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

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    U.S. President Donald Trump signs a document after announcing his Cuba policy at the Manuel Artime Theater in the Little Havana neighborhood in Miami, Florida, U.S. on June 16, 2017. Photo by Joe Skipper/Reuters

    U.S. President Donald Trump signs a document after announcing his Cuba policy at the Manuel Artime Theater in the Little Havana neighborhood in Miami, Florida, U.S. on June 16, 2017. Photo by Joe Skipper/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s decision to reverse some Obama-era Cuba policies landed with a thud among many congressional Republicans who say the new approach surrenders a potentially lucrative market for American goods and services to competitors.

    While anti-Castro conservatives hailed Trump’s partial roll-back of President Barack Obama’s detente, a number of other GOP lawmakers, particularly from farm states, criticized the change as misguided and isolationist. They urged him to ease barriers with Havana that will boost trade and create jobs in both countries.

    Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., said Trump’s shift is more than just a missed opportunity for rural America, which would benefit from greater access to Cuba’s agricultural import market. He said Trump’s policy may put U.S. national security at risk as strategic competitors move to fill the vacuum the uncoupling could create.

    “Further U.S. disengagement opens up opportunities for countries like Iran, Russia, North Korea and China to gain influence on an island 90 miles off our coast,” Crawford said.

    Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a frequent critic of Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, said in a statement that any policy change “that diminishes the ability of Americans to travel freely to Cuba is not in the best interests of the United States or the Cuban people.”

    Flake has been among the most outspoken lawmakers opposed to rolling back Obama’s outreach to Havana. He’s warned that returning to a “get tough” policy hurts everyday Cubans whose livelihoods are increasingly rooted in travel and tourism.

    In his statement, Flake called for the Senate’s GOP leadership to allow a vote on his legislation that he said would eliminate “archaic restrictions” on travel to Cuba that “do not exist for travel by Americans to any other country in the world.” Flake’s bill has 54 co-sponsors, including nine Republicans. Among them are Sens. John Boozman of Arkansas, Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Jerry Moran of Kansas.

    READ NEXT: Average Cuban likely hurt by Trump’s return to stricter rules 

    During a speech Friday in Miami, Trump portrayed his updated policy as the fulfillment of a campaign promise to reverse Obama’s diplomatic rapprochement with Cuba after decades of estrangement. Trump’s approach is aimed at halting the flow of U.S. cash to the country’s military while maintaining diplomatic relations. U.S. airlines and cruise ships would still be allowed to service the island.

    Yet new moves will burden the U.S. government with the complicated task of policing U.S. travel to Cuba to make sure there are no transactions with the military-linked conglomerate that runs much of the Cuban economy.

    By restricting individual U.S. travel to Cuba, the new policy also risks cutting off a major source of income for Cuba’s private business sector, which the policy is intended to support. Under the expected changes, the U.S. will ban American financial transactions with the dozens of enterprises run by the military-linked corporation GAESA, which operates dozens of hotels, tour buses, restaurants and other facilities.

    Among those with Trump as he announced the policy in Little Havana were Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, both Florida Republicans strongly opposed to Obama’s outreach.

    READ NEXT: This Cuban lung cancer drug is giving some U.S. patients hope

    Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., said Trump’s new Cuba policy “will hurt the United States economically, making it harder for our nation’s farmers to access new markets and cutting the knees out from under our travel and manufacturing industries.”

    Emmer, who’s been one of Trump’s most enthusiastic backers on Capitol Hill, echoed Crawford’s criticism, saying Trump’s Cuba directive appears to be in violation of his promise to keep the American homeland safe. Emmer, Crawford and five other House Republicans have warned that rolling back U.S. Cuba policy could threaten new bilateral agreements with Havana to combat human trafficking, illicit drugs and cyber crimes.

    Moran said in a statement that “putting America first means exporting what we produce to countries across the globe.” He said he remains focused on finding ways to “increase trade with Cuba rather than cut off relationships that have the potential to create new jobs, bring in revenue and boost our national economy.”

    Moran backs legislation to restore trade with Cuba in addition to supporting Flake’s legislation.

    Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., said Trump’s policy moves the U.S. backward.

    “It would be more effective to continue an open line of communication and working relationship with a government in need of democratic assistance, instead of shutting them out,” Boozman said. “Through this approach, we not only trade goods, but ideas.”

    The post Republicans divided as Trump reverses some Obama Cuba policy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is beginning his day with a stream of tweets defending his record and lashing out at the investigation into Russian interference in the election.

    In a two-part tweet posted before 7 a.m. Sunday, Trump wrote: “The MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN agenda is doing very well despite the distraction of the Witch Hunt.”

    He continued by saying: “Many new jobs, high business enthusiasm …massive regulation cuts, 36 new legislative bills signed, great new S.C.Justice, and Infrastructure, Healthcare and Tax Cuts in works!”

    Witch hunt” is how Trump characterizes the probe into Russia’s election interference and possible ties to his campaign associates.

    Trump advisers describe the president as increasingly angry over the investigation, yelling at television sets carrying coverage and insisting he is the target of a conspiracy.

    The post Trump tweets his frustration with Russia investigation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    File photo of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., by Jim Bourg/Reuters

    House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., has been upgraded to “serious condition” after he was wounded in a shooting at a Republican baseball practice. Photo by Jim Bourg/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise was upgraded from “critical” to “serious condition” Saturday and continued to show signs of improvement after he was wounded in a shooting at a Republican baseball practice outside Washington.

    Medstar Washington Hospital Center released the update on behalf of the Scalise family. The congressman underwent another surgery Saturday, and the hospital said he was more responsive and speaking with family.

    Scalise, the House majority whip, was one of five people shot when a gunman opened fire Wednesday as the Republican team practiced in Alexandria, Virginia. He has required surgery several times since the shooting.

    Scalise’s trauma surgeon said Friday he can hope to make an “excellent recovery,” even though the lawmaker arrived at the hospital Wednesday at imminent risk of death. Dr. Jack Sava of MedStar Washington Hospital Center said it’s a “good possibility” that the Louisiana Republican will be able to return to work in his full capacity.

    Sava declined to put a timeline on when that would happen or when Scalise, 51, would be able to leave the hospital. The doctor described how a bullet from an assault rifle entered Scalise’s hip and traversed his pelvis, shattering blood vessels, bones and internal organs along the way.

    Scalise, the No. 3 House Republican, arrived at the hospital via helicopter in shock, with intense internal bleeding, Sava said.

    [Watch Video]

    Scalise’s security detail and other police officers shot and killed the assailant, James Hodgkinson of Illinois, who had lashed out against President Donald Trump and other Republicans over social media.

    Sava said Friday that there are hundreds of bullet fragments in Scalise’s body, but “we have no intention to try and remove all the bullet fragments at this point.”

    Nonetheless, said Sava, “we fully expect him to be able to walk” and “hopefully run.”

    Sava said that after being released from the hospital, Scalise “will require a period of healing and rehabilitation.”

    “I feel a lot more confident and a lot more optimistic than I did two, three days ago,” Sava said. “I think that his risk of death right now is substantially lower than when he came in … he was as critical as you can be when he came in.”

    WATCH: Congress plays baseball for charity one day after shooting

    Sava said he told Scalise’s family that “I am not declaring victory until he’s playing ball in his back yard with his family.”

    Suffering relatively minor injuries were two Capitol Police officers, David Bailey and Crystal Griner, and House GOP aide Zack Barth. Griner remained hospitalized at MedStar Hospital after getting shot in the ankle, and Sava described her in good condition.

    Bailey was spotted Friday in the Capitol, on crutches and out of uniform, accepting congratulations from fellow officers.

    Lobbyist Matt Mika, who was shot multiple times and critically wounded, has undergone additional surgery and doctors expect a full recovery, his family said Saturday.

    Associated Press writers Lauran Neergaard and Maria Danilova in Washington, and Jim Salter in St. Louis contributed to this report.

    The post Scalise upgraded from ‘critical’ to ‘serious’ condition appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Supreme Court

    A view of the U.S. Supreme Court building is seen in Washington, DC, U.S. on October 13, 2015. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/ Reuters

    WASHINGTON — In an era of deep partisan division, the Supreme Court could soon decide whether the drawing of electoral districts can be too political.

    A dispute over Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn boundaries for the state legislature offers Democrats some hope of cutting into GOP electoral majorities across the United States. Election law experts say the case is the best chance yet for the high court to put limits on what lawmakers may do to gain a partisan advantage in creating political district maps.

    The justices could say as early as Monday whether they will intervene.

    The Constitution requires states to redo their political maps to reflect population changes identified in the once-a-decade census. The issue of gerrymandering — creating districts that often are oddly shaped and with the aim of benefiting one party — is centuries old. The term comes from a Massachusetts state Senate district that resembled a salamander and was approved in 1812 by Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry.

    Both parties have sought the largest partisan edge when they control redistricting. Yet Democrats are more supportive of having courts rein in extreme districting plans, mainly because Republicans control more legislatures and drew districts after the 2010 census that enhanced their advantage in those states and in the U.S. House of Representatives.

    In the Wisconsin case, a federal court struck down the districts as unconstitutional in November, finding they were drawn to unfairly minimize the influence of Democratic voters.

    The challengers to the Wisconsin districts say it is an extreme example of redistricting that has led to ever-increasing polarization in American politics because so few districts are genuinely competitive between the parties. In these safe seats, incumbents tend to be more concerned about primary challengers, so they try to appeal mostly to their party’s base.

    “If the court is not willing to draw a line here, it would suggest the court is unlikely ever to feel comfortable setting a limit,” said Richard Pildes, an election law expert at New York University’s law school.

    Defenders of the Wisconsin plan argue that the election results it produced are similar to those under earlier court-drawn maps. They say the federal court overstepped its bounds and judges should stay out of an inherently political exercise.

    The justices should correct the lower court’s “flawed analysis before it spreads to other jurisdictions and interferes with the states’ fundamental political responsibilities,” Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller wrote for 12 Republican-dominated states that are backing Wisconsin.

    The issue has torn the court for decades. Some justices believe courts have no role to play in a matter best left to elected officials. Others say courts should step in. In 2004, Justice Anthony Kennedy staked out a position somewhere between those two views, saying courts could referee claims of excessively partisan redistricting, but only if they can find a workable way to do so. In that case and again in 2006, Kennedy didn’t find one.

    The Supreme Court has never struck down districts because of unfair partisan advantage, although it has intervened frequently in disputes over race and redistricting over the past 50 years.

    Similar lawsuits are pending in Maryland, where Democrats dominate, and North Carolina, where Republicans have a huge edge in the congressional delegation and the state legislature.

    “The court is surely aware that this decade produced some of the most aggressive partisan gerrymandering in the modern era,” Pildes said.

    The Wisconsin case seems promising because the lower court said it found a way to measure the partisan nature of the districts. The court adopted an equation offered by the challengers that essentially measures and compares each party’s wasted votes —those going to the winner in excess of what’s needed for victory — in an election. Republicans might stuff Democratic voters into Democratic districts, leaving other districts with Republican majorities that are essentially just large enough to elect GOP candidates.

    This “efficiency gap” identifies districting plans that are likely to accentuate one party’s control over the 10-year life of the plans, said Eric McGhee, a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California who helped develop the measurement.

    Wisconsin Republicans drew the maps in 2011 after they took full control of state government in the 2010 elections. Under those maps in 2012, Republicans captured 61 percent of state assembly seats while winning 48.6 percent of the statewide vote. They now have their largest majorities in the state House and Senate in decades.

    Republicans argue they are successful because they run better candidates in a state that is trending Republican. They also say they have a natural edge in redistricting, since Democrats tend to cluster in cities and suburbs, creating districts that overwhelmingly vote Democratic.

    The post Justices could take up high-stakes fight over electoral maps appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Joe Biden

    U.S. former Vice President Joe Biden delivers a speech during the Concordia Europe Summit in Athens, Greece June 7, 2017. Photo by Costas Baltas/ Reuters

    HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — Former Vice President Joe Biden criticized President Donald Trump without saying his name Saturday, telling a crowd of Florida Democrats last year’s election unleashed a coarseness that hadn’t been seen in decades but he said the party’s candidates can overcome that by showing disgruntled voters that they have solutions.

    Giving a campaign-style, 45-minute speech at the state Democratic Party’s annual fundraising dinner, Biden told about 1,300 party supporters that Democrats must help Americans see that the future is bright and overcome their fears. Biden has said he isn’t planning a third run for president by challenging Trump in 2020 — though he hasn’t ruled it out either — and he certainly acted like a potential candidate Saturday. He got laughs when he pointed out Saturday was his 40th wedding anniversary, but he was spending it giving a speech.

    “This past election cycle churned up some of the ugliest, ugliest realities that persist in our country. Civilized discourse and real debate gave way to the coarsest rhetoric, stoking some of the darkest emotions in this nation,” said Biden, 74. “I thought that after all these years we had passed the days when it was acceptable for politicians to bestow legitimacy on hate speech and fringe ideologies.”

    Biden said Democrats could overcome that by showing everyone from working-class white men to women to minorities that they are the party of ideas and solutions. He called investing in schools, community colleges and infrastructure and providing health care, saying that’s how to improve the economy, not by building walls and excluding Muslim immigrants.

    “We have to make it clear what we stand for and unite Americans behind the values which we stand for,” Biden said. “We can’t get bogged down in this phony debate going on in the Democratic Party. The Hobson’s choice we have been given is that we need to become less progressive and focus more on working folk or become more progressive and focus less on working folk. There is no need to choose. They are not inconsistent.”

    He said Democrats need to show Americans that their country is still the greatest in the world and will be for the foreseeable future. China, he said, is no match with its exploding population, lack of clean water and polluted farmland and that the U.S. military is the world’s strongest by far.

    “I believe with every fiber of my being that we are better positioned than any nation in the world to be the single-most productive, capable, value-added country,” Biden said. “The reason why the rest of the world looks to us — and this administration doesn’t get it — is that the example of our power is the power of our example. That’s why we are able to lead.”

    If Biden were to challenge Trump, Florida would be vital to his campaign as it is the largest swing state. Democrats and Republicans have split Florida over the last six elections and in 13 of the last 14 its winner took the presidency.

    Biden has been busy this month, launching a political action committee, American Possibilities, that would be a springboard if he runs for president; flying to Greece, where he addressed a climate change conference; speaking three days later at a Utah political summit organized by 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney; and attending the commissioning in Houston of a battleship named after former Arizona Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who survived a 2011 assassination attempt.

    Biden served 36 years in the Senate from Delaware and twice chaired the Foreign Relations Committee. He considered challenging Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for the 2016 nomination but was emotionally spent after his 46-year-old son, Beau Biden, died of brain cancer. A bid for the 1988 nomination ended after he plagiarized a speech and exaggerated his college record. A 2008 bid ended quickly when he got 1 percent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses that kick off the nominating season.

    The post Biden: Democrats need better outreach to frightened voters appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to deliver a speech on US-Cuba relations at the Manuel Artime Theater in Miami, Florida, U.S.

    U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to deliver a speech on US-Cuba relations at the Manuel Artime Theater in Miami, Florida, on June 16, 2017. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A member of the president’s outside legal team said Sunday that Donald Trump is not under federal investigation, days after Trump appeared to confirm he was with a tweet about being the target of a “witch hunt.”

    Appearing on a series of morning news programs, attorney Jay Sekulow said that a Friday tweet from Trump was specifically directed at a story in The Washington Post about the expanding probe into Russia’s election meddling.

    “The president is not under investigation by the special counsel,” said Sekulow. “The tweet from the president was a response to the five anonymous sources that were purportedly leaking information to The Washington Post about a potential investigation of the president.”

    The Post reported last week that Robert Mueller — the special counsel appointed to investigate Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election — was looking into whether Trump obstructed justice. Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and has expansive powers to probe any matters that develop from his initial investigation.

    The president wrote on Twitter Friday: “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt.”

    [Watch Video]

    “Witch hunt” has become Trump’s preferred phrase to dismiss the probe into Russian election interference. The message apparently referred to Rosenstein, whose role leading the federal investigation has become increasingly complicated. The White House used a memo he wrote to justify Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, but Trump’s firing of Comey may now be part of the probe.

    Sekulow said that Trump has not been notified of any investigation and that the latest information they have is from Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He said the “last thing we know is when he testified just a couple weeks back. That the president was not and is not a target of investigation.”

    Asked if the president might not know of an investigation, Sekulow said: “I can’t imagine a scenario where the president would not be aware of it.”

    The president has denied that he has any nefarious ties to Russia and has also disputed that he’s attempted to block the investigation into his campaign’s possible role in Russia’s election-related hacking.

    READ NEXT: Trump’s Washington hotel saw almost $20 million in revenue

    The president has directed some of his frustration at Rosenstein and Mueller. Sen. Marco Rubio said Sunday that he does not expect Trump to seek to fire them.

    “I don’t believe it’s going to happen,” said Rubio on CNN’s “State of the Union.” ”The best thing that could happen for the president, and the country, is a full and credible investigation.”

    Trump is under pressure to reveal whether he has any tape recordings of private conversations with Comey. Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said that the panel — overseeing one of several congressional investigations — is looking forward to getting a response from the White House on whether recordings exist.

    The president suggested on Twitter that he may have taped conversations. Schiff said he wants the White House to acknowledge the tapes or make clear there are no tapes and “it was an idle threat.”

    The committee sent a bipartisan letter this month to White House counsel Don McGahn seeking an answer by this Friday. It also sent a letter to Comey asking for any notes or memos. Schiff said if the panel can’t get an answer then he believes a subpoena will be needed.

    Schiff also said he believes recent congressional testimony from Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions points to signs of possible obstruction by Trump that warrant further investigation. Schiff cited the fact that the president at one meeting “cleared the room” of advisers and asked to speak to Comey alone. Comey testified to Congress that Trump then asked him to back off the investigation into his fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

    “That signifies this president knew all too well that it was inappropriate,” Schiff said.

    And Senate intelligence committee member Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, stressed that the probe will likely last for a long time. King said the “collusion, the cooperation aspect of the investigation is not over.” He added: “A lot of people have said, ‘When do you think you’ll be done?’ Maybe the end of the year. This is a very complex matter, involving thousands of pages of intelligence documents, lots of witnesses. There’s a lot of information yet to go.”

    READ NEXT: Trump acknowledges obstruction of justice probe in tweet

    While aides have advised Trump to stay off Twitter, the president continued to weigh in Sunday as he spent the weekend at Camp David, the government-owned presidential retreat in Maryland.

    In a two-part tweet posted before 7 a.m., Trump wrote: “The MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN agenda is doing very well despite the distraction of the Witch Hunt.”

    Sekulow appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” CNN’s “State of the Union,” CBS’s “Face the Nation” and “Fox News Sunday” on Fox. Rubio spoke on NBC, CNN and CBS. Schiff spoke on ABC’s “This Week”and King spoke on NBC.

    The post Trump attorney says president not under investigation appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway arrives for a meeting with the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis in Washington

    White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway arrives for a meeting with the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis in Washington, U.S., June 16, 2017. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Health advocates on Friday used the first meeting of President Trump’s commission on the opioid crisis to criticize a bill that would slash future Medicaid spending and deregulate the health insurance market, arguing that the legislation would undermine whatever progress the panel could make.

    “Medicaid is the largest national payer for addiction and mental health treatment,” said Dr. Joe Parks, the medical director for the National Council for Behavioral Health. “Since the majority of increased opiate deaths and suicide occur in young and middle-aged adults, which is the [Medicaid] expansion population, the Medicaid expansions must be maintained and completed.”

    His audience at the first meeting of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, included Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, top White House advisers Kellyanne Conway and Jared Kushner, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin.

    A pending bill in the Senate is expected to call for slashing federal Medicaid funding and rolling back expansions put into place in recent years by the Affordable Care Act. A version of the bill passed by the House would reduce planned Medicaid spending by $880 billion over the next decade.

    READ NEXT: White House names new members of opioid commission.

    “Medicaid, essential health benefits, parity, parity, parity,” said Gary Mendell, the CEO of the addiction-focused nonprofit Shatterproof, referring to Medicaid cuts proposed in Trump’s budget and by pending legislation to repeal elements of the Affordable Care Act, including regulations mandating which basic aspects of health care insurers must cover. “That category cannot be underemphasized.”

    Democratic legislators in recent weeks have highlighted the gap that would be left by a Medicaid cut. Data show that Medicaid-eligible patients in expansion states pay less in out-of-pocket costs for addiction treatment. Medicaid programs also account for roughly one-quarter of annual payments for buprenorphine, an opioid-based painkiller used in medication-assisted addiction treatment.

    At Friday’s meeting, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat and a member of the opioid commission, also emphasized the importance of Medicaid in addressing the nation’s epidemic.

    “We’re kidding ourselves if we don’t think that what is happening over in Congress regarding issues of health care matters to this issue,” he said, later citing Medicaid specifically. “If we make it harder and more expensive for people to get health care coverage, it’s going to make this crisis worse.”

    There was consensus on at least some issues related to medical treatment during the session. Chief among them was that naloxone, an overdose-reversal drug, must be made widely available to communities and law enforcement agencies nationwide.

    Cooper was also receptive to a point made by Dr. Kelly Clark of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, who maintained that despite Medicaid’s importance to addiction treatment it does not always spend its dollars efficiently, especially with regard to the “substantial” number of reimbursements issued for detoxification treatment.

    “I can tell you that typically, the utilization of inpatient detoxification and the 28-day manualized rehabilitation is not evidence-based care,” she said. “We know that detoxification is not considered treatment by ACM for opioid addiction. We’re using a lot of expensive care in inpatient environments and not the ongoing care that we need to do for chronic brain disease treatment. It’s substantial.”

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on June 16, 2017. Find the original story here.

    The post At first meeting of Trump’s opioid commission, health advocates plead for Medicaid spending appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Sen. Marco Rubio speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations hearing on the conflict in Syria on Capitol Hill

    Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations hearing on the conflict in Syria on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S. March 15, 2017. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A Republican senator on Sunday warned against rushing a vote on a GOP bill to repeal and replace the nation’s health care law, saying both parties deserve a chance to fully debate the bill and propose changes after it was drafted in secret.

    “The Senate is not a place where you can just cook up something behind closed doors and rush it for a vote,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. “So the first step in this may be crafted among a small group of people, but then everyone’s going to get to weigh in.”

    His comments come as Senate Republicans are working hard to finalize legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, without a formal, open drafting session. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he hopes to bring a bill to the floor for a vote within the next two weeks.

    But Rubio said he believes the process could take longer and urged the Senate to slow down. These are striking comments from a Republican senator whose party is seeking to push through legislation without the help of Democrats.

    President Donald Trump has been eager for quick action, although in a closed-door luncheon with 15 GOP senators last week, he described a House-passed bill as “mean.” Trump said he wanted the Senate version to be “more generous,” according to congressional sources.

    “It is going to take days and weeks to work through that in the Senate,” Rubio said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

    The bill passed by House Republicans last month would phase out in 2020 a Medicaid expansion to additional low-income people. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the House bill would cause 23 million people to lose insurance over a decade and leave many sicker and older consumers with much higher costs.

    Hoping to doom the GOP effort, a consumer health group said Sunday it was launching a $1.5 million campaign aimed at pressuring five Republican senators in the closely divided chamber to vote against the bill. It was among several groups that in recent weeks have announced stepped-up efforts to oppose the bill.

    Community Catalyst Action Fund said it will run television and radio ads beginning Monday. They are targeting Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska; Jeff Flake of Arizona; Susan Collins of Maine; Dean Heller of Nevada; and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.

    “The Senate is working in secret and rushing to pass a bill,” said Robert Restuccia, executive director of the group. “We think it’s critical that Americans across the country understand what’s at stake for them and their families if the U.S. Senate passes this bill.”

    Several of the senators being targeted have expressed some concern about the evolving Senate legislation or its process. All of them except Collins also represent states which expanded Medicaid under Obamacare.

    Republicans hold a narrow 52-48 majority in the Senate, meaning the party can only afford to have two senators oppose the repeal and replace bill for it to pass with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote. No Democrat is expected to support the repeal effort.

    The ads seek to cast the GOP effort as having a negative impact on families and older Americans. The TV ad features a mother with a child with asthma who faces difficult choices between filling prescriptions or paying their mortgage due to rising premiums.

    GOP senators have been divided over pivotal questions about dismantling and replacing chunks of former President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. These include disagreements over phasing out the Medicaid expansion, easing some of the law’s coverage requirements and reshaping subsidies the statute provides to millions of individuals buying policies.

    The ads will run over the next two weeks.

    Associated Press writer Catherine Lucey contributed to this report.

    The post GOP senator warns against rushed vote on health care bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Republican candidate Karen Handel and Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff exchange words moments before Georgia's 6th Congressional District special election debate at WSB-TV studios in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. June 6, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry - RTX39CQA

    Republican candidate Karen Handel and Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff exchange words moments before Georgia’s 6th Congressional District special election debate at WSB-TV studios in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. June 6, 2017. Photo by Chris Aluka Berry/Reuters

    DORAVILLE, Ga. — Dr. Nadine Becker wasn’t politically involved until she saw Donald Trump elected president, but the suburban Atlanta gynecologist didn’t know how to engage, given her traditionally Republican surroundings.

    “I was yelling at the TV and throwing things at the TV,” recalls the 55-year-old mother of three. Then she found her cause in 30-year-old Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is aiming for a major upset in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District runoff Tuesday against Republican Karen Handel.

    With a potential price tag exceeding $50 million, the most expensive House race in U.S. history has become a proxy for the nation’s political divides, offering another early test for Trump and the GOP’s monopoly in Washington. And it gives Democrats a chance to prove they can flip at least 24 GOP-held seats and reclaim a House majority in the 2018 midterm elections.

    “My values are being threatened,” Becker said, mentioning health care access, abortion rights and voting rights, “and now we have something we can do.”

    [Watch Video]

    Business owners Brian Sleeth and Dave McCleary are equally appalled, but for reasons that leave them backing Handel.

    “This is about who will support Donald Trump and his agenda,” says Sleeth, a 37-year-old landscaper from Johns Creek, Georgia. “Karen Handel says she will, and we look forward to holding her accountable.”

    For McCleary, 58, it’s less about Trump. The Roswell, Georgia, resident sees Ossoff as a charlatan, campaigning as a moderate but certain to become a marionette of his national party.

    “He’s a phony. I think he’s been coached up,” says McCleary, arguing Handel would cast reliably conservative votes.

    Those are some of the rationales that could ultimately settle what both campaigns agree will be a close race, despite Republicans holding the seat since 1979 with representatives from Newt Gingrich, the eventual House speaker, to Price. The seat opened in February when Price resigned to become Trump’s health and human service secretary.

    Ossoff, who led April’s first round but fell shy of outright victory, gamely insisted that “this is about the folks right here in Georgia.”

    Handel, 55, said it’s about choosing her record as Georgia secretary of state and commission chairman of the state’s most populous county over the resume of a former congressional staffer and documentary filmmaker who’s never held public office.

    “My opponent likes to talk about it,” she says. “I’ve done it.”

    But the national attention — and all the money — tells another story. And the attention is all the more intense given Republicans held on to House seats in Montana and Kansas earlier this spring and are expected to hold a South Carolina seat on Tuesday.

    Ossoff’s television ads mostly frame him as a centrist who criticizes both parties in Washington for “wasteful spending” and promises to focus on developing metro Atlanta’s economy. He’s also taken aim at Handel as a “career politician” and an executive for the Susan G. Komen Foundation when the organization threatened to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, a health care and abortion provider.

    But he’s financed that message with a fundraising haul from outside the district, and his donor list contains far more addresses from California, New York and Massachusetts than from Georgia.

    For Handel, Ossoff’s “values are 3,000 miles away in San Francisco,” the hometown of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. But Handel also has benefited from millions in out-of-state spending. A political action committee backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan spent $7 million on her behalf, and the GOP’s House campaign committee about $4.5 million.

    Despite their emphasis on local matters, the candidates have generally aligned with their national parties on policy. She says she’d have voted for the House GOP health care bill; he says he’d have opposed it. She broadly endorsed Trump’s loose outlines for tax cuts; he’s said any plan must be “fiscally responsible.” He supports a higher minimum wage, with caveats; she’s opposed.

    The two campaigns expect turnout to blow past the 2014 midterm election turnout of 210,000. More than 140,000 people cast ballots in the early voting period that ended Friday, compared with a total primary turnout of about 192,000. Republicans anticipated far higher early turnout among reliably Republican voters — Georgia voters don’t register by party — while Democrats point to thousands of ballots cast by newly registered voters and those who didn’t vote in April.

    The reality, says Ossoff backer Dodoo Saakwa-Mante, is that no one knows who’ll win or what it actually means for Washington.

    “I think he can win,” the Doraville, Georgia, Democrat says at an Ossoff rally. “But I don’t know. We’ve never had a candidate like him to get excited about here.”

    The post In Georgia, a key U.S. House race comes down to its final days appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A forest fire is seen near Tojeira, Pedrogao Grande, in central Portugal, June 18, 2017. Photo by Rafael Marchante/Reuters

    A forest fire in the Pedrógão Grande area in central Portugal has killed at least 61 people and injured at least 54, according to the Associated Press.

    The fire began on June 17 and later engulfed parts of two adjacent cities, Castanheira de Pera and Figueiró dos Vinhos. The Portuguese government has established a national period of mourning from Sunday to Tuesday in honor of the victims of the fire, which continues to burn as 1,600 firefighters along with police and military personnel work to stop it.

    Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa said Sunday that more deaths could be confirmed as efforts to recover bodies continue, and that “the dimension of this fire has caused a human tragedy beyond any in our memory.” Victims are still being identified.

    Many victims died inside their vehicles as they drove on nearby roads in attempts to avoid the blaze, CNN reported.


    Burned cars are seen on a local road during a forest fire near Pedrogao Grande, Portugal June 18, 2017. Photo by Guillermo Martinez/ Reuters

    Portugal’s National Civil Protection Authority warned that high temperatures and potentially strong winds could aggravate the fire. Some officials have suggested that dry thunderstorms caused the flames, The New York Times reported.

    In a statement, the European Commission said they could provide aircraft, while Spain and France also offered aircraft. The Portuguese government will also establish four emergency support centers in affected and surrounding areas, according to a statement on its website.

    The post Forest fires kill 61 people in Portugal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    This illustration shows in vitro fertilization, in which a single sperm is injected into the cytoplasm of an egg. Image by Brand X Pictures and Getty Images.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Since the 1980s, millions of American women have used fertility treatments, including the implantation of embryos, to become pregnant. But the process is expensive, averaging $12,000.

    Earlier this month, “Reveal”, part of the Center for Investigative Reporting, took an in-depth look at why the success rate might not be the best way of measuring a clinic and how the growth in IVF treatment has helped drive up America’s twin birth rate by 75 percent since 1980.

    For more in this story, I recently spoke to “Reveal” reporter Bernice Yeung.

    First of all, you pick out a very, very tragic case and you follow that through. But it starts to highlight a much bigger picture that transcends the case in point, that there really isn’t a great way for a consumer to judge where to go to get this treatment.

    BERNICE YEUNG, REVEAL REPORTER: My partner and I, Jonathan Jones, spent a year looking at the fertility field, and what really struck was that there’s a patch work of regulations that oversee the fertility business. It’s basically regulated like other fields of medicine, which means it’s pretty hands-off. But at the same time, given the ethical and innovation components to IVF and other fertility treatments, we just found that there wasn’t a lot of information provided to consumers.

    SREENIVASAN: So, give me an example here. What is a — if I went to a website to try to compare whether or not this is a good doctor or this is a good clinic, what do I have access to and what am I judging them based on?

    YEUNG: The only legislation and regulation out there that explicitly deals with the fertility field is a law that requires the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to collect success rates for IVF clinics. What we found in our investigation was that these success rates can be manipulated and they can also be really easily misunderstood by patients.

    SREENIVASAN: You have a chart inside the story that looks at how often U.S. IVF clinic transfers more than one embryo and it’s startling. Considering the CDC says and suggests that you should do one at a time, the number of clinics who actually just never do more than one at a time is the minority by a long shot.

    YEUNG: I think 63 clinics in the United States do zero single embryo transfers in women who are their youngest group. This is a conversation that you need to have with your physician. It shouldn’t just be an assumption that, you know, more than one embryo means success. There are now new technologies that allow for one embryo at a time over severalty cycles and success is just as possible.

    SREENIVASAN: So, what’s the incentive for a physician or a clinic to try to implant more than one embryo at a time?

    YEUNG: Doctors and clinics are incentivized in the way that the data is gathered currently by the CDC to transfer more than one embryo at a time because it’s true that using more than one embryo at a time increases your chances of success, but you can retrieve those eggs, develop them into embryos and then freeze those that you don’t use the first time, and have similar chance of success, but also, experience less potential risk for the mother and for the baby, because there’s this less chance of multiple gestation which is affiliated with a number of health and medical issues.

    SREENIVASAN: From the “Reveal” which is in the Center for Investigative Reporting — Bernice Yeung, thanks so much.

    YEUNG: Thank you.

    The post Pressure for IVF success obscures ethical issues appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President Trump arriives to deliver a speech on US-Cuba relations in Miami

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: The voluntary financial disclosure form released Friday shows the Trump Organization and Mr. Trump himself earned $529 million in total revenue and income from early 2016 through his first three months as president. Among the highlights, the president says his assets are worth at least $1.4 billion and that he’s retained ownership of most of them. The president’s Florida golf club, Mar-a-Lago, made $37.2 million from January 2016 through this spring, up from $29.8 million the year before.

    Keep in mind, following Mr. Trump’s election, Mar-a-Lago doubled its initiation fee to $200,000. The Trump Organization earned $20 million in income related to its Washington, D.C. hotel that opened last October. Overseas, for the first time, Trump reported $100,000 income from the Trump Tower in Kolkata, India. He also reported $5 million from his new hotel-and-condominium tower in Vancouver, Canada.

    For more analysis of these financial revelations, I’m joined by “Washington Post” reporter Amy Brittain.

    So, what do we learn from this?

    AMY BRITTAIN, WASHINGTON POST: I mean, I think the big takeaway in looking at the form is that this is like truly an unprecedented situation with the president, choosing to hold on to this vast wealth, even as he’s entered the office of the White House. So, if you look at his form and the main change is that he has moved the majority of his business into a trust, which is controlled by his sons, Don Jr. and Eric. But that trust has kind of come under criticism in recent months because it’s been revealed that President Trump can have access to that trust at any time.

    SREENIVASAN: So, in the financial disclosure form, are we seeing changes from what was filed before?

    BRITTAIN: Well, immediately, you know, critics are looking at the forms to say, hey, is he profiting off of the office of the presidency, right? So, you can look at the profits from Mar-a-Lago, from his different hotels around the world and you can certainly see an increase in the revenue that’s brought in at Mar-a-Lago. I think the most telling form to compare that to is the one that he filed in 2015, which was at the beginning of his candidacy. And in that form, he reported about $15 million in revenue from Mar-a-Lago from the proceeding period, and now, he’s reporting more than $37 million.

    SREENIVASAN: There was also reporting a little earlier this week about the type of influence that may or may not exist, say, for example, some of the people that have been buying his condominiums have been buying them through LLCs and it’s actually difficult for anyone to see who’s purchasing, whether it’s an individual, whether it’s a foreign government.

    BRITTAIN: Definitely. I mean, exceedingly difficult to track the underlying buyers of properties that are purchased through LLCs, and that’s one of the limitations of this form. You know, this is not the same as looking at a tax release.

    SREENIVASAN: We also have Democrats, Democratic attorney generals in Maryland, D.C., nearly 200 other Democratic members and the Citizens of Responsibility in Ethics in Washington are all suing Trump because they still think that there is a violation of the emoluments clause, saying that his businesses and how he owns them still violates the Constitution.

    BRITTAIN: Yes. I mean, the hotel in D.C. has become the center of this controversy. And you can look at it as new form and you can see that that hotel has brought in about $20 million since its opening in October. What the attorney general’s lawsuit last week, they were alleging that, look, they are calling there an unprecedented constitutional violation and the scope of it, because they are saying that there is no meaningful divide between his business empire and the office of the presidency.

    SREENIVASAN: Is there something that the White House has said after this release of information? This is something that’s going to happen every quarter. Have they made comments on the way to characterize the information that the Office of Government Ethics just released?

    BRITTAIN: Well, I mean, I think they are quick to say that look, this is voluntary. He’s made an effort to put this out in the first year of his presidency, you know, they are saying that this is an effort that he did not necessarily have to do this year, he could have waited until the next year if he wanted to release his financial statement.

    SREENIVASAN: Amy Brittain of “The Washington Post”, thanks so much for joining us.

    BRITTAIN: Thank you for having me.

    The post Dissecting Trump’s recent financial disclosure appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A view of the Mokulua islands in Kailua Bay from U.S. President Obama's motorcade during his annual Christmas holiday vacation in Kailua

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    JUSTIN PHILLIPS, INSTITUTE FOR HUMAN SERVICES: Morning guys, anybody need medical attention?

    MEGAN THOMPSON: on a Monday morning, Justin Phillips sets out with a small medical team to offer aid to Hawaii’s homeless.

    JUSTIN PHILLIPS: What’s up? You can always call me. I’ll try to help if I can.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Phillips directs outreach for the Institute for Human Services, the state’s largest homeless services provider. His first stop — a sidewalk encampment stretching two blocks near downtown Honolulu. Phillips knows what it’s like to sleep on these streets. About a decade ago, he struggled with addiction and was homeless too.

    JUSTIN PHILLIPS: I come out here with an understanding of what it means to be homeless. I come out here with an understanding of what it means to be a drug addict. I come out here with an understanding of what it means to be an alcoholic. And because I have that understanding, I’m able to relate to people in a different way.


    MEGAN THOMPSON: At a park downtown, Phillips and his team find a woman they know well.


    JUSTIN PHILLIPS: How much you had to drink today?

    MEGAN THOMPSON: There are around 7,200 homeless in this state of 1.4 million people.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Hawaii is known as a beautiful island paradise. But it also has the distinction of having one of the highest per-capita rate of homelessness in the nation.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: According to the most recent statistics, Hawaii’s homelessness rate is now around 505 homeless for every 100,000 residents. By comparison, New York State had 436 per 100,000, and California, 302. Hawaii’s problem became so severe, that two years ago Governor David Ige declared a state of emergency.

    HAWAII GOVERNOR DAVID IGE: This homelessness challenge is a crisis.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: That released more funding for new housing and shelters like this one – designed specifically for families with children.

    SCOTT MORISHIGE, HAWAII HOMELESSNESS COORDINATOR: We have a very tight housing market here.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: State Homelessness Coordinator Scott Morishige says Hawaii’s high cost of housing is the number one cause of the problem. Average rent for a one-bedroom apartment here is almost $1800 a month. And Hawaii ranks #1 of the 50 states in highest overall cost of living.

    SCOTT MORISHIGE: We really have a shortage of affordable housing, and particularly rental housing. Part of it is because we’re an island state, so we have very limited land. And there’s not as much opportunity for additional development.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Two-thirds of Hawaii’s homeless live on the island of Oahu, the most populous of the state’s eight islands and home to the capital, Honolulu. Native Hawaiians and pacific islanders who’ve migrated from places like the Marshall Islands and Micronesia make up a quarter of Hawaii’s population, but account for 40 percent of the homeless.

    HEATHER WAHAB: Hi Charles! Can I take a peek at your legs?

    MEGAN THOMPSON: The medical outreach team includes Heather Wahab, a registered nurse. Skin wounds from living outdoors are a common problem.

    HEATHER WAHAB: They hurt?

    MEGAN THOMPSON: These homeless individuals represent some of the most difficult, chronic cases. Most all of them have untreated physical and mental health issues.


    MEGAN THOMPSON: Psychiatrist Chad Koyanagi assesses mental illness and addictions.

    CHAD KOYANAGI: You have depression, bipolar, psychosis?

    MAN: Yes. Depression and bipolar.

    CHAD KOYANAGI: Are you depressed now?

    MAN: Yes I am.

    CHAD KOYANAGI: Are you hearing voices?

    MAN: I’m hurting bad. I have nothing to help me.

    Homeless service provider Justin Phillips says in order for a homeless person to qualify for certain housing programs, a doctor must diagnose a disability. But Phillips says many of the people out here can’t be relied on to make it to an appointment.

    JUSTIN PHILLIPS: We know they’re not gonna go to a doctor, you know? ‘My main priority is getting a beer in my system, maybe some, you know, marijuana, maybe some ice. Wanna get loaded, get good and– you know, good and high. And then I’m ready to go do it.’ But by by that time, it’s 5:00 p.m., all the doctors are closed, all the doctors’ offices are closed, there’s no psychiatrists.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: When Honolulu’s homeless do seek out care, it’s usually at The Queen’s Medical Center, a private nonprofit hospital that handles more than 10,000 visits a year. Daniel Cheng is the ER medical director.

    DANIEL CHENG, THE QUEEN’S MEDICAL CENTER: The top few diagnoses that we see are infectious disease, behavioral health, and substance abuse.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Many of Cheng’s homeless patients also suffer from heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease…and lack access to regular medical care.

    DANIEL CHENG: Our homeless individuals die about one-third earlier than the normal population. So we’re talking a good solid 20 to 25 years lost of life. And that really strikes home. Because I think that speaks to the frustration as a physician. At the very core of what we’re trying to do is quality of life.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: The homeless burden Cheng’s hospital with around 10 million dollars a year in unreimbursed medical bills. They also burden Medicaid, the government health insurance system for the poor. About 50% of Medicaid funds are spent on so-called high-utilizers – people like the homeless who frequently visit the ER.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Cheng says he sees the same homeless patients over and over.

    DANIEL CHENG: We just don’t have enough time and resources to address the social issues. And they go back out to the street and they get lost into the system. And it’s a very perverse and it’s a very broken system.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: To change that, Cheng has started a program to put social workers in the e-r to connect the homeless to food stamps, housing and other services, before they’re discharged and hard to locate again. The hospital is also partnering with Justin Phillips’ Institute for Human Services to open homes like this one…where the seriously ill homeless can heal without taking up a more expensive hospital bed.

    JOSH GREEN: We are spending 3 trillion dollars a year on health care.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Addressing homelessness is a top priority for Hawaii state senator josh green. Green is also a practicing ER doctor and is pushing a more radical idea – he introduced a bill saying homelessness should be considered a medical condition, and doctors should be able to prescribe housing.

    JOSH GREEN, HAWAII STATE SENATE: The moment you have someone in housing, you decrease all of the complications they have from all their other diseases.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Green says Medicaid should cover rent for the homeless. He cites a University of Hawaii study showing that after the homeless were given housing, their medical costs decreased by 43 percent.

    JOSH GREEN: We’re already spending these Medicaid resources on our individuals who are really hurting. And we’re spending it very inefficiently. If they get admitted to the hospital for a day, it’s $4,000. If they go 100 times in the year, which is very common across Hawaii and across the country, they may spend $200,000 or $300,000 of taxpayer money.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Green’s proposal has gained national media attention…. But it hasn’t passed the Hawaii state legislature. In the meantime he’s working with local health insurers to pilot the idea.

    Hawaii’s not necessarily waiting for legislation to go through.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: State Homelessness Coordinator Scott Morishige says even without Green’s bill, the state will seek permission from the federal government to spend Medicaid dollars on helping people find and stay in housing. Similar ideas have been looked at in New York and California. In the meantime, the state and city have been investing in a program called Housing First, which proponents say has started to make a big difference. The idea – which has had success in other states – is to get a homeless person into housing before doing anything else.

    SCOTT MORISHIGE: Because we know the quicker you can get someone into housing and a point of stability, the more positive impact you will have for that person.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: And that includes positive impacts on a person’s health.

    Come on in.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Housing First is how Thomas Lamberton, homeless for eight years, got into his apartment about two years ago.

    THOMAS LAMBERTON: This is the picture of cardboard that I slept on and my backpack I used for a pillow.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: As an alcoholic living on the streets of Honolulu, Lamberton had regular seizures.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Did you go to the emergency room when you were on the streets?

    THOMAS LAMBERTON: Every other week at least. Well, it was constant…it’s embarrassing when nurses know your first name. ‘Hey Thomas.’ It’s like, ‘Whoa.’

    THOMAS LAMBERTON: This is my bedroom, and my bathroom, with a shower.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Then, a local nonprofit got Lamberton on a list for a Housing First apartment.

    THOMAS LAMBERTON: I mean, I’m not drinking. That’s first of all. And you know, when you’re not drinking, you’re gonna be healthier. And I have a place to put food in the refrigerator.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Since he moved in, Lamberton has also stopped having seizures. He’s on Medicaid and sees a primary care doctor. And he’s been to the emergency room only twice, for minor injuries he got volunteering at the Humane Society.

    THOMAS LAMBERTON: My health is great now, because I don’t have the raspberry patches on my hips and shoulders from sleeping on concrete or cardboard.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: But Lamberton says his new home has restored more than just his health.

    THOMAS LAMBERTON: It gave me my self-respect back that I– don’t feel like a piece of scum on the street and– worthless to society. Basically they’ve helped me out immensely. And I owe them my life.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Over the last two years, the State and Honolulu have expanded Housing First by adding 400 new housing units – like this new building, opened last month. More than 500 hundred people will be housed by the end of this year. Advocates say Housing First has helped finally turn the tide.

    BRANDEE MENINO, HOPE SERVICES HAWAII: Our homeless numbers have decreased statewide.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Last month, Hawaii announced the first decrease in its homeless population in eight years. Down nine percent between 2016 and 2017. They’re hoping improvements in health and medical spending will now follow.


    MEGAN THOMPSON Back on the streets, Justin Phillips says housing people is the ultimate goal here, too.

    JUSTIN PHILLIPS: You ever thought about coming down to the shelter and hooking up with a social worker?

    MEGAN THOMPSON: Gaining trust to get people healthy …. And into a home.

    JUSTIN PHILLIPS: We’ve housed a lotta people that normally wouldn’t get seen by doctors, would never get housing. We’ve been able to house them through this process. ‘Hope, one bandage at a time,’ you know, because that’s what– really, what we’re doing, you know? One relationship through one bandage, you know.

    The post After 8 years, Hawaii sees decline in homelessness rate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. treasurer Jovita Carranza speaks during her swearing in ceremony at the Treasury Department building in Washington, U.S., June 19, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria - RTS17QE7

    U.S. treasurer Jovita Carranza speaks during her swearing in ceremony at the Treasury Department building in Washington, U.S., June 19, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria – RTS17QE7

    WASHINGTON — Jovita Carranza has been sworn in as the 44th Treasurer of the United States and the 16th woman to hold the job.

    Carranza was sworn in Monday by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. She started at United Parcel Service as a night-shift box handler in the 1970s and worked her way up to be the president of international operations at UPS in Latin America. After leaving UPS, she served as a deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration in the George W. Bush administration.

    As Treasurer, Carranza will oversee the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which produces the nation’s paper currency, and the Bureau of the Mint, which producers U.S. coins.

    Both Mnuchin and Carranza will have their signatures on the nation’s currency. The first bills featuring both names are expected to go into circulation later this year.

    Since President Harry Truman selected the first woman Treasurer in 1949, all of those who have followed have been women. Carranza succeeds Rosie Rios who served in the Obama administration. She is the seventh Hispanic woman to hold the position.

    Mnuchin has already submitted his signature to be reproduced on the currency, and Carranza is expected to do so shortly.

    Mnuchin’s neat signature is a significant improvement in legibility over his predecessor, former Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. Lew’s loopy scrawl was so bad that then-President Barack Obama joked that Lew had better work on his penmanship or run the risk that he would “debase our currency.”

    The post Jovita Carranza sworn in as U.S. Treasurer appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Police investigate a shooting scene after a gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress during a baseball practice near Washington in Alexandria, Virginia,  June 14, 2017. Photo by Joshua Roberts/REUTERS

    Police investigate a shooting scene after a gunman opened fire on Republican members of Congress during a baseball practice near Washington in Alexandria, Virginia, June 14, 2017. Photo by Joshua Roberts/REUTERS

    Mass shooting incidents in 2017 unfolded in places that were hauntingly benign — 10 teens wounded during a high school party in Brownsville, Tennessee, a murder-suicide in a family’s home in Preston, Idaho, and three employees shot to death at a restaurant in Bowie, Maryland.

    Now add to that a gunman who opened fire Wednesday during a Republican Congressional baseball game in Alexandria, Virginia. A few hours later, a second gunman killed three coworkers at a UPS store in San Francisco before turning the gun on himself. These shootings shook the nation in ways all too familiar.

    For years, the United States has witnessed gun violence erupt time and again — in college classrooms at Virginia Tech, in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in a night club in Orlando, Florida, and the list goes on. In 2017 so far, there have been 196 shooting incidents with least four people wounded or killed. That’s up from 182 incidents over the same period last year, according to the Guns Are Cool thread, a crowd-sourced archive on Reddit.

    While the incidents of significant gun violence are up, the number of people killed overall is slightly down from the same period last year, according to NewsHour’s analysis of 2017 data through June 14 on the GunsAreCool Reddit thread. So far in 2017, 281 people died in incidents involving at least four people, while last year, 284 people died. The Pulse night club mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, which claimed 49 lives in June 12, 2016, propelled last year’s figures forward.

    The same holds true among the number of people wounded as a result of major shooting incidents. So far in 2017, 675 people have been injured. During the same period in 2016, 678 people received non-fatal gunshot wounds.

    Politics obscures the way the nation counts mass shootings. Two decades ago, Congress threatened to defund the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention if the agency systematically studied the effects of gun violence in this country, the Washington Post reported. To fill the void, ad-hoc efforts, such as the Gun Violence Archives and the Reddit thread emerged, but there is debate about how legitimate those counts are.

    The post U.S. mass shootings lag slightly behind 2016 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Poetry can do a kind of "dream work," poet Matthew Zapruder says.

    Poetry can do a kind of “dream work,” says poet Matthew Zapruder. Credit: REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin

    “I have a confession to make: I don’t really understand poetry.”

    So goes the opening line of poet Matthew Zapruder’s forthcoming book “Why Poetry,” which looks at why a lot of people feel alienated by poetry (this line is one he’s heard countless times before) and what can be done to remedy that.

    The book is part personal, part explanatory and part polemic, saying: Here’s my experience with poetry, here’s how it works, and here’s why we desperately need it.  It is the last part that is perhaps most interesting in an age of information overload. Zapruder argues poetry is a necessity, because the knowledge we gain from it can be deeper and more human than from other texts.

    “It’s an intuitive, associative understanding that you can get from poems, which can really open a person up and make them aware of other human beings, of themselves, and of the natural world,” said Zapruder, who has published four collections of poetry and edited the poetry page of the New York Times Magazine. “It does that in a way that can’t be done by any other form of writing.”

    Courtesy: Ecco

    Courtesy: Ecco

    But this intuitive, associative power, he says, can be lost on people because of the way poetry is taught. He argues that we are too often asked to find the “hidden meanings” in poems, as if a poem is a riddle — telling you something simple, but in the most complicated way possible, as if the poet is being deliberately opaque. Good poetry actually does the opposite, says Zapruder; “it’s something elusive and complex, said in the simplest way possible.” (Though writing about the complexities of life is not always very simple.)

    Throughout the pages of “Why Poetry,” Zapruder traverses the poetry of Frank O’Hara, Sappho, Langston Hughes, John Keats, Adrienne Rich and many others, using a wide range of poets and styles to illustrate how poetry can function in many different ways. He unpacks both how their poetry works (through the technique of “defamiliarization,” for example, of making the familiar strange) and also the feeling and imagination they inspire (often, he says, poems provoke both longing and confusion).

    In the end, Zapruder said he was happy to have finished writing “Why Poetry,” and to be able to go back to writing poems, instead of about them.

    “Writing this book reminded me of the very thing I was writing about,” he said. “Which is that there is a different kind of knowledge, and a different kind of experience, to be gained when writing poems. A search for dream knowledge. It’s a pleasure to get back to that.”

    Below, read one of Zapruder’s poems, “I Wake Up Before the Machine,” and listen to him read it aloud.

    I Wake Up Before the Machine
    By matthew Zapruder

    I wake up before the machine
    made of all the choices
    we are together not making
    lights up this part of Oakland
    it’s dark so I can imagine
    another grid humming in the east
    already people are deciding
    I lie in the western
    pre-decision darkness and almost
    hear that silent voice
    saying go down there
    the coffee needs you
    to place it in the device
    its next form will help you remember
    daylight is coming
    but dreams do not go away
    they just move off and change
    your mind is a tree
    on a little hill
    surrounded by grasses
    that look up and say
    father wind
    loves moving through you

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

    Matthew Zapruder is the author of “Why Poetry” (Ecco, August 2017) and four poetry collections: “Sun Bear”; “Come On, All You Ghosts”; “The Pajamist”; and “American Linden.” An Associate Professor in the MFA program at Saint Mary’s College of California, he is also editor-at-arge at Wave Books and from 2016-2017 was editor of the poetry column for the New York Times Magazine. He lives in Oakland, CA.

    The post Have we been taught poetry all wrong? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    FILE PHOTO: Imam Mohamed Magid stands in front of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) mosque in Sterling, Virginia, U.S. May 19, 2016.  To match Special Report USA-EXTREMISTS/TEEN  REUTERS/Carlos Barria - RTSG955

    FILE PHOTO: Imam Mohamed Magid stands in front of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) mosque in Sterling, Virginia, U.S. May 19, 2016. To match Special Report USA-EXTREMISTS/TEEN REUTERS/Carlos Barria

    A Muslim girl died Sunday in Virginia after what appears to be a road rage incident, police investigators said Monday.

    Nabra Hassanen, 17, of Reston, Virginia, was found dead in a pond near Washington, D.C., at about 3 p.m. Sunday, after she and a group of teenagers walked back from breakfast and got into a dispute with a motorist. Relatives later identified Hassanen, the Washington Post reported.

    The Fairfax County Police Department said Monday it was not investigating the murder as a hate crime.

    Police are charged 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres, of Sterling, Virginia, with murder. He is currently held without bond.

    Several teenagers, including Hassanen, were walking from an IHOP restaurant when a man in a car confronted them, according to police. The teens ran to the nearby All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque, but Hassanen was separated from the group.

    Police reports indicate the motorist got out of his car and assaulted Hassanen. A bat was later discovered near the scene.

    Police began looking for Hassanen around 4 a.m. Sunday, after the teens arrived at the mosque without Hassanen.

    Officers noticed a suspicious car in the area during the search and arrested Torres.

    The chief medical examiner will conduct an autopsy to confirm the victim’s identity and determine cause of death, according to Fairfax police spokeswoman Tawny Wright.

    The event comes less than a month after two men were killed when they stepped in to defend two women against a man who was screaming anti-Muslim insults.

    The murder of Hassanen also comes during Ramadan, a Muslim holy month of fasting and praying, and on Father’s Day weekend.

    “I just can’t think of a worse instance to occur with the loss of a 17-year-old on Father’s Day,” Loudoun County Sheriff Michael Chapman, said at a news conference, the Washington Post reported.
    The mosque and Hassanen’s high school are offering grief counseling. “We are devastated and heartbroken as our community undergoes and processes this traumatic event,” the mosque said in a statement. “It is a time for us to come together to pray and care for our youth.”

    The post Police say 17-year-old girl killed after suspected road-rage incident near mosque appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Republican candidate Karen Handel and Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff exchange words moments before Georgia's 6th Congressional District special election debate at WSB-TV studios in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. June 6, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry - RTX39CQA

    Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff at a debate on June 6 in the runoff for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District special election. Photo by REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry

    Tuesday’s runoff election for Georgia’s sixth congressional district is the most expensive House race ever. Outside groups on both sides have poured millions into the contest between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff in a local race that has taken on national implications.

    Ossoff and Handel — who finished first and second in a crowded field earlier this year, earning a spot in the two-way runoff — are vying to fill the seat held by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who stepped down from Congress to join the Trump administration. The seat, which covers the suburbs north of Atlanta, has become a proxy war between Republicans and Democrats trying to map out the future of their parties in the Trump era. Here’s what you need to know about the race:

    What makes this race so important?

    It’s risky to read too much into a special election. But the race is a key test case for both parties as they start preparing for the 2018 midterm elections.

    If Ossoff wins, Democrats will argue that the party’s liberal base is energized and capable of flipping more House and Senate seats next year. An Ossoff victory would also underscore the strength of the left’s opposition to President Donald Trump and his political agenda. Democrats have a lot riding on the outcome. The party’s candidates came up short in the other two special congressional elections this year, in Montana and Kansas.

    READ MORE: Red state Democrats think their 2018 chances are improving

    Republicans also have a lot at stake. If Handel wins, they’ll point to her victory as proof that the left’s resistance to Mr. Trump doesn’t translate to change at the ballot box. Additionally, a victory by Handel would send a signal to other Republicans in moderate districts that they can withstand a strong general election challenge in 2018.

    Spending record shattered

    The campaigns and outside groups on both sides are expected to spend at least $42 million just on television and radio ads alone. Overall, the race is expected to exceed $50 million in spending. Local television stations have added more programming to their schedules to meet the demand for campaign advertising around the race, which has shattered the previous record for a House race. The record was held by a 2012 Florida contest that cost just under $30 million.

    “There a lot of folks in the metro Atlanta media market that are ready to wake up Wednesday morning and not see the ads anymore,” said Michael Smith, the communications director for the Democratic Party of Georgia.

    Ossoff raised more than $23.6 million through May 31, according to campaign finance filings. Handel raised $4.5 million during the same period. As of May 31, Ossoff’s campaign received donations from 51,014 individuals; 5,331 individuals donated to Handel’s campaign.

    FILE PHOTO - Republican candidate Karen Handel for Georgia's 6th Congressional District special election talks to supporters during a campaign stop at Santino's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria in Alpharetta, Georgia, U.S. on April 17, 2017.   REUTERS/Kevin D. Liles/File Photo - RTS173ET

    Karen Handel talks to supporters during a campaign stop in Alpharetta, Georgia in April. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin D. Liles

    Who are Handel and Ossoff?

    On the campaign trail, Handel has highlighted her lifelong conservatism and experience in the private sector and in Georgia state politics. She previously served as Georgia secretary of state, where she implemented controversial voter ID laws.

    Handel’s experience in government contrasts with Ossoff’s status as a political newcomer. Ossoff, 30, is a documentary filmmaker and former congressional aide who has been criticized for his inexperience. Ossoff has largely run on a platform of opposition to Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress.

    How did the district vote in 2016?

    Democrats began eyeing the seat after Trump eked out a victory there in 2016. Trump won the district by 1.5 points. Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, won the district by 22 points.

    “I think that Democrats for sure think if they win this, they will win every targeted race in 2018,” said Maddie Anderson, a spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “I think that’s absurd. Republicans were always to going to compete heavily to keep this seat. Democrats see an opportunity here because Trump underperformed.”

    Republicans have held the district since 1979. Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker, represented the district for two decades. Price won the seat in 2004 and held it until he joined Trump’s Cabinet earlier this year. Price carried the district by 23 points in 2016.

    Political fault lines exposed

    The race has highlighted how divided many voters feel, more than six months after the 2016 election. The district seems more fractured politically now than it was after the presidential election, said Louise Palmer, the co-founder of a local chapter of the liberal group Indivisible.

    Palmer, who has campaigned for Ossoff, recalled stories of Ossoff yard signs being yanked from the ground, and a man in a car giving an Ossoff volunteer the middle finger followed by the Nazi salute outside of an early voting center.

    “Neighbors are pitted against neighbors,” Palmer said. “I wish we could find some middle ground.”

    The post A guide to Georgia’s special election appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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