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

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    Max Blau/STAT

    To reduce costs, Provision Healthcare makes its proton therapy systems in-house. Photo by Max Blau/STAT

    Taxpayers in Louisiana are helping to subsidize construction of two health care centers offering a divisive cancer treatment — even as state lawmakers prepare to cut millions from basic health services.

    The treatment is called proton therapy, and this spring, the state’s economic development department promised up to $10.6 million to two companies, one to build a center in Baton Rouge and the other in New Orleans.

    Proton therapy is touted as a procedure with low side effects — a pencil-sized beam of protons is shot directly at tumors, with the goal of sparing the healthy tissue around it. It’s a therapy that only works well on a few cancers, and hasn’t had rigorous trials to test its more global efficacy. It’s a big gamble with tax dollars in a state where the Legislature is trying to pare more than $200 million from its health care budget.

    “Changing technologies are a risk,” said Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson. “For proton therapy, we don’t know five years from now if there will be a neutron beam, or something, that changes how they treat cancer.”

    Health care companies often work with governments to build facilities, typically through bonds or subsidies, or through university partnerships that could potentially absorb more risk. But, with a medical community divided on whether this more expensive treatment is better than traditional radiation therapies, it brings to question why economic development agencies, whose bread and butter is job creation and tax base development, would roll the dice on these investments.

    Pierson said he believes proton therapy could help turn Louisiana into a lucrative medical tourism hub. State officials, including the governor, are sold on the idea of a live-saving procedure, even if only a few people will benefit.

    That reasoning doesn’t sit well with some experts, including Amitabh Chandra, director of health policy research at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. State funding, Chandra said, should value health outcomes instead of economic ones.

    “The purpose of a proton center is to cure cancer — not to be a job program,” said Chandra. “I’ve compared it to the Death Star — nothing so big and so useless has ever been discovered in medicine. It’s hard to believe we should be paying handsomely for technology whose benefit is unproven.”

    ‘Victory bells’ but little evidence

    The proton therapy center planned for New Orleans might someday resemble a smaller version of what’s going on Knoxville, Tenn., where Provision operates one of the nation’s newest proton treatment facilities.

    Every year 900 patients flock to this $119 million facility for what’s pegged as minimally invasive cancer care. Inside three pristine treatment rooms, patients lay motionless as a giant particle accelerator weighing nearly as much as the Statue of Liberty throws a thin beam made of protons directly at cancerous tissues.

    Provision CEO and Chairman Terry Douglass said 70 percent of patients in Knoxville are self-referrals — some traveling from as far as China or Russia. The treatment is likened to a vacation — Provision has rolled out a brochure-filled concierge desk for patients to plan outings, and the facility is designed to feel homey with fireplaces in the lobby and outdoor picnic tables located near a small waterfall.

    READ NEXT: In Jamaica, a push to market island getaways — with a side of surgery

    Provision celebrates treatment “success” publicly: People gather in the lobby whenever a patient rings the “victory bell” following his or her final treatment; each is given a lapel pin to become proton therapy “ambassadors.”

    But proton therapy has a high price tag: treatment runs between $30,000 and $120,000, according to MedPage. More common radiation therapies cost between $12,000 and $15,000, and tend to be covered by insurance.

    And the scope of treatment is limited — experts generally agree proton therapy is the best for children with brain tumors, for example. But, the consensus ends there: experts say evidence hasn’t shown proton therapy to be better than conventional treatments for treating common cancers.

    The net result: there are 24 proton centers in the U.S. They have the combined capacity to treat more than 21,000 people per year. Only 7,000 people were treated at those centers, according to a survey by the National Association for Proton Therapy.

    “The reality is this is an expensive treatment,” said Dr. J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society. “More expensive doesn’t make it a bad treatment, [but] highly competent radiation oncologists disagree whether the data is sufficient or not.”

    Centers close, partnerships break

    Even as Provision continues to expand — proposals for facilities near Orlando, Fla., and Nashville, as well as New Orleans, plus eyeing development for a dozen more — not everyone is convinced.

    Dr. Tomasz Beer remains wary about the treatment. Five years ago, the deputy director of Oregon Health and Science University’s Knight Cancer Institute said his colleagues considered investing millions into proton therapy. Ultimately, they felt the Portland area, home to 2.3 million people, had too few appropriate patients. Strong results from a clinical trial would have made a difference, he said.

    “Treatment should start with what’s best for patients,” Beer said. “We get into trouble when we don’t do that thinking with technology that’s out of proportion to the clinical need.”

    Three years ago, the Indiana University Proton Therapy Center shuttered after a decade in business due to a “dwindling patient base.” Earlier this year, owners of San Diego’s Scripps Proton Therapy Center filed for bankruptcy after the $220 million site had struggled to break even. Even the university partnership proposed for the Knoxville center four years ago fell apart.

    READ NEXT: Billboards and websites push costly prostate cancer treatment with unknown long-term benefits

    Many centers bank on high volumes of prostate cancer patients to make money, even though some oncologists dispute its effectiveness. To offset financial risk, developers have pivoted toward smaller facilities with fewer treatment rooms. Provision has even gotten into the business of building its own proton therapy systems to drive down costs.

    Therapy centers in Alabama, Michigan, and Washington, D.C., have listed their projects’ price tags at under $50 million. Provision’s New Orleans project is expected to cost $100 million.

    “We’re not trying to build a $250 million cancer center,” said Steve Hicks, chairman and CEO of Provident Resources Group, the nonprofit behind the Baton Rouge proton center, which he said would cost $85 million. “We’re simply trying to meet demands of the market.”

    Max Blau/STAT

    Patients wear custom molds to ensure they stay motionless as they receive proton therapy. Photo by Max Blau/STAT

    A health care economy that needs help

    Where lawmakers and hospital officials might balk because of patient-centered concerns, economic development agencies see proton therapy as an income driver — Louisiana joins Texas in using economic development funds to expand proton therapy in the state.

    Pierson, the Louisiana economic development official, said the agreement brings 155 high-paying jobs to a state whose health care economy was decimated after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But Greg Sonnenfeld, director of Shreveport’s Willis-Knighton Cancer Center, the only proton therapy provider currently in Louisiana, said recruiting and retaining specialists well-versed in the technology has been a struggle.

    READ NEXT: New medical schools aim to fix America’s broken health care system

    Alongside a flagging health care economy are some of the poorest health care outcomes in the nations. Gov. John Bel Edwards has said he’ll veto the million-dollar cuts that could ax everything from Zika virus prevention to mental health services for low-income residents.

    However, some cuts may be inevitable, Chandra said, so funding an experimental cancer treatment while trying to cut preventive care seems misguided. He calls the decision to bankroll unproven therapies like proton therapy “unfortunate.”

    “We don’t know if the treatment is better — or if it’s cost-effective,” he said. “For governments propping these centers open, it’s not aligned with moving health care toward value at all.”

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on June 2, 2017. Find the original story here.

    The post A taxpayer gamble on medical tourism: Louisiana subsidizes proton therapy to boost its economy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President Trump arrives to announce decision to withdraw from Paris Climate Agreement in the White House Rose Garden in Washington

    U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to announce his decision that the United States will withdraw from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2017. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump filed for an extension on his 2016 tax return, the White House said Saturday.

    Press secretary Sean Spicer did not provide information on when Trump sought the extension or why.

    Tax Day this year was on April 18. The Internal Revenue Service allows individuals and businesses to apply for a six-month extension to get more time to file a return. An extension does not provide more time to pay taxes.

    As a candidate and as president, Trump has refused to release his tax returns, breaking a decades-long tradition. He has said he would release them when the Internal Revenue Service completes an audit — though experts and IRS officials said such audits don’t bar taxpayers from releasing their returns.

    [Watch Video]

    The few Trump tax returns the public has seen weren’t released by him, but disclosed by news outlets. Two leaked pages of his 2005 return that came out in March didn’t include full details on income and deductions, but did show that he would have benefited massively by an elimination of the alternative minimum tax — a feature of his just-outlined tax plan.

    And three pages that surfaced last year showed he had claimed a $916 million loss on his 1995 return, which could be used to reduce his taxes by offsetting later gains.

    The post Trump filed for an extension on his 2016 tax return appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Georgia’s Sixth District Congressional candidate Jon Ossoff speaks to his supports at his Election Night party in Sandy Springs, Georgia, U.S., April 18, 2017. Photo Marvin Gentry/Reuters

    ROSWELL, Ga. — Watch Atlanta television long enough and you’re bound to see a young congressional candidate pledging to cut “wasteful spending” and make “both parties in Washington” be “accountable to you.”

    Yet follow Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District and you’ll see the 30-year-old Democrat joining fellow millennials for happy hour, convening a group of women’s health advocates and hosting specific minority groups across Atlanta’s northern suburbs.

    That two-track approach – going directly to typically Democratic voters and vocal opponents of President Donald Trump, while using television to convince just enough independents and even moderate Republicans – is a necessary balancing act for Ossoff to pull off an upset over Republican Karen Handel in a district Republicans have held since 1979.

    For Democrats nationally, it’s the latest attempt ahead of the 2018 midterm elections to answer questions that linger after a disastrous presidential election cycle and two recent losses in special congressional elections in GOP-leaning Kansas and Montana.

    Can Democrats win back Republican seats based on anti-Trump sentiments among the young voters, women and nonwhites who helped fuel former President Barack Obama’s wins? Should the priority be white voters who have drifted away from the party and helped deliver Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in November? Or, as Ossoff is attempting, can Democrats manage both with the same campaign?

    The strategic two-step “isn’t contradictory,” says pollster Paul Harstad, who worked on both Obama campaigns. Harstad notes the so-called “Obama coalition” included voters across the demographic and ideological spectrum, even working-class whites identified as Trump’s anchor, and Harstad said Democratic performances this year, even in closer-than-expected losses in Kansas and Montana, suggest a rebound.

    “It’s a combination of an energetic base, soft Democrats, independents and a small slice of Republicans,” Harstad said, and it is “probably a harbinger of things to come.”

    Democrats need to pick up 24 seats to reclaim a House majority, and they’re also targeting several GOP-held governor’s seats in Democratic-leaning and presidential battleground states.

    For his part, Ossoff sidesteps the electoral math and its implications beyond Georgia.

    “This campaign is about unifying people in this community who share core values … and who recognize that our interests are more aligned than career politicians and partisans would have us believe,” he says.

    Other Democrats are more forthright.

    “If we can win over 50 percent in this district, we know we can do that statewide and around the country,” says Georgia Democratic Chairman DuBose Porter.

    Ossoff aides and supporters, meanwhile, acknowledge the dual method.

    Trump’s election, they say, has fired up the left, while giving Ossoff openings with some Republicans. Trump barely edged Clinton in the district last November and fell shy of a majority; previous Republican presidential nominees won more than 60 percent of the vote. Nationally, Democrats are targeting 23 House districts held by Republicans but where Clinton defeated Trump, and there are several more like the Georgia 6th where Trump underperformed the usual GOP benchmark.

    The idea is that Democrats like Ossoff don’t have to feed liberal intensity by harping on Trump and Republicans in a way that risks turning off potential swing or crossover voters. And, it’s worth noting, Georgia voters already see a deluge of GOP ads framing Ossoff as a “D.C. liberal” and the “hand-picked candidate” of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

    Ossoff “talks like a Republican,” Handel quipped at a recent campaign appearance alongside House Speaker Paul Ryan.

    Voters like Skyler Hanson, 21, and Hannah Gray, 22, seem to validate Ossoff’s angles. Both attended the recent happy hour party for millennials, where they both signed up to knock on doors for the campaign.

    “We just couldn’t believe Trump won,” Gray says.

    The two are recent University of Georgia graduates who will soon start jobs in Atlanta, just south of the 6th District, but they are remaining in their parents’ suburban homes to vote June 20. They say they aren’t worried about Ossoff’s pledges to “work with anyone.”

    “All my favorite podcasts have had him on, so that’s pretty cool,” Hanson says.

    Ossoff’s recent campaign schedule also is dotted with gatherings like a block party celebrating Asian-American Heritage Month and La Raza Fest, a celebration of Hispanic culture. He’s touted an endorsement from the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys and launched Latinos for Ossoff. At those events, Ossoff steers clear of Trump and blatantly partisan rhetoric that animates liberals like Hanson and Gray.

    At the same time, he continues with his moderate, seemingly nonpartisan message on the airwaves. His latest ad bemoaning wasteful spending doesn’t mention his party affiliation.

    Clinton’s loss may serve as a cautionary tale for Ossoff. Clinton regularly blasted Trump, while her voter turnout efforts tried to replicate Obama’s electorate. But she also pitched herself a get-it-done centrist, with her “Stronger Together” slogan. Ultimately, she fell short of Obama’s vote totals among minorities, young voters and whites.

    Nonetheless, Ossoff backer Johanna Gadomski maintains her candidate is striking the right tone in Georgia. “That makes him a more efficient candidate for me,” says the 18-year-old, who works with political refugees from other nations, “because I think he can actually be more equipped to get stuff done when he’s in Washington.”

    She pauses and adds, “Hopefully.”

    The post In Georgia, a Democratic upset depends on a balancing act appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Crystal Cheatham

    Crystal Cheatham is the founder of Our Bible app, a progressive app for Christians. Photo courtesy of Crystal Cheatham

    Crystal Cheatham was 23 years old when she was told she couldn’t be gay and Christian.

    Cheatham, who had grown up attending and singing at a Seventh-day Adventist church, was about to graduate from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Hearing that her identities as a lesbian and a Christian could be in conflict, she said, was heartbreaking.

    “When I came out, I was told by ministers so far above me that I couldn’t be an out lesbian and also be on the stage as a leader, and it crushed me. It crushed me so hard,” she said. “I felt like I was at an impasse at the road in my life and I had to decide between this love for my God and my personal identity.”

    “A lot of times religious spaces and spiritual resources exclude [LGBTQ people] from the narrative and exclude us in their content, or their content is actively hostile.” — Activist Eliel Cruz

    Now an activist and writer, Cheatham has set out to create a digital space for LGBTQ people to explore their own spiritual practice without having to surrender any part of their identity. She is leading the effort to create Our Bible, an app set to release this fall that plans to offer at least 20 Bibles and more than 300 devotional readings, meditation exercises, articles and podcasts for LGBTQ Christians and others who feel marginalized by mainstream Christianity.

    Christianity may be the most-practiced religion by lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the U.S. A 2014 Religious Landscape Study by the Pew Research Center surveyed more than 35,000 people who identified as LGB and found that 48 percent of them identified as Christian, with the largest portions of that group identifying as Protestant (29 percent) and Catholic (17 percent).

    Our Bible app

    Our Bible app. Image courtesy of Crystal Cheatham

    But their identities are often controversial among Christian faith leaders who point to Biblical passages that they say condemn homosexuality — interpretations that are disputed by other members of their community. And while different denominations of Christianity have varying stances, major Christian groups, including the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, along with numerous evangelical groups, continue to condemn same-sex marriage and LGBTQ rights.

    As a result, LGBTQ people tend to see major religions in the U.S. as “unfriendly” toward their communities. Another Pew Research Center survey of about 1,200 LGBT adults in 2013 found that 79 percent of respondents said the Catholic Church was unfriendly to them, and 73 percent called evangelical churches unfriendly, while 29 percent said they have felt unwelcome in religious institutions.

    Meanwhile, the largest-ever survey of transgender people by the National Center for Transgender Equality in 2015 showed that 39 percent of nearly 28,000 respondents who had been part of a religious group had left the community “due to fear of being rejected because they were transgender.” People of color were especially likely to do so.

    Cheatham has seen several reasons for that up close. In 2012, she went on tour with Soulforce, a progressive Christian organization that works for racial justice and LGBTQ acceptance within Christian institutions. The group traveled to religious universities whose policies allowed them to discipline or expel LGBTQ students. They would hold Bible study and educate students on LGBTQ identity, encountering frequent resistance from school authorities, some of whom forced them off campus or called the police.

    When Christian schools and other institutions exclude LGBTQ people, it leaves LGBTQ Christians with a difficult choice between hiding their identity in religious spaces or giving up the social support of those groups, Cheatham said. And existing devotional apps tend to offer conservative readings and interpretations of the Bible, reflecting a dearth of acceptance for LGBTQ people in Christian institutions.

    “A lot of times religious spaces and spiritual resources exclude us from the narrative and exclude us in their content, or their content is actively hostile,” said Eliel Cruz, a bisexual Christian activist, writer and the director of communications for Our Bible.

    But research shows that more and more Christians have grown to embrace LGBTQ people. Between 2014 and 2016, the Religious Landscape Study found an increase of 10 percentage points among Christians who believe that LGBTQ people should be accepted. This shift is largely attributable to younger Christians who came of age in a period of growing visibility for LGBTQ people and as political movements for LGBTQ rights garnered greater support.

    “There are so many Christians out there that want to be accepting of LGBT people but don’t know how because they haven’t received the resources,” Cheatham said.

    Meanwhile, LGBTQ Christians have found community in online forums and conversations, like through #FaithfullyLGBT, a hashtag Cruz created. Our Bible will also have a social component, with users able to add friends who use the app and message them. “We’re using these online spaces for community right now,” Cruz said.

    Our Bible app

    The Our Bible app plans to offer Bible readings and devotional texts for LGBTQ Christians and others who feel marginalized by mainstream Christianity. Logo courtesy of Crystal Cheatham

    Rodney McKenzie, a minister who is curating the readings offered on the app, grew up in a Holiness church that hosted testimony service every day, where churchgoers could speak to the rest of the congregation about the role of God in their lives.

    “When I stood up at church and came out as gay, I expected people to clap and celebrate, and people did not clap. People did not celebrate. People were horrified,” he said. “This is why this means so much to me. Every Sunday, young LGBTQ people are going to services and they’re hearing messages not of their perfection, not of how good they are, but that there’s something wrong with them. Those messages are antithetical to the Biblical text.”

    To counter that messaging, McKenzie has helped find readings for the app that incorporate multiple elements of a daily practice, including devotionals and inspirational readings. He said he wants the readings to connect people “to the love and the truth that is everpresent wherever they are.”

    Last year, Cheatham held several fundraisers for Our Bible and raised thousands of dollars through online donations. On June 30, the app will be released in beta to a small number of people, including those who have donated $10 before then, with a wider release planned for September.

    Cheatham said she had received a “very small” amount of negative messages about the app. But mostly, “what I’m feeling right now is a pregnant silence, and I’m waiting to figure out the truth of how people are reacting to this,” she said.

    The post ‘Our Bible’ app aims to support LGBTQ Christians who feel excluded appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    FILE PHOTO: A job seeker talks to an exhibitor at the Colorado Hospital Association health care career fair in Denver

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    Chasing the Dream CtD-Logo21

    This is part of an ongoing series of reports called “Chasing the Dream,” which reports on poverty and opportunity in America.

    By Christopher Booker and Connie Kargbo

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Laymondra Brewer-Thomas’ work wasn’t always this steady. Before starting as an assistant manager at this Chicago Walgreens, making ends meet meant working an exhaustive number of hours between two jobs, one at McDonald’s, the other at women’s clothing store Layne Bryant.

    LAYMONDRA BREWER-THOMAS: My schedule was all over the place. Between 32 to 40 hours with McDonald’s. Lane Bryant, I wanna say maybe 20 hours out of the week. So I was juggling both jobs at the time. It was stressful. It was overwhelming at times, because I wasn’t where I wanted to be.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Brewer-Thomas’ work situation exemplifies a new normal for millions of American workers, underemployment.

    The national unemployment rate has dropped from its great recession peak of ten percent to 4.3 percent. But if you include people who have stopped looking in the last month or those involuntarily working only part-time, you get the nation’s underemployment rate. It was 17.1 percent at the peak of the recession. Today it is at 8.4 percent.

    Bob Bruno is a labor and employment relations professor at the University of Illinois.

    BOB BRUNO: While it’s true that the unemployment rate has been halved, and that’s all to the good, to some degree it really is masking some real difficulty that workers are having out there in the economy.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: In Illinois, the underemployment rate is one of the highest in the country, averaging 10.3 percent since last year.

    That’s something Ronald Jackson knows all too well. The 54 years-old, Illinois native feels he has many more years of work left in him, the problem is finding a company willing to give him a full-time job.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: How stable has it been for you?

    RONALD JACKSON: You don’t know if you will be there one minute, or the next because they can say, ‘Well, we only need you for one week.’ Most of the workers doesn’t, they can’t plan. They just have to go day by day, and hopefully that, you know, they’re still working.”

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Currently in between jobs, Jackson spent much of 2016 in a patchwork of jobs. This past fall, Jackson was working at this pallet supply company earning $350 every week with no benefits. That job ended after three months.

    RONALD JACKSON: Most jobs will not even hire you for a full 40 hours. They’ll give you 25 hours. And who’s gonna wanna work for 25 hours and that’s right is bus fare already gone. After you take out the taxes. So there’s not saying that there’s jobs out here. Where? I mean, people wanna work, but if I’ma work, I need 40 hours.

    BOB BRUNO: Part-time used to be temporarily, and it used to be a gauge. People start back to work part time. It builds into full time. People who want full time can find it. And people who stay part time are voluntarily choosing to be in that. But we’re finding that’s not the reality anymore.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: How does this impact the economics of a working family?

    BOB BRUNO: There is nothing but insecurity. There’s instability constantly. You can’t feel comfortable at any point in time with the hours you’ve been assigned or the income you’ve earned. Because it’s never enough. How a middle class emerges out of this population really is an open question.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: That question led Laymondra Brewer-Thomas to Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, a public-private partnership that works with the more than 50 Chicago area companies, like Walgreens and Chase bank to fill vacancies with qualified, unemployed, or underemployed job seekers.

    Marie Lynch is the group’s CEO.

    How common is Laymondra’s story?

    MARIE LYNCH: Very common. On an annual basis , we find about 35 percent of the 1,100 people we serve are underemployed, the folks who are either not working full time or are working at a wage or type of job that was less than they previously were at prior to the recession.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Shortly after connecting with Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, Brewer-Thomas got her interview with Walgreens.

    Today, she’s relieved to be working there full-time with health care benefits and a retirement plan, with the goal of becoming a store manager.

    LAYMONDRA BREWER-THOMAS: It’s a lot more challenging now to actually find employment and to find employment that may be best suited for your needs.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Did you feel beforehand that you had a jobs network or an employment network that you could tap into?

    LAYMONDRA BREWER-THOMAS: No. It was a struggle. Talking to individuals I went to school with, friends and colleagues and etcetera. A lot of them were in the same boat that I was in at the time, and are still in the same boat that I previously was in.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Has there been a systemic shift in the way that companies manage their workforce? Is this emphasis on a part-time, scalable workforce something that’s shifted within management thinking?

    MARIE LYNCH: I think that there has been some structural changes to how they’re approaching work, you know? And to what I saw early on was really an attempt to manage risk and to be cautious as they were, you know, coming out of that recession.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: For companies, managing risk means managing labor costs, including the number of hours people work and many companies have adopted computer software to help them do that.

    Dayforce is a program used by about 3,500 companies, like retailers Guitar Center and Sephora.

    John Orr is a Senior Vice President of Ceridian, the company behind the software.

    JOHN ORR: It really optimizes, who they put where, when and what skills and information they need.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: He says Dayforce enables employers to quickly respond to shifts in their respective markets and adjust to their employees’ needs.

    JOHN ORR: What we have done is we have come to the market with Dayforce that allows the business side to optimize its people, in part-time or shorter hour increments but at the same time to allow the employee to get the hours. If they’re only allowed to get 15 hours in this location but they can get another 15 at another location and the employee wants 30 hours, our system is smart enough to know how to do that.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: This flexible scheduling ability came as the retail industry – which employs over 3 million people in America has increasingly relied on part-time workers.

    Mark Cohen used to be the CEO of Sears in Canada and is now an industry consultant and Columbia University business school professor.

    MARK COHEN: You need somebody to open the door in the morning someone to lock the door at night. But you really want to staff your physical space when the customers shopping and to the degree that folks have been able to predict that. That’s been the basis for increased part-time employee.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Is there evidence that productivity increases if you have workers that are working at 30 or fewer hours a week. Or is productivity higher if workers are in a full-time capacity?.

    MARK COHEN: This is a difficult, difficult issue. There’s no formulaic solution. There are organizations that hold their full time employees dearly. And so they pay the price of a dip in business, and they keep those folks employed. There are other folks who track on a more point to point basis they fire and hire, and I think they’re probably characterized as penny wise and pound foolish. They appear to be operating more efficiently but they pay an enormous cost in hiring retraining and turnover.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: With retail stores struggling against competition from internet shopping, Cohen predicts increased instability for those employed in the retail sector.

    MARK COHEN: So, right now you can shop online with a keyboard and I would say in a couple of years you’ll start shopping online with a headset that lets you walk through a store whether it’s real or virtual point to something that interests you pick it up virtually and then decide to buy it.

    CHRIS BOOKER: Really represents a dark shadow for the person that works in a mall or the floor of a clothing store?

    MARK COHEN: Absolutely.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Do you think, had you not found Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, you would be where you are?

    LAYMONDRA BREWER-THOMAS: I’m not sure. It’s definitely put me at a different level. I could still be juggling between two jobs or still attempting to find something that’s better suited for my needs and wants. And my career path in general. So I know I would keep pushing but, you know, I’m not sure.

    Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multi-platform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.

    The post For millions, underemployment is a new normal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    aging infrastructure

    A pothole is pictured on the street of Los Angeles, California February 12, 2016. An estimated 65 percent of U.S. roads are in poor condition, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, with the transportation infrastructure system rated 12th in the World Economic Forum’s 2014-2015 global competitiveness report. Picture taken February 12. Photo By Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is launching a major push for a $1 trillion overhaul of the nation’s roads and bridges, a key item on his agenda that’s been stymied in Congress and overshadowed by White House controversies.

    Trump plans a series of events this coming week to highlight his effort to modernize American infrastructure — the highway, waterway, electrical and airway systems on which the nation operates. His campaign for public and private funding for the projects is expected to run from the Rose Garden, where he’ll speak about upgrading air traffic control, to Ohio and Kentucky on inland waterways and through meetings with mayors, governors and Transportation Department officials.

    The Trump administration has struggled to gain traction on many of its economic policies. Job growth has slowed in recent months instead of accelerating as the president predicted. Trump has said he has tax legislation moving through Congress but his effort has been stalled and no bill has been written. His budget plan released during his foreign trip included math errors that enabled the White House to falsely claim that its tax plan would deliver both faster growth and a balanced budget.

    Trump’s agenda has been overshadowed by ongoing probes into whether Trump campaign officials or associates colluded with Russian officials to influence the 2016 election, as well as scrutiny over Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey — who is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

    And other policies on the agenda, such as health care and taxes, come first on a fast-closing legislative calendar.

    But modernizing the nation’s infrastructure remains a challenge with broad public support.

    Trump’s push to revamp deteriorating roads, bridges, airports and railways aims to unlock economic growth and succeed in an area where his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, was repeatedly thwarted by a Republican-led Congress.

    READ NEXT: As Trump eyes infrastructure, local leaders say save ‘muni bonds’

    “It doesn’t matter who you are, whether you are farmer in the Midwest, or a mother driving your kids to and from school, or a worker or a college kid flying back and forth to school, you’re affected by infrastructure,” said White House economic adviser Gary Cohn in a conference call with reporters.

    Cohn said the nation was “falling behind and the falling behind is affecting economic growth in the United States. The president wants to fix the problems and he doesn’t want to push these liabilities into the future.”

    Trump on Monday is set to outline his legislative principles for overhauling the air traffic control system, using a Rose Garden address to propose separating air traffic control operations from the Federal Aviation Administration, a key priority for U.S. airlines.

    The president plans to travel to Ohio and Kentucky on Wednesday to address ways of improving levees, dams and locks along inland waterways that are crucial to agricultural exports. His visit is expected to include a speech expected to touch on partnering with states and local governments.

    Cohn said governors and mayors are scheduled meet with Trump at the White House on Thursday for a listening session focused on the efficient use of tax dollars for infrastructure projects.

    On Friday, Trump will visit the Transportation Department to discuss regulatory changes related to roads and railways. Trump has noted that the approval process for permits frequently can drag on for a decade and has pressed to shorten the length of the review process.

    Trump’s focus on infrastructure follows the government’s monthly jobs report, which showed hiring slowing down in May. The economy has added an average of 121,000 jobs over the past three months, down from a monthly average of nearly 187,000 last year despite Trump’s promotion of his economic prescriptions.

    On infrastructure, the administration has pointed to plans for a package of tax breaks meant to help spur $1 trillion in new spending on roads, bridges and other construction during the next decade. It also would drastically shorten project approval times. According to Trump’s budget proposal, the funding would come from $200 billion in tax breaks over nine years that would then — in theory — leverage $1 trillion worth of construction.

    A senior White House official has said the infrastructure plan might also incentivize local governments to sell their existing infrastructure to private firms.

    But Democrats have warned that the Trump budget reduces infrastructure spending elsewhere, including cuts to Amtrak subsidies, the elimination of an infrastructure investment program started under Obama and a more than $90 billion drop-off in congressional support for the Highway Trust Fund over 10 years.

    Democrats have also been critical of Trump’s interest in forging public-private partnerships instead of more traditional spending on infrastructure projects. At the same time, many conservative Republicans have been wary of the idea of a massive government investment.

    And with Republicans in control of Congress, Democrats have shown little appetite for working with the president as he faces inquiries into Russia and takes a combative approach overall, from Comey’s firing to the withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

    “If the obstructionists want to get together with me, let’s make them non-obstructionists,” Trump said Thursday, discussing his plans to exit the Paris climate pact. “We will all sit down and we will get back into the deal. And we’ll make it good, and we won’t be closing up our factories, and we won’t be losing our jobs.”

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    Metropolitan police say they have identified two of the three attackers behind Saturday’s terrorist attack.

    Police said in a statement they believe Khuram Shazad Butt and Rachid Redouane, both from Barking, east London, were responsible for the attacks that killed seven and injured 48 on the London Bridge and Borough Market.

    It was the third terrorist attack in the country in three months, occurring less than two weeks after a suicide bomber killed 22 and injured 116 at an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena.

    READ MORE: 7 dead in London terrorist attack claimed by ISIS

    Butt, 27, was a Pakistan-born British citizen who was known to the police. But “there was no intelligence to suggest that this attack was being planned,” police said in a statement.

    Redouane, 30, was believed to be Moroccan and Libyan; he also used the name Rachid Elkhdar, police said. A third attacker has not been identified.

    Police and counter-terrorism officers have arrested 12 people since Saturday night’s attacks. They’ve also searched six properties, officials said.

    “The police and our partners are doing everything we can across the country to help prevent further attacks and protect the public from harm,” Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said in a statement.

    London Mayor Sadiq Khan led a vigil for victims of the attack Monday night in Potters Bridge Park, “to show the world that we stand united in the face of those who seek to harm us and our way of life.”

    “We must defeat this threat. Our values must prevail,” Khan wrote in an op-ed for the Evening Standard. We should not jump to knee-jerk conclusions, but failing to act is simply not an option.

    PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

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    A view of cellular communication towers on March 6, 2014 in Emeryville, California. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    A view of cellular communication towers on March 6, 2014 in Emeryville, California. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — In a new case about digital age technology and privacy, the Supreme Court will consider whether police need warrants to review cellphone towers records that help them track the location of criminal suspects.

    The justices agreed Monday to hear an appeal from Timothy Carpenter, who was sentenced to 116 years in prison after being convicted of armed robberies in Michigan and Ohio.

    Police obtained records from cellular service providers that placed Carpenter’s cellphone in the vicinity of the robberies.

    The question is whether police should have to demonstrate to a judge that they have good reason, or probable cause, to believe Carpenter was involved in the crime. Police obtained the records by meeting a lower standard of proof.

    Courts around the country have wrestled with the issue. The most relevant Supreme Court case is nearly 40 years old, before the dawn of the digital age.

    The federal appeals court in Cincinnati ruled that police did not need a judge-issued warrant.

    Nathan Freed Wessler, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who represents Carpenter, said the high court should apply constitutional privacy protections to digital records. “Because cell phone location records can reveal countless private details of our lives, police should only be able to access them by getting a warrant based on probable cause,” Wessler said.

    The robberies took place at Radio Shack and T-Mobile stores in 2010 and 2011. Carpenter organized most of the robberies, in which he signaled the others in his group to enter the stores with their guns drawn, the government said in its Supreme Court filing. Customers and employees were herded to the back and the robbers filled their bags with new smartphones. They got rid of the guns and sold the phones, the government said.

    Police learned of Carpenter’s involvement after a confession by another person involved in the holdups. They got an order for cellphone tower data for Carpenter’s phone, which shows which towers a phone has connected with when used in a call. The records help approximate someone’s location.

    The case, Carpenter v. U.S., 16-402, will be argued in the fall.

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    A combination photo shows U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and former FBI Director James Comey. Photos by Jim Lo Scalzo and Gary Cameron/Reuters

    A combination photo shows U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and former FBI Director James Comey. Photos by Jim Lo Scalzo and Gary Cameron/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will not assert executive privilege to block fired FBI Director James Comey from testifying on Capitol Hill, the White House said Monday, setting the stage for a dramatic public airing of the former top law enforcement official’s dealings with the commander in chief.

    White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president’s power to invoke executive privilege is “well-established.” But she said Trump wanted to allow for a “swift and thorough examination of the facts” related to Comey’s ouster and the multiple investigations into his campaign’s possible ties to Russia.

    Comey is scheduled to testify Thursday before the Senate intelligence committee. His appearance will mark his first public comments since he was abruptly fired by the president last month.

    White House officials had weighed trying to block Comey by arguing that his discussions with the president pertained to national security and that there was an expectation of privacy. However, officials ultimately concluded that the optics of taking that step would be worse than the risk of letting the former FBI director testify freely.

    Legal experts have also said that the president likely undermined his ability to assert executive privilege by publicly discussing his dealings with Comey in tweets and interviews.

    Lawmakers in both parties have urged Trump to allow Comey to testify publicly. On Sunday, Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican and a member of the intelligence committee, said the president would be “better served by getting all this information out.”

    “Sooner rather than later, let’s find out what happened and bring this to a conclusion,” Blunt said on “Fox News Sunday.” ”You don’t do that I think by invoking executive privilege on a conversation you had apparently with nobody else in the room.”

    Comey associates have alleged that Trump asked the FBI director if he could drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and his Russian contacts. The White House has denied the president made that request.

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    When Olivia Vella’s seventh grade teacher asked every student to write a monologue on a topic about which they were passionate, Vella immediately knew what she wanted to say. She wanted to tell girls her age that they were talented, smart and beautiful — no matter how often they were told otherwise.

    The slam poem, which Vella performed for her class and on video, begins with a list of ways a girl can fit in — trendy outfit, styled hair, tight Converse shoes. As Vella’s voice shakes, she begins to ask: “Why am I not good enough?” But by the end of the poem, she’s turned the question on its head. “You are loved. You are precious … You are deserving of respect,” she tells the room. “And most of all, you are good enough.”

    “I think that you just go to the store and you see this magazine that says: ‘Look at this new way to lose weight.’ Or you see this perfect selfie of someone,” she said, speaking by phone from Queen Creek, Arizona, where she attends Queen Creek Middle School. “And this society wants everyone to be perfect and just be like objects.”

    Olivia Vella. Courtesy: Molly Vella

    Other girls in the class wrote personal poems, too: about preparing for a parent’s divorce, being separated from family, or having people in class copy your work. But no poem resonated so much as Vella’s.

    “Girls were crying. Boys couldn’t stop looking at Olivia in awe,” her teacher, Brett Cornelius, said of the moments following the performance. “It changed [how] they viewed her. And then they were clapping and cheering.”

    Vella’s poem resonated beyond the classroom too. A video of her performance of the poem on the middle school’s Facebook page now has 192K views; it has also been reposted on YouTube.

    One commenter wrote that though she was 63 years old, the poem spoke to her, because “many of the things you said were things that I struggled with so many years ago … The hair, make up, right clothes, dumbing myself down. I never had the courage to fight back.”

    Vella says that the response she has gotten nationwide has been “good overwhelming” and that she’d like to write more slam poetry. Cornelius said he thinks students really connect with slam, or spoken word, poems because of how they can be both personal and performative.

    “We watched a lot of slam poetry, and these poets were saying all these things kids think and feel every day but don’t have the outlet to say,” he said. “And then these poems gave them the courage to say it.”

    Watch Vella perform her poem in the player above.

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    Oakland Police Department officer Huy Nguyen mounts a Portable Digital Recording Device, a body camera designed to record both audio and video in the field, at the police headquarters in Oakland, California April 14, 2015. OPD was one of the first large organizations in the country to utilize the device, which documents officers' actions and community interactions with police, according to the department. Photo by  Robert Galbraith/REUTERS

    Oakland Police Department officer Huy Nguyen mounts a Portable Digital Recording Device, a body camera designed to record both audio and video in the field, at the police headquarters in Oakland, California April 14, 2015. OPD was one of the first large organizations in the country to utilize the device, which documents officers’ actions and community interactions with police, according to the department. Photo by Robert Galbraith/REUTERS

    Police show more respect to whites than blacks during traffic stops, according to a computer analysis of conversations recorded by police body cameras in Oakland, California.

    Videotape footage of police exchanges with people of color has quickly become a mainstay of public — and often viral — stories about law enforcement practices in the U.S. But it remains unclear if these videos represent isolated incidents or a general pattern of racial bias.

    By relying on computers, this new study from Stanford University provides an impartial take on policing during traffic stops as well as a new automated method for assessing the behavior of cops based on the language they use.

    What they studied

    • Stanford psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt led a team of linguists and computer scientists who examined police body camera footage from one month — April 2014 — of routine traffic stops in the racially diverse city of Oakland, California.
    • They examined 981 stops, involving 682 black and 299 white drivers. These numbers mirror that national trend. Of the 26 million traffic stops recorded each year, a higher percentage are black drivers.
    • The stops involved 245 different officers of varying races (102 white, 39 black, 36 Asian, 57 Hispanic and 11 marked as “other.”) A large majority — 224 of the officers — were male.
    • Researchers reviewed 183 hours — 7.5 days — worth of body camera footage, from which they examined the language used in 36,000 exchanges between drivers and cops.
    • “We don’t know of any other department right now taking this kind of approach to the footage,” Eberhardt said of her study published Monday in PNAS. By leveraging body camera footage for a better understanding of police-community relations, “we can learn a lot more about the millions of interactions happening during these routine stops than we can from the popularized isolated cases.”
    • The Oakland police department’s history of misconduct has made it the subject of federal oversight for 14 years. In 2016, special correspondent Jackie Judd interviewed Jennifer Eberhardt about a two-year-long study into the department, confirming that Oakland officers exhibit significant racial biases in their day-to-day work.

    • To measure officer treatment, the researchers conducted three experiments.
    • The first took a subset of the officer statements (312 directed at blacks, 102 at whites) and then had an independent panel of 70 people rank — on a four-point scale — how respectful, polite, friendly, formal and impartial the officer was in each exchange. The panel members did not know the racial makeup of the drivers, though they did see what the drivers said right before the cops responded.
    • The second replaced the human panel with computers armed with linguistic algorithms. These programs recorded when the officers used language that drive perceptions of respect — such as giving agency, softening of commands, saying thanks, apologizing or using formal titles versus informal addresses like dude, bro, boss, man, brotha, sista or chief. This experiment aimed to ascertain if computers could gauge respectful language to the same degree as humans in the first experiment.
    • Sample sentences with automatically generated Respect scores. Features in blue were ranked positively in the computer model  and connote respect, such as offering reassurance (“no problem”) or mentioning community member well-being (“drive safe”). Features in red ranked negatively in the model and connote disrespect, like informal titles (“my man”), or disfluencies (“that- that’s”). Photo by Voigt et al., PNAS, 2017

      Sample sentences with automatically generated Respect scores. Features in blue were ranked positively in the computer model and connote respect, such as offering reassurance (“no problem”) or mentioning community member well-being (“drive safe”). Features in red ranked negatively in the model and connote disrespect, like informal titles (“my man”), or disfluencies (“that- that’s”). Photo by Voigt et al., PNAS, 2017

    • The third experiment set loose the computer algorithms to sift through the full set of 36,000 exchanges by police officers.

    What they found

    • The human panel judged that officer behavior varied most widely when it came to being respectful, with white members of the community receiving more respect than blacks. “Even though the people who were reading the statements had no idea about the driver’s race, we found they judged the officer language directed at black motorists to be less respectful than language directed at white motorists,” Eberhardt said.
    • Other aspects of police behavior — such as formality toward drivers — did not change based on the driver’s identity.
    • The race of the police officers did not alter these patterns, neither did the severity of the traffic offense, nor the location of the stop in the city.
    • The computer algorithms identified almost exactly the same trends, agreeing with the human assessment of respectful behavior at nearly the same rate.
    • The computer analysis could also quantify the scale of a problem. White community members were 57 percent more likely to have an exchange filled with a highest degree of respectful language, whereas black drivers were 61 percent more likely to experience an exchange that fell into the category of least respectful.
    • Moreover, over the course of an entire traffic stop, the use of respectful language increased more quickly for whites than blacks. The trend means “even when the community member hasn’t had much time to say very much at all, there’s already a race gap in respect,” Eberhardt said.

    Why it matters

    • Despite the social cues and psychological biases that define much of human interactions, computers could pull consistent and meaningful disparities in how officers behaved toward drivers from language alone.
    • “That’s what we want to do. We want to automate this to a point where it’s not laborious to go through the footage,” Eberhardt said.
    • Community members want body cameras, because the devices provide accountability and transparency, she said. Law enforcement show mixed support for the use of body cameras in surveys, though their power to adjudicate disputes over the series of events of an incident is accepted by ordinary citizens and police. Eberhardt wants a study like hers to take matters a step further and identify what contributes to police-community relations — both positive and negative experiences — in the first place.

    What happens next

    • Her team wants to explore if motorists provoke this race disparity in respectful behavior from police officers — though two aspects of this current study suggest drivers may play less of a role.
    • First, the human panel saw what the drivers said right before the officers responded, which provided context for the exchange.
    • Second, Eberhardt’s study also found that, on average, over the course of a single traffic stop, the use of respectful language increased more quickly for whites than blacks. The trend means “even when the community member hasn’t had much time to say very much at all, there’s already a race gap in respect.”

    Editor’s note: This story was updated to clarify the study’s findings about the motorists’ contributions to the police exchanges.

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    The verified Twitter account of President Donald Trump, @POTUS, is seen on a cell phone. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — Memo from legal experts to President Donald Trump on resurrecting his stalled travel ban: Put down the Twitter.

    Trump’s 140-character musings Monday may have undercut his own efforts to persuade the Supreme Court to reinstate his revised travel ban, which Trump called a “watered-down, politically correct” version of what he’d originally sought. Just as Trump’s Justice Department is arguing the ban doesn’t target Muslims, legal experts said the president seems to be suggesting the opposite.

    Those who oppose the travel ban said Trump’s Tweetstorm, ironically, helps their case. Neal Katyal, the former acting solicitor general representing Hawaii in its lawsuit against the ban, said it was as if Trump was his co-counsel.

    “We don’t need the help but will take it!” Katyal wrote in his own Twitter post.

    The courts in January halted Trump’s initial order, which banned travel from seven majority-Muslim countries and indefinitely halted entry to Syrian refugees. Trump begrudgingly scaled back the order by removing Iraq from the list and making the Syria refugee ban only temporary, but that order was blocked by the courts, too.

    At the heart of the legal wrangling is whether Trump’s proposed ban violates the Constitution by discriminating on the basis of religion. As a candidate, Trump called for a “Muslim ban,” comments that came back to haunt him as president when the courts determined that even his scaled-down order was “rooted in religious animus and intended to bar Muslims from this country.”

    Not so, the Justice Department has argued, insisting the temporary ban is based on credible national security concerns unrelated to religion, and his campaign statements should be ignored. But Stephen Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor, said Trump was making that argument much less tenable by calling the revised order “politically correct.”

    “These tweets are basically winking at his supporters to say, obviously, I’m only doing this so that the courts will uphold it,” Vladeck said. “It makes it harder to argue this is not a Muslim ban, and more importantly, it makes it harder to argue that the president’s statements should be irrelevant.”

    In a series of early-morning tweets, Trump bashed the Justice Department for its decision to ask the Supreme Court to review the second version of the ban — which he signed.

    “The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.,” Trump said. He urged the Justice Department, which he oversees, to seek a “much tougher version” of the order.

    Hoping to shore up the order’s legal underpinnings, both the White House and Trump’s Homeland Security chief have insisted it’s not actually a “travel ban,” criticizing reporters for mischaracterizing it. But Trump on Monday was having none of it.

    “People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!” Trump wrote.

    The inconsistency put White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders in a delicate spot Monday afternoon as questions streamed in about why Trump was contradicting his aides. His Twitter missive notwithstanding, Sanders insisted Trump “isn’t concerned with what you call it,” only with protecting Americans.

    Sanders said the president had asked the Justice Department to pursue an expedited hearing at the Supreme Court, adding that Trump “wants to go as far and as strong as possible under the Constitution to protect the people of this country.” Still, she said he’d signed the revised ban “for the purposes of expediency” and wasn’t considering a third version of the ban.

    Trump argues the ban is crucial for safeguarding American security, and he has intensified his push for it in the wake of the weekend vehicle and knife attack in London that left seven people dead and dozens injured. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

    The second-guessing about Trump’s Twitter strategy extended to the husband of one Trump’s senior advisers. New York lawyer George T. Conway III, whose wife is White House aide Kellyanne Conway, wrote that online statements “may make some ppl feel better,” but won’t help win a Supreme Court majority.

    “Sad,” he said on Twitter, borrowing a phrase from Trump’s own Twitter.

    Conway had been considered for at least two high-ranking Justice Department jobs, including solicitor general, the government lawyer who represents the president at the Supreme Court.

    George Mason University law professor Josh Blackman called Trump “the worst client” for the solicitor general.

    “When you’re a lawyer what you want is your client to stay silent,” he said.

    Trump has the authority to order the Justice Department to pursue a different strategy. It’s unclear whether the president has conveyed his requests to the department in a forum other than Twitter. The Justice Department declined to comment.

    Trump has used attacks around the world to justify his pursuit of the travel and immigration ban, one of his first acts since taking office. The original order, signed at the end of his first week in office, was hastily unveiled without significant input from top Trump national security advisers or relevant federal agencies.

    After that order was struck down, the administration decided to write a second directive rather than appeal the initial ban to the Supreme Court. The narrower would temporarily halt entry to the U.S. from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

    If anything, Supreme Court may be more likely to hear the case in light of the tweets, to determine once and for all how far the president’s power goes, said Peter S. Margulies, a law professor at Roger Williams.

    It’s unclear when it will make that decision.

    Associated Press writers Julie Pace and Mark Sherman contributed to this report.

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    Investigators work the scene of a fatal workplace shooting in Orlando, Florida, U.S. June 5, 2017. REUTERS/Daniel LeClair - RTX395KL

    Investigators work the scene of a fatal workplace shooting in Orlando, Florida, U.S. June 5, 2017. REUTERS/Daniel LeClair – RTX395KL

    WASHINGTON — Fatal workplace shootings, like the one Monday in Orlando, Florida, are ticking upward in the United States, government statistics show.

    Revenge against an employer, romantic partner or co-workers often is the motive, experts say. Reports of workplace violence are quick to spread across social media.

    “It really all boils down pretty much to the same issues: A person wants to feel that they have more control, they want to have more power,” said threat assessment expert Michael Corcoran. “What are seeing when this happens is it gets played up more, so they say, ‘Ah OK, that’s an alternative.'”

    What has changed in recent years is the willingness of employers to set up systems to monitor people who might be threats, experts said.

    A lone gunman on Monday returned with a semi-automatic pistol to the Orlando awning factory where was fired in April and methodically killed five people, then himself, the Orange County sheriff said.

    Sheriff Jerry Demings identified the shooter as John Robert Neumann Jr., a 45-year-old Army veteran. Authorities had confronted him once before at the Fiamma Inc. awning factory, when he was accused of battering a co-worker in June 2014. But after interviewing both men involved, deputies filed no charges, Demings said. That co-worker was not among Monday’s victims, the sheriff said.

    The most recent records by the Bureau of Labor Statistics say workplace homicides rose by 2 percent to 417 cases in 2015, with shootings increasing by 15 percent. The 354 shootings in 2015 represent the first increase since 2012.

    Identifying people with “concerning behavior” is key for virtually any company, experts said. That means setting up an “interdisciplinary threat assessment team” of company managers and, sometimes, local law enforcement, to look at and perhaps track workers who were terminated or suspended, said Matthew W. Doherty, senior vice president for threat and violence risk management at Hillard Heintze.

    “Anybody that employs anybody in the U.S. should have one,” said Doherty, a retired special agent who was in charge of the Secret Service’s Threat Assessment Center.

    He noted that Aaron Alexis, killed in a gunfight with police after he had killed 12 people at Washington Navy Yard in 2013, was well known for his bizarre behavior. Several of the victims’ families and survivors filed millions of dollars in lawsuits against the companies overseeing Alexis’ work. The lawsuits allege that the companies were aware of Alexis’ troubling behavior, including that he heard voices, believed he had a chip implanted in his head and thought people were following him.

    “He was of concern to almost everyone in the workplace,” Doherty said. Of Monday’s shooting at Fiamma Inc., he sadi, “I’d be very curious in this case if they followed security industry best practices for monitoring this person’s behavior.”

    There’s a change in some quarters on how to react.

    “‘See something, say something’ is kind of tiresome,” said active shooter prevention expert and author Chris Grollnek. “You see out-of-ordinary behavior, make a quick note. And if you’re in a bad situation, it’s get up, get out. There is no more hiding under a desk.”

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

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

    President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia last month had all the triumphal trappings of an 18th century English King visiting his French counterpart. There was a red carpet as Air Force One arrived in Riyadh. The 81-year-old monarch, King Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud, greeted him at the bottom of the stairs, as trumpets blared and fighter jets streaked overhead. Mr. Trump was celebrated with a royal medal, a larger-than-life image of his face on his hotel and a high-spirited sword dance.

    But the President’s ostensible strategic triumph – embracing, solidifying and elevating a U.S.-friendly coalition of Sunni Arab countries against Iran and the Islamic State — was suddenly undercut today.

    There have long been tensions between Saudi Arabia, considered the top Gulf power, and oil-rich Qatar, which repeatedly tries to thwart Saudi aims. But why the rift now?

    Four of its leading members, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, broke off ties with another one of their group, Qatar. Diplomats were recalled or ordered to leave their posts, Qatari citizens were expelled from all four countries, flights were cancelled and sea and land borders closed.

    This is bad news for the U.S., which wanted to cement a solid Sunni front against its two regional adversaries: Tehran and extremist groups in the neighborhood. And it puts Washington in a bind. Saudi Arabia is the closest U.S. ally in the region, but Qatar hosts (and pays for) a major U.S. military base vital to the air campaign against ISIS.

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

    “This is a real problem for us. The image of this Sunni alliance coming apart in such a visible way is embarrassing, especially right after the President’s trip,” said a former senior U.S. official dealing with the Middle East. “And Washington is in the middle of it because of our base in Qatar, now cut off from any other country by land.”

    He was referring to the al-Udeid Air Base, the forward headquarters for U.S. Central Command, used extensively by U.S. warplanes in the region. With Qatar an isthmus connected to mainland only through its now-closed border with Saudi Arabia, the U.S. has no land access to it either.

    There have long been tensions between Saudi Arabia, considered the top Gulf power, and oil-rich Qatar, which repeatedly tries to thwart Saudi aims. But why the rift now?

    A map of Qatar.

    This map shows Qatar and some of the surrounding countries who have broken away from it.

    Vali Nasr, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, believes the Trump visit may have played a part. He thinks the 31-year-old Saudi deputy crown prince and defense minister, Mohammad Bin Salman, was emboldened to make this power play by President Trump’s decision to choose Saudi Arabia for his first foreign trip as president, and so warmly embrace the Gulf monarchies.

    “This is a signal that Mohammad Bin Salman’s going to be aggressive with anyone who crosses Saudi lines on Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood or anything else,” said Nasr. “And I think Trump, who essentially coronated him as the King of the Gulf, gave him the confidence to do it.”

    In a statement, Riyadh said it was acting to “protect its national security from the dangers of terrorism and extremism,” referring to the history of wealthy fundamentalist Qataris funding extremist rebel groups in Syria. That’s a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black. Wealthy Saudis did much the same, as both countries propped up proxy fighters to bring down Syrian president (and Shiite) Bashar al Assad.

    WATCH: After tone-shifting speech in Saudi Arabia, Trump broaches peace prospects in Israel

    There is some substance to Riyadh’s other charge, that Qatar is more accommodating to Saudi‘s Shiite nemesis Iran. Qatar has called for dialogue with between Iran and the Gulf, and Qatari emir Shayk Tamim bin Hamid al Thani called Iranian president Hassan Rouhani to congratulate his May 20 re-election. But Qatar has little choice, since Iran and Qatar share the world’s largest natural gas field.

    The bottom-line danger for Washington, though, is that in creating a tough anti-Iranian Sunni alliance, Saudi Arabia will create an opposing counterforce too. As Nasr noted, the countries left out – like Qatar and Oman– will be looking for other friends, perhaps Iran and Turkey. “So this has broad implications,” he said. “Riyadh is driving a Middle East policy that is not what the Trump Administration wanted.”

    I asked the former senior U.S. official, if he were still in government, would he recommend the secretary of state go to the region to negotiate a settlement?

    “Absolutely,” he said. “There is too much at stake to let it blow.”

    READ MORE: Despite populist campaign rhetoric, public support for NATO grows

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: This week, we’re going to take a look at a special series about living with disabilities from our network of Student Reporting Labs around the country.

    The series, called Limitless, includes more than 30 stories written, filmed and edited entirely by middle and high school students.

    Tonight, we learn about Ryan Hudson-Peralta. He’s a web designer in Detroit who was born with congenital limb deficiency.

    WATCH MORE: Limitless: Breaking the Bounds of Disability

    The video was produced by his son, Noah, and the Student Reporting Lab at Frederick V. Pankow Center High School in Clinton, Michigan.

    PATRICK PERALTA, Ryan’s Father: We kind of figured he was here for a purpose.

    KIMBERLY PERALTA, Ryan’s Mother: Everyone in the world is going to know his name.

    DARRYL BLANDING, Ryan’s Friend: He is different than anybody else.

    DAN GILBERT, CEO, Quicken Loans: There’s no better word than inspirational. So he inspires everyone. He inspires me.

    MAN: Ryan has taught me how to not worry about the past, don’t focus on the future, but enjoy every moment of the present.

    RYAN HUDSON-PERALTA, Senior Web Designer, Quicken Loans: My name is Ryan Hudson-Peralta.

    I was born with a disability called congenital limb deficiency, which basically is the shortening of the arms and the legs. And, in my case, I was born without hands.

    When I was born, the doctors told my parents that I would never drive a car or go to a regular school. They said I would never have a family. So, yes, everyone pretty much doubted me when I was a kid.

    KIMBERLY PERALTA: Well, after Ryan was born, the doctors wouldn’t show me him.

    And, all of a sudden, they covered up the mirror and told my husband, hey, Mr. Peralta, leave the room. And I didn’t understand why. And I said, where’s my baby? I want to see my baby.

    And I kind of went into shock. And they told me something was wrong with his arm, and then something was wrong with his leg.

    PATRICK PERALTA: They said, well, we will let you see him in a little bit. I just looked at his face and said, he’s a fighter.

    DAN GILBERT: Actually, I think I saw Ryan Hudson-Peralta before I heard about him, so — and I asked somebody. I said, wait, is he working for us? What’s he doing? And I think somebody said, well, he’s a designer.

    The first thing you ask yourself is, how does a man who doesn’t have limbs design stuff on a computer? But that’s just really the first question, because then you see everything else he does. And you keep asking, how does he do that, how does he do that, how does he do that?

    Sooner or later, you stop asking the question, because he just figures out a way to do it. So, it was truly remarkable to me and very shocking and also inspirational at the same time.

    DARRYL BLANDING: Never heard him complain about nothing. And he has to work twice as hard to do daily tasks, like to send a text message or just anything. And he never complains about that at all, nothing.

    RYAN HUDSON-PERALTA: As a kid, I started to draw with my pencil between my feet. And then I really realized one day that it was going to be pretty tough when I go into a bank and have to hop up on the counter to sign the — sign the deposit slip.

    So, I moved the pencil from my feet to my chin and shoulder and I started to draw that way. In 2013, I started working for Quicken Loans and their family of companies as a Web and Internet user interface designer. And about nine months after working there, I got an e-mail from Dan Gilbert’s team asking me to speak at these events he has every — about every month.

    DAN GILBERT: We wanted Ryan to talk about a philosophy and how that plays out through him and his story.

    And he does a great job, because, again, for everyone in the audience, it’s probably their first time seeing Ryan. And he’s just so — such a unique individual that every time people see him and see he’s just a regular, normal guy who just gets it done, just, you know, different kind of challenges, I think that inspires everybody in a big, big way.

    He is a testament, a living testament to that, with the way that he interacts with people, the way that he approaches work, the way that he builds community around him. He understands the power of relationship and he also understands the power of people.

    RYAN HUDSON-PERALTA: Bad things are going to happen to you every day in your life.

    And no matter what, if you stay positive, you’re going to get through them. I mean, I could look at every day in my life as something negative. Being born without hands is not the greatest thing that could happen to somebody. But I have a choice every day that I wake up. I can either look at myself as a poor guy with a disability or somebody that can go out and inspire people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what an inspiration Ryan is. Remarkable.

    You can see more of these stories from young journalists across the country at studentreportinglabs.org.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The trial of comedian and actor Bill Cosby got under way in Pennsylvania today.

    Cosby, who is now 79, has been accused by more than 40 women of sexual assault over the course of decades. His legacy has been under heavy attack in recent years.

    But the charges are old and, in many cases, the statute of limitations has run out. The Pennsylvania trial is the only one to go to criminal court. If convicted, Cosby could face prison time.

    William Brangham has the story.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: This case dates back to 2004, when Cosby is alleged to have assaulted Andrea Constand, who was then an employee at Temple University’s basketball program.

    Prosecutors say Cosby drugged and assaulted Constand at his home. Cosby has said he had a consensual extramarital relationship with her, and has denied all the allegations of assault by numerous other women.

    Cosby, who starred as a father and family man in his popular 1980s sitcom, arrived at court today with actress Keshia Knight Pulliam, who played his daughters on “The Cosby Show.”

    Maryclaire Dale of the Associated Press has long been covering the case against Cosby. She filed the motion that unsealed an older deposition that Cosby gave in a civil suit that’s now a key piece of evidence in this trial.

    She joins me now from outside the courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

    Maryclaire, thank you very much for being here.

    I wonder if you just could tell us, first off, from the prosecution’s stance in opening statements today, lay out the case that they laid out against Cosby today.

    MARYCLAIRE DALE, Associated Press: Right.

    The case opened very strong today. Lawyers on both sides came out swinging. The prosecution started by talking about the key issues in the case drugs, sex, and the issue of consent. They said that the accuser in this case, Andrea Constand, could not have given consent in the case, given that Cosby, by his own words, in his own deposition, acknowledges giving her three blue pills before he went with her on a couch and molested her, in her words.

    Of course, he says that they had consensual sex acts on the couch that night, but the prosecution says that she was frozen, paralyzed by the pills he gave her, unable to stop him, resist, refuse, or give consent.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And from the opening statements on Cosby’s defense, what’s the sense of how they’re going to try to rebut these allegations?

    MARYCLAIRE DALE: They’re pointing out discrepancies in the women’s various statements over time, saying that the details have changed, the dates have changed.

    In fact, for example, in the Constand statement to police, she initially recalled the incident occurring in March of 2004, but later told investigators it was January of 2004.

    So they’re pointing out, you know, time discrepancies, other details, and they’re saying that both women had consensual relationships with Cosby. They said that Cosby and Andrea Constand had a romantic relationship that spans at least several evenings, that she had gone to the casino in Connecticut with him on one trip, had been with him on several nights for various social occasions, and, again, that it was a romantic, consensual situation.

    Again, the prosecution is saying that there is no way she can give consent after having taken these pills.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Andrea Constand’s case is obviously echoed by dozens of women who have said over the years that Bill Cosby did similar acts to them.

    I understand that the first witness today was one of those other women. Can you tell us what she testified to today?

    MARYCLAIRE DALE: Yes, the first witness called by prosecutors was the — what we call a prior bad act accuser.

    She — her name is Kelly Johnson. She worked for Cosby’s agent at the William Morris agency in the ’90s. And she described a similar situation as to Constand, a day where she says she was beckoned to Cosby’s bungalow at the Bel Air Hotel in about 1996, and says he forced her to take a pill, a white pill, and then that she says left her, again, dizzy, falling in and out of consciousness.

    She says she later woke up, hours later, perhaps the next morning, on a bed with Cosby, where he was forcing her to do a sex act. But she says she really resisted, tried not to take the pill, tried to put it under her tongue, only to have him look at her tongue and insist on her swallowing it. She says she feared that she would lose her job that she liked quite a bit at the William Morris agency.

    The defense questioned her timing. They said that there is a deposition that exists, I believe in a worker’s compensation lawsuit she filed, in which she says that she went to the hotel with Cosby in 1990, so six years apart on that.

    They really questioned her on other details. And she says — for instance, they said, didn’t Cosby give you $400 for your grandmother’s doctor’s appointment? She didn’t testify to that. She says she never remembers him giving her any money, although she does remember him referring her grandmother to a doctor’s appointment.

    So, again, they’re pointing out the consistencies, some small, some maybe less small, in their statements, and while the prosecution is trying to say to the jury, you really have to look and try to focus on the differences between the man and the actor you saw on TV and the roles that he created.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I understand that Cosby himself will not be testifying. But the — in an earlier deposition that Cosby gave — this is the deposition that you helped unearth — I understand will be a key piece of evidence here.

    Can you tell us what is in that deposition?


    It was a deposition that he gave in 2005 and 2006, when Andrea Constand filed a civil lawsuit, after prosecutors, at the time, decided not to charge Cosby in the case. So, in that deposition, Cosby says that he, again, acknowledges having a long series of relationships with young women, actresses, waitresses, flight attendants, various women.

    Again, he says they were — he considers them to be consensual. Many of those women have now come forward to say that they believe they were drugged and molested.

    One of the big highlights from that deposition was Cosby acknowledging that, in the ’70s, he got quaaludes, a very powerful sedative that the U.S. later banned. He says he obtained them from his doctor, at least seven prescriptions. He says he got them in his own name, but collected them to give to women before sex.

    And that was one of the things that led prosecutors in 2015, when this came to light, to reopen the case and realized they still had time to charge Cosby. They arrested him days before the statute of limitations ran in late 2015.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Maryclaire Dale of the Associated Press, thanks so much.

    The post Bill Cosby trial opens for 2004 sexual assault case appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: to a part of the Trump agenda that the administration still has not been able to implement: his travel ban on visitors from six mostly Muslim countries.

    The revised version of the ban remains on hold by federal court order, and the president this morning aired out his grievances once again.

    John Yang reports.

    JOHN YANG: This afternoon, the White House deputy press secretary said it didn’t matter what President Trump’s executive order on immigration is called.

    SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, Deputy White House Press Secretary: I think that the president isn’t concerned with what you call it. He’s concerned with national security and protecting people in this country.

    JOHN YANG: This morning, the president was very concerned, stating: “People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a travel ban.”

    In fact, it his own aides who refused to call it that.

    SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: It’s not a travel ban. It’s a — it’s a vetting system to keep America safe. That’s it, plain and simple.

    JOHN KELLY, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary: It’s not a travel ban, remember. It’s a travel pause. What the president said, for 90 days, we were going to pause in terms of people from those countries coming to the United States that would give me time to look at additional vetting.

    JOHN YANG: Mr. Trump also slammed his own Justice Department, saying it should have stuck with the original executive order, “not the watered-down, politically correct current version,” even though it was the president himself who revoked the original version when he signed the new one.

    Mr. Trump has asked the Justice Department to seek a quick Supreme Court hearing to reinstate the order after lower courts blocked it from taking effect. It’s up to the justices to decide how quickly they will act.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Yang.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Separately, there’s word tonight that the FBI has arrested a federal contract employee on charges of leaking a secret document on Russian election hacking. NBC News reports that a Georgia woman allegedly gave the National Security Agency document to “The Intercept,” an online magazine.

    It says it shows Russian military intelligence engineered a cyber-attack on at least one U.S. supplier of voting software last year. Hackers also tried to dupe elections officials into handing over log-in credentials. It’s the first evidence that Moscow tried to go beyond swaying public opinion and interfere in election machinery.

    For more on all this and more, we turn to Politics Monday with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    So, Amy and Tam, this is a story that has just been breaking literally within the last hour. We learned about this online magazine, Amy, a few hours ago, but now we’re learning about the arrest.

    If it is the case that the Russians were able to in some way interfere or get close to interfering with the machinery of an election, what does that mean?

    AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Well, that’s just one more piece of what has been this never-ending puzzle called the Russian impact on this election.

    And what’s difficult about sifting through all of this, Judy, it’s a little bit like one of those games where there’s a picture made up of a lot of different tiles. You don’t know what that picture is until you flip over all the tiles to get the picture. And all we’re getting the one tile here and one tile there and one tile over here. So we have little pieces, but we don’t know what the big picture is, and I don’t know that we’re going ever going to find out the big picture.

    Then put on top of it all of the politics around it, whether it’s the president saying he doesn’t know really if the Russians interfered in this, the push by Democrats to really politicize a lot of this, the Russian — including Hillary Clinton, who says that the Russian interference cost her the election.

    And now, of course, we have James Comey, the FBI director, coming to the Hill to talk more about this Thursday.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And speaking of which, Tam, the White House did announce today, as we reported, that the president is not going to step in and exert what we call executive privilege to prevent James Comey from doing that.

    TAMARA KEITH, NPR: No, there was a question of whether they could actually assert that privilege and whether they’d succeed.

    But, yes, they’re saying that the president will not do that. There was also a question of, politically, whether it was a good idea for the president to try to interfere with Comey testifying, because that would just cause a lot of people to say, well, what is he hiding?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Amy, there was a lot of speculation about this, people saying, if the president did that, it would be explosive.

    AMY WALTER: Absolutely.

    Let him go and testify, and then respond to that. If you block him from testifying in the first place, the first thing everybody is going to say is, well, of course the White House has something to hide, that’s why they don’t want him to testify.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, let’s go back, Tam, to this other story we have been dealing with for several hours today, and that is the storm of tweets that you just heard John Yang reporting on from the president today, basically doubling down on his original travel ban, saying, I don’t care what anybody calls it, I want the travel ban, and I don’t like what the Justice Department did and so on and so on.

    Does he help himself with this, or is it — is it there some risk?

    TAMARA KEITH: Is that a serious question?


    TAMARA KEITH: Lawyers would say, many lawyers would say, stop talking.

    Those lawyers include George Conway, who is someone who was up for potentially a job, a high-level job in the Justice Department, pulled out of that job last week, happens to be the husband of Kellyanne Conway, said in a series of tweets, basically, the president’s tweets may make people feel good, but they are not helping his legal case.

    Also, the lawyer who is representing Hawaii in one of these cases that has led to the travel ban being blocked essentially said, wow, thank you, President Trump. You’re certainly helping us. Didn’t realize you were going to be co-counsel.


    AMY WALTER: And that’s what — part of the reason that the courts didn’t enact the travel ban in the first place was based on statements that Trump made on the campaign trail.

    And so it is clear that his own words have made this that much more difficult, that the actual text of the ban is as much an issue as what he said in his campaign about wanting to ban Muslims, and now going to Twitter and also making the case against himself. So he has made it that much harder, if not — to get beyond just the text of this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, on top of all this, at the same time, Tam, Kellyanne Conway, who we mentioned a moment ago because her husband was tweeting criticism of the president, was telling reporters this morning — she was interviewed on one of the morning television shows — just don’t pay attention to the tweets.

    TAMARA KEITH: Right. Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That you should be focused on what the president is getting done.

    TAMARA KEITH: Yes, why focus on the tweets, she says.

    Well, because they are statements of the president of the United States. And when the president of the United States says something, it matters. Now, sometimes, his statements come on letterhead from the White House that say this is an official statement of the president of the United States.

    But the reality is that, often, he goes on Twitter and contradicts the things that are on the official letterhead. And, really, his tweets are this unprecedented access to what is in the mind of the president of the United States. It is unfiltered.

    His spokeswoman was asked today, are these tweets being vetted yet? Are lawyers vetting the tweets? And she said, I don’t think so.

    So, actually, this is what the president thinks.

    AMY WALTER: And says. And it shouldn’t be any different if he says it on Twitter than if he says it at a press conference or if he sent something on official letterhead.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I should say we at the NewsHour view the tweets as another form of statement from the president, from the White House.

    AMY WALTER: Absolutely. Absolutely.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There are official statements. There are executive orders, any number of other ways. They can give interviews. They can make speeches.


    AMY WALTER: And Twitter is another one of those methods.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Twitter is …


    JUDY WOODRUFF: … of communicating.

    AMY WALTER: And everything he says as a private — when he was a private citizen is very different than when he is president of the president of the United States.

    No matter what he says, in what venue he says it, it carries the weight of the president of the United States. It carries the weight of being the leader of this country.

    TAMARA KEITH: Though I think that he considers the tweets to be sort of a direct message to his base, whereas the more official statements are seen for a wider audience.

    But I think he sees those tweets as going directly with the base, going around the media. But everybody else is watching, including leaders from around the world.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Everybody is watching who focuses on this administration.

    Quickly, Tam, meantime, the White House was trying to today to regroup. They said this is going to be infrastructure week. They had a little briefing for the news media where they said, we’re going to be focusing on a plan to pour a lot of effort and money into rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure.

    It’s still not clear about the details and the cost, but they’re trying to change the subject.

    TAMARA KEITH: Yes, infrastructure week is going really well. It started with the president tweeting at 6:00 in the morning about something completely unrelated to infrastructure.

    But they did announce a proposal on privatizing air traffic control. The president held a big, flashy signing ceremony to sign a memo being sent to Congress to say that these are the ideas that he supports.

    That is not a bill signing. That is a memo signing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, regrouping.

    AMY WALTER: Well, and for President Trump, this should be his biggest, most powerful statement. He was elected to Congress as a businessman, as a deal-maker, as a builder of things, to put together an infrastructure bill that Democrats, Republicans can agree on, that he can promote.

    This should be one of the easiest things for him to do, and yet, both by his own tweets and by the fact that this bill itself, as it stands, is not going to get support from Democrats.


    TAMARA KEITH: Also, there is no infrastructure bill, just to be clear, at this point.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We will keep watching. I know you will too.

    AMY WALTER: We will keep watching, yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Amy, Tam, thank you.

    TAMARA KEITH: Thank you.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: After years of recession, skyrocketing inflation, and hardship, the oil-rich country of Venezuela is spiraling into social and economic collapse.

    Many of its people have been taking to the streets on an almost daily basis for the last two months to demand that President Nicolas Maduro step down.

    With the support of the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, special correspondent Nadja Drost and videographer Bruno Federico went to Caracas to find out how the wave of uprisings is creating a political crisis.

    NADJA DROST: Venezuela today, an economy in freefall, triple-digit inflation, dire shortages of nearly everything, from food to medicine.

    The social and economic crisis that started intensifying after President Nicolas Maduro took over from his iconic predecessor Hugo Chavez is tailspinning into a political one, as anti-government protests rock the capital, Caracas.

    Chavismo, the populist form of socialism branded by Chavez that provided services for the poor paid for by profits from the world’s largest oil reserves, is teetering on the verge of collapse.

    Behind us is a sea of angry Venezuelans who have been taking to the streets since early April, protesting the government and its handling of this country’s deepening crisis. But now that President Maduro is pushing ahead with his controversial plan to convene a citizens assembly and write up a new constitution, opposition protesters say that a new constitution will consolidate government power and severely shrink the political space for the opposition.

    DAVID APONTE, Protester (through interpreter): We need a solution to problems that Venezuelans confront every day, like shortages, insecurity.

    NADJA DROST: The streets have turned violent. Since early April, over 60 people have been killed and 1,000 injured as a result of protest-related violence.

    Most protesters march peacefully, but a violent minority has prompted the government to call them terrorists. An intensifying crackdown has led to more than 2,500 arrests.

    Many of them are represented by attorney Jorge Ramos, who runs a legal assistance group called the Venezuelan Penal Forum.

    Ramos says there’s a benefit for the government to detain people.

    JORGE RAMOS, Venezuelan Penal Forum: And the benefit is intimidating this specific group of society. Why? Not to demonstrate, not to say things against the government.

    NADJA DROST: But even intimidation tactics can’t seem to quell the discontent of so many Venezuelans, as the crisis bleeds into every aspect of life.

    Lisbeth Vieras has worked for nine years as a taxi driver shuttling passengers to and from the Caracas Airport to support herself, her son and daughter Glorybeth. She was never a fan of Chavez nor Maduro, but now that tourism and business travel has plummeted, she blames the government for sending the economy down the tube.

    LISBETH VIERAS, Mother (through interpreter): There are a lots of changes. Two years ago, we could make three to four daily runs, today, only one.

    NADJA DROST: Now, Vieras can barely cover the cost of food and her daughter’s law studies at university. But her daughter’s still studying, luckier than others.

    GLORYBETH PARRA VIERAS, University Student (through interpreter): I have peers who can’t pay their tuition. It’s more important to eat in this situation than to study.

    NADJA DROST: As Venezuela’s crisis deepens, the chorus of voices calling for change grows.

    Michael Penfold, a university professor in Caracas and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, says that Chavismo is failing to understand that political and economic conditions have changed.

    MICHAEL PENFOLD, Professor: But the problem is that this revolution, which right now holds a minority, is trying to run the country as if they still held a majority and as if they still had this hegemonic sort of impulse of controlling society and controlling institutions.

    NADJA DROST: Opponents have protested delayed regional elections and the attempt to strip authority from the opposition-held Congress. But Maduro’s decree to create a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution, a move they fear will favor only his priorities, was the last straw.

    This resident of a Caracas barrio says it is yet another political distraction.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): You see a lot of problems here, and we know that this man is inventing fictions. Instead of looking for solutions, he’s looking to entrench himself in power. We don’t want this. What we want are solutions.

    In my family, five people have left the country. Fleeing what? There’s crime. You don’t know when you leave when you will come back. I spent 18 hours to buy four pounds of corn flour, 18 hours. That’s not human.

    NADJA DROST: It isn’t, but she has a roof over head, which is more than this group of people who find themselves living on the streets, scavenging for food amidst the garbage. It is a desperate, but organized activity. They know the schedule of the garbage truck, and wait at restaurants exactly when the garbage is taken out, carry the bags over to the riverside, and comb through it.

    Pedro, who didn’t want to be identified by his full name, used to work as a graphic designer, but can’t find work.

    PEDRO, Unemployed Graphic Designer (through interpreter): I found myself short of money when I was renting a room, and the solution was the streets.

    NADJA DROST: He says more and more people join them every day.

    PEDRO (through interpreter): Everyone who comes here arrives skinny, and gains weight because, in reality, we eat. People may say that we eat garbage, but now many of them envy us because we have something in our stomachs.

    NADJA DROST: As more and more Venezuelans find themselves in dire situations, more are pulled towards political groups in the opposition coalition, in search of a response to the crisis, like the Voluntad Popular Party.

    At its helm is Freddy Guevara, one of several young opposition members of Congress who are playing a key role in organizing the anti-government marches.

    FREDDY GUEVARA, Voluntad Popular (through interpreter): We have reached the point where all constitutional doors have been closed on us. That’s pushed everyone to head out into the streets.

    NADJA DROST: For Guevara and other hard-line government opponents, it all comes down to one central demand: that Maduro leave.

    FREDDY GUEVARA (through interpreter): There is no way to solve all these problems with Maduro at the head.

    NADJA DROST: At home in a high-rise complex of free housing built under Chavez, Darwuin Hernandez fears a new government would turn their back on the interests of the poor in particular.

    DARWUIN HERNANDEZ, Maduro Supporter (through interpreter): What has the revolution and socialism given me? Well, this humble home where I am, thanks to God first and to Chavez, and to Maduro. It’s what I always wanted, a decent home, nothing else.

    NADJA DROST: Professor Penfold says the opposition shouldn’t underestimate the power of Chavismo.

    MICHAEL PENFOLD: I don’t think that you can move out of this situation without an important fracture happening within the government coalition.

    NADJA DROST: Guevara and the opposition are counting on government dissidents to help bring down Maduro.

    FREDDY GUEVARA (through interpreter): That is to say that, every day, there are more players inside the regime that move away from Maduro. This way, he won’t have the power to impose his will.

    NADJA DROST: But until and if that happens, Venezuela is stuck in political deadlock.

    MICHAEL PENFOLD: It’s also a country — and I have to say this — with horror, that cannot stay in the situation it is for a longer time.

    NADJA DROST: Taxi driver Vieras can hardly cope with worries over the chaos and insecurity, and her kids.

    LISBETH VIERAS (through interpreter): She, for example, she escapes and goes off to the marches. She says, “Mama, if I tell you I’m going to the protest, you won’t let me go.”

    NADJA DROST: Vieras knows that when her daughter runs off to marches, she always takes her cap. It’s become her way of checking in on her daughter’s whereabouts.

    LISBETH VIERAS (through interpreter): I call her brother and I say, go to her room and see if her hat is there.

    GLORYBETH PARRA VIERAS (through interpreter): I understand her as a mother how it would be to receive a call that your daughter is dead or your daughter was attacked. But, even so, sometimes, I go to the protests.

    NADJA DROST: In fact, she goes several times a week, helping her university peers who are often injured on the front line.

    GLORYBETH PARRA VIERAS (through interpreter): Here, he who tires, loses. And we’re going to keep going until we’re able to get out of this.

    NADJA DROST: For the PBS NewsHour, reporting with Bruno Federico, I’m Nadja Drost in Caracas.

    The post Dire conditions drive growing anti-government opposition in Venezuela appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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