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

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    An NHS sign is seen at St Thomas' Hospital in central London, Britain May 12, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

    An NHS sign is seen at St Thomas’ Hospital in central London, Britain May 12, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

    The past few days have been filled with reports about the ransomware impact on the UK National Health Service. Was the NHS specifically targeted? No. Was it uniquely vulnerable? Yes.

    I’ve been a chief information officer overseeing health care institutions and academia for more than 20 years. In that time, I’ve identified five reasons that health care is more vulnerable than most other industries to security issues.

    1. A small market.There are 5,564 hospitals in the United States. That means that many health care software vendors have a total of 5,564 customers. This relatively small market means that many niche developers may not have the resources to update their applications frequently. Yes, the comprehensive electronic health care records companies do issue updates, but what about that application helping your cardiologist, GI specialist, or Ob/Gyn do their job? They may have a mission critical system that is years out of date. In 2017, there are still health care applications that only run in Windows XP, an operating system no longer supported (or patched) by Microsoft. An XP patch was issued over the weekend for the specific bug exploited by the ransomware, but that is exceedingly rare.
    2. It’s built from the bottom up.Many industrial companies are top down, command and control. There is one set of technologies and policies that apply to all employees. Companies buy specific phones and laptops for employees and offer few options for work-related computing. The United States does not have a top- down health care system. Instead, it has a decentralized, loosely connected collection of hospitals, clinics, labs and pharmacies with no all- powerful leader. Every one of these organizations has different technologies, policies, and cybersecurity educational programs. But what about within a given hospital? Although there are exceptions such as Kaiser Permanente, most hospitals own the facility but not the doctors. Imagine if Toyota owned the factory and independent workers arrived every day to build whatever car they wanted. That’s how hospitals work. CIOs have no authority to tell clinicians they must run a specific brand of corporate-approved phone, and they certainly do not have the budget to buy them for anyone.
    3. Imagine if Toyota owned the factory and independent workers arrived every day to build whatever car they wanted. That’s how hospitals work.
    4. Under spending. How much does your financial services company spend on technology every year? Likely more than 25 percent of its budget. How much does your hospital spend on information technology? Likely under 4 percent. If you are a bank robber, will you go after a company that spends one quarter of its resources on building vaults or will you after the company that tries very hard but spends less than one-20th of its resources on vaults? You’ll go where the money is the easiest to steal.
    5. READ MORE: Everything you need to know about the ‘WannaCrypt’ ransomware attack

    6. No tolerance for inconvenience or downtime. Security patches for operating systems and applications are issued every day. Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. Patches can disrupt existing applications, shut down servers, or cause network slowness. Every patch needs to be tested before it is applied and only installed when there is confidence it will do no harm. Clinicians are stressed and often overwhelmed in their jobs. They have little tolerance for downtime or any reduction in technology functionality. The challenge is to implement constant change and innovation with patches and upgrades while never disrupting clinical work or causing safety concerns. That is like changing the wings on a 747 while it’s flying. Thus, health care organizations may not have all the latest patches installed.
    7. READ MORE: Analyzing the impact of the worldwide cyber attack

    8. Medical devices expose systems to more threats. Hospitals not only have thousands of computers, phones and laptops: they also have thousands of medical devices connected to the network. IV pumps, X-ray machines, and heart monitors sound like appliances, but in reality they are computers with network connections. Many of these medical devices have little to no security protections because manufacturers never assumed they would be attacked. Some manufacturers claim that adding security patches would require that the devices be re-approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This is not true.

    What can we do to improve cybersecurity resilience in health care?

    • Attitudes toward technology need to change to allow occasional short- term disruptions and inconvenience when high- risk security issues arise. By providing additional security, health care organizations can ensure the long term availability of their applications and the integrity of patient data.
    • Government, academia, and industry must work together to ensure our technology tools are safe, reliable and protected from those who attack them.
    • Policies need to be more restrictive and limit the devices that members of the health care community can use and the activities they can perform. There should be no expectation that certain websites, downloads, or applications can be accessed from work related devices.
    • Ongoing education is key — including active testing of user behavior. If someone clicks on a link in an email that promises thousands of dollars from an overseas businessman, they should be rewarded with mandatory security and compliance training.

    Still, there is no magic bullet solution to the cyber security challenges faced by all industries, especially health care. Government, academia, and industry must work together to ensure our technology tools are safe, reliable and protected from those who attack them.

    The post Column: 5 reasons why health care is vulnerable to cyberattacks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    People hold signs calling for the release of imprisoned WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning while marching in a 2015 gay pride parade in San Francisco, California. Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters

    People hold signs calling for the release of imprisoned WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning while marching in a 2015 gay pride parade in San Francisco, California. Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Pvt. Chelsea Manning, the transgender soldier convicted in 2013 of illegally disclosing classified government information, will remain on active duty in a special status after her scheduled release from prison Wednesday, the Army said Tuesday.

    An Army spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson, said Manning will be on “excess leave” while her court-martial conviction is under appellate review. In that status she will be unpaid but will be legally entitled to military medical care.

    “In an active-duty status, although in an unpaid status, Manning is eligible for direct care at medical treatment facilities, commissary privileges, morale welfare and recreation privileges, and exchange privileges,” Johnson said in a written statement.

    A former intelligence analyst in Iraq, Manning is being released in accordance with former President Barack Obama’s decision to grant her clemency in his final days in office.

    Manning was convicted in 2013 of leaking secret military and State Department documents and battlefield video. A native of Crescent, Oklahoma, she was convicted in a military court martial of 20 counts, including six Espionage Act violations, theft and computer fraud. She was acquitted of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy.

    Manning acknowledged leaking the materials, saying she wanted to expose what she considered to be the U.S. military’s disregard of the effects of war on civilians. She also said she released information that she didn’t believe would harm the U.S., but critics said the leaks endangered information sources.

    She served nearly seven years of her 35-year sentence at the military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. She was known as Bradley Manning before transitioning in prison.

    Watch: Obama defends decision to commute Manning’s sentence

    The post Chelsea Manning to stay on active duty when released from prison tomorrow appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Digital addictions are not official mental disorders. But researchers see the same patterns in digital addictions as in other substance abuse. Photo by Kar Tr via Adobe

    Digital addictions are not official mental disorders. But researchers see the same patterns in digital addictions as in other substance abuse. Photo by Kar Tr via Adobe

    When her youngest daughter, Olivia, was in middle school, Mary watched her disappear behind a screen. (Names have been changed to protect the family’s identities). Her once bubbly daughter went from hanging out with a few close friends after school to isolating in her room for hours at a time.

    “She started just laying there not moving and just being on the phone,” says Mary. “I was at a loss about what to do.”

    Olivia had always been kind of a nerd, a straight-A student who sang in a competitive choir. But she desperately wanted to be popular, and the cool kids talked a lot about their latest YouTube favorites.

    “I started trying to watch as many videos as I could, so, like, I knew as much as they did,” says Olivia. “The second I got out of school, I was checking my phone.”

    At her house in the Oakland hills, Olivia would dart to her room, where she’d curl up until after dark, watching video after video. When she finally emerged, she says, she was often bleary-eyed, hazy and slightly wired.

    Mary says she was walking on eggshells around her daughter; Olivia was often in a foul mood and quick to anger after staring at her small screen for hours.

    Videos Turn Violent

    Over time, Olivia started watching videos of girls fighting each other. They’d pull each other’s hair, scratch violently and sometimes knock each other out. Olivia and her friends rooted for certain fighters.

    “I think it was just fun to watch because they would make me laugh,” Olivia recalls. “And at that time I was having a pretty hard time dealing with depression and anxiety.”

    “I got the idea to overdose online. I was researching how many pills I had to take to die.” Olivia, 13

    Olivia’s parents were arguing a lot and she wasn’t connecting with her dad at all. Then her grandmother died. For the first time in her life, it was tough to keep up with school.

    “She woke up one morning really depressed, and I brought her to the hospital,” Mary says, lowering her eyes. Olivia had received a poor grade on a test and told her mom she wanted to hang herself, so she spent nearly a week at a psychiatric hospital under suicide watch.

    When she was released, she started clicking on how-to videos about ways to commit suicide. “I got the idea to overdose online,” says Olivia. “I was researching how many pills I had to take to die.”

    Three weeks later, she ended up in the hospital again after downing a bottle of Tylenol.

    “She was home alone and we had been told to lock it up, but we just didn’t think this would ever happen,” says Mary, who is now in tears.

    Olivia’s parents were shattered, and desperate to find a way to help their daughter.

    Road to Recovery

    When Olivia was released from her second hospital stay, her family checked her into an addiction recovery center for teens called Paradigm. The high-end facility is a converted mansion at the end of a winding road in San Rafael. The family is tapping their retirement accounts to pay the $60,000 fee for Olivia’s six-week, in-patient stay.

    Jeff Nalin, head psychologist and co-founder of Paradigm, has been treating teens for substance abuse for more than 20 years. In the last few, he says, he’s seen an increasing number of cases similar to Olivia’s. She was diagnosed with depression that led to compulsive internet use.

    The teens are using smartphones and tablets for the same reasons they’d turn to hard drugs — to numb themselves from what’s really going on inside, he said.

    “I describe a lot of the kids that we see as having just stuck a cork in the volcano,” says Nalin. “Underneath there’s this rumbling going on, but it just rumbles and rumbles until it blows. And it blows with the emergence of a depression or it emerges with a suicide attempt.”

    Most teens come to Paradigm because they’ve hit bottom in the same way an addict will. But the treatment for internet addiction is trickier, because you can’t really function in today’s society without interacting with the digital world.

    “The best analogy is when you have something like an eating disorder,” says Nalin. “You cannot be clean and sober from food. So, you have to learn the skills to deal with it.”

    When Does Obsession Become Addiction?

    Digital addictions, whether to social media, video games, texting, shopping or pornography, are not official mental disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). But researchers see the same patterns in digital addictions as in other substance abuse.

    “The teens are using smartphones and tablets for the same reasons they’d turn to hard drugs — to numb themselves from what’s really going on inside.”

    “Addiction begins with intermittent to recreational use, then progresses into daily use, and then progresses into consequential use, which in some cases will progress to life-threatening use,” says Anna Lembke, a Stanford University psychiatrist and addiction expert. “That’s followed by a pattern of consequences like insomnia, dysfunctional relationships and absent days at work or school. That’s the natural narrative arc of any addiction, and the same is true with an internet addiction.”

    China has labeled internet addiction as a mental disorder, and that’s surprising — historically the Chinese have called addiction a moral failing rather than a clinical disorder.

    Some experts attribute China’s change in attitude to the widespread involvement of middle- and upper-class Chinese adolescents in addictive behavior. “A little like our opioid addiction here,” says Lembke. “People say no one cared about the opioid epidemic until it affected white suburban kids.”

    Lembke predicts internet addiction will become a validated clinical diagnosis in the U.S. as more and more cases mirror Olivia’s.

    Dr. Elias Aboujaoude, a psychiatrist and the director of Stanford’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Clinic, says there’s also increasing physiological evidence that the internet is addictive. “There are studies that have looked at people’s brains while they’re online, and their brains start looking like those of someone who has a substance abuse disorder. Similar pathways seem activated.”

    “There are studies that have looked at people’s brains while they’re online, and their brains start looking like those of someone who has a substance use disorder. Similar pathways seem activated.”

    He also says feel-good brain chemicals like dopamine that spike in a heroin addict also become elevated in people who compulsively use the internet. Tolerance also builds, says Aboujaoude, just as it does with hard drugs. “People needing more and more time on a particular online video game, for example, to get the same kind of euphoric feeling.”

    Psychologists are still studying whether it is the internet itself that is addictive or specific behaviors people engage in while online, like shopping, video games, pornography and gambling.

    “My view is that it is both,” says Aboujaoude. “These behaviors have long been known to be addictive, but the internet, in part by making them so easily accessible, changes the equation and increases the likelihood that they will become addictive.”

    Some experts compare internet addiction to gambling addiction. Even though most of the time when you sit in front of a slot machine you don’t win, every once in a while you do. And that intermittent reward is what hooks people.

    Think about your own devices. Most of the time when your phone dings, the notification is about something trivial, but every once in a while it’s meaningful — like an alert that someone has tagged you in a Facebook photo. Experts say that kind of message is irresistible.

    Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

    “If we see kids playing video games or watching YouTube videos, in our eyes it’s as if they’re wasting their time and not being productive,” psychology professor Patrick Markey says. “We might want them to be outside playing baseball or something, but for that generation that’s their pixelated playground. It might not be a sign of a pathological behavior.” Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

    Still, not everyone is convinced that “addiction” is the right way to think about this compulsion. Chris Ferguson, a psychologist at Stetson University, believes moral panic is fueling the rush to label the problem an addiction. “Sometimes with new technology you see these heightened claims of harm, these exaggerated focuses on the detriment of the new media.”

    Patrick Markey, a professor of psychology at Villanova University, agrees that society should go slow in using the “addiction” label. He worries some researchers are casting an age bias on younger generations.

    “If we see kids playing video games or watching YouTube videos, in our eyes it’s as if they’re wasting their time and not being productive,” Markey says. “We might want them to be outside playing baseball or something, but for that generation that’s their pixelated playground. It might not be a sign of a pathological behavior.”

    Markey acknowledges it’s possible to spend too much time interacting with a screen. But both he and Ferguson believe that spending long hours on the internet falls into the same category as other behaviors that healthy people can overindulge in — like sex, food, exercise, religion and work.

    “There’s no agreement about whether these pathological behavioral disorders are really the same things as substance abuse addictions,” says Ferguson. “But in my opinion they’re not comparable to, say, methamphetamine addiction or heroin addiction.”

    A Crusade for Change

    Even as researchers debate whether the internet is clinically addictive, many if not most of us feel tethered to our devices. That’s not a coincidence. Tech companies are invested in hooking people into spending more and more time online, and they’re getting better and better at it, says Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google. His job, he says, was to help the company create products that weren’t inherently manipulative.

    “When you look at the Facebook news feed, it’s not just some neutral thing,” Harris explains. “That’s powered by massive farms of computers who are calculating with Ph.D.s and large data sets: how I can get you to scroll.”

    Harris quit Google to form a nonprofit called Time Well Spent, because, he says, he was disgusted by the tech industry’s race for our attention.

    “Never before in history have a handful of technology designers working at three tech companies influenced how a billion people spend their attention,” Harris says.

    He’s on a crusade to inspire Facebook, Google and Apple to design products that don’t deliberately manipulate kids like Olivia.

    Back at Paradigm, Olivia is getting ready for a session with her therapist, who will help her integrate her devices back into her life. Olivia says she’s petrified to check her Instagram and Snapchat accounts when she powers up her phone for the first time. “I’m worried about when I do go back on my phone what’s going to be there,” Olivia says in a trembling voice. “What have people been sending me?”

    When she returns to school this week, Olivia says she doesn’t plan to isolate herself again. In fact, she’s asked her mom to restrict her phone use, so that she can’t use the phone when she’s alone. Instead, she’ll be talking to her therapist about what’s going in her life, in outpatient treatment after school four days a week, for at least another month.

    This report was produced by KQED’s Future of You. You can view the original report on its website.

    The post After compulsively watching YouTube, teenage girl lands in rehab for ‘digital addiction’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    food wasteEvery day, American families throw out tons of spoiled food — or food they think is spoiled because they misunderstand “sell by” labels. Restaurants dispose of usable leftovers, and farmers toss imperfect produce.

    In the United States, about 30 to 40 percent of all food is not eaten. About 95 percent of that wasted food, 38 million tons in 2014, ends up in landfills or incinerators, where it produces methane, a gas that is one of the most potent contributors to climate change.

    To protect the environment, relieve hunger and save money, states are trying to reduce those numbers. California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont already restrict the amount of food and other organic waste (such as soiled and compostable paper and yard waste) that can be dumped in landfills. Maryland, New Jersey and New York are considering similar laws.

    States are offering tax breaks to farmers and small businesses that donate food rather than throw it away, limiting the liability of food donors, and standardizing “use by” labels so consumers don’t toss food that is still edible.

    New Jersey is mulling an award to prompt people to come up with productive ideas for making use of “ugly produce,” foods that are perfectly edible but shunned by retailers, processors and restaurants because of blemishes and other flaws.

    READ MORE: Why does almost half of America’s food go to waste?

    The issue also is attracting notice beyond state capitols. Some businesses are collecting farmers’ imperfect produce and restaurant food that is on the verge of spoiling or has passed its “sell by” date and selling it to customers at a discount. Others have created apps that connect restaurants and stores that have surplus food to people who want it.

    The Food Waste Reduction Alliance, which represents the food industry and restaurant trade associations, recently worked with Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic to simplify and standardize “use by” and “sell by” labels, which befuddle many consumers. People toss a lot of edible food because they misunderstand the difference between the two terms.

    “There has been an enormous amount of change over the past two or three years,” said Emily Broad Leib, director of the clinic.

    Waste at All Levels

    Trays in school cafeterias and large plates in all-you-can-eat restaurants contribute to the problem by spurring people to take more food than they will eat.

    The U.S. spends about $218 billion annually to grow, manufacture, process, distribute and then dispose of food that is not eaten, according to a report released last year by ReFED, a coalition of 30 businesses, nonprofits and foundations that seeks to reduce food waste.

    The report notes that food is wasted at all levels of the food system. Low market prices, high labor costs, and a market that demands perfect-looking produce prompt farmers to leave food unharvested in the field. Grocery stores and restaurants consistently over-order food. Households waste food because of inefficient shopping and cooking practices, and because they don’t have access to programs that collect waste for compost.

    Even seemingly small details such as trays in school cafeterias and large plates in all-you-can-eat restaurants contribute to the problem by spurring people to take more food than they will eat.

    Meanwhile, 1 in 7 Americans suffer from “food insecurity,” which the federal government defines as “limited or uncertain access to adequate food.”

    Gradual Restrictions

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that food waste is 21.6 percent of the garbage shipped to municipal landfills and incinerators, making it the largest single type.

    In 2015, the EPA and U.S. Department of Agriculture set a national goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030. To achieve it, the EPA laid out a broad strategy, which includes producing less food, using excess food to feed people in need, feeding scraps to livestock, using organic waste to produce energy or compost, and disposing of food in landfills and incinerators only as a last resort.

    READ MORE: These policies helped South Korea’s capital decrease food waste

    Establishing restrictions on the amount of waste going to landfills is the toughest step to take: Only five states currently have such restrictions, and four of them target only the largest producers.

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that food waste is 21.6 percent of the garbage shipped to municipal landfills and incinerators, making it the largest single type.

    Three of the states also exempt waste producers that aren’t within a prescribed distance of a certified recycling or composting facility. Harvard’s food policy clinic warns that such loopholes create a disincentive for the construction of new facilities. In a 2016 report, the clinic noted that much of central and eastern Connecticut remains exempt from that state’s organic waste law, because there isn’t an approved facility in those areas.

    Vermont, the least populous of the five, began phasing in its organic waste ban in 2014, applying it to businesses that produced more than 104 tons of organic waste a year. In 2020, when the law will apply to all Vermont businesses and residents, it will be illegal to send any organic waste to landfills.

    California also phased in its law. As of this year, its ban applies to all businesses (except for some in rural areas) that generate at least 4 cubic feet of organic waste a week. The goal is to cut by half the amount going to landfills by 2020.

    Since 2014, all Massachusetts businesses, arenas and institutions that generate 1 ton or more of organic waste each week have been barred from shipping that waste to landfills.

    John Fischer, the director of the Massachusetts organic waste program, said all of the roughly 1,700 waste producers covered by the law are thought to be complying with it. Massachusetts now has more than 35 facilities for turning food scraps and waste into compost, livestock feed or electricity.

    However, Fischer does not envision his state making the recycling of organic waste mandatory for smaller businesses or residences any time soon. And he cautioned that strict rules may not make sense for every state.

    Such laws work well in the Northeast, he said, because those smaller states have little space for landfills and relatively high energy prices, which make the cost of turning garbage into electrical power more attractive than it might be elsewhere in the country.

    The proposed New York law would apply only to companies and facilities that generate 2 tons or more of organic waste a week. It wouldn’t take effect until 2021, and would only apply to businesses with an appropriate waste facility within 50 miles.

    The bill also includes $1 million for food banks to expand their refrigerated storage and transport capacity.

    Meanwhile, New York lawmakers already have approved a food waste measure long sought by farmers and anti-hunger activists: a tax credit for farmers who donate unharvested food to food banks. The credit will reimburse farmers for a quarter of the wholesale cost of their contributions, up to $5,000 a year.

    Potential Pitfalls

    For decades, environmental groups have clashed with food processors, grocery chains and other retailers over plastic-bag bans and bottle-deposit laws. But they are natural allies in the food-waste fight.

    “As the industries look at it, these efforts are a ‘win-win-win’ because they keep waste from going to landfills, relieve hunger and create business efficiencies,” said Meghan Stasz, who heads sustainability efforts at the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

    Reducing food waste can provide an economic boost: An independent study done for Massachusetts two years after it implemented its law found that it created more than 900 new jobs and added $175 million in economic activity.

    But David Biderman, who heads the Solid Waste Association of North America, cautioned that states shouldn’t rush into adopting broad organic waste restrictions without extensive planning and discussions with those who will be affected.

    Biderman, whose group represents businesses that haul, process and dispose of solid waste, said many cities and states made that mistake when they began curbside recycling.

    “Some local governments rushed into curbside recycling before they had adequate facilities and infrastructure set up to handle it,” Biderman 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 Here’s how states are working to curb food waste appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    White House press secretary Sean Spicer is expected to address reports that President Donald Trump shared highly classified information with Russian officials in a meeting last week.

    White House press secretary Sean Spicer will hold the daily news briefing at 2 p.m. EST today. Listen live to the stream above.

    The White House will continue to face questions over a May 10 meeting in which Trump, according to several reports, shared highly-classified information with Russian officials.

    Earlier this morning, national security adviser H.R. McMaster repeatedly said the president’s conversation last week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak was “wholly appropriate.”

    McMaster did not directly address whether Trump revealed classified information about activities by the Islamic State group to the two Russians.

    Trump himself defended the meeting in a pair of tweets, saying he shared the intel for “humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”

    The president added that he has an “absolute right” to do this.

    READ MORE: White House returns to crisis mode after Washington Post report

    PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

    The post LISTEN LIVE: Spicer expected to address report that Trump shared intel with Russia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Woman using contactless payment, close up Photo by Tim Robberts/Getty Images

    The personal finance website NerdWallet released a survey Tuesday that examines what Americans know and don’t know about credit cards. Here are five of the misconceptions highlighted in the report. Photo by Tim Robberts/Getty Images

    After putting off getting a credit card for years (I didn’t like the idea of carrying any more debt), I finally took the plunge this spring — but not before taking a dive into credit card dos and don’ts.

    All the advice I had on credit cards seemed to conflict. It’s good to keep a balance, and be sure to pay your full balance every month. Don’t check your credit score if you don’t want that score to drop, but be sure to check your score to know how you’ll qualify. In other words: it couldn’t possibly all be true.

    The personal finance website NerdWallet released a survey Tuesday on what Americans know and don’t know about credit cards. It turns out I wasn’t the only one confused.

    Here are five of the misconceptions highlighted in the report. If they’re not righted, they can hurt your score and, in turn, the credit available to you.

    Misconception No. 1: A credit score of 600 is good.

    “In no universe is 600 a good score,” NerdWallet columnist and certified financial planner Liz Weston said.

    “In no universe is 600 a good score.”

    And yet about one in five Americans think that a credit score above 600 will qualify a person for any credit card. It won’t.

    Credit scores generally range from 300 to 850; a score of 600 is actually below average.

    A score of 600 is “going to make it really hard to get credit, and if you do get credit, you’re going to pay a lot for it,” Weston said. “In most of the formulas, you’re going to want above 700, ideally above 750.”

    A score of 600 “unlocks department credit cards, which will qualify people at the lower end of the credit score,”  Erin Lowry, author of “Broke Millennial,” said. But those credit cards have annual percentage rates in the high 20s to low 30s.

    “Once you’re in the 700 club, you start to unlock the top-tier financial products,” Erin Lowry said. And top-tier financial products mean you can borrow money for less and make your life far less expensive.

    Misconception No. 2: You start off with perfect credit score.

    Eleven percent of Americans think people start off with a perfect credit score, according to NerdWallet.

    They don’t.

    READ MORE: Column: Want to raise your credit score? Follow these two steps

    “It’s something you build from scratch,” Weston said. “It takes a while to build your credit over time, but you can really trash it overnight.”

    That doesn’t mean you start at a zero credit score, however.

    “You start with no information. You would really be referred to as having no credit history, or having a thin file, and from there you work way up,” Lowry said.

    Misconception No. 3: Carrying a balance on your credit card improves your credit score.

    Again, no. Carrying a balance does not improve your credit score. Yet, two in five Americans think just that.

    “There’s no upside to carrying a balance. Basically, you’re paying interest for no good reason.”

    “That one we’ve been beating our heads over for decades,” Weston said. “There’s no upside to carrying a balance. Basically, you’re paying interest for no good reason.”

    To build your score, continue to use your card lightly, but regularly, Weston said.

    There never was a good reason to carry debt on your credit cards, but today there’s a good reason not to.

    People who pay their balances in full are considered a lower risk for lenders than those who don’t.

    “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac told mortgage lenders that if this data is available, you should use it,” Weston said. In fact, paying off your balance every month just might put you over the edge in the eyes of a lender when it comes to getting approved for a mortgage.

    Misconception No. 4: Checking your credit score hurts your credit report.

    It does not. But this misconception might explain why 12 percent of Americans have never checked their scores.

    There are two types of inquiries into your credit report: a hard pull, done by banks when you apply for credit, and a soft pull, which happens when you check your credit score.

    READ MORE: Missed a credit card payment? Just call your credit card company

    A hard pull appears on your credit file and can hurt your credit score if you apply for too many lines of credit, as it could make you apper less stable financially and thus less likely to repay a loan.

    A soft pull, meanwhile, won’t hurt your credit — and it never hurts to know your credit standing.

    “By federal law, you are allowed to check your credit report for free from each of the three bureaus once per year,” Lowry said. She points to the government-endorsed website, AnnualCreditReport.com, as the place to start.

    Misconception No. 5: You should spend close to your credit limit.

    “There’s a myth that it shows more responsibility to run up your card and then pay it off,” Lowry said.

    “What we tell people is 30 percent or less is good, 20 percent or less is better, 10 percent or less is best.”

    It’s quite the opposite. You want to keep your credit utilization low.

    “The credit score formulas like to see a big gap between what you’re using and what you’re allowed to use,” Weston said. “What we tell people is 30 percent or less is good, 20 percent or less is better, 10 percent or less is best.”

    The two big factors that make up your credit card score are:

    1. Payment history. (Do you make payments on time?)
    2. Utilization. (How much credit do you use that is available to you?).

    “These two factors make up 65 percent of your credit score,” Lowry said. Of the five factors used to determine credit scores, these are the two consumers should worry about.

    Lowry also suggests new credit card users be cognizant of their spending. If your credit limit is low, say at $1,000, spending just $300 will put you at your 30 percent utilization rate before you know it.

    The post 5 misconceptions that might hurt your credit score appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks during a 2015 news conference in Washington, D.C. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks during a 2015 news conference in Washington, D.C. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Texas Sen. John Cornyn has taken himself out of the running to be FBI director, telling the Trump administration that he’ll stay in the Senate.

    Cornyn was interviewed for the post after President Donald Trump fired James Comey. But he said in a statement Tuesday that “the best way I can serve is continuing to fight for a conservative agenda in the U.S. Senate.”

    A source familiar with Cornyn’s thinking said the senator felt “obligated” to consider the job because a friend, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, asked him to. The source declined to be named because the decision was private.

    The firing of former FBI Director James Comey continues to spark controversy and questions. President Trump tweeted Friday that “Comey had better hope there are no tapes of our conversations,” and Press Secretary Sean Spicer refused to answer press questions about whether there are recording devices in the White House. Lisa Desjardins reports and John Yang joins Judy Woodruff.

    The administration has interviewed at least eight candidates to replace Comey, of more than a dozen being considered. Trump has said a decision could come as soon as this week.

    WATCH: New FBI director scrutiny will be ‘very intense’

    The post Cornyn no longer a candidate for FBI director appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Here’s a rule of thumb for employers and hiring managers who are writing job descriptions: Explain it so a 12-year-old can understand it. Photo credit by YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images

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

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


    Question: Nick, please look at the job posting below. Was this written by a computer? Why can’t employers just use common sense and plain English? If it was written by a computer, no wonder the jobs aren’t getting filled! Maybe it makes sense to you? Not to me!  Why not just say: We need a school teacher? That’s what the requirements are basically asking for, but not directly saying.

    So many job postings are filled with meaningless jargon and double-talk. I realize there are special vocabularies in some fields, but how does jargon attract new talent? Can you imagine how this company delivers training to its customers if it talks like this?

    Job Posting

    Customer Service Learning Delivery Consultant will bring innovative, solutions-driven learning solutions to life in delivery across: Small to large scale multi-site training project deployments and cross-functional training initiatives, New team member onboarding (across all levels), Team member enrichment and skill building that drive results across key operational metrics, including First Contact Resolution, Average Handle Time, Customer Experience, and Team Member Engagement.

    Additionally, this position will

    • Deliver learning activities for team members through a variety of formal and informal learning channels including instructor-led, web-based, virtual and other delivery approaches.
    • Provide feedback on team member participation to managers.
    • Drive continuous improvement through feedback on current training practices and programs based on classroom experience and operational feedback – help bring these suggestions to life in partnership with program owners.
    • Work with business partners to identify and anticipate upcoming communication and training needs.
    • Support the development of systems, process, and soft skills training for team members.
    • Support project deployments by recommending and/or coordinating communication and training needs.
    • Translates adult learning theory into practical learning experiences and works successfully within cross-functional teams to plan, deploy and embed the knowledge and skills in the target audience.
    • Serves as a Master Trainer for specific courses by participating in program development as a subject matter expert for delivery and/or content, conducting Train-the-Trainer sessions and supporting Trainers and Leaders in the delivery of courses.
    • Prepares business leaders and other SMEs as instructors. Observes, evaluates and gives feedback.
    • Develops and educates other Delivery teammates through peer-to-peer coaching and mentoring.
    • Identifies and shares opportunities to reinforce knowledge and skills in the workplace after the learning event concludes, leveraging learning interventions as levers to drive higher levels of workplace performance.
    • Develops learning reinforcement tools such as job aids and other learning tools.
    • Maintain excellent knowledge of content, effective facilitation and delivery skills, and latest knowledge of the education environment for effective delivery.

    Nick Corcodilos: I don’t think it was written by a computer. It was written by a bureaucrat and blessed by an HR department.

    I do workshops for employers, hiring managers and HR managers to help them recruit and hire more effectively. When we discuss job descriptions and interviews, I offer them a rule of thumb: Explain it so a 12-year-old can understand it.

    Jargon drives away good candidates

    When jargon is used in recruiting, potentially good candidates are lost and turned off, not because they don’t understand the jargon, but because they understand perfectly well that the employer can’t explain clearly what it wants. That’s a risky company to work for.

    As you point out, in many kinds of work, there are legitimate, specialized vocabularies. For example, in technical jobs like engineering, information technology and medicine where insider jargon has specific, well-defined meaning. It serves as shorthand for complex ideas.

    When jargon is used in recruiting, potentially good candidates are lost and turned off, not because they don’t understand the jargon, but because they understand perfectly well that the employer can’t explain clearly what it wants.

    Then there’s business double-talk like we see in this job posting. High-falutin’ language that implies sophistication when there is no clear meaning. It drives away people who might be able to do the work if it were described plainly.

    I’m not kidding when I suggest, “Say it so a 12-year-old will understand it.” That’s a good way to make sure the employer itself understands the job it wants to fill. There is no question that many HR managers — who write those painful job descriptions — have no idea what a job is really all about. How can they possibly select the right applicant?

    So for the astute job seeker, the kind of job posting we’re looking at above is usually a signal to steer clear. It’s likely a company where confusion and double-talk prevail.

    Jargon reveals problems

    Insider jargon is often a cover for poor management practices. An employer that uses a lot of jargon often fails to understand its own needs. For example, in the job posting you submitted, the employer keeps referring to the importance of bringing something to life:

    • The new hire will “will bring innovative, solutions-driven learning solutions to life…”
    • The new hire will “help bring these suggestions to life in partnership with program owners.”

    What does that mean? If this employer asked you to submit a paragraph explaining how you’d bring things to life, what could you say? What could you say in a job interview? How does “bring it to life” help the employer attract the workers it needs — and satisfy its customers?

    Double-talk is not impressive. It often reveals a failure to communicate.

    Now, what are they saying here?

    • “innovative, solutions-driven learning solutions” (Tautology is often a sign of confusion!)
    • “Small to large scale multi-site training project deployments and cross-functional training initiatives”
    • “effective facilitation and delivery skills”

    What does this mean in this position and at this company?

    • “Drive continuous improvement through feedback”
    • “works successfully within cross-functional teams”
    • “embed the knowledge and skills in the target audience”
    • leveraging learning interventions as levers to drive higher levels of workplace performance” (Another tautology!)

    Nothing in those words and phrases helps a job seeker judge the job or decide whether they can do it. As you suggest, this seems to be a teaching or training job. The problem is that the jargon in the posting makes it impossible to decipher the details of the job or to guess what would make a person successful at it.

    That doesn’t mean employers have to be boring when they post a job. See “Now THIS is a job description” for more.

    Tell it to a 12-year-old

    Even a highly technical job should first be described simply so virtually anyone can understand what work needs to be done and what the objective is. This welcomes diverse candidates. For example: “We need an experienced teacher or trainer to show our customers how to do XYZ.”

    Once XYZ is defined simply, any child should understand what the employer needs. Then more details of the work can be described, more specialized vocabulary can be introduced, and the employer and job candidate can have a productive discussion. A 12-year-old probably can’t do the job, but defining the job at that level is a good start on finding good candidates.

    Employers can’t fill jobs they can’t describe clearly and simply.

    What’s missing in this job posting is a definition of XYZ. What’s also missing is an answer to these questions: Can any good teacher learn enough about XYZ in a reasonable time to do this job? Or, is expertise in XYZ necessary? This job ad just doesn’t tell us.

    An employer who can’t tell you what it wants is very likely going to waste your time if you apply for the job.

    Thank you for sharing a good example of why the employment system is so broken and why jobs aren’t getting filled. Employers can’t fill jobs they can’t describe clearly and simply.

    For an example of another kind of problematic job posting, see “Is this the worst job ad ever?”

    Dear Readers: This is a lulu of a job description. Have you encountered worse? Tell us about it! What do you look for in a job description before you’ll apply?


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

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

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

    The post Ask the Headhunter: Why employers need to lose the jargon in job postings appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    In a never-before-released video, FBI agents posing as documentary filmmakers can be seen running an undercover operation to investigate a Nevada ranching family whose fight with the federal government sparked an armed uprising and rallied militias from around the country.

    The undercover operation by “Longbow Productions” began shortly after the Bundy family and hundreds of supporters, many of them armed, forced government agents to surrender cattle they’d impounded from the family in 2014.

    In audio and video recordings of the operation, an FBI agent going by the pseudonym “Charles Johnson” tries to find out the Bundy “family rank structure” and who planned the uprising in the desert town of Bunkerville.

    He asks Ammon Bundy, who became the face of the family’s fight against the government, “Did you think you might have to take a life?” Bundy responded, “I never did once think I’d have to take a life.”

    At another point, one of Ammon’s brothers, Ryan, asks the undercover crew: “I want to know if this is an interview or an interrogation.”

    The footage is now part of a sweeping federal case against Ammon, Ryan, their father Cliven Bundy, and two others. The existence of the materials was confirmed in court filings, but its release has been blocked by a federal judge in order to protect the identities of the undercover agents.

    FRONTLINE obtained video and audio recordings of the operation in the course of reporting for the film “American Patriot: Inside the Armed Uprising Against the Federal Government,” a months-long investigation of the Bundys’ confrontations with federal agents and the militia movement they helped inspire.

    (In the clip above, FRONTLINE has concealed the agents’ identities and voices.)

    Federal prosecutors declined to comment on the operation, as did the FBI.

    In an interview from prison, Ammon said the Bundys were at first wary of Longbow and reluctant to participate. “We actually said no the first couple of times. We just didn’t feel comfortable … But he was persistent.”

    Ultimately, Ammon agreed to participate, and convinced his family to as well. “I think about that the whole time my mom’s in there peeling potatoes for them, cooking for them, they’re plotting to destroy our family,” he told FRONTLINE.

    The Bundys are scheduled to go on trial next month on multiple charges, including conspiracy and assaulting and threatening a federal agent.

    Ammon Bundy’s attorney, Dan Hill, called the FBI operation troubling.

    “They impersonated journalists so they could interrogate people the FBI fully intended on charging with serious crimes, without any lawyers present,” he said. “We should not have to fear that our government is infiltrating America’s sacred press and media institutions in order to try to gain prosecutorial advantages against its own people.”

    After coming under criticism for this type of operation in the past, the FBI inspector general recommended that they be limited to circumstances approved at a high level within the bureau.

    As part of the Longbow operation, the FBI also used its access to the Bundys to interview militia members who had been at the Bunkerville standoff. One of them, Greg Burleson, was part of a militia in Arizona.

    While undercover cameras were running, the agents gave Burleson alcohol and asked him what the response would have been had the federal government crossed into a perimeter the militia had set up in Bunkerville. Burleson responded: “Dead bodies. Literally.”

    The footage was used to help convict Burleson last month on eight charges, including threatening and assaulting a federal officer. He faces a minimum of 57 years in prison.

    As the investigation was going on, Ammon Bundy traveled to Oregon, where in January 2016 he ended up staging an armed standoff — this time occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The standoff ended in Bundy’s arrest, as well as in the death of one of the other occupation leaders — Robert LaVoy Finicum.

    In October, Ammon Bundy was acquitted of conspiracy for his role in the Malheur showdown, as was his brother Ryan and five others. In a second trial, two more supporters were acquitted of conspiring to impede federal officers, but convicted of lesser charges.

    Last month in Nevada, a judge declared a mistrial for four of Bundy’s co-defendants for their role in Bunkerville.

    Soon after the Bunkerville standoff ended in April 2014, the undercover agent called the Bundy family to talk about filming at the ranch. In the audio recordings, Ammon Bundy comments that he cannot find much about Longbow Productions online.

    “I just don’t keep a lot of stuff up there because it is not my product anymore,” the agent tells him. “That’s why I invested my money here because I don’t want it to go to the wrong hands.”

    After some back and forth, Ammon says, “I think I’ve got what I wanted so I feel a lot more comfortable about it.”

    Watch “American Patriot: Inside the Armed Uprising Against the Federal Government” on-air and online starting Tuesday, May 16 at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m. CST on (check local PBS listings). This story was originally posted by our partners at PBS’s FRONTLINE.

    The post New video shows undercover FBI operation against Bundy family appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Hackers claim they've stolen upcoming Disney film "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales."

    Hackers claim they’ve stolen upcoming Disney film “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.”

    In the newest Pirates of the Caribbean film, Captain Jack Sparrow is dogged by deadly ghost pirates, led by the maniacal Captain Salazar. In real-life, though, he’s apparently being pursued by a different kind of foe: hackers that claim to be holding the big-budget film, in true pirate fashion, for ransom.

    On Monday, Disney CEO Bob Iger said hackers had threatened to release an upcoming Disney film barring a large ransom payment in the form of Bitcoin. Iger said Disney would not pay that ransom.

    By Monday night, Deadline was reporting that the supposedly stolen film was “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” the fifth film in the Pirates franchise, and a major summer movie due out Memorial Day weekend. Disney has not confirmed that “Pirates” was the stolen film.

    The report came just days after ransomware hackers disabled computers around the world, and demanded ransoms.

    But the “Pirates” hack bore more similarities — though also some stark differences — to the 2014 hack of the Sony slapstick North Korea comedy film “The Interview.” The Interview was initially canceled due to the hack, but later saw a limited in-theater and online release. Last month, hackers also stole season five of the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black,” which soon appeared on the torrenting website The Pirate Bay.

    Benjamin Caudill of the cybersecurity firm Rhino Security Labs said the public and corporations will increasingly have to grapple with such hacks.

    “Whether it’s the next blockbuster movie, or a list of the most fertile places to grow soybeans, it’s that corporate information the industry or public will find valuable” that is going to keep getting targeted by cybercriminals, he said.

    Whether hackers can make money from intellectual property thefts, though, is uncertain. Neither Disney nor Netflix were willing to pay the ransom hackers requested.

    But if the goal is simply to hurt studios and movie viewers, that effort may be more successful. “The Interview” hack cost Sony $15 million in “investigation and remediation costs” (the film cost $44 million to produce), and prohibited the film’s wide release, not to mention leading to a diplomatic dispute with North Korea.

    As for Disney, Caudill says the hack, if it occurred, would likely require the studio to hire an outside forensics team to assess exactly what happened, and could hurt them at the box office.That would likely mean hackers releasing the film early online and viewers watching it at home instead of in-theater.

    While the release of “Orange is the New Black” as a torrent seemed to have no tangible impact on the shows’ viewership, Netflix was a subscription people already had, Caudill said, while going to the movies costs money.

    “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” has been projected to make $100 million during its opening on Memorial Day weekend alone. The “Pirates” series includes some of the highest-grossing films of all time. Disney declined to comment on the alleged hack beyond what Iger announced.

    The post Why there are bound to be sequels to the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ hack appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, flanked by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), and Sen. John Thune (R-SD), speaks to reporters after the weekly policy luncheons on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S. May 16, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RTX3645H

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, flanked by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), and Sen. John Thune (R-SD), speaks to reporters after the weekly policy luncheons on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein.

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s agenda has slowed to a crawl in Congress.

    Daily distractions and a pair of major controversies in the past week are diverting lawmakers from their day jobs. While the Trump administration delegates many decisions on legislation to more experienced GOP leaders in Congress, Trump’s low poll ratings and the turmoil at the White House are additional complications.

    “I think it would be helpful to have less drama emanating from the White House,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, said.

    What GOP senators and House members aren’t doing right now is passing major legislation, and it’s not just the marquee items like health care and a tax overhaul that are dragging.

    READ MORE: President Trump’s talk with Russian officials ‘wholly appropriate,’ McMaster says

    “I think it would be helpful to have less drama emanating from the White House.”- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

    The Senate has no legislation on its agenda this week — business is instead limited to three low-profile nominations. The House — fresh off an 11-day recess — is devoting the week to mostly symbolic, feel-good legislation designed to show support for law enforcement. Another 11-day recess, for Memorial Day this time, is just around the corner.

    Separately, a small group of Senate Republicans is meeting in hopes of finding a way forward on keeping Trump’s promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. But that effort appears likely to take several weeks — with no guarantee of success.

    “It’s hard to make things happen here, right? It’s really hard. I mean you’ve got all kinds of forces working against you,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn, said. “And so unless everybody’s aligned, everybody, throughout the White House and the Cabinet, it’s almost impossible. I think they’re all very aware of that and hopefully they’re going to move to address that.”

    READ MORE: What’s in the House GOP health care bill?

    In the meantime, must-do legislation on the military, children’s health and a full slate of spending bills are all slipping behind schedule. Trump’s promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is dead in the water after being rejected during negotiations on a catchall spending bill — the only major bipartisan legislation to advance this year — and his promised $1 trillion infrastructure bill is still on the drawing board.

    White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney speaks about of U.S. President Donald Trump's budget in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RTX31DDS

    White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney speaks March 16 about U.S. President Donald Trump’s budget in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

    Trump’s tax plan is simply a set of talking points and for procedural reasons is on hold until health care is completed.

    “I don’t think I’ve ever seen an administration that was so lacking is substantive proposals this late in the beginning of their term,” No. 2 House Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland said. “The tax bill is a one-page minimal suggestion of what might be considered. There is no jobs bill. There is no infrastructure bill.”

    And while lawmakers and the Trump administration are spinning their wheels, the clock ticks toward potential crises this fall, as deadlines collide on several measures, including legislation to prevent a government shutdown and a bill to increase the government’s borrowing cap and avert a potentially catastrophic default on U.S. government obligations. A popular program that provides health care to children of parents ineligible for Medicaid expires at the end of September, as does the federal flood insurance program and authorization for the Federal Aviation Administration.

    Work on a congressional budget measure — which is the linchpin to follow-up legislation to cut tax rates — is months behind schedule. The House and Senate Appropriations panels, typically a swarm of activity at this time of the year, seem stumped as they await marching orders.

    READ MORE: What’s next for Trump’s revised travel ban?

    Trump’s budget finally arrives next week, promising a balanced federal ledger within 10 years. But the Trump budget could complicate matters more, in large part because it calls for domestic cuts that lawmakers have no interest in. Trump doesn’t appear very interested in the budget — its release has been scheduled for when he’s out of the country — and its promise of balance rests on rosy assumptions of economic growth and a sweeping round of unrealistic cuts to programs like Medicaid.

    The GOP-controlled Congress has had just a handful of legislative successes since it convened in January. The most significant bill, so far, was a long-delayed House health care measure that squeaked through earlier this month. The House bill polls poorly with voters, however, and faces a wholesale rewrite in the Senate.

    The Trump budget could complicate matters more, in large part because it calls for domestic cuts that lawmakers have no interest in.

    So far, just a single piece of major legislation has advanced that required the votes of Democrats — a catchall $1.1 trillion spending bill opposed by more than 100 House Republicans. Beyond that, many of the bills Trump has signed into law were fast-track measures to rescind regulations issued by former President Barack Obama last year. The clock ran out on further repeals and this week, the biggest Senate vote is on confirming Iowa GOP Gov. Terry Branstad as ambassador to China.

    “Well, we have nominations and we’ve repealed billions of dollars of regulations,” said Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo. “Hopefully we’ll see some other action come to the floor.”

    The post Trump’s legislative agenda slows to crawl in Congress appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — FBI Director James Comey wrote in a memo that President Donald Trump had asked him to shut down an FBI investigation into ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press Tuesday.

    The person had seen the memo but was not authorized to discuss it by name and spoke on condition of anonymity. The existence of the memo was first reported Tuesday by The New York Times.

    The White House denied the report.

    “While the President has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the President has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” the White House said in a statement.

    Trump abruptly fired Comey last week, saying he did so based on his very public handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe.

    But the White House has provided differing accounts of the firing. And lawmakers have alleged that the sudden ouster was an attempt to stifle the bureau’s investigation into Trump associates’ ties to Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

    LISTEN: Unauthorized leaks are ‘frankly dangerous,’ Spicer says

    Comey’s memo detailing his conversation with Trump would be the clearest proof to date that the president has tried to influence that investigation. The Times said it was part of a paper trail Comey created documenting what he saw as Trump’s efforts to improperly interfere in the ongoing probe.

    The Justice Department declined to comment.

    Comey’s memo detailing his conversation with Trump would be the clearest proof to date that the president has tried to influence that investigation. The Justice Department declined to comment.

    According to the Times, Comey wrote in the February memo that Trump told him Flynn had done nothing wrong. But Comey did not say anything to Trump about limiting the investigation, replying, “I agree he is a good guy.”

    The newspaper said Comey was in the Oval Office that day with other national security officials for a terrorism threat briefing. When that ended, Trump asked everyone to leave except Comey, and he eventually turned the conversation to Flynn.

    On Tuesday, for the second night in a row, Senate Republicans and Democrats were caught off-guard as they entered the chamber for a scheduled vote.

    Sen. Burr on Comey memo: ‘Somebody is going to have to do more than just have anonymous sources’

    “I don’t know the facts, so I really want to wait until I find out what the facts are before commenting,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters.

    Asked if it would be obstructing justice for Trump to have asked Comey to drop the Flynn investigation, Cornyn said: “You know, that’s a very serious charge. I wouldn’t want to answer a hypothetical question.”

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., emphatically said he’s not commenting on news stories anymore.

    “Let’s get to the bottom of what happened with the director. And the best way to get to the bottom of it, is for him to testify. … I’m not going to take a memo, I want the guy to come in,” Graham told reporters, adding, “If he felt confident enough to write it down, he should come in and tell us about it.”

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Comey needs to come to Capitol Hill and testify.

    Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he will ask Comey for additional material as part of the panel’s investigation. “Memos, transcripts, tapes — the list keeps getting longer,” he said.

    Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut tweeted: “Just leaving Senate floor. Lots of chatter from Ds and Rs about the exact definition of ‘obstruction of justice.'”

    There is no sign the FBI’s Russia investigation is closing. Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe told Congress last week the investigation is “highly significant” and said Comey’s dismissal would do nothing to impede the probe.

    ___

    The Associated Press wrote this story.

    The post Trump asked Comey to shut down Flynn investigation, New York Times reports appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JOHN YANG: While President Trump’s troubles over issues continue to dominate the headlines, the battle over the future of health care is still brewing in the background.

    Here again, William Brangham with that story.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: With the passage of the House Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature health care law, the focus now shifts to the U.S. Senate.

    As part of our ongoing look at what’s at stake for health care in the U.S., we are joined now by Democrat John Hickenlooper, governor of Colorado.

    Welcome to the NewsHour.

    GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER, D-Colo.: Nice to be here.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, before we talk about health care, can I just get your reaction to these latest revelations about the president and his dealings with the FBI?

    GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER: Sure.

    And I — you know, I think it shows two things. And, you know, I got into politics, I became mayor of Denver when I was 50. And I made all kinds of mistakes, because being an executive in business is very different than an executive in public life. So I kept doing dumb things.

    But this really kind of shows how much power the president of the United States has. And, obviously, he can make decisions to declassify information and share it as he wants. But it has all kinds of ramifications beyond what I think he is thinking, just because he’s never been there before.

    You know, I look back at some of the really dumb things that I did when I first became mayor, and maybe it got on the front page of The Denver Post. But that was — I could dig myself out.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You attribute this to rookie mistakes?

    GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER: Yes. Well, I think it’s a much broader landscape. And I think he’s used to being able to throw — really lobby, push his weight around.

    You know, the comments to James Comey, they’re disconcerting. There’s no question. But we will see. I mean, we don’t have all the information yet. But it’s — it’s amazing, the whole thing.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Amazing, it is.

    Let’s talk about health care.

    You have been a very sharp critic of the House GOP’s bill that is now before the Senate. What’s your principal concern there?

    GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER: Well, as written, that bill would be, I think, a disaster for Colorado and most of the country.

    Really, it in no way improves the health care system. It is going to make it harder to get insurance for people who lose their coverage. And, probably, to finance it the way the House wants to, it’s going to end up rolling back, forcing governors to roll back coverage on people with Medicaid.

    In Colorado, it will probably cost us over — between $1 billion and $1.5 billion of additional costs. It’s just a cost shift to the states. And what’s the real benefit? We’re doing over 10 years a trillion-dollar tax cut for the highest earnings in America, who the ones I have talked to in Colorado, they’re not fighting to get this tax cut.

    It’s not something they’re seeking. I’m not sure — I don’t get what the point of it is.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You obviously know this is their attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act.

    What has that law, President Obama’s law, meant for Colorado thus far?

    GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER: So, Obamacare allowed to us expand Medicaid coverage. We got about 400,000 more people covered in that avenue, through that avenue, and about 200,000 people through our exchange. We did our own exchange, so much more coverage, a lot of that support.

    But I’m the first person — there were problems. It definitely needs to be improved. But you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. And, you know, I look at what the landscape looks like, and, again, I don’t think the Senate will ever pass what came out of the House, just because there are too many both Democratic governors and Republican governors that are saying, you know, we’re not — we don’t want to roll back coverage.

    We’re willing to discuss and negotiate who gets how much coverage, and is the coverage for Medicaid maybe a little too rich? I think all of us agree we have got to get our arms around controlling the incredible inflation that’s gone on in health care for the last 30 years, independent of Obamacare.

    But I don’t think any of us, Republican governors, like John Kasich or Brian Sandoval, they don’t want to roll back Medicaid coverage, and then Democrats like myself.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, how do you see this going forward? Obviously, the House bill is going to be modified in some way by the Senate, but let’s just say some version of the Republicans’ ideas end up coming down to the states. What does that mean for you?

    GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER: Well, it would be difficult, unless there’s some change in how they’re thinking of financing this, and how much of that new cost they’re going to put on to states.

    You know, block grants, fine, but if you don’t allow it to have some flexibility, if you don’t allow it to grow when you have got disasters or when there’s sudden instances of medical inflation, then you’re really — you’re kind of handcuffing the states and tying them to a — to something they can’t possibly pay for.

    That’s not healthy. It makes governors have to pay — make terrible decisions. I think what the Senate hopefully will do — and I think they might do this — is sit down and talk with some governors, Republicans and Democrats. It shouldn’t be a partisan deal.

    But governors are the ones who have to implement this stuff. Let’s get a group of us to sit down with a couple of senators and say, how do we — we all have the same kind of goals. This shouldn’t be partisan. Right? Let’s all settle down. How do we control costs and make sure we don’t roll back coverage?

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I appreciate that, the idea of bipartisanship, but bipartisanship — you have spent a few days this week in Washington, D.C. — it’s not high on anyone’s agenda, it seems.

    GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER: Well, there are a lot of blockages, and there is a lot of bitterness. Right?

    I think it’s years of attack ads and, you know, people — you know, I was in the restaurant business, and we learned early on that there’s no margin in having enemies. No matter how unreasonable that person is, you don’t let them leave angry, whereas, in politics, so often, people define themselves by their enemies and how mean they can be or how sharp can — how barbed can their comments be about that person?

    Well, after that election or after that specific policy issue, suddenly, you’re supposed to work together again. That’s not always in human nature. So, I think people should spend a little more time looking down the road and saying, at some point, I’m going to have to work with this person again. Maybe we should be a little more cordial.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado, thank you so much.

    GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER: No, thank you.

    The post Current GOP health care bill would be a ‘disaster’ for states, says Colorado governor appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JOHN YANG: But first: Every day, millions of parents put their children on buses for the trip to school. Statistically, buses remain the safest way to make that trip. But fatal accidents do happen.

    Just yesterday, an 11-year-old boy died in East Texas when the bus he was riding on collided with another vehicle and rolled over.

    Special correspondent list Lisa Stark reports that a record number of states are trying to improve school bus safety, part of our weekly series, Making the Grade.

    MAN: Get in and put your seat belts on, guys.

    LISA STARK: This is a sight you rarely see on a school bus: students buckling themselves in.

    STUDENT: You feel safer when you put your seat belt on.

    KRIS HAFEZIZADEH, Transportation Director, Austin Independent School District: The school bus transportation, we carry the most precious cargo, right?

    LISA STARK: Kris Hafezizadeh is the director of transportation for the Austin, Texas, school district. Five years ago, the district decided every new bus it bought would come with lap shoulder belts, at an extra $8,000 per bus, and not because there had been an accident.

    KRIS HAFEZIZADEH: We thought that, you know, we always ask your kids, when they get inside the car, to put on their seat belts. So, to carry the culture inside our school buses, it does add to additional safety.

    LISA STARK: But most school districts have decided against adding seat belts.

    In Montgomery County, Maryland, buses carry 100,000 students a day, and there has never been an accident in which a student rider died. Buying new buses with seat belts would cost an extra $1 million a year.

    Transportation director Todd Watkins says it doesn’t make fiscal sense.

    Is that a tough position to take, to try to explain to people?

    TODD WATKINS, Transportation Director, Montgomery County Public Schools: It is, because when you’re talking about anything that is involving safety, how can you be against it? And I’m not against it. I just don’t think it’s the best use of money right now, because the safety is at such a high level in school buses as it is.

    LISA STARK: Twenty-five million children ride school buses every day. Accidents claim around five to six lives a year. Statistics show children are safer riding to school in a bus than with a parent.

    MARK ROSEKIND, Former Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Those big yellow buses are the safest way for all of our kids to get to school every single day. The question is, can we make them safer?

    LISA STARK: Mark Rosekind headed up the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, under President Obama. That agency regulates school buses.

    Rosekind shocked school officials by advocating something no other NHTSA director ever had.

    MARK ROSEKIND: Three-point seat belts should be the norm on all new school buses, because we’re talking about trying to save every life.

    LISA STARK: But districts argue they’re getting a mixed message. There is no federal law requiring seat belts on buses, and NHTSA has concluded — quote — “that large school buses without seat belts do not pose an unreasonable risk of death or injury. We do not find a safety need for a federal mandate.”

    MARK ROSEKIND: You don’t need the government to tell you to do this. The technology is available now.

    LISA STARK: Whenever there’s a tragedy, such as the Chattanooga crash last November, which killed six children, there is always an anguished debate over seat belts.

    ALLISON STOOS, West Brook Bush Crash Families: It’s so frustrating to me every time I see another accident.

    LISA STARK: Allison Stoos still bears the scars of her accident over a decade ago. She was traveling with her soccer team in a small bus chartered by her Texas high school, not built to school bus standards, but also without seat belts.

    ALLISON STOOS: The bus swerved, and that’s pretty much all I remember.

    LISA STARK: The bus rolled over on its side. Two teammates died. Three, including Allison, were seriously injured. She was partially ejected, her arm trapped under the bus. Countless surgeries later, she has limited use of her left arm.

    ALLISON STOOS: The way it’s impacted my life and all my friends’ lives, and not just the girls on the bus, but our entire school was just turned upside down.

    LISA STARK: Do you think, if you would had had a seat belt, it would have made a difference?

    ALLISON STOOS: Certainly, in my injury in our type of wreck, with a rollover, I definitely think it would have made a difference.

    LISA STARK: For decades, school buses have been designed to protect riders through something called compartmentalization. The seats are close together. The backs are high and they’re padded. This helps keep the student in the compartment, if you will, during an accident. It works well during front and rear impacts.

    This crash test shows how unbelted students — that’s these test dummies — stay in their seats after a frontal crash. But, in this test, which simulates a rollover, very few of the test dummies stay put. Students can also go flying in violent side-impact crashes, as shown in this onboard video.

    KRISTIN POLAND, National Transportation Safety Board: These severe side-impact crashes and high-speed rollover crashes are very rare school bus crashes, but, when they do happen, we find that the children are vulnerable.

    LISA STARK: Lap-shoulder belts reduce that vulnerability, according to Kristin Poland. She’s with the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates school bus crashes.

    KRISTIN POLAND: In this case, we had a single vehicle that left the roadway, impacted a pole, impacted several trees.

    LISA STARK: This 2014 crash in Anaheim, California, injured the driver and nine students. No one died.

    KRISTIN POLAND: This was the first crash where we had a school bus that was equipped with lap-shoulder belts in all seating positions.

    LISA STARK: Poland looked at what might have been, if two of the more seriously injured students were wearing only lap belts.

    KRISTIN POLAND: Here, we have the occupants interacting with each other.

    LISA STARK: Or no belts at all.

    KRISTIN POLAND: In the unbelted cases, we have our occupant that was seated along the aisle that’s come all the way over and is now down on the floor. The lap-shoulder belts are giving the greatest protection, because they are keeping the body upright, keeping the occupant in the seating compartment, keeping the occupants away from each other.

    LISA STARK: Only seven states have school bus seat belt laws on the books, but Louisiana and Texas have not approved the funding and Arkansas’ law is brand-new.

    Even advocates will tell you installing belts alone isn’t enough. A big challenge is ensuring students wear them properly, or at all.

    Do you ever ride without it on the bus?

    STUDENT: Sometimes.

    LISA STARK: Why is that?

    STUDENT: Because I feel like — sometimes, I forget to put my seat belt on, sometimes.

    LISA STARK: But Allison says, at least these students have an option.

    ALLISON STOOS: I didn’t have the choice to sit there and buckle myself up to protect myself.

    LISA STARK: Allison, with her dad and others, helped get the Texas school bus seat belt law passed in 2007. They’re still trying to get it funded.

    Ultimately, money is the biggest driver. Education dollars are scarce, and few districts believe it pays to have students buckle up.

    For the PBS NewsHour and Education Week, I’m Lisa Stark in Austin, Texas.

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    JOHN YANG: President Trump welcomed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House today, amid heightened tensions for the longtime and now troubled allies.

    Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner begins our coverage.

    MARGARET WARNER: Despite tensions between Washington and Ankara, it was best foot forward from both leaders at the White House this afternoon, at least in public.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I look forward to working together with President Erdogan on achieving peace and security in the Middle East.

    PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkey (through interpreter): President Trump’s recent election victory has led to the awakening of a new set of aspirations and expectations and hopes in our region.

    MARGARET WARNER: But relations between the two NATO allies have deteriorated sharply. Former President Obama grew critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian ways. President Trump came to office calling for improved ties, but tensions flared again.

    The rawest point of contention, America’s battlefield partnership with the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the YPG. It’s the most effective ground force fighting ISIS. Ankara objects, arguing the YPG is linked to Turkey’s Kurdish terror group the PKK.

    But the U.S. announced last week it will furnish the YPG with heavier weapons.

    Defense Secretary James Mattis sought to soften the blow to Ankara.

    JAMES MATTIS, U.S. Secretary of Defense: We are very open to discussions about options, and we will work together, and we will work out any of the concerns. I am not concerned at all about the NATO alliance and the relations between our nations.

    MARGARET WARNER: Today, Mr. Trump cited the PKK, alongside ISIS, as a regional terror group, but he didn’t mention the YPG. Erdogan said neither group deserves a future in the region.

    PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): Taking the YPG and its allies in the region into consideration will never be accepted, and it is going to be against a global agreement that we have reached.

    MARGARET WARNER: Last month, Turkey conducted cross-border airstrikes against the YPG, killing more than 20.

    Internally, Washington is dismayed by Erdogan’s crackdown on domestic dissent, especially since last year’s abortive coup. Some 47,000 people have been arrested, and another 100,000 fired from government posts. Ankara accuses self-exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen of orchestrating the coup attempt and is furious that the U.S. hasn’t extradited him.

    All this follows a referendum last month greatly expanding Erdogan’s powers. The result sparked widespread protests. European monitors criticized it as below international standards.

    Mr. Trump telephoned Erdogan to congratulate him, however, something no other Western leader did.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Margaret Warner.

    JOHN YANG: And now Jeffrey Brown takes it from there.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, what is likely to come of the Trump-Erdogan meeting? And how serious are the tensions between the two allies?

    To help us answer those questions, we turn to Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He is the author of “The New Sultan: Erdogan and the Crisis of Modern Turkey.” And Ali Cinar, president of the Turkish Heritage Organization, who’s just come from a meeting with President Erdogan.

    So, let me start with you, Ali Cinar.

    Let’s get right to that question of the main dispute, the U.S. decision to arm a Kurdish militia fighting in Syria. How much anger did that provoke in Turkey?

    ALI CINAR, President, Turkish Heritage Organization: Well, it was — it was a really bad perception from the Turkey side, because, since the terror attacks increase in Turkey, the Turkish people got upset with United States, since U.S. support PYG.

    So, the meeting today between President Trump and Erdogan mainly focused on the PYG issue and extradition of Fethullah Gulen. So, there were two important, major issues that they discussed noontime.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And, Soner Cagaptay, what did President Erdogan want from this meeting? And do we know what he got?

    SONER CAGAPTAY, The Washington Institute: I think he got half of what he wanted already, which was to be invited to Washington. He just won a contested referendum that has made him executive-style president.

    As I highlight in my latest book, “The New Sultan,” Turkey is a very divided country, largely as a result of Erdogan’s political trajectory. Half of the country loves him, and the other half hates him.

    For the half that loathes him, they didn’t see the referendum as free and fair. And Erdogan was aching to get a Western leader to invite him, so he could affirm his victory as he saw it. So, by the mere fact that he was invited to the White House, he got more than half he wanted.

    On top of it, I think, today, he wanted to see some concessions regarding the Kurdish issue and the U.S. policy on the Kurdish issue, and he may have gotten that as well.

    I think that the deal President Trump offered to Turkish President Erdogan is that the United States will look — wants Turkey to look the other way as Washington arms the Syrian Kurds to take Raqqa from ISIS. In return, Washington is willing to look the other way as Turkey fights the Syrian Kurds’ ally PKK In Iraq and elsewhere where it has strongholds.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Ali Cinar, do you see him, the president, Erdogan, having gotten anything out of this meeting, because the U.S. has stood by its decision to arm the Kurds?

    ALI CINAR: Right.

    I mean, I don’t think you will see in the short term — but what President Trump said, also, we are going to also let some Turkish government use some war — I mean, guns to Turkish government, meaning that Trump said, we are going to arm Turkey, too. It was an interesting statement.

    And, also, it seems like United States is going to use PYG on the Raqqa operation, but for the other ground operations, there might be a collaboration between Turkey and United States. So, it’s difficult to see right now, but, in the long term, you might see a better cooperation between the two countries.

    JEFFREY BROWN: What about, staying with you, Ali Cinar, on the question of Fethullah Gulen? There, too, Turkey seems to have been rebuffed.

    ALI CINAR: Yes.

    I mean, the problem is, right now, the U.S. side says, OK, Turkey needs to respect our legal system and process. But now Erdogan is insisting that that was a treaty agreement, extradition agreement between Turkey and the United States signed in 1979.

    And at least Turkey is asking to detain Fethullah Gulen, and the U.S. side is not doing it right now. So I don’t we will see a solution on this. But Turkey continues to insist on Fethullah Gulen.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Soner Cagaptay, you mentioned the human rights issues earlier. I think that they didn’t come up, at least publicly. Did that surprise you? Should it have come up?

    SONER CAGAPTAY: Probably not, because Turkey is a large country, and the Turks don’t like to be lectured, especially by outsiders.

    I think, if it came up, I would have preferred that it came out in private meetings. This is an important issue. And it’s not about selling American values. President Erdogan in Turkey has won elections on a platform of economic good governance, but also demonizing groups that do not vote for him, ranging from leftists to liberals to Kurds.

    At a result, the very is very deeply polarized country, as I write in my book “The New Sultan.” But, at the same time, this very deeply polarized country is now in a state of crisis, where half believe that they live in heaven, and the other half believe that they live in hell. That is not sustainable.

    Turkey is a key ally for the United States because it borders Iran, Iraq, Syria, ISIS, and Russia across the Black Sea. Whatever U.S. policies are regarding those countries or entities, they’re much easier with Turkey. But they’re easier with Turkey, which is a stable country, not a country which is in crisis.

    Erdogan’s trajectory has put Turkey into a crisis. And I think that the human rights issues are not about selling American values. They’re about making sure that Turkey remains a stable place. And the only way for that is, of course, for President Erdogan to depolarize Turkey’s landscape, as well as to become a unifier, after having won the referendum.

    I wish and hope that that came up in the conversation.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, Ali Cinar, finally, to the extent that today was — a big part of today was about trying to mend fences in what has been a very tense time, where do things go from here?

    ALI CINAR: I mean, they are going to meet also in Europe for the NATO summit, and this talk will continue for their next meeting.

    But what I see is right now fighting against ISIS are the most important common strategy for both countries. And, hopefully, the Turkish army and the Pentagon can closely work together, and then move forward. Otherwise, it will be a disaster, if they don’t coordinate in the region, since Turkey is still upset on the U.S. support to PYG.

    So, hopefully, the dialogue will continue between the two countries. That’s my hope.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Ali Cinar, Soner Cagaptay, thank you both very much.

    SONER CAGAPTAY: Thank you.

    ALI CINAR: Thank you.

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    JOHN YANG: In the day’s other news: Syria denied U.S. claims that it’s using a crematorium to conceal mass executions of thousands of prisoners. The Foreign Ministry called it categorically false and said it’s a new Hollywood plot to justify American intervention.

    The State Department accused Syria of incinerating the corpses of executed prisoners to destroy evidence that could be used in war crimes prosecutions.

    North Korea has become the prime suspect in the global cyber-attack. A growing number of cyber-security experts now say the lines in the ransomware code are identical to lines in the code used by previous hackers linked to the North.

    And, they say, there are other clues.

    ERIC CHIEN, Symantec Researcher: It’s a bit unclear on what their ultimate motivation here is, but it does seem pretty clear that this is not the kind of thing a very professional cyber-criminal would do.

    You know, guys who are involved in these types of schemes like to run just under the radar. You want to infect as many machines as possible, but still be under the radar.

    JOHN YANG: The attack has infected thousands of computers and servers in about 150 countries, but the Department of Homeland Security says only a handful were in the United States.

    Back in this country, Senator John Cornyn now says he’s not interested in being FBI director. The Texas Republican was interviewed for the job over the weekend. Today, in a statement, he said he’d rather stay in the Senate. Yesterday, South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy withdrew from consideration.

    A new federal study finds that one in every five middle and high school students complained of being bullied in 2015. That’s despite the fact that the overall problem improved over the last decade; 21 percent of students ages 12 to 18 said they were bullied in 2015, and reports of sexual assaults on college campuses nearly tripled between 2001 and 2014, to 6,700.

    Advances in reducing the number of Americans without health insurance have stalled. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the number last year was unchanged at 28.6 million. That ends five years of coverage gains under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

    And on Wall Street, stocks had a lackluster day. The Dow Jones industrial average lost two points to close above 20979. The Nasdaq rose 20 points, and the S&P 500 slipped one point.

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    JOHN YANG: Now for some insights on this apparent disclosure, and the wider effects on intelligence-gathering and sharing, I’m joined by two men with deep knowledge of the U.S. intelligence community and the partnerships it relies upon.

    James Woolsey served as director of the CIA from early 1993 until January 1995. He was an adviser to President Trump’s campaign last year. And Andrew Exum, he was former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy in the Obama administration. He’s also a former Army Ranger.

    Mr. Woolsey, let me start with you.

    You heard Senator Risch say this was a good thing the president did, not a bad thing. Do you agree?

    JAMES WOOLSEY, Former Director, CIA: Well, it depends on whether the information gets out and damages our — either our relations with another country or our ability to keep sources and methods held very closely.

    It may be that it will not cause a major difficulty. But I think giving anything away to the Russians is something that has to pass about half-a-dozen levels of scrutiny. And that’s the real problem here.

    Unlike President Reagan, who was faced with declassification decisions on the aircraft that was shot down, the Russian aircraft, and so forth, here, we have just turned it loose, and to the Russians. And that ought to have been preceded by a day or two anyway of high-level discussions among top-level officials to make sure we knew exactly what we were turning loose and exactly why.

    JOHN YANG: Andrew, what’s your take on this?

    ANDREW EXUM, Former Defense Department Official: Well, no, that’s exactly right.

    With all due respect to the senator from Idaho, any time — and, look, I just came out of government service at the Pentagon. I know how frustrating leaks can be, but any time someone says the real problem is the media or leaks, they’re usually trying to defend the indefensible.

    And the problem here is that I don’t think the American people realize how much of our intelligence is actually derived from our partners. If our partners cannot feel or do not trust that our president will not divulge that information to, I mean, goodness gracious, the Russians in this case, then that could create real problems for us going forward.

    So, I completely agree with everything that Director Woolsey said. I think that this is a broader problem, regardless of how bad the actual leak was.

    JOHN YANG: And when you were in the Obama administration, there was a lot of debate over how much intelligence over Syria to give to the Russians.

    ANDREW EXUM: Yes, there sure was.

    JOHN YANG: What were the issues? I mean, we heard Mr. Woolsey say you have got to go through a lot of checkpoints. What were the considerations you went through on that?

    ANDREW EXUM: Well, that’s exactly right.

    You talk to anybody in the intelligence community, and you say, we want to release some information to the Russians, first off, making something secret releasable to Russia is almost a contradiction in terms, because so many of the sources and methods that we have developed over decades are really to allow us to spy on the Russians.

    It’s from the Cold War. So, there’s a lot of worry that, even in divulge anything type of information to the Russians, even if you don’t get into sources and methods, they’re going to backwards-engineer how you got that information, and thus learn something about your own capabilities.

    So that was a huge concern any time you start to discuss sharing information with the Russians.

    JOHN YANG: And, Mr. Woolsey, there are reports now that this information came from Israel. Is that a particular concern of giving this information to Russia, who is allied with Iran, who Israel sees as a mortal threat to their existence?

    JAMES WOOLSEY: Yes, but there’s a major footnote, I think.

    The yes is because of the way you formed the question. Yes, it is a serious matter if it undercuts Israel’s security at all and if it disturbs our relations with them. But the Israelis, looking at the shift from President Obama to President Trump, would probably give up a couple of half-ton trucks full of classified information in order to preserve that switch.

    And they are very happy with — and understandably so, with the new American administration. And although they would have criticisms, and if there was something really sensitive in this, they would have been very upset about it and would have come in and talked to the American director of central intelligence and explained why they were really worried and it ought not to happen again.

    But in terms of quietly seething and being really upset and so forth, no, they’re — I think they’re very pleased at having a Trump administration.

    JOHN YANG: Mr. Woolsey, General McMaster said that he — that the president didn’t know where this information came from.

    You’re experienced at briefing presidents, and also, quite frankly, briefing this president. You worked with him in the campaign. How much information do you give a president about a piece of intelligence?

    JAMES WOOLSEY: Well, I think in a circumstance in which he has to make a decision to disclose it to some government or individual that would be a serious potential problem, such as to Russia, I think you owe him a very thorough understanding, and you ought not to just send the paper in as part of a document.

    You ought to have enough leverage over his schedule to have the time to say, Mr. President, I hope you haven’t decided to turn any of this loose, but should you be thinking about that, the way you were back a few weeks ago, here are the problems with turning anything loose on this subject and on this subject and on this subject.

    He deserves a really thorough scrubbing.

    JOHN YANG: Andrew Exum, so, talk about, what is the potential threat to intelligence gathering in the future?

    ANDREW EXUM: Yes.

    Well, first off, I think that Director Woolsey is probably right in terms of talking about the way in which the Israeli prime minister views the switch from Obama to Trump. I don’t necessarily think he’s speaking for the Israeli defense and intelligence establishment.

    I think, there, there is a lot of unease, precisely because, between 2009 and 2017, we dramatically increased the amount of military and intelligence cooperation with the Israelis. And I suspect that you are going to see a lot of unease within the Israeli intelligence and defense establishment.

    You’re already starting to see quotes from Israelis nervous about what has potentially transpired. And, there, I think the worry going forward is that, not just with the Israelis, but with all of our partners, there’s just going to be a reluctance to hand over information to the Americans, especially if it’s sensitive, because, frankly, under our system, any secret is the president’s.

    The president — you know, things are classified at his discretion and at his pleasure. So, legally, the president can do exactly what he potentially did a few days ago in terms of releasing information to the Russians. I think that that’s going to be problematic, to say the least, for many of our partners, not only in the region, but elsewhere around the globe.

    JAMES WOOLSEY: I agree with that.

    JOHN YANG: I know we could talk much more about this, but I’m afraid we’re out of time. We have got to leave it there.

    Andrew Exum, James Woolsey, thank you both for joining us.

    JAMES WOOLSEY: Good to be with you.

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    JOHN YANG: And let’s keep our focus on Capitol Hill and to Republican Senator James Risch of Idaho.

    He’s a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee.

    I spoke with him earlier this evening, just as the story on the Comey memo broke.

    Senator Risch, welcome.

    I want to begin by asking you about a story that The New York Times has just posted about a memo, a contemporaneous memo that former FBI Director James Comey wrote after a meeting with the president on the day that Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser.

    He quotes the president as asking him to let the investigation into Flynn go: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”

    He interprets it, Mr. Comey interprets it as asking for an FBI investigation not to go forward.

    Do you have any reaction to this?

    SEN. JAMES RISCH, R-Idaho: Haven’t seen it. Don’t know anything about it. Haven’t read it. And before I comment on it, I want a lot more — I would want to know a lot more about it than what I do. But thanks for asking.

    JOHN YANG: I understand.

    So, let’s move on to the news, the other news of the day, the allegations or the suggestion that President Trump gave — shared this classified information with the Russian officials in the Oval Office.

    Are you satisfied with the White House explanation? Or do you have any other further questions?

    SEN. JAMES RISCH: Oh, I don’t really need the White House explanation on this. There is only one person on the planet who can make the decision whether to declassify something and whether to talk to someone outside of those of us that are cleared with the security, and that’s the president of the United States.

    If, indeed, it was on the subject that — and I’m neither going to confirm or deny that it was — but it was on the subject of airliner safety, I believe the president, obviously, had the legal authority to do it. He can declassify at any time.

    But, secondly, I think he has an obligation under his oath as president of the United States, when he in his judgment determines it’s in the best interests of the people of the United States, to declassify something and do it.

    The national media has treated this story as if this was a one-off, like this never happens. Look, the president of the United States deals every day with heads of other countries, with high-level people of other countries. And he constantly discusses classified information with them.

    Not only can he do that. He should do that, because we exchange classified information with almost every country on the face of the Earth, with the exception of a couple of them. And we — even ones that we’re not particularly friendly with, we do have overlapping interests in things like airline safety.

    And so if, indeed, that was the subject, and that’s what’s been reported, he should be commended for that. The real story here is, there’s a weasel here. And that is the person who reported about this conversation. This is a person who is a traitor.

    They betrayed their own country. They betrayed their families and their neighbors. And when you disclose classified information, classified conversations that you have access to, it is an act of treason. It’s unfortunate we can’t get that person identified.

    But he or she should be held to answer for that and treated as any treasonous person would be.

    JOHN YANG: Senator, you say that the president can declassify any information, any classified information.

    I understand that’s true for U.S. intelligence products. But this was an intelligence — intelligence developed by another country. Can he also declassify material given by another country’s intelligence service?

    SEN. JAMES RISCH: Of course. We don’t even have laws that cover classified information from another country.

    People could talk about that wherever they want to. You don’t generally do that. You treat like it all other classified information. But the president of the United States is fully entitled to discuss this with the people he sees fit to do it.

    JOHN YANG: Senator, you’re chairman of the subcommittee — Senate Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Near East.

    SEN. JAMES RISCH: I am.

    (CROSSTALK)

    JOHN YANG: The reports are that this information product came from Israel.

    Does it give you any concern or any pause that this was given to Russia, an ally of Iran, which Israel sees as an existential threat?

    SEN. JAMES RISCH: Yes, well, first of all, like I said, if it was what’s been reported on, that is airline safety, it would have nothing to do with the relationship between Iran and ISIS and Hezbollah and all that sort of thing.

    But my position is exactly the same as the Israeli ambassador, who was asked about this early today and said this will have absolutely no effect on the great cooperation between the security and intelligence agencies of the United States of America and Israel.

    We have been very close. We’re going to continue to be very close. We have concurrent interests. And, look, there’s been other times where there have been embarrassing lapses and disclosures, and we have worked around it. And that’s not uncommon in these kinds of things.

    JOHN YANG: And even though the president said — or the president’s spokesmen have said that the president did not discuss methods and sources…

    SEN. JAMES RISCH: Right.

    JOHN YANG: … is there a concern that there was enough information in what the president said that the Russians could figure out the methods and sources and put that source at risk?

    SEN. JAMES RISCH: Almost never are methods and sources disclosed, unless there is a reason to do that, such as an asset would be at risk or someone’s life is at risk.

    So, it wouldn’t be unusual that the president did or didn’t know what the methods and sources were. It’s just — it’s part of this anti-Trump fervor that the national media has to try to make him look bad every time he turns around.

    This was a good act that he did, not a bad act that he did. But there was a bad act done here. Somebody ought to go to the — to the people who printed this and say, look, you’re an American. I’m an American. Tell us who did this, so we can put them in jail.

    JOHN YANG: Senator James Risch of the Senate Intelligence Committee, thanks so much for joining us.

    Thank you, John.

    The post Sen. Risch: Trump fully entitled to declassify information appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JOHN YANG: And, meanwhile, the White House is also standing its ground tonight in the other uproar swirling around President Trump today.

    At issue in that case, allegations that he passed along classified intelligence from another nation to the Russians.

    William Brangham begins our coverage.

    H.R. MCMASTER, U.S. National Security Adviser: What the president discussed with the foreign minister was wholly appropriate to that conversation, and is consistent with the routine sharing of information.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster used that phrase, “wholly appropriate,” nine times today, as he pushed back against reports that President Trump made a damaging disclosure to Russian diplomats last week.

    The storm began Monday evening, first in The Washington Post, and quickly followed by other major news organizations. All reported that President Trump told the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador about highly classified information given to the U.S. by an ally in the Middle East, but without that ally’s permission.

    LISTEN: Unauthorized leaks are ‘frankly dangerous,’ Spicer says

    It pertained to an Islamic State plot based in Syria that involved laptops on airplanes. The New York Times reported today that Israel was the source of that information, though Israeli officials wouldn’t confirm it.

    QUESTION: Mr. President, did you share classified intelligence information with the Russians?

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The president himself ignored questions today as he met with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Oval Office.

    Later, though, he said this:

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, we had a very, very successful meeting with the foreign minister of Russia. Our fight is against ISIS, as General McMaster said. And we want to get as many to help fight terrorism as possible.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That followed a series of tweets this morning, saying: “As president, I wanted to share with Russia, which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.”

    Last night, as the initial shockwaves over this alleged revelation spread through Washington, McMaster appeared outside the White House.

    H.R. MCMASTER: The story that came out tonight, as reported, is false. At no time, at no time were intelligent sources or methods discussed. And the president didn’t disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But none of the news accounts had alleged that the president revealed sources or methods or military operations. Today, McMaster was asked to respond directly to what the reports did say, that the president revealed highly classified intelligence to an American adversary, Russia.

    McMaster didn’t deny that, but he did elaborate just a bit.

    H.R. MCMASTER: That the president wasn’t even aware of where this information came from. He wasn’t briefed on the source or method of the information either.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the story.

    DMITRY PESKOV, Spokesman for Vladimir Putin (through interpreter): It’s complete nonsense, not a subject to be denied or confirmed.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But the episode raised fears about how U.S. allies might react. One European official told the Associated Press that his country may stop sharing intelligence with Washington.

    The revelations also rippled through Congress, on the heels of the president’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. Republican Senator and Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker said the White House is in “a downward spiral right now, and have got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening.”

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell complained of yet another distraction from what Republicans want to talk about.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky., Majority Leader: I think it would be helpful to have less drama emanating from the White House.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: As for Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer demanded the White House release the full record of the Oval Office meeting with the Russian diplomats.

    SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., Minority Leader: Until the administration provides the unedited transcript, until the administration fully explains the facts of this case, the American people will rightly doubt if their president can handle our nations most closely kept secrets.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: With the White House in damage control mode, CIA Director Mike Pompeo went to the Capitol this evening to brief the House Intelligence Committee.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m William Brangham.

    JOHN YANG: For more on this story, we are joined by the NewsHour’s Lisa Desjardins on Capitol Hill, and Olivier Knox, chief Washington correspondent for Yahoo! News.

    Olivier, let me start with you at the White House.

    We now have this report from The New York Times about the Comey memo. This is sort of the third crisis that the White House has tried to deal with in the past two weeks. How did they do today on the — on the report about the intelligence being shared in the Oval Office with the Russians? How did they — how did they fare with that?

    OLIVIER KNOX, Yahoo News: Well, I think you have to notice that their story is evolving a little bit.

    H.R. McMaster, the president’s national security adviser, came out and said, it’s false. As your reporter pointed out, he denied things that were not actually in the original bombshell Washington Post report.

    Today, they pivoted, though. And now it’s not, it’s false and trying to draw attention away from it. It’s, well, maybe it happened, but it was entirely appropriate. And that’s a notable shift in the rhetoric.

    JOHN YANG: And, Lisa, I understand you have got some reporting on this Comey report.

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right.

    Senators were just finding out about this report as they were voting for a nomination. And I talked to Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr. He said he had been told about this by Senator John McCain.

    And when we went through The New York Times report with him, he told us: I believe that Director Comey might have told us if a request like that from the president had been made. And Burr said, it was never mentioned.

    John, essentially, the intelligence chairman is questioning The New York Times report, saying he thinks Comey would have brought that up. He also said that he believes the onus is on The New York Times to present this memo, not just have someone read from it.

    He went even further, John, further, and said that he thinks there is a very legitimate question, in his mind, as to whether someone out there in the intelligence community or elsewhere is trying to undermine the president.

    That’s one of the strongest reactions we have had in the president’s favor on Capitol Hill today.

    JOHN YANG: And beginning to question the intelligence community.

    Olivier, all this is happening as President Trump is about to leave on his first overseas trip. How do you think this is going to affect the trip?

    OLIVIER KNOX: Well, you know, they were already pretty much — pretty stressed out about this trip. It’s his first foreign trip. It’s big. It’s high-stakes. It’s high-profile, you know, Riyadh, and Israel, and the Vatican, and NATO, and a group of rich countries.

    I don’t know how much it’s going to affect the trip, except that, if there’s a drip, drip, drip of revelations, which certainly The New York Times suggests, given that Comey documented every think interaction he had with the president, that’s certainly a possibility, I think you have to just look at H.R. McMaster’s briefing today, which was originally designed as a briefing about the trip.

    He read us roughly the schedule, but then — with questions about the intelligence. And so it’s going to be a pretty big distraction, I think, from what the president’s — president wants the agenda to be.

    JOHN YANG: Lisa, very quickly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell today said he wanted a little less drama, a little less — more focus on the agenda. Is this getting in the way?

    LISA DESJARDINS: It is a distraction. Republicans tell you that across the board. They are still hoping to get a health care plan out of the Senate as early as July, but, more and more, John, people say that’s optimistic. They’re now talking about August, September for health care and tax reform.

    JOHN YANG: Lisa Desjardins on Capitol Hill, Olivier Knox of Yahoo! News at the White House, thank you both.

    The post White House in damage-control mode over Trump’s reported disclosure to Russia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JOHN YANG: We begin tonight with a report that President Trump urged then-FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation of one of his campaign aides’ connections to Russia.

    The New York Times reports that, at a February meeting, Mr. Trump told Comey, “I hope you can let this go.”

    It came the day after the president fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for lying about his contacts with the Russians. The president fired Comey last week. In response, the White House says that the report is “not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation” and that the president never asked anyone to end any investigation.

    For more, we turn now to Matt Apuzzo of The Times.

    Matt, thanks for joining us.

    Tell me what the significance of this memo is.

    MATT APUZZO, The New York Times: Well, the significance of the memo, of course, is just not — you know, just last week, the president fired Jim Comey, the FBI director, and the stories kept changing.

    And one of the back-and-forths has been, there was this conversation between Comey and the president in which the president said, “I want your loyalty.” And Comey wouldn’t give him his loyalty. And then the question became, well, is that why he got fired?

    And you will remember that the president tweeted out, oh, Jim Comey better hope there’s not tapes of our conversations. Well, it turns out Jim Comey was keeping memos and was keeping contemporaneous notes on every interaction he had with the president and was becoming very concerned about some of those interactions and sought to document those going forward.

    JOHN YANG: And he showed these to colleagues at the time, right?

    MATT APUZZO: He showed them to colleagues. He provided them with copies.

    And, you know, my colleague Mike Schmidt, who was the primary reporter on this story, talked to people who had seen the memos. That quote you read was read to us. This is — this is something — this is a real — this is a real dramatic turn in this story about, why did Donald Trump fire Jim Comey, and what is Donald Trump attempting to do in terms of influencing the investigation into his campaign and his associates?

    JOHN YANG: Matt, tell us more about the specific meeting that you wrote — that is written about The Times, just the story that was posted just a little bit OK?

    MATT APUZZO: Yes, we know it’s a February 14 meeting, a private meting between the president and the FBI director, Jim Comey.

    And, in it, the president mentions how concerned he is about leaks and actually makes this remark that, maybe we need to throw a couple of reporters in jail anyone to sort of send a message.

    And then they — the president brings up Michael Flynn and says, look, I think he’s a really good guy. And if you can see your way clear about it, just let this go. Let Michael Flynn go. He’s a good man.

    Now, Comey went back, apparently, and documented that conversation. And one thing that’s interesting about Comey is, 10 years ago, Comey was at the center of another major issue where he described this dramatic showdown with the Bush administration over warrantless wiretapping. And the White House denied that conversation.

    And it turned out that it was the FBI director at the time, Bob Mueller, kept his contemporaneous notes, and that backed up Comey’s account. So, in a lot of ways, this is what’s old is new again. The FBI director was keeping contemporaneous notes on his conversations with the president.

    JOHN YANG: And not just this conversation, Matt. Do we think he kept these notes throughout his conversations with the president?

    MATT APUZZO: Our understanding is, he documented every interaction, every meeting and every phone call with the president and, on a number of occasions, expressed concerns about the about the emerging relationship between the White House and the FBI director.

    Remember, the FBI director is normally kind of an arms-length relationship with the White House for precisely this reason, because, sometimes, you know, the FBI can be investigating things that are politically problematic for the White House.

    JOHN YANG: Matt Apuzzo, as you say, this could be a dramatic turning point in this relationship and what is going on between the two men, between President Trump and James Comey.

    Thanks for joining us.

    MATT APUZZO: Great to be here. Thanks so much.

    The post Report: Trump urged Comey to drop Flynn probe, detailed in memo appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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