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

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    Ebola

    A colorized, magnified electron microscope image of the Ebola virus grows out of an infected VERO 46 cell. Image by NIAID

    There is an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Health Organization announced Friday.

    The epidemic, which is currently small, is in remote Bas-Uele province, near the northern border with the Central African Republic. To date there have been nine suspected cases. Three have died and the six other people have been hospitalized. The first case dates back to April 22.

    “An investigation team led by the Ministry of Health and supported by WHO and partners has deployed and is expected to reach the affected area in the coming days,” Dr. Peter Salama, WHO executive director for emergencies, said in a statement.

    The WHO and partners are supporting Congo’s Ministry of Health in the response, including epidemiological investigation, surveillance, logistics and supplies, communications and community engagement, the statement said.

    READ NEXT: Final test results confirm an Ebola vaccine is highly effective

    Testing of five samples was conducted at the country’s National Biomedical Research Institute in Kinshasa, with one coming back positive for Ebola, specifically the Zaire species of the virus. That is the same strain that was responsible for the massive West African outbreak in 2014-2015. Additional testing is ongoing.

    While Ebola outbreaks are always dangerous, there is some reassuring news here. The Democratic Republic of Congo has decades of experience containing Ebola outbreaks. The first known outbreak of the deadly disease occurred there in 1976, in Yambuku. A total of 318 cases were recorded in that outbreak, including 280 deaths.

    The country has fought seven outbreaks before the current one; the most recent was between August and November of 2014, and involved 66 cases.

    And this time, for the first time in the history of Ebola outbreaks, there is an experimental Ebola vaccine that can be used to help contain the outbreak, if it’s needed. Supplies of the vaccine, first tested during the widespread West African outbreak, have been stockpiled by Gavi, a public-private partnership that makes vaccines available to lower-income countries.

    “The fact that this is a country that has experience dealing with Ebola should give us hope that we won’t see a pandemic on the scale of the 2014 outbreak that hit West Africa,” Dr. Seth Berkley, Gavi CEO, said in a statement.

    The vaccine, designed by scientists at Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory, is being developed by the pharmaceutical giant Merck. Work is still underway to get the vaccine licensed. But in the meantime, Gavi has an agreement with Merck that requires the company to stockpile large supplies of the vaccine in case it is needed to contain an outbreak.

    “Gavi’s work with Merck means there are 300,000 doses of Ebola vaccine available if needed to stop this outbreak becoming a pandemic,” Berkley said. “The vaccine has shown high efficacy in clinical trials and could play a vital role in protecting the most vulnerable.”

    However, the WHO said it’s not yet clear if vaccine will be needed to control the outbreak, or whether Congo wants to use it.

    Tarik Jašarević, a spokeman for the Geneva-based global health agency, said the WHO and its partners are conducting an epidemiological investigation to assess the scope of the outbreak and how many people are potentially at risk. If a decision to vaccinate is made, a ring vaccination strategy will be used, Jašarević said.

    That approach, used in the trial that proved the effectiveness of the vaccine, involves vaccinating the people who had contact with a confirmed case. Creating rings of protected people around each case limits the chances the virus can continue to transmit.

    In the early days of the world’s experience with Ebola, outbreaks in DRC numbered in the hundreds of cases — which was large at the time. But the three outbreaks in DRC in the past decade involved fewer than 100 cases each.

    The largest known outbreak of Ebola was the 2014-2015 West African epidemic. More than 28,600 people were infected and more than 11,300 died.

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on May 12, 2017. Find the original story here.

    The post Ebola outbreak reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Donald Trump gestures while attending a military mothers event at the White House in Washington

    U.S. President Donald Trump gestures while attending a “celebration of military mothers” at the White House in Washington, D.C., on May 12, 2017. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Saturday that “we can make a fast decision” on a new FBI director, possibly by late next week, before he leaves on his first foreign trip since taking office.

    “Even that is possible,” he told reporters when asked whether he could announce his nominee by Friday, when he is scheduled to leave for the Mideast and Europe.

    Four candidates to be the bureau’s director were in line Saturday for the first interviews with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, at Justice Department headquarters.

    “I think the process is going to go quickly. Almost all of them are very well known,” Trump said while flying to Lynchburg, Virginia, where he was giving the commencement address at Liberty University. “They’ve been vetted over their lifetime essentially, but very well known, highly respected, really talented people. And that’s what we want for the FBI.”

    The Trump administration is looking to fill the job, which requires Senate confirmation, after Trump abruptly fired Director James Comey on Tuesday.

    [Watch Video]

    The first candidate to arrive was Alice Fisher, a high-ranking Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration. She left after about an hour and a half inside the building and declined to comment to reporters.

    Fisher formerly served as assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. She faced resistance from Democrats during her confirmation over her alleged participation in discussions about detention policies at the Guantanamo Bay facility in Cuba. She also was deputy special counsel to the Senate special committee that investigated President Bill Clinton’s Whitewater scandal.

    The FBI has never had a female director.

    Superville reported from Lynchburg, Virginia.

    The post Trump says he could name FBI head by next week appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, right, shakes hands with Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University at a campaign town hall in Davenport, Iowa, on January 30, 2016. Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Delivering his first commencement address, President Donald Trump on Saturday urged graduates of a Christian university to follow their convictions but to also be willing to stand up to criticism from others who don’t have the courage to do what is right.

    Trump kept to an upbeat message in his first extended public appearance since firing James Comey as FBI director this week, saying the lawyer and veteran prosecutor was an incompetent “showboat” and “grandstander.”

    The timing of Comey’s dismissal raised questions about Trump’s decision, as the FBI continues its investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential campaign that ended with Trump’s election.

    Trump didn’t mention the fallout over Comey’s firing in his remarks to graduates of Liberty University, a Christian school whose leader was one of Trump’s earliest and most outspoken supporters during the campaign.

    Drawing parallels to what was widely viewed as a longshot bid by Trump for the presidency, he urged the more than 18,000 graduates to fight for what they believe in and to “challenge entrenched interests and failed power structures.” A crowd of more than double that size filled an outdoor stadium on campus to welcome just the second sitting president to address the university’s commencement.

    “Remember this: Nothing worth doing ever, ever, ever came easy,” Trump said. “Following your convictions means you must be willing to face criticism from those who lack the same courage to do what is right, and they know what is right but they don’t have the courage or the guts or the stamina to take it and to do it.”

    [Watch Video]

    Trump told graduates to “treat the word ‘impossible’ as nothing more than motivation” and to embrace being called an “outsider” because “It’s the outsiders who change the world.”

    “The more that a broken system tells you that you’re wrong, the more certain you must be that you must keep pushing ahead,” added Trump, who often complains about being underestimated during the presidential campaign.

    Trump, who took office on Jan. 20, also sounded familiar campaign themes about a broken system in Washington.

    “In my short time in Washington, I’ve seen first-hand how the system is broken,” he said. “A small group of failed voices who think they know everything and understand everyone, want to tell everyone else what to do and how to live and what to think. But you aren’t going to let other people tell you what to believe, especially when you know that you’re right.”

    “We don’t need a lecture from Washington, D.C., on how to lead our lives,” Trump said.

    Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty’s president, helped Trump win an overwhelming 80 percent of the white evangelical vote.

    A recent Pew Research Center survey marking Trump’s first 100 days in office, a milestone reached on April 29, found three-quarters of white evangelicals approved of his performance as president while just 39 percent of the general public held the same view.

    Christian conservatives have been overjoyed by Trump’s appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, along with Trump’s choice of socially conservative Cabinet members and other officials, such as Charmaine Yoest, a prominent anti-abortion activist named to the Department of Health and Human Services.

    But they had a mixed response to an executive order on religious liberty that Trump signed last week. He directed the IRS to ease up on enforcing an already rarely enforced limit on partisan political activity by churches.

    He also promised “regulatory relief” for those who object on religious grounds to the birth control coverage requirement in the Affordable Care Act health law. Yet the order did not address one of the most pressing demands from religious conservatives: broad exemptions from recognizing same-sex marriage.

    Still, Falwell, who endorsed Trump in January 2016 just before that year’s Iowa caucuses, praised Trump’s actions on issues that concern Christian conservatives.

    “I really don’t think any other president has done more for evangelicals and the faith community in four months than President Trump has,” Falwell told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Friday.

    Falwell became a key surrogate and validator for the thrice-married Trump during the campaign, frequently traveling with Trump on the candidate’s plane and appearing at events. Falwell often compared Trump to his later father, the conservative televangelist Jerry Falwell, and argued that while Trump wasn’t the most religious candidate in the race, he was the man the country needed.

    Trump has spoken at Liberty University before. He courted Christians there in January 2016 with a speech that drew laughs from some in the audience when referred to one of the Bible’s books as “Two Corinthians” instead of the more common “Second Corinthians.” In that speech, Trump promised: “We’re going to protect Christianity, and I can say that. I don’t have to be politically correct.”

    AP Religion Writer Rachel Zoll in New York and Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in Washington and Brian Slodysko in Indianapolis contributed to this report.

    The post Trump urges Liberty University grads to stand up to criticism appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Wedding Rings

    A group of advocates and lawmakers are working to raise the marriage age in 10 states. Photo via Getty Images

    Most Americans think of child marriage as a vestige of a bygone era. And yet in every state, people under 18 are allowed to marry.

    Some states set minimum ages for brides and grooms — sometimes as low as 13 or 14 — and usually require the permission of a parent, judge, or both before a minor can wed. But laws in about half the states allow children of any age to marry, as long as they receive the proper permission.

    That may be changing. This year legislators in 10 states have introduced bills to raise the marriage age. Proponents say updating marriage laws, which in many states are more than a century old, will help protect children from being pushed into marriages by parents and predators. Some lawmakers, disturbed by instances of pregnant girls heading to the courthouse to marry older men, argue that marriage licenses should not be given to men who have committed statutory rape.

    Young brides who say they were forced down the aisle are backing the efforts, as are justices of the peace who say current law requires them to approve marriages between young girls and older men.

    “Fourteen was just ridiculous,” said New York Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, a Democrat who sponsored a bill this year that would align the age for marriage with the state’s age of sexual consent, 17. Minors still would need parental and judicial permission to marry.

    Proponents of raising the marriage age had some success in Virginia, where girls under 16 were permitted to marry if they were pregnant. A law enacted last year requires 16- and 17-year-olds to be given adult status from a court before they can marry.

    But Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill Thursday that would have made New Jersey the first state to outlaw marriage for anyone under 18. Under state law, people under 18 need parental permission to marry, and those under 16 must also have a judge’s consent.

    In California, a Senate bill to eliminate the process that allows those under 18 to marry was weakened in committee this week after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California said the measure unnecessarily intruded on the right to marry. The current version of the bill would require Family Court Services to interview both parties and a parent to ensure no one was being coerced to marry.

    Kevin Baker, legislative director for the ACLU of California, said the group was concerned about forced marriage, “but we wanted to make sure we weren’t also sweeping in voluntary marriages.”

    And in New Hampshire, where girls as young as 13 and boys as young 14 are permitted to marry with parental consent and a judge’s approval, legislators in March voted down a bill to raise the marriage age to 18. Critics said judges should be able to approve young marriages in exceptional circumstances, such as a pregnancy or in cases when someone is joining the military.

    “It’s not that there’s a bunch of screwball legislators wanting 13-year-olds to get married,” said New Hampshire state Rep. David Bates, a Republican who voted against the bill. “I don’t think there’s any justifiable rationale to absolutely prohibit someone in those situations from getting that judicial waiver.”

    In Missouri, where children as young as 15 can get married with a parent’s permission, state Rep. Jean Evans, a Republican, introduced a bill to raise the marriage age after hearing that counties close to the state’s borders were seeing more young women come in to get married. In one 2016 case, an Idaho man drove his 15-year-old daughter to Missouri so she could marry the 25-year-old man who had impregnated her. In 2014, the most recent year for which numbers are available, 158 16- and 17-year-olds and 23 children who were 15 or younger got married in Missouri, according to the state.

    Her bill, passed by the House in March, would allow those under 18 to get married only after a judge approves it and determines there is no evidence of coercion. Those under 17 would not be able to marry someone older than 20, a relationship that could violate the state’s statutory rape law.

    Jeanne Smoot with the Tahirih Justice Center, a gender equality group that has pushed legislation in several states, including New Hampshire, to raise the marriage age to 18, said people who want to marry someone young look for nearby states with looser laws where perhaps only one parent’s signature is required or where they may not have to face a judge.

    “Certainly that’s the kind of destination wedding reputation no state should want, and yet they already have it,” Smoot said.

    Child marriages represent a small share of total marriages in the U.S., but still number in the tens of thousands. Nearly 60,000 15- to 17-year-olds, nearly five out of every 1,000, were in marriages in 2014.

    Those who marry as children face a unique set of potential legal complications, particularly if they want to leave the marriage. In some states, people under 18 are not permitted to get divorced. Most domestic violence shelters won’t accept people under 18. And because they are legally still children, those who try to escape a marriage may be returned by social services to the parents who approved the marriage in the first place.

    Child Brides

    In many states, women who were married as young girls have been leading advocates for the bills.

    Trevicia Williams said she was 14 when her mother picked her up from school and took her to a Houston courthouse to marry a 26-year-old man. Her husband was the nephew of the head of the church her family attended and had recently gotten out of prison.

    “It was my mom’s way of getting rid of me to be honest, of getting rid of her problems. She saw the responsibility of raising children to be so overwhelming,” Williams, 47, said. “When he hit me the first time I called my mom and asked if I could come home and she said, ‘No.’ ”

    Williams is pushing for a bill passed by the Texas Senate this month that would bar people under 18 from getting married, except for those who are emancipated, or given adult status, by a court. In Texas, which has the second-highest rate for teen marriage in the country (6.9 of every 1,000 15- to 17-year-olds, second only to West Virginia’s 7.1 per 1,000), current state law allows children of any age to get married if they get a judge’s permission.

    Much of the debate centers around whether adolescents are mature enough to make decisions about their future, and whether parents and judges can be trusted to advise them.

    Girls who get married before they turn 18 are a diverse group: pregnant teens who either want to or are pressured to raise their child within wedlock; girls from strict religious communities or social backgrounds in which arranged marriages at a young age is common; girls with an abusive home life whose parents struggle to care for them.

    “It’s definitely not one group, one religion, one ethnicity,” said Fraidy Reiss, founder of Unchained At Last, a New Jersey-based group that helps young women escape marriages that have been arranged or coerced.

    “The one thread we see is they’re mostly female,” said Reiss, who was raised in a Hasidic Jewish community in New Jersey and married at 19 to a man chosen by her parents. She gathered marriage data from 38 states and found that only 15 percent of child marriages included a boy.

    And though the girls come from different backgrounds, they often arrive at similar outcomes. Research shows young marriage routinely ends in divorce — those who marry under 18 have a 70 percent chance of getting a divorce compared to about 50 percent in the general population — and married girls are less likely to continue their education.

    New Jersey state Assemblywoman Nancy Muñoz, a Republican who sponsored the bill there, said child marriage should be outlawed because of the many ways it harms girls.

    “It’s the patterns of domestic violence, the pattern of poverty, failure to continue education, all the signs for advancement in our society are affected by this,” she said.

    Many people in favor of raising the marriage age also view current law as a way for predators to escape the consequences of having sex with young girls.

    “There are still a lot of kids under 16 and pregnant who are showing up to get married and rather than someone saying, ‘We should be arresting this guy for statutory rape,’ they’d say ‘We should give them a marriage license,’ ” said Virginia state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, who sponsored the law that raised the state’s age to marry.

    But attempts to raise the marriage age have also faced opposition from legislators who argue that adolescents, with their parents’ help, can make responsible decisions about whom to marry, and that teens facing adult consequences should be able to get married.

    Those joining the military may want to marry to ensure a significant other receives spousal benefits. They may even be a minor themselves — people can join the military at 17 with parental permission.

    And, some argue, teens facing pregnancy should be able to marry if they want to.

    “It’d be ridiculous to say they can’t get married and force children to be born out of wedlock,” said Missouri state Rep. Bill White, a Republican. He voted in favor of Missouri’s bill once it allowed emancipated minors to marry.

    But many women who got married at a young age come to realize they made a mistake.

    Donna, who asked that her last name not be used, sought and received her mother’s blessing to marry a 30-year-old in 2000, when she was just 16. She and her mother, along with the man who is now her ex-husband, traveled to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, where he believed they would face less scrutiny. The law there allows 16-year-olds to marry with parental permission.

    But she regretted the marriage within months.

    Now 33, Donna said teens don’t have the maturity to make such big decisions. And parents can’t always be trusted to act in their child’s best interest.

    “I was definitely not happy with the decision early on and was very angry that my mother had let it happen. I realized after it became abusive that she should’ve seen these signs,” Donna said. “She should’ve stopped it to begin with.”

    sln_may12_chart

    Judges and Justices of the Peace

    Many of the proposals to put tighter controls on marriage, like those in Missouri and New York, give judges a greater role in reviewing marriage petitions.

    Ken Boulden, a clerk of the peace in Wilmington, Delaware, said judicial review has had a deterrent effect there. He pushed to change the law 10 years ago, after seeing a steady stream of young girls coming in with their parents to marry older men. At the time, girls under 16 could get married in the state if they were pregnant.

    But one day, when a terrified pregnant girl who had just turned 14 showed up to get a marriage license with her mother and the 27-year-old who had impregnated her, Boulden said something clicked for him.

    When the couple returned after the 48-hour waiting period to get a marriage license, the authorities were waiting to arrest the man for statutory rape.

    The episode prompted Boulden to begin lobbying to change what he viewed as an archaic law. Changes made in 2007 require minors who want to marry to get permission from a judge first.

    Before the law was changed, clerks got about 60 marriage requests a year for minors. But since the law changed, they’ve had a total of just 16, Boulden said.

    But Reiss said judicial review doesn’t always work. Judges have already approved marriages of very young children, she said. In many states, they aren’t required to make sure a child is not being coerced, and they may have no legal basis for saying no.

    “The fault is not on the judges, it’s on the law, and the law needs to change,” she said.

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

    The post Lawmakers in 10 states push to raise marriage age appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    cyber attack

    An ambulance is parked at The Royal London Hospital in London, Britain May 13, 2017. Photo By Neil Hall/Reuters

    A day after cyber attacks struck dozens of countries around the world, members of the G7 on Saturday vowed to collaborate to offset future assaults.

    In the “ransomware” attack, hackers took control of the computers, encrypting information found there and demanding a ransom of $300 or more to unlock a device.

    The news of the hacks first broke on Friday, when Britain’s National Health Service disclosed that some of its hospital system had been virtually shut down after the software froze its phone and computer systems, causing widespread cancellations.

    The list continued to grow on Friday night and Saturday to include FedEx, Russia’s Interior Ministry, a German railway company, schools in China and Indonesia, soccer clubs in Norway and Sweden and brokerage firms in Taiwan, among tens of thousands of others.

    One security software company, Avast, told Reuters that its researchers saw more than 126,000 ransom software infections in 99 countries, with many of the strikes targeting Taiwan, Russia and Ukraine.

    The European Union’s policy agency, Europol, said the barrage of computer viruses had reached “an unprecedented level” requiring a “complex international investigation to identify the culprits.”

    No one has claimed responsibility for the cyber attack, which by Saturday had begun to subside after an unidentified British researcher who tweets at @MalwareTechBlog reportedly activated a “kill switch,” a code built into the ransomware that provided a way of stopping the attack. The researcher registered the kill switch’s domain name, and when the site went live it restricted the virus’ spread, including to the U.S., The New York Times reported.

    The hackers were able to exploit a software program in Microsoft Windows that led to the software’s use as a form of a cyber weapon, deceiving users into opening malicious malware attachments.

    “We are on a downward slope, the infections are extremely few, because the malware is not able to connect to the registered domain,” said Vikram Thakur, principal research manager at the cyber security firm Symantec. “The numbers are extremely low and coming down fast.”

    Members of the G-7 in the U.S. Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Britain and Italy on Saturday pledged to work together to blunt the effects of future cyber attacks.

    “We recognize that cyber incidents represent a growing threat for our economies and that appropriate economy-wide policy responses are needed,” they said in a statement.

    The post Cyber attack subsides after striking dozens of countries appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    kerala

    Hijras dance to the beat of a traditional Indian drum in the remote northern Indian town of Rath, 300 km (185 miles) south of Lucknow, on June 23, 2001. Photo by Reuters

    One of southern India’s most popular tourist spots set an international precedent this week while also laying bare South Asia’s convoluted history with gender politics by giving 23 jobs on its new metro system to transgender people.

    The crew will start working at the metro’s ticket counters and on housekeeping teams in the city of Kochi, a palm tree-laden beach town on the southwest coast of tropical Kerala, by the end of this month, according to the Guardian.

    A fisherman arranges his fishing net along a road as it drizzles on the outskirts of Kochi

    A fisherman arranges his fishing net along a road as it drizzles on the outskirts of the southern Indian city of Kochi on June 12, 2014. Photo by Sivaram V/Reuters

    “We want to bring them into the mainstream by ensuring that people interact with them every day – on their way to work, for example,” Rashmi CR, spokeswoman for Kochi Metro Rail, told the Guardian.

    But this marks a minor change in one of the world’s most populous countries and the history of transgender people who live there.

    In India, feminine transgender people are often referred to as hijras, a word that has taken on a spectrum of meanings since hijras were written into sacred Hindu text as deities with fertility powers, dancing and singing in bright saris and jewelry thousands of years ago.

    Often seen as eunuchs or intersex in those scripts, their gender fluidity was integral to India’s pre-colonial culture of open sexuality which is still seen in sculptures, paintings and other art throughout the country.

    The British redefined hijras as disfigured and disgusting when they came to power, passing a sweeping law that categorized them as criminals that could be arrested on the spot.

    Some retained those cultural roots and still offer blessings to newlyweds and newborns, but their social status deteriorated and they were shoved to the gutters of society.

    Pakistan, Bangladesh and India in the past five years have tried to reintegrate them by creating a third legal gender and giving them special considerations in jobs and welfare, but the implementation has been messy.

    Initially, government officials in Bangladesh reached back in history to a more monolithic definition of a hijra — eunuch or intersex — requiring people to “prove” their status through physical examinations to benefit from the new laws.

    In 2015, the Ministry of Social Welfare accused 12 hijras of fraud after they applied for positions there and received a mandatory physical examinations, claiming the hijras were “really men.”

    People more familiar with their history see the term now as one that includes people who are transfeminine. But generations of discrimination continue to haunt the community. They are most often seen in big cities when they are asking people in rickshaws or on the streets for money.

    People such as Dr. Manabi Bandopadhyay, a principal at a West Bengal college and Vincy, who will work at the ticket counter in Kochi, are trying to change that.

    “I hope it will be in all the newspapers and on TV channels and other companies will take notice of it and start hiring trans people,” she told the Guardian.

    The post To reduce stigma, metro in Kerala, India hires transgender workers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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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

    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

    CORONADO, Calif. — Chaos is President Donald Trump’s style, yet as long as the Republican delivers on health care, taxes and tapping a new FBI director as solid as his Supreme Court pick, GOP leaders say everything will be just fine.

    While Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey roiled Washington, Republicans who attended the national committee’s spring meeting outside San Diego this week defended the president’s actions and insisted that they would have little political impact on midterm elections next year.

    Even Trump’s Friday morning tweetstorm warning Comey that he had better hope there are no “tapes” of their private conversations and threatening to cancel White House media briefings failed to dent his support among several GOP leaders.

    Peter Goldberg, an Alaska committeeman, said Trump’s latest tweets about Comey are “just a distraction” and that reaction to the firing is like “a bee buzzing around your head. It’s going to go away. I think it’s going to disappear.”

    Goldberg, who grew up in New York, said he understood Trump’s style of governing.

    “Even during the campaign, some people might have thought of him as brash and I just thought of it as just an average New Yorker. It wasn’t bad, it’s just part of the culture where he was living.”

    Republicans said the issues that Trump campaigned on — repealing the Affordable Care Act, cutting taxes and boosting border security — would determine if the party keeps control of both houses of Congress.

    Trump addressed the crowd in a five-minute video, telling them their support will help Republicans keep control of the House next year and make gains in the Senate.

    “I’ll be going around to different states. I’ll be working hard for the people running for Congress and for the people running for the Senate. We could pick up a lot of seats, especially if it all keeps going like it’s going now,” the president said.

    Ron Nehring, a former committee member and former California Republican Party chairman, said Comey’s firing was far more important to journalists and Washington insiders than voters.

    “Every day that something unexpected comes up out of the White House, we see people freaking out and then outside of Washington it doesn’t really have that big of an impact,” he said.

    Dirk Haire, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, said every president brings a new style.

    “President Trump’s style is chaos,” Haire said. “Would I personally like that? No, it would drive me nuts. That’s just the way he operates.”

    Among leading talk radio conservatives on Friday, criticism was directed at the news media for the use of anonymous sources on the story, not Trump. Laura Ingraham tweeted that the reporting was “false,” while Hugh Hewitt said Comey’s successor was what mattered.

    Hewitt did critique Trump’s suggestion that the White House cease holding briefings. Trump “needs more direct on-the-record” contact with the media, “not less,” Hewitt posted on Twitter.

    The harshest criticism came from conservative Erick Erickson, who described Trump as “self-immolating.”

    “The overwhelming majority of Trump voters will double down in their support of Trump,” Erickson wrote on his website Friday morning. “Many of us see this as unhinged, suspicious and headed toward impeachment-level.”

    At the RNC meeting, Kris Warner, a West Virginia committeeman, predicted that Comey’s successor will put to rest any voter misgivings about Trump’s handling of the FBI, holding up the president’s selection of Neil Gorsuch for a long-vacant seat on the Supreme Court as an example.

    “I expect nothing short of someone beyond reproach and (it) will be exactly what the country needs,” said Warner, a Trump delegate at last year’s party convention. “Look at his Supreme Court pick. Very impressed with that, and I would expect him to do the same with the FBI.”

    Party leaders said Trump was right to fire Comey, or at least that he had a right to do it.

    Kyle Hupfer, chairman of the Indiana Republican Party, said picking the FBI chief is a president’s prerogative, despite tradition that the post be held for 10 years regardless of who occupies the White House. He said backlash to Comey’s dismissal was “not resonating” with Indiana voters.

    David Bossie, a Maryland committeeman who was Trump’s deputy campaign manager during the final leg of last year’s race, conceded the news could have been better explained.

    “I think the White House communications shop needs to do a little better, and I think they’re going to get better at what they’re doing,” he said. “I think we had some mixed messages out there that didn’t help matters at all. But the president made the decision to fire Jim Comey. How that happened and the semantics of the timeline, people can debate over the next couple days.”

    On Thursday, about 300 protesters marched on the beach, chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go!” They were kept a good distance from the iconic Hotel del Coronado, where some party members looked out from a patio bar.

    Associated Press writer Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.

    The post GOP leaders see more smoke than fire in Comey’s dismissal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    computer security breach

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: British officials say 97 percent of hospitals effectively shut down by a massive cyber attack yesterday are back to normal. The ransomware disrupted health, transportation and telephone systems across Europe. American companies, including Federal Express, said they were hit, too.

    The hackers may have exploited a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows software on older computers, a vulnerability the U.S. National Security Agency once identified and turned into a cyber weapon. Microsoft is offering to make fixes for free.

    The cyber attack occurred the day after President Trump signed an executive order to review and upgrade cyber protections of government agencies and infrastructure like energy grids. This will build on efforts started by the Obama administration.

    Joining me now from Washington is one of the architects of those defenses: John Carlin, the former assistant attorney general for national security, now with Morrison Foerster.

    Thanks for joining us. When you started to see these headlines yesterday, what did you think?

    JOHN CARLIN, FORMER ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: That maybe on a bigger scale, but it’s more of the same. Ransomware attacks have been up by over 300 percent according to FBI reporting since 2016 alone. I tell you, day in, day out, both when I was in government and now in the private sector, I talked to companies who have been hit by ransomware.

    SREENIVASAN: You know, this particular code was something that we had a couple of months’ warning on. There was patch out there. There was news articles about how this code got out into the wild. But it could be a lot worse.

    CARLIN: Yes, it could be worse in a couple different ways. Number one, I mean, the good and the bad side is, hey, this was something that was already known. I think a lot of time, a lot of energy, a lot of print is spent talking about the highest level actors, nation state actors, but the fact is most of what we’re seeing today, taken advantage of by criminal groups, isn’t the highest level most sophisticated hack. It’s exploits like this where the patch was released in March 2017.

    But a couple things happened. One, it gets on to people’s systems through what’s called phishing or spear phishing. They send you an e-mail and an unwitting user inside the company clicks on the attachment. That’s how the bad stuff gets in. That’s how the malware gets in.

    Number two, a lot of companies are not patching or updating their systems in ways that could stop known vulnerabilities, like this one. And number three, assuming that the worst can happen, we need the move both in our private companies and in government towards thinking about resilience. What happens if the worst happened, have I backed up my information in a way I can get back to doing business?

    SREENIVASAN: I also want to pivot to the executive order that the Trump administration just signed. Your thoughts on it, given that you’ve helped craft some of the cyber defense policy that exists today.

    CARLIN: Look, I thought the executive order is a good step in the right direction. There are a lot of reports ordered through it, and one thing I do worry about given the scope and scale of the threat we currently face, as was made quite vividly clear with this massive 100-country ransomware attack, I’m worried we’re not doing enough, fast enough.

    In that report is a call for a study to increase our deterrents. I think vital to the solution to this problem is going to be deterrents, figuring out a way to make bad guys — be they’re terrorists, nation states or crooks — worried about taking action in this space in a way they simply aren’t right now.

    SREENIVASAN: One of the concerns always has been is how fast government can actually kind of practice what it preaches. I mean, you guess were very good at giving, you know, clear guidelines for the private sector, but when you think of the number of computer systems spread out throughout government and how quickly they’re able to implement some of this, I mean — I don’t know how long that’s going to take.

    CARLIN: I think that’s right. It is a concern. I think one thing that was good about the approach in this executive order was the idea of making the cabinet secretaries responsible for figuring out what the risks are and ranking them on their own systems, and then making the White House responsible, looking across government to figure out, hey, what is the type of attack, what’s the type of material that causes the highest risk, so we can devote our resources to it. That’s the same approach we’re now just seeing private companies employ on their own systems. Both the government and the private sector need the move faster in that regard, given what the threats are, and start thinking of this like a risk mitigation exercise.

    You know, as troubling as this attack, ransomware attack was, one key thing to remember is, this was a crook. This was a criminal group trying to make money. What if they use that same technology and it’s a terrorist group? And what they’re trying to do is cause people to get harmed and they hit hospital systems?

    Then, if you pay 300 bucks, you don’t get your records back? Or what if it’s a nation state and they do what they, say, they did with our elections in 2016? They tried to undermine confidence and the integrity of an election. And instead of hitting the electoral system, what they do is some type of massive attack like this on a day that people are trying to vote that says, if you don’t stay home and keep clicking this button on your computer, you won’t be able to get access to your records?

    That’s a way of — one attack that was used for one purpose, being leveraged to accomplish a different goal. And that’s the type of thing we keep seeing happened.

    So, whether it’s stolen information, it used to be people stole information for the monetary value. Now, they weaponized that stolen information to try to achieve nation state gains. That’s what we saw North Korea do with Sony. It’s what we’ve seen Russia do.

    So, I think as we look ahead, the problem right now is going to get worse before it gets better, and it’s incumbent upon both the executive branch, Congress and the private sector, to put this at the very top of the agenda, in the way I don’t currently think it is right now and say, what can we do to move as quickly as the threat it?

    SREENIVASAN: All right. John Carlin, the former assistant attorney general for national security — thanks for joining us.

    CARLIN: Thank you.

    The post Analyzing the impact of the worldwide cyber attack appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    DJIBOUTI

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    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Djibouti is one of the hottest, driest, places on Earth. Vast areas are semi-arid desert. There are no natural resources. The official unemployment rate is 50 percent. Life for many is difficult.

    But Djibouti does have one very valuable asset — its location.

    Where the Red Sea meets the Gulf of Aden. A crossroads to the Suez Canal, the Persian Gulf, the Indian Ocean, and the East African coast. Strategic for countries from all over the world that have military outposts here.

    Entering Djibouti’s oldest port, you get the first glimpse of the country’s main industry. That enormous ship and a dockside full of containers has been the blueprint for its economy since gaining independence from France in 1977.

    This port was built by the French decades ago. It has served Djibouti well, establishing this tiny nation as a player in the shipping world. But it simply isn’t big enough to meet the ever growing demand…and Djibouti’s ambitions.

    Ilyas Dawaleh is the country’s Finance Minister.

    ILYAS DAWALEH: In our vision, from the east coast of Africa, Djibouti must and should remain the largest and the most sophisticated service center in terms of international shipping.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Djibouti’s second port opened nine years ago and now handles nearly two million tons of container cargo a year. Seeing this makes it easy to understand why shipping accounts for 80 percent of the economy.

    But an even bigger, newly constructed, port is getting ready to open. It’s considered one of the most advanced ports in the world. Those cranes represent the latest container lifting technology.

    China paid for the multimillion dollar project through state-owned companies. Djibouti’s finance minister says China is more willing than Western countries to take financial risks here.

    ILYAS DAWALEH: Very, very, very, important. And we can even consider it really a game changer partner.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Djibouti’s dream is to become for East Africa what Singapore is in Southeast Asia — a shipping and financial powerhouse.

    ABDIRAHMAN AHMED: When that vision started in 2000, a lot of people they were kind of laughing.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Abdirahman Ahmed is an entrepreneur with a focus on renewable energy. He’s studied and worked abroad, but he’s come home.

    ABDIRAHMAN AHMED: 15 or 17 years later, then more and more people are now believing in it, and they are saying, yes, it is feasible, and it is possible.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Djibouti’s location puts it at the center of a multinational fight against pirates based in neighboring Somalia…and in the war on terrorism.

    Since 9/11 the United States has continually expanded its troop presence to fight Islamic extremists in the region.

    The U.S. combined Joint Task Force for the Horn of Africa is the main American unit stationed at a former French colonial military installation.

    Camp Lemonnier is the only U.S. military base on the entire continent of Africa and it is a critical foothold in a particularly unstable part of Africa. It is home to anywhere between two-and-three- thousand American military personnel.

    The number of U.S. troops deployed here has tripled in the past 15 years, as the base expanded to more than 600 acres…the Pentagon is now spending 140 million dollars a year in Djibouti.

    Navy Captain James Black is the base commander.

    CAPTAIN JAMES BLACK:
    I describe it as a landlocked aircraft carrier or a landlocked amphib. We are self-contained, do our own water, our own electricity. Feed our own people.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL:
    For security reasons, Americans are not allowed to leave the base. The tour of duty here is anywhere from nine months to a year. And it’s hot all year, averaging 105 degrees in summer. Some of the amenities help: A gym. Subway is here. There’s a small movie theater and a U.S. post office.

    Camp Lemonnier has become a Pentagon hub for sending Special Operations forces to conflict zones like Somalia, Libya, and Yemen…and to operate drone missions.
    Showcasing its importance, U.S Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited last month and met with Djibouti’s president, Ismail Omar Guelleh, who’s now serving his fourth five-year term and first welcomed the Americans in 2002.

    His decision to allow the U.S military base here was controversial. This is a predominantly Muslim nation…in a predominantly Muslim region.

    The week after the Mattis visit, a ceremony at Camp Lemonnier illustrated just how many other nations also have a military presence in Djibouti. France, Italy, and Japan have bases here. In all, Djibouti collects about 150 million dollars a year in rent.

    Now, add China to the list. To protect its economic interests in the region, China is building its first overseas military base here, on track to be completed this year. That’s a Chinese navy frigate in Djibouti’s harbor. The Chinese base will be just seven miles north of where the Americans are.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL:
    Djibouti’s Foreign Minister admits that proximity startled some people.

    MAHAMOUD ALI YOUSSOUF:
    Some friends came to tell us, you know, there might be conflicting interests between China and the United States and other countries. But we responded quickly, saying that our motivation is mainly to assist and help friendly countries to protect their interests.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: China will pay Djibouti 100 million dollars annually to use the property. From the air, you can see a jetty, helicopter pad, at least 20 large buildings on a 90 acre plot.

    There are rumors, on the street and in diplomatic circles, that eventually as many as 10-thousand Chinese soldiers will be deployed here.

    MAHAMOUD ALI YOUSSOUF:
    I always say, that’s fake news. Our agreement is very clear. Few hundreds, jetty, and so on. I mean, there is no such big naval force presence in Djibouti.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL:
    However large it becomes, the Chinese military presence does not appear to be a concern to the American Commander at Camp Lemonnier.

    CAPTAIN JAMES BLACK: The few times that I have that I’ve personally interacted with the Chinese, they’ve been extremely professional. My personnel are extremely professional, and we’re all here in a small space trying to advance our nation’s and our worlds interests together. And so we’re looking for opportunities to cooperate.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: Despite all those bases and the booming shipping industry, many people living in impoverished areas, like Balaba, outside the capital, see very few benefits themselves.

    Shemis Mohammed, who shares a shack with her seven grandchildren, says she and her daughter cannot find work.

    SHEMIS MOHAMMED: There is development going on, she says, but if you don’t know someone in a position to help, you cannot get a job.

    MARTIN SEEMUNGAL: The government estimates it will take at least another 20 years to see any significant change.

    In that original port — with the big container ship and the Chinese frigate — Djibouti envisions a vibrant waterfront with hotels and a convention center — a magnet for tourism. It wants more cruise ships than warships.

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    north korea

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves to the members of the Korean People's Army in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency May 13, 2017. Photo By KCNA via Reuters

    North Korea successfully launched a projectile early Sunday morning believed to be a ballistic missile, according to the South Korean military.

    South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, citing the South Korean military, reported that the missile traveled about 435 miles.

    “North Korea fired an unidentified missile at around 5:27 a.m. today from an area in the vicinity of Kusong, North Pyongan Province,” the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement, according to Yonhap News Agency.

    Reuters reported that the launch took place in the same area where North Korea had attempted to test another intermediate-range missile two weeks ago.

    The test comes days after South Korea inaugurated a new president, Moon Jae-in, who has called for a moderate approach to North Korea, and as the U.S., Japan and two European nations meet to conduct military drills reportedly meant to send a message to the country.

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    fbi director

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: The talk of President Trump’s firing of FBI Director Jim Comey drowned out all other political conversation this week. Some Trump supporters said the president was keeping his promise to shake up Washington. Some Trump critics said he was interfering with a serious investigation about him and not telling the truth for his decision.

    Joining me now to discuss the ramifications is “NewsHour Weekend” special correspondent Jeff Greenfield, who’s in Santa Barbara, California.

    This gave some of his political allies pause this week.

    JEFF GREENFIELD, NEWSHOUR WEEKEND SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: It did. And I think what it means is that exactly the issue that Trump wanted to get behind them, the possibility of some kind of collusion between some of his associates and the Russian, is going to intensify.

    Interestingly, you’ve had the Republican chair of the intelligence committee, Richard Burr, and Mark Warner, his Democratic counterpart, working in tandem, both saying, we’ve got to get to the bottom of this.

    And I did notice a story that I think we should pay more attention to than we have, that an arm of the treasury — I want to get this right — it is the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, is working with the Senate Intelligence Committee to give them information about what that committee knows about financial transactions.

    Now, I don’t know if there’s any smoke, much less fire, but if there is stuff back there that’s going to show some kind of financial hanky-panky between Trump associates and the Russians, that’s the — that’s the unit of the treasury that is best equipped to find out. So, I think whatever Trump wanted to do in firing Comey, he may have had exactly the reverse effect.

    SREENIVASAN: Right. Who is going to be a replacement? We’ve said that the interview process has begun, but once that replacement is there, what kind of credibility challenges do they face?

    GREENFIELD: This is another area where Trump has set a landmine and stepped on it himself. The fact that he asserted that the Russia story was very much on his mind when he fired Comey and he’s already said publicly he doesn’t see anything wrong with trying to exact a pledge of loyalty from the FBI director, is going to mean that the confirmation process for whoever that new FBI director is going to be very intense.

    And along those lines, I want to point one thing out: the Senate Judiciary Committee is where the confirmation process begins. And there are more Republicans than Democrats on it because they run the Senate. But there are three Republicans on that committee — Ben Sasse and Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham — who are among the most non-fans, if I can put it that way, of President Trump in the Republican Party, and my sense is that the vetting process is going to be very, very interesting to watch once that nominee, whoever he or she is, gets before that committee.

    SREENIVASAN: And how does all this play with the base of Trump supporters?

    GREENFIELD: Well, you know what? Here we go again. We have seen from — throughout the campaign and in the first four months that whatever roils Washington or the editorial pages of the newspaper, Trump’s base seems perfectly happy with what’s he’s doing.

    The one poll number I saw says that the great majority of Republicans think he was right to firing Comey. And this is — this is the broader story that we are so polarized now politically, we’re like warring tribes, that whoever — whoever is the head of my team, I’m going to defend come hell or high water.

    The other part about that is that the reporting in the media is going to have very little effect on that base. We’ve learned from a recent Pew Poll that if you ask people, do you think the media should be — should act as watchdogs? A year ago, Republicans and Democrats were exactly the same, three-quarters said yes. Now, 90 percent of Democrats say yes, and less than half of Republicans say yes. So, this polarization into how people look at the media is I think going to help Donald Trump with his base.

    SREENIVASAN: All right. Jeff Greenfield joining us from Santa Barbara, California — thanks so much.

    GREENFIELD: Thank you.

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    U.S. President Trump sits next to Tillerson during bilateral meeting with China's President Xi at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach

    U.S. President Donald Trump sits next to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a bilateral meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping (not pictured) at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, on April 7, 2017. Photo via Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is assessing whether moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem would help or hurt prospects for clinching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, revealing Trump’s criteria for a decision that could reverberate throughout the volatile Middle East.

    Since taking office, Trump has backed away from his campaign pledge to move the embassy in a gesture to Israel, instead saying he’s still studying the issue. But Tillerson linked Trump’s deliberations directly to his aspirations for brokering Mideast peace.

    “The president is being very careful to understand how such a decision would impact the peace process,” Tillerson said in an interview broadcast Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He said Trump’s decision would be informed by feedback from all sides, including “whether Israel views it as helpful to a peace initiative or perhaps a distraction.”

    Trump’s decision is being closely watched as the president prepares to depart Friday on his first foreign trip. After stopping in Saudi Arabia, Trump will visit both Israel and the Palestinian territories, in a nod to his nascent bid to strike the Israeli-Palestinian deal that has eluded his predecessors.

    Jerusalem’s status is one of the most emotionally charged issues in the conflict, with both sides laying claims. Israel captured east Jerusalem — claimed by Palestinians for the capital of a future independent state — from Jordan in 1967 and annexed it, a move not internationally recognized.

    U.S. presidents of both parties have repeatedly waived a U.S. law requiring the embassy be moved to Jerusalem. The most recent waiver — signed by former President Barack Obama — expires on June 1. Trump is expected to sign a six-month renewal of the waiver before it expires, as he continues deliberating.

    In another sign the White House is proceeding cautiously, Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, plans to work out of the current embassy in Tel Aviv rather than out of the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, as some had urged him to do. Friedman, who owns an apartment in Jerusalem, is expected to live in the U.S. ambassador’s official residence in the Tel Aviv suburb of Herziliya.

    Palestinians argue moving the embassy would prejudge one of the most sensitive issues in the conflict, undermining America’s status as an effective mediator. There have been some signs that the Israeli government, while publicly supportive of moving the embassy, has quietly raised concerns that doing so could enflame the political and security situation.

    In the interview, Tillerson downplayed suggestions that the U.S. needed to deal decisively with Russia’s interference in the U.S. election before it could pursue better relations with Moscow. Though Tillerson said he’d seen the intelligence implicating Russia and believed there was no question Russia meddled, he said it was just one of a “broad range of important issues that have to be addressed in the U.S.-Russia relationship.”

    He said the notion of a “reset” with Russia — which both Obama and President George W. Bush pursued — was misguided.

    “You cannot erase the past. You cannot start with a clean state,” Tillerson said “We’re starting with the slate we have, and all the problems we have are in that slate.”

    AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report.

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    A voter leaves the booth after casting her ballot in the Pennsylvania primary at a polling place in Philadelphia

    A voter leaves the booth after casting her ballot in the Pennsylvania primary at a polling place in Philadelphia on April 26. Photo by Charles Mostoller/ Reuters

    MILWAUKEE — State Sen. Mary Lazich was adamant: The bill Republicans were about to push through the Wisconsin state Senate, requiring that voters present identification at the polls, would do no harm.

    “Not a single voter in this state will be disenfranchised by the ID law,” Lazich promised.

    Five years later, in the first presidential election held under the new law, Gladys Harris proved her wrong.

    By one estimate, 300,000 eligible voters in the state lacked valid photo IDs heading into the election; it is unknown how many people did not vote because they didn’t have proper identification. But it is not hard to find the Navy veteran whose out-of-state driver’s license did not suffice, or the dying woman whose license had expired, or the recent graduate whose student ID was deficient — or Harris, who at 66 made her way to her polling place despite chronic lung disease and a torn ligament in her knee.

    She had lost her driver’s license just before Election Day. Aware of the new law, she brought her Social Security and Medicare cards as well as a county-issued bus pass that displayed her photo.

    Not good enough. She had to cast a provisional ballot that ended up not being counted.

    In the end, Wisconsin’s 10 Electoral College votes went to Republican Donald Trump, who defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton by roughly 22,000 votes. But the battle over voter ID laws continues.

    READ NEXT: Trump creates panel to investigate voter fraud

    Under the Wisconsin law, voters must present a driver’s license, state ID, passport, military ID, naturalization papers or tribal ID to vote. A student ID is acceptable only if it has a signature and a two-year expiration date. Those who do not have their ID can cast a provisional ballot that will be counted only if they return with the proper ID within a few days of the election.

    Supporters have long argued such restrictions are needed to prevent voter fraud, while critics have decried the laws as undermining democracy and leading to the disenfranchisement of elderly and minority voters such as Harris.

    The debate flared anew this week when President Donald Trump signed an executive order creating a commission to investigate voter fraud. Trump maintains, without evidence, that he would have won the popular vote had it not been for millions of people casting ballots illegally. Democrats and voting rights groups said Trump’s commission is merely a front for allowing Republican state officials to enact tough registration and voting requirements that would restrict the ability of minorities and the poor to cast ballots.

    Courts also have weighed in on the topic, upholding laws that are generally narrow in scope while striking down others considered too broad. A federal appeals court last year struck down a package of laws passed in North Carolina, including voter ID, saying they targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision.”

    The politicians and the lawyers may be at loggerheads, but to Harris, the injustice is beyond dispute.

    “They prevented us from voting,” she said, simply.

    ___

    When Sean Reynolds went to his polling place at a local ice skating rink on Election Day, he showed his valid driver’s license. The problem? It wasn’t issued in Wisconsin.

    The Brennan Center estimated that in the 10 states with voter ID laws in 2012, more than 10 million eligible voters lived more than 10 miles from a state ID-issuing office that is open more than two days a week.

    Reynolds, 30, was taken aback. He had moved to Madison in 2015 to find work after leaving the Navy and receiving his associate’s degree from a university in neighboring Illinois. After learning he could register to vote on Election Day in Wisconsin, he thought all he needed to show at the polls was a current photo ID. After all, his Illinois ID was good enough to board a plane, open a checking account and purchase cold medicine.

    “Coming home and being denied the right to vote because I didn’t have a specific driver’s license is very frustrating,” said Reynolds, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan providing support for special forces. “I was a little incredulous that they wouldn’t accept another state’s driver’s license. I didn’t understand why it was not a valid form of ID.”

    Reynolds said he had been working 50-hour weeks, receiving hourly pay, and could not afford to take time off from his job in security management to visit a local DMV and transfer his license from Illinois.

    A survey conducted by the Brennan Center in 2006 estimated that while as many as roughly 21 million voting-age U.S. citizens did not have a valid government-issued, photo identification, an additional 4.5 million had a valid ID but one that did not have their current name or address.

    Supporters of voter ID laws say that prohibiting out-of-state driver’s licenses reduces the possibility of voter fraud and individuals filling out multiple ballots. Research has shown that such voter fraud can happen, but it’s very rare.

    After casting a provisional ballot, Reynolds was told to return within three days with a Wisconsin driver’s license, but he couldn’t take the time off from work on such short notice.

    “I only had between Tuesday and Friday to get it done, and I just couldn’t accomplish it in that time frame,” he said.

    ___

    When Alvin Mueller retired from his job as a maintenance worker, his wife Margie, 85, quit driving and let her license expire in 2010. The couple never had trouble voting in Plymouth, a small city about an hour’s drive north of Milwaukee where they’ve lived since they married 65 years ago.

    But they hit a snag during early voting in November because Margie Mueller couldn’t cast a ballot with her expired license. The staff at the city clerk’s office said if she wanted to vote, she would need to get a new ID at a DMV office about 15 miles away in Sheboygan, the county seat, Alvin Mueller recalls.

    That’s not unusual. The Brennan Center estimated that in the 10 states with voter ID laws in 2012, more than 10 million eligible voters lived more than 10 miles from a state ID-issuing office that is open more than two days a week.

    Alvin Mueller said his wife was battling cancer in her lymph nodes and lungs. The prospect of making the trip to Sheboygan was overwhelming. Not only did they not make the drive — Alvin decided if his wife couldn’t vote, he wouldn’t either.

    It’s not like they were strangers to the poll workers: “We voted in Plymouth here for years. They know us and everything,” he said.

    Margie died on March 19.

    “I’m going to be 86 pretty soon,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll be voting anymore, as long as she isn’t here. We did everything together.”

    ___

    Catelin Tindall brought these things with her when she went to her precinct on Election Day: Her Ohio ID. Copies of her lease and utility bill. Her student ID from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.

    Tindall, 24, had graduated in May, but wasn’t sure whether she would stay in Wisconsin so she kept her Ohio ID. Her student ID had her name, photo, a barcode, school logo and the most recent academic year she attended. But her student ID didn’t have an expiration date or say when it was issued, so she was forced to cast a provisional ballot.

    She doesn’t have a car, so she took an Uber to the DMV to get an ID. She was told the ID would arrive by express mail the next day.

    By then, she said, her work schedule at a Starbucks prevented her from going to the local clerk’s office with the ID so her vote would count.

    “At the time I was thinking, ‘At least tried, so I can’t feel too bad about it,'” she said.

    She felt differently when Trump won Wisconsin, her home for now as she looks for freelance work with her degree in communication design and illustration.

    “When I would see people saying, ‘What’s wrong with you Wisconsin, what are you doing?’ I would feel like, ‘Oh my God, I’m part of the problem,'” Tindall said.

    ___

    Overall, nearly 3 million people in Wisconsin voted last November, about 91,000 fewer than in 2012. Milwaukee, a power center for Democrats, reported that 41,000 fewer people voted there than in 2012; lack of enthusiasm for the candidates may have played a role.

    Backers of the ID law say it was a success. The number of provisional ballots, issued to voters who are unable to provide the required documentation, represented a fraction of all ballots cast — less than one half of 1 percent, according to a report by the Wisconsin Election Commission. Election officials are currently reviewing 86 reports of possible voter fraud, of which 70 involved felons who may have voted before having their rights restored.

    Gov. Scott Walker was a major supporter of voter ID. He said recently that voter education is important to him and all elected officials.

    “In a society where just about everyone has some form of voter identification, we just need to make sure going forward that we provide it for free, (that) we provide easy access to documents and other things in that regard,” Walker said. “We can be more than capable of making sure that people all across the state have access to voter identification.”

    A former U.S. senator from the state, Democrat Russ Feingold, called voter ID laws “scams” from Republicans who know “the Democratic Party has the numbers to decisively win every presidential election and a majority of Senate seats.”

    Feingold was ousted in 2010 by Republican Ron Johnson and was defeated again in a rematch last year. The former senator recently launched LegitAction, a nonprofit advocacy group that advocates for voting rights and abolishing the Electoral College.

    “The sole purpose of these laws, including those passed in Wisconsin, is to keep eligible voters from voting, specifically minority and low-income voters who tend to vote Democrat,” Feingold said in a statement to The Associated Press.

    Gladys Harris believes the state law did precisely what she thinks it was intended to do — prevent blacks like her who don’t have a car and rely on public transportation from voting.

    For the last two decades, she has lived and voted in Wisconsin. Retired from her job working at an HIV/AIDS community resource center, she no longer drives and relies on public transit and friends to bring her to doctor’s appointments, the grocery store — and the voting booth.

    “Even though they say your vote doesn’t count, I feel like it does,” Harris said.

    She was distraught when she was told her vote would not be counted unless she went to a local DMV office for a replacement card and then return with it to a local election office.

    “There is no understanding this. It was unfair, and I think it was cruel,” Harris said.

    A few days after the election, Harris found her driver’s license. It had fallen between her mattress and headboard.

    Associated Press writer Carrie Antlfinger in Milwaukee contributed to this report.

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    macron

    French President Emmanuel Macron waves from his car on the Champs-Élysées after the handover ceremony in Paris, France, May 14, 2017. Photo By Francois Lenoir/Reuters

    Emmanuel Macron became the youngest president in the history of France on Sunday in Paris, where he vowed to raise the country’s global standing and push the pro-Europe agenda that helped catapult him to the the nation’s highest office.

    Macron, 39, was inaugurated at the Élysée Palace before addressing the citizens of a country reeling from a loss of manufacturing jobs and experiencing a wave of immigration.

    In his inauguration speech, he said he would tackle the world’s migration crisis and fight terrorism during his five-year term while bridging a divided French citizenry.

    “My mandate will give the French back the confidence to believe in themselves,” Macron said. “The division and fractures in our society must be overcome. I know that the French expect much from me. Nothing will make me stop defending the higher interests of France and for working to reconcile the French.”

    Macron, a political neophyte who ran as an independent candidate, defeated his far-right rival Marie Le Pen in a runoff election last week. Macron, a former investment banker, favors staying in the European Union. He plans on addressing the issue of climate change and shaking up French politics, with his party planning to run new candidates for Parliament seats.

    Macron will announce his choice for France’s prime minister on Monday.

    The post Macron sworn in as youngest French president in history appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Rows of desks sit empty in a classroom. Photo by Alan Levine/Flickr

    Photo by Alan Levine/Flickr

    For school districts still getting their financial footing after the Great Recession, the Medicaid changes being advanced as part of the health care overhaul are sounding familiar alarms.

    Administrators say programming and services even beyond those that receive funding from the state-federal health care program could be at risk should Congress follow through with plans to change the way Medicaid is distributed. They say any reduction in the estimated $4 billion schools receive in annual Medicaid reimbursements would be hard to absorb after years of reduced state funding and a weakened tax base.

    “If they have less Medicaid money, something’s going to go away,” said Randy Liepa, superintendent of the Wayne County Regional Education Service Agency, which works with 33 school districts in the Detroit area. The agency covers about 21,000 children with special needs who are on Medicaid and it helps districts recoup about $30 million annually in reimbursements.

    Districts would have to look at nonmandated positions and programs if forced to bear more of the costs for services for poor and disabled students required by federal law, said Thomas Gentzel, executive director of the National School Boards Association.

    The Senate is up next in efforts to do away with President Barack Obama’s health law, and school leaders are watching to see whether the changes advanced by the House survive. The House bill would transform the open-ended federal entitlement, which reimburses schools a percentage of the cost of the eligible services they provide to poor and disabled students, to one where reimbursements will come in a fixed, per-person amount.

    But, said Kriner Cash, superintendent of public schools in Buffalo, New York, “individual student care comes with highly variable costs, especially in the case of students with disabilities.” In the school district, more than 80 percent of students are low income and 22 percent have disabilities. The district gets about $2.5 million annually from Medicaid.

    In March, a Congressional Budget Office estimate for an earlier version of the House bill found that federal Medicaid subsidies to states would be $880 billion less over 10 years.

    President Donald Trump’s administration argues that states will get more freedom to experiment with the program and make sure that people who rely on Medicaid get the care and coverage they need.

    READ NEXT: Under Trump, states may demand work for Medicaid

    Medicaid spending is “not getting out of control because of schools, because schools are getting less than 1 percent of the dollars,” said Sasha Pudelski, assistant director of policy and advocacy at The School Superintendents Association. “It’s not kids who are breaking the bank.”

    An association survey polling 1,000 school leaders reported that schools spent two-thirds of the money to support specialists, from school nurses and social workers to speech pathologists.

    The association, as part of a coalition of more than 50 school and child health advocates, warned congressional leaders in a recent letter against shifting more costs to states and in turn, local communities. They said that would lead to cuts in services and benefits to children, especially in districts with high poverty rates.

    “A lot of districts have never really covered from the Great Recession, they’re still in it,” Gentzel said, “and some states have not restored their funding. I think it’s the context of all of this that’s almost as important as the story about Medicaid.”

    Opponents of the changes say these are potential impacts:

    ___

    SCHOOL NURSES

    Students needing to check their temperature or searching for a tampon may not be able to walk down the hall to see a school nurse. Health professionals such as nurses, physical therapists, speech pathologists, social workers and psychologists may be forced to rove between schools, outsourced or have some of their duties taken on by administrative staff.

    “There are health barriers to students getting their education,” said Donna Mazyck, executive director of the National Association of School Nurses. Individualized Education Plans mandated under federal law may require nurses to give medication and tend to feeding tubes and tracheotomies. “That service won’t be done if Medicaid isn’t paying for it,” she said.

    ___

    MENTAL HEALTH

    Behavioral issues in the classroom are often addressed with counseling through social workers and psychologists. Schenectady City School District in New York, where a majority of students live in poverty, has had a dramatic increase in the number of social workers at its schools dealing with mental health issues. “They’re all front-line responders to kids in crisis,” Superintendent Laurence Spring said. He said they counsel kids traumatized by domestic violence and street crimes and others who experience anxiety from not having enough food at home. The district files for about $2 million in annual Medicaid reimbursements.

    ___

    HEALTH SCREENINGS

    When schools host campus-wide preventative screenings, for everything from vision, hearing, asthma and mental health, some costs are recouped based on the number of Medicaid-eligible students who are treated. Advocates say that vulnerable children may not have access to such preventative services outside of school, but the screenings can catch health issues before they become more serious.

    Liepa, from the Detroit-area agency, said children living in poverty regularly come to school facing significant impairments to their health and with little or no support at home to address them, which ultimately affects learning. “It’s no different than if they’re coming in hungry, which is supported by the federal lunch program.”

    ___

    COMMUNITY OUTREACH

    School districts often direct and assist students’ families with resources, such as helping them sign up for Medicaid or referring them to an eye doctor for glasses. Some hours spent on these administrative tasks are reimbursable by Medicaid.

    Poquoson City Public Schools in Virginia spend some of their $35,000 in annual reimbursements for events targeting children who aren’t even in school yet, in hopes of getting families resources as early as possible. “It’s a jump start for kindergarten. If we can get some services, with disabilities, at an early age, they’re likely far more successful in the years with us,” Superintendent Jennifer Parish said.

    ___

    EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES

    A major hit on school budgets could mean less for new or replacement equipment and supplies. That could affect things such as outfitted buses, assistive devices and other items for children with special needs so they can be in school. This could trickle down to nonmandated items such as special science lab materials or theater club costumes for general education students.

    Liepa said the Medicaid money has helped school districts afford programs and operational costs, from upgrading buses to buying new textbooks, while balancing their budgets. “It’s been a life-saver for school districts. It’s one less thing I have to worry about or think about reducing,” he said.

    ___

    SPORTS, CLUBS AND ACTIVITIES

    Optional but highly popular programs for students and families, such as sports, clubs and after-school activities, could be slashed, as the offerings are generally the first to go in a budget crisis.

    “Most districts have long picked the low-hanging fruit in their budgets,” Gentzel said.

    Ho reported from Las Vegas and Thompson reported from Buffalo, New York.

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    doctor shortage

    An emergency sign points to the entrance to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California, on March 23, 2017. Photo By Mike Blake/Reuters

    JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Numerous doctors from around the U.S. could become eligible to treat patients in Missouri’s underserved areas as a result of a planned expansion of a first-in-the-nation law aimed at addressing doctor shortages.

    The newly passed Missouri legislation would broaden the reach of a 2014 law that sought to bridge the gap between communities in need of doctors and physicians in need of jobs.

    Supporters have touted the law as a model for other states.

    The law created a new category of “assistant physicians” for people who graduated from medical school and passed key medical exams but were not placed in residency programs. But it took nearly 2½ years to implement.

    Missouri’s new legislation turns back the clock, so those who became ineligible during the slow rollout still can qualify.

    The post Missouri targets doctor dearth, expands first-in-nation law appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Celebrities Visit Broadway - June 15, 2016

    George Takei performs in the new play “White Rabbit Red Rabbit” at The Westside Theatre on June 15, 2016, in New York City. Photo by Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

    George Takei, the famed actor and activist perhaps best-known for his role of Sulu in Star Trek or for his posts on civil rights to his millions of social media followers, has lived many lives. Among them: he was one of roughly 120,000 Japanese-Americans who lived through internment after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, an experience that he says he feels more obliged than ever to discuss.

    He recently recounted in the The New York Times, “I was 7 years old when we were transferred to another camp for ‘disloyals.’ My mother and father’s only crime was refusing, out of principle, to sign a loyalty pledge promulgated by the government. The authorities had already taken my parents’ home on Garnet Street in Los Angeles, their once thriving dry cleaning business, and finally their liberty.”

    “America is a diverse country. But we all subscribe to the values and the spirit and the Constitution of the United States.” — Actor George Takei

    After they were released, he and his family had to readjust. Takei ran for school government in junior high and high school, studied architecture at the University of California, Berkeley and earned a degree in drama from University of California, Los Angeles. A turning point for his career came in 1966 when he began playing the role of Hikaru Sulu in the Star Trek television series. From the beginning, Takei fought stereotypes and tropes imposed on his character — in one instance, for the Star Trek episode “The Naked Time,” Takei convinced writer John D.F. Black that Sulu shouldn’t be holding a samurai sword, but instead one more like something Robin Hood would use.

    Since then, his voice and influence has continued to grow as a community activist, writer and performer. He told the Associated Press in 2005 that, “The world has changed from when I was a young teen feeling ashamed for being gay.” Then he declared marriage was his next political issue, saying, “That would have been unthinkable when I was young.”

    In 2011, he offered his last name in replacement of the word “gay” when the Tennessee state legislature passed a bill that prohibited school teachers or students from talking about sexuality with students, including language that alluded to gay people. He suggested people instead say they support “Takei” marriage or are going to a “Takei” parade, forever imparting the saying “That’s so Takei” to American culture.

    Now, he’s starring in the off-Broadway play musical Pacific Overtures, written by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman and performed at Classic Stage Company. The musical follows the westernization of Japan during the period when U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry in 1953 set out to open the isolated islands to international trade.

    This year, 75 years after the executive order that authorized internment, Takei is using his platform to denounce the current administration’s approach to immigration, and, recently, to criticize Uber for its treatment of workers.

    Takei’s warm presence, online and in person, is both indelible and quietly captivating. He recently sat down with the NewsHour Weekend to discuss his work and the importance of learning about a shared American history, from internment to activism and the ongoing fight for civil rights.

    Tell us about the role of the Reciter in Pacific Overtures.

    There is a history to Pacific Overtures. When it was first done, Hal Prince, the director, initially was absolutely smitten by Kabuki, the classic Japanese theater form. And he wanted to interpret this story in that structure. And so he, the Reciter, is an organic part of Kabuki, as are the black-clad stagehands and wardrobe people that come in stage and help with the changes. And so the reciter is traditionally someone who helps with the — with the exposition and transitions and some of the interior monologue of the actors.

    This production at the Classic Stage Company is directed by John Doyle. He is a person who puts his signature on everything. Here, he took on this story, a chapter from Japanese history that involves the first time participation of Americans, an American commodore named Matthew Perry, who comes to an isolated, closed, severely closed-off Japan to open it up to trade. Well, he took this story and reduced it down to its essential minimal. And that’s very Japanese.

    Then by the end of the play, you see a Broadway musical with high kicking and things being strewn about. But it’s quintessentially a Japanese production, different from any other previous productions which claim to be Kabuki style.

    The role that I play is a remnant of that. The person who helps with the exposition and transitions and actually takes part in that as a character.

    Classic Stage Company’s Pacific Overtures with George Takei. Photo courtesy of Classic Stage Company

    Do you have any concerns when people who aren’t from Asia tell the stories of Japanese people or Asian people?

    You know, Shakespeare wrote about Italy, or a Moor from North Africa. A gifted artist who has the integrity to really do the research is much better than the actual someone of that ethnicity who doesn’t have that talent. A true artist takes on a project with that kind of integrity to doing a truthful job. Then, for example, John Doyle was born and raised in Inverness, a Scotsman, but away from the urban areas of Scotland, a northern, coastal village. And yet he’s able to understand the essence of Japanese aesthetics and create a singularly Japanese show.

    Do you ever feel as if you’re asked to speak for entire communities or communities that you don’t necessarily identify with?

    Well, I am an American. America is a diverse country. But we all subscribe to the values and the spirit and the Constitution of the United States. I don’t need to have my integrity as someone of Japanese ancestry, although I do have that too, because Japanese Americans have a singular American history. But I am an American, and I will speak as an American.

    I’m concerned about the Muslim condition here because Japanese Americans in 1941, ’42 was subjected to the same kind of attitudes, hatred I should say, with absolutely no basis in fact. Just because of their faith they’re seen as potential terrorists. And just because of our ancestry, because of our faces, Japanese Americans were seen as potential spies, fifth columnists and saboteurs.

    What can people do to prevent persecution of the Muslim community?

    Our educational system leaves a great deal to be desired. I’m always shocked, to this day, when people that I consider reasonably well-read and informed are shocked when I tell them about my childhood behind American barbed-wire fences. They’re absolutely aghast that something like that happened. That’s why we did Allegiance, a musical based on the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans, innocent people. Not a single case of spying or espionage or sabotage was proved. We were all 100 percent innocent. But the kind of brutality that went on in the camps, the horrors, and then to be impoverished, and then when the war’s over, the gates are opened and you’re free.

    We were destitute. Literally destitute. And yet we came back up from that. I remember how my parents struggled and really had a very, very difficult time getting back on their feet, and they educated three children, gave us fine educations. And that is the key. More people need to know who we are and where we came from as Americans.

    If you could use three words to identify yourself, what would they be?

    I am an American.

    You tweeted to #DeleteUber several months ago, and it was re-tweeted thousands of times. Is it overwhelming to have that kind of influence?

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

    Business is part of our society. I believe in praising people that are doing good work. Uber didn’t treat their drivers properly from way back, and the riders were also put in jeopardy. There was no insurance. All this. Information is what we should base our life on. Certainly information about our history and who we are as a people, but certainly in the daily course of life we need to be informed.

    What do you think is the most effective way to talk about offensive language?

    It depends on the situation and the person you’re talking to. It’s usually someone who’s ignorant, but you know, basic fundamentally a nice guy. Then you try to educate that person. If it’s someone that is enraged, and I don’t know why, but that’s a situation that you need to be very careful about. In this day in age, when we have that thing called guns so loosely available, a racist who would be enraged publicly is a dangerous person. You make your judgment in that situation.

    Interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Pacific Overtures is playing at Classic State Company through June 18, 2017.

    The post ‘I am an American’ — George Takei on a lifetime of defying stereotypes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Representative Brat (R-VA) holds a town hall meeting with constituents in Midlothian, Virginia

    U.S. Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) (not pictured) holds a town hall meeting with constituents at Clover Hill Assembly of God in Midlothian, Virginia, U.S., May 9, 2017. Photo by Chet Strange/Reuters

    MCHENRY, Ill. — Skeleton in hand, retired biology teacher Jeannie Scown delivered a message to her Republican congressman at his office northwest of Chicago.

    “Killed by Trumpcare Plague, May 4, 2017,” her poster read.

    In a nod to House Republicans’ recent vote to gut the health care law, Scown had no intention of sparing four-term Rep. Randy Hultgren with subtlety.

    “He has to understand that sick people vote, too,” Scown said, “and we are going to go get them and take them to the polls if they can’t get there themselves, because we are tired of being used.”

    Americans vented similar frustrations this past week in Republican districts crucial to GOP majority control of the House, sounding off about health care and President Donald Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey. Democrats see in these displays evidence of the enthusiasm necessary for them to break the GOP’s monopoly control of Washington in next year’s midterm elections.

    Republicans in some districts faced a backlash at raucous town halls over their votes for the House health care bill. There were plenty of complaints about a provision that would allow insurers to charge seriously ill people higher rates if they let their coverage lapse. Other lawmakers avoided holding forums.

    Trump added to the tumult by dismissing Comey, raising questions about whether the president was trying to scuttle an FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

    “He did this as Comey wanted to get closer and closer,” said Sam Weissbard of Westfield, New Jersey. A dentist who practices in Manhattan, Weissbard said he has no ill-will against his five-term congressman, Republican Leonard Lance, who voted against the health bill. Nonetheless, Weissbard will oppose Lance to send a message to the White House.

    In Illinois, Scown said Trump’s move shows why “the whole administration scares many of us.” Whatever “displeases him,” she said, “he gets rid of.”

    Trump maintains a hold on his core supporters — about 40 percent according to many polls — but the intensity of voters like Scown and Weissbard offer encouragement for Democrats.

    [Watch Video]

    The party needs to flip 24 seats to seize control of the House. Democrats’ top targets are some two dozen GOP-held seats around the country in places such as Arizona, Florida, California and Colorado where Democrat Hillary Clinton beat Trump. Of the 217 Republicans who backed the bill, 14 come from districts carried by Clinton.

    The first political tests are just weeks away.

    In Montana, folk singer-turned-politician Rob Quist is trying to win his state’s at-large House seat in a May 25 special election. In Georgia, Democrat Jon Ossoff has raised more than $10 million ahead of a June special election in a suburban Atlanta district last represented by Trump’s health secretary, Tom Price. But party operatives and their aligned groups are primed for an offensive even if Ossoff and Quist fall short.

    Outside groups have started television and digital ads against vulnerable Republicans who voted for the bill, and liberal grassroots groups are organizing “Adopt-A-District” town halls that send Democratic House members into Republican districts where the local representative has no scheduled open forums.

    One of the first sessions was Friday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s district. With Ryan elsewhere in Wisconsin — public events but not open town halls — his neighboring Democratic colleague, Mark Pocan, greeted the speaker’s constituents at a union hall.

    “Paul is the person who essentially drafted this health care bill,” Pocan said, ahead of the gathering. “We need to know that his constituents have every tool possible to try to influence him in a different direction.”

    Defending himself, Ryan told reporters on Friday: “It’s not that I’m not doing town halls. I’m getting around to see constituents all the time. I’m doing office hours, I’m doing telephone town halls, I’m doing business interviews. I’m doing it in a way so constituents don’t go into a harassing environment.”

    READ NEXT: Why the U.S. pays more for health care than the rest of the world

    New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur spent five hours last Wednesday fielding intense, sometimes angry inquiries.

    Vicky Van Wright, 69, who had never attended a town hall, said she was worried about Trump leading the U.S. “back to a darker time in our history,” but identified the health care bill as her driving concern. She argued it could threaten Medicaid insurance programs for her 35-year-old son with Down’s syndrome.

    MacArthur told Van Wright that Republicans want to give states flexibility, not “cut” Medicaid. Van Wright remained unconvinced.

    Hultgren said in a statement that the protesters who’ve gathered outside his office are “getting overly dramatic” about the impact of the plan.

    In California, about 800 people attended a town hall without Rep. Mimi Walters in Orange County. Demonstrators wearing hospital gowns and wielding crutches visited one of Rep. Darrell Issa’s district offices.

    In 15-term Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s nearby district, Patricia Hilaiel-Miller is the kind of voter at-risk Republicans must win over, despite any misgivings over Trump or health care.

    A registered Democrat, Hilaiel-Miller, praises Rohrabcher as “proactive.” But the 60-year-old said she and her husband, who is self-employed, benefit from the law and she’s unsure about potential changes.

    “The whole thing is a joke,” she said. “I’m just going to move to France.”

    Barrow reported from Atlanta. Associated Press writers Michael Catalini in New Jersey, Amy Taxin in California and Scott Bauer in Wisconsin contributed to this report.

    The post In swing districts, voters vent over health care, fear Trump appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    CLIMATE MARCH DC - Care for Creation

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    By: Saskia de Melker and Laura Fong

    STEPHANIE SY: In the rising Eco-Right movement, you could say these are the Eco-Righteous.

    EVANGELICAL MARCHERS: Hey, hey! ho, ho! Fossil fuels have got to go!

    STEPHANIE SY: Among the throngs of environmentalists at the Climate March in Washington last month, they stand out because they not only chant, they pray.

    EVANGELICAL MARCHER: I pray that you would help people to listen and to be able to change things around so that we can impact this world, your creation, in a positive way.

    KYLE MEYAARD-SCHAAP: This is what democracy looks like!

    STEPHANIE SY: At 27, Kyle Meyaard-Schaap is the leader of the Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, a group that’s grown to 10,000 members in the past five years.

    KYLE MEYAARD-SCHAAP: There’s a general perception out there that Evangelicals are apathetic or antagonistic toward climate change. And that’s just not the case.

    SEN. JAMES INHOFE (R-OK), Senate Floor, February 25, 2015: We keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record…

    STEPHANIE SY: That perception comes in part from this moment two years ago when Republican Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe who has said that only God controls the weather, brought a snowball onto the Senate floor to prove the earth is not warming.

    KYLE MEYAARD-SCHAAP: For a lot of the more conservative lawmakers who have been able to depend on support from an Evangelical voting bloc we want them to hear us saying, ‘If you want to continue to be able to depend on this voting bloc, you need to start listening to what the next generation of Evangelicals are saying is important to them.’ And more and more, we’re saying with a louder and louder voice, ‘That’s climate.’

    KYLE MEYAARD-SCHAAP: May our work for climate action be a witness that points to you triune God

    STEPHANIE SY: After the Climate March, his group gathered at the U.S. Capitol to rehearse talking points to use when lobbying members of Congress.

    KYLE MEYAARD-SCHAAP: Let us now offer prayers for our political leaders…

    STEPHANIE SY: The generational shift in Republican leaders is personified by 37-year-old Florida Congressman Carlos Curbelo. He voted with the party to repeal the Affordable Care Act but he’s bucking the party leadership on climate change.

    STEPHANIE SY: We met up with him at a solar-powered farm in his district, just south of Miami.

    REP. CARLOS CURBELO (R-FL): People here live between the Everglades and the ocean, so the environment is always on our minds.

    STEPHANIE SY: Last year, Curbelo and Florida Democrat Ted Deutch co-founded the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus. It now has 38 members in the House of Representatives.

    REP. CARLOS CURBELO: It’s what we call a Noah’s Ark caucus. You can only join if you identify a member of the opposing party to join with you, so it kind of forces bipartisanship, and the caucus is equally Republican and Democrat. I never thought that we would grow so fast.

    STEPHANIE SY: Curbelo’s constituents are already living with the effects of global warming, such as high tides that reach higher every year and flood residents even on sunny days, depressing property values.

    STEPHANIE SY, Homestead, FL: They’re experiencing the threats of rising sea levels, coastal erosion, loss of wildlife, the Zika virus, all of which scientists say are worsened by climate change.

    STEPHANIE SY: Curbelo supports continuing and expanding subsidies for carbon-free and renewable energy sources.

    REP CARLOS CURBELO: Most members of Congress are open to this idea of the United States leading an energy revolution in the world, innovating, creating the jobs of the future today and one of my major priorities in tax reform is to protect the solar and wind tax credits that are in place today.

    STEPHANIE SY: At 96, George Shultz, a former cabinet secretary to Presidents Reagan and Nixon, whose administration created the Environmental Protection Agency, is weighing into the debate.

    SHULTZ: Use the marketplace. Do it the Reagan way.

    STEPHANIE SY: He’s touting a solution to curb carbon-dioxide emissions consistent with what he considers “Republican principles.”

    SHULTZ: You don’t have to rely on any fancy science to figure out that the globe is warming. That is a fact. But if you have questions about it, why don’t you take out an insurance policy, because the consequences are considerable.

    STEPHANIE SY: For Shultz, the insurance policy is a plan he’s put out as a member of the Climate Leadership Council –”A Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends.” The proposal is to charge energy companies a tax, say $40, for every ton of carbon that comes out of mining coal or refining oil. The proceeds would be distributed back to Americans, a “carbon dividend,” worth around $2,000 dollars a year for a family of four. The tradeoff? The plan would strip away much of the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon emissions and cancel President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

    STEPHANIE SY: It may surprise you to learn that many of the world’s largest oil companies say they’d support a carbon tax, including ExxonMobil, which told NewsHour Weekend: “We support carbon policies that would ensure a uniform and predictable cost of carbon across the economy.”

    Currently no Republican in Congress has endorsed Shultz’s carbon tax plan, although Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island says privately, some do. He introduced a similar plan in 2015.

    SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE: Virtually every Republican who has looked at the climate change problem and come to a solution comes to the same solution, which is a price on carbon, a market signal that is revenue-neutral and gives all the money back to the public. And I think our answer is, ‘Yes, yes, we’ll do that.’ So, we agree on the getaway car, we agree on the need for escape, and really the last political problem is how you get Republicans through that kill zone that the fossil fuel industry has set up in Congress.

    STEPHANIE SY: The fossil fuel industry has actually come out in favor of some sort of carbon pricing. Do you view them as genuine allies on climate action?

    SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE: No. Every part of the fossil fuel industry’s and Big Oil’s political apparatus is still lined up to say, ‘If you dare talk about a carbon price, we are coming after you.’

    ANDY SABIN: The carbon tax may be a good idea. It’s not doable. Even a revenue-neutral carbon tax.

    STEPHANIE SY: Andy Sabin, is a longtime Republican Party donor, who made his fortune from a metal recycling business. He sees climate change as an urgent problem, but a carbon tax as politically dead on arrival.

    ANDY SABIN: Kellyanne, House leadership, Tillerson…

    STEPHANIE SY: Sabin contributed more than $700,000 to Republican candidates in last year’s election, including those he feels support environmental issues. But he also donated $100,000 to President Trump’s inauguration, even though Trump has called man-made climate change a “hoax” and is considering withdrawing from the 2015 Paris climate accords, when the U.S. pledged to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

    ANDY SABIN: I talk to friends in the White House about the Paris climate change agreement. I’m constantly texting people very close to the President. I want to be his environmental advisor, so he could at least hear the other side. And I’m hopeful he’s going to say, ‘Hey, maybe I should take a look at the environment?”

    STEPHANIE SY: Sabin spends his free time taking care of his menagerie of animals and tending to his organic garden.

    STEPHANIE SY: What do you think the solutions are to lowering carbon emissions?

    ANDY SABIN: I think we’re on the track now. I believe in obviously wind, solar, hydro, modular nuclear, all of these things. What’s nice is the renewable energy is becoming much cheaper than fossil fuels.

    STEPHANIE SY: An ardent nature lover who buys prime real estate on New York’s Long Island just for conservation, Sabin has also given millions to endow Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.

    ANDY SABIN: The real solution, biggest solution, stop cutting down trees and plant new trees.

    STEPHANIE: That’s carbon capture.

    ANDY SABIN: Right. But that’s natural carbon capture.

    STEPHANIE SY: Florida Congressman Carlos Curbelo disagrees with President Trump’s attempts to dismantle the Clean Power Plan. And he’s considering the carbon tax.

    REP. CARLOS CURBELO: I’m trying to avoid going out there and endorsing or rejecting specific ideas. My point is we have to do something, and if we’re going to get rid of the regulations like the clean power plan, what’s the alternative? There must be an alternative.

    STEPHANIE SY: The political momentum for Republican solutions to climate change is overlapping with another reality — shifting public opinion. A national survey by Yale and George Mason Universities last December found half of trump voters think global warming is happening. Six in ten trump voters supported taxing or regulating the pollution causing it.

    For the varied voices in the rising Eco-Right movement, it’s a matter of making the issue a priority for Republicans by speaking their language.

    KYLE MEYAARD-SCHAAP: And the reconciling saving work of Christ extends to the entire created world.

    STEPHANIE SY: Young Evangelical leader Kyle Meyaard-Schaap argues climate action is in line with other Christian values, including anti-abortion views.

    KYLE MEYAARD-SCHAAP: To be pro-life means that you care about human life, you care about human flourishing free from the impacts of a changing climate on people’s ability to grow their food and provide for their families.

    STEPHANIE SY: Republican donor Andy Sabin highlights the public health hazards.

    ANDY SABIN: If you really want to relate to a working-class Republican, tell him he’s going to live longer, tell him his health bills are going to go down, and he may not get cancer or asthma or heart disease. That resonates with somebody.

    STEPHANIE SY: And George Shultz, the Republican statesman promoting the free market fix, says for the sake of his grandchildren and great grandchildren, he hopes history comes full circle.

    GEORGE SHULTZ: The original guy who worried about the environment was a Republican, Teddy Roosevelt. President Reagan did the ozone layer, President H.W. Bush did the acid rain problem. The record shows this is a Republican issue.

    The post Rising conservative voices call for climate change action appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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