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

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    Mint Julep

    Image by Justin Scuiletti

    When it comes to the traditions of the Kentucky Derby, mint juleps are as essential as saddles. When thousands of spectators descend on the storied Churchill Downs race track in Louisville this weekend — to watch the horses race and place their wagers — many will have the classic bourbon-based cocktail in hand.

    The exact origins of the julep are muddled, but it’s believed to have been formally introduced to the public by Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky in 1850 at D.C.’s Willard Hotel. It premiered at the derby in the late 1930s and became the race’s official drink in 1983. To get the inside track on the role the julep plays on derby day, I spoke with Churchill Downs’ executive chef David Danielson.

    “Derby morning, you feel the energy of everyone coming in … people get through the gates, and one of the first things they do is go grab their juleps … it sets the tone for the day,” Danielson said.

    May 7, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Patrons stand in the paddock area as they wear derby hats before the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports - RTX2D9CJ

    Patrons stand in the paddock area as they wear derby hats before the race. Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    Crowds begin to gather at 8 a.m. ahead of the 6 p.m. race. Live music provides a soundtrack as patrons mingle. It’s as much a social event as it is a horse race, Danielson said.

    Danielson spoke to me as pallets of locally-grown mint were being delivered in preparation for this weekend. Over the two-day period, the racetrack expects to serve between 120,000 and 130,000 mint juleps. This feat requires 2,000 pounds of mint and 60,000 pounds of ice. The crowd is expected to go through 10,000 bottles of Old Forester’s ready-to-serve mint julep cocktail, the official bourbon of the event. That’s enough bourbon to fill five 10-person hot tubs.

    Pairing food with this strong cocktail is crucial. This year, Danielson’s menu will feature classic Southern staples: shrimp and grits, bourbon pickled peaches, and a beet and strawberry salad with poppyseed dressing.

    “One thing that stands out and sets us apart from the other sporting events is the amount of local farms we use to showcase great local products,” Danielson says. The grits, as well as the vegetables, are sourced from within the bluegrass state. For an easy, sure-to-please savory bar snack to munch on while you sip, check out Chef Danielson’s recipe for crispy black eyed peas below.

    To learn how this classic cocktail is made and how you can replicate it for your own Kentucky Derby party, I met with Parker Girard, the beverage director at Barrel, a bourbon bar in Washington, D.C. Watch his instructions for making Barrel’s signature mint julep below.

    Barrel’s Mint Julep

    Ingredients

    2 oz bourbon

    1/2 ounce simple syrup

    2 cups crushed ice

    Mint bunch

    Tools

    Mint julep tin (or 12 ounce cocktail glass)

    Cocktail jigger

    Muddler

    Directions:

    Take three to four mint leaves and place them in cocktail glass. Add the simple syrup and muddle. Remove and discard the mint.

    Add the bourbon, one cup of ice, and stir. Top with remaining ice so that it forms a dome-like top on the glass. Finish with a garnish of mint and drink with a straw.

    Crispy Black Eyed Peas by Chef David Danielson

    Ingredients:

    One pound dry black eyed peas

    Two quarts vegetable oil (for frying)

    Three tablespoons paprika

    One tablespoon ground black pepper

    Two teaspoons chili powder

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    1/4 teaspoon celery seed

    1/2 teaspoon cayenne

    1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

    1/4 teaspoon mustard powder

    Tools:

    Three quart pot

    Cooking thermometer (either candy or deep frying)

    Baking sheet

    Directions:

    Place dried black eye peas in a large container. Fill with water to cover and let soak overnight, checking the water level periodically in case you need to add more water to keep them submerged. The next day, drain the peas and lay them on a paper towel lined baking sheet.

    In a medium mixing bowl, mix all the dry ingredients and set aside.

    Fill a three-quart pot with the oil and bring it to 350 degrees. In small batches, fry the peas for approximately six minutes. They should be cooked through but still crispy. Place the cooked peas back on the towel to drain excess oil.

    Once all the peas are cooked, add them to the mixing bowl and toss with the dry spice mix until coated. Place in a bowl and serve!

    The post WATCH: How to make a Kentucky Derby-worthy mint julep appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Emmanuel Macron, French presidential candidate, speaks to journalists in Bazainville, France, on April 18. Photo by Thomas Samson/Pool via Reuters

    Emmanuel Macron, French presidential candidate, speaks to journalists in Bazainville, France, on April 18, 2017. Photo by Thomas Samson/Pool via Reuters

    PARIS — France’s election campaign commission said Saturday “a significant amount of data” — and some fake information — has been leaked on social networks following a hacking attack on centrist Emmanuel Macron’s presidential campaign. It urged citizens not to relay the data on social media to protect the integrity of the French vote.

    France’s government cybersecurity agency will investigate the attack, according to a government official who said it appeared to be a “very serious” breach.

    The leak came 36 hours before the nation votes Sunday in a crucial presidential runoff between Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen — and just as a two-day blackout on campaigning began so that voters could reflect on their choice.

    Voting started Saturday in France’s overseas territories and in some embassies abroad.

    The leaked documents appear largely mundane, and the perpetrators remain unknown. It’s unclear whether the document dump will dent Macron’s large polling lead over Le Pen going into the vote.

    The election commission met Saturday after the leaks emerged just before midnight Friday. The commission said the leaked data apparently came from Macron’s “information systems and mail accounts from some of his campaign managers.” It said the leaked data had been “fraudulently” obtained and that fake news was probably mingled in with it.

    The commission urged French media and citizens not to relay the leaked documents. French electoral laws impose a news blackout Saturday and most of Sunday on any campaigning and media coverage seen as swaying the election.

    The Macron team asked the campaign oversight commission Saturday to bring in cybersecurity agency ANSSI to study the hack, according to a government official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the details publicly.

    ANSSI can only be called in for cases where the cyberattack is “massive and sophisticated” — and the Macron hack appears to fit the bill, the official said.

    Someone on 4chan — a site known, among other things, for cruel hoaxes and political extremism — posted links to a large set of data Friday night.

    Macron’s team quickly confirmed that it had been hit by a “massive and coordinated” hack some weeks ago, in which unidentified hackers accessed staffers’ personal and professional emails and leaked campaign finance material and contracts — as well as fake documents — online.

    READ NEXT: Hackers targeted French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, cybersecurity researchers say

    In a cursory look at the leaked documents, they appear to be day-to-day communications, with a few items so out of character that they might be fakes. Other documents, which seem to date back several years, don’t appear related to the campaign at all.

    Le Pen’s campaign could not formally respond due to the campaigning blackout, but National Front official Florian Philippot, asked in a tweet: “Will the #Macronleaks teach us something that investigative journalism deliberately buried?”

    The Macron hacking announcement came just 10 days after the campaign’s digital chief, Mounir Mahjoubi, said it had been targeted by Russia-linked hackers — but that those hacking attempts had all been thwarted.

    Mahjoubi and other campaign staffers would not comment Saturday.

    The documents leaked Friday were widely circulated on U.S. far-right sites. Experts dissecting the data say they spotted a couple of Russian names in the dump. Matt Suiche of cybersecurity firm Comae Technologies said “there’s Cyrillic script in the metadata,” but added it was hard to tell whether that’s due to carelessness or a deliberate misdirection.

    In other voting issues, the French voting watchdog urged the Interior Ministry to look into claims by the Le Pen campaign of tampering with ballot papers in a way that favors Macron.

    The first French territory to vote Saturday was Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, an archipelago near Newfoundland, where voters came dressed in scarves and jackets to ward off the chilly weather. Shortly afterward, voting started in French Guiana and the French West Indies, where voters wore shorts.

    French citizens also turned out in droves to vote in the Canadian province of Quebec. The French consul general in Montreal said more than 57,000 people had registered to vote in the province, the vast majority in Montreal.

    The last polling stations on the French mainland close at 8:00 p.m. Sunday, when the first pollsters’ projections and official partial results are expected.

    The campaign has been unusually bitter, with voters hurling eggs and flour, protesters clashing with police and the candidates insulting each other on national television — a reflection of the country’s deep divisions.

    Le Pen, 48, has brought her far-right National Front party, once a pariah for its racism and anti-Semitism, closer than ever to the French presidency, softening its message and seizing on working-class voters’ growing frustration with globalization and immigration.

    The 39-year-old Macron, a former economy minister and investment banker who has never held elected office, also helped upend France’s traditional political structure with his wild-card campaign.

    After ditching France’s traditional left-right political parties in a first-round presidential ballot, voters were choosing between Macron’s business-friendly vision and Le Pen’s protectionist, closed-borders view. Macron wants a strong EU, while Le Pen favors a France-first policy that could see France spin out of the bloc.

    From depressed northern France to the streets of Paris, few voters seemed aware Saturday of the hacking attack on Macron’s team — although several were looking forward to the end of a vitriolic campaign.

    In Henin-Beaumont in northern France, where Le Pen will cast her ballot on Sunday, 28-year-old Thomas Delannoy said the campaign “looks like reality TV.” The construction painter called the electoral process “laughable,” saying that neither candidate had a platform he could identify with.

    Macron will vote Sunday in the seaside town of Le Touquet, where his wife Brigitte went for a walk Saturday with her daughter and grandchildren.

    Angela Charlton contributed to this report.

    The post French cybersecurity agency to probe Macron hacking attack appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) questions SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White during a hearing in Washington, U.S., November 15, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RTX2TT25

    Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) questions SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White during a hearing in Washington, U.S., November 15, 2016. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A House Republican chairman has told a dozen government agencies to exclude communications with his committee from requests made by news organizations, advocacy groups and others through the Freedom of Information Act.

    In a series of letters, Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas said communications the agencies had with members of his panel and committee staff should not be released, arguing that it often includes sensitive and confidential information.

    “All such documents and communications constitute congressional records not ‘agency records’ for purposes of the Freedom of Information Act, and remain subject to congressional control even when in the physical possession of the” agency, Hensarling wrote in one April 3 letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

    Records and material from the executive branch are subject to requests under the 1967 Freedom of Information Act. Congress, which wrote the law, has exempted itself.

    Hensarling’s letter to the Treasury Department was first reported by BuzzFeed. The Associated Press obtained additional letters that the Republican lawmaker sent to other agencies within the jurisdiction of his Financial Services Committee. Among the agencies were the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

    READ NEXT: In Obama’s final year, U.S. spent $36 million in FOIA lawsuits

    The committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Maxine Waters of California, said Hensarling for years has made what she described as “intrusive and aggressive demands of agencies,” citing his request of more than 150,000 pages of documents from the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

    “Anytime he’s called on it, he says that Congress has the right to conduct oversight. And while Congress does have that right, it is the height of hypocrisy for him to take such extraordinary measures to shield himself from the oversight of the American public,” Waters said. “People should ask themselves: What is he trying to hide?”

    The advocacy group Public Citizen said Hensarling’s letter violates the spirit of the open records law though the legal ramifications are murkier.

    “What’s clear is that it’s an outrageous move,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.

    The Financial Services Committee has jurisdiction over issues relating to banking, insurance, federal monetary policy, housing and international finance. On Thursday, it passed legislation rolling back much of the Dodd-Frank laws created under President Barack Obama in response to the 2008 financial crisis.

    Weissman said that the committee’s taking on such legislation is one reason to be hypersensitive to secrecy.

    “We know these are not technocratic policy matters removed from broad public interest or the influence of the most powerful industry sector in America,” Weissman said.

    Jeff Emerson, a spokesman for the committee, said the letter was simply a reminder of legal obligations. He said a federal appellate court recognized in 2004 that records created by the Treasury Department at the request of Congress are not considered agency records if Congress intended to retain them. He said the court has long recognized that Congress’ constitutional oversight role may be threatened if agencies don’t maintain the confidentiality of congressional records.

    “This newfound liberal outrage is just performance art,” Emerson said in a statement, adding that Waters had known about the letters for more than a month and failed to object publicly.

    The post GOP chairman warns agencies about requests for records appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Horizon Behavioral Health

    A view from the activity room at Horizon Behavioral Health in Lynchburg, Va. Photo by Erica Yoon/STAT

    LYNCHBURG, Va. — A few months ago, if you lived in Virginia, relied on Medicaid, and were seeking a residential treatment program for substance abuse, you had few to choose from. To be precise, you had four.

    Today, you would have 71.

    That increase was made possible in part by a new type of “waiver” from federal rules that has dramatically expanded treatment options for Medicaid beneficiaries here. It has also shed light on the ways in which, in much of the country, the program has limited opportunities for many people seeking help overcoming addictions.

    Medicaid, the joint federal-state program for people with low incomes, pays for about a quarter of all substance abuse treatment. But, advocates and providers say, arcane policies baked into the program, some since its inception in 1965, have restricted the services available to beneficiaries — a particularly vexing issue at a time of a national opioid epidemic.

    READ NEXT: As opioid crisis flares, naturopaths and chiropractors lobby for bigger roles in treating pain

    Among the rules: One that prohibits facilities that treat mental illness or substance use disorder from receiving federal Medicaid dollars if they have more than 16 beds. That rule means providers have a financial disincentive from serving more clients.

    States are now seeking ways to scooch around such limitations by applying for the federal waivers, first made available in 2015, that provide funding for additional addiction services not otherwise covered by Medicaid.

    Virginia is the fourth state to receive a waiver, after California, Massachusetts, and Maryland, and most of the new services went into effect last month.

    State officials have seen a profound response. Before Virginia obtained its waiver, there wasn’t a single provider in the state that accepted Medicaid and offered a type of combined counseling and medication-assisted treatment. Now there are 28, with more expected.

    “These policy changes have allowed us to provide a continuum of care that currently does not exist in Virginia,” said Damien Cabezas, the CEO of Horizon Behavioral Health, an addiction and mental illness provider here in Lynchburg.

    Horizon Behavioral Health of Lynchburg, Va. Erica Yoon for STAT

    Horizon Behavioral Health of Lynchburg, Va. Erica Yoon for STAT

    In Virginia, up to 200,000 of the state’s 1.1 million Medicaid beneficiaries have a substance use disorder, and fatal opioid overdoses doubled from 2010 to 2016. It was the growing opioid epidemic that stirred federal Medicaid officials to take action and widen access to care.

    “You didn’t have to look very far to see the problem of opioid abuse in the United States,” said Vikki Wachino, a top Medicaid official in the Obama administration.

    Trump administration officials have indicated they will keep offering the waivers. And states interested in obtaining one are looking to Virginia as an example.

    Virginia first acted on its own, seeking to show federal officials it could provide a full spectrum of care if it was awarded a waiver. It enacted a new treatment benefit, estimated to cost about $16 million in its first year, that extended coverage of residential programs and inpatient detox to all Medicaid beneficiaries, not just people under 21 and, for some services, pregnant women. Before the change, most adults on Medicaid were ineligible for such services.

    The benefit boosted the payments providers receive for those services — increases of up to 400 percent in some cases — to create a financial motive to open new programs. It also provided coverage for peer support for both mental health and substance use disorders, which can aid recovery.

    With the benefit enacted by the state, the federal government then approved the waiver, agreeing to fund its share of the program.

    Since many changes went into effect April 1, drug treatment centers have been launching new programs. And while the additional services were driven by Medicaid policy changes, they, in many cases, are also being offered to people with other forms of insurance and, to an extent, the uninsured.

    “Medicaid has really been a catalyst for providers to develop new programs and accept any Virginian, not just Medicaid beneficiaries,” said Dr. Katherine Neuhausen, the chief medical officer of Virginia’s Medicaid program.

    Here in Lynchburg, Horizon Behavioral Health has been able to double the number of beds it has available for detox and crisis stabilization from 16 to 32 because of the policy changes. The boost in reimbursement rates also pushed it to reopen its Suboxone clinic, which it had previously shut down because the payments it used to receive didn’t cover the cost of the medication and the doctor’s time.

    READ NEXT: This company hopes to make opioid addiction treatment for home use

    A few minutes away from the detox facility is Horizon’s new residential home for women, which opened Monday.

    On a recent day, the home, where women will be able to stay for about 30 days, had six freshly made beds ready for the first group of clients. The living room, with its robin’s-egg blue walls, had a collection of board games and mystery novels, and out front, rocking chairs sat on the front porch, overlooking a garden waiting to be tended.

    Residential programs weren’t financially feasible before, said Cabezas, the CEO, but now Horizon has plans to open another home for men and one where women in recovery can bring their children to live with them.

    “Generally people that received, let’s say detoxification services, their only option after being discharged was an outpatient setting. And oftentimes people with addiction need a more structured setting,” Cabezas said.

    The prohibition on funding facilities with 16 or more beds stems from when the government did not want federal Medicaid dollars going to state psychiatric hospitals. Beyond offering the waivers, federal Medicaid officials last year issued a new rule that allowed some Medicaid programs to cover stays of up to 15 days at larger facilities.

    The policy changes are geared to help providers offer a variety of services and still be reimbursed. Lindsey Browning, a program director at the National Association of Medicaid Directors, said people with substance use disorder need different levels of care, whether it’s outpatient or inpatient detox services or a weekly therapy session.

    “The Medicaid program should be able to address all those needs,” she said.

    Regina Fitzgerald

    Regina Fitzgerald will be the program manager for the new women’s residential program on Denver Ave. Erica Yoon for STAT

    Some advocates have pushed Congress to revise Medicaid law itself and eliminate the restrictions on substance use treatment. They argue that the new avenues opened up by the waivers and the rules change can only do so much — the rules that pay for 15-day stays at facilities, for example, only apply to some Medicaid plans.

    But there are two concerns. One is cost: Estimates for eliminating the restrictions on facilities treating substance use and mental illness have put the price tag at more than $40 billion over a decade. The other is that it could lead to the re-institutionalization of treating mental illness, which has largely moved to community settings. That’s why officials capped the length of stay Medicaid would pay for at 15 days when they revised the rules last year.

    At Horizon’s residential programs, staff will help residents, many of whom are homeless, find jobs and locate stable housing for when they leave. The hope is that an additional 30 days of intensive counseling and care will reduce their chances of relapse and connect them with services for their recovery beyond their stays.

    “A lot of these individuals come back through the doors because they don’t have enough time,” said Regina Fitzgerald, the program manager for the residential program. “We’ll have time to get them there.”

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on May 3, 2017. Find the original story here.

    The post How Virginia dramatically expanded treatment options for addiction (and skirted federal law) appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Prospect Lefferts Gardens PLG ABC

    Pierre Francillon stands in front of the first mural in the PLG ABC project, which aims to paint the letters of the alphabet around Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn, on May 4, 2017. Graffiti artist Damien Mitchell created the “A” mural in early April. Photo by Corinne Segal

    When he saw his classmates struggling to read in elementary school, Pierre Francillon started drawing letters.

    It was the 1970s in the Prospect Lefferts Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, and Francillon was a budding artist enrolled in the neighborhood’s Public School 92. “When I would tutor my classmates, it was always through art,” he said, adding that he would illustrate certain words to help his classmates retain their meaning. “I was like, why don’t they just paint a flashcard on the wall?”

    Four decades later, that concept has become “PLG ABC,” a public art project spearheaded by Francillon and graffiti artist Damien Mitchell to paint the letters of the alphabet around Prospect Lefferts Gardens, a small neighborhood adjacent to Brooklyn’s Prospect Park that has long been home to a largely middle-class, racially diverse community. And as the area confronts an influx of new residents, Francillon sees the project as one way to connect members of the community, both old and new, to their surroundings.

    The idea for the project came up this year in a conversation between Mitchell and Francillon, who in 2014 worked as a curator for bottled water company Wat-aah’s campaign that encouraged kids to drink more water. The plan for PLG ABC: work with different artists from the neighborhood and surrounding Brooklyn to paint 26 murals, each one a letter of the alphabet, that could engage neighborhood kids and encourage them to read.

    Prospect Lefferts Gardens PLG ABC

    The letter “H” is painted on a storefront on Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn, on May 4, 2017. Photo by Corinne Segal

    Francillon said he asks permission from store-owners and building owners to paint on public-facing walls and business gates, and that the majority have been very supportive of the project. When he posted a photo of the first mural, the letter “A,” in a Facebook group for neighborhood residents, it received a warm response, with hundreds of reactions, praise and offers from local residents to help. One woman commented, “My son will love this!!! We should do a scavenger hunt for the kids when more letters are up.”

    Francillon grew up in the neighborhood and described his own education in the local public schools as “capital-S superb,” also pointing out that the first secondary school in New York — Erasmus Hall Academy — was established nearby. As a child, he visited New York City museums on school trips and befriended artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, a Haitian and Puerto Rican painter whose work both challenged and left an indelible impression on the white-dominated contemporary art world.

    Prospect Lefferts Gardens PLG ABC

    Francillon also curated this mural, painted by Fumero, outside Errol’s Caribbean Bakery on Flatbush Avenue. Photo by Corinne Segal

    In recent years, the neighborhood where Francillon “saw Afropunks riding their chopper bicycles” as a child has been declared “the last affordable Brooklyn neighborhood with park views” and named one of New York City’s “hottest” neighborhoods as new development plans move forward in the area and rent prices increase. One development, a 24-story tower that looms over the rest of the neighborhood, drew a lawsuit in 2013 from residents who said it would block views and cast shade on their gardens — but that lawsuit was ultimately unsuccessful, and the building opened last year.

    Local media outlets and developers alike have repeatedly called the area “one of Brooklyn’s best-kept secrets.” But the area’s amenities — a district of historic homes, cultural diversity and proximity to Prospect Park and Manhattan, among others — are no secret to longtime residents who fear that recent developments and a new flood of young transplants could profoundly change the character of the neighborhood.

    Francillon said he hopes that the murals, and public art in general, can inspire discussion among residents while also sparking interest from kids. Mitchell said parents or teachers could use the project as a scavenger hunt by “encourag[ing] kids to go out and find that spelling list,” adding that he hopes to work with local schools on educational initiatives related to the murals.

    Prospect Lefferts Gardens PLG ABC

    This mural is the first in the PLG ABC series. Photo by Corinne Segal

    Five letters are up so far, and Francillon aims for the project to be complete in the next several months. Mitchell said he used his own materials for the “A,” and Francillon is paying for other materials himself, but said he plans to start an online funding campaign in the coming weeks.

    Rina Kleege, co-president of local arts organization PLG Arts, called new construction in the neighborhood and other recent changes “a little frightening.”

    The murals, she said, send a message of support for children in the neighborhood and their education, even as the neighborhood evolves. “I think it’s great to involve kids and to show them that the community is interested in them,” she said. “That’s what I think the A to Z [project] shows — that the community wants kids to learn, and they’ll do everything they can to see that that happens.”

    This post has been updated to reflect that Erasmus Hall Academy was the first secondary school in New York.

    The post In a changing corner of Brooklyn, public art teaches kids ABCs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Planned Parenthood logo is pictured outside a clinic in Boston

    The Planned Parenthood logo is pictured outside of a clinic in Boston, Massachusetts, June 27, 2014. Photo by Dominick Reuter/Reuters

    The Iowa State Supreme Court on Friday temporarily halted part of a state law that banned most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

    The Republican-controlled state legislature passed the law in April, outlawing most abortions after 20 weeks and requiring a 72-hour waiting period before an abortion procedure could take place, including in instances of incest and rape. It grants exceptions if a mother’s life or health was at risk.

    The court’s emergency temporary injunction came two hours after the law was signed by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. The legal challenge was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood, which disputed the law’s three-day waiting period and a stipulation that women must make an additional clinical appointment before receiving an abortion. The challenge was denied by a lower court on Thursday before reaching the state Supreme Court a day later.

    Planned Parenthood of the Heartland chief executive officer Suzanna de Baca lauded the decision and noted that the law had created confusion and barriers for women seeking abortions.

    “We are pleased that the court granted the temporary injunction, ruling on the side of Iowa women who need access to, and have a constitutional right, to safe, legal abortion,” she said in a statement.

    A spokesperson for Branstad said court challenges to the law were expected. However, Republican state Sen. Mark Costello, who favored the law, said he expected it would be upheld.

    “It’s one of the reasons we went with this bill, which was somewhat more limited than what a lot of people wanted,” he said. “We felt it would be upheld.”

    Seventeen states ban abortion after 20 weeks, while five other states — Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah — require the 72-hour waiting period, except in cases of a medical emergency, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

    The post Iowa Supreme Court halts part of state’s new abortion restrictions appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Residents gather at the scene of an accident that killed schoolchildren, teachers and a minibus driver along the Arusha-Karatu highway in Tanzania's northern tourist region of Arusha

    Residents gather at the scene of an accident that killed schoolchildren, teachers and a minibus driver at the Rhota village along the Arusha-Karatu highway in Tanzania’s northern tourist region of Arusha, on May 6, 2017. Photo by Emmanuel Herman/Reuters

    At least 35 people were killed in Tanzania on Saturday when a bus carrying school children and traveling in inclement weather plummeted into a ravine, according to local authorities.

    At least 32 children ages 12 and 13 were killed in the accident along with two teachers and the bus driver, police told Reuters. The accident took place at approximately 9:30 a.m. local time in the northern region of Arusha, an area popular with tourists.

    “The accident happened when the bus was descending on a steep hill in rainy conditions,” said Arusha regional police commander Charles Mkumbo. “We are still investigating the incident to determine if it was caused by a mechanical defect or human error on the part of the driver.”

    The students, who attended the Lucky Vincent School, were reportedly traveling to visit another school to take mock exams when the accident occurred, Mkumbo said.

    Tanzanian President John Magufuli called the accident a “national tragedy.”

    “This accident extinguishes the dreams of these children who were preparing to serve the nation, it is an immense pain for the families involved and for the whole nation,” he said.

    The post Dozens of schoolchildren killed in Tanzanian bus accident appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Pentagon building somalia

    The Pentagon identified a Navy SEAL killed in a military operation in Somalia, the first American to die in combat in the country since 1993. Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has identified the Navy SEAL who was killed in a military operation in Somalia.

    The Defense Department says Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken, 38, of Falmouth, Maine, was killed during an operation Thursday against the extremist group al-Shabab. He is the first American to die in combat in the African country since 1993.

    A Pentagon spokesman said Friday that U.S. special operations troops had come under fire after U.S. aircraft delivered Somali forces to the target area.

    READ NEXT: Propaganda is effective weapon as al-Shabab makes resurgence

    Last month, the U.S. said it was sending dozens of regular troops to Somalia in the largest such deployment there in about two decades.

    The U.S. in recent years has sent a small number of special operations forces and counterterrorism advisers to Somalia and conducted a number of airstrikes.

    The post Pentagon says Navy SEAL was killed in Somalia operation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    holding hands

    Parents seeking to adopt children in Texas could soon be rejected by public or private agencies with religious objections to them being Jewish, Muslim, gay, single, or interfaith couples. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Brett Davies

    AUSTIN, Texas — Parents seeking to adopt children in Texas could soon be rejected by state-funded or private agencies with religious objections to them being Jewish, Muslim, gay, single, or interfaith couples, under a proposal in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

    Five other states have passed similar laws protecting faith-based adoption organizations that refuse to place children with gay parents or other households on religious grounds — but Texas’ rule would extend to state-funded agencies. Only South Dakota’s is similarly sweepingly.

    The bill had been scheduled for debate and approval Saturday in the state House, but lawmakers bogged down with other matters. It now is expected to come up next week.

    Republican sponsors of Texas’ bill say it is designed to support the religious freedom of adoption agencies and foster care providers. Many of the agencies and are private and faith-based but receive state funds.

    But opponents say it robs children of stable homes while funding discrimination with taxpayer dollars.

    READ MORE: What Kentucky’s religious freedom bill could mean for LGBTQ students

    “This would allow adoption agencies to turn away qualified, loving parents who are perhaps perfect in every way because the agency has a difference in religious belief,” said Catherine Oakley, senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign. “This goes against the best interest of the child.”

    The bill also blatantly violates the Constitution, Oakley added.

    “As a governmental entity, Texas is bound to treat people equally under the law,” said Oakley. “This is a violation of equal protection under the law.”

    State Rep. James Frank, the bill’s author, said it’s designed to address the state’s foster care crisis by making “reasonable accommodations so everyone can participate in the system.”

    “Everyone is welcome. But you don’t have to think alike to participate,” said Frank, a Republican from rural Wichita Falls, near Texas’ border with Oklahoma.

    Suzanne Bryant, an Austin-based adoption attorney who works with LGBT clients and was one of the first individuals to have a legal same-sex marriage in Texas, said the bill fails to provide alternatives for prospective parents rebuffed by adoption agencies.

    “Say you call an agency and say, ‘I’m Jewish,’ and it’s a Catholic agency and they hang up on you,” said Bryant. “The bill says you can be referred to another agency, but there’s no mechanism to set that up.”

    Not only could agencies turn away hopeful parents under the religious freedom provision, but they could require children in the foster care system to comply with their faith-based requirements, said Bryant.

    READ MORE: LGBTQ groups fear Tennessee bill would roll back civil rights

    That means child welfare organizations could send LGBT kids to conversion therapy, a treatment designed to turn people straight — which the Pan American Health Organization calls a “serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people.” And they could deny young people contraception and abortions.

    “If a 17-year-old who is sexually active wants birth control, the burden to prove that constitutional right is on the child,” said Bryant. “They don’t have their parents advocating for them and supposed to go it alone against the system.”

    More than 100 children died in Texas child protective services last year alone, when a judge had already ruled that the system violated youngsters’ constitutional rights by leaving them more troubled when they left the system than when they entered it. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott made fixing foster care an “emergency” priority and the Legislature has increased funding while backing a number of major changes.

    Frank said most adoptions happen through the state’s Child Protective Services, which would not be subject to the religious freedom mandate, though outside agencies that receive state funding would be. He said his bill “codifies” the choices adoption agencies are already making as they select parents.

    “My guess is if you have an LGBT agency they’re going to pick an LGBT family, and if you have a Baptist agency they may be more likely to pick a Baptist family,” Frank said. “They’re free to do that and should be free to do that.”

    His proposal is just one of 24 pending bills in the Texas Legislature that LGBT advocates say encourage discrimination.

    The post Under Texas bill, adoption agencies could reject Jews, gays, Muslims appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    french hacking

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: For more on this developing story, I’m joined by Skype by “Reuters” reporter Eric Auchard, who’s in Berlin.

    Thanks for joining us. First of all, what were documents that were revealed on the Internet yesterday?

    ERIC AUCHARD, REUTERS REPORTER:
    Well, there’s a whole trove of what purport to be the e-mails of various campaign, members of Macron’s campaign. There’s questions about whether all of them are the real thing or whether there have been some fake e-mails added in to try to embarrass the campaign. It appears to be e-mails from at least four members of the Macron campaign, senior advisers, speech writers, et cetera.

    SREENIVASAN:
    And put this in perspective where this is in the campaign. Now, these last couple of days, the candidates aren’t allowed to campaign, which is very different than American politics.

    AUCHARD: The documents were dropped just hours before all the campaigns, the media are restricted from saying anything for 24 hours before the election begins.

    SREENIVASAN: Is there likely to be an impact? What do the polls say? There are lots of undecided voters who could have been influenced by this information.

    AUCHARD: The problem is this is a run-off. The two candidates that are in the run-off attract a total of around 45 percent, certainly under 50 percent of the total vote. So, a lot of people are having to consider second choices. So, there is the possibility of people changing their minds late in the game.

    SREENIVASAN: Eric, is there concern in Germany and other parts of Europe that have elections and votes coming up out this type of hacking influencing the outcome?

    AUCHARD: Many parties were very concerned about this. There’s been more signs of it, reports of attacks on think tanks connected to the two top German parties, the CDU and the SPD. That follows a series of attacks against the Bundestag, the German parliament, and the main political party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel last year.

    SREENIVASAN: Has the computer science or the computer forensic community that looks at all of this, had they — I know that they haven’t gone through these particular hacks, but in the previous ones, have they started to point any fingers or figure out the general direction of where this is coming from?

    AUCHARD: Some of the more veteran researchers that have been tracking the activities of a particular group connect to the Russian government. They connect to the Russian military intelligence directorate called the GRU. Their fingerprints have been found both in attacks on the Macron campaign a few weeks ago as well as some of the attacks in Germany.

    They’ve been — this is a group that’s been active for more than a decade and has attacked militaries, foreign ministries, political parties in many countries. And yet, this is digital technology. It is very hard to prove. So, absolute certainty is simply not possible here.

    SREENIVASAN: All right. Eric Auchard of “Reuters” joining us live via Skype from Berlin — thanks so much.

    AUCHARD: Certainly.

    The post French candidate Macron targeted by ‘massive’ hacking attack appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Plug in car

    Lawmakers in California decided this year to impose an annual fee on the owners of plug-in electric cars beginning in 2020. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Todd Lappin

    Lawmakers in California, home to almost half of the nation’s electric vehicles, decided this year to impose an annual fee on the owners of plug-in electric cars beginning in 2020.

    Meanwhile, Maine is considering an annual fee on both plug-in electric vehicles and more popular hybrids, which run on both gasoline and electricity and recharge as they go. Both kinds of vehicles still make up a tiny share of cars on the road, but supporters of the idea are hopeful that revenue will rise as they become more popular.

    State Rep. Andrew McLean, who chairs the Maine Legislature’s joint transportation committee, acknowledged that the new fee won’t raise a lot of money right away, but he said the move makes sense as a way to “begin the conversation” of tapping more revenue from electric and hybrid vehicles as their numbers grow.

    California and Maine are not alone. As the revenue from gasoline taxes decreases with the rise of fuel-efficient vehicles, many states are looking for alternative sources of money to build and maintain their roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

    Some states, notably Oregon, are experimenting with a “road use” levy, charging taxes based on how many miles are driven in the state, rather than the fuel used. And a growing number of states are putting tolls on roads, as another way to raise revenue for infrastructure construction and repair.

    The scramble for new road revenue is just one way state governments are seeking to reformulate their tax codes, which, like the federal one, have not been overhauled in decades and no longer match the behavior of consumers. They’re looking, for example, at how to replace the sales taxes that used to be applied in bricks-and-mortar stores, now that people do so much of their shopping online. They’re starting to tax ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, which often pay little of the license fees or taxes that taxi businesses hand over to cities, counties and states.

    And because most road repair and construction is financed by taxes on the amount of fuel sold — and the increasing use of fuel-efficient hybrid and electric cars means states are taking in less money — states are looking for new sources of revenue. A backlog of state transportation infrastructure needs that tops $3 trillion is only adding to the pressure.

    The federal gas tax of 18.4 cents a gallon hasn’t been increased since 1993, and thanks to inflation, it buys nearly 40 percent less than it did then, while construction costs have continued to rise.

    Many states also resisted gas tax increases, but some, including California and Tennessee, have recently relented and hiked the levies. Many states are starting to index their gas taxes to keep up with inflation. And increasingly, they are imposing fees on new fuel-efficient vehicles.

    As of April 2017, 10 states imposed an additional registration fee on electric or hybrid vehicles, ranging from $50 to $200 annually, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). They include Colorado, Georgia (which charges $200, more than any other state), Idaho, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.

    This year, some 27 states have considered increasing fees on electric, hybrid and other vehicles powered by alternative fuels such as liquefied natural gas, an uptick from past years, said NCSL’s Kevin Pula. They include Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine and Massachusetts, as well as California and Tennessee, where laws were enacted in April.

    Under the Obama administration, Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency standards were increased, requiring automakers to build fleets that average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. President Donald Trump has threatened to reduce those standards, but manufacturers are consistently producing vehicles with higher mileage ratings, and Pula warned that could mean bigger hits for states that rely on a traditional gas tax.

    “If we do get to 54.5 miles per gallon, that’s going to be a much more significant hit than we have seen over the past several years,” Pula said.

    A Modest Amount

    About 2 percent (384,404) of all the vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2015 were hybrids and 0.7 percent (71,044) were fully electric, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

    The numbers are higher in environmentally conscious California, where 4.7 percent of the 2 million cars sold in 2016 were hybrids and 1.9 percent of them were electric. But even there, the new fee on electric cars is expected to bring in just $200 million over the next decade. By comparison, the 12-cent-a-gallon increase in the gasoline tax will generate $24.4 billion and a “transportation improvement fee” assessed on a sliding scale on all vehicles (based on their cost) will bring in about $16.3 billion.

    Pula said revenue from the new fees will go up as electric and hybrid vehicles become more popular. In any case, he said, since drivers of such cars are paying less in gasoline taxes, it makes sense for them to finance roads and bridges through another mechanism.

    But some environmentalists say the relatively paltry amount of revenue generated by the fees isn’t worth creating a disincentive for people to buy fuel-efficient, lower-emitting vehicles.

    “There are so few EVs [electric vehicles] on the roads compared to gasoline and diesel vehicles that these fees won’t raise any significant money for infrastructure,” Michael Graham Richard wrote in TreeHugger, a website that covers environmental issues.

    The federal government and some states provide tax incentives to people who purchase alternative-fuel or hybrid vehicles. But some, such as Georgia, eliminated them when they began levying fees. At one time, about half the states offered tax incentives to electric and hybrid car buyers, but now only 16 do.

    South Carolina and Maine

    Many states recognize that for now, levying fees on electric and hybrid vehicles isn’t enough. So, some are pairing such proposals with increases in the gas tax.

    In South Carolina, both the House and Senate have passed gas-tax, hybrid-fee bills by veto-proof majorities. Both bills include a $120 two-year fee for electric vehicles and a $60 two-year fee for hybrids. The House measure hikes the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon over the current 17 cents a gallon, while the Senate bill would increase it by 12 cents. Lawmakers are working to hammer out a compromise.

    Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, has acknowledged that the road situation in the state has “gone from important to critical to urgent.” He has threatened to veto the bills, calling instead for the state to increase bonding (borrowing) authority to pay for road maintenance.

    Bill Ross, executive director of the South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads, a construction industry group, said alternative-fueled vehicles need to be included in any plan to fix highways. He estimated that even with the gas tax hike and the new fees, only about $400 million more would be raised every year, with either the House or Senate bill. He estimates that the state needs $1 billion annually for road construction and repair.

    The South Carolina bills also would index the gas tax to inflation, with a cap to ensure that the state doesn’t increase it too much higher than neighboring states. North Carolina’s gas tax is currently 35 cents a gallon; Georgia’s is 31 cents a gallon.

    Maine used to index its gas tax to inflation, but that was repealed in an anti-tax wave in 2012. Now, bills in the Legislature would not only hike the gas tax and once again tie it to inflation, but also impose new fees on hybrids and electric cars. The Maine Department of Transportation projects that under the current revenue scheme, with the gas tax at 30 cents a gallon, the state is falling $68 million short every year on money needed for critical transportation projects.

    A bill introduced by the chairman of the joint transportation committee, McLean, a Democrat, would raise the gas tax by 7 cents a gallon and impose a $200 surcharge on annual registration of hybrid, all-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. His proposal also would hike some current fees charged by the motor vehicle department, and allocate 10 percent of the sales tax on vehicles to the highway trust fund.

    McLean said while the hybrid vehicles aren’t a large part of the problem, they must pay their fair share. He puts the transportation budget shortfall at $168 million if an annual $100 million bond is included. “It’s a large assumption that there’s going to be a $100 million bond every year,” he said.

    McLean said his bill will “begin a conversation about how hybrids and electrics are not contributing to our highway fund like other cars. It will bring in a little more money because we are not going to fill that gap with just one solution.”

    This story was produced by Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts. You can view the original report on its website.

    The post Amid gas-tax revenue decline, new fees on fuel-efficient cars appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    care act

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: The debate over replacing the seven-year-old Affordable Care Act is now in the hands of the United States Senate. This follows Thursday’s passage of a revamped bill from the House that would end the employer mandate to provide insurance and the individual mandate to have it.

    The Republican plan would replace government subsidies to buy health insurance with tax credits. Among other things, it would allow insurance companies to charge higher premiums for elderly Americans and people with pre-existing conditions while it would limit Medicaid coverage for low income Americans. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has yet to offer its analysis, but the CBO predicted the previous version of the House bill could knock 24 million Americans unto the rolls of uninsured in the next few years.

    For more on this debate, I’m joined from Santa Barbara, California, by “NewsHour Weekend” special correspondent Jeff Greenfield.

    Jeff, it’s hard to get into too much of a policy discussion, because we know that this is going to change in some significant form by the time it gets to the Senate, but let’s talk a little bit about the politics of this here.

    What are the risks for the Republicans who decided to get this through the House?

    JEFF GREENFIELD, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you can see the risks that have already emerged. If you look at the people who take the political temperature, the “Cook Political Report,” which is a non-partisan site, has just in the day or two since that bill passed moved 20 seats in the House toward the Democrats. The other thing we know is that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, granted that’s not non-partisan, says they now contend to contest not 45 or 50 seats but well over 100.

    And one thing I would definitely keep watching is whether or not formidable Democratic contenders agree to challenge entrenched Republican incumbents as the midterms get nearer. That’s a real — that would be a real sign that Democrats think they’ve got the Republicans because of health care in a vulnerable position.

    SREENIVASAN: What happens in the Senate going forward? What kind of resistance is there going to be to some of the underpinnings of what is in this legislation now?

    GREENFIELD: Well, this is where if you’re trying to measure (ph) where the Republicans stand (ph), you — like they say in the ballpark, you can’t tell the players without a scorecard. This passed the House because the hard right Freedom Caucus got significant concessions, which, in turn, really worried moderates. And in the Senate, there are enough moderate Republicans to derail this.

    The Republicans in the Senate have already said to the House, look, thank you very much. We’re going to write our own — our own bill.

    And then you add to this, the fact that in many states, Republican governors have expanded Medicaid, and part of this bill, at least the House version, would severely limit how much is available to these states to keep expanding or even keep Medicaid where it is. So, these Republican governors may be putting pressure on Republican senators to reject what the Republican House did. It’s a byzantine picture.

    SREENIVASAN: All right. Let’s also look back at how Obamacare passed. A lot of people point out that that was along party lines. That was a different vision for the country. And then, are the consequences of what happened after that going to be similar in this case?

    GREENFIELD: There is no question when Obamacare finally got through — I believe the president signed the bill in March 2010 — it was very unpopular. The benefits didn’t begin to kick in for a couple more years. So, by the time the mid-terms happened in 2010, the unpopularity of that bill, which was not mitigated by any benefits by then, produced a 62-seat loss in the House for the Democrats.

    If you measure public opinion polls, Trumpcare, if that’s what we want the call this, is even more unpopular now than Obamacare was then.

    SREENIVASAN: One of the things that’s a little different is that Obamacare passed in the same year as an election. We have quite a bit of time between now and November of 2018. This is just one piece of legislation, one part of the history. Will voters remember this when they go to the polls?

    GREENFIELD: If we’ve learned anything from the last election is trying to project a year and a half out is a fool’s errand. But one thing we should remember, or maybe two things, one is any attempt to radically change healthcare comes with a political cost. Look back to 1993 and ’94 when Hillary Clinton was in charge of developing Bill Clinton’s health care plan. That crashed and burns, never even got to a vote, and the Democrats lost both the House and the Senate that year.

    There’s another thing that I think is worth nothing. Conservatives have always worried about entitlements. But once they are in place, the public doesn’t want to give them up. And it’s interesting. Now as Obamacare is threatened with repeal and replace, it is more popular than it ever has been. And I think for a lot of conservatives, their concern, once you pass entitlement, you can’t undo it, is going to be tested assuming the Republicans ever get a bill between the House and the Senate and the president that is enacted into law.

    SREENIVASAN: All right. Jeff Greenfield, thanks so much.

    GREENFIELD: OK, thank you.

    The post Will Republicans’ health care plan bring political fallout? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FILE PHOTO: Civil servants prepare electoral documents for the upcoming second round of 2017 French presidential election in Nice

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    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: As France went to the polls two weeks ago to decide which of 11 candidates would make the presidential election runoff.

    We watched the returns at an election party hosted by Eric Barbosa. He’s the 20-year-old president of the Paris chapter of the youth wing of Marine Le Pen’s party, the National Front — Le Front National, in French.

    Le Pen’s second place finish that night, qualifying her for the final round, propelled the once fringe party into the mainstream.

    ERIC BARBOSA: She’s a great woman. And everybody is like, we are going to win!

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Barbosa, a part-time baker and full-time party volunteer, says Le Pen’s populism and patriotism inspire him.

    What is her vision for young people in the Front National?

    ERIC BARBOSA: Be proud, be strong, be ready.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Be ready?

    ERIC BARBOSA: Yes, because we are the future for France.

    EURYANTHE MERCIER: I am quite happy.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Euryanthe Mercier, a 22-year-old college student, joined the party three years ago and volunteered for Le Pen’s campaign.

    EURYANTHE MERCIER: I like her personality. And I trust her so, and I don’t trust a lot of politicians.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Manon Bouquin is secretary general of a national pro-Le Pen student group.

    MANON BOUQUIN: We did manage the feat of making it to the second round. Three years ago, nobody would have believed it. And we think there’s a new world that can emerge, and the old world can collapse.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: The youth vote is an important source of strength for the National Front, which says its membership among 18-to-25 year-olds has more than tripled in the past five years.

    SUPPORTERS: ”Madame President!”

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: A poll of France’s youngest voters before the first round found a majority were anti-establishment, supporting either Le Pen or the left-wing populist Jean-Luc Melenchon. Centrist Emmanuel Macron — Le Pen’s opponent in the runoff — was third choice, despite being the only candidate under 40.

    But not long ago, Le Pen was considered so controversial, few would admit to supporting her.

    CHARLOTTE ROTMAN: Why when you are French. Why when you are 20 you want to go to the Front National. Why?

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Journalist Charlotte Rotman spent 18 months traveling the country and getting to know young Le Pen activists for her book “20-Years-Old and At The Front.”

    CHARLOTTE ROTMAN: She knows how to welcome them, the young people. Also when you are 20, and when somebody trusts you, I don’t know in the United States, but in France, it’s very rare. And when the Front National says, ‘Okay, you are 22, but you are going to be a head of this list for this next election.’ They feel really like…

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Like they are appreciated.

    CHARLOTTE ROTMAN: Yes. Really.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: In fact, the party has asked Bouquin, who is just 24, to run for a Paris seat in Parliament next month.

    MANON BOUQUIN: I was given new responsibilities, these were offered to me. I’ve never asked for anything. I was happy the party was placing their trust in me, for them to think of me as someone reasonable and ready to take on this role. It made me quite proud.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: “And you go through these points with people on the street…”

    On issues, Bouquin says, she sees eye to eye with Le Pen over concerns about radical Islam. But Bouquin and the other young Le Pen supporters we met say what matters most in this election is France’s stagnating economy with 10 percent unemployment that’s approaching 26 percent among people under 25.

    ERIC BARBOSA: Young people have a lot of hope. France is not going well, and the young people see it.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: They blame globalization and share Le Pen’s call for a referendum for France to leave the European Union, like Britain voted to do last year. They want France to tighten the borders — now open in accordance with EU rules and have France revert from the Euro to the Franc. They also want this familiar sight seen all over Paris, the French flag alongside the multi-starred EU flag, to be a thing of the past.

    Aren’t there benefits of being in the European Union that you are worried about losing? What about freedom to travel?

    ERIC BARBOSA: Before the European Union you can go where you want. A lot of people say it takes a lot of time to the border. Okay, one minute more! One minute.

    MANON BOUQIN: Not to close the borders, of course, but to regulate them. To be able to manage our currency, devalue it, if we want to and to have weapons against globalization.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Le Pen says restricting immigration will protect France from terrorism, cheap foreign labor, and save French culture itself.

    EURYANTHE MERCIER: I’m against massive immigration, of course. And actually we’ve seen some parts in France, some parts close to Paris especially, where people don’t speak anymore French together. They don’t celebrate French national days, so they don’t want to be French, and when they go to a country and they don’t want to be a member of the French community, I think it’s a problem.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Support for Le Pen among young voters is not only about policy, according to author Charlotte Rotman. She says the movement’s appeal is also personal.

    CHARLOTTE ROTMAN: It’s like you have a new family. It’s us. It’s the Front National. The young supporters I’ve been talking to. They are describing something that looks like a family for them.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Have you met Marine Le Pen?

    ERIC BARBOSA: Yes, a few times.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: What was your impression of her when you met her?

    ERIC BARBOSA: She’s a very warm woman. She’s smiling every time. Like the mother of France. She wants to protect us, and that’s the message I think.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: But her political opponents call her a dangerous right-wing extremist. And certainly there are those on the streets of Paris who agree.

    Right outside this polling station, there is a picture of Marine Le Pen and as you can see she is not very popular here in Paris. This one has been graffitied on top of it. Calls her a fascist.

    Three hours south of Paris, in the town of Limoges, we caught up with young people who are strongly opposed to Le Pen. They’re backing Macron, the former Economy Minister making his first run for office.

    A poll out this week showed Macron with the advantage among voters age 18-24, with 62 percent saying they intend to vote for him and 38 percent, for Le Pen.

    Supporter Rachel-Flore Pardo discusses the high unemployment rate with this potential voter.

    RACHEL-FLORE PARDO: Emmanuel Macron has a very interesting proposal on that. So I think it is very likely she will vote for Macron. I don’t know. Not 100 percent, but I think seeing us here may have made a difference.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: She’s one of four young people we met, all in their 20s, campaigning in a creative way for Macron.

    VIOLAINE PIERRE: I was explaining to him that it’s not about capitalism and big banks. It’s more about entrepreneurs and helping them hire people, because in the end that’s what creates employment.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: They’re all traveling in a van named “En Marche…Le Tour” after Macron’s movement, “On The Move.” Since February, they’ve driven almost three thousand miles and talked to thousands of people in more than 60 different cities.

    RACHEL-FLORE PARDO: It’s a small office.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: They say they felt compelled to take this road trip to understand what they see as a frightening trend in European and American politics.

    MATTHIEU TEACHOUT: We were a bit worried by all populist votes all around the world and even more worried for France.

    VIOLAINE PIERRE: With both the Brexit then Trump’s election, that really shocked me.

    MATTHIEU TEACHOUT: And so for that election in France, we wanted to do something before, try to understand why people are interested in voting for a populist candidate, and this is how we got the idea.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: They focus on the French countryside, where Le Pen’s anti-EU and anti-globalization message has struck a chord with struggling farmers and factory workers.

    They say they’ve met two types of Le Pen supporters, the true believers who generally blame immigrants for France’s problems, and those who are protesting politics as usual.

    VALENTIN SOMMA: They tell us, ‘I am just tired with them all. I’m going to vote for her for a change.’ And those people, when we chat with them, they can realize that Marine Le Pen is not necessarily the person who offers them a solution. What she does well is speak about their problems, but I don’t think any solution she offers is realistic, and sometimes we can actually convince those people or at least open their mind and make them doubt about it.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: In the past two weeks since the runoff was set, they’ve tried to persuade people to consider Macron’s pro-EU message as the best way to ensure peace and prosperity, and move forward on issues like climate change.

    MATTHIEU TEACHOUT: I don’t think France alone can be the leading country for the environment, but Europe together can. And the same thing for diplomacy in the world. I don’t think France matters a lot, but I think Europe together matters, and this is why I think the election in France is very important for the future of Europe and so in a sense for the future of the world.

    RACHEL-FLORE PARDO: We have two visions of France that are confronting each other. It’s the Le Pen and the Macron vision. It’s a nationalist versus a more modern and open European vision. It’s a vision of France that is scared of the future and that is scared of Europe and of the world versus one that is hopeful about the opportunities that come with Europe and with modernity. So this is what it’s about.

    The post In presidential election, French youth confront ‘two visions of France’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    classroom students class

    The description of a fall class at Butler University indicated students would discuss and “potentially engage” in “strategies for resistance” to President Donald Trump. Photo via Flickr user Victor Björkund

    INDIANAPOLIS — A private college in Vice President Mike Pence’s home state of Indiana is facing backlash after offering a “Trumpism & U.S. Democracy” course that described the president in class materials as a purveyor of “sexism, white supremacy, xenophobia, nationalism, nativism and imperialism.”

    Now officials at Butler University in Indianapolis are doing damage control after conservative news outlets picked up on the description of the fall class, which also indicated students would discuss and “potentially engage” in “strategies for resistance” to President Donald Trump.

    “As a result of the recent media coverage, the University has been the recipient of numerous concerns about the course,” Butler Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Kathryn Morris wrote in a letter posted to the school’s website. “Just as I support this course, I would support a course that is complimentary of the President. Butler offers a variety of courses that tackle controversial topics. Like any University, Butler should — and does — promote an environment of critical inquiry and engagement on controversial and unpopular topics.”

    Campuses have been a hotbed of activism since Trump’s election. That includes efforts to block speeches by provocative figures tied to the alt-right, a fringe movement that helped propel Trump into office and uses internet memes, message boards and social media to spread a hodgepodge of racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny and xenophobia.

    READ NEXT: UC Berkeley reschedules Ann Coulter talk — and raises thorny legal question

    But Indiana has been comparatively placid. While students at Butler first started registering for fall classes last month, the course description — which has since been edited to remove the incendiary verbiage — received more attention after former Indiana state Sen. Carlin Yoder, a Republican, tweeted a photo of it Tuesday.

    By Thursday, the university was receiving considerable criticism, including social media posts revealing a phone number and photos of the course’s instructor, Professor Ann Savage.

    Savage did not reply to a request for comment. School officials said their remarks would be limited to statements posted on Butler’s website.

    Conservatives suggest the course is yet another example of a perceived left-wing bias in academia, but some students apparently didn’t have the same concern: School records show the class is enrolled to capacity.

    Hunter Butterworth, vice president of Butler’s College Republicans, called the class “ridiculous” and questioned whether school officials would have offered a similar course focused on resistance to former President Barack Obama. That said, Butterworth said he supports free speech and the school’s right to offer the class.

    “It doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Butterworth, who will be a junior next year. “Obviously, most college campuses are known to have a left-wing or liberal bias.”

    Butler is also not the first to offer a course examining Trump’s improbable rise. Prior to the election, Savannah State University in Georgia offered a Trump-focused class last summer that included studying Trump’s biography, reading excerpts from his best-seller “The Art of the Deal” and dissecting some of his more controversial proposals.

    READ NEXT: The bureaucratic obstacles that can derail low-income college students

    But that course did not emphasize resistance to Trump’s efforts.

    Morris clarified in her letter that Butler, which has about 5,000 enrolled students, would not make it mandatory for any student “to participate in activism” if they enroll in the class.

    “The professor has been very transparent about the goals of the course and has provided additional context that clarifies students in the class will not be required to participate in a particular form of activism,” she wrote. “They will be asked to engage with classic and contemporary readings_including a text by President Trump_and evaluate the rise of the President as a political and social phenomenon.”

    But she added that students could “potentially attend, as participant observers, campus and community events to witness and analyze ongoing responses to Trump’s presidency and campaign.”

    The post Indiana school faces backlash over Trump ‘resistance’ class appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    care act

    U.S. President Donald Trump congratulates House Speaker Paul Ryan (L) as he gathers with Congressional Republicans in the Rose Garden of the White House after the House of Representatives approved the American Health Care Act, to repeal major parts of Obamacare and replace it with the Republican healthcare plan, in Washington, D.C., on May 4, 2017. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    DUNWOODY, Ga. — House Republicans pitched their health care vote as a victory for freedom: States could do away with expensive Obamacare mandates and liberate insurers to sell much cheaper plans, which would cover far fewer medical needs.

    No longer would men have to pay for maternity benefits. No longer would healthy 20-year-olds have to buy prescription drug coverage.

    That all sounded very good to 72-year-old Mike Lowey, who was walking laps at a mall here in the hours after Republicans muscled the GOP plan through the House on Thursday afternoon.

    “I don’t like the government being involved in everyone’s lives,” Lowey said. “They want to control everything.” A retiree who voted for Trump, he’s a fan of the American Health Care Act. And he can explain why in one stirring phrase: “This is supposed to be the land of the free.”

    But that definition of freedom is proving divisive.

    READ NEXT: Think you’re not affected by the GOP health bill? Think again

    STAT reporters talked to more than a dozen voters in the suburbs of Atlanta and Cleveland after the AHCA vote on Thursday. Many said they found the Republican vision of freedom of choice on health care seductive. It makes intuitive sense.

    Yet when they thought about what it might mean for their own lives, they worried.

    “I wouldn’t write it off immediately,” said Madison Massey, 20, a student at Kent State University in Ohio. “It sounds reasonable.”

    But Massey, a Democrat, said she would be anxious about buying a plan with skimpy benefits. “I don’t know many people who don’t get sick,” she said. “If it’s not the same things being covered, that sounds a little sketchy.”

    Aaron George, a 34-year-old cook from Akron, Ohio, agreed: “I see the logic in it,” he said. But he knows the risks of not having good insurance; he still has medical debts he racked up pre-Obamacare. So when he thinks hard about the Republicans’ vision, he concludes: “I don’t think it’s a legitimate argument to make.”

    READ NEXT: As health care bill heads to Senate, 7 winners and losers

    Trump voter Mike Sustar, a retired firefighter from Independence, Ohio, expressed similar qualms. He is all for shaking up the health care system. He wants more competition and fewer mandates. And because he has always been fairly healthy, Sustar might save money with a cheaper plan that offers fewer benefits. Pondering the idea, though, he paused.

    “I’ve never really had to utilize health care,” he said. “But it’s that one time you have to go use it …”

    The AHCA, which now heads to the Senate, has many components beyond giving states more flexibility. Among them:

    • It cuts $880 billion over 10 years from Medicaid, which covers low-income and disabled people.
    • It lets insurers charge older customers more than they could under Obamacare.
    • It lets insurers charge significantly more to customers with preexisting conditions if they fail to maintain continuous coverage.
    • It requires insurers to charge significantly more to people who come back to buy coverage after a period without it.
    • It repeals the taxes on the wealthy that had been used to subsidize the expansion of coverage.
    • It offers tax credits, on a sliding scale, to help people pay for insurance.

    But Republicans have focused most of their sales pitch on the idea of freedom.

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    The bill lets states redefine the “essential benefits” that must be covered by insurance. The Affordable Care Act required those benefits to be comprehensive, including mental health care, addiction counseling, hospital care, and pediatric care. Under the AHCA, states could allow insurers to craft far narrower plans.

    Health economists say that flexibility should drive down premiums, but warn that people could face huge out-of-pocket costs in the long run, if an accident or illness saddles them with bills their insurance does not cover.

    To Georgia political consultant Joash Thomas, 23, that’s a risk worth taking.

    “I’m all about the freedom to make the decision best for myself,” he said. “One size fits all is a horrible idea, always.”

    Thomas, who has worked for several Republican campaigns, is a first-generation immigrant from India. He said he’s studied international affairs and believes the AHCA reflects uniquely American values. “In a free country, you’re free to make good and bad decisions, but you’re still free to make your own choices,” he said. “I’ve seen this. It makes America great.”

    While he says he’s no expert on health care policy. Thomas said he has “complete faith” in President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan to craft a good plan.

    Laura Wozniak, a freelance writer in Alpharetta, Ga., isn’t so confident.

    She sees the GOP talk of freedom as a smokescreen that undermines the entire concept of insurance as a pool that spreads risk and cost — and provides a safety net that healthy 20-somethings might not think they need now, but could be grateful for in the future.

    “It’s shortsighted to assume that because you have good health now, or a specific condition doesn’t apply to you, that it’s never going to happen to you. … I feel like we’re being sold a bill of goods,” said Wozniak, who described herself as “wildly liberal.”

    As for the idea that freedom means not paying for benefits only your neighbors will use? Wozniak recoiled.

    “What’s the point of society,” she said, “if we don’t help others out?”

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on May 5, 2017. Find the original story here.

    The post Republicans sold their health plan as a win for freedom. Voters are wary appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price testifies on Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Blueprint before the Committee on Appropriations at the U.S. Capitol in Washington

    Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price testifies on Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Blueprint before the Committee on Appropriations at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on March 29, 2017. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    BRANCHBURG, N.J. — Cutting nearly $1 trillion from Medicaid will give states the freedom to tailor the program to suit their needs, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said Sunday, as he defended a narrowly passed House bill that aims to undo parts of the health care law enacted by the previous administration.

    The bill’s passage buoyed President Donald Trump, but the measure appeared headed for an overhaul in the Senate. Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director, said the House bill is unlikely to be the version that ultimately clears the Senate and ends up in front of the president.

    Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a moderate Republican whose vote will be critical in getting a bill to Trump’s desk, voiced concerns about potential higher costs for older people and those with pre-existing conditions. She said the House bill was difficult to assess overall because it passed without an updated analysis by the Congressional Budget Office on how the measure would affect health care costs and coverage. The CBO concluded after reviewing an earlier version of the House bill that an estimated 24 million consumers would lose coverage over 10 years.

    Collins said she expected the Senate would come up with a “whole new fresh approach” to replacing the Affordable Care Act, enacted under President Barack Obama.

    “The House bill is not going to come before us,” she said. “The Senate is starting from scratch. We’re going to draft our bill, and I’m convinced we will take the time to do it right.”

    CBO’s analysis highlighted an $880 billion cut to Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the poor and disabled, which Price sought to cast as a way to give states more leeway to experiment with the program. The Obama-era law expanded Medicaid with extra payments to 31 states to cover more people. The House bill halts the expansion, in addition to cutting federal spending on the program.

    But Prince insisted Sunday, “There are no cuts to the Medicaid program,” adding that resources were being apportioned “in a way that allows states greater flexibility.”

    Price said the changes will make sure that people who rely on Medicaid get the care and coverage that they need.

    The House bill, passed 217-213, would end the health care law’s fines on people who don’t buy policies and erase its taxes on health industry businesses and higher-earning people. It would dilute consumer-friendly insurance coverage requirements, like prohibiting higher premiums for customers with pre-existing medical conditions. The measure would also water down the subsidies that help consumers afford health insurance.

    [Watch Video]

    Major medical and other organizations, including the American Medical Association, oppose the bill.

    Trump celebrated its passage with House Republicans in the White House Rose Garden on Thursday, an unusual move following passage of a bill by one House of Congress.

    On Sunday, he urged Republican senators to not fail the American people.

    “Republican Senators will not let the American people down!” Trump tweeted. “ObamaCare premiums and deductibles are way up — it was a lie and it is dead!”

    House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said he expected the Senate will improve the House bill, which represents the culmination of seven years of promises by Republicans to repeal and replace what’s become known as “Obamacare.” Ryan said the House vote was one part of a “multistage process.”

    “We think we need to do even more support for people who are older,” he acknowledged. “The Senate will complete the job.”

    Price commented on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Collins and Ryan appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and Mulvaney appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

    Associated Press writer Hope Yen in Washington contributed to this report.

    The post Price defends cutting nearly $1 trillion from Medicaid appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) speaks with the media following the Democratic policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington

    Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) speaks with the media following the Democratic policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on March 14, 2017. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Republicans are growing increasingly worried about the high number of candidates running in a primary to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, fearing a repeat of the crowded 2012 race that put her in office.

    Baldwin is seeking a second term in 2018 and Republicans nationally are targeting her as vulnerable, given huge GOP wins in Wisconsin in November. Donald Trump became the first GOP presidential candidate to carry the state since 1984, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson won re-election and the party increased its majorities in the Legislature.

    But with at least seven possible Republican Senate candidates making the rounds, to some the dynamic is looking eerily familiar to 2012. That year four Republicans slugged it out in an expensive and negative primary that left nominee Tommy Thompson, the former four-term governor, bruised and broke.

    “You talk to the grass roots and they’re still riding high from the last election,” said Brian Westrate, the chairman of the 3rd Congressional District Republican Party in western Wisconsin. “Those of us who have seen the sausage get made a lot of times are pragmatically concerned about the Senate race.”

    Westrate said he would feel better if there was a generally agreed-upon candidate. Instead, there are about four Republicans who are making moves to launch a campaign and at least four others being recruited or thinking about it.

    “Any one of them could be a fine candidate,” Westrate said. “It’s just unfortunate as it stands now there isn’t any one of them. There’s six of them.”

    Baldwin benefited in 2012 from being unchallenged on the Democratic side as she spent months raising money and defining herself as Republicans slugged it out. She defeated Thompson by nearly 6 percentage points.

    She’s taking the same approach now. Baldwin raised $2.2 million in the first three months of this year and had $2.4 million cash on hand. Johnson, at this point in 2015, had raised about $1 million less.

    Eric Hovde, a millionaire Madison businessman, ran in 2012 and lost in the GOP primary. He’s thinking about running again and said not having a GOP front-runner like Thompson creates a wholly different dynamic. Instead of focusing on Thompson, Republican candidates will be targeting Baldwin, he and others on the GOP side argue.

    Republicans are confident that having Walker on the ballot seeking a third term in 2018 will help their Senate candidate. They also point out that Johnson performed better than Trump in 2016 and Baldwin underperformed Obama in 2012.

    “Wisconsin Republicans are energized early to defeat Senator Tammy Baldwin because we know that with her record after nearly 20 years in Washington, she’s deeply vulnerable,” said Alec Zimmerman, spokesman for the Wisconsin Republican Party.

    Gillian Drummond, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Democratic Party, derided the Republican field as a “yacht sale primary” that includes millionaires and those backed by wealthy special interests.

    “Tammy Baldwin is the only one fighting for a Wisconsin economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top,” Drummond said.

    Two of the potential Republican candidates — Hovde and Nicole Schneider, a member of the Schneider National Trucking family — are millionaires and could tap their personal wealth, just like Johnson did in his first race in 2010. Another candidate, Kevin Nicholson, has the support of mega-GOP donor Richard Uihlein, who has given $2 million to a super PAC to support his likely run.

    The GOP Senate field in 2012 also included Mark Neumann, a former congressman who had also run statewide for Senate and governor, and Jeff Fitzgerald, who was then speaker of the state Assembly and whose brother is majority leader of the Senate and considering a Senate run this year.

    Chris Lato, who worked for Neumann’s Senate campaign, said he understands the concerns some Republicans have about having a repeat of the “pretty brutal” 2012 primary.

    “Just beating the crap out of everybody won’t help any,” Lato said. “You have to emerge strong and united to take on Tammy Baldwin because she will be a force.”

    The post Wisconsin Republicans worry about crowded Senate primary appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Nigeria school girls

    A still image taken from video shows a group of girls, released by Boko Haram jihadists after kidnapping them in 2014 in the north Nigerian town of Chibok, sitting in a hall as they are welcomed by officials in Abuja, Nigeria, on May 7, 2017. Photo via Reuters TV

    Dozens of Nigerian school girls who were released by Boko Haram this weekend years after they were kidnapped met with the country’s president on Sunday.

    Nigerian officials said 82 of the approximately 270 girls abducted by the Islamist militant group in April 2014 were exchanged on Saturday for an undisclosed number of Boko Haram members held by the government.

    The girls were flown on Sunday to the Nigerian capital of Abuja where they were to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari.

    “With all of these things together we negotiated over a period of several months, and at the end of it some of their (Boko Haram’s) members were exchanged for the 82 girls,” said Garba Shehu, a presidential spokesman, to the BBC.

    school girls

    Nigerians take part in a protest demanding for the release of secondary school girls abducted from the remote village of Chibok, in Asokoro, Abuja, on May 13, 2014. Photo By Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

    Family members who had not seen their relatives for more than three years also lined up at the airport to greet the girls. The children were abducted from the Government Girls Secondary School in the town of Chibok in 2014.

    More than 100 girls are still being held by Boko Haram after they were taken from the northeastern section of Nigeria. Several dozen of them escaped from the militants soon after their capture, and 21 were released in October 2016 with the help of aid groups.

    The Nigerian government and Boko Haram, which has ties to the Islamic State, have been embroiled in a conflict since 2009, with the militant group aiming to turn a portion of the country into a caliphate.

    More than 15,000 people have been killed during the conflict and approximately 2 million people have been displaced.

    The post Dozens of Nigerian school girls freed by Boko Haram appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A guard tower is shown at Corcoran State Prison in California

    A guard tower is shown at Corcoran State Prison in Corcoran, California, on Oct. 1, 2013. Photo by Robert Galbraith/Reuters

    Twenty-five years after a grieving father’s obsession helped turn his state into one of the strictest on repeat offenders, California leads the nation with the highest percentage of prisoners serving for life.

    The Sentencing Project released last week a report stating that one in every seven state or federal prisoners across the country are serving life, or virtual life, sentences. State and federal numbers from 2016 show California in a tie with Utah, at 31 percent of 129,805 prisoners. It also had the highest number of juveniles sentenced to life or virtual life, at 3,025.

    While California’s rank came as a surprise to the report’s author, it was less of a shock for people who work closely with the judicial system and have for years pushed for reform. In particular, they have taken aim at a 10-20-Life law, which was written by a father whose daughter was killed in the 1990s. For anyone 14 or older, the law adds anywhere from 3 years to life without probation in addition to their felony sentence if they are carrying or using a firearm at the time.

    “These enhancements cause problems. They disproportionately increase racial disparities in imprisonments and they greatly increase the population of incarcerated persons.” – Sen. Steven Bradford

    “When you think of life [sentences], you think of people who killed somebody, but in California, there’s a lot of enhancements that are attached to other crimes that make you eligible for a life sentence for which the courts have no discretion,” said Tal Klement, a deputy public defender in San Francisco. “Firearms are terrible and you want to discourage the use of firearms in committing crimes, but I don’t know if there’s any evidence that supports these harsh sentences deter use of them.”

    Democratic state Sen. Steven Bradford made this point when he introduced SB 620 last month to the Senate Public Safety Committee, which would allow judges to consider a defendant’s individual circumstances before imposing these harsher sentences.

    Bradford’s report to the committee cited the economic drain these long sentences have on the state. During a 20-year boom from 1984 to 2005, California built 21 new correctional facilities that filled to capacity and increased the prison system’s expenditures from approximately $1 billion to $9.5 billion by 2014.

    “These enhancements cause problems. They disproportionately increase racial disparities in imprisonments and they greatly increase the population of incarcerated persons,” he said.

    california sentencing

    The Sentencing Project released a report on Wednesday, May 3, ranking states by the ratio of prisoners serving life sentences. Image courtesy of The Sentencing Project’s report

    Two teenagers on opposite ends of 10-20-Life

    In April, a representative for Youth Justice Coalition told the the Senate Public Safety Committee about Travis Manning. Manning was 19 years old on Oct. 21, 2007 when he walked into a GameStop in Lynwood, Calif, with what he later told police was a BB gun. He robbed a trainee of some games, cash and a Nintendo Wii. When his case went to court, the trainee said he was sure Manning was carrying a real gun, and Manning could not prove otherwise — so without any prior criminal record, Manning was sentenced to 18 years.

    “The judge stated that because of California law, he could not make any adjustments,” the woman told the committee.

    But a senator, the pro-gun organization Gun Owners of California and the District Attorneys Association, who were also part of the public debate, were not moved.

    “I think the core of the problem here is that gun crimes have the most serious impact on crime victims,” Marty Vranicar of the District Attorneys Association told the committee. “This measure sends those who would use these firearms in the commission of a felony the wrong message: ‘Use a gun, avoid the time.’”

    The phrase Vranicar used was a throwback to the original tagline for the 10-20-Life law: “Use a gun and you’re done,” which was borne of Mike Reynolds’ compulsion to toughen laws after he lost his 18-year-old daughter in 1992.

    READ NEXT: Contesting bail to take on racial disparities in San Francisco jails

    Reynolds’ daughter was shot in the head and killed by a paroled felon who tried to grab her purse on a summer evening in Fresno.

    His outrage, accusations that politicians were soft on crime and financial support from the National Rifle Association first spawned a so-called “three strikes and you’re out” law that was signed by Gov. Pete Wilson in 1994. The law stiffened sentences for people who committed a second felony, and it automatically added a sentence of 25 years to life for anyone who committed a third.

    In 1997, 10-20-Life was his encore, and the law catapulted California to the top of the ranks for the strictest sentences in the country.

    Bradford told the safety committee last month that now, more than 30,000 people are incarcerated because of the law, and that number will continue to grow.

    His bill passed the committee with four ayes and two noes.

    Confronting the fallout

    The U.S. Supreme Court, Gov. Jerry Brown and voters in the past six years have started to weigh in on California’s prisons and strict sentencing practices.

    In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California had to reduce its prison population by more than 30,000 because overcrowding and conditions violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

    Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissent said it was, “perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our nation’s history.

    Then, voters approved Proposition 36 in 2012, requiring that the third felony of the three strikes must be serious or violent for a judge to issue a sentence of 25 years to life. Those who were serving for a third strike that wasn’t serious or violent could petition for a reduced sentence.

    In 2014, voters reduced some felonies such as drug possession and petty theft to misdemeanors, resulting in the release of about 4,000 people.

    California has since decided to afford some people parole hearings after they have served 25 years instead of 75. Voters also approved Proposition 57 in November, which was championed by Brown and took California off a list of 14 states that left the decision of whether to try youth as adults to the prosecution.

    The Sentencing Project released a report on Wednesday, May 3, ranking states by the ratio of prisoners serving life sentences. Image courtesy of The Sentencing Project's report.

    The Sentencing Project released a report on Wednesday, May 3, ranking states by the ratio of prisoners serving life sentences. Image courtesy of The Sentencing Project’s report

    Now, it’s up to the discretion of the judges.

    California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesperson Terry Thornton mentioned several of these recent decisions in response to The Sentencing Project’s report.

    Thornton said that the population peaked in November 2006, when they were at 200 percent capacity, but now they are at 135 percent, which is in compliance with the 2011 court ruling.

    “[We] don’t decide what sentences people are going to serve, we don’t have any control over who we get,” said corrections spokesperson Terry Thornton. “You’ve got to look at the people doing the sentencing.”

    Klement commented on why people might be surprised about California’s status in the report.

    “We think of ourselves as a ‘liberal’ state but I don’t think that has bled over to the criminal justice system,” he said.

    The post California leads the nation in life sentences. A new bill aims to change that appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    French President-elect Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at his campaign headquarters after early results in the second round in the 2017 French presidential election in Paris

    French President-elect Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at his campaign headquarters after early results in the second round in the 2017 French presidential election in Paris, France, on May 7, 2017. Photo by Lionel Bonaventure/Pool/Reuters

    Emmanuel Macron has become the next president of France, the Associated Press reported Sunday.

    Macron won over far-right Marine Le Pen in a race to replace the country’s socialist President François Hollande that had much of Europe on edge. The contest stood as a referendum on the future of France’s relationship with the European Union along with immigration. Le Pen campaigned on leaving the EU’s 28-nation bloc and the Euro currency while Macron said he wanted to bolster that relationship, which has been tested in recent years amid a wave of immigrants into Europe and a slumping Euro.

    French election officials said turnout was lower than several recent presidential elections, with 65 percent of voters coming to the polls.

    Thousands of Macron supporters who gathered near his campaign headquarters in Paris cheered as French television called the race for the 39-year-old political newcomer, who seems poised to become the youngest president in the history of France to chants of “We have won, we have won.”

    Le Pen, his opponent, called Macron to concede the race, and Hollande, his predecessor, sent his congratulations.

    A supporter of President Elect Emmanuel Macron celebrates in Paris

    A supporter of President Elect Emmanuel Macron celebrates in Paris, France, May 7, 2017. Photo by Eric Gaillard/Reuters

    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker praised Macron, saying, “the ideas that you defended of a strong and progressive Europe that protects all its citizens will be those that France will cherish under your presidency,” the AP reported.

    Many of Europe’s leaders also sent their salutations to Macron, including Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May. President Donald Trump also tweeted his congratulations to Macron.

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

    In a victory speech, Macron called his rise to the presidency a “big honor and an immense responsibility.”

    “I will defend France, its vital interests, its image,” he said. “A new chapter in our long history has opened this evening. I would like it to be one of hope and of renewed confidence.”

    The post Emmanuel Macron wins French election appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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