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- 06/22/17--15:30: Venezuelans suffer deadly scarcity of food and medicine
- 06/22/17--15:40: Why the Senate Republican health care bill has a vote problem
- 06/22/17--15:45: News Wrap: Trump says he did not make Comey tapes
- 06/22/17--15:50: Senate GOP releases health care bill and battle lines form
- 06/23/17--09:50: LISTEN LIVE: Spicer expected to address Senate health care plan
- 06/23/17--12:18: Why the actors behind popular video games are on an epic strike
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- 06/23/17--13:00: Why offshore wind turbines can’t handle the toughest hurricanes
- 06/23/17--13:09: Military chiefs want 6-month delay on transgender enlistment
- 06/23/17--15:20: Why we feel better after dancing
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- 06/23/17--15:50: News Wrap: Another Senate Republican defects on health bill
HARI SREENIVASAN: Next: You need some cash real quick?
Economics correspondent Paul Solman explores why, for some customers, the best bet might not be the bank.
It’s part of his weekly series Making Sense of financial news.
JOE COLEMAN, President, RiteCheck: And this is East 138th Street, which in many ways is the Wall Street of the Bronx. You have got a lot of financial service providers along the street, bodegas. You have small money remitters.
PAUL SOLMAN: And there’s a pawn shop, not the kind of financier you would find on the actual Wall Street. But, hey, this is the South Bronx, poorest congressional district in America, where some 40 percent of residents live below the poverty line.
JOE COLEMAN: The main service provider on the street is RiteCheck, where we have our financial service center.
PAUL SOLMAN: Joe Coleman is president of this chain of 14 stores in the South Bronx and Harlem. They will cash your checks, pay your bills, transfer money 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Something like half these customers are unbanked, meaning they have no bank account on purpose.
Jose Benitez is a construction contractor.
JOSE BENITEZ, (through interpreter): Every time you go to a bank, there’s a problem. You lose time.
PAUL SOLMAN: The bank takes too long to cash checks, he says.
WOMAN: Can you sign there for me, please?
PAUL SOLMAN: And, says cashier Jackie Morel.
JACKIE MOREL: The bank don’t offer all the services that we do. We have prepaid cards. They pay their bills, pay their rent. It’s different things that they can do in one place.
PAUL SOLMAN: But the best alternative is check cashers, payday lenders, pawn shops? Maybe you assume what I did, that they prey on the poor.
Suzanne Martindale is with Consumers Union.
SUZANNE MARTINDALE, Consumers Union: Many of these products really strip away what few assets consumers have. If you’re constantly paying a fee to cash a check, you’re losing money on the deal, compared to if you simply had an account and were depositing checks.
PAUL SOLMAN: Yet check cashing alone nearly doubled to $60 billion from 2000 to 2010. Why, wondered Lisa Servon?
LISA SERVON, University of Pennsylvania: It didn’t make sense to me that people would be using a service like this in increasing numbers if it was so bad for them.
I had done work in low-income neighborhoods for 20 years, and I knew that people who don’t have very much money know where every penny goes. So, that’s when I scratched my head and I realized there’s got to be more to the story.
PAUL SOLMAN: To find out, Servon worked as a cashier at this RiteCheck for four months and then wrote a book, “The Unbanking of America.” She returned to the window when we visited, and was reminded of what she’d learned: People on the edge have no savings, and often need access to every cent they get can their hands on right away.
LISA SERVON: One of the things that we do here is to take money off of people’s EBT cards. That’s electronics benefit transfer, what you get. It’s kind of the equivalent of welfare these days. Right?
And we give you how much you want from that, minus a $2 fee. One day, a woman came in and she wanted — she said had $10 on her card. So, I ran the transaction and I gave her $8. And after she left, I just was scratching my head and thinking, wow, she just paid me 20 percent of what was available to her.
PAUL SOLMAN: Cashier Jackie Morel, who taught Servon the ropes here, explained.
LISA SERVON: Jackie says, well, the ATMs don’t give you $8 or $13 or $28. They give you multiples of $20, maybe $10, if you’re lucky, right? So, suddenly, something that seems illogical makes sense, because you realize that she needed that $8. She needed every dollar that she could get access to, and it was worth it to her to spend $2 in order to get it.
Time and again, working at the window, I was able to really see those things, sometimes ask questions, then really see like, oh, this is logical, actually. I would probably do the same thing if I was in that situation.
PAUL SOLMAN: Joe Coleman goes further. Firms like his, with regulated maximum rates, were actually a reform move by New York state back in 1944, when check cashing was a truly free market.
JOE COLEMAN: It was being done in bars and restaurants. It was the Wild West. They could charge you 20, 30 percent to cash a check.
PAUL SOLMAN: And while the fees may seem high, says Servon, they’re completely transparent, unlike at banks, when you rarely know what you’re paying.
LISA SERVON: The signage that spans the teller windows looks exactly like what you would see at a fast-food restaurant like McDonald’s, and it tells you that it costs 2.03 percent of the face value of your check to cash it, $1.50 to pay a bill, $0.89 for a money order. All of that information is there.
PAUL SOLMAN: Servon also found that, for those with no financial cushion, cashing checks here can be cheaper than at a bank.
LISA SERVON: If they have deposited that check in the bank, it would take three or four days to clear. When they come here, they can use that cash right away. And they won’t be subject to the kind of mistiming at a bank that could lead to an overdraft fee of $35.
PAUL SOLMAN: Enough volume, and even the smallest fees add up. So, RiteCheck caters to folks that big banks aren’t much interested in.
Robert Flexer is a RiteCheck devotee.
ROBERT FLEXER: The people are so beautiful with you. They’re so beautiful and humble and lovable.
PAUL SOLMAN: Jackie Morel has worked behind the counter for 14 years.
How many of the people who come in here do you know personally?
JACKIE MOREL: Eighty-five percent that comes here every week. Everybody know me in the street and everything. They bring me food. They bring me presents for my kids. They bring me everything.
PAUL SOLMAN: OK, maybe there are good reasons to use check cashers, but surely not payday lenders, so common in cash-strapped communities these days.
Servon writes that there are more payday lenders in the U.S. than Starbucks and McDonald’s combined. And she herself did a stint at one.
LISA SERVON: Where I worked in California, they cost $15 per $100 borrowed, which comes out to an APR of 400 percent or 600 percent.
PAUL SOLMAN: That’s APR, annual percentage rate, because it’s 15 percent, $15 on 100.
LISA SERVON: Yes. That’s right. A lot of people end up not being able to pay the loan when it’s due. And this is where the problem comes in. Right? If you can’t pay that $100 loan back in two weeks, you basically end up taking out that loan again and paying another $15 for another two weeks. So, now you’re paying $30 on $100. Right?
And if you roll it over five or six times, you’re paying way more than you borrowed.
PAUL SOLMAN: But look, says Joe Coleman:
JOE COLEMAN: There’s nowhere to go to get a couple hundred dollars. The payday industry has evolved organically to solve a short-term, immediate problem. And I don’t do the product, by the way. In New York — we don’t do payday lending in New York.
PAUL SOLMAN: But you would?
JOE COLEMAN: Yes, I would if I could, because it’s a reasonable product, if you use it responsibly in the way it’s designed.
PAUL SOLMAN: Not surprisingly, Suzanne Martindale of Consumers Union disagrees.
SUZANNE MARTINDALE: The evidence has been clear and damning for many, many years that the vast majority of people that start to take out payday loans end up in a cycle of debt.
PAUL SOLMAN: Eighty percent of payday loans are re-borrowed within 14 days, and almost 90 percent are re-borrowed within 60 days.
In fact, Servon says:
LISA SERVON: What’s interesting is that even my boss at the payday lender said, payday is a lousy product, but we’re filling a need that nobody else will fill.
PAUL SOLMAN: But aren’t the payday lenders taking advantage of these people?
LISA SERVON: It’s a very hard question to answer, the question really being, are payday loans helpful or harmful, or, alternatively, is very expensive credit better than no credit at all?
And I would say that the jury is still out on that question. We talk about getting rid of the lenders without recognizing that the demand is still there. And the demand is still there because we have had declining wages since the ’70s,. Income volatility has doubled over the past 30 years, so people have much less ability to predict how much money is coming into their household from week to week.
PAUL SOLMAN: And the less predictable the income, says Joe Coleman, the greater the need for check cashing, for payday lending even.
JOE COLEMAN: Voltaire said of the supreme being that, if he didn’t exist, we’d have to invent him. And the same can be said for our industry. If we didn’t exist, you would have to invent us. People need the service.
PAUL SOLMAN: For the PBS NewsHour, this is economics correspondent Paul Solman reporting from the South Bronx.
The post The surprising logic behind the use of check cashers and payday loans appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Now to the crisis in Venezuela, which takes many forms, economic, political, social, but perhaps nothing is more harmful day to day than shortages of medicine and food.
Put simply, many Venezuelans are starving to death. And their government often can’t or won’t do anything to help.
In partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, special correspondent Nadja Drost and videographer Bruno Federico report.
And a warning: Images and accounts in this story may upset some viewers.
NADJA DROST: An hour outside of the capital, Caracas, traces of a once-productive industrial and agricultural region flank the highway outside the town of Yare, an abandoned factory, a farm, deserted and overgrown, the carcass of a government dairy project.
These buildings, like the economy they once helped support, are in collapse.
Katiuska Morales’ husband can only find occasional work as a day laborer, and the family faces nationwide shortages of food at runaway inflation prices.
KATIUSKA MORALES, Mother (through interpreter): Everything is expensive. What one earns in three or four days of work is what it costs to buy one kilogram of rice.
NADJA DROST: Morales can’t feed her family.
KATIUSKA MORALES (through interpreter): When the boy says, mama, I want food, I can’t find the way to tell him there is none.
NADJA DROST: The only thing in the family’s kitchen today are mangoes, stored in the oven under the attentive eye of 3-year-old David, who searches amongst the bruised fruit for a good one.
With its economy in freefall, and food prices skyrocketing, many Venezuelans are eating less and less every day. One recent study found that, in the last year, 75 percent of Venezuelans lost an average of 19 pounds. But it is children who are suffering the most, and severe malnutrition among them is rising at an alarming rate.
Three out of Morales’ six children have been diagnosed with severe malnutrition. She’s most worried about her 10-month old baby.
KATIUSKA MORALES (through interpreter): I see her small. She doesn’t grow. She doesn’t try crawling or walking. I feel I have to be careful that she doesn’t fall to the side. It’s like she’s faint.
NADJA DROST: Back in Caracas, Susana Raffalli, who specializes in food emergencies for the Catholic charity Caritas, has carried out a study on malnutrition.
SUSANA RAFFALLI, Caritas (through interpreter): We have gone from having 8 percent of children with severe malnutrition in October, to 12 percent in just four months. When a child loses 30 to 40 percent of their weight, that’s called severe malnutrition. Why is that severe? Because the child is so skinny, it is at risk of dying.
NADJA DROST: In a country sitting on the biggest oil reserves in the world, why has it become so difficult for so many to eat? Almost entirely reliant on oil exports, Venezuela barely produces anything of its own, and has relied hugely on food imports. But with oil revenues down, corruption and an economy in shambles, the government hardly has any dollars to sell to importers.
SUSANA RAFFALLI (through interpreter): There is at least a 30 to 40 percent shortage in the availability of food, because it’s not being produced, nor is it getting imported. We don’t know how this void will get filled.
NADJA DROST: To alleviate the scarcity, the government recently decided to loosen its monopoly on many food imports to allow other importers to bring in staples. Some shortages have eased, but now, with triple-digit inflation driving up prices, few can afford to pay for even the most basic goods.
We’re on our way to one of the biggest hospitals in Caracas to visit the pediatric unit. But four years ago, when the crisis started deepening, the government banned the use of any cameras inside hospitals. Because of that, and the fact that the hospital and the area around it is full of military and government=aligned militia, we’re going to have to try to enter unnoticed, and with a hidden camera.
Once inside, we follow Dr. Livia Machado, an expert in child nutrition, into the emergency ward for children.
This baby’s diagnosis? Malnutrition, at seven months old.
DR. LIVIA MACHADO, Pediatrician (through interpreter): She was born six-and-a-half pounds. Now she weighs seven. The economic conditions now don’t allow her to buy formula.
WOMAN (through interpreter): It became more expensive, and I couldn’t afford it.
DR. LIVIA MACHADO (through translator): The most important thing is that there’s no access to baby formula. You can’t get it in the country. And when you can, it’s at such high prices.
How much did you pay the last time for formula?
WOMAN: Twenty thousand bolivars.
NADJA DROST: That’s a third of a month’s minimum wage for three days’ worth of formula. Five of the 20 children in this unit have severe malnutrition. Dr. Machado worries about the increase in cases she sees.
DR. LIVIA MACHADO (through interpreter): But even more worrisome, and something I have never seen and that strikes me as critical, are children who are between half-a-year and a year-old and they have never even gained two pounds in their whole life.
NADJA DROST: Like this baby.
DR. LIVIA MACHADO (through interpreter): Her condition is very critical, from a respiratory and metabolic perspective, and everything that triggered this was hunger.
NADJA DROST: I ask how many months old she is.
DR. LIVIA MACHADO (through interpreter): Eleven months, almost a year. And she doesn’t even weigh nine pounds.
NADJA DROST: Dr. Machado says this baby’s mother hardly eats anything herself in order to give what she can to her six children. But it’s been woefully inadequate, and brought the baby to a critical state. The child has suffered two cardiac arrests here. She died the next day.
But it’s not just the deadly malnutrition. There is little medication to treat the many complications that it can cause. Hospitals have less than 5 percent of the medications they need. the desperation of doctors and nurses trying to work with broken equipment and without lifesaving treatments is driving them into the streets to protest.
What do they want?
WOMAN (through interpreter): Supplies for hospitals, food, medicine, to be able to attend to patients.
NADJA DROST: The flow of medicines into the country has plummeted after most foreign drug companies cut off ties with Venezuela over $6 billion-plus in unpaid debts. To ease the shortage, these doctors and nurses are demanding that the government open what they call a humanitarian channel to allow for donations of medications.
The government has said that accepting humanitarian relief would expose Venezuela to foreign intervention. But some organizations are finding ways around what they say amounts to a government ban on aid.
Accion Solidaria is part of a coalition promoting health rights, Codevida. Its president, Francisco Valencia, leads us to a storage room that’s been converted to what looks like a well-organized ad hoc pharmacy that accepts donations of medications and distributes them to Venezuelans.
FRANCISCO VALENCIA, Accion Solidaria (through interpreter): Here, all of these medications come from abroad. Because of the situation here, you can’t get these medications here. Here, we have painkillers, antibiotics. There’s medicine for children as well.
NADJA DROST: The supplies are sent by Venezuelans and other donors from around the world, but in small packages, to avoid suspicion and bypass customs authorities.
FRANCISCO VALENCIA (through interpreter): Door-to-door deliveries. They’re sent privately.
NADJA DROST: Like a courier company.
Once Valencia and his colleagues categorize the new shipments, they announce their stockpile over Twitter, Facebook and on local radio stations. Their hot line number is flooded with calls from Venezuelans wanting to claim the medicines
FRANCISCO VALENCIA (through interpreter): So far, we have been able to give medication to over 5,000 people.
NADJA DROST: But Valencia knows that what they provide is a mere drop in a sea of need.
FRANCISCO VALENCIA (through interpreter): If you see this here, it’s not a quantity to supply all of Venezuela.
NADJA DROST: Valencia and others in health organizations say the government needs to recognize that Venezuela is facing a humanitarian crisis, and one that warrants government and international action.
SUSANA RAFFALLI (through interpreter): What we’re asking is that they do something and make available the resources that are needed here, because it’s not just Caritas that is sounding the alarm of what will happen. It is happening to us. And there are children with malnutrition dying in hospitals.
NADJA DROST: For the PBS NewsHour, reporting with Bruno Federico, I’m Nadja Drost in Caracas.
The post Venezuelans suffer deadly scarcity of food and medicine appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
HARI SREENIVASAN: There have been many responses to the Senate plan today, including from former President Obama.
He said — quote — “Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family, this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.”
And now to Judy Woodruff in Aspen, Colorado, who spoke today with a key figure in the Obama administration about the Republicans plan to undo much of the Affordable Care Act.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we get reaction to the Senate plan from a woman instrumental in creating the Affordable Care Act.
I sat down today with the former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. And I began by asking her overall assessment of the proposal.
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, Former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary: I think it follows the unfortunate framework of the House bill.
People will lose coverage. We don’t know how many until the CBO actually scores the bill sometime next week, but no doubt there will be people priced out of the marketplace.
We know that individual costs will go up, which seems really contrary to what people are telling me they want. They want to pay less out of pocket. They’d like the pay less for their premiums. But nothing in this bill does that.
It changes the Medicaid programs for every state in the country. And, Judy, as you know, I’m a former governor. I ran a Medicaid program. Medicaid has been a 52-year-old partnership for state and federal governments to take care of the most needy Americans, and then was expanded in the Affordable Care Act to cover low-income working adults.
And there’s a huge slash in that program, again proposed by the Senate. It cuts Planned Parenthood funding, which gives services and support to millions of women across the country. So, it continues the path that the House took.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me pick up on the Medicaid point. It is true that the House bill did make deep cuts, changes in Medicaid.
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: Right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What Republican senators say they are doing is phasing this in, that they stretched it out over a longer number of — longer period of years. It delays the effectual date of these changes in Medicaid.
So isn’t this something of an improvement, makes it more acceptable?
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: Well, delaying the awful doesn’t make it less awful.
So I think having a few more years of grace period is probably a good thing, but they make — actually, in the Senate bill, as I have read the draft, they make deeper cuts in the underlying Medicaid program than the House even suggested. And that really affects every state budget in the country.
Every governor receives from the federal government the largest amount of federal funds through the Medicaid program. It takes care of disabled children and adults, takes care of a lot of poor seniors in nursing homes.
It pays for half of the births in the country and about 40 percent of children’s health insurance. That’s the underlying program. You can’t cut that program without really harming services to the most vulnerable Americans and really blowing up state budgets across the country. It takes longer, but it still happens.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But I think what Republicans are arguing is that Medicaid, as it’s presently structured, is unsustainable, it costs too much for the federal government, costs too much for the states, and they say they’re taking steps to make sure that it’s there in the longer run.
They also say they’re creating this fund with tens of billions of dollars to take care of some coverage gaps that have been created by these changes.
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: Well, again, I think it’s important to understand these populations don’t disappear.
So the federal government has decided they will stop paying for vulnerable people across America, for poor seniors in nursing homes, for poor pregnant women and children, for disabled children and adults.
They are capping the amount of federal money that goes. That doesn’t change the population. So all it does is shift costs to state budgets — and a lot of states do not have the extra money — to local budgets, or to make sure that people don’t have services.
Every pot of money that is talked about to cover the gap in services is well under what is being paid for right now. So we’re here talking about opioid treatment and the crisis that we have across America. There is about $5.5 billion this year being spent on mental health services and opioids. Nowhere near that amount is being proposed as even a multi-year funding plan.
If they take away Planned Parenthood coverage from pregnant women and children, they then have a huge gap in services. So, I don’t think they’re being very honest about who gets affected and what happens to those folks if the money is cut at the federal level.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Let’s go back to the basic complaint the Republicans have had.
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: Sure.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And that this is, their complaint, and even Democrats acknowledge problems and some serious problems with the Affordable Care Act, the cost of premiums going up, the fact that many insurers have pulled out of the exchanges, what is it now, dozens of countries around the country that only have one insurer.
These are fundamental problems that had to be addressed one way or another, aren’t they?
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: You’re absolutely right.
The coverage issues, getting more insurers to offer coverage across the country, needed to be solved. And there are solutions for that with the re-insurance pools that have been proposed. People want to pay less. And less means not only premiums, because about 85 percent of the people get help with their premium coverage. But they want the pay less out of pocket.
Again, none of this bill does that. In fact, it would shift more cost on to individuals. So, fixing the Affordable Care Act is important. The Trump administration, I would suggest, has done nothing but sabotage the act since they came to office, refusing to enforce the mandate, refusing to tell insurers they will pay the subsidies, which has caused dropouts, and not clarifying what the rules are.
So, companies are indeed charging higher rates.
JUDY WOODRUFF: At the same time, President Trump himself has said he believes all people should be covered by health insurance. He said again this week, I want to see health coverage that has heart.
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: Which would be great, but that isn’t what is proposed in either the House bill or the Senate bill. And both President Trump has declared as great bills.
Well, I haven’t — I apologize. I haven’t seen what he said about the Senate bill. He applauded the House for their terrific bill, which took coverage away from 23 million Americans. We don’t know how bad the Senate bill is going to be, but I can guarantee you millions of people will lose coverage and pay higher costs.
JUDY WOODRUFF: He also called it mean.
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: The House bill. The House bill.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The House bill.
Whatever happens~ here, it looks as if this is the beginning of the end of Obamacare. I mean, this bill — right now, there is some Senate opposition, but they are working to try to get something passed through Congress. It’s a huge priority for Republicans.
Is this the beginning of the end for Obamacare?
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: It’s hard to tell.
I think we have a different conversation now in America, which is a good thing, that people now say insurance companies shouldn’t ever again be allowed to discriminate against individuals with preexisting health conditions.
That conversation wasn’t even had five years ago. There is some recognition that health care for all is a positive step forward and shouldn’t be just available depending on where you work or where you live. That’s a good thing.
But what we’re actually doing in the future, I think, is really important, who loses and who gains. And both the House bill and the Senate bill fall most heavily on the sickest, oldest, and lowest-income Americans and shift those dollars not into the federal treasury, but to tax breaks for the richest.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Kathleen Sebelius, former secretary of health and human services, thank you very much.
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: Good to be with you.
The post Senate GOP plan to delay Medicaid cuts ‘doesn’t make it less awful,’ says former HHS secretary appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
HARI SREENIVASAN: We return now to the health care plan released today by Senate Republicans.
To help break down the controversial details and politics, our own Lisa Desjardins, who’s just returned from Capitol Hill, and Mary Agnes Carey of Kaiser Health News.
Mary, let’s start with Medicaid. How does this change what we know Medicaid to be?
MARY AGNES CAREY, Kaiser Health News: The biggest change is how we change funding, federal funding for the Medicaid program.
Right now, states can spend what they need. It’s matched on a percentage basis, but this would shift the Medicaid program to a capped allotment, a set amount of money. And so the thought is over time, would that allotment rise fast enough to meet the medical costs of the Medicaid population, and, if it doesn’t, what do you do?
Do you reducing payments to survivors? Do you have to cut services? Do you kick people off the rolls? That’s one of the biggest concerns about this bill.
HARI SREENIVASAN: But each one of these changes are political considerations. Who does this lure in to get those crucial yes votes?
LISA DESJARDINS: Well, we’re really talking about those folks who are concerned about the debt and deficit, because the growth of Medicaid is a real concern for the federal budget. That’s absolute.
And for state budget as well. But it loses some votes potentially. There are a lot of senators, conservative Republican senators, whose states depend on Medicaid, who have high proportions of Medicaid users. Take Arizona. How about Ohio, some of these swing states, West Virginia.
I talked to Senator McCain today. He said he’s not deciding what he does until he speaks to his governor to see what this means for the state budget and for Medicaid. Also Alaska. A lot of these rural states, it’s a real risk for them if they lose Medicaid funding.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Are there structural changes to how Medicaid could be changing beyond just the expansion and how the payments go back?
MARY AGNES CAREY: Well, in the sense of structural requirements, you could have work requirements, for example.
Governors could do that. They could make those changes. And, again, this getting back to the growth and the payments, that is a big concern. Will it go fast enough? Will it meet the requirements of the Medicaid program, the spending?
LISA DESJARDINS: Think of the way that the Senate is doing it as, up front, they’re going to let the expansion of Medicaid last a little bit longer. They ultimately would cut it, but they will cut, in the long run, 10 years out, the amount that Medicaid can grow by.
So, in the short run, it’s not as tough on Medicaid as the House bill, but in the long run, it ends up cutting a lot more than the House bill.
HARI SREENIVASAN: But even with these measures, we saw Rand Paul today and said, well, I have got three other senators with me. We’re not satisfied.
LISA DESJARDINS: Yes. That’s right. They have a real vote problem here, because they can only lose two senators, as we reported earlier.
And that’s not just a Medicaid problem, but it’s a problem from senators like Rand Paul who are concerned about tax credits and subsidies. This bill essentially keeps the Affordable Care Act subsidies intact structurally. It just reduces them.
But Rand Paul, he says that’s Obamacare-lite.
I’m not sure how he will ever be satisfied unless they remove those subsidies altogether.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Mary Agnes, we have also heard a conversation about meanness or whether this has enough heart. When we talk about the affordability of this, the quality of the coverage, how does this bill address those?
MARY AGNES CAREY: Well, there’s a couple things, to Lisa’s point about the subsidies.
They would be linked to income, like the Affordable Care Act, but also like age, which was the House bill. So, at the top end of the scale, there would be a little less generous, a little more generous at the lower end of the scale. But the other thing about this is, what is your money going to buy with the subsidy?
The Senate bill would allow the plans to be less generous. Right now, the Affordable Care Act, the sort of middle-level plan that subsidy is based on, would cover 70 percent of the cost. Under the Senate discussion draft, that would drop to 58 percent.
So, would you have to pay more? An older, perhaps a higher-income person, might pay more for less. And so that whole benefit of what you’re getting for your money, that is going to be a big concern here.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Mary, one of the things that President Trump has put on the table as a non-negotiable is preexisting conditions. That’s something that was very popular from Obamacare, something a lot of people want to keep. How does this bill tackle it?
MARY AGNES CAREY: Preexisting conditions would still have to be covered. But a state could get a variance from the set of essential health benefits. These are 10 things that have to be covered, mental health care, prescription drugs, maternity care.
States could get a waiver from those. So, there is some concern, if a state could have plans that didn’t cover prescription drugs or mental health care, what would that mean for beneficiaries? There is concern there.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, one of the most divisive topics on this always comes down to Planned Parenthood funding, specifically around the cases of abortion.
LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right. This was a late decision by the Senate leadership here.
They went back and forth. There was a lot of discussion behind closed doors over this. And in the end, this draft right now would defund Planned Parenthood, all of their federal funding. That’s over $500 million for that organization for one year. Instead of defunding it forever, it would be for one year.
Now, that still is a very serious political problem, especially for two senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine. We talked to both of them today. They said they haven’t decided, but they are concerned about that. They said if that remains in the bill, and, again, there is a lot of negotiations now, Hari, if it’s in the bill, they are going to propose an amendment to try and change it. That will be a fascinating vote on the Senate floor.
We expect that. Speaking of it, that’s what we need to watch right now. There’s going to be a lot of horse-trading right now behind closed doors. Mitch McConnell is counting on it. This bill will change.
After it changes, then there will be a process, we’re told, next week of amendments. There will be a long day with a lot of votes. We will see how many of them pass. It really to me seems 50/50, Hari, right now on whether this gets through, certainly not as it is now. The question is, how will it change?
HARI SREENIVASAN: And there are still constituents, Mary Agnes, that are on the sidelines saying, listen, covering opioid addiction is really important in my state, West Virginia and Ohio. There are people that going to be lobbying to try to get those in the bill.
MARY AGNES CAREY: Well, that Medicaid expansion has funded a lot of opioid addiction treatment in Ohio, for example, and other states. And if that goes away, how are you going to help those folks? As we know, it’s the number-one killer for Americans 50 and older now.
LISA DESJARDINS: They have put $2 billion in this bill to help with opioids, but those who are concerned say that’s just a drop in the bucket and not nearly enough.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right.
Lisa Desjardins, Mary Agnes Carey, thank you both.
MARY AGNES CAREY: Thank you.
The post Why the Senate Republican health care bill has a vote problem appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In the day’s other news: President Trump declared he didn’t record conversations with FBI Director James Comey. He’d raised the possibility that tapes existed after he fired Comey last month. Today, on Twitter, the president said: “I have no idea whether there are tapes or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I didn’t make, and do not have, any such recordings.”
The president also expressed frustration again today about Russia’s hacking of the presidential campaign. He stated on Twitter that the Obama administration should have taken action, since it was still in office at the time. And he charged the whole thing is a hoax pushed by Democrats.
Gulf Coast states took a thrashing today after Tropical Storm Cindy slogged ashore overnight with heavy rain. Flooding was reported from Texas to Florida, and Alabama Governor Kay Ivey warned the danger is not over yet.
GOV. KAY IVEY (R), Alabama: This is not just a coastal issue, for goodness sake. This is about inland as well. So, everybody needs to have heads up and be alert to the rising water that can effect flooding.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The storm has now weakened to a tropical depression, but could bring heavy rain all the way to the Mid-Atlantic region by the weekend.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban set off a powerful car bomb today that killed at least 34 people. It happened in the capital of Helmand Province in the south. The suicide attack targeted Afghan soldiers who were lined up at a bank to receive their paychecks. But officials said most of the dead were civilians.
The Associated Press reports al-Qaida suspects are being systematically tortured in secret prisons across Southern Yemen. An AP investigation found at least 18 sites run by the United Arab Emirates and Yemeni forces. It said 2,000 men have disappeared into the prisons, where they have been beaten with wires and roasted over fires. U.S. officials say they have no knowledge of the abuses.
British officials say testing has found flammable siding on at least seven high-rise buildings since a London apartment tower burned last week; 79 people died in the blaze. Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said today that 600 buildings in the country have similar siding, and all of them need to be tested.
THERESA MAY, Prime Minister, United Kingdom: Landlords have a legal obligation to provide safe buildings, and where they cannot do that, we expect alternative accommodation to be provided. We cannot and will not ask people to live in unsafe homes.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn called for urgent checks on some 4,000 buildings.
Back in this country, the Interior Department says it’s taking grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park off the endangered species list. They have been protected since 1975, when there were only 136 grizzlies left around Yellowstone. Now there are more than 700. The change could allow for limited hunting of the bears outside the park.
And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 12 points to close at 21397. The Nasdaq rose two points, and the S&P 500 slipped one point.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The battle lines are forming tonight in the Senate over replacing Obamacare. Republican leaders released details of their bill today, but Democrats are rejecting it outright, and some in the GOP are not happy either.
Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky., Majority Leader: It’s time to act, because Obamacare is a direct attack on the middle class, and American families deserve better than its failing status quo.
LISA DESJARDINS: After weeks of work behind closed doors, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the Senate Republican bill public this morning. It shares some broad strokes with the bill that House Republicans passed in may. It would cut Medicaid overall and impose annual limits on spending. It also repeals the individual mandate penalty under Obamacare, and it would end most of the taxes that paid for the Affordable Care Act.
The bill lets states waive required coverage of essential health benefits. That’s things like mental health and hospital care. And it blocks federal funds to Planned Parenthood for one year and for health plans that cover most abortions.
Democrats unanimously oppose the measure.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer:
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., Minority Leader: Simply put, this bill will result in higher costs, less care, and millions of Americans will lose their health insurance, particularly through Medicaid. It’s every bit as bad as the House bill. In some ways, it’s even worse.
LISA DESJARDINS: House Speaker Paul Ryan welcomed the Senate’s action, without getting into the details.
REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., Speaker of the House: I know how hard this is to pass a bill like this. What was helpful to us, that we didn’t have Senate leadership playing armchair quarterback with us. The last thing I want to do is play armchair quarterback with them.
LISA DESJARDINS: The Senate did break with the House on a few issues. The Senate bill would phase out the expansion of Medicaid, but more slowly than the House, ending it by 2024. But, starting in 2025, the Senate would cut all of Medicaid more deeply than the House. The Senate plan also keeps protections for people with preexisting conditions, while the House bill would let states waive those.
And the Senate bill continues Obamacare subsidies, but limits them to a smaller group of lower-income people. Schumer says, taken as a whole, the changes mean any benefits are in name only.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER: The Senate Republican health care bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Only, this Wolf has even sharper teeth than the House bill.
LISA DESJARDINS: Disability advocates and others protested today outside Majority Leader McConnell’s office. Capitol Police arrested a number of them.
Republican leaders argued that opponents need to look at the actual text before criticizing.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-Texas: They can read the bill. If they have objections to the provisions, we can debate them. But what they’re talking about is a bill that doesn’t exist which they had not read.
LISA DESJARDINS: At the White House, President Trump voiced support and stressed this is not a final draft.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Obamacare is a disaster. It’s dead, totally dead. And we’re putting a plan today that’s going to be negotiated.
LISA DESJARDINS: Those negotiations started instantly. Republicans can afford for just two of their members to vote no. And, today, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and three other Republicans said they oppose it as written.
SEN. RAND PAUL, R-Ky.: And I believe the leverage on account of four people is enough that hopefully those who wrote the bill would say we want some or all of their votes, and, therefore, we will try to make the bill look more like a repeal bill and less like a reiteration of Obamacare bill.
LISA DESJARDINS: The Congressional Budget Office says it will have its analysis of the bill by early next week. McConnell is pushing for a vote two or three days after that.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Lisa will be back to help us analyze the political prospects for the Senate Republican health care bill after the news summary.
The post Senate GOP releases health care bill and battle lines form appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer is expected to address the Senate’s health care plan in his Friday news briefing.
The White House decided after Spicer was scheduled to begin speaking that audio streaming would be embargoed until after the briefing concluded. PBS NewsHour will post the audio once it is available.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., released the bill Thursday after weeks of closed-door meetings searching for middle ground between conservative senators seeking an aggressive repeal of Obama’s statute and centrists warning about going too far.
McConnell, cheered in by the White House, is now focusing on finding the votes he’ll need to push the Republican plan for dismantling President Barack Obama’s health care law through the Senate.
“No one knows the Senate better that Senator McConnell,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Friday on Fox News Channel’s “America’s Newsroom.” He said along with support from President Donald Trump, “I think we’re going to get this thing done, put it in conference and hopefully by the August recess really have Obamacare repealed and replaced.”
McConnell wants to push the package through the Senate next week, and will succeed if he can limit defections to two of the chamber’s 52 Republicans. Erasing Obama’s law has been a marquee pledge for Trump and virtually the entire party for years, and failure would be a shattering defeat for the GOP.
Democrats were hoping to scare off as many Republican votes as possible by planning efforts around the country to criticize the measure. They say the GOP plan would mean fewer people with coverage and higher costs for many.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was urging Democrats to post stories on social media on constituents whose health care coverage would be threatened.
“No argument against Trumpcare is more eloquent than the grave consequences it means in people’s lives,” she wrote colleagues.
The bill would cut and redesign the Medicaid program for low-income and disabled people, and erase taxes on higher earners and the medical industry that helped pay for the roughly 20 million Americans covered by Obama’s law. It would let insurers provide fewer benefits, offer less generous subsidies than Obama to help people buy policies and end the statute’s tax penalties on people who don’t buy policies and on larger firms that don’t offer coverage to workers.
PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.
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An Ohio judge declared a mistrial Friday in the retrial of a former University of Cincinnati police officer who fatally shot Samuel DuBose in July 2015 during a traffic stop after his vehicle was flagged for a missing license plate.
The jury told Judge Leslie Ghiz earlier Friday that it couldn’t reach a verdict. Ghiz asked them to try again. Four hours later, the jury said it was still deadlocked; in all, jurors deliberated more than 31 hours this week.
The hung jury comes after two trials in eight months for Ray Tensing, the officer accused of murdering DuBose, a 43-year-old unarmed black man. Ex-officer Tensing, who is white, had faced charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter in the trial that ended this week.
The first case, in 2016, was also declared a mistrial after the jury announced they were deadlocked after 25 hours of deliberation. The second trial’s jury announced it was deadlocked on the fifth day of deliberation, surpassing the amount of time the jury took in the first trial to determine an outcome in the case, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
Tensing, 27, had previously insisted that he feared for his life when DuBose started driving away from the traffic stop. Tensing told the court his arm was still inside the car, and DuBose “dragged” him with his car. Tensing repeated that account for other officers who eventually arrive at the scene.
When the former officer took the stand last week, he testified that he thought about the fatal encounter “every moment for the last two years,” adding, teary-eyed, that he replayed the moment “millions of times” in his head, WVXU reported.
But prosecutors said video evidence showed the officer was not dragged.
Why do so few trials of police officers charged in on-duty shootings end in convictions? Most recently, the officers who shot and killed Philando Castile and Sylville Smith were acquitted by juries who saw video of the fatal encounters. John Yang discusses issues of race and deadly force with David Klinger of the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Brittany Packnett, co-founder of Campaign Zero.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters has previously said the full 28-minute bodycam footage presented a different scenario. On the recording, Tensing is heard repeatedly asking DuBose for his license. DuBose said he had one, but it wasn’t on him.
Then, things move quickly: There’s an exchange about DuBose taking off his seatbelt for the officer. Tensing opens the driver’s door a few inches, but DuBose pulls it back closed. DuBose reaches for the key in the ignition and starts his car. Tensing then reaches into the car with his left hand and yells “Stop!” twice before pulling out his gun and shooting a single shot in the DuBose’s head. The car moves forward about 100 yards as Tensing falls back.
“It is our belief that he was not dragged. If you slow down this tape you see what happens, it is a very short period of time from when the car starts rolling to when a gun is out and he’s shot in the head,” Deters told reporters last year. Deters maintained the same point for jurors in the retrial.
DuBose’s family members released a statement after a mistrial was declared, commending prosecutors for their “strong presentation in this case,” but adding that they were “outraged that a second jury has now failed to convict Ray Tensing for the murder of our beloved Sam DuBose.”
The family demanded another retrial and called on the community to join them in a peaceful protest “of this unjust result.” It’s unclear whether prosecutors would try the case again, the Associated Press reports.
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The gaming world put its best and brightest new offerings on display at the 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3) last week. But some of the industry’s most anticipated games are coming to market with one noticeable change: the voice actors.
Voice actors who have a small but essential role in big-budget games have been on strike since October. Eleven video game publishers, including major players Activision (“Call of Duty” and “Skylanders”), Electronic Arts (“Battlefield” and “Madden NFL”), Take 2 Interactive (“Grand Theft Auto”) and WB Games (“Batman: Arkham” and “Mortal Kombat”), remain under pressure from the Screen Actors Guild for their treatment of union members.
Video game companies, unlike other entertainment industries, aren’t typically unionized, which means it can sometimes take a scandal to reveal problematic work conditions. Game developers reportedly experience hellish demands during “crunch” time on almost any given title; Electronic Arts came under fire in 2004 for forcing their employees to work 100 hours a week with no overtime pay. Voice actors are some of the only workers in the industry to have a union, because of their overlap with television and animation.
Because video games have a long timeline from concept to launch, developers are starting to feel the effects of the strike now. Ashly Burch, lead actress in the game “Life is Strange,” was unable to reprise her role for the franchise’s recently announced prequel. Burch told NewsHour that she believes that other gaming industry workers should unionize.
“This is an amazing industry that is creating engaging and compelling experiences for its players. There’s so much passion and love in the folks that work in this industry. But I think sometimes that passion gets taken advantage of,” Burch said. “And you shouldn’t have to endure unfair or unsafe working conditions to be able to do something you love.”
Scott Witlin, chief negotiator and attorney for the Video Game Companies, said he believes that union leadership should return to the table to protect the interests of their members, who, he said, “have gone nearly nine months without work — while having little to no impact on the video game industry.” He added that companies have been “keenly focused on performer safety” and that the strike is having limited impact on the production of video games.
The impetus for the strike, which is the longest in SAG-AFTRA history, comes down to four main concerns.
When you play a video game, you may not be thinking about the actor behind the scenes. Each time a character in “Call of Duty” is shot or Johnny Cage loses a “Mortal Kombat” fight, voice actors have to scream for hours just to create five or six different noises. Sometimes, that means game over in real life, too.
“I’ve personally lost my voice for over a week on several occasions, passed out from screaming, even thrown up and bled from the throat. And I’m one of the lucky ones who, thus far, have not sustained permanent damage,” voice actor Steve Blum said in a statement when the strike began. Blum is the most prolific voice actor in the game industry, holding the world record for 261 different roles over his career. He said he knows “many people who have required surgery and been put out of work for months.”
Voice actors hope to limit strenuous sessions to two hours, instead of the four hours they currently endure.
Voice acting is sometimes more than just an actor’s dulcet tones. Several actors fully embody the characters they play using a process called motion capture, which creates a digital representation of an actor’s body. Famous screen actors such as Mads Mikkelsen have performed this kind of work. But with this technology, actors are sometimes expected to recreate the stunts that their characters perform, which can be dangerous.
On film sets, SAG-AFTRA asks that there be a stunt coordinator for all physically dangerous work, including motion capture studios. The picketers would like to have this stunt coordinator rule extended to interactive media.
Voice actors have to be versatile; they can’t get roles by doing the same kind of character over and over again. One day, an actor could be voicing a cartoon kangaroo, the next a grizzled space marine. In the case of some video games, they don’t know which it’s going to be until they get into the sound booth.
This is an issue for some voice actors, not only because actors need details to fully embody their characters, but also because roles can sometimes require suggestive or offensive language of which the actors weren’t informed in their contract.
“Secrecy is important in entertainment. You don’t want your competition to get to market before you do. But once an actor is cast, it’s important that they have as much information about their character as possible,” voice actor Keythe Farley told NewsHour.
When Farley showed up for his first session as Kellogg in Fallout 4, for instance, he signed a non-disclosure agreement and was told this game was going to be a “big deal.”
But “when I asked what the game was, I was told that it was a secret. I walked into the studio where there was a script on a music stand, and we started working,” he said.
The striking voice actors want more transparency. They want to be told exactly what characters they will be voicing as part of their contracts, with no surprise roles or sudden obscenities.
When a movie is released on home video, the actors involved are guaranteed 4.5 percent of the revenue in the first year. But video game actors currently receive no royalties, SAG-AFTRA says. Their payment is based on how much time they spent in the booth, as well as any contracts agreed upon case-by-case. So while games make billions of dollars in revenue, actors don’t see any of it. Michael Hollick, the voice actor for the main character in “Grand Theft Auto 4,” was paid $100,000 for his work making the game before its release, he told The New York Times. The game eventually made more than $1 billion for the company.
The actors want to receive payment equivalent to one-quarter of a session fee, multiplied by the number of sessions worked up to 4 sessions for every 2 million copies of a game sold, up to 8 million sales. In addition, they would like residuals for commercials and other advertising their voice is featured in to be paid at the standard SAG-AFTRA rate.
Witlin maintains that this is a strike that did not have to happen.
“As the performers are now beginning to see, this strike is costing them work, frequently work reprising roles that they previously had performed,” he said.
SAG-AFTRA has independently negotiated contracts with some game studios, but the 11 targeted companies aren’t budging. The union has expressed confidence that there may be an end to the negotiations in the pipeline.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a response from Scott Witlin, chief negotiator and attorney for the Video Game Companies.
The post Why the actors behind popular video games are on an epic strike appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
Whether we prefer water sports or relaxing with a good book, the humble sandcastle is often a seaside must. But what’s the secret to building a majestic sandcastle that will withstand the tide of time? Luckily, there’s a scientific formula for that.
It all started back in 2004, when a holiday company asked us to investigate the question. As a sedimentologist, someone who studies fragments of rock, I began pondering what kind of beach would work best for castle building. To find out, I compared the sand from the ten most popular beaches in the UK at the time. Though in truth any sandy beach will do, Torquay came out top with its delightful red sand, closely followed by Bridlington, with Bournemouth, Great Yarmouth and Tenby tied in third. At the bottom of the league was Rhyl.
Having selected a beach one has to find the perfect spot. Now this is a question of taste rather than hard rules. Some might prefer a spot close to the car park with easy access when the rain arrives while others might want to stay next to a cafe. Others yet might hanker after the secluded fringes of the beach, perhaps sheltered by natural promontories of rock that keep the biting wind at bay.
Now a castle should be a symbol of military strength, but to stand proud one needs strong sand. The strength of sand depends on the properties of its individual grains and on the water between them. The more angular the grains, the better they will lock together. The more a grain is transported the more rounded it becomes. Microscopic shell fragments work well in this regard. The finer the grains the more they hold the water. And water matters.
Too much water and your sand will flow, too little and it will crumble. You need to get it just right and your castle will stand proud and last. It’s all down to the surface tension of water – the thing that gives the “meniscus”, or skin, to a glass of water and holds down that glass when placed on a wet bar top. The film of water between individual sand grains is what gives sand its strength, too much and it lubricates one grain over the other, but just right and it binds them strong.
The magic formula
Now the experimentation we did suggested that the perfect sandcastle requires one bucket of water to eight buckets of dry sand. Or if you want the magic formula: Water = 0.125 x Sand. So assuming that you don’t have any science gear with you, then you are looking for a spot close to the high tide line – usually marked by a line of seaweed and flotsam – and the low tide line where sand is still visibly wet and the waves are close. But remember that this will change as the tide comes and goes during the day.
My next tip refers to quality of your tools. In my experience there is a direct correlation between the age of the builder, spade size and the speed at which boredom sets in. Adult helpers find the smallest spade nothing but frustrating, and while young assistants might aspire to use the biggest spade, it is often too big to handle. A selection of tools will keep the workforce in harmony. The bucket also has to be the perfect size and shape. The best buckets are the simple round ones – not the ones with the fancy turrets which when turned out produce a castle in itself. A round bucket will allow you turn out countless towers and architectural features. A single bucket can be turned out several times to create a large mound from which you carve an amazing tower.
As you build, spare a thought to the story, not just of the castle one is building with its tales of derring-do, but also the story of the sand itself. Each grain is a fragment of rock and contains a story of relict mountains, ancient rivers, dinosaur-infested swamps and seas, of past climates and events which tell the amazing story of our planet. The red sand of Torquay once blew in giant sandstorms, as the area was once part of a desert far greater than that of the Sahara. The sand at Bridlington or Great Yarmouth tells a tale of giant ice sheets and drowned lands below the North Sea.
My next tip refers to size. Yes, size matters – at least in the game of sandcastles. The modest castle with perfect towers, battlements and moat is ok, but it is the huge castles which break the beach horizon that inspire awe and wonderment in people that pass by. Think big! Pebbles, shells, driftwood fragments and feathers all enhance a castle. And let’s face it: a castle is about being seen.
And although there may be science behind the humble sandcastle, don’t forget to have fun building it.
Offshore wind developments are rapidly expanding. But most wind turbines are not built to withstand a direct hit from the strongest hurricanes, according to a new study in Geophysical Research Letters that models the worst-scenarios caused by category-5 storms.
Researchers predict new offshore turbines would face hurricane wind gusts of more than 223 miles per hour — but the turbines can only manage gusts of 156 miles per hour based on current engineering standards. Part of the problem: Offshore turbine designs often draw from onshore wind turbines in Europe, where hurricane conditions are essentially nonexistent.
“We need to make sure offshore wind energy is successful the first time around,” said Rochelle Worsnop, doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder, who spearheaded the project. “We believe that this research can help guide those standards to help turbines placed in hurricane prone regions survive these major hurricanes.”
Offshore wind energy development is growing along U.S. coasts. The first U.S. commercial offshore wind farm went into operation in December, and many more are on the horizon. Offshore wind energy generation could expand the nation’s energy supply with potential to provide 160,000 jobs and low-cost energy for millions of Americans, according to a government report.
Worsnop and her colleagues started this project by looking into where hurricane winds cross paths with offshore wind farms. At first, getting this kind of data proved nearly impossible.
Hurricanes that come within striking distance of offshore wind turbines are infrequent. Plus, at the moment, offshore wind developments are few and far between. Most wind measurements she could find in public databases were recorded too high above the water or too far from shore to reflect what a wind turbine might experience.
So, Worsnop’s team member — George Bryan of the National Center for Atmospheric Research — recommended she use a computer simulation driven by hurricane data from the last 15 years. Bryan used this high-resolution model to recreate the worst of the worst — a category-5 hurricane eyewall, where winds can exceed 220 miles per hour — to see how wind turbines would hold up. The team also investigated how wind characteristics, such as changes in direction and turbulence, might affect turbines.
Researchers found the extreme wind speeds they modeled would cause structural damage to wind turbines and possible failure of turbine parts. When wind speeds from typhoon Usagi in southern China exceeded turbine specifications in 2013, for instance, blades bent and towers toppled over.
Large and fast changes in wind direction could be problematic too, based on Worsnop’s model. Wind turbines work best when facing directly into the wind, so turbine rotors swivel about the tower to maintain a wind-in-the-face orientation. The researchers found most turbines would not twist fast enough to respond.
“We are learning more about the anatomy of a hurricane, which is improving the design resilience of future wind turbines,” Walt Musial, an engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and a senior author on the study, told NewsHour via email.
Their model also predicted wind direction changes up to 55 degrees between the ground and the tip of a blade — a measurement called veer. As a result, these category-5 winds could bend a turbine blade in one direction — say, at the tip — as it simultaneously applies stress on another portion, causing the blade to malfunction or break.
“One of the benefits of this study is that you can get a much better global, spatial quantification of that veer — and that’s fabulous, that’s exactly what a wind turbine designer needs,” said Sandy Butterfield, chairman of the International Electrotechnical Commission Renewable Energy (IECRE), the organization that writes the standards for wind turbines and other renewable energy equipment.
The researchers behind the study are now guiding a revamp of turbine engineering standards. Musial said they may take three years to implement.
“The simulation is the best estimate we have. It’s more accurate than any other estimate for the kinds of winds that could really damage a wind turbine,” Butterfield, who was not involved in the study, said. “It’s going to help us update the standards to reflect wind turbine design criteria for hurricanes.”
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WASHINGTON — Military chiefs will seek a six-month delay before letting transgender people enlist in their services, officials said Friday.
After meetings this week, the service leaders hammered out an agreement that rejected Army and Air Force requests for a two-year wait and reflected broader concerns that a longer delay would trigger criticism on Capitol Hill, officials familiar with the talks told The Associated Press.
The new request for a delay will go to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis for a final decision, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to discuss the internal deliberations publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Transgender servicemembers have been able to serve openly in the military since last year, when former Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended the ban, declaring it the right thing to do. Since Oct. 1, transgender troops have been able to receive medical care and start formally changing their gender identifications in the Pentagon’s personnel system.
But Carter also gave the services until July 1 to develop policies to allow people already identifying as transgender to newly join the military, if they meet physical, medical and other standards, and have been stable in their identified genders for 18 months. The military chiefs had said they needed time to study the issue and its effects on the readiness of the force before taking that step.
Officials said Friday that the chiefs believe the extra half-year would give the four military services time to gauge if currently serving transgender troops are facing problems and what necessary changes the military bases might have to make.
The chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps discussed the matter with Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work on Thursday, officials said.
Dana White, the Pentagon’s chief spokeswoman, said there have been ongoing discussions with the service chiefs and a recommendation is expected, but she declined to disclose any details.
“It’s been a very deliberative process,” she said. “The deputy secretary of defense has not submitted a recommendation to the secretary yet and so no decision has been made.”
Stephen Peters, spokesman for Human Rights Campaign, said the group is disappointed with the delay request.
“Each day that passes without implementing the final piece of this important policy harms our military readiness and restricts the Armed Forces’ ability to recruit the best and the brightest,” said Peters, a Marine veteran. “There are thousands of transgender service members openly and proudly serving our nation today, and as they’ve proven time and time again, what matters is the ability to get the job done — not their gender identity.”
Already, there are as many as 250 service members in the process of transitioning to their preferred genders or who have been approved to formally change gender within the Pentagon’s personnel system, according to several defense officials.
According to several officials familiar with the matter, three of the four services wanted more time. In recent weeks, Navy officials suggested they would be ready to begin enlistment in July but asked for a one-year delay, largely to accommodate a request from the Marine Corps for more time, officials said. The Navy secretary also oversees the Marine Corps.
The Army and Air Force wanted a two-year delay to further study the issue, said the officials, who were not authorized to talk about the internal discussion publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Officials said there was a broad recognition that allowing transgender individuals to enlist affects each service differently. They described the biggest challenge as the infantry. They said the discussions aimed at a solution that would give recruits the best chance of succeeding, while ensuring the services maintain the best standards for entry into the military.
Service chiefs will also require that transgender recruits be stable in their preferred genders for at least two years, an increase from Carter’s earlier plan to allow 18 months, the officials said. The chiefs also want to review the policy in a year to see how things are working, the officials said.
Key concerns are whether currently enlisted troops have had medical or other issues that cause delays or problems with their ability to deploy or meet physical or other standards for their jobs. Military leaders also want to review how transgender troops are treated, if they’re discriminated against or have had disciplinary problems, the officials said.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate committee last week there have been some issues identified with recruiting transgender individuals that “some of the service chiefs believe need to be resolved before we move forward.” He said Mattis is reviewing the matter.
The military services have various ways of counting the number of transgender troops currently serving. The Pentagon has refused to release any data. But officials said there are 42 servicemembers across the Army, including the National Guard and Reserve, who have been approved to change their gender identities in the personnel system. At least 40 more are in the process of transitioning, they said.
Officials said there are about 160 sailors in the Navy who are somewhere in the process of gender transition. That could include counseling, hormone treatment or gender reassignment surgery. And about “a handful” of Marines have come forward to seek medical care involving gender transition, and there are possibly others going through the process with their commanders, officials said.
The Air Force refused to release any numbers, and other officials did not know those details.
A RAND study found that there are between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members in the active duty military, and another 1,500 to 4,000 in the reserves.
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Stephen Ubl of PhRMA took no formal position on the Republican health care bill making its way through Congress — in contrast to other major players in the health industry, like the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and the AARP.
PBS NewsHour Anchor Judy Woodruff interviewed Ubl on Friday at the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colorado.
One of the nation’s most powerful lobbying organizations, PhRMA advocates for major pharmaceutical research companies on Capitol Hill. Ubl’s predecessor, John Castellani, retired in 2015 after leading the company for five years.
PhRMA has taken no formal position on the Senate’s version of the American Health Care Act that was released this week and awaits analysis from the Congressional Budget Office. Ubl said the organization remains “very engaged” in developing the legislation. But he did say the Senate bill from Republicans gives “more autonomy for states to shape their insurance market” and added he wants to “make sure that patients have treatment and access to major cures our industry is developing.”
The organization’s members include Purdue Pharma and Allergan. Two decades ago, Purdue launched oxycontin, the prescription opioid that proved highly addictive. In May 2017, the state of Ohio sued these companies, alleging that they continued to sell these drugs even after evidence emerged that opioids were powerfully addictive and linked to a rising number of overdose deaths. This week, Missouri launched a similar lawsuit that included Purdue Pharma.
Speaking on behalf of himself and the industry, Ubl said “no one trivializes the crisis that we’re facing in this country around opioids.”
“It’s a multifactorial problem and all stakeholders really need to be engaged in the solution,” Ubl said. We have a role to play, and we’ll be engaged with other stakeholders towards that end.”
Amid debate about the nation’s rising drug prices, Ubl acknowledged that prescription drug prices spiked in recent years due to “anomalous factors,” such as Medicaid expansion, FDA approval of a record number of drugs and the introduction of a new Hepatitis C cure. Pointing to estimates that drug spending will go up between 4 and 6 percent over the next two decades, Ubl suggested that the worst in escalating drug prices may be behind us: “The python sort of digested the tennis ball.”
PhRMA still stands by the position that the law should not be changed to allow the government to negotiate Medicare drug prices.
“It’s much better to move in the direction of negotiations in the private sector between our members and plans,” Ubl said.
As an example, he pointed to the United Kingdom’s health care system, saying ultimately, “What you find is that patients have less access to novel therapies, and we think that would be a movement in the wrong direction.”
PhRMA has pushed back against efforts to control rising drug prices. In 2015, then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton proposed limits to escalating prescription drug costs. In response, the lobbying group warned that if her plan was implemented, people would lose their jobs, and innovation in prescription therapies for Alzheimer’s, and cancer would spiral downward.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: We want to introduce you to Alonzo King, a noted choreographer who believes dance improves our spirits, and that in turn has a direct effect on our health.
Take a look.
ALONZO KING, Choreographer: My name is Alonzo King. I’m the artistic director of Alonzo King LINES Ballet. It’s a San Francisco-based international touring ballet company.
We were invited to the Health Festival here at Aspen, and I brought four dancers from the company to do a demonstration and talk about how health and art are intertwined.
My mother took dancing at university. And when I was a kid, she would show me things, and I had a blast with intimacy with my mom. Plus, I loved moving, so I never stopped.
There is a triumvirate of body/mind/soul that is in a balancing act for health. If something is imbalanced, then it’s with — it’s dis-eased.
The performance that we do here on Friday is largely a lecture demonstration, displaying how dance is really ideas, that it’s thought made visible, in the same way that music is thought made audible.
Our hope is that the mind will be stirred and the heart will be moved. And may argue with it. You want them to hear it and to have some response to it.
When I first began dancing, I had no idea that it was a profession. I just knew that it was an experience that made the outer world dim. And I felt larger and euphoric. And I realized that, when you have that experience inside yourself, you know that every human being has that potential for that experience.
HARI SREENIVASAN: We hear a lot about how divided our country is along many lines: race, class and especially now our politics.
But in our next Race Matters conversation, NewsHour special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault talks with the co-authors of “The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear” about their success in bridging those divides.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: In recent weeks, Reverend William Barber stepped down from heading the NAACP in North Carolina to focus on what he calls a national moral revival, updating the Poor People’s Campaign started by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. that linked the civil rights struggle for African-Americans to demands for equality for all poor people.
REV. WILLIAM BARBER II, Repairers of The Breach: There was this thing, if you will, called the white Southern strategy.
And the goal of it was undermine black and white fusion coalitions. What we’re going to do is, we’re going to figure out a way to talk that makes poor whites think that they’re losing because black people and brown people are gaining.
And what you do in that is, you make poor whites, who should be allies with poor blacks, think that their problem, their poverty is being caused because black and brown people are acquiring something or taking something from them.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: So, what led you to try and bridge that gap, and what made you want to do that?
REV. WILLIAM BARBER II: Dr. King said — back in the ’60s, he said, the only transformative force that could really, fully transform America would be for poor whites and blacks and brown people and working people to come together.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove conversion began when he first met Reverend Barber. Before that, he had been a young conservative who had worked both for the Moral Majority, a political group associated with the Christian right and the Republican Party, and also for conservative South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond.
What was your own attitude about poor black people and black people in general?
JONATHAN WILSON-HARTGROVE, School for Conversion: So, I was raised in the Southern Baptist Church in a sundown town. Until 1983, there was a sign at the edge of our town that told black people they weren’t welcome there after the sun went down.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: I have read that you called yourself a racist in those days.
JONATHAN WILSON-HARTGROVE: Sure. I didn’t know I was a racist, but Reverend Barber helped me see that I was racist, and, more importantly, that my racism was getting in the way of loving Jesus, which is what I really wanted to do.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Wilson-Hartgrove first heard Reverend Barber some 20 years ago at a meeting called by the North Carolina governor.
Reverend Barber delivered a motivational speech to a gathering of young people. Wilson-Hartgrove was moved by what Barber said and began to understand how racism had been used as a tool to divide. Growing up poor, Wilson-Hartgrove had never before realized what he had in common with poor black people.
JONATHAN WILSON-HARTGROVE: We were taught to believe that there were people who were poor because they chose to be poor. And that narrative kept us from seeing the way that our religion was being used to pit us against other people.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Reverend Barber has even taken his message into Appalachia, and up to Mitchell County, North Carolina.
REV. WILLIAM BARBER II: Mitchell County, North Carolina is a place where, in 1920, all the black people were run out of town over the accusation of a black man raping a white woman. It’s 97 percent white, 77 percent Republican.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Wary, but undeterred, Reverend Barber seized on the invitation of this rural white church.
REV. WILLIAM BARBER II: I went in and talked to them for about an hour.
And I said, listen, this legislature just cut, denied Medicaid expansion. There are 1,000 people in this county that would get health care, and they can’t be black, because there are no black people are up here. They cut funding for public education. You are losing teachers here. And they have to be white.
Now, you voted for some of the people because of what they told you they stood on prayer in school and abortion and homosexuality, but let’s look at what they are doing, and how it is hurting you.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: So, basically, what you did was to talk to them about the things that they had in common. And it registered. It permeated their consciousness.
REV. WILLIAM BARBER II: You talk to people honestly, you talk to them about what it means to be a human being, and you show them the hypocrisy. You know, you show them how they’re being fooled, if you will, that people are saying, I care about your best interests, but those people are actually putting in place policies that are hurting everybody.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: What strategy did you use to reach people who had been brought up like Jonathan? What did you do to convince them that this wasn’t right?
REV. WILLIAM BARBER II: I know that many of my white evangelical friends or many African-Americans who were bought into this kind of a public engagement-type faith really have been introduced to — and I say this sorrowfully — a form of heresy and a form of theological malpractice.
To try to suggest that Jesus was just about a little prayer, a little preaching and a little worship and a little charity — the very Jesus that white evangelicals claim to lift up was a brown-skinned Palestinian Jew whose first sermon was challenging the economic exploitation of the empire.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Reverend Barber and Wilson-Hartgrove have been working together in a multiracial movement known as Moral Monday, weekly protests held on the grounds of the North Carolina state capitol in Raleigh aimed at helping citizens understand their common interest around such issues as health care, voting rights and immigration, also how they are affected by these and other governmental policies, regardless of race or class.
REV. WILLIAM BARBER II: When we went into the first Moral Monday in a diverse role as clergy, investment, first, some people laughed. They said we were a nuisance.
But then they started seeing more people come, and they looked diverse. They said, that’s my teacher getting arrested, that’s my doctor, that’s a black man and white man walking together. That’s a Jew and a rabbi and a Christian. What’s going on?
So, people began to think — even though they didn’t get arrested, they would come.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: The Moral Monday movement is the foundation for Reverend Barber’s latest project that he intends to take to some 25 states.
JONATHAN WILSON-HARTGROVE: What can be learned from our experience is that white people need to talk about race honestly. We need to say, of course we’re racist. This is a country that’s built on white supremacy.
You know, it’s not like it’s a personal failing. I inherited this. Racism is about structures that pass on what we inherited, right? Inequalities that we inherited are written into these structures. And when we help white people think about that, I think we’re making it possible to form alliances that we haven’t been able to form.
REV. WILLIAM BARBER II: And black people can’t be afraid of that.
We have to look back in history. When black and white people came together right after the Civil War, we fundamentally changed this country. When black and white and brown people and Jews and Christians came together in the civil rights movement, it was transformative.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Are you at all optimistic that the kinds of things that you’re doing are going to make a difference in ending racism?
JONATHAN WILSON-HARTGROVE: I think racism is the fundamental challenge to the American project. This is a country that was built on the original sin of race-based chattel slavery. It is how the, you know, concentrated capital in this country from the very beginning has maintained power.
But I don’t think that the future of America is possible without dealing with it.
REV. WILLIAM BARBER II: I’m hopeful. Optimism is a different thing.
I believe we have to be the kind of what I call moral dissenters, moral defibrillators who shock the nation. But we also are seeing something in the wind. You have white people marching with Black Lives Matter.
I had a friend of mine who’s a Sikh, and she put it like this. Quickly, she said, a tomb is dark and a womb is dark, but there’s a difference. A tomb is death, a womb is possibility. It’s dark now.
But if we push and push together and come together, I think this is a birthing moment.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Charlayne Hunter-Gault.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
David, let me start with you.
Let’s start talking about the health care plan that the Senate rolled out this week. You surprised at what is different, what’s the same between the House bill?
DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: I’m a little surprised.
First, it’s sort of Obamacare-lite. It’s not going to work. It’s functionally nonoperational, because it will encourage, when they’re healthy, to exit the system and then go back into the system when they’re sick. And that’s a recipe for a death spiral in a lot of places.
So I think, functionally, it’s not going to work. Politically, I have to say, it’s kind of canny. Mitch McConnell had these two wings of his party. And I think he steered as well as is possible to steer down the middle to give the right, the Ted Cruz folks the cuts in Medicaid and Medicare and stuff like that.
He gave the center basically the structure of Obamacare with some of the rules about preexisting conditions. So, I think, politically, it’s an act of skill. And as I look forward, is this thing going to pass, I still think probably not because I don’t think you can get the whole Republican Party behind this thing, but I’m reminded not to underestimate Mitch McConnell.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Have the Republicans made the case that this is something better or just that this is not Obamacare?
DAVID BROOKS: It’s not Obamacare.
What it does — you ought to start with, what kind of country are we in? We’re in a country where — widening inequality. And so I think it’s possible to be a conservative and to support market mechanisms basically to redistribute wealth down to those who are suffering.
This bill doesn’t do that. It goes the other way. So, I think, fundamentally, it doesn’t solve the basic problem our country has, which is a lot of people are extremely vulnerable. And so I do think, as a solution any the range of health care problems, I don’t think it’s it. I don’t even think repealing Obamacare. It’s a cheaper version of Obamacare.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Mark?
MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Two things hit me, first of all.
We know there’s been no debate, no hearings, so that’s been a cry. But it’s interesting, because there is no public case to be made for the Republican plan, none. I mean, at least with the Obamacare, Affordable Care Act, you could say, no lifetime limit, a children — children could stay on their parents’ plan until the age of 26, no preexisting condition will deny you coverage, no lifetime illness will knock you off.
There was a case. You could argue against the case.
There is no public case that has been made in either the House or the Senate. So, they hold no hearings, and there is no public debate, because they don’t want to take the time to make the case for it because they don’t have a case. And they don’t want to give the other — opposition a case to make — the time to make the case against it.
And what it is, the only thing that the House and the Senate are consistently faithful on is that it’s a major tax cut. It is a redistribution.
Obama, who was, you know, if anything, overly moderate for many tastes, did, in fact, lay it on the most advantaged among us to pay, to cover people who couldn’t afford it in his plan. And a 3.8 percent tax on unearned income for those earning over a quarter of a million dollars became the rallying cry, the organizing principle for the opposition.
And that’s the one constant that has been through it all. Warren Buffett, to his everlasting credit, pointed out that he will get a tax cut under the Republican plan this year of $630,000. That’s the redistribution.
And, you know, in the richest nation in the history of the world, it is a terrible indictment, a sad commentary that the most vulnerable among us, the least — the least among us are really tossed off as a political statement.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, what’s the Democratic counter to this? I realize that they support Obamacare at is core, but what about the things that they can agree on that need improvements? Why not come up with some sort of a counter and a fix and propose that?
MARK SHIELDS: Good question.
That’s one of the reasons there has been no debate is threat at there hasn’t been the opportunity for debate. They have foreclosed it. But, no, the Democrats have chosen to focus all attention on the other.
I think it’s one of the problems the Democrats have. I think they learned this week in the Georgia 6 that there are limits to being against Donald Trump, although Donald Trump expands the limits on a regular basis. There are limits to being against him as a political strategy and to have political relevance to voters. You have to be for.
HARI SREENIVASAN: What do you think about the likelihood of passage?
MARK SHIELDS: You know, I am not sure.
Mitch McConnell is a master inside player. He’s a terrible outside player. He doesn’t make a public case for it. But, inside, he knows the Senate well. And, what, we have had now five Senate say that they would have problems with it, which is sort of the opening negotiation.
And Dean Heller, who we saw earlier in Nevada, is in real trouble. He’s up for reelection in a tough state, in a state that has expanded Medicaid.
I mean, Medicaid, Hari, I think, is health care for poorer Americans. And what this plan does is essentially starve Medicaid. The Senate does it slower. The House does it faster.
HARI SREENIVASAN: He brought up the special elections. We have had five now. The Republicans seem to be holding, if not winning.
Is this trouble for the Democrats?
DAVID BROOKS: I think so.
I think the Georgia loss is a big loss. I don’t think it’s, oh, this is always a Republican district, it’s not such a big deal. If the Democrats are going to pick up seats, it is going to be in upscale, highly educated suburban seats.
And this was tailor-made for that, a seat that Trump barely won. And so if after all that’s happened in the last four or five months, they can’t pick up the seat, that to me is an indictment.
It’s first a sign that there are limits to being anti-Trump, second, that the Trump phenomenon was not just a fluke, that it’s based on some deep structural things in the economy that are driving people to support the Republicans, some deep structural things in the country, that people are extremely distrustful of government and extremely distrustful of Washington.
There’s also a sign that the Republicans, despite all that’s happened, are still considered the party of change. And if they want change, they’re still likely to go to the Republicans. And, finally, it’s a sign the Democratic Party is too coherent.
They have got a Bernie Sanders, which is strong and coherent, but that’s not the kind of wing that’s going to work in this district. And the Democratic center, aside from the one candidate they had down there, is meager. And without that, there are going to be just a lot of districts you’re not going to do so great in.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Mark, he had a four-point answer.
MARK SHIELDS: He did. But I will cut it down to two. OK?
No, politics isn’t like the Olympics. In the Olympics, you get a silver medal, you get a bronze medal. There’s only one winner. And David’s right. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades and slow-dancing.
Coming in second, and even a good second and a close second, doesn’t do it. Winning is coming in first. And the Republicans did win. And, yes, it’s a district that Mitt Romney carried by 24 points and John McCain carried by 19 points.
But one of the things that turned out was, when you spend that much money — and give the Republicans credit. They turned out the Republican vote. When you spend that much money, then the intensity and the passion of the opposition, who were the Democrats in this case, is kind of neutralized by the turnout.
There were 260,000 people who voted Tuesday in a special election, which is 50,000 more than voted in the 2014 general election. So, I mean, it was a remarkable turnout. And you can’t argue that, gee, if we just had two more days, it would have been a — I think the Democrats have to come up with what they are for, what is it, rather than simply being against Donald Trump, which is…
DAVID BROOKS: I do think — I would be curious to hear Mark’s view on this — I do think, on net, Nancy Pelosi can be a very masterful leader again inside, but I do think she’s become a central liability for people around the country.
Now, the question will be, OK, if they got rid of Nancy Pelosi as party leader, would the next person be just as unpopular? And, potentially, but I think potentially not. And I do think, if you’re a Democrat, you do have to think about, who is currently the face of our party?
HARI SREENIVASAN: Pelosi says she’s worth the cost.
MARK SHIELDS: Well, Nancy Pelosi, I have said before, was the most effective House speaker in my time in Washington.
What she did — we talk about the Affordable Care Act. Barack Obama didn’t pass the Affordable Care Act. Nancy Pelosi passed the Affordable Care Act. She passed it three times through the House of Representatives. She has raised $141 million last cycle for Democrats.
Sadly, tragically, money does matter. Paul Ryan’s political action committee, with unnamed donors, spent $7 million in this special election. So, I think, you know, Republicans have been running since 1984, when Jeane Kirkpatrick gave the keynote address at the convention, against San Francisco Democrats.
And, you know, maybe Nancy Pelosi, not a dress designer, and buy off the rack or whatever else, but I don’t think it’s going to change. And I don’t think she will be the determining factor on the ballot in voters’ minds in 2018.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Finally, some of the statements that have been coming out of the White House, more specifically from Donald Trump, yesterday saying he didn’t know that there were any tapes or any recordings, that he didn’t make any, this follows a dozen false statements at the rally that he had in Iowa this week.
And then you kind of just go right back to how President Obama bugged Trump Tower or the millions of illegal votes for Hillary or the size of the crowd at the inauguration.
Any structural consequence to the office of this? Because it doesn’t seem to be having an impact on him.
DAVID BROOKS: Right.
And I wonder, what’s going to happen to our debate? After Trump leaves, whenever that is, do we snap back to what we consider the normal standards of honesty, or is this the new norm?
And that’s why, even though it doesn’t seem like Trump to point out, as my paper did, in a long list today, the definitive guide to the lies of Donald Trump, I think it’s still worth making that case, because a lot — the thing we have to fear most is essentially a plague of intellectual laziness, a plague of incuriosity, a plague of apathy about honesty.
And once the whole political system gets affected by that, then we’re really sunk. And so I do think keeping his feet on the fire, no matter how little he pays a price for it, is still worth doing.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Mark?
MARK SHIELDS: I would say this. He’s paying a price, in the sense The Wall Street Journal/NBC poll asked voters, whom do you believe, James Comey or Donald Trump? And by a 2-1 margin, voters believe James Comey, who, until a month ago, was a villain to so many Democrats because of the Hillary Clinton race.
Overwhelmingly, Americans do not believe that he’s honest, or he’s trustworthy, he’s knowledgeable, he’s experienced or he has the right temperament. By a 48-16 margin, they believe the opposite. And that is a real liability for anybody who wants to lead a country.
HARI SREENIVASAN: But in that same poll, you see that it’s 78 percent of Dems, 26 percent of Republicans who have that trust in that case.
So, Mark Shields, David Brooks, we will leave it there. Thank you.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: But first: The South Side of Chicago has long been plagued with some of the highest crime rates in the nation, but one man is trying to transform this area by focusing on the everyday needs and the health of those who live there.
Jeffrey Brown has our story.
JEFFREY BROWN: Along this stretch on Chicago’s South Side, Rami Nashashibi is a familiar face. He’s the founder of the nonprofit IMAN, the Inner-City Muslim Action Network. And for more than 20 years, he’s focused on the root problems these neighborhoods face.
RAMI NASHASHIBI, Founder, Inner-City Muslim Action Network: So, violence, poverty, lack of real meaningful job opportunities, lots of young people with very few meaningful trajectories. This set of blocks was ravaged by the foreclosure crisis.
JEFFREY BROWN: Nashashibi grew up the son of a Jordanian diplomat. He first came to the U.S. for college, and later got a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago.
He started IMAN in 1997 to help bridge divides he saw here between Muslim immigrants and African-Americans. The organization has grown ever since, and now has an annual budget of nearly $4 million, with funding from a mix of grants and private donations.
This is social activism, he says, grounded in faith.
RAMI NASHASHIBI: We have been unapologetically rooted in the values and spiritual tradition that comes from the Muslim community, while, at the same time, acknowledging that so much of that is also very universal.
JEFFREY BROWN: One major focus of the organization now, neighborhood corner stores, the small shops that many here rely on, in the absence of supermarkets in these neighborhoods, but also places that have historically generated tensions between the Arab immigrants who own them, and their African-Americans customers.
IMAN is trying to change that.
RAMI NASHASHIBI: That corner store doesn’t have to be what many corner stores in Chicago are, often a place of death, not a spot that you really want to go into, that we could radically re-imagine it.
JEFFREY BROWN: At the Morgan Mini Mart in Englewood, store owner Sami Deffala, who immigrated from Palestine, is one of 60 store owners in the area who have signed onto IMAN’s corner store campaign.
SAMI DEFFALA, Owner, Morgan Mini Mart: We have been in the neighborhood for 27 years.
JEFFREY BROWN: The idea is to bring everyone together around a common need: fresh and more healthy food.
SAMI DEFFALA: We have stepped it up. With their help, we have been able to acquire fruits and vegetables that are subsidized, a lot lower price, and, in turn, we sell them at a lot lower price. So, that way, it’s a win-win, right?
JEFFREY BROWN: And it’s much needed, says IMAN’s Shamar Hemphill.
SHAMAR HEMPHILL, Organizing Director, Inner-City Muslim Action Network: You know, it’s a war on nutrition that’s constantly killing a lot of communities. Black men die at higher rates, contributed to their diet, right? How you going to change anything in your neighborhood if you really can’t start with the place that really sustains the neighborhood? And that’s the food.
JEFFREY BROWN: Sami Deffala says, in the process, a new trust has emerged between him and his customers.
SAMI DEFFALA: People talk. People in the community talk. Hey, listen, that guy is a good guy there, you know? You don’t want to go in there and do him any harm or any wrong.
JEFFREY BROWN: Just a few blocks away, IMAN also operates a free health clinic. Here, physician’s assistant Muna Odeh, whose family immigrated from Palestine, treats many like 58-year-old Jerome Reynolds, a diabetic without insurance.
MUNA ODEH, Physician’s Assistant, Inner-City Muslim Action Network: People who are underserved and often forgotten. And a lot of times, they feel that they are not in control of their situation, and not in control of their health, because of their limited access to funds and insurance and things like that.
JEFFREY BROWN: Here, too, there’s an emphasis on making better food choices. And there’s another benefit to this interaction, Muna Odeh says, a better understanding of Muslim Americans.
MUNA ODEH: All they know is what they see on TV. And, obviously, that’s not ever painted in the best light. That’s especially important for me, being a Muslim female who’s covered, who wears a hijab. It shows them that we are the same, that our struggles are all the same.
JEFFREY BROWN: Dr. Angela Odoms-Young, a professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois-Chicago, is studying IMAN’s work. She sees positive results.
DR. ANGELA ODOMS-YOUNG, University of Illinois-Chicago: Traditionally, we used to focus on individuals. Can you make a good decision when it comes to healthy eating? We now know, from a research perspective, that community matters. It’s really important that you have access to fruits and vegetables, not just what you can do as an individual.
JEFFREY BROWN: Odoms-Young says that IMAN is helping to break a long-held myth that residents of low-income communities simply don’t want healthier food.
DR. ANGELA ODOMS-YOUNG: There’s many people in low-income communities and communities of color that they are very interested in having access to healthy food options. But one of the big problems is the structural barriers.
JEFFREY BROWN: Another structural barrier being tackled here, finding jobs for men like Khalid Partee, a former gang member and drug dealer.
KHALID PARTEE, Inner-City Muslim Action Network: I did 14 years in federal prison.
JEFFREY BROWN: After his release, Partee earned a technical degree in heating and air conditioning ventilation.
KHALID PARTEE: I graduated in a year-and-a-half at the top of my class.
JEFFREY BROWN: He credits Nashashibi with helping to turn around his life and now teaches construction skills to men recently released from prison.
It’s part of IMAN’s reentry program designed that was provide both jobs and to fix up abandoned homes in the neighborhood.
KHALID PARTEE: When these guys come out of prison, if we can try to get them a trade quickly or get them accustomed to being in a working condition, getting up in the morning and coming to class and getting up, going to work, you start making better decisions. You top taking less chances, because you have responsibility. You have got more people that rely on you now.
JEFFREY BROWN: For Rami Nashashibi, it’s all part of meeting the needs of residents in these often-neglected neighborhoods. But even after 20 years, he admits that far more work is needed.
RAMI NASHASHIBI: You know, for every one person you’re able to employ, there’s 50 that are looking for jobs. For every block that you stabilize, there’s the sense that there’s 25, 35 blocks that need that exact same intervention.
JEFFREY BROWN: Undaunted, IMAN is actually expanding. It’s opened a new center in Atlanta, and hopes to work to other cities around the nation.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Jeffrey Brown in Chicago.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: As the battle over health care rages in Congress, one constant complaint from consumers is over drug prices.
Judy Woodruff is in Colorado with our look at that issue — Judy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Thanks, Hari.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association, or PhRMA, is the nation’s largest group representing drug companies.
Stephen Ubl is its president and CEO. I sat down with him here at the Aspen Spotlight Health Conference today, and began by asking about the latest Republican plan to overhaul Obamacare.
STEPHEN UBL, President and CEO, PhRMA: Well, it’s still a very fluid dynamic, as you know. We haven’t taken a formal position on the bill.
I think it’s clear there is a direction towards more autonomy for states to shape their insurance markets, as well as shaping their own insurance designs. So, we will be very engaged in this discussion, and the prism with which we will look at it is making sure that patients have access to the breakthrough treatments and cures our industry is developing.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The other major health care associations, hospitals, doctors and others have been pretty critical.
Is the pharmaceutical industry alone in a way or almost alone in not being as worried, as critical of what the Republicans are doing?
STEPHEN UBL: Well, I think it’s fair to say that those stakeholders are focused on the same issues that we are, but, again, I think the bill is still making its way through the process, and we will be very engaged as the possess unfolds.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We heard President Trump during the campaign speak about the high cost of prescription drugs. I guess it wasn’t long after the election he talked about the drug companies getting away with murder.
We’re now hearing, though, that the administration may not be coming down as hard on the pharmaceutical industry as some thought moving to a different system. Is that your sense of what’s happening, that you’re going to get maybe a better treatment from this administration than some had expected?
STEPHEN UBL: I don’t think I want to speculate on what the administration will do in this area.
I will say that we had a very productive discussion with the president with some of our leadership earlier in the year, and I think the president’s focused on two things. One is ensuring that we continue to lead the world in developing better treatments and cures and, two, on jobs, ensuring that we have more domestic investment in the United States.
And I think our industry is really poised to deliver on both those fronts. Our industry spends $70 billion a year in research and development, which is more than any other industry. So, in general, we’re encouraged by the direction we’re heading.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I think everybody agrees drug prices are out of control in this country. Pfizer announced it’s raising the prices of 100 drugs by 20 percent, including some well-known drugs like I guess Viagra and Lyrica.
Drug companies have been sued, I know, by some state attorneys general, alleged collusion and rising prices. What is going on? What do you see is the problem here?
STEPHEN UBL: Well, I should start by trying to make sure that we’re on the same fact basis.
So, if you look at Express Scripts, which is a leading PBM in the industry, pharmacy benefit manager, looking at spending in 2016, drug spending went up 3.5 percent. And net prices are up 2.8 percent.
So, if you went two or three years, prescription drug spending was actually the lowest growing or slowest growing category in health care. We did go through a spike in 2014 and 2015, I would argue, due to some anomalous factors.
FDA approved a number of new drugs. Medicaid was expanded. And a new cure for hepatitis C was introduced, which revolutionized the treatment of that disease and will obviate the need for liver transplant, as well as reduce the incidence of liver cancer.
We’re now on the back-half of that spike, if you will. The python has sort of digested the tennis ball. And even CMS’ own actuaries estimate that drug spending will be between 4 and 6 percent for the next 10 years, which is roughly in line with overall health care spending.
JUDY WOODRUFF: At the same time, a lot of finger-pointing going on in the health care industry between the drug companies, the pharmacy benefit managers, hospitals, insurers. A lot of those fingers are being pointed, though, still at your industry.
STEPHEN UBL: We think there are — we take these issues very seriously. And we think there are pragmatic, consumer-oriented solutions to address some of the issues that have been raised.
So, for example, a lot of the media attention in the last year is focused on companies that are really nothing like our member companies. They are companies that are taking old drugs without market competition and raising the price dramatically. And we think there are policy solutions, primarily at the FDA, that would address those situations.
Similarly, we think, as an industry, the pricing model needs to evolve. We need to move away from paying for volume to paying for the value of care.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And I was reading that’s what the administration is — among the things the administration is looking at.
I have also read, though, that the critics look at that and say that, in the end, it may work for some people, but it’s not going to work for everybody who needs prescription drugs.
STEPHEN UBL: Well, again, our sector may be a little bit lagging other health care sectors in this movement towards paying based on value, as opposed to the volume of care, but it’s one of the rare areas in health care policy where everyone agrees.
Payers want to move in this direction, our members want to move in this direction, providers want to move in this direction. Again, take cancer therapy. We want to be able to offer novel discounts. But there’s a number of public policy barriers that stand in the way of moving in that direction.
JUDY WOODRUFF: One of the fundamental questions I have heard out there is, why can’t, for example, Veterans Administration folks get drug prices much lower than what ordinary people can get? Why can’t there be — why can’t there be some sort of movement in that direction? Why can’t there be negotiations with Medicare over the price of drugs?
STEPHEN UBL: I think there’s been a little bit of clinical trial on this question.
If you look at countries that have adopted models like the VA on a broad scale, the U.K., for example, what you find is that patients have less access to novel therapies. And we think that would be a movement in the wrong direction.
So the VA, keep in mind, is a closed system, a small number, relatively small number of hospitals and consumers. If you take those price controls and expand them to the entire market, you’re going to reduce patient access and we think create distortions that impact the rest of the market.
So we believe it’s much better to move in the direction of negotiations in the private sector between our members and plans, again, to try to achieve some specific metrics tied to patient outcomes and then be reimbursed on a differential basis based on whether the patient actually achieves those outcomes.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, opioids. As you know very well, I think something like 33,000 people died from opioid abuse in 2015. They expect the number to go up last year, this year, and so on.
We know towns are overwhelmed. Critics are saying so much of this lies at the feet of drug companies that are promoting drugs that people get hooked on, and then those same companies minimizing or even trivializing the impact.
How do you, as someone who sits in such a responsible position, look at this?
STEPHEN UBL: I can assure you that — speaking personally on behalf of the industry, that no one trivializes the crisis that we’re facing in this country around opioids.
But it is a multifactorial crisis. There’s a lot of stakeholders that need to come together on a solution, prescribing physicians, manufacturers, treatment facilities, state and local governments. And, for our part, we’re committed to engaging with all those stakeholders to find solutions.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And is there going to be a change, do you think?
STEPHEN UBL: Well, just to give you an example, the industry is in favor of mandatory training for health care professionals to learn more about pain management, to learn more about appropriate prescribing. So we want to be part of the solution to this problem.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Stephen Ubl, pharmaceutical manufacturers association, thank you very much.
STEPHEN UBL: Thank you. It’s great to be with you.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: There are new revelations today about how President Obama learned of Russia’s efforts to tip the 2016 election in Donald Trump’s favor, and how his administration responded.
I spoke a short time ago to Greg Miller, national security correspondent for The Washington Post, who co-authored a lengthy investigation that the paper published today on this topic.
And I began by asking about the role Putin played.
GREG MILLER, The Washington Post: In early August, the CIA comes to the White House with a really remarkable piece of intelligence. It’s drawn on sourcing deep inside the Russian government.
It establishes that Putin himself is directing this operation, this election interference that is just unfolding in the United States. But it goes one step farther than that. And that’s what’s most interesting and extraordinary to me. It also captures Putin’s instructions on what the objectives of this operation are.
He identifies those objectives as denigrating, damaging Hillary Clinton, trying to help defeat her, and trying to help elect Donald Trump.
HARI SREENIVASAN: You also point out the levels of secrecy and precaution taken by the administration and the intelligence agencies in how this information gets to the president and even how people need to talk about it and share information.
GREG MILLER: Yes, it’s really remarkable, the precautions that the administration was taking with this information.
This intel, when it’s delivered to the White House, is brought by courier in an envelope with restricted markings on it. It’s eyes only, which means it can only be shared with the four people who are named on the envelope, President Obama and three of his senior aides.
They then they have, when they’re done reading this thing, put it back in the envelope, send it straight back to the CIA. It sets in motion a series of meetings, high-level meetings at the White House in the Situation Room. Only four senior officials are initially allowed to participate, although that circle begins to widen in the ensuing weeks.
And even there, there are things that I didn’t know about how the White House works that, apparently, in the Situation Room, there are video cameras that send feeds to other offices in the White House, so that others sitting at their desks can monitor what’s happening in that room. All those feeds were shut off for all of these discussions. The only time that had ever happened before was in the run-up to the bin Laden operation in 2011.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Let’s talk a little bit about what the Obama administration tried to do about it. They debated a menu of options, so to speak, for quite some time.
GREG MILLER: Right.
So, they debated and debated and debated. That went on for months after this bombshell intelligence report from the CIA. They got off to a fast. There are groups, NSC, interagency groups that are convening at the White House and kicking around ideas that are really aggressive, sector-wide economic sanctions that could put a dent in Russia’s economy, cyber-retaliation that could take portions of Russia’s power grid or other targets offline for short periods, even releasing embarrassing information on Putin, the way he was sort of accused of orchestrating embarrassing leaks about Hillary Clinton.
None of those end up surviving this debate process that goes well past the election deep into November and December.
HARI SREENIVASAN: You also highlight kind of bureaucratic hurdles. The Department of Homeland Security goes out to states that could be affected by this hacking and says, we would like to help, but the voting infrastructure in America is not deemed critical enough?
GREG MILLER: Yes, and this is one of those cases where the hyper-partisanship of our country now really works against our security interests in many ways.
So this is a case where the Obama administration is just trying to reach out to state officials, saying Russia’s attacking us, we are worried about what might happen on Election Day. We want to try to help make sure that all of our voting systems are secure. We can run scans. We can try to be of assistance here.
And Republicans in particular, state officials, resist this and see it as sort of an overreach, an attempted federal takeover of state authorities, and argue against it.
HARI SREENIVASAN: You know, you point out that this is in the backdrop of a climate where there is an underlying assumption that Hillary Clinton is going to win, where Donald Trump has gone out and said the election is going to be rigged anyway.
And really not until after the election does the Obama administration start to put all these pieces together.
GREG MILLER: Yes, I don’t think you can overestimate the importance of that, because the assumption in the White House and as well as across media organizations like ours and across the country, frankly, there was just an assumption that we were looking at a Clinton — a coming Clinton administration.
So, inside the White House, their deliberations are, well, this is all important, but we have got to — we’re going to have time to deal with this after the election. In fact, if we don’t finish dealing with it, well, the Clinton administration certainly can.
And, also, they don’t want to take any action leading up to the election that would be perceived as interfering politically to help Hillary Clinton. They’re worried that that would contaminate her expected triumph.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Greg Miller, the reporting is fantastic, you and your colleagues, Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima.
Thanks so much for joining us.
GREG MILLER: Thank you.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The Senate Republican health care bill has suffered another critical defection, the fifth so far. Nevada Republican Dean Heller announced in Las Vegas today that he can’t support the bill in its current form.
SEN. DEAN HELLER, R-Nev.: Well, it’s going to be very difficult to get me to a yes. They have a lot of work to do. But you have to protect Medicaid expansion states. That’s what I want. Make sure that we’re taken care of here in the state of Nevada. That’s going to be a very difficult lift, because I can see the other side is going to have problems with that.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Four other Senate Republicans oppose the measure over its subsidies. But with Democrats united in opposition, GOP leaders can’t afford to lose more than two of their own and still pass the bill.
President Trump says he wanted to force former FBI Director James Comey to be honest about their conversations when he suggested there might be tapes. He spoke to FOX News after announcing yesterday that he didn’t make recordings. As for firing special counsel Robert Mueller, he said — quote — “We’re going to have to see.”
Later, the White House said Mr. Trump has no intention of doing that.
In Cincinnati, the murder trial of a former university police officer ended today in a hung jury for a second time. Ray Tensing killed an unarmed black man during a traffic stop in July 2015. He testified that he feared Sam Dubose was trying to drag him or run him over. After a judge declared a mistrial today, Dubose’s family called it an unjust result.
City officials urged calm.
MAYOR JOHN CRANLEY, Cincinnati: As a city, we will make sure that people who are feeling a variety of emotions, and, in my opinion, justifiably so, have a right to express themselves peacefully. And we have every expectation that that will be the case.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The University of Cincinnati fired Tensing last year after his indictment.
North Korea is denying responsibility for the death of Otto Warmbier, the American student it held for more than a year. He passed away this week days after being returned home in a coma. In a statement, the North Korean Foreign Ministry said — quote — “The fact that Warmbier died suddenly is a mystery to us as well.”
Saudi Arabia and three other Gulf Arab nations have issued 13 demands to Qatar. They have already imposed an economic blockade, accusing the Persian Gulf kingdom of supporting terror groups. Today, they said Qatar must shut down the broadcaster Al-Jazeera and downgrade diplomatic relations with Iran, among other steps. Qatar said it’s reviewing the demands.
Officials in London began evacuating five apartment buildings late today over fire concerns. Hundreds of people are affected, and repairs could take several weeks. The buildings have siding similar to a high-rise that erupted in flames last week, killing 79 people. Investigators confirmed today that the siding on that building likely contributed to the flames’ rapid spread.
FIONA MCCORMACK, Detective Superintendent, Scotland Yard: Preliminary tests on the insulation samples collected from Grenfell Tower show that they combusted soon after the test started. The initial tests on the cladding tiles also failed the safety tests.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The investigators say the fire started in a refrigerator. They’re considering manslaughter and other criminal charges against companies that built and maintained the apartment tower.
Negotiations are officially under way to sort out Britain’s exit from the European Union. Today at an E.U. summit, British Prime Minister Theresa May promised no E.U. nationals living in the United Kingdom would have to leave. May called it a good, constructive start, but E.U. leaders were less enthused.
Russia’s National Election Commission has barred opposition leader Alexei Navalny from running for president. The commission says a criminal conviction for embezzlement makes him ineligible. The anti-corruption activist maintains the case was politically motivated.
Back in this country, U.S. military leaders will seek a six-month delay before allowing transgender people to enlist. The Associated Press reports service chiefs are sending that recommendation to Defense Secretary James Mattis. He will make the final decision. A ban on transgender troops serving openly ended last year. The service chiefs want more time to develop policies on the change.
President Trump has signed a bill aimed at making the government more accountable to military veterans. Vets and their families looked on during today’s ceremony. The bill gives the Department of Veterans Affairs more power to fire employees and protect whistle-blowers.
And on Wall Street, stocks struggled to make any headway. The Dow Jones industrial average lost two points to close at 21394. The Nasdaq rose 28 points, and the S&P 500 added three.
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