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

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    Illinois state capitol

    Photo courtesy of Flickr user J. Stephen Conn

    SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The speaker of the Illinois House on Saturday scheduled a key vote on a multibillion-dollar revenue package that would finance an end to the longest state budget crisis since at least the Great Depression, ending a day that turned acrimonious at times.

    Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago issued a statement saying a headcount would occur Sunday afternoon on a financial measure “modeled on the bill supported by” Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. It reversed his pronouncement earlier in the day that there would be no budget votes before Monday, a statement which prompted a momentary shouting match in the chamber between the GOP and Democrats.

    There was no word on what specific legislation would be called, but the reference to “support” by Rauner and legislative Republicans indicated it would include a 32 percent increase in the personal income tax rate to raise about $5 billion, a provision the GOP has in the past indicated it would accept if it gets the “structural” business and political changes Rauner demands.

    House Republican Leader Jim Durkin seemed befuddled by the change of heart, issuing a statement that there is “no agreement on a comprehensive budget package” and urged leaders to keep negotiating.

    READ NEXT: Illinois lawmakers return after missing key budget deadline

    Saturday marked the third consecutive fiscal year Illinois has begun without an annual budget in place, and the state has already accumulated a $6.2 billion deficit and $14.7 billion in past-due bills. Without a budget soon, the state comptroller will be unable to cover basic services ordered by courts and road construction shuts down. Powerball and Mega Millions ticket sales have halted, and Illinois’ credit rating could be downgraded to “junk.”

    Madigan’s decision came after the Senate, which came in Saturday to await House budget action, adjourned until Monday.

    It capped a perplexing day that started with great promise.

    Lawmakers arrived at the Capitol energized by Friday, when the House overwhelmingly approved a $36.5 billion spending plan on a preliminary vote. Some House leaders expected after meetings Friday night and Saturday morning that the chamber would proceed with a final vote and a revenue roll call. Republicans reacted angrily to the unexpected development.

    “Our side of the aisle is very concerned about what the nation and what will people be thinking about this state,” Durkin said. “We had great momentum yesterday in this chamber. … I still contend that these matters could be resolved very quickly. I want this done today.”

    His caucus stood with cheers and jeers, chanting support for continued work as Madigan left the floor to one GOP member’s rebuke of the nation’s longest-serving House leader as “Speaker Junk!” The floor exploded, with one Democrat shouting down the Republican and the GOP floor leader, Rep. Steven Andersson of Geneva, intervening, “Knock it off. Both of you, knock it off!”

    Madigan sent messages Friday to the major credit agencies, which promised a downgrade of Illinois’ creditworthiness if the state didn’t have a deal by the new fiscal year. Credit agencies typically don’t publish analyses on weekends or during holiday periods, so the timing might be in Illinois’ favor.

    The post Illinois House leader: Revenue vote now set for weekend appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Senate Majority Leader McConnell speaks at a Harden County Republican party fundraiser in Elizabethtown

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks at a Harden County Republican party fundraiser in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, U.S., June 30, 2017. Photo by Bryan Woolston/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The path to 50 votes for an Obamacare replacement bill seemed to narrow dramatically Thursday as efforts to craft a quick compromise foundered — but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has $200 billion to build a bridge to victory. His dealmaking may be just beginning.

    While many policy experts, lobbyists and senators Kaiser Health News spoke to this week seemed skeptical that the Better Care Reconciliation Act could be saved, they said they could envision a way for McConnell (R-Ky.) to succeed in crafting a bill that would partially replace the Affordable Care Act.

    McConnell has significant wiggle room in his repeal bill. Under the budget rules he is using to move the legislation, he needs to reach $133 billion in deficit reduction over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the BCRA would save $321 billion.

    That leaves about $200 billion in deficit savings that McConnell can afford to give back and use to make deals with as many as a dozen senators who oppose his draft bill.

    “There’s clearly a path to do this,” said Matt Salo, the executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors. “McConnell has enough candy to do it, and enough time. It’s still a very real possibility.”

    READ NEXT: GOP leaders delay Senate health care vote. What happened?

    Figuring out exactly how to spread the confectionery around, though, is no simple matter.

    The key problem for the bill is very similar to the one that nearly brought down the House version of similar legislation: Conservatives want to repeal more of Obamacare and do it quickly while more centrist Republicans are worried about the damage that would be done by extracting $772 billion from Medicaid and eliminating popular consumer protections for health insurance.

    To start with, moderate senators such as Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) all want the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare preserved or at least rolled back much more gently than the Senate and House bills propose. And they want to preserve treatment dollars for the opioid crises raging through their states. Two Republican senators up for re-election in tight races next year — Dean Heller in Nevada and Jeff Flake in Arizona — have similar concerns.

    “Obviously, anybody who had expanded the Medicaid population wants some kind of softer landing than is outlined. That’s a biggie,” said Flake.

    But even a senator from deeply conservative Kansas, Sen. Jerry Moran, opposed the bill’s draconian cuts, which likely would punish the rural hospitals in his state.

    [Watch Video]

    All of them need money added back to Medicaid, especially after a new CBO analysis released Thursday said the program’s cuts jump from 25 percent after the first 10 years to a staggering 35 percent in the second decade.

    They also have concerns about provisions that would allow states to waive minimum standards in the ACA, including its essential health benefits and protections for people with preexisting conditions.

    On the conservative side, the pressure has been on to cut taxes established by the health law, and to roll back insurance regulations, so that states could craft whatever rules they want. The House repeal bill would let states get waivers for the 10 essential benefits in Obamacare. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) sponsored an amendment that goes further and would let insurers directly offer plans that don’t comply with the ACA standards as long as they also offered one plan that did in the affected state.

    These competing interests would seem to be diametrically opposed. But McConnell’s ability to tap that $200 billion could go a long way to ease the friction, and Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) stepped forward Wednesday and Thursday to suggest which tax cut to forgo — a politically toxic one that primarily benefits the rich. That’s the 3.8 percent net investment tax on families that earn more than $250,000.

    Not only would this provide McConnell with an additional $172 billion for his dealmaking, it would mute Democrats’ criticism of the bill as a mechanism to reward rich Republican donors while depriving poorer Americans of health care.

    How McConnell doles out that largesse is another part of the puzzle. Capito and Portman had asked for $45 billion to fight the opioid crisis that is so critical to Ohio, West Virginia and other states, and aides speaking on background say they are likely to get it.

    READ NEXT: 51 percent of opioid prescriptions go to people with depression and mood disorders

    Senators like Flake, Moran and Heller could certainly be tempted by easing the blow to Medicaid and, in spite of long styling themselves fiscal conservatives, could keep a tax hike in place.

    “That’s not the issue Nevada’s worried about,” said Heller, referring to the taxes. “It’s insurance for poor people.”

    Even Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who initially aligned himself against the Senate bill with Cruz and Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), sounded open to Rounds’ idea.

    “We’re $20 trillion in debt, so I think we should seriously consider retaining some of the tax revenue that funds the subsidies,” Johnson told reporters as he fast-walked to a closed-door meeting of the GOP caucus with Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday.

    On the conservative side, even Lee suggested he was sensitive to the charge that Republicans were cutting taxes for the rich to stiff the poor. But Cruz hasn’t said he would be willing to keep the taxes in place. Pressed by reporters Thursday on whether the tax was a deal killer for him, he strolled onto an elevator and stayed deliberately silent as he waited for the doors to close.

    [Watch Video]

    There are some other levers McConnell has, but they are issues unrelated to the health bill. McConnell and senators would have to act as if it is not quid pro quo. For instance, Murkowski might be swayed by an offer of an unrelated bill to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. (She laughed when a reporter made that suggestion earlier this year but didn’t say she’d turn it down.) Heller is locked in a battle with the administration to ensure that the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility never opens in his state. McConnell’s support keeping it closed would appeal to him, although it would be hard for him to brag about it later in connection to the health bill.

    One Republican health care lobbyist and former Capitol Hill aide said the behavior of the conservatives showed that if the bill is to pass, they will have to cave.

    “The conservatives are going to have to capitulate a long way, but when they do that, are they getting anything in return?” the lobbyist said.

    What they could get in return is some version of Cruz’s amendment, but the lobbyist and others noted it could not be as extreme, since essential health benefits and protections for people with preexisting conditions were among the top concerns for Senate moderates when the House passed its bill.

    Several GOP insiders and a couple of Democrats said it would still be a stretch to get to the 50-vote mark, but none would rule it out.

    Speaking privately so they could be candid, aides from both parties saw similar political downsides for Republicans. One senior Democratic aide summed it up succinctly.

    “We suffered for a few cycles over health care, but at least we had people who could talk about it who were helped,” the aide said. “They won’t have that.”

    Still, the GOP remains committed to trying to fulfill the pledge they’ve made for seven years, and even vulnerable senators like Flake were not giving up.

    “We’ve still got a long way to go, I think,” Flake said. “In some ways, we’re going around in circles, but I think we’re getting closer on some elements.”

    Flake said the lawmakers were sending various amendments that contain those elements to the CBO and expected to have numbers back next week while the Senate is on recess. Those numbers will be crucial.

    “We’re just trying to get to 50 votes,” Rounds said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do yet. We just want to make it the best we can.”

    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 here.

    The post McConnell has about $200B to make deals on ‘Obamacare’ repeal appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at the Celebrate Freedom Rally in Washington, U.S. July 1, 2017. Photo by Yuri Gripas/ Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is making a weekend push to get a Republican Senate bill to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law “across the finish line,” Trump’s top legislative aide said Sunday, maintaining that a repeal-only option also remained in play if Republicans can’t reach agreement.

    Marc Short, the White House’s legislative director, said Trump was making calls to wavering senators and insisted they were “getting close” on passing a bill.

    But Short said Trump continues to believe that repeal-only legislation should also be considered after raising the possibility last Friday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has dismissed that suggestion and said he intended to proceed with legislation being negotiated over the July 4 recess.

    “We hope when we come back, the week after recess, we’ll have a vote,” Short said. But he added: “If the replacement part is too difficult for Republicans to get together, then let’s go back and take care of the first step of repeal.”

    Trump on Friday tweeted the suggestion repealing the Obama-era law right away and then replacing it later, an approach that GOP leaders and the president himself considered but dismissed months ago as impractical and politically unwise. But the tweet came amid continuing signs of GOP disagreement among moderates and conservatives over the bill. Republicans hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate. Just three GOP defections would doom the legislation, because Democrats are united in opposition.

    Republicans returned to their home districts late last week, bracing for a flood of phone calls, emails and television advertising from both conservative and liberal groups aimed at pressuring senators. Sen. Bill Cassidy held a town hall meeting last Friday to talk about flood recovery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s capital city, but audience members angry over the GOP health care bill at times chanted over Cassidy’s answers and criticized the secretive legislative process.

    “I wish we weren’t doing it one party,” Cassidy said Sunday, adding he remains undecided on how he will vote.

    Trump’s suggestion had the potential to harden divisions within the GOP as conservatives complain that McConnell’s bill does not go far enough in repealing Obama’s health care law while moderates criticize it as overly harsh in kicking people off insurance rolls, shrinking the Medicaid safety net and increasing premiums for older Americans.

    “It’s not easy making America great again, is it?” McConnell said late Friday.

    Short said the White House remained hopeful after Senate Republicans submitted two version of the bill to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring over the weeklong recess. Texas’ Sen. Ted Cruz is pushing a conservative version that aims to aggressively reduce costs by giving states greater flexibility to create separate higher-risk pools. The other seeks to bolster health care subsidies for lower-income people, perhaps by preserving a tax boost on high earners.

    Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said negotiations over the Senate bill were focusing on ways to address the issue of Medicaid coverage so that “nobody falls through the cracks,” combating the opioid crisis, as well as giving families more choice in selecting their insurance plan.

    “We think that Leader McConnell and his senators within the Senate are working to try to get this piece of legislation on track,” Price said.

    But conservative Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he didn’t think a repeal-and-replace bill could win 50 votes. Both he and Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., have been urging McConnell to consider a repeal-only bill first.

    “I don’t think we’re getting anywhere with the bill we have. We’re at an impasse,” Paul said. He criticized Senate leaders, saying they were seeking to win over moderates with multibillion dollar proposals to combat the opioid epidemic and boost tax subsidies to help lower-income people get coverage.

    “The bill is just being lit up like a Christmas tree full of billion-dollar ornaments, and it’s not repeal,” Paul said. “I think you can get 52 Republicans for clean repeal.”

    Even before Trump was inaugurated in January, Republicans had debated and ultimately discarded the idea of repealing the overhaul before replacing it, concluding that both must happen simultaneously. Doing otherwise would invite accusations that Republicans were simply tossing people off coverage and roil insurance markets by raising the question of whether, when and how Congress might replace Obama’s law once it was gone.

    But at least eight GOP senators expressed opposition after a Congressional Budget Office last week found that McConnell’s draft bill would result in 22 million people losing insurance over the next decade, only 1 million fewer than under the House-passed legislation that Trump privately told senators was “mean.”

    Paul said he believes there are ways that Senate Republicans can do a repeal-only bill concurrently with a bill “they can call ‘replace.'”

    Sasse said he would like to see a bill that would repeal Obamacare “with a delay.”

    “If we can do a combined repeal and replace over the next week, that’s great,” Sasse said. “If we can’t, though, then there’s no reason to walk away.”

    “I would want a delay, so that we could get straight to work. And then I think the president should call on the Senate to cancel our August state work period,” Sasse said.

    Short and Paul appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” Price was on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and Sasse spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

    Associated Press writer Michele Salcedo contributed to this report.

    The post Trump makes push on health bill; repeal-only vote an option appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A U.S. Mint worker holds new $1 coins during an event launching its circulation, at Grand Central Station in New York February 15, 2007. A new $1 coin will honor a 1945 anti-discrimination law in Alaska. Photo by Brendan McDermid/ Reuters

    The U.S. Mint has revealed designs for a new $1 coin that will honor Alaska’s 1945 anti-discrimination law, according to the Office of Alaska Gov. Bill Walker. Many of the contending designs feature Alaska Native civil rights activist Elizabeth Peratrovich, whose advocacy was instrumental in the passage of the bill.

    The Native American $1 Coin Act, passed in 2007, mandates that the Secretary of the Treasury produce and circulate coins that commemorate the contributions of Native Americans to the United States. One of the proposed designs will appear on the “tails” side of the coin, while the “heads” sign will retain the image of Sacagawea, an explorer who helped guide Lewis and Clark on their 1805-1806 expedition to the Pacific Ocean. The final design will be released in 2020, the 75th anniversary of the law.

    Born in 1911 in Petersburg, Alaska, Peratrovich belonged to the Tlingit tribe, according to the National Women’s History Museum. She left Alaska to attend college in Bellingham, Washington, and upon returning to raise a family with her husband, she saw Alaska Natives were unemployed, impoverished and subjected to overt discrimination.

    Peratrovich mobilized friends and family to lobby the governor for anti-discrimination legislation, for improving health and sanitation in Alaska Native communities and advocated for educational opportunities for their children.

    In a 1941 letter to Alaska’s Gov. Ernest Gruening, Peratrovich and her husband called for equal treatment and rights for white Alaskans and “the real Natives of Alaska,” who were subjected to segregation and exclusion, including through “No Natives Allowed” signs posted on businesses.

    The anti-discrimination bill would penalize the display of such racially exclusionary signs. Additionally, the bill would grant all citizens of Alaska “full and equal enjoyment of accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges” in public places.

    After the anti-discrimination bill passed the House of the Alaska Territorial Legislature in 1945, it faced heated opposition from territorial senators who referred to indigenous people as “barely out of savagery,” supported racial segregation and condemned interracial interaction.

    When the Senate floor opened for anyone present to speak, Peratrovich delivered a now-famous speech.

    “I would not have expected that I, who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind gentlemen with five thousand years of recorded civilization behind them of our Bill of Rights,” Peratrovich said.

    She continued, “Have you eliminated larceny or murder by passing a law against it? No law will eliminate crimes but, at least you as legislators, can assert to the world that you recognize the evil of the present situation and speak your intent to help us overcome discrimination.”

    Peratrovich was the final speaker that day, the only person to testify besides her husband, and the bill passed 11-5 on Feb. 8, 1945, according to the Alaska Native Curriculum and Teacher Development Project.

    Peratrovich was also an active member of the Alaska Native Sisterhood, a nonprofit founded to help work against racism, eventually serving as the organization’s president.

    Peratrovich died on Dec. 1, 1958. The Alaska Legislature designated Feb. 16, the day Gov. Gruenig signed the bill into law, as Elizabeth Peratrovich Day in 1988.

    In 2015, Walker nominated Peratrovich to be featured as the face of the $10 bill, although the Treasury ultimately chose to keep Alexander Hamilton, according to the Associated Press.

    In a statement, Walker said Peratrovich and her husband “stood up to fight the unfair, inhumane, and degrading treatment of Alaska Natives, and their efforts towards positive change reverberate to this day.”

    He continued, “Their words and actions continue to be an inspiration and reminder of the power that all people have to impact their government; this honor is truly deserved.”

    The post New $1 coin could feature Alaska Native activist who fought discrimination appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    An army soldier secures the site of a suicide attack in Tahrir Square, in central Damascus

    An army soldier secures the site of a suicide attack in Tahrir Square, in central Damascus, Syria on July 2, 2017. Photo by Firas Makdesi/Reuters

    A suicide car bomber killed 21 people on Sunday in a rare attack on the Syrian capital of Damascus, according to the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

    Syrian authorities said that the car bomber was one of three intended for Tahrir Square, the city center. The others, state media reported, were intercepted by security forces, foiling a potentially larger attack.

    The Syrian Minister of Local Administration, Hussein Makhlouf, hailed the security response as a “major success,” according to the Associated Press.

    Attacks are not common in Damascus, the seat of power for President Bashar Assad. While the six-year war — which has claimed more than 300,000 lives — continues to ensnare most of the country, pro-government forces have held Damascus under Assad’s control.

    Yara, who lives near the site of the attack, told The Guardian, “It was like war had returned after we felt that it had faded away. I haven’t left the house yet today – I’m not afraid any more, but I just want to do nothing today.”

    No group has taken responsibility for the attack.

    The post Damascus bombing kills at least 21 people appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — In his latest jab at the media, President Donald Trump on Sunday tweeted a mock video that shows him pummeling a man in a business suit — his face obscured by the CNN logo — outside a wrestling ring.

    It was not immediately clear who produced the brief video, which appears to be a doctored version of Trump’s 2007 appearance on World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. The 28-second clip was posted on Trump’s official Twitter account, with the message: “#FraudNewsCNN #FNN.”

    The president in the past has branded the media as “the opposition party” and “the enemy of the American people.” He has taken particular aim at CNN, calling the network “fake news.”

    Bruce Brown, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, condemned the video as a “threat of physical violence against journalists.” He said Trump’s tweet was “beneath the office of the presidency.”

    A White House aide insisted the tweet should not send a chill across the media landscape.

    “I think that no one would perceive that as a threat,” homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said. “I hope they don’t. But I do think that he’s beaten up in a way on cable platforms that he has a right to respond to.”

    CNN accused Trump of engaging in “juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office.”

    White House officials traveling with Trump during his weekend stay at his New Jersey golf club did not immediately respond to questions about who made the video or about any message the president might have intended to send.

    The video appeared to be a doctored version of an appearance Trump made on a World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. show called “Battle of the Billionaires” in 2007, in which Trump appears to attack WWE CEO Vince McMahon.

    McMahon’s wife, Linda, who founded and built the company with her husband, now heads the Small Business Administration for Trump and was a generous benefactor to his campaign.

    The video was posted several days ago by a Reddit user with the title, “Trump takes down fake news.” It was not clear whether that was where it originated or where Trump found it. Still, the user wrote Sunday about being “honored” Trump had tweeted the video. The user who posted the video has a history of posts using anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant language.

    READ NEXT: For Republicans, Trump’s Twitter attacks pose unprecedented political challenge

    The president’s verbal shots against news outlets and individual members of the media have grown increasingly personal in recent days even as lawmakers in both parties say the insults only threaten to undermine his political agenda.

    Trump has singled out MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski and CNN for some of his most biting criticism, and hardly is backing down in the face of widespread condemnation from the political class.

    “The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House, but I’m president and they’re not,” Trump told a supportive crowd Saturday in Washington.

    A White House spokeswoman, Sarah Sanders, told reporters last week that Trump “in no way, form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence.”

    CNN, in its response to the video posted Sunday, said it was “a sad day when the president of the United States encourages violence against reporters. Clearly, Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied when she said the president had never done so.”

    CNN’s statement noted the weighty list of issues before Trump — an overseas trip this week that includes a meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, the stalled health care bill, the threat from North Korea. Instead of focusing on those matters, CNN said, “he is involved in juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office. We will keep doing our jobs. He should start doing his.”

    Trump’s latest tweet came as Republicans and Democrats have been imploring him to focus on leading the country, rather than exploding on social media.

    For days, Trump has focused his ire on Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, co-hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

    Trump took to Twitter on Thursday to call Brzezinski “crazy” and contend she was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” when he once saw them at his Florida estate. The comment was decried as sexist and vulgar by many Democrats and Republicans.

    The MSNBC personalities said Friday that Trump was lying about their December encounter and they questioned his “unhealthy obsession” with their program.

    The hosts, who are a couple onscreen and off, also said the White House told them a damaging National Enquirer story about their relationship would “go away” if they called the president and apologized for harsh commentary. Trump quickly disputed the claim on Twitter.

    Republican officials acknowledged Sunday that Trump’s Twitter feed distracts from work like health care.

    “We in Washington, we in the country, cannot be focused on tweets,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., adding that “I get so frustrated when we get focused on tweets.”

    Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, said he hoped Trump’s family would talk to him and say, “Knock it off.”

    “The coarseness doesn’t help anybody,” he said.

    Bossert and Kasich appeared on ABC’s “This Week.” Cassidy was on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

    The post Trump criticized by media organizations over tweeted video appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Chasing Coral Still_9

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    By Saskia de Melker and Melanie Saltzman

    SASKIA DE MELKER: The documentary “Chasing Coral” tells the story of a three-year effort to capture the loss of the world’s coral reefs through time-lapse, underwater photography.

    The film focuses on the process called coral bleaching. When ocean water becomes too warm, corals become stressed and expel the algae living in their tissue causing the coral to turn completely white.

    “The coral bleaches, and what you’re seeing is the skeleton underneath.”

    Coral bleaching is happening more often as climate change raises the temperature of oceans, which have absorbed more than 90 percent of the heat created by man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

    One area the film focuses on is Australia’s Great Barrier Reef where the average ocean water temperature has warmed by about 1.2 degrees fahrenheit over the last century.

    Jeff Orlowski directed “Chasing Coral”.

    JEFF ORLOWSKI: Coral reefs are the backbone for the entire ocean. They are the nursery for the ocean. About a quarter of all marine life in the ocean spends part of its lifecycle on a coral reef. And there are about a billion or so people that depend on coral reefs for fish for their food, for protein.

    A team of divers, photographers, and scientists logged 650 hours underwater in 30 countries to make “Chasing Coral”. Orlowski says the challenge was gathering multiple images a day in the same places for months to show changes to the reef in real time.

    JEFF ORLOWSKI: From the beginning, we knew that if we could figure out a way to do time lapse of this change happening in the ocean, that it would be the most powerful visual that we could create. There’s something about creating evidence. When you look at a piece of ice calving or you look at a wildfire burning, because that’s part of this normal cycle, it doesn’t register in the same way as when you can document the change over time

    SASKIA DE MELKER: Why did you specifically focus on the event of coral bleaching?

    JEFF ORLOWSKI: The really valuable thing about documenting coral bleaching is that it is this straight, very direct visual indicator of how hot the oceans are getting. If the temperature of the water passes a certain threshold, the corals turn white. It’s that simple. There’s nothing natural about the cycle that’s going on right now. In 2016, we lost 29 percent of the Great Barrier Reef. So 29 percent of the Great Barrier Reef died in a single year, because the water was hot.

    SASKIA DE MELKER: The film shows how Richard Vevers, a former advertising executive turned ocean activist, was inspired to document coral bleaching, which corals can recover from, but can also often lead corals to die.

    RICHARD VEVERS: I was truly shocked by what I saw. The reef was white as far as the eye could see. To be honest, I didn’t have the knowledge to know how to process it. Was this dead? Was it alive? This is Airport Reef. So this is in December. And this is it now.

    SASKIA DE MELKER: Is there something about coral bleaching though that is a little bit counterintuitive, because it doesn’t look like dying?

    JEFF ORLOWSKI: There’s a huge challenge around coral bleaching specifically, because when most people think about coral, they think about the beautiful, white sculpture sitting on their mantle. And it looks so pristine and clean and beautiful. It’s not supposed to look like that when it’s in the ocean. It has color, it has animal flesh living on it, it has plants living inside of that. They look very, very different when they’re healthy in the ocean than they do when they’re sitting in somebody’s home.

    SASKIA DE MELKER: The film documents a lot of the challenges that you have in getting those images. How did you approach taking these underwater images?

    JEFF ORLOWSKI: We had to align the cameras manually every day. You get the camera positioned in the right spot, panning in the right way. I actually had underwater lasers zip-tied to the camera system. Literally the ground that you’re putting the camera on is changing every day. So to get the camera in the same exact spot in this three-dimensional space was really, really challenging. We would let it roll for a couple minutes, then pick all the equipment up, go to another site and do it again.

    SASKIA DE MELKER: This isn’t Orlowski’s first film documenting climate change. His 2012 film “Chasing Ice” chronicled the melting of the world’s glaciers and won an Emmy for outstanding nature programming.

    SASKIA DE MELKER: Was it more difficult to chase ice and document what’s happening in the glaciers or to chase the corals and document what’s happening in the oceans?

    JEFF ORLOWSKI: Working in the Arctic is definitely colder, but not necessarily harder. There were different challenges. And in many ways, Chasing Coral was even more of a struggle for me personally. And more of a struggle to capture. Glaciers right now are changing very consistently. The interesting thing that we realized with Chasing Coral was that the corals reefs. They can go from living to dead in two months. And if you’re not there at the right time to capture that before and after, you just show up and it’s a dead reef. So it was a challenge to be at the right place at the right time.

    SASKIA DE MELKER: This isn’t a political film, but it’s coming out in a time when climate change is highly politicized. What’s that challenge in terms of making people aware of this but not getting sucked into that debate?

    JEFF ORLOWSKI: I think it is massively unfortunate for human civilization that this issue has become politicized. And what I’m trying to work on and what our team is trying to work on is how do we depoliticize it. We need to get to a place where everybody just acknowledges, okay, there are challenges, and we know there are solutions, and let’s talk about what those solutions are. Denying the problem just prolongs the problem.

    The post ‘Chasing Coral’ documents destruction of coral reefs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Missing in America

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    MITCHELL RILEY: On a bright Saturday morning, Organizers from the Southern Arizona Missing in America Project, along with military personnel, Veterans groups, law enforcement officers, and private citizens, gather at the Adair Funeral Home in northwest Tucson. Pima County Detective Shaun Pfund is the law enforcement liaison.

    SHAUN PFUND: This is about you. The Missing in America Project was a creation of a vet who believed that no veteran should go without honorable burial…and our intent is always to locate, identify, and recover veterans.

    MITCHELL RILEY: Over the past six years, 255 veterans have been laid to rest through this effort in southern Arizona. Statewide, the number is more than 430. Nationwide, more than 3,100 vets have been identified and interred with military honors.

    SHAUN PFUND: It’s a very emotional thing, because I acknowledge the person who has sacrificed so much for me.

    OFFICER AT PODIUM: As we ride today, please have your angels spread their wings of protection and keep us all safe.

    MITCHELL RILEY: The cremated remains of these 29 homeless or impoverished veterans are driven by motorcade 25 miles to be interred at a veterans’ cemetery in Marana, Arizona.

    MITCHELL RILEY: The Missing in America Project finds remains by working with mortuaries, funeral homes, Veterans groups, and state agencies. After determining the remains are of a veteran with an honorable discharge, the Project cares for them in this way.

    SHAUN PFUND: I have come once again to honor and acknowledge the men and women who have honorably served our nation in a time of war and in a time of peace.

    MITCHELL RILEY: Some recovered veterans served as far back as World War Two. Others as recently as Iraq and Afghanistan. Pima County covers the cost of cremations. The Adair Funeral Home donates the engraved urns.

    OFFICER AT PODIUM: Luckett, James H, U.S. Army Vietnam…Carter, John R., U.S. Army, Cold War.

    SHAUN PFUND: For they fell not upon the battlefields of this world but within our neighborhoods and city streets…unidentified, marginalized and forgotten, destined to fade away without a word, a tribute or recognition of their respective service to our nation … I say to everyone here within the sound of my voice and beyond, you are not forgotten.

    MITCHELL RILEY: The next ceremony for the southern Arizona Missing in America Project is scheduled for October. Organizers have already confirmed the remains of 12 more veterans to be honored.

    The post Nationwide effort gives homeless veterans an honorable burial appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A torn sign rests on a bush during the Trump Free Speech Rally in Portland, Oregon, U.S. June 4, 2017.  REUTERS/David Ryder

    A torn sign rests on a bush during the Trump Free Speech Rally in Portland, Oregon, U.S. June 4, 2017. REUTERS/David Ryder

    Americans broadly believe their country’s political tone has become less civil since Donald Trump was elected president and that fundamental rights are weakening, according to a new PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll.

    Seventy percent of Americans think political civility has worsened since Trump was elected president, according to the poll. That holds true regardless of party, and it marks a substantial increase since a July 2009 Gallup poll showed that just a third of U.S. adults said the nation’s political tone and civility were worse since former President Barack Obama took office.

    Trust in Congress and the media is low, while trust in the intelligence community and the courts is high, according to the poll. Americans — 60 percent — said they trust the intelligence community and courts the most and Congress and the media the least.

    Trust in Congress and the media is low, while trust in the intelligence community and courts is high, according to the poll.

    Two months out from President Trump’s firing of former FBI director James Comey, the nation’s regard for the intelligence community remains largely unchanged in recent months. In March, six out of 10 Americans said they trusted the nation’s intelligence community, including the CIA and FBI, at least a good amount while one out of 10 said they trust these agencies “not at all.”

    Overall, 61 percent of Americans said they do not place much trust in the Trump administration. Seventy percent of people who identify as political independents said they do not trust the Trump administration, along with 90 percent of Democrats. Among Republicans, 84 percent of respondents said they trust the president and his administration. And despite the controversies surrounding the White House, the overall numbers remain virtually unchanged since March, according to Marist polling data.

    Meanwhile, as Republicans in both the House and the Senate struggle to pass a bill on health care, only six percent of Americans say they have a great deal of trust in Congress, and another 23 percent said they hold a “good amount” of trust in the legislative branch. That response held regardless of political party and remains largely unchanged since March when a quarter of Americans — 27 percent — said they placed at least a good amount of trust in Congress.

    When asked if they trust the media, fewer than a third of U.S. adults — 30 percent — said they do at least a good amount. And the differences along party lines show sharp divisions with only nine percent of Republicans saying trust the media, a stark contrast to 56 percent of Democrats and 28 percent of Independents who said the same. And on the media’s right to freedom of the press, four out of 10 Republicans said the nation had “gone too far in expanding the right,” while two out of 10 Independents and one out of 10 Democrats agreed with that statement. Overall, a quarter of U.S. adults said the press had too many rights, while nearly half of Americans — said “things are okay the way they are.”

    Delving deeper into the traditional American values, 52 percent of Americans said the nation should preserve the right to protest and criticize the government. But just 41 percent of Republicans think the right to protest should be scaled back, while only seven percent of Democrats and 11 percent of people who identify as independents said they feel the same way.

    Overall, half of U.S. adults said freedom of religion in this country is just fine as it is, while an additional third of Americans said the United States now restricts this right too greatly, and one-tenth of all respondents said the country needs to do more to rein in this freedom, something Republicans were more likely to say than Democrats or Independents, according to the survey.

    And when asked about the right to vote, six out of 10 Americans overall think the United States needs to change nothing. But among Republicans, a quarter of respondents think the U.S. has gone too far in expanding that right, far more than five percent of Democrats and eight percent of people who are politically independent. And half of U.S. adults said they have at least a good amount of trust that the nation’s elections are fair. Of those, 17 percent of Americans said they trust elections “a great deal.” Nearly as many respondents — 18 percent — said they don’t trust elections at all. Only six percent of Republicans said they had no trust at the ballot box, compared to 19 percent of Democrats and 20 percent of Independents who said they felt the same.

    Surely, Americans can agree on their own history, right? The data may surprise (or sadden) you. Three-quarters of U.S. adults say their nation declared independence from Great Britain, but 23 percent guessed a different country — 13 different countries to be exact, including Mexico, Russia, Brazil and Afghanistan.

    And seven out of 10 Americans correctly said that happened in 1776, an improvement compared to six out of 10 respondents in 2011, according to Marist polling data.

    The PBS NewsHour/ NPR/ Marist College Institute for Public Opinion poll contacted 1,205 U.S. adults using landline and mobile phones between June 21 and June 25. There is a 2.8 percent margin of error.

    The post New poll: 70% of Americans think civility has gotten worse since Trump took office appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    TRENTON, N.J. — The budget stalemate between Republican Gov. Chris Christie and the Democrat-controlled Legislature smoldered on Monday with the state government shut down and state parks closed to the public — but not to Christie and his family — as the Fourth of July approaches.

    Christie, who spent part of Sunday lounging with his family at a beach in a state park he had ordered closed, said he would sign any budget lawmakers sent to him and blamed the shutdown of nonessential services, including motor vehicle offices, on Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto.

    “I’m a little frustrated, quite frankly, at this point that no one will send me any budget,” Christie said.

    Christie said he would consider the Democratic budget along with legislation to overhaul the state’s biggest health insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield. Or, without the Horizon legislation he has called for, he would line-item veto about $350 million of the Democratic priorities.

    Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney, who’s allied with Christie, called for a meeting with lawmakers and Horizon’s CEO to try to hash out a way forward. Horizon said CEO Bob Marino would attend. Horizon opposes Christie and Sweeney’s proposal.

    Christie, who ordered the Legislature to return Monday after calling it in on Saturday and Sunday, flew on a state helicopter to Island Beach State Park, where his family was staying at a state-owned governor’s residence over the weekend. He defended his use of a state property during a shutdown that affected the public.

    The governor was photographed by NJ.com sitting with his family on a beach chair in sandals and a T-shirt before flying to talk to reporters in Trenton, where he worked without result to end the shutdown.

    During the news conference, Christie was asked if he had gotten any sun that day, to which he said he didn’t, NJ.com reported.

    When told later of Christie’s denial, his spokesman said Christie didn’t get any sun that day because he was wearing a baseball hat.

    Democrats are divided in this stalemate, with Prieto opposed to the plan and Sweeney in favor.

    The term-limited, unpopular governor blames the shutdown on Prieto, who is holding open a vote on the Assembly floor on the $34.7 billion budget that remains deadlocked with 27 yes votes, shy of the 41 needed to succeed.

    Democratic Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt said she is abstaining because the Democratic priorities are important to keep intact for her district. Others who abstained gave similar reasons.

    Christie ordered the shutdown of nonessential state services on Friday after he and lawmakers failed to agree on terms. He had demanded lawmakers pass Senate-approved legislation to make over Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, but on Sunday he said he’d reopen the government under either scenario.

    Over the weekend, the public began feeling the effects of the shutdown.

    Among those affected were Cub Scouts forced to leave a state park campsite and people trying to obtain or renew documents from the state motor vehicle commission.

    Remaining open under the shutdown are New Jersey Transit, state prisons, the state police, state hospitals and treatment centers as well as casinos, race tracks and the lottery.

    Liberty State Park was closed, forcing the suspension of ticket sales and ferry service from the site to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. But the latter two sites remain open.

    The post Christie spotted at beach during state government shutdown appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    An indigenous activist waves an upside down U.S. flag with an image of historic Native American leader Sitting Bull on it during a protest march and rally in opposition to the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines in front of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 10, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RTS12C2H

    An indigenous activist waves an upside down U.S. flag with an image of historic Native American leader Sitting Bull on it during a protest march and rally in opposition to the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines in front of the White House on March 10, 2017. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As many in the United States celebrate the Fourth of July holiday, some minorities have mixed feelings about the revelry of fireworks and parades in an atmosphere of tension on several fronts.

    How do you celebrate during what some people of color consider troubling times?

    Blacks, Latinos and immigrant rights advocates say the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, recent non-convictions of police officers charged in the shootings of black men, and the stepped-up detentions of immigrants and refugees for deportation have them questioning equality and the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the United States.

    Filmmaker Chris Phillips of Ferguson, Missouri, says he likely will attend a family barbecue just like every Fourth of July. But the 36-year-old black man says he can’t help but feel perplexed about honoring the birth of the nation after three officers were recently cleared in police shootings.


    Since the 2014 police shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, officer shootings — of black males in particular — have drawn scrutiny, sparking protests nationwide. Few officers ever face charges, and convictions are rare. Despite video, suburban St. Paul, Minnesota, police officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted last month in the shooting of Philando Castile, a black man. The 32-year-old school cafeteria worker was killed during a traffic stop July 6, almost a year ago.

    “Justice apparently doesn’t apply to all people,” said Phillips, who saw the protests that roiled his town for weeks following Brown’s death. His yet-unreleased documentary “Ferguson 365” focuses on the Brown shooting and its aftermath. “A lot of people have lost hope.”

    Unlike Phillips, Janette McClelland, 55, a black musician in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said she has no intention of celebrating July Fourth.

    “It’s a white man’s holiday to me. It’s just another day,” McClelland said. “I’m not going to even watch the fireworks. Not feeling it.”

    McClelland, who grew up in Los Angeles before the urban unrest of the 1960s, said she fears cities may see more violence amid a feeling of helplessness. “I’m praying and trying to keep positive,” she said.


    Immigration was a key issue during the presidential campaign for both parties. Since then, President Donald Trump’s administration has stepped up enforcement and instituted a scaled-back partial travel ban that places new limits on entry to the U.S. for citizens of six Muslim-majority countries. The temporary ban requires people to prove a close family relationship in the U.S. or an existing relationship with an entity like a school or business. On Friday, the administration announced that Immigration and Customs Enforcement would arrest people — including relatives — who hire smugglers to bring children into the U.S. illegally.

    Patricia Montes, a Boston resident and immigrant from Honduras, said she’s grateful for the opportunities and security the United States has given her. Yet this year, she doesn’t know how to approach the Fourth of July holiday.

    “I fell very conflicted,” said Montes, an immigrant advocate. “I mean, what are we celebrating? Are we celebrating democracy?”

    Montes said it pains her to see children fleeing violence get turned away and deported back to Central America without due process. She also is disturbed by recent immigration raids in Latino and Muslim communities that spark more fear and uncertainty.

    In Texas, Latino activists have been protesting a state law that forces cities and towns to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. In New Mexico and Michigan, immigrant advocates have been rallying on behalf of Iraqi refugees facing deportation.

    “There’s a lot not to be proud about when celebrating the Fourth of July,” said Janelle Astorga Ramos, a University of New Mexico student and daughter of a Mexican immigrant. “Even though it’s a time to celebrate as a country and (for) our unity, it’s definitely going to be on the back of our minds.”

    Despite those problems and concerns, Ramos said her family will recognize the holiday and visit Elephant Butte, New Mexico, a popular summer destination. “This is our home,” Ramos said.

    Isabella Baker, a 17-year-old Latina from Bosque Farms, New Mexico, said she’ll celebrate the holiday based on her own views of patriotism.

    “More people are standing up because of the political climate,” Baker said. “That makes me proud.”


    For months, members of the Standing Rock Sioux were at the center of a protest against an oil pipeline in North Dakota. A protest camp was set up. The tribe said the Dakota Access oil pipeline plan could pose a threat to water sources if there was a leak and cause cultural harm. Police made more than 700 arrests between August 2016 and February 2017. The Trump administration approved the final permit for the $3.8 billion pipeline, which began operating June 1. The pipeline moves oil from western North Dakota to a distribution point in Illinois. Four Sioux tribes are still fighting in federal court to get the line shut down.

    Ruth Hopkins, a member of South Dakota’s Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe, said Native Americans have always viewed the Fourth of July with ambivalence, and this year will be no different.

    However, there will be celebrations.

    Her Lake Traverse Indian Reservation holds an annual powwow on July 4 to honor veterans as a way to take the holiday back, she said.

    “Also, a lot of people up here use fireworks and the holiday to celebrate victory over Custer for Victory Day,” said Hopkins, referring to Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse defeating George Custer and his 7th Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

    Still, the holiday comes after tribes and others gathered in North Dakota to support the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its fight against the pipeline, Hopkins said. Because of that, water and land rights remain on peoples’ mind, Hopkins said.

    Gyasi Ross, a member of Montana’s Blackfeet Nation and a writer who lives on the Port Madison Indian Reservation near Seattle, said all the tensions this Fourth of July are a blessing because it has awakened a consciousness among people of color.

    “The gloves are off,” Ross said. “We can’t ignore these things anymore.”

    However, Ross said he wants his young son to be hopeful about the future. They will likely go fishing on the Fourth of July.

    “I still worry about getting shot or something like that,” Ross said. “All this stuff is so heavy to be carrying around.”

    This story has been corrected to say that Janette McClelland, a black musician in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is 55 years old, not 65. The story has also been corrected to show that McClelland grew up in Los Angeles before the urban unrest of the 1960s.

    The post Fourth of July brings mixed feelings for some minorities appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump as he is accompanied by China's first lady Peng Liyuan during a dinner at the start of a summit between President Trump and President Xi at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., April 6, 2017. Photo by: REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo.

    Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump as he is accompanied by China’s first lady Peng Liyuan during a dinner at the start of a summit between President Trump and President Xi at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, on April 6, 2017. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    BEIJING — Chinese President Xi Jinping warned President Donald Trump on Monday that “some negative factors” are hurting U.S.-China relations, as tensions flare anew over a slew of long-standing sore points.

    Xi’s comments in a phone call with Trump follow Beijing’s displeasure over U.S. arms sales to rival Taiwan, U.S. sanctions against a Chinese bank over its dealings with North Korea and, most recently, the sailing of a U.S. destroyer within the territorial seas limit of a Chinese-claimed island in the South China Sea.

    Beijing was also miffed after the State Department gave Beijing a dismal grade last week in a new human trafficking report.

    According to state media, Xi told Trump in their call that Beijing expects Washington to continue managing relations on the basis of the “one China” principle that rules out formal contacts with Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory.

    “Xi Jinping emphasized that, since my meeting with the president at Mar-a-Lago, China-U.S. relations have achieved important outcomes,” state broadcaster China Central Television reported, referring to Xi’s meeting with Trump in Florida in April. “At the same time, bilateral relations have been affected by some negative factors. China has expressed its position to the U.S.”

    Seeking to lighten the message slightly, Xi also said that China-U.S. relations had achieved “important outcomes” since the Florida meeting.

    It’s unclear whether any of those issues will come up in discussions at the G-20 summit in Germany this week, at which Trump and Xi are expected to hold a bilateral meeting.

    But it now appears that China is pushing back against the U.S. pressure, setting the stage for a potential confrontation.

    China’s foreign ministry accused the U.S. of violating Chinese sovereignty and disrupting “peace, security and order of the relevant waters” after the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Stethem sailed Sunday within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) of tiny Triton island, which is claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.

    China’s defense ministry issued a similar statement Monday, saying it would beef up patrols and take precautions commensurate with the threat level to safeguard “national sovereignty and security.”

    Trump and his top aides have done little to hide their irritation over what they see as the reluctance by China, North Korea’s main economic partner, to tighten the screws on Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs.

    Until recently, American officials had been describing China as a partner in their strategy to prevent North Korea from developing the ability to strike the U.S. mainland with nuclear weapons. While China has agreed to sanctions, it is wary of measures that could cause the regime’s collapse, leaving a united, U.S.-backed Korea on its border.

    However, Trump hinted last month at his loss of patience, tweeting that his bid to secure a tougher Chinese approach “has not worked out.”

    Asked about the state of ties, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Monday that it was normal to encounter “some issues in the process of developing the bilateral relationship.”

    “We believe that the significance of our bilateral relationship has already exceeded the bilateral scope and is exerting important influence on the development of the whole world,” Geng told reporters at a regularly scheduled press briefing.

    “On our part, we are willing to develop the bilateral relationship based on non-confrontation, mutual benefit and mutual trust, expand cooperation and properly manage differences between the two countries so as to further advance the bilateral relationship.”

    Along with Xi, Trump also spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with whom he reaffirmed a shared commitment to dealing with North Korea, the White House said. It said the president also looked forward to meeting Abe at the upcoming G-20 summit in Hamburg.

    Abe praised Trump for the recent U.S. sanctions on the small Bank of Dandong over its alleged support for North Korea’s nuclear program, according to Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. That severs the bank entirely from the U.S. financial system, pending a 60-day review period.

    Suga said that during their 35-minute phone conversation, the two leaders reaffirmed close coordination between their countries and South Korea in stepping up pressure on North Korea.

    The talks were meaningful for the two leaders “to be on the same page” about their approach to North Korea ahead of the G-20 summit, Suga said.

    The post China’s Xi warns Trump of ‘negative factors’ hurting U.S. ties appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    donald trump

    After a succession of administrations that embraced Spanish-language content, President Donald Trump’s White House is all but ignoring Spanish speakers even though he has a robust online presence in English. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Trump White House no habla español. Well, un poquito.

    After a succession of administrations that embraced Spanish-language content, President Donald Trump’s White House is all but ignoring Spanish speakers even though he has a robust online presence in English.

    His administration has yet to offer a Spanish White House website. It has eliminated the position of director of Hispanic media outreach. And its Spanish-language Twitter account is heavy with English text and features sloppy translations.

    White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in January that the administration had its “IT folks working overtime” to roll out a new Spanish language site after WhiteHouse.gov/espanol went dark in the hours after Trump took office.

    “Trust me, it’s going to take a little bit more time, but we’re working piece by piece to get that done,” Spicer said at the time. More than five months later, the site still urges readers to “STAY TUNED.”

    The White House’s Spanish twitter account, @LaCasaBlanca, is also far less active in the Trump era.

    The account has tweeted just 41 times since Trump’s inauguration; more than one-third of those posts came on the day of his address to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28. Of the 41 tweets, about half were written in English. The Spanish tweets are sprinkled with typos — 11 in all. While most mistakes are minor flubs such as missing accents, those accents often change the meaning of words significantly. For instance, they turn “medical” into “medicate” or “is” into “this.”

    Notably, one of the first agencies to expand Spanish-language content during the Trump era has been U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office. The agency better known as ICE is responsible for carrying out deportations. Last month, it announced that it was expanding the Spanish section of its website and started a new Spanish twitter feed, @ICEespanol.

    The White House director of media affairs, Helen Aguirre Ferre, said she expects a Spanish website to launch later this year. She noted the Obama administration took nine months to launch its version, adding that “the priority remains to improve the English language website.”

    She said there was no plan to hire a press officer solely dedicated to Spanish-language media at this time. She said she and another staffer in the communications operation are bilingual and conduct interviews in Spanish. Spanish-language media are also invited to participate in press briefings, background briefings and other events, along with their English-language colleagues, she said.

    However, Javier Palomarez, president of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and a vocal critic of Trump during the campaign, said he has been pleasantly surprised by the administration’s other Hispanic outreach efforts.

    While Spanish-language communication is “important in terms of optics,” he said, “at the end of the day, where the rubber meets the road for us and what matters to us is what kind of policy are you enacting, are you engaged with us.”

    He said his members’ conversations with the White House have been “constant, consistent and ongoing,” with numerous in-person meetings with White House and Cabinet officials, including Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and weekly phone calls with Jennifer Korn, deputy director for the White House Office of Public Liaison.

    “They have been more than willing to talk to us and engage us,” he said. “This is the same level or more access that we had with the Obama administration.”

    Former President George W. Bush began the tradition of a Spanish-language website. The Obama administration followed suit.

    Luis Miranda, director of Hispanic media at the White House during the Obama administration, said the Obama-era Spanish-language website was not just a translation of the English site, but included information geared to Latinos on topics such as immigration, health issues, banking and veterans affairs.

    “For us it was important that all of our constituents across the board were getting as much information as possible about what we were doing,” he said.

    Still, the Obama White House received some criticism for using Spanglish in its initial website on his health overhaul.

    Activists see the lack of Spanish content as part of a larger pattern by Trump and the administration.

    “I believe they have written off the Latino vote as, ‘I’m never going to get it, so why should I even bother?'” said Luis A. Miranda Jr., a Democratic strategist who has worked for Democrat Hillary Clinton as well as Republican Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York. (The two Mirandas are not related.)

    During his campaign, Trump turned off many Latinos with his harsh anti-immigration rhetoric. He criticized rival Jeb Bush for answering a reporter’s question in Spanish, saying the former Florida governor “should really set the example by speaking English while in the United States.”

    “We have a country, where, to assimilate, you have to speak English. And I think that where he was, and the way it came out didn’t sound right to me,” Trump said during one Republican primary debate.

    Trump still won about 28 percent of the Latino vote, similar to Mitt Romney in 2012, according to exit polls.

    Roberto Izurieta, director of Latin American Projects at George Washington University, said that since Trump began his campaign, his rhetoric has been “very aggressive and very anti-Hispanic.”

    “The president decided on Day One to stay with his electoral base. It means he will keep his divisive rhetoric and stay with his base, which is anti-immigrant,” he said.

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    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Governor Chris Christie speaks to supporters in West Des Moines, Iowa, U.S. January 31, 2016. REUTERS/Brian C. Frank/File Photo - RTX2PXA2

    State parks are shut down along with other nonessential state services, including state courts and the motor vehicle offices where people go to get driver’s licenses. Tens of thousands of state workers are furloughed until Christie signs off on a state budget. Photo by Brian C. Frank/Reuters

    TRENTON, N.J.  — While Gov. Chris Christie was busy catching heat Monday for his family time on a beach to which he had blocked public access, a stalemate over the state’s budget stretched into a third day without a resolution in sight.

    Spokesman Brian Murray said the governor was back in Trenton on Monday, a day after he was photographed by NJ.com at a closed state park lounging in a beach chair in sandals, shorts and a T-shirt.

    State parks are shut down along with other nonessential state services, including state courts and the motor vehicle offices where people go to get driver’s licenses. Tens of thousands of state workers are furloughed until Christie signs off on a state budget.

    Here’s a closer look at the standoff over the $34.7 billion budget:


    On the surface the budget stalemate revolves around Christie’s desire to overhaul Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, but also in play are the strong personalities of the three principals responsible for passing the budget.

    Christie, the brash, tell-it-like-it-is former federal prosecutor whose presidential campaign derailed in part because President Donald Trump played that role better, has staked his final year as governor on overhauling the nonprofit insurer in exchange for his support of more than $300 million worth of Democratic spending priorities.

    Christie describes himself as “Mr. Reasonable” but won’t waive his line-item authority that has some Democrats worried.

    Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney is a former ironworker and current union boss as well as the top elected Democrat for the past eight years. He’s holding the line on Horizon because he trusts Christie will make good on a gentleman’s agreement not to line-item veto Democratic priorities.

    And Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto is a onetime plumber and code-enforcement official from Hudson County, long considered one of the state’s hardest-edged political regions, known for old-school party boss politics. Prieto’s speakership is under threat from another lawmaker who’s already announced a bid against him.

    “Egos have to go out the door,” Sweeney said, adding there’s no place for drawing lines in the sand.


    Sweeney called a meeting Monday with Horizon and says it’s worth passing the Horizon legislation to get the spending priorities, including $150 million in revamped education spending that he fought for.

    But he said that the shutdown won’t be over immediately, if a compromise is reached, because the bill would still have to go through committee for a vote.

    Prieto says it’s not worth tweaking the insurer as congressional Republicans contemplate their own health care overhaul. He also says the changes could lead to premium increases.

    The Assembly remained open but deadlocked on a budget vote, 14 votes shy of the majority needed to pass.

    Christie argues that the company can be subject to legislation because it was established by statute and four of its board members are appointed by the governor.

    The company opposes the changes and disagrees with Christie’s reading of the law.


    New Jersey officials are looking for ways to ensure that Atlantic City’s casinos can remain open if the shutdown extends past Friday.

    A 2008 law passed after the state’s last government shutdown allowed casinos to remain open for up to seven days of a government shutdown.

    But lawmakers and regulators are looking for ways to prevent the casinos from having to shut down if the impasse continues beyond Friday just as they are regaining momentum after a disastrous three-year period that saw five of the 12 casinos shut down.

    Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, an Atlantic City-area Democrat, introduced a bill Friday that would let the casinos stay open throughout a state government shutdown.

    Associated Press writer Wayne Parry in Atlantic City contributed to this story.

    The post New Jersey government shutdown drags into 3rd day appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Student looking worried while taking a test in a classroom. Photo by rimmdream/Adobe Stock

    An increasing number of districts nationwide are looking for ways to help change not so much the tests but the way students respond to them, and to do so in a way that helps improve students’ achievement and well-being. Photo by rimmdream/Adobe Stock

    Assessments may change in many ways, but for most students, the stress of having to prove what they know and can do doesn’t go away.

    That’s why an increasing number of districts nationwide are looking for ways to help change not so much the tests but the way students respond to them, and to do so in a way that helps improve students’ achievement and well-being.

    “People who are anxious in general often get test anxiety, yes, but a lot of people who are not particularly anxious can still develop stress around tests in different subjects” like mathematics, said Mark Greenberg, the chairman of prevention research at Pennsylvania State University and a developer of the Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies, or PATHS, curriculum, a social and emotional development and anti-anxiety program for elementary students.

    What’s actually going on when a student stresses out over a test? While it’s a common occurrence, researchers are starting to get new perspective on exactly how fear interferes with performance.

    In the moment an anxious student begins a test, “the mind becomes flooded with concerns about the possibility of failure. And these worries essentially create a competition for attention between the worries and [the] need to solve the problems on the test,” said Gerardo Ramirez, an assistant professor in developmental and cognitive psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. That divided attention leads to a stalemate — called “choking,” in the parlance of Ramirez and his colleague Sian Beilock at the University of Chicago.

    Young students ‘shut down’

    This choking can be particularly visible in younger students. High schoolers may respond more like adults, with irritability or sleep problems, but “in elementary, kids just kind of shut down sometimes,” said James Butler, who trains teachers in anti-stress techniques at the Austin, Texas, school district. “Last week, there was a 4th grader who just started crying and wouldn’t write much on the test at all,” he said. “They just get overwhelmed and don’t know how to deal with it.”

    Interestingly, that fear response looks the same in both low- and high-performing students, Ramirez said. It doesn’t matter how much the student actually knows, but rather how well he or she “feels they have the resources to meet the demands of the test” and how tightly performance is tied to the child’s sense of identity.

    For example, in a study out last month, Ramirez and colleagues found that students who saw themselves as “math people,” but performed poorly on a math test actually repressed their memories of the content of the class, similar to the “motivated forgetting” seen around traumatic events like death. The effort to block out a source of anxiety can actually make it harder to remember events and content around the event.

    “So maybe you feel, ‘Hey, I’m supposed to be a math person, but I’m really stressed out, so maybe I’m not as big a math person as I thought I was.’ That stress becomes a very big threat to you,” Ramirez said.

    “The point of forgetting is to cope with the experience, but if the experience is tied up with a lot of the content of the class, it’s not what you want.”

    Take the American Psychological Association’s 2013 report, “Stress in America.” Students who wrote about their fears about an upcoming test the day before taking it performed better during the actual test, perhaps because it allowed them to focus on the fear and then put it aside. A 2011 University of Colorado at Boulder study similarly found that asking students to write about their values before a test improved performance; authors of that study noted that it could help students reinforce their sense of self outside the academic arena.

    And a new study by researchers at Harvard University and the University of British Columbia found that changing a student’s mindset about the anxiety itself could also boost test performance. Students in the treatment group were trained to reinterpret physical symptoms — a racing pulse or sweaty palms, say — as signs of excitement, not fear. Those students had better test performance and lower stress than students who interpreted their symptoms as fear.

    “Experiencing a sense of threat and a sense of challenge actually aren’t all that different from each other,” Ramirez said. “Ultimately, by changing your interpretation, you are not going from high anxiety to low anxiety but from high anxiety to optimal anxiety.”

    ‘Mindful’ of testing

    One of the most rapidly growing methods for shifting a student’s focus is “mindfulness,” a form of attention training in which students — and sometimes teachers — engage in breathing exercises and visualizations to improve focus and relieve stress. The method has shown evidence of promise in reducing anxiety and behavior problems in children and adolescents in both the United States and other countries. But most of the studies to date have involved relatively small groups of children who have not been randomly assigned to the interventions.

    An analysis of more than 60 evaluations of school-based mindfulness programs released in March by the nonprofit Campbell Collaboration found small but statistically significant improvements in students’ cognitive and emotional outcomes, but found no significant improvements for academics. The Norway-based authors cautioned that schools should evaluate the programs if they use them in class.

    “Mindfulness is in; it’s expanding a lot, but … sometimes, the excitement about these things gets way ahead of the evidence of its effectiveness,” Penn State’s Greenberg said. Yet, he said most anti-stress programs, including his own, involve at least some aspects of mindfulness, such as breathing exercises and students learning to identify their emotions.

    “If [students] learn to just watch your own anxiety and see that it gets stronger and weaker — not to push the emotion away but just to notice it — you can surf the waves of anxiety,” Greenberg said.

    James Butler is one of those trying to help students ride those waves. A former teacher of the year in the Austin district, he has become the school system’s first mindfulness director.

    Butler and others in the district’s social-emotional-learning department train both teachers and students to recognize their physical and emotional symptoms of stress and understand how they could affect their thoughts in the lead-up to a test.

    “The way I approach mindfulness is from a very educational perspective; we’re very explicit about the neuroscience of the brain,” he said.

    “I like to focus on very simple, easy techniques, like just taking three deep breaths” before a test, he said. With young children, he has them time their inhalations and exhalations by tracing the fingers of one hand with the other, both to help them count and to give tactile feedback. The exercises are designed so that teachers can lead their class through them in just a few minutes a day during class transitions.

    “If a teacher is practicing mindfulness with their class consistently, it’s more of a seamless transition … something that they will naturally do during a test.”

    Two summers ago, Butler wrote “Mindful Classrooms,” a 36-week curriculum covering research on how stress affects the brain and detailing the exercises he had done with his own kindergarten class for several years. Austin Superintendent Paul Cruz gave Butler the green light to pilot the curriculum in 2015-2016 school year with 20 teachers, and it has since expanded to 400 teachers in 130 schools districtwide.

    On an annual survey of classroom climate, average scores of district teachers in the pilot more than doubled after participating in the program. The results were only self-reported, but positive enough that the district plans to conduct a quantitative evaluation of the program next year.

    This story was produced by Education Week, a nonprofit, independent news organization with comprehensive pre-K-12 news and analysis. Read the original post here.

    The post Pre-test jitters? Here’s how teachers are helping students de-stress appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Illinois state capitol

    The state is carrying a $6.2 billion annual deficit and $14.7 billion in overdue bills. Photo by Flickr user pioneer98

    SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois’ financial outlook received a boost from a credit-rating house Monday after a dramatic vote to raise the income tax rate by 32 percent.

    Fitch Ratings issued a statement noting “concrete progress on reaching an agreement to break the two-yearlong budget impasse” after the House vote Sunday night. Fitch’s announcement came despite a promise from Gov. Bruce Rauner to veto the House measure. It was approved 72-45, receiving one more vote than necessary to override a veto.

    Illinois has been without an annual budget for two years, the longest of any state in at least 80 years. The state is carrying a $6.2 billion annual deficit and $14.7 billion in overdue bills. The state has crept along on spending ordered by courts, but a federal judge last week ordered that the state pay nearly $300 million more a month to managed-care Medicaid billers.

    The House also approved a $36 billion spending bill. Both measures move to the Senate for concurrence. But it was unclear whether the Senate had the 36 three-fifths majority necessary Monday to send them to the governor. Legislative leaders are scheduled to meet again this afternoon to continue budget talks.

    The other two major investment houses, Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s, were closed Monday for the Independence Day holiday. All three houses have threatened to downgrade Illinois to “junk” status without swift action on a budget, a move that would signal to investors that buying Illinois debt would be speculative.

    Fitch rated Illinois’ creditworthiness as “BBB” in February. There is one more level, “BBB-minus,” before falling into “junk” status.

    The tax bill approved Sunday would increase the personal income tax rate from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent. Corporations would pay 7 percent instead of 5.25 percent.

    “Temporary or partial measures, or a failure to enact a budget within the context of this session, would result in a downgrade,” the Fitch statement warned. With the order on Medicaid vendors and other legal challengers to the state’s bill-paying decisions, Fitch said, “The state risks losing full control of its budgetary decisions, which would be inconsistent with the current rating.”

    The post Illinois lawmakers return to Capitol after voting to raise taxes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A boy watches the fireworks from his father's shoulders during U.S. Independence Day celebrations in Somerville, Massachusetts June 30, 2016, ahead of the July 4th holiday. REUTERS/Brian Snyder - RTX2J5J3

    A boy watches the fireworks from his father’s shoulders during the 2016 Independence Day celebrations in Somerville, Massachusetts. Photo by REUTERS/Brian Snyder

    Fourth of July is among poet Dorianne Laux’s favorite holidays. It’s also a holiday she dreads.

    For one, she says, fireworks are beautiful from a distance, but the massive displays we shoot off every Independence Day can also hearken a feeling of a war, and the desire to best one another with weaponry.

    Laux explores these kinds of conflicting feelings — about fireworks, the U.S. and patriotism — in her poem “Fourth of July.”

    “I feel very lucky to be accidentally born in a country that [poet] Carolyn Forche calls in a poem ‘greed and grace,'” she said. “Because on one hand I love this country, but on another hand, I’m old enough and smart enough to know this country is not a perfect system.”

    During the Vietnam War, Laux said, she watched her boyfriend and brother get sent off to fight. Her brother came back forever changed, affected by Agent Orange, alcoholism and other consequences of what she calls a “horrific, unjust war.”

    Courtesy of Dorianne Laux

    Dorianne Laux. Credit: John Campbell

    In her poem, the teenage boys throwing firecrackers are a kind of stand-in for how she thinks of America and how it has mishandled its wars.

    “I think of the U.S. as an adolescent country. It’s not the old, wise European country, or very young either, it’s somewhere in the middle,” she said. “Like it’s got all kinds of testosterone, and we just don’t know how to handle our power yet.”

    But she also jokes that poets have a hard time liking anything.

    “Poetry comes from conflict,” she said. “If it’s all nostalgia and wonderful it’s a hallmark card. If it’s a political rant, it’s an essay. Poetry is somewhere in between.”

    Below, read “Fourth of July” or listen to Laux read it aloud.

    Fourth of July
    By Dorianne Laux

    The neighborhood cringes behind windows
    washed in magnesium light, streamers fizzling
    above the shingled rooftop of the apartments
    across the street where teenaged boys
    with mannish arms throw cherry bombs,
    bottle rockets, wings and spinners, snappers,
    chasers, fiery cryolite wheels onto the avenue.
    Paint flakes off the flammable houses
    and onto brave square plots of white grass.
    Rain-deprived vines sucker the shutters.
    Backyard dogs tear at the dirt, cats
    run flat out, their tails straight up.
    What’s liberty to the checkout girl
    selling smokes and nuts, greenbacks
    turning her fingers to grease? The boys
    insist on pursuing happiness, their birthright:
    a box of matches, crackers on strings,
    sparklers, fountains, missiles, repeating shells,
    Roman candles, Brazilian barrages.
    We peek through blind slats to where they stand
    around a manhole cover, the gold foam
    of Corona bottles breaking at their feet,
    young up-turned faces lit by large caliber
    multi-shot aerials. We suffer each concussion,
    the sulfer rush that smells like fear, each dizzy,
    orgiastic display that says we love this country,
    democracy, the right to a speedy trial. We’re afraid
    to complain, to cross the spent red casings
    melted on asphalt in the morning’s stunned
    aftermath, to knock hard on any door, and find them
    draped like dead men over the couches, the floor,
    hands clasped behind their heads prison style,
    shoulders tattooed, dreaming the dreams of free men
    in summer, shirts off, holes in their jeans.

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

    Dorianne Laux’s most recent collections are “The Book of Men,” winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize, and “Facts about the Moon,” winner of the Oregon Book Award. Laux is also author of “Awake,” “What We Carry,” and “Smoke” from BOA Editions. She teaches poetry in the master’s of fine arts program at North Carolina State University; she is also a founding faculty member at Pacific University’s low-residency MFA program.

    The post This poem grapples with America’s complicated identity appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Windows of a German department store are covered with wooden boards before the upcoming G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 7-8. Photo by Fabian Bimmer/Reuters

    Windows of a German department store are covered with wooden boards before the upcoming G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 7-8. Photo by Fabian Bimmer/Reuters

    The G20 summit on July 7-8 comes amid tensions over trade, climate, and refugee policy and increased uncertainty over the U.S. commitment to multilateral institutions.


    The annual summit of the Group of Twenty (G20), a gathering of the world’s largest economies, has evolved into a major forum for discussing the most pressing global issues. One of the group’s most impressive achievements was its robust response to the 2008 global financial crisis, but some analysts say its cohesion has since frayed.

    The July 2017 summit in Hamburg, Germany, is the first for U.S. President Donald Trump, who has already clashed with many of the group’s members over trade, climate, and refugee policy. While the group’s meetings will be closely watched, bilateral meetings taking place on the summit’s sidelines are of particular interest this year, especially because Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to meet for the first time.

    What is the G20 summit and who will be attending?

    The G20 comprises the nineteen countries that have the world’s largest economies, as well as the European Union. The countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

    Every year the heads of G20 members meet to discuss a wide range of issues, with a focus on economic and financial matters, and coordinate policy when possible. Lower-level meetings among finance ministers and other policymakers take place in the run-up to the leaders’ summit. The G20 is not a permanent institution with a headquarters, offices, or staff. Instead, its leadership rotates on an annual basis among its members, its decisions are made by consensus, and implementation of its agenda depends on the political will of the individual states.

    In 2017, the rotating G20 presidency belongs to Germany, which will host the two-day leaders’ summit in Hamburg starting July 7. In addition to Trump and Putin, high-profile leaders in attendance are expected to include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron. Trump’s aides said a week before the meeting that they had no specific agenda for the Putin talks. That meeting comes as Trump is under domestic political pressure for alleged ties to Russia, which, U.S. intelligence agencies say, mounted cyberattacks on American electoral systems ahead of Trump’s election.

    What’s on the agenda?

    The G20 initially focused largely on economic policy, but it has expanded its ambit in recent years. Ahead of Hamburg, Merkel stressed the theme of a “networked world,” and the German government laid out a broad agenda.

    Topping the list is financial regulation, and in particular addressing what Germany calls “harmful tax competition” between countries—the widespread use by companies and individuals of low-tax countries as tax shelters, as was dramatized by the 2016 Panama Papers leaks. The G20 is also pursuing policies, including information-sharing initiatives, to combat corruption and money laundering.

    Merkel has made ties with Africa a focus of the summit. Her government has presented a “Compact with Africa” initiative that would involve G20 nations bringing private investment, job growth, and new businesses to African states that have committed to economic reforms.

    Other trade and economic-growth plans are also high on the agenda. Germany wants to reaffirm a global commitment to free trade and discuss how to implement the UN’s “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” a set of far-reaching goals for eliminating poverty around the world.

    Beyond purely economic measures, Germany wants to recommit the G20 nations to meeting their carbon-reduction goals under the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, although the U.S. withdrawal from the accord makes it a notable outlier. Germany also aims to expand research and development on combating infectious diseases, and coordinate responses to the migration and refugee crises in Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

    Mounted police patrol outside the Hamburg Messe on July 3 before the upcoming G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. Photo by Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters

    Mounted police patrol outside the Hamburg Messe on July 3 before the upcoming G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. Photo by Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters

    What are the main points of contention?

    Much of the uncertainty surrounding the 2017 summit stems from President Trump’s reorientation of U.S. foreign policy, which has placed the United States at odds with much of the rest of the G20, and especially with its host, Germany.

    • On trade, the Trump administration has pushed back against the G20 consensus; during preparatory talks, it forced the group to drop its usual commitment to “resist all kinds of protectionism.” In addition to pulling out of the Asia-Pacific Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal that included several G20 members, Trump is considering raising tariffs on steel and other goods, raising alarm in Europe and Canada. Merkel spoke out strongly against protectionism in a speech to her parliament just days before the summit, saying it cannot be an option because it “harms everyone concerned.”
    • On climate, Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement isolated the United States from the rest of the G20. Germany has expressed displeasure with the move, with Merkel’s environmental minister publishing a “fact check”that heavily criticizes Trump’s arguments for leaving the accord.
    • Refugee policy could be another point of dispute. Merkel has spearheaded a controversial effort to distribute the many asylum seekers who have crossed into Europe across the EU. Trump, who has been a strong critic of Europe’s openness to migrants and refugees, called Merkel’s role in it “catastrophic.”
    • The United States’ and EU’s relationship with Russia has become increasingly fraught over allegations of Russian interference in their elections, Ukraine-related sanctions, and differences over the conflict in Syria.

    Tensions have also arisen between Turkey and its German hosts, most recently over Germany’s denial of a request by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to address Turks at a rally in Hamburg. Meanwhile, embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May will face many of the European partners with whom she is negotiating her country’s exit from the EU. This comes shortly after elections that significantly weakened her position.

    What is the importance of the G20?

    Taken together, the nations of the G20 account for around 80 percent of global GDP, nearly 75 percent of all global trade, and about two-thirds of the world’s population.

    The group was formed in 1999, in the wake of the Asian financial crisis, as a new forum that would unite finance ministers and central bankers from the world’s largest established and emerging economies. A decade later, at the height of the global economic crisis, the G20 was elevated to the leaders’ level, to include heads of state and government. President George W. Bush hosted the first such gathering in November 2008. Many experts credit the G20 with quick action that, in the words of CFR’s Stewart Patrick, “rescued a global financial system in free fall.” In 2008 and 2009, G20 nations agreed to spending measures worth $4 trillion to revive their economies, rejected trade barriers, and implemented far-reaching reforms of the financial system.

    Since then, Patrick and other observers say, the G20 has struggled to achieve similar success on its goals of coordinating their monetary and fiscal policies, achieving higher growth, and rooting out corruption and tax evasion. Geopolitical analyst Ian Bremmer has argued against the G20’s utility, saying that there is instead a “G-Zero” world—one in which countries go it alone or form ad hoc coalitions to pursue their interests.

    How has the Trump administration approached other summits?

    In his first six months, Trump has unsettled American allies due to his sharp shift in the U.S. approach to multilateral institutions. Throughout his presidential campaign, he criticized members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for spending too little and called the alliance “obsolete.” At his first NATO summit, in May 2017, he conspicuously declined to back the organization’s Article V provision, which commits each member to the bloc’s common defense. At the same time, some experts have credited Trump with helping to spur an increase in defense spending by NATO states that the United States has long sought. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on June 28 that NATO states planned to increase their defense spending by 4.3 percent this year. (Some of the increases were in place before Trump’s election in November.)

    Trump’s first G7 summit, which was also in May, further demonstrated his willingness to defy the United States’ traditional allies. There, despite heavy pressure from European leaders, he refused to commit to a common climate policy. Analysts say he also strained relations with German policymakers, and Merkel said that Europe could no longer “fully rely” on the United States.

    This backgrounder first appeared on June 30 on the Council on Foreign Relations’ website.

    The post Refugees, trade and climate are top issues at upcoming G20 summit appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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