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

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    Sen. Marco Rubio introduces Alex Acosta, President Donald Trump's nominee to be Secretary of Labor, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Capitol Hill

    Sen. Marco Rubio introduces Alex Acosta, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Labor, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S. March 22, 2017. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Members of key congressional committees pledged Sunday to proceed with aggressive investigations into Russia’s meddling into the U.S. election and any ties with the Trump campaign, saying the American people need a full airing as to why former FBI director James Comey was ousted.

    Comey was fired by President Donald Trump earlier this month. The former director agreed to testify before the Senate intelligence committee after the Memorial Day holiday.

    Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a member of that committee, said he wants to press Comey as to whether he ever believed the White House was interfering with his work, in light of a spate of news reports that Comey had kept detailed records of his interactions with Trump.

    The New York Times reported last week on a Comey memo indicating Trump had urged him to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Separately, another Times report said Trump had told Russian officials in a closed-door meeting at the Oval Office that firing Comey “had relieved great pressure on him.”

    “Did he keep these memos? What do those memos say? And why did he write it? And how did he feel? Did he ever feel like he was being put in a position where he couldn’t do his job?” Rubio asked. “There’s no doubt that that’s the questions that are going to get asked, and asked repeatedly.”

    Rubio said White House officials had told him they had no transcripts nor notes of Trump’s meeting with Russian officials but “apparently someone has discussed them, or leaked them.”

    “This cloud is impacting everything else,” Rubio said, describing a number of questions, such as possible obstruction of justice, that are hanging over the White House. “So, we need to get over this once and for all.”

    READ NEXT: Rosenstein says he stands by memo criticizing Comey

    Leaders of the House oversight committee, Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, said they would demand Comey’s notes. Cummings also is urging Chaffetz, who is resigning from his job next month, to subpoena the White House for any documents relating to Flynn.

    Chaffetz said he expects to speak with Comey on Monday and that if there are any notes of White House meetings, “we’re certainly pursuing them.”

    “There have been so many lies, so many contradictions,” Cummings said, adding that he expects parallel investigations from Congress to proceed fully after the Justice Department last week appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to head an investigation into possible Russian coordination with the Trump campaign.

    Referring to the whole sequence of events leading to Comey’s firing, Cummings added: “I think that there may be quite a few people that may have some problems with the law.”

    The White House has repeatedly insisted that a “thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity.” It has not denied the Times report that Trump was critical of Comey to the Russians the day after he fired him. But White House spokesman Sean Spicer has called the president’s rhetoric part of his deal-making, contending that Comey had created “unnecessary pressure” on Trump’s ability to negotiate with Russia on a range of issues.

    [Watch Video]

    White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster underscored that point in an interview that aired Sunday, saying Trump had felt “hamstrung.”

    “The president feels as if he is hamstrung in his ability to work with Russia to find areas of cooperation because this has been obviously so much in the news,” said McMaster, who was present at the meeting.

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a member of the intelligence committee, said she also plans to press Comey regarding what was discussed with Trump about Flynn and whether he was asked by Trump to alter the FBI investigation. The California Democrat said public hearings should ferret out what has been a flurry of apparently contradictory comments by many of the parties involved.

    “I really think that rather than have all these memorandums and issues circulating around, that we need to put the facts before the American people,” she said. “Did the president fire Comey because of his investigation and was he worried about what the investigation might conclude? If so, that borders on a very serious charge.”

    “And it’s got to come from Director Comey himself,” Feinstein said.

    Rubio appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” and CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Feinstein also was on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” and Chaffetz, Cummings and McMaster spoke on ABC’s “This Week.”

    The post Congressional panels pledge thorough probe into Comey firing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Trump and Saudi Arabia's King Salman attend the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh

    U.S. President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (R) attend the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on May 21, 2017. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump railed against President Barack Obama for failing to utter the words “radical Islamic terrorism.” He accused the foundation run by Bill and Hillary Clinton of corruption for accepting charitable contributions from Saudi Arabia and chastised first lady Michelle Obama for not covering her head during a visit to the Kingdom.

    Now that he’s president, Trump has changed his tune.

    Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, at the start of his first trip abroad as president, has produced a number of statements that run counter to the harsh, anti-Muslim rhetoric from his 2016 campaign. While many presidents adjust their commentary once they depart the campaign trail and travel abroad, Trump’s speech to Gulf Arab leaders featured a much softer tone than his large-scale rallies last year.

    Here’s a look at the most glaring contradictions:

    “RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM”

    THEN: Trump routinely assailed Obama and Democratic campaign rival Hillary Clinton for failing to use the specific phrase, “radical Islamic terrorism.” In an August 2016 speech, for example, Trump said Obama’s 2009 speech to the Muslim World in Egypt lacked “moral courage” and was replete in naiveté. “Anyone who cannot name our enemy is not fit to lead this country. Anyone who cannot condemn the hatred, oppression and violence of radical Islam lacks the moral clarity to serve as our president,” he said. Obama had declined to use the term because he said he didn’t want to connect terrorist groups like the Islamic State to the religion of Islam. Clinton used terms like “radical jihadism” and “radical Islamism.”

    NOW: In his speech in front of more than 50 leaders of Arab and Muslim-majority countries, Trump called on Muslim leaders to address “the crisis of Islamic extremists” and referenced “the Islamists and Islamic terror of all kinds.” But he failed to the use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.” Trump spoke about the devastation that violent extremists have unleashed across the Middle East, but made clear that he believes it’s up to leaders of those countries to act to contain the problem.

    ISLAM

    THEN: Trump declared in a March 2016 interview with CNN that, “I think Islam hates us” adding that, “there’s a tremendous hatred there.” It was just one of a series of inflammatory statements about one of the world’s major religions that included a call to surveille mosques and ban all foreign Muslims from entering the U.S. “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” In an interview with Fox Business Network last March following a series of attacks in Brussels, Trump said, “we’re having problems with the Muslims,” adding, “You need surveillance, you have to deal with the mosques whether we like it or not.”

    NOW: Trump struck a far less caustic tone in Sunday’s speech, noting that he chose to make his first foreign visit to the heart of the Muslim world and wished to “deliver a message of friendship and hope and love.” He estimated that more than 95 percent of the victims of terrorism are themselves Muslim. And he described the fight against terrorism as “not a battle between different faiths” or “different civilizations” but a “battle against good and evil.” Trump said young Muslim children “should be able to grow up free from fear, safe from violence, and innocent of hatred.”

    CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS

    THEN: During his 2016 campaign, Trump frequently ripped into Hillary Clinton’s ties to the Clinton Foundation, which received millions in donations from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and several other Mideast nations. In a June 2016 posting on Facebook, Trump said, “Saudi Arabia and many of the countries that gave vast amounts of money to the Clinton Foundation want women as slaves and to kill gays. Hillary must return all money from such countries!” During an October debate in Las Vegas, Trump called the Clinton Foundation “a criminal enterprise.” ”Saudi Arabia giving $25 million, Qatar, all of these countries. You talk about women and women’s rights? So these are people that push gays off business — off buildings. These are people that kill women and treat women horribly. And yet you take their money.”

    NOW: The World Bank announced Sunday at an event with Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and White House adviser, that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had pledged a combined $100 million for the bank’s proposed Women Entrepreneurs Fund, which was first proposed by Ivanka Trump. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said the pledges, along with ones by the U.S. and other countries, would allow the World Bank to announce the creation of a $1 billion fund for women’s economic empowerment at the G20 summit in July. In his speech, Trump called Saudi Arabia’s vision for 2030 “an important and encouraging statement of tolerance, respect, empowering women, and economic development.”

    READ NEXT: WATCH: Trump delivers speech at Arab and Muslim leaders’ summit

    SAUDI ARABIA

    THEN: Trump had plenty of harsh words for Saudi Arabia before his election. He accused the kingdom of curtailing the rights of women and gays and lesbians and suggested the country was behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “Who blew up the World Trade Center?” he asked during one Fox News appearance. “It wasn’t the Iraqis, it was Saudi — take at look at Saudi Arabia, open the documents,” he demanded.

    NOW: In an ornate hall, Trump heaped praised on the Saudis, describing the country as a “magnificent kingdom.” ”I am honored to be received by such gracious hosts,” he said at the start of his address. “I have always heard about the splendor of your country and the kindness of your citizens, but words do not do justice to the grandeur of this remarkable place.”

    HEADSCARF

    THEN: Trump lashed out at Michelle Obama on Twitter in 2015 when she opted not to wear a headscarf on her visit to Saudi Arabia. “Many people are saying it was wonderful that Mrs. Obama refused to wear a scarf in Saudi Arabia, but they were insulted. We have enuf enemies,” Trump tweeted at the time, including a short-hand spelling for “enough.” Under the kingdom’s strict dress code for women, Saudi women and most female visitors are required to cover their heads and wear a loose, black robe known as an abaya, in public. But the decision was consistent with the customs for female foreign dignitaries visiting Saudi Arabia.

    NOW:

    First lady Melania Trump and Ivanka Trump declined to wear a headscarft, showing off their locks. During their visit to Saudi Arabia, they followed in the footsteps not only of Michelle Obama but also female leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

    The post In Saudi visit, Trump offers contradictions from campaign appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Saudi Arabia's King Salman waits to greet Trump as he arrives to attend summit of GCC leaders in Riyadh

    Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud waits to greet U.S. President Donald Trump, as he arrives to attend a summit of Gulf Cooperation Council leaders in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 21, 2017. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — As President Donald Trump opened his keynote address in Saudi Arabia, he lavished praise on the “magnificent” kingdom and “the grandeur of this remarkable place.”

    Then he made clear there would be no public lecture from America on Saudi Arabia’s abysmal human rights record.

    “We are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship,” Trump declared Sunday.

    Trump’s willingness to set aside human rights as a principal foreign policy has been one constant in his chaotic administration. Yet the absence of any public reference to the the kingdom’s treatment of women and political opponents during his two-day visit was still jarring, particularly when contrasted with his affectionate embrace of the royal family.

    READ NEXT: WATCH: Trump delivers speech at Arab and Muslim leaders’ summit

    The closest Trump came to acknowledging the human rights situation was a call for the region’s leaders to stand together against “the oppression of women.” A White House official later said the president did raise women’s rights in his private meetings with Saudi officials, and noted that administration officials broached the topic in their talks in the lead-up to the trip. The official insisted on anonymity in order to discuss the private meetings.

    To be sure, Trump’s predecessors have also forged close ties with Saudi Arabia, an important U.S. partner in the Middle East, and other nations with questionable human rights records. But in their own ways, former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush each vouched for American values in their dealings with those nations, including the kingdom.

    During a 2014 trip to Riyadh, Obama met with a Saudi woman who spread awareness of domestic violence in her country and presented her with the State Department’s International Women of Courage award. His opening address to the Muslim world in 2009 also made numerous references to democracy and human rights.

    Human rights were a regular part of the dialogue with the Saudis under the Bush administration. In 2004, the State Department listed the kingdom as “a country of particular concern” in its annual report on International Religious Freedom.

    Saudi Arabia adheres to an ultraconservative interpretation of Islamic Shariah law where unrelated men and women are segregated in most public places. Women are banned from driving, although rights advocates have campaigned to lift that ban. Guardianship laws also require a male relative’s consent before a woman can obtain a passport, travel or marry. Often that relative is a father or husband, but in the absence of both can be the woman’s own son.

    Saudi Arabia also routinely carries out executions by beheading, including some in public.

    Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and senior adviser, was more direct during an entrepreneurship roundtable with Saudi women Sunday morning, telling the participants that in every country, “women and girls continue to face unique systematic, institutional, cultural barriers, which hinder us from fully engaging in and achieving true parody of opportunity within our communities.”

    “Each of you know this to be true,” she said.

    Kristine Beckerle, a Saudi Arabia researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the first daughter was missing the bigger picture.

    “It’s not that entrepreneurship isn’t important, but you need serious political changes so that that the laws that restrict women from functioning in the work place are reversed,” Beckerle said. “Without that, any amount of money or investment won’t go very far.”

    Some lawmakers in both parties raised concerns with Trump’s reluctance to publicly vouch for U.S. values in places where people are persecuted.

    “I think that would be a terrible abdication of our global leadership when it comes to advocating for people who are the subject of persecution, or imprisoned, or journalists that are thrown in jail, or people not allowed to practice their faith,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on CNN. “I think it would be a historic mistake for us to walk away from that.”

    Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who challenged Trump for the Republican presidential nomination last year, said he wouldn’t have promised to avoid the topic of human rights with the Saudis.

    “That would not have been a part of a speech that I would have delivered,” Rubio said in his own appearance on CNN. “I think it’s in our national security interest to advocate for democracy and freedom and human rights, now, with a recognition that you may not get it overnight.”

    Human rights didn’t go completely unnoticed on Trump’s trip. During a press briefing Saturday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hammered Iran’s newly re-elected president for his government’s oppressive policies.

    However, when reporters shouted out questions regarding Saudi Arabia’s human rights record — namely, one question about when the kingdom intends to allow women to drive — Tillerson ignored it.

    Salama reported from Washington.

    The post Trump lavishes praise on Saudis, but silent on human rights appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    West Virginia Sex Ed

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    TEACHER: “Usually when I talk about sex education I’m with teachers, nurses, and counselors.”

    YASMEEN QURESHI: These teachers and administrators in Beckley, West Virginia, are learning how to teach students comprehensive sex education. Part of their day is spent role playing how to answer students’ tough questions.

    TEACHER: “How do you know if you’re ready to maybe have sex?”

    YASMEEN QURESHI: Local education officials, frustrated by the state’s teen pregnancy rate, started this initiative three years ago.

    NORA GELPERIN: Nora Gelperin, from the non-profit Advocates for Youth, leads sessions like this all over the country.

    NORA GELPERIN: It’s more than just condoms and abstinence. It’s talking about relationships and dating violence and talking about communication. How do you break up with someone? How do you say no if someone’s pushing you to do something you’re not comfortable doing. All those skills that both young people need, and adults need as well.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: West Virginia requires middle and high school health classes to cover sex education. But it’s up to the discretion of the individual principals and teachers how in depth they teach it. The only mandatory topic by law is HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Gelperin says there’s no consistency to the way sex ed is taught within the state or across the country.

    NORA GELPERIN: It’s a real patchwork of policies. About half of the states currently have a policy at the state level and half the states don’t. A lot of students will tell you it’s too little too late, it comes too late in their education if they get it at all.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: Since the 1990s, teen pregnancy rates have decreased across the United States. But in the mid-2000s, West Virginia’s rate spiked in the opposite direction. Today, it has the 6th highest teen birth rate of the 50 states. Kierstin Edwards is one of those teen mothers, raising her two-year-old daughter, Aubrey, while staying in high school. Edwards got pregnant at 14.

    KIERSTIN EDWARDS: I was still a freshman, and I was just like there’s no possible way I could have done that. And it was a big surprise to me.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: A surprise even though she says she didn’t use contraception properly.

    KIERSTIN EDWARDS: We were young. He was my first. We didn’t use as much protection as we should have, and we didn’t try to prevent it, but we also didn’t think that it could happen.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: Before her pregnancy, Edwards had one sex ed class a year in her middle school.

    KIERSTIN EDWARDS: It was like one, basically an hour, and they told us everything, and then in 8th grade they told us everything again, but it was like, it was once a year when they did this.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: Kierstin’s mother, Brandy Surratt, is helping raise her granddaughter and babysits while Kiersten attends school. She says she taught her daughter about sex.

    BRANDY SURRATT: If they teach it a lot more in school and not only at home too, you know, I think things could have been prevented.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: And so you’re in favor of having a more comprehensive sex education?

    BRANDY SURRATT: Oh yes. Don’t just teach them, ‘Hey, abstinence is the best, here’s a condom.’ No, don’t hand them out condoms, teach them about all sorts of different birth controls. You’re not going to change a teenager’s hormones no matter how much you preach. It’s not going to work, because teenagers are hormonal, and things happen.

    SELINA VICKERS: Of every eight babies that were born in West Virginia, one was born to a teen mother. I mean, I think that’s, that’s crazy.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: Selina Vickers is a state health coordinator who is trying to improve the sex ed curriculum.

    SELINA VICKERS: West Virginia is a very high poverty state anyway. Teen pregnancy is just part of the cycle of poverty, and if we want our kids to break the poverty cycle, we have to stop them from becoming mothers and fathers before they’re ready.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: Motivated by studies showing that teenage girls who are taught comprehensive sex ed are less likely to become pregnant, Vickers started training teachers in a curriculum that’s been adopted across the U.S called FLASH. It covers not only abstinence, but also consent, birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual orientation, and sexual abuse. So far, schools in only 20 of the state’s 55 counties use FLASH. The Federal Government funds a similar program, but also still promotes abstinence-only through Department of Health grants that started in the 1980s. West Virginia is one of 35 states still getting the funds…despite studies showing that abstinence-only has “…no overall impact on teen sexual activity…” and “…can cause an increase in teen birth rates.”

    SELINA VICKERS: We’ve put millions and millions and millions of dollars into abstinence only programs, and what every bit of research has shown is that it does not work. Kids that go through abstinence only often have much higher rates of STDs and pregnancy, because they didn’t have another option, they didn’t know what, how to protect themselves.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: In rural McDowell County, as recently as 2012, one in ten teenage girls became pregnant, which was the highest rate in West Virginia. That’s why Nelson Spencer became one of the first school superintendents in the state to adopt the FLASH curriculum, in 2014.

    NELSON SPENCER:
    We always give the parents the choice to opt out of any class that we have that they would think would be controversial. So it’s not forced upon any student that does not want to have that education. Whether it’s sex education, whether it’s English, we want our kids to be prepared to go in the future and be knowledgeable about any topic that comes along that we teach in McDowell County.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: In addition to the the new FLASH curriculum, McDowell County schools offer an after school elective sex ed program called “Teen Talk.” 15-year-old Montana Dye and 17-year-old Rachel Hendrickson attended. Both say they barely had any sex ed in Middle School.

    RACHEL HENDRICKSON: We had health, and that was about it. And they went over like the bone structure and dieting and exercising.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: How much knowledge did you have before you took the after school program?

    MONTANA DYE: I didn’t know that much about teen pregnancy and stuff and how much it– it actually matters. Because I didn’t believe that it matters that much and how much it cost to, like, keep care of a kid.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: So what were some of the gaps in your knowledge about sex education?

    RACHEL HENDRICKSON: The different types of birth control. I thought it was just the pill and a condom, but there’s much more to it. That you can get an injection in your arm to prevent it.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: Did you find that information helpful?

    RACHEL + MONTANA: Yeah. Yeah, it really did help.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: Dave Perry, a teacher and principal for 35 years who sits on the State Board of Education says he prefers a simple sex ed curriculum that stresses abstinence only.

    DAVE PERRY: Well, it’s fundamental, because it’s Biblical. And I think abstinence is foolproof, 100 percent. Anything apart from that, as far as contraceptives and so forth, has a margin of error, but abstinence doesn’t.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: Perry says his religious objections to teaching more than the minimum about sex are shared by many people in this state.

    DAVE PERRY: I think it’s more responsibility of parents, and parents have a right to do that, and I think as education, we’ve become more social institutions than we have educational institutions. And we’re dealing quite a bit with social problems and issues that I don’t think our educators are that qualified or certified to address.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: Perry worries comprehensive sex ed could make teenagers want to have sex.

    DAVE PERRY: With contraceptives and condoms and so forth, I think it’s an encouragement. You know, it’s a green light that this is possible without bearing children. So, I think to what extent and to what extent you teach, what you teach you get.

    JENNIE YOOST: If you start talking about sex, it doesn’t make, you know, teenagers run down the street and be sexually active.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: Jennie Yoost, an OBGYN affiliated with Marshall University in nearby Huntington, teaches Teen Talk.

    JENNIE YOOST: Abstinence only works if you’re abstinent, and what we know about teenagers is that in ninth grade about 30 percent, this is nationwide data, 30 percent in ninth grade are sexually active. That number goes up to close to 60 percent by twelfth grade. When we look at actually comprehensive sex education and covering all of these topics, you know, data has shown that, you know, those students that participate in those programs have, you know, less, they delay sexual activity, they have less sexual partners or more compliant with things like condoms and contraception.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: Eighteen-year-old high school senior Isom Bailey also attended Teen Talk.

    ISOM BAILEY: I wanted to learn about a healthy relationship and the STDs and how to prevent like having a child and stuff, because I’m not financial stable. I would like to learn the mistakes that can happen.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: Isom’s older sister had her first baby at 16. Isom says he and his girlfriend plan to delay sex.

    ISOM BAILEY: I promised her that I would wait until after marriage, ‘cause it’s special to me, because kids all the time talk about having sex and just being with someone in the bed, and I don’t think like that. I think that you should be more respectful to them and not just think about yourself and your own needs and wants.

    YASMEEN QURESHI: Beyond the new curriculum and after school program, McDowell County medical clinics that operate inside the high schools offer teens free contraception, including condoms, and the pill, without parental consent. While these controversial changes are in the early stages, school superintendent Nelson Spencer believes they are having an impact.

    NELSON SPENCER: We want them to be educated about all facets of life and to be able to make the right choice for them and make the choice that’s going to benefit them in the future.

    The post West Virginia schools rethink sex ed appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    jamie shupe

    Jamie Shupe is the first person in the U.S. to be legally designated as non-binary. Photo courtesy of Jamie Shupe

    Last June, a Multnomah County Court judge in Oregon made Jamie Shupe the first legally non-binary person in the U.S., identifying with a gender that is neither male nor female.

    The case set into motion a chain reaction among other people who sought similar court orders and agencies, like the Department of Motor Vehicles, that record and store data on gender. Now, the Oregon DMV is close to offering a new option for people who have long been forced to identify as either “male” or “female” when requesting a state identification — one that could become available this summer.

    “People have always existed outside of gender norms and outside of the binary but we have rendered them invisible for so long.” — Heather Betz, supervising attorney for the LGBT Law Project

    “This isn’t a small fringe sub-population within the community, it’s a sizeable part of the community,” Dr. Alex Keuroghlian, director of The National LGBT Health Education Center at Fenway Health, said.

    The term “non-binary” is sometimes used by people whose experience of gender is not accurately described as “male” or “female.” Some non-binary people are also transgender, and there are about 1.4 million transgender people in the U.S., including about 20,000 people in Oregon, according to the Williams Institute at the University of California, at Los Angeles School of Law. While there is little data on the non-binary community, about one-third of nearly 28,000 respondents to the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey said they were non-binary.

    A ‘ripple effect’ from non-binary activists

    Shupe took the judge’s order to Oregon’s DMV and requested a new ID, a series of events that felt like it “came out of the blue,” DMV spokesman David House told the NewsHour Weekend last August.

    The agency began researching, studying state laws and figuring out how to update its electronic record-keeping system, which dates to the 1960s. It also consulted with local law enforcement, insurance companies and other agencies that share data on sex and gender.

    With support from LGBTQ advocacy group Basic Rights Oregon, the agency decided its third option would be “X,” which already exists on driver’s licenses in Ontario, Canada, along with passports issued by New Zealand and Australia. The “X” option for passports is permitted by the International Civil Aviation Organization, an agency of the United Nations.

    Shupe’s court order encouraged other people to seek legal non-binary status, including Sara Kelly Keenan of Santa Cruz, California, who became the second legally non-binary person last September. The Intersex and Genderqueer Recognition Project, who represented Keenan, helped secure court orders for more than 20 others, many of them in California and Oregon. And in March, the Multnomah County Court in Oregon — the same court that granted Shupe’s change — also granted a Portland resident a legal change to agender, another first for the U.S.

    READ NEXT: In California, non-binary activists pushing for ID options reach new frontier

    The DMV held several public hearings to gather input, where residents have given “overwhelmingly positive” feedback, House said. The Oregon Transportation Commission is expected to vote to approve the change on June 15, the final step in the process.

    california_state

    A group from the Intersex and Genderqueer Recognition Project visits the California State Capitol in Sacramento, California, on Tuesday, April 4, 2017.

    If they do, the “X” option could be available in Oregon as soon as July 3, House said.

    This would make Oregon the first state to offer it, while activists continue to push for other state and national precedents to expand definitions of gender.

    In 2015, Army veteran Dana Zzyym — who, like all other non-binary people quoted in this piece, uses the pronoun “they” — sued the State Department after being denied a passport that would reflect that they are non-binary and intersex. A federal judge ruled in Zzyym’s favor in November, requiring the State Department to re-examine its policy.

    In a hearing for that case last July, attorney Ryan Parker, representing the U.S. Department of Justice, noted that there was no existing precedent in the U.S. but said that if a state made one, it “may be grounds upon which the State Department may want to reconsider its policy.”

    Since then, state lawmakers in California have also introduced SB 179, which would add an additional category for non-binary residents on driver’s licenses.

    Douglas Lorenz, media director at the Intersex and Genderqueer Recognition Project, said he anticipated a “ripple effect” following Oregon’s change. “The second state to do this will have the benefit of Oregon’s work to make this happen,” he wrote in an email to the NewsHour Weekend.

    Lambda Legal, who represented Zzyym in the national suit, is currently waiting for further updates from the State Department, which declined to comment.

    Worries about health care, housing and safety

    This new legal status is significant for activists pushing for recognition of a range of gender identities. But it has also raised questions for people, non-binary and otherwise, who are unsure of how hospital systems, housing and other institutions will react to an ID that reads “X.”

    Julia McKenna, a housing advocate based in Salem, Oregon, submitted a 13-page public comment to the DMV on May 10, requesting that the agency further research how the “X” option would interact with housing, educational institutions, employers, law enforcement and health care.

    “This approach is only going to be as effective as the cultural competence of the staff that’s implementing it.” — Alex Keuroghlian, director of The National LGBT Health Education Center

    “Unfortunately, the systems that overlap are not up-to-date in being able to serve non-binary people or ensure equal access to services,” McKenna, who is non-binary, wrote. “This becomes an alarming legal issue if non-binary people are further marginalized and unable to access systems and services that they are entitled to under civil rights laws covering non-discrimination in government services.”

    To give people the “X” option before doing this research, McKenna said, “would be unconscionable, lazy, and sloppy.”

    McKenna added to the NewsHour Weekend, “You’re essentially asking non-binary people, who are already experiencing disproportionate amounts of discrimination and violence, you’re asking them to be your guinea pig.”

    McKenna said they worry that a person with an “X” on their ID could be denied access at a men’s or a women’s shelter. Other housing, such as re-entry housing and housing for drug and alcohol treatment, is sometimes segregated by gender.

    READ NEXT: The complications of ID for non-binary people — and how it could change soon

    Allan Lazo, executive director of the Fair Housing Council of Oregon, said the council is planning to reach out to shelters to educate them on the change if it becomes reality. “System-wide, this is such an evolving area. Folks really need to pay attention to what their policies and practices are,” Lazo said.

    Meanwhile, health providers may not be set up to accommodate this change, said Amy Penkin, Transgender Health Program supervisor at Oregon Health & Science University.

    An increasing number of hospitals around the country have added options for gender in the electronic systems where they track patient data, but not all of them.

    And some insurance providers might not be set up to accommodate “X” IDs, which “could generate mismatches” between hospital and insurance data and potentially delay coverage, she said.

    Keuroghlian of Fenway Health said that state employees and health workers who will be encountering these IDs will need training on non-binary gender identities. “This approach is only going to be as effective as the cultural competence of the staff that’s implementing it,” Keuroghlian said.

    Nina Nolen, a 25-year-old non-binary Portland resident, received their first driver’s license this month. Nolen said it felt “weird” to choose between M and F and that they would be interested in the “X” option.

    The third option could be more accurate for non-binary or some trans people, but could also draw unwelcome attention to their identity in potentially unsafe situations, Nolen said. “All of this is based on the idea that people would feel safe enough in their community marking the ‘X’, essentially coming out to the DMV employee, and coming out to every cop every time if they get stopped for whatever reason,” Nolen said.

    These concerns are outside of the purview of what the DMV set out to do, which was provide a third option with public input, said House.

    NEXT: Nation’s first known ‘intersex’ birth certificate issued in New York City

    And Heather Betz, the supervising attorney for the LGBT Law Project at the New York Legal Assistance Group, pointed out that trans and non-binary people have always faced challenges in health care and housing. Without dismissing issues that have been raised, she said having a more accurate ID is a good first step toward equality.

    “People have always existed outside of gender norms and outside of the binary but we have rendered them invisible for so long,” Betz said. “Now, people are standing up and saying, ‘This doesn’t represent me.’”

    The post Oregon may become the first state to offer non-binary option on IDs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    donald trump

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    ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: For some perspective on President Trump’s speech, I am joined here in the studio by Gary Sick, our senior research scholar from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. He served on the National Security Council for Presidents Carter, Ford, and Reagan.

    And in Washington, Farah Pandith, a senior fellow with Council on Foreign Relations, joins us. She serves on the secretary of homeland security’s advisory council and previously served in the Obama and Bush administrations.

    Gary, there seem to be a couple of recurring themes in this speech. One, the leaders in this room must stand up against terrorism, and, two, Iran is a common enemy. What do you think about the president focusing in on those two themes?

    GARY SICK, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY’S SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS: He really wanted to reset the relationship with the Islamic world. His campaign was full of attacks Islam in general and basically treating everybody as a terrorist. And I think he’s learned a lot since got into office. He’s met with a lot of Islamic leaders and has come to a conclusion that they are not all that bad and that you can work with them. In fact, I think what he’s discovered is he needs to work with them.

    With regard to the other side of that and the way you do it is to adopt the position that all of those Arabs are taking. And the Sunnis who are in the room and I was almost all Sunnis, I didn’t see — I don’t believe there were any other represents of say Kurds or Shia that were there. The message was, we share your view completely, that Iran is the bad guy, that everything that goes wrong in the Middle East is because of Iran and we share your view on that without equivocation.

    So, he said, one, he said, I’m not going to preach to you. In fact, changing the tone from where President Obama was, saying we think that the way you treat your own people is important. He said, we’re not going to bother telling you that, we’re not going to preach to you at all. But then he did go ahead and when he decided to preach, it was to Iran.

    And basically here was a country across the water who just had an election, 57 percent of them voted for moderate guy who was not supported necessarily by the supreme leader and that went unmentioned.

    STEWART: I want to bring Farah into the conversation.

    The president spoke about gradual reforms versus intervention, and having tolerance for one another, but then there was those — that one theory of period (ph) of that drive them out, that very forceful language he used. I want to get your take on how was that received in the room by those leaders and then how will that be received by the average Muslim citizen?

    FARAH PANDITH, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: This idea that Muslim should work together to fight terrorist organizations is not new. What was very important, and he did very strongly was to talk about the ideology that underpins extremism, yet he didn’t go into specifics about where that ideology came from. And I think it’s important to understand that here he is in Riyadh, a country that, you know, really has a lot to do with the spread of violent ideology around the world. ISIS uses the textbooks from Saudi Arabia, you know, in their so-called caliphate. So, there is a connection there. So, he danced around some of the themes that were very important, but he didn’t get into specifics.

    The second piece, certainly, is that who was he speaking to? Yes, he was speaking to the 50-plus leaders and Muslim majority countries and it was very clear that this speech was to them.

    It was not to Muslim communities around the world. He did not do the kind of extension to communities that you would have expected if that’s what the audience really was. So, for example, while he talked about the demographic of youth in the Middle East, that there was great potential, let’s remember that there are more Muslims that live outside of the Middle East than in it. Let’s remember that there are over a billion Muslims around the world that are under the age of 30, he did not talk about the future that they can have, if they work together, and he didn’t offer any deliverables in this speech for those young Muslims — which is a direct contrast obviously to President Obama’s speech in Cairo which did both the thematic piece and also the deliverable side.

    STEWART: Farah, what do you think of the new Terrorism Finance Targeting Center? I don’t think it was lost on anyone that this was announced in Saudi Arabia which has a history we know of financing certain groups.

    PANDITH: You know, it is really interesting and striking that in that room, we are looking at other Gulf states who have invested in both the messaging piece, the ideological piece, how do you push back against the ideology of extremists, and they have been partners with us in pushing back against the financing. And I think it was a mixed message by Trump. I mean, I applaud the president for calling out Muslim majority states to do more. I think he’s right to do that. He was also right to talk about the authenticity of a Muslim voice in speaking to Muslim communities, to actually protect the spread of this ideology. But, you know, it didn’t match with what those Muslim majority states are actually doing.

    So, there are centers in the UAE that are doing a lot of work around the messaging. Saudi Arabia is, you know, a very important player in all of this because here the president is talking about a $400 billion economic deal that he is delivering to Saudi Arabia and offering Americans the opportunity to say we’re going to get jobs from that.

    But what I would like the president to also do is offer a deal to America and that means using his influence to make sure that Saudi Arabia doesn’t incite hate around the world. And he could have offered that in a way that was more clear in this speech. And so, these centers that talk about financing, these centers that talk about messaging, are hollow if there’s no — there are no teeth behind what is actually being said.

    STEWART: We didn’t hear a lot about human rights. There was a brief nod to women. Why do you think these ideas were absent?

    PANDITH: I think that the audience in America is probably very shocked to see so little about democracy and freedom and human rights from this president. And I think for Muslim communities around the world, it’s what they want to hear from America, that we stand up for those minorities, that we work hard to advocate for things that are just and true. And it is an uncommon thing for an American president not to do that.

    STEWART: Gary, what do you think about this absence of the discussion of human rights or women’s rights?

    SICK: You know, they actually complained very much about President Obama talking over the heads of their leaders to the people as if this was a bad thing. I never saw that as a bad thing. I thought that talking over the heads of these leaders if you looked around the room with the people who were there and talking to their people directly wasn’t a bad thing at all, and that’s something as Farah said, he just didn’t do that.

    If you want a reset of U.S. policy in the Middle East, he’s saying, we’re going to reset it, we’re going to deal with leaders who are there regardless of what their backgrounds are and regardless of whether we agree with them or not, or whether they share our values or not, we’re not going to worry too much about their own people, we’re not going to worry about their youth movement, we’re going to do deals with them, and we’re going to give them something and they’re going to give us something in return. And, basically, that’s our new policy.

    STEWART: Farah, your thoughts on this?

    PANDITH: The U.S. made a calculation to take the very first step overseas and go to Saudi Arabia with the premise that, in fact, they’re going to the heart of where Muslims are, and there’s a problematic symbolism with that. Saudi Arabia wants you to believe that they speak for all of Islam, while most Muslims live as I mentioned outside the Middle East, and in fact, I don’t see Saudi Arabia’s form of Islam as the right kind of Islam.

    And for Americans, we cannot determine which is the right sect or the wrong sect of Islam but what we can do is to say to a country like Saudi Arabia that you don’t have the opportunity to speak for 1.6 billion people, and what we did here is we legitimized their viewpoint that they are the ones that are the center of Islam. And I think that is going to be an interesting thing to watch as the weeks and months go ahead.

    STEWART: Farah Pandith and Gary Sick — thank you both for your analysis.

    SICK: Thank you.

    PANDITH: Thank you.

    The post Trump calls on Arab world to unite against extremism appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Scientists are puzzled by the unexpected appearance of cicadas in the Washington, D.C. area this spring. Photo courtesy Mike Raupp

    Scientists are puzzled by the unexpected appearance of cicadas in the Washington, D.C. area this spring. Photo courtesy of Mike Raupp

    If you live in the Washington, D.C. area, you’ve no doubt heard the buzz over cicadas this week — or perhaps the buzz of cicadas themselves. That’s because the region’s bugs are out and about in the region a full four years early.

    Cicadas emerge in what scientists call “broods.” The biggest brood, known as Brood X, wasn’t due in the nation’s capital until 2021. So to mark the unusual mass appearance, NewsHour science producers Nsikan Akpan and Julia Griffin joined entomologist Mike Raupp — also known as the Bug Guy — at the University of Maryland to get insights on the flying critters and their unique lifestyles.

    (We’d should mention that no cicadas — or science producers — were harmed in the making of this video, despite an uninvited cicada landing and crawling on Griffin’s blouse mid-interview.)

    Raupp explained only Brood VI was expected this year. But those bugs normally emerge in Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin. He had a different theory on the D.C. visitors.

    “Sometimes these cicadas do a time jump,” University of Maryland entomologist Mike Raupp told the NewsHour. “They’ll emerge four years early. We think these might be an acceleration of the Brood X cicadas.”

    But without more study, it is hard to say what’s behind the jump.

    “I don’t really think we have enough data just now to be able to tell if this if this is a climate change phenomenon or not,” Raupp said, “The other question I have is, if it were indeed climate change advancing our Brood X here, we might expect to see it over a broader range.”

    In the meantime, this batch of cicadas and their vibrating tymbals — the organ that makes their distinctive hum — will continue to call to each other in hopes of finding a mate. Despite spending more than a decade underground, they have a few, precious weeks to survive the onslaught of birds, squirrels and other predators in order to reproduce.

    Good luck out there, bug friends.

    The post Cicadas strike back four years early. But why? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Jason Chaffetz (R) (R-UT) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) speak about the failure of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to disclose payments for a 2015 speech in Moscow on a security clearance application, in D.C. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Jason Chaffetz, right, and Rep. Elijah Cummings speak about the failure of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to disclose payments for a 2015 speech in Moscow on a security clearance application at a news conference in Washington, D.C. Cummings said this week he has reviewed documents that indicate Flynn misled investigators. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    The top two members of the Senate intelligence committee say they will “vigorously pursue” the testimony of President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, even though Michael Flynn has invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

    Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Mark Warner of Virginia say they are disappointed that Flynn has decided to ignore the committee’s subpoena. Earlier this month, the committee asked Flynn and other Trump associates for lists of meetings and notes taken during the presidential campaign.

    The Senate intelligence committee is among the congressional panels investigating Russia’s election meddling and possible ties with the Trump campaign. The FBI is also investigating.

    The top Democrat on a House oversight committee also says documents he’s reviewed suggest that Flynn misled federal security clearance investigators about the source of payments Flynn received from a Russian state-sponsored television network.

    Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland says Flynn told the investigators during an early 2016 security clearance review that a trip to Moscow was “funded by U.S. companies.” Cummings says the actual source of the funds was “the Russian media propaganda arm, RT.”

    Cummings made the statements in a letter to Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Utah Republican and chairman of the House oversight committee. Cummings’ letter came the same day Flynn declined to provide documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee, citing his Fifth Amendment protection from self-incrimination. Read the letter here.

    READ MORE: Michael Flynn invokes 5th Amendment, declines to hand over Russia-related documents

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    NewsHour shares web small logoIn our NewsHour Shares series, we show you things that caught our eye recently on the web. What about you? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, or tweet to @NewsHour using #NewsHourShares. We might share it on air.

    PBS NewsHour education coverage is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, our NewsHour Shares of the day, something that caught our eye that we thought may be of interest to you too.

    In this case, it caught my eye while I was at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, yesterday to give a commencement address.

    I had the chance to hear Mahsheed Mahjor. She’s a citizen of Afghanistan and one of the graduates. Chosen by her classmates to give the student address, Mahsheed spoke of hardships and inequities around the world, and role of citizenship and the value of her education.

    Here’s some of what she said.

    MAHSHEED MAHJOR, Muhlenberg College Graduate: I will never take it for granted, for it has changed my life and transformed my life in ways that I couldn’t have imagined.

    Among others, education taught me that how interconnected and how interdependent our world is and how beautiful and meaningful these relationships could be.

    And education motivated me to stand for what is right, for human liberation, for human dignity. And I hope it has done the same for you.

    The heartbreaking news from inside the United States and around the globe is evidence to the fact that the world is a bloody, awful place for many, in case you haven’t realized that yet.

    It is so because of the unequal distribution of wealth and power. It is so because the racism and sexism are often put before human dignity. It is so because the life to some appear to be worth more than others.

    We must remember that our crucial task is, is what we will do for others, for those who do not have privileges that we do. We should continue to be global citizens, being concerned for what doesn’t necessarily impact us, but it does impact a fellow human being near and far from us.

    We ought to think and work towards a common goal, towards human liberation, towards something bigger than ourselves, towards a world that would reduce and dismantle institutionalized classism, racism and sexism and foster social justice and equity.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Some words of wisdom from Mahsheed Mahjor, graduate of Muhlenberg College. This is a young woman going places.

    The post This new college grad envisions a more equitable, interconnected world appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to something sweet. More often than not, a dessert is better when you share it. That’s the thinking of one man who uses baking to reach out to his community.

    From PBS station NET in Nebraska, Dennis Kellogg explains.

    DENNIS KELLOGG: If you’re looking for a good dessert in Hastings, you can find plenty of places to get a sweet treat. But some of the city’s tastiest pies and cakes come from the kitchen of this small home, where Leo Kellner has lived for more than six decades.

    WOMAN: Thank you, Leo.

    MAN: Thank you, Leo.

    WOMAN: Red velvet is my favorite.

    DENNIS KELLOGG: The doorbell seems to be always ringing here, as friends stop by to pick up one of Leo’s culinary creations.

    WOMAN: Thank you so much for making this cake.

    WOMAN: Thank you again.

    DENNIS KELLOGG: Leo spends his days in the kitchen, gladly baking hundreds of pies and cakes every year.

    LEO KELLNER, Baker: My crust is flaky, and tastes like — more or less like a cookie.

    DENNIS KELLOGG: And Leo Kellner is 98-years-old.

    LEO KELLNER: I have got to have something to do. I would be dead if I wouldn’t be doing this. I lay at night in bed and think how I can change things, make things better.

    I have changed my pie three times, the apple pie.

    DENNIS KELLOGG: Leo grew up during tough times in the 1930s, watching his mom and sister bake with whatever ingredients they happened to have. He spent a lifetime working with irrigation and grain-drying businesses. He didn’t retire until he was 92.

    That’s when Madelon, his wife of 72 years, got sick and passed away.

    LEO KELLNER: I started about four months or so after my wife died. I was sitting here not knowing what to do with myself. I was used to working. And I had given up what I was doing, was kind of sitting here in the house and I said to myself, I can bake.

    DENNIS KELLOGG: He made 144 apple pies that first year, and hasn’t stopped since. You might think it provides a great retirement income for Leo, but the thing is, he doesn’t charge a cent. He gives every one of his pies and cakes away for free to friends, those who are sick, or to hospice volunteers, to those attending a funeral, to an elderly woman or a man who just can’t afford a good meal.

    LEO KELLNER: You don’t know what that means to a person, unless you have been poor, like I was years ago. I would have been so tickled. And my folks couldn’t even give me a pie or a cake or something. So I lived that life.

    And that’s why I am happy when I can help somebody put a smile on their face.

    MADDY MUSICH, 12 Years Old: Hey, Leo.

    DENNIS KELLOGG: Leo is even building a pie-making legacy. He’s mentoring 12-year-old Maddy Musich, teaching her how to bake, because, as Leo puts it, girls today need to know more than just how to run a computer.

    MADDY MUSICH: He’s like my other grandpa, kind of. When I get older, I want to bake for my kids and teach them how to do it. And even if they don’t like it, who doesn’t love food anyway?

    LEO KELLNER: I consider her just more than a friend, like part of me. When I go, I want her to take over where I left off. And I think she will.

    DENNIS KELLOGG: He can share his recipes with Maddy, but she will soon learn Leo adds something to his pies and cakes that you can’t buy in a grocery store.

    LEO KELLNER: I make it with love. I don’t just make it just to be making it. I make it with love. That’s my secret ingredient.

    DENNIS KELLOGG: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Dennis Kellogg in Hastings, Nebraska.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And if I could get to Nebraska right now, I would be knocking on Leo’s door.

    The post For this 98-year-old baker, sharing dessert makes life sweet appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Trump's speech was warmly-received in Saudi Arabia. Photo by Mandel Nagan/AFP/Getty Images

    President Trump’s speech was warmly-received in Saudi Arabia. Photo by Mandel Nagan/AFP/Getty Images

    The Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not known for modest gestures. President Trump’s official visit this weekend included sword dancing, fighter jets trailed by red, white and blue contrails and three major summits set behind a gilded palatial backdrop. And on Sunday, all eyes were on Trump’s speech on Islam where he addressed leaders and high ranking officials from more than 50 countries.

    Trump’s speech turned on three main themes. The beginning of the speech focused on extremism and terrorism as a threat to all. “This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations,” Trump said, pointedly turning away from his past assessments of Islam as a religion of hatred. Trump’s shift in tone is widely seen as an attempt at to reset relations with the Muslim World.

    The second point, in keeping with his “America First” platform, is the imperative on Middle Eastern nations to take the lead in stamping out this threat. President Trump raised his voice as he delivered the emotional climax of the speech: “A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists. Drive. Them. Out. Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land, and drive them out of this Earth.”

    His last point focused on Iran’s role in what he called “the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.”

    “From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen,” Trump said, “Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region.” Saudi monarch King Salman also singled out Iran in his introductory remarks, even saying the Islamic Revolution in Iran marked the birth of terrorism: “this country, did not witness terrorism or extremism until Khomeini revolution emerged in 1979.”

    In this sense, Trump’s speech aligned with Saudi’s vision of the region but it may have presented an overly-simplified version of events and responsibilities, some Middle East watchers say.

    “When it comes to the inspiration of the ideology of extremist groups, Saudi is not innocent. The global spread of Wahhabism is critical,” says Farah Pandith, an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations. “ISIS used Saudi textbooks when they first went in to build their so-called Caliphate. The ideology of Wahabism is closely connected to their worldview.”

    In addition to trying to reset, Trump is rewriting his own history in regards to Saudi, having in the past suggested a Saudi government link to the 9/11 attacks.

    “It was a phenomenal trip, phenomenally successful,” said Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir in an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier following the speech. “He set the foundation for the creation of a partnership to fight extremism and terrorism and terror financing…and so overall it was an incredible success,” he said.

    Al-Jubeir’s Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, was less laudatory. He tweeted “Fresh from real elections — attacked by @POTUS in that bastion of democracy & moderation.”

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

    The events in Riyadh over the weekend focused on just one front of the war against terrorism and violent extremism but the message to Iran was comprehensive and crystal clear.

    The post In Riyadh, Trump took a selective stand on extremism, sent a clear message to Iran appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now to a story about history and culture in Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab spring.

    Its democracy is new and fragile, and its economy has been hurt by terrorist acts that have scared away tourists.

    But among the signs of hope, a rise in citizen efforts to take part in the nation’s political and cultural life.

    Jeffrey Brown has our story. It’s part of his ongoing series Culture at Risk.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The Medina of Tunis, the old center of the city, dating back to the seventh century, its narrow walkways, vibrant colors, and grand architecture evoke a rich past.

    Now nestled within a sprawling modern city, the Medina remains a home to some 100,000 residents, 15,000 homes, 700 monuments, and abundant commerce within its sprawling souks, or markets.

    For hundreds of years, places like this were the heart of life in the Arab world. The question today is how to preserve something of that old character, even as the society around them changes.

    Architect Zoubeir Mouhli grew up here in the Medina, and now heads an organization to preserve it.

    ZOUBEIR MOUHLI, Association for the Preservation of the Medina (through interpreter): When I was a student, I dreamed of working in the Medina because I knew there were so many hidden things people didn’t know about that are incredibly valuable.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For him, this place represents a way of life, an alternative to the modern city.

    ZOUBEIR MOUHLI (through interpreter): There is no soul there. Everything is done for the cars, not for the people, not for the pedestrians, not for the people who want to see each other, to talk to each other, to go and have a coffee together. All this is so important to me.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Dramatic change came to the Medina starting in the 1950s, as the era of French rule ended. Many laborers from the countryside moved in seeking work, while elites and those with means left for the new suburbs, which continue to develop today. The Medina was ignored, and slowly decayed.

    ZOUBEIR MOUHLI (through interpreter): The Medina was considered an archaic space that was contrary to the country’s modernization, and even the cause of our underdevelopment and the reason for the French protectorate.

    JEFFREY BROWN: By the time the Medina was added to a U.N. list of places of special cultural importance in 1979, more than half its buildings were in disrepair or ruins.

    But changes in the country are also changing the Medina. In late 2010, a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself ablaze, setting off a chain of protests that overturned the country’s dictator, Abidine Ben Ali, and spread across the region as the Arab Spring.

    Tunisia has been the only country thus far to successfully transition out of protests into a democracy. Among much else, that unleashed new civic pride and an interest in preserving the country’s culture, one influenced by Roman, Ottoman, Arabic and European traditions.

    LEILA BEN GACEM, Hotel Owner: This house was on sale in 2006. I bought it from a family that lived here for 300 years.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Three hundred?

    LEILA BEN GACEM: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For Leila Ben Gacem, that meant rehabilitating an old home to turn it into a boutique hotel, a project that required working with local artisans, tile specialists, woodworkers, gypsum carvers, who understood the materials and artistic styles.

    LEILA BEN GACEM: These stones could be recycled from the destroyed site of Carthage.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You mean the ancient archaeological site of Carthage, yes, not far from us.

    LEILA BEN GACEM: Yes. The tiles could have came with the Andalusians.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, in Spain.

    LEILA BEN GACEM: In Spain.

    The arches could have came from the Ottomans. So it’s the blend that makes Tunisia today.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It was difficult work. The house had to be entirely retrofitted with modern plumbing and electricity.

    Not a good place for a car.

    LEILA BEN GACEM: No, that’s why taxi drivers hate to drive in here.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And the area faces all kinds of challenges, including maintaining enough infrastructure to hold onto old businesses and attract new investment.

    LEILA BEN GACEM: Since the birth of the Medina in the seventh century, eighth century, there always been an ecosystem of traders, of artisans, of businesses. So the trading sectors change with time. And I think to convert the Medina into a cultural artistic destination, that needs a whole new ecosystem to be developed now.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Ben Gacem’s doing her part. She’s already working on a second guest house and has opened a workspace nearby to help transfer some of the skills being lost.

    On Saturday mornings, there’s a calligraphy class and next door a workshop on bookbinding, taught by Mohamed Ben Sassi, whose shop is just down the street. He’s thought to be the last bookbinder working in the Medina, and is eager to reach a new generation.

    MOHAMED BEN SASSI, Master Bookbinder (through interpreter): There is nobody, no one left. For 40 years, I worked in the national library, and there was nobody to do this job, 40 years. The book will never go away. It has witnessed many gales and thunderbolts and disasters. It is still here.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Up the street is a beautiful, but dilapidated building called La Rachidia, opened in the 1930s and once one of the most famous concert venues in North Africa.

    Here, volunteers are digitizing sheet music, historical documents, concert posters and photographs found sitting in boxes, saving traditional Tunisian music known as malouf.

    And then there’s a project called MedinaPedia in the belly of an old Christian church, where another group of volunteers is documenting every building and monument in the area, researching famous residents, and uploading that information to Wikipedia, a variety of projects, committed people, young and old.

    Everyone we spoke to said it will be important to move forward in a way that maintains the character and the inhabitants of the Medina, even while trying to attract tourists to a country in desperate need of the economic boost they bring.

    Despite the many challenges the government here faces, Leila Ben Gacem says cultural heritage should continue to be one of its priorities.

    LEILA BEN GACEM: The government underestimates the potential of heritage and culture in creating opportunities, and maybe they even think of it as something for elite or something as a luxury. In the meantime, civil society is very active today in investing, investing time, money, energy, advocacy to restore such beautiful spaces and bring back the magic to the Medina.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A magic found in every tile and stone.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Jeffrey Brown in the Medina of Tunis.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, first, for more on the president’s overseas trip and the troubles he’s facing back here at home, it’s time for Politics Monday.

    This week, I’m joined by Stu Rothenberg, senior editor at Inside Elections, and Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA Today.

    And welcome both of you back to the program.

    So, I was going to begin by asking you about the trip and how much that overshadows what’s going on here at home, but just in the last few moments, we have seen that The Washington Post is reporting, Susan, that the president — this has literally just come out moments ago — asked intelligence chiefs, two of them, to push back against any story, any allegation of FBI collusion.

    He asked both Dan Coats, who is the director of national intelligence, and Admiral Michael Rogers, who is the director of the National Security Agency. The Washington Post story says that both of them refused to comply. They both said it was inappropriate. They are not commenting on this story, but The Washington Post is running it as a headline.

    SUSAN PAGE, USA Today: And this, of course, is entirely consistent what we have heard the president ask James Comey to do as FBI director, to try to help him with this kind of P.R. problems with this Russia investigation.

    It’s consistent with that and is one more example of how you can be on a foreign trip, you can be giving big speeches, but you cannot escape the cloud that is over your presidency when it comes to this disclosure after disclosure on this Russia investigation.

    And that is going to be the case, I think, for the foreseeable future for this president.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I mean, we are starting to get the sense, Stu, that no matter how much we begin to talk about other things, the budget, which we did report on earlier in the program tonight, and of course the president’s trip, that this Russia investigation and how the president and the White House handled it is just the story that keeps on unfolding.

    STUART ROTHENBERG, Inside Elections: Right.

    Well, Republicans complain that the national media is spending too much time on this subject and we should be talking about other issues, but this is the focus of attention for a reason. We’re talking about the president of the United States and his aides’ appropriate behavior, inappropriate behavior, illegal behavior. We don’t know.

    But this is a giant story. And saying, well, there are other issues, yes, and we should cover them. But this is certainly the story, the story du jour.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I mean — excuse me — even on the trip, Susan, the president today confirmed when he was with Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel that he, in essence, said, I didn’t say the word Israeli when I talked about intelligence that I shared with Russian officials.

    He in a way is keeping some of this alive.

    SUSAN PAGE: This is one more self-inflicted wound on the part of President Trump, because he wasn’t even asked this question. This was a question posed by an American reporter to Benjamin Netanyahu.

    And the president, President Trump, jumps in to say, this is a bad story, I never said the word Israel.

    Well, first of all, the stories at the time did not say he used the word Israel. It just said that he disclosed highly confidential intelligence issues.

    Secondly, this confirms — in effect, confirms that Israel was the source of this intelligence, something U.S. officials have refused to do on the record. It does a third thing, puts a spotlight right back on the story on a day when you had a rather emotional and successful visit to Israel. Now that’s been really overshadowed.

    STUART ROTHENBERG: You know, these kind of trips have been used by previous presidents to — so that they go internationally.

    This is the area that the president has most authority in, foreign policy, national security. Presidents look presidential when they’re meeting leaders of other countries.

    I noted that Richard Nixon took a 10-day, seven-country trip in June of 1974, and then he came back to Washington, went back on another trip to …

    JUDY WOODRUFF: This is two months before.

    STUART ROTHENBERG: … to the Soviet Union. Yes, the Judiciary Committee was — House Judiciary was meeting. And when he came back was three weeks later, and he was impeached.

    This president cannot get out of his own way. Is that too strong a thing to say? He continues to bring back the focus on himself. And a trip is a good idea and presidents need to do that. But it’s not going to make Americans forget about the underlying problem he has.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Susan, do we know yet how much this is going to affect the president’s substantive agenda? We were talking earlier with Lisa Desjardins about the budget proposal. We’re going to hear more about that tonight.

    We know the president, Republicans on the Hill very much want to pass a health care reform law. How is all this affecting that?

    SUSAN PAGE: It does two things that are damaging. One, it distracts attention. So, you’re paying attention to this, not to the details of the health care bill or what might be included in a tax cut package.

    Another thing is, it starts to chip away at the president’s approval rating. And that is important because members of Congress keep a close look at the president’s approval rating to figure out how much they should fear him, how much attention do they have to pay to him, how much political clout does he have.

    The president’s approval rating today in the Gallup poll, which does a daily rolling three-day average, was 37 percent, which is a dismal approval rating for a president. And it’s just a bit lower than it’s been. It was about 40. It had been about 40 for a long time. It’s beginning to get just a little bit lower. So, even among his core supporters, many of whom are sticking with him, he’s seeing some attrition.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    Stu, you have spent a lifetime studying members of Congress and how they think about how to vote and what they are going to do and their reelection prospects. What is the calculus for the Republicans right now?

    STUART ROTHENBERG: If you tell me who is going to win the Montana special election later this week, and then the Georgia special election next month, I will have a better idea of what the impact is.

    But I think Susan is exactly right. Look, there are Republicans and conservatives in safe districts that are going to stick with the president and are sticking with him, just as some Republicans stuck to Richard Nixon right to the very end.

    But those Republicans in swing districts, those who worry about Republican turnout, Democratic turnout in districts or states that can flip, they are nervous. They will get more nervous. This is not really a distraction. It’s kind of defining this presidency now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What is it going to take, though? Is it a drip, drip, drip …

    (CROSSTALK)

    STUART ROTHENBERG: No, I think it may simply be time.

    It’s funny. People in the national media talk — look at every poll as if one is going to show a dramatic turn in public opinion. The president has only been in office now four months. He hasn’t been in long.

    So, you give this another four months, eight months, and some of his supporters may start to take the criticism more seriously. Right now, it’s easy for them to say, I voted for him. He’s trying. It’s the national media’s fault.

    But, four months from now, or six months from now, I think things might be different.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But Stu is right, Susan. The loyal Trump supporters, people from districts where people — and there was another story. I read another story just yesterday about this in Kentucky, several communities in Kentucky, where Donald Trump received high poll numbers, I mean, high vote totals, back in November. He is still very popular.

    SUSAN PAGE: And, of course, the idea that he’s being embattled by the national news media or among Democrats, that doesn’t really hurt President Trump.

    But what could hurt President Trump is if he doesn’t deliver on the promises he made to these voters. And that would include bringing back manufacturing jobs, making their lives better, bringing down the cost of health care. Those are the things on which President Trump is going to be measured by his supporters.

    And the fact that he’s got this cloud of scandal over him makes it harder for him to deliver to them on those issues.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Politics Monday.

    Susan Page, Stu Rothenberg, great to have you both.

    SUSAN PAGE: Thanks.

    STUART ROTHENBERG: Thanks, Judy.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, as we just heard, Medicaid cuts are a key part of the president’s proposed budget.

    Mr. Trump’s budget assumes that cuts already in the House Republican health care bill will eventually become law and take effect.

    We have been looking at the potential impact of the bill. And, tonight, we focus on what it could mean for schools, and particularly special education.

    William Brangham has our conversation.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Special education just wasn’t part of the debate over the House GOP’s health care bill.

    But special education is hugely reliant on Medicaid , and that bill could trigger major cuts to Medicaid, up to $880 billion over 10 years.

    So, what would this mean for the millions of public school kids who receive special ed services?

    I’m joined now by Sasha Pudelski, who is with the School Superintendents Association.

    Welcome to the NewsHour.

    SASHA PUDELSKI, The American Association of School Administrators: Thanks. So happy to be here.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, I was really surprised by this. I didn’t appreciate fully how reliant special ed service are on Medicaid. Can you give us a sense of how crucial they are to those budgets?

    SASHA PUDELSKI: Absolutely.

    So, special education funding has always been low. We have never met our federal commitment to school districts to fund special education. And about 30 years ago, the federal government decided that they would allow to start to bill Medicaid for some of the therapies in particular that are very costly to provide special education students.

    And so school districts have been reliant on Medicaid to supplement some of the special education funding they receive for a very long time. It’s standard practice in many districts.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, they spend this money. And then they go to the government say, hey, we did this. We provided these services. Please reimburse us.

    SASHA PUDELSKI: Exactly. So, it’s not a one-for-one match, by any means, but it’s a substantial amount they receive back.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Generally speaking, who are the kids that we’re talking about here, and what kinds of services are we talking about?

    SASHA PUDELSKI: It’s virtually every special education child, because the things that Medicaid can cover run from therapies like mental health therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, to equipment that they may need, hearing aids.

    It may run from wheelchairs to school buses, actually, that provide specialized transportation for kids. So, the services are vast, despite the levels of funding.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, we don’t know right now. The House GOP bill has to go through the Senate. It’s obviously going to get changed quite a bit.

    But let’s assume that there are still major cuts to Medicaid in whatever comes out of the Congress. What is the main concern for the school districts?

    SASHA PUDELSKI: The main concern is, by this major federal disinvestment in Medicaid, we’re going to have states having to pick up the tab.

    And if school districts are competing with hospitals and clinics and other providers for scarce dollars, I don’t see how a governor or state Medicaid director or state legislature is going to decide schools need this money, not a hospital, not a doctor.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The Republicans would argue, we have federal deficits that are going to be massive in the future, and we have to address some of these programs like Medicaid, and that these are cuts that are just fiscally smart.

    I mean, how do you respond to that?

    SASHA PUDELSKI: It’s not kids that are breaking the Medicaid bank, if the bank is even being broken, which I contend it’s not.

    But when you look at who benefits from Medicaid, 46 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries are kids. But one out of every five dollars spent on Medicaid is spent on children. So it’s a really efficient way of spending dollars on children’s health care in this country.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Let’s say these cuts do come down, and school districts have to find some way to compensate.

    What is your sense, from talking to school administrators around the country? How are they going to make up the shortfall?

    SASHA PUDELSKI: So, the situation is rather bleak.

    We surveyed 1,000 school leaders earlier this year to ask them exactly that question. And they told us that they believe services for kids will be recused. In some cases, professionals will be laid off who work with those kids, like the school nurse, for example, whose salary may be subsidized substantially by Medicaid.

    They indicated they may have to raise taxes in order to compensate for this loss. And some districts can do that, and others just can’t. So, it’s going to be a major financial hit, not just on the special education budget, but on the general education budget, because the general education budget will have to subsidize the loss of funding in special education.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, what you’re talking about is really cuts that are really not just for this one dedicated population, but for potentially every student in a public school district.

    SASHA PUDELSKI: Absolutely.

    When you go to a school nurse’s office, they don’t ask, are you Medicaid-eligible? They take your temperature and find out whether you need to go home. So this is someone who benefits every child, just like a mental health practitioner in the school. And when we no longer can afford their services because they’re subsidized via Medicaid, every child in that building will be hurt.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Sasha Pudelski of the School Superintendents Association, thank you so much.

    SASHA PUDELSKI: Thank you.

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    Iowa Governor Terry Branstad signed a bill into law on Friday that banned most abortion after 20 weeks. The Iowa Supreme Court imposed an injunction hours later. Photo By Carlos Barria

    Iowa Governor Terry Branstad was confirmed Monday by the Senate as the U.S. ambassador to China. Photo By Carlos Barria

    WASHINGTON — The Republican-led Senate has confirmed President Donald Trump’s pick to be U.S. ambassador to China, sending Terry Branstad from the governor’s office in Iowa to the American Embassy in Beijing.

    Senators voted 82-13 Monday to approve the nomination of Branstad, who is in his sixth non consecutive term as Iowa’s governor. Among his most immediate and sensitive assignments will be persuading the Chinese to help defuse North Korea’s advancing ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.

    During his confirmation hearing earlier this month, Branstad assured lawmakers that he would not shy away from confronting Beijing on a range of issues, including human rights and trade.

    Branstad, 70, told lawmakers he intends to use his decades-long relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping to advance U.S. and international interests. The two met in 1985 when Xi, then a provincial official, led an agricultural trade delegation to Iowa.

    Republicans and Democrats have praised Branstad’s Midwestern pragmatism. Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, declared Branstad “fully qualified” for the job.

    Branstad called North Korea’s push for a weapon of mass destruction a “threat to all of humankind.” He said he expected China to become more engaged because of concerns that North Korean refugees may flood China if the crisis on the Korean Peninsula escalates further.

    He served as Iowa’s governor from 1983 to 1999 before entering the private sector. He was re-elected in 2010. With more than 22 years at the helm of state government, he is the country’s longest-serving governor.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s move to the president’s domestic agenda now.

    Later tonight, his administration will release his first full budget plan, which lays out his priorities for spending and taxes. Congress will have the final say, but this lays down an important marker for the coming year.

    Early reporting suggests Mr. Trump’s proposal will feature some big changes, including substantial spending cuts and a shift in priorities overall.

    Lisa Desjardins has been reporting for us, and she is here now to give us a preview.

    So, Lisa, what’s different about this budget and what is different about the way they’re approaching it?

    LISA DESJARDINS: This is a very dramatic proposal the president is making to Congress.

    He would significantly increase military spending and significantly decrease most spending in other domestic agencies. Now, as part of this, he is trying to change the way people look at budgeting.

    Sources, congressional sources are giving me all this information. They say he’s trying to say, don’t just look who is the recipient of a program. Look at those who are funding it, taxpayers, and ask, do taxpayers think this is worth it? That’s a sign of cuts to come.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we’re hearing big changes to Medicaid, health care for the poor. What do we know about that?

    LISA DESJARDINS: These congressional sources say the president will propose additional cuts to Medicaid on top of what is already in the House Republican bill.

    We have talked about that extensively. There’s a lot of shifts in that bill, but essentially it would likely mean, according to the Congressional Budget Office, millions fewer Americans on Medicaid. The president plan would have additional decreases to that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, Lisa, we’re hearing about several other changes to the so-called social safety net.

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What are you hearing about that and why?

    LISA DESJARDINS: A couple of big programs to watch, the Earned Income Tax Credit.

    Again, congressional sources say the president feels that there should be more responsibility, accountability in these programs, and he’s going to require that everyone in that program have a Social Security number. Who does that affect? Undocumented immigrants. It could also affect their children, some critics point out.

    One other program, Judy, SNAP, lots of times referred to as food stamps. The president is going to propose that states share more in that cost. That would be a big difference. And one key to all of this, it’s a dramatic proposal, but Congress ends up deciding all of these funding debates.

    And when I talk to some Republicans in Congress on Friday, they were ready for this dramatic proposal. And they said a lot of these cuts will not pass there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, Lisa Desjardins, again, this comes out tonight. We will be able to talk much more about it tomorrow. Thank you so much.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: During the presidential campaign, candidate Trump said he’d strengthen relations with Middle Eastern countries and do a better job fighting what he called radical Islamic terrorism.

    So, with the president in Saudi Arabia this weekend and meeting with Arab leaders, we thought we’d ask, what kind of change in U.S. policy is the president making?

    For that, we turn to Daniel Benjamin. He was ambassador at large and coordinator for counterterrorism at the U.S. State Department during the Obama administration. He’s now at Dartmouth College. Elliott Abrams, he served in the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations. He’s now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. And Robin Wright, she is a fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, as well as a contributing writer for The New Yorker magazine.

    And we welcome all three of you back to the program.

    So, we have been talking about — a little bit, Elliott Abrams, about the president’s shifting language in how he talks about terrorism, extremism.

    But what I want to ask the three of you is, how much of a shift in policy is what Donald — President Trump is saying in his — particularly in that speech in Saudi Arabia? How much of a shift in policy would that be?

    ELLIOTT ABRAMS, Council on Foreign Relations: There is a shift, I would say, from the Obama policy, which was much more open to friendship or a better relationship with Iran and wasn’t casting Iran as a central problem in the Middle East.

    In Saudi Arabia, the president said very much Iran is the problem. The king of Saudi Arabia then said the same thing, Iran is the problem. Now, of course, we’re hearing it from Prime Minister Netanyahu. This isn’t a change, I would say, from Bush policy, actually, but it is a change from Obama policy, which was centered on improving the relationship with Iran.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Daniel Benjamin, how do you see what the president had to say?

    DANIEL BENJAMIN, Dartmouth College: Well, I agree with Elliott about the tilt towards the Sunni Arabs.

    He’s gone all in, in terms of standing with them and with the Israelis against Iran. I think that brings with it some challenges.

    I think it’s also noteworthy that he pushed the Saudis and others to do more against terrorism themselves, but it was quite interesting that the way that he described terrorism, it was really kind of flat. It was in very good vs. evil terms, but no larger discussion of what the drivers of terrorism are, no discussion about bad governance, about economic stagnation, about any repression.

    And, as a result, it leaves the impression that this is going to be purely about military law enforcement, and not anything else, which is really at odds with the policy we had, which was that you can’t shoot your way out of this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Robin Wright, you’re nodding your head.

    ROBIN WRIGHT, United States Institute of Peace: Absolutely.

    I think this is — this differs in significant ways. First of all, it walks away from the kind of nation-building of George Bush or the democracy promotion of Barack Obama. It takes a very one-dimensional approach to extremism, which is militaristic, kill them all, drive them back.

    It is — doesn’t factor in the kind of economic grievances, the political sense among many in the region that their governments don’t represent them. President Trump is basically siding with the autocratic regimes in the region which have been the most repressive, and which have not devoted much time or energy to some of the broad solutions of the 21st century.

    And so this is a huge departure from the past. And I think that it opens up the United States to some vulnerability in the same way. We’re once again looking for stability, rather than the kinds of regimes that reflect our own values.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is this an approach, Elliott Abrams, that is likely to work? These regimes have had plenty of opportunities to come together against terrorism, against extremism. Is this new appeal from President Trump likely to bring results?

    ELLIOTT ABRAMS: Well, there can be better cooperation, let’s say, on terrorist financing.

    There can be better cooperation on the military and police side. But I think Robin is right. If terrorists were coming down from outer space, then the military approach would be fine. But they’re coming from the very countries whose leaders he was addressing. And he didn’t discuss at all, why is that and what can be done about it in your countries?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, given that, Dan Benjamin, are we — are these countries just basically left to ignore the president? I mean, has the expectation been raised for them to do something now or not?

    DANIEL BENJAMIN: Well, he has suggested that.

    One of the reasons that the Gulf Arabs are so excited about Donald Trump is that he has signaled that he’s giving them a complete pass on human rights issues. So, we could well see more repression. Over the long term, that doesn’t mean less terrorism. That may mean more terrorism.

    But he’s really just saying, you know, do what you need to and be there for us when we ask. That’s also a problem because, over the last five or six years, they have paid a lot more attention to their sectarian rivalry with Iran than they have to Sunni extremism.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And speaking of that, Robin, that’s come up in all of this discussion. Does it make sense in the long run for the president to pit basically Sunni against the Iran regime?

    ROBIN WRIGHT: This is the great danger.

    The United States is often faulted with fostering this sectarian divide between Sunnis and Shiites by its intervention in Iraq in 2003. And now the administration is taking a very definitive stand on the side of the Sunnis against predominantly Shiite Iran.

    And this, I think, is going to deepen tensions, rather than try to defuse them. And the great danger is that you see not only tensions within societies that don’t feel that they’re represented, but a deepening regional conflict.

    After all, the Saudi-Iran rivalry plays out in every major conflict in the Middle East, in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen. And we’re not going to find solution to any of these crises unless there’s a much more collaborative effort that brings in all the major powers in the region.

    And so that’s one of the challenges. He talks a game about finding peace and about stabilizing the region, fighting extremism, but how do you do that when you’re actually adding fuel to the flames?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what about, Elliott?

    ELLIOTT ABRAMS: Well, there, I would say I disagree, because I think the problem, seen from the Israeli point of view, seen from the Sunni Arab point of view, seen from the president’s point of view, is a remarkable effort by Iran in Iraq, in Syria, in Lebanon, in Yemen, in Bahrain, to create trouble.

    I think they are really a problem for all of those countries and for us. This is a country that is still saying death to America. I think the president’s focus on that is reasonable.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Daniel Benjamin, pick up on that. What is the meat on the bones that needs to come now for something to grow out of this that advances the cause, the anti-extremist cause?

    DANIEL BENJAMIN: Well, I’m skeptical we’re going to get there, because one of the things that President Trump apparently didn’t do while he was in Saudi Arabia was talk to the Saudis about the activities that they carry on that actually promote extremism, specific with their missionary activities around the world to provide mosques, itinerant preachers, curricular materials and the like, which have really stoked the rise of a more hard-edge Islam.

    And I don’t think we’re going to see anything from this administration on that score. And the other thing is, on the sectarianism, if it just gets worse, it’s going to undermine regional stability. And it could threaten the nuclear accord in the region. And that ultimately would be bad news for everyone.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We even haven’t mentioned the elections in Iran, Robin, but Iran has just reelected the more moderate candidate, Mr. Rouhani. At the same time, the president is painting Iran as the enemy.

    ROBIN WRIGHT: And he’s painting that picture in a country that doesn’t hold democratic elections, where women can’t even drive, much less participate or run for office.

    And Iran has had a female vice president. The contrast is very stark. There’s no question that Iran is a big problem for many in the international community, its support of extremism, its missile development program, its abuse of civil rights.

    I don’t think anyone disputes that. But there is a deep contrast. And remember that Saudi Arabia is a country that developed or promoted the Wahhabi ideology that was the bed of the place that gave us the ideology of al-Qaida and ISIS, and so that we need to kind of be rational or reasonable when we talk about who are the good guys and the bad guys. A lot of them share the blame.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, there’s so much here. We’re going to continue to look at what the president had to say.

    Thank you, all three, Robin Wright, Daniel Benjamin, Elliott Abrams. Thank you.

    ROBIN WRIGHT: Thank you.

    ELLIOTT ABRAMS: You’re welcome.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news, there are reports of a large explosion at a music venue in Manchester, England, tonight, that police say there has led to a number of confirmed fatalities and injuries. It was a concert by US pop artist Ariana Grande. Witnesses reported that the explosion happened as people were leaving the event. Emergency services are on the scene. We’ll be tracking this developing story online at pbs.org/newshour.

    Back in this country, President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, invoked his right against self-incrimination, and refused to give documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

    It involves potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. But Flynn’s lawyers cited a — quote — “escalating public frenzy” and they said that any testimony he provides could be used against him.

    It’s reported that two other former Trump associates, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, have turned over documents to the committee.

    Meanwhile, Democrat Elijah Cummings, on the House Oversight Committee, says that government documents suggest that Flynn misled Pentagon investigators about his income from Russian sources.

    North Korea says it’s ready to start mass-producing new medium-range missiles. State media today called it an answer to the Trump administration. On Sunday, the North test-fired a missile capable of reaching Japan and major U.S. military bases there. The U.N. Security Council condemned the launch as — quote — “highly destabilizing.”

    Iran’s newly reelected President Hassan Rouhani is calling for better relations with the United States. But he says first the Trump administration has to get its bearings. He spoke in Tehran, three days after he easily defeated a conservative challenger backed by hard-liners.

    PRESIDENT HASSAN ROUHANI, Iran (through interpreter): Iran and America, over the last almost 40 years, have traveled a curvy road together. We are waiting for the U.S. government to become stable intellectually.

    I hope it can settle down so that we can more accurately pass judgments on their leaders in Washington.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Also today, Iranian reports said that reformist supporters of Rouhani swept all the local offices in Tehran and did well in other cities as well.

    Back in this country, the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down two North Carolina congressional districts over racial gerrymandering. The ruling upheld a lower court finding that Republican state lawmakers lumped black voters into the districts to weaken their clout elsewhere. The districts have already been redrawn.

    The state legislature in Texas is nearing approval of a transgender bathroom bill similar to North Carolina’s measure that sparked national outrage. The Texas bill limits children in public and charter schools to bathrooms that correspond with their official gender at birth. In last night’s debate, Statehouse members argued over whether the bill amounts to discrimination.

    CHRIS PADDIE, (R), Texas State Representative: There is absolutely no intent, and I would argue nothing in this language, that discriminates against anyone. In fact, it makes sure that there are reasonable accommodations for all children.

    SENFRONIA THOMPSON, (D), Texas State Representative: Bathrooms, white, colored. I was living through that era of not only America, but Texas history as well. Bathrooms divided us then, and it divides us now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The bill cleared the Statehouse today and went to the Senate for final approval.

    Meanwhile, the Texas legislature also voted to let publicly funded foster care and adoption groups refuse to place adopted children with parents who are gay, unmarried or non-Christian.

    An elite New Hampshire prep school has acknowledged sexual abuse of students by 13 former teachers and staff dating back decades. St. Paul’s School in Concord today released results of an independent investigation. It comes amid reports of similar scandals at several other private boarding schools across New England and the Northeast.

    In economic news, Ford Motor Company replaced Mark Fields as CEO after just two years, amid doubts about the automaker’s direction. The new CEO is Jim Hackett, a former office furniture executive.

    And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 90 points to close near 20895. The Nasdaq rose almost 50, and the S&P 500 added 12.

    The post News Wrap: UK police confirm fatalities after explosion at Ariana Grande concert appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump is spending tonight in Israel, after a day of talking up peace prospects in the region. It’s all part of his first overseas trip since taking office.

    We begin our coverage with a report from John Yang.

    JOHN YANG: Amid the pomp of President Trump’s arrival ceremony in Israel was an issue of policy that’s confounded presidents for generations, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Now we must work together to build a future where the nations of the region are at peace. We have before us a rare opportunity to bring security and stability and peace to this region.

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Israel: Israel’s hand is extended to peace in peace to all our neighbors, including the Palestinians. The peace we seek is a genuine and durable one, in which the Jewish state is recognized, security remains in Israel’s hands, and the conflict ends once and for all.

    JOHN YANG: The warmth between the two men was evident, as was the Israeli prime minister’s pleasure in both the change of U.S. presidents and a new direction on Iran.

    BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I want you to know how much we appreciate the change in American policy on Iran. I want you to know how much we appreciate your bold decision to act against the use of chemical weapons in Syria. And I want to tell you also how much we appreciate the reassertion of American leadership in the Middle East.

    JOHN YANG: In an unscripted moment, the president seemed to give the first official confirmation that the highly classified intelligence he gave Russian officials came from the Israelis.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I never mentioned the word or the name Israel, never mentioned it during that conversation.

    JOHN YANG: In Jerusalem’s Old City, Mr. Trump visited two of the holiest sites of Christianity and Judaism: the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, believed by many Christians to be the site of Jesus’ tomb, and the Western Wall, believed by Jews to be part of Herod’s Second Temple.

    Mr. Trump began his trip with a much-anticipated visit to Saudi Arabia. There, he appealed to Sunni Arab leaders to unite to against extremist movements like ISIS and al-Qaida and other militant groups backed by Shiite Iran.

    The centerpiece was a speech the White House billed as an address to the Muslim world.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists. Drive them out. Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land. And drive them out of this earth.

    JOHN YANG: It represented a big shift in tone and temper from the campaign, when he condemned Islam for hating America.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people, all in the name of religion, people that want to protect it life and want to protect their religion. This is a battle between good and evil.

    JOHN YANG: Mr. Trump also joined the leaders of Egypt and Saudi Arabia to open a center aimed at combating online militant ideology and messaging.

    The president’s Saudi visit coincided with the reelection of Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran, which was the target of much of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric.

    Today, Rouhani contrasted the heavy Iranian voter turnout with the lack of elections in Mr. Trump’s host kingdom.

    PRESIDENT HASSAN ROUHANI, Iran (through interpreter): He has gone to a country where I think the word election has no meaning for them. They have never seen a ballot box. I hope that the day will come that Saudi Arabia will adopt this path.

    JOHN YANG: Like the Israelis, the Saudis also welcome the shift in the U.S. approach to Iran that the change in leaders brings, one reason for the opulent Saudi welcome for Mr. Trump, which included a traditional sword dance to underscore the friendship Saudi King Salman extended to the president.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Yang.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I spoke a little earlier with Tamara Keith of NPR, who is in Jerusalem.

    And I started by asking if President Trump got as impressive a welcome in Israel as he received in Saudi Arabia.

    TAMARA KEITH, NPR: Absolutely.

    There was another big red carpet at the airport just like there was in Saudi Arabia. There was a marching band. And then, tonight, there were fireworks over the Old City, though it’s not clear that those were really for President Trump, but probably for Jerusalem Day.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Tam, I want to ask you about the president’s surprising comments when he was with Prime Minister Netanyahu earlier today, and he spoke about his disclosure of classified information with Russian officials.

    TAMARA KEITH: So, this was one of the times when reporters come into the room — it’s basically a photo-op. And they made some brief remarks, and then a reporter from Bloomberg shouted out a question, asking Prime Minister Netanyahu if he was concerned about sharing intelligence with the United States.

    Well, both leaders were eager to respond. And President Trump said, well, I never said anything about Israel when I gave information to the Russians, which is an interesting point to make, because although there’s been reporting that it was Israel, none of the reporting ever said that President Trump had revealed to the Russian foreign minister that it was Israel’s information that he was revealing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, he was essentially confirming it with his own remarks.

    Tam, I want to ask you about — go back to the Saudi Arabia portion of this trip, because it was clear that the president was going out of his way to avoid using a term that we heard frequently from him on the campaign trail, radical Islamic terrorism.

    What do you know about that?

    TAMARA KEITH: On the campaign trail, he frequently criticized Hillary Clinton and President Obama for not saying those words. He would, say the words radical Islamic terrorism.

    But in this speech, he carefully avoided saying those words, though he kind of stumbled right around that section of the speech and departed from the prepared remarks. Later, an aide said he’s an exhausted guy, and attributed it to that, and not any sort of purposeful going off-script.

    He certainly seemed to be toning down the language. He wasn’t as directly critical of Saudi Arabia as he had been during the campaign either, though an aide, a senior administration official insisted that, no, he wasn’t actually toning things down. He was actually being tougher. But it certainly seemed toned-down.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Tam, finally, it was — in that regard, it was also clear to those who were listening that he didn’t bring up human rights in Saudi Arabia.

    TAMARA KEITH: Yes, he didn’t bring it up certainly in a big way. There was one short sentence that mentioned the oppression of women and Christians and others. But it wasn’t a centerpiece of the speech. It was barely a paragraph, sort of a sentence.

    And there were other phrases in the speech that made it clear that they’re not emphasizing human rights, saying that he wasn’t there to lecture countries, and that he was looking for partners, not perfection.

    And many people took that as a signal that he was sending to the leaders in the room that he wants to work with them to counter ISIS and he’s willing, at least on some level, to not put human rights in their face.

    What the administration says is that he’s approaching this quietly and strongly and that by sort of easing into it, he might able to be — have a bigger impact.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tamara Keith reporting from Israel, the second leg of President Trump’s trip abroad.

    TAMARA KEITH: Glad to be with you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we will have more on the president’s trip right after the news summary.

    The post After tone-shifting speech in Saudi Arabia, Trump broaches peace prospects in Israel appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Police in Manchester, UK say 19 people are dead and about 50 injured after a reported explosion Monday night at the city’s arena, where pop star Ariana Grande was performing.

    The explosion led to mass panic among concertgoers and is being treated as a terrorist attack “until police know otherwise,” the Manchester Police reported on Twitter.

    Police offered few details, asking people to avoid the area “as first responders work tirelessly at the scene.”

    Grande was not injured, AP reports, citing a representative of the singer’s record label. The performance Monday was part of an international tour that included two additional shows in London later this week.

    The incident occurred at about 10:30 p.m., as the show was ending. Some fans took to Twitter to share video they said was taken inside the arena; giant pink balloons were tousled above the crowds of concert-goers fleeing toward the exits.

    One concert-goer told The Guardian she heard “quite a loud explosion heard from inside the Manchester arena and it shook, then everyone screamed and tried to get out.”

    Nearby Victoria Station, which serves the arena, was evacuated and trains were halted. Around 8:30 p.m. EST, police said they set off a controlled explosion near what they believed to be a suspicious item in Cathedral Gardens, a neighborhood near the stadium. Police determined the suspicious object was in fact abandoned clothing.

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it had no information Monday night that would indicate “a specific credible threat involving music venues in the United States.”

    “However, the public may experience increased security in and around public places and events as officials take additional precautions,” it said in a statement just before 10 p.m. EST.

    The department added it was “closely monitoring the situation” with foreign counterparts to learn more about the reported explosion as well as the injuries and fatalities.

    “We stand ready to assist our friends and allies in the U.K. in all ways necessary as they investigate and recover from this incident,” the statement continued. ” Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this incident.”

    PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

    The post Police: 19 dead, 50 injured at Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, UK after explosion appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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