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

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    U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 13, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RTS16XKV

    U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday that the administration will appeal a recent ruling loosening the Trump administration’s travel ban to the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo by REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein.

    HONOLULU — In another setback for President Donald Trump, a federal judge in Hawaii further weakened the already-diluted travel ban by vastly expanding the list of U.S. family relationships that visitors from six Muslim-majority countries can use to get into the country.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday that the administration will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, choosing to bypass the San Francisco-based appeals court that has ruled against it and go back to the high court. The justices allowed a scaled-back version of the travel ban to take effect last month and set arguments for October.

    The move is the latest volley in the fierce fight over the ban Trump first tried to put in place in January.

    The rules are not so much an outright ban as a tightening of tough visa policies affecting citizens from Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iran and Yemen. People from those countries who already have visas will be allowed into the U.S.

    Only narrow categories of people, including those with relatives named in the ruling, will be considered for new visas. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson 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 U.S.

    READ MORE: The Supreme Court just had a quiet term. These high-profile cases are about to change that.

    “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.”

    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 ruling could bring relief to more than 24,000 refugees who had already been vetted and approved by the United States, resettlement agencies said.

    “Many of them had already sold all of their belongings to start their new lives in safety,” said Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project. “This decision gives back hope to so many who would otherwise be stranded indefinitely.”

    White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert told reporters that Trump administration lawyers will closely review the ruling, but it appears broad enough to “cover every refugee.”

    Bossert said he does not believe that was the interpretation the U.S. Supreme Court intended when it reinstated the travel ban against those without a “bona fide relationship” with a person or an entity in the U.S.

    The justices didn’t define a bona fide relationship but said it could include a close relative, a job offer or admission to a college or university. A relationship created to avoid the ban would not be acceptable, they said.

    The Trump administration defined it 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. He broadened the definition of what counts as a close relationship.

    READ MORE: Travel sanctions loom for nations that don’t meet new U.S. security criteria

    Hawaii Attorney General Douglas S. Chin, who filed the case for the broader definition, 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.

    Trump has said the policy is a necessary tool for national security and fighting terrorism. His initial travel ban in January set off massive protests at airports nationwide and sparked a sprawling legal fight.

    Courts blocked the first ban and the administration’s revised version until the Supreme Court weighed in.

    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 receiving visas.

    Associated Press writer Andrew Dalton in Los Angeles, Julie Watson in San Diego and Alicia A. Caldwell in Washington contributed to this story.

    The post White House to appeal Hawaii judge’s decision to loosen travel ban appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    US President-elect Donald Trump's Digital Director Brad Parscale, arrives at the Trump Tower for meetings with US President-elect Donald Trump, in New York on November 17, 2016. / AFP / Eduardo Munoz Alvarez (Photo credit should read EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images)

    Trump campaign Digital Director Brad Parscale arrives in November at the Trump Tower for meetings with then-president-elect Donald Trump. Parscale will speak with the House Intelligence Committee later this month as part of its Russia probe. Photo by EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images.

    WASHINGTON— The data and digital director for President Donald Trump’s campaign said Friday he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee later this month as part of its Russia probe.

    Brad Parscale said in a statement that he is “unaware of any Russian involvement” in the data and digital operations of Trump’s campaign. He said he is voluntarily appearing before the panel and looks forward to “sharing with them everything I know.”

    Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, says lawmakers are reviewing whether the Trump campaign’s team worked with Russians in any capacity, including to distribute “fake news.”

    Schiff said Wednesday that his panel wants to look at the use of Russian social media “trolls” and whether they were connected to the Trump election campaign. That concern is “certainly something we want to explore,” along with the Trump campaign’s data analytics, Schiff said.

    Parscale is a key figure in that part of the probe.

    READ MORE: Trump says he did all he could to confront Putin over election meddling

    He’s close with the Trump family, having worked on websites for the Trump Organization and Ivanka Trump’s company since 2011. Parscale and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, pushed Trump, a political newcomer, to embrace data — an aspect of modern campaigns that Trump had disparaged as “overrated.”

    The Trump campaign paid Parscale’s San Antonio, Texas-based firm more than $90 million to advertise on social media, analyze voter data and perform other campaign functions. Parscale also used data to raise money online for Trump’s campaign and choose where to advertise on television and radio.

    He said the campaign “used the exact same digital marketing strategies that are used every day by corporate America.”

    Parscale is likely to walk lawmakers through how campaigns acquire and use data, which can help a politician understand and appeal to specific voters, as well as raise money from ardent supporters.

    READ MORE: Senate Judiciary Committee to question Trump campaign chairman in ongoing Russia probe

    In the general election, the Trump campaign relied upon a database of voters that the Republican National Committee spent years and tens of millions of dollars compiling.

    The campaign also contracted with Cambridge Analytica, a data firm that had previously worked with Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential effort. The firm is backed by billionaire donor Robert Mercer and has drawn the attention of lawmakers over its claims of using “psychographic” information— that is, detailed analyses of people’s likes and dislikes based on their online activities.

    Trump campaign officials have downplayed Cambridge’s role, saying they briefly used the company for television advertising and paid some of Cambridge’s most skilled data employees.

    Parscale is likely to walk lawmakers through how campaigns acquire and use data, which can help a politician understand and appeal to specific voters, as well as raise money from ardent supporters.

    The campaign also paid dozens of data and digital specialists who worked out of the San Antonio office of Giles-Parscale. Major technology companies including Facebook, Twitter and Google detailed employees to work “side-by-side” with the campaign operatives, Parscale said.

    Companies often assign representatives to major advertisers, and those three offered the same services to Clinton’s campaign.

    Facebook said in a statement the company has been in touch with several lawmakers who are interested in how the site works and how Russia might have used it. Facebook said it has seen no evidence of Russian entities buying ads related to the presidential campaign on its site.

    Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, visited Facebook’s California headquarters earlier this year.

    Associated Press writers Chad Day and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

    The post Trump campaign data chief to talk to House committee in Russia probe appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    REFILE - UPDATING SLUGHouse Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks at a news conference at the Republican National Committee Building in Washington, D.C., U.S. May 17, 2017.  REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RTX36AXW

    House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) says the House will vote on a budget blueprint next week. File photo by REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein.

    WASHINGTON — House Republicans are moving ahead with their long-overdue budget blueprint, even as divisions between moderates and conservatives over cutting programs like food stamps threaten passage of the measure.

    Passing the measure is a prerequisite to GOP efforts to overhaul the tax code, a top priority of President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Friday the House Budget Committee will vote next week on the plan, which would spend far more money next year than Trump has proposed.

    House Republicans seek cuts to foreign aid, support for U.S.-Mexico wall

    Earlier divisions have been resolved between GOP defense hawks and the party’s tough-on-spending wing. The Pentagon emerged a big winner with a $30 billion increase, but divisions remain between tea party forces and Republican moderates.

    The current holdup involves whether to use Washington’s arcane budget process to force cuts to mandatory programs, such as food stamps or pension benefits for federal workers. Tea party lawmakers are demanding spending cuts from mandatory programs to make up for increased spending on the Pentagon.

    House Republicans expect Senate Democrats to press for increases in nondefense spending, and they’re not happy.

    “Give me a break,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.

    But moderates, some of whom cast dangerous votes for the GOP’s unpopular health measure, are uneasy about voting for further cuts.

    READ MORE: Trump’s proposed $4.1 trillion budget eyes deep domestic cuts

    “If you throw in food stamps and other mandatory programs, then you set yourself up for the argument that you’re cutting taxes for businesses and wealthy people while you’re removing eligibility for people on food stamps,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa.

    McCarthy also says GOP leaders are pondering a move to bundle a separate $1.2 trillion package of 12 spending bills into a single omnibus spending bill for a lengthy floor debate at the end of the month. Typically work on the spending bills follows passage of the budget measure. The budget, which was supposed to pass in April, is so far behind that the rival Appropriations Committee is almost finished with writing its 12 bills.

    But floor action on the spending measures will be tricky since Democrats are opposed to many of them.

    “We could go all 12,” McCarthy in a brief interview outside his Capitol office. Or, McCarthy said, the spending bills could be wrapped into several smaller bundles. “We’ll make that decision next week.”

    The post House Republicans to move ahead with budget plan as debate over mandatory program cuts continues appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Cue the Emmy nominations, which this week delivered a wealth of new shows to our watchlists, now more than ever with emerging streaming channels. Just before this year’s Emmy-nominated shows were announced Thursday, we heard from James Poniewozik, the chief television critic at the New York Times, about his favorite episodes this season. Here are his top five. In his words:

    1. “Twin Peaks: The Return” (Showtime), “Episode 8

    When Showtime revived this classic surreal mystery, it was questionable whether David Lynch and Mark Frost could create anything as jaw-dropping as in the early 1990s original. They did, and then some, in this hour, a visual poem on the origins of evil, that could stand alone as a work of hypnotic video art.

    2. “The Carmichael Show” (NBC), “Shoot-Up-Able

    NBC just cancelled this caustic, issues-laced comedy after three short seasons. This episode, in which Jerrod (Jerrod Carmichael) survives a mass shooting at a mall, demonstrates why the show was a tough sell, and why that’s a shame. In the tradition of Norman Lear, Carmichael used argumentative family comedy not to escape tough questions or pander to one group’s self-righteousness; he constantly challenged viewers of every persuasion, with pointed jokes that made you laugh and gasp.

    3. “The Leftovers” (HBO), “The Book of Nora

    The best show of the past year had one of the best finales in recent memory. An exploration of faith, loss and survival—wrapped up in a supernatural enigma about two percent of the Earth’s population disappearing—closed with a love story that spanned decades, continents and, possibly, universes. But luminous writing and direction—as well as stunning performances from Carrie Coon and Justin Theroux—kept it grounded in something like reality.

    4. “Master of None” (Netflix), “The Dinner Party

    Aziz Ansari’s comedy of love in the age of Tinder ended this episode with his character, Dev, out on a night that ends romantically—almost. His love interest, engaged to another man, shares a cab ride home with him, and gets out of the car. Then the camera lingers on him. And lingers—for three solid minutes as he rides home alone, in silence except for Soft Cell’s “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye” on the soundtrack. Sometimes the most effective thing a scene can say is nothing.

    5. “I Love Dick” (Amazon Prime Video), “A Short History of Weird Girls

    The most thrilling thing about TV right now is the sense that it can be anything and be about anything. Take this series, from Jill Soloway of “Transparent,” about sex, postmodern theory and obsession in a Texas art colony. This striking episode, a series of monologues by the ensemble’s female characters, is as much feminist performance art as it is anything we think of as series television.

    The post 5 episodes of television you should be watching now appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    2013 Accord coupes are seen in the multi-aiming station during a tour of the Honda automobile plant in Marysville, Ohio October 11, 2012. The factory produces the Acura and Accord models and has an annual production of 440,000 vehicles. REUTERS/Paul Vernon (UNITED STATES - Tags: TRANSPORT BUSINESS) - RTR3CJGG

    Japanese automaker Honda Motor Co is recalling an estimated 2.1 million Accord models worldwide because of defects in the vehicle’s battery system that cause engines to light on fire. Photo by REUTERS/Paul Vernon.

    Japanese automaker Honda Motor Co is recalling an estimated 2.1 million Accord models worldwide because of defects in the vehicle’s battery system that cause engines to light on fire.

    The recall affects 1.15 million cars in the U.S.

    The issue lies in the 12-volt battery sensors — which notify drivers of battery problems — in model years 2013-2016.

    Many of the models’ sensors are not sealed properly, which means they can collect road salt and moisture, causing electrical shorting or erosion. This could ignite fire or smoke in the engine. The issue has caused four engine fires in the U.S. so far, according to AutoWeek; one additional fire was reported in Canada.

    Reuters reports the company has received 3,972 warranty claims relating to the issue. The issue was first reported in 2015 in Canada. Honda redesigned the sensors in 2016, Reuters reports, but complaints continued.

    This recall follows several others across the industry in recent months. Japanese airbag supplier Takata filed for bankruptcy last month, after millions more vehicles were redlined in the latest of a series of recalls due to defective airbags. Ford also recalled 400,000 vehicles last month because of safety compliance issues.

    Registered Honda owners will be notified about the recall in late July, but can check Honda’s website to see if their cars are affected before then. Honda did not say how long it will take to fix all cars. Due to the large number of recalls, dealers will replace the worst of the sensors but temporarily repair those in good condition, returning to replace them at a later date.

    Despite the sensor trouble, Honda unveiled its newest version of the accord Friday.
    The Los Angeles Times reports the new models will feature additional safety technology.

    “We are redefining the Honda Accord for a new generation of buyers,” said Jeff Conrad, senior vice president of Honda’s American Automobile division.

    The post Honda recalls 2.1 million Accords worldwide, citing risk of engine fire appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Betty Shelby, acquitted of all charges in the death of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher, is shown in this 2016 Tulsa County Jail booking photo. Her resignation from the police department was announced today. Photo courtesy of Tulsa County Jail via Reuters

    The Tulsa, Oklahoma officer who fatally shot Terence Crutcher last year is resigning from her administrative position at the Tulsa Police Department, a national police union said Friday.

    A jury acquitted Betty Shelby in May of all charges related to the death of Crutcher, a 40-year-old black motorist. She was allowed to return to the department days later in an administrative role.

    Since then, “I have found that sitting behind a desk, isolated from all my fellow officers and the citizens of Tulsa, is just not for me,” Shelby said in a letter posted to Facebook by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 93.

    Shelby, who is white, said she would resign Aug. 3.

    She thanked her supporters and “fellow officers for the moral support they gave me the last 10 months,” adding that “the incident with Terence Crutcher was a tragedy for everyone involved, and I am sorry he lost his life.”

    “I pray for healing for his family, I will continue to pray for the unity of our community, the safety of our citizens and our police officers,” she added.

    Before the jury’s decision in May, Shelby had been on unpaid leave since prosecutors charged her with first-degree manslaughter in September.

    Protesters march towards Tulsa City Hall during a peaceful protest honoring Terence Crutcher who was shot and killed by Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby in Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S. September 2016. Photo by Nick Oxford/Reuters

    Protesters march towards Tulsa City Hall during a peaceful protest honoring Terence Crutcher who was shot and killed by Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby in Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S. September 2016. Photo by Nick Oxford/Reuters

    On Sept. 16, 2016, dashcam footage captured the fatal encounter between Shelby and Crutcher, whose vehicle was found stalled in the middle of a road. Crutcher can be seen raising his hands in the video.

    Shelby testified that Crutcher had refused to comply with her commands and she thought he was reaching for a gun inside his vehicle. She responded with a single shot. Crutcher died later that day.

    Last month, Crutcher’s family filed a civil rights lawsuit against Shelby and the City of Tulsa, arguing that the officer used excessive force in the eccounter.

    Though the jury’s decision was to acquit Shelby, the jury’s foreman wrote a letter that said jurors were not “comfortable with the concept of Betty Shelby being blameless,” questioning why she hadn’t used a stun gun instead of a firearm to de-escalate the situation.

    Shelby’s attorney, Shannon McMurray, told CBS that it’s unclear what the 43-year-old soon-to-be former officer will pursue next.

    READ MORE: Minnesota officer acquitted in fatal shooting of Philando Castile to receive buyout

    The post Tulsa officer to resign months after acquittal in shooting death of Terence Crutcher appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon usually reports for us from the other side of the world, covering stories such as the refugee crisis and child marriage.

    Tonight, she shares her Humble Opinion about something closer to home and much more personal.

    GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON, Author: School choice. Those two words spark a whole host of emotions from people across the political spectrum.

    As a kid, I never heard the words school choice uttered. But they did indeed shape my childhood. You see, my mom was a single mom, a union Democrat who worked at the phone company during the day and sold tupperware at night, at least on the nights when she wasn’t studying for her college degree.

    She frequented yard sales, grocery-shopped with double coupons, and knew her way around the Marshalls layaway window. And she lied about our address, so that I could attend what she judged to be the best public elementary school in our area.

    In a number of states, that is seen as a felony. In fact, parents across the country regularly face jail time and huge fines for what my mom did, really. Parents are facing prison to give their children possibilities, possibilities that area given for upper-middle-class and wealthy families, families that can exercise their own school choice because they have the means to choose what and where is best for their kids.

    As a kid, it didn’t occur to me that using a baby-sitter’s address or an address where my dad used to live before the bank took his property back was wrong. It was what was required, do-it-yourself school choice to make more choices down the road possible.

    And it worked. The good school my mom got me into, gave me a great start for the rest of my education. I went to a good college. From there, I had the privilege of becoming a Fulbright Scholar, and that helped lead me to Harvard Business School. But along the way, I saw just how narrow the funnel that leads to the nation’s elite institutions truly is.

    The thing that strikes me now is that all that I have had the privilege of learning and doing and undertaking since then is because I had a mom who understood that education was the best anti-poverty vaccination she could give me and the best shot at class mobility she had to offer.

    For many moms and dads, school choice is not an issue, it’s not partisan. It is about possibilities and a chance to give kids the springboard they need to vault over class barriers and toward the best future they can build.

    And that future is something in which every one of us has a stake.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, we thank you.

    The post Why school choice should be about possibility — not partisanship appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Copenhagen Jazz Festival ends this weekend in Denmark’s capital. The organizers claim it’s the world’s biggest such event, and that Denmark has now become the epicenter of global jazz.

    Some of the American musicians there express envy that this quintessential American music now thrives abroad, thanks to Danish government investment.

    Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant is based in Copenhagen and he brings us all that Danish jazz.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: The streets and squares are alive to the sound of improvisation, as the city stages 1,400 concerts in 10 days, leading to claims that Copenhagen is now the jazz capital of the world.

    JORGEN FJELSTRUP, Scandinavian Old Stars: It’s a kind of music you can make swing. We like the swing feeling,, so that’s how we perform it.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Drummer Jorgen Fjelstrup fears that, like Viennese waltzes, traditional jazz will soon be consigned to history.

    JORGEN FJELSTRUP: Everything has its time. I think 5 percent of the people knows or likes this kind of jazz, mainly my age I think, so it will die with us.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: But in Copenhagen’s meat-packing district, the boundaries of jazz are being expanded in a way that’s attracting international attention.

    Drummer Emil De Waal.

    EMIL DE WAAL, Drummer, Kalaha: To me, jazz is a very open genre. To me, jazz is a very alive genre. And what we’re trying to do here is to make jazz work together with electronic music. I can’t see a world without improvisational music. So, I’m really optimistic.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Grammy-winning drummer Victor Jones has joined a distinguished list of American musicians who’ve moved to Denmark because of its rich jazz culture.

    VICTOR JONES, Drummer: They have an audience that understands the music, which in America, it’s pretty difficult to find an audience like that. What’s good about here is that they also teach it in school. In America, they just don’t have it in school and they just don’t have it on TV, so here I am.


    MALCOLM BRABANT: Six times’ Grammy-winning saxophonist David Sanborn laments a lack of investment in a culture that America invented.

    DAVID SANBORN, Saxophonist: You have a different dynamic over here. And in Europe in general, the arts are funded by the governments, which you don’t get in America and even less so now. So I think that there’s a certain institutional respect for what this music means to the world. Consequently, it fosters great Danish jazz musicians.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Such as pianist Niels Lan Doky. He learned his craft among legends in New York, and now runs a successful jazz club in Copenhagen.

    NIELS LAN DOKY, Standard Jazz Club Musical Director: In New York and America in general, it’s difficult to experiment and develop new products, because the pressure to be profitable is so high, so bottom-line-oriented, that they need to play it safe, established names, and you don’t see the kind of experimentation and diversity that we have here.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: In Denmark, the jazz gene pool is being revitalized. Lan Doky’s protege, 19-year-old Amanda Thomsen, has chosen jazz over other genres.

    AMANDA THOMSEN, Singer: Jazz surprises because, yes, you can do what you want in jazz and improvise. You can create all the time, so every song is new every day.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Jazz may be thriving here, but the common perception that jazz is incapable of standing on its own two feet financially also applies here.

    Festival organizers say that subsidies from central and local government, as well as private foundations, are essential, because, without them, this festival wouldn’t be on such a grand scale.

    Curtis Stigers says that jazz will always struggle because its art takes precedence over commerce.

    CURTIS STIGERS, Singer/Saxophonist: I’m very, very, very lucky. I make a living playing jazz music. I have to come to Europe to do it.

    We are the red headed stepchild of the music business. We are a niche market. But the people that love jazz, they’re willing to pay, they’re willing to suffer a little bit to hear this music and to support it. And I’m grateful for that.

    Charlie Parker played pop songs. He just turned them into jazz tunes. And that’s what we have to do, as opposed to just listening to Miles Davis and saying, that’s jazz.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: Here’s another dimension, liturgical jazz.

    Anders Gadegaard is the dean of Copenhagen Cathedral.

    ANDERS GADEGAARD, Dean, Copenhagen Cathedral: When you add this jazz tone, it becomes much more vital for people, and it becomes easier for us to proclaim the gospel, so to speak.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: The jazz mass was written by bassist Chris Minh Doky, brother of the pianist.

    CHRIS MINH DOKY, Bassist: If you take an old song from the Danish song tradition that’s 300 years old, there’s a reason why it lasted 300 years, because the melody is really good.

    If you just take the melody and set it free and don’t constrain it in any boxed-in way and just present it as is, with a contemporary harmonization and presentation, you will hear that this melody is universal. It’s basically the same as hearing a pop song from the ’50s that turns into a jazz standard.

    MALCOLM BRABANT: The claim that Denmark is the epicenter of global jazz may be disputed, but this congregation proves beyond doubt that the spirit is strong.

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

    The post Why Copenhagen is becoming the jazz capital of the world appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Welcome, gentlemen.

    So, Mark, welcome back.

    MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Thank you, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We missed you last week.

    The Donald Trump Jr. story. We have now learned that he had a meeting a year ago, Trump Tower, with a lawyer who had some connection to the Russian government. How does this change our understanding of the Russia collusion allegation?

    MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think it’s fair to say, Judy, that the White House lost any benefit of the doubt that it could claim on this story.

    The shoes continue to drop, like it’s a Zappos warehouse or Imelda Marcos’ closet. I mean, it just — each time, they’re amending their story, they’re appending or extending their story.

    And so I just think the fact that there were such denials and accusations of a Democratic plot, all of those are gone, and they stand naked and they stand exposed as shams.

    I mean, they were actively engaged, at least welcoming Russian involvement in the 2016 election, in behalf of Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David, does this change your assessment of what may have been going on?

    DAVID BROOKS, The New York Times: Yes.

    My colleague Ross Douthat wrote that any time you give Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt, he always lets you down.


    DAVID BROOKS: And that’s true. That’s true for his business clients and it’s true for those of us who thought, they couldn’t have been some stupid, to walk right into collusion with the Russian meetings.

    And yet they were not only that stupid, but I think what is striking to me is the complete amorality of it, that Donald Trump Jr. gets an e-mail saying the Russian government is offering you this, and he says, “I love it.”

    And it reminded me so much of some of the e-mails that came out of the Jack Abramoff scandal, that came out of the financial crisis scandal, where they’re just — they’re like frat boys who are gleefully going against the law and are going against all morality. And they’re not even overcoming any scruples to do this.

    They’re just having fun with it. And then, in the days since, we have had on — Donald Jr. on Sean Hannity’s show, again, I did nothing wrong, just incapable of seeing that there might have been something wrong about colluding with a foreign power who is hostile with you.

    And then Donald Trump himself saying, he’s a wonderful guy, again, not seeing anything wrong, and then even last day lying about how many people were in the meeting, a completely inconsequential lie.

    And so we’re trapped in the zone just beyond any ethical scruple, where it’s all about winning.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Beyond any ethical scruple, Mark, is that where we are?

    MARK SHIELDS: Yes, I think it’s fair to say that Donald Trump was born without the embarrassment gene or the moral reservation gene.

    He just — he doesn’t — when he says that most people would take that meeting, Judy, I mean, this is not — I have been around for a while, and been to the Dallas Fair twice, and all the rest of it. People wouldn’t do that.

    In 2000, Al Gore’s campaign got ahold of, was delivered George Bush’s briefing book. They turned it over to the FBI. That’s what you do when you’re honorable in politics.

    This isn’t a meeting with a foreign power. This isn’t Canada or the Swiss Family Robinson. This is Russia. This is a country that has supported, propped up the worst of anti-democratic regimes in the Middle East, that has practiced — mistreated its own press, mistreated its own civil society, and economic intimidation of its neighbors, including invasion of its neighbors.

    I mean, this is the one country on the face of the earth with the capacity to obliterate the United States. This is serious stuff. And to do it so casually and, as David said, without moral reservation, is — I guess it should be stunning, but, sadly, it isn’t.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But some of the Trump team, David, in their response to this are sounding almost offended that people would even think that they were doing something wrong.

    DAVID BROOKS: Yes, well, they just don’t — they don’t get it.

    My pal Mike Gerson had a good line in his column today. If you make losing a sin, you make cheating a sacrament. And that is true. If it’s all win-loss, then you do whatever you can to win and to make money and to beat the deal.

    And so I do think you have entered the zone where they don’t quite see what they have done wrong. But cheating with a foreign company — country is — as Mark keeps saying, is a grave sin.

    And then there’s just the scandal management of it, of letting it drip out, letting it drip out today and today and today. And then there is almost just a cluelessness like a color blindness about how the rest of the world is going to go react to this.

    And this has been a leitmotif for the Trump administration.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It is the case, Mark, that there was one version we heard over the weekend, and then, on Monday, there was a little bit more, and then Tuesday, Wednesday, then today still another.

    MARK SHIELDS: Mm-hmm. No, it is, Judy.

    And I don’t know what to think. I mean, drip, drip, drip, comes a downpour at some point. How about the disparaging of the United States intelligence agencies and professionals by President Trump, candidate Trump and now President Trump, whether Russia — you know, I can’t be sure Russia was involved. Yes, probably, but not for sure.

    I mean, here they are, the Trump Tower with the people, their names approved on the visitors list for the meeting in the Trump Tower, and pretending they didn’t know it.

    So, no, it’s — David is right. In a management sense, it’s just been incredible, Judy. Apparently, it’s hit the president or someone has gotten to the president, because his statement about his son was so sort of homogenized, he’s a quality person.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: He said he’s a good boy.

    MARK SHIELDS: Good boy, and praised him for his transparency, which is a little bit like, as I’m about to be indicted for tax evasion, say, well, I want to make something clear. I failed to pay my taxes.

    DAVID BROOKS: It does open up a bunch of questions, like what were the — this — as the intelligence experts keep saying, this looked like a Russian feeler operation. They just wanted to see what kind of reaction they could get from Donald Jr.

    And if they — how do they respond to the signal? And so what else did they do? There must have been other things they did.

    The second, was it connected? Donald Trump, as others have cited, gave a speech in which he said, we’re about to have a big set of revelations about Hillary Clinton. Did that flow out of this meeting? And what was the timing of that? Who else was in this meeting? What actually was said in the meeting?

    We still really — we have some testimonies, but what documents were brought to the meeting? It means there’s another several weeks of questions. And it gives Bob Mueller a new channel to walk down. It’s just expanding.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The special counsel.


    MARK SHIELDS: I would just say one thing about Mr. Mueller.

    He has an advantage and a power that nobody else, that none of us in the press has. He has the power of subpoena. And he has the power of a grand jury. And he has the alternative of indictment for perjury.

    So, you just can’t keep changing these stories. I mean, Jared Kushner now has amended, as John Yang pointed out at the beginning of the show, point, his number of contacts with foreign individuals and interests, 100. Three times, he’s now had to do so.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Added names.

    MARK SHIELDS: And it raises the question, who leaked these e-mails on Donald Trump — I mean, on Donald Trump Jr.?

    Did they — is there mistrust? There is distrust, I know, in the White House whether it was Kushner or Kushner’s people, saying that we had to get this out.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, meantime, one thing, David, the president is saying that he wants the Senate to get done is health care reform.

    So, we now — a few days ago, we saw this newest, newer version of health care reform that Leader McConnell is saying that he really, really wants his troops to come together behind. But they still aren’t there.

    What does it look like?

    DAVID BROOKS: Well, it’s interesting when you see the reaction to this latest bill.

    Some people say, oh, it shifted to the right. Some people say, oh, no, it shifted to the left. In reality, it short of shifted both ways. It keeps some of the taxes on the rich, which some of the moderates want. It includes some deregulation of the insurance markets, which Ted Cruz and Mike Lee and some of the conservatives want.

    So, it sort of moves in both direction. And I give Mitch McConnell credit. This is an incredibly unpopular bill. And it probably couldn’t survive a set of public hearings and scrutiny. And yet he’s got to the point where he’s kind of close to getting it. I don’t know if we will get there. I sort of would bet against it.

    But, as an act of legislative craftsmanship, if your only goal is to pass something, then I would say Mitch McConnell has done about as well as you can do by pushing a lot of different buttons and bringing people at least within the ballpark, especially given how unpopular this is.

    I still think it’s a bad bill because it does so much to punish Medicaid among a population that can afford it least. But just as a set of legislative craftsmanship, I would say McConnell is like turning all the knobs and getting people sort of close. I would say maybe 40 percent chance that he actually passes something this summer.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think it will go over the top?

    MARK SHIELDS: I don’t, Judy.

    But I would just point out Affordable Care Act was being fought for 18 months in the Congress. There was always a public case you could make for it. There was much criticism of it, but the public case included that women wouldn’t be charged more than men, that nobody could be denied coverage, that the preexisting condition, people would be guaranteed insurance and access to health care.

    There is — and the inside part was done by Harry Reid in the Senate and Nancy Pelosi in the House.

    This is all inside. There is no public argument.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Behind closed doors.

    MARK SHIELDS: There is no public case that can — Mitch McConnell can make. There’s no public case addressing the — you have two minutes to address the American people, why is this better? Why will this Republican plan be better for Americans? Why will it be better for those who don’t have health care? Why will it be better for the elderly, for the poor, for the quality of health care in the country?

    There is no case to be made. It’s all inside baseball. Can you get Dean Heller by leaning on Governor Sandoval in Nevada?

    I mean, that is what it has come down to. And, to me, that is a terrible failing. If somehow they do wrangle vote, what have they got? They have got an incredibly unpopular piece of legislation.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is anybody, David, making a positive case for this?

    DAVID BROOKS: Not really. They say the insurance markets are failing, the Obamacare markets are failing, which is somewhat true.

    They want — they say we have to have a more market-driven system to shove down costs, which is somewhat true. And so I think there is a public case that could be made. I don’t think they’re particularly making it, which is why it’s so unpopular.

    But if we had public scrutiny — say the insurance markets — this thing called the Cruz amendments gives the insurance companies a chance to charge less for some people if they give a fuller benefit for another.

    And what that will do is, let’s put the insurance markets into two different systems.

    MARK SHIELDS: Exactly.


    DAVID BROOKS: And so the people who are healthy will be paying a low fee. And then the people who are sick would be paying much more.

    And so whether you agree or not with the principle, these things actually have to work. And I’m not sure that the way this is written, this will actually even just work as functioning way to run a market, as the health insurance companies have been strongly saying, like Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

    MARK SHIELDS: We’re waiting to find out now whether it’s going to be 19 million or 24 million people who are going to …

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Knocked off.

    MARK SHIELDS: Knocked off health insurance.

    I mean, what everyone says about the Affordable Care Act, 20 million Americans who didn’t have it then did have health care coverage.

    And, Judy, let’s be very blunt; 12 million of them came through the extension of Medicaid. And this is the starvation of Medicaid, seven years, 2024, and the federal support on the extension of Medicaid disappears.

    And so they can talk about money and everything else, but implicit in the Republican bill is there’s a difference in those who are on Medicaid. Somehow, they are takers. Somehow, they are freeloaders. They’re not our fellow Americans who are struggling to get by.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We are going to have to leave it there on that note.

    Mark Shields, David Brooks, thank you both.

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    A man lays out a candle tribute to Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, outside China's consulate in Sydney, Australia July 14, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Reed - RTX3BF20

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo died yesterday in China of liver cancer after years behind bars for his efforts to democratize his homeland.

    Liu’s work and his plight brought him global attention, work that enraged the Chinese government. His death brought an outpouring of tributes.

    William Brangham has this look at Liu Xiaobo’s life and legacy.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: From Hong Kong to Sydney and around the world, there have been vigils overnight and today.

    John Kamm runs a human rights organization based in San Francisco that advocates for political prisoners in China.

    JOHN KAMM, The Dui Hua Foundation: A great loss for China. Someone who was committed to nonviolent change is gone. And it’s a great loss for the world.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: He’d been released from prison on medical leave only a few weeks earlier, but supporters say he was denied proper care.

    WU’ER KAIXI, Chinese Dissident: The Chinese government brutally killed my teacher and one of the most genuine and conscientious Chinese in the world. I would like to ask the world, world leaders and people around the world, which side are you on?

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: President Trump praised Liu in a statement yesterday, calling him a poet, scholar, and courageous advocate.

    China’s government flatly denies Liu was mistreated, and, today, a spokesman condemned the international criticisms.

    GENG SHUANG, Foreign Ministry Spokesman, China (through interpreter): Those statements are interference to China’s judicial sovereignty and domestic affairs. Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who was put on trial by China’s laws.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For decades, Liu was one of the Chinese government’s most outspoken critics. He rose to prominence during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, returning from the U.S. to support the original student demonstrators.

    After troops opened fire killing hundreds, perhaps thousands, Liu helped negotiate safe passage for the survivors. He remained in China despite detention and constant surveillance and continued his political advocacy.

    In 2008, he helped author Charter 08, a manifesto demanding political and civil reform, and he was sentenced to 11 years in prison for subversion.

    JOHN KAMM: Ten thousand people signed that petition. He is the only one to have been sentenced to prison. So, I think he sacrificed there, too.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: But the case gained international attention, and, in 2010, over China’s vehement objections, Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Stuck in prison, Liu was unable to attend the Nobel ceremony, so a chair was left empty in Oslo. And a statement he had written for his trial was used as his Nobel lecture.

    “Hatred can rot a person’s wisdom and conscience,” it said.

    Still, Beijing’s hard line on Liu makes clear that the reforms he sought for decades appear increasingly out of reach.

    JOHN KAMM: There’s a major party meeting coming up in a few months. The government and its president and Chairman Xi Jinping will be inclined to be very, very tough. In terms of changing China’s political system, I don’t see it, I’m afraid.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The focus turns now to Liu’s wife, Liu Xia. She remains under house arrest. And calls for her release, including from the secretary of state, have so far gone unheeded.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m William Brangham.

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    A woman walks past a mural of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Belgrade, Serbia, December 4, 2016. The text on the mural reads in Russian, Serbia and English "Kosovo is Serbia". REUTERS/Marko Djurica - RTSUKLY

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    Find all of the stories in our series, Inside Putin’s Russia

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we continue our series Inside Putin’s Russia.

    There may be no more consequential relationship for the United States than with Russia. Both nations possess world-ending capacity, and may be at the most critical moment since the end of the Cold War.

    Tonight, we explore the bilateral relationship, the tension and how Russians see the United States.

    Again in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, special correspondent Nick Schifrin and producer Zach Fannin start their report in Moscow on Victory Day.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: On Russia’s most patriotic holiday, Russians of all ages remember what they consider their finest moment. They mark the anniversary of victory in World War II by honoring the dead.

    Kiriginov Naimovich’s grandfather fought the Nazis. He says Russia and the U.S. were once allies, and should be again.

    KIRIGINOV NAIMOVICH, Moscow Resident (through interpreter): We really want to love you and be friends with you. We are waiting for you to finally meet us halfway.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: For Russians, it’s the U.S. who’s unwilling to come halfway. Many here believe President Trump wants to improve things, but is being blocked by what Dimitry Schyukin calls the American establishment.

    DIMITRY SCHYUKIN, Moscow Resident (through interpreter): Trump wants to do something, but he’s forced to follow the general political line.

    ALEXANDER DUGIN, TV Host: Donald Trump is the most right-wing candidate of the Republican Party.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Perhaps nobody expressed more hope in Trump than Alexander Dugin, a right-wing TV firebrand and philosopher who’s helped inspire the Kremlin’s ideology.

    ALEXANDER DUGIN: Really, we supported Trumpism. We supported agenda.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Dugin says the Kremlin saw Trump as a kindred spirit who vowed not to meddle internationally.

    ALEXANDER DUGIN: We supported this choice of anti-establishment conservative American revolution.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: That changed when President Trump ordered a missile strike on Russia ally Syria, and said he felt must respond to a chemical weapons attack.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: As long as America stands for justice, then peace and harmony will in the end prevail.

    ALEXANDER DUGIN: We trusted not in Trump as pro-Russian figure. We trusted in Trump realist. And we are disappointed.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The disappointment and tensions have been growing. Last month, over the Baltic Sea, a Russian jet flew within five feet of a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance plane. That same week, a NATO jet shadowed the Russian defense minister’s plane and a Russian jet came up and rocked its wings to demonstrate it was armed.

    Last year, the Obama administration accused Russia of hacking the election, and then seized Russian properties and increased sanctions. All of that has led to Russian frustration.

    Maria Zakharova is the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.

    MARIA ZAKHAROVA, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman: We were trying to establish normal relationship, normal. Do you know this word, normal relationship? What is wrong with this?

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: President Putin and I have been discussing various things, and I think it’s going very well.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Last week, the U.S. took steps toward normalization. Presidents Trump and Putin announced a deal on Syria. Both presidents called their meeting the first step to warming the relationship.

    PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (through interpreter): If we develop our relations in the same way, there is every reason to believe that we would be able to at least partially restore the level of interaction that we need.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The president echoed that hope. On Sunday, he tweeted he wouldn’t dwell on 2016 hacking, and wrote, “Now was the time to move forward in working constructively with Russia.”

    This is not the language other Trump administration officials use about Russia on Syria.

    NIKKI HALEY, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations: How many more children have to die before Russia cares?

    NICK SCHIFRIN: On Ukraine.

    REX TILLERSON, U.S. Secretary of State: We do call on Russia to exercise influence over the separatists in the region, whom they do hold complete control over.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: And on Putin personally.

    MIKE POMPEO, CIA Director: This is a man for whom veracity doesn’t translate into English.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The one senior administration official who’s declined to echo that criticism is Donald Trump, as candidate and president.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Wouldn’t it be a great thing if we could actually get along with Russia? Wouldn’t that be a good thing?


    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I respect Putin. He is a strong leader, I can tell you that, unlike what we have. We have a pathetic leader.

    QUESTION: Putin is a killer.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: There are a lot of killers. We have a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?

    NICK SCHIFRIN: And last week in Warsaw, President Trump once again questioned the U.S. intelligence community’s unanimous assessment that Russia hacked the 2016 election.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think it was Russia. But I think it was probably other people and/or countries, and I see nothing wrong with that statement. Nobody really knows.

    SEN. MARK WARNER, D-Va.: At the very least, giving the president all the benefit of the doubt, this is very bizarre behavior.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Democratic Senator Mark Warner is the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

    SEN. MARK WARNER: We are seeking to determine if there is an actual fire, but there’s clearly a lot of smoke.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Warner is helping lead the Senate’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether President Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia’s attempts to sway the election. We first interviewed him three weeks ago.

    SEN. MARK WARNER: It is very strange that any presidential candidate, and in particular a Republican presidential candidate, would parrot so much of the Russian line.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Republican Senator James Lankford is also on the Intelligence Committee.

    In some ways, has President Trump aligned himself with the ideals expressed by Russia?

    SEN. JAMES LANKFORD, R-Okla.: Yes, he’s pushing out some messages that are consistent with the Kremlin policies. And I would tell you, at every opportunity that I have, I try to articulate very clearly there’s no question that the Russians were trying to hack into our elections, and there’s no question that we should have a strong NATO and that the United States should be a part of that NATO alliance.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Do you believe that he’s not echoing that because the Russians have compromising material on him?

    SEN. MARK WARNER: I don’t know. I hope not. But the goal of this investigation is to not only reconfirm Russian intervention and explain that to the American public, but to also see if there were any contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: And just this week, we learned that, last June, Donald Trump Jr. met with lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, both believed to have ties to the Russian government.

    I spoke to Senator Warner again last night.

    SEN. MARK WARNER: This indication that they were willing to accept this information from Russians and it was part of an overall Russian government effort to help Trump and to hurt Clinton, I think this is the first time the American public has seen that in black and white.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Much of this town has been worried about Trump and Russia since he became president. Current administration officials tell NewsHour the White House drafted an executive order that would have lifted sanctions imposed on Russia over Ukraine.

    Senior administration officials and the intelligence community successfully lobbied against it. And, this spring, senators passed a bill that would restrict the president’s ability to lift those sanctions. The bill’s not yet a law, but it was designed to be a nearly unanimous message to the president and to Putin.

    SEN. JAMES LANKFORD: We believe strongly that what Russia continues to do to be able to threaten Ukraine, threaten its neighbors, threaten NATO, to continue to pry into not only our elections, but other elections, is destabilizing, and it demands a response.

    They have yet to have a consequence to what they did in the election time. And they should.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: In some ways, the president has fallen in line. On Sunday, he tweeted he wouldn’t lift sanctions on Russia over Ukraine until Ukrainian and Syrian problems are solved. And last week, he also endorsed Article 5, NATO’s collective defense.

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

    NICK SCHIFRIN: That convinces many in Moscow that the U.S. establishment is making sure the U.S. remains anti-Russian.

    Dmitri Trenin is a former Soviet army colonel who directs the Carnegie Center in Moscow.

    DMITRI TRENIN, Carnegie Center Moscow: The United States has been, remains, and will be the power that defines common Western, i.e., U.S.-driven, foreign, defense and security policy.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: And given that, Trenin says the U.S. remains Russia’s main adversary. And Russia is simply targeting the U.S. with whatever tool it can.

    DMITRI TRENIN: I’m sure that the Russians have been looking at things, have been hacking things, have been using the material that they have hacked. Why are you surprised that you are being hacked? This is a method of espionage. This is what you do. If you can do it, do it. If you can protect against that, protect against it, but don’t whine.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: But it goes one step further. Many in Russia look at Washington’s turbulence and see a U.S. they’d considered strong and unified suddenly weakened. And they’re exploiting that weakness in the U.S. foundation.

    ALEXANDER DUGIN: It is not so coherent. It is not so stable. And it is vulnerable, I would say. And we seen that. We have seen what we needed to see, vulnerability of American society.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Nick now joins me in our studio.

    So, Nick, that sounds pretty foreboding.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: I think it should sound foreboding, because it is.

    I think usual Russians really do see a vulnerability in the U.S. They see a lack of unity. And when talking frankly to people who actually know what they’re talking about in Russia, it’s not so much denial that they did it. It is that we did it in the United States last year, and we will keep doing it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, from talking to them, is there any doubt that they are going to keep on doing it?

    NICK SCHIFRIN: No, I don’t think so, mostly because they don’t feel like they paid a price.

    The Russian government doesn’t feel like the United States government really penalized them for what happened last year. And, frankly, a lot of American officials here in Washington agree with that. They fault the Obama administration and the Trump administration for simply not following through on some of the things that they feel like Russia should have paid for what they did last year.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, you and I talked a little bit about this. You talked to so many experts. Is there hope? Is there a glimmer of a belief anywhere that this can be repaired?

    NICK SCHIFRIN: There are analysts in Moscow who think the only thing we can hope is that we avoid war. I mean, there are some people who are that dire right now.

    I think the people who are trying to make it better and hope it can make it better are doing what basically President Trump and Putin did earlier in that story we showed, trying to find a lowest common denominator, if you will, trying to find a corner of Syria, for example, where they can work together and use that very small deal to expand perhaps into greater Syria, to expand into a kind of warming of the relationship.

    And certainly the people who understand that this relationship has to get better, that’s what they’re trying to do.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, looking for places to make that happen.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Absolutely.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Nick Schifrin, thank you.

    It is a remarkable series. Thank you very much.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Thanks very much.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you call watch all of Nick’s reports from this week’s series on our Web site. That’s pbs.org/newshour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And in the day’s other news: The U.S. military announced the death of Abu Sayed, head of the Islamic State group in Afghanistan.

    It happened Tuesday in a drone strike on ISIS headquarters in Kunar Province in Northeastern Afghanistan. A Pentagon statement says that several other militants were killed as well.

    At least seven people died today in Egypt in a pair of attacks that bore the hallmarks of Islamist militants. Five policemen were killed in a shooting south of Cairo near some of the country’s famed pyramids. Later, two German tourists were stabbed to death and four others wounded at a Red Sea resort hotel.

    In Jerusalem, Arab attackers struck at Israeli police today in one of the holiest sites of both Islam and Judaism. Three gunmen killed two police officers before being shot dead themselves.

    Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner has the story.

    MARGARET WARNER: A security camera captured the opening of the assault, gunmen coming from behind to attack two Israeli officers, then, a running gun battle, seen on cell phone video. Police gave chase, and one attacker jumped up and lunged at an officer before being shot himself.

    MICKY ROSENFELD, Israeli Police Spokesperson: We can confirm that there was a terrorist attack that took place. Three terrorists used an automatic weapon and a knife in and around in the area.

    MARGARET WARNER: All this at the holiest site in Jerusalem, the Temple Mount to Jews, the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims.

    The ancient complex includes the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Western Wall surrounding part of it.

    All three assailants were identified as Arab citizens of Israel. Relatives say they were devout Muslims who frequented the area often.

    Israel police quickly closed the site, a move rarely taken since the Six-Day War in 1967, when the Israelis captured East Jerusalem and its Old City from Jordan. Previous closures have provoked rioting by Palestinians.

    Today, Muslims had to pray outside the shrine after the closure canceled noon prayers at Al-Aqsa. The grand mufti of Jerusalem had called for Palestinians to defy the closure.

    MOHAMMAD HUSSIEN, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (through interpreter): We have to enter the mosque to attend the Friday prayers. Al-Aqsa Mosque is our mosque, so it is not allowed, under any circumstances, to be prevented from reaching the mosque.

    MARGARET WARNER: Israeli police detained the Mufti for several hours.

    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to condemn the attack. But he also called for reopening the holy site. Seeking to ease tensions, Netanyahu quickly issued a statement that the status quo on access to the site will be preserved.

    But the leader of the militant Islamic Jihad movement in Gaza City welcomed the attack.

    KHALED AL-BATSH, Leader of the Islamic Jihad Movement (through interpreter): Jerusalem is an Arab and Islamic land, so when the Zionist enemy seeks to turn it into a Jewish temple, one of our people will come out and stand in the face of this plan and confront it as it happened today.

    MARGARET WARNER: In the end, Israelis and Palestinians were left to bury their dead amid fears that the attack is a harbinger of more violence to come.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Margaret Warner.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, the U.S. Justice Department says that it will appeal directly to the Supreme Court, after a federal judge dealt another blow to President Trump’s travel ban. The judge in Hawaii ruled last night. He said the list of bona fide relationships that allow entry to the U.S. must include grandparents, among others.

    A federal appeals court ruled today that county commissioners in North Carolina violated the Constitution by starting meetings with Christian prayers. The Fourth Circuit case is also likely headed for the Supreme Court. The ruling says prayers at public meetings are not inherently unconstitutional. But, in this case, no prayers from other faiths were permitted.

    President Trump today pushed Senate Republicans today to approve a revamped health care bill. In a tweet, he said — quote — “Republican senators must come through as they have promised.”

    Already, Rand Paul and Susan Collins have said that they will vote no. That means GOP leaders cannot afford to lose another vote.

    The president spent much of his day taking part in France’s celebration of independence. This year, Bastille Day coincided with the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I. Mr. Trump joined President Emmanuel Macron at a military parade in Paris, complete with a flyover.

    Macron thanked the U.S. for its role in what the French commonly call the great war.

    PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON, France (through interpreter): We have also found sure allies, friends who have come to our aid. The United States of America is one of them. That is why nothing will ever separate us. The presence today of the American president by my side, Mr. Donald Trump, and his wife is a sign of friendship which has endured time.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Macron later traveled to Nice, France, to mark one year since a terror attack there killed 86 people.

    Former President Jimmy Carter is back building houses, after being released from a hospital in Canada. He became dehydrated yesterday while working on a project for Habitat for Humanity. Today, he returned to the work site in Winnipeg, Manitoba, smiling and wearing work clothes. Mr. Carter is 92 years old.

    And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 84 points to close at 21637, a new record. The Nasdaq rose 38 points. And the S&P 500 added 11, also reaching a new record high. For the week, the Dow and the S&P were up 1 percent. The Nasdaq gained 2.6 percent.

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    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. arrives ahead of the inauguration with his father aboard a U.S. Air Force jet at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S. January 19, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTSWBPR

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The week is ending the way it began, with new disclosures about the president’s son and his meeting with a Russian lawyer.

    It turns out at least one more person was at that session than previously known.

    John Yang begins our coverage.

    JOHN YANG: President Trump returned from his quick Paris trip to face new questions about whether his campaign sought damaging information on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government.

    Among the uncertainties? How many people were at the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower? Today, a new name emerged, Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-born Washington lobbyist and Soviet army veteran. He met with Donald Trump Jr., Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, music promoter Rob Goldstone, an acquaintance of the younger Trump who helped set up the session, and an interpreter.

    Donald Trump Jr. had not disclosed the additional people.

    SEAN HANNITY, Host, “Hannity”: So, as far as you know, as far as this incident is concerned, this is all of it?

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP JR., Son of Donald Trump: This is everything. This is everything.

    JOHN YANG: It’s also not clear just when President Trump was told of the meeting. This week, he told Reuters that he had only learned of it just two or three days before that.

    But aboard Air Force One on his way to Paris, the told reporters, in fact, maybe it was mentioned at some point.

    Kushner has revised his security clearance disclosure form at least three times to add as many of 100 more foreign contacts. That’s drawing the ire of Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

    REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif., Minority Leader: I also called for the revoking of the security clearance of Jared Kushner. It’s absolutely ridiculous that he should have that clearance.

    JOHN YANG: And Mr. Trump is adding to his legal team. Washington attorney Ty Cobb becomes special counsel to the president and will oversee the legal and media response to the Russia investigation.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Yang.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For more, we’re now joined by Julie Pace. She’s the Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press, and she took part in a phone conversation with Rinat Akhmetshin earlier today.

    Julie, thank you very much for talking with us.

    So, Julie, what is known about Rinat Akhmetshin?

    JULIE PACE, Associated Press: Well, Rinat is a person who is actually fairly well-known in Washington.

    He’s a lobbyist who has worked on issues with ties to Russia, a bit of a character, a bit of a fixer on these types of issues, not this sort of backroom, shady character who doesn’t have a profile.

    If you work in these circles in Washington, he’s probably someone that you have run in to. He’s been on Capitol Hill before. But, despite that, it is certainly unique that he would end up in a conference room at Trump Tower in the middle of a presidential campaign.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I heard the word fixer associated with his name.

    Why is his name surfacing only now? We learned about this meeting days ago.

    JULIE PACE: That is the perfect question on this, why now? Why is it that we have had so many different explanations about the purpose of this meeting and the participants of this meeting?

    It’s kind of baffling if you’re thinking about this from a political strategy. This is sort of politics 101, that if you are in a crisis, if there is something controversial that’s happened, it’s best to get all of the information out. Take the hit in one lump, as opposed to dripping that out, in this case, over the course of a week.

    So, there has been no explanation as to why we’re just finding out that he was a participant, other than the fact that he was willing to get on the phone with us today and disclose this information and talk to us at some length.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But it sounds like now he is talking to the press. Is there anything more to be learned about this meeting than what’s already said?

    JULIE PACE: I think there is.

    The big thing that all of the participants have said is that in the end, nothing came out of this meeting. One of the things that Rinat told us today, though, is that the Russian lawyer who was in the meeting actually showed up with some documents in hand, and they were in a plastic folder.

    He professed to not know the content of those documents. I think that that’s one question that we need to answer. What were those documents, who were they specifically given to, who took them out of the room?

    But, more broadly, I think that it’s worth pressing participants in this meeting about whether anything did come out of this. Given the fact that the explanations have changed so much, I really don’t think we should be taking explanations on face value at this point.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Julie, there’s also this question now — and we heard it mentioned in the report — when President Trump himself learned about the meeting. Initially, it was that he had just learned about it a few days ago, but then I guess he said something different in that conversation with reporters.

    JULIE PACE: I think this is — again, timelines keep shifting when it comes to this meeting.

    What the president initially said is that he only knew about it two or three days before. One of the reasons why there are so many questions about this, though, is that Jared Kushner and his advisers said that this is something that they discovered and put on a disclosure form a few weeks ago.

    So, this was known to people in the White House prior to this past weekend, when the reporting started to come out. And given the closeness of the president to his family, and given the fact that the Russian investigations and every little detail about these investigations is so critical right now, it is hard to imagine that this is something that would be kept from the president for so long.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, finally, Julie, you mentioned Jared Kushner.

    There have been a number of stories this week about turmoil, ongoing turmoil inside the White House, fingers pointing in different directions, and some of the White House staffing being upset with Jared Kushner. What is that about?

    JULIE PACE: Well, this has become a bit of pattern for this White House. When something goes wrong, you start having people turn on each other. The finger-pointing gets pretty intense.

    And, in this case, you have a situation where you have someone like Jared Kushner, who is a senior adviser to the president, but operates in pretty rarefied territory because he’s also family. He is the one person whose name has come up in relation to the Russia investigations who is currently sitting in the West Wing.

    And for some of the folks who are in there right now, the fact that he is in that situation and still remains a protected adviser, it’s pretty irritating to them. And they worry about their interactions with him.

    Whenever you have a special counsel investigation that revolves around the White House, you have staffers that have to get lawyers, staffers that are pretty — staffers that are fairly well-paid having to get pretty expensive lawyers.


    JULIE PACE: This is not a comfortable situation for anybody in there.

    And Jared Kushner, given his relationship and his position in the West Wing, is taking a lot of the heat internally.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Meantime, we have seen some Democrats on Capitol Hill, some of them saying he should step down, others saying he should have his security clearance taken away.

    Julie Pace with the Associated Press, we thank you.

    JULIE PACE: Thank you, Judy.

    The post What we know—and what we don’t—about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Members of Afghan robotics girls team chat with each others as they arrive to receive their visas from the U.S. embassy in Kabul

    Members of Afghan robotics girls team chat with each others as they arrive to receive their visas from the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on July 13, 2017. Photo by Mohammad Ismail/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Twice rejected for U.S. visas, an all-girls robotics team from Afghanistan arrived in Washington early Saturday after an extraordinary, last-minute intervention by President Donald Trump.

    The six-girl team and their chaperone completed their journey just after midnight from their hometown of Herat, Afghanistan, to enter their ball-sorting robot in the three-day high school competition starting Sunday in the U.S. capital. Awaiting them at the gate at Washington Dulles International Airport were a U.S. special envoy and Afghan Ambassador Hamdullah Mohib, who described it as a rare moment of celebration for his beleaguered nation.

    “Seventeen years ago, this would not have been possible at all,” Mohib said in an interview. “They represent our aspirations and resilience despite having been brought up in a perpetual conflict. These girls will be proving to the world and the nation that nothing will prevent us from being an equal and active member of the international community.”

    In the short time since their visa dilemma drew global attention, the girls’ case has become a flashpoint in the debate about Trump’s efforts to tighten entrance to the U.S., including from many majority-Muslim countries. Afghanistan isn’t included in Trump’s temporary travel ban, but critics have said the ban is emblematic of a broader effort to put a chill on Muslims entering the U.S.

    The girls’ story has also renewed the focus on the longer-term U.S. plans for aiding Afghanistan’s future, as Trump’s administration prepares a new military strategy that will include sending more troops to the country where the U.S. has been fighting since 2001. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday the strategy was moving forward but “not finalized yet.”

    READ NEXT: These girls build their future every time they go to construction class

    Trump’s personal intervention earlier in the week using a rare “parole” mechanism to sidestep the visa system ended a dramatic saga in which the team twice traveled from their home in western Afghanistan through largely Taliban-controlled territory to Kabul, where their visa applications were denied twice.

    The U.S. won’t say why the girls were rejected for visas, citing confidentiality. But Mohib said that based on discussions with U.S. officials, it appears the girls were rebuffed due to concerns they would not return to Afghanistan. It’s a fate that has beset many Afghans seeking entry to the U.S. in recent years as continuing violence and economic challenges lead many to seek asylum in America, or to travel through the U.S. to Canada to try to resettle there.

    As their case gained attention, Trump intervened by asking National Security Council officials to find a way for them to travel, officials said. Ultimately the State Department, which adjudicates visa applications, asked the Homeland Security Department to let them in on “parole,” a temporary status used only in exceptional circumstances to let in someone who is otherwise ineligible to enter the country. The U.S. granted parole after determining that it constituted a “significant public benefit.”

    Ambassador Alice Wells, the acting U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, downplayed concerns that the girls might use the parole to stay in the U.S. or go to Canada. As she drove to the airport to greet the girls, she said by phone that they were proud to represent Afghanistan and “proud to return to be role models to others around them.”

    Competing against entrants from more than 150 countries, the girls will present a robot they devised that can recognize blue and orange and sort balls into correct locations. They’ll also be feted at a hastily arranged reception at the Embassy of Afghanistan attended by supporters who had petitioned the U.S. to let them in.

    The Taliban, ousted by the U.S.-led coalition in 2001, denied schooling to girls when they ruled the war-torn country. Wells said that since 2002, the number of Afghan children attending school has increased from about 900,000 — virtually all boys — to 9 million today including 40 percent girls.

    “We’re looking to ensure that Afghanistan continues its trajectory to stabilizing politically and economically,” Wells said. “It’s young women like these that are going to be the future of Afghanistan.”

    The post Afghan girls robotics team arrives in U.S. just in time appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is seen questioning Supreme Court nominee judge Neil Gorsuch during Tuesday's hearing. On Wednesday, Cruz painted his Democratic colleagues as hypocrites for criticizing Gorsuch,. Photo by  REUTERS/Joshua Roberts,

    Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is seen questioning Supreme Court nominee judge Neil Gorsuch during Tuesday’s hearing. On Wednesday, Cruz painted his Democratic colleagues as hypocrites for criticizing Gorsuch,. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Two of the insurance industry’s most powerful organizations say a crucial provision in the Senate Republican health care bill allowing the sale of bare-bones policies is “unworkable in any form,” delivering a blow to party leaders’ efforts to win support for their legislation.

    The language was crafted by conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and leaders have included it in the overall bill in hopes of winning votes from other congressional conservatives. But moderates have worried it will cause people with serious illnesses to lose coverage, and some conservatives say it doesn’t go far enough.

    Two of the 52 GOP senators have already said they will oppose the legislation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cannot lose any others for the legislation to survive a showdown vote expected next week.

    The overall measure represents the Senate GOP’s attempt to deliver on the party’s promise to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law, which they’ve been pledging to do since its 2010 enactment.

    The criticism of Cruz’s provision was lodged in a rare joint statement by America’s Health Care Plans and the BlueCross BlueShield Association. The two groups released it late Friday in the form of a letter to McConnell, R-Ky.

    “It is simply unworkable in any form,” the letter said. They said it would “undermine protections for those with pre-existing medical conditions,” increase premiums and lead many to lose coverage.

    [Watch Video]

    The provision would let insurers sell low-cost policies with skimpy coverage, as long as they also sell policies that meet a stringent list of services they’re required to provide under Obama’s law, like mental health counseling and prescription drugs.

    Cruz says the proposal would drive down premiums and give people the option of buying the coverage they feel they need.

    Critics say the measure would encourage healthy people to buy the skimpy, low-cost plans, leaving sicker consumers who need more comprehensive coverage confronting unaffordable costs. The insurers’ statement backs up that assertion, lending credence to wary senators’ worries and complicating McConnell’s task of winning them over.

    The two groups say premiums would “skyrocket” for people with preexisting conditions, especially for middle-income families who don’t qualify for the bill’s tax credit. They also say the plan would leave consumers with fewer insurance options, so “millions of more individuals will become uninsured.”

    READ NEXT: Why lifetime limits in the GOP health care bill worry parents of sick children

    The bill provides $70 billion for states to use to help contain rising costs for people with serious conditions. But the insurance groups’ statement says that amount “is insufficient and additional funding will not make the provision workable for consumers or taxpayers.”

    The Cruz provision language in the bill is not final. McConnell and other Republicans are considering ways to revise it in hopes of winning broader support.

    McConnell and top Trump administration officials plan to spend the next few days cajoling senators and home-state governors in an effort to nail down support for the bill.

    The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is expected to release its analysis of McConnell’s revised bill early next week, including an assessment of Cruz’s plan.

    The office estimated that McConnell’s initial bill would have caused 22 million additional people to be uninsured.

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    God Bless America

    Declaring that religious freedom is “under threat,” President Donald Trump vowed Thursday to repeal a rarely enforced IRS rule that says pastors who endorse candidates from the pulpit risk losing their tax-exempt status. Photo by surpasspro/via Adobe

    WASHINGTON — Out of the spotlight, a House panel has taken steps to help victims of gun violence, allow robust politicking from the pulpit, and prevent doctors in the District of Columbia from helping terminally ill people die by suicide.

    The Republican-led House Appropriations Committee passed a $20 billion spending bill Thursday to fund the Treasury Department, the Judiciary and other federal agencies.

    Quietly tucked inside were numerous provisions that have little to do with funding the federal government. These are called riders. Some are controversial while others are bipartisan. Many will be discarded when Republicans and Democrats negotiate a final spending package this fall — though some will survive.

    The bill now goes to the full House. A look at some of the provisions:


    The bill would allow young immigrants enrolled in former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrival program to apply for jobs with the federal government.

    Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., said young people brought into the country as children “identify as Americans.” For many, he said, the U.S. is the only country they have ever called home.

    “Denying Dreamers the opportunity to serve their community and country through public service stands in stark contrast to our nation’s core values,” Aguilar said, using a nickname applied to people enrolled in the DACA program.

    READ NEXT: Column: I’m a teacher, a ‘Dreamer’ and I know why my students are scared

    The DACA program gives hundreds of thousands of young people illegally brought into the U.S. as children a work permit and protection from deportation.

    Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, said Americans will be outraged to learn that people in the U.S. illegally would be able to compete for federal jobs.

    “So much for Republican promises of making decisions that put American workers first,” Beck said.

    President Donald Trump pledged as a candidate to “immediately end” the DACA program. But as president, he has said that class of immigrants will not be targets for deportation. He said his administration is “not after the Dreamers, we are after the criminals.”


    One provision prevents the IRS from enforcing a 63-year-old law that prevents churches and other nonprofits from backing political candidates. Under the law, nonprofits could lose their tax-exempt status if they get directly involved in political campaigns, either by donating to them or publicly endorsing candidates.

    The law doesn’t stop religious groups from weighing in on public policy or organizing in ways that may benefit one side in a campaign.

    The provision forbids the IRS from spending money to enforce the law against “a church, or a convention or association of churches,” unless the IRS commissioner signs off on it and notifies Congress.

    READ NEXT: Supreme Court rules in favor of Missouri church in playground case


    The bill would prohibit funding for doctor-assisted suicide in the District of Columbia. It also repeals the DC Death with Dignity Act.

    In December, Mayor Muriel Bowser signed a law that makes it legal for doctors to prescribe fatal medication to terminally ill residents.

    Congress granted District residents an elected mayor and legislature in 1973, though Congress retained broad authority over the city, including the ability to block local laws.

    The House Oversight Committee passed a bill earlier this year to block the assisted-suicide law, but the deadline passed for Congress to act.

    On Thursday, the appropriations committee adopted an amendment by Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., that tries to stop the law by blocking money to implement it.


    The bill encourages states to use funding from the Crime Victims Fund to establish or expand hospital-based programs that help victims of gun violence.

    Under such programs, gunshot victims receive counseling at hospitals to help them access community services and avoid getting shot again.

    READ NEXT: What about guns divides Americans?

    “This provision will not only allow more firearms assault victims to receive the services they need, it will save lives in at-risk communities,” said Robin Lloyd of Americans for Responsible Solutions, the group started by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was seriously wounded in a 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona.


    The bill takes aim at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created under the Dodd-Frank Act in the wake of the economic crisis. The agency gets funding from the Federal Reserve, a move designed to promote independence. House Republicans want Congress to control the agency’s purse strings, which would give lawmakers greater say over manpower and priorities.

    The bill would also strip the agency of its primary enforcement tool, the authority to go after lenders and debt collectors that it determines have engaged in unfair, deceptive or abusive practices. The agency has used that authority to return billions of dollars to consumers.

    Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

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    asian carp

    Silver carp jumping in the Fox River in Illinois. Photo By Ryan Hagerty/USFWS

    Illinois officials remain on high alert, following the discovery of an Asian carp caught in late June on the wrong side of electric barriers built near Chicago to keep the invasive species from entering Lake Michigan.

    The discovery of the fish in the Calumet River, nine miles from Lake Michigan, comes as federal and state officials have renewed calls for the release of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study that could offer “a range of options and technologies” to tackle the threat of Asian carp and other invasive species. The report’s release was delayed by the Trump administration in February.

    By tracing where this single carp had lived, researchers hope to prove whether the fish breached a series of three barriers used to block the species from entering the Great Lakes. The carp, which can grow up to 110 pounds and eat 20 percent of their weight every day, have spread up the Mississippi River and other Midwest waterways over the last several decades.

    A two-week search conducted in response to the June 22 capture of the fish found no evidence of other Asian carp above the barrier, located about 37 miles from Lake Michigan, officials said on Monday.

    silver carp

    Shown here is an image of a lone Silver carp captured in a Illinois waterway on June 22, 2017 below T.J. O’Brien Lock and Dam. The fish was captured with a gill net after an intensive monitoring period, officials said. The Silver carp was 28 inches in length and weighed approximately 8 pounds. The fish was sent to Southern Illinois University for additional analysis. Photo courtesy of Illinois Department of Natural Resources

    An inquiry into this carp’s origin is still underway, said Greg Whitledge, a Southern Illinois University zoologist. His team plans to examine the fish’s DNA as well as the chemistry of calcium deposits in its ear bone to trace the waterways in which it had traveled. Those findings will be released later in July.

    “This is an approach at my lab at SIU has pretty commonly used to get information about the environmental history of various fish species in the Midwest here, especially the rivers, but the Chicago area as well,” Whitledge said.

    Whitledge said after several weeks of work, the fish was identified by authorities as being a mature male Silver carp thanks to an analysis by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Silver carp are one of four Asian carp species including the bighead, grass and black, that have ravaged river systems in Mississippi, Ohio, Illinois and elsewhere by eating microscopic organisms and aquatic food relied on by native fish. They were originally brought to the U.S. from Southeast Asia to clean aquaculture and wastewater treatment plant ponds in the South before they were accidentally released into the Mississippi River during flooding in the 1970s.

    Whitledge, who led a similar study in 2010 the last time a lone Asian carp was found northeast of the barriers in Lake Calumet, said previous efforts to track that fish’s origins came up inconclusive. New technologies should hopefully yield greater success this time, Whitledge said.

    “It gives us a better chance of nailing down a chemical signature of where it actually originated,” Whitledge said.

    Officials continue to work to determine whether the fish had bred with other forms of carp, which may pinpoint whether it moved through the electric barriers on its own or was brought there by another method.

    While the fish’s ear bone may help track where it has traveled, DNA analysis could show if the carp had been reared in the wild or brought there accidentally from a farm.

    “My thinking is that such a hybrid would be less likely to occur if it was in a captive situation,” Whitledge said.

    With potential breach of barriers, calls for action

    As the investigation continues to unfold, lawmakers in the Great Lakes region are pressing the Trump administration to release an Army Corps report called the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Brandon Road Study. The investigation, which cost $8.2 million, is supposed to lay out prevention options near the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Chicago.

    In a show of bipartisan support, 38 Republicans and Democrats from eight Great Lakes states have co-sponsored legislation that would force the Trump administration to release the report. A bill named the Stop Asian Carp Now Act of 2017 has been introduced in the House and Senate. State lawmakers in many of the those states have also supported an expedited release of the report.

    Calls and emails to the Army Corps were not returned.

    asian carp

    Aerial view of Brandon Road Lock and Dam, Joliet, Ill., April 22, 2014. Brandon Road Lock and Dam has been identified by the Corps Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) Team as the downstream control point of the Chicago Area Waterway System for a number of different aquatic nuisance species controls; the topographic and geographic positioning of the site in the hydrology of the CAWS allows it to serve as a single point of passage for any species able to move upstream toward the Great Lakes. The lock has been operational since 1933. Photo By Dave Wethington via the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee

    While it is not unusual for a new administration to freeze reports upon taking office, pressure is beginning to mount, said Peter Annin, co-director of the Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation at Northland College in Wisconsin and author of the book “The Great Lakes Water Wars.”

    “I don’t know of anyone out there whose suggesting that the report should be held in confidence at this stage. I haven’t seen anybody arguing for that, and there’s definitely bipartisan support for its release,” Annin said. “It’s hard to imagine what would be wrong with the release of more information about one of the most important invasive species in the Great Lakes region.”

    For years, federal lawmakers along the Great Lakes have pushed for increased funding and action to address the Asian carp issue, which they said partially threatens the $7 billion generated annually from the Great Lakes, the largest body of fresh surface water on Earth.

    The Trump administration has proposed to cut 31 percent of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s budget and eliminate a $300 million fund called the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a portion of which goes toward halting Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes.

    But while the report’s release has been delayed, state officials in Illinois and elsewhere have continued to move forward with research and initiatives to reduce Asian carp numbers, according to Kevin S. Irons, aquaculture and aquatic nuisance species program manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

    Irons said that since the discovery of the first Asian carp in 2010, there has been an increase in cooperation and research among state agencies, federal entities and Canadian officials, through the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee. He said regional and international authorities are now better equipped to make faster assessments and share information.

    “We can come back very quickly with answers,” Irons said, when situations like the recent Asian carp discovery arise. “Where seven years ago we kind of had to use our guts.”

    Since 2016, the committee has released contingency and response plans to contend with a potential breach of the electric barriers by Asian carp. The latest version of the report was released on Monday.

    “We want everyone to be informed by data,” Irons said.

    Some of those tactics include electrofishing and commercial netting to count and track various Asian carp species.

    Commercial fishermen, who are paid to catch Asian carp below the barriers, have pulled 5.5 million pounds of carp from the upper Illinois River since 2010, Irons said. They have reduced Asian carp populations there by more than 50 percent directly below the barriers. The committee plans to use additional commercial fisherman this year.

    James Garvey, interim vice chancellor for research at Southern Illinois University, said his department has been involved in research on Asian carp since the 1990s, before the invasive fish made its way up the Illinois River and the electric barriers were put in place. He cautioned against overreacting to the recent discovery of a Silver carp.

    “I think we all need to take a deep breath and realize that this the first fish that we caught above the electric barrier in the Chicago area since 2010 and there has been a tremendous amount of monitoring, harvest efforts up in that part of the river to try to maintain vigilance as to whether we have fish problems up there,” Garvey said. “Does that mean that there’s more fish out there? I don’t know for sure, but it does suggest that this might be just one fish and it’s not an indication of a bigger problem.”

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    end of life care

    Two employees from Alive Hospice take on acting roles as a terminally ill patient and a family member as part of a training simulation to help a doctor learn to speak openly about end-of-life care. Photo by Joon Powell/STAT

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The doctor pulls up a chair next to his patient, a 74-year-old woman with lung cancer. He tells her she doesn’t need more chemotherapy. Her eyes perk up; has she beaten her cancer? As it turns out, no. Her cancer has metastasized. She only has six months to live, at most. But her doctor is unable to find the right words.

    “My cancer’s not gone? I thought it was getting better,” the patient says, bewildered.

    “That’s the tough part …” the doctor replies.

    “So, no further treatment?”

    “I think we need to focus on quality [of life] over quantity.”

    “Are you saying I’m dying?”

    From the other side of a two-way mirror, Anna-Gene O’Neal listens closely. She’s set up this simulation — the prognosis is part of a script; the patient is an actor; the physician is being recorded — to improve the way he broaches the topic of death with real patients. O’Neal hears the mock patient all but pleading with the doctor to give her a direct answer. He struggles to do so. After a few minutes, she opens the door to end the simulation.

    O’Neal, who runs Alive Hospice here in Tennessee, launched the SHARE simulation lab last year. Participants run through four scenarios. The actors playing patients reply with all the emotions — confusion, denial, anger, grief — that doctors might encounter in real exam rooms. Afterwards, O’Neal sits with the doctors as they watch tape of these interactions on a big-screen TV.

    Faced with the uncomfortable task of discussing death, doctors often avoid the topic. Only 17 percent of Medicare patients surveyed in a 2015 Kaiser Family Foundation study said they had discussed end-of-life care — though most wanted to do so. Since that study, Medicare has begun reimbursing providers for having these conversations. Yet still, just a fraction of Medicare recipients at the end of life have those talks with their doctors.

    READ NEXT: I was confident in my patient’s end-of-life care. Then my senior doctor overruled me

    In response, advocates for improving end-of-life care have launched training sessions for doctors around the country.

    In California, Stanford’s palliative medicine department has trained dozens of hospice nurses using exercises similar to those carried out here by Alive. In New York, oncologists at the University of Rochester Medical Center observe their peers having conversations with real patients facing terminal illness. In Arizona, the administrators of Phoenix-based Hospice of the West hold regular training sessions, complete with small group discussions, at staff meetings.

    Simulators with live actors have intuitive appeal, especially since doctors rarely get hands-on experience with these tough conversations in medical school. But Dr. Scott Halpern, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Palliative and Advanced Illness Research Center, said there’s little evidence that simulators are any more effective than any other clinical training to improve end-of-life counseling. They show a “tremendous amount of face validity,” he said, but they must be held “to a standard of showing benefits for patients, not a standard of an appealing anecdote.”

    O’Neal, 50, agrees more evidence is needed. But she’s also so gung-ho about her simulator that she’s pushing to expand it across the country. Four health organizations — including faith-based Ascension Health — have agreed to let Alive train their clinicians. Later this year, O’Neal plans to work with medical students at one school in Tennessee. Down the road, she hopes to get some independent practice associations to require their members to undergo her training.

    “It’s about doing the right thing,” O’Neal said. “I feel strongly that if you do the right thing by people, they’re going to make different decisions.” That shift could lead to more of what she calls “good deaths,” with patients fully aware of their prognosis and able to choose whether they want aggressive, long-shot treatments or would prefer to simply have their pain managed while they spend their final days with friends and family.

    Not only could that benefit patients, O’Neal said, but it could save taxpayers big money: “The financial impact on health care will be monumental.”

    end of life care

    Alive Hospice CEO Anna-Gene O’Neal chats with a doctor who went through a simulated scenario about how he can improve his communication with patients. Photo by Joon Powell/STAT

    The little things that can make a big difference

    Two of O’Neal’s closest friends died young from breast cancer. Seeing their hospice nurses bring light to the darkness of death prompted O’Neal to think back on her own professional experiences caring for babies as a neonatal nurse and for the elderly as a health care executive. What stood out: the power of clear, concise communication between clinician and patient.

    O’Neal came to believe health providers in all specialties should be trained to have such direct conversations. In 2012, she was hired as CEO of Alive Hospice, a nonprofit chain of hospice care facilities serving more than 3,500 patients and families a year in central Tennessee. She soon realized that many Americans lived in “a crisis of denial of our own mortality,” in part because “medical institutions encourage us to never give up.”

    So she launched the SHARE simulator. Clinicians pay to participate — $350 to work through four scenarios and then watch the videos and get feedback from O’Neal or her staffers. (To give doctors more privacy, Alive deletes the footage after each session, handing them the only copy so they can review it later if they’d like.)

    The work unfolds in a low-slung brick building near Nashville’s Music Row, in a room that looks like a typical hospice or hospital room, set up with a bed, a couch, a box of tissues, and a stack of travel magazines. Tiny microphones dangle from the ceiling to record audio without intruding on the intimacy of conversations. Video cameras shaped like domes are mounted on the walls.

    So far, O’Neal has trained 12 doctors and 65 other clinicians, including nurses and social workers. O’Neal said some have already tweaked their communication style: Maybe they’re more comfortable with long pauses after breaking hard news to patients, or more aware of body language that may come off as too stern.

    “Watching yourself, you get a feel for your posture, whether you’re using specific phrases, looking a person in the eye, or keeping focus on them,” said pulmonologist Dr. Richard Fremont. “It was helpful seeing what I thought I was doing.”

    Dr. Robert Taylor, a nephrologist based in Nashville, initially found the cameras in the training room unnerving. But the actors quickly pulled him into the scenario.

    “It’s awkward to see yourself,” he said, describing the experience of watching the footage later. But he noticed little things, like his posture and the inflection in his voice. When he saw the mock patients’ reactions, he realized that little shifts in his own approach could change their perception of the conversation.

    READ NEXT: My sister made her end-of-life wishes clear. Then dementia took hold

    Taylor said he’s been committed to frank discussions with patients ever since he recognized, early in his career, that dialysis patients rarely got a full picture of their options. Their doctors were often focused on keeping them alive. But the disease and the treatments often make them “so fatigued that it’s not the quality of life they desire,” he said. Ever since, Taylor said he’s taken pains to better communicate all options to his patients; he wanted to go through the simulator to hone that delicate art. “It can alter what you do,” he said, “but also confirm your answers.”

    O’Neal said the simulator challenged other doctors’ views that a patient’s death must inevitably be viewed as a failure.

    “Once you get doctors into the training, you create an opportunity for them to be vulnerable and see themselves differently,” O’Neal said. “Whether they admit to change or not, they will change.”

    A political divide over end-of-life conversations

    When the idea of paying doctors to talk about dying was first debated – during the early, bitter fights over the Affordable Care Act in 2009 – conservatives warned that such conversations could be a pretext for pushing the frail and elderly to give up on treatment. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said funding of end-of-life counseling amounted to a “death panel.” Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said it could enable “pulling the plug on grandma.”

    The debate still rages: Earlier this year Iowa Rep. Steve King introduced the Protecting Life Until Natural Death Act, which would end federal reimbursements for end-of-life discussions. King has described such conversations as “intolerable to those who respect the dignity of human life.”

    A spokesman for King did not respond to a STAT request for an interview.

    READ NEXT: Facing life’s end with grace

    But despite such efforts, O’Neal sees growing support for her approach on Capitol Hill. Last month, a bipartisan group of lawmakers — including Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia and Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia — filed a bill that would provide $50 million to fund access, education, and training related to end-of-life treatment for terminally ill patients.

    “Encouraging patients and their families to have these conversations with their physician helps provide peace of mind and undoubtedly increases the likelihood a patient’s care will be consistent with their wishes,” Tennessee Congressman Phil Roe, one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement.

    O’Neal concurs: Such conversations, she said, empower patients to embrace death on their own terms — and can make those final days “the most meaningful part of the human experience.”

    “If somebody’s faith is such that as long as there’s a beating heart, you keep doing everything, we’re 100 percent behind that,” she said. “But if someone says, ‘if I can’t walk to play 18 holes of golf, I’m done,’ we have to respect that as well.”

    end of life care

    A doctor, sitting inside Alive’s training room, watches footage of his interaction with a patient and her daughter. Photo by Joon Powell/STAT

    A second chance

    O’Neal asks one of her staffers to turn on the big-screen TV in the simulator room so the doctor can review his performance with the 74-year-old patient. As the footage rolls, the doctor grips one of the arms of his chair, bearing a slight grin of discomfort as he watches his fumbling attempts to tell the mock patient she’s dying. Soon, he’s critiquing himself:

    “I think I would have been much less polite if I wasn’t on camera …”

    “I would’ve been more blunt …”

    “That could’ve been done faster …”

    After he’s finished, she chimes with nuggets of advice: Don’t let her chase answers. Communicate like it’s a conversation. Honesty is a form of compassion.

    “It’s intimidating,” O’Neal reassures him.

    The second scenario goes far better. In it, the same patient returns two weeks later with a slew of strange treatment suggestions a relative found on the internet, including a raw beet diet and blood transfusion at a clinic in Juarez, Mexico. The doctor listens intently, careful to let her finish, mindful of his body language.

    After she’s done, he leans forward and steers the conversation in another direction. He makes eye contact.

    Then, he says in a calm empathetic tone: “We need to start thinking ahead.”

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on July 14, 2017. Find the original story here.

    The post ‘Are you saying I’m dying?’ Training doctors to speak frankly about death appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    donald trump jr.

    Donald Trump Jr. (R) watches his father Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump leave the stage on the night of the Iowa Caucus in Des Moines, Iowa U.S. February 1, 2016. Photo By Jim Bourg/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Russian-American lobbyist who attended a meeting at Trump Tower last year is a former military officer who has attracted congressional scrutiny over his political activities and has been shadowed by allegations of connections to Russian intelligence that he denies.

    Rinat Akhmetshin confirmed his participation in the meeting to The Associated Press on Friday, providing new details of a June 2016 sit-down that included a Russian lawyer and President Donald Trump’s oldest son, son-in-law and campaign chairman.

    His attendance at the meeting and his lobbying background created a new wrinkle to a story that has hounded the White House for days and added to questions about potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.

    Akhmetshin is well-known in Washington for his advocacy efforts. He’s been outspoken in recent years about a U.S. law levying sanctions on Russians and has worked to undermine the public narrative used to justify the bill. And his name has also surfaced in multiple American lawsuits, including one involving the hacking of a company’s computer systems.

    Emails released this week by Donald Trump Jr. show the president’s son agreed to the Trump Tower meeting with the idea that he would receive damaging information on Hillary Clinton from someone described to him as a “Russian government attorney.” Akhmetshin began working with that attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya, in 2015, after a public relations person he declined to name introduced them.

    The Russian government has denied any involvement or knowledge of the meeting. Asked Friday about Akhmetshin, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters: “We don’t know anything about this person.”

    In an interview, Akhmetshin denied suggestions made in media reports, congressional letters and litigation that he is a former officer in Russia’s military intelligence service known as the GRU, dismissing the allegations as a “smear campaign.”

    He told the AP that he served in the Soviet Army from 1986 to 1988 in a unit that was part of counterintelligence but he was never formally trained as a spy. He said his unit operated in the Baltics and was “loosely part of counterintelligence.”

    Akhmetshin, a naturalized American citizen who has lived in Washington since the early 1990s, and Veselnitskaya are known for lobbying efforts involving the Magnitsky Act, a brace of economic sanctions targeting Russian officials and individuals

    The act passed by Congress was named for Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian prison in 2009 after accusing Russian government officials and takeover raiders of a $230 million tax fraud scheme in the seizure of an investment firm.

    The original Magnitsky Act leveled U.S. financial sanctions on 18 Russian officials and individuals suspected of complicity in Magnitsky’s prosecution, imprisonment and death.

    A Global Magnitsky Act that passed in December 2016 gives the president power to impose visa bans and freeze U.S. assets of anyone who suppresses basic human rights or targets whistleblowers exposing corruption.

    Early in 2016, Akhmetshin said, he helped set up a non-profit foundation based in Delaware to lobby U.S. officials in an effort to strip Magnitsky’s name from the law, though he maintains that he was not attempting to undercut it.

    As an adjunct to the foundation’s lobbying, Veselnitskaya also organized and attended a screening of an anti-Magnitsky documentary film that played at the Newseum in Washington four days after she met with Trump Jr. in New York. Akhmetshin acknowledged he was also involved in promoting the film.

    Several wealthy Russian oligarchs agreed to help fund the foundation’s lobbying, Akhmetshin said, providing at least $300,000.

    Among them, he said, was Dennis Katsyv, the owner of a real estate investment firm who was battling against a Justice Department lawsuit at the time connected to the seized investment firm.

    The federal government this year settled with Katsyv’s firm, allowing the company to pay a $6 million fine without admitting guilt.

    Congressional lobbying documents show that the foundation Akhmentshin helped set up spent $290,000 last year on lobbying. At least $10,000, the records indicate, was paid directly to Akhmetshim as a lobbyist.

    Akhmetshin’s name has also surfaced in lawsuits, including a New York court case in which a mining company branded him a “former Soviet military counterintelligence officer” and accused him of involvement in the hacking of its computer systems. Those claims were withdrawn last year, court records show.

    In a separate case, he described his business as “strategic communications” with clients including national governments and high-ranking officials of those governments. Disclosure of his communications, he said, could put lives at risk.

    Akhmetshin said he has not been contacted by the special counsel’s office or the FBI about the meeting with Trump Jr. He said he’s willing to talk with the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chairman has pressed the Justice Department about why Akhmetshin has not registered as a foreign agent.

    The chairman, Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, said in a March letter that Akhmetshin has “reportedly admitted to being a ‘Soviet counterintelligence officer’ and has a long history of lobbying the U.S. government for pro-Russia matters.”

    Akhmetshin said the Justice Department prodded him several months ago to register as a foreign agent because of his lobbying work, though he said he doesn’t believe he needs to do so. He has previously registered with Congress for the lobbying, and he plans to raise this issue before Grassley’s committee.

    “I think I have a legal right to tell my story,” he said.

    Associated Press writers Chad Day and Desmond Butler contributed to this report.

    The post Lobbyist who met Trump team says he’s not with Russian intel appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Illustration of Zuri, drawn by Vashti Harrison. Courtesy of Hair Love

    Illustration of Stephen and Zuri, drawn by Vashti Harrison. Courtesy of Hair Love

    Watching a black man attempt to do his daughter’s hair has brought a flood of recognition online, compelling people to pledge more than $75,000 in less than a week to create a Pixar-style animated short about it.

    “Hair Love” stars a 4-year-old girl named Zuri who is getting ready for a big day while her mother is away for an event, forcing her father to step up. Matthew Cherry, a former professional football player turned filmmaker with a prolific Twitter presence, launched a Kickstarter to bring Zuri and her father Stephen to life on Monday. The project has resonated with so many people that it has already attracted more than four times the amount he has raised for past film projects.

    He reached his goal of $75,000 Saturday afternoon to collaborate with with some of the top black artists in animation and others to create a traditional two-dimensional, 5-minute film. But if he raises $100,000 or more by Aug. 9, he’ll upgrade to a Pixar-style short.

    The NewsHour Weekend talked to Cherry about the inspiration behind the project, how people are reacting to it and why it is getting so much attention.

    How did you come up with the premise?

    I just came across a lot of these viral videos of fathers doing their daughter’s hair, especially black dads doing it. And it’s kind of interesting because on one hand I think it’s really dope, but I also think it’s kind of sad because obviously these videos are cute and they’re touching and heartwarming, which is why they’re getting a lot of attention, but it’s also sad because I think the main reason a lot of people are sharing these videos is because they see it as an anomaly.

    It’s not something that they’re used to seeing. I’m just trying to normalize that because everybody that I know who’s a father, at some point you’re going to have to do your kid’s head even if the wife does it all the time because things come up.

    Also, there are all these little articles that you see, people really try to play it up like black men aren’t involved in their kids’ lives and it’s really not that case at all. I mean obviously you have people who aren’t in their kids’ lives, but I feel more often than not we are. That was the big thing about wanting to focus it around a daughter and a father.

    Have you ever done a little girl’s hair?

    I actually have – literally one time in my life and it was pretty amazing. I actually did a great job. It was one of my nieces. She was the same age as the character in the film, she was 4. It was actually a challenge. This was kind of before these YouTube video tutorials and everything. I was challenged with whether or not I could do it. It was actually a bet and I won. I did a great job. I was younger, so it was like $20, but I thought that was the best thing ever.

    How did you decide Stephen would have dreads?

    “People really try to play it up like black men aren’t involved in their kids’ lives and it’s really not that case at all.”

    I’m sure it’s happened before, but there aren’t many instances that I can remember seeing an African American character with dreadlocks in one of these animated pieces. I thought it’d be really cool because I used to have locs, a lot of people that I know had them or are transitioning into them, and it’s just a really ethnically specific hairstyle that I think would drive home the point about representation.

    What about the type of hair Zuri would have?

    My biggest thing was that I definitely wanted it to be curly and the hair is going to be a work in progress because what looks good in real life may not work the same in an animated world, so we just got to come to a happy medium to something that’s functional in an animated world but also something that’s realistic and is kind of an authentic depiction of a young African American girl with natural hair that’s curly. You know, a nice little fro.

    You’ve had quite a response.

    The great thing is that I think people are really connecting it with their own experiences, like when the first time their dad did their hair, or something about their hair journey. I got an incredible email from a woman who said she saw our campaign and she cried because her husband had passed away not too long ago and she said it really reminded her of the time when he did her daughter’s hair. It’s just stuff like that, we’ve been getting crazy amounts of images and emails of people connecting to it.

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

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

    Why did you want this to be your first animation?

    I just really love animated projects. Any time a new Disney or Pixar movie comes out or Sony Picture Animations or Fox or whatever, I’m always there, like opening day, to the point where a lot of times I’m the only adult there that doesn’t have kids. You feel a little weird being a grown man on opening night at Monsters University or whatever. But I just love their stories because I feel like their stories are more universal. I always wanted to get into that world, but I actually can’t draw at all.

    Illustrations of Stephen and Zuri, drawn by Vashti Harrison. Courtesy of Hair Love

    How well do animated films do with diversity?

    I think live action can always do a better job of having more diverse representations of people of color. For me it goes deep because think about this: In society we’re throwing all these images, you know magazine covers where everyone is slim, blonde hair, blue eyes, you turn on your TV screen, everybody looks a certain kind of way and when you’re a little kid and you don’t see yourself represented. That starts to affect you. And when you look in the mirror and you don’t see people that look like you represented, you start to think you’re less than.

    If one little girl sees this project and sees that this little girl has a big old beautiful Afro and brown skin and looks like her and is confident in how she looks and her hair is a character too, moving around and breaking rubber bands and everything else, like her hair does, they’ll feel more confident about their own hair too and take more pride in it. That was the biggest thing. When I have a daughter, I want her to be able to look at this character and feel like she’s represented and that’s someone she can look up to and grow up with.

    It’s resonated with a lot of Zuris on Twitter.

    Literally, everybody named Zuri has been in my mentions, like ‘Yay!’ or ‘I don’t look like that!’ or ‘This is crazy!’ Things like that.

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    What message are you trying to send?

    I just really want to put a piece of content out into the world that men and women, boys and girls alike could relate to and see themselves in. It’s a project to me that I feel is super universal. I don’t feel you need to be black or a girl or a black man with dreads with a daughter, to me this project if for anybody who has ever loved somebody unconditionally and was asked to do something that they’ve never done before and tried to figure it out. And hilarity ensued.


    Illustrations of Stephen and Zuri, drawn by Vashti Harrison. Courtesy of Hair Love

    If you love somebody you’re going to do anything you can for them. In our short, Zuri’s mother is away and she really wants her hair done because it’s a really special day for her. And the dad has to figure it out. He tries his own techniques that he thinks he knows on his own, because you know guys tend to be a little hard-headed and think they can figure it all out and don’t want to ask for directions and stuff. And then he ends up checking out a couple of these natural hair vloggers online. I think we are trying to be really representative and also authentic in our specificity in trying to deal with these characters in this world of black natural hair and father-daughter relationships.

    This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

    The post 4-year-old character’s ‘big, beautiful’ Afro has the attention of the internet appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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