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

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: But first to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    All right, let’s start this week on the foreign front. The president met potentates, presidents, prime ministers and a pope. There were magical orbs.

    (LAUGHTER)

    HARI SREENIVASAN: There were tweet-sized messages stuck into a Wailing Wall. How did he do?

    MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: B-plus. No.

    (LAUGHTER)

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, I’m not going to grade him. I grade him on the curve.

    I would say the visual highlight was with the pope when he said, you know, the pope is a very humble man, much like me, which he had tweeted earlier, and that’s why I like him so much.

    But just sort of they’re polar opposites, of the two, one a champion of immigrants and refugees and almost disdainful of opulence and excessive wealth, and the other sort of the embodiment of it.

    But I thought, quite frankly, the first part of the trip, he laid down the policy, and the policy is that we will stand on the side of Sunni autocrats against terrorism, and no questions asked.

    And here, in addition, is a major weapons, a huge weapons sale that — and we’re not going to ask how you use it or where you use it, and if people are killed in Yemen, and they’re — made in the USA is on the weapon that kills them, and it’s done indiscriminately, that’s their business and not ours, because the operating and organizing principle of foreign policy is opposition to terrorism under Donald Trump.

    DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: Yes, I thought Melania had a very good week. I thought a lot of good moments for her. There was a lot of good judgments, actually.

    He, by the standards of some of the competence of the previous week, I would say you would have to say the trip was, by competence standards, a success. He did what he wanted to do in Saudi Arabia, at NATO, at various other places.

    I do think, as Mark suggested, the chief oddity of the entire trip is that we seem to be mean to our friends and kind to our foes. And so, Saudi Arabia — Fareed Zakaria had a very good column on this — we’re supposed to be against terrorism, and Trump loves to talk about Iranians — Iran’s influence on terrorism, but the main source of terror funding for both the ideas and sometimes the organizations is Saudi Arabia. It’s not Iran.

    And so — but, somehow, we’re super nice to Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, we’re super mean to Germany and France and some of our NATO allies. And so there’s just been a perversion of American foreign policy, which is sort of based on the idea that character doesn’t matter, and you can — whether the leaders from Russia or the Philippines or Saudi Arabia, that people of bad character are people we can ally with.

    And, somehow, I think there is a consistency between the government here and some of the governments the Trump administration likes around the world.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: There was a bit of that we just saw …

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes. I’m sorry?

    HARI SREENIVASAN: There was a bit of that we just saw in the conversation that Judy had.

    MARK SHIELDS: That’s exactly right.

    I would just say that the NATO part of the visit, I found particularly disturbing, because there was nothing about the principles and values. There was nothing about values and what we share and what animates us and what we respect and revere, whether it’s individual rights or democracy.

    That just seemed to be unimportant. And all the criticism that the president had was stored up, as David pointed out, for these folks for somehow being welfare cheats or something.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes. And that’s pure demagoguery.

    He spoke as if we — they owe us money because they haven’t been paying their dues, which is not true.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

    DAVID BROOKS: That’s not the way that the — the problem is that they sort of pledged to gradually get to 2 percent of GDP in defense spending.

    MARK SHIELDS: That’s right.

    DAVID BROOKS: And some of the countries have, and a lot of the countries have not. And that’s a legitimate issue.

    But he portrayed it as if we’re bailing them out, and they owe us money, and they haven’t paid their bills, which is just actually untrue.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, let’s shift gears to the budget.

    What do you make of the priorities that were set forth in this? It’s a political document, but it kind of lets you know what you think is important.

    MARK SHIELDS: That’s right.

    We don’t pass a budget, but I think it’s fair to say it was mean—spirited and dishonest were the two words that come quickest to mind, again, coming back to the visit with the pope, who has sort of made himself the pope of the poor, unlike a number of his predecessors, who seemed to enjoy the opulence of Vatican City.

    And Donald Trump, at that very meeting, his budget, which he is distanced from, he’s not even in town as it’s released, is, I think fair to say, an orthodox Republican document in the worst sense, in that it is tax cuts for the most advantaged among us, and saving the character of those Americans who are struggling, who depend upon school lunches, who depend upon supplemental food, who depend upon Medicaid — there are more people in the United States on Medicaid than there are on Medicare.

    And half of the people on Medicaid get — work every day. And we’re talking about elderly poor. And, I mean, all of this is being cut, for what purpose? To provide an enormous tax cut for those who are best-off.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: David, doesn’t some of this go right at the base of supporters that Donald Trump have, the poor working class that came to him? And it seems, as Mark is pointing out, that some of the programs that are being cut are going to affect them first.

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, you look at the food stamps program, and that has radically expanded over the last 10 years.

    And so the question is, has it expanded maybe for some of the reasons Social Security disability expanded, just because it’s become sort of welfare through the backdoor? Is it illegitimate?

    Well, if you look into the food stamp program, the reason it’s expanded is because a lot of people are now near poor and because of economic changes. It’s not because of some illegitimate explosion of the welfare state. It’s because of the underlying structure of society has disadvantaged a lot of people, and they need some help.

    And so it’s — as Donald Trump’s own secretary of agriculture said, it’s a successful program, and yet it’s getting savagely cut. And I think that’s — and that, as you say, goes right at the Trump voters, because the lower-middle-class voters in rural areas are getting a lot of those benefits.

    To me, the most egregious, two egregious things about the budget is, as Mark said, it hurts the poor and helps the rich, but it also hurts the young and helps the old, and that whether it’s food stamps or a lot the other programs, if you believe in human capital, that we’re investing in the future with a lot these programs, then that’s the good kind of spending, even if you’re kind of conservative.

    And, to me, we should cut some of the money that goes to affluent elderly people and give more money to young, struggling people. But Donald Trump does the reverse.

    And the second thing is just the almost in-your-face dishonesty of it. Some of it is — just it’s assuming there will be 3 percent growth, which is not going to happen, given our demographics. But Larry Summers pointed out that this made the most elementary budget calculating error of any administration in 40 years.

    They took the same revenue source, and they counted it twice, in order to cover. And that’s just — everybody had the to catch that error, but they were just going to do it anyway, and they didn’t care what anybody said.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Larry Summers, the former treasury secretary.

    I mean, what about the president coming back and saying, hey, you know what, I made these promises, I said I wasn’t going to touch aid to the elderly?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, he said he wouldn’t cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. That was the promise he made in one of his campaign tweets, that I’m the only candidate. He made that point.

    And he has not. He has not touched Social Security. He’s cutting SSI, Social Security — the Supplemental Social Security, for people who are disabled and elderly, but he’s not cutting Social Security payments to the elderly. He’s not means-testing it in any way, and nor is he touching Medicare.

    But Medicaid, having promised not to, he is. He is, in fact. It’s almost — cutting Medicaid, proposed to cut it in half, the spending. Federal spending would be cut in half. And the food stamps will be cut by one-quarter.

    And I don’t know how you justify this when, in the same week, Hari, the Congressional Budget Office, the Republican selected chief economist, but very respected nonpartisan, says 23 million people are going to lose the health coverage insurance that they already have under the Republican-passed plan.

    I will say this unequivocally. Tonight, three weeks after the House passed that health care bill, there is not a single member of the House who regrets having voted against it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What about members of the Senate? What do they do going forward?

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, well, they’re going to have trouble.

    First, it was kind of surprising they went through all the change of rewriting the thing, and they basically got the same CBO number as they got last time. And I can’t believe — I couldn’t believe they got so many House people to vote for this thing, because it’s going to be a killer issue for a lot of people.

    In the Senate, they’re doing everything in secret right now.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes.

    DAVID BROOKS: And so we don’t exactly know what’s happening. They’re talking with each other. But we do know they’re divided almost down the middle on some of the Medicaid cuts, on some oft other issues, on some of the preexisting conditions. And passage in the Senate, you wouldn’t want to bet on that, not by a long shot.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And whatever gets through the Senate, there’s a good chance it wouldn’t get passed in the House.

    DAVID BROOKS: Right. It wouldn’t get passed.

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes. I think that, in order to make it acceptable — the pledge to repeal Obamacare was great as a political rallying cry. It’s terrible policy. And it’s not — it won’t pass.

    DAVID BROOKS: But they could — if they could get — they could have another way to give people health insurance through health savings accounts and tax credits and things like that, if they guaranteed the same level of coverage that Obama is doing.

    And I think that would be a completely legitimate approach. Maybe introduce some more competition into the system. That is not what they’re doing.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, lastly, in the last two minutes we have here, a new member of the House of — Republicans — during a special election in Montana, Greg Gianforte beats his opponents, but body-slams a reporter on the way to getting there.

    What does this say about — you know, and the thing that I heard this morning on NPR is, one of the reporters was talking to some of his supporters, saying, you know what, that guy had it coming.

    I mean, the extent of hostility toward the press and how it’s manifesting itself in different ways in the past couple of months.

    MARK SHIELDS: I don’t think there is any question. I think it was legitimized in part by President Trump’s campaign, which included this and sort of rhetorical excesses and singling out members of the press.

    But Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster, who was the pollster for the Contract With America, Newt Gingrich, said, if you check the party affiliation of someone who commits assault before deciding how you feel about it, you’re what’s wrong with America.

    And that’s really what it’s become. I think the seminal moment in contemporary American politics was when President Obama was addressing the joint session of Congress on health care, and Joe Wilson of South Carolina stood up and said, “You lie,” unprecedented in its rudeness and boorishness, and he raised a million dollars in the next week in funds.

    And I think that polarization was rewarded.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes.

    I would say two things are true. The climate of ugliness is no doubt ratcheting up and giving some permission to this. In this case, I’m willing to give the guy a break. He did apologize. And he could have just lost his temper. We will see what his career is like.

    But I’m willing to — if a leader is at least willing to apologize, that’s frankly a step up from what we have seen on the presidential level.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, New York Times columnist David Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, thank you both.

    MARK SHIELDS: Thank you, Hari.

    The post Shields and Brooks on Trump’s first trip, press bashing in Montana appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: President Trump spent the last full day of his first and lengthy overseas trip in Sicily today at a meeting of the so-called G7 countries.

    It ended a week that took him from Saudi Arabia, to Israel and the West Bank, to the Vatican, and yesterday to the Brussels headquarters of the European Union and NATO.

    I spoke a short time ago with Bloomberg News White House correspondent Margaret Talev in Taormina, Sicily, and asked her if President Trump tried to convey central messages to world leaders.

    MARGARET TALEV, Bloomberg News: There sure were. I would say, in the Middle East, it was the idea that President Trump is uniquely qualified to restart the Mideast peace process by kind of shifting the focus a little bit away from that traditional Israeli-Palestinian dynamic to this broader idea of Israelis and Muslim and Arab nations having a lot in common in a desire to fight terrorism.

    That’s one big message. In Europe, the message really was different. And it was sort of bringing President Trump’s campaign promises about kind of resetting expectations for NATO countries, paying what he would call their fair share, rebalancing trade and how Europe and the United States think about trade with one another, the idea of reciprocal trade agreements, if you make this tough for me, I will make this tough for you.

    Those were a lot of those messages in Western Europe. And, so, I think what you saw pretty much follows. It was a very warm welcome in the Middle East, and a much sort of more skeptical, sometimes critical reception in at NATO and the G7.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Tell us about a little bit about those reactions from world leaders, at least on the European side.

    MARGARET TALEV: Yes, I mean, the visit with the pope, of course, it was sort of how President Trump kicked off his arrival in Europe.

    And we know, from the last year’s campaign, how many differences of opinion the two men have. And so both of their teams sort of made clear from the outset that this was an attempt for each to preserve a channel to talk with one another, but that they weren’t going to be necessarily on the same page about everything.

    President Trump’s reaction, ebullient, joyous, great honor, love it, grinning ear to ear. Pope Francis’ demeanor, much more reserved, and a lot of sort of reading on the tea leaves and the body language on that front. We will see where that relationship goes.

    But, from there, the move over to NATO, the Western allies in NATO had sort of boxed him in to try to force his commitment, for him to restate a commitment to NATO by having him attend this unveiling of an Article 5 memorial.

    And President Trump was willing to be led to the water to a point, but to choose his wording carefully in terms of reaffirming his commitment to Article 5 without saying, and I’m in it forever no matter what, you know, whatever you need. That wasn’t the message. The message was very much, Article 5, we appreciate that it was invoked for the U.S. after 9/11, but for NATO to work long-term, there needs to be a stepping up of financial contributions.

    That was — the NATO leaders have already agreed to that. There have been plans made three years ago. This was always on track to be stepped up. A lot of those leaders really bristled at the idea that President Trump was trying to say this was all because of him and some bad feelings there.

    And then, as you moved over to the G7, two big issues rolling into the final day of the summit that have emerged as fairly predictable stumbling blocks again are climate change and trade.

    Angela Merkel, the German leader, telling folks after day one’s session that all of the other leaders of the G7 were unanimous in pressing the president of the United States to stay with Paris and to get sort of with their program.

    Gary Cohn, the president’s economic adviser, preserving the space for President Trump perhaps to stay in the Paris talks, to show that he’s listening to European leaders, but leaving a little bit of room to do that at his own pace and under his own terms, and saying, look, I want to get this right. I’m going to take my time, meaning not necessarily here.

    And then on trade, again, we’re expecting months, if not longer, of kind of a shift in discussions about what the future of U.S. and European trade relations are going to look like.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And we also saw a very short communique out of the G7, usually a sign that there was very little that they all agreed on to put on paper.

    MARGARET TALEV: Yes, that’s right.

    I mean, you can say that that’s a good thing. You can say that it’s a bad thing. You’re not going to agree to more than you agree on. And this does, again, preserve some diplomatic space for moving closer together in the future, but it also reflects what sort of visit this was.

    It was calibrated by the White House to show that, to a domestic audience, as well as to Europe, that President Trump is not going to abandon every position that he held from the campaign just because he is here in these meetings, but, at the same time, a recognition from his aides that the more he engages with key allies all over the world, the more nuance is brought to the table in terms of him understanding the leadership role that the U.S. is expected to fulfill and the complexities of those obligations.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Margaret Talev of Bloomberg joining us tonight from Italy, thanks so much.

    MARGARET TALEV: Thanks, Hari.

    The post How world leaders tried to bend Trump’s ear during his first trip abroad appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now to Judy’s exclusive interview with Aya Hijazi, the Egyptian-American aid worker released last month from prison in Egypt, along with her husband, Mohamed Hassanein.

    The 30-year-old Hijazi grew up in the Washington area and in Egypt. In 2013, she and Mohamed founded the Belady Foundation, the goal, to help impoverished street children in Cairo. But they soon found themselves in prison, falsely accused of horrendous crimes and the subjects of international efforts, including by Presidents Trump and Obama, to gain their release.

    Judy spoke with Aya and Mohamed earlier this week.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The calm, mundane routine of daily life is something new and special again for Aya Hijazi and her husband, Mohamed Hassanein. The apartment they just moved into outside Washington is still sparsely furnished, but it’s a place to call their own, and it’s a world away from the Egyptian jail cells and crowded courtroom cages they were kept in for three years.

    They had met in Tahrir Square in the heady days after Egypt’s 2011 revolution.

    AYA HIJAZI, Co-Founder, Belady Foundation: Initially, it seemed like the political climate to allow for political change.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But by 2013, after the military deposed the Muslim Brotherhood government, the picture darkened. They looked to build a little light.

    AYA HIJAZI: And so it seemed like the only venue to actually do change and give hope and not be — not vilify or be vilified is to work on humanitarian causes that no other two people could differ on, like, say, children. Who would want a child to sleep in the streets?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In an Orwellian twist, the organization they founded to help those children would lead to heinous unfounded charges of child abuse and human trafficking.

    AYA HIJAZI: We still don’t really know what happened. Like, we know the picture, but we don’t not why or how.

    The kids started to love us and really tell each other about our organization. And everything was going on smoothly, until one day supposedly a father came looking for his son, whom we have never seen and the children have never seen, and we went with him to file a police report, because he was quite abusive with us and the NGO and the children.

    And instead of us filing a report, we found that we are charged with human trafficking.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, there had been no indication before that of a problem?

    AYA HIJAZI: No.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And were you immediately taken into custody?

    AYA HIJAZI: Yes, from that day on.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How did you deal with it? You were separated pretty immediately, is that right?

    AYA HIJAZI: Yes. Yes. And we couldn’t contact anyone, but the word got through very, very quickly.

    And so lawyers came, but they weren’t ours. They were just volunteers. And so I just thought that, immediately, when I talk to a prosecutor or a judge, we will be released within a day or a few days. And it went on for three years.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Three years shuttled from different prisons to court appearances, the newly married couple seeing each other only fleetingly.

    How much were you able to be in contact with each other during the time you were held?

    AYA HIJAZI: It was very hard to get letters across, through our families. Our families would visit us, exchange letters. Other than that, we would wait for court sessions to meet. So, it’s like, a total of 18 months, we saw each other only three times and maybe only for a minute, or less even.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tell me about your experience.

    AYA HIJAZI: I wasn’t tortured in prison or beaten or even — I didn’t receive abusive words.

    It was very hard for me that I was placed with regular crimes. Like, I wasn’t even classified inside the prison as political prisoners. And I was like the charges were very heinous, like raping children. And so it was very hard just coping with that.

    MOHAMED HASSANEIN, Co-Founder, Belady Foundation (through interpreter): Prison itself is against human nature. The idea of prison is that it takes away from the person’s humanity and the person’s ideas. But if the person was able to keep his or her core ideas and humanity, then the person has won.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Aya taught herself French and Spanish while in prison and she learned to draw. She showed me one pencil sketch that reflected what she said was her own experience.

    Where are you in this drawing?

    AYA HIJAZI: I find myself in a lot of those. Like, I find myself here, like, all right, come, I’m ready to go to prison just to prove my point.

    I find myself here looking at the window, seeing the streets and wishing that I could be part of it one day again.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is it true that most of the people in Egypt don’t know what’s going on inside prison?

    AYA HIJAZI: Yes, prisons are largely a closed place, and we suffered that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: While they endured, unbeknownst to them, Aya and Mohamed had many advocates on the outside, and many in high places.

    SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-Fla.: I would like to raise the case of Egyptian-American citizen Aya Hijazi.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Were you aware that President Obama was trying to get you out of prison?

    AYA HIJAZI: I know that the administration towards the end was involved and did a lot. It was towards the end of our imprisonment and towards the end of their administration that they have — and I have to give credit where credit is due, so I am thankful to them.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, that happened. And then a new president comes into office. And how did you hear that he was working on this?

    And what we saw was, he said something to President El-Sisi. So, how did you hear about all this?

    AYA HIJAZI: So, in Egypt, we — in the prison, we got to see some newspapers. And so Trump was saying that they shouldn’t be discussing human rights issues publicly. It seemed like it’s being discussed, but behind closed doors.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And then how did you learn that something might happen, that you might be freed?

    AYA HIJAZI: So, we knew that there was American interest, but up until the last day, we had no idea how it will go, until the day of the acquittal. It was a surprise.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Until the final day?

    AYA HIJAZI: Yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, how did you learn? What — how did you learn?

    AYA HIJAZI: It was actually in the cage where the judge acquitted us all, and it was — it was unbelievable. Like, we prayed for it so much, but we thought it’s far-reaching, like the best that could be done is a pardon. And we were really hoping we wouldn’t reach that. And it was a surprise.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You literally had no preparation for when you were — the judge told you, OK, you are acquitted.

    AYA HIJAZI: Yes. We didn’t know that he would say acquitted, in a sense. It was like the best moment of our lives, all of us.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That moment just six weeks ago came after President Trump’s meeting in Washington with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. Mr. Trump has made a point of befriending Sisi and has been highly complimentary of him, following years of strained relations with the Obama administration.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And I just want to say to you, Mr. President, that you have a great friend and ally in the United States and in me.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Aya’s view of Mr. Trump’s praise of the Egyptian leader are complicated.

    AYA HIJAZI: This is difficult for me, because I don’t share his view on Mr. Sisi. I could differ with Mr. Trump.

    And I would like to actually direct this to Mr. Sisi, if he listens. It wasn’t just us who were imprisoned, unjustly imprisoned. And if Mr. Sisi had a role, or if — I would tell you, Mr. Sisi, if you had a role then, then that’s good, but there are thousands and thousands of wrongly imprisoned people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Almost immediately upon her release, a U.S. government plane whisked Aya and Mohamed to the United States, where Aya soon sat with the president in the Oval Office, the same chair in which President Sisi had sat a few weeks earlier.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We are happy to have Aya back home, and it’s a great honor to have her in the Oval Office.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How was your meeting with President Trump?

    AYA HIJAZI: He was very hospitable. He made us feel very welcome, and he admired our strength. And I work for the children. So, I was glad.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What did he ask you?

    AYA HIJAZI: Oh, one of the questions he asked was about the time of my arrest. And he like — I’m not sure, but it seemed like he had this idea that — or a conviction that it was at the time of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Which was before President El-Sisi.

    AYA HIJAZI: Which was before Sisi. So, he was like, “So was your arrest — be at the time of the Brotherhood?” And I said, no. And then he said, “Oh, it was at the time of Sisi.” And he was taken aback. It seemed, like, different to what he had in mind.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there a contradiction between President Trump working to get you released and, on the other hand, praising the government of Egypt which was holding you in prison?

    AYA HIJAZI: I think he’s trying to be effective, because he even said it to me while we met, that, well, that he was effective, wasn’t he?

    And I don’t know how to say no. So there is the traditional way of just, like, mere criticism, very sharp criticism, and there is the more diplomatic way, perhaps.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think that maybe, in your conversation with him and in his learning about your experience, that maybe he’s — you have adjusted his thinking about human rights? Or what do you think about that?

    AYA HIJAZI: I hope he gets to know that the human rights situation is really horrible at that time, and people are not just — it’s not just for fighting terrorism, because people are unjustly held, and there are so many fabricated cases. They are illegitimately held.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Are both of you optimistic that things are going to get better in Egypt?

    MOHAMED HASSANEIN (through interpreter): Worry and optimism are different things. It’s very normal to be worried, but it’s not normal to live out hope. And we’re also hopeful. And I’m worried.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you want for Egypt, for the people of Egypt? What do you want for them?

    AYA HIJAZI: We want what we call — some may call American values. I would like to think of them as universal values, humanity, number one, a good governed state where people can express themselves, where they can freely assemble, where they can live in harmony and peace.

    Democracy is not a bad word to describe that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you believe that time is coming?

    AYA HIJAZI: We have to believe until the very last day we die. I mean, if we want to be parents — we’re not parents yet — and we want to see something good for future generations. So either we say we have given you a better world, or we die trying.

    The post Free from prison in Egypt, aid worker Aya Hijazi speaks out on her message for Sisi, meeting Trump appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: In the day’s other news: An activist group reports U.S. coalition airstrikes in Eastern Syria killed more than 100 people overnight. That word comes from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Britain. It says the strikes hit a town held by Islamic State fighters. Children and other relatives of the militants were among the victims.

    Police in Manchester, England, have made two more arrests in the concert bombing that killed 22 people. They say they now have nine people in custody, including several they call key players. Investigators also raided new locations today, and the police chief said that’s likely to continue through the weekend.

    IAN HOPKINS, Chief Constable, Greater Manchester Police: We have hundreds of officers that are working on this investigation from across the national counterterrorism policing network. And we have seized thousands of exhibits that are now being assessed. I think it’s fair to say that there’s been enormous progress with the investigation. There’s still an awful lot of work to do.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Also today, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. government takes full responsibility for information in the case that leaked to news organizations.

    In Sri Lanka, monsoon rains triggered floods and mudslides today, killing 91 people. At least 110 others are missing. Swollen rivers washed over roads and houses, and 2,000 people were forced to evacuate. More than 60,000 have been affected by the rain.

    Back in this country, Hillary Clinton delivered a searing critique of President Trump’s policies in a commencement address. She spoke at her alma mater, Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Without naming the president directly, she branded his budget an attack of unimaginable cruelty against the most vulnerable. She also charged there’s a full-fledged assault on truth and reason.

    HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, Former U.S. Secretary of State: When people in power invent their own facts and attack those who question them, it can mark the beginning of the end of a free society.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Vice President Pence also addressed a graduation ceremony at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He told the 1,000 graduates the era of budget cuts of the armed forces is over.

    VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: We will not relent until we rebuild our military, restore the arsenal of democracy, and ensure that our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard have all the resources that you need to accomplish your mission and come home safe.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The president already signed into law a large increase in defense spending, and he’s calling for major new outlays in his budget.

    The president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, says he will cooperate with an FBI investigation into ties between campaign aides and Russia. That’s according to a statement from his lawyer. News accounts say the focus is on Kushner’s meetings with Russian officials in December. They say it doesn’t mean he is suspected of a crime.

    Republican Greg Gianforte is headed to Congress from Montana, despite being charged with assault. He beat Democrat Rob Quist by six points in yesterday’s special election for the state’s only U.S. House seat. In his victory speech, Gianforte apologized for his altercation with a reporter the night before.

    GREG GIANFORTE (R), Montana Congressman-Elect: I made a mistake. And I took an action that I can’t take back. And I’m not proud of what happened. I shouldn’t have responded in the way that I did, and, for that, I’m sorry. That’s not the person that I am, and it’s not the way I will lead in this state.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: President Trump cheered the election result today, telling reporters — quote — “Great win in Montana.”

    And Wall Street went quietly into the Memorial Day weekend. The Dow Jones industrial average lost two points to close at 21080 today. The Nasdaq rose about five points, and the S&P 500 edged up a fraction. For the week, the Dow and the S&P gained more than 1 percent. The Nasdaq rose 2 percent.

    The post News Wrap: Two more arrested for Manchester concert bombing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Once again tonight, Coptic Christians in Egypt are under attack. This time, gunmen blasted a bus packed with men, women and children.

    Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner has the story.

    MARGARET WARNER: Hours after the attack, the bus sat on an unpaved desert road. Shattered windows and blood stains bore witness to the ferocious assault. Survivors told of being overtaken by eight to 10 gunmen in SUVs.

    QUESTION (on camera): How many people were on the bus?

    WOMAN (through interpreter): We were 40 people, including children, in the bus.

    QUESTION (through interpreter): What did the attackers look like?

    WOMAN (through interpreter): They were masked.

    QUESTION (through interpreter): What were they wearing?

    WOMAN (through interpreter): Like military uniforms.

    MARGARET WARNER: It happened on an isolated road in Minya province, south of Cairo. The Coptic Christians were on their way to a monastery. The Health Ministry says many of the dead and wounded were children.

    This was the latest in a series of attacks on Egypt’s embattled Christian minority since late last year. Those claimed more than 75 lives. And the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for those earlier incidents. In December, the main Coptic cathedral in Cairo was bombed. Then on Palm Sunday came twin suicide attacks on churches in Alexandria and Tanta.

    After that, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi declared a three-month nationwide state of emergency.

    PRESIDENT ABDEL FATTAH EL-SISI, Egypt (through interpreter): I won’t say those who fell are Christian or Muslim. I will say that they’re Egyptian.

    MARGARET WARNER: The pope, visiting Egypt weeks later, condemned the violence against the Copts.

    POPE FRANCIS, Leader of Catholic Church (through interpreter): God, the lover of life, never ceases to love man. It is essential that we reject any absolutizing that would justify violence, for violence is the negation of every authentic religious expression.

    MARGARET WARNER: Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 93 million people, and they have long been a target for Islamist radicals. In 2013, they largely supported then-General El-Sisi when he ousted the Muslim Brotherhood from power.

    In return, he pledged to protect the Christian minority. Now Christians say El-Sisi has failed to make good on his promise, as his government confronts an Islamist insurgency.

    NPR reporter Jane Arraf, in Cairo, said Christians don’t complain about El-Sisi publicly.

    JANE ARRAF, NPR: They don’t want to criticize him. And we know that’s the case because, after these attacks, in hospitals in Minya, where people gathered to gather their dead and comfort the wounded, there were protests, but the protests were against the attack itself. They weren’t against the government.

    MARGARET WARNER: And on a day-to-day basis, Christians must be ever more watchful and circumspect about practicing their religion, fearing violence from terrorists or their own Muslim neighbors.

    JANE ARRAF: In one place, Christians were attacked and their houses burned after they gathered to pray for victims of a suicide bombing on Palm Sunday. And when I asked villagers there what’s the problem you have with Christians, they said, we don’t have a problem. They just can’t build churches.

    So it’s really very unsettled for them in places like that, and they’re not sure who to turn to, to be perfectly honest.

    MARGARET WARNER: Today, as family members mourn the latest victims, Egyptian jets struck militant bases in Eastern Libya. And El-Sisi appealed to President Trump to take the lead in fighting terrorism.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Margaret Warner.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: This evening at the G7 summit in Sicily, President Trump condemned the attack in Egypt. He blamed what he called evil organizations of terror with a thuggish ideology.

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    President Donald Trump  walks on the South Lawn of the White House. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    TAORMINA, Sicily — President Donald Trump says he’ll make a final decision on whether the U.S. will stay in the Paris climate agreement next week.

    Trump’s surprise announcement, in the form of a tweet on the final day of his lengthy international trip, comes after Trump declined to commit to staying in a sweeping climate deal, refusing to give into intense international pressure.

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

    Earlier Saturday, the other six members of the G-7, a group of some of the world’s wealthiest nations, voted to abide by the Paris climate agreement, according to a person familiar with the talks. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter before the formal announcement.

    Trump was cajoled for three days — first in Brussels at meetings of NATO and the European Union, then in Sicily for G-7 — but will leave Italy without making clear where he stands. Under the G-7 agreement, the Trump administration will be given more time to consider whether it will remain committed to the 2015 Paris deal to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.

    Backing out of the climate accord had been a central plank of Trump’s campaign and aides have been exploring whether they can adjust the framework of the deal even if they don’t opt out entirely. Other G-7 nations leaned heavily on Trump to stay in the climate deal, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying “we put forward very many arguments.”

    “His views are evolving, he came here to learn and get smarter,” Gary Cohn, national economic council director, said Friday of the president’s thinking.

    READ NEXT: Column: Why the U.S. should remain in the Paris climate agreement

    Trump, who will return to the White House under a cloud of scandal, started Saturday at the second day of the G-7 summit in Sicily, bringing to an end a nine-day trip that started in Saudi Arabia and Israel before moving on to three European stops.

    The trip has largely gone off without a major misstep, with the administration touting the president’s efforts to birth a new coalition to fight terrorism, while admonishing partners in an old alliance to pay their fair share.

    “Big G7 meetings today. Lots of very important matters under discussion,” Trump tweeted between events. “First on the list, of course, is terrorism. #G7Taormina.”

    Trump also touted a renewed commitment by NATO’s member to spend more on defense.

    “Many NATO countries have agreed to step up payments considerably, as they should. Money is beginning to pour in- NATO will be much stronger,” he said. Trump was referring to a vow by NATO countries to move toward spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024. Only five of NATO’s 28 members meet the target: Britain, Estonia, debt-laden Greece, Poland and the United States, which spends more on defense than all the other allies combined.

    There is no evidence that money has begun to “pour in” — and countries do not pay the U.S. or NATO directly. But Germany, for instance, has been increasing its defense spending with the goal of reaching the 2 percent target by 2024.

    But after the pomp of presidential travel overseas, Trump will return to Washington to find the same problems that have dogged him.

    As a newly-appointed special counsel is beginning his investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and close adviser, has become a focus of the probe, according to The Washington Post. His lawyer said Kushner will cooperate with investigators.

    James Comey, the former FBI director leading the Russian probe until Trump abruptly fired him, is still expected to testify before Congress about the memos he kept on conversations with the president that involved the investigation.

    The search for a new FBI director continues.

    And Trump’s policy agenda has run into problems. The GOP health care bill that passed the House faces uncertain prospects in the Senate, after a Congressional Budget Office analysis that it would leave 23 million more Americans uninsured by 2026. The president’s budget was widely criticized for deep cuts to safety net programs. And some are starting to question the chances for tax reform.

    But first Trump has to finish the day in Sicily, which includes a meeting with small African nations and a G-7 leader lunch. After the summit, the president will address American troops on an Italian base before departing for home.

    READ NEXT: 22 GOP senators want U.S. to pull out of Paris climate accord

    Not yet on the agenda: a news conference.

    If that holds, Trump will break with presidential precedent by not holding at least one lengthy question-and-answer session with the press while abroad. Anxious about Trump’s tendency to make things worse for himself with unscripted remarks, the White House staff has kept the president a safe distance from journalists for most of the trip.

    Trump was warmly welcomed in the Middle East, but in Europe he’s faced a far cooler reception. He’s been willing to risk disapproval, engaging in an extraordinary scolding of close allies over their responsibility to pay for mutual defense.

    Trump took part in the ceremonial spectacle of the summit over the two days, this time at a picturesque Sicilian town above the Mediterranean Sea. But he also held one-on-one meetings with the leaders of Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany. The meeting with Merkel came just a day after Trump reportedly called Germans “bad.” Cohn stressed Friday that the president was simply being critical of the U.S. trade imbalance with Germany.

    Trump also understands that Germany is bound by the rules of the European Union and could not unilaterally change its trade policies, Cohn said. Trade was a big topic, with Cohn saying the United States’ guiding principle will be “we will treat you the way you treat us,” suggesting that retaliatory tariffs could be imposed.

    Associated Press writer David McHugh contributed to this report.

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    WASHINGTON — Jimmy Carter had been impressed with the views of foreign policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski well before he won the presidency in 1977. That he immediately liked the Polish-born academic advising his campaign was a plus.

    “He was inquisitive, innovative and a natural choice as my national security adviser when I became president,” Carter said in a statement following Brzezinski’s death Friday.

    “He helped me set vital foreign policy goals, was a source of stimulation for the departments of defense and state, and everyone valued his opinion,” Carter said. “He played an essential role in all the key foreign policy events of my administration.”

    Earnest and ambitious, Brzezinski helped Carter bridge wide gaps between the rigid Egyptian and Israeli leaders, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, leading to the Camp David accords in September 1978. Three months later, U.S.-China relations were normalized, a top priority for Brzezinski. He also had a hand in two other controversial agreements: the SALT II nuclear weapons treaty with the Soviet Union and the Panama Canal treaties ceding U.S. control of the waterway.

    “He was brilliant, dedicated and loyal,” said Carter, who awarded Brzezinski the Presidential Medal of Freedom days before leaving office in 1981.

    Brzezinski’s death at age 89 was announced on social media Friday night by his daughter, MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski. She called him “the most inspiring, loving and devoted father any girl could ever have.” Also surviving Brzezinski were his wife, Emilie, and their sons Ian and Mark.

    “His influence spanned several decades,” former President Barack Obama said in a statement Saturday, “and I was one of several presidents who benefited from his wisdom and counsel. You always knew where Zbig stood, and his ideas and advocacy helped shape decades of American national security policy.”

    Born in Warsaw and educated in Canada and the United States, Brzezinski was an acknowledged expert in Communism when he attracted the attention of U.S. policymakers. In the 1960s he was an adviser to John F. Kennedy, served in the Johnson administration and advised Hubert Humphrey’s presidential campaign. He was the first director of the Trilateral Commission, an international discussion group, serving from 1973 to 1976.

    In December 1976, Carter offered Brzezinski the position of national security adviser. Brzezinski had not wanted to be secretary of state because he felt he could be more effective working at Carter’s side in the White House.

    [Watch Video]

    Brzezinski often found himself in clashes with colleagues like Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. For the White House, the differences between Vance and Brzezinski became a major headache, confusing the American public about the administration’s policy course and fueling a decline in confidence that Carter could keep his foreign policy team working in tandem.

    The Iranian hostage crisis, which began in 1979, came to dramatize America’s waning global power and influence and to symbolize the failures and frustrations of the Carter administration. Brzezinski, during the early months of 1980, became convinced that negotiations to free the kidnapped Americans were going nowhere. Supported by the Pentagon, he began to push for military action.

    Carter was desperate to end the standoff and, over Vance’s objections, agreed to a long-shot plan to rescue the hostages. The mission, dubbed Desert One, was a complete military and political humiliation and precipitated Vance’s resignation. Carter lost his re-election bid against Ronald Reagan that November.

    Brzezinski went on to ruffle the feathers of Washington’s power elite with his 1983 book, “Power and Principle,” which was hailed and reviled as a kiss-and-tell memoir.

    “I have never believed in flattery or lying as a way of making it,” he told The Washington Post that year. “I have made it on my own terms.”

    The oldest son of Polish diplomat Tadeus Brzezinski, Zbigniew was born on March 28, 1928. He attended Catholic schools during the time his father was posted in France and Germany.

    The family went to Montreal in 1938 when the elder Brzezinski was appointed Polish consul general. When Communists took power in Poland six years later, he retired and moved his family to a farm in the Canadian countryside.

    At his new home, the young Brzezinski began learning Russian from a nearby farmer and was soon bitten by the foreign policy bug.

    Brzezinski’s climb to the top of the foreign policy community began at Canada’s McGill University, where he earned degrees in economics and political science. Later at Harvard, he received a doctorate in government, a fellowship and a publishing contract — for his thesis on Soviet purges as a permanent feature of totalitarianism.

    FILE PHOTO - Former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski arrives to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington

    Former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski arrives to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 1, 2007. Photo by Jim Young/File Photo/Reuters

    He made frequent trips to Eastern Europe and wrote several books and articles on Communism in the 1950s. Throughout his career, he would be affiliated with moderate-to-liberal groups, including the Rand Corp., the Council on Foreign Relations, Amnesty International and the NAACP.

    Cautioning in lectures of fractures within the Communist movement, Brzezinski emerged in the mid-1960s as a defender of the American presence in Vietnam. Unless the United States put up an effective resistance there, he argued, communist nations such as China would be emboldened to engage the West by fomenting trouble in politically unstable regions.

    Still, Brzezinski characterized himself as a “dawk,” suggesting that he might have had reservations about other aspects of American policy in Southeast Asia.

    Impressed nonetheless, the Johnson administration appointed him to the State Department’s Policy Planning Council in 1966. Though he was low on the White House totem pole, the position gave Brzezinski entre to the highest circles of White House decision-making.

    After Carter left office, Brzezinski returned to lecturing, writing and serving on commissions, boards and task forces. He took part in the long-awaited reunification of Europe as a delegate to proceedings designed to bring the former Soviet republics into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

    It was a triumph for the allies, he said, over a brutal secret non-aggression deal hatched during World War II — “the final undoing in Europe of the legacies of the Stalin-Hitler pact.”

    He remained engaged and opinionated, tweeting for the last time early this month: “Sophisticated US leadership is the sine qua non of a stable world order. However, we lack the former while the latter is getting worse.”

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    Rupa Chand Shah, a school teacher who does not support the practice of Chaupadi, teaches an awareness class at Shree Devi Mando School in the hills of Legudsen village in Achham District in western Nepal February 16, 2014. Chaupadi is a tradition observed in parts of Nepal, which cuts women off from the rest of society when they are menstruating. Photo by REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar (NEPAL - Tags: SOCIETY) ATTENTION EDITORS: PICTURE 16 OF 20 FOR PACKAGE 'BANISHED ONCE A MONTH' 
TO FIND ALL IMAGES SEARCH 'CHAUPADI' - RTR3G24U

    Rupa Chand Shah, a school teacher who does not support the practice of Chaupadi, teaches an awareness class at Shree Devi Mando School in the hills of Legudsen village in Achham District in western Nepal, on Feb. 16, 2014. Chaupadi is a tradition observed in parts of Nepal, which cuts women off from the rest of society when they are menstruating. Photo by Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters

    Millions of girls and women are displaced and on the move right now globally – and the Trump administration’s proposed drastic cuts to humanitarian aid will have a major impact on these girls’ and women’s health.

    An especially important but often overlooked issue is one of the most basic parts of life for women – menstruation. This routine part of female life is a pronounced burden for women in low-income countries and those who are displaced. It disrupts many girls’ abilities to participate actively in school, potentially consigning them to second-class status for the rest of their lives. A lack of easy access to adequate toilets in schools or elsewhere can also place them at higher risk for sexual violence as they seek out safe places to manage their menstruation and other sanitation needs.

    As someone who is studying ways to help girls and women manage their periods with dignity, I see Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28 as a critical opportunity to talk about and bring attention to this too often taboo topic.

    Lack of privacy and access to facilities

    Over the past year, the International Rescue Committee has partnered with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, with support from Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises, to improve standards in menstrual hygiene management programming in emergencies across the world.

    Its aim is to raise the bar and provide guidelines for a comprehensive response – one that considers more than just sanitary pads.

    Protesters leave messages written on feminine hygiene pads on a wall near the start of the Women's March in Washington

    Protesters leave messages written on feminine hygiene pads on a wall near the start of the Women’s March in Washington, U.S. January 21, 2017. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    To do so, the project needed to ask adolescent girls and women what they actually need and want, and effectively integrate a variety of perspectives and experiences.

    What we found was that the main difficulties women and girls faced went beyond a need for materials and included a lack of privacy and facilities to manage their menstruation. Living in tents without doors, with only curtains, they had no choice but to use the shared toilets, which were cramped, unclean, poorly lit and had no running water.

    This ranged from girls and women living in informal settlements in urban settings in the Middle East and Europe, to those in camps for refugees and internally displaced populations in Asia and Africa.

    Secrecy and taboos also complicate

    For women and girls displaced by conflict or natural disaster, managing their monthly periods can be challenging. Few female hygiene products are available, private sanitation facilities are hard to find and clean water is not always guaranteed. Often, even just talking about periods can be challenging, given the secrecy and taboos that surround menstruation in many societies.

    Without the ability to properly manage their periods, women and girls are increasingly vulnerable in their day-to-day lives. It makes them more susceptible to gender-based and sexual violence as they seek appropriate materials and private places to wash, dry and dispose of used materials. For example, many may need to seek out private spaces in forests or under cover or darkness to try to manage their washing and drying privately, but being alone puts them at risk of attack.

    Other girls and women may encounter harassment when they go to pick up monthly distributions of pads. They risk embarrassment and ridicule from a menstrual leak, which can hinder their ability to engage socially, attend school or carry out daily activities. This can prove more challenging with limited laundry soap, water and few changes of clothes.

    READ NEXT: All-male panel in Utah votes to keep sales tax on tampons

    “If you take too long at the toilet someone will come in while you are changing and no one is supposed to see you during menstruation,” one girl shared.

    “You must dry your underwear and pads in secret. People may steal it for witchcraft. This can cause you infertility,” said another.

    We also found that disposal of waste materials was a common concern. There were no or few waste bins in the toilets in displacement camps, so women and girls needed to find their own ways of disposing of used pads. They were not willing to throw them away in the provided waste facilities in fear that people would see their pads and get hold of them. Strong cultural beliefs contributed to existing fears that if someone were to see their used menstrual material, they might be cursed.

    In Myanmar, for example, women resorted to burying them in the ground at some distance from their homes, in the hours of darkness. Others tried to dispose of pads directly into toilets, leading to frequent blockages.

    Information lacking, and sometimes badly sourced

    Access to information was also scarce. Girls learned about menstruation from mothers, sisters or friends. As is often the case, this advice wove together folklore with more practical information.

    For instance, we found that Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon believed that they were prohibited from washing themselves, cutting their hair or participating in physical activities while they were menstruating.

    We found that women and adolescent girls strongly desired increased education around menstruation. Mothers especially wanted information on how best to discuss it with their daughters.

    Instead, girls often learn about their periods from male teachers.

    “When the teacher is telling them about menstruation, he is male, and there are boys there. The boys start to laugh and shout at them and afterward continue to tease us,” explained a Congolese girl in Nyarugusu Camp.

    The humanitarian community has become better at distributing materials to women and girls, and in incorporating menstrual hygiene management into their responses.

    Working for solutions

    Making sure women and girls have access to suitable materials (and underwear!) and know how to use them is important; but there’s more to solving this problem.

    Toilets and washrooms need to be private, safe and clean. Waste disposal systems need to address all waste flows generated in the camps effectively and discreetly. Schools need to be able to cater to girls when they have their period. Better information is necessary to break societal taboos around menstruation. We’ve heard all of this from women and girls themselves.

    The next step of our menstruation investigation project aims to finalize a comprehensive package of tools and guidelines to help agencies rapidly identify key needs; provide needed materials, facilities and support; and monitor the effectiveness of the program so that gaps can be identified and filled.

    This is possible only if the humanitarian aid community works across sectors, including education, protection, health, water and sanitation, to provide the best possible programs in emergencies.

    And it is possible only if aid workers talk with women and girls, listen to their concerns and provide appropriate programming, not just providing programs by the book.

    Ultimately, a humanitarian response that allows women and girls to manage their menstruation in dignity is a better humanitarian response.

    Period.

    This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.

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    Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner watch as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Donald Trump hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2017. Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters

    Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner watch as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Donald Trump hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2017. Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and now top White House adviser Jared Kushner reportedly proposed setting up a secret back channel between the Kremlin and the Trump transition team during a December meeting with a leading Russian diplomat.

    During the meeting at Trump Tower in New York City, Kushner proposed using Russian diplomatic facilities for the discussions, apparently to make them more difficult to monitor, according to The Washington Post, citing anonymous U.S. officials who were briefed on intelligence reports on intercepted Russian communications.

    The Russian envoy, Sergey Kislyak, ambassador to the United States, told his superiors that he was “taken aback” by Kushner’s suggestion, the newspaper said. The New York Times reported that the back channel was intended as a way to discuss Syria and other policy issues, but never was set up.

    The disclosures put White House advisers on the defensive Saturday, as Trump wrapped up his first foreign trip as president, and led lawyers for Kushner to say he is willing to talk with federal and congressional investigators about his foreign contacts and his work on the Trump campaign.

    Meeting with reporters in Sicily, two chief Trump advisers refused to address the contents of Kushner’s December meeting with the Russian diplomat. But they did not dismiss the idea that the administration would go outside normal U.S. government and diplomatic channels for communications with other countries.

    Speaking generally, national security adviser H.R. McMaster said “we have back channel communications with a number of countries.” He added: “It allows you to communicate in a discreet manner.”

    In response to repeated questions from reporters, Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn said, “We’re not “We’re not going to comment on Jared. We’re just not going to comment.”

    Kushner was a trusted Trump adviser last year, overseeing the campaign’s digital strategy, and remains an influential confidant within the White House as does his wife, Ivanka Trump.

    Federal investigators and several congressional committees are looking into any connections between Russia and the Trump campaign, including allegations that there may have been collaboration to help Trump and harm his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Those inquiries now include scrutiny of Kushner, according to The Post.

    The White House has previously confirmed that Kushner met with Kislyak at Trump Tower in December. One White House official at the time characterized it as a brief courtesy meeting and confirmed that Michael Flynn, Trump’s ousted national security adviser, was in the room.

    Flynn was fired in February after officials said he misled Vice President Mike Pence about whether he and the ambassador had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia in a phone call. Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general, told Congress this month that that deception left Flynn vulnerable to being blackmailed by the Russians. Flynn remains under federal investigation in Virginia over his foreign business ties and was interviewed by the FBI in January about his contacts with Kislyak.

    Obama administration officials told The Associated Press this past week that the frequency of Flynn’s discussions with Kislyak raised enough red flags that aides discussed the possibility Trump was trying to establish a one-to-one line of communication — a back channel — with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    The Times reported that Flynn was at the center of the idea. Citing three people with knowledge of Kushner’s discussion with Kislyak, the newspaper said that Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, was supposed to communicate directly with a senior Russian military official as part of the plan to discuss the war in Syria and other issues.

    In addition, Reuters reported that Kushner had at least three previously undisclosed contacts with Kislyak last year, including two phone calls between April and November. Kushner’s attorney, Jamie Gorelick, told Reuters that Kushner “has no recollection of the calls as described.”

    Defense attorneys and former FBI agents say that one likely area of interest for investigators would be Kushner’s own meetings with Russians, given that such encounters with a variety of Trump associates are at the root of the sprawling probe, now overseen by former FBI Director Robert Mueller.

    Regarding Kushner, former FBI agent Jim Treacy said Friday: “If there is an investigation on anybody, would other folks around that person be of interest to the FBI as far as being interviewed? The answer to that is a big yes.” If the FBI wants to speak with someone, it’s not necessarily an indication of involvement or complicity, said Treacy, who did two tours in Moscow as the FBI’s legal attache.

    “Really, being spoken to, does not confer a target status on the individual,” he said.

    Investigators are also interested in a meeting Kushner had with the Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, according to reports from The Post and NBC News.

    “Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings,” Gorelick said in a statement Thursday. “He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.”

    Another potential line of inquiry could concern Kushner’s failure to disclose some of his contacts with Russian government officials when he was filling out his application for a security clearance. The omissions were described as an “administrative error” by Gorelick, who said additional information about his meetings were provided to the FBI the day after he submitted his incomplete clearance application.

    When applying for a security clearance, applicants are asked to disclose details about their interactions with foreigners, including the names of all the foreign government officials the applicant has had contact with over the past seven years. In some cases, people can lose their security clearances and jobs for not properly disclosing foreign contacts. Some Democrats have called on Kushner to be stripped of his security clearance and have asked the FBI to review whether Kushner complied with the law.

    Associated Press writers Chad Day, Eric Tucker and Vivian Salama contributed to this report.

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    U.S. President Trump waves before boarding Air Force One along with first lady Melania Trump at Sigonella Air Force Base in Sigonella

    President Donald Trump waves before boarding Air Force One along with first lady Melania Trump at Sigonella Air Force Base in Sigonella, Sicily, Italy, May 27, 2017. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    NAVAL AIR STATION SIGONELLA, Sicily — President Donald Trump on Saturday said his maiden first trip abroad was a “home run” and he vowed to overcome the threat of terrorism, concluding a grueling five-stop sprint that ended with the promise of an imminent decision on the much-discussed Paris climate accord.

    Trump ended his nine-day trip with a speech to U.S. troops in Sicily, where he recounted his visits to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Belgium and Italy and his work to counter terrorism. The president said recent terrorist attacks in Manchester, England and Egypt underscored the need for the U.S. to “defeat terrorism and protect civilization.”

    “Terrorism is a threat, bad threat to all of humanity,” Trump said, standing in front of a massive American flag at Naval Air Station Sigonella. “And together we will overcome this threat. We will win.”

    Trump tweeted earlier in the day that he would make a final decision next week on whether to withdraw from the climate pact. European leaders he met with at the Group of 7 summit in Sicily have been pressuring Trump to stay in the accord, arguing that America’s leadership on climate is crucial.

    Besides reaching a decision on the climate agreement once back in Washington, Trump will also face a new crush of Russia-related controversies. On Friday, the Washington Post reported that Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner spoke with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. about setting up secret communications with Moscow.

    Trump held no news conferences during the nine-day trip, which allowed him to avoid questions about the Russia investigations. His top economic and national security advisers refused to answer questions about Kushner during a press briefing Saturday.

    The White House had hoped to use Trump’s five-stop trip as a moment to reset. The president was warmly received on his opening stops in Saudi Arabia and Israel, though he has come under more pressure in Europe, particularly over the Paris accord.

    Trump was cajoled for three days – first in Brussels at meetings of NATO and the European Union, then in Sicily for G-7 – but will leave Italy without making clear where he stands.

    As the G-7 summit came to a close Saturday, the six other members – Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan – renewed their commitment to the accord. The summit’s communique noted that the Trump administration would take more time to consider whether it will remain committed to the 2015 Paris deal to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.

    [Watch Video]

    Backing out of the climate accord had been a central plank of Trump’s campaign and aides have been exploring whether they can adjust the framework of the deal even if they don’t opt out entirely. Other G-7 nations leaned heavily on Trump to stay in the climate deal, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying “we put forward very many arguments.”

    The president’s trip has largely gone off without a major misstep, with the administration touting the president’s efforts to birth a new coalition to fight terrorism, while admonishing partners in an old alliance to pay their fair share.

    “I think we hit a home run no matter where we are,” Trump told the soldiers. He also touted his meetings with NATO members, adding, “We’re behind NATO all the way.” He reiterated a renewed commitment by NATO members to spend more on defense.

    Trump was referring to a vow by NATO countries to move toward spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024. Only five of NATO’s 28 members meet the target: Britain, Estonia, debt-laden Greece, Poland and the United States, which spends more on defense than all the other allies combined.

    “The U.S. is currently paying much more than any other nation and that is not fair to the United States or the United States taxpayer. So we’re working on it and I will tell you, a big difference over the last year, money is actually starting to pour into NATO from countries that would not have been doing what they’re doing now had I not been elected, I can tell you that. Money is starting to pour in,” Trump said, echoing a tweet earlier Saturday on the subject.

    There is no evidence that money has begun to “pour in” and countries do not pay the U.S. or NATO directly. But Germany, for instance, has been increasing its defense spending with the goal of reaching the 2 percent target by 2024.

    After the pomp of presidential travel overseas, Trump will return to Washington and many of the problems he left behind.

    As a newly appointed special counsel is beginning to investigate links between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, Kushner has become a focus of the probe. Kushner’s lawyer said he will cooperate with investigators.

    James Comey, the former FBI director who led the Russian probe until Trump abruptly fired him, is still expected to testify before Congress about memos he kept on conversations with the president that involved the investigation. Meanwhile, the search for a new FBI director continues.

    And Trump’s policy agenda has run into problems. The GOP health care bill that passed the House faces uncertain prospects in the Senate after a Congressional Budget Office analysis that it would leave 23 million more Americans uninsured by 2026. The president’s budget was widely criticized for deep cuts to safety net programs. And some are starting to question the chances for Trump’s pledge to overhaul the U.S. tax code.

    Associated Press writers David McHugh and Ken Thomas contributed to this report.

    The post Trump calls first trip abroad ‘home run’ as challenges await appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    British Airways canceled all its flights in and out of London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Saturday after a major computer system failure.

    Thousands of airline passengers, many who were travelling during a holiday weekend in the United Kingdom, were stranded due to the outage, while the airline’s fleet was left grounded on runways.

    “It’s a complete nightmare,” one person stuck at Heathrow told Reuters, also describing long waits and confusion among the airline’s staff. “There’s just hundreds and thousands of people accumulating in the departures bit.”

    British Airways has not revealed the source of the computer failure but said there has been no evidence it was caused by a cyber attack.

    Officials at Heathrow Airport, one of the busiest in the world and a major hub for British Airways, said in a statement on Twitter it was working with the airline to assist passengers who are stranded.

    “All passengers booked onto these flights should not travel to the airport today,” the statement read.

    The post British Airways cancels all flights out of London after computer system failure appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Demonstrators run away from tear gas during a demonstration against the G7 summit in Giardini Naxos

    Demonstrators run away from tear gas during a demonstration against the G7 summit in Giardini Naxos, Sicily, Italy, on May 27, 2017. Photo by Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters

    TAORMINA, Sicily — Italian police have used tear gas against anarchists, communists and other anti-global protesters after the Group of Seven summit in Sicily.

    A stand-off is underway between Italian riot police and the protesters on Saturday evening in Giardini Naxos, a seaside town down the hill from Taormina, where leaders of seven large industrialized democracies had gathered for a two-day summit.

    The leaders had all left before the protest began.

    Protesters face police during a demonstration against the G7 summit in Giardini Naxos near Taormina

    Protesters face police during a demonstration against the G7 summit in Giardini Naxos near Taormina, Sicily, Italy, on May 27, 2017. Photo by Yara Nardi/Reuters

    Many of the protesters carried flags or wore bandanas over their faces with the hammer and sickle symbol, a communist symbol.

    The post Italian riot police tear gas G-7 protesters appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Ford Highland, Complacent Class

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    By Christopher Booker and Connie Kargbo

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Economist Tyler Cowen thinks Americans, from the Millennials to the Baby Boomers, have lost their spark.

    TYLER COWEN: Every available measure we have of productivity in this country shows that innovation is slowing down. And furthermore, real wages show the same thing. So there’s people who sell to global markets and become very rich. They’re doing great. But the average American, and you see this in our politics, does not feel they are so much better off and they do not really expect their children will be much better off than they are.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: In his new book, The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American dream, Cowen argues the US, founded on risk and built on innovation, has lost the dynamism that set it apart from the rest of the world.

    TYLER COWEN: What really drove this book was a number of trips to China that I did and I thought, “Well, today, China is really our peer and rival, so let’s write about America from the point of view of China. How does all this look to the Chinese?” And indeed, large numbers of Chinese people I spoke to who had visited this country, “Oh, the wonderful blue skies. Everything is so nice. But, you know, it’s calm and a little sleepy. And you’re not ambitious like we are.”

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: While some of America’s most influential companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook project the image of a country on the move, Cowen views Silicon Valley as America’s outlier. And data shows the notion that America remains the home of growth and change, is wrong.

    One example of stagnation — the interstate migration rate declined 51 percent between the 1970s and 2013.

    Another sign is job lock. In 1998, 44 percent of American workers had held the same job for five or more years. By 2014, 51 percent did.

    And look at young entrepreneurs. The share of Americans under 30 who own a business has fallen by more than half since the 1980s.

    TYLER COWEN: Startups as a percentage of overall business activity have been declining since the 1980s. There’s also more concentration and more monopoly of some sort in the American economy, especially at the retail level. Not all of that is bad. But when you add them all up and think about how it’s shaping our overall mentality about what we expect from the future, that’s where I fear that we’re– setting our sights far too low. And we don’t have the American oomph that we had throughout much of the 20th century.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Cowen says this increased complacency and taking fewer risks has caused Americans to grow averse to conflict and this has a cost.

    TYLER COWEN: We do have a lot of innovations coming out of Silicon Valley. Netflix and Amazon. I use them myself. But to a large part, they improve our leisure time, not our productivity. They make it easier to stay at home rather than to go out and challenge the world. And for each individual, they may improve happiness or contentment. But when done collectively, there’s a problem, as we become less dynamic, less challenging in building of our physical environment. So I would say the complacent class are all of those Americans who do not see this as any kind of urgent problem. And that’s virtually all of us.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Because we’re happy with our Netflix, we’re happy with our Uber transportation systems, we’re happy with all these developments?

    TYLER COWEN: Yes, but keep in mind, at the same time, we’re unhappy with other things. So slow or zero wage growth, or some people are unhappy about various politicians having been elected. And what’s hard for people to grasp is that what they’re happy about and what they’re unhappy about, those are actually two sides of the same coin. And that’s why complacency is dangerous. To think, you know, in the 1960s, for all of the problems of that era, we put a man on the moon in basically seven years starting from scratch. Today, we can debate issues for seven years and not really get anywhere.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Amidst all that social protest and upheaval, we still achieved this unbelievable feat.

    TYLER COWEN: And those are, again, two sides of the same coin, that the chaos and the dynamism have some connection. It’s not that riots are a good thing, that’s the wrong reading. But rather, to understand the costs of trying to remove all of the risks from our lives.

    The post Economist Tyler Cowen says Americans have lost their drive appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    File photo of a polar bear keeping close to her young along the Beaufort Sea coast in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

    A polar bear keeps close to her young along the Beaufort Sea coast in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska in a March 6, 2007 handout photo. Photo by Susanne Miller/US Fish and Wildlife Service/Handout via Reuters

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska — President Donald Trump’s plan to help balance the federal budget features a new attempt to open the coastal plain of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to petroleum drilling.

    The effort is the latest chapter in a long-running political fight between two camps: environmentalists, who revere the plain as a maternity ward for polar bears, caribou and migratory birds; and politicians, including those in Alaska’s congressional delegation, who have campaigned for four decades on the promise of jobs and prosperity through “opening ANWR.”

    The refuge covers 2,300 square miles (5,957 square kilometers), an area the size of West Virginia and Connecticut combined in Alaska’s northeast corner.

    Some things to know about the debate:

    WHAT’S THE HISTORY OF THE REFUGE?

    Alaska Natives have used it as subsistence hunting grounds for thousands of years. President Dwight Eisenhower in 1960 signed legislation creating the refuge.

    Congress in 1980 expanded it and declared much of it wilderness, but threw in a wild card: Recognizing the oil production potential, Congress declared that the coastal plain, tundra stretching from the Beaufort Sea to the foothills of the Brooks Range, should be studied. Another act of Congress and presidential approval can open it to drilling.

    READ NEXT: Can Arctic ecosystems survive without river icings?

    HOW MUCH OIL?

    The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the coastal plain holds 10.4 billion barrels of oil — compared with 25 billion at the older Prudhoe Bay oil field to the west.

    Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska calls the refuge’s coast plain North America’s greatest prospect for conventional oil production. The plain is 60 miles (97 kilometers) east of the trans-Alaska pipeline, which operates at one-quarter capacity as North Slope oil fields such as Prudhoe Bay have declined.

    Alaska is draining billion-dollar savings accounts to pay for schools and roads and is anxious to find more revenue. Gov. Bill Walker says it’s frustrating to be denied access to billions of barrels of oil in an area specifically set aside to be evaluated for resource development within miles of a pipeline that’s three-quarters empty.

    North Slope crude was selling for nearly $54 a barrel Tuesday. Alaska could benefit from jobs, additional taxes and federal revenue sharing if the refuge opens.

    WHAT STANDS IN THE WAY OF DRILLING?

    The refuge is about as wild a place as there is. There are no roads, no campgrounds, not even established trails. And the environmental community and some Alaska Native groups want to keep it that way.

    Besides polar bears, the coastal plain is home to muskoxen, the nests of 200 species of migratory birds, and for part of the year, the vast Porcupine Caribou Herd — 197,000 animals that roam between the refuge and Canada’s Yukon and Northwest Territories.

    Environmentalists say America should pivot toward renewable energy, not add to climate warming by burning oil extracted from wilderness and generating greenhouse gases.

    “The fact it’s happening to what’s supposed to be a refuge for wildlife only adds insult to injury,” said Kristen Monsell, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity.

    HAS CONGRESS VOTED ON OPENING THE REFUGE BEFORE?

    Between the House and Senate, Congress has voted 49 times on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, according to the Alaska Wilderness League. Both chambers approved a bill to open the refuge in 1995, but President Bill Clinton vetoed it.

    Murkowski is optimistic that a Trump administration and a Republican-controlled Senate and House present a new opportunity to open the area for development.

    WHAT WOULD OPENING THE REFUGE DO FOR THE FEDERAL BUDGET?

    Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke acknowledged Tuesday that the ANWR item in the president’s proposed budget is a placeholder.

    Lease sales are not likely before 2022, Zinke said, and winning bids could generate $3.5 billion over 10 years. If companies find oil, production would generate royalty payments and federal and state taxes.

    Zinke said America needs refuge oil in the trans-Alaska pipeline to reach Trump’s goal of “energy dominance” and to help balance the federal budget.

    WHAT’S NEXT?

    Murkowski has legislation pending that would open the refuge but limit oil company infrastructure, such as drilling pads and roads, to 3 square miles (8 square kilometers).

    Environmentalists say that figure is misleading, because oil operations would require multiple drilling pads connected by roads and pipelines. They say Murkowski’s bill would create a spider web of industrial blight across the plain, and if it passes, they would sue to block it.

    The post Trump’s budget renews debate on Arctic refuge oil drilling appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FILE PHOTO: White House Senior Advisor Kushner listens during President Trump's joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: According to stories published in the past 24 hours by “The Washington Post,” “The New York Times” and “Reuters”, president Trump’s son- in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, made an unusual proposal to Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. after Mr. Trump won the election. The newspaper says last December, Kushner sought to establish a back channel to the Kremlin by using secure communications inside a Russian embassy or consulate in the U.S. Those discussions are now reportedly a subject of the FBI’s ongoing investigation into administration relationships with Russia and Russian meddling in the election.

    “The Washington Post’s” Greg Miller is one of the reporters who broke this story last night, and he joins me now from Washington to discuss it.

    Greg, first off, was what Jared Kushner did illegal?

    GREG MILLER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think the idea of setting up a channel to talk with Russia may not be. It depends on what was discussed. We ran into this with the case of Michael Flynn, who was Trump’s first national security adviser. He had a discussion with the Russian ambassador that really technically he was raising subjects and talking about things that would break the law, but it happened to be a law that’s 200 years old that has never been enforced. So, we might be in similar territory here.

    SREENIVASAN: This was a meeting that was kind of initially if not denied not brought to light.

    MILLER: Yes. I mean, this is the latest in a series of cases in which the White House has had many, many months to be up front about what happened, when these meetings happened, what was said in these meetings, and they’re always acknowledging them only after they’re exposed in the press. What we’re learning now is a very important development, that Kushner and Kislyak were actually discussing the setting up of a secret channel between the Trump transition team and Moscow, and, in fact, were discussing using Russian communications gear to accomplish that. That’s what’s really remarkable.

    SREENIVASAN: Let’s get to how we know that was said.

    MILLER: This was learned about only after Kislyak, the Russian ambassador leaves that meeting, and he’s reporting back to Moscow what has transpired. This is what we talked about. His communications with Moscow, they are under surveillance. They are intercepted, and this is how the U.S. intelligence picked up on what was discussed in this meeting with Kushner.

    SREENIVASAN: How do we know that Sergey Kislyak was being honest to his superiors?

    MILLER: Well, we don’t know for sure. Russian officials and intelligence operatives will often push falsehoods into communications channels that they know the United States is monitoring, just to sow confusion.

    But in this case, it’s hard to imagine what the motive would have been for Kislyak to mischaracterize his conversation with Kushner in this way. In fact, Kislyak seemed taken aback by this request, based on how he’s relaying this to Moscow. He can’t really believe, why would they want to do this? Why are they asking for this? It seems strange to him.

    It doesn’t really fit in with him sort of exaggerating his relationship with Kushner or at that time really trying to — what would be the point of putting Kushner in a vulnerable position this way?

    SREENIVASAN: You know, one of the tidbits in your story is that “The Post” was first alerted of this in mid-December. Why did it take so long for this information to be published now?

    MILLER: My colleague Ellen Nakashima got an anonymous letter in December. It just arrived in her mailbox at “The Post.” And she shared it with us and we looked through it.

    It described things that were happening in Trump Tower in the transition at that time. One of the things it mentioned was that there was a meeting, Kushner, Kislyak, Flynn, and that this idea of setting up a secret channel was discussed.

    Now, we had — there was no name attached to this. We had no idea who sent it. There was no way for us to get back in touch with whoever had done so. And so, it just basically took a long time for us to get corroboration.

    When you get a letter like that, it can help guide your reporting, but it doesn’t amount to sourcing that you can really use for a story. You have to get people, other people, other sources to corroborate what’s in that message.

    SREENIVASAN: One of the things that possibly took this story so long to publish on a Friday afternoon, Memorial Day weekend, what did the White House say about this?

    MILLER: Yes, well, I mean, to us the White House said very little ultimately. You saw in our story, it said that the White House declined to comment. That wasn’t for lack of trying. There was a lot of back and forth with the White House on this story, with Kushner’s representatives, and, you know, there was fair amount said there. They were unwilling to share any of that with us on the record or allow us to attribute it to even White House officials.

    SREENIVASAN: Jared Kushner’s lawyer has said before this story published that they are willing to cooperate with the FBI. Is this what the FBI is planning to ask him about?

    MILLER: Oh, I’m certain that the FBI is deeply interested in Kushner’s meetings with Russians on multiple occasions and having presumably the U.S. intelligence community has brought this to the attention of the FBI, what Kislyak has relayed back to Moscow. I’m sure that the FBI is keenly interested in learning why was it, Mr. Kushner, that you felt it necessary to set up a secret channel with Moscow that the U.S. government would not have been able to listen to?

    SREENIVASAN: All right. The article in “The Washington Post” has three bylines. Yours is one of them. Ellen Nakashima and Adam Entous as well worked on this.

    Greg Miller from “The Washington Post” — thanks so much.

    MILLER: Thank you.

    The post Washington Post reporter: Russian ambassador ‘taken aback’ by Kushner’s back channel request appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    People gather at Place de la Republique square to pay tribute to the victims of last year's shooting at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, in Paris

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Beyond the United Kingdom, France has endured the worst terrorist attacks in Europe during the past two years, attacks that have killed 239 people. There was the assault on the offices of the satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo” in January of 2015, followed by the mass shootings at a concert hall and cafes in Paris in November, and then last summer’s Bastille Day truck attack on pedestrians on the boardwalk in Nice.

    In his latest book, “Terror in France: The Rise of Jihad in the West,” Paris-based scholar Gilles Kepel delves into the undercurrents of these attacks.

    I recently spoke to Kepel here in the studio.

    What’s happening in France? Why is it different than the rest of Europe in terms of these attacks?

    GILLES KEPEL, PARIS-BASED SCHOLAR/AUTHOR: Well, it was different because, as you said, we suffered 239 dead. The reason why we focused on France was that they thought they could take the French political hostage. They thought the more attacks there would be, then the more people would vote for the extreme right because they felt that almost they’re more of culprit (ph) or something, and — because you have to remember that the terrorist jihadist wants to proselytize among other Muslims, and they want to sort of bring them under their banner, because most of our Muslim compatriots just loathe them and hate them.

    But, you know, they want to say, the French are racist, the French vote for the extreme right, therefore there is no way for you in Europe, and the only way for you to be safe is to rally with us and then to sow jihad and civil strife in country — in Europe, because, you know, this third-generation jihadism, which I describe in my book “Terror in France,” thinks that Europe is the soft underbelly of the West, and this is where they have to focus.

    In Europe, they want to use a number of disenfranchised young Muslims whom they think see no future in Europe and then are sort of manipulated by the Salafists and think there is a break in values between Islam and European values. And therefore, you know, this is the sort of bolt and nut phenomenon that will lead to mobilization of the masses, because it’s easy to kill people, but it’s very difficult to mobilize the masses on your behalf. And this is the quandary of terrorism.

    SREENIVASAN: We’ve had terror attacks before throughout the world. I mean, whether it’s Africa, or Indonesia, as you point out in the book. But they didn’t have the effect of destabilizing societies. And as you point out, there is a little bit more of a systematic thought given to what this third-generation of terrorists are doing.

    KEPEL: Well, definitely. The issue is to destabilize society and to provoke retaliation, you know, from the majority societies. So as to lead to sort of enclave wars in Europe, you know, we have those values where impoverished young people, children of immigrants or others live with very high level of unemployment, rates that can reach up to 40 percent at times. So, for those people, there is not much hope. They went to school. They have no jobs. They do drugs or they go to jail. And therefore, this idea that the future is the Islamic State, is ISIS, was appealing to some.

    SREENIVASAN: France and Belgium saw thousands of men go to training camps in Syria and then come back into Europe. Has that flow decreased? And if so, why?

    KEPEL: Well, over the last year, there is no flow left because the borders between Turkey and the Islamic State have been sealed, and the Turks arrest whoever comes from France and they pick up in Turkey. So, to a large extent, this big threat that was envisaged that, you know, we have so many returnees who have been trained and brainwashed and would be very powerful in staging huge attacks has not been that salient as we thought it would be.

    And then the people there on ISIS territory are, you know, suffer from the bombings and from the droning. And therefore, they’re sort of trapped there for the time being.

    SREENIVASAN: One of the things that’s interesting also is you look at this notion of the lone wolf. It’s not absolutely accurate. You actually trace it back into ideology and how it’s been publicized and proselytized for years and years now. And one of the more unsettling conclusions is that the attack in San Bernardino, the attack in Orlando are not the end for the United States.

    KEPEL: Definitely, and they’re not lone wolf issues. You know, you may — lone wolf is something that comes from an American concept. Someone, you know, the Columbine attack or whatever people who just read books and everything, and buy weapons and go on a shooting spree.

    But this is different. I mean, because you have this ideology in place. There are works by a Syrian engineer called Abu Musab al-Suri who posted on the Internet in 2005 a very lengthy book in Arabic called “Global Islamic Resistance Call” where he says those attacks in your neighborhood, this is the solution, that people imbued with this Islamist radical ideology. And, then, you know, you take a knife, you take a gun, you take your car, and then you kill as many kufar or infidels as possible and then they will retaliate. They will, say, desecrate a mosque or something, and this will create a sort of a system of provocation and repression, which will lead up to the breakup of society.

    SREENIVASAN: So, the goal is to break society up from the inside, to create civil strife.

    KEPEL: Exactly.

    SREENIVASAN: How do the French intelligence agencies and the authorities deal with, this and what lessons can be applied to the United States? Because if it is distributed, if you can’t stop the Internet or turn it off, how do you try to win hearts and minds or at least protect hearts and minds from going to the other side?

    KEPEL: Well, you know, there is a program economy of jihadism that, you know, it’s easy to kill people, but after a while, when you do not manage to mobilize the masses on your behalf, then violence turns against its perpetrators, and you have to find a new means.

    SREENIVASAN: What’s the right mix of policy for the United States on the diplomatic front and also the security front? How — I mean, the administration has already put forth their ideas on how to tighten the borders. Now, you also have laptops that are banned from certain airplanes that are coming into the United States.

    But are these cosmetic? Are these structurally sound? Will they work?

    KEPEL: Well, you have to deal with the symptoms. And you have to monitor, you have security and to understand the ideology. I guess this is sort of the mix that newly elected President Macron wants to make because he thought he’s going to have sort of task, a terrorist task force in the Elysees Palace, mixing with security, diplomacy, justice, the military, education, of course.

    And, you know, this is a big challenge, which I believe is also a means for us to think about our own society. Terrorism is not something which is somewhere apart in disguise or only in the projects. It’s something that we have to wonder why this has happened. And if we understand that correctly, I think it could allow us to fix what is going wrong in our society, specifically in Europe today.

    SREENIVASAN: All right. The book is called “Terror in France: The Rise of Jihad in the West” — author and professor Gilles Keppel, thanks so much.

    KEPEL: My pleasure.

    The post What fuels Islamic extremism in France? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Gregg Allman, who helped define jam band rock ‘n roll as a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, died on Saturday at the age of 69, his publicist confirmed.

    Allman co-founded the legendary group in 1969 along with his older brother Duane, becoming the architects of a new genre of music called Southern rock that combined Gregg Allman’s soulful vocals with the blues-infused riffs of Duane and guitarist Dickey Betts in hits like “Rambling Man” and “Midnight Marauder.”

    The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and Allman received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.

    In a 2012 interview with the PBS NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown, Gregg Allman recalled how he and Duane, who died in 1971 at the age of 24, created the band’s unique blend of styles, which ranged from blues to jazz and country.

    “It was our two loves of music,” Allman said. “He sort of leaned towards the country blues, which is un-electrified, like Robert Johnson, Elmore James. And I was really into Bobby Bland, James Brown, you know, people like Curtis Mayfield.”

    Allman was born in Nashville, Tenn. in 1947 and raised in Florida after his father was killed in a shooting.

    In the 1960s, he formed several musical groups with Duane, during which the duo developed the unique jam-band style that would later bring them stardom as the Allman Brothers Band. Success began to come in 1969 with the band’s release of their self-titled debut album. In 1971, they drew rave reviews with a performance that later became a live album, “At Fillmore East.”

    That album was followed by “Eat A Peach” in 1972, “Brothers and Sisters” in 1973, and “Win, Lose or Draw” in 1975, among many others.

    Meanwhile, Allman also had a successful solo career. In 1973, he released the solo hit “Laid Back,” and in 1987, while the band was on hiatus, he released “I’m No Angel.”

    He was briefly married to Cher, with whom he had a child, soon after she divorced Sonny Bono. Allman and Cher “Two the Hard Way,” their only album together, in 1977, and the two divorced after 15 months.

    Allman battled with drug use, and in the 1970s, he testified against his former road manager, John “Scooter” Herring, in a highly-publicized drug case that would divide the remaining band members. In 2010, he underwent a liver transplant after being diagnosed with hepatitis C.

    He canceled several tours in 2011, 2016 and 2017, citing unspecified health problems.

    “Gregg struggled with many health issues over the past several years,” said a statement posted on Allman’s Facebook page Saturday. “During that time, Gregg considered being on the road playing music with his brothers and solo band for his beloved fans, essential medicine for his soul. Playing music lifted him up and kept him going during the toughest of times.”

    His publicist said he died at his home in Savannah, Ga. He is survived by his wife, four children and three grandchildren.

    “I have lost a dear friend and the world has lost a brilliant pioneer in music,” Allman’s manager and and friend Michael Lehman wrote on Allman’s Facebook page. “He was a kind and gentle soul with the best laugh I ever heard. His love for his family and band mates was passionate as was the love he had for his extraordinary fans. Gregg was an incredible partner and an even better friend. We will all miss him.”

    Musicians paid tribute to the late artist on Twitter.

    The post Gregg Allman, who expanded the definition of rock, dies at 69 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FILE PHOTO - Former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jim Bunning throws out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 5 in Philadelphia

    Former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jim Bunning throws out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 5 of Major League Baseball’s World Series in Philadelphia, October 27, 2008. Photo by Ray Stubblebine/File Photo/Reuters

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Former U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, a Hall of Fame pitcher who parlayed his sports fame into a political career as an uncompromising advocate for conservative causes, has died. He was 85.

    Bunning’s family said the ex-senator and baseball great died late Friday of complications from a stroke suffered last October. Bunning was the patriarch of a large family that included his wife, Mary, and their nine children, 35 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.

    “The family is deeply grateful for the love and prayers of Jim’s friends and supporters,” his family said in a statement. “While he was a public servant with a Hall of Fame career, his legacy to us is that of a beloved husband, caring father and supportive grandfather.”

    Bunning won 224 games in a workman-like 17-year major-league career, mostly with the Detroit Tigers and the Philadelphia Phillies. The big right-hander, known for his intimidating mound presence, pitched the first perfect game in modern National League history and became the first pitcher after 1900 to throw no-hitters in both the American and National Leagues.

    Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Saturday that Bunning “led an extraordinary life in the national pastime and in public service.”

    Bunning’s success in baseball carried over into politics, as the Kentucky Republican served stints on a city council and in the state Senate before a nearly quarter-century career in Congress.

    U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, his longtime colleague from Kentucky, remembered Bunning for his “long and storied life.”

    “From his days in the major leagues to his years as my colleague in the Senate — and the many points in between, from the City Council to the House of Representatives — Jim rarely shied away from a new adventure,” McConnell said in a statement.

    “This Hall of Famer will long be remembered for many things, including a perfect game, a larger-than-life personality, a passion for Kentucky and a loving family,” he added.

    Bunning’s son, David, a federal judge, said in a tweet: “Heaven got its No 1 starter today. Our lives & the nation are better off because of your love & dedication to family.”

    FILE PHOTO - Sen. Bunning holds news conference about progress on dealing with steroids in Major League Baseball in Washington

    FILE PHOTO – Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), a Hall of Fame pitcher, talks about progress made by Major League Baseball in dealing with steroids in Washington on Nov. 15, 2005. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/File Photo/Reuters

    Known as a no-nonsense pitcher who threw hard and knocked batters down when necessary, Bunning belonged to a rare group of major league pitchers to throw a perfect game in the modern era. He became the first pitcher since Cy Young to record 100 wins and 1,000 strikeouts in both the American and National Leagues.

    When he retired, his 2,855 strikeouts were second in baseball history to Walter Johnson.

    “Jim was an incredible competitor and was determined to maximize his ability and make the most of everything he did in life,” Phillies Chairman David Montgomery said Saturday. “He clearly succeeded in doing so.”

    Bunning retired from baseball in 1971, then took his hard-nosed approach to politics.

    “He was a great American. He was a great Senator, and I know that anyone that knows anything about baseball is going to miss him,” said fellow Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro.

    Bunning served 12 years in the U.S. House, followed by two terms in the Senate. He was a fierce protector of state interests such as tobacco, coal and its military bases.

    His ornery nature prompted Republican leaders to push him to retire as a senator. As his political party soured on him, Bunning pushed back. At one point, he threatened to sue the party’s national campaign arm if it backed a primary challenger.

    But in July 2009 he dropped his re-election bid, accusing his GOP colleagues of doing “everything in their power to dry up my fundraising.”

    Republican Rand Paul rode a tea party wave to win Bunning’s seat in 2010.

    Bunning’s competitive side was evident during his political career. In February 2010, he single-handedly held up a $10 billion spending bill in Congress because it would add to the deficit.

    “The main qualities it takes for professional athletes and politicians is to have a very thick hide, a thick skin, and to be able to meet and greet people,” he said in July 2000.

    Longtime U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers, R-Kentucky, said Bunning was “an indomitable force on the pitcher’s mound” and a “stalwart champion” for Kentucky as a congressman and senator.

    “He was bold and headstrong, but also fiercely loyal — a combination that made him effective in every endeavor he undertook,” Rogers said. “Jim left an indelible mark on our state, on our nation — and his legacy will endure for generations.”

    Bunning also used his political status to speak out about the game he loved.

    He declared that athletes who use steroids should be kept out of the Baseball Hall of Fame and have their records nullified. He co-authored legislation calling for stiff punishment for professional athletes caught using steroids. The proposal, which sought a lifetime ban for a third positive test, would have applied to baseball, football, basketball and hockey players.

    Bunning grew up in the northern Kentucky suburbs of Cincinnati and started in minor league baseball in 1950. He made it into the majors six years later.

    While spending most of his career with the Tigers and Phillies, the nine-time All-Star selection also had stints with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers.

    His career highlights included a no-hitter for the Tigers in 1958 and a perfect game for the Phillies on Father’s Day in 1964. Bunning went 20-8 with Detroit in 1957, his only 20-win season, but won 19 games four times, showing his consistency.

    He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996.

    He also was a leading figure in the founding of the baseball players’ union. Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark said baseball players “past, present and future will forever owe Jim a debt of gratitude” for his work on behalf of the union.

    Following his baseball career, Bunning managed five seasons in the Phillies minor league system, became a player agent and was a stock broker.

    Bunning won a seat on the Fort Thomas City Council in 1977 and entered the Kentucky Senate two years later. He unsuccessfully ran for governor in 1983 but then won his House seat in 1986. In 1998, Bunning was elected to the U.S. Senate, taking the seat of the retiring Democratic Sen. Wendell Ford. He narrowly defeated Democrat Scotty Baesler.

    Former Associated Press Writer Roger Alford contributed to this report.

    The post Ex-Senate staffer: Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning has died appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Brookhaven Mississippi

    Eight people were killed in shootings in rural Lincoln County, Mississippi, on Saturday. Photo by Flickr user Onasill ~ Bill Badzo

    A man who was arrested after a house-to-house shooting spree that killed eight in rural Mississippi on Saturday night, including a sheriff’s deputy, was mad about an argument with his wife and family, according to the local paper.

    “I ain’t fit to live, not after what I done,” Willie Corey Godbolt, 35, told The Clarion-Ledger as he was handcuffed by law enforcement.

    The bodies of three females and Lincoln County sheriff’s deputy William Durr, 36, were recovered from the first house, as well as two boys from a second house and a man and a woman from a third, according to The Clarion-Ledger. The first two shootings were at houses in Brookhaven and the third was in Bogue Chitto, about 15 miles south. Both towns are south of Jackson.

    While it’s unclear whether any of the people who died were related to Godbolt, investigators say he had gone on the spree after police had received a call about a domestic dispute, according to the Associated Press. And in his interview with the local newspaper, he said he had gone to one of the homes to talk about retrieving his children.

    “My pain wasn’t designed for him. He was just there,” Godbolt told The Clarion-Ledger while speaking of the deputy. “We was talking about me trying to take the children home … somebody called the officer … that’s what they do, they intervene. It cost him his life. I’m sorry.”

    He told the paper he had hoped to die, saying, “Suicide by cop was my intention.”

    He was treated at the scene for a bullet wound, though authorities did not say how he was shot, and then he was driven to a hospital.

    The post Eight people dead in Mississippi shootings after domestic dispute appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly testifies before a Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill

    Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly testifies before a Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on May 24, 2017. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Sunday he’s considering banning laptops from the passenger cabins of all international flights to and from the United States.

    That would dramatically expand a ban announced in March that affects about 50 flights per day from 10 cities, mostly in the Middle East. The current ban was put in place because of concerns about terrorist attacks.

    The ban prevents travelers from bringing laptops, tablets and certain other devices on board with them in their carry-on bags. All electronics bigger than a smartphone must be checked in.

    Kelly was asked on “Fox News Sunday” whether he would expand the ban to cover laptops on all international flights into and out of the U.S.

    His answer: “I might.”

    The current U.S. ban applies to nonstop U.S.-bound flights from 10 international airports in Amman, Jordan; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Cairo; Istanbul; Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. About 50 flights a day, all on foreign airlines, are affected.

    Earlier this month, there were reports that the Trump administration would broaden the ban to include planes from the European Union, affecting trans-Atlantic routes that carry as many as 65 million people a year.

    U.S. officials have said that initial ban was not based on any specific threat but on longstanding concerns about extremists targeting jetliners.

    “There’s a real threat,” Kelly said, adding that terrorists are “obsessed” with the idea of downing a plane in flight, “particularly if it’s a U.S. carrier, particularly if it’s full of mostly U.S. folks. It’s real.”

    Kelly said that the U.S. is going “to raise the bar for, generally speaking, aviation security much higher than it is now, and there’s new technologies down the road, not too far down the road, that we’ll rely on. But it is a real sophisticated threat, and I’ll reserve making that decision until we see where it’s going.”

    While Kelly referred to “a real sophisticated threat,” the Trump administration’s spending plan for the budget year that begins Oct. 1 would make significant cuts to airport security programs.

    The post U.S. official mulling greatly expanding airplane laptop ban appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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