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

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    Christopher Wray testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be the next FBI director on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    Christopher Wray testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be the next FBI director on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee says he hopes to hold a committee vote next week on Christopher Wray’s nomination to be FBI director.

    Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa says he’s impressed with Wray, who promised at his Wednesday hearing to never let politics get in the way of the bureau’s mission.

    Grassley said Thursday Wray is “the independent leader the FBI needs,” and he takes Wray at his word that his loyalty will be to the U.S. Constitution.

    Votes on the Judiciary panel are often delayed a week at the request of any committee member. Grassley said that hasn’t been the tradition with FBI nominees and he hopes that won’t happen with Wray.

    Democrats on the committee signaled support for Wray, but it is unclear if they will try and delay the vote.

    California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the panel, said she will vote for Wray. She noted Wednesday that nominations are often delayed, but said she hopes that the vote on Wray will be “sooner rather than later.”

    FBI director nominee Christopher Wray faced the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday in his confirmation hearing. The former federal prosecutor and defense attorney faced a long list of questions about his independence and allegiance to the law, as well as his counterterrorism experience at the Justice Department. Lisa Desjardins reports.

    Wray would replace former FBI Director James Comey, who was abruptly fired by President Donald Trump in May amid an investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties to Trump’s campaign.

    MORE: Read FBI director nominee Chris Wray’s opening statement

    The post Senate committee aims for vote next week on FBI director appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A Senate Budget Committee staff member pages through a copy of President Trump's Fiscal Year 2018 budget on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    A Senate Budget Committee staff member pages through a copy of President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A new government analysis of President Donald Trump’s budget plan says it wouldn’t come close to balancing the federal ledger like the White House has promised.

    Thursday’s Congressional Budget Office report says that Trump’s budget, if followed to the letter, would result in a $720 billion deficit at the end of 10 years instead of the slight surplus promised.

    CBO said Trump’s budget would reduce the deficit by a total of $3.3 trillion over 10 years instead of the $5.6 trillion deficit cut promised by the White House. The nonpartisan scorekeeper estimated that deficits in each of the coming 10 years will exceed the $585 billion in red ink posted last year.

    CBO says that Trump relied on far too optimistic predictions of economic growth and that Trump’s rosy projections are the chief reason his budget doesn’t balance as promised.

    “Nearly all of that (deficit) difference arises because the administration projects higher revenue projections — stemming mainly from a projection of faster economic growth,” CBO said.

    Trump’s budget predicts that the U.S. economy will soon ramp up to annual growth in gross domestic product of 3 percent; CBO’s long-term projections predict annual GDP growth averaging 1.9 percent.

    Trump’s May budget submission proposed jarring, politically unrealistic cuts to the social safety net for the poor and a swath of other domestic programs. Many of its recommendations were deemed dead on arrival and are being ignored by Republicans controlling Congress.

    READ MORE: As deficit spikes, CBO says Congress must act on debt by October

    The post CBO says Trump’s budget doesn’t balance federal ledger as promised appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Donald Trump Jr. stands onstage with his father then-presidential nominee Donald Trump after a debate against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, in September 2016. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    Donald Trump Jr. stands onstage with his father then-presidential nominee Donald Trump after a debate against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, in September 2016. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    Several watchdog groups filed a complaint Thursday with the Federal Election Commission accusing Donald Trump Jr. of illegally coordinating with Russia during the 2016 campaign, based on the emails he released earlier this week detailing the meeting he set up last year to obtain information on Hillary Clinton.

    The complaint, a copy of which was obtained by PBS NewsHour, argues that Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign committee broke campaign finance law by soliciting contributions from a foreign national or foreign government when Trump Jr., former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner agreed to the meeting.

    Trump Jr. “violated the ban on knowingly soliciting a contribution from a foreign national by arranging and attending a meeting to request and accept what he understood to be a valuable in-kind contribution to his father’s presidential campaign in the form of opposition research on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government,” the complaint said.

    The complaint was filed by the advocacy groups Common Cause, the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21. Paul S. Ryan, a vice president at Common Cause, and Catherine Hinckley Kelley, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, also signed onto the complaint.

    One of the groups, Common Cause, filed a complaint with the FEC on Monday arguing that Trump Jr. had violated campaign finance law. That complaint, based on New York Times reports of the meeting Trump arranged last year, was filed before Trump released the emails Tuesday showing that he knew the meeting would offer information on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government.

    The group also sent a letter to the Department of Justice requesting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller look into Trump Jr.’s actions as part of the federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

    “The evidence is clear that Don Jr. knew that the offer of opposition campaign research came from the Russian government, and the law is clear that giving such valuable research for free would have been a contribution to the Trump campaign,” Brendan Fischer, the director of federal and FEC reform program at Campaign Legal Center, said.

    The filing also names Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior adviser, and Paul Manafort, who served as President Trump’s campaign manager, alleging that both men also violated FEC law by participating in the meeting the president’s son set up with a Russian attorney in June of 2016.

    The groups asked the FEC in the complaint to “determine and impose appropriate sanctions for any and all violations.”

    When reached by PBS Newshour, the office of Alan Futerfas, Trump Jr.’s attorney, asked that a request for comment be submitted by email. Futerfas did not immediately respond to NewsHour’s emailed request for comment on the FEC complaint.

    An FEC spokesperson said that the commission does not comment on pending enforcement matters.

    Donald Trump Jr. came under scrutiny in the past week after reports surfaced of an email exchange in which Rob Goldstone, a music publicist who worked on the elder Trump’s 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow, offered to set up a meeting to provide “high level” information on Clinton.

    Goldstone wrote that the information was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” adding that it would be “highly useful for your father.” Trump Jr. responded by writing, “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

    The exchange occurred as the elder Trump was securing the Republican presidential nomination and preparing for a general election contest against Clinton. The meeting took place at Trump Tower, and included Trump Jr., the Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, Kushner and Manafort, who was managing the campaign at the time.

    The next month, WikiLeaks released a trove of damaging emails on Clinton’s campaign three days before the start of the Democratic National Convention. Candidate Trump touted the WikiLeaks revelations several times throughout the campaign, at one point urging Russia to uncover more Clinton emails.

    Special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional investigators are now probing whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to help him win the 2016 election.

    The president, his son, and others close to the White House have long dismissed the Russia investigations. President Trump has repeatedly called it a “witch hunt” and “fake news.”

    In a Tuesday interview with FOX News’ Sean Hannity, Donald Trump Jr. defended his actions: “I didn’t know if there was any credibility, I didn’t know if there was anything behind it, I can’t vouch for the information,” Trump Jr. said. “Someone sent me an email. I can’t help what someone sends me. I read it, I responded accordingly.”

    But the revelations of his son’s meeting to obtain information on Clinton has raised new questions about the Trump team’s connections to Russia. Congressional investigators have signaled they may now include Donald Trump Jr.’s actions in their investigation.

    The FEC complaint opens the door for a separate probe into the president’s son, Kushner and Manafort.

    In the complaint, the groups argued that Trump Jr.’s actions meet the definition of solicitation under the law because he requested and helped arrange the meeting. Any “communication that provides a method of making a contribution” violates campaign finance law, the complaint said.

    The complaint argues that Trump Jr. played a prominent role in the campaign as an “agent, strategist and spokesperson of Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.” and that Trump Jr. was a headliner at fundraising events for the campaign and helped select the President Trump’s running mate.

    The complaint also claims that Trump Jr. acted knowingly, another threshold in determining wrongdoing under FEC law, because he was “aware of facts that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that” the information he would receive was coming from a foreign national.

    WATCH: Did Donald Trump Jr. break the law? Two legal experts weigh in

    The post Watchdog groups file complaint with FEC accusing Donald Trump Jr. of breaking campaign finance law appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Donald Trump Jr. prepares to speak at the 2016 Republican Convention in Cleveland. Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters

    Donald Trump Jr. prepares to speak at the 2016 Republican Convention in Cleveland. Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee says he will call on President Donald Trump’s son to testify amid investigations into Russian meddling in last year’s election — and he says he’ll subpoena him if necessary.

    Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Thursday he plans to send a letter to Donald Trump Jr. to ask him to appear before the committee. He said he wants Trump’s eldest child to testify “pretty soon,” and it could be as early as next week. Asked if he was willing to issue a subpoena if Trump Jr. declined to appear, Grassley said “yes.”

    Trump Jr. released emails this week from 2016 in which he appeared eager to accept information from the Russian government that could have damaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The emails were sent ahead of a Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer that Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also attended.

    Grassley has said he also wants Manafort to testify. He said Wednesday that he wants to question Manafort about the government’s enforcement of a law requiring registration of foreign lobbyists. But Manafort would certainly also be asked about the New York meeting.

    Grassley wouldn’t say what he wants to hear from Donald Trump Jr., but said members aren’t restricted “from asking anything they want to ask.” The top Democrat on the committee, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, had also called on Donald Trump Jr. to testify and had discussed possible subpoenas with Grassley.

    A lawyer for Donald Trump Jr. did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on whether his client would agree to appear before the committee. A spokesman for the Senate Judiciary Committee said the letter hasn’t been sent.

    The Senate Judiciary Committee is one of several congressional committees investigating Russian meddling in the U.S. election. Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has said he would also like to hear from Trump Jr. But the committee’s chairman, Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, hasn’t said whether the secretive committee will call him in.

    In response to calls for him to testify before the intelligence panel, Trump Jr. tweeted Monday that he was “happy to work with the committee to pass on what I know.”

    Donald Trump Jr.’s release of his Russia-related email exchange reignited a legal debate about whether members of the Trump campaign engaged in unlawful activity. Former White House Counsel Bob Bauer and Jed Shugerman of Fordham Law School join Judy Woodruff to offer different perspectives on the legal questions surrounding the controversy.

    It’s unclear whether Trump Jr. would be as eager to testify before the Judiciary panel, which generally conducts open hearings. The Senate intelligence committee interviews many of its witnesses behind closed doors, though it has held an unusual number of open hearings as part of the Russia probe.

    Asked at his weekly news conference about Grassley’s letter and whether Trump Jr. should testify, House Speaker Paul Ryan didn’t object to the move.

    “I think any witness who’s been asked to testify before Congress should testify,” Ryan said.

    Ryan said he would leave it up to the witness and the Senate to decide whether the hearing should be held in public.

    Also Thursday, the Justice Department released a heavily blacked out page from Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ security clearance application in response to a government watchdog group’s lawsuit.

    The application page asks whether Sessions — a senator before joining the Trump administration — or anyone in his immediate family had contact within the past seven years with a foreign government or its representatives.

    There’s a “no” listed, but the rest of the answer is blacked out.

    The department has acknowledged that Sessions omitted from his form meetings he had with foreign dignitaries, including the Russian ambassador.

    A department spokesman says the FBI agent who helped with the form said those encounters didn’t have to be included as routine contacts as part of Sessions’ Senate duties.

    Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Richard Lardner contributed to this report.

    READ MORE: Watchdog groups file complaint with FEC accusing Donald Trump Jr. of breaking campaign finance law

    The post GOP chairman plans to call on Donald Trump Jr. to testify appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Users’ right to repair – or to pay others to fix – objects they own is in jeopardy, writes mechanical and aerospace engineer Sara Behdad.

    Users’ right to repair – or to pay others to fix – objects they own is in jeopardy, writes mechanical and aerospace engineer Sara Behdad. Photo by Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

    Traditionally, when a car breaks down, the solution has been to fix it. Repair manuals, knowledgeable mechanics and auto parts stores make car repairs common, quick and relatively inexpensive. Even with modern computer-equipped vehicles, regular people have plenty they can do: change oil, change tires and many more advanced upgrades.

    But when a computer or smartphone breaks, it’s hard to get it fixed, and much more common to throw the broken device away. Even small electronic devices can add up to massive amounts of electronic waste – between 20 million and 50 million metric tons of electronic devices every year, worldwide. Some of this waste is recycled, but most – including components involving lead and mercury – goes into landfills.

    Bigger equipment can be just as difficult to repair. Today’s farmers often can’t fix the computers running their tractors, because manufacturers claim that farmers don’t actually own them. Companies argue that specialized software running tractors and other machines is protected by copyright and patent laws, and allowing farmers access to it would harm the companies’ intellectual property rights.

    Users’ right to repair – or to pay others to fix – objects they own is in jeopardy. However, in our surveys and examinations of product life cycles, my colleagues and I are finding that supporting people who want to repair and reuse their broken devices can yield benefits – including profits – for electronics manufacturers.

    A corporate quandary

    At least eight states – Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and Tennessee – are considering laws that would require companies to let customers fix their broken electronics. The proposals typically make manufacturers sell parts, publish repair manuals and make available diagnostic tools, such as scanning devices that identify sources of malfunctions. In an encouraging move, the U.S. Copyright Office suggested in June that similar rules should apply nationwide. And the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that companies’ patent rights don’t prevent people from reselling their electronics privately.

    In France, for example, a 2015 law requires manufacturers to tell customers – before they purchase an item – for how long repair parts will be available.

    Seen one way, these regulations put manufacturing companies in a tough spot. Manufacturers can earn a lot of money from selling authorized parts and service. Yet to remain competitive, they must constantly innovate and develop new products. To keep costs down, they can’t keep making and stocking parts for old and outdated devices forever. This leads to what’s called “planned obsolescence,” the principle that a company designs its items to have relatively short useful lives, which will end roughly around the time a new version of the product comes out.

    However, our research suggests that companies can take a different approach – designing and building products that can be refurbished and repaired for reuse – while building customer loyalty and brand awareness. By analyzing surveys of hobbyists and the repair industry, we’ve also found that there are barriers, such as a lack of repair manuals and spare parts, that impede the growth of the repair industry that can be improved upon.

    Consumers want to fix their devices

    Even as machines and devices have become less mechanical and more electronic, we have found that customers still expect to be able to repair and continue using electronic products they purchase. When manufacturers support that expectation, by offering repair manuals, spare parts and other guidance on how to fix their products, they build customer loyalty.

    Specifically, we found that customers are more likely to buy additional products from that manufacturer, and are more likely to recommend that manufacturer’s product to friends. The math here is simple: More customers using a company’s products, whether brand-new or still kicking after many years, equals more money for the business.

    Our research also shows that the failure of most electronic devices is due to simple accidents such as dropping a device or spilling water on it. The most common problem is a broken screen. There are other issues, too – such as batteries that no longer hold their charges or circuit boards that just stop working.

    "Supporting repair rights can also bring economic benefits to more than just the technology sector." Photo by Olexandr/via Adobe

    “Supporting repair rights can also bring economic benefits to more than just the technology sector.” Photo by Olexandr/via Adobe

    Even nontechnical users often want to pay someone to clean their devices and replace parts such as damaged screens and old batteries. If manufacturers provided access to replacement parts, more damaged items could be repaired, extending their usefulness. Apple could seize an opportunity here: It has just begun assembling older iPhone models in India, which means it is still making parts that others could use to fix the devices they already have.

    Helping consumers, companies and the environment

    Technology manufacturers should take steps to promote customers’ right to repair their broken devices, which helps cut down on electronic waste and boost brand loyalty. But if they won’t, laws and regulations can help.

    In France, for example, a 2015 law requires manufacturers to tell customers – before they purchase an item – for how long repair parts will be available. That lets consumers decide how much they want to factor in the possibility for repairs when deciding whether to buy something new.

    Supporting repair rights can also bring economic benefits to more than just the technology sector. There were 4,623 consumer electronic repair and maintenance companies in 1998 in the U.S. By 2015, that number had dropped to 2,072. Independent vendors are creating online marketplaces where people can buy and sell used and repaired gadgets. Other companies like iFixit and Repair Cafe are creating networks of people who share information on repairing electronics, and even getting groups of people together in person to work on their devices.

    Meanwhile 3-D printing continues to make it easier and cheaper for people to produce replacement parts for older devices.

    Companies shouldn’t fear people taking too much into their own hands, though: While it’s been possible for a few years to 3-D print and hand-assemble entire computers, they’re not very good. People are much more likely to buy corporate-made devices; they just want to be able to repair them when they break down.

    Sara Behdad, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

    The Conversation

    The post Column: Why aren’t we allowed to fix our own electronic devices? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump arrived in Paris today for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, with the aim of strengthening the alliance between the two countries.

    But the visit was at least partly overshadowed by questions that continues to dog President Trump, whether his presidential campaign coordinated with the Russian government.

    John Yang has our report.

    JOHN YANG: Even amid the splendor of Paris, President Trump could not escape the firestorm over his son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer. At a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, Mr. Trump defended Donald Trump Jr. as a wonderful young man who did nothing wrong.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think, from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting. It’s called opposition research, or even research into your opponent.

    I have had many people — I have only been in politics for two years, but I have had many people call up, oh, gee, we have information on this factor or this person or, frankly, Hillary.

    That’s very standard in politics.

    JOHN YANG: The president said the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, had visited Congress and he suggested her U.S. visa had been approved by Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch, not the State Department.

    Late today, Lynch said she had nothing to do with it.

    On Air Force One on the way to Paris, Mr. Trump told reporters that the Russia investigation was only helping him. “It’s making Trump stronger, because my people and the people that support me, who are incredible people, those people are angry because they feel it’s being unfair and a witch-hunt.”

    At the news conference, a French reporter asked the president about his often-repeated campaign anecdote about a friend who had told Mr. Trump that the threat of Islamic terrorism had ruined Paris.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I see him like a month ago. How was Paris this summer? What? I don’t go to Paris. Are you kidding me? It’s no longer Paris.

    JOHN YANG: Today, he turned it around to flatter his host.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You know what? It’s going to be just fine, because you have a great president. You have somebody who’s going to run this country right. So, I really have a feeling that you’re going have a very, very peaceful and beautiful Paris. And I’m coming back. You better do a good job, please. Otherwise, you’re going to make me look very bad.

    JOHN YANG: The two leaders said they discussed Syria and the fight against terrorism. Mr. Macron said Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord wouldn’t affect their relationship.

    Bloomberg News White House correspondent Toluse Olorunnipa is covering the trip.

    TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, Bloomberg News: They see the world in very different ways, but they have come to realize that they can benefit from having a positive relationship with one another, and that’s what we saw on display today.

    JOHN YANG: Indeed, the body language today was a marked difference from their first awkward encounter in May, and was capped tonight with dinner at the Eiffel Tower.

    After watching Bastille Day celebrations in Paris tomorrow, Mr. Trump heads back to the United States, and more repercussions from his son’s Russia meeting. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said he wants Donald Trump Jr. to testify in open session as soon as next week.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Yang.

    The post President Trump can’t escape Russia questions in Paris appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Christopher Wray is sworn in prior to testifying before a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be the next FBI director in Washington, D.C. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    Christopher Wray is sworn in prior to testifying before a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be the next FBI director in Washington, D.C. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a committee vote next week on Christopher Wray’s nomination to be FBI director.

    Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa says he’s impressed with Wray, who promised at his Wednesday hearing to never let politics get in the way of the bureau’s mission.

    Grassley said Thursday that Wray is “the independent leader the FBI needs,” and that he takes Wray at his word that his loyalty will be to the Constitution.

    READ MORE: Who is Christopher Wray, Trump’s pick for FBI director?

    Wray would replace James Comey, who was abruptly fired by President Donald Trump in May amid an investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties to Trump’s campaign.

    The committee vote is scheduled for July 20. Votes on the Judiciary panel are often delayed a week at the request of any committee member. Grassley said that hasn’t been the tradition with FBI nominees and he hopes that won’t happen with Wray.

    Democrats on the committee signaled support for Wray, but it was unclear if they will try and delay the vote.

    Read FBI director nominee Chris Wray’s opening statement

    California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the panel, said she will vote for Wray. She noted Wednesday that nominations are often delayed, but said she hopes that the vote on Wray will be “sooner rather than later.”

    Wray met Thursday with Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. That panel is doing its own investigation into Russian meddling.

    Warner said he would vote for Wray after he got assurances from him that as FBI director he would “work with the investigation, in terms of access to materials, access to information.”

    WATCH: Chris Wray says Trump-Russia probe is not a ‘witch hunt

    The post Senate Judiciary Committee to vote on FBI director next week appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And in the day’s other news: President Trump held talks in Paris with the president of France, but he faced questions about his son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer last summer aimed at getting information harmful to Hillary Clinton.

    At a joint news conference, Mr. Trump dismissed criticism of the meeting, and said — quote — “It’s called opposition research.”

    We will have a full report after the news summary.

    In China, political dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo died today of liver cancer. He had been released from a state prison last month and hospitalized, but was barred from going abroad for treatment. Liu was one of the Chinese government’s most vocal opponents, and spent decades campaigning for greater human rights. He was imprisoned in 2009 for subversion. His death drew widespread criticism of Beijing.

    SALIL SHETTY, Secretary-General, Amnesty International: I think it’s outrageous for the Chinese government to weave the fiction that Liu Xiaobo was a criminal.

    It’s very clear that, thanks to Liu Xiaobo, millions of people, not just in China, but across the world, have been inspired to stand up for freedom and justice in the face of oppression.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged China to release Liu’s wife, who is under house arrest. And the White House said President Trump was deeply saddened by the news.

    Liu Xiaobo was 61 years old.

    Former President Jimmy Carter was hospitalized for dehydration today in Canada. Mr. Carter is 92. Habitat for Humanity said he had been working in the sun building homes for the needy in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The organization said the former president told them he is OK, and he urged the crew to keep building.

    The number-three Republican in the U.S. House, Steve Scalise, has had another round of surgery after being shot last month. The Louisiana Republican was seriously wounded when a gunman attacked a congressional baseball practice. Hospital officials in Washington say the latest surgery was to treat infection.

    The U.S. Justice Department today has charged more than 400 people with opioid scams and health care fraud. The alleged schemes totaled $1.3 billion in false billing. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called it the largest health care fraud takedown operation in American history.

    Six teenage girls from Afghanistan will be allowed into the U.S., after all, to take part in a robotics competition. The team had twice been denied visas, but the White House says President Trump intervened to reverse that decision. Today, the girls flew to the capital city of Kabul from Western Afghanistan to get their travel documents.

    They said they are excited to finally be on the way.

    FATEMAH QADERYAN, Robotics Competitor (through interpreter): We were disappointed when the Americans made a difference between Afghanistan and other countries on not issuing visas to us. At that time, we lost hope and we were feeling sad. But now we are very happy that they have given us a chance to go.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: U.S. officials have not said why the team was previously denied entry. Afghanistan is not one of the countries on the president’s travel ban list.

    In Washington, the Congressional Budget Office said today that the president’s budget and spending plan for the coming year falls far short of what the White House promised. Instead of creating a small surplus, the CBO reports that there would still be a deficit of some $720 billion at the end of 10 years. It says the budget proposal relies on economic growth projections that are far too optimistic.

    Democrats and Republicans in Congress have reached initial agreement on expanding college aid for veterans. It aims to fill coverage gaps in benefits that were enacted after 9/11. The new proposal would lift a 15-year time limit for vets to tap into education benefits. It also adds more money for thousands of members of the National Guard and Reserve.

    The trustees of the U.S. government trust fund that pays Medicare bills say that it will go broke in 2029. And that is one year later than last year’s forecast. They also estimated that Social Security will be depleted by 2034. That is the same as last year’s prediction.

    On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 21 points to close at 21553. The Nasdaq rose 13, and the S&P 500 added four.

    And American tennis player Venus Williams is now the oldest player to reach a Wimbledon final in more than 20 years. In the semifinals today, Williams, at the age of 37, made quick work today of Britain’s Johanna Konta, who’s 26. On Saturday, Williams goes for her sixth Wimbledon championship.

    The post News Wrap: Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo dead at 61 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: It is the Senate Republican health care bill version 2.0. Party leaders made it public today, but the path to passage remained anything but clear.

    Our Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky., Majority Leader: So, it’s time to rise to the occasion.

    LISA DESJARDINS: A critical moment for health care and Congress. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled Senate Republicans’ second-draft bill, hoping it can win the minimum 50 votes he needs.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: The revised draft improves on the previous version in a number of ways, all while retaining the fundamental goals of providing stability and improving affordability.

    LISA DESJARDINS: What has changed? First, it keeps two Obamacare taxes on the wealthy. Second, it uses that money, in part, to add more than over $100 billion in new spending; $70 billion would go to insurers to stabilize markets and bring down out-of-pocket costs, and $45 billion would fight the opioid epidemic.

    On Medicaid, the bill still cuts future spending significantly, but does give states more leeway to expand who is eligible for the program.

    But perhaps the biggest change is the addition of a proposal by Texas Senator Ted Cruz. The so-called Cruz amendment would let insurers mostly opt out of all Affordable Care Act requirements. They could potentially offer cheaper bare-bones plans, as long as they offer a few plans that do meet Obamacare standards.

    At the same time, other Republicans are crafting their own ideas.

    SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Well, you know. We’re going to support Mitch’s effort with his new plan, but we want an alternative, and we’re going to see which one can get 50 votes. We’re not undercutting Mitch. He’s not undercutting us.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana say their amendment would send more money directly to states. It’s not clear how much support that has.

    As for Democrats:

    SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y.., Minority Leader: It appears that little has changed at the core of the bill.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says Republicans will still have a problem getting some key members of their own party on board.

    SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER: Moderate Republicans looking at this bill should be able to see that the incredibly modest change to the tax provisions, the small pot of funding for opioid abuse treatment, these other tweaks around the edges are like a drop in the bucket, compared to what the bill does to Medicaid, to seniors, to Americans with preexisting conditions.

    LISA DESJARDINS: All sides are now waiting for a pivotal report, the analysis of the bill by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

    Especially waiting is Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, a key vote.

    SEN. RON JOHNSON, R-Wis.: Show me your math. Show me what the first baseline was. Show me what the policy results in terms of spending.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Republicans have not yet announced when they will hold a vote. Leaders had hoped for next week.

    And of the 52 Senate Republicans, we already know that two of them are no-votes on this latest draft. That’s Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

    Judy, of course, that means Mitch McConnell cannot lose any more Republicans, and there are many on the fence.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Wow.

    So, Lisa, thank you. And, of course, stay here.

    We’re going to bring in Julie Rovner, who we know well, chief correspondent, Washington correspondent, for Kaiser Health News, joining us too.

    I’m going to start with you, Julie.

    So, there have been some changes, as Lisa just reported, to Medicaid, a few, but not enough to satisfy these moderates. What exactly did they do?

    JULIE ROVNER, Kaiser Health News: That’s right.

    The moderates have been unhappy with the Medicaid cuts. Senator Susan Collins, who, as we just heard, is already a no, came out and said, the changes that they would make to Medicaid go beyond repealing the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid was expanded in the Affordable Care Act, but these changes would actually cap the program, something Republicans have been trying to do since the 1980s.

    It’s for the conservatives. Moderates are still unhappy. As Lisa pointed out, there is a little bit more money to deal with opioid abuse. They can get out of the caps if there’s a public health emergency. But those are pretty much all the changes that they have made here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And how is all this going over, Lisa?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Right.

    There are a lot of big question marks on Capitol Hill. I think that you have got the same question marks on the right and the left. They tried to bring in moderates, and including giving them the ability to increase — the states could increase who can be under Medicaid.

    But there’s not as much money to do it, so you would have to make a choice between the number of people you could cover under Medicaid and how much you would give them in benefits. It doesn’t really address questions of the overall need for health care some of these moderates have.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, Julie, we heard in Lisa’s report the reference to what Senator Ted Cruz has wanted, has to do with giving states more options.

    Describe exactly what that involves.

    JULIE ROVNER: Well, Senator Cruz and a number of the conservatives in the House too have complained that one of the biggest problems with the Affordable Care Act is that people who buy their own insurance are finding themselves paying much more, more both in premiums and in out-of-pocket spending.

    And he wants to help people. But basically the way he would do it is, he would say, for healthy people, if you want to buy fewer benefits, you can do that, and you would get less coverage. And that, in fact, is what they would do in this bill.

    The problem, according to the insurance industry and a lot of others who oppose it, is that it would make coverage for sick people pretty much unaffordable. It would leave only sick people in those plans that offer all the benefits.

    For the people who are lucky enough to get tax credits, and they have lowered the threshold, those people would be mostly protected from those increases. But people who are buying their own insurance and make too much money to get those tax credits would bear the brunt of those very much higher premiums. So that’s a big worry about how this might play out.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa, and the leadership was making this gesture in Senator Cruz’s direction. How is it going over?

    LISA DESJARDINS: These were intense negotiations to put this in the bill today.

    But, Judy, if you actually read the bill online, the entire Cruz amendment is in brackets. Literally, it is in brackets. And Republican leadership confirmed that means it’s not final. It could still be taken out. It could still be revised.

    And one other tricky piece of choreography with all of this, multiple sources have told me that they are going to get a score from not CBO — just from CBO, but also the Department of Health and Human Services. which is a very unusual step on this.

    They are going to see what the Department of Health and Human Services think the Cruz amendment will mean. And all of this is kind of adding new questions to the process as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Presumably not knowing what the department is going to say. Is that right? Or do they assume the department is going to come in and say this is a good thing?

    LISA DESJARDINS: That, we don’t know.

    We know there have been conversations for weeks with CBO. CBO has known the general outlines of these bills. Have they had those conversations with HHS as well? I don’t know.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Lisa, I want to stay with you.

    You have been following this day after day after day since the Senate went home for recess. They have now come back. What is the political calculus on the part of the Republican leadership in the Senate?

    LISA DESJARDINS: I think it comes down to one fact, that they feel they campaigned on this and that they have to at least give it their greatest try or have to show themselves as trying as hard as possible.

    Right now, it does look like it’s going to be very difficult to get the votes for this to pass, but it also looks like they will hold that vote, even if it fails, to show their voters, we tried and this is as far as we could get.

    I think there is pressure from both conservatives an moderates to go both different directions. And that’s what making this goal of reforming and replacing Obamacare impossible.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Julie — excuse me.

    Julie, you have done your own share of reporting on this for a long time. What are you seeing as to where this goes?

    JULIE ROVNER: I see exactly what Lisa said, that they’re caught between this promise that they made to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and their ability to do it, which is difficult to find consensus within their own conference.

    So, I think they’re going to sort of run out the string as much as they can. The bigger problem is, even if they get something through the Senate, then it will have to go back to the House. So whether you could actually get something through both chambers in any kind of timely way remains a big open question.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And then we heard, Lisa, the president saying that he would be angry if the Senate doesn’t get this done.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Right.

    And to be honest, sources I talk to, Republicans, aren’t sure the president has helped-, because as much as he’s behind the scenes sometimes encouraged them, when he’s gone and criticized the House bill later on, for example, as being mean, they’re worried that if they join forces with him, that later he might say something different.

    I think, overall, it’s important to just remember the broad contours of this bill. There are a lot of details, a lot of changes. But as much as it deals with the Affordable Care Act, this bill in its heart is also a Medicaid reform bill.

    That was something they didn’t have to add to this, but they did. And in doing that, they lost a lot of moderate votes. They’re keeping with that because Republicans feel like it’s important, but that was a big gamble that they took in actually putting two bills together here.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, my producer is trying to tell me something about senators. Maybe there is new some information?

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: … watch, particularly.

    LISA DESJARDINS: I think that’s right.

    We need to watch a lot of key senators this week. Let’s look at five very quickly. That’s Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. We talked to him today. Mike Lee of Utah, he’s not happy with the Cruz amendment as written, even though was one of its authors at the beginning.

    Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia. Dean Heller of Nevada, he’s interesting. His governor today said he has great concerns about the bill as it is. And, of course, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, she had said she didn’t like where this is going. And we’re waiting to hear from all five of those.

    They can’t lose any one of those. And that’s just the beginning lineup of questions.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I know the two of you are going to keep monitoring it every minute of every day until we know what the answer is.

    Lisa Desjardins, Julie Rovner, thank you both.

    JULIE ROVNER: Thank you.

    The post Here’s what’s in the Senate GOP health care bill 2.0 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Donald Trump reacts as he attends a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, July 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - RTX3BCGE

    President Donald Trump is expected to tell Congress early next week that Iran is still complying with the 2015 nuclear deal, three U.S. officials said Thursday. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is expected to tell Congress early next week that Iran is still complying with the 2015 nuclear deal, three U.S. officials said Thursday, even as a broader review of Iran policy ordered by President Donald Trump drags on.

    Under the deal negotiated by President Barack Obama and world powers, the administration must certify to Congress every three months whether Iran is complying with an elaborate set of terms designed to limit its nuclear program. The Trump administration issued its first certification in April and faces a Monday deadline to certify that Iran is still complying.

    Though officials cautioned that Trump could still change his mind, they said the administration was preparing to say Iran is indeed complying but that the certification does not prejudge the outcome of Trump’s Iran policy review. The officials weren’t authorized to discuss the decision publicly and requested anonymity.

    The State Department would not confirm ahead of the Monday deadline what action the administration will take. But State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that until the Iran review is completed, the U.S. will continue upholding its side of the agreement: relief from nuclear sanctions.

    “That has not changed,” Nauert said. “We’ll ensure that Iran is held strictly accountable to its requirements.”

    READ MORE: Trump just kept his promise to exit the Paris accord. Here’s how he’s handled other international pledges.

    Critics of the deal have pointed to minor infractions as justification for the U.S. to say Iran is not complying. But the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. agency that is monitoring the nuclear deal, has said Iran is broadly in compliance.

    As a candidate in the 2016 presidential election, Trump was an outspoken critic of the deal but offered conflicting opinions on whether he would try to scrap it, modify it or keep it in place with more strenuous enforcement. Trump and some top members of his administration remain critical of the deal, but so far, the president has not announced a decision to pull out.

    Scuttling the nuclear deal would put further distance between Trump and foreign leaders who are already upset over his move to withdraw the U.S. from the global climate change agreement known as the Paris accord. Other powers that brokered the nuclear deal along with the U.S. have said there’s no appetite for renegotiating it.

    Despite the sanctions relief, Iran remains on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism for its support of anti-Israel groups and is still subject to non-nuclear sanctions, including for human rights abuses and for its backing of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.

    The nuclear deal was sealed in Vienna in July 2015 after 18 months of negotiations led by Secretary of State John Kerry and diplomats from the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — Britain, China, France and Russia — and Germany. Under its terms, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program, long suspected of being aimed at developing atomic weapons, in return for billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

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    Negar Jourabchian looks at her mother Niloufar's passport, after she traveled to the U.S. from Iran following a federal court's temporary stay of U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order travel ban, at Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. February 6, 2017.   REUTERS/Brian Snyder - RTX2ZWEY

    The clock has started to tick on a 50-day deadline for foreign governments to meet new U.S. standards for passports and sharing information about their citizens. Photo by REUTERS/Brian Snyder.

    WASHINGTON — The clock has started to tick on a 50-day deadline for foreign governments to meet new U.S. standards for passports and sharing information about their citizens. Failing to meet the deadline risks having some categories of nationals banned from traveling to the U.S.

    The State Department on Thursday sent a cable to all U.S. embassies and consulates instructing U.S. diplomats to inform their host governments that the 50-day period has begun for them to meet the new criteria, devise a plan to meet them or face the possibility of travel sanctions. The seven-page State Department cable was obtained by The Associated Press.

    MORE: Who’s in and who’s left out as Trump travel ban takes effect

    The 50-day deadline and sanctions threat had been were laid out in President Donald Trump’s March 6 executive order on protecting the U.S. from terrorist threats that the Supreme Court partially reinstated last month. That executive order also contained the travel ban for residents of six mainly Muslim nations and the suspension of refugee admissions. Neither the executive order nor the cable was specific about what categories of foreigners might be banned from countries that do not comply.

    The new standards involve the quality and integrity of identity documents such as passports as well as sharing information about security threats and public safety concerns. Many nations, including the 38 countries that are part of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, already meet the criteria, which include biometric, machine readable electronic passports and the provision of terrorism watchlists and other domestically produced intelligence data on citizens who may pose threats. They also include reporting lost or stolen travel documents to Interpol.

    It was not immediately clear how many countries might have to adopt new policies to comply with the new requirements. A separate classified cable sent was sent to embassies and consulates in countries that are believed not to be meeting the standards or that have been determined to be at risk for noncompliance.

    The post Travel sanctions loom for nations that don’t meet new U.S. security criteria appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies before the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. June 6, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RTX39AXO


    Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says the Obama-era guidance for stepped-up investigations of sexual assault on college campuses isn’t working. File photo by REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein.

    Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says the Obama-era guidance for stepped-up investigations of sexual assault on college campuses isn’t working.

    DeVos spoke after a daylong series of meetings with victims of sexual assault, those who say they were falsely accused and representatives of colleges and universities.

    She says all are interested in ensuring that the process is fair and all acknowledged that it isn’t. She says, “This is an issue we’re not getting right.”

    The meeting was held against the backdrop of remarks made by the Education Department’s top civil rights official, who said the vast majority of sexual assault claims resulted from both parties having been drunk.

    Candice Jackson, acting assistant secretary for civil rights, was quoted in The New York Times on Wednesday as saying federal rules have resulted in many false accusations under the law known as Title IX.

    READ MORE: Why the NCAA is investigating Baylor’s sexual assault scandal

    In most investigations, she said, there’s “not even an accusation that these accused students overrode the will of a young woman.”

    “Rather, the accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of, ‘We were both drunk, we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right,'” Jackson is quoted as saying in an interview.

    In her statement of apology, Jackson said she was a rape survivor. “I would never seek to diminish anyone’s experience,” she said. “My words in The New York Times poorly characterized the conversations I’ve had with countless groups of advocates. What I said was flippant, and I am sorry.”

    Survivors of sexual violence, people who say they were falsely accused and disciplined and representatives of colleges and universities were among those invited to meet with DeVos on Thursday to talk about enforcement of Title IX as it relates to sexual assault.

    Sen. Patty Murray, the senior Democrat on the Senate committee overseeing the Education Department, said in a letter sent Wednesday night to DeVos that Jackson’s remark “suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of campus sexual assault and suggests that (Jackson’s office) is not prepared to take accounts from survivors seriously.”

    Advocates for assault survivors who have spent years trying to get schools to take victims and a “rape culture” seriously worry that DeVos’ series of roundtable meetings are really a preview for a rollback of Obama’s guidance, which said sexual assault is sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX for schools that receive federal funding.

    But groups representing those who say they have been falsely accused suggest the Obama-era guidance weighted campus justice systems in favor of those alleging sexual violence. Jackson said in the Times interview that investigations have not been “fairly balanced between the accusing victim and the accused student.”

    Many of those who want Obama’s guidance reversed have said they want assault cases referred to law enforcement.

    Many of those who want Obama’s guidance reversed have said they want assault cases referred to law enforcement.

    Jackson sought to issue reassurances that both she and the department take the position that “all sexual harassment and sexual assault must be taken seriously.”

    As of Wednesday, there were 344 open sexual violence investigations at 242 postsecondary schools, according to a Title IX report provided by the Education Department.

    Several schools had multiple cases pending, including Kansas State University and Indiana University at Bloomington with five each, the department list shows.

    Baylor University in Texas had a single open case. The school has been embroiled in controversy over its handling of sexual assault allegations, and several women have sued. Art Briles was fired as football coach and Ken Starr was demoted from president and later resigned after a law firm reported in May 2016 that an investigation had found that the school had “created barriers” discouraging the reporting of sexual assaults.

    The post Education Secretary DeVos says rules on campus sexual assault aren’t working appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is surrounded by reporters as he departs a Senate Republican caucus meeting about an expected unveiling of Senate Republicans' revamped proposal to replace Obamacare health care legislation at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. July 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX3BCQ6

    U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is surrounded by reporters as he departs a Senate Republican caucus meeting about an expected unveiling of Senate Republicans’ revamped proposal to replace Obamacare health care legislation at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. July 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst – RTX3BCQ6

    WASHINGTON — Republican leaders unveiled a new health care bill Thursday in their increasingly desperate effort to deliver on seven years of promises to repeal and replace “Obamacare.” They immediately lost two key Senate votes, leaving none to spare as the party’s own divisions put its top campaign pledge in serious jeopardy.

    President Donald Trump declared a day earlier that failure would make him “very angry” and that he would blame Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

    But talking with reporters aboard Air Force One en route to France, Trump also acknowledged the challenges lawmakers face.

    “I’d say the only thing more difficult than peace between Israel and the Palestinians is health care,” Trump said. “But I think we’re going to have something that’s really good and that people are going to like.”

    The reworked bill McConnell presented to fellow Republicans aims to win conservatives’ support by letting insurers sell low-cost, skimpy policies. At the same time, he seeks to placate hesitant moderates by adding billions to combat opioid abuse and help consumers with skyrocketing insurance costs.

    READ MORE: The 5 sticking points holding up the GOP health care bill

    But it was not clear whether the Republican leader has achieved the delicate balance he needs after an embarrassing setback last month when he abruptly canceled a vote in the face of widespread opposition to a bill he crafted largely in secret.

    Moderate Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told reporters she had informed McConnell she would be voting against beginning debate on the bill, citing in part cuts in the Medicaid health program for the poor and disabled. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has repeatedly complained that McConnell’s efforts don’t amount to a full-blown repeal of Obamacare, also announced he was a “no.”

    That means McConnell cannot lose any other Republican senators. With Democrats unanimously opposed in a Senate split 52-48 in favor of the GOP, he needs 50 votes, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie, to get past a procedural hurdle and begin debate on the bill.

    With Democrats unanimously opposed in a Senate split 52-48 in favor of the GOP, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs 50 votes, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie, to get past a procedural hurdle and begin debate on the bill.

    The showdown vote is set for next week, though McConnell could cancel again if he’s short of support. He and other GOP leaders are urging senators to at least vote in favor of opening debate, which would open the measure up to amendments. And GOP leaders express optimism that they are getting closer to a version that could pass the Senate.

    “It’s in the best shape it’s been in so far,” said Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri. “Now that members actually have paper in their hand they can look at what is likely to be very close to the final bill we’ll be voting on and move forward.”

    McConnell said the 172-page legislation is the senators’ opportunity to make good on years of promises.

    “This is our chance to bring about changes we’ve been talking about since Obamacare was forced on the American people,” he said.

    WATCH: What to expect as Senate health care battle goes into overtime

    Many Republicans believe the party could face electoral catastrophe if it alienates GOP voters by failing to deliver after taking control of both chambers of Congress and the White House while vowing to get rid of former President Barack Obama’s law.

    “It could be the biggest political broken promise in many years,” said conservative former Sen. Jim DeMint, former president of the Heritage Foundation, as he passed through the Capitol.

    Throughout the day McConnell huddled in his office with holdouts, including Dean Heller of Nevada, the most endangered Senate Republican in next year’s midterms, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Rob Portman of Ohio and John Hoeven of North Dakota.

    The lawmakers wanted details and numbers on how the bill would impact rural and Medicaid-dependent people in their states. All had opposed McConnell’s earlier bill, but this time around several exited their meetings saying they were undecided and needed more time to evaluate the legislation.

    Hoeven said of McConnell: “He’s asking everybody to work with him, and a lot of us are saying ‘yeah,’ and we’ve got more work to do.”

    Like legislation earlier passed by the House after struggles of its own, the Senate bill would get rid of Obamacare’s mandates for individuals to buy insurance and for companies to offer it, repeal taxes and unwind the Medicaid expansion created by the Affordable Care Act. Analyses by the Congressional Budget Office have found the House bill and the earlier Senate version both would kick more than 20 million people off the insurance roles over the next decade.

    Many Republicans believe the party could face electoral catastrophe if it alienates GOP voters by failing to deliver after taking control of both chambers of Congress and the White House while vowing to get rid of former President Barack Obama’s law.

    The new bill contains language demanded by conservative Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas letting insurers sell plans with minimal coverage, as long as they also sell policies that meet strict coverage requirements set by Obama’s 2010 statute. Moderate Republicans have objected that that would make policies excessively costly for people with serious illnesses because healthy people would flock to the cheaper coverage.

    The Cruz provision appears in the legislative text in brackets, meaning specific language is still being composed. That could give McConnell, Cruz and other conservatives time to work out a provision with broader support.

    The retooled measure retains McConnell’s plan to phase out the extra money 31 states have used to expand Medicaid under Obama’s statute, and to tightly limit the overall program’s future growth. Since its creation in 1965, Medicaid has provided open-ended federal funds to help states pay the program’s costs.

    The rewritten package would add $70 billion to the $112 billion McConnell originally sought that states could use to help insurers curb the growth of premiums and consumers’ other out-of-pocket costs.

    It has an added $45 billion for states to combat the misuse of drugs like opioids. That’s a boost over the $2 billion in the initial bill, an addition demanded by Republicans from states in the Midwest and Northeast that have been ravaged by the drugs.

    To help pay for the added spending, the measure would retain three tax increases Obama’s law slapped on higher- earning people.

    AP reporters Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Matthew Daly and Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

    The post Senate GOP struggles to win support for new health care bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Immigration activists rally outside of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection headquarters in Washington

    Immigration activists, including members of the DC Justice for Muslims Coalition, rally against the Trump administration’s new ban against travelers from six Muslim-majority nations, outside of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection headquarters in Washington, U.S., March 7, 2017. Photo by Eric Thayer/Reuters

    HONOLULU — In another setback for President Donald Trump, a federal judge in Hawaii has further weakened his already diluted travel ban by vastly expanding the list of family relationships with U.S. citizens that visa applicants can use to get into the U.S.

    The ruling is the latest piece of pushback in the fierce fight set off by the ban Trump first attempted in January. It will culminate with arguments in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in October.

    The current rules aren’t so much an outright ban as a tightening of already-tough visa policies affecting citizens from six Muslim-majority countries: Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iran and Yemen. People from those countries who already have visas will be allowed into the country. Only narrow categories of people, including those with relatives named in Thursday’s ruling, will be considered for new visas.

    U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson on Thursday ordered the government not to enforce the ban on grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins of people in the United States.

    “Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents,” Watson said in his ruling. “Indeed grandparents are the epitome of close family members.”

    READ NEXT: Who’s allowed into the U.S., according to new guidelines for Trump’s limited travel ban

    Watson also ruled that the government may not exclude refugees who have formal assurance and promise of placement services from a resettlement agency in the U.S.

    The U.S. Supreme Court, which last month allowed a scaled-back version of the ban to go into effect before it hears the case in October, exempted visa applicants from the ban if they can prove a “bona fide” relationship with a U.S. citizen or entity.

    The Trump administration defined “bona fide” relationship as those who had a parent, spouse, fiance, son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling already in the U.S.

    The case came back to Watson when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that he had the authority to interpret the Supreme Court’s order and block any violation of it.

    Watson’s Thursday ruling broadened the definition of what counts as a “bona fide” relationship to include grandparents and the rest of the wider list of relatives.

    Hawaii Attorney General Douglas S. Chin, who represents the state as the plaintiff in the case said the court made clear “that the U.S. government may not ignore the scope of the partial travel ban as it sees fit.”

    “Family members have been separated and real people have suffered enough,” Chin said in a statement.

    The Supreme Court ruled that workers who accepted jobs from American companies, students who enrolled at a U.S. university or lecturers invited to address a U.S. audience would also be exempt.

    READ NEXT: Supreme Court ruling in travel ban case leaves some questions unanswered

    A relationship created for purposes of avoiding the travel ban would not be acceptable, the justices said.

    Trump proposed a blanket ban on Muslims during his campaign, but limited it to a handful of countries when he issued his initial travel ban in January, promoting it as a necessary tool for national security and fighting terrorism.

    It set off massive protests at airports around the country and immediately sparked a sprawling, ongoing legal fight.

    Courts blocked that first ban as well as a second the Trump administration had retooled, until the Supreme Court partially reinstated it at the end of June.

    It’s unclear how significantly the new rules have affected or will affect travel. In most of the countries singled out, few people have the means for leisure travel. Those that do already face intensive screenings before being issued visas.

    Associated Press writer Andrew Dalton contributed to this story from Los Angeles.

    The post Judge in Hawaii hands Trump latest defeat on travel ban appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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

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

    WASHINGTON — Republican leaders have revised their health care bill in an increasingly desperate effort to deliver on seven years of promises to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s overhaul. They immediately lost two pivotal votes, leaving none to spare as the party’s own divisions put its central campaign pledge in serious jeopardy.

    President Donald Trump said this week that failure would make him “very angry” and that he would blame Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “After all of these years of suffering thru ObamaCare, Republican Senators must come through as they have promised!” Trump said in a tweet Friday while in Paris.

    Earlier in the week, while flying to France, Trump had acknowledged the challenges lawmakers face.

    “I’d say the only thing more difficult than peace between Israel and the Palestinians is health care,” Trump told reporters traveling with him. “But I think we’re going to have something that’s really good and that people are going to like.”

    Trump is waiting and eager to sign health legislation: “I will be at my desk, pen in hand!” he tweeted on Friday.

    The reworked bill McConnell presented to fellow Republicans on Thursday aims to win conservatives’ support by letting insurers sell low-cost, skimpy policies. At the same time, he seeks to placate hesitant moderates by adding billions to combat opioid abuse and help consumers with skyrocketing insurance costs.

    But it was not clear whether the Republican leader has achieved the delicate balance he needs after an embarrassing setback last month when he abruptly canceled a vote in the face of widespread opposition to a bill he crafted largely in secret.

    Moderate Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told reporters she had informed McConnell she would be voting against beginning debate on the bill, citing in part cuts in the Medicaid health program for the poor and disabled. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has repeatedly complained that McConnell’s efforts don’t amount to a full-blown repeal of Obama’s law, also announced he was a “no.”

    That means McConnell cannot lose any other Republican senators. With Democrats unanimously opposed in a Senate split 52-48 in favor of the GOP, he needs 50 votes, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie, to get past a procedural hurdle and begin debate on the bill.

    [Watch Video]

    The showdown vote is set for next week, though McConnell could cancel again if he’s short of support. He and other GOP leaders are urging senators to at least vote in favor of opening debate, which would open the measure up to amendments. And GOP leaders express optimism that they are getting closer to a version that could pass the Senate.

    “It’s in the best shape it’s been in so far,” said Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri. “Now that members actually have paper in their hand they can look at what is likely to be very close to the final bill we’ll be voting on and move forward.”

    McConnell said the 172-page legislation is the senators’ opportunity to make good on years of promises.

    “This is our chance to bring about changes we’ve been talking about since Obamacare was forced on the American people,” he said.

    Many Republicans believe the party could face electoral catastrophe if it alienates GOP voters by failing get rid of Obama’s law after taking control of both chambers of Congress and the White House.

    “It could be the biggest political broken promise in many years,” said conservative former Sen. Jim DeMint, former president of the Heritage Foundation.

    Throughout the day McConnell huddled in his office with holdouts, including Dean Heller of Nevada, the most endangered Senate Republican in next year’s midterms, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Rob Portman of Ohio and John Hoeven of North Dakota.

    The lawmakers wanted details and numbers on how the bill would affect rural and Medicaid-dependent people in their states. All had opposed McConnell’s earlier bill. This time, several exited their meetings saying they were undecided and needed more time to evaluate the legislation.

    READ NEXT: Deep in coal country, West Virginia patients speak out about GOP health bill

    Like legislation earlier passed by the House after struggles of its own, the Senate bill would get rid of the law’s mandates for individuals to buy insurance and for companies to offer it, repeal taxes and unwind the Medicaid expansion created by the Affordable Care Act. Analyses by the Congressional Budget Office have found the House bill and the earlier Senate version both would eliminate insurance coverage for more than 20 million people over the next decade.

    The new bill contains language demanded by conservative Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas letting insurers sell plans with minimal coverage, as long as they also sell policies that meet strict coverage requirements set by Obama’s 2010 statute.

    The retooled measure retains McConnell’s plan to phase out the extra money 31 states have used to expand Medicaid under Obama’s statute, and to tightly limit the overall program’s future growth.

    The rewritten package would add $70 billion to the $112 billion McConnell originally sought that states could use to help insurers curb the growth of premiums and consumers’ other out-of-pocket costs. And it has an added $45 billion for states to combat the misuse of drugs like opioids.

    Still, the nation’s largest doctors’ group said the plan falls short on coverage and access, particularly for low-income people on Medicaid. In a statement Friday, the American Medical Association said Medicaid cuts and “inadequate subsidies” will lead to “millions of Americans losing health insurance coverage.”

    The AMA said GOP leaders took a “positive step” by adding $45 billion for treatment to help victims of the opioid epidemic. But it pointed out that people dealing with addiction also need regular health insurance, and many would lose it if Republicans succeed in rolling back Medicaid financing.

    The group is calling for bipartisan cooperation, starting with action to shore up shaky insurance markets.

    Associated Press writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Mary Clare Jalonick, Julie Bykowicz, Matthew Daly and Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

    The post Trouble for revised Senate health bill; Trump wants action appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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

    A Russian-American lobbyist says he attended a June 2016 meeting with President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr. Photo by Brian Losness/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — A Russian-American lobbyist says he attended a June 2016 meeting with President Donald Trump’s son, marking another shift in the account of a discussion that was billed as part of a Russian government effort to help the Republican’s White House campaign.

    Rinat Akhmetshin confirmed his participation to The Associated Press on Friday.

    The meeting heightened questions about whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with the Russian government during the election, which is the focus of federal and congressional investigations. In emails posted by Donald Trump Jr. earlier this week, an associate who arranged the meeting said a Russian lawyer wanted to pass on negative information about Democrat Hillary Clinton and stated plainly that the discussion was part of a Russian government effort to help the GOP candidate.

    While Trump Jr. has confirmed that the Russian attorney was in the meeting he did not disclose Akhmetshin’s presence. The president’s son has tried to discount the meeting, saying that he did not receive the information he was promised.

    Akhmetshin said the meeting was “not substantive” and he “actually expected more serious” discussion.

    “I never thought this would be such a big deal to be honest,” he told AP.

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

    Asked about Akhmetshin and his possible participation in the June 2016 meeting, Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, told reporters on Friday: “We don’t know anything about this person.”

    The post Russian-American lobbyist says he was in Trump son’s meeting appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Alpha jets from the French Air Force Patrouille de France fly over the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. Photo by Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

    Alpha jets from the French Air Force Patrouille de France fly over the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. Photo by Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

    With President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump in attendance, France’s Bastille Day parade through Paris on Friday had an American flavor, including U.S. soldiers bedecked in World War I uniforms and the display of Old Glory.

    First lady Melania Trump and President Donald Trump joined French President Emmanuel Macron (second from right), his wife Brigitte Macron (right) at the traditional Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on July 14. Photo by Yves Herman/Reuters

    First lady Melania Trump and President Donald Trump joined French President Emmanuel Macron (second from right), his wife Brigitte Macron (right) at the traditional Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on July 14. Photo by Yves Herman/Reuters

    An American flag is displayed during the parade, which also celebrated the U.S. entry into World War I. Photo by Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

    An American flag is displayed during the parade, which also celebrated the U.S. entry into World War I. Photo by Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

    U.S. troops wearing World War I helmets walk in the Bastille Day military parade. Photo by Yves Herman/Reuters

    U.S. troops wearing World War I helmets walk in the Bastille Day military parade. Photo by Yves Herman/Reuters

    A C-135 aircraft leads a formation of Rafale B and Mirage 2000N fighter jets. Photo by Etienne Laurent/Pool via Reuters

    A C-135 aircraft leads a formation of Rafale B and Mirage 2000N fighter jets. Photo by Etienne Laurent/Pool via Reuters

    High ranking officers from various countries take pictures of fly overs. Photo by Charles Platiau/Reuters

    High ranking officers from various countries take pictures of fly overs. Photo by Charles Platiau/Reuters

    A camouflaged special forces member takes part in the parade. Photo by Stephane Mahe/Reuters

    A camouflaged special forces member takes part in the parade. Photo by Stephane Mahe/Reuters

    Armored vehicles roll down the banner-lined Champs-Elysee avenue. Photo by Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

    Armored vehicles roll down the banner-lined Champs-Elysee avenue. Photo by Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

    French Republican Guards on horseback pass near the Arc de Triomphe. Photo by Etienne Laurent/Pool via Reuters

    French Republican Guards on horseback pass near the Arc de Triomphe. Photo by Etienne Laurent/Pool via Reuters

    The post PHOTOS: Tanks, jets and U.S. troops at this year’s Bastille Day parade appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Exam2

    Solorah Singleton, 36, (right) of Philadelphia, speaks with nurse practitioner Caroline Cylkowski about her medical history during an exam at Mazzoni Center, a care facility for LGBTQ health and well-being in Philadelphia. Singleton was born male but identifies as female. She has been undergoing hormone therapy for six to seven years and is hoping for breast augmentation surgery soon. Photo by Eileen Blass/Kaiser Health News

    Solorah Singleton has been waiting years for breast augmentation. She doesn’t want to jinx it now, but the Philadelphia resident thinks it’s finally within reach.

    Singleton, 36, was born male but identifies as female. For seven years, she has had regular hormone therapy, never seeing surgery as an option. She previously didn’t have health insurance and didn’t think she could cover the cost of the procedure out-of-pocket.

    Now, that’s changed. Last summer, her home state of Pennsylvania updated its Medicaid policy to spell out coverage of care related to gender transitioning — including surgery. Soon after, employees at a local health clinic signed Singleton up. She has since received medical approval for surgery and hopes to get it done soon.

    “It’s a blessing,” she said. “I’ll feel at home in my own skin.”

    Her experience aligns with a larger trend that could soon lose steam. Spurred in part by anti-discrimination rules in the 2010 health law, Pennsylvania — along with 13 other states plus the District of Columbia — rewrote its Medicaid policy to clarify how it covers transition-related care. Montana, the most recent adoptee, posted its change in May. Because Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for low-income people, covers a disproportionately high number of transgender people compared with the general population, the potential change could heap hardship on an already embattled population.

    The ACA’s non-discrimination portion, known as Section 1557, says federally funded programs that provide health care, coverage or related services cannot discriminate based on sex. The provision has been in effect since the law’s enactment and helped fuel a federal push to protect transgender people from discrimination in receiving health care services. In 2016, the Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services issued the final rule crystallizing that policy.

    Before the ACA, Medicaid operated under its own anti-discrimination requirements. However, many state programs were vague in describing gender-transition benefits. This made it difficult for people like Singleton to understand what Medicaid covered. It also made it easier for plans to question the “medical necessity” of treatments and to issue denials.

    By making it clear that state Medicaid programs could not refuse to pay for a health care service simply because the beneficiary is transgender, and suggesting greater federal attention to the matter, the Section 1557 rule pushed states to be more upfront about coverage specifics.

    Singleton Look

    Solorah Singleton, 36, of Philadelphia, poses in her salon in west Philadelphia. Photo by Eileen Blass/Kaiser Health News

    That regulation is back in play as the Department of Health and Human Services appears to be walking back from its directive and coverage protections.

    In a Texas case in which faith-affiliated health care providers argued Section 1557 required they act against their religious beliefs — which “will not allow them to perform medical transition procedures that can be deeply harmful to their patients” — a federal judge issued an injunction at the end of 2016 to block the transgender protections. HHS responded by asking the court to remand the case and stay further proceedings while it rewrites the rule. Earlier this week, the judge obliged. In the meantime, that portion of Section 1557 will not be enforced.

    The rewrite is part of the administration’s overarching executive effort. HHS Secretary Tom Price and President Donald Trump have vowed to use administrative power to mitigate the health law’s policy changes, specifically those that created “regulatory or economic burdens” or that don’t match up with the current White House agenda.

    “Anytime the federal government says ‘we’re not going to take civil rights seriously’ — this is a huge concern,” said Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health law and policy at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

    An HHS spokeswoman declined to answer what impact rewriting the rule could have or how likely it is the department would scale back transgender protections, citing laws that limit disclosing “non-public information regarding rule-making.”

    But if the federal government isn’t asserting a certain coverage standard for publicly funded programs, health plans can find leeway to deny claims and argue a transition-related service is not medically necessary, noted Katie Keith, an adjunct law professor at Georgetown University. She also runs Out2Enroll, an advocacy group that connects LGBTQ people with health insurance options.

    The consequences can be serious. Singleton said she has known many people who want hormone therapy but have long felt uncomfortable seeking it at health clinics, because of poor experiences with insurance coverage. Their alternative: buying the drugs through illicit channels, where it’s hard to know if they’re of good quality, or even safe to use.

    “If they’re trying to get themselves comfortable with their look, they’ll go to any extreme measures,” she said.

    Coverage changes that, she added. “It will definitely improve health situations.”

    Singleton Facetime1

    Solorah Singleton (right) colors Aly Damian’s hair at Singleton’s salon in west Philadelphia while Aly video-chats with a family member. Like Singleton, Damian, 27, is transgender and considers Singleton her “gay mother.” Photo by Eileen Blass/Kaiser Health News

    Even with Medicaid policies explicitly guaranteeing coverage, beneficiaries still navigate plenty of red tape, said Amy Nelson, who directs patient legal services at Whitman-Walker Health, a clinic in Washington, D.C., that specializes in LGBTQ care. It has staff whose entire job is navigating insurance hurdles for people seeking transition-related care.

    States that have already rewritten Medicaid policies are unlikely to rescind them, Keith said. But if HHS waters down federal protections, others may be reluctant to hop on. “It makes the state-level work much more important,” she said.

    Already, lower courts are offering one path. In Minnesota, a 64-year-old resident sued the state when its Medicaid program wouldn’t cover a transition-related double mastectomy. A county judge held that denying coverage for this procedure violated the state constitution. Advocates have found similar success through legal action in Pennsylvania and New York.

    A growing body of research suggests that paying for gender transition doesn’t cost state Medicaid programs much when compared with potential savings down the line that would result from preventing health issues such as long-term psychological distress. Private insurance has also moved in this direction. In 2014, Medicare — the federal program covering elderly people — lifted some restrictions on covering gender transition.

    Another complicating factor: the ongoing Obamacare repeal efforts on Capitol Hill. Current GOP health plans don’t address these anti-discrimination regulations because they can include only provisions that qualify for fast-track consideration. Republicans tend to support stepping back from the law’s expansion of Medicaid, which made millions of Americans newly eligible for the program. “It’s great to have 1557 [protections], but if no one can get a health insurance plan, or get Medicaid, it doesn’t matter much,” Keith said.

    Plus, those lawmakers want to restructure Medicaid, giving states more control but also limiting its funding. Experts say the change could create cost pressures that would drive states to restrict who is eligible for the program, stop covering particular services or both.

    “Transgender people could be vulnerable,” suggested Harper Jean Tobin, policy director at the National Center for Transgender Equality, an advocacy group. “That is more likely if the administration is sending the message to states … that it’s OK to discriminate against transgender people.”

    For patients like the ones Nelson sees at Whitman-Walker, the impact would be grim. Some, she recalled, have waited as long as 40 years to get treatment that, without Medicaid benefits, was simply unaffordable.

    “They’ve been suffering silently,” she said. “Folks are thrilled to have access. But to offer it and then pull it back would be devastating.”

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

    The post Transgender health care targeted in crusade to undo ACA appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota

    A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp’s planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota Nov. 14, 2014. Photo by Andrew Cullen/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has nominated energy lawyer Kevin McIntyre to chair the vacancy-plagued commission that oversees the nation’s power grid and natural gas pipelines.

    Only one commissioner currently serves on the five-member Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, leaving it without a quorum and unable to make decisions on interstate pipelines and other projects worth billions of dollars.

    If confirmed by the Senate, McIntyre, a Republican, would lead the five-member panel. Trump has nominated Republicans Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson to the commission and has said he intends to nominate Democrat Richard Glick.

    The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has approved the two GOP nominees, but no vote has been scheduled in the Senate. Glick has not been formally nominated, but he is likely to be paired with McIntyre for Senate consideration.

    McIntyre is co-head of global energy at Jones Day, a prominent Washington firm that has provided a steady stream of lawyers to the Trump administration, including White House counsel Don McGahn. McIntyre has represented a range of energy suppliers before FERC, including suppliers of natural gas, oil, hydropower and wind power.

    If confirmed, he would replace Democrat Cheryl LaFleur, who has been the panel’s acting chair since January. LaFleur is expected to remain on the commission.

    Trump has promised to usher in a “golden era of American energy” and has outlined a series of initiatives aimed at boosting energy production and exports and creating thousands of jobs.

    The FERC vacancies hobble the agency’s ability to make decisions and threaten to undermine Trump’s promise of U.S. “energy dominance” in the global market. More than a dozen major projects and utility mergers have been in regulatory limbo for months, including the $2 billion Nexus pipeline in Ohio and Michigan; the $1 billion PennEast pipeline in Pennsylvania and New Jersey; and the $5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina.

    The post Trump names lawyer to head beleaguered energy agency appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Pro-democracy activists mourn the death of Chinese Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo in Hong Kong

    Pro-democracy activists mourn the death of Chinese Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, outside China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong, China July 13, 2017. Photo by Bobby Yip/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The death of Liu Xiaobo is a catastrophic loss for China and the entire world, and his contributions to human rights should never be forgotten, members of Congress said during a hearing Friday that turned into a memorial for China’s most prominent political prisoner.

    Liu died Thursday of liver cancer after spending nearly nine years in custody. A House hearing had been scheduled to examine his health and detention. The news of his passing the day before prompted praise for his life’s work in advancing liberty and due process as well as condemnation of the Chinese government for its treatment of Liu and his wife, Liu Xia.

    “No nation should be judged entirely by crimes of the past, but this crime, the death and silencing of Liu Xiaobo, should follow the Chinese Community Party like an unwashable, permanent stain,” said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations.

    Two pictures were positioned prominently in the hearing room — one of Liu and the other of an empty chair with his Nobel Peace Prize placed where he would have been sitting if he had been allowed to attend the 2010 ceremony. Liu was serving an 11-year sentence for incitement to subvert state power. He died at the age of 61.

    [Watch Video]

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Smith noted that they had attended the award ceremony. Pelosi called Liu “one of the great moral voices of our time.”

    Liu rose to prominence during the 1989 pro-democracy protests centered in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, and became one of hundreds of Chinese imprisoned for crimes linked to the demonstrations after they were crushed by the military. It was the first of four imprisonments.

    His last was for co-authoring “Charter 08,” a document circulated in 2008 that called for more freedom of expression, human rights and an independent judiciary.

    “Liu’s efforts were not in vain,” said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. “His sacrifice and death while in the custody of the Chinese government while serving an unjustified 11-year prison sentence has shined a light on the sad state of human rights in China.”

    The panel heard from academics and activists familiar with Liu’s work. They described the suffering that he endured in prison.

    “Even on his deathbed, he had no freedom to leave his last words. Now that he is gone the world will never know,” lamented Yang Jianli, who participated in the demonstrations for democracy in Tiananmen Square and also served five years in prison in China.

    READ NEXT: Liu Xiaobo, Nobel laureate and Chinese dissident, dies at 61

    The lawmakers and witnesses wondered how his legacy would and could be perpetuated.

    Perry Link, a professor at the University of California at Riverside, raised the question of whether Liu’s efforts were in vain. He said no, but the answer was difficult.

    “Two hundred years from now, who will remember the tyrants who sent Mandela, Havel and Suu Kyi to jail? Will the glint of Liu Xiaobo’s incisive intellect be remembered, or the cardboard mediocrity of Xi’s?” Link asked, a reference to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

    That elicited a response from Pelosi, who said, “Dr. Link, I don’t think it’s going to take 200 years, I think right now is the contribution; the legacy of Liu Xiaobo will certainly eclipse the authoritarians of China.

    Smith held a moment of silence for Liu at the conclusion of the hearing.

    The post Lawmakers say world owes debt of gratitude to Liu Xiaobo appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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