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

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    U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive for the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria - RTX3AB66

    U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive for the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

    WARSAW, Poland— President Donald Trump has arrived in Hamburg, Germany on the eve of his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    World leaders are gathering in the city for a meeting of the Group of 20 economic powers.

    Trump spent the first half of the day in Poland, delivering a speech and holding a joint press conference with Poland’s president.

    He’s set to meet later Thursday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and attend a Northeast Asia Security Dinner with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

    The post Trump arrives in Germany for G20 summit appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Pipeline fighters in tree-sits occupy the remaining white pines on the Gerhart’s land. Photo by Mark Scialla

    Last spring, Elise Gerhart and her mother Ellen heard chainsaw motors revving in the woods behind their southern Pennsylvania home. Pipeline workers had returned to finish clear-cutting a patch of the Gerhart’s 27-acre forest. The two women, joined by other activists, raced into the woods, and Elise climbed 40-feet high into a 100-year-old white pine. Cutting that tree would have brought her down with it. The workers were forced to stop.

    A year later, only three of the hundreds of trees remain in a three-acre clearing of stumps and logs. Forts suspended from the branches of these trees block new work in the woods. It was last year that the Gerharts first put out a call for help to stop a natural gas liquids project planned to pass under a wetland and forest on their property in Huntingdon County. The Gerhart’s land, now known by activists as Camp White Pine, has since become another front in the handful of pipeline battles occurring across the continent, many of which were inspired by the movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline last year.

    The Gerhart’s home about 200 feet from the Mariner East 2 easement. Photo by Abbey Oldham

    The battle over the Gerhart’s land is part of the national debate over energy and fossil fuels. Pennsylvania voters supported President Trump’s agenda to revive the coal industry, expand fracking and natural gas infrastructure, but by a narrow margin of less than 50,000 votes. President Trump’s energy agenda is lauded in a region that has lagged the nation in post-recession recovery. But some state residents suspect their water has been contaminated by fracking, and families concerned about the danger of increased energy production are standing off in town halls and local courts against the energy industry.

    After Ellen Gerhart and her husband bought their land in 1983, they enrolled in a state conservation program and made a commitment to not develop the forest.

    “The health issues from fossil fuels or the environmental damage from leaks or installation — that starts from the get go,” said Ellen Gerhart, a 62-year-old retired special education teacher who takes karate three nights a week and considers “The Art of War” “required” reading. “If you take the money, you’re saying, ‘OK, we’ll take the money and you take the environment.’ And there is a part of me that just can’t do that.”

    The project cutting through the Gerhart’s property is Mariner East II, a 350-mile-long expansion to a series of pipelines that would carry natural gas liquids from the Utica and Marcellus Shale plays in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio to be processed and exported near Philadelphia. Sunoco Logistics, the developer building the pipeline, needs three acres of the Gerhart’s land. But the family won’t allow it.

    Sunoco Logistics is using eminent domain to build on the Gerhart’s land despite the opposition. In Pennsylvania, pipeline companies are regulated like public utilities, meaning they can take private property for projects as long as they provide a public good. Mariner East II was initially planned to export natural gas liquids to Europe, but after a 2014 lower court ruling questioned the project’s benefit to Pennsylvanians, Sunoco added two propane terminals in the state. The company says the additional propane terminals are necessary to meet new market demand.

    A truck carrying pipe for the Mariner East 2 project idles on the road near Camp White Pine. Photo by Abbey Oldham

    “This need was demonstrated during the polar vortex of 2013-2014 when there were propane shortages throughout the northeast, including Pennsylvania,” Jeffrey Shields, a Sunoco Logistics spokesperson said.

    Shields also said the company plans to ship ethane to a power generation facility in Cambria County, Pennsylvania, that is slated to be operational by 2019. Two courts have upheld Sunoco’s authority to invoke eminent domain.

    Governments often use eminent domain for highways, buildings or other projects intended for public use. But state and federal regulators can grant eminent domain use to private companies. Pipeline developers were first authorized to use eminent domain just before the U.S. entered World War II. That never changed after the war ended.

    People at Camp White Pine are young and scruffy and prefer the country to the city. Dusty and smelling like pine sap, they wear camouflage hats, work boots, overalls and bandanas on their faces. They use aliases instead of real names. Most avoid cameras and interviews to hide their numbers and identities. They say they have good reason — documents leaked to The Intercept showed the pipeline company used a private security firm with a background in counterterrorism to monitor resistance to the Mariner East II system.

    Resistance to Mariner East II has drawn people from across the country to support the Gerharts. Some at Camp White Pine are veterans of other pipeline fights. They see the camps as part of a broader struggle to defend the environment and the rights of rural and indigenous people.

    Josh Michener, also called “Turtle,” is the camp cook. He prepares meals from food that’s donated or dumpstered. He’s cooked at kitchens in Standing Rock and six other pipeline resistance camps around the country since leaving his Idaho home in November. “The real reason I’m doing this is that I have an 11-year-old daughter,” Michener said. “I don’t want her to have to pay for water at a pump like gasoline.”

    In each of the three trees hangs a wooden fort with a tarp roof. The platforms sway lightly with movement or strong wind. Getting up the tree requires a wobbly 10-minute climb up a thin rope. Inside is just enough room for two to sleep facing east above the forest canopy. Each tree-sit is connected to the other by traverse lines for transporting food, supplies and people. If one tree were to be cut down, it would rip a sitter in another tree to the ground. Food and books are stockpiled to wait out a police siege, and the bases of the trees are wrapped in chicken wire to thwart chainsaws. From their perch, the protesters watch over the woods, an ear to the workers’ radios and an eye on construction about a half-mile away.

    Pipeline fighters in tree-sits occupy the remaining white pines on the Gerhart’s land.
    Photo by Abbey Oldham

    In 2015, the Gerharts refused a cash offer from Sunoco. The company took control of their land anyway. They’ve grappled with the company in court ever since. Last month, a judge denied their appeal against Sunoco’s use of eminent domain. The last legal hope is an appeal to the state Supreme Court.

    “If you don’t stand up against bullies, they keep on doing what they’re doing,” Ellen Gerhart said.

    When the workers first came to open the forest, they found Elise and her allies dangling from the tree branches. They cut around the tree-sitters instead, clearing most of the three acres. Ellen Gerhart says she and two others were arrested while warning about the danger of cutting too close to her daughter in the tree. They were charged with disorderly conduct. One person was held on $200,000 bail.

    The company and police came back a week later and without notice. Elise, Ellen and their allies tried again to stop them. In a repeat of the previous week, Elise was in a tree, the workers couldn’t finish and the police charged Elise’s mom and one other, and later Elise, with contempt of a court order. Ellen says she was placed in isolation for three days with no contact to a lawyer, according to her public comment to Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection. All charges were later dropped. This past April, Huntingdon County Judge George Zanic granted Sunoco Logistics a “writ of possession,” which enables it to have the Gerharts arrested for trespassing on their own property. On Thursday, Zanic ordered the family and other activists off the easement.

    Pennsylvania is one of several states where lawmakers are looking to up the penalties for pipeline fighters. Sen. Scott Martin is seeking co-sponsors for a bill that would pass law enforcement response costs onto protesters if they are convicted for rioting or demonstrating. Martin represents Lancaster County, where an action camp on private property was built in the path of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. In May, he invited North Dakota officials who policed the anti-Dakota Access Pipeline movement to brief Lancaster County first responders on preparing for protests.

    And in April, state Sen. Mike Regan introduced a bill that would make it a felony to trespass onto oil, gas and other infrastructure facilities with the intent to damage or disrupt. A conviction would carry two years in prison and a minimum $10,000 fine, which would apply also to anyone conspiring to trespass. More than a dozen states have recently introduced legislation targeting mass protests. Bills in Colorado, South Dakota, North Dakota and Oklahoma were drafted in response to oil and gas infrastructure protesters.

    Elise Gerhart and her mother Ellen have fought Mariner East 2 in the courts and in the trees.

    Ellen and Elise Gerhart invited protesters to occupy their own property to stop the Mariner East II pipeline in Pennsylvania. Photos by Mark Scialla

    For two years, the Gerharts have stood against Sunoco. They say the pipeline is dangerous for them and the environment. “We started really doing some research on this company and on the product it was carrying,” Ellen Gerhart says. “The more research you do, the worse the picture gets.”

    Natural gas liquids are byproducts of oil and natural gas production. They include propane, butane, ethane and pentane, which are used for heating and cooking, fuel blends or plastics. Like natural gas, they are also poisonous and explosive. A leak could create a fireball or an invisible, odorless cloud of deadly vapor that can travel for miles. The Gerharts don’t want to take a chance. Their home is about 200 feet from Mariner East II’s path.

    Pipelines are safer than transporting fossil fuel products by rail or road. But when accidents do occur they can be disastrous. Not long after the Gerhart’s last confrontation with Sunoco, a Spectra Energy natural gas line exploded in northeastern Pennsylvania, blowing out a 12-foot deep and 1,500-square-foot crater. It torched 40 acres and left a 26-year-old man with third degree burns on more than 75 percent of his body. Sunoco Logistics has one of the worst records for oil spills among pipeline companies, a Reuters analysis found.

    Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Sunoco Logistics, developed the Rover Pipeline in Ohio. It leaked more than two million gallons of drilling fluid into a wetland in April. The Dakota Access Pipeline also leaked before going online.

    Shields says those spills resulted in little to no harm to the public, and that the Mariner East II project meets or exceeds federal safety regulations.

    “We continually work to ensure and improve the safety of our pipeline systems, and Mariner East includes multiple layers of safety to protect our neighbors, our workers and the environment,” Shields said in an email, adding, “The Mariner East II project is strictly regulated for safety by both the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Sunoco Pipeline meets, and exceeds when possible, all federal safety standards for the construction and operation of the Mariner East II pipeline system.

    Mariner East II, planned as two pipelines, mostly follows the path of Mariner East I, a pipeline built in the 1930s that used to carry petroleum west from Sunoco’s Marcus Hook refinery near Philadelphia. Sunoco Logistics upgraded Mariner East I to carry natural gas liquids and reversed the flow east for export.

    Mariner East I was laid when there were fewer buildings nearby. There are now communities along that route. Last month, hundreds of students from Glenwood Elementary School in Media, Pennsylvania practiced emergency drills. The school is 650 feet away from where Mariner East II would go. If a leak ignited it could incinerate anyone within 700 feet, according to an independent hazard assessment of Mariner East II commissioned by a citizens’ group in Pennsylvania.

    Sunoco’s safety promises raise questions. Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection rejected the project’s environmental permits several times, issuing a long list of corrective actions the company needed to take. In March, the DEP granted the permits despite dozens of deficiencies. The DEP said the permits came with “special conditions” that the company would have to meet during construction. “It’s showing that we didn’t just issued a blanket permit,” DEP spokesman, Neil Shader said.

    The Gerharts are going against one of the most controversial pipeline builders in the business. Energy Transfer Partners is the company that deployed counterterrorism tactics to overcome historic indigenous opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Oil now flows through that pipeline, but in the process inflamed a national anti-pipeline movement.

    In the United States, there are more than 31,000 miles of new and planned pipelines, driven in part by cheap oil and natural gas. Beginning in 2007, a natural gas boom in the state made Pennsylvania the country’s second largest producer. The industry says more pipelines are needed to ease a gas glut, and the White House has signalled its support. Since taking office, President Trump has approved the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, and he’s made it a priority to expedite more projects. Trump also nominated to the federal commission that regulates interstate pipelines a Pennsylvania Public Utilities commissioner who once compared anti-pipeline activists to jihadis.

    A pipeline fighter adjusts banners dropped on traverse lines between tree-sits. They read “You Shall Not Pass” and “No Mariner East 2.” Photo by Abbey Oldham

    As developers build more pipelines, landowners from Iowa to Louisiana increasingly grapple with eminent domain. But attitudes may be shifting. Georgia recently passed a law with bipartisan support that restricts oil companies’ use of eminent domain, and South Carolina is considering similar legislation. In Virginia, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a top issue in the governor’s race.

    Democrats typically view pipelines as an environmental issue, while Republicans are more concerned with property rights. This leaves conservatives from energy-abundant states in a bind. Energy infrastructure projects are job creators that are favored by both industry and unions, but some GOP members are against eminent domain takings, which affect their largely rural base.

    “People on both sides of the aisle have concerns,” said Carolyn Elefant, an eminent domain attorney. “I don’t see it as a party issue, but more of a philosophical issue on how people see infrastructure development.”

    Not everyone resists a pipeline on their land. Jeffrey Shields, the spokesman for Sunoco Logistics, said eminent domain is a last resort. Most easements get worked out. “Historically, our projects have successfully negotiated voluntary easement agreements on more than 90 percent of the properties through which we pass, throughout the country,” Shields said in an email. Still, Mariner East II is embroiled in about a dozen eminent domain lawsuits, according to attorneys.

    But just because a landowner settles with a company doesn’t mean it was an amicable deal. “They know most people can’t afford a lawyer to defend an eminent domain proceeding in court,” Alex Bomstein, a lawyer from the Clean Air Council, said. “People go along with Sunoco’s demands because they don’t have another choice.”

    Work on Mariner East 2 can be seen from the Gerhart’s property. Photo by Abbey Oldham

    While the Gerharts and others wait for work to resume, life has taken on a routine at Camp White Pine. Tents are pitched on a patch of grass in the Gerhart’s yard around a communal kitchen. They’ve built a stove that burns wood instead of propane. People rotate in and out of camp for weeks at a time. But a few are always there, tending to the garden, preparing meals or taking shifts in the tree-sits.

    Michener, the cook, heard about the camp on the internet. He said he stayed because it is better organized than the others. That might be because Elise Gerhart is determined to beat Sunoco Logistics. She probably wouldn’t call herself a leader, but she’s the reason Camp White Pine exists.

    Josh Michener, also called “Turtle,” prepares meals for Camp White Pine from dumpstered or donated food. He’s cooked at six other pipeline fights around the country. Photo by Abbey Oldham

    Moving through the campsite with a chirping walkie talkie in one hand and a cellphone connected to a battery pack in the other, Elise looks like she’s coordinating a weekend music festival. High in the tree, someone plays a violin.

    “It’s been over two years of heightened anxiety,” Elise said. “We’re not being treated like we matter, like our voices matter, like our lives matter, and it happens all over. No one is safe.”

    Construction on Mariner East II is ongoing despite the pending lawsuits. Floodlights keep the worksite illuminated at night. All day, there is the constant din of earthmoving machines, breaking only around lunchtime. The work can be seen from the trees at Camp White Pine, a front line moving closer each day.

    The post Activists occupy the trees to stop a Pennsylvania pipeline appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — America’s diplomats are struggling to figure out what mission the Trump administration expects them to carry out, and they see the importance of their jobs waning as President Donald Trump seeks drastic cuts to the budgets of the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development.

    The results of a survey commissioned by the State Department found a high level of confusion and demoralization among the ranks of career diplomats and civil servants who expressed concerns about their futures as well as the trajectory of American foreign policy. The survey results were released to State Department and USAID employees Wednesday in a 110-page report that was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. A copy of the report was obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was distributed to employees.

    The survey, conducted by a private consulting firm, was ordered in late April by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon Mobil CEO. Tillerson was brought into Trump’s administration in part due to his experience running a massive organization, and he was given a mission to reorganize the State Department. Tillerson has largely accepted the administration’s plans to slash diplomatic and development funding, although he faces intense bipartisan opposition in Congress, which will likely reverse at least some of his proposed 31 percent cut in funding. Such funds account for a little more than 1 percent of the federal budget.

    In addition to grave unease about the future, many of the 35,000 employees who responded to the survey complained about management culture, working conditions, uncertain performance goals and technological shortcomings that pre-date the Trump administration.

    “No one we interviewed said that the working environment at USAID or DOS enabled them to be successful;” the report’s authors said, using an acronym for the Department of State.

    But as Tillerson weighs sweeping changes, many employees also expressed doubts that he or Trump understand their role or appreciate their work, according to the report.

    One employee told interviewers he feared the agency would be overhauled “to save costs” without an understanding of what’s actually being cut.

    “Our leaders do not understand our mission and our capabilities,” said the employee, who like others in the report was not named.

    Tillerson, in a video message to employees accompanying the report’s release, sought to alleviate concerns that the survey was being used to justify major changes that Tillerson and Trump had decided upon long ago.

    “We began this process with no preconceived notions about the outcome,” said Tillerson. “Our goal is, and always has been, to address challenges to the way our department operates.”

    The survey comes as the roughly 75,000 workers employed globally by the State Department brace for what administration officials have indicated will be a far-reaching overhaul, involving job cuts, program eliminations and the expected consolidation of many offices in the agency’s sprawling bureaucracy. Trump’s budget proposal to Congress includes almost a one-third cut to Tillerson’s budget.

    Tillerson’s initial proposals for reorganizing the agency also included the elimination of about 2,300 jobs, though aides have suggested those would come through attrition and retirements and not necessarily through layoffs. The slow pace of filling key State Department jobs under Trump, including most assistant secretaries who oversee geographic regions, has also raised concerns that those positions may never be filled.

    Officials briefed on Tillerson’s plans have said he’s also considering merging the State Department and USAID, a notion that elicited particular concern in the survey. The report said employees had mixed opinions about how the agencies should be structured but were concerned that making USAID a division of the State Department would lead to foreign aid being overly politicized.

    Describing a lack of accountability, workers also said they were less efficient than they could be due to time-consuming requirements to have even basic decisions approved by numerous offices with differing interests, according to the report. Many said they spent so much time documenting what they were doing that they lacked the time to actually do it.

    “We spend hours generating reports that Congress demands, and then you hear from someone well-placed on (Capitol Hill) ‘we don’t actually read those reports,'” one worker said.

    Tillerson said the State Department’s leadership would keep listening to input as it starts “the next phase of transforming State and USAID for the future.” He said a steering committee led by Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan would work on those reforms over the next three to six months.

    More than 35,000 State Department and USAID workers took the survey, a participation rate of 43 percent, the authors said, while another 300 were interviewed. To conduct the survey, the State Department hired Insigniam Holding LLC, a management consulting firm.

    The post U.S. diplomats say they’re without mission and Trump budget would gut State Department appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo of former ethics director Walter Shaub. Photo courtesy of U.S. Office of Government Ethics

    Photo of former ethics director Walter Shaub. Photo courtesy of U.S. Office of Government Ethics

    The director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics is resigning.

    In a letter posted to Twitter on Thursday, Walter Shaub, a 2013 appointee of former President Barack Obama, said he would step down from his position July 19.

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

    Shaub wrote that in his absence the office would remain “committed to protecting the principle that public service is a public trust, requiring employees to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws, and the ethical principles above private gain.”

    Shortly before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the ethics chief criticized the way Trump transferred control of his business interests over to his sons. Shaub said Trump’s actions defied four decades of presidential precedent, regardless of party.

    READ MORE: White House wants to halt ethics office’s inquiry into ex-lobbyists in administration

    In May, Shaub’s office asked the Trump administration to reveal how many waivers it granted to ex-lobbyists it hired. The White House and Congressional Republicans pushed back, saying Obama granted 66 such waivers during his two terms in office, according to the Associated Press.

    “I have had the honor and privilege of serving the American public at the U.S. Office of Government Ethics under three presidents – George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump,” Shaub said in a statement about his departure. “In working with the current administration, it has become clear to me that we need improvements to the existing ethics program. I look forward to working toward that aim at Campaign Legal Center, as well as working on ethics reforms at all levels of government.”

    The post Ethics director, vocal critic of Trump administration, to step down appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Maine Governor Paul LePage testifies before a U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing to review draft legislation on hydropower, on Capitol Hill in Washington May 13, 2015.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

    Maine Governor Paul LePage testifies before a U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing to review draft legislation on hydropower, on Capitol Hill in Washington May 13, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst – RTX1CT1C

    AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s governor is lashing out at media reports he planned to leave the state during a budget impasse, and he suggested he makes up stories to mislead reporters.

    Republican Gov. Paul LePage criticized the news media for reporting that he planned to leave the state while state government is shut down.

    The news stories were based on LePage’s comments to two Republican senators. His office described the reports as “fake news.”

    LePage told WGAN-AM on Thursday: “I just love to sit in my office and make up ways so they’ll write these stupid stories because they are just so stupid, it’s awful.”

    He also characterized the Maine media as “vile,” ”inaccurate” and “useless.” He says “the sooner the print press goes away, the better society will be.”

    The post Maine governor says ‘the sooner print press goes away, the better society will be’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Biologists working in Mali, which has overrun west African villages, also doubles as a buffet and haven for mosquitoes. Photo by Dinesh Valke/via Flickr

    Biologists working in Mali found an invasive mesquite tree, which has overrun African villages, also doubles as a buffet and haven for mosquitoes. Photo by Dinesh Valke/via Flickr

    Trim a tree, save a life. Biologists working in Mali are proposing an unorthodox strategy to rein in malaria: gardening.

    The team found the flowers of an invasive tree, which has overrun African villages, can double as a buffet for mosquitoes. Their calls for extra horticulture to eliminate these havens, published Tuesday in Malaria Journal, could halve malaria-carrying mosquito populations and provide a new income source for villagers.

    Villages with the invasive flowering tree had four- to seven times more sugar-fed mosquitoes than villages without the tree.

    Malaria, a parasite transmitted by female Anopheles mosquitoes, infects up to 300 million people each year. Toddlers are particularly susceptible to the disease, with more than two-thirds of malaria deaths occurring in those under the age of five. The World Health Organization lists mosquito control as the best way to prevent the disease.

    But malaria-carrying mosquitoes feed on more than just blood — and this hunger can be exploited. “Mosquitos obtain most of their energy needs from plant sugars taken from the nectar of flowers,” Gunter Muller, a biologist from Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School said in a press release.

    Prosopis juliflora, a large perennial shrub, grows up to 40 feet tall. The tree is native to Central and South America, but now occupies millions of acres in Africa, including countries such as Mali, Chad, Niger, Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya. Photo by Muller et al., Malaria Journal, 2017

    Prosopis juliflora, a large perennial shrub, grows up to 40 feet tall. The tree is native to Central and South America, but now occupies millions of acres in Africa, including countries such as Mali, Chad, Niger, Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya. Photo by Muller et al., Malaria Journal, 2017

    Muller’s team knew a spiny, invasive mesquite tree — Prosopis juliflora — flourishes in Mali villages. Its flowers provide abundant sweet nectar to insects, particularly during the dry season when native trees are not in bloom. Introduced to the area 30 years ago from Central and South America to reduce deforestation and provide construction materials and firewood, Prosopis juliflora became rampant in its new environment. Now, it overtakes crop and pastureland, prompting villagers to abandon their fields.

    Muller suspected more nectar means more and longer-living mosquitoes, but, no one had checked for sure. Could cutting off the mosquitoes’ non-blood food supply curb the bugs?

    So, Muller’s team took a head count. The scientists trapped mosquitoes in nine villages in central Mali every night for close to a week. They compared average mosquito population numbers and the sugar content in the mosquitoes’ guts from villages with and without the invasive tree. Villages with the invasive flowering tree had four- to seven times more sugar-fed mosquitoes than villages without the tree.

    The risk for catching malaria increases in places with older female mosquitoes, so the researchers evaluated the ages of the bugs they caught. Villages with the flowering invasive plant had about six times more of these older females than villages without the tree.

    “By introducing mesquite trees in these areas, [humans] may have inadvertently and massively increased the potential mosquito risk,” Karl Malamud-Roam, manager of Interregional Research 4, a public health pesticide program, and ecologist at Rutgers University, who was not involved in the study, said.

    Without the flowers, the Anopheles mosquito population dropped by nearly 60 percent.

    After this initial mosquito population survey, the team cut the flowering branches from the trees in three of the villages and made a re-count. Without the flowers, the Anopheles mosquito population dropped by nearly 60 percent.

    Male mosquitoes took a particular punch in the gut. While the female mosquito population bombed by five-fold, the male mosquito population plummeted by eight-fold. The older female mosquitoes were also hard hit, dropping by three-fold.

    “It’s a bit of a wake up call…The results are really quite dramatic,” Dan Strickman, a medical entomologist at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who was not involved in the study, said. “It’s hard to argue that the presence of flowering mesquite trees are not a positive influence for important malaria vectors.”

    Removing this sugary food source may not only shift areas from high- to low-risk malaria status, but could also recover agricultural and pasture lands the invasive tree had taken over.

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    Malamud-Roam said questions remain about the full scope of this tactic. There are limited resources for mosquito control, and a large-scale effort to remove Prosopis juliflora trees would require a lot of money and people power. Plus, “there are two proven tools with large-scale acceptance in malaria control– treated nets and indoor residual spray,” Malamud-Roam said.

    But, “we need to think hard about the landscape and whether it’s changing, and whether that matters,” Malamud-Roam said. “Habitat manipulation may be as or more important than anything else you can do to reduce the frequency of biting from malaria infected mosquitoes.”

    The post Trimming these invasive flowers could help curb malaria appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An international passenger arrives at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia after the Supreme Court granted parts of the Trump administration's emergency request to put its travel ban into effect later in the week pending further judicial review. Photo by James Lawler Duggan/Reuters

    An international passenger arrives at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia after the Supreme Court granted parts of the Trump administration’s emergency request to put its travel ban into effect later in the week pending further judicial review. Photo by James Lawler Duggan/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The State Department says the U.S. refugee admissions program won’t be suspended until next week and has told resettlement agencies to continue scheduling arrivals through then.

    The department said Thursday that arrivals can continue until July 12, when a cap of 50,000 refugee admissions for the current fiscal is expected to be reached. Once the cap is hit, only refugees with a close relationship with a person or business in the United States will be eligible for admission. As of Thursday morning, admissions for fiscal 2017 stood at 49,501.

    After the Supreme Court last month partially upheld the Trump administration’s travel ban for citizens of six mainly Muslim countries and portions of a suspension in refugee admissions, resettlement agencies were initially told to schedule arrivals only through July 6.

    WATCH: Trump’s travel ban, reinstated but restricted, will raise questions about who can enter U.S.

    The post U.S. says refugee admissions won’t be suspended until July 12 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A "NO I.C.E." (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) sign seen on a pedestrian overpass crossing a freeway in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

    A “NO I.C.E.” (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) sign seen on a pedestrian overpass crossing a freeway in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Thursday questioned whether some so-called sanctuary cities responded honestly when asked whether they follow the law on sharing the citizenship status of people in their custody with federal immigration authorities.

    In a strongly worded statement, the department said some of the 10 jurisdictions under scrutiny insist they are compliant with the law, while they defiantly refuse to cooperate with efforts to detain and deport immigrants living in the country illegally. The Justice Department said it was reviewing policies of the jurisdictions to determine whether they should lose some federal grant money for failing to prove they are adhering to federal immigration law.

    The cities include New York, Chicago, New Orleans and Philadelphia, which said in its letter to the department that the city was adhering to the law even while refusing to collect information on residents’ immigration statuses.

    Also on the list are two states — California and Connecticut — along with Miami-Dade County in Florida; Cook County in Illinois; Milwaukee County in Wisconsin; and Clark County in Nevada.

    The cities were singled out last year by the department’s inspector general for having rules that hinder the ability of local law enforcement to communicate with federal officials about the immigration status of people they have detained. The cities disagreed with that assessment, saying their rules comport with the specific section of federal law that bars municipalities from forcing local officials to keep certain information from federal immigration authorities.

    “They are having it both ways now,” said Leon Fresco, who led the Justice Department’s Office of Immigration Ligation during the Obama administration. “The cities are saying, we will not in any way do anything that affirmatively increases the amount of immigration enforcement that is occurring in our city. Having said that, if a federal official asks us for information, we will provide this information.”

    The move was the latest by the Trump administration to crack down on locations that have been characterized as sanctuary cities.

    Associated Press writer Errin Haines Whack in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

    READ MORE: Cities, states move to calm fear of deportation

    The post DOJ questions whether some sanctuary cities are complying with immigration law appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    MEXICAN FORMER GRANDE AS WORKED AS A GUEST WORKER IN THE US SPEAKS DURING A INTERVIEW WITH REUTERS IN TLAXCALA. Mexican farmer Pedro Grande, who worked as a guest worker in the United States picking cotton and vegetables between 1955-66, speaks during a interview with Reuters in his home in Tlaxcala, Mexico, March 4, 2004. Grande, is one of thousands of "braceros", or laborers from "brazo," the Spanish word for arm, who are demanding compensation from the program which was created to fill a U.S. labor shortage in 1940s to the 1960s. The "braceros" say that 10 percent of their salaries was withheld and deposited in government bank accounts to be distributed later but they never received it. U.S. President George W. Bush in January proposed a program to allow immigrants, most of them Mexicans, to win a three-year temporary work permit. Photo taken March 4, 2004. FOR RELEASE WITH STORY BC-MEXICO-USA REUTERS/Henry Romero - RTRIFW9

    Mexican farmer Pedro Grande worked as a guest worker in the United States picking cotton and vegetables between 1955 to 1966. In March 4, 2004, when this photo was taken, Grande, along with thousands of others, was demanding compensation from the bracero program. Photo Henry Romero/Reuters

    Editor’s Note: Tonight’s Making Sen$e broadcast story is about Utica, New York, the Rust Belt city, which bills itself as “the town that loves refugees” and has rebounded economically by welcoming immigrants, many of them Muslim.

    But Utica is the proverbial exception that proves the rule: immigration has become a hot button topic across America. So what do we do about the immigration in the U.S.? How does immigration play into the negotiation of NAFTA, for example? What do we do about the millions of illegal immigrants already here?

    Hannah Carrese, a young scholar who has worked with refugees, most recently in Mexico, has a radical solution to many of these problems — returning America to a policy of the not-so-distant past: the bracero program.

    — Paul Solman, Economics Correspondent


    America and Europe have spent the past year eulogizing free trade agreements. Politicians, and in some cases voters, have become convinced that free trade means free migration, that free movement of goods inevitably leads to free movement of people.

    In the U.K., Brexit voters knew that to remain part of the EU’s single market would be to accept the EU’s permissive border policies. In the U.S., President Donald Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and has muddled his way to a similar idea as he pledges to renegotiate NAFTA: the U.S. does not want Mexico’s hombres, and the U.S. does not want Mexico’s goods.

    This linking of trade and migration makes sense in the European Union, where the “four freedoms” central to the Union’s founding treaties enshrine free movement of goods and free movement of people.

    Our country’s preeminent free trade agreement, the North American Free Trade Agreement, is predicated on the idea that free trade discourages migration — that if countries open their borders to goods, they won’t have to worry about closing them to people.

    But the link is less clear in the United States. Our country’s preeminent free trade agreement, the North American Free Trade Agreement, is predicated on the idea that free trade discourages migration — that if countries open their borders to goods, they won’t have to worry about closing them to people.

    NAFTA negotiators in the U.S. and Mexico agreed on this point as they crafted the treaty. In 1992, for example, Mexican President Carlos Salinas made clear his country’s aim in joining a North American free trade bloc: “we want,” he said, “to export goods, not people.” During a 1993 signing ceremony for NAFTA, former U.S. President Gerald Ford said much the same: “Defeat NAFTA and there will be a tremendous flow of Mexicans to the United States wanting jobs in the United States. We don’t want that. We want Mexicans to stay in Mexico so they can work in their home country.”

    Economists provided what seemed a common sense justification for this decoupling of free trade and free migration. If governments and markets and citizens behaved as expected under NAFTA, new factories and farms would spring up in Mexico, opening up new jobs. In this more competitive labor market, and in Mexico’s inevitably growing economy, wages would rise. Of course, Mexicans who had work and were paid well for doing this work would have no incentive to migrate north. Some scholars suggested that Mexican migration to the U.S. would surge as both economies adjusted to new trade patterns. They were sure, however, that this “migration hump” would at its worst reach an apex by the mid-1990s. It would decline thereafter.

    But this vision of migration discouraged by free trade proved a mirage. During the 1990s, the population of Mexican nationals living in the U.S. more than doubled, to 9 million people. Migration, legal and illegal, from Mexico to the U.S. kept crescendoing through 2008.

    The reasons are clear. One real world effect of NAFTA was that foreign companies built factories primarily in northern Mexico, near the U.S. border. This left the rest of the country bereft of the jobs the treaty, and economists, promised. Another effect: imports like Kansas corn, cheap because the U.S. government subsidized them, inundated Mexico. Millions of farmers of this staple Mexican crop were pushed out of the market, out of their livelihood and often out of their homes. Plans for these sometime corn farmers to become strawberry farmers — occupying a new niche in a new economy — never materialized. Nor did the ambitious infrastructure and development programs promised by Mexico’s government as a method for keeping Mexicans in Mexico.

    If NAFTA had not been ratified, would President Ford have proved prophetic? Would the flow of migrants north have been even more tremendous? Perhaps, although we are ill-equipped to tackle this “what if.” But 23 years into NAFTA, we can be sure of this: Presidents Salinas and Ford, and their contemporaries, were premature in pronouncing the decoupling of trade and migration.

    It should, then, be no surprise that the “new world order” vaunted by George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, the American presidents who negotiated NAFTA, seems also to be failing. NAFTA was, after all, fundamental to Bush and Clinton’s idea of an American-led liberal system of peaceful commerce and international law. Echoing presidential rhetoric, Henry Kissinger wrote in the summer of 1993 that “NAFTA will represent the most creative step toward a new world order by any group of countries since the end of the Cold War, and the first step toward an even larger vision of a free-trade zone for the entire Western Hemisphere.” NAFTA was the contract pledging that the U.S. would construct a new international order after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    Unlike Presidents Bush and Clinton, who worked to level walls, President Trump lauds them.

    Donald Trump — elected president 28 years to the day after the wall was ruptured — will now renegotiate NAFTA in pursuit of another “new world order.” Unlike Presidents Bush and Clinton, who worked to level walls, President Trump lauds them. And once again, questions of trade seem inseparable from those of migration. The manifestation of the Bush/Clinton vision was the successful — although tardy — U.S. intervention to quell a refugee crisis in Bosnia. The impetus for Trump’s vision is in large part a global population of displaced people that has now crested 65 million. These migrants and asylum-seekers are, rightly or wrongly, scaring citizens from Moscow, Russia to Moscow, Idaho.

    Therefore, as we renegotiate NAFTA, U.S. politicians and citizens must ask: Is Trump — and are Brexit voters — right? Must we restrict trade in order to restrict migration? How much should we aim to restrict either?

    In the U.K., the hope that migration and trade can be decoupled persists, tenaciously if tenuously. Brexit negotiators will work for a deal that allows Britain to restrict immigration while retaining access to the EU’s free trade zone. It is not at all clear they will succeed.

    But North Americans should develop a healthier, and a more realistic, answer to these questions. We should recognize the link between trade and migration and craft a new NAFTA, one guided not by the Bush/Clinton new world order but by an older world order, built on this continent during the 1940s: the bracero program.

    In need of labor during World War II, U.S. officials reversed a decade of policy hostile to Mexican guest workers and established what became known as the bracero (or manual laborer) program. Mexican migrants worked during the growing season on sugar beet, lettuce, asparagus, grape farms in the U.S. During the winter, they returned home to build houses, celebrate weddings or bury family members. They worked in the United States and lived in Mexico.

    By Oregon State University [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

    Photo by Oregon State University, via Wikimedia Commons

    Programs like this may sound scary to some, conjuring the semi-slavery of foreign workers in oil-rich states. But is economic migration just for the rich — those who can afford visas and immigration lawyers, who can make investments and buy expensive houses to earn legal passage to a new country?

    In the U.S., braceros were promised a regulated economy: a minimum wage, decent living conditions, food, housing. Under the H2A visa program, the much smaller modern iteration of the bracero program, guest workers are paid wages higher than the state minimum in an effort to ensure that they aren’t “cheap labor,” taking jobs from Americans. Companies must apply for permits to hire workers, to show both that the workers are needed and that they will be cared for in the U.S.

    Mexican officials have long been amenable to this kind of program. Presidents George Bush and Vicente Fox discussed establishing a bracero-like initiative before 9/11. In 2016, the Mexican ambassador to the U.S. — now Mexico’s Subsecretary for North America, working to set policy on NAFTA — said of the end of bracero: “the circular migration of the past was broken, and that’s when the problems began … we need to re-establish the movement.”

    In fact, Mexico has instituted a guest worker program for citizens of Belize and Guatemala at its own southern border. This program is a component of Mexico’s Southern Border Plan, a 2014 border enforcement law supported by $70 million from the Obama administration. President Trump and Congress should view a new guest worker program in the U.S. as implying the same compromise envisioned in Mexico’s Southern Border Plan: more leeway for legal migration coupled with better enforcement of laws against illegal migration. (Of course, the program should also avoid some of its previous faults. Ten percent of braceros’ salaries were deducted and given to the Mexican government to pass on to workers, but many laborers never received the pay and fought for years for proper compensation. The braceros were eventually paid under a 2008 settlement.)

    This means that we should structure a new guest worker program so that Mexicans living without documents in the U.S. are immediately eligible.

    President Trump should not expect most Mexicans now living without documents in the U.S. to “self-deport” — to return south to Mexico voluntarily. At the end of 2014, 78 percent of the 5.5 million undocumented Mexicans had lived in the U.S. for 10 or more years. These migrants who have made the U.S. their home over a decade or more are not the kind of migrants who typically return to Mexico. The Mexican government reported that from 2009 to 2014, migrants returning to Mexico had lived in the U.S. for an average of just over a year.

    This means that we should structure a new guest worker program so that Mexicans living without documents in the U.S. are immediately eligible. To do this would be to recognize an informal migration cycle that already exists in most U.S.-Mexico border towns. Many Mexican nationals living along the border pass frequently between the United States and Mexico. Good “border shoppers” know what to buy in Mexico and in the U.S. In Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, for example, milk, eggs and doctor’s appointments are cheaper than in U.S. And Mexicans seek luxury goods north of the border: when a Coach outlet opened in El Paso recently, it was flooded by Chihuahuans who came to buy handbags.

    Comprehensive immigration reform has become a chimera in U.S. politics — exotic and interesting, but impossible. This is in part because there seems no way to begin. Do we start with border enforcement? With amnesty? With deportations? With a work program?

    None of these front doors to changing U.S. immigration policy have worked. We should acknowledge the link between trade and migration and try a side door — a NAFTA built around a U.S.-Mexico guest worker program.

    The slogan for this new NAFTA, founded in old North American policies, is simple: rather than free trade, free movement — fair trade, fair movement.

    The post Column: The radically old-fashioned solution for America’s immigration crisis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    An illegal Salvadoran migrant couple is seen on railway track with their son Andrew, six months, during the arrival of the "Caravana de Madres Centroamericanas" (Caravan of Central American Mothers) to Huehuetoca October 26, 2012. Picture taken October 26, 2012. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/Files - RTSDPEN

    An illegal Salvadoran migrant couple is seen on railway track with their son during the arrival of the “Caravana de Madres Centroamericanas” (Caravan of Central American Mothers). Photo by REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File

    Editor’s Note: In her first Making Sen$e post on the immigration crisis that accompanies tonight’s Making Sen$e broadcast story on Utica, New York, “the town that loves refugees,” scholar and refugee worker Hannah Carrese made the case for America returning to a discarded policy of the past: the guest worker bracero program, inaugurated in the 1940s.

    In this post, she suggests a solution to what may be the greatest immigration crisis America faces: a tsunami of refugees fleeing the violence of failing states in Central America.

    — Paul Solman, Economics Correspondent


    Twenty years ago, when NAFTA was ratified, North Americans could profitably speak about two kinds of migrants: economic migrants and displaced people. The first was a personification of commerce — migrants who chose to leave home and travel where there was a demand to which they could supply a solution. The second was the human face of violence — refugees forced to leave their homes to travel to a place where their lives are not threatened. These categories seemed clear in North America in large part because a few years before NAFTA was signed, both the U.S. and Mexico had established robust refugee programs for Central Americans fleeing violent revolutions in their countries.

    The real migration problem we face in North America isn’t Mexican migrants seeking jobs in the United States. Rather, it’s Central Americans (and now Venezuelans) fleeing violence in their countries and seeking asylum in Mexico or the U.S.

    But we’ve collapsed the distinction between economic migrants and displaced people in recent years. Many on the left contend that the inability to feed one’s family — the deep poverty that we once thought produced only economic migration — kills just the same as a barrel bomb. Many on the right see migrants, even those recognized as refugees, as economic opportunists, benefiting from strong labor markets, supposedly generous entitlement programs and lax border controls in rich Western democracies. But this collapsing of categories, on the right and left, has not served the world well. We see now the awful human costs of an international legal order that does not, will not, guide and modulate human migration.

    In addition to opening a door to regulated, cyclical migration from Mexico, that is, the United States should seek to reestablish another old order — these categories of economic migration and forced migration. We should begin by recognizing this fact: During the past five years, Mexico-U.S. migration has actually operated in reverse. More Mexicans are returning south to Mexico than are coming north to the U.S.

    The southward movement of Mexican nationals makes clear that the real migration problem we face in North America isn’t Mexican migrants seeking jobs in the United States. Rather, it’s Central Americans (and now Venezuelans) fleeing violence in their countries and seeking asylum in Mexico or the U.S. Twenty-two thousand of these Central Americans are expected to apply for refugee status in Mexico during 2017, up from just over a thousand in 2012.

    A mural at Mexico City's Casa Refugiados (Refugee House) depicts Central American asylum-seekers gazing across the Suchiate River toward Mexico. Photo by Hannah Carrese

    A mural at Mexico City’s Casa Refugiados (Refugee House) depicts Central American asylum seekers gazing across the Suchiate River toward Mexico. Photo by Hannah Carrese

    Mexico is not prepared to handle this influx of asylum seekers. Migrant shelters in Mexico are already overflowing. In Puebla, the Red Cross and various Catholic churches are opening new shelters to house increasing numbers of Central Americans who have taken trains to and through this central Mexican state. In Mexico City, asylum seekers from Central America and from Africa are being placed in increasingly marginal housing. This spring, a Somali refugee told me, “Never in my life have I seen such a place as this, and I was in Dadaab” — a complex in Kenya that forms the world’s largest refugee camp — “for 25 years.”

    We should expect many of these asylum seekers to show up at the U.S. border during the next decade, much as asylum seekers have flocked to Europe during this decade.

    We should expect many of these asylum seekers to show up at the U.S. border during the next decade, much as asylum seekers have flocked to Europe during this decade. It is in our self-interest to recognize that displaced people are unlike economic migrants in that they do not choose to migrate — they are forced out by violence from which their governments cannot protect them. If we want to keep these displaced people from seeking safety in North America, in the U.S. and Mexico, we must proactively help countries in South and Central America to develop better governments and economies.

    President Obama gestured toward these problems after thousands of Central American children came alone to our southern border in 2014. But his policies were reactive: He allowed more Central Americans to be recognized as refugees in the U.S. and directed U.S. officials to make asylum determinations in Central America before asylum seekers made the dangerous trek through Mexico. Truly confronting North America’s Central American migration crisis requires new strategy.

    A man stares into the window of the Mexico City building that houses Mexico's Commission for the Aid of Refugees (COMAR). Photo by Hannah Carrese

    A man stares into the window of the Mexico City building that houses Mexico’s Commission for the Aid of Refugees (COMAR). Photo by Hannah Carrese

    The U.S. is properly wary of involvement in Central America: Our government provoked the violent revolutions that produced mass displacement in the region during the 1980s. But our circumstances are not entirely different now. The gangs now terrorizing El Salvador and Honduras formed in the U.S. and were exported to Central America by Salvadorans and Hondurans deported from the U.S. in the 1990s and 2000s. Our failures of the 20th century should help guide our policy in the 21st.

    Instead of influencing national politics in Central America, our aid and advice should be intensely local: 24-hour courts and youth centers and community policing in high-violence neighborhoods. A 2013 survey found that in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, “crime victimization is lower and public perception of security is higher” in communities where USAID has done this kind of intensive development work. We should emphasize programs introducing young people — who, in Latin America, display a record lack of interest in political participation and leadership — to politics as a means for change.

    If we want to keep these displaced people from seeking safety in North America, in the U.S. and Mexico, we must proactively help countries in South and Central America to develop better governments and economies.

    Instead of secret regime-toppling, our open aim should be institution-building. An institution with which we might start is CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Patterned after NAFTA, it seeks to create partnerships between the United States and Central American countries that are poor in part because they are too small to function on their own in a global economy. Economists — and the World Bank and the World Trade Organization — seem to agree that free trade can be a powerful tool for poverty relief. And lifting people from poverty has been linked to reductions in cyclical violence. This is worth a try in Central America.

    President Trump made clear in a February address to Congress that “the only long-term solution for … humanitarian disasters, in many cases, is to create the conditions where displaced persons can safely return home and begin the long, long process of rebuilding.” His administration might begin to make good on this idea in Central America, where conditions are not yet so bad as to precipitate the kind of displacement we now see, for example, in Syria.

    This, after all, would be an America First policy — one that recognizes that the United States is not the only “American” nation and that the people and problems we ignore abroad will, now or in other decades, find us here.

    The post Column: Let’s put ‘America First’ by averting a Central American migrant crisis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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

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

    GLASGOW, Ky. — A bill focused on buttressing the nation’s insurance marketplaces will be needed if the full-fledged Republican effort to repeal much of President Barack Obama’s health care law fails, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday. It was one of his most explicit acknowledgments that his party’s top-priority drive to erase much of Obama’s landmark 2010 statutes might fall short.

    The remarks by McConnell, R-Ky., also implicitly meant that to show progress on health care, Republicans controlling the White House and Congress might have to negotiate with Democrats. While the current, wide-ranging GOP health care bill — which McConnell is still hoping to push through the Senate — has procedural protections against a Democratic Senate filibuster, a subsequent, narrower measure would not and would take 60 votes to pass.

    The existing bill would fail if just three of the 52 Republicans vote no, since all Democrats oppose it. McConnell was forced to cancel a planned vote on the measure last week after far more Republicans than that objected, and he’s been spending the Independence Day recess studying possible changes that might win over GOP dissidents.

    “If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of action with regard to the private health insurance market must occur,” McConnell said at a Rotary Club lunch in this deep-red rural area in southern Kentucky. He made the comment after being asked if he envisioned needing bipartisan cooperation to replace Obama’s law.

    “No action is not an alternative,” McConnell said. “We’ve got the insurance markets imploding all over the country, including in this state.”

    Even as Republicans have struggled to write legislation they can pass, some have acknowledged that if they encountered problems, a smaller bill with quicker help for insurers and consumers might be needed. They’ve said it could include provisions continuing federal payments to insurers that help them contain costs for lower-earning customers, and some inducements to keep healthy people buying policies — a step that helps curb premiums.

    Trump, McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and other Republicans have all said Obama’s law is failing, citing markets around the country where insurers have pulled out or sharply boosted premiums.

    Democrats acknowledge Obama’s law needs changes that would help curb the growth of health care costs. But they say the GOP is exaggerating the problem and note that several insurers have attributed their decisions to stop selling policies in unprofitable areas, in part, to indications from the Trump administration that it may halt federal payments to insurers that help them control costs for many customers.

    In its report last week on the Senate bill, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said that under Obama’s law, it expected health care markets “to be stable in most areas.”

    It said the same about the Senate legislation. But it also said under the GOP bill, 22 million added Americans would be uninsured because it would eliminate Obama’s tax penalty on people who don’t buy coverage and it would cut Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor, disabled and many nursing home patients.

    McConnell spoke hours after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said the bill’s prospects were “precarious.” Speaking on San Antonio’s KTSA Radio, Cruz said the GOP’s Senate majority “is so narrow, I don’t know if we can get it done or not.”

    Further qualms were voiced by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.

    “There are people who tell me they are better off” under Obama’s law, “and I believe them,” Moran said at a town hall meeting Thursday in Palco, Kansas. Moran, who’d said he could not support the current version of the bill, said health care is “almost impossible to solve” with the slim GOP majority in the Senate.

    Another Republican, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, suggested it may take some time before McConnell can win enough support for the GOP legislation.

    “We’re still several weeks away from a vote, I think,” Toomey said Wednesday during an hour-long appearance before a live studio audience at WHTM-TV in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

    AP reporter Marc Levy contributed from Harrisburg, John Hanna from Palco and Fram from Washington.

    WATCH: States need more flexibility from health care reform, says Arkansas governor

    The post If full Obamacare replacement fails, a limited bill will be needed, says McConnell appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    GEORGINA KLEEGE, Lecturer, UC Berkeley: It’s a common experience for people with disabilities to feel that they are being stared at or to notice they are being stared at. And in fact, blind people can feel that, too, a kind of collective intake of breath even if nobody says anything, you can tell when you attract attention.

    I am legally blind, I became legally blind, I was diagnosed when I was 11. I probably lost my vision gradually over a few years. I remember feeling that I wasn’t supposed to feel anything about it, because there wasn’t anything anybody could do.

    My complicated relationship with Helen Keller came from childhood. She was held up as this role model that she was deaf and blind, but she was always cheerful and she did well in school and you never heard her complain. I took this very personally. I took this as a reproach towards me.

    So I hated Helen Keller and I loved Helen Keller jokes and I, you know, told them with relish in the schoolyard. I started to wonder if I had been unfair to Helen Keller when I was a child. I ended up writing a book about her, which is a series of letters by me, to her, and she doesn’t write back because she’s dead. It’s basically me asking questions about different moments in her life and calling her out and asking her to explain herself. And so, it was a way for me to enter her life imaginatively.

    I tell my students all the time that they should tell their friends not to text while walking because I am always bumping into people who are texting while walking. And then they make themselves a hazard to blind people, because I am counting on all the other pedestrians to pay attention, to see me coming and to get out of my way.

    I think there is still discrimination in all sorts of arenas. There’s problems with access to Web sites and electronic media and so on and so forth, captioning, audio description. The technology exists, people know how to do this, but it’s not as if everything is made accessible.

    The problem is that people’s understanding of blindness is very limited. There’s the sort of joke scenario of a blind person coming to an intersection and somebody grabbing their arm and leading them across the street when in fact they wanted to go in a different direction. That’s never happened to me and I think part of it is jus that I tend to look like I know where I’m going.

    MALE: I would agree with that.

    (LAUGHTER)

    GEORGINA KLEEGE: My name is Georgina Kleege and this is my brief but spectacular take on blindness.

    The post Why I used to love making jokes about Helen Keller appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Chuck Berry was a pioneer in his field, often referred to as the father of rock ‘n’ roll who influenced a generation of musicians. Now, three months after his death at age 90, he’s back, in a way.

    Jeffrey Brown explains.

    (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

    JEFFREY BROWN: You know it when you hear it. Beginning in the mid-1950s, Chuck Berry helped define the sound and look, the attitude and raw power of rock ‘n’ roll. The man is now gone, but his music lives on, in a new album, titled “Chuck,” berry’s first album since 1979.

    He’d worked on the project off and on for several decades, and on his 90th birthday, five months before his death, had announced its imminent release.

    MALE: So, here’s one of his Cadillacs.

    MALE: Yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: I was joined recently by the star’s son Charles and grandson Charlie at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture for some personal memories of the man and his music.

    CHARLES BERRY, JR.: This was a guy when he was a little boy he sold vegetables off a cart with his father. This is a man that worked at a General Motors plant, not assembling the cars, but as a janitor. He heard from other people the significance that he brought to the table, but my — he didn’t really dwell on that.

    CHARLES BERRY III: I remember in elementary school, I’d have teachers coming up to me like, who’s your grandfather? I’d be like, Pa Pa. They were like, that’s so cool.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Did you have any idea who your grandfather was in history?

    CHARLES BERRY III: I always knew he played the guitar, but I didn’t think he was like this bigger than life person to everybody else because he was just pawpaw.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes. Oh, boy, did he play the guitar, huh?

    CHARLES BERRY III: Oh, yes.

    JEFFREY BROWN: In fact, both Charles and Charlie play the guitar and had the chance to play with Chuck. Charles is part of the band for many years. Since Chuck’s death, they’ve played on, here just recently promoting the new album on “The Tonight Show.”

    The album charts Chuck Berry’s life in stages, an autobiographical epitaph of sorts. In the song “Big Boys,” he returns to his childhood with the ambitions of a teenager, while “The Eyes of Man” describes the wisdom of women in his life.

    CHARLES BERRY JR.: It’s almost to the point that he was being philosophical over his life and letting everybody else knows, like, hey, from a wonderful woman to a big boy to an eye of a man, here’s my book. Here’s the next chapter of my life that you get to have, and I hope you enjoy it.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Berry continued to perform into his late ‘80s, including his renowned monthly gig at Blueberry Hill, a diner and music venue in his native St. Louis.

    ERIC CLAPTON: He’s really laid the law down for playing that kind of music.

    BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: When I’m 65 or 70, I’ve got to tell my grandkids. Yes, I met Chuck Berry. As a matter of fact, I backed up Chuck Berry one night. You did? Yes.

    LITTLE RICHARD: My favorite song with Chuck is all of ’em.

    JEFFREY BROWN: His influence is everywhere in rock music. The initial cultural jolt was jokingly portrayed in the 1985 hit movie, “Back to the Future.” And honored nine years later in” Pulp Fiction.”

    KEVIN STRAIT, Museum Curator: Rock and roll has such a firm place in our cultural memory.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Kevin Strait is a musical historian and curator at the museum.

    KEVIN STRAIT: He’s one of the primary sonic architects of rock and roll. So, he helped establish this art form that we all know and love, and that really sort of took over the world. Its helm really was this young musician from St. Louis. And, you know, he really sort of helped to sort of establish the template for how rock and roll should sound. You know, he’s a phenomenal guitar player, phenomenal showman.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Strait acquired objects from Berry for the museum’s musical crossroads collection, including this prized guitar.

    KEVIN STRAIT: This guitar is pretty special. It’s a Gibson ES-350T. I mean, it’s one of his early touring and recording guitars that he used, and it’s nicknamed Maybellene after his first hit.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, quite a first hit. Quite a name, right?

    (MUSIC)

    JEFFREY BROWN: And that red 1973 Cadillac Eldorado?

    Berry drove it on stage in 1986 for his 60th birthday and the filming of the documentary “Hail, Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll”. That was at the Fox Theater in St. Louis, which had denied him entry as a child because he was black.

    CHUCK BERRY: And my forefathers a few blocks away were sold on the civil courthouse steps, sold, and that’s a big change.

    CHARLES BERRY JR.: It was difficult, absolutely, but as opposed to, man, these white people are just, they’re playing me. My God, I can’t — nope. My dad took it as, oh, so you’re telling me I can’t go in the front of this venue to play in front of this crowd. OK, I’m going to keep writing my music. They’re going to change. I’m going to make it. I’m going to make a scenario where the people that are listening to my music are having such a blast that skin color becomes irrelevant.

    JEFFREY BROWN: How do you see what your grandfather, what he went through and what he achieved?

    CHARLES BERRY III: That you could go from selling out a packed house to then being told you can’t stay in this hotel room. That is like I that probably would have left me pretty bitter throughout the rest of my life. But I don’t know because what he’s done with his music and everything, it’s just that much more amazing because he was able to do it during that time.

    JEFFREY BROWN: A pioneering life that had dramatic ups and downs, for sure. Now, “Chuck” the album adds new music to what was already an enormous legacy.

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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The technology sector, and especially the start-up culture in Silicon Valley, has long been criticized for its record on diversity, gender and inclusion. Now, the spotlight is being shone a spotlight on the investors and funders in the valley.

    Here’s Hari Sreenivasan.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The scrutiny has intensified in recent weeks after two publications, “The Information” and “The New York Times,” documented how prominent venture capitalists had been accused of making unwanted sexual advances through texts, phone calls and physical intimidation. These powerful investors used their power to harass dozens of women in whose companies they might invest.

    It led to the resignation of Dave McClure, who was the CEO of tech incubator, 500 Startups. McClure apologized after he was accused of harassment by other women and wrote to a prospective employee, quote, I was getting confused figuring out whether to hire you or hit on you.

    Freada Kapor Klein is an entrepreneur and leading voice pushing companies to increase culture and diversity. Kapor Klein and her husband invest in several startups, including some funds run by 500 Startups. She joins me now from Oakland.

    So, Freada, you have been working on this for decades. Why are those two stories in the past couple of weeks resonating?

    FREADA KAPOR KLEIN, Founder, Level Playing Field Institute: Well, I think, finally, Silicon Valley is willing to look at itself and to recognize it may be on the leading edge of investing in tech. It’s certainly on the trailing edge of dealing with its own ecosystem, diversity and inclusion in particular.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Why is it —

    FREADA KAPOR KLEIN: Venture capital —

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Go ahead.

    FREADA KAPOR KLEIN: Pardon?

    I was going to say, venture capital is now looking at behaviors that it’s engaging in that were addressed on Wall Street more than 20 years ago.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: there aren’t exactly any stats on this, but how pervasive is it? I mean, you’ve started projects to include women and people of color to try to foster change in the pipeline and it’s important to point out that this isn’t just about gender. This is also about race and sexual orientation sometimes.

    FREADA KAPOR KLEIN: Exactly, and I think a term that’s a bit bulky but a very important concept, what we see is intersectionality, meaning we can have multiple identities. It’s important to point out that the women who told their stories to the information about binary capital and the women who came forward against Dave McClure in the “New York Times,” all of those were women of color, and talking about unwelcome advances from Caucasian men.

    So, we need to look at that racial dynamic as it’s layered in with the gender dynamic. And you’re absolutely right. It’s an abuse of power.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: One of the interesting things people point out about Uber is that there were so many different scandals where nothing happened to the CEO really until his big investors signed a letter and asked him to step down. It seems that money talks much louder here.

    FREADA KAPOR KLEIN: Unfortunately, money does talk much louder. I think we’ve hit an era in venture capital where greed is everything and it, again, mimics Wall Street in the 1990s where greed is good was a commonplace statement and, in fact, in a commencement speech.

    I think now we have to look at is the only thing that matters dollars? Is it the dollars that get invested in the entrepreneur? Is it the, quote-unquote, unicorn status meaning the billion-dollar evaluation of a startup? And when are we going to expand the ledger sheet to include how people are treated, to include how venture capital and startups behave as citizens of the communities and of the country.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: So, how do you change that dynamic for venture funding that’s all chasing those unicorns, they all want to get rich quick, they all want to fund the right startup that’s going to make billions and billions of dollars, and it seems that they’re almost enabling a culture that goes on because, hey, it’s all about profits?

    FREADA KAPOR KLEIN: Well, I think that’s right, and I think there are several groups that are going to need to join forces to make that change. The venture capital community itself has to say, wait a second, we aren’t with the bottom of the bottom here, and we need to work to clean up our own industry. But we also need to see the limited partners who invest in these venture funds need to start doing different kinds of due diligence, different kinds of demands about diversity and inclusion in the venture capital firm itself, in the companies that are funded and the values of the startups that are created.

    So, the limited partners can create a lot of change. The entrepreneurs themselves, one of the things we need to point out is that venture capital as currently constructed is leaving billions of dollars on the table because they’re overlooking underrepresented entrepreneurs who have great ideas and who can serve real communities’ real needs.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. Freada Kapor Klein joining us from Oakland tonight. Thanks so much.

    FREADA KAPOR KLEIN: Thank you.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: now, the Trump administration has set a lower refugee limit for the U.S. for this fiscal year. In the coming week, the U.S. will hit that ceiling of accepting 50,000 new refugees.

    The city of Utica, New York, has long taken a more welcoming approach. One out of every four citizens there is a refugee and the evidence is they’re helping revitalize the community.

    Paul Solman has our update. It’s part of his weekly series, “Making Sense.”

    (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

    PAUL SOLMAN: Post-industrial Utica, New York, upstate, downtrodden, and, in the heart of downtown, where the United Methodist Church used to be, a thriving mosque.

    In the world beyond Utica, the tide of refugees rises, the fear of foreigners swells. Muslim terrorists, real and imagined, haunt us.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.

    PAUL SOLMAN: President Trump’s calls for even a partial Muslim ban were repeatedly rebuffed in court, but the Supreme Court has now let some of it stand until it considers the ban’s legality this fall.

    But when we asked Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri if the city would be willing to resettle Syrian refugees —

    MAYOR ROBERT PALMIERI, Utica, New York: I would say, absolutely, we would be, because Utica starts with you. It’s as simple as that.

    PAUL SOLMAN: There’s the humanitarian aspect, of course, America’s historic promise to extend a hand to huddled masses yearning to breathe free. But Utica likes the economics.

    ROBERT PALMIERI: They’re willing to work and they work extremely hard. It’s the rebound for our great city.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Refugee resettlement as an economic development tool, a Rust Belt revival strategy Utica has pioneered. After decades of decline — the city lost a third of its population when its factories closed — Utica is growing again, back up to 62,000 people, thanks in part to its reputation as, quote, the town that loves refugees, who now make up one out of every four residents. Thousands are Muslims from Bosnia, refugees of the war there in the 1990s.

    SAKIB DURACAK, Bosnian War Refugee:  Basically, we left everything what we have at that time and start from zero again.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Sakib Duracak, who trained in Bosnia as a construction engineer, started a small business in Utica rehabbing cheap, often crumbling, houses for refugees looking to build a new life.

    SAKIB DURACAK: A huge opportunity, because, at the time when we came in Utica, it’s a relatively very dead and poor city.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Bosnians have visibly spruced up Utica’s east side and beyond. But there’s an even more basic reason to welcome refugees to a town like Utica.

    ELLEN KRALY, Colgate University: To have an economy, you have to have workers, and you have to have consumers.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Professor Ellen Kraly teaches demography at nearby Colgate University.

    ELLEN KRALY: The influx of refugees to Utica allowed us to retain some smaller industries that were looking for highly motivated labor.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And if past suffering helps fuel motivation, Thada Paw has plenty to spare.

    THADA PAW, Karen Refugee: I work very hard because I want to live American life.

    PAUL SOLMAN: An ethnic Karen, a persecuted minority in Burma, she spent 23 years starting at age four in refugee camps in Thailand. When she was 14 —

    THADA PAW: Burmese army, they just shoot our refugee camp and make it burn. My sister’s best friend, she burn alive.

    PAUL SOLMAN: A week later, her 17-year-old sister committed suicide.

    THADA PAW: I think she tired of life. Whole, our life, we have to run, run, run, run for safety.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Paw came to Utica nine years ago, worked as a nursing home aide and housekeeper while studying English, then as a medical interpreter. Four years ago, she joined the direct sales firm Mary Kay Cosmetics. Within months, she’d worked her way up to the coveted pink Cadillac.

    THADA PAW: I travel in Albany, Buffalo. It’s really hard, but now I love to live here.

    PAUL SOLMAN: OK, so we get why refugees for Utica, but why Utica for refugees?

    IBRAHIM ROSIC, Bosnian War Refugee: Utica was close to Syracuse, and Tom Cruise is from Syracuse. So I thought I was going to see Tom Cruise.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Sadly, for Bosnian refugee Ibrahim Rosic, no Cruise, happily, the Mohawk Valley Resource Center.

    SHELLY CALLAHN, Executive Director, Mohawk Valley Resource Center: We receive $1,125 federal to be spent on behalf of each arriving refugee.

    PAUL SOLMAN: With those dollars, says executive director Shelly Callahan, the refugee center rents an apartment, furnishes it, gets the utilities turned on, and starts teaching the basics.

    SHELLY CALLAHAN: So, it’s how to lock your door, how to work the stove, the thermostat, the plumbing.

    PAUL SOLMAN: There are also English lessons.

    MALE: Is somebody sitting to the left of you?

    FEMALE: Left?

    MALE: Yes.

    FEMALE: Right?

    MALE: Left, right.

    FEMALE: You have got to shop around.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Introductions to strange new foods.

    FEMALE: Celery. We’re going to make celery and kale.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And for those who can drive, the all-important class in parking tickets, a veritable auditorium of Babel. But within a few months, they’re on their own.

    SHELLY CALLAHAN: They actually come here owing their airfare back to the federal government. So, they are expected to get a job as soon as possible.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Although there are no hard statistics on how many refugees do or don’t find jobs after their aid ends, some qualify for public assistance. Ibrahim Rosic was literally torn apart in the Bosnian conflict.

    IBRAHIM ROSIC: In 1994, I stepped on a landmine. I lost my left leg, and my right leg was severely damaged. I have no knee. I can’t bend it.

    PAUL SOLMAN: He is officially 100 percent disabled, but, says the former engineer —

    IBRAHIM ROSIC: I work two jobs. I work full-time as a director at Mohawk Valley Community College, and I also work as an adjunct instructor at SUNY Poly. I am not a burden on the community. I am not a burden on social services.

    Yes, community helped me to get this, but now it’s my time to pay back. And I would say most refugees do the same.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, are refugees the economic boon that motivated immigrants famously have been? Yes, says economist Jeffrey Sachs, but there are negatives.

    JEFFREY SACHS, Economist, Columbia University: Some workers face increased job competition and their wages can be driven down. If lower-skilled immigrants come, then lower-skilled American workers may see a decline in their wages, whereas business owners may see more workers at lower cost for them.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And what if, as many Americans fear, even just a few are terrorists?

    Shelly Callahan’s response? This isn’t Europe.

    SHELLY CALLAHAN: Refugees are the most intensively screened immigrants really to come to this country, about two years of intense scrutiny by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, ICE, Department of State. There’s DNA testing involved.

    MALE: For those people who is proven as bad people, we don’t want them here.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The al Saad family, Palestinians who for decades lived in Baghdad, fled during the troop surge of 2007, the deadliest year of the Iraq war.

    YOUSIF AL SAAD, Iraq War Refugee: I got kidnapped there by, I don’t know, some militia.

    FEMALE: One of my other brothers, too.

    YOUSIF AL SAAD: My other brother.

    FEMALE: They beat him up.

    YOUSIF AL SAAD: He got beat up. I lost many friends of mine.

    PAUL SOLMAN: They spent three years in a camp on the Syrian border, before being cleared for transit to the United States. Yousif al Saad went to work at the Chobani yogurt plant outside Utica, whose CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya, has championed the rights of refugees and hired hundreds of them.

    We were supposed to tape there, but at the last minute, Chobani pulled out, citing security concerns, fear for the safety of employees in the current political environment.

    Understandably, as right wing media had targeted a Chobani plant in Twin Falls, Idaho, where some 30 percent of the workers are refugees.

    ALEX JONES, Info Wars: So, let’s look at the headlines.

    PAUL SOLMAN: According to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, citing Breitbart —

    ALEX JONES: TB spiked 500 percent in Twin Falls during 2012 as Chobani yogurt opened the plant. Idaho refugee boys admit to sexually assaulting 5-year-old. OK. Twin Falls refugee rape special report: why are refugees moving in? Oh, the Chobani plant.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But the sexual assault by minors is shrouded in secrecy, and the TB case spike was from one positive test to six, in a nearly 12,000 square mile area that included twin falls, none of the cases contagious, none involving Chobani employees.

    ALEX JONES: This isn’t some game people. There’s a total Islamic takeover taking place. Behind the scenes, they got Muslims following me around.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In April, the company sued Jones for false and defamatory reports.

    ALEX JONES: And I’m ready to take them on. Christ, please help us win this. Please help me be strong.

    PAUL SOLMAN: The following month, Jones issued an apology and a retraction.

    ALEX JONES: On behalf of Info Wars, I regret that we mischaracterized Chobani, its employees and the people of Twin Falls, Idaho, the way we did.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Two final follow-ups: unemployment in Twin Falls has dropped from 7 percent to 3 percent since Chobani came to town in 2012.

    MALE: Please remain standing for the Pledge of Allegiance.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And the Trump administration is seeking to cut the number of refugees allowed annually into the U.S., from 110,000 to 50,000.

    CROWD: With liberty and justice for all.

    MALE: Let’s have a round of applause for our new citizens.

    (APPLAUSE)

    PAUL SOLMAN: Last February in Utica, Yousif al Saad joined 29 others, from 15 different countries in becoming a U.S. citizen.

    FEMALE: Congratulations. Your new flag.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Almost all were refugees. We leave the last word to Judge David Peebles.

    JUDGE DAVID PEEBLES: America is now your country. I cannot overemphasize the need now, more than ever, for you and your fellow citizens to unite, answer the call and assist in bettering our society and our world. Congratulations on becoming a citizen of the greatest nation on Earth. God bless all of you and God bless America.

    (APPLAUSE)

    PAUL SOLMAN: For the PBS NewsHour, this is economics correspondent Paul Solman.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to a major legal case involving the alleged smuggling of ancient religious artifacts. Late yesterday, the Department of Justice said that the nationwide arts and crafts company Hobby Lobby illegally imported thousands of ancient relics from the Middle East.

    William Brangham has the story.

    (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The government’s complaint against Hobby Lobby involves the purchase and importation of 5,500 rare clay tablets and artifacts from Israel and the UAE, antiquities that likely once came from Iraq.

    Prosecutors allege that company missed several red flags indicating that this purchase was highly suspicious. Hobby Lobby argues this was an innocent mistake caused by inexperience. In an agreement with the Justice Department, the company must now turn over all the artifacts and pay $3 million.

    Hobby Lobby is a family-owned evangelical Christian company. They were at the center of the 2014 Supreme Court case that ruled companies can’t be forced to cover birth control for their employees, and they’re also constructing a multimillion dollar bible museum here in Washington, D.C. that will open this fall.

    For more on this case, I’m joined now by Deborah Lehr. She’s chairman of George Washington University’s Capitol Archaeological Institute and she’s founder of the Antiquities Coalition, which works to stop the looting of world cultures.

    Welcome to the NewsHour.

    Can you tell me just the basics? What is — you heard what I said about the overview of this case. What is the government alleging that Hobby Lobby did wrong here?

    DEBORAH LEHR, George Washington University: The government is alleging that they imported knowingly items from Iraq and that they used falsified shipping labels and that they didn’t get the appropriate import permits to be able to bring these antiquities into the country.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And what are these antiquities? What are the items that we’re talking about?

    DEBORAH LEHR: They are things, as you said, that are destined for their biblical museum, and they are clay tablets and cylinder seals and ancient items that were part of that time period in Iraq.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, my understanding is the company says these were not destined for the museum, they said they were just part of their larger collection. But the government also argues that there were all sorts of red flags that should have tipped off Hobby Lobby that this was not an appropriate purchase to make.

    Can you tell us what were some of those red flags?

    DEBORAH LEHR: Absolutely. First, Hobby Lobby is a sophisticated importer and they know very well that you have to designate the country of origin and the appropriate tariff line when bringing these into the country. This was not done. These items, instead of being declared as antiquities, were declared as clay tiles or samples.

    They were not noted that they were coming from Iraq but, instead, that they were coming from turkey, and it’s no mistake that we have an agreement with Iraq that if they were being brought in and declared coming from Iraq, they would have to get an appropriate permit. Yet, we don’t have a similar type of agreement with Turkey.

    They’re also coming from a part of the world where conflict antiquities are being actually excavated by groups like Daesh or ISIS, and knowingly being exported and used as a means for funding terrorism. And so, there are quite a few red flags that they should have known, and at a minimum they should have done provenance research, which they didn’t do. What they actually paid five individuals through seven different accounts and, as I said, then, shipped these in different packets, which might be understandable, but to several different locations in the United States and without the appropriate or accurate shipping records.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Now, the company agreed they’re going to give back these items and willing to pay this $3 million to the government. The company argues that they are new to this business and that this was really sort of a rookie mistake, that inexperience is what caused these problems, not any intentional looking past these concerns you’ve raised.

    DEBORAH LEHR: Well, that’s a very interesting argument for a group that has a business that’s based largely on importing into the country, and it’s those two claims that they are actually being fined for. We could understand potentially that they may not be sophisticated about the specifics of what importing antiquities from Iraq are involved, but they are building a museum where they are importing and collecting historic items from around the world. So, we hope that there are not other rookie mistakes that they have made within their bible museum and the antiquities that are there.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I mean, Hobby Lobby is certainly not the first organization or institution to sort of trip this particular wire. I mean, major cultural institutions in the United States in the past have had similar problems. I mean, this is — it’s not an uncommon problem.

    DEBORAH LEHR: Well, it’s not an uncommon problem, but we haven’t seen a find quite this large, and that it’s very hard to bring about these kinds of cases, though we commend the United States government and certainly ICE for the seizures that they’re making. But the trade in antiquities and the list of antiquities is a global problem, and we’re seeing it on the increase as we see conflict in the Middle East and — where there are millions of sites still yet to be excavated. It’s very much just an endless, almost excavation that’s out there for thieves to take advantage of.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: As we mentioned, they’re building this enormous museum and some of Hobby Lobby’s 40,000 other items apparently are destined to go into this museum, and other experts in antiquities have raised concerns about the speed at which some of those items were gathered.

    Have you heard those same concerns?

    DEBORAH LEHR: Yes, we’ve heard those same concerns and one hopes they have actually tone the type of provenance research that they should be doing to ensure these are not part of the illicit trade. They actually had consulted one of the leading cultural heritage lawyers in the case of this specific import with items coming of these 5,000 items who had recommended that they do a lot more additional research. And so, they actually had ignored the warning they received from their own attorney.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right. Deborah Lehr of the Antiquities Coalition, thanks so much.

    DEBORAH LEHR: Thank you very much.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: As we’ve heard, President Trump has voiced, at times, contradictory views on the U.S.’s relationship with its European allies and with Russia.

    To parse out where things stand after the first full day of the president’s trip abroad and the road ahead, we turn to Paula Dobriansky. She was under secretary of state for democracy and global affairs during the George W. Bush administration. She’s now a senior fellow at Harvard University and she joins us from Warsaw.

    And Karen Donfried was special assistant to the president and senior director for European affairs on the National Security Council during the Obama administration. She’s now the president of the German Marshall Fund in the U.S., an organization which seeks to straighten relations with Europe.

    And we welcome both of you to the program.

    Paula Dobriansky, to you first in Warsaw. Overall, what would you say the message is from President Trump that’s come across to his European listeners?

    PAUL DOBRIANSKY, Former George W. Bush State Department Official: Well, the primary message was that European security matters to us greatly, that towards that end that the forward deployment of our troops on the border matter greatly. They reassure not just the Poles but the neighborhood. And also the important of the alliance, that Article 5, our collective defense is crucial and toward that end, that alliance has played an important role in the past. It does now and it will in the future.

    And let me just add, combined with that, it was very clear that, related, the president also made it very clear that he was very concerned about Russian aggression and the need to have a cessation of the violence and the conflict in Ukraine, as well as in Syria. He talked about Islamic radical terrorism, and then he also talked about energy security, which hasn’t gotten a lot of attention and it’s behind me here at the royal castle where he gave a speech actually before what’s called the Three Seas Summit, an initiative paid by the Poles, the Croats and there were 12 countries from Central Europe that spoke to this issue about the need for energy dependents, energy security and energy efficiency and the establishment of an infrastructure in Central Europe.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Karen Donfried, are those the main messages that to you have come across from this trip?

    KAREN DONFRIED, Former Obama National Security Council Staff: There were two things that struck me about President Trump’s stop in Poland. One was what a big boost this was to the current Polish government.

    Poland is an overwhelmingly pro-American country and that’s significant in the context of a European Union that’s been quite critical of democratic backsliding in Poland. So, the European Commission has been looking at whether Poland is staying true to rule of law, independent judiciary, freedom of the press. So, it was very significant for this Polish government.

    The second thing that struck me was the speech he gave that Paula just referred to. On the one hand, had many elements of the traditional transatlantic speech, reaffirming U.S. commitment to the Article 5, the collective defense piece of the NATO alliance, his support for strong transatlantic relationship.

    But then on the other hand, you had a dark view of a clash of civilizations and you had it on your opening clip, the president’s comment about the West and our ability to stand up to this challenge. And I think some people are wondering how we in the U.S. under President Trump are defining that West.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, how do you respond to that, Paula Dobriansky? Because it did raise, I think, questions in people’s minds about what is this conflict as the president sees it?

    KAREN DOBRIANSKY: Well, first, I think that Karen was right, the president did highlight the importance over decades of the Polish relationship with the United States and even cited the roles of such generals, Kosciuszko and Pilsudski. So, our relationship has mattered greatly.

    I saw it in a broader context, though, than Karen had expressed. I saw it as a bond. And on the other issue, I saw and looked at the words that he enunciated. He really spoke a great deal to freedom, to liberty, to captive nations, he referred to in his remarks.

    He did talk about the importance of values and even towards the end of the speech expressed how it’s not just only about military might, but it is also about the will — the will of the people and, towards that end, I did not see that as a dark. I saw that as underscoring the kind of values that we do hold very dearly.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, if he was stressing the common values, Karen Donfried, how then do you read what the president has said? Because we know it was on his other trip to Europe where he withheld a statement about so-called Article 5, the mutual commitment to defense among the NATO countries, but this time he did. I mean, how do you square that?

    KAREN DONFRIED: So, on the one hand, I don’t think we would have been so focused on the more traditional aspects of the speech were it not to the earlier trip to Europe for a NATO leaders meeting where the president did not affirm U.S. support for Article 5. That’s why it was significant. But in that transatlantic context, it was also significant that he didn’t mention the European Union because typically, the U.S. has defined its relationship with Europe both through NATO, but also through U.S. cooperation with this body that emphasizes cooperation among Europeans.

    The second piece I would mention is, I was struck by the focus on values but I actually searched the speech for the word democracy, and it didn’t appear and that was striking to me. And though he did talk about the importance of rule of law and freedom of press in the speech, when you looked at the press conference he gave with President Duda, he was asked about the issue of the press and said — expressed his concern about fake news and the dishonest media. So, it was a bit of a mixed message I thought on those issues around democratic principles.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Paula Dobriansky, what about that? I mean, we know the president’s view toward the press in the United States has certainly been a subject of controversy and a lot of discussion and debate recently.

    KAREN DOBRIANSKY: Well, I think, in the speech, which was his primary platform, in my view, not the press conference but the primary platform where he had an opportunity not just to speak to Poland but, as I mentioned, to the region at large, and also to set the foundation for his meetings coming up in Hamburg and particularly with President Putin where he did underscore this importance, as I said, of communism. He talked about it, about the freedoms that were deprived, the kind of oppression that this region was under and how, in terms of the present time, this is a different period. This is a period where we do have to reaffirm these kinds of values.

    So, I saw it in a broader strategic sense of setting a foundation that has applicability to a number of the issues that we’ve just mentioned, not just Poland, the region at large, but also for Russia.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Karen Donfried, just about 30 seconds here. But how does all this play into expectation for tomorrow’s meeting between President Trump and President Putin?

    KAREN DONFRIED: So, it becomes much more complicated for President Trump when he gets — well, he is now in Germany for the G20. The Germany context is more complicated, because you have a German chancellor who’s facing reelection campaign in September. She has a public that is not supportive of President Trump’s policies. She very much values the relationship with the U.S., so she wants to try to reach an agreement with President Trump while also staying true to her principle stands on climate and trade. So, it will become very challenging.

    The meeting with President Putin will be something everyone will be watching and it sounds, based on his comments to the press conference today, that he won’t be raising the issue of Russian meddling in U.S. elections.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes. He certainly — he said, yes, it may have happened but it may not have. He said nobody knows for sure who was behind it.

    KAREN DONFRIED: Which was also a rebuke of U.S. intelligence, I would say.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Karen Donfried, Paula Dobriansky, we thank you both.

    KAREN DONFRIED: Thank you so much.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news, world powers are jousting over how to handle North Korea’s test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. The president of China, Pyongyang’s closest ally, called for restraint. In Europe earlier today, President Trump says he still hopes that Beijing can help resolve the North Koreans’ tensions, but said the U.S. has a range of options.

    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I don’t like to talk about what I have planned. But I have some pretty severe things that we are thinking about. That does not mean we are going to do them. I don’t draw red lines. It’s a shame that they’re behaving this way, but they are behaving in a very, very dangerous manner and something will have to be done about it.

    (END VIDEO CLIP)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, there’s word that it was Russia that blocked the U.N. Security Council’s approval of a statement strongly condemning that launch.

    The Trump administration has renewed its offer to cooperate with Russia over the Syria conflict. In a statement last night, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. is open to coordinating on no fly-zones in Syria.

    Later, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the broader American strategy remains the same.

    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

    HEATHER NAUERT, State Department Spokeswoman: If our two countries can establish stability on the ground, we believe that will lay a foundation for progress on the political settlement of Syria’s future. The policy has not changed, some of the words and some of the phrasing may have changed at this point, but overall, it’s just one of a series of options that the United States will now consider.

    (END VIDEO CLIP)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For his part, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, asked for more information on the proposal, but said cooperation is, quote, a step in the right direction.

    A survey commissioned by the State Department shows diplomats are frustrated and confused by the Trump administration. “The Wall Street Journal” first reported on the document, which was released to State Department employees yesterday. It comes as the president seeks drastic cuts to diplomatic and development funding.

    Separately, the State Department is saying the U.S. refugee admissions program won’t be suspended until next week. After the Supreme Court upheld part of the Trump administration’s travel ban, re-settlement agencies were told to schedule refugee arrivals only through today. But it’s been announced that they can now continue until July 12th, when refugee admissions are expected to hit their cap of 50,000.

    The government ethics director who has prodded the Trump administration over conflicts of interest is resigning. Walter Shaub is stepping down months before his term was set to expire. In a statement on Twitter, he said: It has become clear to me that we need improvements to the existing ethics program. This follows the resignation of a top Justice Department official over ethics concerns.

    Democratic attorneys general in 18 states and the District of Columbia are suing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, over her delay of rules on for-profit colleges. The lawsuit demands the implementation of the rules created under the Obama administration. They’re meant to cancel the student-loan debt of people defrauded by those schools.

    The Illinois House of Representatives has voted to over-ride the governor’s veto of a budget package. It means that Illinois will have its first annual spending plan since 2015. That is the longest state fiscal crisis since the Great Depression. Lawmakers voted 71 to 42 to approve the $36 billion budget plan, which is funded with a $5 billion income tax increase.

    On Wall Street today, stocks had their biggest drop in more than six weeks, amid signs that hiring has slowed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 158 points to close at 21320. The Nasdaq fell 61 points, and the S&P 500 dropped almost 23.

    The post News Wrap: World powers joust over North Korea appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump faced dramatically different crowds as he made his way across Europe today. His second overseas trip began in Poland, before he moved on to Hamburg, Germany, the site of the summit of leaders of the major industrialized nations.

    Special correspondent Ryan Chilcote reports.

    (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

    RYAN CHILCOTE: President Trump kicked off his second trip to Europe by doing something he was criticized for not doing on his first: offering America’s full commitment to the NATO alliance.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The United States has demonstrated not merely with words but with its actions that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment. Words are easy but actions are what matters.

    RYAN CHILCOTE: Mr. Trump was addressing a friendly crowd of some 15,000 in Warsaw, Poland, some of the spectators bused in by the country’s center-right governing party. To the delight of Poles concerned about Russia, their neighbor to the east, he declared the West would triumph over its many adversaries.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. I declare today for the world to hear that the West will never, ever be broken. Our values will prevail, our people will thrive, and our civilization will triumph.

    RYAN CHILCOTE: The president, though, reiterated criticism of some NATO allies in Western Europe for not committing more to defense spending.

    Mr. Trump also offered his most forceful condemnation yet of Russia, just a day before his meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and its support for hostile regimes, including Syria and Iran, and to instead join the community of responsible nations.

    RYAN CHILCOTE: Hours earlier, at a press conference with Poland’s president, though, Mr. Trump skirted questions about Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

    REPORTER: Will you once and for all, yes or no, definitively say that Russia interfered with the 2016 election?

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I think it was Russia and I think it could’ve been other people and other countries. It could’ve been a lot of people interfered. Nobody really knows, nobody really knows for sure.

    RYAN CHILCOTE: Mr. Trump also cast blame on former President Barack Obama.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think what happened is that he thought Hillary Clinton was going to win the election and he said, let’s not do anything about it. Had he thought the other way, he would have done something about it.

    RYAN CHILCOTE: President Trump then flew to Hamburg, Germany for the G20 Summit. There he met German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The two have publicly tussled on a variety of issues including trade and climate change.

    All the while the “welcome to hell” protest, its actual title, was already under way, turning violent almost immediately. Thousands of protesters clashed with police in riot gear who used water cannons to disperse crowds. Others rushed demonstrators, tackling them to the ground.

    (END VIDEOTAPE)

    RYAN CHILCOTE: President Trump’s most important meeting is, of course, tomorrow. That will be his first ever meeting with the president of Russia — Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Ryan, you’ve covered the Kremlin. How do you think Mr. Putin is going to react to what President Trump had to say today about Russia’s interference in last year’s election?

    RYAN CHILCOTE: Well, look, I don’t think that President Putin will like those remarks. At the same time, I think in a way he will appreciate that they were made in Poland and not here at the G20 Summit, not alongside the Russian president.

    You know, they’re well aware that President Trump is optically challenged. It will be very difficult for him to say something pro-Russian at this point. They feel that, at this point, it would be very difficult for him to really achieve much when it comes to improving the Russian-American relationship. They just don’t want to see it get any worse.

    So, I think they’ll think that he was sort of speaking to the crowd, speaking to the parlor, if you will, and what really matters is what President Trump tells them in that — or tells President Putin in that room when it comes to policy, and namely what President Putin is hoping is two things, that one, President Trump will perhaps listen to some of the issues that he has with the Ukrainian side, when it comes to Russia’s conflict in Ukraine, and secondly, President Putin will be hoping that he can use Russia’s precedence in Syria, what Russia is doing in Syria as a bridge to the United States, find some kind of common ground, encourage President Trump to pursue for example Islamic State in Syria together with Syria.

    That is a whole lot of challenges but that has always been the Russians’ big hope that they can team up with the United States or at least the lower the level, the temperature in the relationship by working together in Syria.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Ryan Chilcote reporting for us from Hamburg, thank you.

    RYAN CHILCOTE: Thank you.

    The post In Poland, Trump chides Russia on eve of Putin meeting appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A pharmacist counts tablets of Hydrocodone at a pharmacy in Portsmouth, Ohio, June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

    A pharmacist counts tablets of Hydrocodone at a pharmacy in Portsmouth, Ohio, June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

    By 2015, doctors in the U.S. weren’t doling out as many opioids as they did in 2010, when more of the drugs were prescribed than at any other time in recent memory. But the sheer volume of opioids prescribed that year was still three times higher than in 1999, according to new government data.

    In 2010, the volume of opioids prescribed reached 782 morphine milligram equivalents — the unit that researchers use to measure opioids — per capita. Five years later, while that number had dropped to 640 units, it was still far greater than levels seen in 1999, when 180 units were sold per capita in the U.S.

    Opioids were prescribed more often in rural communities, among white populations and places with fewer jobs; in counties with higher prevalence of diabetes and arthritis and more Medicaid enrollees.

    A new county-by-county analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that opioids were prescribed more often in rural communities, among white populations and places with fewer jobs; in counties with higher prevalence of diabetes and arthritis and more Medicaid enrollees. But CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat said that only explains a small fraction of the variation the CDC found across counties.

    Appalachia and the western U.S. reported some of the highest amounts of prescribed opioids, along with parts of upstate New York and southwest Wyoming. But Schuchat said, “there are very few towns, cities or even families that don’t have some connection to the opioid problem, and we feel there’s a lot we can do together.”

    Researchers studied data from more than 59,000 pharmacies, accounting for nearly nine out of 10 prescriptions nationwide. Based on its analysis, the CDC says more than 2 million Americans who consumed prescription opioids had an opioid use disorder. The disease’s overall economic burden — such as the cost of substance abuse treatment, health care and legal cases — cost the U.S. more than $78 billion a year.

    The data shows public health officials and the nation “have more work to do,” Schuchat said.

    “With opioid medications, we’re still seeing too many getting too much for too long,” she said. “The amount of opioids prescribed in 2015 was enough for every American to be medicated around the clock for three weeks.”

    “The amount of opioids prescribed in 2015 was enough for every American to be medicated around the clock for three weeks.” – CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat

    At the same time, half of all U.S. counties saw a significant drop in opioid prescriptions, including large swaths of Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Florida. The report gave some of the credit for that decrease to prescription drug monitoring programs that track how often and in what quantities clinicians prescribed opioids.

    The report highlights the opioid epidemic’s ongoing fallout nationwide. Despite reductions in prescription opioids, the CDC pointed to the increased use of illicit opioids, such as heroin and fentanyl, for the rise in lethal drug overdoses.

    “There is no evidence that policies designed to reduce inappropriate opioid prescribing are leading to these increases,” the report said.

    The latest estimates suggest fatal drug overdoses spiked in 2016 with more than 59,000 deaths, surpassing previous years, according to analysis from the New York Times. The CDC has not made public its data for that year. In 2015, the latest year for available federal data, more than 52,400 people died after overdosing on drugs. Of those, nearly two-thirds involved opioids, including 15,000 deaths linked to prescription opioids, the CDC reported.

    READ MORE: In the war on heroin, Baltimore drug programs face an uncertain future

    In 2016, the CDC implemented new guidelines to physicians for prescribing opioids for chronic pain, including alternatives to opioids. Schuchat said the 2015 data served as a baseline and that it is too early to know the impact of the new opioid guidelines.

    President Donald Trump signed an executive order in March thatestablished an opioid commission to study the crisis. The commission, chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, met for the first time in June but has since missed its deadline to produce a preliminary set of recommendations about how the nation needs to move forward.

    The post Prescription opioids tripled between 1999 and 2015, CDC says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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