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

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    A police car with broken windows is seen in a photograph released by the Milwaukee Police Department after disturbances following the August police shooting of a man in Milwaukee, Photo by Milwaukee Police via Reuters

    A police car with broken windows is seen in a photograph released by the Milwaukee Police Department after disturbances following the August police shooting of a man in Milwaukee, Photo by Milwaukee Police via Reuters

    A Wisconsin jury has acquitted the former police officer who fatally shot 23-year-old Sylville Smith, whose death sparked days of uprisings in Milwaukee.

    After two days of deliberations, jurors found ex-officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown not guilty of first-degree reckless homicide in the death of Smith. Heaggan-Brown and Smith were both black, and four of the 12 jurors were black.

    Former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown, charged with first-degree reckless homicide in the death of 23-year-old Sylville Smith following an Aug. 13 traffic stop is shown in this October 2016 Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office booking photo in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office/Handout via Reuter

    Former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown, charged with first-degree reckless homicide in the death of 23-year-old Sylville Smith following an Aug. 13 traffic stop is shown in this October 2016 Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office booking photo in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office/Handout via Reuters

    The fatal encounter happened after Heaggan-Brown had stopped Smith in a traffic stop, which led to a foot chase. When the officer was charged, the criminal complaint cited body camera footage that showed Heaggan-Brown shooting Smith in his right arm as he turned with a weapon in hand. Smith fell to his back when Heaggan-Brown shot him again less than a couple seconds later in his chest.

    Prosecutors argued that it was unnecessary when Heaggan-Brown discharged his weapon a second time. Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm told the jury that Smith was “in the most vulnerable position that he can possibly be in,” adding that “he looks like a child,” Fox6 reported.

    Defense attorney Jonathan Smith countered that the “first shot was a justifiable shot and that justification did not change in 1.69 seconds.”

    Heaggan-Brown was fired in October when he was charged with two counts of assault in a separate investigation. This investigation is unrelated to the shooting death of Smith.

    As NewsHour’s Kenya Downs reported, Milwaukee is, by several yardsticks, considered to be one of the most segregated cities in the U.S.

    Previously, a 2014 police shooting death of Dontre Hamilton, who is black, prompted protests. Officer Christopher Manney shot Hamilton 14 times after Manney responded to a complaint of Hamilton sleeping on a bench in a local park.

    READ MORE: Milwaukee’s problems span decades, but solutions divide generations

    The post Jury finds Milwaukee officer not guilty in fatal shooting of Sylville Smith appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, accompanied by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), speaks to the media following the weekly policy luncheons on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., June 6, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

    Top Senate Republicans prepared Wednesday to release their plan for dismantling President Barack Obama’s health care law, a proposal that would cut and revamp Medicaid, end penalties on people not buying coverage and eliminate tax increases that financed the statute’s expansion of coverage, lobbyists and congressional aides said.

    Departing from the House-approved version of the legislation — which President Donald Trump privately called “mean” last week — the Senate plan would drop the House bill’s waivers allowing states to let insurers boost premiums on some people with pre-existing conditions.

    It would also largely retain the subsidies Obama provided to help millions buy insurance, which are pegged mostly to people’s incomes and the premiums they pay. The House-approved tax credits were tied to people’s ages, a change that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said would boost out-of-pocket costs to many lower earners.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell planned to release the measure Thursday morning and hopes to push it through the Senate next week. Some of its provisions were described by people on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

    [READ MORE: Senate Democrats take a stand as GOP readies secret health care bill]

    “We believe we can do better than the Obamacare status quo, and we fully intend to do so,” said McConnell, R-Ky.

    McConnell was unveiling his plan even as GOP senators from across the party’s political spectrum complained about the package and the secretive, behind-closed-doors meetings he used to draft a measure reshaping the country’s medical system, which comprises one-sixth of the U.S. economy.

    Facing unanimous Democratic opposition, Republicans can suffer defections by no more than two of their 52 senators and still push the measure through the Senate. Enough have voiced concerns to make clear that McConnell and other leaders have work to do before passage is assured.

    Scrapping Obama’s 2010 statute is one of Trump’s and the GOP’s top priorities, but internal divisions have slowed its progress through the Republican-controlled Congress. Democrats say GOP characterizations of Obama’s law as failing are wrong, and say the Republican effort would boot millions off coverage and leave others facing higher out-of-pocket costs.

    The sources said that, in some instances, the documents McConnell planned to release might suggest optional approaches for issues that remain in dispute among Republicans.

    That could include the number of years the bill would take to phase out the extra money Obama provided to expand the federal-state Medicaid program for the poor and disabled to millions of additional low earners.

    McConnell and the House-passed bill would halt the extra funds for new beneficiaries in three years, but Republicans from states that expanded Medicaid like Rob Portman, R-Ohio, want to extend that to seven years.

    The post Senate health-care plan would halt Obamacare penalties, taxes 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.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: And to our NewsHour Shares, something that caught our eye that may be of interest to you, too.

    This year marks the 60th anniversary of the debut of a musical oddity, the Great Stalacpipe Organ of Virginia’s Luray Caverns.

    NewsHour recently got a behind-the-scenes look at the one-of-a-kind instrument from those who know it best.

    Cavern historian John Shaffer starts us off.

    JOHN SHAFFER, Luray Caverns Corporation: Luray Caverns is home to the largest musical instrument in the world, the Great Stalacpipe Organ.

    And it plays the stalactites. The organ was created by Leland W. Sprinkle. Mr. Sprinkle toured the caverns in 1954 with his young son, and, at that time, the guides would tap stalactites to show that the different sizes give off different tones.

    LARRY MOYER, Operations Manager: What he did was take rubber mallets and a concept of an organ and put it all together Into an instrument.

    I’m Larry Moyer. I am operations manager for the Great Stalacpipe Organ.

    You’re actually standing inside the organ as it plays, because the stalactites cover over three-and-a-half acres around us. Basically, we call it like a player-type piano. So, the sheet of plastic is your song, and as the drum rotates, the metal brushes fall into contact through holes in the plastic and sends the notes out.

    And, on occasion, we will have an organist present.

    OTTO PEBWORTH, Organist: A pipe organ produces its sounds by forcing air through columns. What we are doing here is, we are actually playing a 37-note percussion instrument.

    My name is Otto Pebworth. I play the organ here at Luray Caverns, and I have been playing pipe organs now for close to 30 years.

    It’s very settling, very soothing. I just have a chance just to stop and let everything go quiet and make music. And that’s what makes it the nicest thing.

    A room like this lends itself more towards the more peaceful things like “Moonlight Sonata” or some of the Bach preludes. The Stalacpipe Organ is a totally unique instrument unto itself, and, because of that, you can just hear something that is just totally natural and totally special. Can’t be duplicated.

    The post The Virginia cavern that can play the Moonlight Sonata appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now a lesson in communication from an unlikely, but very familiar source.

    It’s the latest addition to the NewsHour Bookshelf.

    Jeffrey Brown has that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: One enormous turn in the life of Alan Alda, his 11- year run in the 1970s and ’80s as the star of “MASH,” one of the most beloved programs in television history.

    ALAN ALDA, Author, “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?”: Hello, and welcome to “Scientific American Frontiers.”

    JEFFREY BROWN: Another, by his own account, came in 1993, when he began to host the PBS series “Scientific American Frontiers.”

    He was a non-scientist learning on the go, using his trademark humor and wit to get the experts to explain complicated ideas in accessible language.

    ALAN ALDA: What keeps the water from going in here? I mean, it’s …

    MAN: Well, it’s actually tapered. If you look at the hatch, it’s like a porthole.

    ALAN ALDA: Oh, I see.

    MAN: And pressure pushes them down.

    ALAN ALDA: What I brought to it was curiosity and a huge fund of ignorance.

    (LAUGHTER)

    ALAN ALDA: And I just was after them until it could fill up the ignorance a little bit with real stuff.

    But that process of connecting with them, getting them to be who they were, because they were worried about getting me to understand it, so it was much more personal. And that’s when I realized that you could build on that. You can help people do that all the time.

    OK, now he’s leaving.

    JEFFREY BROWN: First, he worked to help scientists and science writers do it all the time, helping to found the Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University in New York.

    Now comes a book for the rest of us, with the colorful title “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?”

    Alan Alda and I met recently at Lisner Auditorium in Washington before he gave a talk about the problem and promise of communicating.

    ALAN ALDA: What I think I found is, that it’s all based on a personal connection, that if I can sort of understand in some way, make some approximation of what you are thinking and feeling, it’s easier for me to get inside your head with my message.

    If I don’t know how you’re receiving it, if I can’t see how it’s landing on you, then I’m just spraying it at you. I’m just trying to pour it over your head, but I’m not really connecting with you.

    Well, that connection — this is what I don’t understand — that connection with another person feels so good. Why do we retreat from it? I don’t understand that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: We’re living in a time where there’s not only skepticism, but even outright hostility from a lot of people towards science. Is that just a communication problem?

    ALAN ALDA: I think it’s largely a communication problem, because there has to be trust, and you get trust through — one way you get trust is through good communication.

    There are lives at stake. Take doctors.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    ALAN ALDA: When patients regard their doctors as being empathic, at least one study has shown that the patients are 19 percent more likely to follow the doctor’s advice.

    Now, in that 19 percent, I imagine some lives are at stake.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, so some of this is life-and-death communication.

    ALAN ALDA: Yes. Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    ALAN ALDA: Science needs to be understood by the public, so they can support science.

    I don’t tell the people I care about the most the most important thing I can tell them, that I do care.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For Alda, better communicating starts with better person-to-person relating, a concept he had to learn as a young actor.

    ALAN ALDA: I knew you were supposed to relate in the beginning.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    ALAN ALDA: And I would do the best I could to relate. I thought it meant leaning into the other person’s face, so I was sort of stooped over most of the time.

    (LAUGHTER)

    ALAN ALDA: But, little by little, I realized you can relate to somebody on the stage even if their back is turned to you. You pick up whatever clues you can.

    And when you don’t have clues to pick up, you can estimate what they’re probably thinking by virtue of what’s just been said, or what you have said, or what you have just written them. You can picture what the reader is thinking with each sentence you put down. It really affects all forms of communication.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In several chapters of the book, you describe these training sessions that you had with scientists and many others. But then you talk about improv classes, right? Improv, we think of as comedy.

    ALAN ALDA: I know. Most improvisation that people are aware of is comedy improvisation. But that’s not what we teach. We teach a much purer form of improvisation in the form of exercises.

    And they’re all designed one on top of the other, starting with a very basic kind of exercise that enables you to do the next one, and then that enables you to do the next one, and they all put you in touch with the other person. You have to observe the other person, and really carefully to improvise.

    I have to know — I have to know, from your body language and your face, what you’re doing and what you’re thinking. I’m reading your face right now. It’s really fun. Let’s make it…

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. What’s going on?

    (LAUGHTER)

    ALAN ALDA: Yes. Well, I hear you following me, and then I hear you thinking, I wonder what I will ask next?

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: Really? You could see that?

    (CROSSTALK)

    ALAN ALDA: Yes, from — yes, mostly when you look down at the paper.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, right. That’s a dead giveaway. Hmm.

    ALAN ALDA: Yes, but I’m picking it up.

    You know. It’s so funny. Once in a while I will be talking to somebody and I will think I’m connected to them. And I will say, wait a second. In my head, I will say this. What color is his eyes? What color are his eyes? What’s the shape of his nose?

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. And then you realize, what, you’re not really paying attention.

    ALAN ALDA: I got — I realize, when I think back, there’s been sort of a blob where your face would — should be.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: I hope I haven’t dissolved to blobness.

    ALAN ALDA: No, you’re not blobby at all, no.

    JEFFREY BROWN: OK. Thank you.

    That’s good to know, and also good to see in his work with scientists and writers an attempt to bridge the worlds of science and the arts.

    ALAN ALDA: They didn’t used to be kept apart so much. Science and art, or the arts and humanities often were — in Greek times and later, were considered to be different aspects of the same inquiry, the same exploration of being alive in the universe.

    And I think they’re long-lost lovers, yearning to be reunited. There’s nothing — they should be reunited. We’re reuniting them with this work on communication, because it’s both an art and a science to figure out what’s the best way to learn to communicate better.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Alan Alda’s book is “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?”

    It’s quite a title.

    ALAN ALDA: Well, you have quite a face.

    (LAUGHTER)

    JEFFREY BROWN: Thank you very much.

    ALAN ALDA: Thank you. I had fun with you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Nice to talk to you.

    ALAN ALDA: Thank you.

    The post For Alan Alda, the heart of good communication is connection appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now let’s turn to the extreme heat wave baking the West and Southwest parts of the country.

    Temperatures are well above the 100-degree mark. In California, it was 127 degrees yesterday in Death Valley, 122 in Palm Springs. In Phoenix, the temperature is expected to top out at 118 degrees today. In fact, it’s been so hot there, more than 40 flights were canceled or delayed because some planes can’t safely lift off in that heat.

    A new analysis published in the journal “Nature Climate Change” this week also said climate change is leading to more heat waves in general. It found that 30 percent of the world’s population is exposed to potentially deadly heat for 20 days per year or more.

    It’s the subject of our weekly segment on the Leading Edge of science with Miles O’Brien.

    Let’s start with what’s happening in Phoenix.

    Miles, you have flown for a long time. We have always heard of flights being delayed because it’s too cold. How can a flight not take off because it’s so hot?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Yes, Hari, if it weren’t for the snow and ice, the winter would be the perfect time to fly, because a wing achieves flight, it derives lift based on the number of air molecules that surround it.

    And, as the temperature heat up, those molecules command. We know that, when you warm things up, things expand generally. So there are fewer air molecules, so it takes greater amount of speed for that aircraft to fly. And if the runway isn’t long enough to support that — in other words, if the temperature is so high that there are so few molecules there to lift the wing that you don’t have enough runway to get going fast enough, you’re grounded.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, so this is still smaller planes that were affected. What’s the difference with the bigger planes?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Well, the larger planes, the Boeing 737s, the big airliners, are designed to operate in a wider range of circumstances, for one thing. They are kind of a global product that has to operate in all kinds of intense conditions. And, frankly, it just costs more to certify them to these parameters.

    In addition, a 737, for example, has a lot more potential payload, so you can take off some cargo and still fly the mission. These smaller planes are not designed with as much versatility, and because they’re smaller, they have less capability to reduce the payload and thus take off.

    And really, ultimately, they have charts in there that a pilot has to look at, and there will be a maximum temperature, given the altitude of the field, et cetera. And if you exceed that, you legally cannot take off.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: There are lots of runways that are too short to deal with this kind of heat. And we talked about in Phoenix, but, say, a place like La Guardia is just as confined or San Francisco is just constrained by a certain amount of space.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Yes, so researchers looked at this.

    The La Guardia runway is about 7,000 feet, runways there. And while that’s about 20 feet above sea level, and thus the air is denser there, by virtue of where it is and it doesn’t get quite as hot, nevertheless, at that length, you still — there are still some parameters and constraints that we have to be watching as the climate gets warmer.

    This goes into the larger subject, Hari, of how our civilization is designed. When you’re thinking about a beach house on a barrier island or a runway at La Guardia or at Phoenix Sky Harbor, we have a finely-tuned civilization, and as the temperature goes up, even though it has only gone up a degree Celsius over a hundred years, it does create pockets of these heat waves.

    We’re not exactly sure why, probably because the jet stream is weakening and causing high-pressure systems to park in these places. I spoke with a climate scientist who has looked into this extensively. He’s at Columbia University — Radley Horton is his name — as part of a series I did for the weather app MyRadar.

    RADLEY HORTON, Columbia University: If we look at the last decade or two, we are seeing twice as many record-breaking extreme heat events, cities that are breaking their daily record highs for a given day, compared to the ratio compared to the number of cities having record-breaking cold temperatures.

    If you make temperatures just a couple degrees warmer on the hottest days, that means much more demand for air conditioning, for example, which means much greater risk of the power going out, precisely at those temperatures, those times when people are so sensitive to just a little more warming from a public health perspective.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: That goes a bit to that Goldilocks effect you are talking about, because even our infrastructure and our systems are built for us to be within a certain range.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Exactly.

    And that’s why we need to be really watching the effects of climate change. It’s easy to dismiss a one-degree Celsius increase and say, well, that’s not a big deal, but, in isolated locations, in specific locations, whether it’s Phoenix or whether it’s Miami Beach or whether it’s another city that has a sea level problem that it is dealing with, or whether it’s California dealing with wildfires, those particular pockets, those problems are exacerbated by that overall increase in the temperature of the climate, the overall temperature of the planet.

    And it causes changes to our weather systems which we’re just beginning to understand. Researchers are just getting a handle on it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So in the case of this news about Phoenix and the air — do airlines, who think about buying planes years and years out — these are hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of purchases — do they think differently about what kind of jets to buy or where to park all those jets, in a place with a long runway?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Hari, I think this is something the aviation industry has not gotten out ahead of.

    I suspect there are a lot of conversations going right now as we have seen this record heat wave. There was a similar record heat wave last year as well which caused similar problems. So the airlines are going to have to contend with this, the airliner makers, and airports as well.

    The longest runway at Phoenix Sky Harbor is a little more than 11,000 feet. They might have to think about extending that runway. What about La Guardia, though? Is that even possible? Is it possible to even consider that?

    All these things get factored into the consequences of climate change and how we as civilization can adapt to it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, science correspondent Miles O’Brien, thanks so much.

    MILES O’BRIEN: You’re welcome.

    The post Why planes can’t fly when it’s too hot, and other ways our civilization can’t take the heat appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: But first: As we heard, Senate Republicans are pushing hard to pass their own bill next week to replace and overhaul the Affordable Care Act.

    One of the key issues, major cuts to Medicaid, the joint federal-state program that provides health care to low-income Americans, the elderly and disabled. It was expanded under Obamacare. But now 14 million Medicaid recipients stand to lose that coverage under a bill passed by the House.

    Reports out tonight say there will be even deeper cuts under the Senate version.

    Special correspondent Cat Wise reports from Los Angeles on how these cuts could directly affect patients.

    CAT WISE: A homeless man on Skid Row hoping to finally get a roof over his head. A middle-class mom earning an income to care of her disabled son. A working-class truck driver getting care for his complex medical problems.

    Three very different lives, with a common thread now at risk of being cut: Medicaid.

    Los Angeles is well known for its Hollywood stars with glamorous lifestyles. But the city is also home to many who are less fortunate. The working poor and homeless here have benefited from the Affordable Care Act. In fact, about 1.2 million residents gained health insurance through the Medicaid expansion.

    But all that may be about to change. The Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, passed by the House of Representatives in May and now being considered by the Senate, would fundamentally alter Medicaid in two key ways.

    First, the ACA’s Medicaid expansion — that offered states the option of covering most non-disabled childless adults with incomes below and just above the poverty line — would end within several years.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to get this passed through the Senate. I feel so confident.

    CAT WISE: The House bill, which President Trump cheered in May, but has since reportedly called mean, also calls for converting the entire program from one with no cap on dollars spent to one where states get a fixed amount of money.

    It would give state governments more flexibility about how to spend Medicaid dollars, but would cut the amount they receive by more than $800 billion over a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky., Majority Leader: I think we will have ample opportunity to read and amend the bill.

    CAT WISE: A Senate version, which would eventually need to be merged with the House bill before becoming law, is still being crafted, but is said to include many of these same adjustments, though with a potentially longer rollback of the Medicaid expansion.

    California stands to lose more than any other state under the House version, $6 billion a year starting in 2020, and more than $24 billion by 2027. Those cuts could have a big impact on this group.

    WOMAN: I think you have hypertension, diabetes, neuropathy.

    CAT WISE: For the last several years, Los Angeles County has been deploying teams of nurses, mental health and substance counselors and formerly homeless peer advocates throughout Skid Row.

    Their goal is to improve health outcomes for this medically complex and costly homeless population by giving them a home. This Housing for Health program uses Medicaid dollars to fund supportive services, like mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment in locations where new housing is being offered.

    On the day we tagged along, the team reconnected with a client who had been wanting to get off the streets.

    WOMAN: Are you familiar with the (INAUDIBLE)

    MAN: No?

    WOMAN: No? OK. So, that’s like — that’s the one everyone likes, because you can get your own room.

    MAN: That sounds like my kind of room.

    WOMAN: Yes, exactly. Yes.

    WOMAN: It was a blessing to find him here. We will basically link him to services and help him get to the point where he wants to be.

    CAT WISE: Nearly 3,000 people have received housing so far, and the goal is to get 7,000 more off the streets by 2020.

    DR. MITCH KATZ, Director, Los Angeles County Health Agency: We have had dramatic drops in emergency department visits and hospitalizations following housing people.

    CAT WISE: Dr. Mitch Katz is the director of the Los Angeles Health Agency, and he has been leading the county’s effort. We met at the Star Apartments, a 100-unit building in the heart of Skid Row with a community garden, various counseling services and a health clinic on the main floor.

    The monthly rent is covered by county general funds, donations, and residents. But the services provided are covered by Medicaid. Dr. Katz took me on a tour of a recently vacated unit.

    DR. MITCH KATZ: You will see that, although the space is small, it has everything that you would need. You have a refrigerator, stove, sink. It’s not grand, but it really changes somebody’s life.

    Over a hundred people came directly out of the hospital bed, or directly from the emergency room, and are now living here. And I can take care of them for way less than it costs to be in the hospital, and they will have a much higher-quality life.

    CAT WISE: The ACA’s Medicaid changes have also been felt by a much wider swathe of the population, low-income, often working adults who previously had no access to health insurance.

    And that was the story for 60-year-old Jorge Arias, a former self-employed truck driver. Arias, who has had Medicaid for the last two years, is a patient at the Saban Community Clinic, a non-profit federally qualified health center which opened its doors to low-income clients 50 years ago.

    Last year, Arias had emergency surgery after a heart specialist determined he had three blocked arteries.

    Without insurance, he says:

    JORGE ARIAS, Patient, Saban Community Clinic: I would not even be alive, you know, because, no medications, no doctors.

    JULIE HUDMAN, CEO, Saban Community Clinic: Well, we see about 18,000 to 20,000 patients a year; 10,000 of them have Medicaid, and over 8,000 of them got it with the expansion under the ACA.

    CAT WISE: Julie Hudman is the CEO of the clinic.

    JULIE HUDMAN: Before we had the ACA, someone would come in and, depending on their income, we’d take a co-pay, and it typically was around $18 per person. Now, when a patient comes in with Medicaid, we receive about $200 for the visit. The difference between the $18 and the $200, $225 is, you know, a huge source of revenue for us, and allows us to stabilize, to keep our doors open, and then actually expand services.

    MAN: So, how have you been this week?

    WOMAN: Fine. Yes, I’m good.

    CAT WISE: Some of those new services include mental health counseling, which could be cut back if the clinic loses funding.

    Traditional Medicaid programs, like those for the disabled and long-term care for the elderly, could also be impacted. Victoria and Steve Rosen are the proud, adopted parents of 16-year-old Max, who has a number of health problems due to prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol.

    VICTORIA ROSEN, Max Rosen’s Mother: So this is Max. When we first met him in the NICU, he had a very rough beginning.

    CAT WISE: Max is the recipient of a Medicaid-funded program called In-Home Supportive Services.

    Victoria earns about $3,500 a month through the program to help Max with things like personal care and feeding. That financial support has been key for the family because helping Max is a full-time job, and Victoria hasn’t been able to work outside the home.

    VICTORIA ROSEN: It helps us survive, basically. I mean, before this, we were, you know, in debt. We don’t spend a lot of extra money. And all the money we spend is on Max.

    CAT WISE: But many supportive Medicaid service programs like this one are considered optional under traditional Medicaid, and if states have to take on more financial responsibility for Medicaid with the new Republican plan, health analysts and program leaders say the optional services are likely to be cut.

    To the Rosens, that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    STEVE ROSEN, Max Rosen’s Father: IHSS saves money. It would be more expensive to take care of someone like Max in an institutional setting than it is to have him in his own house.

    CAT WISE: Many Republicans say these programs may be important, but Medicaid is simply out of control.

    MICHAEL CANNON, Director of Healthy Policy Studies, Cato Institute: Medicaid has grown into this incredibly wasteful program, rife with fraud, siphoning lots of money away from the people the program should be helping.

    CAT WISE: Michael Cannon is the director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. Cannon is concerned the current legislation being considered by Congress wouldn’t go far enough in axing federal Medicaid regulations and turning over control to the states.

    MICHAEL CANNON: So, what Congress should be doing here is saying to the states, look, we don’t know how to run these programs better than you. We will continue our contribution to your Medicaid programs, but we’re going to give you a fixed amount of money. It’s not going to grow from one year to the next, but we’re also going to give you full flexibility to run your programs the way you think is best for your state.

    States will have a much greater incentives then to eliminate fraud, to make sure that those Medicaid dollars are being spent on the people the program was meant to help, and not on the people the program wasn’t meant to help.

    CAT WISE: Back in Los Angeles, the health department’s Dr. Katz says he has no problem working within a budget as long as it is a fair one.

    DR. MITCH KATZ: If you give me flexibility, I can do a better job. And I could do a better job for less money. But I can’t do 70 cents on the dollar. Then, I’m actually going to have to cut services.

    CAT WISE: While the health care debates continue in Washington, the teams on Skid Row are still hitting the streets looking for people to help, and hoping they can do so for a very long time.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Cat Wise in Los Angeles, California.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: We return now to the results of yesterday’s special elections in Georgia and South Carolina, and what both parties can learn from these congressional races as we look ahead to next year’s midterms.

    John Yang has more on that.

    JOHN YANG: Joining me now to look at what happened in these two Southern races and the big takeaways for both Democrats and Republicans are Karine Jean-Pierre. She’s a senior adviser for MoveOn.org and worked in the Obama White House. And David Avella, chairman of GOPAC, a Republican political action committee focused on developing candidates to run for higher office.

    Karine, David, thanks for joining us.

    Two special elections, two Republican districts, Republicans held on. One was being highly watched, one not so much. The one being highly watched wasn’t as close as people thought it might be. The one that nobody seemed to be watching was much closer.

    So, what did we learn last night?

    Karine, let’s start with you. What did we learn yesterday?

    KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, MoveOn.org: Well, there’s a few big takeaways.

    But I do want to be clear here. Yes, the one that we watched, which is Georgia 6, we didn’t come as close as we thought, but he was dealing with a 24-point deficit. If you think about Tom Price, who won that district in November, he got as close as five points, which I think says a lot. It says that district is a gerrymandered district that is a stronghold for Republicans.

    It is a Republican plus-eight district. And so I think getting that close says a lot. There is a lot of takeaways that I take from it, which is, number one, I think, in 2018, if we’re now able to play in Georgia and South Carolina, we’re going to be able to play in a lot of different other states, because Georgia and South Carolina are deep red states.

    And also just looking at South Carolina for a second, it went under the radar. We weren’t able — it did better than we expected. To me, that’s going to be more like 2018 because you are going to have 435 races that you’re not going to be able to pay attention to.

    And so I think there are some similarities there, which are you’re just not going to have the focus that did you with Georgia 6.

    JOHN YANG: David, what did we learn now?

    DAVID AVELLA, GOPAC: Here are the facts. South Carolina 5 was only competitive because Republicans didn’t pay attention to it. Democrats did exactly what they needed to do, which was to try to sneak up on the Republicans. It failed.

    And in Georgia 5, this is a race that every poll except one said Jon Ossoff was going to win, and he didn’t come close. Five points is not a close win.

    Republicans should feel good about what happened yesterday. But here is the bigger lesson, and it’s really for the U.S. Senate, not the U.S. House. These four special elections all say the same thing. Karine’s team cannot put enough progressives together for the nine Democrats who sit in seats where Donald Trump won their states.

    And if they’re going to get reelected, they have got to find Republicans and independents that are willing to come vote for them. And if they’re going to do that, they better find something in the Trump agenda that they can vote for that they can go back home and tell folks they’re supporting the president’s agenda.

    JOHN YANG: Karine, what about that? Is it enough for the Democrats just to be against everything that the Republicans are doing?

    KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: I completely agree. We cannot just be anti-Trump. We have to actually have a — I believe a progressive, clear vision, and be able to talk about that vision and be able to define ourselves before the Republicans do, but also use that vision to be able to draw that stark contrast with Donald Trump.

    And so that is, I think, a lesson that we learned from yesterday which is incredibly important. But I do want to point out that there are about 70 to 80 districts that are going to come up in 2018 that are not as red at all as Georgia and South Carolina that we will be competitive in.

    So, I just want to be clear. And also special elections are special elections for a reason. We shouldn’t put too much stock into this. In 2005, Democrats lost special elections and then in 2006 they won the majority back in the House.

    JOHN YANG: David, is there — going back to what Karine said in her first answer, is there reason to be concerned on the Republican side that, in every special election, the Republicans — the Democrats — I’m sorry — have outperformed, have done better than they have done in previous congressional elections, and in some cases have done better than President Trump did in those districts?

    DAVID AVELLA: Republicans still won. Republicans are still in the majority.

    And if Republicans pass tax reform, pass a health care system that’s better than Obamacare, keeps Americans safe, and works on an infrastructure bill, it will a good day for Republicans in 2018.

    We have far more control over our fate in 2018 if we do the things that we need to do that voters elected us to do.

    JOHN YANG: I want to get back to the health care.

    But, Karine, I also want to ask you. The one thing in the Georgia race that the Republicans did apparently effectively is they draped Nancy Pelosi around the shoulders of the Democratic candidate. Is that a concern going into the midterms?

    KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: I think this is — goes back to what I was saying earlier. You have to define yourself first before Republicans do.

    And to me like, remember, this is a deep red district. Both of them were. And to me, it’s like it’s an old playbook. Most people don’t know who Nancy Pelosi is. Most people don’t know who Paul Ryan is. And, like, once again, this was in a different type of district that Democrats — it shouldn’t have been competitive in the first place.

    DAVID AVELLA: Poor Karine has to redefine what victory means.

    You either win and you get to go to Washington and govern, or you don’t. And there’s much discussion today about should Nancy Pelosi go or shouldn’t she go? And progressives are saying she should go. And some are saying she shouldn’t. The Republicans are saying, please keep her.

    Nancy Pelosi is only the messenger for a larger progressive cause. The problem isn’t, per se, Nancy Pelosi. It’s the ideas that she’s ultimately pushing. There’s enough Americans who support that view to get Democrats elected.

    JOHN YANG: David, you mentioned health care, that if they can — they need to get — they need to pass things, they need to get some victories up on the board.

    How important politically is — we’re going to see the health care bill tomorrow in the Senate — getting a vote by July? The public support for the health care bill has been dropping since the House introduced it and passed it.

    Is there concern that, you do this, and you get saddled with an unpopular bill, much the same way that the Democrats did eight years ago?

    DAVID AVELLA: Well, we have to have a bill that helps bring — keep premiums in line, that ultimately gives good access to health care, which we’re not talking about the fact that every month another state goes down, more health care providers, so that more Americans have to go find health insurance somewhere else in a system where there may have only been that one health care provider on the insurance side.

    So, Republicans need to deliver a health care bill that gets rid of the taxes that Obamacare put on, that not only will make health care better, but will also help create jobs and spur the economy, but, two, will allow doctors and patients to keep a strong relationship between each other, and provides ultimately access to everyone.

    JOHN YANG: Less than 30 seconds, Karine. Go ahead.

    KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Well, my friend David needs to read the CBO score of the House bill, which what we’re hearing, that Senate bill is very similar to the House bill.

    Look, it’s cruel. If the House bill was mean, it sounds like the Senate bill is going to be cruel. And, honestly, it’s not even about politics or electoral — elections at this point. It’s about taking people off of their health care.

    It’s about people potentially dying. And what we’re seeing is the Republicans want to kick off tens of millions of people and hurt our most vulnerable, and that is a problem.

    DAVID AVELLA: But that is what Obamacare is doing.

    KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: No, that is not true. That is not true, not according to the CBO score, an independent office.

    DAVID AVELLA: More and more people are losing their health insurance every month under the current Obamacare.

    (CROSSTALK)

    JOHN YANG: We’re going to have to leave it there. We’re going to know more tomorrow. And I’m sure we will talk more about this after tomorrow.

    Karine Jean-Pierre, David Avella, thanks for joining us.

    DAVID AVELLA: Thank you.

    KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, John.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: On Capitol Hill today, current and former U.S. government officials testified before members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, painting a clearer portrait of how Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. elections.

    A current FBI official told the Senate Intelligence Committee how the Russian government directed cyber-attacks to wage an information campaign that favored then-candidate Trump.

    Homeland Security official Jeanette Manfra also offered new details on how Russians attempted to interfere with state election systems.

    JEANETTE MANFRA, Department of Homeland Security Official: As of right now we have evidence of 21 states — or election-related systems in 21 states that were targeted.

    MAN: But in no case were actual vote tallies altered in any way, shape, or form?

    JEANETTE MANFRA: That is correct.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In a separate and almost simultaneous hearing before House Intelligence, former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson described learning about Russian hacking into Democratic National Committee systems months after the FBI became aware.

    JEH JOHNSON, Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security: It had been some months before I was learning of this that the FBI and the DNC had been in contact with each other about this. And I wasn’t happy to be learning about this several months later. Very clearly, I wasn’t pleased that we were not in there helping them patch this vulnerability.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: We get more on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation now with one of its key members, Senator James Lankford, Republican from Oklahoma. He joins us now from Capitol Hill.

    Senator, thanks for being here.

    This afternoon, we heard multiple DHS officials say that they have more and more evidence that Russia tried to interfere in the campaigns or interfere in the election systems in 21 different states. And while they stress that none of the votes were flipped in any of these states, they did say that some of these intrusions kind of made it past of the security systems.

    So, my question is, why not release the information on which states or which localities were compromised?

    SEN. JAMES LANKFORD, R-Okla.: So the FBI has a very clear policy. They don’t expose victims. And they consider these states to be victims of an intrusion on the outside.

    If the states want to be able to say that or if they want to be able to release that, obviously, they’re welcome to do. But for a location that was actually attacked by an outside force they’re not going to release it.

    Some of those will continue to come out. Some of those states will say, yes, we’re one of the states, and the list will eventually come out.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You agree it’s important, regardless whether if you’re Democrat or Republican, to make sure that these things are fixed, especially between now and 2018?

    SEN. JAMES LANKFORD: Absolutely, it is.

    There were really three simultaneous hearings today, one in the House, two in the Senate, both of them in the Senate dealing with state election systems and also dealing with state penetrations from outside actors trying to be able to reach into multiple state agencies.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Since the investigation into Russian meddling began, has anything changed your opinion in how serious this is?

    SEN. JAMES LANKFORD: Oh, no, it hasn’t changed my opinion. I serve on the Intel Committee and I have been very aware of it. I think more Americans are aware of what is going on, as we try to engage our federal government to be able to step up to the level of risk that we really face.

    A lot of states have become more aware of it, and their state CIOs, chief information officers, and other agencies are now stepping up to say this is a real threat and we need to be able to treat it seriously.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Since this began, we have reports just in the last couple of days from The New York Times now that says the CIA director, Mike Pompeo, continued to brief Michael Flynn even after he was given information that Michael Flynn might be compromised.

    Was this — was this handled appropriately?

    SEN. JAMES LANKFORD: It was handled appropriately.

    I was very surprised at The New York Times story. They get some things right. For this one, it seemed much ado about nothing.

    The fact that in the earliest days Michael Flynn was there and that there were some people from the previous administration that didn’t like Michael Flynn or thought that he had been challenged before, this administration, the current administration, was still trying to determine that, and to be able to put that off on Mike Pompeo, who had also just been hired days before, literally , they’re confronting Mike Pompeo, saying he could have — should have confronted a White House official days into his new post, I think, is an unfair reevaluation or rewrite of history.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: This also seems to — from an outsider’s perspective, even when it comes to intelligence-gathering, there’s a layer of politics on it and a layer of distrust, because you would think that by the time the information filters up to the head of the CIA, that whoever is coming up with that information is putting country first and not party.

    SEN. JAMES LANKFORD: Correct.

    And you would also assume that there is a way to be able to interpret that information. And at times, you see an accusation that may be released out, for instance, with Michael Flynn, to say he might have been compromised, he might have been vulnerable to blackmail.

    When you actually see that information, I think a lot of Americans will look at it and go, what in the world are they talking about? One analyst will look at one thing and see it one way. Another analyst will look at it and see it an entirely different way. There’s more open to interpretation here than what the Americans are being led to believe in this by that story.

    I would just tell people to take a deep breath. Let’s not try to revise history of what was actually going on in literally the very first week of a new administration as they were getting organized.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is there any concern that Michael Flynn had access to information that he shouldn’t have had?

    SEN. JAMES LANKFORD: No, I haven’t seen that concern on that.

    He is the national security adviser working next to the president, so in his time that he was the national security adviser, he is working in the White House. He should have access to that information.

    Obviously, once the president fired him, he should have access to no information at all at that point.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You have also had the opportunity to listen to Mike Rogers in — I’m sorry — you have had the head of the DNI and the head of the CIA in closed-door sessions.

    Has anything that they have told you, without having to reveal it here, given you any greater sense of comfort or a greater sense of alarm?

    SEN. JAMES LANKFORD: No, they haven’t.

    Obviously, when we walk through classified information and sources and methods and how things are determined, we get a chance to see the raw data. Very often, what comes out in open hearings is an impression that has been made, and then you look back at the data and you have to determine whether I would agree or disagree with that same impression.

    We are walking through all the investigations in a very bipartisan way. The Senate Intelligence Committee is a very bipartisan committee where we try to look at all the information, have real conversations.

    You don’t have Republicans and Democrats behind closed doors. We have people passionate about national security behind closed doors. And I think that’s the way that it should be.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The White House is supposed to announce, possibly as early as this week, to settle this question on whether or not there exists recordings of conversations between the president and former Director James Comey.

    As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, do you have any reason to believe that there are or that there are not tapes?

    SEN. JAMES LANKFORD: We don’t know. We have, obviously, made the request that we would receive those recordings.

    It would clear up a lot of the issues. Obviously, the former FBI director, Jim Comey, said he released out his memos that were of an FBI document that after he left employment he released them out anyway to try to proactively cut that off.

    I wish he wouldn’t have done that. But if we have recordings, we could get the recordings and get all the information out there. But at this point, if there is a recording, based on a tweet from the president saying he — that Jim Comey better hope that there aren’t, I would, quite frankly, tell you, if the White House has recordings, they should release them. That settles the issue.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: If there are recordings, is that concerning to you?

    SEN. JAMES LANKFORD: Well, it would only be a question for me to figure out why they’re trying to record what’s happening in the White House and what is happening in private conversations.

    If there are, we need to get the information out. Let’s resolve the issues and try to determine why those were happening, what was the source of those, and then that will help settle a lot of issues.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Senator James Lankford from the Senate Intelligence Committee and from Oklahoma, thanks so much.

    SEN. JAMES LANKFORD: You bet. Thank you.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: In the day’s other news: Congressional Republicans and the Trump White House celebrated their latest win in a special election. Republican Karen Handel held a GOP House seat in the Atlanta suburbs, beating Democrat Jon Ossoff in Tuesday’s vote. It was the most expensive U.S. House race ever, and both candidates called for unity last night.

    KAREN HANDEL (R), Georgia Congresswoman-Elect: To the Jon Ossoff supporters, know that my commitments, they extend to every one of you as well. We may have some different beliefs, but we are part of one community, the community of the Sixth District.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    JON OSSOFF (D), Georgia Congressional Candidate: We showed the world that in places where no one thought it was even possible to fight, we could fight.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

    JON OSSOFF: We showed them that we can still build coalitions of people who may not see eye to eye on everything, but rather than demonizing each other, we find common ground to move forward.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Another special House election in South Carolina was closer than expected, but Republicans won that one as well. President Trump tweeted that Democrats are losing because they’re obstructing action on health care and tax cuts. He’s in Iowa this evening for a campaign-style rally.

    Meanwhile, Montana Republican Greg Gianforte formally joined the U.S. House today. He won a special election last month, despite body-slamming a reporter. He’s since been convicted of misdemeanor assault. Today, House Speaker Paul Ryan presided as Gianforte took the oath of office. He replaces Ryan Zinke, who became interior secretary.

    The FBI confirms the gunman who opened fire on House Republicans last week acted alone. Investigators said today that James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, had no ties to any terror group. He attacked lawmakers at a baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was gravely wounded, and the hospital upgraded his condition to fair today.

    A police officer was stabbed at an airport in Flint, Michigan, today, and the FBI is looking at it as an act of terrorism. Officials charged a Canadian man who came to the U.S. last week. The man yelled “God is great” in Arabic and made comments about Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. The officer was stabbed in the neck, and officials later said he was at a hospital and his condition was satisfactory.

    In Saudi Arabia, the kingdom’s ailing 81-year-old monarch elevated his much younger son to the role of successor today. The decision comes at a moment of economic challenges and high tensions with regional rival Iran.

    MAN (through interpreter): The custodian of the two holy mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, has issued royal decrees.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The announcement was read on state television. King Salman named his son, 31-year-old Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince, next in line to the throne. He also became interior minister, in charge of security.

    The king’s nephew, Mohammed bin Nayef, lost both titles. But he appeared with the new crown prince, and pledged loyalty.

    MOHAMMED BIN NAYEF, Nephew of King (through interpreter): I am content. I am going to rest now, and may God be with you.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The announcement capped Prince Mohammed’s meteoric rise to power since his father assumed the throne in 2015.

    Peter Waldman, a writer for Bloomberg Businessweek, profiled the young prince last year.

    PETER WALDMAN, Bloomberg Businessweek: He wants to bring entrepreneurship and initiative and kind of a high-tech sensibility to Saudi Arabia. On social issues, he is relatively progressive, meaning that he clearly can see a point in time when women will be driving and can essentially travel and take jobs without their husband’s or male guardian’s permission.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: He was already defense minister, and firmly opposes dialogue with Shiite Iran, fierce rival to the Saudis and their Sunni allies.

    Prince Mohammed has also overseen the Saudi military campaign against Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels in a proxy war with the Iranians.

    PETER WALDMAN: His confrontation with Iran across the Persian Gulf is a bit dangerous. He has said and is willing to do military interventions in Yemen, most notably, where lots of civilians have died in this ongoing war. People worry that he doesn’t necessarily have the wisdom of age and experience.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: On the domestic side, the prince has championed economic reforms. He wants to reduce the country’s dependence on oil, and allow an initial public offering of stock in the state-owned oil giant, Saudi Aramco.

    The elevation of Mohammed bin Salman came after he met with President Trump during the president’s visit last month. The White House said President Trump called Prince Mohammed today to offer his congratulations.

    Elsewhere in the Middle East, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, spent today in the region, pushing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Kushner met first with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Later, he met with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.

    In Iraq, the Islamic State group has destroyed a historic mosque in Mosul. The centuries-old site is where the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared a so-called Islamic caliphate in 2014, shortly after ISIS captured the city. It comes as Iraqi forces are pushing into the Old City, the group’s last stronghold in Mosul.

    There’s been a new confrontation in the skies over the Baltic Sea for the second day in a row. Russia released footage today that shows a NATO fighter jet near a plane carrying the Russian defense minister. Then, a Russian fighter moves in, before the NATO plane pulls away. NATO says it was following standard procedure.

    Back in this country, Tropical Storm Cindy crawled toward the Gulf Coast, drenching a stretch from Eastern Texas to the Florida Panhandle. Both Louisiana and Alabama declared emergencies over fears of flooding. The storm is expected to make landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border overnight, and could dump a foot of rain.

    Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards:

    GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS, Louisiana: This will be a severe weather event that will primarily consist of threats of rain and flooding, but there also is a potential for wind damage as well. No one should be under the belief that this storm is only going to affect coastal Louisiana or Southeastern Louisiana. This storm is going to affect the entire state.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: A 10-year-old died on the Alabama coast after being struck by a log washed in on a storm surge from Cindy.

    A jury in Milwaukee has acquitted a former police officer in the shooting of a black man last August. Dominique Heaggan-Brown had been charged with first-degree reckless homicide in the shooting of 23-year-old Sylville Smith. It happened after a traffic stop and a brief foot chase. Smith had a gun, but appeared to be throwing it over a fence. The shooting sparked two nights of riots.

    The CEO and co-founder of Uber has resigned. Travis Kalanick stepped down overnight amid turmoil at the ride-hailing company. Uber faces allegations of sexual harassment and theft of trade secrets, plus a federal investigation into whether it misled local regulators.

    And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 57 points to close at 21410. The Nasdaq rose 46 points, and the S&P 500 dropped a point.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN: We are now on the eve of seeing a Senate proposal for health care, including replacing the Affordable Care Act.

    Republican leaders plan to release their bill tomorrow, after working on it behind closed doors for weeks. Late today, The Washington Post reported a draft bill largely mirrors the House’s version, but with some notable changes. It will end Medicaid expansion more gradually, but cut it deeply in the long term. It also removes language that restricts federally subsidized health plans from covering abortions.

    Lisa Desjardins joins me now.

    Lisa, considering the process here, tomorrow’s going to be an unveiling of this draft, not just to the public, but even to a lot of Republicans.

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right. Most Republican senators have not seen the language yet, Hari.

    They tell me that they will see it tomorrow around 9:30 a.m. Eastern time. That’s when Republican senators will gather for this exact reason. When will we see it? When will the public see it? Republicans tell me that is at the same time, 9:30 a.m. Eastern, online. Not clear exactly where yet.

    Hari, even as we wait for the exact bill, today, we’re hearing from some key senators that they have alarm bells ringing in their heads. Remember, Republicans can only lose two Republican senators and still have this bill pass. Well, today, Rand Paul told me he sees what he hears as Obamacare-lite.

    And another senator, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, told me he’s concerned. He asked for more time to review this bill. He said a vote next week, as is planned, is too soon. He said he’s not getting more time and he’s not sure he can get to yes without it.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Speaking of health care, today was also an important day, a deadline for insurance companies to figure out whether they were going to participate in some of the exchanges or not.

    LISA DESJARDINS: This is critical for what kind of options people will have on the individual markets.

    And so far, today, Hari, we have learned some news from some insurers pulling out of markets, in fact, Anthem and Blue Cross/Blue Shield pulling out of markets in Wisconsin and Indiana.

    But it’s really a mixed story, Hari, because we’re also seeing new insurers enter in places like Tennessee, which will have three more options for insurance than it did last year. And also I spoke to a company called Medica. They plan on offering insurance throughout Iowa. That will be new for them this year, adding another option for Iowans.

    But here’s comes the catch, Hari, in a way. Medica says, to do that, they’re planning to increase premiums by 43 percent. So we will get more news here, but it’s a really mixed picture, all of these insurers saying there’s instability in the market.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Lisa Desjardins joining us from Capitol Hill, many thanks.

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    Members of the press team pose after the 2017 Congressional Women's Softball Game. Photo by Dan Cooney

    Members of the press team pose after the 2017 Congressional Women’s Softball Game. Photo by Dan Cooney

    The Congressional Women’s Softball Game set a fundraising record Wednesday night, as female lawmakers and members of the press squared off one week after the shooting at a practice for the men’s Congressional Baseball Game.

    The press team beat the bipartisan lawmakers squad 2-1 in the ninth annual charity contest. The game, played before a crowd of roughly 2,000 at the Watkins Recreation Center in Southeast Washington, D.C., is a rare chance for lawmakers from both parties to socialize with each other and the press outside of their regular routines in Congress.

    “I can’t really overstate what a great team-building effort it is,” said Sen. Shelley Moore-Capito, R-W.Va. “We ought to do more of it. [And] a lot of the folks that came out to watch the other members, they had fun too.”

    Shawna Thomas, the D.C. bureau chief for Vice News, said the game provided members of the press corps with a fun distraction from the daily challenges of reporting in Washington.

    “The women who play on the press team are amazing,” Thomas said. “Our jobs are super hard, and we come out here, and we practice, and we do this because it’s for a really great cause.”

    The game raised more than $300,000, including ticket and concessions sales, for the Young Survivors Coalition, an organization dedicated to helping young women with breast cancer. The total broke the game’s previous fundraising record of $215,000, set in 2016.

    The bipartisan lawmakers’ team was made up of three senators and 11 House members, according to the official roster. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Reps. Martha Roby, R-Ala., Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fla., served as captains. Moore Capito took home the award for most valuable player on the lawmakers’ team.

    The press team had 23 players, including four from PBS NewsHour, and was captained by Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and Mikayla Bouchard of the New York Times. Tamara Keith of NPR was named MVP of the press team.

    Security was tighter than usual for the game, which took place six days after several people, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, were injured in a shooting at practice for the Republicans’ congressional baseball team.

    A lone gunman opened fire on the early morning practice at a field in Alexandria, Virginia on June 14. The attacker was wounded in a shootout with Capitol Hill police at the field and later died.

    The congressional baseball game went ahead as scheduled the following day at Nationals Park. The game sold nearly 25,000 tickets and raised more than $1.5 million for three charities in the Washington area.

    Atalie Ebersole, the president and treasurer of the Congressional Women’s Softball Game, said the group requested additional security measures for this year’s game in May.

    “We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the U.S. Capitol Police and D.C. Metro Police,” for providing security for the contest, Ebersole said.

    Daniel Bush contributed reporting.

    The post Women’s congressional softball game sets fundraising record appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and other members of the House Freedom Caucus hold a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Eric Thayer/Reuters

    Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and other members of the House Freedom Caucus hold a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Eric Thayer/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky says he and three other Republican senators are preparing to announced their opposition to the Senate health care bill as it’s written.

    Their opposition puts the bill in jeopardy, since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can lose only two Republican senators and still pass the legislation.

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, alongside other Senate Democrats, spoke on Thursday about the Senate Republicans’ health care bill.

    Paul tells The Associated Press in an interview that the bill released Thursday resembles “Obamacare” too closely and does not go far enough to repeal former President Barack Obama’s law.

    Paul says that he and the other senators are “definitely open to negotiation” but that they need to make their opposition clear in order to ensure negotiations happen.

    McConnell is pushing toward a vote next week but Paul’s stance throws that into question.

    READ MORE: What’s in the Senate Republican health care bill

    The post Small GOP opposition puts Senate health care bill in jeopardy appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Former Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks at the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, May 16, 2015. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

    Former Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks at the Republican Party of Iowa’s Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, United States, May 16, 2015. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Republicans and Democrats denounced President Donald Trump’s proposed energy budget Thursday, and even Trump’s energy secretary distanced himself from a plan that would slash funding for energy efficiency, renewable energy and basic science. The proposal also would eliminate popular programs such as research for advanced energy technologies.

    As senators condemned the budget at a hearing, Energy Secretary Rick Perry made it clear he did not have a say on the request submitted to Congress.

    “My job is to defend it.”

    The $28 billon proposal “was written before I got here,” Perry told the Senate energy panel. “My job is to defend it.”

    Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota compared Perry to a defense attorney for a murder suspect: “I know he’s guilty, but I’m going to give him a robust defense.”

    Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said Perry was on “a suicide mission” to “defend the indefensible.” King, a former governor, said the energy proposal was “perhaps the worst budget for any agency” he’s ever seen. “This is a nonscience budget.”

    Senate Energy Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said Trump’s proposal was likely to be overhauled.

    “The United States is the world leader in science and energy. We like it that way and we want to keep it that way,” she said, adding that “the core of that excellence is the work done at our national laboratories.” The Office of Science, which oversees 10 of the 17 national labs, would see a 17 percent cut under Trump’s plan.

    “The United States is the world leader in science and energy. We like it that way and we want to keep it that way.”

    While she appreciates the administration’s effort to balance the budget, “that cannot come at the expense of our efforts on energy innovation,” Murkowski said.

    Murkowski’s comments echoed Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Energy Appropriations panel, who called the national labs “our secret weapon for innovation research that leads to better jobs and higher family incomes in our country.”

    Alexander, whose state is home to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 national security complex, said at a hearing Wednesday that the federal budget can’t be balanced “on the backs of national labs, national parks, National Institutes of Health.”

    Alexander called the energy request “especially bad” and said Congress would reject Trump’s call to eliminate the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, which supports research into new energy technologies.

    Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., chided Perry for trying to “do nuclear clean-up on the cheap.” Specifically, she said a budget plan for the Hanford nuclear complex in Washington state was grossly inadequate and driven by White House budget officials who “know nothing about science.” Hanford, the largest U.S. site of waste from nuclear weapons production, is in the midst of a decadeslong clean-up with an annual budget of $2.3 billion.

    Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., slammed the administration’s proposal to revive the long-stalled nuclear waste dump at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain. The state’s Republican governor and lawmakers from both parties oppose the plan.

    “This is a sensitive topic for some, but we can no longer kick the can down the road.”

    While Perry took office saying he had not decided on the issue, he now is in “full-throated support” of a plan to store nuclear waste in Nevada “against the will of the people in my state,” Cortez Masto said.

    Perry said he understands the political opposition but added that the U.S. has a “moral obligation” to find a long-term solution to store spent fuel from its commercial nuclear fleet.

    “This is a sensitive topic for some, but we can no longer kick the can down the road,” Perry said, noting that a stalemate over Yucca Mountain has stretched over more than three decades and six presidential administrations. Trump’s budget would spend $120 million to restart a licensing process for the mothballed repository.

    The post Energy Secretary Rick Perry distances himself from Trump’s proposed budget cuts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A customer leaves an ATM at the Wells Fargo & Co. bank in downtown Denver April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking - RTX29UJW

    A customer leaves an ATM at the Wells Fargo & Co. bank in downtown Denver April 13, 2016. Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters

    Editor’s Note: Lisa Servon, a professor of city planning at the University of Pennsylvania, has been studying low-income neighborhoods for 20 years, so she was stumped by the continuing — in fact, growing — popularity of check cashers, payday lenders and pawn shops, alternative financial services notorious for preying on the poor. Yet the members of the so-called “unbanked” Servon had met over the years weren’t stupid with money. To the contrary, they knew how to stretch a dollar — because they so often had to. So why were so many shunning traditional banks?

    To find out, Servon took her field work to an unusual level, actually taking a job as a teller at a check casher and then at a payday lender. She reports her startling findings in a new book, “The Unbanking of America.” Chief among them: check cashers are often cheaper and almost always more transparent than banks. In fact, low-income customers don’t trust banks, largely because they charge unexpected maintenance and overdraft fees. As it turns out, banks are making a bundle from such fees. Servon shares why below.

    Watch our broadcast story on “The Unbanking of America” on Thursday’s PBS NewsHour.

    — Paul Solman, Economics Correspondent


    In 2009, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation conducted the first of its biennial Surveys of Unbanked and Underbanked Households.  The survey groups people into three categories: banked (they rely only on banks and credit unions); unbanked (they have no bank account); and underbanked (they have a bank account but also use alternative financial services such as check cashers and payday lenders). This way of classifying consumers implied that banks are the best option for everyone.  Policymakers, alarmed by the finding that nearly 8 percent of Americans are unbanked and another 20 percent are underbanked, began to devise strategies to move everyone into a bank account.

    During my fieldwork as a teller at a check casher in the South Bronx, I learned that many of my customers couldn’t afford banks. A recent survey conducted by Pew Charitable Trusts found that the most common reason given for not having a bank account was overdraft fees.

    The average charge per overdraft went from $21.57 in 1998 to $31.26 in 2012. Similarly, average ATM fees more than doubled between 2001 and 2014.

    Over the past 30 years, banks have become increasingly reliant on all kinds of fees. Bankers work with consulting firms to figure out how to turn services like overdraft protection and ATMs into cash cows. Once bankers experienced this new way to profit from overdrafts, it was impossible to go back. Lyn Farrell, managing director at the bank advisory firm Treliant, said that one bank CEO told her: “It’s like a drug. Once people get this, it’s like a drug.” Joanne Barefoot, whose career includes stops at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Housing Administration, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board and a time as deputy controller of the currency, agreed: “I’ve heard people say it’s like crack cocaine.” In a Bank Director magazine article published in 2011, a Haberfeld Associates executive boasted that banks working with his firm generate 86 percent of their fee revenue from overdraft and other new fees, which the firm calls the “gold mine of checking.”

    And it wasn’t just overdraft fees. Ellen Seidman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, explained that so-called free checking, the ability to overdraw an account and variable interest rates on credit cards initially seemed to be good for consumers. But once banks began to see that these products and services could be profitable, she noted that “bad things started happening.”

    The average charge per overdraft went from $21.57 in 1998 to $31.26 in 2012. Similarly, average ATM fees more than doubled between 2001 and 2014. Some banks began to charge $1 or $2 for paper statements and up to $25 for a replacement debit card.

    Many consumers became overly reliant on overdrafts. Some who lack other sources of funds use overdrafts like a short-term loan. Unfortunately, a single overdraft can result in cascading bad checks and hundreds of dollars in charges.

    Let’s take a look at exactly how this works: Say you have $100 in your account, and today you have an automatic student-loan payment of $110 scheduled. The automatic payment will result in a deficit of $10. The bank will charge a $34 overdraft fee, which is typical for big banks. You now have a deficit of $44. Imagine you also use your checking-account debit card that day to purchase $25 worth of groceries. That purchase will trigger another overdraft, and you will be charged another $34. For $135 worth of transactions, you have been charged $78. But it may not stop there. If the account balance remains overdrawn for five consecutive business days, the bank will charge an extended overdraft fee per item, typically between $15 and $35.

    READ MORE: Column: How much do the poor actually pay in taxes? Probably more than you think.

    It’s quite possible that the chain reaction started with a common miscalculation: You presumed that a check you had deposited into your account would clear before the student-loan payment came due. But your check took a day longer than usual to clear. Banks depend on these miscalculations. In 2014, Americans paid nearly $32 billion in overdraft fees.

    Dodd-Frank, the 2010 legislation passed in the wake of the financial crisis, took a big bite out of banks’ ability to generate overdraft and other fees, but banks have figured out how to get around it. In May 2014, Haberfeld Associates presented a webinar showing participants how overdraft protection could continue to function as an income stream for banks, even after Dodd-Frank required banks to get customers to opt in to the service. The paperwork for setting up an account was so opaque that nearly half of all consumers who overdrew their accounts didn’t remember opting in to overdraft protection.

    In February 2015, Adam Griesel, the current CEO of Haberfeld, wrote an article titled “Add Customers, Grow Profits,” in which he advised banks to market free checking accounts to customers and then turn those customers into fee generators. Checking accounts, Griesel wrote, are the gateway to a range of other bank products — debit cards, paper checks, overdraft protection — that generate fee income. Having a checking account is typically a consumer’s main reason for working with a bank. Sixty-four percent of consumers exclusively use a debit card from that account, and free-checking customers use an average of 4.75 products and services, all of which generate fee income. Haberfeld Associates found that customers with debit cards generated more fees annually, $336, than other customers, who generated only $260.

    Another big-bank practice is called “debit resequencing”; the bank processes the debits and credits to an account in a way that causes account balances to fall faster, thereby boosting potential overdraft fees. In February 2012, Chase settled a class-action suit accusing the bank of charging excessive overdraft fees. In November 2011, Bank of America was ordered to pay $410 million to customers for wrongfully charging excessive overdraft fees resulting from debit resequencing. Despite these two huge suits and subsequent regulatory action, 44 percent of banks included in a recent study still engage in this practice. The numbers are decreasing, but not enough.

    Here’s how debit resequencing works. Let’s say that on a given date you send two checks — one to your credit card company for $150 and another to your local electric company for $75; the credit card company and the electric company try to get their money from your account on the same date. An automatic withdrawal you’ve set up to pay your rent also hits your account, and your rent is $500. On the date that those three things hit your account, you have a balance of $100. The bank could clear the $75 charge first, resulting in two overdraft fees. Instead, many use software that reorders the transactions. This software presents the $500 charge first, then the $150 charge and finally the $75 charge, and you end up paying three overdraft fees instead of two. Banks make this choice in order to maximize profit rather than do right by their customers.

    Worn down by escalating fees, errors in their accounts and endless hours on hold with customer “service” representatives, they’ve simply had it.

    In their book “Phishing for Phools,” the Nobel Prize–winning economists George Akerlof and Robert Shiller argue that the free market encourages manipulation and deception. “The economic system,” Akerloff and Shiller write, “is filled with trickery.” Manipulation and deception, from opaque fees to unethical debt-collection practices, run through the entire consumer financial-services system.

    Banks deposit funds into customers’ accounts only five days a week, but withdraw funds seven days a week. How can you plan when you don’t know when you’ll get access to your money? The lag between depositing checks and being able to access cash explains why so many working people who get paid at the end of the week go to the check casher — they need that money to buy food and to pay bills. They can’t wait for their checks to clear.

    With practices like overdraft fees and debit resequencing, it’s hard to argue that banks are working in their customers’ best interests. When I travel around the country talking about my work, people mob me, telling stories of how their banks have wronged them. Worn down by escalating fees, errors in their accounts and endless hours on hold with customer “service” representatives, they’ve simply had it.

    The post Column: The bank fees you don’t even know about appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    FILE PHOTO - Flags fly above the entrance to the new Trump International Hotel on its opening day in Washington

    Flags fly above the entrance to the Trump International Hotel on its opening day in Washington, DC, on September 12, 2016. File photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

    The sentence in the United States Constitution known as the emoluments clause received little attention before Donald Trump ran for president. Now, it’s the basis of three major lawsuits against Mr. Trump.

    The most recent came last week, when nearly 200 Democratic lawmakers filed a lawsuit alleging that Congress was denied the chance to weigh in on whether Trump should be allowed to accept foreign payments to his company, the Trump Organization.

    The clause says Congress must approve foreign payments and gifts to federal employees.

    “[President Trump] is flagrantly and blatantly violating the emoluments clause, not just once, but repeatedly and continuously,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Tuesday at a press conference.

    Maryland and the District of Columbia filed a similar lawsuit last week, claiming that foreign leaders seeking to curry favor with the new president have provided him with gifts and benefits that violate the emoluments clause.

    The nonpartisan watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington also announced a lawsuit against Trump the day after he took office, again citing payments from foreign governments.

    “President Trump has made his slogan ‘America First,’” Noah Bookbinder, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “So you would think he would want to strictly follow the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause, since it was written to ensure our government officials are thinking of Americans first, and not foreign governments.”

    In full, the foreign emoluments clause says “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.”

    The Oxford dictionary defines an emolument as “a salary, fee, or profit from employment or office.” The lawsuits against Trump argue emoluments also include business transactions.

    President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Photo by Scott Morgan/Reuters

    President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on June 21, 2017. Photo by Scott Morgan/Reuters

    Few Americans had heard of the clause before Trump was elected, and for good reason. There is no major court ruling on the how the clause applies to the president.

    Andy Grewal, a law professor at the University of Iowa, says most legal opinions about the clause interpret it in the context of a federal official working for a foreign government. But now, with Trump in office, legal experts are questioning whether that traditional definition should be expanded.

    “In the past, presidents and federal officers have gone out of their way to avoid being anywhere near violating this anti-foreign corruption clause in the constitution,” said Zephyr Teachout, a law professor at Fordham University who is advising the District of Columbia and Maryland in their lawsuit against Trump.

    Teachout, a Democrat who ran for governor in New York in 2014, argued that Trump, unlike his predecessors, has not done enough to distance and divest himself of his business interests, despite turning over the management of his company to his sons.

    “The Foreign Emoluments Clause came out of a near obsession of the founders about protecting against corruption.”

    If a head of state from a foreign country pays to stay at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., while visiting the president, for example, the president still receives part of that payment. That violates the original intent of the emoluments clause, said Teachout, who is also on the legal team that filed the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington’s lawsuit.

    “The Foreign Emoluments Clause came out of a near obsession of the founders about protecting against corruption, particularly foreign corruption,” Teachout said.

    Seth Barrett Tillman, a legal scholar who is writing an amicus brief for the Department of Justice’s defense of Trump in the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington lawsuit, disagrees.

    “I’m sympathetic to their worldview,” said Seth Barrett Tillman, who teaches law at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. “There is something a little uncomfortable about having a president distracted from his office with his personal affairs, but that is not a reason to say these clauses mean something they have never meant historically.”

    Tillman said the law was written with a more narrow purpose in mind. The clause intended to prevent a government official from taking a salary from a foreign government, and that is in line with how legal experts have interpreted it up to this point, Tillman said.

    U.S. President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate is seen in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas - RTS12JR1

    President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. Membership fees have doubled since he was elected. File photo by REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

    Tillman goes further than many other scholars and also argues that the emoluments clause does not apply to the president because it is derived from a British law that refers to appointed rather than elected officials. The Department of Justice did not argue this point in its written defense.

    There is also a second part of the constitution at play in the lawsuits.

    The presidential compensation clause, also called the domestic emoluments clause, says the president should not receive any other emolument from federal or state governments during his time in office.

    The suits against Trump allege that his businesses have benefitted from him becoming the president. In a court filing for the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington lawsuit, the plaintiffs argue the Trump Hotel in Washington is being leased from the Government Services Administration, and that membership fees at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida doubled from $100,000 per year to $200,000 per year after he was elected.

    READ MORE: How Jared Kushner and others gerrymander to sell visas to foreigners

    But even before courts decide whether Trump violated the emoluments clause, they must decide whether those bringing the lawsuits have “standing,” or the legal right to be a plaintiff in a case.

    “Standing really means if you want to go to court, you have to have been harmed,” Grewal said.

    Showing exactly how the plaintiffs have been harmed can be tricky. In the 1997 case Raines v. Byrd, the Supreme Court ruled that lawmakers who sue must show their personal rights were violated, not just that they lost political power.

    In the case of the congressional Democrats’ lawsuit, Grewal said courts will likely rule the plaintiffs’ main problem is their lack of political sway, including their inability to convince their GOP colleagues to take action against the president, rather than any real violations of their legal rights.

    The issue of legal standing in the other two cases is more nuanced, so it’s harder to predict whether federal judges will allow those lawsuits to proceed, Grewal said.

    The post How the emoluments clause is being used to sue Trump appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    It’s billed as “a virtual playground of four dimensions.” Floors react to footsteps like waves, virtual letters blow off a tree, animals made of light react to sounds.

    We recently visited “XYZT: Abstract Landscapes,” an interactive art exhibit on display in Washington, D.C.’s ARTECHOUSE. The letters X,Y, Z and T in the title are meant to represent each of the four dimensions: X (horizontal), Y (vertical), Z (depth) and T (time).

    Take a look inside in the video above.

    The exhibit, created by digital artists Adrien Mondot and Claire Bardainne, will be on display at ARTECHOUSE until September 3, 2017.

    A visitor stands in front of an installation at

    The post WATCH: When digital art meets light, sound and illusion appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Dust rises from the site of a Saudi-led air strike in Yemen's capital Sanaa September 17, 2015. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah - RTS1JSV

    Dust rises from the site of a 2015 airstrike in Yemen’s capital Sanaa. The U.S. military says an American airstrike in Yemen has killed a top commander for the al-Qaida affiliate there and two of his associates. Photo by REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah.

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. military says an American airstrike in Yemen has killed a top commander for the al-Qaida affiliate there and two of his associates.

    U.S. Central Command says the strike in Shabwa province killed Abu Khattab al Awlaqi, the emir of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. The U.S. says he was leading efforts to fuel instability in southern Yemen and to plan attacks on civilians, and was closely linked to AQAP leaders.

    The U.S. military has conducted at least 80 airstrikes this year targeting AQAP, which the U.S. considers one of the most dangerous terrorist threats to America and the West.

    Officials say they don’t believe he is related to Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric who inspired attacks on America and was killed in a U.S. airstrike in September 2011.

    The post U.S. airstrike in Yemen kills al-Qaida commander, 2 others appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Donald Trump takes the stage for a rally at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S. June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Scott Morgan - RTS184LW

    President Donald Trump said at a Thursday rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that he wanted to add solar panels to his long-promised southern border wall. Photo by REUTERS/Scott Morgan.

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump wants to add solar panels to his long-promised southern border wall — a plan he says would help pay for the wall’s construction and add to its aesthetic appeal.

    “We’re thinking about building the wall as a solar wall so it creates energy and pays for itself,” Trump said at a rally Wednesday night in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “And this way, Mexico will have to pay much less money. And that’s good, right?”

    Trump had previously floated the solar panel idea during a closed-door meeting with Republican members of Congress earlier this month, but this was the first time he’d discussed the idea publicly.

    “Pretty good imagination, right?” Trump said at the rally, framing the plan as “my idea.”

    Not quite.

    READ MORE: In Iowa, the president channels his inner candidate Trump

    The notion of adding solar panels to the border wall was explored in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in March. Vasilis Fthenakis, director of the Center for Life Cycle Analysis at Columbia University, and Ken Zweibel, former director of the Solar Institute at George Washington University, concluded it was “not only technically and economically feasible, it might even be more practical than a traditional wall.”

    They said a 2,000-mile solar wall could cost less than $1 billion, instead of tens of billions for a traditional border wall, and possibly become “wildly profitable.” The writers were studying a concept laid out by Homero Aridjis and James Ramey in the online World Post in December.

    The idea also was proposed by one of the companies that submitted a design to the government as a border wall prototype.

    Trump’s comments could raise questions about whether he was attempting to interfere with what is intended to be a regimented contracting process.

    The bid by Las Vegas-based Gleason Partners LLC proposed covering some sections of the wall with solar panels to provide electricity for lighting, sensors and patrol stations along the wall. Gleason said sales of electricity to utilities could cover the cost of construction in 20 years or less, and suggested that power could also be sold to Mexico.

    Managing partner Thomas Gleason said he wasn’t sure whether his company was still in the running for the contract, but added, “We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish, and that’s to make the president realize there was such a possibility.”

    Department of Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan said nobody from the department had shared the submitted proposals with the White House, though several have been made public by the bidding companies.

    MORE: Here are some of the physical challenges the border wall faces

    But Trump’s comments could raise questions about whether he was attempting to interfere with what is intended to be a regimented contracting process. The government has selected the finalists for contracts to build wall prototypes in San Diego and is expected to announce the winners soon.

    During his campaign, the president vowed to build an impenetrable wall along the length of the U.S.-Mexican border out of concrete and steel.

    But since his inauguration, he has faced resistance, with Congress unwilling to finance the plan.

    Trump has long maintained that Mexico will pay for his wall, even though Mexico has flatly refused. Trump insists that even if U.S. taxpayers have to cover the costs upfront, Mexico will eventually be forced to reimburse the U.S. in some way.

    MORE: Here’s what the Mexico border wall looks like now

    Trump repeatedly described solar power during the campaign as “very, very expensive” and “not working so good.” But he told his audience Wednesday that the U.S.-Mexico border is one of the rare places that “solar really does work” because of the sun and heat.

    “I think we could make it look beautiful, too,” he added. “That would be nice.”

    Gleason said he has no problem with Trump claiming credit for the idea.

    “He can have full credit for it as long as they do a solar wall,” he said.

    The post Why Trump is supporting solar panels along the U.S.-Mexico border appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: And now back to Judy in Colorado at the Spotlight Health Conference.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Here at the Aspen conference, there’s conversation about ways to improve health beyond hospitals, doctors’ offices, and health clubs.

    Some of you may recognize Joy Crump from her time as a contestant on the TV show “Top Chef.” Joy Crump now runs three farm-to-table restaurants in Virginia. And she spoke to us about how the food we eat affects our health.

    JOY CRUMP, Chef and Restaurateur: My name is Joy Crump. I have three restaurants in Virginia, and I was on season 12 of “Top Chef.”

    I’m here at Spotlight Health to shine a light on the connectivity between food and community and your personal health. In the past decade or so, maybe a little bit beyond that decade, we really began to drill down into the connection between locality, where our food comes from, and health.

    It’s something that we grew up with. We always grew up going towards what was closest to us, what was most readily available, what was in season, and what was cheapest. It was what tasted best. Those things mattered to us.

    And now I think, as a nation, we’re insisting that we understand where things come from, that we have a correlation between our food and our communities in which our food is produced.

    The idea that that has to be expensive or that that is of a quality level that everyone shouldn’t have access to is sort of ludicrous. It’s actually the opposite. You have to get used to eating the things that don’t pass the test of getting into like a Whole Foods market, but are still ecologically sound, locally produced, organically farmed, picked by hand, traveled a short distance to get you.

    They may just have brown spots on them. You may just be subject to something that’s not so pretty. I can buy a beautiful bushel of peaches in the middle of the summer for $40 for a bushel.

    What I hope to share with young people that I work with in the restaurants and even the younger kids that I work with is a respect for the journey that food travels in order to get from where it comes from to our forks.

    We have to recognize that farmers bent down and picked things out of ground in order to get those vegetables on our plate. Once we do that, I think we will become less cavalier about how much we waste, and more intent on sharing and celebrating the food that we have.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Sounds like good advice to me.

    The post Farm-fresh healthy food doesn’t have to be too pricey or pretty, says this chef appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: Now to issues of policing, race and the law, issues in the forefront of the news once again.

    John Yang has our look.

    A warning: This story includes images of violence that viewers may find disturbing.

    JERONIMO YANEZ, St. Anthony Police Department: Hello, sir.

    JOHN YANG: This week, the public got to see the dash-cam video of last July’s fatal police shooting of Philando Castile outside St. Paul, Minnesota. Jurors had watched it several times before acquitting officer Jeronimo Yanez. A conversation about a broken taillight quickly turned tense.

    PHILANDO CASTILE: Sir, I have to tell you, I do have a firearm on me.

    JERONIMO YANEZ: OK. OK. Don’t reach for it then. Don’t pull it out.

    PHILANDO CASTILE: I’m not pulling it out.

    JERONIMO YANEZ: Don’t pull it out.

    (GUNSHOTS)

    JOHN YANG: Prosecutors said Castile, who had a permit for the gun, was reaching for his driver’s license. Yanez said he thought he was reaching for his gun. The day he was acquitted, Yanez was fired.

    Since 2005, 82 U.S. law enforcement officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter for on-duty shootings, according to Bowling Green State University criminologist Philip Stinson. So far, 29 have been convicted, five of them for murder.

    Yesterday, a jury found former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown not guilty of reckless homicide for shooting Sylville Smith last August. In court, Smith’s family shouted and cursed.

    Body-camera video caught Heaggan-Brown’s brief chase of Smith. Heaggan-Brown’s first shot came as Smith appeared to throw a gun over a fence. A second shot hit Smith in the chest.

    DOMINIQUE HEAGGAN-BROWN, Milwaukee Police Department: Stop reaching! Stop — move! Move!

    JOHN YANG: He said he acted in self-defense. The shooting sparked two nights of riots.

    And police use of deadly force is under scrutiny again in Seattle, where officers in shot and killed Charleena Lyles, a 30-year-old pregnant woman who had called police to report a burglary at her apartment Sunday. She had two kitchen knives and, her family said, mental health problems.

    As protesters took to the streets, Seattle police, who are investigating the incident, acknowledged the officers had less lethal options.

    So, why do so many — few — so few trials of police officers charged in on-duty shootings end in convictions?

    To explore that question, we’re joined by two guests, first, on Skype, David Klinger. He’s a criminologist at the University of Missouri-Saint Louis and a former Los Angeles police officer. And here in the studio, Brittany Packnett, a co-founder of Campaign Zero, which is pressing for police reform. She served on President Barack Obama’s Police Reform Task Force and is one of a number of leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement.

    Thank you both for joining us.

    I want to ask you first, the two of you the same question. Brittany, let me start with you.

    Why does it — is it seemingly so few of these police trials, police shooting trials end in convictions?

    BRITTANY PACKNETT, Co-Founder, Campaign Zero: It’s because this is more than an individual issue. It’s a systematic issue.

    So often we hear the conversation that it’s about bad apples and bad actors, but, at the end of the day, if this were just about individuals, we wouldn’t see less than 1 percent of convictions in all police shootings. Of the 1,155 people who were killed by police in 2016, there were only 13 charges brought, and so far we have seen no convictions.

    At the end of the day, this is a systematic issue that we have to look at, both from a cultural perspective and a policy one.

    JOHN YANG: David Klinger, what’s you take?

    DAVID KLINGER, University of Missouri-Saint Louis: Well, there’s really two issues.

    One is the number of charges that are levied. And then number two is the conviction rate for those where charges have been brought forth. And in terms of why so few charges are brought forth, I think, if you take an honest look at the vast, vast majority of officer-involved shootings, there is no criminal element whatsoever.

    For those that do lead to criminal charges, sometimes, there is overcharge, and then sometimes there are situations where I and friends of mine, others in this profession, we scratch our heads and don’t understand how the acquittal came about. But we always have to trust in the jury, and that’s where we rest with this.

    JOHN YANG: David, let my stay with you. Are the laws written in a way that makes it tougher for convictions?

    DAVID KLINGER: Well, I think one of the things that people have to understand is that there’s basically a federal standard that was laid down in Graham vs. Connor, which is a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says you have to look at it through the eyes of a reasonable officer on the scene.

    And so what has happened over the years is that most states, that I’m aware of at least, they basically incorporate this standard of an objectively reasonable officer on the scene. And then what happens is, we have a situation where defense attorneys explain to the jury what a reasonable officer at the scene could have or should have done.

    And then the jury has to look at it that way typically. Now, there’s always differences across the 50 states in terms of their justifiable homicide statute. But I think that’s the core understanding across the country about how it is that police officers are to be judged.

    And so, consequently, when you have jurors who are novices getting educated, a good defense attorney makes an argument, and the jury says, oh, that make sense, I understand that that officer could have been fearful or could have perceived that his or her life was in jeopardy, and an acquittal is forthcoming, and, as I indicated, sometimes clearly so, and, other times, it leaves many of us who are in the profession scratching our head, because we know there’s bad shootings and we know there’s bad cops.

    JOHN YANG: Brittany, you have heard the explanation of the law from David. What’s your response? What’s your take on this?

    BRITTANY PACKNETT: I would say it’s twofold.

    One is that we actually do have to look at the letter of the law and the ways in which it’s insufficient. At Campaign Zero, we did a report on the use of force. We found the research that there are eight policies that both police departments and state legislatures can take on that will demonstrably diminish the possibility of police violence.

    Very few police departments engage in five of — even five of those. And if it’s not legal, then it’s not punishable in the court system, so that’s certainly an area in which we need to look. And we need to make those laws stronger.

    The other point, though, that we have to not be afraid the look at is the issue of race. At the end of the day, black people in this country are killed at a rate of three times higher than other folks by police. And if blackness is seen as the only weapon that you are armed with, it is still considered lethal in this country. We continue to find that in the number of charges and convictions that are brought.

    We continue to find that in places like Seattle with Charleena Myles — Lyles, rather. And, at the end of the day, my blackness is not a weapon. It’s just my skin. Until we handle our issue of racism in this country, we’re not going to see an issue — an end to this issue.

    JOHN YANG: A lot of cities try to address that, Brittany, very diversifying the police force, by getting more diverse faces on the police force. Is that an answer?

    BRITTANY PACKNETT: I certainly think that’s part of it.

    But it’s not a single issue. And so we can’t have a single answer, right? We have to look at issues of inherent bias, which, quite frankly, especially issues of anti-blackness, are not just about white people or whether or not you’re a person of color.

    We also have to look at issues of training, support, again, use of force policies, making sure that, as a citizen, I can walk around and feel safe in my community by someone who has sworn an oath to serve and protect me.

    JOHN YANG: David, Brittany mentioned training. In the Seattle case we just heard in that tape piece, the police acknowledged those offers had non-lethal options that they didn’t use.

    How much is this a training issue?

    DAVID KLINGER: I think a big piece of it.

    And I would argue that the race issue is one that gets overplayed. And what I mean by that is this. If we look at shootings that could have been prevented, and it goes back the training and tactics, we can pretty much eliminate, in my opinion, the race piece.

    So, for example, here in Saint Louis, myself and Rick Rosenfeld and two other colleagues were able to look at the spatial patterns of officer-involved shootings in the city of Saint Louis. And at first, it clearly looks as if race plays a role, but once you control for the levels of crime across neighborhoods, that drops out.

    And so that’s one example of why I’m not going to get on to the issue of race being the key. I really think it has to deal with the tactical performance of police officers across the board dealing with whites, blacks, Hispanics, males, females, where they don’t use sound tactics that then lead to the shootings that we scratch our heads over.

    And the issue with Seattle, when they say they had non-lethal options, that doesn’t necessarily mean they had non-lethal options to be employed in that situation, but rather that they had non-lethal options with them.

    And so I’m not quite sure what that means. The Seattle situation may well have been one of those where they could have employed a non-lethal option and they didn’t, or it may simply mean that they had them with them. And so we have to wait and see what the details show.

    JOHN YANG: Brittany, you mentioned both training and race. How do you balance those two issues?

    BRITTANY PACKNETT: I don’t think that it’s an either/or proposition.

    I certainly agree that there are tactical issues, as Professor Klinger has already said. But if race weren’t an issue, we wouldn’t be being killed at three times the rate of others.

    We did this research at mapping police violence, which is another project of Campaign Zero. And from looking over three years of data for community violence across the 60 largest police departments in the country and comparing that to rates of police violence, there is absolutely no correlation between community violence and police violence.

    In fact, in places like Virginia Beach, where there is a very low incidence of community violence, there is a very high incidence of police violence, and everyone that Virginia Beach killed in 2015 was black.

    So, I refuse to ignore the race question in this issue. And if we do ignore race in this issue, then we do so at our peril.

    JOHN YANG: Brittany Packnett, David Klinger, thank you both for joining us.

    Sadly, I think this is an issue we will be talking about again. But thank you for joining us.

    BRITTANY PACKNETT: Thank you.

    The post Why do so few deadly police shootings end in police convictions? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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