percent over the last decade, the elephant population has increased in the Serengeti, thanks in part to anti-poaching efforts. Since 2006, the number of elephants is up more than 250 percent. At the same time, the human population has also grown, increasing more than 50 percent since 2002.
Julius Keyyu is the director of research at the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, a government agency.
JULIUS KEYYU: The increase in human population has resulted in demand for more land for human settlement, for cultivation, for livestock grazing.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: So both people and elephants are fighting over the same natural resources?
JULIUS KEYYU: Natural resources. Because it is becoming scarce, because of climate change. So you see wildlife, people, livestock are sharing water resources.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: And that’s created a greater likelihood of conflict. Farmer Mbesi Ndongo says an elephant nearly killed him a year and a half ago.
MBESI NDONGO: The elephant was hiding in the forest and came suddenly and knocked me down on my head. I picked myself up but it pulled me back with its trunk and threw me. I knew that by the time it would be done with me I would be dead. But I did not want to die without fighting.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: The attack left him with a fractured skull and wrist. He still suffers from pain today and can no longer farm, so he has trouble supporting his family.
MBESI NDONGO: It has really affected my life, because I cannot perform duties that require a lot of energy. All the energy I had is gone.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Veterinarian and animal protection specialist Nick de Souza says destruction caused by elephants can lead people to violently retaliate.
NICK DE SOUZA: This could be a spear, a bow and arrow; slingshots are used a lot.
Unfortunately, the worst of all is the use of poisons.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: de Souza has worked for conservation groups for the past 15 years.
NICK DE SOUZA: The consequences are appalling. You find both dead and dying animals in quite large numbers that cross cut across the whole family spectrum, from tiny babies, to grandmothers.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: There are no reliable numbers on how many elephants people kill in self-defense or retaliation around the world, but conservationists believe the problem is getting worse. De Souza says human-elephant conflict occurs everywhere elephants live in the wild near human settlements, with deadly consequences for both elephants and humans.
From sub-saharan Africa to Indonesia, to India, elephants kill hundreds of people every year.
NICK DE SOUZA: What’s really the challenge is that the population that co-exists with elephants are the most marginalized communities on Earth.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: In those communities, there are a variety of old-fashioned methods for preventing elephant incursions.
Scaring them off with loud noises and flashing lights, as these rural Tanzanians demonstrated. Surrounding crops with fences covered in hot chili oil, which torment elephants’ sensitive trunks. And rangers charging at them with vehicles. Or using guns.
They’ll actually fire live rounds into the air and that’ll sometimes scare the elephants away.
Many of those tactics can put humans dangerously close to an elephant. But wildlife ranger Rainley Mbawala says the newest method — of using drones — is much less risky.
RAINLEY MBAWALA: When you use a gun, sometimes an elephant charges back, or you may fire a gun and end up firing at a villager accidentally. But the drone has no bad effects, because even when the elephant charges, nobody is caught in between.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Over time, elephants often outsmart conflict mitigation tools once they get used to them. But researchers say, so far, elephants haven’t caught onto drones.
The breakthrough came a few years ago when researchers were taking aerial photos of elephants and made a surprising discovery.
NATHAN HAHN: It turns out they’re very scared of the drones. They would run away almost instantly and seem to be very frightened. We’re not sure why. It could be it sounds like a swarm of bees. There’s lots of flashing lights. It’s this big, white object kind of coming at them very closely.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: There was a sort of unintended benefit?
NATHAN HAHN: You think you’re using a drone just to film some elephants, and all of a sudden you’ve discovered this new way to deal with human-elephant conflict.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Hahn and his research group now train Serengeti park rangers to use the drones and collect data to measure their effectiveness.
In 2016, Hahn and Julius Keyyu co-authored a study of 51 instances in which drones were deployed.
JULIUS KEYYU: If it is used properly and properly maneuvered, the drone is 100 percent.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: 100 percent effective.
JULIUS KEYYU: 100 percent effective to flush elephants out of a crop field or, if I’m called with the farmers, that elephants are coming to my farm, to drive them back.
NATHAN HAHN:I just need to land.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Of course, the drones have limitations.
NATHAN HAHN: The wind is too strong!)
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: They don’t work in high winds and rain.
They’re also harder to use at night, when most elephants raid crops. So rangers need to use them in tandem with a strong spotlight.
And drones are of no use if rangers can’t arrive to deploy them, as we saw during a night patrol the rangers allowed us to join. On this night there’s not a single vehicle on hand, so rangers are limited to what they can cover by foot. If a farmer calls to report an elephant threat just a few miles away, they’re on their own.
Serengeti district game officer John Lendoyan oversees the region. He’s not yet convinced that drones can be effective and says that at roughly $800 dollars per drone, he has more pressing priorities.
JOHN LENDOYAN: The issue of human-elephant conflict is sometimes very difficult for us to address because of lack of resources including people, vehicles, and sometimes gas. So implementing these new techniques is difficult.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Lendoyan is focused on educating people to avoid elephant habitats and to appreciate the value they bring to the country’s tourism industry.
JOHN LENDOYAN: The government has tried to create an environment in which villagers can benefit from the conservation process. The daily fees from the parks, and these funds are usually channeled back to the public through development projects.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: The government does pay damages to people who are injured or lose crops because of elephants. But many farmers we met with – including Kusekwa Elias, whose cornfield was pillaged – say elephants are the government’s real priority.
KUSEKWA ELIAS: From the way we see it, elephants are more valuable than humans, since they can destroy our crops and nothing is done.
CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: For now, Hahn and his group “Resolve” are donating drones to the rangers, though they hope Tanzania will eventually pay for them. Resolve is also working with the government to try and find longer-term solutions.
NATHAN HAHN: It can definitely be described as a reactive solution. But in the end, it’s what’s needed right now. And that’s how we look at drones.
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LGBTQ groups fear a bill in Tennessee, passed by the state legislature, could bring discrimination and weaken same-sex marriage or other civil rights — but legal experts say it is unlikely to effectively do so.
House Bill 1111 (also known as SB 1085) addresses how courts should interpret state law by determining that “undefined words shall be given their natural and ordinary meaning.” The law is seen by LGBTQ groups as a pathway to discrimination if those words are gender-specific, like “husband,” “wife,” “mother” and “father.”
A previously-filed bill, SB 30, stated that those words are, “based on the biological distinctions between men and women” — a distinction that excludes intersex or transgender people.
While HB 1111 was introduced right after SB 30 and is nearly identical, it omits references to any specific words.
Sen. John Stevens, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said during Senate debate that one aim of the bill was to “compel courts to side with late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his dissent,” USA Today reported.
But experts say the biggest legal consequence of HB 1111 is that it is redundant, confusing and riddled with conflicts.
Still, LGBTQ groups are urging Gov. Bill Haslam to veto it on the basis that it could perpetuate the mistreatment and civil rights abuses of LGBTQ people.
Haslam’s office told the NewsHour Weekend that he “deferred to the will of the legislature,” signaling that he intends to sign the bill.
What HB 1111 says
Why are LGBTQ groups worried?
What legal experts say
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U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the first Cuban-American elected to Congress, is retiring at the end of her term next year, saying it’s time to move on after 38 years in office.
The 64-year-old Republican was elected last November to Florida’s redrawn 27th district, a stretch of southeast Miami-Dade County that is heavily Democratic. Hillary Clinton won it over Donald Trump by 20 percentage points, and Ros-Lehtinen was able to win it by 10 percentage points.
The Congresswoman explained her decision in a piece published by The Miami Herald on Sunday. She called it “a personal decision based on personal considerations.”
“The most difficult challenge is not to simply keep winning elections; but rather the more difficult challenge is to not let the ability to win define my seasons.”
She said she’s confident that she would be re-elected if she chose to run again.
“I will not allow my season in elected office be extended beyond my personal view of its season, simply because I have a continuing ability to win. We all know, or should know, that winning isn’t everything. My seasons are defined, instead, by seeking out new challenges, being there as our grandchildren grow up, interacting with and influencing public issues in new and exciting ways.”
Her unexpected retirement will give Democrats an opportunity to pick up a South Florida congressional seat in 2018.
The Miami Herald first reported the retirement Sunday. The congresswoman’s spokesman Keith Fernandez confirmed the announcement with The Associated Press.[Watch Video]
In Congress, Ros-Lehtinen staked her ground as a foreign-policy hawk, becoming the first woman to chair the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. She currently chairs the subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, and sits on the intelligence committee.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., called her a “trailblazer.”
“She’s been a relentless advocate for human rights, and a powerful voice on the need to address the dangerous Iranian regime, defend allies like Israel, and so much more,” he wrote. “Ileana’s retirement is well-deserved, but I’m glad we are not losing her yet. We’ve got important work to do for the American people over the next year and a half, and I know Ileana will continue to play a leading role.”
Born in Havana, she is well-known for being a fierce critic of Cuban politics. The late Fidel Castro nicknamed her “la loba feroz” or “the big bad she-wolf.”
For years, Ros-Lehtinen represented the Florida Keys, including gay-friendly Key West, and advocated for LGBTQ rights. Eventually, her transgender son, Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, made his way into the public spotlight. Last year, he and his parents recorded a bilingual public-service TV campaign to urge Hispanics to support transgender youth.
In her remaining 20 months in Congress, Ros-Lehtinen said she will keep pushing for one of her long-running goals for Germany to offer restitution to Holocaust victims.
“And I will continue to stand up to tyrants and dictators all over the world,” she told The Miami Herald. “I take that as a badge of honor, when they blast me and don’t let me in their countries.”
News of her retirement swept through Florida political circles.
“Not only is @RosLehtinen a tireless advocate for freedom & human rights – she is my friend. Florida will miss her,” tweeted U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio , R-Florida, who worked as an intern in her office 26 years ago.
Gov. Rick Scott wrote on Twitter : “Congresswoman @RosLehtinen has fought hard for FL families throughout her service in D.C. Her strong leadership will be greatly missed!”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee used her announcement to criticize her party. “It’s been clear for years that the Republican party was out of step with the values of Miami families, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s retirement announcement is testament to the fact she recognized how wide that gap had grown.”
Ros-Lehtinen is scheduled to have a news conference Monday, her spokesman said.
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HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Shortly after President Trump took office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, began arresting hundreds of immigrants in very visible raids across the United States. But as internal ICE documents obtained first by The Washington Post show, half of those detained had either no criminal record or traffic convictions.
Joining me now from Washington to discuss this is one the reporters who broke this story, Maria Sacchetti.
You have a set of data that is around Operation Crosscheck, which is one of the things that we all heard about. How — what did the data reveal and how does that work with all of the larger roundups that have been happening?
MARIA SACCHETTI, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, the data offered the first look at a breakdown of the immigration raid that occurred right after President Trump took office. And the way ICE classified it is traffic offenses, but we asked for more information. And they said that more than 90 percent of those offenses were drunk driving offenses.
SREENIVASAN: I don’t want to minimize drunk driving as not a serious offense, but what about the criminals like the murderers, and rapists and so forth that the presidet said that that was the focus, that’s who he wanted to go after?
SACCHETTI: Exactly. And we know there are hundreds of those folks out there that — who have been released, who were released under the Obama administration. And Trump very clearly made that a priority. He said he would — what happened under the Obama administration would not happen under his administration. And we just — we just haven’t seen that.
SREENIVASAN: And so, what is the difference between what’s been happening and what was on the books in terms of regulations or restrictions that the Obama administration had put on ICE enforcement and how they should prioritize who to round up and deport?
SACCHETTI: Well, the Obama administration, and we’ve reported this, deported a lot of people who had never committed a crime, got a lot of criticism for doing that and over time, the Obama administration issued memos that sought to curtail exactly the types of folks immigration officials could arrest and deport. And in 2014, late 2014, late 2014, that really took affect. You can see the number of non-criminals, and overall, deportations going down the last couple of years of his administration.
SREENIVASAN: Is there a chilling effect in the terms — in terms of people that are coming forward, say whistle-blowers or witnesses to crimes or maybe even victims for fear that that they will be deported in the process?
SACCHETTI: Well, at least two cities, Los Angeles and Houston have reported that they are seeing fewer crimes, particularly sexual assaults and other crimes being reported by Latinos. So, that — that’s a big question. And the Obama — I mean, pardon me, the Trump administration has said that the victims or witnesses, you know, could be picked up. They said they’re not their priority, that there are still protections in place for them, but if they’re lawbreakers or they’ve had an issue in the past, you know, victims and witnesses could also be detained.
SREENIVASAN: So, there’s kind of two steps to this. There is the detention part and there’s the deportation part. Is everybody who’s getting detained getting deported? I mean, are the countries agreeing to take them back?
SACCHETTI: Right. So, one really important detail here is the difference between immigration system and the criminal system, in the criminal system we know who gets arrested. You know, when someone is arrested, almost the next thing you see is their name and you get a little bit of background about them.
The immigration system has not worked that way. We don’t know who is getting arrested. We can’t look at their files. You can’t read the reports and the charges against them, even though they’re civil (ph) charges. They are often held in the same types of jails as criminals. But there’s very little public accountability in the immigration system.
SREENIVASAN: All right. Maria Sacchetti of The Washington Post — thanks so much.
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HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: The news website “STAT” focuses on health, medicine, and science. And in an article just published this afternoon, “STAT” reports how hospitals nationwide are cutting jobs. The reasons are financial and political, from escalating costs to uncertainty about changes to the Affordable Care Act.
Joining me now from Cleveland to discuss all this is the author of the story, Casey Ross.
Where are we likely to feel the impact of these hospitals cuts? I know you looked at places all over the country.
CASEY ROSS, STAT REPORTER: Yes, you’re going to see cutbacks in clinical services at hospitals. You know, some hospitals are choosing to reduce psychiatric services, for example. A lot of hospitals are cutting back on obstetric services, closing down labor and delivery units. In Boston, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a large Harvard affiliated teaching hospital, just offered a voluntary buyout to 1,600 employees. MD Anderson in Texas is laying off a thousand. Catholic Health Initiatives, one of the largest providers in the nation, just laid off about a thousand employees, in Kentucky, in Texas and elsewhere.
And so, I think you’re going to see cuts in all of those communities, in hospitals that are large and small, rural or urban. And I think the people in those communities are going to see that through a reduction in some of the medical services that are available.
SREENIVASAN: So, why now? And how do we know that this isn’t just sort of a business correction where perhaps some of the hospitals that you are looking at or found aren’t just correcting for errors that they might have made or just bad accounting?
ROSS: Well, these are structural financial problems in the health-care business. The biggest problem is that you have a large number of Americans every day who are aging into Medicare. The baby boomer population is aging into Medicare at a rate of 10,000 people a day. And that causes problems for hospitals because Medicare pays less than commercial insurance does for medical services.
So, you have a problem where hospitals can’t make money on their largest population of patients, which causes margins to get thinner and as those margins get thinner, they have less leeway to deal with some of the ever-rising costs.
SREENIVASAN: So, are any of the hospitals opting out or creating a two tier system where a Medicare patient might be, while they are less valuable dollar-wise, they would maybe get less preferential treatment?
ROSS: I think that is happening at hospitals across the country in different ways. Seldom are they out in the open about the ways in which they do that. But certainly, they find ways to prioritize commercially insured patients over Medicare and Medicaid patients often by choosing to locate in strategic locations where they can serve more commercially insured patients.
SREENIVASAN: So, how does the fight on Capitol Hill play into this, on what could happen to the Affordable Care Act and the number of uninsured people that might increase or decrease and the ripple effect that it has on hospitals?
ROSS: Well, it creates a lot of uncertainty because all of the hospitals certainly are concerned about the potential loss of 24 million insured patients over the next decade. That’s the estimate of the Congressional Budget Office of the number of people that will become uninsured if the current law that’s being considered in Washington is enacted.
So, those hospitals are concerned about losing paying customers, essentially. Those people are still going to need care regardless. And the hospitals are worried that those folks are not going to be able to afford their care because they’re not going to have insurance. Their uncompensated care costs rise and that puts more pressure on an already thin bottom line.
SREENIVASAN: All right. Casey Ross of “STAT” — thanks so much.
ROSS: My pleasure.
WASHINGTON — After more than three months in office without passing any major legislation, President Donald Trump faces a week with a deadline to avert a government shutdown and the possibility of progress on health care.
Trump has spent his first 100 days coming to terms with the slow grind of government even in a Republican-dominated capital, and watching some of his promises —from repealing the nation’s health care law to temporarily banning people from some Muslim nations — fizzle.
Last week lawmakers sent the president a stopgap spending bill to keep the government open through Friday. Lawmakers will continue negotiating this week on a $1 trillion package financing the government through Sept. 30, the end of the 2017 fiscal year.
Despite a renewed White House effort push, the House did not vote last week on a revised bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Health Care Act.
After the original effort failed to win enough support from conservatives and moderates, Republicans recast the bill. The latest version would let states escape a requirement under Obama’s 2010 law that insurers charge healthy and seriously ill customers the same rates. The overall legislation would cut the Medicaid program for the poor, eliminate fines for people who don’t buy insurance and provide generally skimpier subsidies. Critics have said the approach could reduce protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
But during an interview with “Face the Nation” on CBS aired Sunday, Trump said the measure has a “clause that guarantees” that people with pre-existing conditions will be covered.
Trump said: “Pre-existing conditions are in the bill. And I just watched another network than yours, and they were saying, ‘Pre-existing is not covered.’ Pre-existing conditions are in the bill. And I mandate it. I said, ‘Has to be.'”
Trump said during the interview that if he’s unable to renegotiate a long-standing free trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, then he’ll terminate the pact.
He also spoke about tensions with North Korea. Asked about the failure of several North Korean missile tests recently, Trump said he’d “rather not discuss it. But perhaps they’re just not very good missiles. But eventually, he’ll have good missiles.”
Trump also said he is willing to use the trade issue as leverage to get China’s help with North Korea. “Trade is very important. But massive warfare with millions, potentially millions of people being killed? That, as we would say, trumps trade.”
And he acknowledged the presidency is “a tough job. But I’ve had a lot of tough jobs. I’ve had things that were tougher, although I’ll let you know that better at the end of eight years. Perhaps eight years. Hopefully, eight years.”
Also this week, the president will welcome Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the White House. And he’ll head to New York City on Thursday where he’ll visit the USS Intrepid to mark the 75th anniversary of a World War II naval battle.
On Sunday morning, Trump headed to Trump National Golf Club in Virginia. The White House did not immediately clarify whether he was holding meetings or golfing.
Trump marked his 100th day in office Saturday with a rally in Harrisburg, where he continued to pledge to cut taxes and get tough on trade deals.
“We are not going to let other countries take advantage of us anymore,” he said Saturday in Harrisburg at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center. “From now on it’s going to be America first.”
Trump’s rally Saturday night in Harrisburg offered a familiar recapitulation of what he and aides have argued for days are administration successes, including the successful confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, his Cabinet choices and the approval of construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
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LEESBURG, Va. — Schools won’t have to cut the salt in meals just yet and they can serve kids fewer whole grains, under changes to federal nutrition standards announced Monday.
The move by the Trump administration rolls back rules championed by former first lady Michelle Obama as part of her healthy eating initiative.
As his first major action in office, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the department will delay the requirement on lowering the amount of sodium in meals while continuing to allow waivers for regulations that all grains on the lunch line must be rich in whole grains. That means that they are more than half whole grain.
Schools could also serve 1 percent milk instead of the nonfat now required.
“If kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition — thus undermining the intent of the program,” said Perdue, who traveled to a school in Leesburg, Virginia, to make the announcement.
Perdue, a former governor of Georgia, said some schools in the South have had problems with grits, because “the whole grain variety has little black flakes in it” and kids won’t eat it.
“The school is compliant with the whole-grain requirements, but no one is eating the grits,” Perdue said. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
Leesburg mayor Kelly Burk and about 20 others protested outside the school ahead of the announcement.
“Some people don’t like regulations, but these are important regulations that impact kids,” Burk said.
Perdue said the department will work on long-term solutions to help schools that say the Obama administration standards are too restrictive. The changes reflect suggestions from the School Nutrition Association, which represents school nutrition directors and companies that sell food to schools.
The group often battled with the Obama administration, which phased in the healthier school meal rules starting in 2012. Obama pushed the changes as part of her “Let’s Move” campaign to combat childhood obesity.
The Obama administration rules set fat, sugar and sodium limits on foods in the lunch line and beyond. Schools have long been required to follow government nutrition rules if they accept federal reimbursements for free and reduced-price meals for low-income students, but these standards were stricter.
The Trump administration changes leave most of the Obama administration rules in place, including rules that students must take fruits and vegetables on the lunch line. Some schools have asked for changes to that policy, saying students often throw them away.
As the healthier school meals have now been in place for five years, many schools have gotten used to them and children have developed more of a taste for the healthier foods. But schools have said some parts of the law are still causing them trouble, such as finding tasty foods that are high in whole grains. Some school nutrition directors have said they have a hard time finding whole grain pastas, biscuits and tortillas that kids will eat.
Health advocates who have championed the rules are concerned about the freeze in sodium levels, in particular. School lunches for elementary school students are now required to have less than 1,230 mg of sodium, a change put in place in 2014. The new rule would keep the meals at that level, delaying a requirement to lower sodium to 935 mg this year.
“By forgoing the next phase of sodium reduction, the Trump Administration will be locking in dangerously high sodium levels in school lunch,” said Margo Wootan, a lobbyist for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
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