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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: Former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner pleaded guilty today to sending sexually explicit messages to a 15-year-old girl. The scandal spilled into the presidential race when the FBI found some of Hillary Clinton’s e-mails on Weiner’s computer. She had sent them to her personal aide, Huma Abedin, who was then married to Weiner.

    The FBI director James Comey, at the time reopened the Clinton e-mail investigation. That was days before the election. She has since blamed her loss partly on that decision.

    Prosecutors in Sweden today dropped their long-running rape investigation of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

    Paul Davies of Independent Television News reports from London, where Assange is holed up in embassy of Ecuador.

    PAUL DAVIES: Looking pale after so many years without sunshine, Julian Assange emerged briefly from the embassy that’s been his home and prison. There was a gesture that reflected the fact that one investigation into him had been dropped, but, rather than celebratory, his words were bitter.

    JULIAN ASSANGE, Founder, WikiLeaks: Seven years without charge, while my children grew up without me, that is not something that I can forgive. It is not something that I can forget.

    PAUL DAVIES: His mood not helped by the metropolitan police saying he still faces arrest if he leaves his refuge. The saga began in 2010 when WikiLeaks released vast amounts of American secrets. In November, a Swedish international arrest warrant was issued, following allegations that he’d committed sex offenses there.

    He was detained in London and jailed, but later bailed when he fought a series of court cases, before eventually losing his extradition battle two years later. Fearing deportation to America from Sweden, he quickly fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he’s been ever since.

    Tonight, he is still there, back out of sight, while his legal team try to negotiate a deal that will allow him to travel to the airport and on to Ecuador.

    This balcony is just six foot above street level, but Julian Assange fears if he steps down here where I am, he will be arrested very quickly and put on a plane to America.

    For now, no sign of a breakthrough in the impasse. The world’s cameras still wait for a departure that’s not looking imminent.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A U.N. report, meantime, is shedding new light on atrocities committed in South Sudan. It says that government forces killed 114 people in a single village last year. Others were raped and brutalized.

    Meanwhile, the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, will skip an Islamic summit in Saudi Arabia this weekend that includes President Trump. Sudan is one of six Muslim nations included in the Trump administration’s travel ban.

    Back in this country, a New York City man has been charged with murder and attempted murder after driving his car into pedestrians in Times Square. One person was killed, and 22 hurt. Prosecutors say Richard Rojas deliberately drove onto a busy sidewalk on Thursday. He allegedly told police that he wanted to — quote — “kill them all.” Investigators are waiting for lab tests on whether he was using drugs.

    President Trump has nominated Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford to stay on as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Pentagon made the official announcement today. Dunford will continue to serve as a top military adviser to the president and to the defense secretary. Dunford was first tapped for the job by President Obama, and has served in the post since 2015.

    A federal appeals court says that owners of recreational drones will not have to register their devices. The court today struck down a Federal Aviation Administration rule. Drone owners said it was too burdensome, while the FAA said it was to improve safety. The three-judge panel said it is ultimately up to Congress to change the law.

    There is word that Goldman Sachs banker James Donovan has withdrawn as the nominee to be deputy treasury secretary. He told the Treasury Department he wants to focus on his family.

    And on Wall Street, stocks ended this week on a high note. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 142 points to close above 20804. The Nasdaq rose 28, and the S&P 500 added 16. For the week, all three indexes were down a fraction of 1 percent.

    The post News Wrap: Anthony Weiner pleads guilty in sexting case appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump faces new revelations tonight over the investigation of alleged collusion between campaign aides and Russia.

    The New York Times reports that the president told Russian diplomats last week that FBI Director James Comey was — quote — “a real nutjob” and that firing him removed — quote — “great pressure” on the president over the Russia probe.

    Separately, The Washington Post is reporting that a current senior White House adviser is now a person of interest in the investigation.

    The stories broke just after the president and first lady boarded Air Force One and took off for Saudi Arabia. It’s the first stop on a nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe.

    For more, we are going to turn first to Mark Mazzetti of The New York Times.

    Mark, thank you for being here.

    The story in your newspaper that broke just a couple of hours ago is interesting, because it’s what the president said in that meeting he had with the foreign minister of Russia and the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

    MARK MAZZETTI, The New York Times: Yes, it is an extraordinary moment, where this meeting we already knew happened the day after Trump fired James Comey as FBI director.

    And now we know that — and one of the reasons he fired him, he has said, is in part because of this Russia probe. And then he’s meeting with Russian officials. And he tells that he got rid of this — quote — “nutjob,” which has relieved pressure from him.

    So, it’s sort of amazing to hear that the president said that to the Russians in the Oval Office.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And the fact that, of course, it is the Russians that are the subject of this — the Trump connection to the Russians is the subject of the investigation.

    MARK MAZZETTI: That’s right.

    And so there’s a tremendous amount of irony here, maybe intentional, maybe not. But the — it also, I think most importantly, probably reinforces the idea that the Russia probe did play a pretty significant factor in the president’s decision to dismiss Comey.

    As you know, over the last week, since Comey was fired, we have heard a number of justifications for the firing. And the president has said once that the Russia probe played a part, but this is another example of the president saying that the Russia FBI investigation did play a big role.

    So, I mean, this is what gets to the central question here of whether there’s really something improper in the firing. People have raised the question of whether it was obstruction of justice. And him bringing it up to the Russians just is kind of another data point here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Exactly.

    And, as you point out, there have been different, differing explanations over the course of the last week or so, at one point, of course, the White House originally saying it had had to do with the way Jim Comey handled the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, but then eventually, as you say, the president referred to Russia.

    I also found it striking, Mark Mazzetti, what the White House had to say, that they basically acknowledged that the president said this, and that they said at one point, “Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations.”

    So, they’re not disputing this was said.

    MARK MAZZETTI: No. They’re characterizing it a little bit differently.

    They are saying what he was referring to was that he had been under a lot of pressure by the Russia investigations, that the Russians themselves had put him under pressure, so he was kind of using this as a sort of bargaining chip, to telling these Russian visiting officials, you guys put me under pressure by this thing, and so now kind of let’s make a deal, let’s move on to other things, so, he was using it as leverage.

    Whether you want to accept that justification or not, that’s the White House is saying, although, as you said, they’re not disputing the contents of what we reported.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The last thing, Mark Mazzetti, is I think the criticism the president is making of James Comey. Originally, it was a fairly mild criticism. It’s gravitated all the way to he was a — quote — “real nutjob.”


    And we now, by now, know how the president speaks or tweets. So, frankly, none of that, the characterization sounded like it was off-base. You could certainly hear the president making a comment like that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark Mazzetti with The New York Times, we thank you very much.

    MARK MAZZETTI: OK. Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we turn now to our own White House correspondent, John Yang.

    So, John, you have been absorbing this New York Times story. Separately, as we said, The Washington Post has a story about a senior adviser to the president currently in the White House who is now a — quote — “person of interest” in this Russia investigation.

    JOHN YANG: That’s right Judy.

    The significance of this is, this is the first time that someone still in the administration is being reported to be a person of interest in this investigation. Before, we knew about subpoenas for Mike Flynn, the fired national security advisory, and for Paul Manafort, the former chairman of the campaign.

    But this is the first time they’re describing this as someone close to the president. But The Post said that their source wouldn’t describe that person any further, give them any more details.

    There are also indications of The Post saying this investigation is beginning to intensify, moving to a new phase of actually interviewing witnesses issuing subpoenas, using a grand jury to investigate and issue those subpoenas, so that this is beginning to move.

    Sean Spicer responded to The Post story, saying, as he has since this began, that “Any investigation will prove that there was no collusion between the campaign and the other government.”

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, John, of course it’s striking, all this coming out just within a couple of hours after the president takes off on Air Force One for his first overseas trip.

    This has been some week for Twitter. You have been there every day. How are they dealing with this?

    JOHN YANG: It is interesting, because this has been a chaotic beginning to this administration.

    But the people I talk to acknowledge the past two weeks, and this week especially, does feel different, that sort of the bombshell revelations every day, every afternoon, it just keeps coming.

    Now, you saw a little bit of a difference in the response this week, which I thought was interesting. When The New York Times broke the story about the Comey memo, about saying that the president asked for his loyalty, his personal loyalty…


    JOHN YANG: … there really was — there was a paper statement, but then that was it.

    You didn’t see anybody going out to defend the president or to give their version on television after that. There was even someone booked. Kellyanne Conway was booked on FOX to do that, but then canceled.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All of it’s interesting. John Yang, thank you.

    And we’re going to get the analysis of Mark Shields and David Brooks on all this and more a little later in the program.

    The post Reported Trump comments to diplomats emphasize role of Russia probe in Comey firing decision appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    FILE PHOTO: FBI Director James Comey testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 3, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo - RTS15WUW

    FILE PHOTO: FBI Director James Comey testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing May 3 on “Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation” on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo.

    Former FBI Director James Comey has agreed to testify before the Senate intelligence committee after Memorial Day.

    The committee’s chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, and the ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner, announced Friday that Comey will testify in an open setting before the committee. The date of the hearing has not yet been set.

    Burr says the committee wants to hear from Comey on his role in the development of the U.S. intelligence agencies’ assessment that Russia interfered in last year’s election. He says he hopes Comey’s testimony will answer some of the questions that have arisen since Comey was suddenly dismissed May 9 by President Donald Trump.

    READ MORE: Comey ‘disgusted’ by Trump hug, considered White House ‘not honorable,’ friend says

    PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

    The post Comey agrees to testify before Senate intelligence committee appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Saudi Arabia's King Salman presents Trump with the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud Medal at the Royal Court in Riyadh

    Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, right, presents U.S. President Donald Trump with the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud Medal at the Royal Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on May 20, 2017. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — President Donald Trump, in the first stop of his maiden trip abroad, received a regal welcome Saturday in Saudi Arabia, feted by the wealthy kingdom as he aims to forge strong alliances to combat terrorism while pushing past the multiple controversies threatening to engulf his young administration.

    Trump arrived in Riyadh after an overnight flight and was welcomed at elaborate airport ceremony punctuated by a military flyover and a handshake from Saudi King Salman. He is the only American president to make Saudi Arabia, or any majority Muslim country, his first stop overseas – a choice designed in part to show respect to the region after more than a year of Trump’s harsh anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric.

    The visit kicks off an ambitious international debut for Trump. After two days of meetings here, Trump will travel to Israel, have an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican and meet with allies at a NATO summit in Brussels and the Group of 7 powerful nations in Sicily.

    Trump waved from the doorway after Air Force One touched down and before descending the staircase with first lady Melania Trump. The 81-year-old King Salman, who used a cane for support, was brought to the steps of the plane in a golf cart. The leaders exchanged pleasantries and Trump said it was “a great honor” to be there.

    Several jets then flew overhead leaving a red, white and blue trail.

    Saudi Arabia's King Salman welcomes Trump at the Royal Court in Riyadh

    Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, right, welcomes U.S. President Donald Trump at the Royal Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on May 20, 2017. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Soon after, Trump tweeted for the first time on international soil as president. “Great to be in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Looking forward to the afternoon and evening ahead.”

    At a later ceremony at the grand Saudi Royal Court, the king placed the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud, the nation’s highest civilian honor, around Trump’s neck. The medal, given to Trump for his efforts to strengthen ties in the region, has also been bestowed on Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.

    The king and Trump were overheard discussing natural resources and arms, and the king bemoaned the destruction caused by Syria’s civil war.

    White House officials hope the trip, complete with images of the accompanying pomp and pageantry of a president abroad, will help Trump recalibrate after one of the most difficult stretches of his young presidency. The White House bungled the president’s stunning firing of FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing a federal investigation into possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia. This week, the Justice Department relented to pressure from Democrats and named former FBI chief Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead the probe.

    But fresh news reports about the Russia investigation surfaced shortly after Trump departed and threatened to overshadow the nine-day trip.

    The New York Times reported that Trump called Comey “a real nut job” while discussing the ongoing investigation with two Russian officials in the Oval Office earlier this month. He also told them that firing Comey had “taken off” the “great pressure” he was feeling from the investigation, the Times reported.

    Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that an unidentified senior Trump adviser was being considered a “person of interest” in the investigation. Separately, Comey agreed to testify at an upcoming, open hearing of the Senate intelligence committee, the panel said.

    Despite those troubles, Trump was warmly received in Saudi Arabia in contrast to his predecessor. Saudi’s ruling family grew deeply frustrated with Obama’s detente with Iran and his restrained approach on Syria. The king did not greet Obama at the airport when he visited last year.

    Billboards featuring images of Trump and the king and emblazoned with the motto “Together we prevail,” dotted Riyadh’s highways, and Trump’s hotel was bathed in red, white and blue lights and, at times, an image of the president’s face.

    Mrs. Trump wore a black pantsuit with a golden belt and did not cover her head, consistent with the custom for foreign dignitaries visiting Saudi Arabia. Her husband had criticized former first lady Michelle Obama for not wearing a headscarf during a 2015 visit to the kingdom.

    Trump arrived as Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani won re-election by a wide margin, giving the moderate cleric a second, four-year term to continue pushing for greater freedoms and outreach to the wider world.

    For a president who campaigned on an “America First” platform, the trip is a crucial moment for U.S. allies to size up Trump’s commitment to decades-long partnerships while trying to move behind his previous controversial statements.

    In a sweetener for Saudi Arabia, U.S. officials said the Trump administration planned to announce $110 billion in advanced military equipment sales and training to the kingdom. The package includes tanks, combat ships, missile defense systems, radar and communications, and cybersecurity technology.

    After spending much of Saturday meeting with King Salman and other royal family members, Trump was ending the day at a banquet dinner at the Murabba Palace. On Sunday, he’ll hold meetings with more than 50 Arab and Muslim leaders converging on Riyadh for a regional summit focused largely on combating the Islamic State and other extremist groups.

    Trump dodged one potential land mine when Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who has been indicted on war crime and genocide charges, announced that he would not attend the summit for personal reasons.

    The centerpiece of Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia is a speech Sunday at the Arab-Islamic-American summit. White House aides view the address as a counter to Obama’s 2009 speech to the Muslim world, which Trump criticized as too apologetic for U.S. actions in the region.

    Trump will call for unity in the fight against radicalism in the Muslim world, casting the challenge as a “battle between good and evil” and urging Arab leaders to “drive out the terrorists from your places of worship,” according to a draft of the speech obtained by The Associated Press. The draft notably refrains from mentioning democracy and human rights — topics Arab leaders often view as U.S. moralizing — in favor of the more limited goals of peace and stability.

    The draft also abandons some of the harsh anti-Muslim rhetoric that defined Trump’s presidential campaign and does not contain the words “radical Islamic terror,” a phrase Trump repeatedly criticized Hillary Clinton for not using during last year’s campaign.

    The post Trump receives regal welcome in Saudi Arabia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A view of downtown Birmingham, Alabama. Photo by Flickr user James Willamor

    MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama’s GOP-dominated legislature redrew legislative maps Friday under court order to fix racial gerrymandering, punctuating a session rife with racial turmoil over issues such as the protection of Confederate monuments and an email that compared lawmakers to monkeys.

    The Senate on Friday approved new district maps and sent them to the governor despite objections from black Democrats who said the new ones are still gerrymandered to maintain white GOP dominance in the conservative state. In January, a three-judge panel in January ordered legislators to redraw lines before the 2018 elections, saying Republicans had improperly made race the predominant factor in drawing 12 of 140 legislative districts.

    The redistricting approval was part of session peppered with tensions on issues such as a bill to protect Confederate monuments and Republicans use of cloture to force votes.

    GOP legislative leaders said they’re confident they’ve addressed problems found by the federal courts and that the new maps would comply with other redistricting decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court.

    “It’s fair. It puts back counties and precincts like the court told us to do. It did not use race in any way to draw districts. It will go back to the three-judge panel and I think they will approve it,” said Sen. Gerald Dial, Republican chairman of the redistricting committee.

    The battle will shift back to federal court where black lawmakers, who filed the initial lawsuit, said they would oppose approval of the new plans.

    “It seems like we are going to end up in court again,” said Legislative Black Caucus Chairman John Knight, D-Montgomery. “It’s clear. You can look at the map. There is racial gerrymandering.”

    One of the key disputes centered on Jefferson County, home to the state’s largest city, majority black Birmingham. The proposed new map would maintain a slim Republican majority in the Jefferson County delegation. The state centers power in Montgomery which would give Republicans control over legislative issues affecting the majority-black local governments.

    Tensions boiled over on the House floor Thursday after a white Republican lawmaker sent around an email about how caged monkeys will eventually stop reaching for a dangling banana as they slowly accept the status quo because their predecessors were punished by being sprayed with water. “This is how today’s House and Senate operates, and this is why from time to time, ALL of the monkeys need to be REPLACED AT THE SAME TIME!” the email read.

    The lawmaker Rep. Lynn Greer of Rogersville, said he thought the email was a joke about the need to replace Congressional incumbents. It outraged black lawmakers in a state where civil rights demonstrators were sprayed with fire hoses in the 1960’s.

    “I’m not a monkey. My mother wasn’t a monkey, and neither was my father. You are a damn monkey,” Rep. John Rogers, a black lawmaker from Birmingham, shouted at the House member who sent the email.

    Speaker Mac McCutcheon on Thursday asked lawmakers to hold hands and pray for unity. McCutcheon said he wants to implement sensitivity training for legislators, something that he said had been considered before this week’s conflict.

    “I think the country as a whole has a real divide. I think this is an indicator of what the country is feeling,” he said of divisions. “I would like us to make sure that we talk to each other, that we understand our differences and remember that we are all our human beings. We all have hearts, that we all have concerns.”

    House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels said the tensions had been simmering for sometimes, and fights on protections for Confederate monuments — which were approved Friday— have not helped.

    “There has been a divide for a long time. It was just that it reached a boiling point,” Daniels said.

    The post Alabama’s GOP approves new maps; Dems vow repeat court fight appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Trump and the U.S. delegation sit down to meet with Saudi Arabia's King Salman and his delegation at the Royal Court in Riyadh

    U.S. President Donald Trump and his delegation, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, third from left, senior advisor Jared Kushner and chief economic advisor Gary Cohn sit down to meet with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the Saudi delegation at the Royal Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on May 20, 2017. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — President Donald Trump and Saudi King Salman signed a series of agreements cementing their countries’ military and economic partnerships.

    The two leaders signed a joint vision agreement Saturday at the Saudi Royal Court and sealed it with a handshake.

    The agreements also include a military sales deal of about $110 billion, effective immediately, plus another $350 billion over the next 10 years.

    The two countries also announced a defense cooperation agreement and private sector agreements Saturday that are intended to create tens of thousands of new jobs in the U.S. defense industry.

    Trump has been tending to official business on his first day overseas as president.

    This report was written by the Associated Press.

    The post Trump signs Saudi defense, economic deals appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Photo courtesy of Copper Basin Medical Center

    Copper Basin Medical Center in rural Tennessee is “technically bankrupt,” its CEO said.
    Photo courtesy of Copper Basin Medical Center

    In the southeast corner of Tennessee, one rural hospital has fallen into such dire financial straits it suspended inpatient services earlier this month. Now, the new CEO of the Copper Basin Medical Center has launched a GoFundMe campaign to save the hospital.

    “Please help save our local area hospital!!!” the website urges. “Without the help of our community we will not be able to survive!”

    The campaign seeks to raise just $100,000. That’s just a fraction of its debt — and it’s nothing in the world of online crowdfunding; the team behind an extra-heavy blanket marketed as a treatment for anxiety recently raised more than $3.5 million.

    But so far, the tiny hospital in the Appalachian foothills has brought in just $845.

    CEO Dan Johnson finds hope in looking back to the way the hospital was originally funded. In the 1950s, miners who worked for the Tennessee Copper Company contributed portions of their paychecks to help pay for the medical center. Johnson is confident that local residents, who have relied on Copper Basin in medical emergencies, will now help their hospital in its time of need.

    [Watch Video]

    “I’m a positive thinker,” he said. “There should be health care in this community. There’s a definite need for this hospital.”

    But the fundraising campaign has exposed rifts in the community, too. Some employees are openly urging people not to donate, noting that the hospital recently laid off workers with just three days’ notice. Registered nurse Robert Pinion posted on Facebook that the “once thriving facility that boasts some of the best, most caring employees” had been “mismanaged into oblivion.”

    “An incredible shame!” he wrote.

    Tracy Rhodes Robinson, a registered nurse who was among those laid off this month, told STAT she was angry at the hospital’s treatment of employees. Their health insurance was eliminated; some are still owed paychecks and aren’t sure they’ll ever get them.

    “The town needs the hospital,” Robinson said. “I have already found another job — but I’m hopeful my old job opens back up.”

    Copper Basin Medical Center, the only critical access hospital in Polk County, Tenn., faces the same strains as many other small and isolated hospitals. A third of rural hospitals in the US are currently operating at a loss. And more than 75 have closed since 2010.

    Copper Basin isn’t in immediate danger of shutting down, but the hospital has cut staffing from about 130 employees to fewer than 80. Johnson said he had no choice: “It wouldn’t have been fiscally responsible or morally responsible to have people work without paying them every two weeks. And to raise capital, we need to reduce payroll.”

    Speaking by phone from his office, Johnson told STAT he was hired last month by board members to orchestrate a turnaround for Copper Basin, though it’s deep in debt — and barraged by calls from lawyers. He said he inherited a “perfect storm” from his predecessor that resulted in the hospital becoming “technically bankrupt.”

    Still, he said the 25-bed hospital will keep its emergency department open and offer outpatient services.

    Johnson, a veteran hospital executive, said he believes Copper Basin can raise the $100,000 to improve its financial stability. Meanwhile, he and chief financial officer Tim Henry are spending their days trying to keep the place afloat, “figuring out who to pay $200 or $300 for supplies,” he said.

    READ NEXT: Immigrants, fearing Trump’s deportation policies, avoid doctor visits

    There’s also a matter of collecting for weeks of unpaid patient care after Copper Basin’s billing vendor quit earlier this year. To help on that front, Johnson has launched a major collections effort; past patients can pay half their overdue bills and get their remaining medical debt written off.

    “People in the community are probably weary of the troubles the hospital has had, but we don’t have that negative outlook,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to get cash from any source we can.”

    Or, as Henry wrote on the GoFundMe page, “We are asking for any donations that the community, or anyone willing to donate to a valuable cause can make.”

    None of the 18 donors to date has contributed more than $100, but some included heartfelt notes of encouragement. “Rural health care providers are struggling to make ends meet all across the country,” one wrote. “We need to help save them to ensure all Americans have access to critical care.”

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on May 18, 2017. Find the original story here.

    The post In rural Tennessee, a hospital turns to crowdfunding to stay afloat appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir hold a briefing in the player above.

    RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — U.S Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says a centerpiece of President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia is to curb any threats to the region posed by Iran.

    Tillerson says a series of military and private sector deals agreed to by both sides sends a “strong message to our common enemies.”

    The U.S. and Saudi Arabia see Iran as a common enemy.

    Trump has been greeted warmly in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, the opening leg of his first international trip, primarily due to Trump’s tough talk on Iran.

    Tillerson commented at a news briefing with Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir.

    Al-Jubeir borrowed a Trump phrase when he said stronger U.S. ties will allow the region to “drain the swamps from which extremism and terrorism emanates.”

    The post Tillerson: Curbing Iran a focus of Trump trip appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    FILE PHOTO - Callista Gingrich applauds husband Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich at a campaign rally at Stoney's Rockin' Country dance hall in Las Vegas

    Callista Gingrich applauds husband Newt Gingrich at a campaign rally at Stoney’s Rockin’ Country dance hall in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Feb. 3, 2012. Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he will nominate the wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as his ambassador to the Vatican.

    Callista Gingrich has been the president and CEO of Gingrich Productions, a multimedia production and consulting company in Arlington, Virginia, since 2007.

    She previously worked as a congressional aide in the House of Representatives and is president of The Gingrich Foundation, a charity organization.

    She is Newt Gingrich’s third wife and he converted to Catholicism to marry her.

    Ambassadors require Senate confirmation before assuming the role.

    The announcement comes days before Trump arrives at the Vatican to meet Pope Francis.

    The post Trump nominates Callista Gingrich as envoy to the Vatican appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Research scientist Dan Galperin holds vials marked "Zika" at Protein Sciences Inc. where they are working on developing a vaccine for the Zika virus in Meriden

    Research scientist Dan Galperin holds vials marked “Zika” during his work on Purified Recombinant Zika Enveloped Protein at the research laboratory where they are working on developing a vaccine for the Zika virus based on production of recombinant variations of the E protein from the Zika virus at the Protein Sciences Inc. headquarters in Meriden, Connecticut, on June 20, 2016. Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

    Sanofi Pasteur has rejected a request from the US Army to set an affordable US price for a Zika virus vaccine that the company is developing with American taxpayer funds, prompting an angry response from Senator Bernie Sanders.

    For months, Sanders has pushed the Army to negotiate a more favorable agreement with Sanofi, which is one of the world’s largest vaccine makers and which has already received a $43 million US research grant. But Sanofi recently refused, according to an Army timeline of events reviewed by STAT.

    The rejection comes amid negotiations the Army is holding to grant Sanofi a license to make and sell a Zika vaccine. But the prospect of giving Sanofi an exclusive license to sell a potential blockbuster — depending upon how extensively the virus travels — at whatever price it wants, has upset various lawmakers and advocacy groups, who are pressing the Army to insist on affordable pricing.

    As a result, the deal, which could provide the company with another $130 million in government funds, has sparked still wider debate about pricing for products that are discovered with US taxpayer dollars.

    “It is unacceptable that Sanofi has rejected the Army’s request for fair pricing” in the US that is comparable to what other countries may be charged, Sanders told us in a statement. “American taxpayers have already spent more than $1 billion on Zika research and prevention efforts, including millions to develop this vaccine. Americans should not be forced to pay the highest prices in the world for a critical vaccine we paid to help develop.”

    READ NEXT: Feud erupted between CDC, Puerto Rico over reporting of Zika cases, document shows

    Meanwhile, the Army said it is still weighing whether to grant the company an exclusive license, despite previous assertions. In a May 4 letter to Sanders, Acting Secretary of the US Army Robert Speer wrote that “the decision to grant an exclusive license to Sanofi Pasteur is not final” and is “still several months away.” Such a license may be issued this summer, according to the same Army timeline.

    Speer was responding to concerns the company will be given a monopoly and, consequently, may charge more for any forthcoming vaccine than many Americans can afford. The Army last June signed a research agreement with Sanofi to develop a Zika vaccine, and an Army spokeswoman maintained that an exclusive license must be offered to the company.

    Speer, however, appears to contradict what an official in the Army’s medical technology transfer office last month wrote to Knowledge Ecology International, an advocacy group that has criticized exclusive licensing for the vaccine. In an April 24 letter, the official maintained the military intended to proceed with plans to award Sanofi an exclusive license to a pair of government patents.

    Spokespeople for both Sanofi and the Army stressed that details have not been finalized.

    The shifting Army timetable, however, may reflect a bid to forestall further negative publicity.

    For several months, the topic was on a low boil as Sanders and other lawmakers, as well as patient advocacy groups such as Doctors Without Borders, pressed the Army. They have tried to persuade the Army to issue a non-exclusive license or impose requirements allowing the federal government to intervene if the company sets a price that would make the vaccine inaccessible to many Americans.

    But in March, Sanders drew national attention to the issue in an op-ed in The New York Times in which he scolded the Army for a “bad deal” that may subject Americans to price gouging. He noted that Sanofi was awarded a $43 million grant from the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, and the company has previously indicated it expects to ask BARDA for more funding.

    READ NEXT: Juggling act: Managing supplies of yellow fever vaccine to prevent a shortage

    Last week, meanwhile, Louisiana Governor John Edwards also wrote Speer to express “serious concern” about an exclusive license, since Louisiana may be “one of the Gulf states most likely to be affected” if the virus spreads. He also warned that monopoly pricing, “without constraints, could cripple state budgets and threaten public health.”

    For its part, the Army has maintained that it is trying to help solve a public health problem. There was mounting alarm last year over the spread of Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that can cause birth defects. And Speer wrote to Sanders that the Army struck a deal with Sanofi because the military lacks “sufficient” research and production capabilities to develop and manufacture a Zika vaccine.

    And in that April 24 letter, the other Army official wrote the military is not in a position to enforce “affordable prices.” But one advocate, Jamie Love of Knowledge Ecology International, countered that federal law requires an exclusive license to cover an invention that has a practical application, which is defined as being made “available to the public on reasonable terms” and should be “substantially” made in the US.

    Moreover, Arti Rai, the co-director of the Duke University Law School Center for Innovation Policy, believes the Army has leverage for another reason. One of two provisional patent applications was filed before the Army and Sanofi signed their deal, which is known as a CRADA, or cooperative research and development agreement. And the CRADA excluded the first provisional patent application.

    As a result, the Army may not be required to offer an exclusive license, at least for that particular patent application. “My reading of the (federal statute) is that if the invention was created and federally owned before a CRADA was signed, then the Army is not obligated to give a license” to Sanofi, she explained.

    But the Army may not be pushing Sanofi harder over the terms of the agreement due to concerns the company will walk away. It was only after an April 14 conversation between Sanders and Speer that the Army broached the pricing issue, according to Sanders’ office. Four days later, Sanofi rejected the notion. In his May 4 letter, Speer noted Sanofi is the “only known pharmaceutical company willing to license” the patents from the Army.

    Such concerns prompted the National Institutes of Health in 1995 to remove “reasonable pricing” clauses from CRADA agreements. At the time, former NIH director Dr. Harold Varmus described such clauses as a “restraint” on new product development.

    As for Sanofi, Elias Zerhouni, who heads global R&D, responded to the recent Sanders op-ed that the company will make “significant milestone and royalty payments” to the Army, which will allow the US government to “recoup its investment.” Those details have not been publicly released. A Sanofi spokeswoman told us “we can’t determine the price of a vaccine that we haven’t even made yet.”

    It is worth noting that, just last week, Sanofi vowed to limit price hikes to a level at or below the medical rate of inflation in the US. The move comes not only as the company faces questions over the license for the Zika vaccine, but also pressure from lawmakers, including Sanders, who want federal authorities to investigate the company and two rivals for alleged price collusion over insulin products. Separately, some consumers filed a lawsuit.

    Meanwhile, another Sanofi spokeswoman wrote us that “it’s important to note that our discussions with the US Army are ongoing and any terms of a licensing agreement are still being negotiated. Further discussions are planned.”

    Similarly, a US Army spokeswoman sent us a note saying “any license agreement will not be signed unless the terms of the license application and agreement satisfy relevant law and regulations, and the government determines that the terms are in the best interest of the government and the public. The government and Sanofi Pasteur are engaged in continuing negotiation of the terms of the license agreement, so a final decision has not been made.”

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on May 17, 2017. Find the original story here.

    The post Sanofi rejects U.S. Army request for ‘fair’ pricing for a Zika vaccine appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    California Attorney General Harris speaks at the Center for American Progress' 2014 Policy Conference in Washington

    California Attorney General Kamala Harris speaks at the Center for American Progress’ 2014 Making Progress Policy Conference in Washington, District of Columbia, U.S. November 19, 2014. Photo by Gary Cameron/File Photo/Reuters

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Democrats had tough words for Republican President Donald Trump and the GOP Congress on Saturday as they continued their three-day convention with renewed optimism about their party’s chances of tipping the balance of power in the U.S. House.

    The party’s elected leaders presented California as the epicenter of liberal resistance to Trump, urging fired-up activists to work against the 14 Republicans in the state’s 53-member congressional delegation and aggressively attacking the president.

    “The world, literally the world, is counting on all of you, counting on California to reject Trump’s deception and destructiveness,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is among a crowded field of Democrats running for governor next year.

    U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, often mentioned as a potential candidate for president in 2020, accused Trump of putting “Russia first, America second.”

    “Democrats, we need to keep up the fight and recognize that when our nation’s very sovereignty is under attack … This is wrong, and we need the truth,” Harris said.

    The convention comes less than a week after the U.S. Justice Department appointed a special prosecutor to investigate whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during last year’s election — a charge Trump has vehemently denied and called a “witch hunt.”

    Outgoing party Chair John Burton, a longtime Democratic lawmaker and powerbroker known for his blunt and profane manner, extended two middle fingers in the air as the crowd cheered and joined him.

    “F— Donald Trump,” he said.

    The attacks on Trump united and enthused Democratic activists, who repeatedly stood to applaud. But beneath the surface, the party activists are deeply split, still struggling to mend the divisions that exploded in last year’s primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

    The divide was on clear display in the race to replace Burton as party chair. It has highlighted strong disagreements between longtime party activists and a new breed of progressives eager for new party leadership that will more aggressively promote liberal priorities and reject money from corporate and establishment interests.

    While both major candidates for party chair endorsed Clinton’s presidential bid, Sanders supporters have rallied around Kimberly Ellis, the former head of an organization that works to elect Democratic women to office.

    [Watch Video]

    Ellis has called for new blood in the party. She faces longtime Los Angeles County Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman, the state party’s vice chair, who says the party needs a steady hand to continue its dominance in California politics.

    Bauman has lined up the support from the vast majority of elected Democrats and was the overwhelming favorite to win until agitators loyal to Sanders, including the influential California Nurses Association, surged Ellis’ support.

    Bauman has come under pressure for work his political consulting firm has done for corporate clients. Pharmaceutical companies paid the firm to work in opposition to a ballot measure that would have prohibited the state from paying more for prescription drugs than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

    The measure, which Sanders supported and campaign for, failed after drug companies spent more than $100 million in opposition.

    The work has touched a nerve with many Democratic activists a time when some of the party’s biggest stars, including Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, are focused on curtailing the role of money in politics and the power of corporations.

    The race took a strange turn earlier this month when Bauman sent an email to delegates saying he had been the target of salacious rumors alleging he had inappropriate contact with teenage boys. The source of the rumors was unclear, and Ellis denounced them.

    The post California Democrats take aim at Trump, GOP Congress appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    donald trump

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: “New York Times” correspondent Ben Hubbard is in Riyadh, covering the visit and joins me now via Skype.

    Ben, this trip has been billed as an opportunity to reset the American-Saudi relationship. What needs resetting?

    BEN HUBBARD, NEW YORK TIMES CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think from the Saudi perspective, there’s a lot of things that need resetting. The Saudis, you know, which have been American allies in the Middle East for many, many decades, felt — I think — and, you know, we can say they felt very deceived under President Obama. There was anger over the way that Obama seemed to give up on Hosni Mubarak and other Arab allies during Arab spring protests. They were angry at his hesitancy to get more — to get involved in the war on Syria.

    And the Iran deal was a huge blow to them. They very much felt that this president, who was supposed to be one of our great allies, went behind our back and made this deal with one of our enemies.

    Then after Trump was elected, there’s very much a sense here that this is a guy who understands us. This is a guy that we can do business with. This is somebody that — you know, has said all the right things when it comes to things that we care about, which are fighting, you know, terrorist organizations and specifically with confronting Iran.

    STEWART: Ben, let’s talk a little bit more about business. Can you tell me about that $110 billion weapons deal that was struck today?

    HUBBARD: Yes, and it could end up being I think $350 billion over the next 10 years. They’re going to build a number of high-tech helicopters here in the kingdom, and another — other deals that are expected to come through tomorrow, dealing with oil and technologies and various other industries.

    STEWART: Ben, has there been any reaction to Mr. Trump’s statements that offended many Muslims?

    HUBBARD: What’s remarkable — I mean, I spent a lot of time kind of outside of the — you know, the area of where the officials are. Yesterday, I went to — I went to a Harley Davidson rally actually. And, you know, met all these Saudis who love Harley Davidsons, and it’s quite amazing how many Saudis would just tell you how much they love Trump. They’re just very excited about him. They feel like this is a guy that we can understand.

    And, you know, you try to push them on things, what about all the things that he said about Islam or these things that he said about your country? They seem a lot more willing that I think a lot of Americans to just dismiss it as campaign rhetoric, which is very interesting. So, you know, there’s been a concerted media campaign inside the kingdom and I think it’s trickled down and I think a lot of people just kind of felt that like, OK, this is going to be a guy that we can — we can do business with.

    STEWART: Ben, Mr. Trump is slated to give a speech tomorrow. Is there any indication with the tone, the tenor, the content?

    HUBBARD: No, and it’s interesting. This is the one thing that a number of Saudi contacts I have, have expressed some discomfort over. They’ve kind of said, hmmm, you know, Trump is going to give a speech about Islam. Hmmm, we need to see how this is going to go.

    So, I wouldn’t say people are too scared of it, but it’s one thing people have kind of — you know, it’s raised a lot of eyebrows we could say. You know, we can assume that what really interests him in this relationship is fighting extremism. I mean, the Saudis have been under threat from the Islamic State and the Islamic State has carried out a number of attacks inside the kingdom, deadly attacks. And so, I think, you know, this is another area where they think that they can do business with Trump.

    STEWART: Ben Hubbard from “The New York Times” from Riyadh — thanks so much.

    HUBBARD: Thank you.

    The post Trump signs Saudi arms deal on first foreign trip appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Kenya electricity

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    By Sam Weber and Melanie Saltzman

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Seline Akinyi Mumbe is 49-years old and lived without electricity for her first 48 years, until she finally got power 10 months ago.

    So three buildings here, all connected with electricity?


    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Mumbe lives in Unami, a village 170 miles northwest of Nairobi.

    SELINE AKINYI MUMBE: I felt like I was in a different world, because my house was well lit. I knew I was no longer going to spend money on oil, I was also not going to spend a lot of time walking to the market to charge my cell phone.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Her home was recently hooked up as part of the Last Mile Connectivity Project – a government program to connect 70 percent of Kenyans to the grid by this year.

    It’s part of a larger goal to achieve universal access to electricity by 2020. It’s an ambitious undertaking — Kenya would become one of the first sub-Saharan African nations to reach this milestone.

    And Kenya has made progress rapidly, going from 27 percent of the population connected in 2013, to 56 percent in 2016, adding more than 1.2 million households to the grid last year alone.

    The quest began a decade ago by building transformers that distribute electricity. First priority was connecting hospitals, market centers, and schools to the grid.

    Now, the Last Mile project is focusing on connecting rural households. Mumbe uses the new electricity to light up her house, iron her family’s clothes and warm water with a heater that plugs into the wall.

    SELINE AKINYI MUMBE: Initially, I used to iron with a charcoal iron box, and boil water with firewood. Having electricity makes work easier. Even if I want to wash my clothes at night all I have to do is switch on the light.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: She’s also started a small business. Neighbors without electricity pay 10 cents to charge their cell phones.

    Susanna Berkouwer is a Research Economist at the University of California, Berkeley. She’s part of a team that surveyed 4,000 households in Kenya to measure the impact of electricity on people’s lives — everything from health to education to employment.

    SUSANNA BERKOUWER: We ask a general question about life satisfaction. Just how satisfied are you with your life? And actually we saw an improvement there. It frees up people’s time, it allows them to engage in other activities in the home, or just to take that time to relax and feel happier and be less stressed.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Kenyan Energy Minister Charles Keter says the success of the Last Mile Project can be applied throughout Africa, where more than 600 million people — half of the continent’s population — still live without electricity.

    CHARLES KETER: I think the African continent can learn a lot from the Last Mile connectivity. That it’s possible for governments to spearhead the programs so that the narrative of Africa being a “dark continent” should not be there.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Two-thirds of the cost of Kenya’s electrification campaign is being funded by loans from the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

    But even with such widespread support, the cost of connecting to the grid and wiring a house falls on individual Kenyans.

    Like Roy Atieno. He and his wife, Belinda, are subsistence farmers in Unami. There’s a new electricity pole right outside their house, but they can’t afford the cost of connecting to it.

    Is it frustrating to be too close to the source of electricity but not have access?

    ROY ATIENO: I always wish, whenever I wake out from my house, I check at the pole, and then I wish it is already in my house. It is frustrating.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: In a 2015 UC Berkeley study, half of rural Kenyan households surveyed lived within 200 meters of a power line, yet didn’t have electricity.

    SUSANNA BERKOUWER: There’s this whole other category of “under grid,” which are people that are off grid, so they’re not directly connected to electricity, but they’re not living 100 miles away from the electricity grid. They’re actually living, in many cases, 10 feet away from their nearest pole.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: The cost of connecting to the grid has dropped from about $350 before the Last Mile program started, to $150 dollars today, thanks to subsidies from the Kenyan government. And a power company loan program gives residents three years to pay off the installation bill.

    Still, $150 dollars is about four times what Kenyans in this region earn in a month.

    For those who do manage to get connected, it’s only worth the investment if the power actually works. Many Kenyans complain of frequent outages, lasting from minutes to days.

    When we met hair salon owner Susan Adhiambo Kopot right outside Unami, the salon had lost power for more than an hour. Kopot and her employees were limited to braiding customer’s hair, because they couldn’t use a hair straightener or blow dryer.

    SUSAN ADHIAMBO KOPOT: I lose a lot of money. It feels bad, because you decide to spend your money to get an electricity connection, so you can use it to run your business, but you end up experiencing blackouts. It’s very disappointing.

    STANLEY MUTWIRI: With this type of rapid expansion, we have had a lot of planned interruptions.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Stanley Mutwiri is the Head of Infrastructure for the government-controlled Kenya Power and Lighting Company — known as KPLC.

    Mutwiri concedes that some unplanned outages occur due to acts of nature — like wind or rain — but he says most are planned and necessary.

    STANLEY MUTWIRI: Every time you are connecting some new customers on the line, you must interrupt others.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: KPLC is building new substations to increase the capacity of the electrical grid. When this station goes online next month, the transformer will be able to supply three times as many households as before.

    Kenya Energy Minister Charles Keter says the government is also planning ahead and producing excess power right now, to ensure it can accommodate the rise in future demand.

    CHARLES KETER: We cannot wait until when we have maybe big industries or the demand is high. It’s like building a road. You cannot say, ‘Why are you building a road when there are no vehicles?’ You build the road to create that environment which people can now purchase vehicles.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Renewable energy will be crucial to Kenya meeting the surge in demand for electricity. Right now the country gets over 60 percent of its energy from renewable sources, such as geothermal, hydro, and more recently, wind.

    The Turkana Wind Farm, in Northern Kenya, is designed to supply one-fifth of the nation’s energy. When it is completed later this year, it will be the largest wind farm in africa.

    In Kenya, renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels.

    STANLEY MUTWIRI: Fossil fuels have got one unknown, that is what is going to be the cost of fuel tomorrow? We don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t know how long this fossil fuel is going to be there. But the renewable energy like, for example, the sun we always say, I’m sure tomorrow the sun will be up.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: Nighttime is when the personal impact of electricity is most visible, as well as its uneven distribution. At Roy Atieno’s house, with no electricity, the family eats dinner by the light of only two kerosene lamps.

    But down the road, Seline Mumbe’s electrified house has become a beacon for school children. They come from all over the village to study and do homework.

    Beryl Jane Otieno is 17.

    BERYL JANE OTIENO: By around 9:00 p.m. the lights used to get dim, and I could not even see what I was reading clearly. I used to study for two to three hours, but nowadays I always study for five hours.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: But surprisingly, Berkouwer says, the research shows that people’s lives haven’t significantly changed with the flip of a switch.

    After one year:
    – Students did not perform better in english or math tests;
    – Using electricity, which likely reduces the burning of kerosene or wood, didn’t improve health; and
    – While women worked more, household incomes didn’t improve.

    SUSANNA BERKOUWER: We’d like to go back in a few years and see if the long term effects are different than the short term effects. But maybe not. Maybe these things just aren’t going to improve by as much as people were expecting.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: One reason may be that newly connected households don’t have that many ways to use the electricity yet.

    SUSANNA BERKOUWER: If you provide somebody with an electricity connection, but they’re not able to afford the appliances that would really allow them to use that electricity connection, how much could it really even benefit them? If we can answer those types of questions and we can compare that with similar research that looks at the effects of improving your education or the effects of improving your health care, then a household, or indeed a government can make a decision about which of those is better to invest in.

    CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY: But Energy Minister Charles Keter says providing electricity is a human right and should be a priority, even for poor, rural households.

    Some of them have homes with roofs made out of thatch. Some of them don’t have reliable access to water or even food. Is electricity really the priority for these people?

    CHARLES KETER: Power is very essential in any developing country. And that’s why as a country, whether you live in a grass-thatch home or any other related structures, we will provide you with power.

    The post Kenya races toward goal of electrifying every household appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch President Donald Trump’s speech at the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

    RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — President Donald Trump on Sunday implored Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries to extinguish “Islamic extremism” emanating from the region, describing a “battle between good and evil” rather than a clash between the West and Islam.

    In a pointed departure from his predecessor, Trump all but promised he would not publicly admonish Mideast rulers for human rights violations and oppressive reigns.

    “We are not here to lecture — we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship,” Trump said, speaking in an ornate room in the Saudi capital. “Instead, we are here to offer partnership — based on shared interests and values — to pursue a better future for us all.”

    The president’s address was the centerpiece of his two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, his first overseas trip since his January swearing-in. For Trump, the trip is a reprieve from the crush of controversies that have marred his young presidency and an attempt to reset his relationship with a region and a religion he fiercely criticized a candidate.

    During the 2016 U.S. campaign, Trump mused about his belief that “Islam hates us.” But on Sunday, standing before dozens of regional leaders, he said Islam was “one of the world’s great faiths.”

    While running for the job he now holds, Trump heartily criticized President Barack Obama for not using the term “radical Islamic extremism” and said that refusal indicated that Obama did not understand America’s enemy. In his Saudi speech, Trump condemned “Islamic extremism,” ”Islamists,” and “Islamic terror,” but not once uttered the precise phrase he pressed Obama on.

    Trump made no mention of the disputed travel ban, signed days after he took office, that temporarily banned immigration to the U.S. from seven majority Muslim countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. Both the original order and a second directive that dropped Iraq from the banned list have been blocked by the courts.

    In some ways, Trump delivered a conventional speech for an American politician. He pledged deeper ties with the Middle East to tackle terrorism and encouraged more economic development in the region. He heralded the ambitions of the region’s youth and warned that the scourge of extremism could tarnish their future.

    Trump offered few indications of whether he planned to shift U.S. policy to better fight terrorism. There were no promises of new financial investment or announcements of increased U.S. military presence in the region. The president put much of the onus for combating extremists on Mideast leaders: “Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities.”

    White House officials said they considered Trump’s address to be a counterweight to Obama’s debut speech to the Muslim world in 2009 in Cairo. Obama called for understanding and acknowledged some of America’s missteps in the region. His speech was denounced by many Republicans and criticized by a number of America’s Middle East allies as being a sort of apology.

    Trump’s remarks came in a meeting with dozens of regional leaders who gathered in Riyadh for a summit with Trump and Saudi King Salman.

    The king has lavished praise and all the trappings of a royal welcome on the new American president, welcoming in particular Trump’s pledge to be tougher on Iran than Obama was. Indeed, Trump and Salman were in lockstep on the threat Iran poses to the region when they addressed their fellow leaders: Trump accused Iran of “destruction and chaos” and the king said its rival “has been the spearhead of global terrorism.”

    The Saudis’ warm embrace was welcome change for the besieged White House. Officials spent the days before Trump’s departure dealing with a steady stream of revelations about the federal investigation into his campaign’s possible ties to Russia and the fallout from his firing of FBI Director James Comey.

    The president, who is known to tear asunder the White House’s plans with a provocative tweet or offhand comment, has largely stuck to the script for opening days of the trip. Apart from Sunday’s address, he’s made no substantial remarks, other than exchanging pleasantries with other leaders.

    Before the speech, Trump held individual meetings with leaders of several nations, including Egypt and Qatar.

    His meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi underscored their burgeoning kinship. Trump praised el-Sissi for the April release of Egyptian-American charity worker Aya Hijazi, detained in the country for nearly three years.

    El-Sissi invited Trump to visit him in Egypt, adding, “You are a unique personality that is capable of doing the impossible.” As the participants laughed, Trump responded: “I agree.”

    The president then complimented el-Sissi’s choice of footwear: “Love your shoes. Boy, those shoes” after their brief remarks to the media.

    From Saudi Arabia, Trump was scheduled to visit Israel for meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He’ll also go to the Vatican for an audience with Pope Francis, to Brussels for a NATO summit and to Sicily for a meeting of leaders of the Group of Seven major industrial nations.

    This report was written by Jonathan Lemire and Julie Pace of the Associated Press. Associated Press writers Vivian Salama, Ken Thomas and Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report.

    The post WATCH: Trump delivers speech at Arab and Muslim leaders’ summit appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Rep. Al Green

    U.S. Representative Al Green (D-TX) leaves after the wedding of U.S. Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) and his long-time partner James Ready in Newton, Massachusetts, on July 7, 2012. Photo By Brian Snyder/Reuters

    HOUSTON — A black Texas congressman said Saturday that he’s been threatened with lynching by callers infuriated over him seeking impeachment of President Donald Trump.

    U.S. Rep. Al Green held a town hall meeting and played recordings of several threatening voicemails left at his offices in Houston and Washington, the Houston Chronicle reports .

    The seven-term Democrat told the crowd of about 100 people that he won’t be deterred.

    “We are not going to be intimidated,” Green said Saturday. “We are not going to allow this to cause us to deviate from what we believe to be the right thing to do and that is to proceed with the impeachment of President Trump.”

    One male caller used a racial insult and threatened Green with “hanging from a tree” if he pursues impeachment. Another man left a message saying Green would be the one impeached after “a short trial” and then he would be hanged, according to the recording.

    Green took to the House floor on Wednesday to say he believes Trump committed obstruction of justice and no one’s above the law.

    Trump, a Republican, has dismissed criticism of his firing of FBI Director James Comey amid the agency’s investigation of possible links between Russia and Trump campaign associates.

    Green said he wanted his constituents to be aware of the hateful calls he’s since received.

    “When a person talks about lynching you, we think that’s a pretty serious threat,” said Green, a former president of the Houston branch of the NAACP, according to his congressional website.

    The post Callers threaten Texas lawmaker who seeks Trump impeachment appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    baby holding hands

    Flushing fallopian tubes with a poppyseed oil-based solution may help a woman to conceive, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Photo courtesy of Flickr user rwhitesi37

    Here’s something you don’t see in the New England Journal of Medicine every day: Flushing fallopian tubes with a poppyseed oil-based solution may help a woman to conceive — and one of the key researchers of the paper thinks he’s likely living proof of the technique’s efficacy.

    For decades, doctors have noticed that some couples who had previously been struggling to conceive became pregnant shortly after an imaging study of the woman’s uterus and fallopian tubes.

    Now, a randomized study strongly suggests a particular chemical used in that procedure may be to thank.

    During a hysterosalpingogram, a standard part of infertility evaluations done in many countries including the United States, a doctor takes an X-ray of a woman’s uterus and fallopian tubes that can be seen because of an injected contrast fluid.

    READ NEXT: Women in 30s now having more babies than younger moms in US

    In its early days of use in the 1920s, the contrast medium was an oil-based one, according to Dr. Catherine Spong, deputy director of the National Institutes of Health’s Eunice Shriver Kennedy National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. But “over time, there was a switch to a water-based media,” she said, in part because doctors thought it might not be a great idea to put a foreign substance into the reproductive tract.

    In the current study, researchers randomized more than 1,000 women across 27 hospitals in the Netherlands who were having this exam done to either receive a poppyseed oil-based contrast or a water-based contrast.

    Within six months after the procedure, about 40 percent of the women whose test used a poppyseed oil-based contrast became pregnant and had children — 10 percentage points more than the women whose test used a water-based contrast.

    The difference was remarkable, said Dr. Ben Mol, a professor of the University of Adelaide and one of the lead authors of the study, published Wednesday. “I was surprised by the magnitude of the effect. It’s so clear,” he said. Pregnancy rates immediately jumped in the group that had oil-based contrast used in their test — some were pregnant within a month.

    This study does not concretely establish how the contrast makes this happen. There are a few theories about how it might work, though: The contrast could be flushing mucus out of the fallopian tubes or it could making endometrial tissue more receptive to a pregnancy.

    And the study does have a few limitations. The trial couldn’t be blinded because the imaging protocols differed slightly between the groups. Researchers also only included women under 40 years old and women who were all otherwise healthy — that is, they didn’t have endocrine disorders or any other condition that might affect fertility.

    Nevertheless, “this is a very well-done study,” said Spong, who was not involved in the research. Other studies on the subject “were much smaller than this, and were not as rigorous as this.”

    READ NEXT: Squishy embryos, penis transplants, and 5 more advances in fertility treatment

    Still, more large-scale studies would be helpful to see if there are any very rare issues associated with the oil-based contrast, she added.

    In his opinion, Mol believes doctors should tell couples about these findings, especially if they are considering in vitro fertilization. “Not informing women about this study and then starting [in vitro fertilization] … I think it’s not the best practice,” he said — especially since a hysterosalpingography costs much less than IVF protocols. An oft-cited American Society of Reproductive Medicine estimate from 2006 for one round of IVF is $12,400; a hysterosalpingography can cost around $1,000 in the US.

    Mol and his colleagues are planning to follow up with their study volunteers again in five years to see if there is a noticeable long-term effect on fertility. (Guerbet, the company that manufactures the oil-based contrast, will be funding the follow-up studies; the company gave no financial support and had no influence on the original work, Mol said.)

    Based on his own family’s experience, Mol suspects the team will see a long-term impact.

    “My parents were trying to conceive for eight years,” he said. His mother had the test done in 1964, and then became pregnant with him a month later. And a few years later, Mol’s younger brother was born. “If she lived nowadays, then I probably would not have existed,” he said, “because, very likely, my mother would have had IVF instead of waiting for eight years.”

    “I’m glad that I exist.”

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on May 18, 2017. Find the original story here.

    The post Can poppyseed oil help infertile couples conceive? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    American and Israeli flags are seen during a dress rehearsal of the arrival ceremony which will be held to welcome U.S. President Donald Trump upon his arrival, at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod

    American and Israeli flags are seen during a dress rehearsal of the arrival ceremony which will be held to welcome U.S. President Donald Trump upon his arrival, at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod, Israel May 21, 2017. Photo by Amir Cohen/Reuters

    JERUSALEM — President Donald Trump has cast the elusive pursuit of peace between Israelis and Palestinians as the “ultimate deal.” But he will step foot in Israel having offered few indications of how he plans to achieve what so many of his predecessors could not.

    Trump has handed son-in-law Jared Kushner and longtime business lawyer Jason Greenblatt the assignment of charting the course toward a peace process. The White House-driven effort is a sharp shift from the practice of U.S. previous administrations that typically gave secretaries of state those reins.

    Kushner and Greenblatt were to accompany Trump on his two-day visit, set to begin Monday and include separate meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Trump also planned to visit the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem and the Western Wall, an important key Jewish holy site.

    White House aides have played expectations for significant progress on the peace process during Trump’s stop, casting it as more symbolic than substantive. Yet Trump may still need to engage in some delicate diplomacy following revelations that he disclosed highly classified intelligence Israel obtained about the Islamic State group with top Russian officials, without Israel’s permission.

    Israel also has expressed concern about the $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia that Trump announced Saturday in Riyadh. Yuval Steinitz, a senior Cabinet minister and Netanyahu confidant, called Saudi Arabia “a hostile country” and said the deal was “definitely something that should trouble us.”

    Trump’s first overseas as president comes as the dynamics between the United States and the region’s players are moving in unexpected directions.

    [Watch Video]

    While Israeli officials cheered Trump’s election, some are now wary of the tougher line he has taken on settlements: urging restraint but not calling for a full halt to construction. Trump has retreated from a campaign pledge to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, bending to the same diplomatic and security concerns as other presidents who have made similar promises.

    Palestinians, who viewed Trump’s victory with some trepidation, are said to have been pleasantly surprised by Trump’s openness during a recent meeting with Abbas in Washington.

    A senior official who was part of the Palestinian delegation said Trump is planning to try to relaunch peace talks, with a goal of reaching an agreement within a year. The Trump administration rejected a request from the Palestinians to push for an Israeli settlement freeze, but promised to sort out the issue during peace negotiations, according to the official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the private meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Jibril Rajoub, a senior Palestinian official close to Abbas, said Trump was a “serious president” who “seeks to have a real deal, not just managing the conflict.”

    David Friedman, the new U.S. ambassador to Israel, told the newspaper Israel Hayom that Trump’s goal at the start is simply “for the parties to meet with each other without preconditions and to begin a discussion that would hopefully lead to peace.”

    The last round of peace talks, led by then-President Barack Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, fell apart in 2014.

    READ NEXT: Israeli prime minister calls Kerry speech a ‘deep disappointment’

    Greenblatt has quietly done much of the heavy work for the U.S. thus far. The low-profile Greenblatt, who spent about two decades as a lawyer at the Trump Organization before joining the White House, has traveled to the region twice since the inauguration and is in weekly contact with pivotal players from both sides.

    Palestinian officials were struck by the fact that Greenblatt, an Orthodox Jew, took off his skullcap for their meetings. He also visited the Jalazoun refugee camp near Ramallah, home to Abbas’ West Bank headquarters, and a school at the camp, which sits opposite to the Israeli settlement of Beit El. Senior White House officials, including Friedman, have close ties with Beit El.

    “That was good gesture by him,” said Mahmoud Mubarak, head of the local council in Jalazoun.

    Aaron David Miller, a Middle East peace adviser to Democratic and Republican secretaries of state, said that despite Greenblatt’s positive reviews in the region, there are limits over how much influence he, or any American officials, can have over the process.

    “The issue over many years has not been the mediator in the middle – it’s the guys sitting on the other sides of the mediators,” said Miller, now a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

    Israeli officials say they are largely in the dark about what ideas Trump might present for peace or what concessions he may demand. Hard-liners who dominate Netanyahu’s government grew particularly concerned when White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster voiced support last week for Palestinian “self-determination.”

    Naftali Bennett, leader of the nationalist Jewish Home Party, lamented “a kind of change in the spirit” of Trump’s positions since he was elected in November. He urged Netanyahu to reject Palestinian statehood and insist that Jerusalem remain under Israeli sovereignty forever.

    While Netanyahu in the past has expressed support for the establishment of a Palestinian state, he has been vague about this goal since Trump gained power.

    Trump’s trip began in Saudi Arabia and takes him, after Israel, to the Vatican for an audience with Pope Francis, to Brussels for a NATO summit and to Sicily for a meeting of leaders of the Group of Seven major industrial nations.

    Pace reported from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Associated Press writers Karin Laub in Amman, Jordan, and Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, contributed to this report.

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    unicef report

    Three children look out of the window of a train in Macedonia, as refugees primarily from the Syrian Arab Republic, Afghanistan and Iraq board the train at a reception center for refugees and migrants, in Gevgelija in October 2015. From here, refugees boarded a special train that took them to Tabanovce, close to the border with Serbia. Photo courtesy of UNICEF

    More than 300,000 children have been documented traveling unaccompanied around the world in recent years, leaving them highly vulnerable to exploitation, according to a report released last week by UNICEF.

    In 2015 and 2016, 100,000 children were found along the U.S.-Mexico border and 200,000 others were found without an adult in other countries, a number that represents a five-fold increase from 66,000 in 2010 and 2011. Aid organizations say that hundreds of thousands of minors are also likely traveling alone but are not counted in the report.

    “This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Justin Forsyth. “This is only a small part of a bigger picture. The second part of this is what is happening to children who are increasingly falling into the hands of traffickers and smugglers.”

    Forsyth described a bleak scenario for the children migrating alone to Europe or the U.S., leaving them at the mercy of traffickers and smugglers along the route. The unaccompanied minors are predominantly fleeing poverty and war in Africa and destitution and gang violence in Central America.

    Children from Nigeria, Eritrea and Somalia represent many of the minors taking the journey from Africa, while in Central America, most come from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, Forsyth said. More than 60 percent of children who traveled from these regions were found to be trafficking victims.

    He said that rape, enslavement and forced labor are particularly widespread along routes in Africa, where many migrant children move through Libya on their way to Italy and Greece and attempt to cross a perilous Mediterranean Sea route that killed more than 4,500 people and 700 children in 2016. Others leave Afghanistan and cross through Iran and Turkey to Europe, Forsyth said.

    unicef report

    An Afghan girl gets off a train in October 2015 in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. She planned to walk from the train station in Tabanovce, with hundreds of other migrants and refugees, across the border and into Serbia. Photo courtesy of UNICEF

    In 2015 and 2016, children applied for asylum in about 80 countries, and in Italy, 92 percent of all children who arrived by sea in 2016 were unaccompanied. Forsyth said a staggering number of them have told stories of abuse and that all of the young women he’s met, and many of the young men, have survived sexual assault.

    One survey by the International Organization for Migration found that roughly three-quarters of children between the ages of 14 and 17 who were polled after arriving in Italy suggested they may have been “trafficked or otherwise exploited.”

    “A big group of these children are teenagers, but they go as young as 8, 9,” Forsyth said.

    READ NEXT: Photos: What migrants leave behind on their journeys through the desert

    While the report says abuse is less common along migrant routes in Mexico and Central America, which have seen a heavy uptick in recent years, U.S. immigration policies sometimes require children to return to countries where they will face the same dangers they were attempting to flee. Those that are found by U.S. authorities are required to attend an immigration hearing to decide their status.

    “One of our main concerns with the Central American challenge is children who are sent back where they are abused again,” Forsyth said. “Whether [children] have a representative or lawyer present will determine whether they get the right to stay or not. So many children are sent back after those hearings and we know they are sent back to particularly dangerous environments.”

    unicef report

    Migrants and Italians play in the Oratorio Santa Chiara, a community space devoted to local residents by the churches father, Padre Enzo, in the Ballaro district of Palermo, Sicily, Italy, on April 26, 2017. Photo courtesy of UNICEF.

    According the Migration Policy Institute, the number of unaccompanied minors heading to the U.S. from Mexico increased 90 percent between 2013 and 2014.

    “The parents go by themselves, they leave their children behind and once their parents have entered the U.S. and establish themselves and have a place to live and they have some kind of income, then they will send for their children or tell their children to come and meet them,” said Faye Hipsman, a policy analyst with the Institute’s U.S. immigration policy program.

    She told the NewsHour Weekend that many children are released to a family member or guardian in the U.S. as they proceed through the immigration court process, which can take years to complete because of backlogs. Hipsman said the smugglers have also caught on to the demand for passage to the U.S., charging an estimated $5,000 to $10,000 for the trip.

    “The smuggling industry has shown a real ability to kind of drum up business and create new business models,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons behind the surge, is that smugglers have made it an available and easy trip to take.”

    The report also noted that many of the state actors charged with overseeing the children who have fled their countries often leave the young migrants and refugees in crowded shelters, makeshift camps or they “are left exposed to the dangers of life on the street.” A mistrust of authorities or fear of detention and deportation prevents children from seeking help, the report said.

    “We have seen a varying degree about how different states take care of minors,” said Amy Richmond, a child protection advisor for Save the Children, a non-governmental group that works closely with UNICEF on the issue of unaccompanied minors.

    Richmond said that members of her organization are stationed in countries where many of the unaccompanied children cross through and set up “reception centers” to inform both children and families “what are their rights, where can they access services, and ways to protect themselves along their journeys.

    Forsythe said UNICEF intentionally released the report before the G-7 countries meet next month in order to highlight the issue and to push for a six-point plan they say could reverse the rise in unaccompanied children.

    “How far they’ll get in the G-7 to agreeing to it, we don’t know,” he said. “There is a quite a lot of disagreement between G-7 countries on migration and refugees in general. But in a way our message is: even is you disagree more generally you can do something for the most vulnerable children.”

    The post Number of unaccompanied child migrants surged in recent years appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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