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

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    Man lies on the bed of a cholera treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen

    A man lies on the bed of a cholera treatment center in Sanaa, Yemen, on May 15, 2017. Photo by Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

    Barely two decades ago, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia first treated rape and sexual assault as distinct war crimes. That decision revolutionized our understanding of rape as a weapon of war, leading in 1997 to the first-ever prosecution of rape as a war crime in Rwanda.

    Today we are seeing another cruel method of warfare emerge on the battlefield: the weaponization of disease, particularly in Syria and Yemen.

    Targeting health care facilities during conflict has occurred before. But unlike the attacks on hospital ships during World War I, or even sporadic attacks in more recent conflicts, the pace of attacks on health facilities, workers, and resources in Syria and Yemen is massive and unrelenting.

    In the past three years, combatants in these conflicts have actively targeted health and humanitarian facilities and indiscriminately decimated civilian infrastructure. Hospitals are out of service. Clinics have been destroyed. Water treatment plants have been turned to rubble. Vaccines and other lifesaving drugs have been intentionally blocked from reaching civilians.

    All of this has created public health catastrophes — a massive cholera outbreak in Yemen, and new outbreaks of once-vanquished diseases like polio and measles in Syria and Yemen. These put millions of children at risk for death and illness.

    My organization, Physicians for Human Rights, has mapped the systematic attacks on hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities in Syria. Our data show that, since 2011, there have been a staggering 477 attacks on medical facilities, as well as the deaths of 820 medical personnel. Nine out of 10 of these attacks were launched by the Syrian government or its Russian allies. Each of these strikes puts essential medical care further out of reach for thousands of sick and injured Syrians.

    None of the conflict’s belligerents have acknowledged that their actions are purposefully creating a public health disaster. In fact, after launching a lethal chemical weapons strike in April, the Syrian government then brazenly struck the hospital where survivors were being treated. There have been few, if any, substantive consequences for these blatant violations of international law.

    Such attacks have dire consequences. For each doctor killed or clinic destroyed, an untold number of patients suffer. As hospitals, clinics, and water treatment and sanitation facilities have become targets, civilian survivors of bombs or bullets or poison gas have fallen victim to previously controlled infectious diseases.

    Take, for example, the recent polio outbreak in eastern Syria. It started when an oral form of the live polio vaccine mutated. Abysmal sanitation helped it spread through the population. Children who hadn’t been vaccinated against polio contracted the crippling and potentially deadly virus. It’s a perfect epidemiological storm, enabled by warfare.

    In Yemen, the targeting of hospitals, clinics, water treatment plants, and sanitation facilities has caused the largest cholera outbreak in the world, with 5,000 new infections every day. To date, more than 200,000 people have been infected, and 1,300 have died. All parties to the conflict share responsibility, as combatants on all sides — including the Saudi coalition using U.S.- and European-made arms — have attacked the country’s health infrastructure. Such targeting has also paved the way for a measles outbreak in Yemen.

    Cholera and measles, both preventable and treatable diseases, prey on the vulnerable. With 1.5 million children facing malnutrition in Yemen, both of these diseases may ultimately claim an unconscionable number of young lives.

    There are many signs of hope and humanity in both Syria and Yemen. Despite a lack of pay and protection, thousands of health workers are making incredible sacrifices to identify individuals who need medical help and provide whatever treatment is available. The World Health Organization, UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, and other international organizations are making headway in efforts to broaden vaccination and treatment.

    We must not make the mistake of thinking of these deaths and illnesses as collateral damage of war. They are not accidental, and the destruction of medical and sanitation infrastructure is part of a cruel, illegal, and intentional strategy.

    As the world acknowledged two decades ago in the Balkans and Rwanda, wars aren’t just waged on the battlefield with bombs and bullets. And even though modern warfare is insidious and battlefields are sometimes uncertain, the laws of warfare still apply.

    That means there must be independent investigations of violations of international law when it comes to targeting health and humanitarian resources. There must also be regular and public reporting of incidents at the United Nations Human Rights Council and Security Council. We must recognize and prosecute these acts as war crimes, specifically as violations of the Geneva Convention.

    Hundreds of thousands have already died in Syria and Yemen. And without accountability and clear condemnation from the international community, millions more lives are at stake.

    Homer Venters, M.D., is the director of programs at Physicians for Human Rights. This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on July 7, 2017. Find the original story here.

    The post Attacks in Syria and Yemen are turning disease into a weapon of war appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    seattle police

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    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: The retraining of Seattle’s Police Department was sparked by this fatal police-involved shooting in 2010.

    John T. Williams, a Native American woodcarver, seen in this patrol car video crossing the street, was ordered to drop a knife he was carrying for his craft.

    Police officer Ian Birk gave Williams, who was hard of hearing, just four seconds warning before opening fire.

    POLICE OFFICER: Hey! Hey! Hey! Put the knife down! Put the knife down! Put the knife down!

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: It was the 8th fatal police-involved shooting by Seattle police in five years and the 25th in a decade.

    Birk resigned from the force, but was not prosecuted. The U.S. Justice Department launched an investigation. It found that Seattle police had engaged in a “pattern or practice of using unnecessary or excessive force” and raised “serious concerns about biased policing.”

    In 2012, the city of Seattle settled the probe with a consent decree — agreeing to court-monitored reforms to minimize use-of-force incidents — not only with guns, but with tasers and batons. For the past five years, Seattle police officers have retrained how to approach someone in crisis or showing signs of mental illness.

    In this scenario, they’re trying to stop a man from running through traffic.

    POLICE OFFICER: Sir, Officer Stevens here, Seattle Police Department. What’s your name?

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: At times, it sounds more like a psychology class.

    CITIZEN: This is just too much.

    POLICE OFFICER: Hey brother, it sounds like you’re incredibly overwhelmed. I think job loss is tough for all of us.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: The goal here is to de-escalate the situation.

    ANDREW MARVEL: “You got to analyze it from both sides.”

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: Trainer Andrew Marvel says slowing things down reduces the chances of a violent encounter.

    ANDREW MARVEL: If we have situations that potentially could go bad and could potentially result in some type of lethal force being used. If our officers can recognize that ahead of time, those situations, use good tactics, use good verbal skills, and incorporate some teamwork in there, we end up reducing those situations.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: All Seattle police officers are required to take this four hour crisis intervention training once a year. That’s on top of an eight hour course now mandated for all rookie officers in Washington State.

    Some Seattle officers volunteer for an extra 40 hour course to join special crisis intervention teams dispatched in these types of situations.

    RUSS: You guys don’t even know what’s going on.

    OFFICER 2: I’ll feel more comfortable if we can talk without you holding the knife, because it is a little scary.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: The Seattle Police Department’s Chief Operating Officer, Brian Maxey, says better data collection about police encounters shows the training is working.

    BRIAN MAXEY: What we’re finding out is that with the 10,000 contacts we have with people in severe crisis every year, officers are only using force 1.6 percent of the time. That is remarkably low cuz this is the most volatile population that officers engage with. Of that 1.6%, only about half of that is any kind of serious use of force

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: This April, the court-appointed monitor overseeing Seattle’s consent decree found a 60 percent reduction in use of force by police between 2014 and 2016. Just a week before that report, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a review of all Obama Administration consent decrees, which he says vilify police and reduce their morale.

    ED MURRAY PRESS CONFERENCE: “For Seattle, Sessions threat is an empty threat.”

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: Seattle’s Democratic Mayor, Ed Murray, says Federal oversight has been essential.

    ED MURRAY, SEATTLE MAYOR: The idea that the Justice Department would step back from being, basically, an honest broker between communities of color and police departments in cities has the potential to be explosive. This is a role that they’ve played since the 1960s, and I think that our police department today is a better police department because the Justice Department came in, because the federal monitor was appointed.

    “So if other commissioners could come tomorrow morning.”

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: Seattle’s consent decree also created a community police commission to advise the court on progress implementing reforms.

    The trust Seattle Police have been trying to build was shaken last month by the death of Charleena Lyles, a 30-year-old black single mother who, according to her family, had a history of mental health issues. On sunday morning, June 18th, Lyles called 9-1-1 to report a burglary. When two white Seattle police officers arrived at her apartment, the conversation at first was calm, as you can hear in this police recording.

    CHARLEENA LYLES: Someone broke into my house and took my things

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: The situation deteriorated rapidly when Lyles allegedly brandished two kitchen knives.

    OFFICER 1: Hey, get back.

    OFFICER 2: Tase her.

    OFFICER 1: I don’t have a taser.

    OFFICER 2: We need help. We’ve got a woman with two knives. Hey, get back.

    OFFICER 1: Get back.

    OFFICER 2: Get back.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: With three of her four children in the next room, both officers fired their guns, hitting Lyles seven times. The Police Department says neither had a taser. But they were carrying either a baton or pepper spray. And both had undergone crisis intervention training. Though the investigation into Lyles’ death has just begun, the outrage has been immediate.

    DEMONSTRATORS: “Charleena! Charleena!”

    DEMONSTRATORS: We will stand up one and united to pressure this city to change its behavior in policing.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: For community activist Andre Taylor, this protest was all too familiar. Last year, Seattle police shot and killed his brother, Che, whom they had suspected of illegally possessing a firearm. Police dash cam video shows three white officers approaching his vehicle. Che was facing the open passenger door. The officers ordered him to put his hands up. Then they shot him. 18-Months later, the shock of the incident has not lessened for Andre Taylor, as he showed us around the South Seattle neighborhood where he grew up.

    ANDRE TAYLOR: It wasn’t even a matter of seconds before they killed him. It was devastating as some of the other shootings I’ve seen.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: Taylor says despite reforms, distrust of police remains endemic in the city’s African-American community. He introduced us to a group gathered at a community center, commiserating over their interactions with police.

    17-year Jahila Moody says she often gets stopped by police.

    JAHILA MOODY: You don’t even have to have any type of altercation with police. You can just be walking down the street and they’ll pull up on you and be like, “what are you doing?”. A lot of the time, police feel threatened by us because they are scared, not because we are scared.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: Taylor says another frustration is the leniency the law affords police officers involved in fatal shootings like his brother’s. Dan Satterberg is the prosecuting attorney who decided not to file charges against those officers. That’s because police who reasonably believe their lives are in danger cannot be convicted. That’s the legal standard across the country. But in Washington State, prosecutors must also prove an officer showed malice.

    DAN SATTERBERG: Malice is not a word we use a lot in conversation, but It means an evil intent, a dark heart. When you look at that tape, that videotape. When you talk to the officers, look into the investigation, certainly questions arise. Could they have done something different? Could they have made a decision, strategically, tactically, to intercept Mr. Taylor somewhere other than right at the door of the car? I think that was originally their plan to do so, and when he didn’t walk away from the car they felt they were already committed. Was this perfect? No. Could it have been done better? Yes. Is there malice? There’s no malice in there.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: It turned out Che Taylor was not holding a gun, though police say they later found this 45-caliber pistol under the vehicle’s passenger seat.

    DAN SATTERBERG: It’s hard to imagine a set of facts that would meet the malice standard; you’d almost have to have a personal animosity between the officer and the civilian that pre-existed the moment. Even then, we still have to prove that self-defense was not a motivating factor and that the officer lacked all good faith to believe that force was necessary.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: As a result, a Seattle Times investigation found, of 213 police-involved killings in Washington State between 2005-2015, not one officer has been convicted of wrongdoing. Seattle Police Crisis Intervention Trainer Andrew Marvel says the high legal standard is justified.

    ANDREW MARVEL: Officers do have a higher threshold for prosecution than the average citizen. That’s because we have officers being asked to make very difficult decisions in a very short amount of time. Nobody wins if we get it wrong. So that’s why we train as much as we do and that’s why we get the level of protection that we do.

    JOANNE ELGART JENNINGS: Andre Taylor is now leading an effort to pass a ballot initiative next year called “De-escalate Washington” It would amend state law to remove the “malice” threshold, trying to hold officers accountable if they kill a citizen in the line of duty.

    ANDRE TAYLOR: We demand, that as each and every person has a job and has someone to look to, to be accountable to, that officers must also have someone to be accountable to. In 30 years, in this state, they haven’t been accountable to nobody. That’s a problem.

    The post Seattle sticks to Obama-era police reforms amid review appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    MONTPELIER, Vt. — A Vermont man is facing a hate crime charge that he sent anti-Muslim emails to the state’s Democratic Party chairman, who is Muslim.

    Faisal Gill (FASS-il Gill), who is believed to be the country’s first Muslim chairperson of a state political party, said he received three threatening emails within a week in May.

    Christopher Hayden, 48, of Burlington has been charged with disturbing the peace by electronic means, with a hate crime enhancement.

    The messages are peppered with racial and religious epithets, and call Gill an “agent for creeping sharia law” who should “get out (of Vermont) or we will make you wish you did.”

    Gill alerted police.

    “I do hope that he gets a sentence that makes him realize that he cannot do these kind of things any more,” he told the Burlington Free Press. Vermont Public Radio first reported on the case.

    READ NEXT: Why hate crimes are so difficult to convict
    Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George said the threats focused on Gill’s religion.

    “Anytime that an individual is targeted and threatened based on their nationality, religion or ethnicity, I find it extremely concerning and a threat to the integrity of our entire country,” she said.

    In 2015, Hayden pleaded not guilty to a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after police said he threatened to kill a man while using racial slurs, according to the Free Press.

    A public defender representing Hayden did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment after business hours Friday.

    No listed phone number for Hayden could be found.

    Gill, whose family moved from Pakistan to the United States when he was 8, said he has been the target of racial and religious harassment before.

    “People saying, ‘Get out of politics, go home,’ stuff like that. Not just me, my children as well,” he told Vermont Public Radio. “It makes you question, ‘What are you doing?’ It does make you question, are you safe? I will say in the last few years though it’s gotten a little worse.”

    He attributes the increase in harassment to President Donald Trump’s campaign for the office.

    “He’s made it OK for all these people who have all these hateful thoughts against immigrants and against Muslims to say them,” Gill said.

    The post Man faces hate crime charge after threats to Muslim chairman appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Migrants ride in a boat after they were rescued by Libyan coastguard off the coast of Gharaboli, east of Tripoli

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: This summer and throughout this year, migrants and refugees have continued to flee wars and persecution in the Middle East and North Africa, attempting to get to Europe.

    In the first half of this year, 73,000 reached Italy by crossing the Mediterranean Sea. That’s a 14 percent increase from last year, according to a new report from Amnesty International. The report calls attention to the estimated 2,000 people who’ve drowned trying to make the crossing this year, and shortcomings of European governments coming to their rescue.

    Amnesty International’s Naureen Shah joins me now from Washington to discuss this.

    Naureen, it’s interesting because for the past couple of years, there’s been different levels of attention being paid to this. But you’re pointing out that there are still more people coming even though the condition have gotten worse.

    NAUREEN SHAH, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF CAMPAIGNS, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: That’s right, Hari. And 2017 is actually on pace to be the deadliest year for the world’s deadliest migration route. We’re seeing more and more people drown, and at the same time, European governments instead of stepping up are actually taking a step backwards and trying to cede responsibility for what’s happening to local Libyan authorities who were actually woefully dysfunctional.

    SREENIVASAN: What’s creating this? I mean, because it seemed that there were — there was some sort of agreement that different European countries would step in and try to stem this. It doesn’t seem like the search and rescue is the priority.

    SHAH: That’s right. In 2015, we saw European governments actually do more to fund search and rescue operations and we saw a decrease in the number of people who were drowning at sea. Unfortunately, what’s happening since then is that European governments have shifted to a different strategy. They call it a deterrent strategy. They want fewer people to be leaving. The reality is, people are still leaving and they’re drowning at sea because there are not enough search and rescue operations currently going on.

    SREENIVASAN: We’ve seen pictures of some of these boats being destroyed by some of these different European countries. So, what’s the kind of ripple effect that these people are now coming on, what, less sturdy boats?

    SHAH: They’re actually taking to the seas in more and more unseaworthy vessels. We’re talking about people getting on a boat without life jackets, without a satellite phone, without enough water or food to last for the journey. They are fleeing war violence, extreme poverty. They are seeking what we would seek if we were in their shoes just trying to rebuild there lives and find safety.

    SREENIVASAN: What about the situation in Libya which has become such a launching point for these people?

    SHAH: The situation in Libya is disastrous for these people. Many of them are black Africans. They face racism. They’re bought and sold, put into sexual exploitation, put in the situations where they’re at risk of being kidnapped, killed.

    People who are intercepted by the Libyan coast guard and sent back to Libya are put at detention sites where they’re at risk of rape and torture. And Amnesty International, for instance, talked to one man who said that he had seen three people tortured. They were using toilet war as drinking water. So, these conditions are unspeakably horrific.

    SREENIVASAN: Have the European nations responded in any way or have they thought about changing their priorities?

    SHAH: Unfortunately, what we saw this week from European leaders who met was actually a doubling down on this policy. They’re going to continue to try to fund Libyan coast guard to conduct interception search and operations but they’re not actually doing oversight of Libyan coast guard.

    We know that Libyan coast guard, in some cases, are actually cooperating with smugglers. They are corrupt. They’ve taken actually gunshots at rescue boats that are operated by non-governmental organizations.

    So, they do not have the best interests of the people who are fleeing at heart. In some cases, we’re actually seeing people at a much greater risk because of the Libyan coast guard.

    SREENIVASAN: All right. Naureen Shah of Amnesty International, thanks so much.

    SHAH: Thanks for having me.

    The post Report highlights EU’s shortcomings as refugee numbers surge appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands during the G20 Summit in Hamburg

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Our special correspondent Ryan Chilcote joins me now from Hamburg, Germany.

    Ryan, let’s start with that meeting between Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump. Who controlled the narrative afterwards on what exactly happened there?

    RYAN CHILCOTE, PBS NEWSHOUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: What we can say is that at least from the Russian side, there was more of a narrative. If you think about it, almost immediately following President Trump and President Putin’s meeting, the Russian foreign minister gave a press conference that was broadcast live on Russian TV. On the U.S. side, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson a while later addressed U.S. reporters but it was audio only.

    And then if you think about today, President Putin gave a press conference after — as he was leaving. He answered a question from me. He too said that President Trump, by the way, it was his impression agreed that Russia hadn’t intervened in the election. While as the U.S. delegation, President Trump simply left. They didn’t have a press conference at all.

    So, the Russians have certainly been talking about the meeting a lot more. And I think, you know, that’s given them an opportunity to shape how people characterize it.

    SREENIVASAN: One of the story lines that we’ve also been seeing or images of the protests that have been happening in Hamburg, how significant have they been?

    CHILCOTE: I think it’s fair to say that the protests here — and I’ve been to many, many, many G20s, G7s — have really engulfed this city. And it’s a big city, right? This is Germany’s second largest city. It’s really quite large and these protests were everywhere.

    Everyone said before this summit began that it was a gamble on Angela Merkel, the German chancellor’s part to have this, to have the summit here in this city, as opposed as they often do, you know, on some remote island where it’s difficult for protesters to do it. But apparently, she wanted to send a message to President Erdogan and other leaders that Germany is a democratic country and this is going to go ahead, which is one of the reasons they didn’t crack down as much as they could on some of these protesters.

    SREENIVASAN: Is there a way to judge the standing of the United States, given that this is now the president’s — one of his first major international forays?

    CHILCOTE: Well, there’s a real qualitative difference between what we’ve seen at this summit when it comes to U.S. leadership and how everyone has sort of perceived and received the U.S. from the other summits I’ve been. This summit has been mostly about other G20 leaders trying to convince the Trump administration to find some, you know, middle ground with them on issues like trade and particularly on the issue of climate change. So, it’s a real stark change from what we’ve seen in the past.

    SREENIVASAN: All right. Ryan Chilcote joining us tonight from Hamburg, Germany, thanks so much.

    CHILCOTE: Thank you.

    The post Global security and trade dominate G20 summit appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Sunday that “it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia” after his lengthy meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Germany. But he is still avoiding the question of whether he accepts Putin’s denial that Russia was responsible for meddling in the 2016 election.

    Speaking in a series of early morning tweets after returning the night before from a world leaders’ summit in Germany, Trump said that he “strongly pressed” Putin twice over Russian meddling during their lengthy meeting Friday.

    Trump said that Putin “vehemently denied” the conclusions of American intelligence agencies that Russian hackers and propagandists tried to sway the election in Trump’s favor. But Trump would not say whether he believed Putin, tweeting only that he’s “already given my opinion.”

    Trump has said he believes that Russia probably hacked the emails of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton staffers, but that other countries were likely involved as well.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov first told reporters in Germany on Friday that Trump had accepted Putin’s assurances that Russia hadn’t meddled — an assertion Putin repeated Saturday after the Group of 20 summit. Putin said he left the meeting thinking that Trump believed his in-person denials following their lengthy discussion.

    “He asked questions, I replied. It seemed to me that he was satisfied with the answers,” Putin said.

    U.S. officials have not pushed back on that account, even when pressed directly.

    Speaking briefly with reporters aboard Air Force One on Saturday evening, both Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster punted when given the chance to correct the record.

    “You know, we’re not going to make comments about what other people say,” said Mnuchin. “President Trump will be happy to make statements himself about that.”

    U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who participated in the Trump-meeting, had suggested Friday that the two sides had, in effect, agreed to disagree on the meddling question so that they could move forward to address other pressing issues, like the civil war in Syria.

    Officials announced during the trip that the two sides had brokered a cease-fire in southern Syria that went into effect Sunday. Trump tweeted that the deal “will save lives.”

    Tillerson told reporters Sunday that, “In all candidness, we did not expect an answer other than the one we received” from Russia.

    The two sides also agreed to create a cybersecurity task force to ensure that “election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded,” Trump tweeted.

    Trump also said that U.S. sanctions on Russia were not discussed during the meeting and that, “Nothing will be done until the Ukrainian & Syrian problems are solved!”

    Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report from Kiev, Ukraine.

    The post Trump says it’s ‘time to move forward’ with Russia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Senior advisor Jared Kushner attends a joint statement from U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S.

    Senior advisor Jared Kushner attends a joint statement from U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., on June 30, 2017. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s eldest son, son-in-law and then-campaign chairman met with a Russian lawyer shortly after Trump won the Republican nomination, in what appears to be the earliest known private meeting between key aides to the president and a Russian.

    Representatives of Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner confirmed the June 2016 meeting to The Associated Press Saturday after The New York Times reported Saturday on the gathering of the men and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower. Then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended, according to the statement from Donald Trump Jr.

    He described it as a “short introductory meeting” during which the three discussed a disbanded program that used to allow U.S. citizens to adopt Russian children. Russia ended the adoptions in response to American sanctions brought against the nation following the 2009 death of an imprisoned lawyer who spoke about a corruption scandal. Trump Jr. said he invited the other two Americans, was asked to attend by an acquaintance not named in the statement, and was not told beforehand with whom he would meet.

    “It was not a campaign issue at that time and there was no follow up,” he said.

    READ NEXT: Trump says it’s ‘time to move forward’ with Russia

    Kushner lawyer Jamie Gorelick said her client already disclosed the meeting in a revised filing of a form that requires him to list meetings with foreign agents.

    “Mr. Kushner has submitted additional updates and included, out of an abundance of caution, this meeting with a Russian person, which he briefly attended at the request of his brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr. As Mr. Kushner has consistently stated, he is eager to cooperate and share what he knows,” she said.

    Later Saturday, a spokesman for the president’s outside legal team contended that participants in the June meeting “misrepresented who they were and who they worked for.” However, the spokesman, Mark Corallo, would not say specifically who misrepresented themselves or how they did so.

    Unlike Kushner, Trump Jr. does not serve in the administration and is not required to disclose his foreign contacts. The newspaper reported Saturday, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter, that Manafort disclosed the meeting to congressional investigators questioning his foreign contacts.

    Manafort helmed Trump’s campaign for about five months until August and resigned from the campaign immediately after the AP reported on his firm’s covert Washington lobbying operation on behalf of Ukraine’s ruling political party. He is one of several people linked to the Trump campaign who are under scrutiny by a special counsel and congressional committees investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign and potential coordination with Trump associates.

    Manafort has denied any coordination with Russia and has said his work in Ukraine was not related to the campaign.

    The newspaper said Veselnitskaya is known for her attempts to undercut the sanctions against Russian human rights abusers. The Times also said her clients include state-owned businesses and the son of a senior government official whose company was under investigation in the United States at the time of the meeting.

    The post Report: Trump son, son-in-law met with Kremlin-linked lawyer appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    mosul falls

    Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, center, is pictured in Mosul, Iraq, on July 9, 2017. Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office/Handout via Reuters

    More than three years after the Islamic State captured Mosul, Iraqi forces on Sunday retook the city from the self-proclaimed caliphate after months of intense fighting.

    Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in Mosul Sunday, declaring victory for the troops, who were backed by a U.S.-led coalition, even as pockets of fighting continued in sections of the city against the last remaining Islamic militants.

    A statement released by the prime minister’s office said he was there to “congratulate the armed forces and the Iraqi people.”

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

    Members of the Iraqi army’s 9th Division were seen standing on tanks and dancing to patriotic music as airstrikes continued in small sections of Mosul’s Old City, where Islamic State fighters took their last stand, the Associated Press reported.

    More than 915,000 people have been displaced from Mosul since October, according to the United Nations. Thousands of civilians have been killed.

    The post Iraqi forces retake Mosul, the Islamic State’s de-facto capital appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Tillerson Ukraine

    U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gestures as he delivers a joint statement with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev, Ukraine July 9, 2017. Photo By Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

    KIEV, Ukraine — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Russia on Sunday that it must take the first steps to reduce tensions in eastern Ukraine and that American and European sanctions would remain in place until Moscow reversed course in the region.

    In surprisingly blunt language just two days after presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin met in Germany, Tillerson said Russia should use its influence with separatists in Ukraine’s east to fully restore an oft-violated truce, end harassment and attacks on international monitors and pull back heavy weaponry to lines agreed upon under a two-year-old accord known as the Minsk Agreement. He said a primary goal of the United States “is to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty” and that would be “required in order for the U.S. and Russia to improve our relationship.”

    “It is necessary for Russia to take the first steps to de-escalate the situation in the eastern part of Ukraine,” Tillerson told reporters at a joint news conference in Kiev with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. “This is necessary for us to make any movement.”

    “We do call on Russia to honor its commitments that were made under the Minsk accords and to exercise influence over the separatists in the region that they have complete control over,” he said, adding later: “The U.S. and E.U. sanctions on Russia will remain in place until Moscow reverses the actions that triggered these particular sanctions.”

    [Watch Video]

    Tillerson’s tough talk clearly pleased Poroshenko, who has long complained about Russian interference in his country’s east and has watched nervously as the Trump administration has sought to improve ties with Moscow. He thanked Tillerson for the continued U.S. commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and expressed deep appreciation for his “symbolic and timely visit immediately after the meetings at the G-20 in Hamburg” where Trump met with Putin.

    Poroshenko was especially complimentary of Tillerson’s decision last week to appoint a special envoy for Ukraine negotiations, former U.S. ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker, who is widely considered to be a hawk on Russia.

    Volker will oversee U.S. efforts to press Ukraine and Russia to fully comply with the Minsk Agreement, which lays out a roadmap for reducing the conflict that has claimed some 10,000 lives over the past three years. The accord was reached in early 2015 in the capital of Belarus by the leaders of France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia but has yet to be implemented. Under the Obama administration, the U.S. had taken a hands-off approach to Minsk, allowing the Europeans to take the lead.

    “We are disappointed by the lack of progress under the Minsk process and that’s why we are appointing a special representative,” Tillerson said.

    Poroshenko, who said Volker would remain in Ukraine for the next several days, maintained that a resolution to the crisis “needs only the political will of Moscow.”

    “Kiev did not plan, did not start this war,” he said. “It was planned and started in Moscow. That’s why the keys to peaceful settlement are in Moscow.”

    Russia denies charges that it is actively involved in the insurgency, but has said that in order for peace to take hold, Kiev must agree to political reforms that would give the east greater autonomy. The Ukrainian government contends that political reform depends on an end to the violence.

    Tillerson and other U.S. officials have for some time been pushing Ukraine to press ahead with reforms that would curb corruption and improve governmental transparency.

    Speaking to a group of reform advocates at the U.S. ambassador’s residence, Tillerson praised Ukraine’s progress in combating graft but made clear that more must be accomplished.

    “Ukraine has come a long way,” he said. “We want to acknowledge that, (but) we still have more to do,” he said. “This is all about securing Ukraine’s future: making the place attractive for investors, being attractive to their European neighbors.”

    The post Tillerson talks tough on Russia, vows U.S. support for Ukraine appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A voter casts his ballot behind a ballot booth during the U.S. presidential election at a polling station in the Bronx Borough of New York.

    A woman arrives to cast her ballot Nov. 8 during the 2016 U.S. presidential election at a polling station in the Bronx, New York City. Photo by Saul Martinez/Reuters

    INDIANAPOLIS — State election officials voiced doubt Saturday that adequate security measures can be adopted before 2018 elections to safeguard against the possibility of a foreign government interfering in U.S. elections.

    That’s according to attendees at a weekend gathering of the National Association of Secretaries of State, whose conference was held amid an uproar over a White House commission investigating President Donald Trump’s allegations of voter fraud and heightened concern about Russian attempts to interfere in U.S. elections.

    The Department of Homeland Security said last fall that hackers believed to be Russian agents targeted voter registration systems in more than 20 states. And a leaked National Security Agency document from May said Russian military intelligence had attempted to hack into voter registration software used in eight states.

    But both Republican and Democratic Secretaries of State, who are responsible for carrying out elections in many states, said they have been frustrated in recent months by a lack of information from federal intelligence officials on allegations of Russian meddling with the vote. They say that despite the best efforts by federal officials, it may be too late in to make substantive changes.

    “I’m doubtful,” said Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, a Democrat. “We shouldn’t feel like we’ve been tied to a chair and blindfolded … It’s very hard to help further instill public confidence that you know what you’re doing if you don’t have any information.”

    The conference in Indianapolis, which began Friday, is being attended by officials from 37 states. The FBI and Homeland Security attempted to allay fears by holding a series of closed-door meetings Saturday on voting security.

    “This is a new thing and it takes a while to get things running and everybody talking,” said Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a Republican. “I think this is something we will build on and it will get better over time.”

    [Watch Video]

    There is no indication so far that voting or ballot counting was affected in the November election, but officials are concerned that the Russians may have gained knowledge that could help them disrupt future elections.

    The gathering took place while Trump was in Germany for the Group of 20 summit, which included a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said Saturday that he thinks Trump accepted his assurances that Russia didn’t meddle in the U.S. presidential election.

    It also comes one week after the commission investigating Trump’s allegations of election fraud requested voter information from all 50 states, drawing bipartisan blowback. The request seeks dates of birth, partial Social Security numbers, addresses, voting histories, military service and other information about every voter in the country.

    Trump has repeatedly stated without proof that he believes millions of fraudulent ballots were cast in the November election, when he carried the Electoral College but lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton.

    The commission was launched to investigate those claims and is being chaired by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who sent the information requests.

    “I do think that this is an odd time to be forming a national database of some kind if we’re so concerned about security,” said Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill, a Democrat.

    READ NEXT: Top intelligence officials stop short of providing evidence of Russian hacking at Senate hearing

    The U.S. does not have a federalized voting system, relying instead on 9,000 different voting jurisdictions and more than 185,000 individual precincts. Officials believe that makes it difficult for hackers to have any major effect on the vote. If Kobach succeeds in obtaining the information he seeks, it could gather voter data for the entire U.S. in one centralized place.

    Kobach was not in attendance at the weekend event and could not be reached for comment, prompting Democrats to reiterate their skepticism of the commission’s intent. They expressed concern that the information could be used to justify stringent new voter security procedures making it more difficult for people to cast a ballot.

    Dunlap, who is a member of Trump’s commission, says Kobach’s push for the voter data “spooked” people because it impacts “how individual citizens feel about their sovereign right to democratic self-governance.”

    That includes some of Kobach’s fellow Republicans.

    “We still have some questions that need to be answered that only Kris Kobach can answer,” said Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, a Republican who has yet to determine whether his office will release the data. “I don’t think he made a good decision in this effort because of the way he chose to go through with it.”

    It remains unclear exactly how the data will be used for. Pence spokesman Marc Lotter said the commission will look for potential irregularities in voter registrations and advise states on how they can improve their practices.

    But many secretaries of state say all or parts of the requested data are not public in their states. Some Democrats have said the commission is merely trying to provide cover for Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.

    Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have said they will refuse to provide the information sought by the commission. The other states are undecided or will provide some of the data, according to a tally of every state by The Associated Press.

    Associated Press writer Geoff Mulvihill in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, contributed.

    The post State election officials worry about 2018 election security appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Kia Labeija, The First Ten Years, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.

    Kia Labeija, The First Ten Years, 2014. Courtesy of the artist. Kia LaBeija (b. 1990) restages everyday life in her cinematic self-portraits. She took The First Ten Years on the tenth anniversary of her mother’s death. Image courtesy of the City Museum of New York

    After a long day of marching, what do protesters do when they go home?

    In the imagination of painter Hugh Steers, they return to the tender care of lovers. Or they may return to a routine of medications. Historian Stephen Vider reveals these and other intimate narratives in the lives of individuals affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. His curation of “AIDS at Home: Art and Everyday Activism” opened on May 23 at the Museum of the City of New York. The exhibit attempts to cut through stigma around HIV/AIDS by showing everyday lives that were not defined by the virus.

    It examines the role the domestic sphere has played in the HIV/AIDS epidemic from the 1980s to the present as a space for activism, social support and changing definitions of family. Vider seeks to expand visitors’ understanding of the American history of HIV/AIDS, what constitutes activism and who was affected by the crisis.

    Designed to look like an apartment, the exhibit combines photographs, video, objects and paintings to create an intimate, homelike feel, with a mix of archival material and historical ephemera.

    “If you track the history of HIV and AIDS through the medical history you see a story that presents a lot of change,” Vider said. “If you look the history of HIV and AIDS through the lens of home, I think we see much more continuity.”

    Susan Kuklin, Kachin and Michael at Michael's Apartment, 1987 © Susan Kuklin.

    Susan Kuklin, Kachin and Michael at Michael’s Apartment, 1987 © Susan Kuklin. For nine months, Kuklin followed a team from GMHC’s pioneering Buddy Program. Started in 1983, the Buddy Program paired volunteers with people living with AIDS to provide material and emotional support. Image courtesy of the City Museum of New York

    According to Vider, a postdoctoral fellow at the museum, HIV/AIDS history is typically seen through one of two lenses: through the public activism of organizations like ACT UP, or through the history of how doctors have treated the virus.

    As the virus progressed in the U.S. during the early 1980s, discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS was often accepted in the name of health and safety. HIV-positive employees faced possible firing or ostracism at work, while some healthcare providers denied patients with HIV from receiving medical services, including abortionsd and dental care. HIV-positive children could be kicked out of schools. For more than two decades, people with HIV were barred from entering the United States, a ban President Barack Obama lifted in 2009.

    But those frameworks, he argues, can obscure the intimate domestic world supporting the activists who fueled the AIDS movement. Analyzing the private lives of HIV/AIDS activists reveals common themes that have persisted throughout the multi-decade epidemic.

    “People with AIDS were often treated kind of as pariahs and were really dehumanized,” Vider said. “That kind of treatment continued even after people knew that you weren’t going to catch HIV from casual contact. That kind of stigma persists.”

    Vider obtained numerous works for the exhibit by visiting artists in their homes and studios and listening to their stories about HIV/AIDS activism. “I really see curating as a kind of community engagement,” Vider said.

    Hugh Steers, Bath Curtain, 1992. Courtesy Alexander Gray Associates, New York © 2016 Estate of Hugh Steers/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

    Hugh Steers, Bath Curtain, 1992. Courtesy Alexander Gray Associates, New York © 2016 Estate of Hugh Steers/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Hugh Steers (1962-1995) was a New York-based painter who depicted the intimate impact of HIV/AIDS among gay men. Image courtesy of the City Museum of New York

    The domestic sphere has often served as a respite from the stigma that accompanied the virus.

    Ignorance about HIV/AIDS, combined with prejudice against gay men, people of color, and people who use drugs, encouraged the fear of people who had the virus. Stigma particularly affected communities of color, especially black churches, some of which would not hold funerals for members who died after contracting HIV.

    The exhibit attempts to cut through these stigmas by humanizing people with HIV/AIDS, showing everyday lives that were not defined by the virus.

    Lee Snider, ACT UP member Ronny Viggiani at a demonstration at Trump Tower, October 31, 1989. Courtesy of Lee Snider/Photo Images

    Lee Snider, ACT UP member Ronny Viggiani at a demonstration at Trump Tower, October 31, 1989. Courtesy of Lee Snider/Photo Images. On Halloween 1989, the ACT UP Housing Committee organized a protest at Trump Tower to advocate for greater city resources to address the rising rates of homelessness among people with AIDS. Image courtesy of the City Museum of New York

    This is an important aspect of public education, according to Dr. Robert Fullilove, Professor of Clinical Sociomedical Services at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

    “The most important tool we have in the prevention agenda is one that begins with creating community awareness,” he said. “If you are prejudiced in some way against a person who’s exposed to HIV, if you make it clear that there’s not even space to talk about, discuss, or mention things that might be done to make things better, then all of our efforts to create community wide awareness … are going to fail.”

    The exhibit is sorted into three sections that focus on caretaking, housing and family, attempting to show how everyday tasks, from providing emotional to support to taking people with HIV/AIDS to doctor’s visits, can be forms of activism. Vider said that in the wake of the virus, social ties for people with HIV/AIDS become precarious, and in the absence of adequate medical and social services, home and family served to fill in the gaps.

    “You see the larger support of family around them and the families that come out of crisis and illness,” Vider said.

    The exhibit also reveals how the AIDS epidemic forced many out of their homes because of loss of insurance, skyrocketing medical bills and eviction. A photograph of an ACT UP protester outside Trump Tower drew attention to the then-real estate developer’s receipt of tax abatements. The city, at the time, was neglecting to allocate funds to the rising homeless population among people with HIV/AIDS.

    The family portion of the exhibit features an installation about the landmark Braschi v. Stahl Associates Co New York State Court of Appeals case, which marked the first time state law recognized a gay couple as a family.

    “It makes an argument about the right to self-determination of the family, that they are a family because they function as a family sand the state should follow. It’s a much broader vision of what family could be,” said Vider.

    The exhibit calls on visitors to examine the populations often neglected in mainstream discourse about HIV/AIDS, including women and communities of color. Initially thought to predominantly affect white gay men, today HIV/AIDS poses the most severe threat to communities of color.

    L.J. Roberts, Chaplain Christopher Jones at Home in Harlem, 2017.

    “L.J. Roberts, Chaplain Christopher Jones at Home in Harlem, 2017. Since 2011, L.J. Roberts (b. 1980) has created intricate embroidered portraits of activists and artists, bringing an expansive view of family to a traditional domestic form. Here the artist depicts HIV/AIDS activist, writer, and chaplain Christopher Jones at his Harlem townhouse with a portrait of his partner hanging on the wall behind him.” Image courtesy of the City Museum of New York

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates with climbing HIV diagnosis rates, “half of black gay men and a quarter of Latino gay men [will] be diagnosed with [HIV] during their lifetime.” Risk of HIV/AIDS infection is particularly high in the southern and southeastern U.S., with black men who have sex with men at the greatest risk for infection.

    According to Fullilove, the epidemic can be attributed to oppression. The War on Drugs and mass incarceration exacerbated the HIV/AIDS crisis, as black and Latinx individuals convicted for minor drug offenses were at the greatest risk for HIV exposure, given already-elevated rates of HIV/AIDS in their home communities.

    And a record of incarceration complicates the process of securing stable housing, which impedes the maintenance of life-saving treatment regimens and increases mortality rates, according to advocacy organization AIDS Watch.

    “The evidence is clear, the less stable the housing, the more difficult it is to manage an HIV infection,” Fullilove said.

    Achieving good health for people with HIV/AIDS requires attention to more than just one’s physical state or structural opportunities, Vider said.

    “Health is not just medical attention,” Vider said. “It’s about emotional care and about all the different ways that home and family are meaningful. Creating home and family and creating art are themselves acts of activism with lasting effects for people.”

    “AIDS at Home: Art and Everyday Activism” runs until October 22.

    The post AIDS activists fought for public recognition. This exhibit shows their lives at home appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Writing Class

    Larry Bates works on a piece of writing during a creative writing group for the homeless at the Barbara McInnis House on June 26, 2017, in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo by Kayana Szymczak/STAT.

    In Justin Devlin’s stories, his pain is the villain. He is the superhero in a wheelchair, kicking his illness to the curb, sentencing his constant pain to a lifetime behind bars.

    Writing “takes me away from the physical pain and the emotional pain. It gives me an escape,” said Devlin, who has a progressive genetic condition that limits his mobility.

    Devlin puts his ideas to paper during the weekly meeting of a creative writing group here at the Barbara McInnis House, a medical respite facility that provides care for homeless people who are too sick to live in a shelter, but not sick enough to stay in an expensive hospital bed. Every Monday night, volunteers sit with any resident who wants to write.

    It’s a way of giving people with serious health problems and nowhere to go a sense of normalcy.

    “If you think of the true meaning of respite, there’s something to being able to have a normal life, whether that’s doing some writing or crafts or bingo,” said Dr. Dave Munson, who works for Boston Health Care for the Homeless, the nonprofit group that runs the McInnis House.

    McInnis House is one of roughly 80 medical respite facilities for homeless individuals in the U.S. They’re designed to provide care, but also to connect patients with community and support services to help them transition into more stable housing. Programs like the writing group provide patients with something a little less tangible than medical care — they give them a sense of dignity and humanity, Munson said.

    The group also gives staffers insight into the issues their patients face.The average length of stay at McInnis is just under two weeks, but some patients are there for much longer.

    “Some of the folks we care for are really reticent to share information about themselves,” said Lily Hayward, who coordinates patient activities. “Having this creative space and outlet for folks is really important for the recovery and stability.”


    Facilitator John Kwon (left) and participant Kenneth Macks discuss a piece of writing during a creative writing group for the homeless at the Barbara McInnis House on June 26, 2017, in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo by Kayana Szymczak for STAT

    And so, before a recent meeting, volunteer John Kwon roamed the halls of the facility to rouse patients from their rooms and bring them to the meeting space, where a couple of Shasta Tiki Punch sodas were laid out for the taking on the table, along with pens, pencils, and a big stack of blank notebooks.

    Kwon, who works as a biomedical research associate, and his fellow volunteer, Padraig Carolan, brought writing prompts, too: What makes you smile? What if your mirror started talking to you? Most patients, though, choose to write about their own experiences.

    “I find in life the more I live, the more I know how important it is to have a reason for living,” wrote Jesse Maxwell, a patient who popped on a pair of headphones during the session to focus on his piece, titled “Life.”

    Residents came and went during the two-hour session. Some saw their friends sitting at the table and wandered over to join. Others lost interest quickly. One patient strolled up an hour into the meeting: “This is the creative writing group, right? Awesome.”

    Devlin, who also came to the writing group during a previous stay, scribbled furiously in a notebook for a few minutes. Then he ripped out the page, crumpled it up, and tossed it in the trash. His condition had declined, and while he wanted to put that into words, he couldn’t get it just right.

    “My coping skill is writing,” he said.

    Devlin used to read and write with his mother, who also had a neurodegenerative condition. When he was little, she’d read him “The Indian in the Cupboard.” By age 12, he started showing signs of the disease. By 26, he was in a wheelchair. Now 32 years old, he said he feels better when he’s reading or writing. He just got a Boston Public Library card.


    Justin Devlin works on a piece of writing during a creative writing group for the homeless at the Barbara McInnis House on June 26, 2017, in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo by Kayana Szymczak for STAT

    Many patients who stop by the group are unsure of their creative skills.

    “I’m not a writer,” said Larry Bates, a 63-year-old patient who has been at McInnis House for four months.

    “Neither am I,” said Carolan, the volunteer, who works as a research coordinator at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

    So Bates tried his hand at it. He filled up half a page in a fresh notebook — what he called “my story, condensed.”

    He read Carolan the first line: “Life’s a funny thing when you stop and think about it. And I’ve been blessed by God throughout my journey.”

    READ NEXT: A bold bet in LA: Using health care funds to find housing for the homeless

    It has been a rough journey: Bates, who grew up in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, got into drugs as an adult and has faced bouts of homelessness. He has been married twice. He’s raised children. He’s lived in Virginia, in Connecticut, and now is back in his hometown.

    Bates, who has congestive heart failure and was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, had nowhere else to go when he left the emergency room after a recent medical scare. He ended up at McInnis House. Reading the Bible and writing, he said, have given him a way to be something other than a “professional patient.”

    “There’s a lot of story in your life,” Carolan remarked. Bates agreed — there was enough to write a whole novel, he said. Carolan assured him that wouldn’t be a problem:

    “We’ll have more notebooks ready for you.”

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on July 7, 2017. Find the original story here.

    The post In pain and with nowhere to go, homeless patients find respite in a writing group appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Illinois state capitol

    After unchecked “autopilot” spending that outstripped incoming revenue by $600 million a month, Illinois has a $14.7 billion jumble of overdue bills. Photo by Flickr user pioneer98

    SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois finally has a budget plan after two years. Now, to start paying bills.

    The Democratic-controlled Legislature’s vote last week to create a $36 billion framework over Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s vetoes ended the nation’s longest fiscal stalemate since at least the Great Depression. At the core of the budget was a $5 billion income tax increase.

    READ NEXT: Illinois approves spending plan, ending nation’s longest budget stalemate

    The tax hike is retroactive to July 1, and the state could start seeing some additional money within weeks. But after unchecked “autopilot” spending that outstripped incoming revenue by $600 million a month, Illinois has a $14.7 billion jumble of overdue bills.

    The tax increase also does nothing to directly address the haunting, $130 billion shortfall in pension obligations to retired and current state workers.

    The debt-reduction plan also includes more debt, although slightly less costly. It allows Rauner to sell up to $6 billion in bonds, on top of the $30 billion the state already owes from past loans. The idea is the interest owed on bonded indebtedness would be less than what is owed on overdue bills. The state must pay 1 percent per month on any bill unpaid for 90 days.

    But while less, the state can expect to pay double what a more financially sound state would pay on bond-sale interest — as low as 2 percent. That’s because the state’s creditworthiness has been downgraded amid the budget crisis. On a $480 million sale last fall, the state is paying 4.2 percent, and that was before major credit-rating agencies knocked down the rating further. One, Moody’s Investors Service, said a downgrade to “junk” status could come regardless of a budget deal.

    More immediately, Democratic Comptroller Susana Mendoza predicts there will be enough money to cover basic services in August; she had warned that without a deal, she would fall $185 million short. If added income tax revenue isn’t sufficient, the law allows for borrowing or otherwise taking $1.5 billion from money accumulated in state funds created for other purposes.

    Mendoza said in a YouTube video that she would begin by paying bills that draw matching dollars from the federal government, such as those covered by the Medicaid health care program. Bills with high late payment interest also get priority.

    “Our state’s schools and universities will receive critical funds, giving them the chance to open on time in the fall,” Mendoza said. “State vendors will still have to wait longer than they’d like to be caught up on payments. But there is finally a path forward.”

    The individual income tax rate is now 4.95 percent, up from 3.75 percent. Corporations will pay 7 percent instead of 5.25 percent.

    The Illinois Department of Revenue updated its payroll withholding guide to reflect the new tax rate, spokesman Terry Horstman said. Larger employers must make semi-weekly withholding payments, so those should begin this month. Smaller employers and taxpayers not on a payroll are required to file estimated payments by mid-September, at which point money will start coming in at the higher rate.

    In the budget year that ended last month, Illinois collected $17.8 billion in personal and corporate income taxes, an increase of just 1 percent from the previous year, according to the Legislature’s bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability . Legislative sponsors of the tax hike estimated it would bring in $350 million more per month, though that likely depends on economic growth in the state.

    Legislative Democrats boast that the $36 billion budget they approved is not only $1 billion less than Rauner himself proposed, but $3 billion less than the “autopilot” government spent annually. But Rauner’s administration complains the budget still is $1 billion or more out of balance.

    The legislation also provides some relief for nonprofits that have provided services without payment and college students who have had to make do this past school year without access to the state’s needs-based Monetary Award Program. They will receive money from the more than $800 million in tax revenue that accumulated in special funds but went unspent because lawmakers hadn’t appropriated the money.

    The post Illinois has bills to pay after 2 years without budget plan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    NADJA DROST: In the border town of San Antonio de Táchira, Venezuelans fed up with their hardships are fleeing their country every day, by foot, for Colombia. They exit cars and buses suitcases in hand…and walk toward the Simón Bólivar International Bridge and cross into the town of Cúcuta.

    Some are heading off into the uncertain world of those who emigrate without a work visa. Venezuelan Luisa Gomez arrived two months ago. A single mother, she tries to support her five children, grandchild, and mother by selling toothbrushes and toothpaste on public buses.

    LUISA GOMEZ: It’s difficult, there’s some drivers who don’t let you work, because so many Venezuelans have arrived, there’s a lot of vendors.

    NADJA DROST: Gomez is on the move from dawn till dusk seven days a week. After tipping drivers who let her on, Gomez netted two dollars yesterday. Today she went home with 13…barely enough to feed her kids.

    LUISA GOMEZ: When I enter this door, the first thing they ask me is, ‘Mama, what did you bring me?’ And it’s sad to arrive at home without anything.

    NADJA DROST: Home for now is a barebones house that a local church member has let her live in rent free until November. She’s already behind on utility bills.

    LUISA GOMEZ: If I don’t even have 35 dollars to pay for the gas, how am I going to pay for rent? I don’t know what I’m going to do. This is distressing.

    NADJA DROST: Gomez hopes she can get a work permit and her kids could be eligible for schools here — whatever she can do to avoid going back to Venezuela.

    LUISA GOMEZ: If God permits that things get settled, I’ll stay here in Colombia, trying to raise my kids. It’s difficult to start with zero and sleeping on a mattress on the floor.

    NADJA DROST: With Colombia’s 50 year civil war having reached a truce last year, many Venezuelans see Colombia as a safer bet than staying put.

    For decades, Colombians fleeing the armed conflict crossed this bridge in droves into neighboring Venezuela to seek refuge. But now the traffic is going the other way. Every day, tens of thousands of Venezuelans walk this bridge into Colombia — seeking medical attention, buying basic goods, like flour and toilet paper, or to move their entire lives across the bridge and try to start new ones in Colombia.

    On the Colombian side of the bridge, vendors and small shops have popped up next to money-changers, where Venezuelans exchange wages paid in their devalued currency — a week’s worth of wages gets them a few bags of cornmeal, rice and bars of soap.

    A few minutes walk from the bridge, there’s a line down the block for a soup kitchen run by a local church. It opened in March to respond to the influx of hungry Venezuelans. It serves 500 to 800 lunches a day. Some stay in Cucuta indefinitely. Others, like this woman, go home to Venezuela after spending the day carting migrants’ belongings across the bridge for cash.

    WOMAN: Carrying suitcases for my kid and what I make with that is for food for the house.

    NADJA DROST: Colombia has become a lifeline for Venezuelans, not only for food and supplies, but also medical services currently unavailable or unaffordable in Venezuela.

    Venezuelans have discovered — one way to access Colombia’s health care system is through hospital emergency rooms. At the main hospital in Cucutá, Dr. Andres Galvis says ER admissions of women and children have jumped 50 percent in the past year.

    ANDRES GALVIS: They are patients who have no, no, no resources, none. They arrive here in really bad shape. Children who often require dialysis, with severely infected kidneys. Everyone injured by firearms or in traffic accidents, all classes of trauma.

    NADJA DROST: Dr. Galvis says with dire hospital conditions in Venezuela, many expecting mothers flock to Colombia to give birth. His maternity ward traffic is up 100 percent this year.

    ANDRES GALVIS: The patient arrives when she’s already in labor, in pain. They wait until they’re in labor, the water’s broken, and whoosh you attend to them.

    NADJA DROST: Johanna Sanchez left Venezuela when she was four months pregnant.

    JOHANNA SANCHEZ: With the situation there, I couldn’t return. I had a baby last year, and it died on me.

    NADJA DROST: She says her last birth had complications, and the baby required an operation. Afterwards, she says, the Venezuelan hospital didn’t have a catheter that was the right size.

    JOHANNA SANCHEZ: They found a different one, but it was thicker, too thick for the baby’s vein. It leaked, there were complications. He lasted 19 days.

    NADJA DROST: In Venezuela, William Bayona supports his family with the little money he makes driving kids to school in his van. But now he needs cataract surgery.

    WILLIAM BAYONA: The doctor prohibited me from driving, but I can’t let myself stop, because who’s going to support my family and me?

    NADJA DROST: Born in Colombia, William is a bit luckier than most Venezuelans: He’s a dual citizen who qualifies for free, government-provided health care in Colombia. He crossed the border with his cousin.

    WILLIAM BAYONA: We’re in Colombia!

    NADJA DROST: I asked him what would his situation would be like if he wasn’t a dual citizen?

    WILLIAM BAYONA: One couldn’t even think about it without a Colombian ID; there’s no insurance.

    NADJA DROST: He’s come to this clinic in Cúcuta, because cataract surgery in Venezuela is available only at private clinics he can’t afford.

    WILLIAM BAYONA: It’s too expensive. To get that kind of money, you’d have to work for a year.

    NADJA DROST: With limited Colombian government support, a Catholic mission in Cucuta has come to the aid of Venezuelan migrants — providing lunch programs for children, workshops for mothers to start micro-enterprises, and helping families find homes. Father Francesco Bortignon runs it……and wants Colombian authorities to be more responsive to the migrants.

    FRANCESCO BORTIGNON: What is important for us is that the state opens its eyes and sees that there is already a significant number of people with very specific needs, for whom the state is doing nothing, because the only ones doing anything are us humanitarian organizations.

    NADJA DROST: Without legal status or work permits, many Venezuelans get pushed to the margins of Colombian society. Some, like Maria Rivera, live in neighborhoods like this one…squatting on land by a creek full of raw sewage. After emigrating, Rivera lived in a better house with her husband and their five-year-old son. But her husband’s sporadic work as a day laborer can’t cover their rent and utilities.

    MARIA RIVERA: He’s earning very little now, about 40 dollars a week, and with that we have to pay the rent. That’s why I’m moving, because the rent’s got me up to here.

    NADJA DROST: They’re moving here, where there’s no rent, into a one-room shack with a dirt floor. Her husband built it with plastic tarps and second-hand planks of wood.

    MARIA RIVERA: This is where the kitchen will be, there’ll be a little table and the two-burner stove.

    NADJA DROST: Rivera’s neighbors, who also fled Venezuela’s’ hardships, are struggling in Colombia. Their husbands are out looking for work.

    NEIGHBOR 1: If they get work, they don’t pay them as they should. They pay very little. My husband works in a hardware store, but they don’t pay him the correct wage.

    NEIGHBOR 2: A Colombian’s day wage is between 10 and 13 dollars. That’s the mínimum. For a Venezuelan, they give 5, 7 dollars a day.

    NADJA DROST: Some Colombian employers take advantage of these Venezuelans living in the shadows. Other businesses won’t hire Venezuelans without work permits for fear of government fines. As a result, Venezuelan migrants are pushed into precarious jobs, selling their wares in the streets for tiny amounts of cash. Even children are pressed into sales.

    NADJA DROST: Deportations are rare and Cucúta’s mayor, César Rojas, says the influx of Venezuelan migrants willing to work for less is making it harder for his constituents to find jobs.

    CESAR ROJAS: I’m worried about the lack of work opportunities in my city. For whom? For my citizens, for those who live in Cúcuta. But if there’s an exodus of 200 or 300-thousand Venezuelans, well, unemployment is going to rise in our city.

    NADJA DROST: In expectation of an even greater influx from Venezuela, should the government of president Nicolas Maduro collapse. Mayor Rojas says regional and national authorities are making emergency plans.

    CESAR ROJAS: We don’t know how many people we’ll be able to receive. We have arenas ready for whatever moment there’s an avalanche of Venezuelans, if there’s a coup d’etat, we’ll be on the alert. But I cannot say that I’m going to build shelters for refugees.

    NADJA DROST: With or without a warm welcome, the Venezuelans keep coming. With Colombian authorities estimating 100,000 have settled in Colombia so far this year.

    The post As Venezuela’s economy plummets, mass exodus ensues appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling is detained by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

    A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling is detained by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 9, 2016. Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

    A personal injury lawyer trying to raise money for her lawsuits against Black Lives Matter and its leaders on behalf of Baton Rouge police officers was rejected by a crowdfunding website on Sunday.

    The YouCaring site is a free, online fundraising source for people around the country and in Baton Rouge, including residents whose lives were devastated by floods last year or families who have expensive medical needs. It also supports various versions of local and national Black Lives Matter campaigns.

    But when lawyer Donna Grodner, who has filed two federal lawsuits on behalf of police against Black Lives Matter that target one of its leaders Deray Mckesson, created a page to raise $20,000 for expenses, YouCaring took it down.

    “In alignment with our mission, we removed this fundraiser because it was not within our community guidelines around promoting harmony,” YouCaring chief marketing officer Maly Ly told the NewsHour Weekend in an email. “We are not the right platform to air grievances, or engage in contentious disputes or controversial public opinion.”

    Then, Grodner created a GoFundMe page. GoFundMe did not immediately return a request for comment.

    Grodner has filed two lawsuits that accuse Black Lives Matter and its leaders of causing the injuries of two police officers in separate incidents.

    READ NEXT: Baton Rouge officer wounded by lone shooter sues Black Lives Matter

    The first lawsuit was filed on behalf of an unnamed officer who said he was hit by debris during a protest after local police, who are white, killed 37-year-old Alton Sterling, a black man, on July 5 last year.

    Following Sterling’s death, Black Lives Matter organized a “Weekend of Rage” campaign, in line with type of take-to-the-streets rallies the movement has organized since its inception around 2012, to rail against the killings of black people.

    The lawsuit claims that Black Lives Matter and one of its leaders Deray Mckesson are responsible for the officer’s injuries, though Mckesson is not accused of throwing anything. It says the Black Lives Matter activists have incited violence and do not try to calm the crowds.

    A judge in that case is still deciding whether Black Lives Matter can be charged as an entity.

    Grodner filed a second lawsuit on Friday, but with four more leaders as defendants including Alicia Garza and Johnetta “Netta” Elzie, making a similar claim.

    The officer she is representing, also unnamed, was shot several days after the Weekend of Rage, by a man from Kansas City who law enforcement said had never attended any of the protests, according to local reports.

    A First Amendment lawyer told the NewsHour Weekend on Saturday that Grodner’s theory is bizarre and seems it may be an attempt to hunt for dirt within the movement rather than a legitimate legal claim. David Roland, the director of litigation at the Freedom Center of Missouri, also said it followed the same principle used in a Civil-War era law.

    “It’s the same logic that gets applied to people of the Muslim faith. If there’s an act of terrorism, people say, ‘If you don’t come out and disavow this personally, then you are responsible,’” he said.

    Roland feared it was a shot across the bow and designed to discourage dissent.

    “Black Lives Matter and the people who are involved in it are engaged in civil disobedience because they perceive a fundamental wrong in our society that needs to be corrected,” Roland said. “The best method that they know to employ … is to engage in civil disobedience, and that’s part of a long American tradition.”

    Grodner’s GoFundMe page called the protesters militant, saying the money will help “hold them responsible for the injuries they caused, whether in whole or in part through its [anti]-police agenda.”

    In response to questions about YouCaring’s decision and the GoFundMe page, Grodner told the NewsHour Weekend in an email that “Both are for the same purpose.”

    But Ly said in her email that YouCaring was drawing a line.

    “We exist to empower people and communities to rally positive financial, emotional, and social support,” she wrote. “While different viewpoints are a part of life, you should make efforts to ensure that the content of your fundraiser does not promote discord.”

    The post Fundraising site will not support lawsuits against Black Lives Matter appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Mosul ISIS

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Just over three years ago, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ascended the pulpit of Mosul’s grand mosque and proclaimed an ISIS caliphate, or Islamic state, stretching from Iraq to Syria. Now, that mosque lies in ruins, and ISIS’s stronghold in Syria, the city of Raqqa, is under siege by American-backed militias.

    “Reuters” reporter Stephen Kalin is in Mosul and joins me now via Skype.

    So, how significant was this moment?

    STEPHEN KALIN, REPORTER, REUTERS: Very significant. This is — we’re getting very close to the end of nearly nine-month battle. There are still a small pocket of territory in Mosul that Islamic State controls those, but we really expect that to be finally be done tomorrow.

    SREENIVASAN: What happens now?

    KALIN: Well, now, in Mosul, the city has to start rebuilding. A lot of the city had been destroyed. I talked to the United Nations a few days ago, and they told me that just the initial stages of rebuilding, getting public infrastructure working again, which will take about a year and cost more than $1 billion. And on top of that, I mean, there’s much more long term reconstruction that has to happen.

    The — all the five bridges inside Mosul are destroyed. Most of the old city is in ruins and other parts of the city are heavily damaged. People’s homes are destroyed and people have been living three years under brutal rule, so they have to really, you know, readjust to being back part of Iraq.

    SREENIVASAN: Even if you rebuilt all the infrastructure, what about all the people that have left?

    KALIN: Yes. I mean, there are a lot of people who have fled. When ISIS came, a few hundred thousand people left the city, before they sort of shut down any avenue to escape. So, when the battle began nine months ago, there were — we estimated about one and a half million people inside the city. Of that 900,000 people were displaced. About a third of that was to camps outside of the city. The rest were to other houses, you know, relatives’ homes, friends’ homes inside the city.

    So, most of the population actually stayed inside the city. But now, they’re going to have to find way to rebuild their homes that were destroyed and, you know, get back to a normal life.

    SREENIVASAN: While a big city — this is just one city, there are still lots of cities that are under ISIS control, smaller ones.

    KALIN: Yes, there are a number of smaller cities to the south and west of Mosul, and we’re expecting that the military campaign will continue with the help of the U.S.-led coalition. The battle is not over against ISIS by any stretch in Iraq. And in addition to those cities, we expect that there will be an insurgency, that there will be asymmetrical terrorist type attacks in Mosul and other parts of Iraq. So, it — really stabilizing Iraq will continue to be an important mission for the security forces.

    SREENIVASAN: All right. Stephen Kalin of “Reuters”, joining us via Skype from Erbil tonight, thanks so much.

    KALIN: Thank you.

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR:  This weekend in Indianapolis, the National Association of Secretaries of State is holding its annual meeting.  Those are the officials who oversee elections in all 50 states.

    It’s usually not a meeting that garners a lot of attention, but more important this year.  One: just recently a new Election Integrity Commission created by President Trump requested all 50 states to provide detailed personal voter information to figure out, they say, how to protect the integrity of the vote from fraud.  Most states are refusing to comply either partially or completely because handing over some of this information violates some state privacy laws.

    The other reason we’re paying attention to what secretaries of states do is the specter of Russian hacking.  The former secretary of homeland security testified to Congress under oath last month the Russians did indeed attempt to hack voter registration software during this past election.

    Joining me now from Indianapolis to discuss this is Denise Merrill, president of the national association and Connecticut’s secretary of state.

    Thanks for joining us.

    From every indication, it seems that President Trump believes Putin in his denial that the Russians meddled in the election.  Do the secretaries of state believe the evidence presented by the Department of Homeland Security?

    DENISE MERRILL (D), SECRETARY OF STATE, CONNECTICUT:  Well, part of the problem here is we don’t really know what that evidence is because we don’t have security clearance so we are kind of the last to know and lot of this we read in the paper.

    SREENIVASAN:  So, the secretaries of state are reading this information in the paper at the same time we are.  Meaning, you don’t have any kind of hot line that you are getting a phone call on, saying, hey, we think you might have been hacked.

    MERRILL:  No, and that’s been sort of a problem.  Although 50 states do all kinds of, you know, scans of their voter files.  And let me be clear: the only thing really at risk here is at all is the voter file, the registry of all the voters in each state, and they’re kept on a statewide basis.  But none of the actual election equipment is ever touched.  It’s not on the Internet.

    SREENIVASAN:  And as some of the reporting earlier pointed out, the damaging or changing that voter file, or even causing some confusion, that can cause things like delays at the polls or perhaps create disincentives for people to show up.

    MERRILL:  Indeed, it could.  And I think that’s the biggest damage that could be done would be the confusion that would result, although we all have paper backups of all these lists.  So, the real damage is more to — I guess you’d say the integrity of the vote, the confidence that people have that their votes being counted has been the biggest loser in this whole thing.

    SREENIVASAN:  You had closed door meetings during your conference with the Department of Homeland Security, with the FBI.  With the informational that they presented to you now, are you confident that all our systems are secure?  That Russia or any other foreign countries cannot do this to us again?

    MERRILL:  Well, I think we’re as secure as we can be.  We’re in the electronic age.  You know, no one is entirely safe.  We have lots of users of these systems.  The local officials are the ones that actually keep the list and they log on to these systems.

    But I think the best defense against all that is the fact that they are kept by 50 states in 50 separate databases and all the election results and everything are tallied locally.  So, it’s an extremely decentralized system and I think that’s a blessing in the end.

    SREENIVASAN:  You know, turning now a little bit to the Voter Election Commission, rooting out fraud in the system seems the thrust of why the commission was set up.  Do secretaries of state believe the president’s claim that 3 million fraudulent votes were cast this election to his opponent?

    MERRILL: I would say, of course, that differs state by state.  But every state that I have seen statements from have said no, they do not believe that there’s anywhere near that number.  Republicans and Democrats alike have said that yes — does fraud occur occasionally in their state?  Yes.  Is it prosecuted?  Yes.  But it is nowhere near the numbers that they are talking about.  It’s seen as a — widely seen as a very, very overstated number.

    SREENIVASAN:  OK.  You know, as you just pointed, one of the strengths of the system is the fact that it’s so decentralized.  Are you concerned that a centralized voter file which in essence is what would happen if the administration got all of this information from all of these could be held securely?

    MERRILL:  I’m deeply concerned about that personally.  And I don’t speak now for every secretary of state.  As you said, it’s very decentralized.  But I’m deeply concerned about that.  It seems like a very odd moment when we are talking about the dangers of cyber security to be centralizing a voter file from how, and now I’m told its on a computer at the White House, which also does not fill me with confidence.

    SREENIVASAN:  All right.  Denise Merrill, president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, thanks so much.

    MERRILL:  Thank you.

    The post State leaders discuss election security at annual meeting appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    new mexico

    In a hearing on Friday, New Mexico senators heard from panelists who spoke of a need for the Indian Arts and Crafts Act to be revisited. Photo by Flickr user mwwile

    Native American artists are requesting the federal government strengthen a 1990 law that prohibits the sale of counterfeit tribal art, in an attempt to stop the flood of fakes that jeopardize their livelihood.

    In a hearing on Friday, New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich heard from seven panelists, a mix of government officials and Native artists, who spoke of a need for the Indian Arts and Crafts Act to be revisited.

    The act made it illegal to sell any good that “falsely suggests it is Indian produced.” Enforcement of the law, however, has long been seen by Native American arts groups as insufficient. Even after the act was updated in 2010 to authorize all federal law enforcement officers, not just the FBI, to conduct investigations, the issue of counterfeits remained.

    “It disturbs me that people throughout the world are misappropriating our traditional designs and profiting from it,” Joyce Begay-Foss, former chair of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board and a Navajo weaver, said in the hearing.

    Udall, vice chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said in the hearing that the law should be reevaluated to “make sure future generations of Native Americans have what their elders had — pride in Native American culture, and a way to practice time-honored traditions of craftsmanship while maintaining a livelihood.”

    The unfair competition, he said, forces Native American artists to “drop prices to keep up with wholesale prices or so-called ‘Native American’ jewelry.”

    Any damage to the arts has a rippling effect on Native communities, in which art is important to preserving culture.

    “We’re not just losing our arts but also our traditional language,” Begay-Foss said. “Our young kids, they’re not learning the cultural value alongside the language.” It’s through art, she says, that language is passed on and preserved.

    Fake Native American artifacts have been an issue for decades.

    As much as 80 percent of the jewelry marketed as Indian-made may be counterfeit, according to a press release from Udall’s office. The Indian Arts and Crafts Board, which oversees enforcement of the law, has received over 1,700 complaints of alleged violations of the act, Meredith Stanton, the board’s director, said at the hearing. 

    In February, five people were indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly conspiring to import and sell more than $300,000 worth of foreign-made jewelry as Native American-made.

    Now, Native artists are calling for stricter punishments for people caught selling fakes and additional resources to patrol the online market.

    None of this will be possible without more funding. Begay-Foss worries about the feasibility of reform under President Donald Trump, who has proposed $1.4 billion cuts to the Department of the Interior, which houses the Indian Arts and Crafts Board.

    While she says there are Native American artists who are able to charge thousands for their work, a strengthened Indian Arts and Crafts Act would protect lesser-known artists.

    “I’m talking about the weaver that wants to make a couple hundred dollars. She can’t sell that rug because you can buy a knockoff for thirty bucks. It’s really frustrating for artists,” she said.

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    File photo of Donald Trump Jr. by Brian Losness/Reuters

    File photo of Donald Trump Jr. by Brian Losness/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s eldest son changed his account over the weekend of a meeting he had with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, saying Sunday that the woman told him she had information about Democrat Hillary Clinton.

    A statement from Donald Trump Jr. one day earlier made no mention of Clinton. In his initial depiction of the meeting last June, the president’s son said the discussion focused on a disbanded program that used to allow American adoptions of Russian children.

    It appeared that Trump Jr. shifted his account of the meeting after being presented with additional information from The New York Times, which first reported both the discussion and the prospect of negative information about Clinton.

    The Kremlin, meanwhile, is disavowing knowledge of the Russian lawyer, or any meeting between Trump senior staff and the woman.

    The meeting with Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya is the earliest known private meeting between key aides to the president and a Russian. Federal and congressional investigators are probing whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia to meddle in the presidential election, investigations the president has called a “hoax.”

    Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and White House senior adviser, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended the meeting with Veselnitskaya.

    The Times, citing advisers to the White House who were briefed on the discussion, said Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting after being promised damaging information about Clinton.

    In his statement Sunday, Trump Jr. said he was asked by an acquaintance he knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant to have a meeting with a person he was told might have information that would be “helpful” to the Trump campaign. He said he was not told the name of the person ahead of the meeting.

    READ MORE: Report: Trump son, son-in-law met with Kremlin-linked lawyer

    Trump Jr. said the attorney claimed during the discussion to have information that “individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee” and supporting Clinton.

    “No details or supporting information was provided or even offered,” Trump Jr. said. “It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”

    He said his father was unaware of the meeting.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that the Kremlin is unaware of a meeting between Trump’s senior staff and a Russian lawyer, that it doesn’t know who Veselnitskaya is, and that it “cannot keep track” of every Russian lawyer who holds meetings in Russia or abroad.

    On Saturday, Trump Jr. had described the same gathering as a “short introductory meeting” during which the three discussed a program that used to allow U.S. citizens to adopt Russian children. Russia ended the adoptions in response to American sanctions brought against the nation following the 2009 death of an imprisoned lawyer who spoke about a corruption scandal.

    He said on Sunday that the attorney turned the conversation to the adoption of Russian children, and that he believed that this was the “true agenda” of the meeting and that claims about having information helpful to the Trump campaign had been a pretext for the encounter.

    “I interrupted and advised her that my father was not an elected official, but rather a private citizen, and that her comments and concerns were better addressed if and when he held public office,” Trump Jr. said in the statement.

    Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Trump’s legal team, said only, “The president was not aware of and did not attend the meeting.”

    Unlike Kushner, Trump Jr. does not serve in the administration and is not required to disclose his foreign contacts. The newspaper said the meeting was disclosed in recent days to government investigators when Kushner filed a revised version of a form needed to obtain a security clearance. His attorney has previously acknowledged that Kushner’s first security clearance submission was incomplete.

    Manafort also recently disclosed the meeting to congressional investigators, the newspaper said.

    The newspaper said Veselnitskaya is known for her attempts to undercut the sanctions against Russian human rights abusers. The Times also said her clients include state-owned businesses and the son of a senior government official whose company was under investigation in the United States at the time of the meeting.

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    File photo of the U.S. Capitol by Zach Gibson/Reuters

    File photo of the U.S. Capitol by Zach Gibson/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The initial GOP bill to repeal and replace the nation’s health law is probably “dead” and President Donald Trump’s proposal to just repeal it appears to be a “non-starter,” two moderate Republican senators indicated Sunday as their party scrambled to salvage faltering legislation.

    “We don’t know what the plan is,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La. “Clearly, the draft plan is dead. Is the serious rewrite plan dead? I don’t know.”

    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said it may now be time for Republicans to come up with a new proposal with support from Democrats.

    “I think my view is it’s probably going to be dead,” McCain said of the GOP bill. If Democrats are included, he said, it doesn’t mean “they control it. It means they can have amendments considered. And even when they lose, then they’re part of the process. That’s what democracy is supposed to be all about.”

    Signaling his pessimism as well, Sen. Chuck Grassley wrote on Twitter late Saturday that Republicans will lose their Senate majority if they don’t pass health care legislation. The Iowa Republican said the party should be “ashamed” that it hasn’t been able to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.


    The White House, anxious for a legislative victory on health care, insisted that it fully expects a GOP repeal and replace bill to pass in the coming weeks that will fulfill Trump’s pledge to end Obamacare. Democrats have ruled out negotiating with Republicans unless they work to fix the law, not repeal it.

    “Whether it’d be before August recess or during August recess, the president expects the Senate to fulfill the promises it made to the American people,” said White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.

    Trump used Twitter Sunday afternoon to urge Republicans to follow through on their pledge to get rid of the health care law pushed by his predecessor.

    “For years, even as a “civilian,” I listened as Republicans pushed the Repeal and Replace of ObamaCare. Now they finally have their chance!,” Trump said in a tweet.

    At least 10 GOP senators have expressed opposition to the initial bill drafted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Republicans hold a 52-48 majority and Democrats stand united against the bill, meaning that just three GOP defections will doom it. The weeklong July 4 recess only raised more doubts among senators as many heard from constituents angry about the GOP bill and the prospect of rising premiums.

    READ MORE: Brooks and Marcus on Republicans diverging on health care

    McConnell last week said he would introduce a fresh bill in about a week scuttling and replacing much of former President Barack Obama’s health care law. But McConnell also acknowledged that if the broader effort fails, he may turn to a smaller bill with quick help for insurers and consumers and negotiate with Democrats.

    Cassidy, an uncommitted senator who encountered upset voters this month at a Baton Rouge town hall, rated the chances of Republicans passing broader legislation in the next three weeks at “50-50.” He cited questions about the impact on coverage and cost in a revised conservative plan being circulated by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

    Cruz’s plan, which aims to lower premiums for healthy people, has drawn support from the White House and some conservatives in the House, which would have to approve any modified bill passed by the Senate. But his proposal has limited appeal to Republican moderates such as Grassley, who told Iowa Public Radio that it may be “subterfuge to get around pre-existing conditions.”

    Cruz on Sunday sought to dismiss Grassley’s criticism as a “hoax” being pushed by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, insisting that people will be able to get the coverage they need at an affordable price. Cruz cast his plan as a compromise to unify the party on a GOP health bill.

    “When it comes to repealing Obamacare, what I think is critical is that Republicans, we’ve got to honor the promise we made to the voters that millions of Americans are hurting under Obamacare,” Cruz said.

    “In my view failure is not an option,” he said.

    The growing skepticism among Senate Republicans spurred Trump earlier this month to suggest repealing the Obama-era law right away and then replacing it later, an approach that GOP leaders and the president himself considered but dismissed months ago as impractical and politically unwise.

    Cassidy cautioned that if senators are unable to reach agreement by the end of July then a “repeal-only” bill would be a non-starter. Echoing McConnell, Cassidy said Republicans may have to pass legislation instead to stabilize the insurance markets.

    “I do think we have to do something for market stabilization, otherwise people who are paying premiums of $20,000, $30,000 and $40,000 will pay even that much more,” he said.

    Cassidy and Priebus appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” Cruz spoke on ABC’s “This Week” and CBS’ “Face the Nation,” and McCain also was on CBS.


    Associated Press writer Mark Sherman contributed to this report.

    The post 2 GOP senators suggest bill to repeal health care law ‘dead’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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