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- 05/22/17--18:27: _Trump’s proposed $4...
- 05/23/17--14:35: _Trump touts the ‘ul...
- 05/23/17--14:47: _5 overlooked politi...
- 05/23/17--15:10: _Helping animals wal...
- 05/23/17--15:15: _Trump budget promot...
- 05/23/17--15:20: _What to expect when...
- 05/23/17--15:25: _Short on specifics,...
- 05/23/17--15:30: _Debating the impact...
- 05/23/17--15:35: _Former CIA director...
- 05/23/17--15:40: _Why stopping terror...
- 05/23/17--15:45: _News Wrap: Nuclear ...
- 05/23/17--15:50: _UK raises terror-th...
- 05/23/17--15:55: _Everything we know ...
- 05/23/17--16:42: _After Flynn turns d...
- 05/23/17--16:54: _Lawmakers demand do...
- 05/23/17--18:29: _What Trump’s budget...
- 05/24/17--14:13: _CBO verdict: 51 mil...
- 05/24/17--15:05: _At Moogfest, the mu...
- 05/24/17--15:10: _How a baseless cons...
- 05/24/17--15:12: _Al Vecchione, first...
- 05/22/17--18:27: Trump’s proposed $4.1 trillion budget eyes deep domestic cuts
- Medicaid would be reduced by more than $600 billion over 10 years by capping payments to states and giving governors more flexibility to manage their rosters of Medicaid recipients. Those cuts are paired with the repeal of Obamacare’s expansion of the program to 14 million people and amount to, by decade’s end, an almost 25 percent cut from present projections.
- A 10-year, $191 billion reduction in food stamps — almost 30 percent — goes far, far beyond prior proposals by congressional Republicans. The program serves about 42 million people.
- 05/23/17--14:47: 5 overlooked politics stories that are worth your time
- Ad War Means Local TV Stations Win Big In Georgia’s Special Election — 5/21. Atlanta television stations add more programming to keep up with the ads leading up to June’s special election. — NPR
- Arrests on civil immigration charges go up 38 percent in the first 100 days since Trump’s executive order — 5/17. ICE have arrests dramatically increased. — LA Times
- ‘Kris Kobach Came After Me for an Honest Mistake’ — 5/21. The Kansas Secretary of State is leading the White House’s committee looking into voter fraud. — Politico
- Montana Special Election Brings Special Challenges For Voter Access — 5/18. Montanans vote for their sole representative in the House on Thursday, but some may face challenges casting their ballot. — Montana Public Radio
- With NAFTA on table, Canadians tout cross-border trade — 5/19. As President Trump considers renegotiating NAFTA, Companies on both sides of the Buffalo/Ontario border consider how it will affect business. — The Buffalo News
- 05/23/17--15:10: Helping animals walk again is this man’s passion
- 05/23/17--15:20: What to expect when President Trump meets Pope Francis
- 05/23/17--15:30: Debating the impact of Trump’s stark budget departure
- 05/23/17--15:40: Why stopping terror attacks against soft targets is so hard
- 05/23/17--15:50: UK raises terror-threat level as Manchester mourns attack
- 05/23/17--15:55: Everything we know about the Manchester attack
- Police confirmed that 22 people were killed in the explosion at the end of an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena.
- The bombing occurred around 10:33 p.m. local time, prompting panic among the concertgoers, many young, who were exiting the venue.
- Twelve of the 59 injured in the attack were children under the age of 16, a UK ambulance official told the Associated Press.
- In a brief update Tuesday, Chief Constable Ian Hopkins of the Greater Manchester Police confirmed the identity of the suspect as 22-year-old Salman Ramadan Abedi. The constable did not provide many other details, but did caution that a coroner hadn’t officially identified the bomber. Abedi reportedly died in the explosion.
- It’s not clear whether the suspect acted alone or as part of a larger network, the constable added.
- A law enforcement official, speaking anonymously to The New York Times, said Abedi was the son of Libyan immigrants, born in 1994 in Britain. The official also told the Times that Abedi’s ID was found at the scene.
- Authorities said they arrested a 23-year-old in South Manchester as part of its ongoing investigation, but it’s not clear if the individual is connected to the explosion.
- The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, but U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Tuesday that the U.S. government has yet to confirm this detail.
- President Donald Trump, speaking after a meeting with Palestine’s Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the attack Tuesday, saying that “this wicked ideology must be obliterated, and I mean completely obliterated and innocent life must be protected.”
- On Twitter, the president said “we stand in absolute solidarity with the people of the United Kingdom.”
- In a televised speech Tuesday, May addressed the Manchester attack, saying that, “All acts of terrorism are cowardly attacks on innocent people, but this attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice, deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives.”
- The Queen issued a statement that called the attack an “act of barbarity.” She offered her “deepest sympathy” to those affected and thanked the emergency crews for their response.
- British Prime Minister Theresa May said the UK was raising its terror threat level from severe to critical, believing that another attack was imminent, AP reported.
- This meant an increased law enforcement presence at “big events,” such as football matches and concerts, she said.
- In a statement Monday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said there was no evidence to indicate a specific threat to the U.S. “However, the public may experience increased security in and around public places and events as officials take additional precautions,” it said.
- 05/23/17--18:29: What Trump’s budget proposal means for science, health and tech
- 05/24/17--15:05: At Moogfest, the music revolution will be synthesized
- 05/24/17--15:10: How a baseless conspiracy theory grew around Seth Rich’s murder
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s proposed $4.1 trillion budget slashes safety net programs for the poor, targeting food stamps and Medicaid, while relying on rosy projections about the nation’s economic growth to balance the budget within 10 years.
The cuts are part of a budget blueprint for the upcoming fiscal year that amount to a dramatic restructuring of the government, with protection for retirement programs for the elderly, billions of dollars more for the military and the rest of the government bearing the bulk of the reductions.
The plan was outlined in White House summary documents. It will be officially released on Tuesday.
The politically perilous cuts to Medicaid, the federal-state health care for the poor and disabled; college loans, food stamps and federal employee pension benefits guarantee Trump’s budget won’t go far in Congress, even though Republicans control both the House and Senate. Those cuts follow a partial plan from March that targeted domestic agency operations and foreign aid that were quickly dismissed by lawmakers.
“I just think it’s the prerogative of Congress to make those decisions in consultation with the president,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said as he predicted the Medicaid cuts wouldn’t survive the Senate. “But almost every president’s budget proposal that I know of is basically dead on arrival.”
The plan cuts almost $3.6 trillion from an array of benefit programs and domestic agencies over the coming decade. It assumes Republicans will repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law, known as “Obamacare,” while reducing Medicaid, eliminating student loan subsidies, sharply slashing food stamps and cutting $95 billion in the program for highway funds for the states.
“We need people to go to work,” White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters Monday. “If you are on food stamps, we need you to go to work. If you are on disability and you should not be, we need you to go back to work.”
The budget plan reflects the small-government views of Mulvaney, a former tea party congressman; Trump has so far displayed little interest in budget issues and the plan is being released while the president is on his first overseas trip.
Trump’s plan promises that overhauling the tax code and easing regulations will lift economic growth from the lackluster 2.1 percent average rate of recent years to sustained annual gains of 3 percent or better. Higher growth means lower deficits and Trump’s plan folds in more than $2 trillion in unspecified deficit savings over the coming decade from “economic feedback” to promise balance.
Without the juiced-up growth projections, Trump’s plan would be almost $500 billion in the red instead of sporting a small surplus in 2027, the target year.
Trump would keep campaign pledges to leave core Medicare and Social Security benefits for the elderly alone. His cuts to domestic agencies budgets approved by lawmakers each year would be redirected to the Pentagon. He promises a new parental leave program championed by his daughter Ivanka, but will fall short on his promises for a massive tax cut.
Among the cuts:
The budget lands as Trump’s GOP allies in Congress are grappling with repealing and replacing Obama’s health care law and looking ahead to a difficult rewrite of the loophole-clogged tax code. Trying to balance the budget isn’t in the plan in Congress, but conservative Republicans are pushing for some action this year on spending cuts.
That includes cuts to pensions for federal workers and higher contributions toward those pension benefits, as well as cuts to refundable tax credits paid to the working poor.
On taxes, Trump promises an overhaul that would cut tax rates but rely on erasing tax breaks and economic growth to avoid adding to the deficit. It would create three tax brackets — 10 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent — instead of the current seven.
PBS NewsHour’s Lisa Desjardins gives Judy Woodruff a budget preview.
The budget adds details to the earlier blueprint, which proposed a $54 billion, 10 percent increase for the military above an existing cap on Pentagon spending, financed by an equal cut to nondefense programs, which meant slashing medical research and foreign aid. Law enforcement and border security would get increases, however.
At least one Cabinet-level official, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, said Monday he would work with Congress to ensure money for the 17 national laboratories and other projects.
During a tour of Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee, Perry said he has “not been in the job long enough to go through the budget line item by line item.”
But Perry, who once called for the abolition of the department, has become an outspoken proponent of the department’s importance, particularly the national labs.
“Hopefully we will be able make that argument to our friends in Congress that what DOE is involved with plays a vital role, not only in the security of America but the economic well-being of the country as we go forward,” Perry said.
Associated Press writers Erik Schelzig in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.
The post Trump’s proposed $4.1 trillion budget eyes deep domestic cuts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
In his four-day tour of the Middle East, President Donald Trump touted the “ultimate” peace deal.
The real question is: What kind of deal will that be?
Trump made personal pleas to both sides of the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the first leg of his overseas trip, which took him to both Saudi Arabia and Israel and the West Bank.
But he was short on specifics, Daniel Estrin, NPR’s Jerusalem correspondent, told PBS NewsHour’s John Yang in an interview this week.
Watch Yang’s full interview with Estrin in the player above.
“He did not want to wade into any thorny issues,” Estrin said, noting the president did not reference controversial issues like Israeli settlements or his campaign promise to move U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Trump also did not speak about a two-state solution, something that was once a part of the Republican Party’s platform but the president has yet to endorse.
Trump received a warm reception from both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a reflection of how “both sides want to be in Trump’s favor right now.”
“There’s a new guy in the White House,” Estrin said. What we saw in this visit is a feeling that “it behooves them to welcome [Trump] and to make him feel happy.”
Still, “there’s a lot of cynicism” about Trump’s ability to finally broker a peace agreement.
“Clinton tried, Bush tried, Obama tried. They all failed at bringing peace. So many people I spoke to here … said ‘why should Trump be any different?’” Estrin said.
Some have also wondered whether Abbas, now a highly unpopular leader, has the ability to unite his people behind a deal Trump proposes, Estrin said.
The post Trump touts the ‘ultimate’ peace deal in the Middle East. But what kind of deal will that be? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
The 24-hour news cycle is filled with politics coverage, but not everything gets the attention it deserves. Here are five politics stories you may have missed in the past week.
The post 5 overlooked politics stories that are worth your time appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Now to our NewsHour Shares, something that caught our eye, that may be of interest to you, too.
Disabled animals sometimes need a helping hand in order to walk again. One Virginia man dedicated his life to making sure they get that much-needed leg up.
The NewsHour’s Julia Griffin explains.
JULIA GRIFFIN: That hum of machinery filling this Northern Virginia workshop means Derrick Campana is hard at work.
DERRICK CAMPANA, CEO, Animal Ortho Care: This is one of the more final steps in the fabrication process.
JULIA GRIFFIN: What he and his team are fabricating are artificial limbs, not for humans, like many orthotists, but for equally rewarding patients.
Campana is the one of the world’s go-to experts for animal braces and prosthetics, a passion that started more than 12 years ago.
DERRICK CAMPANA: A veterinarian came to my office, and she brought a dog that needed a prosthesis. And, at the time, it was so strange to me that someone would even do that.
And I gave it a shot, and it was successful. So, a light bulb went off and I said, oh, let’s start a business. I’m sure there’s tons of animals in need out there.
JULIA GRIFFIN: Animals like Angel Marie, a pony whose front legs were crushed at birth.
Owner Lennie Green:
LENNIE GREEN, Angel Marie’s Owner: Kids just love her to death, and she loves kids. So it’s really a great thing. The prosthetics, if it wasn’t for that, she would have never made it.
JULIA GRIFFIN: But there’s also been goats, rams, and even two elephants in Thailand.
DERRICK CAMPANA: So, there’s Mosha and Motala. And they both lost their legs due to land mines. They have had prosthetic devices, but they wanted an updated one because they are using different materials than we would use over here. So we’re able to help create those new prosthetics for them.
JULIA GRIFFIN: Exotic animals aside, Campana estimates 90 percent of the more than 10,000 patients he’s treated are man’s best friend.
DERRICK CAMPANA: We love the stories where, every morning, the dog will bring the device to the owner’s feet and say, hey, it’s time to get up and walk and be a dog again.
JULIA GRIFFIN: Derby is one of his most famous.
DERRICK CAMPANA: Derby is one of those congenital cases, birth defect. We were able to 3-D-scan the legs and design these legs in 3-D upon these positive molds and build these three-dimensional plastic prostheses with a 3-D printer.
JULIA GRIFFIN: He can’t help every patient, Campana is glad prosthetics can be an alternative to costly surgeries or putting an animal down.
DERRICK CAMPANA: Seeing those dogs walk again, and their tails wag, and their eyes glitter again, and it’s just the best feeling in the world. And it’s a job I will do until I die.
JULIA GRIFFIN: Well, there you go, Fido.
Actually, for the record, that dog’s name is Kenna.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Julia Griffin in Sterling, Virginia.
HARI SREENIVASAN: As we discussed before, the Trump administration’s budget proposes major cuts to a number of federal agencies and initiatives.
We wanted to take a deeper look at the proposed cuts with regards to education and a push for expanding school choice with some of those dollars.
William Brangham has that story, which is part of our weekly series Making the Grade.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The administration’s budget proposes roughly $9 billion in cuts to various federal education programs. That’s about a 13 percent reduction. A billion from those cuts would be rerouted to advance school choice, where parents can take public school funds and spend it on any school they choose.
Secretary of Education of Betsy DeVos praised that idea in a speech yesterday.
BETSY DEVOS, U.S. Education Secretary: We must offer the widest number of quality options to every family and every child. Empowering parents with choices is how to give students second, third or fourth chances before it’s too late.
Even the most expensive, state-of-the-art, high-performing school will not be the perfect fit for every single child. Parents know or they can figure out what learning environment is best for their child.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For more on what this all means for students nationwide, I’m joined now by Anya Kamenetz. She’s an education reporter for NPR and the author of several books on the future of education.
Anya, welcome to the “NewsHour.”
Let’s talk about — before we get to the broader issue of the budget, let’s talk about school choice. This has obviously been a huge issue for Secretary DeVos, one that she has championed for many, many years.
Remind us what school choice means and what this budget does with regard to school choice.
ANYA KAMENETZ, NPR: So, school choice is a catch-all term. It can mean sending students to charter schools, which are alternative public schools, or using vouchers to send them to private schools, or even using vouchers for homeschooling or online and virtual schools.
And all of those are embraced by Secretary DeVos. The budget proposal that we’re seeing promotes choice in a lot of different ways. So there’s more money in it for states to expand charter programs. There is money for states that want to give poor students open enrollment and the chances to leave their low-performing schools for other schools within the district, as well as money for voucher programs, which, again, promote private schools.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And school choice obviously is a very controversial topic. Critics of it think of it as a way of draining money away from public schools and putting them into private or religious schools.
What does the data tell us on how good these schools are? What does school choice do for kids?
ANYA KAMENETZ: Well, as you mentioned, this is a really contentious issue, and there is kind of a moving target. There’s a lot of different arguments for, against and around school choice.
But, recently, in looking at the research, I think one thing that we can say is that there do seem to be positive competition effects. In other words, public schools perk up when there’s a new sheriff in town.
On the other hand, when you talk about students, especially poor students, leaving their schools and going out to schools of choice, charter schools, private schools, there is controversy there. In some cases, they may do a little bit better. In other cases, in fact, they do worse.
And some of the most recent studies on voucher programs in particular in Louisiana, in Ohio and in Washington, D.C., have shown declines in performance when students leave for private schools. And that’s really notable, because, when you look at education research, a lot of times, there’s no effect, sometimes, there’s positive effects, but to find a negative effect is a little bit unusual.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, let’s go back to this larger issue of the budget itself, $9 billion in cuts.
A lot of these will fall on higher education in particular. Can you tell us about those cuts?
ANYA KAMENETZ: Absolutely.
So, the biggest item here is an end to subsidized student loans. Right now, there’s two student loan programs for subsidized loans. If you qualify, for undergraduates, the government picks up your interest while you’re in school. And that would be going away under this plan.
The second really significant cut is in the loan repayment program called public service loan forgiveness. And that is for teachers, doctors, firefighters, police officers, people engaged in nonprofits and government work. They were supposed to have their loans forgiven after 10 years of service. And this program’s only 10 years old. So if you’re following along, the repayment was supposed to start this October.
And all — upwards of half-a-million people are enrolled in this program. If it goes away, it would be a big panic for a lot of people.
On top of that, there’s cuts to a number of different programs. There’s flat funding for Pell. I think a small program that might be going away would be child care for college students. And that’s significant for working students who we see at many of our community colleges, for example.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Obviously, this is just the president’s proposal, and Congress still has to weigh in on this. How likely do you think it is that this budget will remain intact going through Congress?
ANYA KAMENETZ: I mean, I’m sure you have got a lot of people giving this a negative handicap.
On the K-12 side, there’s broad bipartisan support for a lot of these proposals that are under the gun here in. In higher ed, some of these cuts could be made with budget reconciliation without any Democratic votes, so that may be a little bit of a brighter future for those proposals, if indeed we do see any legislation passing through in the next few months.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Anya Kamenetz of National Public Radio, thank you.
ANYA KAMENETZ: Thank you.
The post Trump budget promotes school choice while cutting student loan programs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
HARI SREENIVASAN: As John just reported, the president landed this evening in Rome, ahead of an audience tomorrow morning with Pope Francis.
Though it is the first meeting between the leaders, they are quite familiar with each other’s opposing views on some major global issues.
Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant is in Rome for us, and sent us this preview.
MALCOLM BRABANT: After the Manchester bomb attack, Italy’s security status remains the same, on high alert. The Vatican is always well-protected, but it’s locked down tighter than usual for the duration of President Trump’s meeting with the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
Despite the gulf separating them in terms of personality and policies, Pope Francis insists he has an open mind.
POPE FRANCIS, Leader of Catholic Church (through interpreter): I never make a judgment about a person without listening to them. I don’t think I should do that.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Massimo Franco, a Vatican expert with Italy’s most respected newspaper, says that President Trump instigated the meeting and has the most to gain.
MASSIMO FRANCO, Corriere della Sera: This meeting is more important for Trump than for the pope, because Trump presently is very weak internally, so he needs a more international reach.
MALCOLM BRABANT: International relations specialist Professor Irene Caratelli goes further.
IRENE CARATELLI, International Relations Specialist: It’s about legitimacy, so he’s looking for a sort of blessing from the pope. He wants to be recognized by all the different figures of the world.
MALCOLM BRABANT: But Father John Wauck, an American speechwriter before he was ordained, says there’s a mutual benefit.
REV. JOHN WAUCK, Catholic Church: The Catholic Church is always interested in its relations with the United States, given the importance of the U.S. on the international political scene, largely because there’s an enormous number of issues in which the Catholic Church can cooperate.
MALCOLM BRABANT: But one potential stumbling block is the history of sharp criticism over a major Trump election pledge.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We must restore integrity and the rule of law at our borders.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: For that reason, we will soon begin the construction of a great, great wall along our southern border.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
POPE FRANCIS (through interpreter): A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges is not Christian.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.
MALCOLM BRABANT: This biography of Pope Francis by veteran Vatican correspondent David Willey portrays the pontiff as a frugal man who abstains from the luxurious trappings of office and tries to maintain contact with the poor, especially refugees.
Last year, after visiting the Greek island of Lesbos, he brought three Syrian families back to Rome.
DAVID WILLEY, Author, “The Promise of Francis”: The pope is very concerned with the situation of refugees all over the world. I don’t think the pope will hesitate to say exactly what he thinks about controversial subjects, particularly about, for example, President Trump’s plan to deport many hundreds of thousands, if not millions of illegal migrants in the United States.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Today, at the Vatican, the pope condemned the barbarity of the terrorist bomb in Manchester. The attack may affect the issues under discussion.
MASSIMO FRANCO: Trump and the pope are against terrorism, of course, but I think that the approach of the pope is more on the causes, on the source of Islamic terrorism. The pope tends to say that it is not Islamic terrorism, but it is terrorists motivated falsely with religious reasons.
REV. JOHN WAUCK: Donald Trump’s statements recently in Saudi Arabia, I think, made him sound quite a bit more like the pope, in other words, emphasizing that this is not a battle between one religion and another, and stressing the need for peace and all. So I think there’s going to be some common ground there. Certainly, there will be common ground on things like human trafficking, maybe less so on the questions of climate change, if that comes up.
MALCOLM BRABANT: According to veteran Vatican watchers, one of the key factors in determining whether or not this meeting has been a success will be its duration. If the meeting ends after about 15 minutes or so, that will be a bad sign, because, they say, it will suggest that Pope Francis has cut the meeting short.
But the experts believe there are strong reasons to lay foundations for the future.
IRENE CARATELLI: I think that Pope Francis is going to meet President Trump, knowing he has the possibility to influence someone who can change history.
DAVID WILLEY: I think that both of them are canny people who realize the advantages of a face-to-face meeting and will — both of them will be absolutely fascinated to see each other in the flesh for the first time.
MALCOLM BRABANT: Most experts doubt that President Trump will change his views substantially in Rome, but they think at least the two men will have a new understanding of each other.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Malcolm Brabant in Rome.
The post What to expect when President Trump meets Pope Francis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The president continued his lengthy overseas trip today, ending his stay in Israel and a visit to the West Bank. It was the end of four days in the Middle East, after a packed schedule that included summits, elaborate dinners, and high-stakes meetings.
John Yang reports.
JOHN YANG: President Trump crossed the imposing security wall separating Israel and the West Bank to meet with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, part of Mr. Trump’s quest to jump-start long-dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I intend to do everything I can to help them achieve that goal. President Abbas assures me he is ready to work toward that goal in good faith, and Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised the same.
JOHN YANG: Abbas outlined what’s called the two-state solution, a Palestinian homeland on the territory that Israel seized 50 years ago in the Six-Day War.
PRESIDENT MAHMOUD ABBAS, Palestinian Authority (through interpreter): Our fundamental problem is with the occupation and settlements, and failure of Israel to recognize the state of Palestine, in the same way we recognize it. It undermines the realization of a two-state solution. The problem is not between us and Judaism. It’s between us and occupation.
JOHN YANG: Later, speaking in Jerusalem, Mr. Trump acknowledged there would be hurdles.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Both sides will face tough decisions. But with determination, compromise and the belief that peace is possible, Israelis and Palestinians can make a deal.
JOHN YANG: Missing from Mr. Trump’s comments? An explicit endorsement of a two-state solution, which has been U.S. policy for more than a quarter-century.
Daniel Estrin is Jerusalem correspondent for NPR News.
DANIEL ESTRIN, NPR: He spoke a lot about peace, but he was very short on specifics. And that was very emblematic of his whole trip here. He didn’t want to wade into any thorny issues.
He didn’t talk about a two-state solution. He didn’t talk about Israeli assessments in the West Bank, where Palestinians want to build a Palestinian state. He didn’t talk about the U.S. Embassy. This trip was much more about smiles. It was much more about relationship-building.
JOHN YANG: Do you see much reason for optimism that President Trump is going to get these talks, this peace process going again?
DANIEL ESTRIN: Clinton tried. Bush tried. Obama tried. They all failed at bringing peace. And so many people I spoke to here, Israelis and Palestinians, said, why should Trump be any different?
I even met a Palestinian woman yesterday who said she read Trump’s book “How to Get Rich.” She admired Trump’s business success, but she said, that doesn’t translate into making someone a peacemaker.
So, while there is that cynicism, there are also people on both sides who think that actually Trump perhaps might be the one to seal the deal.
JOHN YANG: On the last day of his Israel stop, Mr. Trump visited Yad Vashem, the nation’s Holocaust memorial.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Words can never describe the bottomless depths of that evil or the scope of the anguish and destruction. It was history’s darkest hour.
JOHN YANG: He signed the guest book: “It is a great honor to be here with all of my friends. So amazing, and will never forget.”
Mr. Trump’s whirlwind tour of one of the Middle East’s most intractable problems ended with a departure ceremony.
Tonight, the president is in Rome, where, tomorrow, he is to meet Pope Francis.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Yang.
The post Short on specifics, Trump expresses optimism that Israelis and Palestinians ‘can make a deal’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
HARI SREENIVASAN: But first: While President Trump continues his trip abroad, here in Washington, the White House was busy unveiling the administration’s first budget.
Our Lisa Desjardins has more.
LISA DESJARDINS: Delivered this morning, this is the first full proposal from President Trump to Congress: a $4.1 trillion budget plan the White House says puts taxpayers first.
It also puts the budget in balance in 10 years, without touching Social Security retirement funds or Medicare.
MICK MULVANEY, White House Budget Director: They are all, all campaign promises that the president made while he was running for office. That’s why I say these numbers are simply the president’s policies put onto paper.
LISA DESJARDINS: The president also promised to not cut Medicaid, the health program largely for the poor. But this budget would dramatically cut the growth in Medicaid spending by some $610 billion. That’s on top of the $800 billion reduction in the GOP’s American Health Care Act.
It would also cut $192 billion from SNAP, also known as food stamps, and ask states to pay more for that program. And it would mean $72 billion less for Social Security disability insurance.
The White House believes there is wide abuse of such programs by people who should be supporting themselves and the economy.
MICK MULVANEY: We are not kicking anybody off of any program who really needs it. That’s not — we have plenty of money in this country to take care of the people who need help, OK? And we will do that. We don’t have enough money to take care of people, everybody, who doesn’t need help.
LISA DESJARDINS: Democrats see it very differently.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, I-Vt.: This is a budget that is immoral, and that will cause an enormous amount of pain for the most vulnerable people in our nation. This is a budget that will be rejected by the American people and must not see the light of day here in Congress.
LISA DESJARDINS: The Trump budget also would dramatically shift other spending, too. Currently, defense programs and non-defense programs are nearly even in spending.
Next year, the Trump budget would boost the military spending 10 percent, by $54 billion, and it would cut $54 billion from non-defense. The White House points that it would use the savings for things like $19 billion for a new paid parental leave program.
Today, Republicans in Congress, who ultimately control the spending, thanked the president, but didn’t endorse his plan.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky., Majority Leader: Well, look, the president’s budget, as we all know, is a recommendation. Every president since I have been here — and that covers a good period of time — has made a recommendation, and then we decide what we’re going to do with those recommendations.
LISA DESJARDINS: A recommendation that is this president’s fullest expression yet of how he wants the government to change.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Lisa Desjardins.
HARI SREENIVASAN: There’s no doubt that this budget proposal is the sharpest departure with past plans in at least a generation.
We look at the potential impacts, and the reasoning behind it, with Jared Bernstein. He is an economist who served in the Obama administration. He’s now a fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. And Chris Edwards, he is a budget expert at the Cato Institute, a libertarian research organization here in Washington.
Jared, let me start with you.
In your opinion, what’s wrong with this budget?
JARED BERNSTEIN, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: This is a budget that solves the following problem that seems to really be vexing Republicans, which is that poor people have too much in this country, and rich people don’t have enough.
And if you simply look out at the landscape of American inequality, of the kinds of wage and income stagnation that the poor face, and the very effective anti-poverty programs that have helped to kind of push back against those market inequalities, this is a budget that goes just in the wrong direction at 100 miles an hour.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Chris Edwards?
CHRIS EDWARDS, Cato Institute: Yes, I think there is a lot I like about the budget.
For one thing, it takes the deficit problem seriously. We have a $600 billion deficit. It’s rising to a trillion in a number of years if we don’t do anything about it. The federal debt doubled under the last president. Trump is doing something serious about that. He’s putting his spending cuts that he wants to see on the table.
He would reduce the deficit to zero over 10 years. And if Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill — they should take the deficit seriously too, and they should propose their own plans to deal with it.
JARED BERNSTEIN: So, if you believe the accounting in this budget, as Chris has just recounted, I have got a bridge to sell you in New York.
Here’s probably the most egregious part of the phony accounting in here. The budget will cut taxes, again, for the wealthy, remember, transferring low-income programs to wealthy people, to the tune of trillions of dollars, but it doesn’t count the revenue losses in its budget accounting. So, somehow, magically, those bucks just appear.
Also, there’s a phony assumption of a growth rate of 3 percent. The trend growth rate in the economy is 2 percent. If you pretend you’re going to get 3 percent, you can get $2 trillion more revenue, but no credible economist believes that fairy dust.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Go ahead.
CHRIS EDWARDS: I agree that there is some smoke and mirrors in this budget, as there usually is in presidential budgets.
But there is a lot of serious policy issues being pushed here. One is the idea of federalism, to move more of the costs of Medicaid and food stamps and some other programs back to the states.
So, you know, for example, if New York wants a bigger Medicaid or food stamp program, they can do that. If Texas wants a smaller one, they can fund that. So, that’s a serious policy issue we ought to be discussing.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Chris, you’re absolutely right that every president comes out with their optimistic vision for it. But I think a lot of the concerns, even from conservatives, today is that this 3 percent number seems incredibly not just optimistic, but almost fantastic.
I mean, we have got President Reagan’s budget director saying it would require 206 months of no recession, which has never seen in U.S. history. We have got the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, who are not liberals, by any stretch. They’re fairly hawkish of the budget. They have called this extremely unrealistic and they have said it’s a combination of — it needs a combination of good policy and good luck.
CHRIS EDWARDS: I agree the 3 percent growth number is pretty aggressive.
But the president has since the day he’s been in office been cutting regulations and he’s pushing a major tax reform plan that would boost growth in the economy. No one knows exactly how much, I think, additionally the economy will grow if we make the economy more efficient.
But I’m glad he’s pushing in that direction. And, you know, it’s a good start. There are serious reforms here.
JARED BERNSTEIN: So, that’s the trickle-down, kind of fairy dust story that conservatives have been trying to tell for decades now, and it’s never worked.
It shouldn’t be put forth as, here’s an experiment we’re going to try to see what happens. And, in fact, in real time, this is being tried in Kansas, where they kind of bought this trickle-down stuff, cut a bunch of taxes. And they’re — not only are they having lousy economic outcomes, but their budget is doing terribly, and they’re having to cut all kinds of vital services.
And that’s where I take so much issue with this budget. Our low-income programs are effective, efficient. They’re pushing back on poverty of our most vulnerable people. This is kind of an ain’t broke, don’t fix it moment for those things.
But instead of accepting that, the budget takes over $3 trillion away from these programs and gives it to the wealthy in regressive tax cuts, which, frankly, they don’t need.
CHRIS EDWARDS: I won’t say that — that’s not right, that they’re — they’re proposing a budget-neutral, a deficit-neutral tax reform plan. They haven’t specified it yet, but that’s what they’re aiming for.
So, it’s not like they’re doing these cuts, and it’s going to wealthy people at all. A lot of the cuts, they’re saying states should make up the difference if they want. And to say that the tax cut idea is a wild one is not true.
The centerpiece is a corporate tax cut. President Obama favored a corporate tax cut. He didn’t get around to doing it. Trump is putting that front and center.
JARED BERNSTEIN: So, let me make a quick proposal here.
Chris just said that this is going to be a revenue-neutral plan. That’s the way the Bush — that’s the way the Trump team scores it. And we know that’s phony accounting.
I say we come back here after there’s an official score by the CBO, by the JCT, the groups that score this without a thumb on the scale, and it’s going to show seas of red ink. So, I would really like to put your foot to the fire on that.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, when you look at the budget, now, let’s say you look up food stamps, the SNAP program, and it says — there’s a quote there. It says “close eligibility loopholes, target benefits to the neediest households, and require able-bodied adults to work.”
That sounds fair enough. What’s wrong with that?
JARED BERNSTEIN: Well, first of all, there already are work requirements within the food stamp, or SNAP, program.
And, in fact, almost 90 percent of people on SNAP who are able-bodied and have kids are connected to the job market, are working or trying to work. So I think it’s a non-solution to a non-problem.
Again, this is a program that provides nutritional support — $1.40 per person per meal, that is what SNAP affords you. Now, if you want to look out at America and say, boy, that’s the problem that is holding us back, and so we have to cut that to give reach people more tax cuts, you and I have a lot to argue about it.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Chris, what about the underlying demographic shift, right? I mean, millennials are just not replacing the number of baby boomers that are retiring.
How are you ever going to have labor force at the levels in the ’90s that it requires to increase the productivity and get us back to the sort of optimistic vision this budget lays out?
CHRIS EDWARDS: I agree that’s a big problem. And I think the budgets helps tackle that.
So, for example, with a lot of the welfare reforms, the budget director, Mulvaney wants — he’s saying he wants to get people back in the work force. And a good example here is the Social Security disability insurance program.
The program, they are going to be doing a lot of reforms to try to urge people back into the work force. There are probably millions of people who have moderate disabilities who can and want to be back in the work force, but the current disability program disincentivizes them.
It encourages them to stay out of the work force. So, I think, if we can make some of these reforms, get people back to the work force, that would boost growth.
HARI SREENIVASAN: I’m sorry. Unfortunately, we’re out of time.
Chris Edwards, Jared Bernstein, thank you both.
CHRIS EDWARDS: Thank you.
JARED BERNSTEIN: Thank you.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The issue of Russian interference in last year’s election, and what the Trump campaign knew or didn’t know about it, was front and center on Capitol Hill again today.
Two of the nation’s top intelligence officials and a former CIA director all testified.
Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner has our report.
MARGARET WARNER: Top intelligence chiefs, past and present, were the featured attractions on Capitol Hill today.
Former CIA Director John Brennan went spoke at a House Intelligence Committee hearing, part of its ongoing investigation into how Russia meddled in the U.S. election.
JOHN BRENNAN, Former CIA Director: It should be clear to everyone that Russia brazenly interfered in our 2016 presidential election process and that they undertook these activities despite our strong protests and explicit warning that they not do so.
MARGARET WARNER: Separately, the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, spoke at a Senate Armed Services Committee on worldwide threats.
His appearance coincided with a Washington Post reported that President Trump had asked Coats and Admiral Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, to — quote — “help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government.”
The Post says both men deemed the request inappropriate and refused to comply. Coats would not discuss the matter today.
DAN COATS, U.S. National Intelligence Director: On this topic, as well as other topics, I don’t feel it’s appropriate to characterize discussions and conversations with the president.
MARGARET WARNER: On the broader issue of Russia’s foreign election activity, DNI Coats said he’s seen evidence of Moscow meddling in campaigns this year in France, Germany and the U.K.
Discussing last year’s U.S. election, ex-CIA Chief Brennan said he had worried about the contacts that U.S. intelligence detected Russian officials were having with Trump associates.
JOHN BRENNAN: I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals.
REP. TREY GOWDY, R-S.C.: It’s a really simple question.
MARGARET WARNER: Brennan was pressed by Republican Trey Gowdy of South Carolina on whether actual collusion took place.
JOHN BRENNAN: I don’t know whether or not such collusion — and that’s your term — such collusion existed. I don’t know.
But I know that there was a sufficient basis of information and intelligence that required further investigation by the bureau to determine whether or not U.S. persons were actively conspiring, colluding with Russian officials.
MARGARET WARNER: Brennan also added an ominous warning.
JOHN BRENNAN: The Russians are watching very carefully what’s going on in Washington right now, and they will try to exploit it for their own purposes.
MARGARET WARNER: Late last year, the Obama administration ordered sanctions on Russian spy agencies over the election meddling. Two Russian compounds outside Washington were closed, and 35 diplomats were expelled.
The Washington Post reported that then Trump adviser Michael Flynn urged the Russian ambassador not to overreact. And, in fact, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow wouldn’t retaliate, a move Mr. Trump hailed.
But in a tweet today, the Russian Embassy, unless its diplomatic property is returned, Russia will — quote — “have to take countermeasures.”
Meanwhile, questions continue about the president’s reported sharing of classified information with Russian diplomats in the Oval Office meeting two weeks ago. Dan Coats said today he has not discussed the issue with the president. Brennan said, if such information is to be shared, it’s typically done through intelligence channels, not spontaneously to visiting officials.
For its part, the White House said today’s hearings prove — quote — “There is still no evidence of any Russia-Trump campaign collusion.”
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Margaret Warner.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: As Manchester mourns and British military steps in to help with security, we turn now to what the attack says about the capabilities of terrorist groups.
For that, I’m joined by Michael Leiter. He was the director of the National Counterterrorism Center from 2007 to 2011 during both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. And Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, research director of the Program on Extremism at the George Washington University.
Michael Leiter, I want to start with you.
The British intelligence agencies seem a little concerned that the name of the bomber was leaked by U.S. officials hours before British authorities made that public. Is that significant?
MICHAEL LEITER, Former Director, National Counterterrorism Center: I think it is, Hari.
As an investigator, you really don’t want to release information until you have a purpose in doing so. And as the British were clearly investigating other elements of this attack, or at least trying to determine whether there were additional people involved or potential follow-on attacks, it makes good sense that those investigators might want to keep that name behind the green curtain until they found use in disclosing it.
So, it’s unfortunate that information was disclosed, but, unfortunately, in this era of 24-hour news, keeping these investigations classified is obviously a challenge on both sides of the Atlantic.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, you have studied jihadist groups in the U.K. and elsewhere. Are you surprised by this?
ALEXANDER MELEAGROU-HITCHENS, George Washington University: Unfortunately not.
This kind of thing has been coming for some time. I suppose the main surprise is the scale of it. We also had the Westminster attack just recently. Only four or five were people killed there. So, we considered this to be kind of what to expect in the U.K., was not in mainland Europe.
The access to sort of criminal networks wasn’t quite as easy as it was in mainland Europe. But, unfortunately, the scale is, I think, the surprise.
The fact that it’s happened, not at all, because, unfortunately, we have been making arrests in the U.K. for a long, long time, stopping plots like this repeatedly. Can’t stop them all.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, Michael Leiter, as Alexander just mentioned, just two months ago, there was a stabbing attack that we all witnessed — or the aftermath that we witnessed on TV.
Is there a pattern here? It seems to have escalated from that to this.
MICHAEL LEITER: Well, I think there is clearly a pattern for ISIS throughout Western Europe. And that pattern is quite different from what we saw in the late 2000s from al-Qaida.
And I would really identify three significant changes for ISIS that are manifesting themselves again in all of Western Europe and the U.K.
First, there’s a pace and scale of radicalization that we really have not seen before, largely through the effective use of the Internet. Second, the operational approach of ISIS is so very different. Rather than large-scale attacks, they are actively pursuing and pushing people to stay where they are and attack in their homes.
And, third, the volume is simply overwhelming for security services, whether it’s the MI5 in the U.K. or the FBI here in the United States. The volume of threats that they have to face is making their jobs very difficult, and they simply can’t stay on an individual target indefinitely. And that makes them make some very difficult choices. And, unfortunately, sometimes, those choices end up not being the right ones.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, if you had to do a word association game with the word Manchester, most U.S. citizens would probably say the football club.
How did it get to be a hotbed for terrorist recruitment?
ALEXANDER MELEAGROU-HITCHENS: Well, the area that it appears the attacker, Abedi, came from is part of Southern Manchester. That is actually very near a real hub of radicalization in the U.K. called Moss Side.
It’s essentially an area, a sort of deprived area, a lot of gang activity. And what we have seen is a sort of morphing of sort of a gang culture into a jihadist culture, at least a fusing of those two cultures. And so, essentially, we have actually seen about 16 British individuals involved in some form of terrorist activity for I.S. coming from pretty much a three-mile radius.
So, whether or not this is relevant to the current investigation into Abedi is not yet clear, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw that he was somehow influenced by that wider network.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Michael Leiter, today, the prime minister escalated the threat level from severe to critical. That means it had been severe for so long.
But, unfortunately, even in the attacks around in Paris, we saw one of the attacks were outside a football stadium. Are these sort of attacks almost indefensible?
MICHAEL LEITER: To some extent, very regrettably, they are.
Counterterrorism officials can detect and disrupt some plots. And, often, defenses can be used to at least minimize what sort of casualties we have. But as we saw in this attack, as we saw in the attack in Turkey at the airport, as we saw in Brussels, the terrorists know where we have security measures, whether that’s airport screening or metal detectors entering the stadium.
And it’s not all that difficult to adjust your tactics, so you can still find large collections of individuals just outside the security perimeters. And you can push the security perimeters out some, but, ultimately, we live in open democratic societies that are not constantly policed.
So, in that sense, there will always be these soft targets, and security can only move us so far. A lot of this is going to come down to not just intelligence and defense, but engagement in these communities where we do have potential hot spots for radicalization.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And, Alexander, I want to ask you about that engagement in communities. How does this happen, that a British citizen, even he’s from Libyan descent, grows up there eating fish and chips like everybody else? What lures him into this ideology?
ALEXANDER MELEAGROU-HITCHENS: Well, one of the sort of cliches, but it is largely true, about that question — or the answer to that question is that every path to radicalization is unique.
Everyone has unique experiences that leads them to this kind of action, but there are some overarching issues. You mentioned he was a British citizen. He’s the son — he’s a second-generation British. And that is the most common target for radicalizers, because — and recruiters, because these guys, generally, they’re growing up in Britain.
They have a different culture to their parents. They don’t relate to their parents. They particularly don’t relate to their — the version of Islam their parents ascribe to.
So they are looking — they go out looking for a version that speaks to them, not culturally infused, say, in Libya or Pakistan or Bangladesh, one that speaks to them, one that talks about geopolitics, one that involves their day-to-day experiences.
And, unfortunately, jihadist sort of ideology and the jihadist version of Islam can sometimes look like the version these guys are looking for. It speaks to their day-to-day experiences.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, Michael Leiter, thank you both.
MICHAEL LEITER: Thank you, Hari.
ALEXANDER MELEAGROU-HITCHENS: Thank you.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: In the day’s other news: There’s word President Trump has retained Wall Street lawyer Marc Kasowitz in the special counsel investigation of contacts between campaign aides and the Russians. Several news organizations report that here — Kasowitz has also represented Mr. Trump in other matters over the years. He’s in the same law firm as former Senator Joe Lieberman, who is under consideration for FBI director.
The man who was running the CIA last summer says he warned Russia not to interfere in the U.S. presidential election. John Brennan testified today before the House Intelligence Committee. He said he became very worried about contacts between the Russians and people involved with the Trump campaign. We will have a full report later in the program.
The head of the Defense Intelligence Agency warned today it is inevitable North Korea will develop a nuclear missile that can reach the U.S. mainland unless something is done to prevent it. Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart spoke at a Senate hearing.
But, meanwhile, at a U.N. conference in Geneva, the U.S. traded barbs with the North, also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
JU YONG CHOL, North Korean Diplomat: The DPRK’s self-defensive measures to protect its dignity and vital rights and genuine peace from the United States’ escalating nuclear threat are the legitimate rights of a sovereign state, and they are not against any international law.
ROBERT WOOD, U.S. Special Representative to the U.N. Conference on Disarmament: The United States, as I have said many times before, is not the threat to the DPRK’s regime is the regime itself. And it needs to come into compliance with its international obligations, and it needs to do it now.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Also today, South Korea’s military said it fired warning shots at a possible drone aircraft that flew from the North and may have crossed the border.
The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, declared martial law today in the country’s south. It affects the island of Mindanao, where Muslim extremists linked to the Islamic State group have attacked Marawi, a city of some 200,000. The fighting today killed at least two soldiers, a police officer and several militants and continued into the night.
Two U.S. astronauts aboard the International Space Station were forced to make an unplanned space walk today for urgent repairs. Commander Peggy Whitson and flight engineer Jack Fischer replaced a broken data relay box that operates the station’s radiators, robotic equipment and solar panels. Whitson now ties the record for the most space walks of any American at 10. She also holds the U.S. record for the most accumulated time in space.
The U.S. government is accusing Fiat Chrysler of cheating on diesel emissions tests, just as Volkswagen did. The Justice Department filed suit today, saying the automaker used special software on more than 100,000 vehicles to get around the tests. The company denies wrongdoing.
On Wall Street, stocks managed to climb for the fourth straight session. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 43 points to close near 20938. The Nasdaq rose five points, and the S&P 500 added four.
British actor Sir Roger Moore, who played James Bond in seven films, has died after a fight with cancer. He began as Bond in 1973, but long after he moved on, his celebrity status aided him in his stint as UNICEF goodwill ambassador.
SIR ROGER MOORE, Actor: Bond certainly gives you a financial security, a notoriety. I get media and press attention because they are curious to know why an ex-James Bond is sort of working for children, which gets them in. They want to talk about Bond, but I can always get the subject back onto the children.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The actor also had a hit TV series, “The Saint,” in the 1960s. He was knighted in 2003. Roger Moore was 89 years old.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Britain is raising its terror threat level to critical, as Prime Minister Theresa May warns that another attack may be imminent. She ordered the military to deploy troops tonight, after the bombing in Manchester that killed 22 people.
Special correspondent Natalie Powell begins our coverage.
WOMAN: Oh, my God. What’s going on? What just happened?
NATALIE POWELL: The scene in Manchester last night moments after a suicide bomber blew himself up at a crowded concert. It happened at the Manchester arena, an indoor venue that seats 21,000 people.
The bomb went off in the space connecting the arena and adjacent Victoria train station. The attack set off a stampede, just as American pop star Ariana Grande had finished performing.
ANINA, Eyewitness: I was like, we need to run, so we started running. We ran straight out the doors, all the way down to the hotel, and all I could hear was screaming, people crying. Everyone was just running everywhere. It was completely madness.
SEBASTIAN DIAZ, Eyewitness: People were screaming around us and pushing down the stairs to go outside, and people were falling down. Girls were crying. And we saw these women being treated by paramedics. They had, like, open wounds on their legs, no shoes. It was just chaos.
NATALIE POWELL: This afternoon, greater Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins publicly identified the attacker as a Briton of Libyan descent.
IAN HOPKINS, Chief Constable, Greater Manchester Police: I can confirm that the man suspected of carrying out last night’s atrocity is 22-year-old Salman Abedi.
NATALIE POWELL: Hopkins also confirmed police raided two sites in Manchester and arrested a man in connection with the attack.
IAN HOPKINS: Our priority, along with the police counterterrorist network and our security partners, is to continue to establish whether he was acting alone or working as part of a wider network.
NATALIE POWELL: The Islamic State group claimed responsibility today, in a statement that said: “One of the caliphate soldiers managed to plant an explosive device in the middle of a gathering of crusaders.”
U.S. intelligence officials voiced doubts about the claim.
In London, Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the attack, the deadliest in Britain since 2005.
THERESA MAY, Prime Minister, United Kingdom: All acts of terrorism are cowardly attacks on innocent people, but this attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice, deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people, who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives.
NATALIE POWELL: May also announced that campaigning for the upcoming June 8 election has been suspended. Her opponent and leader of the Labor Party, Jeremy Corbyn, also denounced the attacks.
JEREMY CORBYN, Leader, Labour Party: This is an appalling act of violence against people and it must be totally and unreservedly and completely condemned.
NATALIE POWELL: Thousands of people turned out today for a vigil in Manchester. And at Buckingham Palace in London, Queen Elizabeth II held a minute of silence.
Condolences also came pouring in from abroad. President Trump interrupted his visit to Bethlehem today to address the attack.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We stand in absolute solidarity with the people of the United Kingdom, so many young, beautiful, innocent people living and enjoying their lives murdered by evil losers in life.
NATALIE POWELL: Newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron went to the British Embassy in Paris to express his government’s sympathy and solidarity.
PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON, France (through interpreter): What happened yesterday in Manchester showed once again that terrorists have a target, the free world, youth, and that we all have a deep common destiny in this regard.
NATALIE POWELL: Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his own message of condolences and said: “We strongly condemn this cynical, inhumane crime. We are certain its perpetrators will not escape the punishment they deserve.”
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says there is no credible threat to U.S. music venues. But it warns there may be increased security around public places and events in the days ahead.
And an increased police presence is certainly something that we have seen here on the streets of Manchester, but it’s also likely to continue, Hari, not just here in Manchester, but across the U.K., of course, with the U.K. government now increasing the terror threat level to critical at its highest level.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Natalie, we have just heard a few of the details of a couple of the victims that have come out. There have been so many victims that have been killed and injured. As more news of this is made public, what’s happening to the people on the streets there?
NATALIE POWELL: That’s right.
We now know, of course, that 22 people died in this attack, 59 people were injured. Among those fatalities, of course, we, as you have said, had the names of a number of them being released, and we are expecting more in the coming hours and days.
A 20-year-old man was among them. The first person to be released, though, the name, was an 18-year-old girl Georgina Callander. She was a student locally.
But perhaps most tragic of all, Hari, is the 8-year-old girl, the youngest so far to be pronounced dead, Saffie Rose Rousso. Now, she was attending the concert with her mother and her sister. They were both taken to separate hospitals because of their injuries. And it was only later, we understand, that they discovered of her death, of course, an 8-year-old girl, which really goes to show the tragedy here.
But, as we are expecting further names and certainly ages of these, we know that a number of them were children that perished in this attack, are likely to come out in the coming days.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, also, the role of social media. Ariana Grande has an enormous social media presence. Social media is probably one of the first ways people found out about this attack. But there were also opportunities for people to help through it.
NATALIE POWELL: Absolutely.
It was an immediate response really from Great Manchester police putting out on Twitter that an incident had occurred. But immediately after that, interestingly, people were tweeting the hashtag #openManchester, telling people that were stuck in the area — a lot of people, of course, couldn’t get home and there was sheer panic in this area — telling them to come into their own homes and they would take care of them.
It was very much similar to what we have seen in Paris during the Bataclan and the other attacks that took place with the #PorteOuverte hashtag that trended, getting people off the streets and into homes where they could be safe.
In addition to that, of course, we have also seen a huge movement to try to find many of the missing people using social media, using Twitter. And, of course, we have seen a solidarity — solidarity movement here as well, with the hashtag #peaceforManchester.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Natalie Powell joining us from Manchester, thank so much.
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A 22-year-old British man detonated a homemade bomb at Manchester Arena on Monday after an Ariana Grande concert, an act of terror that killed 22 people and injured dozens of others.
The explosion, which is currently being treated as a terrorist plot, is the deadliest attack in London since July 2005 suicide bombings in London claimed more than 50 lives.
On Tuesday night, Prime Minister Theresa May raised the country’s terrorism threat level to “critical,” suggesting “it is a possibility we cannot ignore that there is a wider group of individuals linked to this attack.”
Here’s what journalists and police have uncovered about the attack since Monday.
EXPLOSION AT MANCHESTER ARENA AND EVERYONE RAN OUT SO SCARY😭 pic.twitter.com/pJbUBoELtE
— ♡♡ (@hannawwh) May 22, 2017
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?
HOW DID LEADERS REACT?
We stand in absolute solidarity with the people of the United Kingdom. pic.twitter.com/X6fUUxxYXE
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2017
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) May 23, 2017
The Senate intelligence committee is seeking a narrower batch of documents and information from former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn than the panel initially sought in a subpoena.
That’s according to the committee’s Republican chairman, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina. Burr says the committee is “very specific” about what it’s asking in an attempt to pressure Flynn to turn over documents.
The committee is investigating Russia’s campaign meddling and possible ties to President Donald Trump’s associates.
Flynn’s attorneys had argued the request was too broad, saying if he complied, he would effectively be providing testimony that could be used against him. They made the argument Monday when Flynn invoked his Fifth Amendment protection and declined to cooperate with a May 10 subpoena.
That document had asked him to provide a wide array of records regarding his contacts with Russians and Russian business interests. The committee sent a letter to Flynn’s attorney Tuesday questioning the legal basis of his decision to invoke his Fifth Amendment right over a request for documents rather than testimony.
The Senate intelligence committee also said it will subpoena two of former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s businesses.
Committee Chairman Richard Burr says senators will wait for Flynn’s response to Tuesday’s requests before they decide the next course of action, including the possibility of a contempt of Congress citation.
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WASHINGTON — A congressional investigative panel is demanding documents and testimony from an embattled U.S. defense contractor accused of failing to promptly disclose human trafficking on a base in Iraq.
An investigation by The Associated Press this month found that Sallyport Global fired two of its investigators after they uncovered evidence of the trafficking as well as alcohol smuggling and major security violations at Balad Air Base.
In a letter to Sallyport’s Chief Executive Officer, Victor Esposito, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform ordered Sallyport to turn over an extensive list of documents and to make company representatives available to answer questions before June 9. The letter signed by the committee’s chairman, Jason Chaffetz, a Republican, and top Democrat, Elijah Cummings, cited the AP’s reporting.
“The allegations include prostitution, alcohol smuggling, timesheet fraud, concealment from Department of Defense auditors, and retaliation against employees whose duty it was to investigate these allegations,” the letter says.
Sallyport Global Holdings was paid nearly $700 million in federal contracts to secure Balad Air Base, home to a squadron of F-16 fighter jets as part of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group.
In a statement, Sallyport Chief Operating Officer Matt Stuckart said the company looked forward to speaking to the panel.
“Sallyport takes any suggestion of wrongdoing at Balad Air Force Base in Iraq very seriously and strongly disputes the claims made by two former employees,” said Matt Stuckart, Chief Operating Officer. “Since taking over operations January 2014, Sallyport has helped turn Balad Air Base into an instrumental part of the fight against ISIS.”
In their letter, the lawmakers wrote, “Protecting American troops and facilities abroad is a solemn responsibility.” They then raised concerns about the fired investigators’ charge that the company shut down their investigations.
“Making matters worse, according to the report, Sallyport management short-circuited internal investigations and fired the employees responsible for them when they requested to interview Sallyport management suspected of wrongdoing,” they wrote.
After the AP’s report, the company denied the allegation that company managers had shut down an investigation into alcohol smuggling and human trafficking. They later acknowledged that after learning that the original probe had been stopped, lawyers had asked for a second investigation into new reports of prostitution on the base.
According to the investigators’ original report in February 2016, four Ethiopian women who were suspected of working at a hotel in Baghdad as prostitutes moved to the base after customers at the hotel complained about contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Those customers included Sallyport employees, the investigators said.
The House panel is also scrutinizing allegations raised in another AP investigation that contractors have reported fraudulent data in a key military program to counter IS propaganda online.
Based in Reston, Virginia, Sallyport was founded in 2003 to work in Iraq on reconstruction, and has since expanded its operations globally.
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The White House’s full budget request for 2018, sent to Congress on Tuesday, seeks sharp cuts to cancer research, climate science and children’s health insurance. It would halve the EPA’s research funding and end NASA’s education office.
While President Trump’s budget proposal echoes many points made in the abbreviated — “skinny” — budget released in early March, this week’s full budget request covers a wider scope and more detail into the Trump administration’s fiscal views on the nation’s science and research infrastructure. The skinny budget, for example, omitted key departments and centers charged with science and health programs — such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Science Foundation. The full budget must be approved by Congress. But here’s a look at how the proposal would affect science, health and tech.
Environmental Protection Agency: 31 percent cut
2017: $8.2 billion
Skinny: $5.7 billion
Full: $5.7 billion
The full budget restates the earlier proposal to cut funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent, creating deep cuts across the board. The EPA’s enforcement budget would drop by 24 percent ($548 to $419 million), while cleaning up hazardous Superfund sites would dip by 30 percent ($1.1 billion to $762 million). The agency’s research budget would be halved ($483 million to $249 million), with most of the remaining funds going to projects conducted in-house.
Geographic programs, such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Chesapeake Bay Program, lose the entirety of their $427 million funding. The Energy Star program, which sets efficiency standards for consumer appliances and other products, is also eliminated. The budget argues these standards can be implemented by the private sector.
Categorical grants, which are issued to states and Native American tribes for the purposes of developing environmental protection programs, get slashed 45 percent — dropping from $1.07 billion to $597 million. Such grants support projects to clean water, air, waste, pesticide and toxic substances from the environment. The White House issued a separate document on major saving and reforms, which justified this move by stating “many states have been delegated authority to implement and enforce Federal environmental laws including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Safe Drinking Water Act.”
The budget calls for the elimination of the Indian Community Development Block Grant Housing and Urban Development, which is provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and funds similar environmental programs for Native American tribes. Since many Native American communities do not collect taxes, these federal funds often represent the sole source of money for public projects.
National Science Foundation: 11 percent cut
2017: $6.9 billion
Skinny: Not mentioned
Full: $6.1 billion
The National Science Foundation — the funding organization credited for bar codes, the American Sign Language dictionary, gravitational waves and the early spine of the internet — would receive an 11 percent reduction in funding under Trump’s proposal. The NSF issues about 11,000 new grants per year for research and education projects, while backing a quarter of all non-medical — “basic” — research at America’s colleges and universities. The proposal calls for cuts to several programs expanded by the Obama administration, including “funding for Clean Energy R&D, the Ocean Observatories Initiative, and Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Services to focus on NSF’s core research programs.”
Department of Health and Human Services: 16 percent cut
2017: $78 billion
Skinny: $69 billion
Full: $65.3 billion
In Trump’s final budget, the Department of Health and Human Services would shrink to $65.3 billion, down nearly 20 percent from the previous year. The budget calls for cuts to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which covered nearly 9 million children in FY 2016, that would amount to $616 billion in cuts over a decade, if enacted.
The budget also kills $714 million in the department’s community services block grants, which are designed and distributed to “alleviate the causes and conditions of poverty in communities,” including people who are homeless, migrants or elderly. According to the budget, these grants “are not directly tied to performance, which limits incentives for innovation,” and support “services that are duplicative of services that are funded through other Federal programs.” And the budget eliminated the $3.4 billion Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program “to reduce the size and scope of the Federal Government and better target resources.” The program covers heating and cooling bills for low-income homes and funds weatherization.
The Food and Drug Administration would be slashed by nearly a third, or $854 million, with the largest cuts in actual dollars to Medicare and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The budget also slashed training for health professions and nursing by 80 percent.
National Institutes of Health: 19 percent cut
2017: $31.7 billion
Skinny: $25.9 billion
Full: $26 billion
Trump’s budget reduces the National Institutes of Health by nearly one-fifth to $26 billion. The Trump administration wants to slash the National Cancer Institute’s budget by 19 percent, down to $4.47 billion, at a time when cancer is on the brink of becoming the most prevalent cause of U.S. deaths.
The budget also eliminates the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a standalone agency that conducts evidence-based research about health care safety, and merges it with NIH. According to the final budget proposal, NIH will “conduct a review of health services research across NIH, identify gaps, and propose a more coordinated strategy for ensuring that the highest priority health services research is conducted and then made available to improve the quality of health care services.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 9 percent cut
2017: $7.2 billion
Skinny: Not mentioned, except for $500 million for Zika outbreak response
Full: $6.3 billion
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lead the nation’s public health efforts. But under the Trump administration’s proposal, the agency’s budget sinks to $6 billion, down 17 percent from $7.2 billion the previous year. It would be the deepest cut in more than two decades. CDC Director Tom Frieden said the $1.2 billion in cuts are “unsafe at any level of enactment.” The president’s budget would “increase illness, death, risks to Americans, and health care costs,” he said on Twitter late Monday.
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U.S Department of Agriculture: 21 percent cut
2017: $22.6 billion
Skinny: $17.9 billion
Full: $17.9 billion
The Trump administration aims to reduce the budget for the Department of Agriculture by $20 billion by 2022, though this plan would hinge on comprehensive changes to the U.S. Farm Bill. The White House plans to do this largely by reducing farm subsidies, namely for those farmers making more than $500,000 per year, as well as insurance payouts for lost crops in general. The Office of Management and Budget claims the result would be $267 million in savings for 2018 and $3.3 billion in savings by 2019.
As we reported in March, wastewater infrastructure grants and the $201 million McGovern-Dole International Food for Education fund are eliminated under the proposed budget. The latter feeds three million children and families overseas, but the OMB states “school feeding programs in developing countries are usually high-cost investments with little to no returns, and are usually ineffective in achieving their goal to improve nutrition and learning outcomes.”
OMB is right. While international school feeding programs boost nutritional status, food security, school enrollment, attendance and gender parity, there are fewer concrete examples of improvements in academic achievement.
Overall, the budget proposal would cut more than 5,000 jobs from the department.
Department of Energy: 6 percent cut
2017: $29.7 billion
Skinny: $28.0 billion
Full: $28.0 billion
U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry praised Trump’s fiscal request for 2018, which removes just more than $1.5 billion from the department charged with funding energy projects and securing the nation’s nuclear stockpiles.
“This budget delivers on the promise to reprioritize spending in order to carry out DOE’s core functions efficiently and effectively while also being fiscally responsible and respectful to the American taxpayer,” Perry said in a statement.
The DOE’s budget cuts focus primarily on the department’s non-defense programs. A DOE arm responsible for pursuing high-impact breakthroughs in energy research — the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) — is essentially kaput; its proposed budget shrinks from $290 million to $20 million in the next year. ThinkProgress reports already approved grants for ARPA-E have been denied or delayed since the skinny budget’s release in March. Grants for research and development in four areas– energy efficiency and renewable energy, fossil energy, nuclear energy and electricity delivery and energy reliability — lose 60 percent of their funding in the proposal. Under this plan, the Weatherization Assistance Program, which promotes energy efficiency developments for low-income families, is eliminated.
Trump’s budget also boosts the National Nuclear Security Administration’s budget by $1.4 billion. The department recovers some savings — $70 million — by terminating the construction of the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility, a multibillion-dollar, over-budget project in South Carolina slated to dispose of at least 34 metric tons of surplus U.S. weapon-grade plutonium, part of a disarmament deal made with Russia.
Within the next two years, the DOE would also look to sell assets in government-owned electric utilities, which include the Southwestern Power Administration (SWPA), Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) and Bonneville Power Administration. These utilities provide low-cost energy from federal dams to western states. Meanwhile, DOE would also sell half of its strategic petroleum reserve, the world’s largest supply of emergency crude oil.
NASA: 1 percent cut
2017: $19.2 billion
Skinny: $19.1 billion
Full: $19.1 billion
NASA would eliminate five Earth science missions: the Radiation Budget Instrument for tracking Earth’s thermal radiation, the PACE mission for monitoring aerosols and ocean color, the OCO-3 satellite that measure carbon dioxide levels, DSCOVR Earth-viewing instruments for space weather recordings and the International Space Station’s CLARREO Pathfinder for measuring Earth reflectance.
Meanwhile, voyages beyond our atmosphere would get a 4.5 percent boost, including $425 million for a flyby mission to Europa, a Jupiter moon that may be capable of sustaining life.
NASA’s education office would be terminated, a move the budget says will save $78 million in fiscal year 2018.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: 1 percent cut
2017: $5.8 billion
Skinny: $5.6 billion
Full: $5.6 billion
Sticking to its word, the White House plans to cut $262 million worth of funding for NOAA grants and education programs, including the Sea Grant, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, Coastal Zone Management Grants, the Office of Education and the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund.
Chemical Safety Board: 100 percent cut
2017: $12.4 million
Full: $9 million
As part of its overarching goal of removing regulations, the White House proposed in its skinny budget the elimination of the Chemical Safety Board, an independent agency responsible for investigating chemical spills and accidents at industrial facilities. The first step in this process would be a $2 million reduction in funding for the Chemical Safety Board for 2018.
Corps of Engineers: 16 percent
2017: $6.0 billion
Skinny: $5.0 billion
Full: $5.0 billion
The OMB justifies a $1 billion cut to the Army Corps of Engineers by calling on the group to prioritize the maintenance of existing infrastructure over the construction of new projects. Meanwhile, the nation’s capital loses a federal investment in the Washington Aqueduct; the Trump proposal argues that local government or private ownership of the water supply would be more appropriate and mitigate risk for taxpayers.
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As many as 14 million people would lose health insurance coverage by 2018 if the latest Republican effort to overhaul Obamacare becomes law, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s latest analysis released Wednesday.
By 2026, the plan would reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion while leaving a total of 51 million people without health care coverage, the budget office report said after it scored the plan the House passed earlier this month. Under the Affordable Care Act, analysts projected 28 million people would be uninsured by 2026.
On May 4, the House of Representatives voted 217-213 to pass a revised health care reform bill that then went on to the Senate. It was passed before the CBO could score it. Sen. Mitch McConnell said the Senate would wait until the budget office scored the plan before they decided how to proceed with the bill.
Two months earlier, on March 13, the budget office said House Speaker Paul Ryan’s American Health Care Act would trim federal spending by more than $337 billion over the next decade. But 24 million Americans would also lose health insurance by 2026 under the plan, according to the office’s analysis. By comparison, 20 million Americans gained health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare.
Republicans later pulled the bill before it reached a vote. President Donald Trump had pressured Republicans to vote on March 24 before they secured enough support to pass the bill.
On Twitter, Ryan said the budget office score confirmed that he and House Republicans delivered on their promise to “lower premiums and the deficit.”
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Mark Mazur directs the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, and he pushed back on this idea. In a blog post, Mazur said the House bill “is largely a tax bill paired up with Medicaid cuts to offset the costs and the new CBO estimates confirm that point. And, as in the earlier version of the bill, almost all the benefits go to the highest income households in the country.”
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The idea, how technology, music and science can inspire one another, and to the creation of distinct new sounds.
Jeffrey Brown is back to take us to an unusual gathering held just a few days ago in Durham, North Carolina.
JEFFREY BROWN: Start with a circuit board, add knobs and dials, solder everything together, and, eventually, if you know what you’re doing, you have an instrument that can do this.
Moogfest, named after inventor Robert Moog, is a celebration of the art, engineering and technology of synthesizers, machines that create sounds electronically. By night, it’s a festival of different genres of music, centered on, as they call them here, synths.
By day, talks, workshops, a pop-up factory, and plenty of hands-on tinkering, twisting, and tapping.
Creative director Emmy Parker says the big idea behind the festival is in the name of the instrument, to synthesize.
EMMY PARKER, Creative Director, Moogfest: We try to create a space where people have the opportunity, even though they’re surrounded by thousands of people here, where they have the opportunity to get lost inside their own minds. And the tools that they’re engaging with, in this case synthesizers, help them, assist them to kind of open new doors to new creative ideas.
JEFFREY BROWN: All these gadgets, they may look like fun toys to unlock your inner geek. It’s really part of a revolution in sound that’s all around us, whether we know it or not.
Just one example: a sound you have heard a million times. Suzanne Ciani used a synth to create the famous pop and pour sound of Coke while working in the ad industry in the ’70s.
SUZANNE CIANI, Musician: They’re electronic bubbles. And they’re like the platonic idea of a Coke bottle opening. There’s some perfection there.
JEFFREY BROWN: I never heard that.
SUZANNE CIANI: Right.
JEFFREY BROWN: The platonic idea of Coke.
A classically trained pianist, in the 1960s, she started down the road that would make her a rock star in here at Moogfest, as a pioneering musician and composer of electronic music and sounds. This year, she was given the festival’s innovation award.
SUZANNE CIANI: My job was to just work intuitively with the knobs and the dials. So, it was a very friendly — it’s not scary. It’s just getting to know the machine as if it were a friend.
JEFFREY BROWN: So you are having a conversation with the machine?
SUZANNE CIANI: Yes. There’s something to be said about all music being some translation of our languaging, our way of communicating. It’s a language. This is a new language.
JEFFREY BROWN: Ciani worked with Don Buchla, one of electronic music’s greatest inventors. Over the years, a wide variety of musicians have seen the potential for new sounds and effects through synthesizers.
Moogfest featured a range of current performers, indie rock band Animal Collective, dance music by 808 State, and the experimental soundscapes of Moor Mother.
Also appearing, the synth band Survive, which created the soundtrack for the hit Netflix drama “Stranger Things,” futuristic sounds matching the eerie tales of the show.
Band members Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon:
KYLE DIXON, Survive: One thing about the show that’s great is that we don’t have to describe what our music sounds like anymore.
MICHAEL STEIN, Survive: As the band, yes.
KYLE DIXON: Or we only have to use a couple of words and …
JEFFREY BROWN: Those words are?
KYLE DIXON: “Stranger Things.”
JEFFREY BROWN: “Stranger Things,” and everybody kind of gets the sense of …
KYLE DIXON: Yes, you’re like, OK, OK. I get it.
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.
In the meantime, scientists and engineers keep coming up with new things for musicians to try.
Dave Rossum designed some of the modules, or components, on this synthesizer.
DAVE ROSSUM, Rossum Electro Music: These modules, we call them universal control voltage generators. That’s a very big batch of words, but, basically, it just means that they’re creating interesting electronic signals, so that we can make interesting notes.
JEFFREY BROWN: At Moogfest, you could build your own synthesizer, at least a simple model.
Comedian Hannibal Buress, who performed at the festival, decided he couldn’t miss this class.
HANNIBAL BURESS, Entertainer: Got to try to do that. That’s the most extreme thing you could do.
JEFFREY BROWN: For some of us, I think that’s right. So, how’s it going?
HANNIBAL BURESS: It was a little tough getting some of the components in initially, but we figured it out, and now we’re midway through. We’re in the soldering phase, which is something I have never done. I’m not a crafty dude. I don’t work with my hands like that. I can’t build a shelf. Or I haven’t done anything like it before, so I’m enjoying the experience.
JEFFREY BROWN: A view of the future was also on display here, including a demonstration of so-called machine learning to create new music.
Google’s Adam Roberts and Jesse Engel showed us A.I. Jam session, an artificial intelligence program that responds to the notes you play with something of its own creation, based on input and analysis of tens of thousands of existing melodies.
Is it now composing this music?
ADAM ROBERTS, Google: yes.
JEFFREY BROWN: yes?
ADAM ROBERTS: Yes, and so …
JEFFREY BROWN: Based on all the information you have fed it?
ADAM ROBERTS: There still was a human incredibly involved in creating that system, deciding what data to train it on.
JEFFREY BROWN: Another experiment, called NSynth, is developed through a huge database of sounds of instruments and more, including animals, that form a so-called neural net. It allows merging two sounds to create a new one, even a trombone and a dog.
JESSE ENGEL, Google: We’re just creating the ability to explore and express ourselves in new ways using technology. We’re not just creating tools. We’re creating ways to make new tools as well.
JEFFREY BROWN: Technology at the service of music and art.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Jeffrey Brown at Moogfest in Durham, North Carolina.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: how an unsolved murder in the nation’s capital turned into a conspiracy theory, and then became a case study of how false news spreads. It underscores, once again, the problem of polarized politics and divided sources of information.
John Yang reports.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX News: To the extent of my ability, I am not going to stop trying to find the truth.
JOHN YANG: The story of Seth Rich’s death is a story of how fake news spreads from Web sites and online forums like Reddit to prime-time cable TV.
SEAN HANNITY: Another massive breaking news story, explosive developments in the mysterious murder of former DNC staffer Seth Rich.
JOHN YANG: Early one morning last July, 27-year-old Rich was found fatally shot near his Washington, D.C., home. Politics had drawn the Omaha native to the city, and he was working at the Democratic National Committee when he died.
The case is still unsolved. D.C. police theorize it was a botched robbery, the latest in a string of attacks in the neighborhood. As Rich’s family and friends mourned, he became the subject of a baseless conspiracy theory.
The claim was that he was the source of the DNC e-mails about the Hillary Clinton campaign that WikiLeaks released later that month.
MAN: A private investigator says there is evidence to show Rich was communicating with WikiLeaks.
JOHN YANG: Last week, FOX’s Washington station broadcast an interview with FOX News legal commentator Rod Wheeler.
QUESTION: Do you have sources in the FBI saying that there is information that…
ROD WHEELER, FOX News: For sure.
QUESTION: .. that could link Seth Rich to WikiLeaks?
ROD WHEELER: Absolutely. Yes. And that’s confirmed.
JOHN YANG: Two days later, Wheeler backtracked, saying his statements were a miscommunication, but not before Trump ally Sean Hannity devoted a portion of his FOX show to the story, giving Wheeler a much bigger platform for his unsubstantiated claims.
ROD WHEELER: With the totality of everything else that I found in this case, it’s very consistent for a person with my experience to begin to think, well, perhaps there were some e-mail communications between Seth and WikiLeaks.
JOHN YANG: For some conservative commentators, retractions and fact-checks have appeared to make little difference. Supporters of President Trump are trying to use the story to discredit the investigation into Russian meddling in the election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
Newt Gingrich on “FOX & Friends” this past Sunday:
NEWT GINGRICH, Former Speaker of the House: We have this very strange story now of this young man who worked for the Democratic National Committee who apparently was assassinated at 4:00 in the morning, having given WikiLeaks something like 23,000 — I’m sorry — 53,000 e-mails and 17,000 attachments. Nobody is investigating that.
JOHN YANG: There is no evidence for those claims.
Yesterday, the FOX News Web site retracted a story it had published on Rich’s death, saying, “It wasn’t initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require, and has since been removed.”
On his radio show yesterday, Hannity initially doubled down.
SEAN HANNITY: I am not FOX.com or FOXNews.com. I retracted nothing.
Alexios Mantzarlis is at the Poynter Institute, a journalism school.
ALEXIOS MANTZARLIS, Poynter: Basic journalistic principles weren’t met. Right? The story was run without the source being properly vetted and without the D.C. police or the Rich family being consulted.
JOHN YANG: Today, Rich’s parents wrote in The Washington Post: “The amount of pain and anguish this has caused us is unbearable. With every conspiratorial flare-up, we are forced to relive Seth’s murder and a small piece of us dies as more of Seth’s memory is torn away from us.”
ALEXIOS MANTZARLIS: We have two grieving parents who would like to find out the truth about their murdered son, and what they’re getting instead is avalanche of conspiracy theories and politically motivated spin.
JOHN YANG: On his FOX show last night, Hannity said he’d had heartfelt talks with the Rich family.
SEAN HANNITY: Out of respect for the family’s wishes, for now, I am not discussing this matter at this time.
JOHN YANG: But then he spoke to his fans.
SEAN HANNITY: Please do not interpret what I’m saying tonight to mean anything. Don’t read into this. I promise you I am not doing — going to stop doing my job.
JOHN YANG: Analysts say it underscores the fragmented media world we live in.
ALEXIOS MANTZARLIS: The lesson here is that it is easy to find online and in this enormous wealth of information that there is around us all kinds of stuff, all kinds of conspiracies, all kinds of hoaxes.
If you are predisposed to think that something sketchy happened with the DNC and the leaks, then you are more likely to believe stories that aren’t necessarily true, and as this one. It has been roundly debunked.
JOHN YANG: But still a story that shows no signs of going away, at least in some circles.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Yang.
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Al Vecchione, a longtime bastion of public broadcasting programming and the first executive producer of “The MacNeil/Lehrer Report,” died Wednesday morning at his Bethesda, Maryland, home. He had a short bout with lung cancer, his family confirmed. He was 86.
For seven years, Vecchione helmed the “Report,” and then, in 1983, he helped oversee the show’s transition as it doubled its length from a half hour to a full 60 minutes. Renamed “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” the extra time allowed the show to spend more time on a single story.
Jim Lehrer, longtime anchor of the program, called Vecchione “the make-it-work guy,” a bedrock of support “in psychic terms, as well as physical terms, that were critical to future success” of the NewsHour.
Vecchione, who dedicated his first 20 years in broadcasting to NBC, was driven by his desire for more substantive news coverage, Lehrer said.
An hourlong nightly newscast was unheard of in television when Lehrer and Robin MacNeil opted to stretch the program’s running time. And Vecchione was key to making it happen.
“It was a quantum leap,” Vecchione said in a 1990 interview. He likened that previous incarnation of the NewsHour to a “small, tin lizzie operation” that was suddenly becoming a full service news program. The NewsHour was now tasked with reporting more stories each night, and expanding its coverage to news across the globe.
Nor was it an easy task to convince people that more air time was a good idea, longtime friend and colleague Annette Miller said.
“He was a terrific proselytizer for the program who convinced many a corporate executive that the NewsHour was a worthy investment,” Miller, vice president of NewsHour Productions, said in an email.
It was Vecchione’s ardent advocacy of the NewsHour that helped the show “become the thinking man’s program,” she added, a tradition that’s long built into the NewsHour’s DNA.
Miller said she first met Vecchione in 1975. Then, he was the executive director for public affairs programming at WETA in Washington, after it had merged with the National Public Affairs Center for Television, a public affairs service that had provided continuous coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings years before.
The hundreds of hours of coverage, with Lehrer and MacNeil reporting, drew national attention to public broadcasting programming as three commercial networks decided to discontinue their pool coverage of the proceedings when the number of star witnesses dried up.
Les Crystal, the Newshour’s second executive producer, said he remembered his first meeting with Vecchione where they discussed the program’s evolution. He noted Vecchione’s enthusiasm and commitment to high-quality, in-depth journalism.
From those initial conversations, “I knew the NewsHour was going to be on very firm ground with its commitment to standards,” Crystal said.
Crystal took over the executive producer role when Vecchione became president of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions in 1983, shortly after the program expanded. The production company has been responsible for many critically acclaimed series for PBS, NBC and Disney.
Alfred Thomas Vecchione was born on Jan. 27, 1931, in Queens, New York. Vecchione got his start at NBC by working in its mailroom. By the 1960s, he contributed to NBC’s global coverage, reporting on the Vietnam War, the international tours of various U.S. presidents, and major political campaigns during election years.
Allan, Vecchione’s son, said that no matter the interest — his family, journalism, opera, sushi — he always dove in “head first.” He was driven by passion, a recurring theme in his life, Allan said, adding that his father also took an interest in the people he connected with.
“He instilled in you a drive to do your absolute best,” Allan said. “Anything less, and you’re not challenging yourself.”
Lehrer said, beyond Vecchione’s acumen for the program, the public media figurehead was a “nice man in the full sense of the word.” In newsrooms full of pressing deadlines and budget worries, it’s a welcome trait.
“He believed very strongly that if you treat people well, they will work well for you,” Lehrer added.
After MacNeil and Lehrer retired from the program, the NewsHour was co-anchored by Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff. Ifill died late last year.
Long after he stopped being executive producer of the program, Vecchione remained passionate about the program.
“He frequently called or emailed, or otherwise commented on segments,” Woodruff said in an email. “He took personal ‘grandfatherly pride in how the program grew and became what it is today.”
Woodruff said Vecchione called her earlier this spring with a story idea.
When he retired in 1996, many friends noted how Vecchione returned to the clarinet, which he had played in high school. He practiced rigorously and eventually started doing small chamber music concerts that Lehrer and other friends would attend.
“He would tell me of how he’s taken up the clarinet, hoping (with a laugh) that he might one day be profiled on the NewsHour,” chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown said in an email. “He took great pleasure in life and enormous pride in the NewsHour and the work we all do, work he was a big part of creating,” he added.
Vecchione is survived by Liz, his wife of 61 years and their four children: Julie DeSimone, Linda Mason, Allan Vecchione and Tom Vecchione, including two brothers, one sister, eight grandchildren and one great-granddaughter and a second great-grandchild on the way.
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