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

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    A woman walks past a map showing the elevation of the sea in the last 22 years during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 11, 2015. Photo by Stephane Mahe/REUTERS

    A woman walks past a map showing the elevation of the sea in the last 22 years during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 11, 2015. Photo by Stephane Mahe/REUTERS

    Science teacher Matthew Fox approached the climate change materials he had received in his school mailbox in the same way he had taught his students to think like scientists — with an objective frame of mind.

    Fox was part of the first wave of 25,000 science teachers in March who received an unsolicited package from the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank, which casts doubt on the role humans play in climate change. The package contains a booklet, ‘Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming,’ a DVD, and a cover letter, which encourages educators to teach their students that a lively debate over climate change continues to take place among scientists.

    “None of my colleagues were fooled. I think we are all very aware of the limitations of what we know now, because it obviously is a relatively new subject,” said Fox, an oceanography and earth science teacher at Troy High School in Fullerton, California. “But what they are proposing in this is just ludicrous.”

    The booklet states that a scientific consensus–the often cited 97 percent of climate scientists who say humans are the primary cause of climate change–does not exist. It also cites multiple climate change studies pointing out their flaws.

    “When someone says there’s no debate and there shouldn’t be a debate, they’re actually denying the scientific method,” said Lennie Jarratt, Heartland’s manager of the Center for Transforming Education. Scientists constantly review and revise their research, he added.

    Reactions to the mailings have been mixed, Jarratt said. “A ton of vitriol of people calling us crazy, and teachers requesting more books so they can give them to other teachers.” The materials continue to be sent out with the goal of reaching 300,000 public and private school science teachers as well as college professors across the country, according to Jarratt.

    Heartland’s efforts to discredit human-made climate change have caught national attention before, including a 2012 billboard featuring ‘Unabomber’ Ted Kaczynkski, with the words “I still believe in global warming, do you?”

    In what he sees as an increasingly “anti-science society,” Evans has one key piece of advice for teachers: “Stay focused on the science.”

    As Fox read through the Heartland booklet, he said it became evident that it contained too much conjecture and that the references were weak.

    Many of the citations link to blogs and Heartland’s own website, according to the National Center of Science Education, a nonprofit organization that monitors political interference in science education. The National Center of Science Education and other science education groups have been vocal about the Heartland packet, saying it is inappropriate for the science classroom, since the information is not backed by scientific evidence.

    “It’s a nefarious act to try to slip this kind of politically motivated attack on science into the science classroom,” said Ann Reid, National Center of Science Education’s executive director. “It is the same old tired arguments suggesting that the climate science is unsettled that they’ve been pushing for a long time.”

    Battle of the states

    Understanding science is fundamentally an education issue, said David Evans, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, who spent 40 years as a scientist before moving into science education.

    With growing political pressure on science teachers, including challenges by state school boards and legislatures to remove science standards on human-made climate change and a presidential administration that has proposed aggressive cuts to environmental protections, teachers — the ones on the front lines — need to know they are supported, Evans said.

    In what he sees as an increasingly “anti-science society,” Evans has one key piece of advice for teachers: “Stay focused on the science.”

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    Evans sent that message directly to teachers on the National Science Teachers Association website, which led to a response by Heartland’s president and CEO Joseph Bast.

    In order to help educators like Fox teach about climate science, new standards — developed in part by the National Science Teachers Association — lay out what students should be expected to know over the course of their K-12 studies.

    The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) which were released in 2013, have been adopted by 18 states and Washington D.C. Approximately 60 percent of science teachers in America use a version of these guidelines, according to Ted Willard, National Science Teachers Association’s program director. Under the new standards, students are meant to think like and perform the work of real scientists in a world that relies increasingly on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education to drive its workforce.

    “When someone says there’s no debate and there shouldn’t be a debate, they’re actually denying the scientific method,” Lennie Jarratt, Heartland Institute

    While standards at the middle school and high school level  specifically discuss human impact on the climate system, Evans said, standards relating to climate science start in elementary school when students study how the oceans and the seasons work.

    The new standards, which involve more analytical thinking and teaching students how to form their own arguments and assemble research, will be a real departure from how he has taught science over the last 10 years, Fox said. While it’s impossible for humans to eliminate their carbon footprint, Fox’s new NGSS-based curriculum will ask students to figure out ways to make it smaller.

    An argument for the ages over an “apocalypse”

    But for now, the political battle over climate science in the classroom seems set to continue.

    As long as students learn that there’s another point of view out there, they can decide which seems more accurate, said Dr. Sterling Burnett, research fellow on environmental policy at Heartland.

    “If people view the presentation objectively, they’ll see that disaster is not nearing apocalypse and we shouldn’t have to forgo modern standards of living to moderately impact the climate 100 years from now,” Burnett said.

    But Reid said such a debate over whether the science is legitimate or not is confusing in a science class since it contradicts the scientific evidence.

    “The point is whether you’re a conservative or a liberal or apolitical, I don’t think anyone wants outside groups trying to influence what’s taught in their children’s science classroom,” Reid said.

    One way to avoid some of the political pressure is to focus on letting students inform themselves, Fox said. By giving them the tools to learn about politics on their own, students can become informed citizens and ready for the workforce, which is ultimately his goal as a teacher.

    The post Anti-climate change booklets are landing in the mailboxes of thousands of teachers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    FILE PHOTO: Migrants on a rubber dinghy await rescue by the Malta-based NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) at dawn in the central Mediterranean in international waters

    Migrants on a rubber dinghy await rescue by the Malta-based NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) at dawn in the central Mediterranean in international waters off the coast of Sabratha in Libya, on April 15, 2017. Photo by Darrin Zammit Lupi/File Photo/Reuters

    Nearly 250 migrants may have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea since Friday, according to a preliminary report from the United Nations.

    If confirmed, the incidents would raise 2017’s death toll for migrant crossings to 1,309 — a number slightly below the 1,380 deaths recorded during the same period last year.

    But far fewer migrations have occurred this year, according to data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Approximately 49,300 refugees have arrived in Europe between January and May 7, 2017, compared to 187,600 for the same time frame a year ago.

    The IOM said favorable weather conditions likely led to thousands of attempted migrant crossings over the weekend. A rubber dinghy sank in the Mediterranean on Friday as it tried to cross a particularly dangerous route from North Africa to Italy. Authorities rescued about 50 people, but another 82 were presumed dead. The IOM also reported that many of those rescued showed signs of torture.

    On Sunday, another boat sank off the coast of Libya, leaving 163 people feared dead. Rescue operations are still underway.

    The vast majority of migrant deaths occur along the route from North Africa to Libya. The International Organization for Migration estimates 1,222 people have died making that voyage this year, compared to 966 over the same period in 2016. Last year, more migrants drowned attempting to reach Greece and Cyprus. Nigerians are the largest nationality of migrants arriving in Italy by sea, followed by Bangladesh, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire and Gambia, according to the International Organization for Migration.

    The EU made a deal with Turkey in 2016 blocking migrant entry into Greece, according to Leonard Doyle, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration.

    “Migrants are making a much riskier journey in notoriously dangerous waters,” Doyle said.

    Doyle added that more Africans are crossing from Libya, and more Syrians want to cross, but the route has been blocked.

    UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has called for action in light of the recent deaths, saying an increasing number of people are boarding unstable rubber boats that are over capacity and lack satellite phones that could be used to call for help.

    “This cannot continue,” Grandi said in a statement. “There is an urgent need to address the root causes which lead people to move, as well as to offer credible alternatives to these dangerous crossings for people in need of international protection, including accessible and safe ways to reach Europe such as family reunification, relocation and resettlement.”

    Officials are transferring the survivors to detention centers where they can receive medical attention.

    “Many migrants need support after having lost loved ones at sea,” IOM spokeswoman Christine Petré said in a statement. “Having not only risked their lives but perhaps spent all their money and belongings on the chance of reaching a better life and then being rescued only to be transferred to a detention centre must be a horrible and emotionally challenging experience.”

    The post Nearly 250 migrants are feared dead after Mediterranean shipwrecks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders addressed President Donald Trump’s dismissal of former FBI director James Comey in a news briefing Wednesday afternoon.

    In that briefing, she said Trump had “lost confidence” in Comey and acted on the advice of the deputy attorney general and others when he decided to fire him on Tuesday.

    Sanders said, “I think it’s been an erosion of confidence” and that there were a lot of “missteps and mistakes” leading up to the decision to let Comey go.

    She also said Trump had considered firing Comey “since the day he was elected president.”

    Watch that briefing in the player above.

    On Tuesday, the White House said the firing was due to Comey’s handling of an investigation into former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s email use. But it came as Comey was also overseeing an investigation into whether Trump campaign associates had ties with Russia, and whether the country influenced the 2016 presidential election, raising criticism from lawmakers who question how the dismissal will affect that investigation.

    READ NEXT: What does Comey’s firing mean for the FBI’s Russia probe?

    Comey’s top deputy Andrew McCabe is now the acting director of the FBI.

    On Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted that Comey “will be replaced by someone who will do a far better job, bringing back the spirit and prestige of the FBI.” He added that Comey had “lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington.”

    PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

    The post WATCH: White House addresses Comey firing in news briefing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Salma Hagag. Credit: KQED Arts

    Salma Hagag, stage name Salma Al Aasal. Credit: KQED Arts

    Salma Hagag, 51, learned to sing in Sudan as a child, before she moved to Egypt and, eventually, the United States. But nobody in her adopted country had heard her voice — until she performed at a sold-out concert in Oakland, California, in March.

    Notes Against the Ban,” performed by the Aswat Ensemble at the Northern California Islamic Culture Center, featured music from the seven countries targeted in President Trump’s initial travel ban. (A revised travel ban is now winding its way through the courts.) The showcase of music from Libya, Yemen, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Iraq was intended to serve as both ambassadorial outreach and a healing salve.

    Hagag plans to perform again with the Arab music ensemble in May.

    Raised amidst political tumult, Hagag is finding a new home in the Bay Area. Using the stage name Salma Al Aasal, she performed in March for a packed crowd, including Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “The seven countries tonight are delivering a peaceful message to the world,” Hagag said. “Here in Oakland, California, people care about human rights and they’ll stand up for your rights.”

    [READ MORE: Read poems from the 7 countries affected by Trump’s immigration ban]

    Hagag left her home country for Egypt in the early 1990s when Sudan was under the grip of military rule and Islamic Sharia law, which forbid women from participating in the public sphere. “If a woman wanted to sing, she would be shamed, beaten, whipped or killed,” she said.

    After joining a band in Egypt, she toured Europe between raising four daughters. But with increasing political instability in Egypt, she sought asylum in the U.S. Hagag was granted citizenship almost three years ago, and her daughters were able to join her last fall. Working at a local Walmart store and separated from her husband, who awaits the outcome of his immigration case from Cairo, she’s now the sole provider for her girls.

    She also struggles with the uncertainty of her family’s future, as the Trump administration defends its revised travel ban in the courts.

    “I’m exhausted,” she says. “But I always say to myself, ‘Salma, tomorrow is going to be better.’”

    As she prepares for another concert performance with Aswat Ensemble on May 13, 2017, at the Skyline College Theatre in San Bruno, California, Hagag says she is grateful to have found a community of artists who embrace her and her music. “Before that,” she says, “it was as if I was truly dead.”

    Below, watch Hagag tell her story:

    This report originally appeared on KQED Arts. Local Beat is an ongoing series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member and public radio stations around the nation.

    The post WATCH: After proposed travel ban, this Sudanese singer found her voice again appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Rutgers University student holds a sign that reads "Education not deportation."

    Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

    Amid vows from the Trump administration to crack down on illegal immigration, some city and state officials are trying to calm immigrants’ fear with legislation to prohibit arrests in courthouses, schools, workplaces and other spots where immigrants gather.

    The legal rationale for the proposals is not always clear. State and local governments may not have the power to keep immigration agents from arresting people in courthouses or on public streets near churches and schools, where some recent arrests have been made.

    What is clear is that fear of deportation is keeping immigrants from sending children to school, showing up for medical appointments, and appearing in court as witnesses or for other reasons.

    The tense situation is, at least in part, an unintended consequence of so-called sanctuary policies, under which cities and counties refuse to hold prisoners for possible deportation. In addition, some sheriffs have questioned the legality of “detainers,” or requests from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold prisoners.

    The increased difficulty of arresting immigrants has driven ICE to make more raids in other places, including courthouses.

    Fear of deportation is keeping immigrants from sending children to school, showing up for medical appointments, and appearing in court as witnesses or for other reasons.

    “Now that many law enforcement agencies no longer honor ICE detainers, these individuals, who often have significant criminal histories, are released onto the street, presenting a potential public safety threat,” said Danielle Bennett, an ICE spokeswoman.

    “If they can’t get them at the jails, they have to go out into homes and public places to find these people,” said Randy Capps, a research director at the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research institution that has recently begun monitoring immigration enforcement. “These communities are under growing pressure.”

    State Rep. Jean Philippe Barros, a Rhode Island Democrat, agreed. “A lot of people are uneasy here,” said Barros, who has co-sponsored a bill that would bar schools, churches, hospitals and courthouses from allowing immigration arrests. The Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee had its first hearing on the bill last week.

    Similar legislation has been proposed this year in California, Illinois and Pennsylvania. One California bill would go a step further and block employers from allowing immigration agents onto work sites.

    At the federal level, U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, an Oregon Democrat, has co-sponsored a bill barring immigration arrests near schools, hospitals and churches, as well as motor vehicle offices, unless terrorism or some other emergency is involved. Democrats in the Senate have proposed a similar measure.

    Officials in Multnomah County, which is partly in Bonamici’s district, say they have heard complaints from schools, health care centers and courthouses that immigrants, including those with legal status, are keeping their children home from school and failing to keep appointments because of rumors that ICE agents are on the streets near schools and hospitals.

    State judges in California, Oregon and Washington have also asked immigration agents to stay out of courts, saying their presence deters immigrants from conducting legitimate business.

    Some states are moving in the other direction, seeking to outlaw any refusal to help federal immigration officials with deportations.

    In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law last week that makes it a misdemeanor for a sheriff or police chief to refuse to help deport unauthorized immigrants. Since February, Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez has refused to hold prisoners on detainers — except for the most egregious crimes — in the county jail in Austin.

    In Florida, a bill that passed the House last month but did not advance in the Senate threatened to withhold state funding and remove elected officials from office for not cooperating with federal deportation efforts.

    ‘Who’s Going to Take Care of the Kids?’

    Some of the state and local measures that have been proposed would bar most immigration arrests in locally controlled schools and courts. That’s in line with an ICE policy, held over from the Obama administration, that discourages raids in what the agency calls “sensitive locations” including churches, hospitals, schools and college campuses, without a supervisor’s approval.

    While there have been no recent reports of immigration agents making arrests in churches or schools, some arrests have been made nearby. In February, a man was arrested after taking his daughter to school in Los Angeles, several men were arrested after leaving a church homeless shelter in Fairfax County, Virginia, and a woman released from ICE custody for hospital treatment in Texas was put back in detention while awaiting surgery, though she was later released.

    In Rhode Island, Barros said people in the small city of Central Falls have sometimes been afraid to go out when they hear that ICE agents are around — whether it’s real news or “radio pasillo,” the grapevine or rumor mill among South American immigrants in the town.

    “The uneasiness comes from the idea that, what if I take my kids to school or a doctor’s appointment and I get arrested? Who’s going to take care of the kids?” Barros said.

    Bennett, the ICE spokeswoman, said the agency’s policy against routine enforcement in sensitive locations remains. But, she said, ICE sometimes makes deportation arrests at courthouses, which are considered relatively safe because visitors are screened for weapons before entering.

    “The uneasiness comes from the idea that, what if I take my kids to school or a doctor’s appointment and I get arrested? Who’s going to take care of the kids?”

    Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law at Cornell Law School, said local laws about sensitive locations, like many sanctuary policies, have little legal weight.

    “They’re largely symbolic. There’s nothing to prevent ICE from waiting on the courthouse steps or in public areas to arrest somebody if they want to,” Yale-Loehr said. Only federal legislation, like that proposed in the House and Senate, could regulate how ICE is allowed to operate, he said.

    Capps agreed. He said ICE isn’t likely to start going into churches and schools, but agents are starting to push the envelope. “I don’t know how any state or locality can stop them from setting up on a public street outside a church or outside a school, watching people drop their kids off,” he said.

    But the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors limited immigration, sees the proposals as “just another attempt to hinder immigration enforcement in any way they can,” according to Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies.

    “When the sanctuaries block ICE from making arrests in jails, then ICE has to find other places,” Vaughan said. “They’re bringing this on themselves.”

    Courthouse Arrests

    Courthouse arrests have alarmed local advocates and politicians as well as state judges.

    In January, county commissioners in Multnomah County, which includes Portland, along with the sheriff, the district attorney and the presiding state judge for the county, issued a statement protesting ICE activity at courthouses.

    “Anything that increases the fear of people accessing our courts is of grave concern,” the officials said. “Courthouses need to be safe locations for people to access justice: whether to contest an eviction, seek a restraining order from abuse, or attend a custody hearing. Now, they may be too afraid to show up.”

    Chief judges in Washington state and California issued similar protests in March. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly responded to the California complaint, saying that sanctuary policies in that state and others “threaten public safety, rather than enhance it” by forcing ICE to make arrests in public places.

    “Courts are not just for criminals,” said Julie Sullivan-Springhetti, a spokeswoman for Multnomah County. Even walk-in legal clinics outside the courthouses have seen fewer clients as a result of fear about ICE, she said, and people with legal immigration status are among those staying away.

    Barros, in Rhode Island, said his bill was based on a similar one in California that would require that schools, libraries and health facilities be “safe and accessible” to all residents, regardless of immigration status.

    Another proposal in California would bar employers from letting immigration agents into work areas without a warrant. An Illinois bill would bar schools, churches and health care sites from letting immigration agents in without a warrant. And a Pennsylvania bill asks the state attorney general to draft policies for schools, health care facilities and courthouses “limiting assistance with immigration enforcement to the fullest extent possible.”

    New York City in March also moved to block immigration enforcement in public schools, and Denver officials in April asked ICE to stay away from schools and courthouses. An ICE official said the department meets regularly with community officials to discuss policy and procedure.

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

    The post Cities, states move to calm fear of deportation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    An artist's representation of the Propeller Health sensor. Photo by Propeller Health

    An artist’s representation of the Propeller Health sensor. Photo by Propeller Health

    Asthma attacks come with little warning and are often triggered by invisible particles in the air. Now, thanks to advances in Bluetooth technology, smartphones have become the newest weapon in the fight against asthma.

    Propeller Health, a Wisconsin-based company, wants to help those with respiratory problems by supplementing medicine with technology. The firm has wired an inhaler with a Bluetooth transmitter to communicate with an asthma patient’s smartphone. This sensor activates when the inhaler is pressed, setting into motion a process that records the exact time and location of a patient’s asthma attack on a smartphone app. Doctors can view this data and see, not only how frequently the patient suffers attacks, but also tease apart the environmental factors that caused the distress.

    “We see firsthand the value of collecting data, and so we see this as being the clear future of health care,” said Chris Hogg, the COO of Propeller Health. “[This technology] helps health care providers prioritize patients. With all the information coming off of the connected devices, [doctors] can really see who should be focused on.”

    Smart inhalers are part of an emerging trend in medical technology known as “connected health.” Major tech firms have introduced ventures like Apple Health, a part of the iOS operating system that groups together biometric data recorded by apps and accessories. Meanwhile, medical equipment firms are installing internet connections on their devices, such as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure sleep machines, glucose meters and blood pressure monitors.

    The Propeller sensor also sets out to manage medication schedules. On average, less than 50 percent of asthma patients take their medicine correctly, said Linda Neuhauser, a professor at University of California, Berkeley who researches asthma treatments.

    Screenshots of the Propeller app. Photo by Propeller Health

    Screenshots of the Propeller app. Photo by Propeller Health

    “The inhaler tells you, and your health care provider, maybe your parent, if you’ve taken your medication today correctly,” Neuhauser continued. “We know that if you take it correctly, you can avoid an attack, going to the emergency department, or being hospitalized.”

    A study conducted by Propeller and Dignity Health, a California hospital system, found that asthma-related hospitalizations dropped from 1.9 to 0 among 330 patients who had attached the sensor to their inhaler during an 11-month period. These participants also experienced 60 percent fewer asthma-related ER visits.

    “There’s a community aspect to collecting data like this. When we have a lot of users in the same town, or same region, we can do a lot to help them,” Hogg said. “We start to see hot spots and trends over time.”

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    One of Propeller’s biggest tests of their system was in Louisville, Kentucky, where they gave 140 asthmatic individuals sensors for their inhaler, and they recorded 5,600 uses over two years. The study found that proximity to railroads and utilities were the two major causes of asthma attacks, but they also found that public common areas, such as schools and places of worship were also full of asthma triggers. After the test, Propeller gave the data to the city,

    “They’re now making policy changes to improve emissions standards and clean the air, Hogg said.

    It’s not cheap though. A standard albuterol inhaler costs $5 to $60, while the Propeller sensor has a unit cost of approximately $300. And while most connected health devices can be easily purchased online, the Propeller sensor is only available through a handful of health plans and sponsors. It is typically prescribed by a doctor.

    Air quality monitors are another technological tool in the fight against asthma. One brand, Speck, has been used to research the causes of asthma attacks in the home.

    “The Speck monitor measures indoor air quality, and this is the first time that parents, and older children, have had an opportunity to get feedback about the air quality inside their homes,” Neuhauser said. “Otherwise you just do what you think is good, and you just hope you’re reducing the allergens and irritants that might trigger asthma.”

    Special correspondent Cat Wise reports on a California program that tries to keep asthmatic kids healthy in the place where they spend most of their time: at home.

    The post Asthma patients breathe easier with new bluetooth inhalers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

    New research argues predictive policing tools reinforce, rather than reimagine, existing police practices, which could lead to further targeting of communities or people of color. Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

    In early 2017, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a new initiative in the city’s ongoing battle with violent crime. The most common solutions to this sort of problem involve hiring more police officers or working more closely with community members. But Emanuel declared that the Chicago Police Department would expand its use of software, enabling what is called “predictive policing,” particularly in neighborhoods on the city’s south side.

    The Chicago police will use data and computer analysis to identify neighborhoods that are more likely to experience violent crime, assigning additional police patrols in those areas. In addition, the software will identify individual people who are expected to become – but have yet to be – victims or perpetrators of violent crimes. Officers may even be assigned to visit those people to warn them against committing a violent crime.

    Any attempt to curb the alarming rate of homicides in Chicago is laudable. But the city’s new effort seems to ignore evidence, including recent research from members of our policing study team at the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, that predictive policing tools reinforce, rather than reimagine, existing police practices. Their expanded use could lead to further targeting of communities or people of color.

    Working with available data
    At its core, any predictive model or algorithm is a combination of data and a statistical process that seeks to identify patterns in the numbers. This can include looking at police data in hopes of learning about crime trends or recidivism. But a useful outcome depends not only on good mathematical analysis: It also needs good data. That’s where predictive policing often falls short.

    Machine-learning algorithms learn to make predictions by analyzing patterns in an initial training data set and then look for similar patterns in new data as they come in. If they learn the wrong signals from the data, the subsequent analysis will be lacking.

    This happened with a Google initiative called “Flu Trends,” which was launched in 2008 in hopes of using information about people’s online searches to spot disease outbreaks. Google’s systems would monitor users’ searches and identify locations where many people were researching various flu symptoms. In those places, the program would alert public health authorities that more people were about to come down with the flu.

    But the project failed to account for the potential for periodic changes in Google’s own search algorithm. In an early 2012 update, Google modified its search tool to suggest a diagnosis when users searched for terms like “cough” or “fever.” On its own, this change increased the number of searches for flu-related terms. But Google Flu Trends interpreted the data as predicting a flu outbreak twice as big as federal public health officials expected and far larger than what actually happened.

    Criminal justice data are biased

    Neighborhoods with lots of police calls aren’t necessarily the same places the most crime is happening. They are, rather, where the most police attention is – though where that attention focuses can often be biased by gender and racial factors.

    The failure of the Google Flu Trends system was a result of one kind of flawed data – information biased by factors other than what was being measured. It’s much harder to identify bias in criminal justice prediction models. In part, this is because police data aren’t collected uniformly, and in part it’s because what data police track reflect longstanding institutional biases along income, race and gender lines.

    While police data often are described as representing “crime,” that’s not quite accurate. Crime itself is a largely hidden social phenomenon that happens anywhere a person violates a law. What are called “crime data” usually tabulate specific events that aren’t necessarily lawbreaking – like a 911 call – or that are influenced by existing police priorities, like arrests of people suspected of particular types of crime, or reports of incidents seen when patrolling a particular neighborhood.

    Neighborhoods with lots of police calls aren’t necessarily the same places the most crime is happening. They are, rather, where the most police attention is – though where that attention focuses can often be biased by gender and racial factors.

    It’s not possible to remove the bias

    Some researchers have argued that machine learning algorithms can address systemic biases by designing “neutral” models that don’t take into account sensitive variables like race or gender. But while it may seem possible in hypothetical situations, it doesn’t appear to be the case in real life.

    Our recent study, by Human Rights Data Analysis Group’s Kristian Lum and William Isaac, found that predictive policing vendor PredPol’s purportedly race-neutral algorithm targeted black neighborhoods at roughly twice the rate of white neighborhoods when trained on historical drug crime data from Oakland, California. We found similar results when analyzing the data by income group, with low-income communities targeted at disproportionately higher rates compared to high-income neighborhoods.

    But estimates – created from public health surveys and population models – suggest illicit drug use in Oakland is roughly equal across racial and income groups. If the algorithm were truly race-neutral, it would spread drug-fighting police attention evenly across the city.

    Similar evidence of racial bias was found by ProPublica’s investigative reporters when they looked at COMPAS, an algorithm predicting a person’s risk of committing a crime, used in bail and sentencing decisions in Broward County, Florida, and elsewhere around the country. These systems learn only what they are presented with; if those data are biased, their learning can’t help but be biased too.

    Fixing this problem is not a matter of just doing more advanced mathematical or statistical calculations. Rather, it will require rethinking how police agencies collect and analyze data, and how they train their staff to use data on the job.

    Understanding the biases to improve the data
    Using predictive analytics in the real world is challenging, particularly when trying to craft government policies to minimize harm to vulnerable populations. We do not believe that police departments should stop using analytics or data-driven approaches to reducing crime. Rather, police should work to understand the biases and limitations inherent in their data.

    In our view, police departments – and all agencies that use predictive algorithms – should make their systems transparent to public scrutiny. This should start with community members and police departments discussing policing priorities and measures of police performance. That way any software the police use can be programmed to reflect the community’s values and concerns.

    Ensuring transparency

    It is not enough to claim or assume an algorithm is unbiased just because it is computerized and uses data: A lack of bias must be proven by evaluating the algorithm’s performance itself. Police agencies should get independent experts or human rights groups to perform regular audits of the algorithms and the data they process. Much like the annual financial reviews large companies do, these examinations can ensure the input data are valid and are analyzed properly to avoid discrimination. If a company wants to claim its algorithm is proprietary and should be kept secret, it should still be required to offer robust testing environments so outside experts can examine its performance.

    Further, police departments that use algorithms to make predictions about individuals, like Chicago’s Strategic Subject List does, should have policies similar to a new European Union regulation requiring human-understandable explanations of computer algorithms’ decisions. And no agency or company should be allowed to discriminate against people who have been identified by predictive policing.

    Used correctly, predictive policing can be used to address the complex factors underlying crime trends. For example, rather than stepping up patrols, Toronto and other cities in Canada are using predictive modeling to connect residents to local social services. By improving the quality of data cities collect, and analyzing the information with more transparent and inclusive processes, cities can build safer communities, rather than cracking down harder on areas that are already struggling.

    William Isaac is a statistical consultant for the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG). The Human Rights Data Analysis Group is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that produces rigorous, scientific analyses of human rights violations around the world. As a non-profit project, HRDAG is primarily funded by private donors (please see our funding page for more information: https://hrdag.org/funding/).

    Andi Dixon is a policy analyst for the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG). The Human Rights Data Analysis Group is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that produces rigorous, scientific analyses of human rights violations around the world. As a non-profit project, HRDAG is primarily funded by private donors (please see our funding page for more information: https://hrdag.org/funding/).

    The Conversation

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

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    The same day President Donald Trump was meeting with Russia’s foreign minister at the White House — and less than a day after firing former FBI director James Comey — the press pool captured Trump posing in the Oval Office with Henry Kissinger.

    According to the pool report, journalists had expected to find Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the president’s side, but instead was invited to an unannounced meeting with Kissinger, who served as secretary of state under Richard Nixon.

    Trump said he had met with Kissinger to talk “about Russia and various other matters.”

    When asked why he fired Comey, Trump said, “He wasn’t doing a good job. Very simply. He was not doing a good job.” This was the president’s first in-person response regarding his decision. He had tweeted initial thoughts Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

    The president was then asked whether the firing affected today’s meeting with Russian officials.

    “Not at all,” he said.

    Trump added that Kissinger has “been a friend of mine for a long time.” Shortly after winning the 2016 presidential election, Trump met Kissinger in New York to discuss “events and issues around the world.”

    The press had not been permitted to witness the meeting with Lavrov, which was documented in handout photos provided by the Russian government. Seen in the photos are Trump with Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

    The White House reportedly pushed back on concerns about press access to the meeting, with a White House official saying that “our official photographer and their official photographer were present, that’s it.”

    A day after Trump fired Comey, a slew of details began to emerge as journalists and politicians filled in the gaps of what was an abrupt — and rare — removal of an FBI director.

    There were reports of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer hiding behind bushes for a spell to avoid questions about the ouster. When Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was asked about Comey, he said, “Was he fired? … You’re kidding.

    A CBS reporter caught Russian President Vladimir Putin at a hockey game in Sochi to ask for his reaction and whether Tuesday’s firing would affect the relationship between the two countries.

    “There will be no effect,” Putin said, with a translator at his side. “Your question looks very funny for me. Don’t be angry with me. We have nothing to do with that.”

    “President Trump is acting in accordance with his competence, in accordance with his law and Constitution,” he added. The Russian president then said he was going to now “play hockey with the hockey fans.”

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    FBI Director James Comey testifies before the House Intelligence Committee hearing into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, in Washington, D.C. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    Ousted FBI Director James Comey. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    The Senate intelligence committee has asked ousted FBI Director James Comey to appear before the committee next week.

    It is the first time Comey has been asked to appear before Congress as a private citizen since he was fired by President Donald Trump on Tuesday.

    Rebecca Watkins, a spokeswoman for the committee, said Wednesday that Comey has been invited to meet in a closed session next Tuesday.

    Comey had been slated to appear before the committee later this week to discuss ongoing threats to U.S. security. But the committee says acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe will stand in for Comey at Thursday’s hearing. Several high-ranking intelligence officials will join McCabe at that open hearing.

    READ MORE: White House addresses Comey firing in news briefing

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    Speaker of the House Paul Ryan walks from the House Chamber after the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill on Thursday to repeal major parts of Obamacare and replace it with a Republican healthcare plan in Washington, U.S., May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTS157JJ

    Speaker of the House Paul Ryan walks from the House Chamber after the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill on Thursday to repeal major parts of Obamacare and replace it with a Republican health care plan in Washington, on May 4, 2017. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

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

    Republican efforts to replace Obamacare are delivering many teachable moments, along with a big bucket of stress inflicted on people fearful of losing their health insurance. Will it dawn on GOP House members and President Trump that Americans want guaranteed access to health insurance and do not want to return to the days when they could be denied insurance due to preexisting conditions?

    One of these teachable moments, yet to be realized, is in plain sight every day in Medicare. It involves the very nature of insurance itself, the fundamentals of which seem to have escaped many critics of Obamacare.

    READ MORE: The 10 ‘essential’ benefits that could be eliminated under the GOP health care plan

    In order to have an insurance market for anything, there must be a pool of insured people. It is called a risk pool, and you may have seen this phrase tossed about during the Obamacare repeal soap opera. Within any risk pool, the premiums paid by people who do not wind up needing to use the insurance will be used to help pay the claims made by people who do.

    If insurers can identify high-risk people in a risk pool, they may charge them more money. This reduces burdens on other people in the pool and can work if the added payments are affordable to the high-risk folks. Insurers are sensitive to this, because if high-risk payments were too steep, many people would skip insurance if they could.

    Regardless of what the bill or its supporters say, there’s just no escaping the reality that healthy people wind up paying for the care of sick people. This is how insurance works.

    High-risk pools have been a big deal in the Obamacare repeal debate. To hold down premiums for healthier people, the Republicans have proposed creating and funding such a pool. At first blush, shifting premiums from individuals to government is a really, really strange thing for fiscally conservative folks to do.

    The GOP has come to terms with this in part by proposing to fund this pool with only a small percentage of the many billions of dollars needed by a successful high-risk pool for health care. If this proposal comes to pass, insurers would be forced to raise rates for people in the pool so much that coverage would be unaffordable.

    On paper, perhaps, Republicans could say that people had access to coverage, but chose not to buy it. The reality is that people would be denied health insurance, because it was too expensive. And the more dramatic part of this reality is that people would die, or die sooner, because they could not afford health care.

    READ MORE: Senate GOP weighs future of Medicaid in health care overhaul

    Regardless of what the bill or its supporters say, there’s just no escaping the reality that healthy people wind up paying for the care of sick people. This is how insurance works. Yet time and time again in recent months, we have seen Obamacare opponents object to the notion that healthy people should bear this burden.

    This principle can be hard to see through the fog of other health care issues, so let’s use the very clear example of home insurance. Nearly everyone has home insurance, either because they’re prudent or more likely because their mortgage lender insists on it. And because the risk pool of people with home insurance is so large, the premiums that everyone in the pool must pay to insure their home is relatively modest. (There is the matter of whether home insurers make too much money on this business, and while this always is a valid concern, it does not affect the basic function of this insurance market.)

    Last year, my neighbor’s house was nearly destroyed when a huge, 175-year-old oak tree was blown into the front of their home during a violent storm. My home suffered only modest damage; I didn’t even have reason to file an insurance claim.

    If you are seeking a quick death, get in front of a crowd of Medicare enrollees and tell them they are welfare cheats.

    I was grateful that I dodged a bullet. I was sad to see the damage done to my neighbor’s home, and the impact on their lives as they began the multi-year stresses of dealing with insurance companies and home contractors in their efforts to rebuild their home.

    My home insurance premiums did not go up, even though many homes in our neighborhood suffered storm damage. That’s because of that very large risk pool for home insurance. And while no amount of money can compensate my neighbors for their loss and rebuilding efforts, there at least was money available to fund their insurance claim. The insurance market worked just as it had been designed to do.

    What I did not do, by the way, was complain that my “healthy” home had to pay for their “sick” home. How silly would that be, right? Yet this is exactly what many Obamacare opponents are doing when it comes to their motives for wanting to replace its provisions.

    You can see this time and time again. Last week, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel shared the story of how his newborn son required open heart surgery. He tearfully noted how wrong it would be to force parents to watch a child die, because they did not have the money or could not afford health insurance.

    It was no more Kimmel’s fault that his son needed care than it was that the front of our neighbor’s home was obliterated by an oak tree (by the way, they had an arborist who regularly thinned the tree and inspected it for signs of vulnerability).

    However, many Obamacare opponents directly say or imply that it is a sick person’s fault that they require care, and that it’s not the job of government to support a health insurance system to pay for such care.

    This is just wrong.

    If there is a clear example where health insurance functions like home insurance, it would be in Medicare. The government doesn’t require that older Americans get Medicare, but it does use a big stick to encourage enrollment by applying lifetime premium surcharges for late enrollment. In most cases, of course, older Americans are grateful they can get Medicare. As a result, there is a big, big risk pool for Medicare.

    While critics may complain that the government spends too much money subsidizing Medicare expenses, enrollees themselves are often financially strapped and challenged to afford ever-rising Medicare premiums. If you are seeking a quick death, get in front of a crowd of Medicare enrollees and tell them they are welfare cheats.

    There are a lot worse ideas than a “Medicare for all” insurance system. If you want to see some of them, check out the Republicans’ health care proposals.

    Grousing aside, Medicare premiums are kept affordable because there is such a large risk pool of enrollees. As with home insurance, healthy enrollees help pay for the health needs of sick enrollees.

    There is a regular flow of stories and research reports noting that the small percentage of Medicare beneficiaries with chronic health problems is responsible for a large percentage of overall program expenses. Why this should surprise anyone is beyond me. It’s the way a functioning insurance market is supposed to work.

    There are a lot worse ideas than a “Medicare for all” insurance system. If you want to see some of them, check out the Republicans’ health care proposals.

    The post Column: What Medicare can teach the GOP about this basic rule of insurance appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Courtesy Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation

    Courtesy Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington

    The fruits of so-called “free enterprise” have long been debated in economics. The goal has been “wealth” or “human welfare” at least since Adam Smith published “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations” in 1776. But what exactly is human welfare? And how do we measure wealth?

    The obvious way: money. Simply measure how much money a society or individual earns or possesses, because money is so damn simple to count. But various economists have rejected simple as simplistic. Do we not care about values other than money? Education, say? Freedom? Health?

    Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen, for example, has long proposed we instead use a “human development index” that includes variables beyond monetary wealth.

    And in using money as your key metric, you miss the side effects of becoming a latter day Uncle Scrooge, swimming in coin.

    Consider the potentially corrosive effects of money on a fellow like Scrooge — there’s experimental evidence that “rich people are more likely to break the law while driving, help themselves to candy meant for children, cheat in a game of chance” or lie, as demonstrated in a Making Sen$e story we did a few years ago. Or more broadly and starkly, imagine that a town becomes “rich” by building a chemical plant, but pollution from the plant poisons its citizens for decades to come.

    The most dramatic finding is that U.S. counties vary in life expectancy by as much as 20 years.

    There is, however, one measure that seems relatively unobjectionable: life expectancy at birth. Leaving aside the thorny issue of life extension for its own sake, what is more desirable than more life?

    Which brings us to the extraordinary new interactive map from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation — a county by county report on life expectancy in the United States as it has developed from 1980 to 2014.

    The most dramatic finding is that U.S. counties vary in life expectancy by as much as 20 years. At the bottom: Oglala Lakota County, in South Dakota. The area, which includes the Pine Ridge Native American reservation, has a 2014 life expectancy of 66.8 years — lower than the average of 67.2 in Sudan.

    At the top, a group of ski valley counties in central Colorado like Summit, where the life expectancy is 86.8 years — two years higher than any country on earth. (Aspen residents need not feel jealous; their Pitkin County has an average life expectancy of 86.5 years.)

    We asked the chief researcher behind the project, Ali Mokdad, what most surprised him.

    “… in many places in this country, life expectancy is stagnant, only slightly improving, and it’s not keeping up with other Western countries we’re competitive with.”

    First, he said: “the disparity is increasing between the lowest and the highest.” And second: “in many places in this country, life expectancy is stagnant, only slightly improving, and it’s not keeping up with other Western countries we’re competitive with.”

    As to why Oglala Lakota County in South Dakota is at the very bottom of the life expectancy, Mokdad has a predictable answer.

    “Socioeconomic factors: education and income. An educated woman is more likely to seek health care or have access to health care and insurance,”

    For newborn babies, human touch may be a brain booster. Photo by Sally Anscombe/via Getty Images

    In the U.S., life expectancies can very by as much as 20 years depending on county. Photo by Sally Anscombe/via Getty Images

    For the Colorado counties where life expectancy is higher than any country in the world, “it’s the reverse. They tend to be affluent, have health insurance, access to good health centers. If you click on the obesity visualization, you’ll see that obesity is very low.”

    So what, in the end, are the key factors influencing life expectancy?

    The opioid pandemic is certainly one of them, Mokdad says, but 74 percent of the difference between counties hinges on four lifestyle choices that are, in his words, “preventable”: blood pressure, obesity, smoking and physical inactivity.

    Where does your county rank? Take a look at the interactive map to find out.

    The post How does where you live affect your life expectancy? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    American soprano Renee Fleming poses after receiving the Polar Music Prize from Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf at a gala ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall August 26, 2008. REUTERS/Mats Andersson/Scanpix (SWEDEN) NO COMMERCIAL SALE. SWEDEN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SWEDEN. - RTR21PX9

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, a little change of pace.

    Opera lovers let out a collective gasp recently when a New York Times profile of renowned soprano Renee Fleming suggested her current engagement at the Metropolitan Opera would mark the end of her storied career.

    But hold on. As she recently told Jeffrey Brown at the Met, there’s plenty of singing and much more to be done.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It is perhaps Renee Fleming’s most renowned role, the Marschallin, a beautiful, but aging noblewoman who loves and loses a much younger man in Richard Strauss opera “Der Rosenkavalier.”

    RENEE FLEMING, Opera Singer, “Der Rosenkavalier”: This has been my home since 1992.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s a pretty good place to make your home.

    RENEE FLEMING: People ask me — well, when people said, where do you like to sing the most, I always said the Met, because it was my home.

    JEFFREY BROWN: This may be the last time Renee Fleming sings this opera, after some 70 performances over more than two decades.

    But let’s make one thing clear: This diva is not departing.

    RENEE FLEMING: No, no, no, no. That’s a very exciting headline, and certainly I’m saying goodbye to the Marschallin and “Der Rosenkavalier” and to the bulk of the repertoire that I have sung at the Met. So that’s already a sad farewell, and a timely one.

    But it doesn’t really change my schedule very much. I’m in great voice. I’m a lifelong, gregarious experiencer of new things.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now 58 and the mother of two adult daughters, Fleming will continue to perform in concerts on stages around the world. And she’s eager to work with composers writing new works, including one by Kevin Puts with words drawn from letters of artists Georgia O’Keeffe.

    She’s even stepping onto a new stage this fall, making her Broadway musical debut in “Carousel,” which she sang for President Obama’s first inauguration.

    But she’s also taken on new off-stage roles, including as creative consultant to the Lyric Opera of Chicago and to Polyphony, a group bringing together Jewish and Arab children in Israel through music.

    And she’s participating in a project with the National Institutes of Health and the Kennedy Center to study the influence of music on the brain.

    RENEE FLEMING: When you start out, the ambition is powerful, and it’s a driving force, and you have a lot to accomplish to get there, just to get to the top.

    And, at this point, I think it’s a really wonderful place to begin to think about, OK, what do I want to do now? How do I want to spend my time?

    JEFFREY BROWN: The daughter of two music teachers in Rochester, New York, Fleming first gained attention in the late 1980s, and then widespread fame in the ’90s, performing a variety of roles in leading opera houses around the world.

    She also became the rare classical singer to crossover into popular culture, singing David Letterman’s Top 10 list, performing the national anthem at Super Bowl XLVIII, and, of course, serving as host for PBS’ “Great Performances.”

    RENEE FLEMING: Welcome to our premiere performance.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Age, she told me, does bring changes. One is the dearth of roles for her voice in the opera repertoire.

    RENEE FLEMING: I’m a lyric soprano. They’re young women. They’re sort of between the ages of 17 and 25. And so even if my voice can still sing these roles really well, which some of them I can still sing, it’s sort of, it doesn’t really make sense in the day of HD broadcasts, in the day of people really expecting a visual experience as well.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What happens to your voice as you get older?

    RENEE FLEMING: You don’t have the resilience, the physical resilience. So, if I sing a big performance, I don’t want to do it again the next day.

    It’s like we are the weight lifters of singers, and so that’s…

    JEFFREY BROWN: The weight lifters means?

    RENEE FLEMING: We are, because it’s power singing.

    Imagine, 4,000 seats, an orchestra and a chorus, and we have to be heard over that, no amplification. When you’re young, you can keep doing it and doing it and doing it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, part of it is just the sheer physicality of …

    RENEE FLEMING: Absolutely, the power. Exactly.

    JEFFREY BROWN: She’s experimented with different kinds of music, making a rock album, “Dark Hope.” And she’s curated festivals celebrating the diversity of American voices.

    RENEE FLEMING: I am a fanatical singer. I love anything about singing.

    So, “American Voices” was to bring together all these different genre and show what we have in common and how we’re different, and also to share amongst each other what the issues were in our own — for the business, you know. What do we need? How are we being supported?

    They gave this costume to me, actually. I love it. It’s beautiful, and also suggests the authority and power that the Marschallin has as a royal.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So many projects, so much presence. So, it was striking to hear, as she showed me costumes from “Der Rosenkavalier,” how several bouts with stage fright almost derailed her career.

    RENEE FLEMING: That same voice that drives you to achieve and to get better is also sometimes telling you, you’re not good enough.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Those kind of doubts.

    RENEE FLEMING: If you don’t feel that you can do it, or you feel that people are judging you too harshly, it can quickly spiral into a situation where you don’t want to be on stage at all.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And now, when I watch you, you don’t feel that anymore, do you?

    RENEE FLEMING: I love it. I love it. I love it, because getting through that the last time, I just said, no, I am grateful to be here.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Now Renee Fleming says she wants to use her celebrity to impart lessons she’s learned, including the value of the arts for all Americans.

    As we looked at portraits of some of the Met’s greatest stars, including Fleming herself, she showed me a photo a fan had given her of the would-be diva in a seventh grade theater production.

    RENEE FLEMING: And this was my first musical. This was Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady.”

    JEFFREY BROWN: Do you remember that girl?

    RENEE FLEMING: Yes, yes, and partly because she looks so much like one of my daughters. That’s a bit — sort of a shock.

    It’s interesting, because I can see the shyness there and that need to sort of somehow get out of myself. And I think performance was a way of doing that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: One last performance in this role, with many more to come.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Jeffrey Brown at the Metropolitan Opera.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And she’s amazing.

    And coming soon for Renee Fleming, she will be the singing voice of actress Julianne Moore in a film version of the novel “Bel Canto.”

    The post Saying farewell to some opera roles, Renée Fleming has career high notes ahead of her appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news — and there was other news — South Korea’s new liberal President, Moon Jae-in, took the oath of office today in Seoul. The country’s election commission officially certified Moon’s victory, after he received more than 40 percent of the vote. His predecessor, Park Geun-hye, was ousted in a corruption scandal.

    After Moon was sworn into office, he vowed to unite the country and negotiate peace with other nations.

    PRESIDENT MOON JAE-IN, South Korea (through interpreter): I will urgently try to solve the security crisis. I will be always on the move for peace in the Korean Peninsula. If necessary, I will fly straight to Washington. I will go to Beijing and Tokyo, and, if the conditions allow, to Pyongyang as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Moon’s nominee to head the national intelligence service said that the new leader will only visit Pyongyang when — quote — “The North Korean nuclear problem begins to settle.”

    In Syria, Kurdish fighters welcomed the Trump administration’s decision to arm them with heavier weapons. They said it will legitimize their fight to recapture Raqqa from the Islamic State.

    But the move drew swift condemnation from Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He insists that the Kurdish forces are aligned with rebels battling his own government, and he warned that the arms decision could end up backfiring.

    PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkey (through interpreter): The fight against the terrorist organization Islamic State shouldn’t be carried out with another terrorist organization. This kind of step would endanger the future of Syria and the region. We want to believe that our allies will prefer to side with us, not with a terrorist organization.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS said that the U.S. could start distributing arms and equipment to Kurdish fighters very quickly, and under close monitoring.

    President Trump suffered a surprise blow in his effort to repeal an Obama-era rule restricting methane emissions in the U.S. Senate today. In a 51-49 vote, three Republican senators joined Democrats to support preserving the regulation, John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. The rule limits methane leaks from oil and gas drilling on federal lands.

    A journalist in West Virginia has been arrested for repeatedly asking Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price about Congress’ Obamacare replacement bill. Daniel Heyman, who is a reporter for Public News Service, was taken into custody last night. He was accused of causing a disturbance at the state’s capitol by shouting questions at Price and at White House adviser Kellyanne Conway.

    DANIEL HEYMAN, Public News Service: What I did was, I was holding the phone out like this. And I was trying to get as close to Secretary Price as possible, for obvious reasons. And that was all there was to it. And I was yelling out questions. And that was it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The criminal complaint alleges that Heyman aggressively breached Secret Service agents. He was later released on $5,000 bond.

    The U.S. secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, was booed today as she gave a commencement speech at Bethune-Cookman University in Florida. Students and alumni of the historically black college objected to her being the keynote speaker, after she said such institutions are pioneers of school choice.

    The graduates jeered and turned their backs in protest, while DeVos sought to assure them the Trump administration supports historically black colleges and universities, also known as HBCUs.

    BETSY DEVOS, U.S. Education Secretary: While we will undoubtedly disagree at times, I hope we can do so respectfully. Let’s choose to hear one another out. I want to reaffirm this administration’s commitment to and support for HBCUs and the students they serve.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Petitions bearing some 60,000 signatures were delivered to school officials Tuesday demanding that DeVos’ invitation be rescinded.

    And on Wall Street today, stocks managed to mostly shrug off news of the FBI director’s abrupt firing. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 32 points to close at 20943. The Nasdaq rose eight points, to post a record close, and the S&P 500 added nearly three.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Late today, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence announced that they have issued a subpoena for former National Security Adviser General Michael Flynn. It requests documents related to Russian interference with the 2016 election.

    The Senate’s is just one of many sprawling investigations into Russia’s meddling.

    And William Brangham is back with that.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: As Judy said, it’s not just the FBI that’s looking into Russia’s role in the election. As we heard, there are investigations under way in the Intelligence Committees in both the House and the Senate.

    So, where do these various investigations stand? And what will James Comey’s firing mean going forward?

    To explore these questions, I’m joined now by Washington Post national security reporter Adam Entous.

    Adam, welcome to the NewsHour.

    ADAM ENTOUS, The Washington Post: Great to be here.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I really want to talk to you about what this means from this point into the future. And, as we mentioned, there’s House and Senate committees looking into this same Russia investigation.

    Where do those stand, in light of Comey’s firing?

    ADAM ENTOUS: Right.

    Well, I think, at this point, we don’t really know. I mean, those investigations have been sort of mixed, in the sense of, you know, it’s unclear how far they have gotten. They have received some cooperation from the intelligence agencies in terms of providing them with documents.

    But they have been waiting for other documents, very sensitive documents, which they were negotiating to get access to with Comey at the time that he was fired. So, the question is, you know, depending on the — you know, is the acting FBI director, is the future FBI director, are they going to be as cooperative as apparently Comey had been with these committees in terms of sharing documents that they would need in order to try to reach a judgment as to what occurred?

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I mean, broadly speak, what are these two different committees trying to uncover?

    ADAM ENTOUS: Well, I mean, basically, the top line is that they’re looking at, what did Russia do in 2016 in terms of interfering in the election?

    You know, they’re also looking into whether or not, much like the FBI, there was any associates of Donald Trump during the campaign who were in contact with and may be potentially collaborating or cooperating, working together with the Russians.

    And that’s something that they’re also going to be looking into. Particularly on the House side, but also on the Senate side, on the Republican side of the aisle, the focus is on exploring the leaks. They really want to get to the bottom of, you know, where is this information that’s come out in the press that led to the firing of Flynn, that led to, you know, different things happening to, you know, different people who have come out?

    And that’s something that the Republicans seem to be most focused on.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Let’s say we do get a new FBI director sometime soon. How much does that person’s role and their actions dictate how these House and Senate committees do their work?

    ADAM ENTOUS: Well, certainly, if the new director is somebody who wants to help the senators and the congressmen pursue their investigations, they can lean forward in terms of cooperating with them, in terms of sharing some of the intelligence that they have collected. That would, obviously, be a huge benefit to these investigations.

    On the other hand, if this next FBI director is somebody that is, you know, maybe under pressure from the White House not to be as cooperative, then you might have a situation where they’re withholding these documents. And then the question is, how hard are these Republican-controlled committees going to push to get the documents?

    Are they going to threaten to hold up, you know, support for things that the intelligence agencies want to do until they get the documents? That’s something that I don’t know what the answers are at this point, and I don’t think anybody does. And it depends, largely, on who is chosen to take over this role at the FBI.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I mean, obviously, that person on day one that they’re in the new job, day one means now we start investigating the boss.

    I mean, how on earth does an FBI director insulate themselves from that kind of obvious conflict?

    ADAM ENTOUS: Yes, that’s a great question. And I don’t have an answer to it.

    It’s obviously a very difficult position that that person will be in. You know, what kind of pressure will be on that person from day one to try to downplay this investigation?

    And, you know, I do want to say, you know, that the person in charge of the FBI is going to have a tremendous amount of say over how aggressively this case is pursued. Even though we are dealing here with career professionals, in terms of resource allocation, personnel devoted to the investigation, these are the kinds of things where the FBI director would have tremendous power.

    And so this really is a critical moment, I think, where, you know, contrary to, I think, some of the earlier guests on the show, I do think the investigation is potentially in jeopardy, depending on how the new FBI director decides to pursue this investigation.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Adam Entous of The Washington Post, thank you so much.

    ADAM ENTOUS: Thank you.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, for now, two different perspectives on Mr. Trump’s controversial decision and what this means for the president’s relationship with the FBI.

    We are joined by Benjamin Wittes. He’s the editor in chief of the Brookings Institution’s Lawfare blog. And George Terwilliger, he served as deputy attorney general under President George H.W. Bush.

    And we thank both of you for joining us tonight.

    I’m going to start with you, Benjamin Wittes.

    You know Director Comey very well. What do you make of the rationale that the White House is giving, the president fired him because of the way he mishandled, they say, the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation?

    BENJAMIN WITTES, Brookings Institution: Well, the sudden White House concern for Hillary Clinton’s — fairness to Hillary Clinton is a remarkable turn of events.

    I mean, in the time in which Jim Comey did the things for which he has now been removed, the only complaint on the part of Donald Trump was that he had not indicted or called — or recommended that Hillary Clinton be indicted.

    The White House actually — Trump actually praised some of the very decisions that now form the basis for Comey’s removal. So, it’s actually a completely implausible set of rationales. Even if some people in the Justice Department may believe it sincerely, it’s very hard to believe that that’s what’s actually motivating Donald Trump.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: George Terwilliger, an implausible set of rationales?

    GEORGE TERWILLIGER, Former U.S. Deputy Attorney General: No, not at all, Judy.

    I think, clearly, what’s happened here, if we take Mr. Rosenstein at his word…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Deputy attorney general.

    GEORGE TERWILLIGER: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — is that the Justice Department leadership, he and the attorney general, lost confidence in Jim Comey’s ability to lead the bureau in a manner that would suit that important role and was needed in order to be an integral part of the Justice leadership team.

    The reference back to what happened last July and progressed from there to the surprise in October about the new e-mails, I think, is just the history that inevitably led to where this ended up. And, in essence, I mean, Jim’s a fine man and a dedicated public servant and a very patriotic American.

    But I think the judgment was made at the end of the day that he used some extremely poor judgment beginning in that July instance and continuing through the rest of this saga. And that did cause a loss of confidence.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you respond to that, Benjamin Wittes?

    BENJAMIN WITTES: So, I think, you know, if all of that were the basis for his removal, it would have happened weeks or months ago.

    Every single thing that forms the basis for the removal was as true three months ago as it is today. What’s different is, as The New York Times and Politico have reported over the last 24 hours, that the president is very upset about the Russia investigation.

    And, you know, there is — I mean, it’s worth backing up and saying that there is nothing normal about removing the FBI director, as a general matter. It’s an extraordinary measure. This is an office that is typically served for a term of years, 10 years, to be precise.

    There’s nothing normal about doing that while the president is and his campaign are the subject of an ongoing counterintelligence investigation about their relationship with an adversary foreign power.

    And there’s really nothing normal about doing it in a fashion in which the director himself finds out that he’s been removed while addressing FBI agents in — you know, because it shows up on television.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: He was out of town. He was in Los Angeles and learned about it from news accounts.

    It is the case, George Terwilliger, that the accounts — reporters who have been working this story for the last 24 hours are coming back with all sorts of White House officials telling them, sources telling them that the president was angry over the Russia investigation, that that’s what led to this.

    GEORGE TERWILLIGER: Yes. I can’t — I don’t have any insight to that, Judy. And I can’t really say anything about it.

    But I think what we can say with complete confidence is that there’s nothing about removing Mr. Comey from this job that’s going to affect that investigation. In fact, with all due respect to Ben, I think it’s an insult to the career men and women in the FBI and the Justice Department who are conducting that investigation to suggest that it would be so.

    That investigation’s going to proceed. It will proceed in a — in a appropriate and deliberate fashion. It will be led by those career folks. And, at the end of the day, it will go wherever it goes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in fact, Benjamin Wittes, last night on the program, Senator Susan Collins said the president didn’t fire the entire FBI. He just fired the head of the FBI. She expressed the same expression that — the same opinion that the investigation would go forward.

    BENJAMIN WITTES: So, I actually agree with that.

    I think that, you know, if the goal was to stop the investigation, I suspect it will fail, for all the reasons that George just said. You know, there’s a big bureaucracy that underlies any investigation like this, and the line men and women who conduct these investigations are an important — they are actually the investigation. And decapitating the snake doesn’t change the fact that there’s a body there.

    That said, the role of the political leadership and the professional leadership of an organization matters. And when you remove the FBI director because, as the press is reporting, you have a temper tantrum about a particular investigation, you send a message up and down that line.

    And the message is that the leadership cannot protect you politically. And that’s its job. The job of the FBI director is to absorb the ebbs and flows of the political system, so that the people underneath can do their jobs.

    And that is more in doubt today than it was yesterday by a lot.

    GEORGE TERWILLIGER: Judy, the job of the FBI director is to do what Ben suggests. And the new FBI director, whoever he or she is, will, I’m sure, do just that over time.

    But the other important part of the role of the FBI director is to do much more than this investigation. And I think one of the perceptions that became of concern at the Justice Department, if you read Mr. Rosenstein’s letter, is that in fact Jim had become kind of a distraction in this whole process.

    The FBI’s got to be worried about cyber-security, terrorism, violent gangs.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean because he spoke out so much?

    GEORGE TERWILLIGER: Well, no, and because he — he put himself, and thus the bureau, in the middle of political controversy, where they really shouldn’t be.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quick final question to the two of you in just a few seconds left.

    Some are saying this is a constitutional crisis that has been created. How do you answer that?


    The constitutional process here worked. Mr. Comey is a subordinate official of the president. The president elected to remove him from his office. And there will be a constitutional process to replace him.

    BENJAMIN WITTES: I don’t think it is inherently a constitutional crisis, but let me tell you what would be.

    If the president removed Jim Comey because he was investigating Russia matters that the president didn’t want investigated, and the political system is not capable of responding to it, that is a constitutional crisis.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we are going to have to leave it there.

    Benjamin Wittes, George Terwilliger, we thank you both.

    GEORGE TERWILLIGER: Thank you, Judy.

    BENJAMIN WITTES: Thank you.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: On Capitol Hill, we have heard serious concerns raised by Republicans and calls from Democrats for a special counsel to investigate the Russia story.

    We get reaction now to Mr. Trump’s firing of James Comey from Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential nominee. He’s the Democratic senator from the state of Virginia, Tim Kaine.

    Senator Kaine, thank you very much for joining us.

    SEN. TIM KAINE, D-Va.: Glad to, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You called the firing of Director Comey outrageous.


    SEN. TIM KAINE: I think this is a clear attempt by President Trump to thwart and block and undermine the investigation into collusion and ties between Russia and the Trump campaign transition and administration.

    And there is now a pattern of very extraordinary personnel actions, the firing of Sally Yates, the firing of General Flynn, Attorney General Sessions having to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, and now the firing of Jim Comey.

    And the thing, the thread that connects all these highly unusual actions is the investigation into Russia. President Trump is afraid of this. He’s trying to undermine it. And that should make us all redouble our efforts to, both on the criminal side, have a special prosecutor to get to the bottom of it, and, in Congress, the Senate International Committee needs to accelerate the pace and get the answers we need.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Senator, I’m sure you know the White House is saying that that’s just not the case. They are saying they had a specific set of reasons for firing Director Comey. It had to do with the way he handled Secretary Clinton’s e-mail controversy. They had a different set of reasons for asking the national security adviser, General Flynn, to leave, and so on and so on.

    So, why are you so convinced that the Russia investigation is at the core of all this?

    SEN. TIM KAINE: Judy, again, let’s dig into the pattern.

    Sally Yates is the deputy A.G., a career prosecutor. She goes to the White House and she says, we are worried that your sitting national security adviser is compromised by ties to Russia, and President Trump immediately fires not General Flynn. He fires Sally Yates.

    He isn’t going to fire General Flynn until a few weeks later. The facts of Flynn’s ties to Russia and his lies to the vice president and the FBI come out, and, at that point, the Trump team is forced to fire General Flynn.

    Attorney General Sessions is caught misleading the Senate Judiciary Committee about, of all things, his ties with Russia, and then is forced to recuse himself from the investigation into Russia, which is probably the most momentous investigation the Justice Department is doing right now.

    And, today, Jim Comey — yesterday — gets fired as he’s in the midst of this investigation. Add to that President Trump’s letter. The letter, one-pager, signed by President Trump has a very unusual sentence in it that sticks out like a sore thumb, like in such an obvious way, firing the director of the FBI, but saying, but I do appreciate that you have told me three times that I’m not under investigation.

    That’s like a poker player who’s got a bad face showing you with their face that they don’t like their hand. Him putting that letter — that phrase into the letter shows exactly what he is worried about and demonstrates that we have got to get to the bottom of this.

    I’m on the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees.


    SEN. TIM KAINE: General Dunford, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that the principal state adversary of the United States is Russia.

    My son and his entire battalion were deployed on the border with Russia in 2016 because we’re trying to help our allies there protect themselves from Russian invasions of their sovereignty.

    This is a dangerous nation we’re dealing with, and the investigation into the Russian ties drives this president nuts, and he’s very afraid of it. And we have strong reason to believe that that’s why Jim Comey was fired.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, once again, the White House is saying that that’s not the case. In fact, the White House said yesterday that they were prepared to send a certified letter, I believe it was to Senator Lindsey Graham, certifying that the president doesn’t have any connections to Russia, hasn’t had any connections to Russia.

    So, they’re knocking this down. But I want to come back to…

    SEN. TIM KAINE: But, Judy, a certified letter from a president who won’t let us see his tax returns to see what the financial connections is with Russia, nobody would accept that.

    And up here, as I have talked to my Democratic and Republican colleagues, there’s not a single person I have talked to who believes that President Trump took this action today because, well, he doesn’t like the way that Jim Comey dealt with Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.

    This is somebody who is nervous because he sees the net tightening in this Russia investigation. But we’re not going to be dissuaded from getting to the bottom of it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what is the Democratic strategy? Because you are clearly in the minority in the Senate, in the House.

    The — right now, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee is saying he doesn’t see a need for a special counsel. What’s going to move — what’s going to move this?

    SEN. TIM KAINE: Yes, very good question, Judy.

    And I guess there’s probably three elements of strategy right now, but it’s not really Democratic strategy. It’s just what do we think that needs to be done to get to the bottom of the story.

    There’s got to be a special prosecutor. When you have the attorney general already having to recuse himself from this investigation, that tells you that the Justice Department, I do not think, can be trusted to credibly lead this investigation into Russian collusion that needs to be independent. So, there needs to be a special prosecutor.

    You’re right, the Democratic minority can’t force it on our own. But we do believe, as these facts come out, we will find Republican colleagues who will join us in the request.

    Second, we need to get the key witnesses up to testify before us. Senators Burr and Warner have invited Jim Comey to come back next week. He was scheduled to be here tomorrow to testify. We need to hear from him. We also need to hear from Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, and especially Attorney General Sessions.

    He recused himself from this matter, but then joined in the recommendation to fire Jim Comey. We view that as a violation of his recusal, and we want to know why.

    And then the third thing is, every senator needs to make sure that we give the next FBI director nominee the most searching evaluation that we can to make sure that he’s not going to be cowed or pushed around by the White House or anyone, and that he will get to the bottom of this story.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, again, Senator, what persuades you that Republicans are going to come around and agree with Democrats on this? I know some Republicans are expressing concerns about the timing…

    SEN. TIM KAINE: They are.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … in particular, some raising questions about the substance of the decision.

    But, right now, it’s the Democrats who are arguing for a special counsel.

    SEN. TIM KAINE: Yes, that is true, but there are Republicans who are raising concerns.

    And, look, I have to — I have to at some point count on the patriotism of some of my Republican colleagues. This is a moment that tests them, in a way, more than it tests the Democrats. We are dealing with a Republican president.

    But if the situation was reversed, Judy, if it was reversed, I have absolutely no doubt that every Republican in the Senate would be calling for a special prosecutor to go after a Hillary Clinton, if there was an investigation about her collusions with Russia and she fired the FBI director that was leading the criminal investigation.

    It’s not even a close question. They would be calling for a special prosecutor. And I hope there are some who are willing to be consistent and willing to be patriotic, and take Russian influence, attempts to influence American politics seriously.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, very quickly, Senator Kaine, I want to ask you if there’s not an inconsistency in your position, because it was just a few days ago that you said that Director Comey had broken the rules at the FBI, at the Justice Department, in the way he handled the closing of the Clinton e-mail investigation.

    Now you’re saying — you’re defending him.

    SEN. TIM KAINE: Judy, I did believe that, and I do believe that. But I have never called for him to be fired, because we have a law, as you know.

    The law is, you give the FBI director a 10-year term, so that he is independent and free. Congress can criticize him. The president can criticize him. And that’s all fair game. But you give this individual a 10-year term so they can be independent and pursue the truth.

    He was pursuing this investigation. And that’s why he got fired. And that’s wrong. And, as you know, that’s not happened in the history of this country. There’s only been one FBI director who was terminated, and it was after an investigation revealed that he was using public money for his own private benefit.

    There wasn’t an investigation. There was no attempt to cover anything up. But firing an FBI director in the middle of the investigation, the only precedent in our history was President Nixon sacking the special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the Watergate investigation.

    That’s what this one look likes.


    SEN. TIM KAINE: And there’s — this is no time to be putting on the brake on the investigation. We have to step on the gas.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Tim Kaine, thank you very much.

    SEN. TIM KAINE: Absolutely.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, for the record, we asked every Republican senator who voiced support for President Trump’s move, but they declined our invitation. We will continue to invite them to join us for an interview.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meantime, inside the FBI, morale among agents had taken a beating months before last night’s firing of Director James Comey.

    We take a look at how agents have been responding and what it means for the bureau’s work going forward with Matt Apuzzo. He has been covering all this closely for The New York Times.

    Matt, so what is your reporting telling you what about preceded this blockbuster announcement yesterday?

    MATT APUZZO, The New York Times: Well, as you heard from Lisa, the big news in terms of the investigation was that, in the days before his firing, Jim Comey was talking to the Justice Department about expanding the investigation by getting some more prosecutors involved, more resources.

    And the person he was speaking with was Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. Now, that is coming — that information is coming from congressional officials, including Dick Durbin from Democratic leadership, who says that that really is calling into question the motives of the president for firing Jim Comey, at a time when it appeared that Comey was really trying to step up the investigation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I want to ask you about that, because there is reporting today that Director Comey had gone to his superiors, I guess, to the attorney general in recent days, asking to expand the Russia investigation, asking for more resources.

    What you have learned about that?

    MATT APUZZO: Well, you know, the Justice Department is flatly denying that, even though members of Congress are saying that Comey actually briefed them on this as part of his routine briefings on the status of the counterintelligence investigation earlier this week.

    The Justice Department is saying, no, that they didn’t get a request for more resources. Members of Congress are saying they were — they were specifically briefed by Comey that he wanted to expand the investigation and was asking for more prosecutors.

    So, I mean, look, we don’t know at this point. Is that is that what led to Jim Comey’s firing? Was it — was it the Russia investigation? Was it a general sense that Comey was never going to be a Trump guy, just frankly, like he wasn’t really an Obama guy, that he was — for a president who puts a real premium on loyalty, was Jim Comey just too much of a — you know, an independent wild card for this administration?

    This’s just a lot of things where we’re still trying to get a handle on, because, as your reporters said earlier, a lot of this just doesn’t line up. A lot of the stated reasoning for why they wanted to fire Jim Comey just doesn’t totally line up.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What is your reporting telling you, Matt Apuzzo, about the sense inside the Justice Department, inside the FBI about whether this Russia investigation can go forward in an independent way, in a way that people will find credible?

    MATT APUZZO: Well, I think that the sense at the FBI is, we move forward.

    The acting director, Andrew McCabe, is a career FBI agent. You know, there would be no reason for him to put the brakes on the Russia investigation, you know, just because Jim Comey was fired.

    I think the concern among the agents is not where things are today. And, frankly, the concern isn’t that a new director is going — or that the Justice Department is going to put the brakes on and just shut down the Russia investigation.

    But what the Justice Department can do, if it wants to, is, it can just throw up a lot of hurdles and roadblocks and make it difficult for FBI agents to investigate Russia. And that’s really the concern.

    But, in general, I think there’s — the mood is down at the FBI right now. Comey was a well-liked manager. Even agents who disagreed with some of the decisions he made in the Clinton case regarded him as professional and well-intentioned and a strong leader.

    This is probably the most public and strong FBI director the bureau has had since J. Edgar Hoover. So, there’s clearly a sense of loss at the FBI today.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I quickly want to press you on that, because, at the White House today, they were saying, no, that Jim Comey had lost the confidence of much of the employees at the FBI, at the bureau.

    MATT APUZZO: Yes, they didn’t really elaborate on that.

    Look, I know there are people at the FBI who disagreed with the decisions that Jim Comey made. There are 17,000 FBI agents. Are there some who had lost confidence in the FBI director? I’m sure that’s the case.

    But all the reporting that I have done and the reporting that my colleague Adam Goldman does, who covers the FBI for The New York Times, is that this was a real this was a real jolt, and a real down moment for the FBI.

    And as one agent I have known for a long time said, you know, Donald Trump lost the FBI today.

    Now, can he get it back? You know, we will see who he nominates. But it’s not good for the president to have an FBI feeling like they’re a little bit under siege or that the president doesn’t trust their independence.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Matt Apuzzo with The New York Times, some excellent reporting. Thank you, Matt.

    MATT APUZZO: Thank you so much for having me.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Since this is only the second time a U.S. president has fired the head of the FBI, the initial shockwaves from Mr. Trump’s stunning move left a wake of questions and condemnations from across the political spectrum.

    William Brangham begins with where we are now and how we got here.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He wasn’t doing a good job, very simply. He was not doing a good job.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That was it, President Trump’s verdict this morning in the Oval Office over his firing of FBI Director James Comey.

    The president’s termination letter to Comey yesterday said the move was necessary to restore public trust in the agency. An attachment from the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, faulted Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation.

    White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders gave more detail today.

    SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, Deputy White House Press Secretary: Frankly, he had been considering letting Director Comey go since the day he was elected. I think that Director Comey has shown over the last several months and, frankly, the last year a lot of missteps and mistakes.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In a tweet this morning, the president said: “Comey lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike. When things calm down, they will be thanking me.”

    But little was calm on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue today. Vice President Mike Pence was on Capitol Hill, and offered a longer defense of the president’s decision.

    VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: President Trump provided the kind of strong and decisive leadership the American people have come to be accustomed from him. And he took the action necessary to remove Director Comey. That’s why this was the right decision at the right time.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Meanwhile, senators faced nonstop questions about what Comey’s firing means for the ongoing probes into Russia’s meddling in the election, and whether the Trump campaign colluded in that meddling.

    Democrats said the firing would lead Americans to suspect a cover-up, and they repeated calls for a special counsel.

    But Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that would be counterproductive.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky., Majority Leader: Today, we will no doubt hear calls for a new investigation, which could only serve to impede the current work being done to not only discover what the Russians may have done, also to let this body and the national security community develop countermeasures.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Minority Leader Chuck Schumer questioned the president’s timing.

    SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., Minority Leader: Why did it happen last night? We know Director Comey was leading an investigation in whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians, a serious offense. Were those investigations getting too close to home for the president?

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Schumer later laid out Democratic demands that Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein not be the one to appoint the special counsel.

    The day was also filled with a drumbeat of opinions on what should, and shouldn’t, happen next.

    MAN: North Carolina: The timing and the reasons for this decision made little sense to me.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Republican Richard Burr of North Carolina heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has asked Comey to testify next week.

    SEN. RICHARD BURR, R-N.C.: I’m not in favor in favor of a special prosecutor because I think that the committee can carry out its responsibility,

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But Democrat Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said a special counsel was crucial.

    SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D-Conn.: I will vote against any confirmation of an FBI director unless there is support for a special prosecutor.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: This, of course, isn’t the first time that partisan furor over James Comey and his running of the FBI has flared up. Over the last year, both Democrats and Republicans have, at one time or another, demanded his dismissal or come to his defense.

    The first major controversy came last year, at the height of the presidential campaign. On July 5, Comey took the unusual step of speaking publicly about the results of the FBI’s Clinton e-mail investigation. While scolding Clinton for being extremely careless with her use of a private server, Comey said the FBI wasn’t recommending criminal charges.

    JAMES COMEY, Former FBI Director: Our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Republicans on the Hill were outraged. Then-candidate Trump accused Comey of going easy on his Democratic rival.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And then to have what happened today, where essentially, I thought, everybody thought, based on what was being said, she was guilty, she was guilty, And it turned out that we’re not going to press charges. It’s really amazing.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Comey was soon again in the spotlight. On October 28, just 11 days before the election, Comey announced he’d reopened the Clinton investigation after the discovery of possibly new e-mails.

    In a letter to Congress, he wrote: “Although the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, I believe it is important to update your committees about our efforts in light of my previous testimony.”

    On the campaign trail, candidate Trump seized on the letter, and cheered Comey’s move.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It took a lot of guts. I really disagreed with him. I wasn’t his fan. But I will tell you what. What he did, he brought back his reputation.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But days later, when Comey said the FBI’s conclusions had not changed, Mr. Trump lashed out, accusing Comey of protecting Clinton once again.

    For her part, Clinton, just days after losing the election, said Comey’s letter was one of the reasons she wasn’t president.

    Meanwhile, now-president-elect Trump seemed to embrace Comey, saying he had no intention of replacing him at the FBI, and then welcoming Comey at the White House soon after the inauguration.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He’s become more famous than me.


    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But Comey was soon once again in the hot seat over the bureau’s separate investigation into Russian meddling in the election and whether Trump officials participated in that process.

    A central target of the investigation was then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. He was fired in mid-February for misleading the vice president about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the transition.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions was at the time heading the investigation into Russian ties, until it surfaced that he had not revealed his own meetings with Russian officials during the campaign. That forced him to recuse himself from the probes.

    Taking charge, the new deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who wrote the memo recommending Comey’s dismissal. When Rosenstein was pressed by Democrats at his confirmation hearing to commit to appoint a special counsel, he refused, calling it a matter of principle.

    ROD ROSENSTEIN, U.S. Deputy Attorney General: I would evaluate the facts and the law, consider the applicable regulations, consult with career professionals in the department, and then exercise my best judgment.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Then, on March 20, Comey confirmed an FBI counterintelligence investigation of the Trump White House and former campaign staffers’ possible ties to Russia.

    JAMES COMEY: That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: When Comey appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, the questioning inevitably returned to his fateful decision to reopen the Clinton e-mail investigation just days before the election.

    JAMES COMEY: Look, this was terrible. It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election. But, honestly, it wouldn’t change the decision.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The president, who lauded Comey when he was investigating Clinton, has also attacked the FBI for its Russia investigation.

    On Monday, the day before he fired Comey, President Trump tweeted: “The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax. When will this taxpayer-funded charade end?”

    And then today, the president met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the White House, joined by the same Russian ambassador whose friendliness with the Trump team led to Flynn’s firing and Sessions’ recusal.

    Afterward, Lavrov brushed off questions of alleged Russian active measures in last year’s election.

    SERGEI LAVROV, Russian Foreign Minister (through interpreter): Well, there is not a single fact, there is no compelling evidence given to anyone regarding Russia’s intervention, and that’s it.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: How the probe unfolds, in part, will be up to Comey’s successor. Attorney General Sessions and his deputy began interviewing candidates for interim FBI chief today.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m William Brangham.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now for the latest at the White House and on Capitol Hill, we turn to our own John Yang and Lisa Desjardins.

    John, let me start with you.

    It’s been about 24 hours exactly since this decision came down. What have you learned in the interim about where this all started? What was the genesis of it?

    JOHN YANG: Well, White House officials describe an increasingly angry and frustrated president for the couple of weeks, angry and frustrated that Comey was appearing before Congress, talking about the FBI investigation into possible Russian collusion with the Trump campaign during the election last year, but not offering any new details.

    The president felt that there was nothing there there and it was time for it to be over. But, according to deputy principal — assistant secretary — deputy — sorry — Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, the president didn’t ask for the rationale to fire Comey on Monday when he met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

    She says that the two Justice Department officials are the ones who brought up their concerns about Comey’s performance and, as a result of that, the president asked Rosenstein to put it in writing, to get a memo, and when he got that memo on Tuesday, he acted quickly, and decided to fire Comey.

    But he held that decision so closely that there was no plan to roll out the announcement. There was no plan to explain the announcement afterward. It was, in the words of one official I talked to today, total and utter chaos, and I should say, he added, “even by our standards.”

    The result was this firestorm last night, which they say they didn’t expect. They thought Democrats would welcome the firing of Comey after the criticism of what he did with the Clinton e-mails. But, of course, that was a miscalculation on their part.

    Today, Sanders said that the president intended to meet with the acting FBI director, Andrew McCabe. This would be the second meeting in 24 hours, and offer to go to the FBI to talk to FBI agents at headquarters to try to boost morale.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, fascinating.

    And, Lisa, meantime, on Capitol Hill, some of the reaction has been explosive from Democrats. Republicans have had a mix of reaction. But let’s start with the Democrats. What are they saying?

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right, not just saying things, but doing things today.

    Democrats, first of all, are continuing their call for a special counsel in this case. They’re raising that call. And, in fact, today, Judy, they froze committee hearings in order to try and make their point. They can only do that today.

    But Democrats are trying to get across the idea that they are willing to use every procedural means they have to try and force a special counsel. Now, they also are saying that they think not only is Attorney General Jeff Sessions someone who shouldn’t be involved in the special counsel decision, but also the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, the man we’re talking about so much, they say he now seems to be biased because of the letter that he wrote.

    They want him to not be involved in this. They want a civil servant, someone who is not politically appointed, to be in charge of that special counsel decision. A lot of developments. Dianne Feinstein told me she felt that Rosenstein’s letter was just a series of quotes about James Comey, that it didn’t give legal arguments.

    She also raised a concern, confirmed to me other and reporters that in fact she knows that James Comey was hoping to expand this investigation and that he had made that known in the past week or so.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Lisa, just very quickly, what are Republicans saying?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Republicans are a mixed bag, as you say, Judy.

    Many of them are supportive in general of the idea that James Comey was a good public servant. They have known him for years. But their biggest talking point was that they think they have faith in the FBI. There are some who say the timing was a problem, like Ron Johnson.

    There are others, like Lisa Murkowski and Bob Corker, who say they’re still considering what to do. And then there are still others like John McCain who say they are very concerned about every aspect of this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, Lisa Desjardins at the Capitol, John Yang at the White House, both of you continuing to follow this story, thank you both.

    The post Comey firing unleashes firestorm from Capitol Hill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Judiciary chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, speaks with reporters as he leaves the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call.

    Judiciary chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, speaks with reporters as he leaves the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call.

    In the hours following President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey, Capitol Hill was a roller coaster of serious and potentially far-reaching reactions from lawmakers about how best to move forward.

    In the U.S. Senate, there were at least a half-dozen major developments by 11 a.m. Some Republicans were troubled, while others were less so. Some Democrats were demanding a special prosecutor as others were implying the attorney general should step down.

    Here is a look, by rough timeline, at how the scene played out.

    (Democratic) senators in their seats

    U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (C) condemns the firing of FBI Director James Comey in a speech on the floor of the Senate in this video grab taken on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 10, 2017. U.S. Senate TV/Handout via Reuters.

    At 9:30 am, the Senate opened with dramatic optics. The Democratic (left) side of the Senate chamber was a packed set of seats – nearly every member there. Across the aisle, the Republican section was mostly empty, dotted with nine of 52 of the party’s members. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer gave dueling speeches.

      Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “Today, we will no doubt hear calls for a new investigation which could only serve to impede the current work being done to not only discover what the Russians may have done, but also to let this body and the national security community to develop the countermeasures and warfighting doctrine to see that it doesn’t occur again… Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein was just confirmed on a bipartisan basis — 94 to 6 — and that sort of fair consideration should continue when the Senate receives an FBI Director nominee.”

    • Minority Leader Chuck Schumer: “The dismissal of Director Comey establishes a very troubling pattern. This Administration has now removed several law enforcement officials in a position to conduct independent investigations of the President and his administration – from acting Attorney General Sally Yates to Preet Bharara, and now, Jim Comey. What should happen now … what must happen now … is that Mr. Rosenstein appoints a special prosecutor to oversee this investigation.”

    Republicans (very) divided in the halls

    Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, is interviewed in the Capitol about the firing of former FBI director James Comey on May 10, 2017. Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

    Just more than an hour later, the Senate held its first series of votes. The small hallway that is senators’ most direct path to the elevators is crammed with so many reporters and members that several senators cannot get on.

    Republicans exited the session divided into camps.

    • We have faith in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation. We can still trust the FBI. They are professionals. This was a common theme for many Senate Republicans, including Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala, Sen.Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.
    • Still considering. When asked about a special counsel or special Senate session, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, replied she was “considering all that.” Tennessee Republican Bob Corker told reporters discussions were quickly underway and “I’ll have more in the next 24 hours.”
    • A special counsel would harm the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation. Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Sens.. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, both said they are concerned a special counsel would result in freezing some witnesses and information the Senate hopes to gather. (Democrats later disputed that.)
    • The main issue was timing. Many Republicans expressed the president’s reasons for firing Comey were understandable — it was the White House timing for the decision that sparked headlines. “There is no constitutional crisis. The (letter from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about Comey) is pretty convincing,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Utah, told NewsHour as he ran out the Senate steps to a hearing. “The timing,” he said, pausing, “is a problem.”
    • Everything is concerning. John McCain, the Republican from Arizona, was chief among those in this camp. “I’m concerned about everything,” he told reporters regarding Comey. He stressed his repeated call for not a special counsel, but a special Senate committee to investigate the Russian election meddling.

    Democrats are incredibly united

    UNITED STATES – MAY 10: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is interviewed in the senate subway of the Capitol after a meeting of Senate Democrats on May 10, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

    Thirty minutes later, Democratic senators return to the Capitol for a special meeting of their conference. As they exit, reporters again crowd. This time, most Democrats said little. But what they said was significant.

    • Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein should rescue themselves from considering whether to select a special counsel. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a Senate Intelligence Committee member, led this argument and did not hold back, telling NewsHour that Comey had notified Congressional officials that he wanted to expand the investigation in recent days.
    • Republicans should pursue this investigation independently. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., told the NewsHour that Sessions — who removed himself from the investigation in March — broke his own recusal vow with Comey’s removal. He also told NewsHour he wonders if Republicans wanted to pursue the investigation “in an independent way” to ensure “issues aren’t held up.”
    • Trump’s reasoning doesn’t pass the “smell test.” Feinstein took issue with the White House argument that Comey’s firing had to do with Clinton emails. She added: “Why did the president even bring up Russia if Russia was not a factor?” she added, pointing to Trump’s mention of the investigation in his letter to Comey.
    • Comey should still testify. Schumer said this several times on the Hill on Wednesday. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va, the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, issued a separate request Wednesday for Comey to testify before a closed session of the committee next week, according to the committee’s spokeswoman. Warner said Comey had not yet responded. Warner and committee leader Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) also issued a subpoena for former National Security Advisor Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, requesting documents relevant to the Committee’s investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election. The Committee first requested these documents in late April, according to a statement released by Burr’s office, but he declined.

    Pence is defending Trump on the Hill

    UNITED STATES - MAY 10: Vice President Mike Pence leaves the Senate chamber after a vote in the Capitol on May 10, 2017. Pence said President Trump made the right decision to fire former FBI director James Comey. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

    UNITED STATES – MAY 10: Vice President Mike Pence leaves the Senate chamber after a vote in the Capitol on May 10, 2017. Pence said President Trump made the right decision to fire former FBI director James Comey. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

    By 11 a.m. EST the vice president was on Capitol Hill explaining the decision to fire the head of the FBI as the agency needed “a fresh start.”

    In part, Pence blamed Comey for the chaos surrounding an administration that “is moving past the difficult politics of the last year that has swirled around Director Comey’s leadership.”

    Trump “provided strong leadership to act” according to Pence, who also noted the decision on who will replace Comey will “take the time necessary to find an individual of great experience and great integrity.”

    Other Republicans echoed their confidence in Trump — and in a continuing investigation into Russia. Sen. John Cornyn, R – Texas, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican and a Trump confidant, spoke briefly to reporters in a corner hallway of the Capitol to defend the president.

    “It won’t have any impact except perhaps intensifying the Russia investigations,” Cornyn said, assuring reporters an investigation is continuing in some undisrupted fashion.

    What’s next?

    We explore here.

    READ MORE: How lawmakers are reacting to FBI director Comey’s firing

    The post A roller coaster of reactions unfold in Congress the day after Comey was fired appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    FILE PHOTO: A combination photo shows U.S. President Donald Trump and and FBI Director James Comey in Washington

    FILE PHOTO: A combination photo shows U.S. President Donald Trump (L) in the House of Representatives in Washington, U.S., on February 28, 2017 and FBI Director James Comey in Washington U.S. on July 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool, Gary Cameron/File Photo.

    In firing James Comey, President Donald Trump said the FBI director was not able to “effectively lead the Bureau.”

    Read President Trump’s full letter to Comey on his firing from the FBI

    But in the past, President Donald Trump has both praised and disparaged Comey.

    Here’s a look at Trump’s conflicting past statements on Comey:


    READ MORE: Everything we know about Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey

    The post What Donald Trump has said about James Comey appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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