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

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    Protestors gather during a demonstration against the Republican repeal of the Affordable Care Act, outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RTS182LP

    Protesters gather during a demonstration against the Republican repeal of the Affordable Care Act, outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington on June 21, 2017. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    Editor’s Note: Journalist Philip Moeller is here to provide the answers you need on aging and retirement. His weekly column, “Ask Phil,” aims to help older Americans and their families by answering their health care and financial questions. Phil is the author of the new book, “Get What’s Yours for Medicare,” and co-author of “Get What’s Yours: The Revised Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security.” Send your questions to Phil.


    Answering your questions is the singular mission of this column. This week, however, doing only this seems akin to fiddling while Rome burns. As far as the nation’s health care is concerned, there is an enormous elephant in the room — and it really is a pachyderm, or at least the political equivalent.

    Starting with the Republican-controlled U.S. House’s passage of American Health Care Act — a measure that even President Trump called “mean” — the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate came up with the Better Care Reconciliation Act.

    This still-evolving measure would about match the House bill in the numbers of people it would cause to lose health insurance. It also would dramatically reduce health care for the nation’s most vulnerable citizens and cut taxes for wealthier Americans. In the process, it would substantially raise the cost of health insurance and, in a neat feat of legislative wizardry, simultaneously reduce the quality of the health policies such premiums would purchase.

    The Better Care Reconciliation Act would dramatically reduce health care for the nation’s most vulnerable citizens and cut taxes for wealthier Americans.

    These are just the headlines of what the Better Care Reconciliation Act would do. It also would give states relatively free rein to create their own waivers from the law, possibly leading to insurers being able to exclude people with pre-existing conditions from affording coverage. Older people still shy of the Medicare eligibility age of 65 now have some protection against being charged higher, age-based premiums. But they would lose this protection, allowing insurers to charge them up to five times more for the same coverage than younger persons are charged.

    This bill was crafted in private, has had no public hearings and had been seen by only a few senators until late last week. Virtually every major group of health care providers has come out against the bill, as they did for the House-passed bill. Opposition from within his own party finally forced Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell to postpone a vote on the measure that had been planned for this week.

    That decision owed much to the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the bill, released Monday. It projected it would lead to 22 million Americans losing their health insurance over the coming decade — about the same as its assessment that 23 million would lose coverage under the House bill.

    Beyond this similarity, the Senate bill would reshape Obamacare subsidies and cause up-front deductibles to soar, making insurance unaffordable to most lower-income Americans. On paper, people would have the freedom to buy whatever policy they wished. In practice, the CBO said, “few low-income people would purchase any plan.”

    A hurried addition to the bill would penalize people who don’t have insurance for a two-month period by forcing them to wait six months before they could get a policy. There was no evidence that the possible impact of this measure was considered before its inclusion.

    The CBO report, while criticized by the White House as inaccurate, seems to have provided the political cover being sought by several Senate Republicans to take more time to evaluate a measure they confess they do not fully understand. Given that these bills would reshape one sixth of the U.S. economy, taking a time out would be in the nation’s interest.

    Still, opponents of the House and Senate bills know that this Congress is quite capable of moving ahead with even a deeply flawed effort, so long as it allows them to say they have fulfilled their seven-year campaign to overturn Obamacare. After next week’s July 4 holiday recess, they expect to see McConnell back at work trying to craft changes to the bill that will get 50 GOP senators to “yes.”

    Impact on older Americans

    Getting rid of Obamacare is the ostensible reason for the Republicans’ efforts. But I suppose that when you’re having so much fun tearing down things, the temptation to continue must be overpowering. These bills would also make major changes to Medicare and Medicaid. The cumulative effect on older Americans would be nothing short of devastating.

    First, older Americans who have not yet reached the normal Medicare eligibility age of 65 would face sharply higher insurance rates on whatever is left of the Obamacare state insurance exchanges. Private health insurers would be able to charge them higher rates than at present. The subsidies now available for Obamacare policies would be sharply smaller for most people, and policy deductibles would be much, much higher.

    These bills would also make major changes to Medicare and Medicaid. The cumulative effect on older Americans would be nothing short of devastating.

    Second, for the more than 55 million people now on Medicare, the Senate and House measures have less direct but nonetheless ominous impacts. These would be triggered by the repeal of Obamacare’s high-earner taxes on Medicare. Cutting these taxes plays to the Republican base, of course, but to do so at the same time as costs are being increased for lower-income Americans is tone deaf and has little economic rationale. The 400 richest families in the nation, it is estimated, would receive $2.8 billion a year from these tax cuts — an amount equal to the annual Obamacare premium subsidies for nearly 800,000 persons.

    When Obamacare was enacted in 2010, these new Medicare taxes added several years to the life of Medicare’s trust fund, which is dedicated to paying insured hospital expenses under Part A of Medicare. Their elimination would have the opposite effect, and the prospect of this fund running out of money has been highlighted by Republican leaders as a compelling reason for making more fundamental changes to the program.

    Third, the House and Senate measures both would reduce future Medicaid spending by nearly $800 billion over the coming 10 years. This represents a spending cut of more than 25 percent compared with current projections. State governments pay substantial shares of Medicaid, and the Senate bill in particular would give them more local control over how Medicaid dollars are spent.

    This would include letting them apply for waivers to not only reduce their spending but cut the things that Medicaid covers in their states. Medicaid also pays for low-income Medicare subsidies, so these supports also could be threatened by the GOP bills.

    As of April, more than 74.5 million people were receiving Medicaid. Here’s a very helpful graphic snapshot from The New York Times of who these people are. If you want more facts on the impact of these bills, the Kaiser Family Foundation has produced a series of excellent reports. If you take the time to do additional homework, it will become clear that changing our health care rules is an enormously complicated endeavor. Doing it on the fly is not defensible.

    Medicaid once was thought of as health care for children and poor people. It certainly is that, but it also is a crucial benefit program for middle-class retirees. Most of the 1.4 million residents of nursing homes are only able to afford them because Medicaid pays for their long-term care. Many people mistakenly believe Medicare pays for long-term care, but it does not. Cutting Medicaid funding for such care now is particularly worrisome, as waves of aging boomers approach their 80s and almost certainly will place added burdens on nursing homes.

    Time for some sunlight

    Surely, this is not how a democracy should conduct the public’s business. Surely, we won’t approve a measure that would deny health insurance — and probably care — to millions of the nation’s less fortunate citizens. Surely, we won’t cut taxes on the wealthy to reduce Medicare funding. Surely, we won’t approve massive cuts to Medicaid. All without so much as even a single public hearing? Yet, here we are.

    Fundamentally changing the government’s role in providing health care to Americans is, I believe, unavoidable. But it should be done in a deliberative and publicly transparent fashion, not in secret.

    Obamacare, by contrast, included so many public hearings that even its most ardent supporters had had enough by the time it was voted into law.

    Fundamentally changing the government’s role in providing health care to Americans is, I believe, unavoidable. But it should be done in a deliberative and publicly transparent fashion, not in secret. And if it is going to have any permanence, it should be a bipartisan effort.

    The post Column: For older Americans, the GOP health bills would be nothing short of devastating appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announces newly launched program aimed at providing security around schools in Anthem, Arizona, U.S. January 9, 2013. REUTERS/Laura Segall/File Photo/File Photo

    Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio seen announcing a new security program for schools in Anthem, Arizona in 2013. File photo by REUTERS/Laura Segall

    The 24-hour news cycle is filled with politics coverage, but not everything gets the attention it deserves. Here are five politics stories you may have missed in the past week.

    1. Anxiety over GOP health bill grows in Missouri, Kansas as it approaches Senate vote — 6/20. The secretive process frustrated voters in Missouri and Kansas who are concerned with how the bill would affect people with disabilities. — Kansas City Star
    2. ‘America’s Toughest Sheriff’ Joe Arpaio Goes On Trial — 6/26. Former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio was voted out of office in November and now faces a criminal trial. — NPR
    3. Koch network to Trump administration: “You are never going to win the war on drugs. Drugs won.” — 6/25. In Colorado Springs, the Koch network takes a stance on marijuana legalization that puts them at odds with the Trump administration. — Denver Post
    4. North Dakota’s last Democrat? — 6/22. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., says she has a better relationship with President Donald Trump than she did with President Barack Obama. — Politico
    5. Trump Signs Bill Meant to Restore Trust in V.A. — 6/23. The law enjoyed bipartisan support and gives Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin broader power to reform the agency. — New York Times

    READ MORE: 5 overlooked politics stories that are worth your time (June 20)

    The post 5 overlooked politics stories that are worth your time appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly testifies before a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly testifies before a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Homeland Security Department is demanding that airlines around the world step up security measures for international flights bound for the United States or face the possibility of a total electronics ban for planes.

    Compliance with the new rules could lead to the lifting of a ban on laptops and other large electronics already in place for airlines flying to the United States from 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa. It could also stave off a much-discussed expansion of the ban to flights from Europe.

    Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly announced the rollout of the new rules Wednesday.

    The changes will be phased in over time and include enhanced passenger vetting, explosives detection and efforts to root out insider threats to airlines.

    “Security is my No. 1 concern,” Kelly said during a speech at the Center for a New American Security. “Our enemies are adaptive and we have to adapt as well.”

    Kelly said the changes will be “seen and unseen” and will be phased in over the coming weeks and months.

    He said airlines that don’t comply or are slow to enforce the new standards could be forced to bar large electronics in both carry-on and checked luggage. They could also lose permission to fly into the U.S. He said he’s confident that airlines will cooperate.

    The current ban, with affects only foreign carriers flying to the U.S. from 10 cities, allows passengers to travel with larger electronics packed in checked baggage.

    The new rules will apply to roughly 180 foreign and U.S.-based airlines, flying from 280 cities in 105 countries, according to Homeland Security. About 2,000 international flights land in the United States daily.

    The original laptop and electronics ban has been in place since March amid concerns about an undisclosed threat described only as sophisticated and ongoing. That ban applied to nonstop flights to the United States from Amman, Jordan; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Cairo; Istanbul; Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The roughly 50 affected flights are on foreign airlines.

    The government had considered expanding the laptop ban to include some European airports, though in recent public comments Kelly had suggested the government was looking at alternatives.

    The changes comes after the Transportation Security Administration said this month that it is testing computed-tomography, or CT, scanning at one checkpoint at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

    The technology is already used for screening checked luggage, but the cost and larger size of the CT scanners has held back their use for carry-on bags. TSA had expected to begin testing CT scanners for carry-on luggage by the end of 2016.

    CT scanners create a 3-D image that can be rotated to give screeners a better look. Suspicious bags can be pulled aside and opened by screeners.

    American Airlines, which is participating in the test, said the technology could let passengers leave laptops, liquids and aerosols in their carry-on bags, speeding up the trip through the airport.

    The test comes as U.S. officials scramble to deal with potential new threats, including reports that terrorists are developing bombs that can be disguised as laptop batteries.

    The ban on laptops in the cabin is based on the belief that a bomb in the cargo hold would need to be bigger than one in the cabin, and capable of remote detonation. Checked luggage already goes through computed-tomography screening while carry-on bags don’t.

    AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report.

    The post Homeland demands more security on international flights to U.S. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers conduct a targeted enforcement operation in Atlanta, Georgia, in February. Photo courtesy of Bryan Cox/ Immigration and Customs Enforcement via Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is urging the House to pass legislation that would stiffen punishments on people who re-enter the U.S. illegally and for “sanctuary” jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal deportation forces.

    To highlight the bills up for vote Thursday, the president met with more than a dozen people whose loved ones were killed by people in the country illegally. They included Jamiel Shaw Sr., whose 17-year-old son was shot and killed in California in 2008 by a man in the country illegally.

    Shaw was a frequent speaker at Trump’s campaign events, where the president often railed against illegal immigration — a key issue for his voting base.

    Trump is pushing for passage of two pieces of legislation. “Kate’s Law” would impose harsher mandatory minimum prison sentences on deportees who re-enter the United States, with stronger penalty increases for those who have been convicted of non-immigration crimes.

    The bill was named after 32-year old Kathryn Steinle, who also was shot and killed in California in 2015 by a man who was in the country illegally. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who pleaded not guilty to the crime, had been released by sheriff’s officials months earlier despite a request by immigration officials to keep him behind bars.

    A second bill, “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act,” would bar states and localities that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities from receiving certain Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security grants, including some related to law enforcement and terrorism.

    Trump argued the bills would close “dangerous loopholes exploited by criminals, gang members, drug dealers, killers, terrorists,” and told the family members gathered that they’d “lost the people that you love because our government refused to enforce our nation’s immigration laws.”

    But Lorella Praeli, the director of immigration policy at the American Civil Liberties Union, criticized the bills, saying they were “riddled with constitutional violations that completely disregard the civil and human rights of immigrants.”

    “Despite claims to the contrary,” she said in a statement, “Kate’s Law and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act will make our communities less safe by undermining the trust that law enforcement builds with its communities — citizen and immigrant alike.”

    READ MORE: Where does the immigration debate stand under President Trump?

    The post President Trump urges passage of House immigration bills appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Senate Majority Leader McConnell speaks to the media about plans to repeal and replace Obamacare on Capitol Hill in Washington

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to the media about plans to repeal and replace Obamacare on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is well aware of the political peril of taking health benefits away from millions of voters. He also knows the danger of reneging on the pledge that helped make him the majority leader: to repeal Obamacare.

    Caught between those competing realities, McConnell’s bill offers a solution: go ahead and repeal Obamacare, but hide the pain for as long as possible. Some of the messaging on the bill seems nonsensical (see: the contention that $772 billion squeezed out of Medicaid isn’t a cut). But McConnell’s timetable makes perfect sense — if you are looking at the electoral calendar.

    Here are a few key dates in McConnell’s “Better Care Reconciliation Act” (BCRA) that seem aimed more at providing cover for lawmakers than coverage for Americans:

    2019: First major changes and cuts to the Affordable Care Act exchanges happen after the 2018 midterm cycle, allowing congressional Republicans to campaign on a “fixed” health system, even though Obamacare is still largely in place next year.

    2019: States share $2 billion in grants to apply for waivers under a much looser process through this fiscal year. These waivers could allow insurers to sell skimpy plans that have low price tags but don’t take adequate care of people with preexisting conditions. None of those waivers has to go into effect, however, until after 26 Republican governors face re-election in 2018.

    2020: Stabilization cash that makes the markets more predictable and fair for insurers flows through the congressional midterm cycle and the 2020 presidential cycle. Then it disappears. Medicaid expansion funds hold steady through this crucial political window, too.

    2024: States enjoy their last few sips of Medicaid expansion cash at the end of 2023 — just as, perhaps, a second Republican presidential term is ending.

    2025: The bill changes the formula for the entire Medicaid budget (not just the Obamacare expansion), dramatically reducing federal funding over time. That starts eight years and two presidential election cycles from now.

    McConnell insists everything about the bill has been aboveboard and transparent.

    “Nobody’s hiding the ball here. You’re free to ask anybody anything,” McConnell said on June 13.

    But he and his working group did literally hide the bill from Democrats and most Republicans, crafting it behind closed doors until there was just a week left before his goal to secure a vote on it. (That timing was thrown off Tuesday with the announcement the vote was delayed, but the dealmaking is just beginning.)

    Meanwhile, at least two policy details in the bill may obscure the effects for several years and make the health insurance markets look better almost immediately by giving insurers a more predictable, more lucrative market.

    One is a stipulation that compels the federal government, for two years, to pay the cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies that President Donald Trump has threatened to end. The payments are part of the Affordable Care Act, and they flow to insurers on behalf of low-income marketplace customers to cover their out-of-pocket health expenses. Republicans had sued to stop the payments, adding considerable instability to ACA marketplaces next year. McConnell ends that uncertainty for two years.

    On top of that cash infusion, the BCRA proposes a “Short-Term Stabilization Fund” that would also aim to help lower premium costs and could attract a few more insurers into counties that are sparsely covered now. It would dish out $50 billion to insurers — $15 billion per year in 2018 and 2019 and $10 billion per year in 2020 and 2021.

    The money would make up for the billions that the Republican-led Congress has refused to appropriate for insurance companies under the ACA’s risk corridors program. Risk corridors aimed to offset losses for insurers whose costs were more than 103 percent of expected targets. Congress has so far paid only 12.6 cents on the dollar of those obligations and faces lawsuits from insurers that were stiffed.

    In short, the two pots of money would go a long way toward addressing the instability in Obamacare created by the Republican-led Congress, but only through the next presidential cycle in 2020.

    Beyond timing, the legislation’s features allow senators to make truthful arguments that disguise negative effects.

    Perhaps the key claim is that the Senate bill would increase access to insurance. It might, in that insurance companies in states that waive standards would be free to offer much cheaper plans. But those plans would be cheaper because they wouldn’t cover essential health benefits or adequately cover preexisting conditions. Lower-income Americans might be able to buy a plan — possibly a $6,000 deductible for someone who makes less than $12,000 a year.

    A spokesman for McConnell did not answer a request for comment. But Democrats are keenly aware of the electoral machinations in the bill.

    “Everything about this legislation, from the process to the effective dates of many of the provisions, is driven by political expediency,” said Brian Fallon, a Democratic consultant and former lead spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. “Mitch McConnell only cares about getting the ‘win,’ not about the substance of the bill.”

    Senate Democratic aides who spoke on background were not sure that the steps the bill takes to shore up markets for the next two elections would work when insurance companies can see what lies ahead. But they agreed the timing and short-term fixes might help McConnell twist the arms of reluctant Republican senators.

    “I think it will be enormously helpful to McConnell in a room with a moderate Republican who wants to be told, ‘Hey, a lot of this stuff that’s going to happen in this bill that you’re hearing about, that’s worrisome is past your re-elect, it’s past 2018, it’s past 2020,’” one senior aide said. “‘Just vote for it, it’ll be fine, we’ll figure the rest out later.’”

    Democrats said McConnell’s hide-the-ball strategy will not work with voters, and they want Republican senators to know that before they vote.

    “The polling already shows that, based on the fact that they control every aspect of government, Trump and the Republicans own everything that happens from now on in the health care system,” Fallon said.

    Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee who has the task of leading the arguments against the GOP bill, thinks senators will imperil their political futures if they buy McConnell’s arguments.

    “Sen. McConnell is doing everything he can to persuade Senate Republicans that Trumpcare won’t be devastating for the people they serve, but the facts are that Trumpcare is going to cause families to pay more, gut Medicaid, and take coverage away from millions of people,” Murray said. “Any Senate Republican who votes for Trumpcare and believes patients and families won’t hold them accountable is being sold a bill of goods.”

    Still, McConnell knows how to work a legislative calendar. Expect a July full of closed-door dealmaking with reluctant senators, leading up to maximum leverage before the August recess.

    Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. You can view the original report on its website.

    The post Why McConnell plans to hide health care bill’s pain until after midterms appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: A bestselling novelist takes on war crimes.

    Jeffrey Brown has our latest addition to the NewsHour Bookshelf.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In 2004, 400 people were rounded up from their homes in a village in Bosnia, and buried alive in an old coal mine. But did this mass killing really happen? And, if so, who were the perpetrators?

    Those questions must be decided at the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands. It’s the setting for a new legal thriller titled “Testimony” and a new setting for acclaimed author Scott Turow, the attorney and writer whose work has sold more than 30 million copies since his debut novel, “Presumed Innocent.”

    I’m not going to name all the other bestsellers, Scott, but it’s nice to talk to you here.

    SCOTT TUROW, Author, “Testimony”: Jeff, it’s nice to talk to you.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You have left behind the fictional Kindle County, the setting that many of us are familiar with, that place that’s sort of familiar, for a much broader palette.

    SCOTT TUROW: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Why?

    SCOTT TUROW: You know, I just sort of accumulated a writer’s bucket list, and one of the things, years ago, that I decided I would write about at some point is the International Criminal Court and The Hague, just because I had never read anything set there.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So you started with the idea of the court.

    SCOTT TUROW: I did, for sure.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Something intrigued you about those kinds of trials?

    SCOTT TUROW: I had been in The Hague in the year 2000, and had found myself at a party surrounded by a bunch of American lawyers who were saying, you have got to write about this place.

    And unlike most times when people have ideas about Aunt Tilly’s watch or their divorce, this sounded like it would actually make an interesting setting.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You have the legal background, and you’re an attorney. How much research goes into all of these — the stories that you write?

    SCOTT TUROW: A lot.

    I’m a year off my usual cycle, because I went to the Netherlands twice. I went to Bosnia once. I had a lot to learn about first the court, even more to learn about the Roma people, and, of course, the Bosnian conflict, about which I was inexcusably ignorant.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So, this is set in the aftermath of the Bosnian War.

    SCOTT TUROW: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: It’s about a group of Roma, often known as gypsies …

    SCOTT TUROW: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: … who are still living there …

    SCOTT TUROW: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: … but resettled there.

    SCOTT TUROW: Yes.

    Resettled in the fictional world, resettled after the Bosnian War, driven out of Kosovo, and have chosen to live right near the American NATO bases in Bosnia, which were there for a decade after the war to sort of keep the peace.

    JEFFREY BROWN: So you have this big story. You have this history. But the way in, as always, is a particular character.

    SCOTT TUROW: Right.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In this case, a lawyer from Kindle County.

    SCOTT TUROW: From Kindle County.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    SCOTT TUROW: The former U.S. attorney in Kindle County.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A very successful man, who — but is unfulfilled.

    SCOTT TUROW: Right. Thrown his life up for grabs, says that he has never felt fully at home with himself.

    And that helps explain why he’d be willing to leave the United States to work overseas.

    JEFFREY BROWN: And is that the way in for you, really?

    SCOTT TUROW: What interested me was when I found that the United States Congress had passed a law called the U.S. Service-Members Protection Act, which says that the president has authority to forcibly rescue anybody — any American serviceman charged before the International Criminal Court.

    So, of course, the novelist says, ah, good, conflict. And so the idea of an American prosecutor investigating, among other suspects, American service members was immediately interesting.

    JEFFREY BROWN: We can’t go into all the details of this plot here, but, I mean, it’s fair to say that the book continues what I think I can call your own complicated relationship to the law?

    SCOTT TUROW: Yes, I think so.

    JEFFREY BROWN: You know, as a kind of a both noble calling, but also the — what’s the word, a tawdriness, in some ways of the law.

    SCOTT TUROW: Right.

    There cannot be any greater challenge to the law than trying to adjudicate mass crimes like war crimes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    I keep thinking, in your work and in this one, that most of us look at the legal system as a way to get at the truth. Do you think of it as that, or as a way to get at a truth, or what’s going on there, and what is it that helps translates for you as a novelist?

    SCOTT TUROW: Well, you know, I really think of the trial of a lawsuit as an exercise in history.

    And people are offering competing visions of what happened in the past. And the justice system is willing to accept either of those competing visions and to impose consequences as a result.

    When you think of it that way, it’s a little bit startling, because we want to believe that there is one truth and, therefore, one justice, whereas, if you have practiced law as long as I have, you realize that there is actually a range of acceptable outcomes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

    Of course, truth these days is a kind of fraught concept.

    SCOTT TUROW: Yes, it’s …

    JEFFREY BROWN: But it always has been — it sounds like it always has been for you.

    SCOTT TUROW: Well, it is in the courtroom.

    And it was frustrating for me as a prosecutor. When I wrote “Presumed Innocent” originally, I didn’t say who had committed the crime. And I had a long heart-to-heart with myself about the purpose of the mystery. And one thing the mystery does is deliver to us a certainty that life and the courtroom very often can’t.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Has that continued? Because I actually saw an interview where you said, “I’m a big believer in the fact that all authors really write only one book.”

    SCOTT TUROW: Right. I think that’s true.

    And the older I get, the more I’m trying to figure out what the book is and why. I know that, in a book like “Testimony,” issues like identity are enormously important. No character is fully at home.

    And I have a hard time isolating what it is in myself that makes me so fascinated with that theme, because I came from a normal upper middle-class family. And yet, as I look back at my books, the uses of power, issues of identity, they have — it’s recurrent. It happens again and again.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, a lot of people continue to read your one book in its many forms, right?

    (LAUGHTER)

    SCOTT TUROW: Fortunately for me.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Good for you.

    SCOTT TUROW: I’m grateful to all of them.

    JEFFREY BROWN: The new one is “Testimony.”

    Scott Turow, nice to talk to you. Thank you.

    SCOTT TUROW: Jeff, it’s good to talk to you, too.

    The post A war-crime mystery drives Scott Turow’s newest thriller appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: This is peak season in the United States for Lyme disease, as people spend more time outdoors and can be at risk for tick bites.

    Each year, at least 30,000 cases are reported, and researchers believe those estimates are low. Given its debilitating effects on some people, and after years of research, it begs the question: Why is there still no vaccine people can get to prevent Lyme disease?

    Miles O’Brien has been exploring that for his weekly reports on the Leading Edge of science and technology.

    MILES O’BRIEN: It looks like a routine medical visit, but Dr. Linden Hu of Tufts University is prepping a patient for a procedure that would tick me off.

    DR. HU LINDEN, Tufts University: So now we’re going to just put the ticks in there. They move really fast, so you keep an eye, too.

    MILES O’BRIEN: He is placing 28 larval ticks on a volunteer’s arm, hoping they will help solve some of the mysteries of Lyme disease.

    KYRAN ROMANOWSKI: I’m nervous. I’m not particularly thrilled having 30 ticks in my arm.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Kyran Romanowski was diagnosed with Lyme disease in June of 2016. His symptoms, achy joints, fatigue and memory recall lapses, have persisted long after he stopped taking antibiotics.

    KYRAN ROMANOWSKI: Why am I still having these symptoms when I had all these courses of treatment? You know, is the bacteria still in my body? I don’t know.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Neither do doctors. About 10 percent to 15 percent of people who get Lyme report stubborn symptoms for months, even years, even after antibiotic treatment. Is it lingering damage from Lyme? Are the body’s natural defenses stuck in attack mode? Or is it something else?

    DR. LINDEN HU: So, another possibility is that the bacteria persist, and they haven’t been eradicated by the antibiotic treatment, and that the immune system may still be recognizing them and fighting them and causing symptoms of inflammation and infection.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Could the Lyme disease bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, be cleverly hiding inside the human body? Doctors cannot detect the organisms using existing blood tests, but Dr. Hu hopes Borrelia and ticks are like magnet and steel.

    DR. LINDEN HU: The bacteria are so well-adapted to their natural vector, the tick, that they’re able to sense the tick, and the tick acts as a concentrating vessel to allow you to better sample what’s in the host.

    MILES O’BRIEN: After removing these ticks, Dr. Hu will grind them up and test them for the Lyme bacteria.

    The ticks have been bred in the lab, under sterile conditions, so if Borrelia is there, it can only have come from the patient. Deploying ticks as bacteria detectors may seem far from a practical test, but it could give researchers some ideas on how to devise one.

    Rheumatologist Allen Steere and his team at Massachusetts General Hospital are working on better tests and treatments as well. His lab is filled with more than 40 years of blood, cells and tissues samples from Lyme suffers.

    In 1975, Steere was the investigator who first connected the dots between a cluster of children with symptoms of arthritis in Lyme, Connecticut, and what came to be known as Lyme disease.

    DR. ALLEN STEERE, Massachusetts General Hospital: My career has largely been focused on the elucidation of Lyme disease in human patients, what it’s like clinically, development of diagnostic test and treatment strategies with various courses antibiotic therapy, but then also prevention of the disease by vaccination.

    MILES O’BRIEN: The Lyme disease vaccine which he helped develop is a sore subject. Sold under the brand name LYMErix by SmithKline Beecham, now GlaxoSmithKline, it was first prescribed in 1998.

    It was 80 percent effective at stemming the disease. But hundreds of recipients claimed the vaccine made their Lyme symptoms worse. Federal investigators found no scientific proof the vaccine was the cause of their complaints, but anti-vaccine advocacy groups threatened class-action lawsuits, and sales plummeted.

    In 2002, SmithKline took LYMErix off the market.

    DR. ALLEN STEERE: And I think the time has come to reconsider the decision. Lyme disease is the only infection that I know of for which there is an effective vaccine, but it’s not available to the public.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Unless you happen to be a dog.

    Giselle, the miniature dachshund, is getting her Lyme vaccine shot at the Angell Animal Medical Center run by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Her owner is veterinarian Susan O’Bell.

    SUSAN O’BELL, Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: I just feel very fortunate that there are several Lyme vaccine options for dogs, although I have to say, when I pull ticks off of my children, I wish that I had some easy options like vaccination or prevention, like I can give for my dogs, because it’s an issue for people and their pets alike.

    It sure seems like something we should be working on to prevent, one way or another.

    MILES O’BRIEN: And, in fact, the French biotech firm Valneva is in the first phase of U.S. Food and Drug Administration testing on a new vaccine that is similar to LYMErix.

    In the 15 years since the vaccine was pulled off the market, Lyme has exploded into an epidemic; 300,000 people get it every year.

    Kyran Romanowski hopes his five-day stint of tick hosting will in some way help reduce that number.

    DR. LINDEN HU: It looks like a couple ticks have been fed and they’re still feeding.

    KYRAN ROMANOWSKI: Some people are grossed out. Why would you do that? And I told someone, and they freaked out. You are going to put 30 ticks on you. Are you crazy?

    MILES O’BRIEN: He may not be squeamish, but he was pretty happy when Dr. Hu took them off.

    DR. LINDEN HU: Glad to see them go, Mr. Romanowski?

    KYRAN ROMANOWSKI: I am ecstatic.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Dr. Hu would share that emotion if his results would stop this raging, uncontrolled epidemic.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Miles O’Brien in Boston.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May has promised a national investigation into the exterior paneling, called cladding, used in the construction of high-rise buildings, this in the wake of the London apartment fire two weeks ago that left at least 80 dead.

    Testing shows that the paneling is highly flammable, and is found on apartment blocks around Britain. It is thought to have accelerated the fire. The disaster at Grenfell Tower has seriously undermined confidence in Prime Minister May’s Conservative minority government. Many believe the tragedy could mark a turning point in how Britain cares for its poorest.

    From London, Malcolm Brabant reports.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: The faces of Grenfell Tower haunt the streets of North Kensington. Hope that the missing will ever be found has long expired.

    Two weeks on, the official death toll remains at 79. This traumatized community is convinced at least 100 perished, if not more, in what was a high-rise crematorium.

    DAVID LAMMY, Member of Parliament, Labour Party: Grenfell is a monumental disaster on a scale that we have not seen for a generation. It raises huge issues about how Britain cares for people that are poorer in our social housing in particular who need the state to house them. It’s absolutely clear that what we have seen is gross negligence or corporate manslaughter.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: The memorials proffer silent protests and demand reform.

    Lawmaker David Lammy, who lost a friend in the fire, is leading the charge.

    DAVID LAMMY: At its heart, Brits like to see themselves as fair and as tolerant. What they saw in Grenfell has alarmed them. They really saw the face of a welfare state that has largely disappeared. I do believe Grenfell is a turning point. It’s a Hurricane Katrina moment.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: During urgent safety spot checks in 120 public housing blocks across Britain, cladding in every single case failed fire resistance tests. In the London borough of Camden, the risk to tenants was compounded by other inadequate fire protection measures and considered so severe that the council ordered the immediate evacuation of 4,000 people over last weekend.

    MAN: I think they’re behaving ridiculous, to be quite honest with you, because they have known for seven years about all this stuff.

    MAN: The system is broken, it’s cracking up, and it’s evident to see for everybody.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: As refugees from the wars of former Yugoslavia, Alen and Andrea Kevric are used to leaving home in a hurry. The council gave them $7,500 for temporary accommodation during repairs, but a private rental agency rejected them.

    ANDREA KEVRIC, Nurse: They actually realized who we are, that we are plebs from social housing. And they don’t want us there. This is the reality, how people are treated in this country.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: According to local council officials, the fire department recommended evacuation, but hundreds of residents refused to move.

    The Kevrices, who have four children, are uncertain about their immediate future in a country that has become their home. In common with many immigrants, they have low-paid jobs and are priced out of London’s expensive housing market.

    ANDREA KEVRIC: To make some kind of decent living, I have to be in social housing, which I’m very lucky to be in, because it’s so rare and hard to come by. I was lucky to get it. And so my rent is considerably reduced, but, even with that, we just make ends meet.

    ALEN KEVRIC, Premises Manager: The divide between rich and poor unfortunately only gets exposed with the worst kind of disasters. History will teach us as well that’s the only way when we can actually ask for change.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: This crisis coincides with a slew of reports highlighting poverty in Britain. The U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, says Britain has some of the highest levels of hunger and deprivation amongst the world’s richest nations.

    It claims that one in three British children experience poverty in terms of food, clothing and social activities. The housing charity shelter warns a million families could be made homeless by 2020.

    Volunteers at this food bank in the heart of London are taking delivery of donations that will help sustain 50 people. The food bank charity Trussell Trust is reporting today that four in five of its clients are going hungry for days at a time.

    DOROTHEA HACKMAN, Camden Food Bank: A big group of those are not receiving their benefits, benefit delayed. The next biggest group are low-income. And these are people who are just managing. And one crisis, a canceled day’s work, an additional bill, a sick child, any of those issues can tip them into desperately needing more assistance.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Dr. Youssef El-Gingihy, a general practitioner and author who has campaigned against cuts in the National Health Service, believes that Britain’s political tide is turning irrevocably.

    DR. YOUSSEF EL-GINGIHY, Anti-Austerity Campaigner: Austerity kills. This terrible tragedy with the Grenfell Tower fire has unfortunately become this grim monument, this rather ghastly memorial for the Conservative government’s austerity regime of massive cuts to public spending, particularly on public services.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: The argument about austerity erupted in Parliament today.

    MAN: Are there questions for the prime minister.

    Jeremy Corbyn?

    JEREMY CORBYN, Leader, Labor Party: This disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners, I urge the prime minister to come up with the resources needed to test and remove cladding, retrofit sprinklers, properly fund the fire service and the police, so that all our communities can truly feel safe in their own homes.

    THERESA MAY, Prime Minister, United Kingdom: The cladding of tower blocks didn’t start under this government. It didn’t start under the previous coalition government. The cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: It’s been 10 years since Tony Blair was prime minister. Under Corbyn, Labor has returned to its socialist roots, and a rock star welcome at last weekend’s Glastonbury music festival showed his popularity amongst young people.

    JEREMY CORBYN: Is it right that so many people in our country have no home to live in, and only a street to sleep on?

    AUDIENCE: No!

    JEREMY CORBYN: Is it right that so many people live in such poverty in a society surrounded by such riches? No, it obviously is not.

    CLAIRE-LOUISE LEYLAND, Conservative Leader, Camden Councillor: Did you like it?

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Conservatives like Camden Councillor Claire-Louise Leyland are fighting Corbyn’s portrayal of the Conservatives as uncaring.

    CLAIRE-LOUISE LEYLAND: It’s duplicitous and I think really unhelpful for people who are trying to deal with trauma to try and turn this into such a simple argument. Difficult choices were made. Things happened that shouldn’t have happened, and we need to really explore what went wrong.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: As the politicians fight for the moral high ground over Grenfell, there is yet another report about divided Britain by a commission which says that successive Labor and Conservative governments have failed to reduce the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

    The Social Mobility Commission warns that, unless there is urgent radical and reform, the divisions in Britain will get widen even, threatening social cohesion and economic prosperity.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Malcolm Brabant in London.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: As we reported earlier, governments and industries the world over are trying to deal with effects of the latest in a series of cyber-attacks. The so-called ransomware assault is the second such strike in the last six weeks.

    Hari Sreenivasan in New York has more.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: This attack originated yesterday in Ukraine, and rapidly spread through Europe and beyond. The virus is called Petya, and it takes over infected computers, effectively locking out users.

    A payment is required to return control of the machine and data. In early May, a similar virus called WannaCry spread to over 150 countries.

    This new attack shows signs of greater technical sophistication, but both apparently used, in part, a tool developed by the U.S. National Security Agency, a tool that was leaked into the open last year.

    With me now for more on this is Rodney Joffe. He is the senior vice president and national security executive for Neustar, a cyber-security firm.

    Rodney, it seems that we have not learned that much from what happened two months ago, but it seems that the attackers have learned a little bit more.

    RODNEY JOFFE, Neustar, Inc.: There’s no question that this is more sophisticated.

    When we look at the code, when we look at the mechanism that was used, this one is much more sophisticated. It actually uses three different vectors we have seen so far. The vector you’re talking about that was used in WannaCry is the third option that is used by this one. It uses two others, but the damage is much more significant in this case.

    This is not looking like so much like ransomware anymore, but it’s starting to look like it’s a deliberate attempt to cause havoc by destroying machines.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Is this something that a hacker collective would do, or is this something that a state government would be interested in doing, destabilizing Ukraine from all of these companies that do business with it or pay taxes to it?

    RODNEY JOFFE: You know, it’s real tough these days to tell where the dividing line is between the criminals and nation states, and they really do work hand in hand, especially in Eastern Europe.

    But if you look this, the criminals are obviously out there for financial gain. This was set up in such a way that there’s very little chance of much in terms of financial gain.

    I think, as of last evening, by the way, there was $10,500 that had actually paid into this wallet. And I have got to tell you that the effort that went into writing the code and distributing it clearly cost a lot more than $10,500.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: What is the measurable impact on Ukraine going forward?

    RODNEY JOFFE: I think that the biggest problem that they’re going to be facing is the fact that the ability to pay taxes to the state is seriously affected.

    We have seen images that were tweeted of things like supermarkets where the checkout systems had been compromised — and we’re showing the screen. We also see the very large — obviously, the multinational shipping line that has now been affected.

    So, it looks like a deliberate attempt to cause some kind of significant financial impact, not just on the citizens of Ukraine, but on Ukraine itself.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You know, when you said you noticed differences in the design between the WannaCry and this, do we have any indication that paying these people off actually gets you your data back, or was it not even designed to do that?

    RODNEY JOFFE: Theoretically, it was designed to do that, but it’s clear so far that the mechanism that was put in place to actually collect ransom is nowhere near the sophistication of the malware itself.

    And you don’t think that someone would have made that kind of mistake, built something that was very, very effective to compromise, and no real ability to collect.

    We haven’t seen or heard of anyone so far who has been able to decrypt it. And what we also know is that, within a very short time after the malware was discovered, the single e-mail address that was needed to communicate with was actually shut down by the provider.

    So that’s one reason that I believe that no one is going to be able to easily get their data back. The second thing is that there are reports that are surfacing now, as folks have looked at the code, that there is at least one bug in the code that actually makes it so that decryption is not possible.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Are the rest of us basically collateral damage when it comes to what’s happening, say, between Ukraine and Russia? This is falling on the day now where this is Constitution Day for Ukraine. They’re celebrating their independence from Russia, what, 21 years ago.

    RODNEY JOFFE: We clearly are collateral damage. This was obviously targeted at Ukraine.

    But it is affecting others. However, one of the things that we have learned in the past is that, in many ways, the people behind a lot of the malware don’t care about the collateral damage. They have a single target or a single objective, and they don’t really seem to care. We have seen that for years. This is no different.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Rodney Joffe joining us from Washington, D.C., tonight, thanks so much.

    RODNEY JOFFE: Thanks for having me.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And just one more of the poll’s findings.

    When asked about the president’s financial dealings, 33 percent of those polled say they believe he has done something illegal. An additional 28 percent feel he has done something unethical, but not illegal. And 31 percent believe he has done nothing wrong.

    Our correspondent John Yang takes a closer look at ethical concerns over the president’s business interests and his unprecedented early reelection run.

    JOHN YANG: The day President Trump took the oath of office, he did something no chief executive before him had ever done on Inauguration Day, filed the paperwork to be an official candidate for reelection.

    The move allows him to raise, money more than $13 million in the first three months of the year, and hold rallies paid for by his campaign, like this one last week in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’re not even campaigning, and look at this crowd.

    MAN: The president of the United States!

    JOHN YANG: But he is campaigning. His first reelection event was just 29 days into his presidency. All five of his campaign-paid rallies have been in states he won in last year’s election: Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Iowa.

    Campaign events give him greater flexibility, like being able to sell Make America Great Again merchandise.

    MICHAEL STEEL, Republican Strategist: This is an opportunity for the president to spread his message directly to his most active and energized supporters. It’s also an opportunity to raise money, to sell merchandise. In some cases, like the fund-raiser here in Washington, it’s an opportunity to patronize his own business establishments.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And I am here to tell you about our incredible progress in making America great again.

    JOHN YANG: They have been vintage Donald Trump.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We are going to start taking care of our country.

    JOHN YANG: And they seem to boost Mr. Trump’s mood, getting him out of Washington and in front of enthusiastic crowds.

    Tonight, here at the Trump International Hotel, just five blocks away from the White House, the first big fund-raiser of the 2020 campaign, it’s benefiting both the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee. The top ticket is $35,000 a head.

    The choice of venue highlights the flow of campaign cash into Trump Organization businesses, a practice, which is legal, of his first run that continues in his bid for reelection. The Trump campaign declined a request to comment for this story.

    But deputy campaign manager Michael Glassner told the Associated Press that they chose the Trump Hotel because it’s a premier and convenient location. The president has walked away from day-to-day management of his hotels, golf courses and other businesses, placing all his assets into a trust, of which he’s the sole beneficiary.

    Ethics lawyer Kenneth Gross says he’s never seen a candidate pay so much money to his own businesses.

    KENNETH GROSS, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Affiliates: What we saw during the campaign is the campaign committee paying Trump facilities, whether it’s the Trump Hotel or Mar-a-Lago, or renting space from the Trump Tower in New York, which it did for the campaign headquarters, buying Trump steaks, Trump vodka, Trump wine, Trump ice.

    All this is money from the campaign that eventually goes to fatten the wallets of Trump, Inc. I don’t know of anything illegal about having a campaign do a campaign visit at your own owned facility, as long as it’s arms-length. But I think, from an appearance standpoint, it’s not great.

    JOHN YANG: The reelection campaign spent more than $6.3 million in the first three months of the year. More than $450,000 of that went to Trump businesses, including rent at the Trump Tower in New York and Trump hotels in New York and Las Vegas, catering from Trump restaurants, and thousands of dollars for Trump bottled water.

    Critics say holding campaign events at Trump properties also gives them free publicity and added prestige. A lawsuit from the Democratic attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia alleges that, since Mr. Trump took office, goods and services sold by various Trump businesses have sold at a premium. It said room rates at his D.C. hotel have gone up hundreds of dollars.

    KARL RACINE, D.C. Attorney General: Never in the history of this country have we had a president with these kinds of extensive business entanglements or a president who refused to adequately distance themselves from their holdings.

    JOHN YANG: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called the suit partisan politics.

    Tonight, at the Trump Hotel fund-raiser, the only politics on anybody’s mind is likely to be the 2020 campaign, as the man who rewrote the book on running for president appears to be trying to rewrite the book on running for reelection.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Yang in Washington.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The NewsHour, in partnership with the Marist Institute for Public Opinion and NPR, is out with a new poll that looks at Americans’ opinions on President Trump, health care, the economy and more.

    Joining me now to dig into the results are Lee Miringoff of Marist and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

    Welcome to both of you.

    Lee, I’m going to start with you.

    Let’s look at one of the questions, first, about the Republican health care plan …

    LEE MIRINGOFF, Marist Institute for Public Opinion: Sure.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … in the Senate. This is the plan the president is pushing for. You asked people their assessment of the Senate plan. What did you find?

    LEE MIRINGOFF: Well, it was very poor in terms of public opinion.

    And what’s fascinating in the numbers is even a plurality of Republicans around the nation are unsure on terms of the Senate health care plan. So the Republicans took a very big risk going forward with something when they didn’t even have their core following solidly behind them. And I think the proof is in the results.

    The Democrats, obviously, were opposed. Independents have been scurrying away from the Republicans and questioning President Trump and Republicans in Congress in greater numbers. So, as far as the health care proposal is concerned, it clearly didn’t have the kind of support that you would want to go forward with if you’re trying to make such a major change.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Just to quickly go over the numbers, approval overall, 17 percent of the Senate plan, disapproval, 55 percent. And then when you ask people if they approved of the way Republicans in Congress are handling health care, it was 21 percent approval, 65 percent disapproval.

    Amy, what does all this tell you?

    AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Yes.

    Well, Lee makes a very good point that, even among Republicans, there’s not a tremendous amount of support, not only for the bill, but for the way that Republicans in Congress are handling it.

    I think a very small plurality of Republicans said they like the job that Republicans in Congress are doing on this. Quite frankly, Republicans have not done a very good job shaping and defining this bill. It’s being defined by what it isn’t as much as by what it is. And that’s pretty clear in the polling data that we’re seeing here.

    The other interesting thing that I found in this poll was that, when they asked the question about who would you blame if this all falls apart, if there’s no repeal of Obamacare, and most Americans — this is true of Democrat, Republican, independent — they don’t blame Donald Trump. They either blame Republicans — independents and Democrats say they would blame Republicans in Congress.

    Republicans say they blame Democrats mostly. But Trump gets very little blame.

    LEE MIRINGOFF: What is really interesting is that although Obamacare really doesn’t have a champion right now, most of the talk has been how to replace and repeal, it remains popular with Americans.

    And I think — so the Republican proposal not only wasn’t well-organized. It really flew in the face of what public opinion is, so really going uphill on this. And I think that’s why they have had such a difficult time with it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lee, you also asked the generic question, what do people think of the job the president is doing?

    And I think, not surprising, along party lines, a large majority of Republicans like what he’s doing. A large majority of Democrats dislike it, but among independents, some interesting, interesting results.

    LEE MIRINGOFF: Yes, and the independents are the group, of course, in the middle. And, you know, they’re much more like Democrats right now than Republicans in terms of their attitude.

    And they have grown in their disapproval of President Trump since the first poll right after he took office. And now almost 60 percent of independents have a negative view of him. And those numbers have gone up, the negative numbers have.

    So there’s a real question on their part about the direction the country is going in and a lot of other concerns that they have on an issue-by-issue basis, health care being one, but others of concern to independents as well.

    They were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt initially, but that has certainly evaporated, and whatever political capital he had with this group, that’s been well spent — or it has been spent, I should say.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Amy, what do you see in these numbers, especially among independents?

    AMY WALTER: Yes, Lee framed it perfectly, which is whatever benefit of the doubt they may be giving — they may have been giving the president in January, and it was a very thin benefit, it’s been dried up pretty well by now.

    But you’re also looking, if you just think historically or look historically, at what it means to have support for independents this low, and if you look at the last midterm elections where a president had low approval ratings with independents at this number, somewhere between 30 percent, 35 percent approval rating among independents, they went on to lose a very large number of seats in that midterm election.

    And that really could be the tipping point for a lot of these Republicans, too, who are up in 2018. They may sit in districts that a Republican carried or that are Republican-leaning, but they count on independents coming over and supporting the Republican in the November election.

    If those independents are feeling dissatisfied or they’re feeling dispirited, or, quite frankly, they’re feeling angry — that’s the other important thing to note about this poll. It’s not just that independents felt like they didn’t approve of Donald Trump. Their strong disapproval ratings of Donald Trump are somewhere — for President Trump — are somewhere in the 40 percent range vs. just I think it’s in the teens that strongly support him.

    So that intensity of disapproval is a real — should be a real warning sign for all Republicans, especially those who are up in 2018.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quickly, Lee, you also asked a question I hadn’t seen before, and that was comparing who is a more effective leader, President Trump or former President Obama? Thirty-four percent President Trump, 58 percent President Obama.

    I guess that mirrors overall support for this president.

    LEE MIRINGOFF: Yes.

    Look, and former presidents always look do better after they have completed their term in office, but at this point in President Obama’s administration in ’09, his numbers were in the mid-50s. Contrast that with the low to mid-30s with Donald Trump, and you see the answer to the question, why is this president having such a difficult time in the court of public opinion?

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, fascinating numbers. There’s more there. I know everybody will want to dig in. You can find it all on our Web site.

    In the meantime, Lee Miringoff of Marist, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, thank you both.

    AMY WALTER: You’re welcome.

    LEE MIRINGOFF: Thank you, Judy.

    The NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll surveyed 1,205 adults from June 21-25 contacted by live interviewers using a mix of landline and mobile numbers. There is a 2.8-percentage point margin of error. A sub-sample of 995 registered voters were also surveyed, with a 3.1-percentage point margin of error. Read more about our methods here.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Here’s a question. What’s next in the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare?

    I spoke short time ago with one of the senators who helped write the now-delayed bill, John Thune of South Dakota. He is chairman of the Republican Conference, making him the third-ranking Republican in the Senate.

    Senator Thune, thank you for joining us.

    I want to start out asking you where the negotiations stand this afternoon. The president acknowledged today that it’s going to be very tough, but then he went on to say there’s a big surprise coming. Do you know what he was talking about?

    (LAUGHTER)

    SEN. JOHN THUNE, R-S.D.: Well, I’m not sure what that is, Judy, but thank you. It’s nice to be with you.

    I think the state of negotiations at the moment are we’re still having conversations and working through the issues that right now are, I think, keeping us from getting to a consensus, and I hope that eventually we will be able to work through those. But that’s the next few days.

    And I think the goal is, as much as we can, have at least sort of a framework in place by the end of the week that we can send to the Congressional Budget Office to get scoring back, so that when we come back after the Fourth of July break next week, the following week, we can move a bill to the floor, get it up and get to work on it and open up the amendment process and hopefully eventually pass it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What is the bigger challenge, Senator? Is it appealing to the moderates, who believe that the cuts in Medicaid and other parts of the bill are too hard on those with lower income, or is it the more conservative members, who want a bigger repeal of Obamacare?

    SEN. JOHN THUNE: It’s kind of a combination.

    And it’s really — you know, there are some things, Judy, in this process that you can dial back and forth. And we have been trying to turn those dials as much as we can to bring people on board. But we do have the more conservative members in our conference who have specific things that they want to see addressed in this bill. And then we have got more moderate members who, as you mentioned, are concerned about Medicaid and trying to put, you know, the final touches on that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me pick up on the Medicaid point, because we are hearing today from more health care experts who say these Medicaid changes would force the states to make some very tough decisions about what they’re going to pay for.

    They talk about things like in-home services for the elderly, for people with disabilities. And they say those could be in very serious jeopardy.

    SEN. JOHN THUNE: Well, look, I think the thing with Medicare — and a lot of this — I should say, with Medicaid — and this is going to depend — states are going to be in a position to have a lot of flexibility.

    What this basically does is allows them to choose the two base years that they would calculate current their reimbursement levels on. And there’s a separate reimbursement for elderly, so for nursing home recipients, another one for the blind and disabled, another one for children, and yet another one for able-bodied adults.

    And they all have per-capita allotments based upon what the states are experiencing today in terms of Medicaid costs. And then those are inflated over the years, the next decade, increased at the rate of inflation. And so they have to figure out how to take those dollars and put them to the best use in the state.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of state by state, the Center for American Progress took those CBO numbers. They broke them down by state.

    They looked at South Dakota, your home state. They determined that almost 64,000 fewer South Dakotans would be covered under the Senate plan by 2026 than if the ACA remained in effect, and that includes something like 40,000 on Medicaid, 24,000 on the individual market.

    How would you deal with that?

    SEN. JOHN THUNE: Well, I don’t know how they would — how they came up with that number.

    In my state of South Dakota, we weren’t an expansion state. And we currently operate the Medicaid program in a fairly cost-effective and efficient way. People in the individual marketplace should have more options. The plan that we — the discussion draft that we have out there today, which is in the process, of course, of being modified, actually opens up for people who are zero percent to 100 percent of the federal poverty level, not eligible for Medicaid, would open up the opportunity for them to purchase insurance with help from the federal government.

    And in my state, that’s 37,000 people. So there are 37,000 people today who don’t have access to health insurance that would under the proposal that — the discussion draft at least that is out there today.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Another subject, Senator, a lot of reporting in the last few days about President Trump’s role in all this. A number of reports saying the president is not as steeped in the details as he might otherwise be, and that he doesn’t have a strong view of how this should come out, that mainly his view is he just wants to see something passed.

    What is your how — would you describe the president’s role?

    SEN. JOHN THUNE: I think he does want a result. He clearly, in the meeting that we had about him yesterday, was trying to sort of push the process along, realizing that the Senate has a role to play and that there are differences of opinion.

    And I think he got a flavor yesterday for what we have been hearing in our meetings with Republican Senators, because some of those differences came out. But I think the president is engaged. He’s, obviously, talking to individual senators about their specific concerns. He’s talking to groups of senators. He had all of us down there yesterday.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

    SEN. JOHN THUNE: So I think he wants to get a result, Judy. And I think he wants it to be a health care plan, proposal that we can go out there and defend and that he can defend and argue for to the American people. And I don’t — I still think we’re going to get there.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Last weekend, I’m sure you know, there was a pro-Trump political action committee that ran an attack ad, essentially, against Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, who was at that point expressing concerns about the health care bill.

    And the reporting is that Leader McConnell called the White House, said that this was stupid to do. Is this something that you and other Republicans have let the White House know you don’t want them to do? I mean, what are you saying to the White House about this?

    SEN. JOHN THUNE: I think it’s been conveyed in pretty uncertain — I should say certain terms that, that’s a bad idea.

    Particularly in the middle of a discussion where you’re trying to get to a result on a major consequential issue like this, you don’t want to have one of your own members being attacked. We need to get to 50, but that works a lot better if members are allowed to be able to discuss it with their colleagues, with their constituents, and not have the threat of a political campaign hanging out there over their head.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And finally, just quickly, Senator Thune, any serious discussion of including Democrats in these deliberations?

    SEN. JOHN THUNE: It’s my preferred working style here is to have bipartisan legislation.

    I think what the Democrats have made clear is that they don’t want to deal with anything that repeals and replaces Obamacare. I think they wouldn’t want to do anything that gets rid of the mandates, which is a big part of our proposal, getting rid of the individual employer mandates.

    They would want to keep the taxes. And we want to do away with taxes that are driving up the costs of premiums. So, I think it would be hard to see a scenario where Democrats would be willing to come to the table in good faith and actually work with us on a solution that meets those — you know, those requirements.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator John Thune, a member of the Republican leadership, thank you very much.

    SEN. JOHN THUNE: Thanks, Judy.

    The post Sen. Thune: GOP health bill negotiation process is difficult but necessary appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Senate Republican leaders have spent this day behind closed doors trying to win over more of their own members in the health care reform fight.

    Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has delayed any action until after the Fourth of July recess, but a spokesman says he hopes to have a revised bill as soon as Friday.

    At the White House, President Trump suggested the effort is working along very well, despite the obstacles.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It’s very tough. Every state is different. Every senator is different. But I have to tell you, the Republican senators had a really impressive meeting yesterday at the White House. I think we’re going to get at least very close, and I think we’re going to get it over the line.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, the president told reporters — quote — “We’re going to have a big surprise on health care.” He didn’t say what that meant.

    We will hear about all of this from Republican Senator John Thune after the news summary.

    The president’s former campaign chairman has registered, retroactively, as a foreign agent. Paul Manafort filed papers Tuesday that show his firm was paid more than $17 million by a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. He resigned from the Trump campaign last August, when word of his consulting work leaked. In March of this year, Michael Flynn, who had been fired as the president’s national security adviser, also registered as a foreign agent.

    Businesses and governments around the globe spent a second day battling a cyber-attack. The so-called ransomware assault eased some today, but in the U.S., a subsidiary of FedEx was disrupted, and a Cadbury chocolate factory in Australia had to shut down.

    In London, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said it is verging on an act of war.

    MICHAEL FALLON, Defense Secretary, United Kingdom: State or nonstate entities, lurking behind a veil of encryption, targeting our national infrastructure, as we saw with the recent cyber-strike on Parliament itself, that isn’t a cold war. That’s a gray war, permanently teetering on the edge of outright hostility.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The outbreak began in Ukraine, where it has done the most damage so far. We will take a closer look later in the program.

    The months-long unrest in Venezuela took a dramatic turn overnight. The government says that a police helicopter opened fire on the nation’s Supreme Court and Interior Ministry. Amateur video captured images of the helicopter, before it disappeared. Officials charged the mastermind of the plot was a rogue police pilot and actor. Opponents of socialist President Nicolas Maduro suggested that the raid could be a government ploy to justify increased repression.

    Former members of Colombia’s largest rebel group now face the challenge of reintegrating into society. The one-time fighters of the FARC surrendered their weapons at a disarmament camp on Tuesday. U.N. inspectors supervised the ceremony. The rebels staged a peace agreement last year, after decades of fighting.

    In Liverpool, England, six people, most of them police officials, were charged today in a 1989 soccer stadium disaster. They are accused of offenses ranging from negligence to manslaughter in the deaths of 96 people. The victims were crushed when thousands of people rushed into a crowded section of a stadium. Police blamed rowdy fans, but the families finally won a new investigation.

    TREVOR HICKS, Father of Victims: I mean, there are no winners in this. It doesn’t bring anybody back from the disaster. But what it does do, it sends a message out of accountability, as we keep saying, that nobody, but nobody is above the law, be it the police or anybody else.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The accused include the man who was leading police operations at the stadium that day.

    Back in this country, the Homeland Security Department announced that it’s stepping up security measures for flights coming into the U.S. They include enhanced screening of electronic devices and passengers. Airlines that comply could be exempt from an earlier ban on carry-on laptops. Those that don’t comply may face a total ban on electronic devices.

    Wall Street rallied today behind financial and tech stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 144 points to close at 21454. The Nasdaq rose 87, and the S&P 500 added 21.

    And Michael Bond, creator of the beloved children’s literary character Paddington Bear, has died in Britain. Bond first introduced the marmalade-loving teddy in “A Bear Called Paddington” in 1958. That led ultimately to more than 20 books, several TV shows and a 2014 movie. Michael Bond was 91 years old.

    The post News Wrap: Former Trump campaign chairman registers as foreign agent for pro-Russian consulting appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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

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

    WASHINGTON — Bipartisan leaders on the House Intelligence Committee are threatening a subpoena if the White House doesn’t clarify whether any recordings, memoranda or other documents exist of President Donald Trump’s meetings with fired FBI Director James Comey.

    The panel had previously set a June 23 deadline for the White House to respond to the panel’s request. The day before, Trump said in a series of tweets that he “did not make, and do not have, any such recordings” but also said he has “no idea” if tapes or recordings of his conversations with Comey exist.

    In a June 23 letter, the White House responded to the committee request by referring to Trump’s tweets.

    The committee had asked for any recordings after Trump suggested there may be tapes. He did so just days after he fired Comey, who was leading an investigation into Trump associates’ ties to Russian officials. Trump has disputed Comey’s assertion that the president asked him for a pledge of loyalty during a dinner meeting they had.

    READ MORE: Trump says he told ‘straight story’ on Comey

    When news of Comey’s account broke, Trump tweeted that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

    A letter Thursday from Republican Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, who is leading the Russia probe, and Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California says Trump’s June 22 Twitter statement “stops short of clarifying” whether the White House has any tapes or documents.

    Conaway and Schiff said in a statement that the letter makes clear that should the White House not respond fully, “the committee will consider using compulsory process to ensure a satisfactory response.”

    READ MORE: In defense, Trump seeks to redefine meaning of obstruction

    Also Thursday, Democrats on two House committees asked the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions violated his recusal from the Russia probe by taking part in Comey’s May firing.

    House Oversight and Judiciary Committee Democrats urged Inspector General Michael Horowitz to examine “a lapse in judgment.”

    Sessions insisted in an appearance before the Senate intelligence committee this month that he had not violated his decision in March to recuse himself from any investigation related to inquiries involving Trump’s 2016 campaign. During his testimony, Sessions said it would be “absurd” to suggest a recusal from a single investigation would render him unable to manage leadership of the FBI.

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    The "elephant chart" explains the rise of populism in the developed world and so much more.

    The “elephant chart” explains the rise of populism in the developed world and so much more. Economics correspondent Paul Solman discusses with economist Branko Milanovic.

    Editor’s Note: The Elephant Chart. Rarely has one economic picture had as much impact as this one. Tonight’s Making Sen$e Thursday story on the PBS NewsHour profiles its creator, economist Branko Milanovic. It explains the rise of populism in the developed world and so much more.

    When I met with Milanovic, we discussed his chart in greater detail than a NewsHour story could explore. So here’s a more in-depth look at the implications of his increasingly famous visualizing.

    — Paul Solman, Economics Correspondent


    BRANKO MILANOVIC: In June 2012, the first time I saw what would later become the elephant chart, I was immediately struck. I still remember that day, because I thought, well that’s exactly what we all knew had happened. I mean it really worked very intuitively, but we have not seen the numbers to confirm that.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And what is it that we knew?

    BRANKO MILANOVIC:  We knew that people in China and large numbers of groups in Asia who were not rich, compared to Americans, have done very well. We knew that lower and middle class Americans and Japanese and Germans have not done well. And that’s exactly what the chart shows. And we also knew that the top 1 percent in the rich countries have done well.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But this is four years before Brexit, four years before Donald Trump.

    BRANKO MILANOVIC: Yes, these processes were already going on from the late 1980s to mid-1990s. There was a discussion among the small group of people who worked on rising inequality in the U.S. We knew that China was growing much faster than the rich world. All the components were there. Actually putting them all together and seeing them as one picture was the novelty.

    PAUL SOLMAN: I’ve seen the elephant chart used in a classroom in a way that was suggesting, perhaps subliminally: “Hey, inequality isn’t really so bad because look how many people are benefiting from economic growth around the world. Global inequality is actually decreasing.”

    BRANKO MILANOVIC: You know, there is some truth to that. Let me point out two things. The first one is that if you actually look at this chart, you basically don’t see any group of people who have a decline in income. Everybody on that chart is above the point where we actually have zero growth. The second good thing: If you really were to be very cosmopolitan and look at the world as if it were one country, you would say, “Look, we have a situation that a large hunk of people — two and a half billion — have done extremely well. The level of global poverty has actually gone down. These people not only now have sewage and electricity, some have even become tourists. They have better jobs.” This is mainly resurgent Asia.

    So then you say, “Well, what’s the big deal?”

    The problem is that this is a very abstract view of the world, which doesn’t take any cognizance of the political reality. Because the political reality is there are all these people who have done poorly relative to the rest of the world. They feel poor people in Asia breathing down their necks because of outsourcing, because of imports and so on. And then they also see that the top 1 percent in their own countries have done very well.

    They are feeling fear from both ends — from one end because the other people are catching up to them and from the other, as people from their own countries are moving further and further ahead.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And that’s why the elephant graph has such oomph to it, right? Because you can see, relative to either side of the trough, that it’s the formerly middle class people of the developed world whose outcomes are so different from everybody else in this period.

    They are feeling fear from both ends — from one end because the other people are catching up to them and from the other, as people from their own countries are moving further and further ahead.

    BRANKO MILANOVIC: Yes, the middle class in the rich countries is where the political game is being played. They are voting in elections in the U.S., U.K., France and Germany. They are working people in the upper part of the global income distribution. They might on average be happy that the Chinese are doing well, but they are not happy that the Chinese are doing well relative to them.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Do you explain the rise in populism in the post-industrialized world in terms of the graph?

    BRANKO MILANOVIC: Broadly speaking, yes. But let me just make a caveat. People believe, sometimes argue, that the graph overemphasizes the role of globalization. Globalization is one factor but there is also technological change, though in my opinion that is not completely unrelated to globalization, because though there is technological change in iPhones, for example, they are being produced physically thanks to globalization in Burma or Vietnam. It would be different if they were being produced in the U.S. or Sweden.

    The third factor is policy: the decline in tax rates, reduced taxation of capital and all of that.

    All three elements played a role. But I really believe that, of the three, globalization is probably the most important one.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But most economists would say it’s technological change and maybe policy as well. I think most economists would relegate globalization to the third spot on the list.

    BRANKO MILANOVIC: Well, the studies that relate to China and Chinese penetration of the U.S. market show that U.S. labor is actually losing. Not only do people lose the jobs themselves, but over the longer term, they go for jobs that pay much less. I believe that people who emphasize technology do it somewhat naively. They believe technological change is some kind of manna from heaven, which happens unrelated to the underlying globalization. I think it’s wrong. It’s actually that you have technological change which pays off in the globalized world.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Back around the turn of the millennium, Ralph Gomory and William Baumol did a study in which they said, “Hey, it’s entirely possible that trade and freer trade will hurt lots of Americans, because the rest of the world will start producing what we have been producing. The world may be better off; the American consumer may be better off. But lots of American workers will be worse off.” That argument was treated with great skepticism at the time.

    BRANKO MILANOVIC: I don’t understand why people are sometimes surprised by globalization’s effects. This is not something new. We know that in the same process of globalization in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, Indian manufacturing, which was really textiles, was essentially wiped out by English competition. So it’s not like something that is now happening with deindustrialization of the West that has never happened to anybody before.

    In every culture, you have really dramatic dislocation. We had it in the U.K. during the industrial revolution. We had it in India, which was conquered by British textiles and colonialism.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  But don’t you think that for every population that experiences something like this, it comes out of left field? Because it isn’t something you’ve experienced before. You haven’t read economic history; you haven’t looked at the enclosure movement in England and said, “Oh, what the hell. This is old news.”

    BRANKO MILANOVIC: I agree. The reaction of the people is totally understandable. I’m just saying that the economists who are somewhat surprised by the effects of globalization/technological progress have not paid enough attention to economic history. But for individual people, obviously, they are in shock. One thing was promised to them. Essentially with globalization, they would all get better off and then gradually they see that their wages are stagnant, and they’ve been stagnant for 20 years.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  Do you think that the economics establishment sold people a false bill of goods?

    BRANKO MILANOVIC: Well I think there are two areas where the economics establishment didn’t pay much attention, and they recognize that now. One is economic history, and the other is equality. If you look at the last 25 years, economic history was relegated to the very lowest rank of anything that was done in economics.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  A lot of academic economic history departments shut down.

    BRANKO MILANOVIC:  They were shut down. And also, in terms of resources and respect, inequality and income distribution were left even further behind. Today, really important issues have come to the fore because of globalization and Brexit and Trump and all of that which have really been totally unstudied or understudied in economics.

    I was at the World Bank and a commission reviewed our work on inequality for the U.S. Congress or somebody, and the head of the commission said to us: “You are spending taxpayer money to study issues like inequality? Which goes directly against capitalism and growth.” That was the perception, that it should not be studied.

    In the U.S. when people like me started writing things about inequality, the economic journals had no classification for inequality. I couldn’t find where to submit my inequality papers because there was no such topic. There was welfare, there was health issues, there was trade obviously. Finance had hundreds of sub groups.

    PAUL SOLMAN:  But now, one of Donald Trump’s top economic advisors, Peter Navarro, whom we’ve talked to, does talk about the effects of globalization on inequality.

    So, in the end, what is your interpretation of the elephant chart?

    BRANKO MILANOVIC: My interpretation is that it reflects a period of high globalization, which is rebalancing economic power between Asia and Europe and leading to the relative decline of the middle class of the Western countries.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Is that a bad thing or a good thing?

    BRANKO MILANOVIC: It’s a bad thing for those people who have actually declined. But it could be a good thing for the rest of the world because their incomes went up.

    The post The hottest chart in economics, and what it means appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks during an 'Unleashing American Energy' event at the Department of Energy in Washington, U.S., June 29, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria - RTS196JK

    President Donald Trump delivers remarks during an ‘Unleashing American Energy’ event June 29 at the Department of Energy in Washington, U.S. Photo by REUTERS/Carlos Barria.

    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said Thursday it is taking steps to expand oil drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans as President Donald Trump continues to push for U.S. “energy dominance” in the global market.

    The Interior Department is rewriting a five-year drilling plan established by the Obama administration, with an eye toward opening areas in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans that now are off-limits to drilling.

    U.S. oil production has boomed in recent years, and exports of oil and natural gas are surging, primarily because of improved drilling techniques such as fracking that have opened up production in previously out-of-reach areas.

    WATCH: Trump lays out plan for ‘energy dominance’

    Trump says more steps are needed to “unleash” domestic reserves and remove government regulations that could prevent the U.S. from achieving global dominance in energy.

    Trump was speaking at the Energy Department on Thursday as the administration celebrated a self-proclaimed “energy week” that has focused on increasing U.S. exports and adding jobs.

    Trump and other officials say they are confident the country can pave the path toward energy dominance by exporting oil, gas and coal to markets around the world, and promoting nuclear energy and even renewables such as wind and solar power.

    Trump signed an executive order in April to expand oil drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, reversing restrictions imposed by President Barack Obama. Trump has also pushed to revive U.S. coal production after years of decline. Coal mining rose by 19 percent in the first five months of the year as the price of natural gas edged up, according to Energy Department data.

    WATCH: Trump signs order aimed at opening Arctic drilling

    A report released in January by the Energy Information Administration said the country is on track to become a net energy exporter by 2026, although the White House said Tuesday that net exports could top imports as soon as 2020.

    Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said increased offshore drilling could provide more than enough revenue to offset an $11.5 billion maintenance backlog in national parks.

    “There’s a consequence when you put 94 percent of our offshore off limits,” Zinke said in a speech this week. “There’s a consequence of not harvesting trees. There’s a consequence of not using some of our public lands for creation of wealth and jobs.”

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    President Donald Trump concludes remarks to reporters during his meeting with Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    President Donald Trump concludes remarks to reporters during his meeting with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko at the White House on June 20, 2017. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    For many Republicans in Congress, President Donald Trump’s vulgar outburst at a female journalist Thursday crossed the line.

    Yet as they expressed disappointment with the president for disparaging the physical appearance of MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski on Twitter, an all-too-familiar political reality for Republicans set in.

    Whether they like it or not, when it comes to passing legislation, Republicans are largely stuck with Mr. Trump, controversial statements on Twitter and all.

    To enact longtime Republican Party goals, such as rolling back the Affordable Care Act and cutting taxes, GOP lawmakers have little choice but to work with a president who has broken every modern standard of presidential decorum and respect.

    “I obviously don’t accept what he says,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in a brief interview Thursday. But Collins said that refusing to work with Trump and the White House was not an option.

    “The president is still the president, and I will continue to work with him. But I implore him to stop issuing such inappropriate” comments, Collins said.

    “I sure don’t like what I heard,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, told reporters at the Capitol when asked to respond to Trump’s tweet.

    Murkowski later sharply rebuked Trump on Twitter, joining a growing chorus of lawmakers, including Collins, who urged the president to reign in his behavior. “Stop it! The Presidential platform should be used for more than bringing people down,” Murkowski wrote.

    In his Twitter attack on Brzezinski, Trump called her “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” and claimed “she was bleeding badly from a face-lift” during a visit to his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago. The tweet drew widespread criticism for being deeply offensive to women.

    Republicans understand the political damage Trump’s tweeting has had on his image with voters. Trump’s approval rating remains stuck below 40 percent, the lowest for a new president in the history of modern polling.

    According to a recent PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll, a majority of Americans believe Trump’s use of Twitter is “reckless and distracting.”

    “The stronger a president is, the more influence a president has. And the lower those approval ratings are, the weaker a president is. That’s just the way the system works,” Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, told PBS NewsHour.

    But McCain said he remained focused on Trump’s policy agenda, not his attacks on Twitter. “A long time ago, I said I don’t pay much attention to what he says, I pay attention to what he does,” McCain said.

    Democrats acknowledged the tough place Republicans find themselves in, as they seek to strike a balance between distancing themselves from Trump’s most explosive comments, and working with him on issues like health care.

    “I really do think they’re very embarrassed by his conduct,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, said in a brief interview, referring to Republican lawmakers. Trump is “the most powerful person in the most powerful country in the world, and his actions have somewhat cheapened the office,” he added.

    Still, Republicans are dependent on Trump, Tester argued, making it harder for them to break with the president over his personal actions. “He is carrying forward their agenda,” Tester said.

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    Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly speaks about immigration reform at a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 29, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RTS195CZ

    Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly speaks about immigration reform at a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts.

    WASHINGTON — Warning of threats to public safety and national security, the Republican-led House on Thursday approved two bills to crack down on illegal immigration, a key priority for President Donald Trump.

    One bill would strip federal dollars from self-proclaimed “sanctuary” cities that shield residents from federal immigration authorities, while a separate measure would stiffen punishments for people who re-enter the U.S. illegally.

    The sanctuary measure was approved 228-195, while the bill to punish deportees was approved 257-167.

    Trump often railed against illegal immigration during his presidential campaign, and his support for tougher immigration policies is crucial to his voting base. Trump met at the White House on Wednesday with more than a dozen people whose family members were killed by people in the country illegally, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with the families Thursday.

    WATCH: Jeff Sessions speaks at DOJ hate crimes summit

    One of the bills, known as “Kate’s Law,” would impose harsher prison sentences on deportees who re-enter the United States. The bill is named after 32-year old Kathryn Steinle, who was shot and killed in San Francisco in 2015 by a man who was in the country illegally. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who pleaded not guilty to the crime, had been released by sheriff’s officials months earlier despite a request by immigration officials to keep him behind bars.

    The second bill would bar states and localities that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities from receiving certain Justice Department and Homeland Security grants, including some related to law enforcement and terrorism.

    Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the two bills would help “avoid the kind of tragic circumstances that have totally involved the lives of the people who were at the White House … speaking up for their loved ones.”

    The sanctuary measure follows “a simple principle that if you’re going to receive taxpayer dollars from the federal government to keep people safe, that you’ve got to follow the law and keep them safe,” Goodlatte said.

    Democrats said the bills were feel-good measures intended to make lawmakers look tough on crime.

    READ MORE: Trump administration keeps DACA program, shields young immigrants from deportation

    “We’re not doing bumper stickers here. We are doing laws,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif, said.

    She and other Democrats said the sanctuary measure was “about telling people how to police their cities” and telling local officials that “we in Washington, D.C., know better than you do.”

    Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said he appreciates Congress’ effort to “address the dangers of sanctuary cities and illegal immigrant offenders.”

    At a news conference at the Capitol with House Speaker Paul Ryan, Kelly said his agency “will enforce the laws that are passed by Congress,” adding, “I am offended when members of this institution put pressure and often threaten me and my officers to ignore the laws they make.”

    A spokesman said later that Kelly “will continue to push back against any attempt — pressure, threat or otherwise — to ignore the enforcement of immigration law.”

    “Enforcement is not selective, occasional or arbitrary, it’s the law,” spokesman David Lapan said.

    READ MORE: President Trump urges passage of House immigration bills

    The Justice Department’s inspector general has identified California and major cities such as Chicago, New York and Philadelphia as locales with barriers to information-sharing among local police and immigration officials. The Trump administration warned nine jurisdictions in late April that they could lose coveted law enforcement grant money unless they document cooperation.

    Sessions said Steinle “would still be alive today if only the city of San Francisco had put the public’s safety first. How many more Americans must die before we put an end to this madness?”

    Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said “Kate’s Law” would not have had an impact on the Steinle case, noting that Steinle was killed in July 2015 by an immigrant who had been mistakenly released by the federal Bureau of Prisons.

    The proposed bill “would not have kept Kate Steinle’s killer off the streets,” Gutierrez said. “Instead, we are voting on a bill to put other people — in different circumstances — in jail for longer periods of time. It is a bait-and-switch strategy: Use a horrible tragedy to sell a policy that would not have prevented that death, so that you put more immigrants in jail for longer periods of time.”

    The post House Republicans back bills to crack down on illegal immigration appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, our Brief But Spectacular series, where we ask interesting people to describe their passions.

    Tonight, journalist Ann Friedman, co-host of the podcast “Call Your Girlfriend,” explores why it’s important to find your own voice.

    ANN FRIEDMAN, Journalist: Women are frequently asked to couch their opinions in a lot of filler words, which is why I find it so interesting that we are simultaneously seen as unserious when we use phrases like um, you know, or like, because, frankly, if you say things directly, without a lot of “oh, you know what I think” sort of padding around them, it’s difficult for both men and women to hear.

    I don’t think it’s just men that have a hard time hearing direct especially criticism when it’s coming from a woman. Knowing it doesn’t really change the fact that, like, in the real world, women have to do a lot more emotional labor to convey their opinions and decisions and ideas.

    I am one of those boring people who has only wanted to do one thing for my entire life, which is be a journalist. It’s pretty impossible to equip someone for a 10-plus-year career in media right now. You’re going to get fired or laid off at some point. It will happen. And you probably are going to have to learn a bunch of new skills.

    You probably are going to have to come to terms with the fact that you’re not only going to write long-form magazine articles in the style of 1960s “Esquire.”

    I didn’t wake up one day and say, you know what, I should have a podcast. I have a good friend here called Gina Delvac. She had said for a long time to me and to my friend Aminatou Sow, hey, you guys have a great chemistry, you would be great podcast co-hosts.

    I think it was somewhere around where we came up with the name. I guess we just create a fun, safe place for ourselves and discuss the things that we are interested in. And it turns out that a lot of other women are interested in those things, too.

    Voice is one of those things that when you talk about it in a classroom or with a group of writers, it can feel very big and abstract. I think, when I was earlier in my career, I had more doubts about my validity as a writer and a journalist. And I made my more effort to copy the tone of the places that I was writing for, inasmuch as they had an institutional tone.

    And the longer that I had been working and the more confident in my opinions or my reporting or, frankly, like, my career and my place in the world, it gets easier to write the way that I speak.

    If someone can’t hear the substance of what I’m saying because of the tone I say it with or because of the little filler words that I use — which, P.S., men use, too, we all use — then that’s their problem.

    My name is Ann Friedman, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on finding your voice in journalism.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, just say it, that’s the message.

    You can watch additional Brief But Spectacular episodes on our Web site, pbs.org/newshour/brief.

    The post How journalist Ann Friedman learned to sound more like herself appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Colorado is taking a close look at all oil and gas operations across the state. That follows a fatal explosion in April at home in the Denver suburb of Firestone caused by a leaking underground gas line.

    Tomorrow is the deadline set by the governor for companies to complete inspection of oil and gas lines all near homes and businesses.

    The accident has revived the debate over how drilling can coexist with growing suburban development.

    Dan Boyce with Public Media’s Inside Energy reports.

    GAYLE MERTZ, Resident of Firestone, CO: I don’t have the vocabulary to describe it. It was just a massive, massive explosion.

    DAN BOYCE: Firestone resident Gayle Mertz was in her backyard when it happened. But neighbors inside their homes felt it too.

    CHILD: Like, our whole house shook, and like, jumped.

    DAN BOYCE: One single blast leveled the Martinez home over on Twilight Avenue. As the home began burning, parents, including Laura Goodwin, grabbed up their children and evacuated.

    LAURA GOODWIN, Resident of Firestone, CO: And, really, we thought that we weren’t going back.

    DAN BOYCE: The blast killed Mark Martinez and his brother-in-law Joey Irwin. Martinez’s wife, Erin, was hospitalized with serious injuries.

    Following the explosion, Anadarko Petroleum, Colorado’s largest oil producer, announced it had voluntarily shut down 3,000 nearby wells. Within another week, Firestone Fire Chief Ted Poszywak confirmed the swirling rumors. The explosion was caused by gas that entered the home through the basement.

    TED POSZYWAK,  Chief, Frederick-Firestone Fire Protection District: Due to a cut and abandoned line attached to an oil and gas well in the vicinity.

    DAN BOYCE: Basically, odorless gas seeped in through the basement and the family had no idea. It was from a well 178 feet from the Martinez home. It’s not an uncommon site in Northern Colorado, and other parts of the country, such as Texas and Pennsylvania, surging populations leading to the construction of new homes near and on top of land previously the domain of the oil industry.

    The collision of those two sectors has led to political uproar in Colorado over the last few years, communities banning drilling, judges throwing out those bans. State law now requires new oil wells be drilled at least 500 feet from homes.

    But Lisa McKenzie, a professor at the University of Colorado School of Public Health, has been researching this for years, and she says it’s not drilling new wells near homes that’s the only problem.

    LISA MCKENZIE, Professor, University of Colorado: It was actually more common for homes to be built near to where an oil and gas well already existed.

    DAN BOYCE: In fact, Inside Energy analysis has found, between 2010 and 2015, the number of people living in areas with more than 10 wells per square mile increased by nearly 50,000 in Colorado, most noticeably along the Front Range north of Denver.

    And while the state mandates that 500-foot setback for new wells, there’s no state regulation for how far new homes must be constructed from already existing oil wells.

    Laura Goodwin says she bought her home with the understanding that utilities and oil and gas companies were doing everything they could to protect nearby families.

    LAURA GOODWIN: That’s why they get to drill, that’s why they get the oil, that’s why get the permits, is because they are supposed to keep the people around it safe. And they didn’t do it.

    DAN BOYCE: In the wake of the explosion, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper ordered oil companies inspect all underground oil and gas lines within 1,000 feet of occupied buildings. He says this all used to be open farmland and the location of underground oil and gas pipes was known only to the oil companies and the property owners.

    GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER, D-Colo.: And now we can see that sometimes that property gets sold, and next thing you know, you’re building a housing development. How could we not know where the flow lines are, have a map and a record of them?

    DAN BOYCE: Hickenlooper expects GPS data provided by oil companies through the required inspections should allow the state to provide a comprehensive map of all flow lines for the first time.

    Anadarko owns the leaking well responsible for the explosion. They’re holding community meetings and now offering free gas detectors to any home in the neighborhood as a way to calm fears.

    Still, that hasn’t stopped about 100 of these homeowners from launching lawsuits against the oil company, as well as the developer and builder of the Martinez home.

    Anadarko turned down our interview requests, but Colorado Oil and Gas Association president Dan Haley says, as tragic as this accident is, the public can still feel confident in his industry.

    DAN HALEY, President, Colorado Oil and Gas Association: We have been operating in Colorado for longer than we have been a state, more than 100 years. We have drilled tens of thousands of wells. We have logged millions of manhours out in the field working. And it is a safe industry.

    It is not to excuse what happened. It is not to forget or pretend that two people didn’t die. They did. We need to do all we can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    DAN BOYCE: Some Colorado lawmakers are now calling for much larger distances between homes and wells, something still staunchly opposed by industry.

    And speak to home builders, they say setbacks like that are just not practical.

    Gregory Miedema works with a local home builders trade association. He says with all the wells, 54,000 active wells statewide, you can’t really go somewhere where you’re not building next to one.

    GREGORY MIEDEMA, Northern Colorado Home Builders Association: I mean, quite frankly, you have to be prudent and safe about your distances, but you can’t. If you were to rule out all the land that were next to a well, you would rule it all out.

    DAN BOYCE: He says he’s not against any setbacks, but the more land you rule out, the more you raise housing prices on what’s left. That’s the last thing Colorado needs. Prices around here are already rising at some of the fastest rates in the country.

    At least for now, there’s still plenty of demand for new housing in the area. In fact, if you look right behind the site of the explosion, you can see construction of a brand-new apartment complex, with nearly 300 units. But leaking gas lines are not the only hazard, and just five weeks after the explosion:

    WOMAN: We start with breaking news, explosion and fire at an oil and gas site once again rocking Weld County.

    DAN BOYCE: Less than four miles away from the Martinez home, an Anadarko-owned oil tank burst into flames. It happened during a maintenance check. This explosion killed one worker and injured three others.

    The oil and gas industry can be hazardous, 42 deaths nationwide from fires and explosions between 2010 and 2014. But a house explosion raises whole new fears. And now it’s up to the state regulators and oil companies to do whatever they can to make these residents feel safe again in their homes.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Dan Boyce in Firestone, Colorado.

    The post In Colorado, surging suburbs and the oil and gas industry collide over safety concerns appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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