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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, our Politics Monday duo is here to unpack the aftermath of the Republican health care plan passing the House, new concerns about possible conflicts of interest in the Trump White House, and former President Obama speaking out about his signature legislation.

    For all that, Tamara Keith of NPR and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

    And welcome to both of you.

    And before we talk about that, we are just literally in the last minute or two watching some new tweets from President Trump.

    Amy, he is essentially saying that today’s hearing on Capitol Hill about the Russia investigation, what the White House was told by the then acting attorney general, he’s saying it’s all old news, that the fake news had to have been disappointed. He is calling the entire investigation a hoax. He said, when will this taxpayer-funded charade end?

    I guess it’s not surprising.

    AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: It’s not surprising.

    And the short answer for when it will end is not very — not very soon, not anytime soon. In fact, it’s more likely that we are talking about these issues well into 2018. And that is the reality of how much staff that the House and the Senate still have to get to that they haven’t even begun.

    The Sally Yates story today didn’t produce any bombshells, but that doesn’t mean that this is now going to go away in the near future.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, indeed, Tam, the gentleman I interviewed just a few minutes ago, former assistant attorney general, was saying it’s pretty clear now the Russians are going to be — they not only felt they were successful this time. They are going to keep trying in 2020.

    TAMARA KEITH, NPR: Yes.

    And that is why — that sort of concern is why members of Congress are going to keep investigating this, whether President Trump wants them to or not.

    President Trump often takes these sorts of investigations or hearings as coming after him, where many members of Congress see this as going for information, and not necessarily trying to undermine him, but, of course, the resistance does see it as a chance to undermine him.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, let’s go back and talk about — it seems like a hundred years ago, Amy, that the House of Representatives voted to — finally voted to undo, at least to pass a replacement bill for Obamacare.

    There’s already been ads run in congressional districts around the country both for and against Republican members, depending on how they voted.

    Is this — do we know yet whether this is a plus or minus politically for these House members?

    AMY WALTER: Yes, if you’re sitting in one of these competitive congressional districts, you might think that we’re already deep into the middle of a midterm election, the number of ads that are running now and will continue to run.

    Democrats believe that this is a potent issue for them in the election. And they remember what it was like when they were on the other side. That’s the reason they think it’s going to be so powerful.

    Back in 2010, when they were the ones voting for a bill that was controversial, pushing it through on a party-line-only vote, they suffered the consequences. It was a toxic vote for them. They lost 63 seats and control of the House.

    Democrats are convinced this is going to be that kind of issue for Republicans. There is not a lot of polling that’s been out yet. One poll that came out today showed 31 percent of Americans supporting it. Compare that to where Americans — how Americans feel about the Obamacare, which is now at about 48 percent. So that’s not great.

    The best news for Republicans is that Republicans are supportive of it, about 75 percent supportive of it, but the intensity on the other side, people who say they oppose is much, much higher.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s growing. And, of course, we are months away from the midterms. It’s November of next year, Tam, and you still don’t know what the Senate is going to do.

    TAMARA KEITH: That’s right.

    The Senate is going to take their time. They are waiting for the Congressional Budget Office to come back with a score of the House bill. That’s something that the House didn’t wait for. They’re also saying that they’re basically starting fresh and doing something on their own.

    There is a deadline here. The way they’re trying to do this is through this budget reconciliation process. That’s why they don’t need any Democratic votes in the Senate, but that turns into a pumpkin at the end of September. So, there isn’t much time.

    And there is a big challenge here. On the House side, they really thread a needle to get the number of votes that they needed, to get the Freedom Caucus and the moderates to come along. The needle is completely different over on the Senate side that they need to thread.

    And how they combine those things, if the Senate is able to get something done, with a much tighter margin than they had in the House, it’s unclear.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It is a somewhat different calculus in the Senate.

    AMY WALTER: It is a different — absolutely.

    And the other thing to remember, if you’re thinking as a House member, is, no matter what happens with the Senate bill, no matter whether we ultimately see it on the president’s desk and it’s signed into law and it looks different from the one that way voted on, they own that vote that they cast the other week and all that went along with it.

    And that’s why, when we talked about these ads as a preview for 2018, for those people sitting in those districts, what they are watching are images of a baby with a respirator, a pregnant woman who’s looking distraught talk about the fact that there are costs that are going to go up, seniors are going to pay more, preexisting conditions are going to exist.

    Those kinds of ads are going to run throughout 2018, regardless of what the final bill looks like.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Something completely separate I want to ask you both about.

    And you have been doing some reporting on this, Tam. The president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, he has separated himself from the business that his family very involved in, very successful real estate business.

    His sister was in China over the last few days, and talking about special treatment possibly for people seeking these so-called EB-5 visas. It’s complicated, but it matters in terms of people looking at whether there is any conflict of interests here.

    TAMARA KEITH: That’s right.

    And the Kushner organization has apologized for any misunderstanding or any impression that could be left that she was trying to use her brother’s position. Jared Kushner has said that he will not involve himself in anything involving these visas as they’re considered.

    This is a controversial visa program. For as little as $500,000, investors, foreign nationals can invest in a project, a real estate project typically, and get a visa that gets them on a path to citizenship to become a citizen of the United States.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it’s — we’re — only a little bit of time left here, but it’s just another case of what the Trump White House has to be on the lookout for.

    AMY WALTER: Yes, right.

    And here’s an opportunity. It’s a president who wants to push for immigration reform. He could have talked about reforming this very issue.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Politics Monday. Amy, Tam, thank you both.

    TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.

    The post How the GOP health care bill is fueling Democratic opposition appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: When you go to the doctor, you often leave with a prescription for medicine, but some doctors are experimenting with a new kind of prescription, one for fresh, healthy food.

    And, as the trend grows, more doctors and health professionals are getting more training in the kitchen.

    Special correspondent Allison Aubrey of NPR News has the story.

    WOMAN: We have the minerals and grains that are going to lower blood pressure.

    ALLISON AUBREY: At Casey Health Institute in Gaithersburg, Maryland, the doctor is in, but your appointment might just be in the kitchen.

    This is called the Physician’s Kitchen. And on this night, primary care doctor Nicole Farmer is prescribing food.

    DR. NICOLE FARMER, Casey Health Institute: So, you can see eating whole grains actually is going full circle in terms of helping to control diabetes and blood pressure, but also prevent it too.

    ALLISON AUBREY: This doesn’t mean giving up favorites, like pancakes. Instead, the goal here is to make breakfast foods healthier, using grains like buckwheat and millet.

    DR. NICOLE FARMER: I feel like it’s important for me to spend my time here, in addition to being in the exam room. If I teach you how to cook, you’re going to improve the types of food that you eat, and then ultimately that is what is going to prevent chronic disease for you.

    ALLISON AUBREY: The most recent evidence comes from a study published in “The Journal of the American Medical Association.” Researchers found that, here in the United States, about one out of every two deaths from heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes is linked to a poor diet. That’s 1,000 deaths every day.

    Paula Fischthal knows that all too well. Her dad died early of a heart attack, and her mom had diabetes. With this strong family history, she was really concerned. That’s how she ended up here.

    PAULA FISCHTHAL, Patient: When I first came here, Dr. Farmer diagnosed me with pre-diabetes. And I really didn’t want to take medication.

    ALLISON AUBREY: Fischthal has changed her whole relationship with food. She tossed out processed snacks, and she’s cooking with fresh ingredients.

    PAULA FISCHTHAL: I have gradually gotten rid of the starch that goes with dinner. It’s more vegetables and protein.

    ALLISON AUBREY: She also started taking yoga classes. And over the last year, she’s lost weight. Now her blood sugar has returned to normal. And this means she’s no longer considered to have pre-diabetes.

    Her story fits with the conclusion of the most comprehensive study ever on diabetes prevention. It was a federally funded study carried out by the National Institutes of Health, with collaborators at 27 sites across the country. They found, when people change their diet to lose weight and become more active, it can be more effective than medication in preventing the disease.

    Dr. Farmer tells all her patients about it.

    DR. NICOLE FARMER: The diabetes prevention study taught medical science that we don’t need to jump the gun when it comes to prescribing medications to prevent diabetes, and that the most effective thing we can do is to promote a healthier diet and to promote them to engage in regular exercise.

    The porridge could be a daytime snack, if you want it to.

    ALLISON AUBREY: And meeting patients here in the kitchen, Farmer says, is the best promotion.

    The idea that you can bring doctors and other health care professionals into the kitchen to teach people that changing their diets can actually help them prevent disease is starting to catch on.

    Inside this stone fortress is the Culinary Institute of America’s Napa Valley campus. Here, some 500 doctors and health professionals recently got a crash course in how to build food and nutrition into their medical practices. They spent four days sauteeing, slicing and tasting.

    It’s put on by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute, as well as a few dozen food service companies who sponsor the event.

    DR. DAVID EISENBERG, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: At this conference, we bring in some of the top nutrition scientists in the world to say, look, here’s the evidence that eating these foods either keeps you healthy or reduces your risk of disease, whereas eating these foods really speeds up your risk of disease, heart disease, cancer, diabetes.

    Second,the chefs at the Culinary Institute, who are not just great chefs, but great teachers, say, let me show you how to do that.

    ALLISON AUBREY: Dr. David Eisenberg from Harvard’s School of Public Health is master of ceremonies and founder of this event. It’s called Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives.

    One thing he’s trying to change may be surprising. Most doctors, he says, aren’t taught much at all about nutrition.

    DR. DAVID EISENBERG: Today, most medical schools in the United States teach less than 25 hours of nutrition over four years. The fact that less than 20 percent of medical schools have a single required course in nutrition, it’s a scandal. It’s outrageous. It’s obscene.

    ALLISON AUBREY: Primary care doctor Helen Delichatsios is speaking at the event. She’s been teaching her patients about nutrition and cooking for seven years now, at Massachusetts general hospital in Boston.

    DR. HELEN DELICHATSIOS, Primary Care Physician: Many people come to their doctor and have high blood pressure and high cholesterol. One somewhat easy answer is to send them away with one prescription for their blood pressure, one prescription for their diabetes, one prescription for their cholesterol, when, in reality, if you work on the underlying root problem, which may be poor diet and physical inactivity, both of which are tied together, fixing those can address all of the concerns at once.

    ALLISON AUBREY: Delichatsios has figured out how her practice can get reimbursed for all the cooking and nutrition instruction. And she’s sharing this information with other doctors at the conference.

    Dr. Joseph Wetterhahn’s hospital just installed a teaching kitchen. He’s a primary care doctor in a rural area of Upstate New York.

    DR. JOSEPH WETTERHAHN, Primary Care Physician: Part of our education here is, they do teach how to do the correct coding and the correct billing, so that you can do this at a break-even.

    ALLISON AUBREY: After attending this conference a few years back, Sanjeet Baidwan was so inspired, she convinced Yale Medical School to let her teach a new class called Culinary Medicine. She’s a primary care doctor at Yale’s Medical Center in New Haven, Connecticut.

    DR. SANJEET BAIDWAN, Yale University Medical School: When dealing with medical school, I often felt that residents were ill-equipped, or they would say to me, well, I don’t know that. Maybe we should send them to a nutritionist, or would kind of maybe give some really broad-stroke nutrition information like off the cuff.

    But I would say that a lot of patients come in just really desperate for good information, good direction.

    ALLISON AUBREY: Eisenberg’s vision goes way beyond just doctors in the office.

    DR. DAVID EISENBERG: If we’re going to build teaching kitchens in hospitals, maybe we should also think about building them in K-12 schools, and why stop there? How about corporate workplaces and retirement communities?

    ALLISON AUBREY: One of the largest food service companies in the world is already on board. Compass Group USA Runs food services at schools, nursing homes and corporate offices. They’re planning to build 20 teaching kitchens this year.

    DR. NICOLE FARMER: We have the polyphenols in grains that are going to lower pressure.

    ALLISON AUBREY: Back in Gaithersburg, Maryland, physician Nicole Farmer says one stumbling block for her patients can be cost. But she shows them that healthy choices aren’t necessarily more expensive.

    DR. NICOLE FARMER: We got a whole bag of millet for less than $2. And this contains about three to four servings, so about enough for three to four meals.

    ALLISON AUBREY: So, what about this farro here? This is a little bit pricier than a brown rice, right?

    DR. NICOLE FARMER: So, a box of farro will cost about the same price as a good-quality brown Rice.

    ALLISON AUBREY: Farmer says you may have to shop around a little bit or go online to buy these grains, but they are available, including in stores that accept SNAP benefits, or food stamps.

    Over the last decade, Eisenberg says he has watched as this movement has started to take off.

    DR. DAVID EISENBERG: There are now hundreds of teaching kitchens. And I think the idea has found receptivity across the country.

    We have now got Cleveland Clinic. We have got Kaiser Permanente. We have got Harvard, and Princeton, and the University of Texas, and 20 other university systems making this available to their patients or their trainees.

    ALLISON AUBREY: I’m Allison Aubrey of NPR News for the PBS NewsHour in Napa Valley, California.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Online, if you’re looking for healthy recipes approved by both chefs and doctors, we have some for you to try. You can find five ideas at pbs.org/newshour.

    The post To improve patient diets, the doctor is in … the kitchen appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump’s travel ban got its first federal appeals court review today. The arguments mark the biggest test yet for the president’s revised executive order to suspend travel to the U.S. for people from six majority-Muslim countries.

    William Brangham has that story.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: At the center of today’s arguments before the Fourth Circuit is whether the president’s second executive order is motivated by national security concerns, or whether it discriminates against Muslims, which would be unconstitutional.

    Among other issues, the judges will also decide whether the president’s own words about Muslims can be used against him.

    Here’s an example from a campaign rally in December of 2015.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: To go through today’s arguments, I’m joined by Marcia Coyle, chief Washington correspondent for The National Law Journal, and a NewsHour regular.

    Welcome back.

    MARCIA COYLE, The National Law Journal: Thank you.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, you heard what I said at the introduction. Is that roughly the contours of this? The president is arguing, this was all about national security. His critics are saying, no, it’s religious discrimination.

    MARCIA COYLE: In fact, not just his critics, but the lower federal district court in this particular case found that the primary purpose of the order wasn’t national security, that was a secondary purpose, that this was a Muslim ban and that there was a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

    So, that is what we — as we go into the federal appellate court here today, the argument breaks down in two ways. The government is still going to argue that this is national security, and it’s relying heavily on a Supreme Court case from a number of years back in which the court said, if the president has a legitimate and bona fide reason for his or her decision about how to permit or disallow the entry of aliens into this country, that’s it, that’s sufficient.

    And the government’s lawyer said that there is a legitimate and bona fide reason here, national security, and so, court, your job ends basically there.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, let’s listen to one of these clips.

    This is Judge Keenan having a discussion with Jeffrey Wall, who is representing the Trump administration.

    JUDGE BARBARA MILANO KEENAN, Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals: What in the text — I’m looking for it.

    What in the text of Executive Order Number 2 supports the conclusion that these aliens from these countries, these 82 million people, would be detrimental to the interests of the United States?

    JEFFREY WALL, Acting United States Solicitor General: I don’t think what the president was saying was, I know them all to be dangerous.

    He was saying, I’m not certain here. What he said is, I find that it would be detrimental to letting people from countries we know to be dangerous, that have deteriorated over time, until I have had a chance, working with my Cabinet officials, to assess the vetting procedures for those countries.

    He said, it would be detrimental in the face of that uncertainty. That is a reasonable finding, one that an executive branch official could draw. I think there is no question that it should survive rational basis review.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, Marcia, that’s the argument the administration has been making all along, that the president has authority and that this is in the interest of the country.

    MARCIA COYLE: That’s right. And the government doesn’t see any violation of the Establishment Clause.

    And, of course, as we all know, the Establishment Clause doesn’t permit the government to disfavor religion. The government’s attorney today said that there was nothing in this order that had anything to do with religion, and that the president, even though he had made earlier statements about a Muslim ban, had clarified his position later after he took the oath of office to insist that he’s talking about terrorism and territories, not religion.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In fact, there was a very interesting moment today in the hearing where a judge asked, let’s just say the president had taken back some of those comments about Muslims. Would this be allowable?

    Let’s listen to that clip.

    JUDGE ROBERT KING, Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals: The president repudiated his statements in campaign and post-election about the Muslim ban. What if he repudiated them all?

    OMAR JADWAT, ACLU: I think that would be significant, Your Honor. It would be a significant fact. I don’t know whether …

    JUDGE DENNIS SHEDD, Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals: Would that change the result?

    OMAR JADWAT: I think a simple repudiation might not — no, wouldn’t change the result.

    JUDGE DENNIS SHEDD: Let me follow up, then. What if he says he’s sorry every day for a year?

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDGE DENNIS SHEDD: Would that do it for you?

    OMAR JADWAT: Here’s the issue, Your Honor, is that what the Establishment Clause prohibits is targeting and denigrating a religion. At a minimum, that’s what it prohibits. And the question is, would reasonable people see what he was doing in total as achieving that effect?

    JUDGE DENNIS SHEDD: So, you say reasonable people would say he doesn’t really mean it when he says he’s sorry?

    OMAR JADWAT: Your Honor, I think it’s possible that saying sorry is not enough.

    MARCIA COYLE: This, again, is an exchange between judges, but, this time, with the lawyer for the challengers to the order, the ACLU’s lawyer.

    And he is saying, basically, look, you have to look at the evidence in this particular case. The ACLU believes that this wasn’t a national security purpose, that this was a Muslim ban, and, because of that, a violation of the Establishment Clause.

    So, the ACLU’s lawyer told the judges, there are really three categories of evidence you should be looking at here. First, there is the order on its face. It’s not facially legitimate, he argued, because, even though it names just six countries, there are other countries that have been associated and found to be associated with terrorism by the United States that are not on that list. This is just Muslim countries.

    Secondly, there are the president’s statements. And as the ACLU lawyer said, sometimes, saying you’re sorry is not enough. These statements, he claims, continued after the president took the oath of office. So, it’s not just campaign statements.

    And then the final category of evidence, the lawyer said, had to do with some reports that were leaked or released by the Department of Homeland Security that basically said that the order itself wouldn’t prevent terrorism in the United States.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: How unusual is this, Marcia, to have the president’s own words, the words of his own administration come back to be used as evidence against them in court?

    MARCIA COYLE: Well, I think it’s quite unusual. And it obviously is an issue of contention among the various judges that have had to deal with this executive order.

    And I think, going forward, whoever loses either in this particular case or in a case in Hawaii that will be heard in another week, and there are many other challenges pending around the country, will take the case to the Supreme Court.

    And there, the Supreme Court will again have to deal with the relevance and weight of the president’s statements. Ultimately, I think it will be the Supreme Court that will have to resolve this tension. Is this just to be judged on the basis of national security, or does the religion clause jurisprudence come in as well?

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Marcia Coyle, as always, thank you so much.

    MARCIA COYLE: My pleasure.

    The post Explaining Trump’s travel ban appeals court arguments appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: France elects a new president, after the most closely watched and divisive campaign there in decades.

    Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports from Paris.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Emmanuel Macron left his home in Paris this morning absorbing the reality that he is France’s youngest national leader since Napoleon.

    EMMANUEL MACRON, President-Elect, France (through interpreter): I will serve you with humility, with force. I will serve you in the name of our motto, liberty, equality, fraternity.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Macron overcame Marine Le Pen’s brand of nationalist populism and weathered a suspected Russian hacking attack on his campaign that dumped reams of internal e-mail hours before voting began.

    He will be inaugurated as France’s 25th president on Sunday. But even though he won 66 percent of the vote, analysts said it could not be regarded as an overwhelming mandate.

    Out of a possible electorate of 47 million, only 20 million people voted for Emmanuel Macron. Many of those did so tactically just to keep Le Pen out. Macron could face a highly troublesome five years in the presidential palace.

    Analyst Pascal Boniface says the struggles could start early, if Macron fails to get a majority in the French National Assembly.

    PASCAL BONIFACE, French Institute for International Strategic Affairs (through interpreter): He has to create very soon a huge movement and to find a majority. If there is no majority in the National Assembly, he will be a president, but a president with few power.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Congratulatory messages came from across Europe today. Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his, calling on Macron to — quote — “overcome mutual mistrust.” Members of the European Union expressed relief.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was delighted.

    CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL, Germany (through interpreter): He ran a courageous, pro-European campaign. He stands for openness to the world.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Boniface says Macron has to deal with the fact that 40 percent of the French electorate are dissatisfied with the E.U.

    PASCAL BONIFACE: If Macron wants to succeed, if he wants to make good reforms, he must avoid to have demonstrations in the streets. There is a psychological and political walk to do to show that Europe is not only for the elite, but also for ordinary people.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: But there were demonstrations in the streets today. Activists and union members protested in Paris against Macron’s proposed labor reforms. Some clashed with police, who made a number of arrests.

    It was a starkly different scene yesterday, as Macron supporters sprinted towards the Louvre to catch the announcement of his victory.

    France’s ethnic minorities, who feared the anti-immigrant Le Pen, were jubilant. This Macron supporter repeated “Thank God” in Arabic.

    “Marine Le Pen is a dinosaur,” this woman chanted.

    WOMAN: In terms of economy, social cohesion, everything, I mean, she was bad. So, we’re really happy today.

    WOMAN: There is so many people who didn’t know Emmanuel Macron since one year, and now he’s the president of the republic.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Macron’s win was particularly sweet for the Avaaz Internet-based advocacy group which has been campaigning in Europe against right-wing nationalists.

    Avaaz member Joseph Huff Hannon points to the effect of President Trump, who called to congratulate Macron this morning.

    JOSEPH HUFF HANNON, Avaaz: The last 100 days or so has probably been a pretty incredible cautionary tale from what French people could come to expect from a faux populist, somebody who kind of says, I’m going to transform the country and improve your lives, without offering any specific policies.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Hannon also believes Macron’s victory signals that right-wing nationalism is on the wane in Europe, and portends well for the election later this year in Germany.

    France’s new president, a man with precious little experience of government, inherits a country under a state of emergency. Although he has tapped into a rich seam of enthusiasm amongst young French people, his victory has brought little joy to much of the nation. And he now has to deliver on his promise to unite the country.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Malcolm Brabant in Paris.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on the election of Emmanuel Macron, and what his election represents, I spoke a short time ago with the French ambassador to the United States, Gerard Araud.

    Ambassador Araud, thank you very much for joining us.

    So, even though we know Mr. Macron won 66 percent of the vote, we also know that turnout was down slightly from before, that many French citizens either stayed home or didn’t express a preference. Just what is the support for Mr. Macron right now?

    GERARD ARAUD, Ambassador, France: So, we have to understand that the situation was totally unprecedented.

    The two main — the two parties, the Socialist on one side, the Conservative party on the other side, actually had been defeated in the first round of the election, which means that, on the second round, you had basically Madam Le Pen and Monsieur Macron, who have never been elected.

    And even for Mr. Macron was running for the first time, running for office. So it means that for some French electors, especially electors from the Socialist Party or from the Conservative Party, really, they felt to be excluded of this run-off. And they decided that either they were going to stay home or they were going not to express a preference.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And so how divided is France still? You were telling me, with the parliamentary elections coming, it’s really unclear that Mr. Macron is going to have a majority.

    GERARD ARAUD: Well, we have never had such a situation, I guess, in the French political life.

    You have Mr. Macron, who basically didn’t have a political party a few months ago, yet has created one, who didn’t have any member of the parliament supporting him. And we have the general elections coming on June 11 and 18. So, for him, it will be quite a challenge to get a majority in a new parliament.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, where is France left then with the Marine Le Pen brand of populist nationalism? Is it gone? Has it just receded for a short time? How do you see that?

    GERARD ARAUD: No, actually, we are facing the same populist outburst, the same rebellion of some of our voters that you have been facing during the last presidential election in the U.S. or that our British friends have been facing during the Brexit referendum.

    And this rebellion is not going to fade away if Mr. Macron and his government are not responding to the concerns of these voters. So, in a sense, we have five years left to avoid a final victory of populism.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do these voters want and what does it mean for the European Union? For now, France stays in the European Union, but is that a secure decision, do you think?

    GERARD ARAUD: I think that a lot of French, like a lot of American voters, feel frightened by globalization.

    And, in this country, globalization, really, basically is put — in the eyes of the voters, the responsible are Wall Street or Washington, D.C. In Europe, globalization is seen as the fact of Brussels, of the European Union.

    So, fighting for — against globalization means for a lot of French fighting against the European Union. So, in a sense, if you reassure the French voters about their life in a global world, you know, really, I think that the question of the European Union will be solved.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So we know President Trump was saying pretty favorable things about Marine Le Pen during the campaign, but he has now called Mr. Macron to congratulate him.

    How would you describe the relationship right now between the U.S. and France with Mr. Macron’s…

    (CROSSTALK)

    GERARD ARAUD: For the moment, the relationship between our two countries is excellent, for a simple reason is that, once more, our soldiers are fighting together side by side against international terrorism in Africa or in the Levant against ISIS.

    So, I think it’s quite important. The first time I met Secretary Mattis, immediately, he told me: The French are our best allies.

    And I think that is the most important.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, Mr. Ambassador, Mr. Macron had very — relatively little to say during the campaign about foreign policy, about his view of the world. What is known about that? How does he see France’s role?

    GERARD ARAUD: Well, first, I think — and that was quite important in our times of euro skepticism — is really a truly European.

    He wants to — in a sense to move forward into European integration. So, his first visit will be Berlin, where he is going to meet Chancellor Merkel. And I am quite sure that they are going to speak about the next steps in our European endeavor.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And a visit to the U.S.?

    GERARD ARAUD: Actually, he will meet President Trump on the margin of the NATO summit on May 25 in a few weeks, because President Trump will be in Brussels and they agreed to have bilateral meetings in Brussels.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And there is some reporting that you may be called to serve in the Macron administration.

    GERARD ARAUD: My fate is in the hands of God.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: OK.

    Ambassador Gerard Araud, thank you very much.

    GERARD ARAUD: Thank you.

    The post After unprecedented election, France’s Macron will face challenges in governing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (C) arrives at a news conference Feb. 13 in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Carlos Barria.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: With us now to discuss today’s congressional testimonies and the ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in November’s presidential election is John Carlin. He served as assistant attorney general for national security from 2014 until October of last year. He’s now an attorney in private practice specializing in cyber-security and crisis management.

    John Carlin, welcome to the NewsHour.

    JOHN CARLIN, Former Assistant Attorney General for National Security: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you listened to much of today’s hearing, the senators questioning the former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, the former head of national intelligence, Director of National Intelligence Mr. Clapper.

    What did you mainly take away from today?

    JOHN CARLIN: Well, this one thing I heard was a career department official describing handling a situation exactly the way we have handled numerous other counterintelligence investigations.

    That said, highly unusual that the individual who is having secret with Russians and essentially not telling his bosses is the actual national security adviser. And you can see why we take that type of situation very seriously, even when it’s a much lower-ranking official who possesses access to our nation’s secrets.

    But for the national security adviser to secretly be having conversations with Russian officials, not telling the vice president of the United States, I can’t imagine a situation which would cause more alarm for the career counterintelligence officials.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I mean, how — it’s just a natural question. How unusual is a situation like this?

    JOHN CARLIN: Well, in some ways, it’s usual, insofar as the Russians are constantly trying to compromise officials, even businessmen, in order to gain access and be able to gain secrets. They think years in advance.

    Think about one of the cases we prosecuted, the Russian illegal case. These are people here under nonofficial cover, growing families inside the United States, to maybe be used in some later date.

    But what’s incredibly unusual here is that it’s one of the most important, if not the most important national security figure in our entire apparatus, the national security adviser.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, I know that former Attorney General Yates and I know Director Clapper couldn’t answer — at least they said, in a public setting, they couldn’t answer some of these questions.

    But how much can be said about how much actual proof there is that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and what the Russians were up to?

    JOHN CARLIN: Well, that’s not something that I can talk about here. I think it’s important that that be investigated by those trained and sworn to do those investigations without fear or favor in a nonpartisan way. And I have every trust in the FBI agents I worked with in — years and following that where it needs to go.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You do have trust in them?

    JOHN CARLIN: I do. I have worked with those folks both at the FBI when I was chief staff to Director Mueller, and also with them as a prosecutor at the Justice Department, and the career prosecutors there, that these are people, they don’t care about politics.

    They’re going to follow the evidence where it leads and take it where it needs to go. That said, we have got to look forward. One reason it’s important to learn lessons about what exactly what Russia did in our prior election is because we now have heard two more officials, along with the current director of the FBI and our top — the leader of the National Security Agency, say, Russia is going to do this again in 2020, maybe as soon as next year.

    We just saw the massive hacking attacks on the French elections. They’re doing it now in Europe. We have to change our policy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what does it say that the — I mean, we’re going back over what they talked about today.

    But then the acting attorney general goes to the White House, to the president’s legal counsel, and says, this is what we think is going on. We believe that Mr. Flynn has — General Flynn has had these contacts with the Russians. We think he hasn’t told the truth to the vice president.

    And then the White House’s reaction after a day or so is to say, you’re fired.

    I mean, what does that tell you?

    JOHN CARLIN: Well, I can’t talk about what was going on in the minds of the White House when they got this extraordinary briefing that said their national security adviser was compromised by the Russians. But the fact is, he was fired several weeks later.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: After that.

    And the other thing that came up today that I want to ask you about is the questions from several senators to the acting — Sally Yates, then acting attorney general, about why it would matter that someone in the White House, one White House official didn’t tell the truth to another White House official.

    JOHN CARLIN: Well, you know, they’re new in their positions. And I guess it’s good that they asked the questions and received the answers from the career law enforcement national security officials about why that is important, at least when the issue is that someone is lying about contacts with the Russians and what Russians — Russian intelligence services have done with that type of information in the past and how they use it to compromise individuals.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Final question.

    If there were an instance ongoing today — and we don’t know this at all to be the case — of someone in the administration talking to the Russians, the intelligence community finds out about it, tries to warn the White House, is it possible for the White House to ignore it and to say, we don’t want the hear that information, you’re fired, or is it going to get the attention of the people it needs to — it needs to?

    JOHN CARLIN: Well, we can only hope that it will get the attention that it needs to.

    But it is why it’s important in a nonpartisan way, while we have senators like Graham and the White House working together, Senator Grassley, I think, asked appropriately, both officials today, and said, what are the lessons that we have learned? Are they coming again?

    They said, yes, the Russians are coming again. We need to harden our state systems. We need to have public hearings like this to educate the American people on how the Russians are using fake news essentially to try to influence elections. And we need to do more to deter them, working with our allies to cause pain to them to make them rethink this tactic of trying to undermine democracy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: John Carlin, former assistant attorney general, we thank you very much.

    JOHN CARLIN: Thank you.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: A federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, heard arguments over President Trump’s revised travel ban. It’s the first time it’s been scrutinized at the appellate level since the ban was reworked in March. The judges are examining a ruling that blocks the administration from suspending new visas for people from six Muslim-majority countries.

    Meanwhile, at today’s Senate hearing in Washington, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates took heat from Republicans for refusing to carry out the president’s original executive order. The move ultimately led to her firing.

    SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-Texas: I find it enormously disappointing that you would countermand the executive order of the president of the United States because you happened to disagree with it as a policy matter.

    SALLY YATES, Former Acting U.S. Attorney General: I looked at this. I made a determination that I believed it was unlawful. I also thought that it was inconsistent with the principles of the Department of Justice, and I said no. And that’s what I promised you I would do. And that’s what I did.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we will have excerpts from today’s appeals court hearing in Richmond later in the program.

    President Trump is now working to put his own stamp on the nation’s federal court system. Today, he released a slate of 10 conservative judicial nominees. More will be announced in the months to come, with more than 120 vacancies still in need of being filled. All of his judicial nominees will require Senate confirmation.

    In France, president-elect Emmanuel Macron appeared alongside his predecessor a day after a resounding victory over rival Marine Le Pen. Macron and Francois Hollande presented a united front at a ceremony marking the end of World War II at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Paris.

    We will take a closer look at that election, and what a Macron presidency may mean for Europe, later in the program.

    Pentagon officials have confirmed that a military raid last month killed the leader of the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan. The joint Afghan and U.S. operation targeted the eastern province of Nangarhar. Two U.S. Army Rangers also died. The Pentagon said that Abdul Haseeb Logari ordered a March attack on a hospital in Kabul that killed or wounded more than 100 people.

    Former President Barack Obama is urging members of Congress to look beyond party lines when it comes to the future of health care. Mr. Obama weighed in on the issue last night after receiving the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in Boston. It’s the first time he’s spoken out since the Republican-led House voted Thursday to repeal his Affordable Care Act.

    FORMER PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It actually doesn’t take a lot of courage to aid those who are already powerful, already comfortable, already influential. But it does require some courage to champion the vulnerable and the sick.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The GOP’s Obamacare replacement faces a more uncertain fate in the Senate, where it’s expected to undergo major revisions.

    Texas Governor Greg Abbott has signed a law banning so-called sanctuary city policies in his state. The measure allows Texas police officers to question the legal status of anyone they stop. Sheriffs who don’t comply with federal immigration agents could face jail time. Abbott gave no advance notice before signing the bill on Facebook Live last night. It goes into effect September 1.

    GOV. GREG ABBOTT, R-Texas: Elected officials and law enforcement agencies don’t get to pick and choose which laws they will obey. There are consequences, deadly consequences, to not enforcing the law.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Trump administration has threatened to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities.

    The country’s largest TV station operator, Sinclair Broadcast Group, has agreed to buy rival Tribune Media. The deal is valued at $3.9 billion, but is still subject to regulatory approval. If approved, Sinclair would own more than 200 stations nationwide.

    And trading was light on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones industrial average gained five points to close at 21012. The Nasdaq rose nearly two points and the S&P 500 added a fraction of a point.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the U.S. Senate, the attention today was on the investigation into the Trump administration’s relationship with Russia, as senators heard from a man who has been in the spotlight for years and a woman few had heard of before last fall.

    Lisa Desjardins reports.

    LISA DESJARDINS: At the Capitol, a swarm of attention at a Russia hearing with two high-profile witnesses. One was former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

    But attention focused on the other, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who first warned the White House that then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had lied about his talks with Russian officials.

    SALLY YATES, Former Acting U.S. Attorney General: The concern first about the underlying conduct itself, that he had lied to the vice president and others, the American public had been misled, and then, importantly, that every time this lie was repeated, and the misrepresentations were getting more and more specific as they were coming out, every time that happened, it increased the compromise.

    And to state the obvious, you don’t want your national security adviser compromised with the Russians.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Yates said she made no recommendations, just relayed information.

    SALLY YATES: That created a compromise situation, a situation where the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians. Finally, we told them that we were giving them all of this information so that they could take action, the action that they deemed appropriate.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Eighteen days after that private warning, the White House forced out Flynn. Now, that was just four days after the news had become public.

    White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said this at the time:

    SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: The acting attorney general informed the White House counsel that they wanted to give — quote — a “heads-up” to us on some comments that may have seemed in conflict with what he had said to the vice president in particular.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Today, Democrats pressed the witnesses on whether the White House did enough fast enough.

    SEN. RICHARD DURBIN, D-Ill., Minority Whip: If you had the warning from the White House — or, pardon me — from the Department of Justice to the White House about General Flynn possibly being compromised here, and then these important national security decisions that followed, would you have concern about that?

    JAMES CLAPPER, Former National Intelligence Director: Well, I would, hypothetically, yes. I mean, again, I was gone from the government as well when this happened.

    LISA DESJARDINS: President Trump added his thoughts this morning electronically, tweeting: “Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to the White House counsel.”

    Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley asked.

    SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY, R-Iowa: Have either of you ever been an anonymous source in a news report about matters relating to Mr. Trump, his associates or Russians’ attempt to meddle in the election?

    JAMES CLAPPER: No.

    SALLY YATES: Absolutely not.

    LISA DESJARDINS: All this comes as news reports surfaced today President Obama warned Mr. Trump against hiring Flynn just days after the election. For his part, Spicer said today those comments were expected.

    SEAN SPICER: It’s true that the president made it — President Obama made it known that he wasn’t exactly a fan of General Flynn’s, which frankly shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, given that General Flynn had worked for President Obama, was an outspoken critic of President Obama’s shortcomings.

    LISA DESJARDINS: This topic and Sally Yates will remain in the spotlight. A House committee is due to hear from her. No date scheduled for that yet.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Lisa is here with me now to dig deeper into what we learned today.

    We’re also joined by Julie Pace, who is the White House correspondent for the Associated Press.

    Welcome, of course, to both of you.

    Lisa, to your first just quickly off of your report. A lot of accusations flying back and forth between the Trump White House and the former Obama team.

    We know that one of the things this — President Trump has said is that President Obama’s White House had given a security clearance originally to General Flynn, who they fired as the head of defense intelligence a few years ago. Where does the truth in all that lie?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Right.

    So, this security clearance is something that retired generals have access to. They can ask for it by the fact that they are a retired general. Flynn did ask for that in 2016. He was given it by the Defense Department.

    There was reporting today that now the Defense Department is looking into whether he lied to them during that clearance security renewal. Take that aside, though. When you talk to national security experts, some from the George W. Bush team and Democrats, they all told me today that a security clearance doesn’t take the onus off an incoming administration to do their own vetting.

    And a very important difference about the national security adviser, Judy, it’s not a Senate-approved position, so it doesn’t go through all the ethics checks necessarily, unless the president forces it to.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, now, one other thing that you have been looking into today is this question of President Obama, after President Trump was elected, after he was elected last November, warning him. What did you find out about that?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Right.

    Others have reported this as well, but we have a source telling us from the Obama White House that, in fact, President Obama, that it wasn’t just about Michael Flynn being a critic of his, but, from their perspective, that they Michael Flynn as someone who was erratic, and a bad manager and shouldn’t continue in government.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, well, on that note, let’s pick up with Julie Pace.

    Julie, you did some reporting going into the weekend about the Trump transition team coming to the Obama team during that — during the transition last November with questions, and what was the significance of all that?

    JULIE PACE, Associated Press: Right. I think that what this shows is just the depths of the concerns about Mike Flynn.

    You had people who were working for the Trump transition team after the election who were concerned that Mike Flynn, who was going to be having a conversation with the Russian ambassador — that wasn’t unusual — as national security adviser, you would be talking to a foreign counterpart — but that Mike Flynn did not really understand the potential motivations of Sergey Kislyak, the Russian envoy, that he might not understand rumored ties that Kislyak had to Russian intelligence.

    So, what the transition officials were seeking is a classified CIA biography on the Russian ambassador that would give U.S. intelligence assessments about the envoy.

    And for the Obama administration, this raised red flags, because it showed that within Trump’s own team, there were concerns about Flynn’s ability to handle what’s an incredibly sensitive and high-pressure job that involves an enormous amount of contact with foreign officials, both friendly officials and adversaries.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Julie, you — to move beyond that, you have learned a lot more about what the Obama team was thinking during the transition, how they grew increasingly concerned about what they were learning.

    JULIE PACE: Right.

    There was a growing concern within the Obama administration on a number of fronts. You had Mike Flynn, who was going in for his meetings with his counterparts in the Obama administration, and they would talk about Russia, and he would essentially, I’m told, dismiss Russia as a threat to the United States.

    That raised some concern. You had worries about handling of sensitive administration, documents that the Obama administration was turning over to the Trump team. There was some concern that those documents were being copied and removed from secure rooms.

    So, you saw the Obama team limiting the amount of information they were letting outside the White House. And it really comes all at a time when U.S. also intelligence is starting to gather more information that some officials believe shows more ties between the Trump campaign and Trump associates and Russia’s meddling in the elections.

    So, taken together from the perspective of Obama officials, this really created a troubling picture of the Trump team’s ties to Russia.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just quickly, Julie, in other words, the ending of the Obama administration in a pretty fraught frame of mind over all this?

    JULIE PACE: Absolutely.

    And you have seen that almost continue, particularly when it comes to Mike Flynn. The revelations today, I don’t think are coincidental that the Obama team felt the need to get out there that the outgoing president was delivering a personal warning to his successor about his likely choice for national security adviser.

    When you think about that, that’s quite extraordinary. You would expect presidents to be giving their successors advice perhaps on policy. But to give a specific warning about a potential personnel pick really is extraordinary.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Remarkable reporting.

    Julie Pace of the AP and our own Lisa Desjardins, we thank you both.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we will be discussing Russia’s meddling with a former Justice Department official right after our news summary.

    The post Yates’ Senate testimony on ‘compromised’ Flynn returns Russia probe to the spotlight appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Haitian migrants wait outside the immigration office in the Mexican city of Tapachula on their way to the U.S. on Nov. 16, 2016. Photo by Carlos Jasso/Reuters

    Haitian migrants wait outside the immigration office in the Mexican city of Tapachula on their way to the U.S. on Nov. 16, 2016. Photo by Carlos Jasso/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has begun hunting for evidence of crimes committed by Haitian immigrants as it decides whether to allow them to continue participating in a humanitarian program that has shielded tens of thousands from deportation since a devastating earthquake.

    The inquiries into any criminal histories of Haitian immigrants were made in internal U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services emails obtained by The Associated Press. They show the agency’s policy chief also wanted to know how many of the roughly 50,000 Haitians enrolled in the Temporary Protected Status program were taking advantage of public benefits, which they are not eligible to receive.

    The emails don’t make clear if Haitians’ misdeeds will be used to determine whether they can remain in the United States. The program is intended to help people from places beset by war or disasters and, normally, the decision to extend it depends on whether conditions in the immigrants’ home country have improved. But emails suggest Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, who will make the decision, is looking at other criteria.

    “I do want to alert you … the secretary is going to be sending a request to us to be more responsive,” Kathy Nuebel Kovarik, the USCIS head of policy and strategy, wrote on April 27. Addressing the inability of agency employees to gather the requested information about wrongdoing, she said: “I know some of it is not captured, but we’ll have to figure out a way to squeeze more data out of our systems.”

    READ MORE: Homeland Security formally opening office to aid victims of crimes by immigrants

    The request for criminal data for an entire community is unorthodox. The law doesn’t specify it should be a consideration for Temporary Protected Status and the government has never said it would use criminal rates in deciding if a country’s citizens should be allowed to stay under this program. Introducing new criteria is likely to cause consternation among law-abiding Haitians who may feel they are being penalized for the wrongdoing of their compatriots.

    But the request fits in with President Donald Trump’s tough-on-immigration focus that is a core demand of his political supporters. He has enhanced efforts to arrest people living illegally in the United States and sought, unsuccessfully so far, to suspend refugee arrivals and temporarily block visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries. He has accused those in the U.S. illegally of fueling criminality.

    It is unclear if the agency is asking such questions about other recipients of the temporary protection, including immigrants from Honduras and El Salvador.

    The Homeland Security Department said Kelly has not made a final decision about Haiti’s Temporary Protected Status and declined to comment on the process.

    Cheryl Little, executive director of Miami-based Americans for Immigrant Justice, said the emails show that Trump is looking to deny benefits to Haitians instead of considering their eligibility for special consideration. She said her Haitian clients with Temporary Protected Status already were terrified that their benefits would be revoked.

    “Most of them have lived here upward of 15 years. They work hard. They pay taxes. They have U.S. citizen children. They contribute greatly to our economy,” she said.

    Trump courted the votes of Haitian-American citizens in the critical state of Florida. Campaigning in Miami’s Little Haiti in September, he said, “The Haitian-American community deserves our gratitude and our respect, and I want you to know, you have my respect.”

    Temporary Protected Status is intended to be just that, temporary. The Obama administration included Haiti in the program shortly after the January 2010 earthquake killed as many as 300,000 people, destroyed much of the capital and caused widespread damage in southern part of the Caribbean nation. Since then, Haitians have been eligible to stay regardless of how they entered the United States — legally or illegally — as long as they were residing in the U.S. before Jan. 12, 2011.

    Eligibility for Haitians has been repeatedly extended and is set to expire July 22. The Trump administration must decide by May 23 so that it can provide 60 days’ notice about its plans.

    USCIS’ acting director has recommended letting the program expire. In an April 10 memo first reported by USA Today, James McCament said Haiti is no longer in crisis despite its poverty and political instability. However, he wants to allow the Haitians to stay until January so they have time to make arrangements to voluntarily leave. If they don’t depart the U.S. by then, the government could move to deport them.

    Still, Homeland Security’s Kelly has the final word.

    The emails inquiring about misdeeds were sent from April 7 to May 1.

    In her first week on the job, Kovarik, the policy chief, asked officials how often Haitians with temporary status have been convicted of “crimes of any kind,” and how many have taken advantage of public benefits. She asked for that information in four separate emails. She also asked how much money Haitians have sent home and how often they’ve traveled back to Haiti. Left unsaid is that frequent travel could suggest improved conditions.

    “Please dig for any stories (successful or otherwise) that would show how things are in Haiti – i.e. rebuilding stories, work of nonprofits, how the U.S. is helping certain industries,” Kovarik wrote on April 28. “We should also find any reports of criminal activity by any individual with TPS. Even though it’s only a snapshot and not representative of the entire situation, we need more than ‘Haiti is really poor’ stories.”

    The emails were largely directed to non-political employees. They responded by saying much of the data were not available or were difficult to find in government records systems.

    READ MORE: Tijuana welcomes Haitian immigrants stuck at U.S.-Mexico border

    Criminal fingerprint records, for instance, don’t generally indicate if a suspect has Temporary Protected Status. And the employees said the public benefits request was almost impossible to answer because TPS participants aren’t eligible for most.

    About the only firm information Kovarik’s queries turned up, according to the emails, is that Haiti benefited from about $1.3 billion in remittances from the United States in 2015. Officials said they could only guess how much came from the temporarily protected group, which comprise a fraction of the estimated 954,000-strong Haitian diaspora in the United States.

    Maria Odom, a former Citizenship and Immigration Services ombudsman in the Obama administration, said she was puzzled by the inquiries about criminal activities. She said the government already checks criminal histories of applicants and denies protections to those who’ve broken U.S. laws.

    “You should not craft a humanitarian policy based on the few,” Odom said.

    ___

    Associated Press writer Jennifer Kay in Miami contributed to this story.

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    White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is likely to face another round of questioning over a Senate judiciary subcommittee hearing on Russia’s role in the 2016 elections during his Tuesday news briefing.

    Spicer is scheduled to begin speaking at 1:30 p.m. EST. Watch live in the player above.

    On Monday, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates said she bluntly warned the Trump White House that new National Security Adviser Michael Flynn “essentially could be blackmailed” by the Russians because he apparently had lied to his bosses about his contacts with Moscow’s ambassador in Washington.

    The congressional testimony from Yates, an Obama administration holdover fired soon after for other reasons, marked her first public comments about the concerns she raised and filled in basic details about the chain of events that led to Flynn’s ouster in February.

    WATCH: Former acting AG Sally Yates to testify in Russia probe

    Her testimony, coupled with the revelation hours earlier that President Barack Obama himself had warned Donald Trump against hiring Flynn shortly after the November election, made clear that alarms about Flynn had reached the highest levels of the U.S. government months before. Flynn had been an adviser to Trump and an outspoken supporter of his presidential candidacy in the 2016 campaign.

    Yates, appearing before a Senate panel investigating Russian interference in the election, described discussions with Don McGahn, the Trump White House counsel, in which she warned that Flynn apparently had misled the administration about his communications with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador.

    MORE: Trump distances himself from Flynn as Russia probe continues

    White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, had insisted that Flynn had not discussed U.S.-imposed sanctions with Kislyak during the presidential transition period. But they asked Flynn to resign after news reports indicated he had lied about the nature of the calls.

    Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer said in response that if Obama “was seriously concerned” about Flynn’s connections to Russia or other foreign countries, he should have withheld Flynn’s security clearance. Flynn served under Obama as defense intelligence chief before Obama dismissed him.

    WATCH: Spicer says Obama made clear to Trump he ‘wasn’t exactly a fan’ of Michael Flynn

    Trump repeatedly has said he has no ties to Russia and isn’t aware of any involvement by his aides in any Russian interference in the election. He’s dismissed FBI and congressional investigations into his campaign’s possible ties to the election meddling as a “hoax” driven by Democrats bitter over losing the White House.

    After the hearing Monday, Trump tweeted: “The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”

    READ MORE: What we know about U.S. investigations into Russia and possible ties to Trump’s campaign

    PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Spicer may address Russia probe in news briefing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FBI Director James Comey testifies before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on

    FBI Director James Comey testifies before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on “Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 28, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

    UPDATE 6:04 p.m.: President Trump has fired James Comey as the director of the FBI.


    Original story:

    FBI director James Comey generated national headlines last week with his dramatic testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, explaining his “incredibly painful” decision to go public about the Hillary Clinton emails found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.

    Perhaps Comey’s most surprising revelation was that Huma Abedin — Weiner’s wife and a top Clinton deputy — had made “a regular practice” of forwarding “hundreds and thousands” of Clinton messages to her husband, “some of which contain classified information.” Comey testified that Abedin had done this so that the disgraced former congressman could print them out for her boss. (Weiner’s laptop was seized after he came under criminal investigation for sex crimes, following a media report about his online relationship with a teenager.)

    The problem: Much of what Comey said about Clinton deputy Huma Abedin forwarding emails was inaccurate. Now the FBI is trying to figure out what to do about it.

    The New York Post plastered its story on the front page with a photo of an underwear-clad Weiner and the headline: “HARD COPY: Huma sent Weiner classified Hillary emails to print out.” The Daily News went with a similar front-page screamer: “HUMA ERROR: Sent classified emails to sext maniac Weiner.”


    The problem: Much of what Comey said about this was inaccurate. Now the FBI is trying to figure out what to do about it.

    WATCH: FBI Director James Comey testifies before Senate Judiciary Committee

    FBI officials have privately acknowledged that Comey misstated what Abedin did and what the FBI investigators found. The FBI issued a correction to Comey’s statement Tuesday, after this article was published. Hours later, President Donald Trump fired Comey as director of the FBI.

    ProPublica is reporting a story on the FBI’s handling of the Clinton emails and raised questions with government officials last week about possible inaccuracies in Comey’s statements about Abedin.

    It could not be learned how the mistake occurred. The FBI and Abedin declined ProPublica’s requests for comment on the director’s misstatements. The Washington Post and Associated Press also published stories about the inaccuracies in Comey’s testimony Tuesday, following ProPublica’s account.

    According to two sources familiar with the matter — including one in law enforcement — Abedin forwarded only a handful of Clinton emails to her husband for printing — not the “hundreds and thousands” cited by Comey. It does not appear Abedin made “a regular practice” of doing so. Other officials said it was likely that most of the emails got onto the computer as a result of backups of her Blackberry.

    According to two sources familiar with the matter — including one in law enforcement — Abedin forwarded only a handful of Clinton emails to her husband for printing — not the “hundreds and thousands” cited by Comey.

    It was not clear how many, if any, of the forwarded emails were among the 12 “classified” emails Comey said had been found on Weiner’s laptop. None of the messages carried classified markings at the time they were sent.

    Comey’s Senate testimony about Abedin came as he offered his first public explanation for his decision to reveal the existence of the emails on Oct. 28, days ahead of the 2016 election and before FBI agents had examined them.

    When agents obtained a search warrant that allowed them to read the messages, they turned out to be mostly duplicates of emails the bureau had obtained earlier in the investigation. Comey announced just before Election Day that nothing had changed in the Clinton case, which had been closed four months earlier without criminal charges.

    During his testimony, Comey said that part of the reason for revealing the existence of the messages was that some appeared to fill an eight-week gap in records from early in Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State. Comey said the FBI viewed them as “the golden missing emails that would change this case” because they might provide insights into Clinton’s intent when she set up her private server.

    WATCH: Rep. Adam Schiff talks Comey testimony

    Comey testified that investigators searching Weiner’s laptop in the days before the election also found that “somehow, her emails are being forwarded to Anthony Weiner, including classified information, by [Clinton’s] assistant, Huma Abedin.” Abedin, he later testified, “appears to have had a regular practice of forwarding emails to him, for him I think to print out for her so she could then deliver them to the Secretary of State.”

    After Comey painted this troubling picture, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz demanded to know why Abedin and Weiner hadn’t been charged with mishandling classified information, calling the failure to do so “puzzling.”

    “You said Ms. Abedin forwarded hundreds or thousands of classified emails to her husband on a non-government, non-classified computer,” said Cruz. “How is — how does that conduct not directly violate the statute?”

    Comey offered a partial clarification, telling the Texas senator: “… if I said that, I misspoke. She forwarded hundreds and thousands of emails, some of which contain classified information.” Comey agreed both Abedin and Weiner “potentially” might have committed a crime, but said the FBI found no basis for concluding either had acted with criminal intent. Comey said the FBI had been unable to discuss the matter with Weiner “because he has pending criminal problems of other sorts.”

    Abedin’s lawyer issued a statement after Comey’s Oct. 28 letter, saying Abedin had no idea how her exchanges with Clinton got on Weiner’s laptop, and no idea that they were there.

    This story first appeared in ProPublica. Read the original here.

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    Photo by nazdravie/E+ collection via Getty Images.

    Photo by nazdravie/E+ collection via Getty Images.

    Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

    In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


    Question: I live out in the country and don’t have social or business connections with folks in the city companies where I should be working. I have no lack of work experience, but it’s all work on my farm and leads to gap-osis of the resume.

    READ MORE: Ask the Headhunter: How to win any job

    I have a college degree, and I worked at a few companies before I built up my farm. What’s the best method for finding and approaching the decision-makers who have the problems that I can certainly solve, and how do I fix my gap-osis?

    Nick Corcodilos: Gap-osis! I’m glad someone finally invented a word to describe the gaps between jobs in a resume.

    There might be gaps in your resume that you can’t help, but there’s no excuse for gap-osis in relationships.

    There might be gaps in your resume that you can’t help, but there’s no excuse for gap-osis in relationships.

    You’ll find the jobs you want by meeting new people who can help you learn about companies and their needs. Even down on the farm you can benefit from services like LinkedIn.com, business websites that have discussion forums, and by emailing people you’ve read about or talked with on a forum. Success is all about following up.

    Make a contact or two that way. But the best way is to leave the farm for a visit to the big city to actually meet people. That’s where jobs come from.

    I have a similar challenge. My office is in a partly rural area — I like to say it’s out in the boonies. And I love it here. But I make time to go to the city (and to big towns) and to hang out with the people who need the kind of work I do. That’s how I find good clients. Face time is more precious than online time. But you have to schedule it.

    READ MORE: Ask the Headhunter: Here’s how to ask someone to be your job reference

    Since you went to college, there’s an alumni association you can tap into. There are “Meetups” you can join where you can participate in person. Join a few in your immediate area, but also in the nearby towns and cities where you’d like to work. Because these are focused on topics, not on job hunting or hiring, it’s easy to make new friends who can introduce you to others in their companies. That’s where jobs come from.

    Does your alumni association have a branch in a nearby city? If so, join, go and mingle. Likewise, find business meetings — like Chamber of Commerce gatherings — to attend where the topics (and the people) are of interest to you.

    The best way to overcome gap-osis of the resume is to overcome gaps in your connections and relationships.

    The best way to overcome gap-osis of the resume is to overcome gaps in your connections and relationships. After making a few connections, you’ll soon find the people you need to meet at the companies where you want to work. Once you stray off the farm, you may be surprised at all you will find.

    Not sure about how to network? See “Network, but don’t be a jerk.”

    And if you think you’re too shy to network effectively, think again, and read “Networking For Introverts: How to say it.”

    Dear Readers: How do you make connections you need to improve your career? How would you advise this reader down on the farm?


    Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

    Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

    Copyright © 2016 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

    The post Ask the Headhunter: How you can fix gaps in your resume appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility is seen at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Washington. Photo taken in 2005. Photo by Jeff T. Green/Getty Images

    The Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility is seen at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Washington. Photo taken in 2005. Photo by Jeff T. Green/Getty Images

    The U.S. Department of Energy issued an emergency alert Tuesday morning at the Hanford Site north of Richland, Washington after a tunnel containing rail cars full of radioactive material was breached.

    Some workers at a former chemical processing plant have been evacuated and about 3,000 others near the area at the center of the Hanford Site were directed to take shelter indoors.

    A representative at the Hanford Emergency Operations Center who would not give her name said there were no injuries reported.

    The DOE’s Richland site confirmed the breach in a tweet.

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

    “There is no indication of a release of contamination at this point,” said a subsequent statement on the Hanford Emergency Information website.

    The Hanford site went live on Facebook with more information Tuesday afternoon.

    Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, in Washougal to tour a restoration and flood-control project, said he’s been advised of the emergency and confirmed that there are no reports of injuries at Hanford.

    “I know there are many questions of how this happened — and we’ll have to get to the bottom of that,” he said Tuesday. “At the moment we’re focusing on the safety of workers and making sure there’s no release beyond (the) immediate site.”

    Officials at Hanford were concerned about contamination in soil covering railroad tunnels near the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Plant cleanup site. The tunnels contain contaminated materials. The alert was triggered by the discovery of a small sunken area of soil that covers a tunnel.

    According to a press release from the governor’s office, the Department of Energy alerted the state Tuesday morning to inform them that “a tunnel was breached that was used to bury radioactive waste from the production of plutonium at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.”

    “Federal, state and local officials are coordinating closely on the response, and the state Department of Ecology is in close communication with the U.S. Department of Energy Richland Office. My office is in close communication with these agencies and directly with Department of Energy headquarters in D.C. We will continue to monitor this situation and assist the federal government in its response,” the press release continued.

    The area is not open to the general public.

    The plant, also known by its acronym PUREX, was used during the Cold War to chemically extract plutonium from irradiated fuel rods for use in nuclear weapons.

    In 2015, a preliminary report identified the tunnels and the PUREX facility as a major risk area on the Hanford site. The report concluded if the tunnels collapsed, from an earthquake or another natural cause, it could pose a risk to workers because of the highly contaminated railcars stored inside.

    Between 1960 and 1965, eight rail cars were pushed inside one tunnel, full of radioactive waste. Another tunnel was constructed in 1964 to hold 40 additional railcars.

    “There’s lots of legacy out there, and there are a few places where is substantial ongoing risks, and (the tunnels were) one of them,” Charles Powers, co-author of the risk report, said.

    OPB produced this explainer on the nuclear waste cleanup at the Hanford site:

    Hanford is the nation’s largest nuclear cleanup site, with 56 million gallons of radioactive waste sitting in old, leaky underground tanks just a few hours upriver from Portland. There’s a plan to clean It all up. But after more than 20 years and $19 billion dollars, not a drop of waste has been treated.

    A spokesman for the Washington Emergency Management Division said the state Emergency Operations Center has been activated and is monitoring the situation. The Oregon Department of Energy, which is responsible for radiological safety, activated its emergency operations center as well.

    Hanford sits next to the Columbia River. It was one of the original Manhattan Project sites. Its nine nuclear reactors irradiated uranium fuel rods. That created plutonium, which was extracted with chemicals, processed and shipped to weapons factories. Each step produced radioactive waste. Hanford is the nation’s largest nuclear cleanup site, with 56 million gallons of radioactive waste sitting in old, leaky underground tanks.

    This is a developing story. PBS NewsHour will update it as more details become available.

    OPB’s Molly Solomon in Vancouver contributed to this story. This report first appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s website.

    The post Nuclear waste tunnel collapses at Hanford site in Washington state appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) fighters carry their weapons while riding on the back of a pick-up truck in Qamishli, Syria. Photo by REUTERS/Rodi Said.

    Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters carry their weapons while riding on the back of a pick-up truck in Qamishli, Syria. The Trump administration announced Tuesday it will arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters “as necessary” to recapture the key Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa Photo by REUTERS/Rodi Said.

    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced Tuesday it will arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters “as necessary” to recapture the key Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, despite intense opposition from NATO ally Turkey, which sees the Kurds as terrorists.

    The decision is meant to accelerate the Raqqa operation, but undermines the Turkish government’s view that the Syrian Kurdish group known as the YPG is an extension of a Kurdish terrorist organization that operates in Turkey. Washington is eager to retake Raqqa, arguing that it is a haven for IS operatives to plan attacks on the West.

    Dana W. White, the Pentagon’s chief spokeswoman, said in a written statement that President Donald Trump authorized the arms Monday. His approval gives the Pentagon the go-ahead to “equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS” in Raqqa, said White, who was traveling with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Europe.

    The U.S. sees the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, as its most effective battlefield partner against IS in northern and eastern Syria. White said they’re “the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future.”

    MORE: Could the fight against ISIS give Kurds more autonomy?

    While White did not mention the kinds of arms to be provided to the Kurds, other officials had indicated in recent days that 120mm mortars, machines guns, ammunition and light armored vehicles were possibilities. They said the U.S. would not provide artillery or surface-to-air missiles.

    The officials weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the matter and demanded anonymity. They described no firm timeline, with the American intention to provide the new weapons to the Syrian Kurds as soon as possible. A congressional aide said officials informed relevant members of Congress of the decision on Monday evening.

    Senior U.S. officials including Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have met repeatedly with Turkish officials to try to work out an arrangement for the Raqqa assault that would be acceptable to Ankara. The Turks have insisted that the Syrian Kurds be excluded from that operation, but U.S. officials insisted there was no real alternative.

    In her statement, White said the U.S. prioritizes its support for the Arab elements of the SDF.

    “We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey,” she said. “We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the U.S. is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally.”

    Trump’s authorization includes safeguards intended to reassure the Turks that the additional U.S. weaponry and equipment will not be used by the Kurds in Turkey.

    Other officials said Trump’s authorization includes safeguards intended to reassure the Turks that the additional U.S. weaponry and equipment will not be used by the Kurds in Turkey. The intent is to restrict the distribution and use of the weaponry by permitting its use for specific battlefield missions and then requiring the Kurds to return it to U.S. control.

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to visit President Donald Trump in Washington next week. An Erdogan adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, met on Tuesday with Thomas Shannon, the State Department No. 2 official.

    And in Denmark earlier Tuesday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he had useful discussions with Turkey and described the two countries as working out differences over a U.S. alliance with Syrian Kurds in fighting Islamic State militants.

    What will Erdogan’s new power mean for Turkey?

    “That’s not to say we all walk into the room with exactly the same appreciation of the problem or the path forward,” Mattis told reporters after meeting with officials from more than a dozen nations also fighting IS. Basat Ozturk, a senior Turkish defense official, participated.

    “We’re going to sort it out,” Mattis said. “We’ll figure out how we’re going to do it.”

    Tensions escalated last month when Turkey conducted airstrikes on Kurdish bases in Syria and Iraq. The Turkish military said it killed at least 90 militants and wounded scores. The Kurdish group in Syria said 20 of its fighters and media activists were killed in the strike, which was followed by cross-border clashes.

    The instability has concerned Washington, which fears it will slow the effort to retake Raqqa.

    “We’ve been conducting military and diplomatic dialogue with the Turks and it was a very, very useful discussion today,” Mattis said at a press conference with Danish Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen.

    Associated Press writers Richard Lardner and Matthew Lee contributed from Washington.

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    An opposition supporter clashes with riot police during a rally against President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela. Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

    An opposition supporter clashes with riot police during a rally against President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela. Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

    After a week of hand-wringing over President Donald Trump’s 100-day assessments, Republicans celebrated what’s probably been the biggest step forward on the president’s manifesto with Americans: On Trump’s 105th day, the House passed its version of the American Health Care Act.

    Last week’s victory came six weeks after lawmakers failed get to an earlier version of the bill through the House. Democrats, who unanimously opposed the bill, sang to Republicans on the floor — “Na na na na. Na na na na. Hey hey hey. Goodbye.” — believing the bill’s passing will spell political doom for Republicans in the midterms. (You can listen to that audio from the chamber here.)

    “You have every provision of this bill tattooed on your forehead,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said, suggesting that moderate Republicans who helped tip the vote in the end were marked.”You will glow in the dark on this one.”

    Time will tell. Until then, here are five important stories that didn’t invite the same level of reaction from politicos.

    1. Under Trump, what’s next for the Black Lives Matter movement?

    People participate in a Black Lives Matter protest in front of Trump Tower in New York City. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    People participate in a Black Lives Matter protest in front of Trump Tower in New York City. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Reuters

    The Black Lives Matter movement is reconfiguring its strategy.

    Alicia Garza, co-creator of the original #BlackLivesMatter social media campaign, told The Washington Post last week that the shift means less demonstrations and more policy-oriented activism.

    The original #BlackLivesMatter hashtag took social media by storm after neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012 in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman claimed self-defense in his encounter with Martin, who was black and unarmed. Zimmerman was acquitted in 2013.

    Today, the BLM network — with 39 local chapters across the country — is dedicated not only to bringing awareness to police shootings of black and brown people, but also to Islamophobia, LGBTQ rights and issues facing black women.

    Throughout the 2016 presidential election, the movement engaged in several highly-visible demonstrations, from prominent appearances at campaign events for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to various protests during Trump rallies. One part of the movement’s new approach is instead focusing on policies at the local level.

    Atlanta and Memphis chapters, for instance, are fighting the “money bail” system, which targets people in jail who cannot finance even the smallest guarantee of their appearances at trial. Advocates say it’s a way of forcing them to plead guilty to lesser charges without first seeing a judge or jury.

    BLM chapters have also introduced resources for mobilizing, such as the “Resistance Manual,” an online resource for how to push back against policy, and a site called OurStates, which assists the public with combating Trump’s agenda in Congress, the Post reported.

    Why it’s important

    BLM’s refreshed platform arrives in the wake of three recent high-profile officer-involved shootings.

    There was the fatal shooting of Jordan Edwards, a black 15-year-old, last month in Texas. Officer Roy Oliver was fired for violating “several departmental policies,” and on May 5, was arrested and charged with murder. He posted bond and now awaits trial.

    And in Louisiana, justice officials found insufficient evidence for federal charges against the white police officers involved in the fatal shooting of 37-year-old Alton Sterling, a black resident of Baton Rouge. The case will instead be given to Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, who will determine whether state charges should be applied. Law enforcement braced for massive protest turnout following the announcement, but only a handful of arrests were made — a departure from the kind of action we’ve seen in the past; during a weekend of BLM demonstrations in July 2016, for instance, at least 200 individuals were arrested, The Advocate reports.

    Activists say the future of BLM is about more than just protest.

    “It can look like voting … it can look like calling your representatives,” Aditi Juneja, a law student who works with Campaign Zero, a police reform effort launched by BLM, told the Post. “For many people the work is very personal, and it isn’t going to stop. The question is how it will sustain and how it will continue to manifest.”

    The movement will also be about more than simply policing, scholar Peniel Joseph told WBUR’s “Here and Now.”

    “They’re not just criticizing the justice system. They’re making a claim that the justice system in the United States is connected to unemployment, public school segregation, environmental racism and inequality,” he said. “So it’s just basically the police are the tip of a larger iceberg of systemic oppression.”

    2. Puerto Rico announces its largest school closure in history.

    A person carries a Puerto Rican national flag during a protest against the government's austerity measures. Photo by Alvin Baez/Reuters

    A person carries a Puerto Rican national flag during a protest against the government’s austerity measures. Photo by Alvin Baez/Reuters

    After years of contracted economic depression, Puerto Rico attempted to reduce its $120 billion of debt and financial obligations in bankruptcy court. The filing last week is the largest municipal bond bankruptcy in U.S. history.

    As Puerto Rico’s economy worsened, the population has dropped, with hundreds of thousands fleeing the island for Florida and other parts of the U.S. The economic downturn has also meant scaled-back public services, including the announcement last week that nearly 180 schools will now be closed, affecting about 27,000 students.

    Officials said the closure will save the government millions of dollars in a given year. ABC News reported that the announced school closure is the biggest in the island’s history; by comparison, 150 schools were closed over five years from 2010 to 2015, they added.

    Aida Diaz, president of Puerto Rico’s Association of Teachers, told ABC News that the schools targeted in this announcement were insufficient or catered to few students, adding that the plan was “backed up with data and information.”

    Parents of those 27,000 students, however, must now find another school for their children.

    Why it’s important

    Watch Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló talk to PBS NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan about the crisis.

    Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello told the NewsHour last week that the school closures will provide some monetary relief, “but the objective is for our children to actually consolidate and to get more human resources to give a better service to the children of Puerto Rico.”

    Rossello added that Puerto Rico being a colonial territory of the U.S. “puts us in a very significant disadvantage to all of the other states,” a point echoed by Puerto Ricans who move away from the island.

    “As a matter of comparison, the U.S. citizens, the Puerto Ricans that live in the United States, have much better incomes, more than twice as much, participate in the labor force in greater scales, have better results in the education system and so forth.

    The U.S. commonwealth is home to about 3.4 million people. Of those, about 46 percent live below the poverty line, Bloomberg pointed out in the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data. The rate is one-third that in the U.S.

    The unemployment rate in Puerto Rico also hovers at 11.5 percent. The April U.S. jobs report revealed that country’s unemployment rate had reached a near 10-year low at 4.4 percent.

    Back in 2015, the Puerto Rico’s governor signaled it couldn’t pay back its debts, telling The New York Times that the island was nearing an economic “death spiral.”

    “We don’t have representation. We have a difficult time getting funding from the federal government,” Rossello said, adding that this was a “critical component” that needed to change.

    3. Is the french fry grease market the new “scrap-metal business”?

    Photo by Yves Herman/Reuters

    Photo by Yves Herman/Reuters

    Bloomberg reports that the rising value of used cooking oil, which can be refined into biodesiel fuel, has led to an explosion in restaurant theft. One Buffalo, New York area contractor said he had to replace “1,000 locks” on restaurant grease containers over the course of six months due to theft.

    “It’s like crack money,” Sumit Majumdar, president of Buffalo Biodiesel Inc., told Bloomberg. There’s an actual market for stolen oil. It’s almost like a pawn shop or scrap-metal business.”

    Why it’s important
    U.S. biodiesel production hit record levels in 2016, but tax credits expired at the end of the year. A bipartisan group led by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., proposed a new tax credit with a focus on U.S. production — which means the underground grease market could grow, too.

    4. Things are ‘not fine’ in Venezuela

    A demonstrator catches fire after the gas tank of a police motorbike exploded during clashes in a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on May 3, 2017.Venezuela's angry opposition rallied Wednesday vowing huge street protests against President Nicolas Maduro's plan to rewrite the constitution and accusing him of dodging elections to cling to power despite deadly unrest. Photo by: JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images

    A demonstrator catches fire after the gas tank of a police motorbike exploded during clashes in a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on May 3, 2017. Photo by JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images

    Venezuela has descended into a violent, chaotic state of unrest.

    For weeks, thousands of Venezuelans have marched in the streets to protest Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro, whose rule many blame for widespread hunger and the deterioration of a once oil-rich economy. Inflation will reach more than 1,600 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund; hospitals and other services are facing massive shortages.

    Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader who assumed power after Hugo Chávez’s death in 2013, has been criticized both for his continuation of Chavez’s policies and grabs for power that some liken to those of a dictator.

    Though the opposition party took control of the country’s National Assembly in 2015, its attempts to recall Maduro in 2016 were stalled by the courts, the military and other government powers.

    Photos: Demonstrators, police clash on the streets of Venezuela

    Since then, there have been almost daily protests in the streets, particularly in the capital of Caracas. The unrest escalated late last week after Maduro called for an assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution. Masked youth built barricades, launching trash and other items at police brandishing tear gas and pepper spray.

    At least 37 people — including protesters, bystanders and security forces — have died in the street clashes since April 1, Reuters reports; 1,845 people had been detained.

    On Monday, members of the opposition boycotted an invitation from Maduro to join the new “popular assembly” charged with rewriting the constitution, calling it a fake gesture that does not meet any of the demands — rescheduled elections, a free and fair independent electoral board and government approval for humanitarian aid, among others — laid out by protesters.

    Why it’s important

    Chavez was carried into power in the late ’90s by a wave of populism not unlike those we saw on both sides of the 2016 elections in the U.S.

    “Venezuela’s fate stands as a warning: Populism is a path that, at its outset, can look and feel democratic. But, followed to its logical conclusion, it can lead to democratic backsliding or even outright authoritarianism,” Max Fisher and Amanda Taub wrote in the New York Times last month.

    In an interview with Buzzfeed, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez compared the situation to the unrest that led to Syria’s civil war.

    MORE: Venezuelan protesters demand new elections

    Something’s got to give, the Times said this weekend — specifically, key leaders’ support of Maduro. Experts call it an “elite fracture” — “in which enough powerful officials break away to force a change in leadership.”

    Along with Rodriguez, chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz, a longtime supporter of the government, condemned March’s attempted takeover of the National Assembly. The White House said members of Trump’s administration have met with members of the opposition, and stressed the need for Maduro to respect the country’s constitution. Over the weekend, the Pope — who hosted reconciliation talks between the opposition and the government in December — called for a new solution to end the violence, too.

    But, at the moment, Maduro hasn’t budged on an earlier date for elections, now scheduled for 2018.

    If the government “continues with this madness,” Venezuela will be “ungovernable,” opposition governor Henrique Capriles told Bloomberg.

    5. Pepe the Frog is dead.

    A man hides his face behind a Pepe the Frog sign after Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump spoke at an airport campaign rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photo taken Oct. 30, 2016. Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters

    A man hides his face behind a Pepe the Frog sign after Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump spoke at an airport campaign rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photo taken Oct. 30, 2016. Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters

    Pepe the Frog, once a stoner comic frog of “Feels Good Man”-fame, was co-opted by the so-called “alt-right,” a racist movement that included white nationalism and neo-Nazi beliefs.

    The group was a small slice of support for Donald Trump during the presidential election last year.

    Trump has since denounced the movement.

    But now, Pepe’s original creator, Matt Furie, killed his creation in a one-page comic that was available for free over the weekend as part of Fantagraphics’ “World’s Greatest Cartoonists” on Free Comic Book Day, Comic Book Resources reported.

    The strip depicts Pepe’s wake with the other “Boy’s Club” characters, who first appeared on the artist’s MySpace blog in 2005. Over time, the character was re-appropriated by the darkest corners of 4chan as a symbol with Nazi insignia or used for Trump memes.

    Why it’s important

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

    Furie has repeatedly said Pepe was only ever meant to be a “chill frog.”

    But by late 2016, at the tail end of the presidential election, Pepe — once known as the “sad frog” meme — was now classified by the Anti-Defamation League as a hate symbol.

    Furie, along with the ADL, tried to resuscitate Pepe’s association with hate with the #SavePepe campaign, but that appears to have failed.

    This is not likely to stop white supremacists from using the image as their own, CBR wrote, but Pepe’s death “was, perhaps, the most effective way for Furie to reclaim his character; Pepe’s soul has returned to his creator.”

    READ MORE: 5 important stories that have (almost) nothing to do with politics

    The post 5 important stories you may have overlooked appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Under the Republican health care proposal the House passed last week, insurance plans would not have to cover maternal and newborn care. Photo by Getty Images

    Critics of the Republican health care plan the House passed last week mostly have focused on how it might harm Americans with pre-existing health conditions and poor and disabled people who rely on Medicaid — two vulnerable, but defined, populations.

    But another change might have more far-reaching effects: eliminating the Affordable Care Act’s “essential health benefits,” or EHBs. That shift could affect almost everybody, including the 156 million Americans who receive health coverage through their employers.

    Under the ACA, health plans sold to individuals and small groups (employers with 50 or fewer employees) must include 10 essential benefits: emergency services, habilitative and rehabilitative services, inpatient care, outpatient care, maternity and newborn care, mental health and addiction treatment, lab tests, preventive care, prescriptions, and pediatric services, including oral and vision care.

    Plans offered by larger employers do not have to include all 10 essential benefits. However, if the plans cover any EHBs, they cannot impose annual or lifetime limits on reimbursements for those expenses.

    The House GOP plan would eliminate the federal mandate under the ACA, and instead give states the power to determine what health plans sold on the individual and small group market must cover.

    Image by The Pew Charitable Trusts

    Image by The Pew Charitable Trusts

    Insurers would be free to sell cheaper, bare-bones plans to young and healthy consumers who don’t think they’ll need certain benefits. Many of those consumers would end up paying less for their health insurance.

    Supporters of the GOP plan say it makes little sense to force people to pay for services they don’t want. Why, for example, should a single man have to pay extra for a policy that covers maternal health care?

    “That is a commandeering approach to health insurance which those of us on our side find objectionable,” said Edmund Haislmaier, senior health policy research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

    But for people needing broader coverage, the change likely would mean higher premiums and fewer choices. It also would force people who opt for bare-bones coverage to pay out-of-pocket for services they unexpectedly need.

    The change would affect even those who receive coverage through their employers, because the prohibitions on annual and lifetime caps are tied to the essential benefits.

    A late amendment to the GOP bill, which now moves to the Senate, would allow large employers to choose benefit packages from any state, instead of being bound by the rules in their home state. For example, an employer looking to cut its insurance costs could choose to follow the rules of a state that had made hospitalization nonessential. The employer could then impose annual or lifetime limits on reimbursement for hospitalization — something barred under the ACA.

    “The quality of health insurance will vary widely from state to state, as would the depth of those services,” said Michael Williams, director of the Center for Health Policy at the University of Virginia.

    Widespread Concern

    The Republican proposal has drawn opposition from many prominent health care groups, including the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the American Diabetes Association. Some Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, have objected to the elimination of some EHBs, especially addiction treatment services at a time when her state, like many others, is facing a crisis of opioid addiction.

    Even the insurance industry, which might be expected to welcome the increased flexibility it would have under the GOP plan, has been circumspect about the question of EHBs. Kristine Grow, a spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, the lobbying arm of the commercial health insurance industry, said the group has taken no position on whether they should be scrapped.

    Most health care policy analysts are adamantly opposed to scrapping the essential benefits mandate, fearing a return to pre-ACA days when most plans offered on the individual market provided bare-bones coverage or high deductibles and copayments.

    “The essential health benefits made insurance coverage really meaningful,” said Karen Pollitz, a senior health policy fellow at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. “It really took a lot of junk off the market, and there was a lot of it.”

    Higher Premiums?

    Pollitz said the elimination of the essential health benefits would cause a cascade of negative effects, both for people who opt to purchase the bare-bones plans and those who opt for more comprehensive coverage.

    For the former, Pollitz said, the change “would make monthly premiums less expensive, but it adds to the risk that if something did happen that they didn’t anticipate, they’d have to pay for their health care out of their own pockets.”

    For the latter, premiums would go up, because insurers could no longer spread risk across a broader pool of beneficiaries.

    As an example, Pollitz pointed to maternal health care, which most pre-ACA individual policies did not offer. If insurers were not required to include it, only pregnant women or women who hoped to become pregnant would opt to pay more for policies that included that benefit. Because nearly all of them likely would use it, the premiums for such policies would be extremely high, probably “pretty close to the cost of labor and delivery themselves,” Pollitz said.

    The reduction of the subsidies, coupled with the end of the essential benefits mandate, would make it difficult for many with pre-existing conditions to find and afford the kind of coverage they would need.

    Pollitz and other critics also contend that eliminating the essential health benefits would undermine the popular ACA provision requiring health insurers to accept policyholders with pre-existing health conditions.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan recently called the Republican bill a “rescue mission” to provide affordable health insurance, “especially and including people with pre-existing conditions.” Opponents note, however, that the bill would reduce ACA subsidies that help people pay for coverage.

    The reduction of the subsidies, coupled with the end of the essential benefits mandate, would make it difficult for many with pre-existing conditions to find and afford the kind of coverage they would need.

    “The reality is that if states strip out the [essential health benefits], that could very well take out the very services needed to address that pre-existing condition,” said Molly Smith, senior associate director for policy development at the American Hospital Association.

    That could hit hospitals hard, since presumably many of the people who would go to hospitals for care not covered by their insurance would be unable to pay for it out of their own pockets, leaving hospitals to pick up the tab.

    Williams of the University of Virginia pointed out another problem hospitals could face if the essential health benefits are jettisoned: Patients who are ready for discharge but not yet capable of returning home may no longer be covered for treatment in rehabilitative or skilled nursing care facilities. In those cases, Williams said, hospitals would be reluctant to discharge them, leading to longer and more costly hospital stays. The slower turnover might cause a shortage of beds.

    “You can operate that way only so long,” Williams said. “It’s just not sustainable.”

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

    READ MORE: The patients we do not see

    The post The 10 ‘essential’ benefits that could be eliminated under the GOP health care plan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans trying to craft a health care overhaul discussed Tuesday how to ease provisions in the House-passed bill phasing out President Barack Obama’s expansion of Medicaid. On television talk shows and congressional town hall meetings, meanwhile, attention on the GOP drive to repeal Obama’s law showed no signs of fading.

    Members of a working group appointed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., met privately and said their discussions centered on Medicaid, the health care program for poor and disabled people.

    The House bill would end extra federal payments in 2020 that Obama’s law provides to states that have expanded their Medicaid programs to cover more lower-income people. Senators from some of the 31 states that enlarged their programs want to prevent an abrupt cutoff of that money.

    “Our own strategy, rather than relying on what the House did, is to look at this with fresh eyes and think, ‘How do you ensure these people can continue to get coverage,'” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

    Participants said the group’s work had a long way to go. Portman suggested ways to ease the impact of the House’s Medicaid cuts, including using a multi-billion fund the House provided to help states provide financial assistance for insurance and gearing the bill’s tax credits more toward lower-income people.

    READ MORE: Trump: ‘Australians have better health care than we do’

    Portman and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., are among senators on McConnell’s 13-member working group from states that expanded Medicaid. The group includes no women, which has drawn criticism from Democrats and others.

    Republican senators must resolve differences over the House bill’s Medicaid cuts, federal subsidies to help consumers buy insurance and waivers so states can allow higher premiums for some people with pre-existing medical conditions and ease other Obama consumer protections.

    Jimmy Kimmel re-entered the debate Monday night, along with a GOP senator who named a test for weighing the merits of health legislation after the ABC late night talk show host.

    Last week, Kimmel delivered an emotional monologue describing his newborn son’s recent life-saving surgery and saying Congress must pass legislation helping people afford health care. Monday night, he mockingly apologized for saying children should have health care, saying, “It was insensitive, it was offensive.”


    Jimmy Kimmel talks to Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La, about health care reform.

    Appearing as Kimmel’s guest, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., urged viewers to call Democratic senators and tell them to engage in the health care debate and to tell Republicans to back legislation lowering premiums and providing adequate coverage.

    “You’re on the right track,” Cassidy told Kimmel. Cassidy added, “Now, we’ve got to be able to pay for it, and that’s the challenge.”

    House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called the GOP bill “a better system” that would lower premiums Tuesday.

    READ MORE: Trump says new GOP health care plan will have lower premiums

    On Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends,” Ryan also defended a House provision allowing insurers to charge older customers five times or more than they charge younger consumers, which has drawn the ire of AARP and other critics. Obama’s law limits that ratio to 3-1, part of its effort to help older people afford coverage

    “That’s the way insurance is priced,” Ryan said of higher premiums for older people. He said as a result of Obama’s shifting of costs away from older people and onto younger ones, “Young people said, ‘I’m not going to do it, I’m just not going to buy the insurance.'”

    Meanwhile, Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, who voted for the health care bill, walked off an interview with a reporter from KCRG in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

    When the reporter asked Monday why Blum was insisting on seeing identification papers of people attending a town hall meeting, Blum said he wanted attendees from his congressional district, adding, “We don’t want people from Chicago there or Des Moines there or Minneapolis there.”

    A visibly upset Blum walked away after the reporter asked if he’d accept campaign donations from outside his district.

    “I’m done,” Blum said. “This is ridiculous. He’s going to sit here and just badger me.”

    Five days after the House narrowly approved a GOP health care bill after months of internal divisions, Senate Democrats used a letter to Republican leaders arguing that the legislation faces “an uncertain path to the president’s desk.”

    Facing solid Democratic opposition and controlling the Senate 52-46, Republicans can lose only two GOP senators’ votes but prevail with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie.

    “If repeal is abandoned, we stand ready to work with you to help all Americans get the affordable health care they need,” said the letter, signed by all 46 Senate Democrats and two independents who side with them.

    Democrats wrote that they’d work with the GOP to reduce premiums and drug costs, stabilize insurance markets, and help small businesses provide health coverage.

    The post Senate GOP weighs future of Medicaid in health care overhaul appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    File photo by Getty Images

    Almost 100 hospitals reported suspicious data on dangerous infections to Medicare officials, but the agency did not follow up or examine any of the cases in depth, according to a report by the Health and Human Services inspector general’s office.

    Most hospitals report how many infections strike patients during treatment, meaning the infections are likely contracted inside the facility. Each year, Medicare is supposed to review up to 200 cases in which hospitals report suspicious infection-tracking results.

    The IG said Medicare should have done an in-depth review of 96 hospitals that submitted “aberrant data patterns” in 2013 and 2014. Such patterns could include a rapid change in results, improbably low infection rates or assertions that infections nearly always struck before patients arrived at the hospital.

    The IG’s study, released Thursday, was designed to address concerns over whether hospitals are “gaming” a system in which it falls to the hospitals to report patient-infection rates and, in turn, the facilities can see a bonus or a penalty worth millions of dollars. The bonuses and penalties are part of Medicare’s Inpatient Quality Reporting program, which is meant to reward hospitals for low infection rates and give consumers access to the information at the agency’s Hospital Compare website.

    The report zeroes in on a persistent concern about deadly infections that patients develop as a result of being in the hospital. A recent British Medical Journal report identified medical errors as the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. Hospital infections particularly threaten senior citizens with weakened immune systems.

    Rigorous review of hospital-reported data is important to protect patients, said Lisa McGiffert, director of the Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project.

    “We require auditing of financial data, but we don’t require auditing of [health care] quality data, and what that implies is that dollars are more important than deaths.”

    “There’s a certain amount of blind faith that the hospitals are going to tell the truth,” McGiffert said. “It’s a bit much to expect that if they have a bad record they’re going to ’fess up to it.”

    Yet there are no uniform standards for reviewing the data that hospitals report, said Dr. Peter Pronovost, senior vice president for patient safety and quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

    “There are greater requirements for what a company says about a washing machine’s performance than there is for a hospital on quality of care, and this needs to change,” Pronovost said. “We require auditing of financial data, but we don’t require auditing of [health care] quality data, and what that implies is that dollars are more important than deaths.”

    In 2015, Medicare and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a joint statement cautioning against efforts to manipulate the infection data. The report said CDC officials heard “anecdotal” reports of hospitals declining to test apparently infected patients — so there would be no infection to report. They also warned against overtesting, which helps hospitals assert that patients came into the hospital with a preexisting infection, thus avoiding a penalty.

    In double-checking hospital-reported data from 2013 and 2014, Medicare reviewed the results from 400 randomly selected hospitals, about 10 percent of the nation’s more than 4,000 hospitals. Officials also examined the data from 49 “targeted” hospitals that had previously underreported infections or had a low score on a prior year’s review.

    All told, only six hospitals failed the review, which included a look at patients’ medical records and tissue sample analyses. Those hospitals were subject to a 0.6 percent reduction in their Medicare payments. Medicare did not specify which six hospitals failed the data review, but it did identify dozens of hospitals that received a pay reduction based on their reports on the quality of care.

    The new IG report recommended that Medicare “make better use of analytics to ensure the integrity of hospital-reported quality data.” A response letter from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma says Medicare concurs with the finding and will “continue to evaluate the use of better analytics … as feasible, based on [Medicare’s] operational capabilities.”

    Questions about truth in reporting hospital infections have percolated for years, as reports have trickled out from states that double-check data.

    In Colorado, one-third of the central-line infections that state reviewers found in 2012 were not reported to the state by hospitals, as required. Central lines are inserted into a patient’s vein to deliver nutrients, fluids or medicine. Two years later, though, reviewers found that only 2 percent of central-line infections were not reported.

    In Connecticut, a 2010 analysis of three months of cases found that hospitals reported about half — 23 out of 48 — of the central-line infections that made patients sick. Reviewers took a second look in 2012 and found improved reporting — about a quarter of the cases were unreported, according to the state public health department.

    New York state officials have a rigorous data-checking system that they described in a report on 2015 infection rates. In 2014, they targeted hospitals that were reporting low rates of infections and urged self-audits that found underreporting rates of nearly 11 percent.

    Not all states double-check the data, though, which Pronovost said underscores the problem with data tracking the quality of health care. He said common oversight standards, like the accounting standards that apply to publicly traded corporations, would make sense in health care, given that patients make life-or-death decisions based on quality ratings assigned to hospitals.

    “You’d think, given the stakes, you’d have more confidence that the data is reliable,” he said.

    KHN’s coverage related to aging & improving care of older adults is supported by The John A. Hartford Foundation.

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

    The post Medicare failed to investigate suspicious infection cases from nearly 100 hospitals appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    DUBUQUE, IA - MAY 08:  Demonstrators protest outside of Dubuque Senior High School before the start of a town hall meeting with Congressman Rod Blum (R-IA) on May 8, 2017 in Dubuque, Iowa. The meeting is the first of four town hall meetings Blum has scheduled in his district this week.  Many of the people at the event were angry with the changes the House of Representatives have made to the Affordable Care Act.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

    Demonstrators protest before the start of a town hall meeting with Congressman Rod Blum, R-Iowa, on May 8, 2017 in Dubuque, Iowa. Many of the people at the event were angry with the changes the House of Representatives have made to the Affordable Care Act. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

    It’s turning into a pattern: House lawmakers return to their districts during their congressional recess for a week or two of constituent outreach, and progressive activists show up to their town halls to protest Republicans’ plans for a health care overhaul.

    The opposition ramped up again during the House recess this week just days after the House GOP passed its health care bill on a 217-213 vote making for yet another round of awkward town halls for House GOP members.

    The vote, without support from a single Democrat, set the stage for a lengthy fight over health care policy that will help define the 2018 midterm elections.

    WATCH: Spicer says there’s no timeline to pass GOP-led health care reform

    Critics on the left are using personal health care stories to protest the bill — including a series of “die-ins” in front of district offices — while organizations like Swing Left are raising money for Democratic candidates in congressional districts represented by Republicans who voted for the bill.

    Money from opponents of the bill is pouring into liberal organizations. Swing Left, the liberal website Daily Kos and the fundraising platform ActBlue raised more than $2 million combined in the 24 hours after the bill passed the House. By Monday, Swing Left alone had raised more than $1.3 million from 30,000 donors.

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

    Ethan Todras Whitehill, the executive director of Swing Left, said the fundraising haul sent a “clear signal to those in both the House and Senate that supporting the [bill] and the Republican agenda comes with a political price.”

    “Thankfully, the overwhelming response we’ve seen from countless Americans ensures that many House Republicans will quickly regret their vote,” Todras-Whitehill said in a statement.

    Some Democratic lawmakers are also getting in on the action. Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., is slated to join a rally in Republican Rep. Martha McSally’s Arizona district on Tuesday protesting her support of the bill.

    Demonstrator lay on the ground during a "die in" protest over the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, outside the offices of Republican congressman Darryl Issa, in Vista, California, U.S., March 21, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake - RTX321PW

    Demonstrators stage a “die in” protest over the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, in Vista, California, on March 21, 2017. Demonstrations around the country have continued in recent days after the House GOP passed its health care bill. Photo by REUTERS/Mike Blake

    While the House vote fulfilled a years-long GOP promise to gut the Affordable Care Act, it could hurt GOP lawmakers in 2018. After the vote, the Cook Political Report upgraded Democrat’s chances in 20 Republican-held House seats.

    Democrats lost 63 House seats in the 2010 midterms, after the party pushed the Affordable Care Act through Congress. The party has struggled to regain seats in the House since then.

    MORE: At congressional town hall meetings, citizens turn up the volume

    During a town hall meeting Monday, Rep. Ron Blum, R-Iowa, faced backlash from his constituents for voting for the House bill. The two-term congressman is a member of the House Freedom Caucus; he represents a district that voted for former President Barack Obama in 2012 but went for President Donald Trump in 2016. Protesters outside a town hall for Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who also voted for the bill, chanted “shame, shame, shame” as she addressed constituents Monday night.

    Time will tell if the recess-week protests have an impact on the health care fight, which now moves to the Senate. But there are some signs that lawmakers are taking notice.

    Several Republican senators have expressed reservations about the House bill. At a town hall in February, a 25-year-old woman told Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., that the Affordable Care Act allows her to access life-saving medical care despite having a preexisting condition.

    After hearing her story, Cotton — part of a group of 13 GOP senators working on the upper chamber’s version of the bill — said he would not support a bill that would allow insurers to discriminate based on pre-existing conditions.

    The post Across the country, activists ramp up fight against GOP health care bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Ghazipur landfill in New Delhi, India stretches across some 70 acres of land. The area has been dubbed “Trash Mountain” because it holds 10 million tons of garbage now piled higher than the city’s skyline. Workers can earn about $1 to $2 a day by picking through the unsorted municipal waste. Take a 360-degree tour of the landfill and find out more about India’s growing garbage problem.

    The post Take a 360 degree stroll through a ‘Trash Mountain’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FBI Director James Comey waits before testifying at a House Intelligence Committee hearing into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts.

    FBI Director James Comey waits before testifying at a House Intelligence Committee hearing into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election
    on March 20 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts.

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey Tuesday, saying it was necessary to restore “public trust and confidence” in the nation’s top law enforcement agency following several tumultuous months.

    “The FBI is one of our nation’s most cherished and respected institutions, and today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement,” Trump said in a statement.

    A copy of President Donald Trump's letter announcing the ouster of FBI Director James Comey.

    A copy of President Donald Trump’s letter announcing the ouster of FBI Director James Comey.

    The White House said the search for a new FBI director was beginning immediately.

    The White House made the stunning announcement shortly after the FBI corrected a sentence in Comey’s sworn testimony on Capitol Hill last week. Comey told lawmakers that Huma Abedin, a top aide to Hillary Clinton, had sent “hundreds and thousands” of emails to her husband’s laptop, including some with classified information.

    On Tuesday, the FBI said in a two-page letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee that only “a small number” of the thousands of emails found on the laptop had been forwarded there while most had simply been backed up from electronic devices. Most of the email chains on the laptop containing classified information were not the result of forwarding, the FBI said.

    Comey, 56, was nominated by President Barack Obama for the FBI post in 2013 to a 10-year term. Praised for his independence and integrity, Comey has spent three decades in law enforcement and has been no stranger to controversy.

    Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein released a two-page memo calling for Comey’s ouster, saying that “the FBI’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage, and it has affected the entire Department of Justice.”

    Page 1 of a letter from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein detailing why the Department of Justice recommended the termination of FBI director James Comey.

    Page 1 of a letter from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein detailing why the Department of Justice recommended the termination of FBI director James Comey.

    WATCH: FBI Director James Comey testifies before Senate Judiciary Committee

    The post President Trump fires FBI Director James Comey appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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