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

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    A still image taken from footage shot on June 18, 2017, and broadcast on Iranian Television IRINN, purports to show missiles being fired from Iran into eastern Syria. Image by IRINN via Reuters

    A still image taken from footage shot on June 18, 2017, and broadcast on Iranian Television IRINN, purports to show missiles being fired from Iran into eastern Syria. Image by IRINN via Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. shoots down a Syrian fighter jet for the first time. Syria attacks America’s allies against Islamic State militants. Iran fires missiles into Syria. Russia threatens to target U.S. coalition planes.

    As Syria’s complex war ramps up, the Trump administration is scrambling to tamp down tensions and avoid open hostilities with the Russians.

    This weekend’s fast-paced developments bring new urgency to easing escalating strains between Washington and Moscow, who are both fighting in Syria but with opposing objectives. It’s an effort made more complicated by the increasingly messy battlefield in the Arab country, which includes deepening Iranian involvement — its first missile foray into Syria occurred Sunday — and an ongoing probe in the United States into Russian meddling in the presidential election.

    In the first high-level U.S. public comments about the situation, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday the former Cold War foes are in delicate discussions to restore normalcy to communications and maintain focus on fighting IS instead of each other.

    “The worst thing any of us could do right now is address this with hyperbole,” Dunford said at the National Press Club.

    Throughout Syria’s six-and-a-half year civil war, the United States has supported rebels opposed to President Bashar Assad’s government and extremist groups like IS, while Russia has backed Assad. And that disagreement has constrained American leaders, who’ve made clear that any U.S. military activity in Syria avoid provoking an open confrontation between the U.S. and Russia, the world’s two greatest nuclear powers.

    At the White House, spokesman Sean Spicer said: “It’s important and crucial that we keep lines of communication open to deconflict potential issues.” The U.S. and Russia use the term “deconfliction” for discussions to prevent mishaps between their planes flying in Syria’s skies.

    But in a warning that the U.S. would protect its partners, Spicer said: “The Syrian regime and others in the region need to understand that we will retain the right of self-defense of coalition forces aligned against ISIS.”

    Tensions rose Sunday as the U.S. shot down a Syrian Air Force SU-22 fighter that U.S. officials said had bombed American-backed Syrian fighters involved in an emerging battle to recapture the Islamic State’s self-declared capital of Raqqa. The U.S.-led coalition said it acted in “collective self-defense” of partnered forces. Russia called it a “cynical” violation of the Arab country’s sovereignty.

    Russia said its warplanes were flying over Syria at the time of the shootdown and the U.S. failed to use the existing deconfliction channel between U.S. military officers at al-Udeid air base in Qatar and Russian officers at Hemeimeem air base.

    “We view these actions by the U.S. military as a deliberate failure to heed its obligations,” the Defense Ministry said, adding that it was immediately suspending cooperation under an October 2015 agreement to ensure safe air operations over Syria. It also issued what appeared a threat to target U.S. coalition aircraft flying west of the Euphrates River.

    Dunford seemed unperturbed.

    “I’m confident that we are still communicating,” he said, adding: “I’m also confident that our forces have the capability to take care of themselves.”

    The immediate effect on the U.S.-led campaign against IS is unclear. Coalition aircraft will continue flying throughout Syria, although some assets will be repositioned, said Col. Ryan Dillon, a coalition spokesman.

    “We are going to make sure that we have the right aircraft in the right places,” he said, noting that some aircraft may have to avoid “high-threat” areas.

    The U.S. and its coalition partners fly combat and support missions daily out of several bases in the Middle East, including in Qatar and Turkey. The flights support Syrian Arab and Kurdish fighters aligned against Islamic State militants. The U.S. also has about 1,000 troops on the ground in Syria advising local fighters.

    Russia has fighter aircraft, air defense weapons and other military assets in Syria in support of President Bashar Assad’s government. Moscow has said it entered the fight mainly to combat IS. “We’ll see if that’s true here in the coming hours,” Dunford said.

    Syria’s latest developments add significance to talks set for Friday in St Petersburg between senior U.S. and Russian diplomats meant to focus on key differences in the relationship, such as Syria and Ukraine. Tom Shannon, the State Department No. 3, will meet Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister.

    “The Russians clearly are doing a lot of sabre rattling right now, but the reality is that the United States has significantly superior air power in the region, and it would be extremely foolish for the Russians to pick a fight with the United States in Syria,” said Nile Gardiner, an international affairs expert at the Heritage Foundation think tank. “The balance of power in Syria is shifting away from Moscow and you are having a more assertive U.S. presence in the region.”

    Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor in Washington and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

    READ MORE: Tillerson says U.S. relationship with Russia is deteriorating

    The post Syria brings new urgency to easing tensions between U.S. and Russia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn arrives at a news conference Feb. 13 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn arrives at a news conference Feb. 13 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Two top House Democrats are questioning whether Michael Flynn failed to report a 2015 trip to the Middle East to federal security clearance investigators, a potential omission that could add to the legal jeopardy President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser faces over the truthfulness of his statements to authorities and on government documents.

    The lawmakers — Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. — said in a letter released Monday that they believe Flynn may have violated federal law by failing to disclose the trip and any foreign contacts he had during another 2015 trip to the Middle East, which they believe involved a proposal to develop nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia.

    The letter from Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House oversight committee, and Engel, the ranking Democrat on the House foreign affairs committee, is the latest to call attention to potential problems with what Flynn reported to the U.S. government about his foreign travel, contacts and business after he left the Defense Intelligence Agency in August 2014.

    Federal and congressional probes have been looking closely at Flynn’s foreign travel and contacts as part of investigations into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and any possible collusion with associates of Trump or his campaign.

    Separately, federal investigators have been scrutinizing Flynn’s work for a Turkish businessman and the Defense Department’s inspector general has been looking into whether Flynn failed to get U.S. government permission to receive foreign payments. Among those payments was more than $33,000 he received from RT, the Russian state-sponsored television network that U.S. intelligence officials have branded as a propaganda arm of the Kremlin.

    Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, declined to comment on the allegations in the letter.

    In their letter, Cummings and Engel said they believe Flynn was not forthcoming about a trip he took to the Middle East in the summer of 2015.

    They cited a recent Newsweek report that Flynn flew to Israel and Egypt that summer as part of an effort promoting a U.S.-Russian partnership to construct nuclear reactors for civilian power needs. They also point to an inconsistency in what Flynn said during June 10, 2015, testimony before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee and what Flynn later reported to security clearance investigators about his foreign travel.

    During the House committee hearing, Flynn told lawmakers he “just came from a trip — fairly extensive trip to the Middle East,” during which the issue of developing nuclear energy in the region came up. But Cummings and Engel said it “does not appear that General Flynn disclosed this trip or any foreign contacts as part of his security clearance renewal process,” noting that intentionally concealing such information from a security clearance form is a felony.

    Cummings and Engel also raised questions about another trip to the Middle East in October 2015, which Flynn did report as part of his security clearance review. The review took place in the early months of 2016.

    The lawmakers say Flynn recorded the trip on his security clearance questionnaire and later told security clearance investigators that he traveled to Saudi Arabia with a friend to speak at a conference, stayed at a hotel called the King Khaled International Hotel and had the trip paid for by a “work sponsor.”

    But congressional investigators could not confirm the existence of such a hotel, though they note the airport in Riyadh shares that name. They also could not find any evidence of a conference that Flynn would have attended during the time frame, noting that three speakers’ bureaus that Flynn worked with did not report being involved with the trip or a conference in Saudi Arabia.

    In financial disclosures Flynn provided earlier this year to White House and government ethics officials, the former military intelligence official said he had served as an adviser between August 2015 and last December to an entity identified as X-Co Dynamics/Iron Bridge Group. X-Co Dynamics is a Virginia-based consulting firm headed by former U.S. Rear Admiral Michael Hewitt, whose board of retired military advisers included former National Security Agency chief Keith Alexander and former Marine Corps General James “Hoss” Cartwright, who was prosecuted last year for lying to the FBI in a leak investigation.

    A representative for Hewitt reached by the AP on Monday afternoon said he was not available because he was traveling.

    Flynn did not detail his work with X-Co Dynamics in the disclosure, but a Newsweek report earlier this month alleged that he flew to Israel and Egypt in summer 2015 as part of a private effort by the firm to advance the idea of a massive ring of atomic reactors that would be built by the U.S. nuclear industry and the Russian government and largely bankrolled by Saudi Arabia.

    According to an internal memo obtained by Newsweek, the project was the brainchild of ACU Strategic Partners, a U.S. firm promoting the idea of a partnership between the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates to build and operate 40 nuclear power reactors across the Middle East. Russia would have financial incentive to join the project, according to the ACU plan, because it would take the lead in building the plants and providing a burial ground for their waste.

    ACU Strategic Partners managing director Alex Copson did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

    Newsweek reported that Flynn’s role in the project, via X-Co Dynamics, was to design and put into play “a vast security network for the entire enterprise.” Flynn’s financial disclosure did not show any financial payment from X-Co Dynamics for his involvement.

    Newsweek reported that the proposed deal was scuttled by the Obama administration. Saudi Arabia later signed a deal with Russia’s nuclear agency, Rosatom, to build 16 reactors.

    READ MORE: Michael Flynn turns over documents to panel as part of Russia investigation

    The post House Democrats question Flynn disclosures of Middle East travel appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now to a NewsHour Shares, something that caught our eye that might be of interest to you.

    There’s a growing movement to fix items, instead of throwing them out and buying new ones. At MIT, a graduate started Fixit Clinics eight years ago, and now they’re held all across the country to teach people how to do repairs themselves.

    From PBS station WGBH in Boston, Tina Martin reports.

    TINA MARTIN: A toaster, a tripod and a kettle, all broken and in need of some TLC. And they’re in the right place.

    PETER MUI, FixIt Clinics: This is Fixit Clinic number 207. We have had a bunch of Fixit Clinics all across the United States.

    TINA MARTIN: MIT grad Peter Mui started the clinics in 2009 to help people learn to help themselves and the environment in the process.

    PETER MUI: And 52 tons of e-waste diverted from landfill. So, not even just diverted, not upcycled or not recycled, but actually returned to service for their originally intended use.

    There is a sense that they don’t have a choice when it goes — when it breaks. There is no repair people left anymore to do this stuff.

    TINA MARTIN: The clinics are free and held three to four times a month at libraries and community centers across the country. Peter Mui and his team of volunteer coaches train people like Abby Fox (ph), whose kettle is out of commission.

    WOMAN: Under normal conditions, you go like this, it goes click. But it also turns blue and then it should boil the water.

    TINA MARTIN: She and I put on goggles to learn about how to get it back up and running. Part of getting the kettle back together is pulling it apart and testing electricity.

    PETER MUI: But you understand that anything we do here could make it worse.

    TINA MARTIN: That warning aside, the process is time-consuming, and there’s a chance nothing can be done. But the Fixit team prides itself in resurrecting even the toughest electronics, like Jeannie Fink’s (ph) classic radio, which belonged to her father.

    WOMAN: His initials are actually still on the back of the part that we took off. And he has since passed away, but it had been sitting on a shelf in my home for the longest time.

    TINA MARTIN: The bell sounds, and the music is playing again. It took about an hour for Jeannie and her Fixit coach to make it happen.

    MAN: So you think you can fix something in your house by yourself now?


    WOMAN: I think I’m more confident to at least try to troubleshoot.

    TINA MARTIN: Abby Fox’s kettle was a different story. The repair took all day, but, in the end, it was another Fixit Clinic success story.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Tina Martin in Boston.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I could spend a couple of weeks there. I have got a lot of things at home that need fixing.

    The post The clinic that brings your broken toaster back to life appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And from Georgia to Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue, the political stakes are high this week, a perfect time for Politics Monday with Tamara Keith of NPR and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

    And welcome to you both. A lot to talk about.

    Amy, let’s talk about that 6th District race in Georgia. A lot of people are saying it is a referendum of a sort on the president. How do you see it?

    AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Yes, we’re going to read a lot into one race and overinterpret one race. But, obviously, because of the amount of money that’s been spent on it and the fact that the national media has descended on it, we don’t really have a choice.

    I think there are going to be a couple of narratives that come out of this. If Democrats are able to win here on Tuesday, the message being sent is not just one about Trump, but it is saying that in Republican districts, even districts that went Republican slightly for Trump, are now in danger for Republicans.

    So this probably expands the playing field for Democrats. They’re going to now try to get and try to involve themselves in many more districts that are traditionally Republican.

    If a Republican wins, it says, you know what? This anger among Democrats, the enthusiasm among Democrats, while it is playing a national role, it is not translating into districts that still have a slight Republican lean. It means that Republican voters haven’t abandoned — not that they just didn’t abandon the president, but they’re not abandoning congressional Republicans at this point.

    The only other person that this is a referendum on is Nancy Pelosi. There have been more ads in this district run against Nancy Pelosi, Republican Karen Handel, as well as other groups, trying to make this referendum from a liberal member from San Francisco to paint Jon Ossoff as out of touch with the suburban district. He’s running as a moderate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: She pops up, Nancy Pelosi …

    AMY WALTER: In a lot of ads.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: In a lot of races.

    So, Tamara, what do you see are the factors at play here?

    TAMARA KEITH, NPR: Well, so the president tweeted this morning in support of Karen Handel. Then he did it again this afternoon with a series of tweets also going after Jon Ossoff for not living in the district, which is a true thing. Jon Ossoff doesn’t live in the district.

    Karen Handel is not running away from President Trump. He held a fund-raiser with her. Her campaign tweeted out a fund-raising e-mail today. The headline on it was, did you see what Trump just tweeted?

    So she’s not separating herself from the president. She is running with President Trump. And so we will see what voters in that district think of it. It’s a very narrow victory that President Trump had in 2016 in that district, even though it was designed to be a safe Republican seat.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A lot of interpreting going to be going on tomorrow night and into Wednesday and maybe even later.

    AMY WALTER: Oh, absolutely.

    We love narratives. Come on. Political narratives, it’s what we live for, Judy. We have got to keep doing this.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of narratives, what was your take, Amy, on what Jay Sekulow had to say, the president’s attorney we talked to a few minutes ago?


    AMY WALTER: Yes.

    What we heard in his interview with you that seemed to be a little bit different from what we heard over the weekend was the acknowledgment that, while Jay Sekulow said over the weekend the president’s not being investigated, what he acknowledged with you was, we don’t know for sure that he’s not being — to the best of our knowledge, I think, was the term that he used, the president is not being investigated.

    But I think, as an overall take on where we’re going on Russia, I don’t think we’re moving very far. It feels like we’re kind of just running in place constantly. We know that the special counsel is doing its investigation. We know that the Senate is doing an investigation.

    It’s unlikely that the Senate is going to — even the Senate itself is going to be done by the end of the year, nonetheless what Robert Mueller, counsel, is going to have by then.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you read this based on your reporting at the White House and elsewhere in this town?

    TAMARA KEITH: Well, so, I have been reporting on the legal team that President Trump has assembled, which includes Jay Sekulow, who he is really the face and the voice of the legal team, but he is not necessarily the person that will be representing the president.

    He is the public face because what he has actually specialized in is religious freedom cases. He’s argued extensively…

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Before the Supreme Court.

    TAMARA KEITH: … before the Supreme Court.

    Marc Kasowitz is another attorney who is sort of the lead attorney. He doesn’t have a criminal law background. He’s basically Donald Trump’s attorney, and had been for years. But he’s someone that the president listens to, and that is why he’s a key part of the team.

    And then they just brought on another lawyer who has Washington experience and has some white-collar-type experience. So the team is preparing for the president to be under investigation by the special counsel even if they aren’t saying that he is under investigation by the special counsel, even if they aren’t saying that he is under investigation by the special counsel,

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to turn both of you — there is so much to talk about, but I want to turn you now, Amy, to the — what’s going on in the Senate and the Congress over health care reform.

    We know the House passed a reform bill to basically undo the Obamacare. It’s been sitting in the Senate week after week. Republicans are working behind closed doors to try to come up with a version that will be more acceptable to them.

    Democrats are now in revolt, as much as they can be in the minority. Where is that going?

    AMY WALTER: Yes.

    It sounds like what they want to do is use a parliamentary procedure to basically slow business in the Senate to a crawl. It’s not that they can make much change to the bill itself, but they want to put a spotlight on the way that this bill is being handled, just as you pointed out, the fact that it’s being written behind doors, that Democrats aren’t part of the process, that, quite frankly, a whole bunch of Republican senators have no idea what’s in the bill.

    They also want to keep the spotlight on the health care bill because the House-passed one is so unpopular. It’s not even particularly popular among Republicans voters. So, the more attention that Democrats can put on that, as well as the way that it’s being — the bill itself, as well as the way the bill is being handled, they think politically is a winner.

    And, then, finally, they are saying to their own constituents, we are trying to do something about health care, but we’re not — this is the only thing that we can do, because we’re not in the majority. The only thing we can try to do is some of this procedural maneuvering.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you know about what’s happening?


    TAMARA KEITH: What I know about what happening is that, in the Senate, the votes that were supposed to happen tonight were actually pushed off because of weather.

    However, Chuck Schumer went to the floor of the Senate and did a — sort of began the process, tried to get unanimous consent to demand that there be a hearing on this bill. And the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said he objected to that. They went around and around and around.

    Democrats don’t have a lot that they can do. This is happening behind closed doors, which means they can’t make an argument on substance and policy, so they’re making an argument on procedure, which is harder to make.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The majority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has said he wants to get a vote on this by the 1st of July.

    AMY WALTER: That’s right. They really, really want to get this behind them, move through this process.

    Remember, they can’t move ahead on the things they also want to move ahead on, like tax reform, until this is done.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And this has been held up for, as we say, a long time.

    AMY WALTER: They wanted to get it done in Easter was the first deadline.

    Now, there’s nothing unusual about that. It took Democrats a long time to get Obamacare through. They wanted to get it through in 2009. It took them until 2010 to finally pass it. The bigger question is, what does that bill look like and then, if implemented, how do Americans — how does it affect Americans?

    TAMARA KEITH: Because this is one-sixth of the economy. This is not small stuff.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: There will be a lot of reaction as the Republican Senate version emerges, which it hasn’t done yet.

    TAMARA KEITH: Right.

    AMY WALTER: Right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, Politics Monday, thank you both.

    TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.

    AMY WALTER: You’re welcome.

    The post What’s at stake for both sides of the Georgia race appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s the most expensive race in history to fill a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. And it’s in a district consistently Republican for decades.

    Newt Gingrich was the congressman for Georgia’s 6th District for 20 years. It was most recently vacated by Tom Price when he was tapped to be secretary of health and human services.

    But Democrats are pinning their hopes and lots of their money on a young candidate.

    Lisa Desjardins brings us up to speed.

    LISA DESJARDINS: More than $50 million, that’s how much has been spent. The special election between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel in suburban Atlanta has drawn outsized national attention because, in some ways, it hinges on a name not on the ballot.

    Divisions over President Trump have Democrats thinking they have a chance.

    We break it down now with Andra Gillespie. She’s a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta. And Greg Bluestein, a reporter with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and native of Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.

    Thank you both for joining us.

    I want to start this by looking at the extraordinary numbers involved in this race, the dollar figures. From what we know, as of the reports at the end of May, the Democrat in this race, Jon Ossoff, had brought in $23 million, Republican Karen Handel $4.5 million, but outside groups $25 million.

    Let me start with you, Greg. How close is this race, quickly, and why is there so much spending here?

    GREG BLUESTEIN, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Yes, this race is neck and neck.

    Most public polls show Ossoff within a one- or two- or three-point lead, within the margin of error. You talk to six different analysts down here, you will get six different opinions. So, it really could be either way tomorrow, when we have the final vote — $42 million-plus has now been spent on just ads alone, many of them negative.

    So, district residents have been pummeled and metro Atlanta residents at large have been pummeled with ads about this race, which means there is a very slim number of undecided voters here.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Andra, what is happening here politically? Is this just the extent of spending everywhere, or is there something different about this race that has brought in so much money?

    ANDRA GILLESPIE, Emory University: Well, unlike a midterm election, where you have hundreds of congressional races going on simultaneously, both parties have been able to focus on each individual special race at a time.

    And because this was the most competitive of the special elections that have been held this spring, it garnered the most attention. And so campaign spending and campaign fund-raising are in part a signal about how competitive a race is. So, in that respect, it’s not surprising that this race broke records.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Unbelievable race. And we have had even another turn of events here in the last week with the congressional shooting that happened outside of Washington that is now entering this race.

    And we saw, as you mentioned, the ad war, Greg. The ad war has brought about a new ad in this race. Let’s play a clip of it.

    NARRATOR: Now the unhinged left is endorsing and applauding shooting Republicans. When will it stop? It won’t if Jon Ossoff wins on Tuesday.

    LISA DESJARDINS: I don’t want to necessarily talk about that ad itself, but this idea, Greg, of whether that shooting could affect this race. We have heard Republicans in Georgia think that it might. And, apparently, the people who made that ad think that it could.

    GREG BLUESTEIN: Yes, and we have also had both candidates and their campaigns condemn the ad and call for it to be taken down.

    It’s being talked about in the district, but I don’t know how much it will actually influence any votes. As we mentioned earlier, there are so few undecided voters. And this ad is targeting, I think, Karen Handel supporters, obviously, who go to the polls for her, and many of them are already locked in.

    Early voting has already exceeded 140,000, so the majority of the voters who will show up, who will end up casting ballots have already cast their ballots. So I’m not sure how much it will change the race, but it certainly is something we’re all talking about down here.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Do you think that will affect voting at all, the shooting?

    ANDRA GILLESPIE: I think that this type of ad, especially an independent expenditure like this, is a reflection of how parties don’t control certain types of politics as much anymore.

    And this shows one of the negative consequences of allowing outside groups to be able to spend money in these types of races. Sometimes, they go off-script and they do things that actually the campaigns themselves would actually reject and find actually more harmful than good.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Greg, I saw you nodding about off-script.

    Well, someone who likes to go off-script, of course, is President Trump. He actually has participated in this race, in fact tweeting just today in support of Republican Karen Handel. That’s really been the sort of subtext with this entire race.

    How much do you think President Trump is a factor? Is this a test of President Trump’s approval right now?

    GREG BLUESTEIN: He is no doubt — undoubtedly a factor.

    And every time some local candidates or operatives try to say that he’s not, we just point to the fact that he has — not only has he sent a string of tweets out, but he’s recorded robo-calls, he’s come down and stumped with Karen Handel. So has Vice President Mike Pence.

    So he is without a doubt a major factor in this race. And really the only reason why Democrats really think they can win this is because of the narrow margin that he won the district by in November.

    LISA DESJARDINS: And let’s talk about that. We are going to show some more numbers about that.

    It’s amazing to me. Look at this. Mitt Romney won this district by 23 points and, as you say, President Trump just by one.

    Andra, I want to ask you. We have these two candidates who represent somewhat of a conservative view and a liberal view, but lately they have moved toward the middle. Who are they trying to appeal to? Who will decide this race?

    ANDRA GILLESPIE: In particular, both campaigns have tried to reach out to suburban women voters, so particularly college-educated white women.

    We have seen super PACs in support of Karen Handel mention that she would be the only woman in Georgia’s congressional delegation. And we have seen Jon Ossoff play the Planned Parenthood card, noting that when Karen Handel was an executive at the Susan G. Komen Foundation, she allegedly helped get Planned Parenthood defunded to help fit a certain political agenda.

    And so if there is some moderate-leaning even Republican women who might be uncomfortable with playing abortion politics with, say, breast cancer, that might be a way to demobilize that constituency and help his cause.

    LISA DESJARDINS: It is one heck of a race, guys.

    Andra Gillespie and Greg Bluestein, I’m jealous I’m not down there, but thank you for joining us.

    GREG BLUESTEIN: Thank you.

    ANDRA GILLESPIE: Thank you.

    The post Georgia’s record-breaking special election will test Trump approval appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: More than three million migrant workers every year, most of them women, leave their countries to work as domestic laborers, often in conditions some say border on slavery.

    Human trafficking is especially grave in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East.

    Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro begins his report from the West African nation of Cameroon. It’s part of his series Agents for Change.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: They’re able to laugh at it now in a workshop setting, but the skit these women are watching depicts experiences that are all too real.

    These women are all survivors from time spent in Persian Gulf and Middle East countries where they were domestic workers, victims of an industry the U.N. and rights groups say is rife with human trafficking and abuse.

    Three years ago, Francisca Awah was working as a secretary in Cameroon and helping her mother sell vegetables. She had a new baby and with her fiance wanted to build a nest egg. So, Awah, who has a college degree, jumped at what she thought was a teaching job offer in Kuwait for 10 times her salary in Cameroon.

    She paid the sponsoring agency $500, plus airfare. But almost as soon as she landed in Kuwait, she knew something was wrong, an experience familiar to many in this audience and acted out in the skit.

    WOMAN: You no like, you give me $6,000, you go back to your country.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The bait and switch, an agent or trafficker demanding large sums if they weren’t satisfied with their job or pay, in Francisca Awah’s case, not teaching, but cleaning.

    FRANCISCA AWAH, Trafficking Survivor: He started telling me, you’re going to work with me as a maid. You will take care of my two children and the house chores.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Awah says she complained and asked for her passport back, so she could return home. Although it’s illegal, workers’ passports are routinely confiscated by employers. The employer’s wife refused, saying she had paid the agency $2,000 for her services.

    FRANCISCA AWAH: And the lady was so angry that she pointed at the television and told me that, Francisca, you know something? You are like that television. You are a commodity. I bought you. You need to pay back my money before you leave.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: She had bought you?


    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Then, one day, Awah saw a news report about an organization, Freedom For All, headed by an American woman named Katie Ford.

    KATIE FORD, Freedom For All: And she said, please help me. There are many in much worse situations. Please help us all.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Indeed, Awah’s story is far from unique. Each year, more than three million women worldwide are forced into servitude as domestic workers. Ford was shocked when she learned the extent of the problem.

    KATIE FORD: Why aren’t we calling this slavery? It’s people being forced to work without pay, without an ability to escape.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Katie Ford is the former CEO of the renowned Ford Modeling Agency. Her parents started the business in 1946, and represented such high profile models as Elle Macpherson and Naomi Campbell, bringing standards to an industry notorious for taking advantage of young women.

    Ford was the first agency to insist that models be paid a fair wage.

    KATIE FORD: They made sure the client paid, and they made sure the models were protected.

    This is the first picture of her I saw.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Just as her parents did for their models, Katie Ford says she wanted to advocate for domestic workers. Her goal was to form partnerships with governments, employers and human rights organizations.

    One of the first places she started was Kuwait, an oil-rich state of nearly four million people where foreigners outnumber native Kuwaitis by 2-1. It is the only country in the Persian Gulf region to even acknowledge there’s a problem with domestic workers.

    Kuwait became the first country in the Gulf region to pass a law that attempts to protect the rights of domestic workers, requiring at least one day off a week, for example, and setting the maximum number of hours worked per week. It’s not much. That maximum is 72 hours. And the law doesn’t specify that the worker be allowed out of the home on that day off.

    And many, in fact, are forced to remain in their employer’s home on their day off. The Kuwait government has established a shelter, with a capacity for 500, where foreign domestic workers can escape abusive employers.

    We were given a rare tour of the facility by its director, Falah al Mutairi.

    FALAH AL MUTAIRI, Director of Labor Housing, Kuwait (through interpreter): The services that are provided include legal services, social, cultural and emotional help if needed. When it comes to deciding what the next step is, it’s up to the individual herself. Does she want to stay in the country? That’s when we discuss options. Ninety percent of the women want to go back to their home countries.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Since the shelter opened two-and-a-half years ago, nearly 8,000 women have passed through, waiting for passports to be returned, trying to find the means to buy return tickets, sorting out various legal problems.

    We spoke with five women from countries as diverse as Madagascar, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Philippines. All said they were either unpaid or severely underpaid. Many were lured here under false pretenses.

    Nineteen-year-old Hassanatu Bangura says her parents thought they were sending her to college.

    HASSANATU BANGURA, Trafficking Survivor: I think I’m going to start school. So we go to the office, and she said that I’m going to work.

    BIBI NASSER AL SABAH, Social Work Society of Kuwait: We have a domestic labor law, but we don’t have clear punishments or punishments that are enough to make an employer stop.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Bibi Al Sabah is a member of Kuwait’s ruling family. Twelve years ago, she founded an organization designed to get workers legal help, also, she says, to change the culture, and attitudes toward domestic workers.

    BIBI NASSER AL SABAH: We’re rich people, and we can afford to have people working for us. And so, with this idea, a lot of people eventually just lost track of how humans should behave. It became part of the culture now to have workers everywhere. And so people forget that they’re humans and forget that these people are — have lives and have children and have their dignity.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Falah Al Mutairi acknowledges that more reforms need to happen, but he’s convinced that Kuwait has turned a corner. And he says that, to truly eradicate the problem, traffickers must be held accountable in the workers’ countries.

    FALAH AL MUTAIRI (through interpreter): Because of sovereignty issues, Kuwait cannot track down criminals in other countries. It can’t do anything about people outside its jurisdiction.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Francisca Awah isn’t sure she can stop the traffickers either, but she is trying to help the desperate economic plight of women in low-income countries like Cameroon. After being rescued by Katie Ford 18 months ago, the two women have teamed up to form a career training program for women in this West African country

    FRANCISCA AWAH: I wish that the girls should be like empowered personally. They should learn to do something within their country.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Last fall, Awah led a workshop with 34 young women who fled abusive work situations in the Middle East. They were learning how to finance and start their own businesses.

    It included field trips to restaurants and markets to learn from other entrepreneurs and team-building exercises.

    WOMAN: You wake up. You clean everywhere, OK?

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Gatherings like these have helped women overcome, even laugh at their traumatic experiences, and maybe, they say, spread the word to other would-be trafficking victims.

    For the PBS NewsHour, this is Fred de Sam Lazaro in Kumba, Cameroon.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Fred’s reporting is a partnership with the Under-Told Stories Project at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump continues to be nagged by possible links between Russia and his associates and questions over whether Mr. Trump has tried to shut down that investigation.

    Last week, the Russia story took another turn when reports surfaced that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the president himself.

    I spoke a short while ago to Jay Sekulow. He’s a member of President Trump’s legal team and chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice.

    And I began by asking if the special counsel has informed Mr. Trump that he’s under investigation.

    JAY SEKULOW, Member, President Trump’s Legal Team: No, he has not. There has been no information given by the special counsel informing the president that he is under investigation.

    It’s been consistent. Again, we have received nothing about an investigation of the president of the United States.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But, as you acknowledged yesterday, it is possible that the president could be under investigation and just simply not have been informed by it — about it.

    JAY SEKULOW: Well, I mean, but here’s the reality. This is not something that’s happened in a vacuum.

    This is — there’s been discussions about this Russian probe and committees of the Congress looking at this for nine months, with — producing no evidence about Russian collusion.

    So, while it’s true I can’t read the mind of a special counsel, we have received no notification of an investigation or a pending investigation or a preliminary investigation or anything else.

    So, what I can say is what we know is the president right now is not investigation, has not been investigation, and is not under investigation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Are you saying the stories that have been printed in The Washington Post and other news organizations are false?

    JAY SEKULOW: Well, The Washington Post story was based on five anonymous sources where they didn’t even identify the agency.

    So, you have that report coming out from The Washington Post which I believe is false. And then the — ABC reported that they had received from their sources information that in fact the special counsel had not opened an investigation of the president.

    So, again, I don’t know where these sources are coming from, but we have not had any information from the special counsel or anyone else, for that matter, that the president is under investigation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, setting that aside, when the president told Lester Holt a few weeks ago at that interview that he had what he called the Russia thing on his mind when he fired then FBI Director James Comey and when he said to Russian diplomats around the same time that it relieved pressure on him to fire James Comey, what was he referring to?

    JAY SEKULOW: Well, the president engaged in a deliberative process that went on for a number of weeks evaluating the performance of James Comey as the FBI director, and that culminated in a number of discussions that took place within the White House.

    Ultimately, the attorney general of the United States and the deputy attorney general recommended to the president the removal of James Comey, and James Comey was removed. Now, that’s just fact.

    What other thoughts the president had going into that, how long he’d been considering, I wasn’t privy to that, but normal deliberative process and they look at a variety of issues.

    Regarding the Russia situation, I would like to say something, Judy, here. Look, this is a bit of a witch-hunt. It really is a witch-hunt. This investigation from the Congress has been going for nine months into this Russia probe. And members of the Senate and House from right, left and center said so far there’s been no evidence of collusion.

    When the intelligence officers were asked, is there evidence of collusion on this, no evidence of collusion. We didn’t include evidence because we haven’t seen that evidence.

    So, this is a situation that I think is basically like a factual scenario that’s almost being made up. And the president is responding the way presidents respond, in that this is not consuming his day. It’s not consuming an hour.

    He’s trying to and is successfully governing. And I think what we have to look at, there is now a special counsel. The special counsel will evaluate whatever the special counsel evaluates. But the American people are being penalized in this as well. And it continues to drag on.


    JAY SEKULOW: Yes, go ahead.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But let me just step in here.

    You — the president’s called it a witch-hunt. You have said it’s a witch-hunt. And yet you have said it should go forward.

    If you believe, if the president believes it’s a witch-hunt, does he believe that the whole thing should stop, that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, should step aside and either let somebody else take this over or just say, I’m not going to do this?

    JAY SEKULOW: Well, now, the president hasn’t said that the special counsel can’t do his job.

    What the president has said consistently is — in fact, when he — in that Lester Holt interview, if you remember, if you look at the full transcript, he acknowledged that, by firing James Comey and removing him from the director of the FBI, that it would extend this investigation.


    JAY SEKULOW: He said that. So, he knew the consequence, so to speak, of his action. He took the action because he thought it was in the best interest of the United States, as did his attorney general and deputy attorney general and others.

    So, I think that we’re — when I say the phrase witch-hunt, when the president is talking about a witch-hunt, this whole frenzy that developed and, again, with everybody coming forward on all of these committees says so far they have seen nothing in, like I said, an investigation going on nine months.

    So, the special counsel has been appointed. And the special counsel will ultimately do their job. And at the end of that special counsel’s job, we will see that there is nothing against the president, as I suspected the entire time. And I think the legal team without question is confident of that.

    But, Judy, the witch-hunt aspect of this is just the nature of what’s going on with multiple committees simultaneously, now a special counsel. I mean, what else are you going to add to the mix to make it?

    And, by the way, when you have a special counsel and you have those committees going, as you know — you have been watching it a long time — when you have those going simultaneously, it raises a whole host of issues of conflicts and everything else that are going to have to be looked at.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, two quick questions. If the president believes this is a witch-hunt, if you and his other attorneys believe that, and yet, at the same time, you’re saying the probe should go forward, there is a contradiction there.

    Are you saying it should go forward unfettered, that there will be cooperation from the president? Or are you saying there is going to be some kind of resistance because you think it’s an illegitimate investigation?

    JAY SEKULOW: Well, look, the president has said that — has given no indication that he’s not going to cooperate, if there’s anything to cooperate on.

    Now, let me be clear on that, because you raise a really important point, and that is there is multiple aspects to this Russian probe, as it has been described. So, we will — the president is not saying stop the Russian probe.

    The witch-hunt aspect of this is this media-created frenzy of unnamed sources saying it’s targeting the president. And then, of course, then you had the contradictory source from ABC saying it wasn’t. So, this is the witch-hunt aspect of this, leaking information.

    Agents — I mean, how does it make the American people feel that supposed investigators involved in this Russian probe are leaking information anonymously without even defining what agency they’re from to The Washington Post? That shouldn’t be OK.

    It shouldn’t be any more OK than James Comey doing the same thing, by the way.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: But I believe you have acknowledged the fact that the president did fire James Comey, the FBI director, who at that time was overseeing this investigation, the fact that the president made those comments to Lester Holt, to the Russian diplomats about relieving pressure, the appearance is that the president wanted to do what he could to get this investigation off his back.

    JAY SEKULOW: I think — I don’t think that’s at all what the case is.

    I think the president removed James Comey for a number of reasons. Look, many left of center were calling for the removal of James Comey just about a year ago.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Excuse me.

    The president said the reason was, at least what he told Lester Holt, was the Russia thing was on his mind when he fired James Comey.

    JAY SEKULOW: Well, but look at — when you say the Russian thing is on his mind, look at the way the probe was handled on Hillary Clinton.

    This was an individual, James Comey, who didn’t handle a very important investigation properly. And left, right and center have acknowledged it. And when the president was talking about the way the Russia probe is, that, as it moves forward, it is handled properly, not the way it was handled under James Comey.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Jay Sekulow, representing President Trump, thank you very much.

    JAY SEKULOW: Thanks, Judy.

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    A man gestures at U.S military vehicles driving in the town of Darbasiya next to the Turkish border, Syria April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Rodi Said TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTS14EG3

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The downing of a Syrian air force fighter jet by an American strike aircraft is just the latest flash point that perhaps signals a deepening American involvement in Syria’s many-sided civil war.

    John Yang begins our coverage.

    JOHN YANG: America’s top military commander, Marine General Joseph Dunford, made no apology today for Sunday’s downing of a Syrian warplane.

    GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff: We made every effort to warn those individuals not to come any closer, and then the commander made a judgment that there was a threat to the forces that we were supporting and took action. The only actions that we have taken against pro-regime forces in Syria, and there have been two specific incidents, have been in self-defense.

    JOHN YANG: Earlier this month, the U.S. struck pro-Assad forces approaching an important U.S.-British special forces base in At Tanf in Southeastern Syria.

    In response to Sunday’s shoot-down, Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said it now considers all U.S. aircraft in the region a threat. In a statement, the Defense Ministry said: “All flying objects, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected west of the Euphrates will be followed by Russian air defense systems as targets.”

    Russia also said it suspended a military hot line with the U.S. designed to coordinate air missions in the region. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for dialogue.

    SERGEI LAVROV, Foreign Minister, Russia (through interpreter): We call on everybody to avoid unilateral actions, to respect, I stress once again, Syria’s sovereignty.

    JOHN YANG: The Pentagon said it’s repositioning jets over Syria to ensure the safety of American air crews. All this further complicates the already messy picture in Syria.

    In recent weeks, U.S. forces have ramped up airstrikes to back the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, a rebel coalition battling ISIS around its stronghold in Raqqa. Syrian President Assad, backed by Russia, has used jets to support pro-regime groups in the same area. Said to be battling ISIS, those fighters have also clashed with the SDF.

    Further complicating matters, Iran’s supports for Assad. But, yesterday, Iran’s military launched its own missile strike on ISIS positions, in retaliation for the group’s attack in Tehran two weeks ago.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Yang.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For more on yesterday’s shoot-down, and the wider picture of a very complex battlefield, I’m joined now by Andrew Exum. He was deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy from 2015 to 2016, and is now a contributing editor at “The Atlantic.” And Faysal Itani, he’s a senior fellow in the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council. It’s a Washington think tank.

    And, gentlemen, thank you both for joining us.

    This is a complicated battlefield we’re talking about.

    Faysal Itani, I’m going to start with you.

    Given that, was this inevitable that this was going to happen, or should the U.S. been able to avoid it?

    FAYSAL ITANI, Atlantic Council: Well, I think it’s very difficult to get the Syrian regime to behave in accordance with any external powers, understand and come to an agreement over.

    This was clearly a case of the regime behaving in a manner that probably upset the Russians, may or may not have upset the Iranians. I’m not sure. And certainly the United States didn’t like it. I think the regime will continue to behave in that manner and I think we’re going to continue to have to either react or back down or ignore it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we will talk about that in just a moment.

    Andrew Exum, in your view, was this inevitable, it was going to happen just because of the kind of war that is being fought there?

    ANDREW EXUM, Former Defense Department Official: Well, I think what Faysal said is very wise, and that often we have seen the tail wag the dog with respect to the Syrian regime and its external sponsors.

    Often, they have not carried out what Russia or Iran would like them to do. So, I think that’s very wise. I would also say, however, that where we are in the military campaign against the Islamic State means that U.S. and other coalition forces are going to be in closer proximity to Syrian regime forces.

    Now, you know, the legal and policy assumptions that underpin the U.S. and coalition war against the Islamic State was that the Syrian regime couldn’t exert any type of sovereignty east, where the Islamic State has been. That’s beginning to change, and the coalition is starting to spread out as well.

    So, unfortunately, you’re seeing those forces in greater proximity, and I expect you are going to see more of these incidents in the future.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that your expectation, that this is just getting more complicated by the day, practically?

    FAYSAL ITANI: I think we’re getting closer to our primary objectives towards ISIS, which is to take a certain amount of core territory in Eastern Syria and especially around the Raqqa province.

    So, yes, physically, it brings us in greater proximity, but it also poses a threat to the regime that we may end up actually handing over very important strategic territory to our own allies, whether it’s Arabs or most likely the Kurdish-dominated SDF.

    And that includes water resources. It includes oil resources. And so now that the regime has stabilized the west enough to be able to throw forces elsewhere, and Iran has as well, then they’re coming in our direction, and I don’t think we have a long-term plan for that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And I do want to ask you both about that.

    But, Andrew Exum, I was struck today. The Russians came — right out of the box, they were saying they’re now going to target any U.S. plane — I’m sorry — any plane by the U.S. coalition that goes into a certain area.

    Is this just ripe for either another strike or miscalculation?

    ANDREW EXUM: Yes and no.

    Yes, of course, this is worrying. I think it’s going to be a real concern to our coalition partners. It’s a pretty robust integrated air defense system over most of Syria. And that is not a fun thing to fly around and through.

    Their air defenses are actually not as strong in the east. Russia also cut off the deconfliction hot line. I wouldn’t read too much into that. They have done it before. It in Russia’s interests to be able to deconflict our air operations, just as much as it is in the interests of the United States and the coalition partners.

    So, I suspect that, once the temperatures cool a little bit, that those deconfliction channels will be up and running again. But, obviously, it’s worrying. And the Russians, of course, will use this as an opportunity to convince the Americans that we need to be working closer together in Syria, which is something that we have been, for obvious reasons, quite resistant to do.


    So, Faysal Itani, this does pull the U.S. closer in, doesn’t it?

    FAYSAL ITANI: I think what we have tried to do so far in the war is, we have tried to sort of tiptoe around the western part of the country, the war in the west, what we call the civil war usually in our discourse, and focus on the war that we wish to fight, which is the war against ISIS.

    I think this is a sign that, actually, as far as the players with the most at stake here, Iran and the Syrian regime, are concerned, these are not separate wars. This is all war over territory and over resources and over influence.

    And I think we are having to come to a conclusion, that we’re stumbling into it somewhat, but I think we will get there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is it possible, Andrew Exum, to separate the two?

    ANDREW EXUM: Well, I think Faysal is right.

    On the one hand, I think the regime still has quite a lot of consolidation to do in Western Syria, but I think Faysal is correct in that the regime still yearns after the oil and gas resources that are in the east of Syria.

    And I think, quite frankly, the regime’s Iranian backers want some sort of land bridge into Iraq, which is why the Euphrates River Valley is so important to perhaps not as much as the regime, but certainly to its Iranian supporters and to Hezbollah as well.

    So, yes, to Faysal is right. The strategic geography does not end in Western Syria. It extends to the east as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to ask both of you if it’s clear to you — Faysal Itani, to you first.

    Is it clear to you what the goal of the U.S. mission right now is in Syria?

    FAYSAL ITANI: Well, the official goal is clear enough, which is, we’re there to defeat ISIS, to displace it from Raqqa and other territories.

    What exactly the territorial scope of that is, is not clear. But what we’re actually doing as this conflict evolves and unfolds and more dimensions are added to it, no, I don’t think — it’s not clear to me. I don’t even know if it’s clear to us, to be honest with you, because I don’t know how important we think it is to compete with the Iranians and the Syrian regime over this territory and over influence in post-ISIS Syria.

    It seems like we haven’t made a decision.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you answer that question, Andrew Exum?

    ANDREW EXUM: Well, I think largely the same.

    I will say that the United States has first off had a legal basis and has had policy agreement on defeating the Islamic State. So that’s been where the U.S. military and its coalition partners have been focused. There has not been consensus or even a legal basis to carry that fight over to the Assad regime.

    And so I think the United States and its coalition partners have some real hard choices going forward. And when I say coalition partners, I don’t just mean the international community, but I mean the partners on the ground as well.

    For example, when they defeat the Islamic State — and the Islamic State is going to be defeated — or is the United States fine with the territory that’s been won back from the Islamic State falling into the hands of the Assad regime? Is that an appropriate or acceptable policy outcome?

    If it’s not, then I think some decisions are going to have to be made quite quickly. Otherwise, we’re going to end up stumbling into a broader conflict without a clear strategy to win that conflict.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And wrapping up, Faysal Itani, how urgent is it that the U.S. make these decisions?

    FAYSAL ITANI: Very urgent, because these things that you saw today and have been happening over the — actually over the past few weeks, and they haven’t been happening only as sort of airstrike incidents.

    There was actually a ground attack on our partners in Northern Syria. I’m a bit scared that it hasn’t — it doesn’t appear to have actually been wrapped up yet as a strategic discussion.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean by the administration.

    FAYSAL ITANI: By the United States government, yes.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just quickly, Andrew Exum, how do you see the pressure on the administration to make this decision?

    ANDREW EXUM: Well, I think there are competing voices within the administration.

    I think the military has been almost myopically focused on defeating the Islamic State, because that’s the mission they have been given. I think there are also some strong voices within the administration that would like to broaden this conflict in order to focus on Iran and Iran’s proxies in Syria.

    That’s quite dangerous, obviously. That could be especially dangerous to get in that type of escalation without having the forces on the ground. And there is also no consensus with the United States’ international partners regarding that goal.

    So, I think, unfortunately, the administration has yet to make up its mind.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Nothing simple about this one.

    Andrew Exum, Faysal Itani, thank you both.

    FAYSAL ITANI: Thank you.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The American college student imprisoned by North Korea for over a year has died, just days after being returned to the U.S. in a coma.

    Otto Warmbier went to North Korea as part of a tour group in 2015. He was jailed for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster. His parents announced his death in statement late today, blaming what they call the awful, tortuous mistreatment their son received at the hands of the North Korean regime. Warmbier was 22 years old.

    In a statement late today, President Trump said: “The U.S. condemns the brutality of the North Korean regime as we mourn its latest victim.”

    Tensions are rising once again between the U.S. and Russia over the conflict in Syria. The U.S. downing of a Syrian warplane prompted a warning from Moscow. Some aircraft from the U.S. led coalition will be now tracked as potential threats. We will take a closer look at the downing of the plane, and what it means for the situation in Syria, after the news summary.

    The U.S. Supreme Court is taking up the way states redraw congressional districts in a Wisconsin case that could have far-reaching consequences. The justices agreed today to hear whether Republicans drew electoral districts that violated the rights of Democrats.

    Also today, the high court struck down part of a law that bans offensive trademarks. An Asian-American rock band called the Slants had been denied a trademark. The decision could help the Washington Redskins football team in its own legal fight.

    The court also struck down a North Carolina law banning convicted sex offenders from social media sites.

    The Cuban government today rejected President Trump’s new policy toward the island nation. On Friday, the president announced a rollback of re-engagement with Havana. He ordered restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba and dealings with its military.

    Today, on a trip to Austria, Cuba’s foreign minister delivered a sharp rebuke of the policy changes.

    BRUNO RODRIGUEZ, Foreign Minister, Cuba: President Trump’s policy constitutes a setback in bilateral relations. The announced measures will not serve their intended purposes. Quite on the contrary, they will impose restrictions on citizens’ freedoms, they will cost taxpayers more money.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The foreign minister also said that the U.S. has no — quote — “legal or moral basis” to demand the return of political refugees who’ve received asylum in Cuba.

    There’s been yet another terrorist attack in London. At least nine people were wounded after a van plowed into worshipers outside a mosque. British media named the suspect as 47-year-old Darren Osborne, who was living in wales.

    Fatima Manji from Independent Television News reports.

    FATIMA MANJI: Pulled out of a van and pinned down, moments after he appeared to drive it into a crowd, injuring Muslim worshipers who just left mosque in Finsbury Park.

    Amid commotion, he’s bundled into police custody. And watch this reaction as he sits down, a wave for the cameras. Events began as an elderly man had collapsed, and a group were giving him first aid. The van plowed through them, and then hit others walking on the street. The victims are thought to be different ages and races, but all Muslim.

    MAN: There was quite a few people around him trying to restrain him and so forth, waiting for the police to arrive. And there were also people who were trying to rip him apart. And they were people who were saying, no, wait for the police to arrive.

    FATIMA MANJI: Later in the morning, the Met Police confirmed there are no other suspects and that this man wasn’t known to security service. He’s being held on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism, including murder and attempted murder.

    By early afternoon, the prime minister had arrived. She sought to quickly reassure.

    THERESA MAY, Prime Minister, United Kingdom: The terrible terrorist attack that took place last night was an evil act, born out of hatred, and it has devastated a community. I’m pleased to have been here today to see the strength of that community.

    FATIMA MANJI: But as she left, she was heckled with chants of “May must go. ”

    Extra police patrols have now been promised to protect Muslim communities, particularly while Ramadan, the month of fasting, is ongoing.

    MAYOR SADIQ KHAN, London: This attack behind me in Seven Sisters, the attack in Manchester, the attack on London Bridge, the attack on Westminster Bridge are all an attack on our shared values, our shared values of tolerance and freedom and respect, and we will not allow these terrorists to succeed.

    FATIMA MANJI: Meanwhile, the flowers are laid, the candles lit, another terror attack, another tribute. London mourns again.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: One man did die on the scene, but it wasn’t clear whether it was a direct result of the attack.

    Also today, a man in Paris was killed after ramming a car carrying explosives into a police vehicle on the Champs Elysees. No one else was hurt.

    The death toll from last week’s high-rise apartment building fire in London has risen to 79. Police say the number includes both confirmed dead and those missing and presumed dead. Across West London, a moment of silence was held today for the victims. Emergency service workers bowed their heads to pay tribute.

    The U.S. Navy has identified the seven sailors who died in a collision between their destroyer and a container ship off Japan. Searchers recovered the bodies in flooded compartments of the USS Fitzgerald. The ship has returned to its home port of Yokosuka. The cause of Saturday’s pre-dawn collision is being investigated.

    The number of displaced people worldwide reached a record 65.6 million last year. The U.N. Refugee Agency reports that the figure was up slightly from the previous year, mostly due to the civil war in South Sudan. Meanwhile, in the Mediterranean, U.N. officials say nearly 130 migrants drowned last week, when their dinghy foundered off the coast of Libya.

    The talks to lead Britain out of the European Union are off to what is being called a constructive start. So says the U.K. negotiator David Davis, who formally began negotiations with his E.U. counterpart in Brussels today. It’s been nearly a year since British voters opted to quit the E.U.

    And on Wall Street today, more new records set. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 144 points to close at 21528. The Nasdaq rose 87, and the S&P 500 added 20.

    The post News Wrap: Student jailed by North Korea dies after returning to U.S. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    President Donald Trump offered his condolences to the family of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who died after being imprisoned in North Korea for the past 17 months.

    “Melania and I offer our deepest condolences to the family of Otto Warmbier on his untimely passing. There is nothing more tragic for a parent than to lose a child in the prime of life,” the president said in a statement.

    The president then condemned the “brutality of the North Korean regime,” adding that Warmbier’s death deepened his administration’s determination “to prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency.”

    The 22-year-old died earlier Monday in Cincinnati, Ohio, days after North Korea released the Warmbier to the U.S. in a coma. The North Korea government claimed Warmbier fell into a coma resulted from contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill in 2016. However, doctors in the U.S. did not find evidence of the illness, saying last week that Warmbier suffered a “severe neurological injury.”

    While Trump met with tech CEOs today, the president said a lot of “bad things happened” to Warmbier while he was detained in North Korea.

    “But at least we got him home to be with his parents where they were so happy to see him, even though he was in very tough condition. But he just passed away a little while ago. It is a brutal regime and we’ll be able to handle it,” the president said.

    Warbier traveled to North Korea in 2016 with the help of the Young Pioneer Tours group. The North Korea government said the University of Virginia student was detained after he had allegedly attempted to steal a political poster from his hotel.

    The post Trump offers condolences to family whose son died after North Korean detainment 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

    A job seeker talks to an exhibitor at the Colorado Hospital Association health care career fair in Denver April 9, 2013. Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters

    Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

    In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

    Question: I was given an official, conditional job offer. The letter stated that if I met the conditions of the job offer (and it listed the conditions) that the offer would be finalized.

    I completed the conditions and the local hiring manager scheduled my start date. I put in my two weeks’ notice at work. Two business days before my start date, they rescinded my job offer, citing that I was not “rehireable.” (I worked for a company owned by this company over eight years ago, and it ended oddly, but I disclosed that I worked for them previously on my application.)

    They said that the company is an “at will” employer, so they didn’t have to honor anything said in the letter. Do I have any legal recourse? I have no job at all now. Thank you.

    Nick Corcodilos: I’m very sorry to hear this. Such stories about rescinded job offers are too common nowadays, and we’ve discussed this problem before. But it’s such a tragic problem that we need to keep talking about it.

    READ MORE: Ask the Headhunter: Are disappearing job offers a new trend?

    I’m not a lawyer, so you should seek counsel from a good lawyer that specializes in employment law. However, I’ll give you my thoughts with the proviso that this is, of course, not legal advice.

    If you work in an “at-will” state, the employer may be able to fire you for any reason or no reason at any time. What that implies — though you should check with a lawyer about your specific case — is that they could complete the hire and fire you the same day. So you see the problem.

    Now let’s go back to what you stated: You were given an “official, conditional job offer.” The word “conditional” is key. That left the door open for them to not make the hire after all. Here’s where it may get complicated legally and why you need a lawyer.

    Did you meet the conditions?

    You believe you met all the conditions to lift the contingency, but apparently they don’t agree. What you should have done before quitting your old job was to get a written confirmation from the new employer that you had in fact met the conditions. I can’t emphasize this enough: Never quit your job unless you are absolutely sure the new job is locked up. Please see “Protect yourself from exploding job offers.”

    READ MORE: Why it’s risky to give notice when you quit

    Of course, in an “at-will” state this may nonetheless be a moot point. But it’s up to you to take all reasonable precautions to protect yourself.

    Did the hiring manager’s actions suggest you met the conditions?

    The hiring manager scheduled your start date, which seems to imply you met the necessary conditions. A good lawyer might be able to do something with that.

    Did the employer break a promise and hurt you?

    Additionally, there’s the matter of whether you will now suffer because the promise of a job was broken. Retired employment attorney Lawrence Barty explains it like this:

    A person who reasonably acts in reliance upon a promise and then suffers detrimentally because the promise is broken has a cause of action called Promissory Estoppel. The Promiser is ‘estopped’ from rescinding the promise if the Promiser knew or had reason to know that the Promisee would rely upon the promise to the Promisee’s detriment.

    That is, if you informed the new employer that you were going to quit your old job and you lose your income, because you were relying on their job offer, then an attorney may be able to make a case for you. Barty goes on to say:

    The Promisee in such a case, once the proof has been accepted, is entitled to be made whole. For example, if A quits his job and then is left without work for a period until he finds comparable employment, A is entitled to Reliance Damages in an amount equal to the lost wages and benefits.

    Don’t rush into a big decision

    Too often, job seekers are so thrilled at a new job offer that they make assumptions and move too quickly. That’s understandable. But when the potential consequences of making a mistake are huge — and losing your income is a huge risk — then it’s time to slow down and be extra careful about actions you take, like quitting your old job. (This is such an important topic that I wrote a whole book about it: “Parting Company: How to leave your job.”)

    READ MORE: Ask the Headhunter: Is this job offer for real?

    The critical tip-off in your story is in your first sentence: The offer was conditional. But please don’t misunderstand my position on this. While you bear some responsibility, employers who rescind offers so cavalierly are irresponsible. The tip-off about this employer was in what they said to you: “They said … they didn’t have to honor anything said in the letter.” That’s just unacceptable.

    While the doctrine caveat emptor — let the buyer beware — certainly holds here, a good employer nonetheless owes a job applicant a big, loud caution about not quitting their old job until a new job is certain. And you owed yourself a more cautious attitude until it was all finalized.

    Get legal advice

    As you can see, it’s complicated and that’s why a qualified attorney is your best bet. I’m sure you’d rather not spend money on a lawyer, but I think the price of at least an initial consultation is well worth it since we’re talking about the loss of your salary. I’d talk to a lawyer immediately.

    I wish you the best, and I’d love to know the outcome of this.

    A word to HR managers

    Rescinding a job offer is a really lousy thing to do. If your integrity and your company’s matter to you, please read the section “Stop rescinding offers” in the article “HR Managers: Do your job, or get out.” If you work in HR, we’d love to hear your side of this problem.

    Dear Readers: Have you ever had a job offer rescinded? Did you quit your old job, only to wind up on the street? What did you do about it? How would you advise this reader?

    Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

    Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

    Copyright © 2016 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

    The post Ask the Headhunter: What can I do after my job offer was rescinded? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, flanked by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), and Sen. John Thune (R-SD), speaks to reporters after the weekly policy luncheons on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S. May 16, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RTX3645H

    Senate Republicans led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have worked behind closed doors to craft a health care bill. Some details of the plan have emerged. Photo by REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

    This is unprecedented in modern American governing: Senate Republicans are hoping to vote on a potentially massive health care bill next week, despite a lack of hearings or any public indication of the details of their plan. As former Senate historian Don Ritchie told the Los Angeles Times, it has been a full century since the Senate has approached a major piece of legislation with such a closed and partisan process.

    The reasons for this approach have to do with the complexity of the debate and the GOP’s slim majority in the Senate. Senate Republicans need 50 of their 52 members to agree on the bill. Republicans are still sorting out what combination of ideas will get them there, and they know that the more public the discussion is, the more likely it is that critics and senators may find new issues with the ideas on the table.

    There is not yet a bill. But we do know a little about some key ideas in play behind closed doors.


    The largest health care program in the country is currently the toughest issue for Senate Republicans to navigate, according to senators involved in the talks.

    What is being discussed? 1) Phasing out the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, potentially over three years from 2020 to 2023, though some Republicans want a longer, seven-year phase-out. 2) Capping and reducing Medicaid funding. And 3) Possibly lowering the automatic growth rate for Medicaid in the future.

    How do these ideas compare with the House GOP’s health care bill? Both proposals would significantly reduce the amount of federal money going to states to pay for health care for the poor. The House would end the Medicaid expansion more quickly. But overall, the Senate bill may end up cutting the Medicaid program more than the House, especially if the upper chamber cuts down the program’s automatic, inflation-related growth rate.

    Unresolved? Many debates on Medicaid remain unresolved, but they include a furious battle over the funding formula for states. The question is whether states which have spent less on Medicaid should be rewarded for their efficiency with a preferential funding formula. Senators from high-cost states insist that efficiency is not the key factor, and that they need more funding. The issue could divide the GOP.


    What is being discussed? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., reportedly wants to keep in place protections for people with pre-existing conditions, but also allow states to end requirements that insurers cover some basic health needs, like hospitalization, mental health, and prenatal and childbirth care, that are known as “essential benefits.”

    How does that compare with the House? There is a large difference between the chambers on pre-existing conditions. The House bill would allow states to remove cost protections for those with pre-existing conditions, so that insurers could charge their clients significantly more based on past illness and other medical conditions. However, the two chambers seem to be on a similar page when it comes to essential benefits.


    What is being discussed? Multiple GOP Senate sources tell us that the bill is leaning away from blocking federal funding for Planned Parenthood. This is still under discussion, but at least two key Republican senators — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine — have said they cannot support a bill that defunds the group. In addition, it is not clear that such a move would pass Senate rules for what can be in the bill and still get passed with just 51 votes.

    How does that compare with the House? The House bill would defund Planned Parenthood. This issue could be a major sticking point for the two chambers if the Senate bill keeps Planned Parenthood funding in place.


    What’s being discussed? Senate Republicans are talking about including some form of federal tax credit to help lower health care costs, especially for those struggling to afford insurance. The tax credit may differ based on age or income.

    How does that compare with the House? The House has a similar concept in its plan, with tax credits ranging from $2,000 to $4,000 for people below a certain income.

    Unresolved? The discussion in the Senate is reportedly continuing over whether this should be a flat credit; the same amount for most people who qualify; or something that rises as income drops.


    What’s being discussed? Senate Republicans are mulling several other issues as they craft their health care plan. They include: potentially tens of millions of dollars to help curb the opioid crisis; a possible federal reinsurance pool for people with chronic illnesses; and significantly waiving or rolling back Obama-era insurance regulations.

    The post What we know about the Senate health care plan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    President Donald Trump says that he appreciates China’s efforts to exert pressure on North Korea, but “it has not worked out.”

    Trump tweeted Tuesday, “While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!”

    His tweet comes a day after learning that Otto Warmbier, an American student who was returned from North Korea to the U.S. in a coma last week, had died.

    Trump said Tuesday that it was a “total disgrace” what happened to Warmbier, but doctors and the administration haven’t offered an explanation for the student’s condition preceding his death.

    READ MORE: Trump offers condolences to family whose son died after North Korean detainment

    Trump has called repeatedly on China to help exert pressure on North Korea, particularly with regard to its nuclear ambitions.

    The Trump administration is considering banning travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea, officials said Tuesday, as outrage grew over the death Otto Warmbier and President Donald Trump declared it a “total disgrace.”

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has the authority to cut off travel to North Korea with the stroke of the pen, has been weighing such a move since late April, when American teacher Tony Kim was detained in Pyongyang, a senior State Department official said. No ban is imminent, but deliberations gained new urgency after Warmbier’s death, said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss internal diplomatic discussions.

    WATCH: Parents of U.S. student freed from North Korea speak out

    The post Trump: China’s pressure on North Korea hasn’t worked appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. National Economic Director Gary Cohn discusses the Trump administration's tax reform proposal in the White House briefing room in Washington, U.S, April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RTS141JO

    U.S. National Economic Director Gary Cohn, seen here talking to reporters at the White House, said the administration doesn’t want to engage in prolonged negotiations after its tax package is made public this fall. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

    WASHINGTON — The White House plans to privately negotiate a massive overhaul of the tax system with Republican leaders in Congress, possibly giving rank-and-file members little if any say over the finished product, a top aide to President Donald Trump said Tuesday.

    Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic aide, said the administration doesn’t want to engage in prolonged negotiations after the package is made public this fall. Cohn said the goal is to release the overhaul in the first two weeks of September.

    “We don’t want to be negotiating the tax bill on the floor,” Cohn said at a meeting of technology executives.

    WATCH: Ryan, Pence speak on overhauling tax code this year

    This type of top-down approach has a sketchy record on Capitol Hill, especially on issues as difficult to maneuver as the first remake of the nation’s tax code in 31 years. Earlier this year, House members balked when Trump officials demanded that they vote on a bill to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s health law.

    The House narrowly passed the bill only after lengthy negotiations among lawmakers.

    Such an approach also would come as Senate Republicans have been widely criticized for crafting a health care bill behind closed doors, with even some in the GOP complaining about the secretive process.

    Nonetheless, Republican leaders put a happy face on their efforts Tuesday, despite offering no evidence of progress in overcoming their differences.

    This type of top-down approach has a sketchy record on Capitol Hill, especially on issues as difficult to maneuver as the first remake of the nation’s tax code in 31 years.

    “Let’s not talk about why we can’t do something. Let’s talk about how fantastic things will be if we get this done,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told the National Association of Manufacturers. “Let’s not talk about this little tax break or that little tax break. Let’s talk about the big picture.”

    In April, the administration unveiled a one-page proposal that called for massive tax cuts for businesses and a bigger standard tax deduction for middle-income families, lower investment taxes for the wealthy and an end to the federal estate tax for the superrich — like the president and his family.

    The plan also calls for eliminating the federal deduction for state and local taxes, a proposal opposed by Democrats and some Republicans in states like New York, New Jersey and California.

    Ryan said he is confident Congress can pass a tax package by the end of the year, despite political divisions among Republicans and a crowded legislative agenda for Congress.

    He acknowledged it won’t be easy. But he preached against settling for something less than a complete overhaul of the tax system.

    PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff talks on Politics Monday about why tax reform is so important to Republicans.

    A growing number of Republicans say they would rather just cut taxes than take on the difficult task of simplifying the tax code, which would include eliminating many tax breaks to finance lower overall tax rates.

    “We will not wait for a path free of obstacles because it does not exist. And we will not cast about for quick fixes and half-measures,” Ryan said. “Transformational tax reform can be done, and we are moving forward. Full speed ahead.”

    House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office released a statement calling Ryan’s remarks “minor platitudes for hard-working Americans,” short on specifics.

    It has been about a year since Ryan and other House Republicans released a blueprint for how they would overhaul the tax code. Yet Ryan didn’t provide any additional information about his tax plan or the state of negotiations among White House officials and Republican leaders in Congress.

    Mulvaney: Trump tax plan benefits middle class and ‘the places where they work’

    Even if the White House were to forge an agreement among congressional leaders, the resulting package would still need to get buy-in from rank-and-file members, said Rohit Kumar, a former tax counsel to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who now heads PwC’s Washington tax office.

    “The one lesson we learned we from 2017 is that everything takes longer than you think it will,” he said.

    One area of disagreement is Ryan’s support for a new tax on imports to help finance a lower overall tax rate for corporations, and to encourage U.S. companies to stay in the United States. The tax, however, has no support in the Senate and is vigorously opposed by retailers who worry that it will increase the cost of consumer goods.

    Under the procedure the GOP is planning to use, the tax package cannot add to long-term budget deficits. That means for every tax cut, there has to be a tax increase, at least over the long term.

    Congressional Republicans are planning to pass a tax package under a procedure in which they need only a simple majority in the Senate — preventing Democrats from blocking it. Under the procedure, the tax package cannot add to long-term budget deficits.

    That means for every tax cut, there has to be a tax increase, at least over the long term.

    Vice President Mike Pence, who addressed the manufacturers before Ryan, promised “the largest tax cut since the days of Ronald Reagan.”

    “We’ll cut taxes across the board for working families, small businesses and family farms. We’ll simplify the tax code by cutting seven brackets down to three,” Pence said. “We’ll eliminate the alternative minimum tax, end almost every deduction and under President Donald Trump we’ll repeal the death tax once and for all.”

    Associated Press writer Kenneth Thomas contributed to this report.

    The post Trump aide says White House will privately negotiate tax overhaul appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WARNING: Video contains graphic footage that may be disturbing to viewers.

    Newly released dashcam footage shows what happened in the moments before Officer Jeronimo Yanez fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop last summer.

    The Minnesota Department of Public Safety released the 10-minute video, along with audio of the radio communications between Yanez and other law enforcement, to public Tuesday. Both recordings were played during the trial for Yanez, who faced one count of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of reckless discharge of a firearm in connection with Castile’s death.

    After days of deliberations last week, a jury found Yanez not guilty on all counts related to the July 6, 2016 shooting. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s shown — and not shown — in the video.

    • Shortly after Yanez approaches the driver’s side of Castile’s vehicle, the officer says there’s a broken taillight. Yanez is then heard asking for insurance and identification.
    • Castile hands something to Yanez; prosecutors say it was his insurance. Castile then calmly says, “Sir, I have to tell you, I do have a firearm on me.” At this, Yanez is seen laying his right hand on the gun in his holster.
    • The scene escalates very quickly from here. In a matter of seconds, there’s a quick succession of moments: Yanez says, “Don’t reach for it then”; Castile says, “I’m not pulling it out”; Yanez then says, “Don’t pull it out!” twice before removing his weapon from his holster and firing seven shots into the car. (Police investigators later said that five of those shots struck Castile). The video does not give a complete picture of what happened in the car during the encounter.
    • Meanwhile Officer Joseph Kauser can be seen on the other side of the car. He does not engage with the passengers and never draws his weapon during the fatal encounter. Kauser testified that he didn’t think the situation was threatening until Yanez opened fire, nor did he ever saw a gun in the car. However, Kauser said in court that he believed Yanez “followed protocol,” Pioneer Press reported.
    • Diamond Reynolds, a woman thought to be Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, is heard saying “you just killed my boyfriend!” Reynolds, shortly after the shooting occurred, decided to live stream the fallout from the shooting to Facebook. You can hear her recapping her version of the events, presumably for an audience online. Reynolds also testified in court that Castile had followed Yanez’s orders.
    • Yanez, reacting to the shooting, continues to yell with expletives. He keeps his gun pointed toward the car until more officers arrive at the scene.

    In the radio clip also released today, Yanez is heard saying he’s going to stop a car because two people inside looked like suspects in a robbery.

    “The driver looks more like one of our suspects, just ’cause of the wide-set nose,” Yanez said.

    The jury’s acquittal of Yanez — who told jurors he acted in self-defense when he opened fire on Castile — prompted thousands to protest last week in St. Paul, Minnesota.

    Castile’s mother, Valerie, told reporters after the verdict’s announcement that “my son was murdered, and I will continue to say murdered, because where in this planet do you tell the truth, and you be honest, and you still be murdered by the police of Minnesota, while you have your seat belt on and you’re in the company with a woman and a child? My son would never jeopardize anyone else’s life.”

    Tim Nelson of Minnesota Public Radio told the NewsHour that some factors, including the squad car video, left some doubt in the jury’s minds.

    “What we saw was, this happened very quickly. And you could feel the emotion, you could feel the tension in this situation as it happened,” Nelson said. “And it’s confounding. You can’t see what was actually going on in the car. And I think that that left some doubt there,” he added.

    READ MORE: Jury finds Minnesota officer not guilty in shooting death of Philando Castile

    The post Dashcam footage shows Philando Castile’s fatal encounter with police appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: Humorist David Sedaris plumbs his own diaries for his latest book showcasing life’s idiosyncrasies.

    Jeffrey Brown sat down with Sedaris recently, amidst his performing around the country in some 120 cities.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A 60-year-old hugely successful writer looking back at his younger self, the one before the millions of books sold, the countless live appearances before adoring audiences and often, in his culottes, the regular appearances on late-night TV.

    On a recent morning, we joined David Sedaris at the archives of La MaMa Theatre in Lower Manhattan, one of the small stages where he first told stories.

    In a new book titled “Theft By Finding,” Sedaris offers a kind of fractured portrait of the artist behind the stories, through his personal diaries.

    DAVID SEDARIS, Author, “Theft by Finding”: Trying this persona on and that persona on and, you know, trying acting, and oh, now look, I’m trying sculpture, and now, all the sudden, I’m a painter. But that you could kind of settle on being yourself, completely yourself, and have that be the thing that works, is being yourself, is, to me, incredible.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Sedaris was raised in a large family in Raleigh, North Carolina, and many of his stories involve his parents and siblings, including sister Amy, a well-known humorist in her own right.

    His colorfully titled story collections, including “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim,” and “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls,” are perennial bestsellers. And NPR regularly replays perhaps his most famous story, “SantaLand Diaries,” about the time he worked as an elf at Macy’s.

    DAVID SEDARIS: Twenty-two thousand people came to see Santa today, and not all of them were well-behaved. Today, I witnessed fistfights and vomiting and magnificent tantrums.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That experience appears in his diaries beginning on October 31, 1990, when he is told: “Congratulations, Mr. Sedaris. You are an elf.”

    So, you can’t not write and keep a diary?

    DAVID SEDARIS: Well, it’s funny, because, sometimes, people would say, oh, that’s very disciplined. But it’s not a discipline. It is a compulsion.

    I should be out doing things, but I have to write about these people I saw at dinner the night before. I have to write about the bellman at my hotel. I have to write about something that ultimately doesn’t matter at all. But I — I don’t know. I can’t move on until I get that down.

    JEFFREY BROWN: When you overhear something or you record something in your diary, is there kind of, aha, this is something I can use?

    DAVID SEDARIS: I flew here from London. I was at Newark Airport waiting for someone to pick me up.

    And I saw a couple, and they were in their mid-60s. And then she said to him, where’s the other suitcase? And he said, what other suitcase? She said, you left home dragging two suitcases behind you. Now you have got one. The other one is mine. Where’s my suitcase? You lost my suitcase.

    I thought, wow. I mean, I have been in a similar situation, right? And just the entire look on her face, like, if I could leave you now, or if I could kill you now, I would do it.

    And so I had to write about that. Maybe one day, I would write a story about arguing in public, and those would come in handy in some way.

    But it’s also, like, if I were going to remember yesterday, I flew here in an airplane and I did this and that. But that was really the moment yesterday where I felt like I was living my life, like I was in the moment. I wasn’t thinking about the past or about the future. I was just right there living, visiting and listening, watching those people have an argument.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And that sense is important to you somehow?

    DAVID SEDARIS: Well, because I spend so much time like living in the past or the future. I mean, I think most people do, really. And the moments when you’re really present in your life can be pretty rare, really.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Sedaris’ stories appear regularly in “The New Yorker.” On the day we got together, he was just finishing a new one.

    So, in the printed stories and on stage, you’re presenting, in some sense, a character named David, David Sedaris, right? Your family members, your partner, Hugh. Talking to you now, I’m not sure if you think of them as characters or you’re just writing yourself.

    DAVID SEDARIS: Well, I think people are people in real life, but the second you put them on page — on the page, they become characters.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And how worked over are your stories?

    DAVID SEDARIS: Gosh, the story that — I sent in a draft this morning for this New Yorker story that we’re closing, and it’s the 21st draft.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Twenty-first draft?

    DAVID SEDARIS: Mm-hmm.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Is it tinkering over words or jokes or …

    DAVID SEDARIS: It’s tinkering over words. I will go on tour with, like, let’s say three new stories, and I will read them and go back to the room and rewrite them, and read them and rewrite them.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And what does a story in the end have to have to be successful, to work for you?

    DAVID SEDARIS: It used to be about just racking up laughs, right? But I think you need, like, some sorrow to give the laughter a bit of weight. And that’s when you remember things. Or that’s when I remember things.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So people come and they want — you think they want laughter, but you want something more. You want to give them something more. What is that more?

    DAVID SEDARIS: I want to connect with them. I want them to — usually, it’s the worst thing you can admit about yourself that most people can relate to. Right?

    It was so surprising to me when I realized that, that when I thought, well, if you write about, say, your own jealousy, people aren’t going to think, oh, he’s a horrible person because he’s jealous. They will think, that’s me.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Was there always an ambition? Was there always a kind of craving to not only get to a bigger world, but reach people?

    DAVID SEDARIS: Yes. It’s all I ever wanted. It’s all I ever thought about.

    When I go on tour and I’m on stage and the lights come up at the end and I see those people, people say, oh, that must be awful. You go on tour and you go to 40 cities in 41 days. And then you have the book signing. And that’s people standing in line to say how much they love you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, for hours sometimes.

    DAVID SEDARIS: And I don’t see any part of that that’s negative.


    DAVID SEDARIS: It’s all I ever dreamed about like from age to 6 up.

    JEFFREY BROWN: David Sedaris will continue to tell his stories and write his diaries in his travels at home and abroad this summer.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Jeffrey Brown in New York.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Fifty percent of health care spending in the U.S. can be traced to just 5 percent of the population. Those are the sickest and often poorest Americans who spend much of their time cycling in and out of costly emergency care.

    While congressional leaders square off toward a vote next week on the future of the health care law, there are pilot projects on the ground that are focused on how to improve treating this group of patients and also to save money. That’s even the case in remote areas.

    Special correspondent Jackie Judd has our report from Kalispell, Montana.

    JACKIE JUDD: Not so long ago, Sheran Greene and her beloved dog were living in a car in downtown Kalispell, Montana, and routinely heading to the local emergency room because of chronic lung disease and the need for an electrical outlet.

    SHERAN GREENE, Patient, Kalispell Regional Healthcare: I was there like clockwork every day, sometimes being treated, sometimes having to charge up my oxygen machine, which I used, because I had no electricity. Sometimes just getting out of the cold.

    JACKIE JUDD: It is this cycle of patients going in and out of the hospital, at great cost, with not much benefit, that the group around this table is trying to break.

    MEETING LEADER: How can we avoid some of these emergency room visits that really are not necessary?

    JACKIE JUDD: A pilot program funded by the federal government and a foundation began late last year in Kalispell, Billings and Helena.

    JANE EMMERT, Community Health Worker: How are you?


    JACKIE JUDD: Health care players already in the community now team up in a very deliberate way to identify high-needs patients and to go well beyond the traditional bounds of medical care.

    JANE EMMERT: Do you think you can find housing that’ll take your Section 8 voucher?

    SHERAN GREENE: Oh, yes.

    JACKIE JUDD: Lara Shadwick directs the Montana program.

    LARA SHADWICK: Some of the themes really rest on social determinants of health: lack of transportation, housing insecurity, food insecurity, economics, finances. Those are really some of the drivers that are the commonalities for these patients.

    JACKIE JUDD: The Kalispell care team runs lean. There are community health workers, like Jane Emmert, who are trained to manage non-medical issues. And the head of the team, registered nurse Lesly Starling.

    Together, they aim to reset the paths these patients are on.

    LESLY STARLING, ReSource Nurse, Kalispell Regional Healthcare: They’re so sick. They have gotten so used to the way that they live. I do feel like patients get very used to their environment, and they get very used to their choices. They get very used to their lifestyle. And it’s not — it’s almost like they build up an immunity to what their life looks like.

    JACKIE JUDD: David Dixon was once a member of an emergency medical team and a fishing and hunting guide. Since a disabling motorcycle accident, he struggles with chronic pain and nausea, overuse of medications and episodes of depression and anxiety.

    In a 14-month period, Dixon went to the E.R. 42 times.

    DAVID DIXON, Patient, Kalispell Regional Healthcare: I just want to have a better life. I want to be able to wake up in the morning and have a halfway decent day. I would like to be able to make plans for tomorrow morning.

    JACKIE JUDD: In just a few weeks, the team has helped Dixon to reconnect with a pain specialist and link him up to a pharmacist to sort out the many medications he is on.

    RITA BARTLETT, Pharmacist: Are you taking that one also pretty regularly?

    DAVID DIXON: There’s so many medicines I’m taking, that I don’t know which ones are really helping and which ones aren’t at this point.

    JACKIE JUDD: Dixon, like so many high-needs patients, has mental health issues. Specialists in Kalispell are in short supply, so Starling typically gets advice from an expert some distance away about how best to work with patients.

    PATRICK VAN WYK, Psychologist: It sounds like you have been using a lot of those, some of the motivational interviewing skills that we have been talking about. Finding what kind of barriers there are for him. Finding what his goals are.

    JACKIE JUDD: Sometimes, a patient’s need is as basic as a roof over one’s head.

    The team found Sheran Greene an affordable apartment, which is no easy task in Kalispell. Starling acts as a liaison to Greene’s primary care doctor. And other community workers literally deliver Greene to Dr. Jonathan Anderson’s door.

    DR. JONATHAN ANDERSON, Greene’s Physician: Good.

    SHERAN GREENE: So, do I have a heart?

    DR. JONATHAN ANDERSON, Big Sky Family Medicine: It’s still beating.

    She’s allowing people into her life, is what she’s doing. Before, it was basically the E.R. and the hospital, and then she’d come in for follow-up visits here, and then she’d bounce around and come back. Now she’s allowing people from the community to come in, and allow them to help. Either help her move things, allow them to kind of check in on her and make sure she’s doing all right.

    JACKIE JUDD: When Greene was homeless, in one six-month period, her Medicare charges were $100,000. Since November, hospital charges are less than $6,000.

    By the time this pilot program ends, the hope is over $2 million will be saved. Programs like these first came to urban areas. Rolling one out in a vast rural state like Montana is a very different kind of experiment, with very unique challenges … starting with simple geography.

    JANE EMMERT, Director, ASSIST: Sometimes, we’re going on mountainous roads that are icy and treacherous. Sometimes, they’re narrow dirt roads that you aren’t sure that you want to go down.

    JACKIE JUDD: To get to a patient can be a 60-mile round trip. So Emmert frequently heads out on her own to their homes, as she did on this day, to visit 25-year-old Mackenzie Kramer, who is slowly recovering from major surgery.

    JANE EMMERT: So, if you try to do any of this, and it’s tough for you, just know what we’d be glad to help you fill it out.

    JACKIE JUDD: Emmert is there to help him manage the paperwork for disability, and to put him in touch with Starling, who can check up on many more patients if she stays behind in her Kalispell office.

    LESLY STARLING: How has the pain been?

    MACKENZIE KRAMER: It’s been manageable. It’s getting better, I think.

    JACKIE JUDD: The team also gently pushes Kramer to think about his future once his health stabilizes.

    JANE EMMERT: He’s got to have something to look forward to. So that’s why we’re looking into possibilities with college, or a job, that he could reclaim the life of a 25-year-old again.

    JANE EMMERT: Part of the goal is to help you connect to things you might not have already.

    DAVID DIXON: Somebody that knows where to go, how to do it.

    JACKIE JUDD: You have a whole team of people, right?

    DAVID DIXON: Well, I have a whole team of people.

    JACKIE JUDD: Progress with these patients can come in fits and starts. Less than 24 hours after a home visit filled with encouragement to manage his illnesses differently, David Dixon takes himself back to the E.R.

    JACKIE JUDD: What happened?

    DAVID DIXON: I woke up nauseous and vomiting, and took my medicines and couldn’t keep my medicines down, so I went for a trip to the hospital again.

    JACKIE JUDD: Dixon’s team wasn’t surprised that he went to the hospital, his visit a reminder of how fragile these patients are and how much work it takes to break the cycle.

    DAVID DIXON: It’s taken years to get me where I am. They’re starting to understand it. They’re starting to get programs together that fill in the gaps in the medical profession, where I had problems before.

    They don’t know everything. It’s not a magic wand, but at least they’re trying.

    JACKIE JUDD: The pilot program has another year to prove these intensive interventions can succeed, and, if so, whether there is the funding and the will to make them a new standard of care for the most challenging people to treat.

    For the NewsHour, this is Jackie Judd in Kalispell, Montana.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Two quick notes about Jackie’s story.

    It is not yet clear whether the moves by the president and Republicans to replace the Affordable Care Act will affect the funding of programs like this one.

    And, for the record, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which helps to fund the Kalispell pilot program, is also a funder of the NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: Schools are paying a lot more attention to what students post online, and that can have severe consequences for students and schools.

    Harvard University withdrew the admittance of at least 10 incoming freshmen who had reportedly posted violent, racist and sexually explicit content in a private Facebook group.

    High schools are cracking down, too, with some hiring outside companies to police social media posts.

    But monitoring online behavior is difficult, and civil rights groups are watching.

    Special correspondent Lisa Stark with our partner Education Week visited a school district in Arizona.

    LISA STARK: It’s just before summer break at Dysart High School in Surprise, Arizona, outside Phoenix. Students are eating lunch, signing yearbooks, and they’re immersed in social media.

    Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube. More than 90 percent of teens say they go online every day, and nearly a quarter are online almost constantly.

    Let me ask you, first of all, do you all have phones?

    STUDENT: Yes.

    STUDENT: Yes, we do.

    LISA STARK: Do you ever not have a phone with you?

    STUDENT: No.

    STUDENT: It’s always on.

    LISA STARK: We sat down with four Dysart students to talk about how they use social media.

    Snapchat, I post every single day, like, every day, all day.

    STUDENT: I always like post my thoughts, certain way I’m feeling. Depends on how I’m feeling that day.

    STUDENT: When I’m done with all my work, and if I don’t have any work from other classes, I just go on my phone and see what’s going on.

    STUDENT: I don’t really care who sees it. Like, I’m just posting it because I think it’s public. Like, I’m open about it.

    LISA STARK: The problem for schools, what happens on social media doesn’t always stay on social media.

    ALYSSA WAMSLEY, Student, Dysart High School: I see a lot of bullying on Facebook that it transfers to the school. And then, like, at the beginning of this year, this girl got into an altercation on Facebook, and she ended up fighting the girl at school.

    AMY HARTJEN, Principal, Dysart High School: When something’s posted on social media and it’s being talked about on campus and it disrupts learning, that’s when we have to step in and decide if there’s something that we need to react to.

    LISA STARK: Nationwide, a growing number of districts are watching what’s posted online for anything that might impact their schools.

    Principal Amy Hartjen says the number one concern is safety.

    What’s like, OK, we have to get involved here? Bullying, would that be a red line?

    AMY HARTJEN: Absolutely, threats, intimidations.

    LISA STARK: What if someone posts something that is offensive language, racist, sexist?

    AMY HARTJEN: Absolutely.

    LISA STARK: Really? And why would that be a red line?

    AMY HARTJEN: Because that is just — it’s against the campus culture.

    LISA STARK: Students threatening to harm others or themselves sometimes telegraph that on social media, and districts have been sued for not paying attention to online posts.

    These days, the schoolyard has new boundaries.

    ZACHERY FOUNTAIN, Communications Director, Dysart USD: The information space is just as important as the physical space anymore, because it has that ability to snowball at a really rapid pace.

    LISA STARK: Zachery Fountain is the Dysart District Communications Chief, and point man on social media. He trains staff on how to document troublesome posts.

    ZACHERY FOUNTAIN: That’s teaching them things like asking for a screen shot of what has happened, understanding that a message could disappear in five seconds, as soon as it’s brought to their attention by a student.

    LISA STARK: Nationwide, both public and private schools keep tabs on social media in a variety of ways: hiring firms to actively monitor students’ accounts, encouraging students to report anything worrisome, friending students to gain access to posts that may not be public, and through simple alerts every time the district and its schools are mentioned in any type of media.

    There’s anecdotal evidence, but no hard data, to show that early identification of troubling social media posts can help schools head off problems.

    School officials here insist they are most concerned about safety. They’re not trying to pry into students’ lives. But civil rights and privacy groups say it can be a slippery slope and that some districts have gone too far, that they have violated students’ constitutional rights.

    Students have been disciplined for liking other posts, for private online chats that others made public, for forwarding racist posts, even in order to denounce them.

    CHAD MARLOW, American Civil Liberties Union: Schools need to think about, how do we take on these issues in an appropriate way that doesn’t have kind of the collateral damage effect of destroying students’ privacy and free speech rights?

    LISA STARK: Chad Marlow is with the American Civil Liberties Union. He says, first and foremost, school shouldn’t have open-ended access to students’ social media accounts.

    You’re saying no fishing expeditions?

    CHAD MARLOW: No fishing expeditions. And the way to do that is by not allowing passwords to be turned over, what we call shoulder surfing. Log onto your account, and the teacher will stand over the student’s shoulder and say, scroll, scroll, scroll.

    LISA STARK: Are you asking students for passwords?

    WENDY KLARKOWSKI, School Resource Officer, Shadow Ridge High School: No.

    LISA STARK: Or log-in information or anything?


    LISA STARK: School resource officer Wendy Klarkowski is assigned to Shadow Ridge High School in the Dysart district. Her morning routine includes searching for school-related posts on social media. She’s uncovered criminal activity.

    WENDY KLARKOWSKI: A young man had decided to bring some marijuana-laced brownies to school, and he advertised them on Twitter and, meet me in the cafeteria. We got him with all the brownies still on him.

    LISA STARK: And possible campus disruptions.

    WENDY KLARKOWSKI: Some kids were going to protest something they thought was unfair, and it was all over Twitter, so we were able to get the kids that were leading it, actually, the night before, so that they put an end to that, so it didn’t disrupt the campus.

    LISA STARK: But why isn’t that their free speech right to protest something they’re not happy about?

    WENDY KLARKOWSKI: It is their right to protest, but it is not their right to disturb an educational institution.

    LISA STARK: The ACLU’s Marlow worries about districts stifling free speech.

    CHAD MARLOW: It is very important to draw the line between punishing an action that occurs on social media vs. thoughts that are expressed on social media. Once you start policing and punishing thoughts, you are into very, very dangerous territory.

    LISA STARK: Two of the Dysart students we spoke with say they tread more carefully online after each posted a disparaging remark about one of their teachers.

    ALYSSA WAMSLEY: I made a reference to one of my teachers last year on Facebook, and I almost got a referral for it, for what I said about her. And then me and the teacher ended up talking, and now she’s my favorite teacher ever.

    HADIN KHAN, Graduate, Dysart High School: It was funny at first. Then I was like, OK, I need to take some precautions for next time, when I’m angry about something, not mention names or anything. I could say English teacher, as opposed to saying their name.

    LISA STARK: So, you are censoring yourself in a way, right?

    HADIN KHAN: Yes, kind of. Yes.

    LISA STARK: How do you feel about having to do that?

    HADIN KHAN: I don’t really have a problem with it, because it’s not that serious of an issue.

    LISA STARK: Superintendent Gail Pletnick insists the district is careful not to violate free speech or privacy rights.

    GAIL PLETNICK, Superintendent, Dysart Unified School District: We’re not crossing that line. We’re not monitoring people 24/7. We’re not the social media police. But we are concerned about anything that we feel will be harmful to our students.

    LISA STARK: Pletnick says technology changes so quickly that schools can find themselves operating in a gray area.

    GAIL PLETNICK: Those laws, those rules, those guidelines that we’re going to have to use are being developed. So, we’re really not only flying this plane while we build it, while it’s being designed.

    LISA STARK: It can be a rough ride, so Dysart and other districts are increasingly starting to teach digital citizenship, the responsible use of technology, to impress upon students to think before they click.

    STUDENT: I like that. That’s cute.

    LISA STARK: For the PBS NewsHour and Education Week, I’m Lisa Stark in Surprise, Arizona.

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    A North Korean flag flies on a mast at the Permanent Mission of North Korea in Geneva in 2014. Photo by Denis Balibouse/Reuters

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to the quiet and tragic end to the sad story of Otto Warmbier, and the implications for the United States’ dealings with his former captors in North Korea.

    John Yang has that.

    JOHN YANG: Speaking in the Oval Office, President Trump condemned the death of Otto Warmbier, who had been detained in North Korea for nearly a year-and-a-half.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It’s a total disgrace, what happened to Otto. It should never, ever be allowed to happen.

    JOHN YANG: Mr. Trump also indirectly blamed the Obama administration for not getting him home sooner.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: He should have brought home that same day. The result would have been a lot different.

    JOHN YANG: The president’s spokesman said Warmbier’s death casts a shadow on Mr. Trump’s stated willingness to talk to his North Korean counterpart under the right conditions.

    SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: Clearly, we’re moving further away, not closer to those conditions being enacted.

    JOHN YANG: Later, the president seemed to abandon his goal of enlisting China to pressure North Korea: “While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi and China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried.”

    North Korea’s release of the 22-year-old Warmbier has increased, not eased tensions with Pyongyang. He arrived in Ohio last week in a coma. Doctors said Warmbier suffered a severe neurological injury with extensive loss of brain tissue, likely as a result of a lack of blood to his brain.

    DR. DANIEL KANTER, University of Cincinnati Health: A state of unresponsive wakefulness.

    JOHN YANG: He’d been sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years hard labor for allegedly taking a propaganda poster from a Pyongyang hotel. In a statement, Warmbier’s parents said, “The awful, torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible.”

    In an interview broadcast today on CBS News, newly-elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in joined in condemning the North.

    PRESIDENT MOON JAE-IN, South Korea (through interpreter): I believe we must now have the perception that North Korea is an irrational regime.

    JOHN YANG: Moon, who had campaigned on engaging North Korea, said all options are on the table.

    MOON JAE-IN (through interpreter): When it comes to preemptive strike, which you mentioned, I believe that this is something we may be able to discuss at a later stage, when the threat has become even more urgent.

    JOHN YANG: North Korea still holds three other Americans as prisoners.

    Today, a pair of U.S. B-1B bombers, like these, flew over South Korea, just below the demilitarized zone, in a show of force.

    So, what effect will the death of Otto Warmbier have on the wider, and seemingly intractable, question of how the United States should deal with North Korea? What options are left?

    To probe those questions and more, we turn to veteran diplomat Kathleen Stephens. She was U.S. ambassador to South Korea from 2008 to 2011. She’s now at Stanford University. And that’s where she joins us tonight.

    Ambassador Stephens, thank you.

    What about that question? Is this tragic story of Otto Warmbier going to affect, have any impact on the way the United States approaches North Korea?

    KATHLEEN STEPHENS, Former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea: Well, I certainly think it’s a reminder to us that the threat and the danger that North Korea poses, not just to the United States, but to the region and the world, goes even beyond its nuclear missile programs, which we have been so rightly focused on in recent weeks and months.

    I also need to add, I myself want to just express my deepest condolences to the Warmbier family and to all the friends, and I know there are many, and family of Otto.

    The treatment that he received while under North Korean custody for a year-and-a-half was appalling and outrageous. And I think the North Koreans owe a full explanation to his family and to the United States of what happened.

    JOHN YANG: Does the approach, is it complicated by the fact that there are three Americans still being held?

    KATHLEEN STEPHENS: Well, I think it concentrates the mind certainly of the United States, and I hope in Pyongyang as well, that this is untenable.

    And I would hope that, in the coming days — and I believe this will happen — that there will be a renewed pressure and effort to win the release of these three Americans who are being held. There are others of other nationalities as well.

    North Korea in an area of allowing access to foreigners who have been arrested while in North Korea, which it is obligated to do under standard diplomatic procedure, it hasn’t met those obligations, as it doesn’t meet its obligations in other areas.

    It needs to do that. But it really needs to move — to stop this practice of holding, arresting and holding citizens, not allowing their representatives from their countries to have access to them, and often using them as or hoping to use them as leverage to — as hostages, essentially, and as bargaining chips.

    It needs to stop. It needs to be a part of our overall approach and effort. It has been, but it needs to be reemphasized going forward that this too is part of the effort to get North Korea to live up to some minimal standards of international behavior.

    JOHN YANG: Live up to some minimal standards. We have had sanctions in place for a long time. We have had people describe it as an irrational regime.

    What are the real pressure points on North Korea? What can make a difference to North Korea?

    KATHLEEN STEPHENS: Well, it is a very challenging question.

    I think one thing that remains very important is, notwithstanding maybe some welcome realism about perhaps the limits of what China can or will do, China does remain an important actor in this, as does South Korea.

    So, I think, with meetings coming up tomorrow in Washington — Secretary Tillerson and Mattis will be meeting with their Chinese counterparts. Next week, the new South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, will be meeting with President Trump.

    Clearly, North Korea will be very much on the agenda, but, in the context of what’s happened, these are going to be even more somber meetings. And I think the effort will be to look both at better implementation of the pressure and sanctions now in effect, and also into some new ones that might bring greater pressure to get North Korea to take a different path and a path that will lead to some discussion of how it can meet its international obligations.

    JOHN YANG: President Moon, of course, ran on a campaign talking about engagement with North Korea. He wanted to go to the — to pressure North Korea to the negotiating table, while President Trump talks about pressuring North Korea to get rid of its nuclear program.

    What are the chances or the likelihood that these two leaders can find a common approach to North Korea when they meet here in Washington next week?

    KATHLEEN STEPHENS: Well, it’s their very first meeting. They’re both very new in office, President Moon in particular.

    And I think a lot is going to depend on the kind of relationship and rapport they’re able to establish with each other. President Trump established a good rapport with the Japanese prime minister, of course, with the Chinese president, Mr. Xi, although today he seemed to be a little bit disappointed in him.

    So I think, one, the personal relationship is going to be important. But, two, I think it will be important for President Moon to explain the South Korean perspective. The South Koreans actually over many decades have seen thousands and thousands of their citizens abducted and held in the North, and six are being held right now just within recent months and years.

    So, this is a heartfelt issue for South Korea, as well, as well as, of course, the continuing security threat of North Korea. So, they’re under no illusions about the threat. The challenge will be, as you suggest, how to harmonize these approaches and also harmonize them with China’s approach in the region, which certainly sees the need for a change in behavior in North Korea, but they’re worried about instability.

    It’s not going to be easy, but having these meetings is an important first step.

    JOHN YANG: Ambassador Kathleen Stephens, thanks for joining us.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The effort by Senate Republicans to replace the Affordable Care Act picked up steam today, as their leader promised a first look at their bill before the end of the week.

    So far, Democrats remain unable to stop it on their own. But they mounted a public relations attack as Republicans counted votes.

    The word came from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that a draft of the Senate GOP’s health care package was on its way.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky., Majority Leader: Well, we’re going to lay out a discussion draft Thursday morning. And I wouldn’t want to compare it to the House bill. It will speak for itself. It’ll be different, and take a different approach based upon these endless discussions we have had with the only people interested in changing the law, which is Republican senators.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: He spoke as Democrats, in the minority, were making their own symbolic stand on health care on the Senate floor. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer quoted what the president reportedly said about the House health care bill to attack Republican efforts broadly.

    SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., Minority Leader: For once, on the topic of health care, I find myself agreeing with the president. His health care bill is mean. Cutting Medicaid to the bone is mean.

    WOMAN: This is an insult to the American people.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Democrats and their allies held the Senate floor yesterday well into the night, and took Republicans to task for keeping their work behind closed doors.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, I-Vt.: So, I say to the Republican leadership, what are you afraid of?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Today, the number two Republican in the Senate, Texas’ John Cornyn, turned the focus back to the Democrats, charging that their speeches were just that, talk.

    SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-Texas: Unfortunately, they’re spending their time and energy giving speeches to each other on the Senate floor, and absolutely contributing nothing toward a solution to this problem.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: No details from the Republican discussions have been publicly released. But The Washington Post and others reported that the Senate version would make deeper Medicaid cuts than those passed in the House. They also would be phased in more slowly. The House bill calls for cutting $800 billion over 10 years.

    At the same time, senators are also reportedly considering offering more generous insurance subsidies, especially for older Americans, as well as eliminating some, but not all, of the taxes put in place by Obamacare.

    Whatever the eventual bill looks like, Republicans don’t expect any Democrats to support it. Thus, they cannot afford to lose more than two of their own members. Yet, some GOP senators, like Tennessee’s Bob Corker, have said that, even up to now, they remain out of the loop.

    QUESTION: Have you seen the Republican health care bill?

    SEN. BOB CORKER, R-Tenn.: I have not. Have you? Have you?

    QUESTION: I have not.

    SEN. BOB CORKER: I would have liked, as you already know, for this to be a more open process and have committee hearings. But that’s not what we’re doing.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Making sure that Corker and other Republicans not in on the drafting process are on board is a priority for the Republican leadership, especially McConnell, as they prepare for a possible vote next week.

    And just a short while ago, I spoke with two key voices in the Senate about this health care debate.

    John Barrasso is an orthopedic surgeon from Wyoming and chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee. And senator Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland, he played a key role in the House leadership when Obamacare was passed in 2009.

    Senator Barrasso, Senator Van Hollen, thank you both for joining us.

    Senator Barrasso, we just heard the majority leader say that this bill takes a different approach than the bill that came out of the House. What makes it better?

    SEN. JOHN BARRASSO, R-Wyo.: Well, look, the pain of Obamacare is getting worse every day. We’re seeing it all across the country, as premiums continue to go up and choices continue to go down.

    We’re looking at ways to make sure that anyone with a preexisting condition is protected. We’re looking for ways to stabilize the market and also lower the skyrocketing cost of insurance and then stabilize Medicaid for the long run, because we need a safe and secure program there. It has to be strong, and it’s not strong now.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Van Hollen, is there any part of that the Democrats can support?

    SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, D-Md.: Well, Judy, of course, we don’t know what’s in the Senate Republican bill, because it’s been kept in deep secret from the American public, no hearings, no amendments in committee

    But Senator Cornyn, one of the members of the Republican leadership, said it was going to be 80 percent like the House bill. The House bill is a bill that President Trump celebrated in the Rose Garden, but then, behind closed doors, said was mean.

    And it is mean because it will mean 23 million Americans who will not have access to affordable care who would otherwise have it. People with preexisting conditions will go back to being able to be victims of discrimination by insurance companies. It is why virtually every patient advocacy organization, in fact, I think 100 percent, are against that legislation, and every provider group I have heard from is also against it.

    It will provide huge tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. If you’re a millionaire, you are going to get a $50,000, on average, annual tax cut — tell me how that helps health care — and cuts Medicaid by $830 billion. This is going to wreak havoc on our health care system.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s just take a part of that.


    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Barrasso, what about the Medicaid cuts? Again, we haven’t seen what the Senate is coming up with, but the reporting is that it is going to be deeper Medicaid cuts than what the House bill had.

    SEN. JOHN BARRASSO: Well, first of all, it’s hard to stand here and hear Chris talk about a bill he hasn’t seen — he will see it Thursday — and make a number of attacks against it, when, in his own state of Maryland, insurance rates asked for, for next are going up 58 percent.

    I don’t know how somebody with a straight face can call that affordable. And they went up 24 percent last year. And the president of the Maryland care — the care — insurance company has said we’re in the beginning of the throes of a death spiral of insurance.

    They have lost $600 million. Obamacare has failed in Maryland. It’s failing all across the country. And for people with preexisting conditions, Judy, when you see all of these counties across the country where no one is even willing to sell Obamacare insurance, if you have a preexisting condition and nobody is going to be willing to sell you insurance, even with a subsidy, your preexisting condition is not covered, and you have been deceived by Obamacare.

    SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: I’m glad John brought that up.

    Yes, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the largest insurer in the state of Maryland, asked for a whopping 50 percent increase. Here’s what the president of Blue Cross/Blue Shield told us, that well over half of that increase is due to deliberate sabotage by the Trump administration and cuts Republicans made to Obamacare/Affordable Care Act payments.

    A full 20 percent of the increase they’re asking for is because the president issued an executive order on the first day of his administration saying that they wouldn’t enforce the individual mandate provision.

    You tell people they don’t have to join, including healthier people, it means sicker people will pay a lot more. And, by the way, that’s why AARP is on the warpath against this health care bill, because they’re going to see dramatic increases.

    And, yes, John, I have not seen the Senate bill. Neither has the country, which is a shame on the democratic process.

    And, finally, John didn’t answer your specific question about Medicaid, which has nothing to do with the exchanges. It’s a whopping cut. I know his state of Wyoming didn’t take the Medicaid expansion, but this will wreak havoc on tens of millions of Americans.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Barrasso, what about the point he made about the criticism that it’s what Republicans have done that have undermined Obamacare, but also the Medicaid question?

    SEN. JOHN BARRASSO: Well, you know, insurance company executives prior to the election, prior to the November election were saying they’re thinking of pulling out in 2018, so this is nothing new.

    Had Hillary Clinton gotten elected president of the United States, we’d be having to make major changes to Obamacare, trying to clean up the mess that has been created by the Obama health care law. That’s where we are right now. The current status is not sustainable.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What about the Republican bill, though, Senator?

    SEN. JOHN BARRASSO: We’re working on it in the Senate is a different way to deal with Medicaid to make sure that states that did expand, because there are a number of states that did and states that didn’t, that states that did will have a smoother glide path to getting to the point where, for anyone on Medicaid in those states, they’re reimbursed the same way as was set up initially for people who are disabled, blind, the elderly and children.

    That’s who Medicaid was set up for originally. Plus, I was in the state Senate in Wyoming, and I will tell you, Judy, we always felt, if we had more control of that money, rather than the one-size-fits-all that comes out of Washington, we could have helped a lot more people in a lot better ways with — given some of the flexibility and the freedom of choice that a state has, instead of having to listen to the mandates of Washington.

    And as to Chris’ point of the individual mandate, it is the most hated part of Obamacare. And the judges that say, how do they count the numbers, they say, if you get rid of the individual mandate, which I am committed to do and the Republicans did, they say millions and millions of people will not buy a mandated government product they don’t think is worth the money.

    SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: The whole idea of insurance, as John knows, is everybody has got to be part of the pool. That’s the whole idea of social insurance and health insurance.

    The core of the Republican bill in the House, and we suspect in the Senate, is rotten. And here’s why: It cuts Medicaid by $830 billion. That’s huge. It provides tax cuts of about $900 billion.

    You tell me how cutting taxes to millionaires and giving them an average tax break of $50,000 has anything to do with making health care better. In fact, it takes two years off of the Medicare Trust Fund, because, as part of the Affordable Care Act, we asked wealthier Americans to put some of their unearned income into shoring up Medicare.

    The Republicans give them a big tax break. They hurt millions of Americans in the process. And it is a bad deal.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Barrasso, what about those tax cuts for wealthier Americans that would be realized under — presumably, under the Senate plan?

    SEN. JOHN BARRASSO: That’s still part of the debate we’re having, and the bill will come out Friday.

    We want to eliminate all the taxes that raise premiums for people, the medical device tax, the health insurance tax, the tax on prescription medication.

    But getting back to Medicaid, Judy, a third of the doctors — and I practiced medicine for 25 years — a third of the doctors in this country will not take new Medicaid patients, and major hospitals around the country have said, look, if you have to make an appointment for somebody either with Medicaid or who has traditional insurance, don’t give that appointment to somebody with Medicaid — this is what the Mayo Clinic said — because we have reached a tipping point where we can’t continue even paying the salaries at the rate that Medicaid reimburses.

    Medicaid is failing. We need to strengthen it for the long term.

    SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: So, their answer is, it’s failing, so cut it by another $180 billion.

    It’s not sufficient to completely reimburse doctors now, so give them even less, while you’re giving tax breaks to the very wealthy. That’s nuts. And I think the American people know it. I think that’s why this has been kept in secret in the Senate for so long.

    I hope that, at long last, we will have a chance to have a debate on this.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, just finally, to both of you, when the public is told that the Senate version is going to stabilize the health care coverage in this country, quickly, Senator Barrasso, how does it do that?

    SEN. JOHN BARRASSO: Well, there are a number of different provisions to do exactly that, to help people at a significant high risk of high medical costs.

    It’s worked successfully around the country. And part of it is to just give more flexibility to the states, so they can make decisions about what insurance can be bought and sold in those states to allow people to get what they want and they need and is right for their family, not what the Democrats who voted for Obamacare said they have to have.

    SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Well, listen, Judy, there are issues with some of the exchanges. We can fix them. There are commonsense things you can do about that, rather than blow them up.

    And with respect to Medicaid — and, in Maryland, I can tell you, of the people who are directly benefiting from the Affordable Care Act, more than half are from Medicaid. And John hasn’t said anything that’s going to explain how those people are going to be better off when they cut $830 billion or whatever amount they’re going to cut from the Medicaid program.

    Medicaid already has lots of waivers. It already has lots of flexibility. We’re using it in the state of Maryland. His state of Wyoming did not take the expansion, so maybe, you know, that’s something he doesn’t feel strongly about.

    But I can tell you we’re hearing from Republican governors in states that have, and they’re saying do not do that kind of damage to the Medicaid program.

    SEN. JOHN BARRASSO: Somebody may have a Medicaid card, but it doesn’t mean they get to see a doctor.

    SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Yes, I can tell you, when they take $830 million away from them and give it to wealthier Americans, they are not going to be better off. They are going to be a lot worse off.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Gentlemen, thank you very much. We’re going to get our first peek at the bill on Thursday.

    Senator Chris Van Hollen, Senator John Barrasso, we thank you both.

    SEN. JOHN BARRASSO: Thank you for having us.

    SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.

    The post Senate Democrats take a stand as GOP readies secret health care bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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