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

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    Professor Maryam Mirzakhani, the recipient of the 2014 Fields Medal, the top honor in mathematics. She was the first woman in the prize’s 80-year history to earn the distinction. Photo courtesy of Stanford News Service.

    Maryam Mirzakhani, who in 2014 became the first woman awarded the prestigious Fields Medal for mathematics, has died at the age of 40.

    The world-renowned Iranian mathematician and Stanford professor died from breast cancer at a hospital in the United States.

    “Maryam is gone far too soon, but her impact will live on for the thousands of women she inspired to pursue math and science,” Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said in a statement. “Maryam was a brilliant mathematical theorist, and also a humble person who accepted honors only with the hope that it might encourage others to follow her path.”

    Her friend Firouz Michael Naderi, an Iranian-American NASA scientist, said on Instagram, “A light was turned off today. It breaks my heart…gone far too soon.”

    Born in Tehran in 1977, Mirzakhani won two international math awards as a teenager. Despite an auspicious start, she said that she had no intention of pursing mathematics. She liked to read and thought that maybe she would become a writer.

    “My most exciting pastime was reading novels; in fact, I would read anything I could find,” she said in a 2014 interview with The Guardian.

    It was at Sharif University of Technology in Iran, where she received her Bachelor of Science, that she discovered her passion for mathematics.

    “The more I spent time on mathematics, the more excited I became,” she told The Guardian.

    Mirzakhani completed her PhD at Harvard in 2004, then accepted positions as a research fellow at the Clay Mathematics Institute and an assistant professor at Princeton, accruing awards and acclaim along the way. In 2008, at 31, she became a professor at Stanford.

    And then, in 2014, she received the highest honor in mathematics: 80 years after the award was established, Mirzakhani became the first woman to win the Fields Medal. She was also the first Iranian to receive the prize, which is given every four years to exceptional mathematicians under the age of 40.

    According to the awarding committee, Mirzakhani’s genius came from her “rare combination of superb technical ability, bold ambition, far-reaching vision, and deep curiosity.”

    She won the prize for a 172-page paper on the trajectory of a billiards ball around a polygonal table that has been hailed as a “titanic work” and the “beginning of a new era” in mathematics. Mirzakhani studied the complexities of curved surfaces such as spheres, doughnut shapes and hyperbolas. She said in interviews that she liked the interdisciplinary connections and implications of her work.

    “I find it fascinating that you can look at the same problem from different perspectives and approach it using different methods,” she said.

    Mirzakhani, who described herself as a slow mathematician, was drawn to big, difficult questions in her field, a trait that made her a revered figure within the mathematics community.

    In 2014, she told Quanta Magazine, a science publication, that she thought about mathematics in pictures, doodling her ideas on giant sheets of paper scattered across her office. A colleague speculated that perhaps she organized her thoughts like this because the “problems she is working on are so abstract and complicated, she can’t afford to make logical steps one by one but has to make big jumps.”

    As a professor and scholar, Mirzakhani’s pictures helped her write stories with her math. In a way, she told Quanta, working on mathematics is a lot like writing a novel.

    “There are different characters, and you are getting to know them better,” she said. “Things evolve, and then you look back at a character, and it’s completely different from your first impression.”

    She is survived by her husband, Jan Vondrák, and their daughter, Anahita.

    The post Maryam Mirzakhani, groundbreaking mathematician and Fields Medal winner, dies at 40 appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Senator Dean Heller arrives at the Senate Judiciary Committee Privacy, Technology and the Law Subcommittee hearing

    Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) arrives at the Senate Judiciary Committee Privacy, Technology and the Law Subcommittee hearing on The Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on November 13, 2013. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    CARSON CITY, Nev. — Health care legislation is hanging by a thread in the Senate, and no one is under more pressure than Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada.

    Heller was already seen as the most endangered GOP incumbent senator in next year’s midterm elections. He is the only one running for re-election in a state President Donald Trump lost to former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

    Against that backdrop, it’s hard to envision a more difficult political choice for Heller than whether to support the health legislation expected to come to a vote next week in the Senate. There are already two GOP senators opposed to the legislation, so one more “no” vote would kill the bill outright in a Senate divided 52-48 between Republicans and Democrats.

    Over the next several days Heller must decide whether to defy Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell by becoming that third “no.”

    Yet if he sides with the president and Senate leader and supports the bill, Heller would likely be parting ways with Nevada’s popular GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval, who has already expressed deep concerns about the legislation’s cuts to the Medicaid program for the poor and disabled.

    For Heller, it looks like a no-win situation.

    “There is no sweet spot in health care,” said Heller’s fellow Nevada Republican Rep. Mark Amodei. “So if somebody’s looking for it, they’re going to be a pretty frustrated person.”

    [Watch Video]

    The normally affable and low-key Heller had no announced public events Friday, and a spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment. On Thursday Heller released a terse statement saying that “Conversations are continuing and I’m going to read the new bill and weigh its impact on Nevada.”

    Heller, 57, took Senate GOP leaders by surprise with his outspoken opposition to an earlier version of the bill last month. He appeared at a press conference with Sandoval where both denounced the bill crafted largely in secret by McConnell. “I cannot support a piece of legislation that takes insurance away from tens of millions of Americans,” Heller said at the time.

    McConnell was forced to withdraw the bill in face of certain defeat. But the new version he unveiled Thursday also unravels the Medicaid expansion under former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which has allowed more than 200,000 of the poorest and most vulnerable Nevadans to gain coverage.

    Sandoval, who made the decision to accept the Medicaid expansion, expressed serious reservations Friday about the latest version of the bill, though without expressing outright opposition.

    “My concern all along has been with the expansion population, the newly eligibles. There are approximately 210,000 of those in Nevada who are having a dramatically better quality of life and are living healthier and happier, and I just, those are the lives I want to protect,” Sandoval told reporters at a conference of governors in Providence, R.I.

    Sandoval, who appointed Heller to the Senate in 2011 after a scandal forced his predecessor to resign, said he planned to talk with the senator later in the day.

    “I’m doing my job and he’s doing his job,” Sandoval said. “It’s a new bill. It’s less than 24 hours old. He has said he’s going to spend the weekend reading it, and so I hope I can better inform him with regard to its impacts on Nevada.”

    After Heller announced his opposition to the initial bill in June, a group linked to Trump launched a hard-hitting ad campaign against him. From the other side Democratic groups have already signaled they will use the issue against him in his re-election campaign, a fate Heller probably can’t escape no matter how he votes.

    And Heller’s predicament is all the more notable in that it was a fellow Nevadan, former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, who pushed Obamacare to passage in 2010, including by securing the votes of some very vulnerable Democratic senators who subsequently lost their seats over the issue.

    One of those lawmakers, former Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, expressed little sympathy this week for the Republicans who now find themselves in a position similar to the one that ultimately ended her political career.

    Noting that Trump had promised better health insurance for all, Landrieu said: “They have not put a bill together that meets their own promise, and that is their problem. And I’m not sure how they can fix that right now.”

    Werner reported from Washington, D.C. Associated Press writer Jennifer McDermott in Providence, R.I. also contributed to this report.

    The post Heller facing hot seat on GOP health care bill decision appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny gestures during an interview with Reuters in Moscow

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    NICK SCHIFRIN: This is the season of Russia’s discontent. Under President Vladimir Putin there’s been a tacit agreement that people enjoy their lives and stay out of politics. Now, many Russians are deciding that bargain’s no longer worth it.

    ALEXEY KOTOREV: Until recently, people were thinking politics were somewhere far away. But now people understand politics hits close to home.


    NICK SCHIFRIN: 38-year-old Alexey Kotorov and his neighbors had considered themselves apolitical. But they launched these protests when the City of Moscow planned to evict them from their apartments to knock them down and build high rises. As always, police presence was strong. But some Russians’ fear of their state seems to be fading, and faith in themselves, rising.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Do you think you can make a difference?

    ALEXEY KOTOREV: We can change things if we stay together. We need to stay active. It’s very important right now to recreate civil society. For the last five years, civil society has almost disappeared.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: In the 1960s, the former Soviet Union built Kotorev’s apartment complex as inexpensive housing…

    NICK SCHIFRIN: So this is your home?

    ALEXEY KOTOREV: This is my home.

    NICK SCHIFRIN:…for people like him to have their own space. Inside, it’s nice…with a view of the Moscow River. Kotorev accuses local officials of wanting to seize valuable land to get rich.

    ALEXEY KOTOREV: Now’s a very important moment. The people are starting to unite to show the government their point of view.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The man most responsible for creating that unity is Alexei Navalny. The 41-year-old lawyer is the country’s most prominent opposition politician…on a crusade against corruption. He calls the ruling United Russia Party, “the party of crooks and thieves.” In March, he posted an hour-long YouTube expose about mansions, yachts, and land that he says were corruptly acquired by Putin’s Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev.

    ALEXEI NAVALNY: Medvedev can steal so much and so openly because Putin does the same, but on a greater scale. The system is so rotten, there’s nothing healthy left.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Navalny’s been fighting Putin for six years. In 2011, he sparked massive protests ahead of a parliamentary election he called rigged.

    ALEXEI NAVALNY: It’s very simple: Power to the people.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Two years later, he ran unsuccessfully for Moscow mayor against the Putin-backed incumbent. Today, by using YouTube Navalny circumvents state-run media and maintains a huge following. This video has 23 million views.

    ALEXEI NAVALNY: This is our country, and these swindlers are stealing our money. Everyone should fight however he can.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Tens of thousands of people answered his call. On March 26 and June 12, Russians launched the largest unsanctioned protests in a quarter century. They were held in 185 cities. Nearly all the protesters were young and motivated to speak out by corruption. “Putin’s a thief,” they chanted. “Police, join the people,” they say. “Don’t serve the government of monsters.” Police declined their invitation…and arrested 17-hundred protesters across the country, including Navalny. He was sentenced to 25 days in jail for organizing an unsanctioned rally. He was also arrested and jailed in March. And back in 2014, he was convicted of a felony — defrauding clients of a shipping company he helped his brother, Oleg, start. Oleg remains in prison. Alexei calls his brother a hostage, and the charges fabricated. But his conviction means, legally, he can’t run for office. That hasn’t stopped him from campaigning for next year’s presidential election.

    ALEXEI NAVALNY: We do not owe the government anything. It is the government who owes us. They build an authoritarian regime that doesn’t give anything back.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: His rallies are unusual in a country where retail campaigning is almost unheard of. The crowds are young and he talks like them.

    ALEXEI NAVALNY: They think we have no right to ask questions, that we have to shut up and listen. They tell us, [BLEEP] you and we have to say, oh, ok, we’re very sorry. But no, we have gathered here to say we’re going to ask these questions and we’ll obtain the answers.

    KIRIL KOZLOVSKY: His anti-corruption message resonates with me. And I think that he’s a very charismatic politician.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: 23-year-old Kiril Kozlovsky — and anyone in the crowd who wanted one — got a photo with Navalny. Kozlovksy promptly posted it to his profile on VK, Russia’s equivalent of Facebook. Koslovsky acknowledges that Putin has brought relative prosperity to Russia. He’s not even old enough to remember the political and economic chaos that Putin helped end when he came to power in 1999.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: What would you say to your parents or grandparents who say, “Look, things were a lot worse for us before President Putin?”

    KIRIL KOZLOVSKY: In the 18 years that have passed he and his team could have done a lot more to help the situation, a lot more to make it better. And he didn’t. So, he’s to blame for this.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: In Cheboksary, 375 miles east of Moscow, the local government made sure no one in the city center would rent space to the Navalny campaign, so his gatherings often take place on the edge of towns, like this apartment complex. Semyon Kochkin is the local campaign manager.

    SEMYON KOCHKIN: We were rejected by all the landlords, by all the hotels, even the international hotels. Even construction fields rejected us.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Kochkin says he’s been targeted personally. Last year on VK, he posted a clip from comedian John Oliver’s HBO program, “Last Week Tonight.”

    JOHN OLIVER: “Scamming ISIS is the best thing anyone did on Earth this week!”

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The video shows banned ISIS symbols, and Kochkin was arrested for extremism. He took a selfie in the back of a police car. He accuses the government of exploiting anti-terrorism laws to silence Navalny’s campaign.

    SEMYON KOCHKIN: We are constantly fighting with the authorities, and it’s always one-sided. Because when it comes to election season, they make it impossible.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Local police also arrested 35-year-old Andrei Usipov. He’s the local orchestra’s first violin. On March 26 he joined the Navalny protest. And a week later, police interrupted a rehearsal to take him to jail. I asked him if he thought he’d be arrested for protesting if Navalny were President.

    ANDREI USIPOV: I am absolutely certain this would not happen, because under Alexei Navalny, the country will be more open. Alexei is for transparency, and only with transparency can we overpower corruption.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Arrests are only one way the Russian establishment pushes back. State TV portrays Navalny’s protests as an existential threat to Russia’s stability. Listen to what the country’s most popular anchor said last month:

    DMITRY KISELYOV: They use people to provoke the crowd and make the situation spiral out of control, achieving chaos. First in one square in one city, and then they plunge the entire country into poverty and—I’m afraid to say—civil war.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Government-run high schools force students to watch a video comparing Navalny to Hitler…accusing him of being a fascist and trying to undermine the state. But for the first time in a generation, young people are rejecting the government’s talking points. In a classroom 2000 miles from Moscow, students posted a video of themselves challenging a government-funded school teacher, who called Navalny’s supporters freaks, and defended corruption.

    LECTURER: If there is no corruption in a state, it means that nobody needs this state.

    STUDENT: So you mean you like it when they steal from you?

    LECTURER: So? People steal everywhere.

    STUDENT: But it is not normal.

    LECTURER: Every student should mind his own business.

    STUDENT: And a lecturer should mind his own business.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The pressure on Navalny himself is sometimes physical. Last year, members of the pro-government Cossacks doused Navalny with milk…and beat up his staff. In April, a state TV channel showed an assailant after he sprayed Navalny with green dye and chemicals. Navalny’s right eye needed surgery. Navalny accused the Kremlin of organizing the attack.

    ALEXEI NAVALNY: Even if I look like this, does that mean that we will accept money’s been stolen and used to buy yachts? I don’t think so.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Navalny’s poll numbers remain low, but he’s changing public opinion. 2/3rds of Russians now identify corruption as the country’s number one problem. President Putin avoids responding to Navalny substantively. But the Navalny effect means at a town hall in Moscow, where questions are usually screened in advance, this teenager dared to ask Putin about corrupt officials undermining the public’s faith in government.

    DANILA PRILEPA: How are you planning to solve this problem?

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Putin responded:

    VLADIMIR PUTIN: You read your question. Did you prepare it yourself, or did someone put you up to it?

    DANILA PRILEPA: Life prepared me for this question.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: While he’s inspired the younger generation…some fellow Putin opponents criticize Navalny for being a nativist. Six years ago, he released videos comparing immigrants who work in Russia to cockroaches. Navalny stands by the videos and says he wants to appeal to nationalists. Which is why he rarely criticizes Putin’s muscular and popular foreign policy in Ukraine and Syria. Navalny turns down interview requests — including ours — and tries to keep the focus on corruption.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: You save your harshest criticism of the President for his domestic policy, obviously not his foreign policy. In fact you don’t talk very much about his foreign policy. Is that because you agree with most of it?

    ALEXEI NAVALNY: I don’t talk a lot about foreign policy, because here everyone is interested in wages, income, and bad roads.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: He tries to feed populism to an audience that’s hungry. He highlights government corruption to people who feel they have nothing to lose. And he’s trying to convince a generation — and perhaps the country — that politics requires participation.

    The post In Russia, opposition grows as fear of the state fades appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A view of the U.S. Supreme Court building is seen in Washington, DC, U.S. on October 13, 2015. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/ Reuters

    A view of the U.S. Supreme Court building is seen in Washington, D.C., on October 13, 2015. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is seeking to close a legal window opened for tens of thousands of refugees to enter the United States, appealing a federal judge’s order directly to the Supreme Court.

    U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson had ordered the government to allow in refugees formally working with a resettlement agency in the United States. His order also vastly expanded the list of U.S. family relationships that refugees and visitors from six Muslim-majority countries can use to get into the country, including grandparents and grandchildren.

    In its appeal Friday night, the Justice Department said Watson’s interpretation of the Supreme Court’s ruling on what family relationships qualify refugees and visitors from the six Muslim-majority countries to enter the U.S. “empties the court’s decision of meaning, as it encompasses not just ‘close’ family members, but virtually all family members. Treating all of these relationships as ‘close familial relationship(s)’ reads the term ‘close’ out of the Court’s decision.”

    Only the Supreme Court can decide these issues surrounding the travel ban, the Justice Department said. “Only this Court can definitively settle whether the government’s reasonable implementation is consistent with this Court’s stay,” it said.

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

    On Saturday, the U.S. Justice Department asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to put Watson’s ruling on hold while the Supreme Court considers its appeal.

    The long, tangled legal fight is expected to culminate with arguments before the nation’s high court in October.

    Watson’s ruling could help more than 24,000 refugees already vetted and approved by the United States but barred by the 120-day freeze on refugee admissions, said Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, a resettlement agency.

    “Many of them had already sold all of their belongings to start their new lives in safety,” she said. “This decision gives back hope to so many who would otherwise be stranded indefinitely.”

    Citing a need to review its vetting process to ensure national security, the administration capped refugee admissions at 50,000 for the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, a ceiling it hit this week.

    The federal budget can accommodate up to 75,000 refugees, but admissions have slowed under Trump, and the government could hold them to a trickle, resettlement agencies say.

    “Absolutely this is good news for refugees, but there’s a lot of uncertainty,” said Melanie Nezer, spokeswoman for HIAS, a resettlement agency. “It’s really going to depend on how the administration reacts to this.”

    READ NEXT: More court challenges expected for Trump’s new travel ban

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions had said the administration would ask the Supreme Court to weigh in, bypassing the San Francisco-based 9th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals, which has ruled against it in the case.

    The Supreme Court allowed a scaled-back version of the travel ban to take effect last month.

    “Once again, we are faced with a situation in which a single federal district court has undertaken by a nationwide injunction to micromanage decisions of the co-equal executive branch related to our national security,” Sessions said. “By this decision, the district court has improperly substituted its policy preferences for the national security judgments of the executive branch in a time of grave threats.”

    The administration took a first step by filing a notice of appeal to the 9th Circuit, allowing it to use a rule to petition the high court directly. There was no timetable for the Supreme Court to act, but the administration sought quick action to clarify the court’s June opinion.

    The justices now are scattered during their summer recess, so any short-term action would come in written filings.

    The administration has lost most legal challenges on the travel ban, which applies to citizens of Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iran and Yemen.

    The Supreme Court’s ruling exempted a large swath of refugees and travelers with a “bona fide relationship” with a person or an entity in the U.S. The justices did not define those relationships but said they could include a close relative, a job offer or admission to a college or university.

    The Trump administration defined the relationships as people who had a parent, spouse, fiance, son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling already in the U.S.

    Watson enlarged that group to include grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins.

    Hawaii Attorney General Douglas S. Chin, who sought the broader definition, said Thursday’s ruling “makes 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.

    Spagat reported from San Diego. Associated Press writers Julie Watson in San Diego, Jennifer Sinco Kelleher in Honolulu, Sudhin Thanawala in San Francisco and Sadie Gurman and Mark Sherman in Washington contributed to this report.

    The post Feds appeal judge’s travel ban ruling to Supreme Court appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A woman holds a portrait of Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan during a ceremony marking the first anniversary of the attempted coup at the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: One year ago today, our top story was the failed coup attempt in Turkey by renegade soldiers trying to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Since his security forces stopped the coup, Erdogan has cracked down on perceived opponents with tens of thousands of civil servants losing their jobs or going to jail.

    Today, his government fired 7,000 more, as Erdogan attended a national unity march in the capital of Ankara and unveiled a memorial to 250 Turks who died in the coup. In the past year, Erdogan officially expanded his executive powers in a referendum approved by a majority of voters.

    Soner Cagaptay, from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has written a new book called “The New Sultan: Erdogan and the Crisis of Modern Turkey.” He joins me now from Washington.

    So, in this one year period, what’s happened to Turkey?

    SONER CAGAPTAY, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: Turkey has actually not become more democratic unfortunately, although the coup was presented. It has become more authoritarian and less democratic, and that is primarily because initially going after coup plotters, President Erdogan has then used the post-coup powers, state of emergency given to him to go after his other opponents. Turkey’s an extremely polarized place with half of the country adoring Erdogan and the other of the country that basically loathes him and Erdogan has targeted anyone in that drew group that loathes him that not only includes members of the Gulen movement where Erdogan believes is aligned with the coup effort but also liberals, leftists and Kurdish nationalists.

    SREENIVASAN: Erdogan will say, listen, I’m in a rough neighborhood, there are people in parts of my country that want to split off and break off. I’ve had terrorist attack happening on my own soil. I need this power. I need to consolidate it. And his — that message has sunk in with his supporters.

    CAGAPTAY: It has. And, of course, Erdogan has a bright side as well, that he has delivered economic growth, which is why the conservatives have been around him. But he also has a dark side which is that he has cracked down on opposition and eroded democratic checks and balances.

    The problem is while half of the country loves him, the other half of the country that despises him will never fold under him. And the risk for Erdogan is that he knows as I explained in “The New Sultan”, he knows that he cannot continue governing Turkey the way he likes so long as it’s democratic, and that’s why it looks to me and other analysts that he’s taking steps to end democracy in Turkey. For example, he just said that state of emergency put in place after the coup will be extended indefinitely until there’s peace and welfare in Turkey. How do you measure peace and welfare? So, that means it’s basically permanent. And for the 40 million Turks who oppose him, that’s not acceptable.

    So, I fear that if he ends democracy, there’s even a risk for that half that opposes him who will now think they cannot vote him out. That some elements of them, maybe youth elements of them might even radicalized. So, Turkey’s polarization could get even worse as a result of these policies.

    SREENIVASAN: How much of Erdogan’s position is bolstered by the crucial nature of Turkey in the fighting in Syria or in the Middle East? I mean, it seems that there’s some pretty huge allies that are counting on Turkey’s support.

    CAGAPTAY: I think Erdogan basically knows that the United States and NATO allies need Turkey to continue to fight ISIS, and he basically gets a hall pass in that regard. Despite his democratic transgressions, he’s still invited to summits and meetings. But there’s only so much Turkey can continue when this polarized environment, even though Erdogan might receive open arms from outside dignitaries because of the fact some of the opposition groups are violent and radical and in fact terrorists such as the Kurdish groups, PKK, and therefore going forward, he’s going to have a violent challenge coming from the right. And he has adversaries in the region, including Russia, whom he opposes in Syria, which has historic links to Kurdish group which could easily undermine moving forward.

    SREENIVASAN: All right. Soner Cagaptay from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the author of the new book, “The New Sultan: Erdogan and the Crises of Modern Turkey” — thanks so much for joining us.

    CAGAPTAY: Thank you. It’s a pleasure.

    The post Turkey continues crackdown one year after failed coup appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A Transportation Security Administration arm patch and shield is seen at Los Angeles International Airport

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Sometime soon, you could have your face scan as you board an overseas flight. It’s already being tested at a handful of American airports with two airlines, Delta and JetBlue, directly participating. The Department of Homeland Security sees the system as a tool to catch immigrants overstaying their visas.

    But as the program expands, it will take photos not just of foreigners but U.S. citizens as well. This raises security, accuracy and privacy questions.

    Joining me now from Houston to discuss this is “Associated Press” reporter Frank Bajak.

    Frank, first of all, just lay out this experiment or lay out how this is rolling out for us.

    FRANK BAJAK, REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, interestingly, it’s not really an experiment because the Department of Homeland Security says it intends to go ahead with this at all high volume airports beginning in 2018.

    Now, this is a program that started out as applying only to what they call non-immigrant foreigners. And that’s 50 million people who visit the United States annually to make sure that they’re not overstaying visas and to keep better track of that. Congress has not explicitly approved this for U.S. citizens, but Customs and Border Protection, which is part of Homeland Security, says that they can only do this if they do it for everyone, including U.S. citizens.

    SREENIVASAN: What happens to this information? Say I take my photo or the airlines take my photo or CBP gets my photo, where does it go?

    BAJAK: First of all, every U.S. citizen now has in their passport a little chip that has the biometric information. It has their biographical information, where they live, et cetera, their birth date. And it’s got a photo which is encoded in that chip. It can use that information to compare it against say outstanding arrest warrants, basically if someone is wanted for a crime.

    The government says it’s not going to retain this information. It’s not going to keep record of this information but the Border Patrol official I spoke to said that they’re not precluding that in the future, they could retain that information.

    SREENIVASAN: What about the accuracy of these images, these image recognition. Let’s say you get caught in kind of a face scan trap and there’s a flag but it’s a case of mistaken identity.

    BAJAK: Well, facial recognition technology is steadily improving over the years. And it’s now, the best of it, is at 90 percent to the 5 percent accuracy. However, the experts that I talked to said that there are apt to be mismatches.

    If there is a mismatch, what can happen? First of all, it can cause travel delays if you’ve got — if you’re boarding an international flight with 500 passengers, you’re looking at up to 50 people who are going to get stopped and have to go through a manual check.

    But the issue is also on that mismatch, what if I’ve got an identical twin who is a wanted fugitive. Well, is that going to flag me?

    SREENIVASAN: I know in the past, there are some concerns that these algorithms aren’t very good at identifying or misidentifying women or people of color because of the samples that they use.

    BAJAK: Indeed that’s true. In fact, there’s a researcher at MIT Media Lab who looked into this and who says there is a bias against people of color because of the selection in tests that’s been used. But I think that the bigger question that concerns the privacy experts is, it’s very easy to quickly now compare these two, the face prints of tens of thousands of people from other databases instantaneously and I think this is the worry.

    SREENIVASAN: Frank Bajak from “The Associated Press” joining us from Houston today — thanks so much.

    BAJAK: Thank you.

    The post Airport face scans raise privacy concerns appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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

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

    WASHINGTON — Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Saturday he will delay consideration of health care legislation in the Senate, after Sen. John McCain’s announced absence following surgery left Republicans short of votes on their marquee legislation.

    McConnell’s announcement amounted to another setback for GOP efforts, promoted by President Donald Trump, to repeal and replace “Obamacare” after years of promises. McConnell issued his statement not long after McCain’s office disclosed that he had undergone surgery to remove a blood clot from above his left eye, and had been advised by his doctors to stay in Arizona next week to recover.

    With McConnell’s health care legislation already hanging by a thread in the Senate with no votes to spare, McCain’s absence meant it would become impossible for the majority leader to round up the votes needed to move forward with the bill next week as planned.

    “While John is recovering, the Senate will continue our work on legislative items and nominations, and will defer consideration of the Better Care Act,” said McConnell, R-Ky. He did not say when he would aim to return to the health care bill.

    Even before Saturday night’s developments, the fate of the health care legislation looked deeply uncertain in the Senate. In addition to two announced GOP “no” votes from moderate Susan Collins of Maine and conservative Rand Paul of Kentucky, there were at least a half-dozen other Republican senators who were withholding support from or expressing reservations about the bill McConnell released Thursday.

    [Watch Video]

    Last month McConnell had to cancel a vote on a previous version of the legislation as GOP opposition left its defeat assured. In a Senate divided 52-48 between Republicans and Democrats, McConnell can lose no more than two votes and still prevail.

    The Senate bill, like legislation passed earlier by the House, repeals mandates requiring individuals to carry insurance and businesses to offer it, and unravels an expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor and disabled enacted under President Barack Obama’s law. Analyses of the earlier version of the Senate bill found it would results in more than 20 million additional uninsured Americans over a decade compared to current law.

    The newest version attempts to attract conservative support by allowing insurers to offer skimpy plans alongside more robust ones, but also reaches out to moderates by adding billions in help for the opioid crisis and to defray high costs for consumers.

    With the vote set for the coming week now indefinitely postponed, GOP success in its long-promised Obamacare repeal grows all the more uncertain, despite heavy lobbying in recent days by Trump administration officials. Democrats are unanimously opposed as are the nation’s major medical groups and insurers.

    READ NEXT: Major insurance groups call part of health bill ‘unworkable’

    In Phoenix, Mayo Clinic Hospital doctors said McCain underwent a “minimally invasive” procedure to remove the nearly 2-inch (5-centimeter) clot and that the surgery went “very well,” a hospital statement said. McCain was reported to be resting comfortably at his home in Arizona.

    Pathology reports on the clot were expected in the next several days.

    McCain, 80, is a three-time survivor of melanoma. Records of his medical exams released in 2008 when he was the GOP candidate for president showed that he has had precancerous skin lesions removed and had an early stage squamous cell carcinoma, an easily cured skin cancer, removed.

    He was re-elected in November to a sixth Senate term.

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    French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron walk with US President Donald Trump and US First Lady Melania Trump during the traditional Bastille Day military parade in Paris

    French President Emmanuel Macron (2ndR) and his wife Brigitte Macron walk with U.S. President Donald Trump (2ndL) and U.S. First Lady Melania Trump during the traditional Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, France, July 14, 2017. Photo by Christophe Archambault/Pool/Reuters

    PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron says his glamorous Paris charm offensive on Donald Trump was carefully calculated — and may have changed the U.S. president’s mind about climate change.

    Macron defended his outreach to Trump, whose “America first” policies have elicited worry and disdain in Europe.

    “Our countries are friends, so we should be too,” Macron said in an interview Sunday in the Journal du dimanche newspaper.

    After a tense, white-knuckle handshake at their first meeting in May, Macron said they gained “better, intimate knowledge of each other” during Trump’s visit to Paris last week.

    On their main point of contention — Trump’s withdrawal from the landmark Paris climate agreement — Macron is quoted as saying that “Donald Trump listened to me. He understood the reason for my position, notably the link between climate change and terrorism.”

    [Watch Video]

    Increasing droughts and other extreme weather blamed on man-made climate change are worsening migration crises and conflicts in some regions as populations fight over dwindling resources.

    “He said he would try to find a solution in the coming months. We spoke in detail about what could allow him to return to the Paris deal,” Macron said, according to the newspaper.

    While in Paris, Trump remained non-committal about the U.S. eventually rejoining the climate agreement, telling Macron, “if it happens that will be wonderful, and if it doesn’t that will be OK too.” Trump has said the climate deal was unfair to U.S. business.

    READ NEXT: What leaving the Paris accord could mean for U.S. and the world

    The French leader acknowledged that Trump’s Paris visit — including a formal welcome at Napoleon’s tomb, dinner in the Eiffel Tower and a place of honor at the annual Bastille Day military parade — was choreographed to give Americans a “stronger image of France” after deadly Islamic extremist attacks damaged the country’s vital tourism sector.

    It was also aimed at Trump himself, who has said that Paris has been ruined by the threat of terrorism, which he ties to immigrants.

    “I think Donald Trump left having a better image of France than upon his arrival,” Macron is quoted as saying.

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    Prescription pills in a yellow bottle over a wooden table

    Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — When the Trump administration unveiled a new Medicare proposal this week to cut payments to hospitals as part of a drug reimbursement program, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price called the plan a “significant step toward fulfilling President Trump’s promise to address rising drug prices.”

    It may not be that simple.

    The proposal takes aim at a controversial drug discount program, known as the 340B program, which is designed to boost revenues for hospitals that primarily serve low-income patients. The program requires drug makers to offer those hospitals sizable discounts on certain drugs. The hospital can then bill Medicare and other insurers at regular reimbursement rates when patients take the drugs, banking the extra savings to spend elsewhere.

    Now, the Trump administration wants Medicare to pay those hospitals much less for those discounted drugs — effectively taking a chunk of the discount for itself. Right now, Medicare pays hospitals about 6 percent more than average sales price for the drug; under the proposal, hospitals in the discount program would get 22.5 percent below average sales price.

    What does all this mean for patients?

    Because some Medicare beneficiaries pay 20 percent of the reimbursement cost as a co-pay, they’d see their bills get a little lower, too. But seniors with private Medicare Advantage plans wouldn’t see their prices drop, experts said, nor would those with supplemental insurance see much savings.

    And the proposal would do nothing to lower the sticker shock most patients experience when they head to the pharmacy.

    The change will save Medicare about $900 million, HHS estimated. The administration projected beneficiaries would save about $180 million.

    “If you look at the static effect, it has zero effect on pharmaceutical revenues, because they give the discounts anyway. All of the savings get yanked from hospital revenues and given back to Medicare and beneficiaries,” Peter Bach, the director of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Center for Health Policy and Outcomes, told STAT. “It’s not actually about drug prices.”

    Bach said the change could help reduce hospitals’ incentives to prescribe more expensive drugs. He pointed out that under the 340B program, pricier drugs net hospitals a proportionally higher amount. If hospitals get less out of the program, they might rely on it less.

    “It is about reducing the incentives prescribers have that are currently aligned with high prices,” he said.

    Bach, whose research has uncovered abuses in the 340B program, has also been a vocal critic of the high cost of prescription drugs.

    Read More: Lawmakers chide Trump for seeking to ‘scale back’ hospital discount drug program.

    Advocates for the 340B program are already pushing back against the proposal, criticizing it as a misguided move that will hurt vulnerable populations without doing much to address drug prices.

    They point out that the 340B program was intended to help hospitals that provide disproportionately more care for which they’re not compensated by insurers. Congress initiated the discounts so the pharmaceutical industry could shoulder some of that burden to the health care system. Proponents say the hospitals turn around and use the funds for initiatives that are aimed at the most vulnerable populations.

    “It’s shortsighted,” said Bill von Oehsen, an attorney with Power Pyles who helped found 340B Health, a group that advocates for providers in the program. “When you look and see how the hospitals are investing their 340B revenues, including their Medicare Part B revenue, they’re paying for services that’s actually saving money for Medicare.”

    He pointed to efforts like care management programs and medication adherence initiatives that aren’t reimbursed by the traditional Medicare program, but that have been shown to help improve patient outcomes and in some cases, save money for insurers like Medicare.

    Critics of the 340B program, including in the pharmaceutical industry, have argued that the program has expanded to include hospitals that aren’t providing a high volume of “uncompensated” care and that abuse its original intent. Some say the discounts force pharmaceutical companies to drive up drug prices in other markets.

    Hospital groups are already pledging to fight the proposal.

    “There is no doubt this policy will have devastating consequences for safety net hospitals and thus the vulnerable populations they serve,” Blair Childs, a spokesman for the hospital group Premier said in a statement. “Premier intends to vigorously oppose both these proposals in comments, and we hope that in final rules, these proposals are either dramatically changed or abandoned altogether.”

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

    The post The Trump administration says a new plan will cut drug prices. It’s not that simple appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Rows of desks sit empty in a classroom. Photo by Alan Levine/Flickr

    Rows of desks sit empty in a classroom. Photo by Alan Levine/Flickr

    SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois has its belated state budget, but the state Capitol’s next flashpoint in the political struggle over finances is about how to fund public education with just weeks before the first day of school.

    The spending plan lawmakers enacted this month over Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s vetoes includes a $350 million boost for education. The budget with the boost for schools ended a two-year stalemate, the nation’s longest since at least the Great Depression.

    But it also included a provision aimed at forcing Rauner’s approval of an altered funding formula that he contends unfairly pushes extra money to the nation’s third-largest school district in Chicago.

    Rauner has suggested he will veto that newly devised school funding method, which could leave the state with no plan to allocate general state education aid and jeopardize schools’ opening.

    Rauner promised Friday there will be no extended summer vacation.

    “We’re going to make sure schools open and we’re going to make sure that it’s done on a basis that’s fair for taxpayers across the state,” Rauner said during a visit to flooded Lake County.

    It’s not gone unnoticed. Moody’s Investors Service noted in a Friday warning about the state’s ability to pay its debts that opening day for impoverished school districts dependent on state aid could be delayed by the legislative maneuver.

    Politically, the conditions Democrats attached to school spending puts Rauner “in a box,” said Jerry Mitchell, a House Republican education expert who served Sterling from 1995 to 2013.

    “It limits his ability to look at outside reasoning, for outside answers, other than education groups that are controlled by Democrats,” Mitchell said. “The Legislature is supposed to pass their laws and he is supposed to do what he needs to do — balance the budget and balance the needs of the schoolchildren of Illinois.”

    The funding overhaul attempts to narrow the largest gap of any state between its most affluent school district and its poorest. The “evidence-based” model would ensure none of the state’s 850 school districts receives less than it got this year, then would steer money to schools based on local property wealth and distinct student-population needs.

    School administrators are watching the issue closely.

    “This has been passed by the House and by the Senate. It has traction,” said Springfield Superintendent Jennifer Gill, whose district stands to gain $1 million under the plan. “The governor should listen to his legislators who represent their local districts.”

    But Rauner objects to specific state-funding allowances for Chicago schools on top of a new requirement that the state pick up the employer’s portion of teacher pensions costs for them — the way it does for every other Illinois district. He calls it a “bailout” for the strapped school system.

    The budget language doesn’t specifically mention the legislation that lawmakers approved. It requires the money go to an evidence-based program, which is also the foundation of a rival Republican proposal that remains in the Legislature and was promoted by a commission Rauner put together in 2016 which issued a report last winter.

    “There’s no booby trap,” said Homewood Democratic Rep. Will Davis, the legislation’s House sponsor. “It recognizes a direction we all want to go in.”

    As Democratic Senate sponsor Andy Manar of Bunker Hill puts it, “Why would we pour $350 million more into … a system characterized as completely broken?”

    A veto would force some legislative scrambling. The legislation was approved 60-52 in the House and 35-22 in the Senate, short of the three-fifths majorities necessary to override. But enough GOP lawmakers bucked Rauner to override his budget vetoes.

    Illinois gives governors constitutional authority to use an amendatory veto to make “specific recommendations for change.” But it’s unclear whether lawmakers left language specific enough to alter.

    Rauner can’t do anything until he receives the legislation. Democratic Sen. Donne Trotter of Chicago filed paperwork to stall transmission to the governor in hopes there would be no knee-jerk veto. Trotter said he planned to release the measure by week’s end, but he hadn’t as of Friday.

    Asked about the precedent for requiring that money go through a plan that’s not yet part of Illinois law, Trotter said, “These are unprecedented times.”

    The post Illinois has budget but no school funding plan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The U.S flag and the Texas State flag fly over the Texas State Capitol as the state senate debates the #SB6 bathroom bill in Austin

    The U.S flag and the Texas State flag fly over the Texas State Capitol as the state senate debates the #SB6 bathroom bill in Austin, Texas, U.S., March 14, 2017. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    AUSTIN, Texas — Though “bathroom bills” targeting transgender people fizzled in deep-red states across the U.S., the issue is still white hot in Texas, where the Legislature is heading into special session prepared to revive it and conservative groups are vowing revenge on Republican lawmakers who don’t approve it.

    Whether Texas eventually enacts a law requiring transgender people to use public restrooms according to their birth-certificate gender, the issue is looming large over Republican primaries set for March. Powerful business entities, from Apple to the NFL, oppose such a bill as discriminatory, but insurgent candidates have promised to brand lawmakers who dare reject it — or try to remain neutral in the face of so much outcry — as soft on social issues dear to conservatives.

    The issue appeared dead in the near-term when the Legislature ended its regular session on Memorial Day without approving a bathroom bill. The Texas Senate had passed a strict version in March, but the more-moderate House — led by vocal bathroom bill opponent Republican Speaker Joe Straus — balked and approved a watered-down version applying only to public schools. The Senate rejected that. A stalemate may yet prevail if neither side budges during a 30-day extra session that GOP Gov. Greg Abbott has convened starting Tuesday.

    The Conservative Republicans of Texas political action committee says it’s ready to pounce on those who don’t support the strict proposal that mimicked a 2015 North Carolina law that sparked so much uproar and threats of costly boycotts that lawmakers there eventually rolled much of it back. No other state has approved such a law, despite similar bills being introduced in nearly 20 states.

    “To the extinct that someone chooses to lock arms with Joe Straus and promote his liberal agenda for the state, and work with him to kill conservative legislation, we’re going to be looking for and back a primary challenger to that individual,” said Jared Woodfill, a Houston attorney who is the group’s president.

    Woodfill’s PAC donated nearly $2 million between the 2010 and 2016 election cycles to 100-plus Texas legislative candidates and other conservative causes, and plans to spend lavishly to target moderate Republicans up for election in 2018.

    On the other side are business and civil rights organizations, gay rights activists and many religious leaders who see the law as harmful to transgender residents and bad for the state’s economy. But such groups, generally, have been less active in Texas’ GOP primaries.

    “The mainstream faith communities in this state cringe when they hear that violent, hateful language so they vacate the field and leave it to extreme people,” said Bee Moorhead, executive director of Texas Impact, which represents religious congregations from across the faith and political spectrum. “What they are realizing is, even though we don’t like that approach, it is incumbent upon us to learn about how to talk about politics.”

    The issue’s top Texas proponent is Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a fiery former radio talk show host who oversees the Senate and is the state’s leading conservative voice. Abbott, meanwhile, has appeared conflicted. He refused to endorse the bathroom bill for months, then backed only the softened House version. But Abbott has now put the issue on a list of 20 items he’d like to see the Legislature approve during the special session, bolstering his conservative credentials as he seeks re-election in 2018.

    Straus likened the bathroom bill and Abbott’s other special-session priorities to a mountain of horse manure. He crushed past tea party-backed primary challengers in his San Antonio district and was re-elected to a record-tying fifth term as speaker unanimously by the House at the start of the regular session. But the Republican Party’s executive committee in Straus’ home county recently endorsed a non-binding resolution calling for his removal as speaker.

    Conservative Republicans of Texas spent $100,000 during the regular session on cable TV ads in Straus’ district and in Austin decrying the speaker and promoting the bathroom bill. It also helped recruit two upstart candidates in suburban Houston who toppled key Straus lieutenants during the 2016 GOP primary. One, Republican Rep. Briscoe Cain, once worked for Woodfill’s law firm before joining the Legislature and infuriating establishment legislators from both parties by helping slow key legislation in protest of issues like the bathroom bill not advancing.

    READ NEXT: Here’s what most people get wrong about the transgender community 

    Thomas McNutt, whose family owns the Collins Street Bakery, known for fruitcakes that it ships to customers around the globe, challenged another top Straus ally, Rep. Byron Cook, the chairman of the powerful House State Affairs Committee in 2016 — but lost by barely 200 votes. McNutt is running against Cook again and could get a bathroom-bill boost.

    “Voters are tired of the Texas House leadership, including Byron Cook, blocking all conservative legislation,” McNutt said in an emailed statement.

    Cook, though, isn’t shying away from the issue. In a fundraising email he said he wants to clarify transgender restroom polices for public schools, but added: “I do not condone duplicitous grandstanding on this issue and/or discriminatory legislation.”

    The post Texas ‘bathroom bill’ may shape 2018 GOP primary campaigns appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Donald Trump's motorcade arrives at The White House in Washington, D.C. after visiting Trump National Golf Club U.S., May 14, 2017. REUTERS/Zach Gibson - RTX35TZ3

    U.S. President Donald Trump’s motorcade arrives at the White House in Washington, D.C. after visiting Trump National Golf Club on May 14, 2017. Photo by Zach Gibson/Reuters

    PISCATAWAY TOWNSHIP, New Jersey — Plagued by daily revelations related to the escalating Russia investigations, the White House is dubbing the coming week “Made in America week” as it tries to focus on issues that matter to the president’s base.

    Speaking to reporters at a hotel near President Donald Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, White House director of media affairs Helen Aguirre Ferre said Sunday that the White House will be hosting a “Made in America” product showcase Monday featuring products from all 50 states.

    The president also is expected to issue a proclamation Wednesday on the importance of making goods in America, and will travel to Virginia on Saturday for the commissioning of the USS Gerald R. Ford, a new aircraft carrier.

    “For too long our government has forgotten the American worker. Their interests were pushed aside for global projects and their wealth was taken from the communities and shipped overseas,” said Ferre. “Under the leadership of President Donald Trump, not only will the American worker never be forgotten, but they will be championed.”

    Trump has pledged to bring back U.S. manufacturing jobs lost to technological innovation and outsourcing by scaling back regulations and renegotiating the country’s trade deals. It’s an issue that resonates with the president’s base, and one that senior aides sought to highlight Sunday as the president spent the weekend attending the U.S. Women’s Open golf championship at a course he owns.

    The effort comes amid escalating inquiries into possible ties between Trump campaign aides and the Russian government, which intelligence agencies have concluded meddled in the 2016 election in an effort to help Trump win.

    But critics have accused Trump of hypocrisy when he’s pushed “Made in America” in the past because so many of the products he and his family members have sold over the years were manufactured overseas. That includes merchandise sold under his own name and his eldest daughter’s, including clothing items and shoes.

    Asked whether the president would use his “Made in America” week to commit the Trump organization and his daughter’s brand to make more of their products in America, rather than overseas, Ferre was non-committal.

    “We’ll get back to you on that,” she said.

    The president’s financial assets are currently being held in a trust. Ivanka Trump stepped back from day-to-day management of her brand before taking on an official role as a White House adviser.

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

    Donald Trump Jr. stands onstage with his father then-presidential nominee Donald Trump in September 2016. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s attorney insisted Sunday there was nothing illegal in the meeting Trump’s eldest son had with a Russian lawyer during last year’s presidential campaign.

    Donald Trump Jr.’s willingness to meet with the lawyer in the expectation of receiving incriminating information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has raised new questions about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. The information had been described as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

    The president’s attorney, Jay Sekulow, defended Trump and his son in a series of appearances Sunday on five television networks.

    “Nothing in that meeting that would have taken place, even if it was about the topic of an opposition research paper from a Russian lawyer, is illegal or a violation of the law,” Sekulow said on “Fox News Sunday,” a point he repeated several times. He said the president did not attend the meeting and was not aware of it.

    [Watch Video]

    The attorney’s focus on the law appears aimed at moving beyond the shifting accounts of the meeting given by Trump Jr. At first, the June 2016 meeting was said to be about a Russian adoption program. Then, it was to hear information about Clinton. Finally, Trump Jr. was compelled to release emails that revealed he had told an associate that he would “love” Russia’s help in obtaining incriminating information about the Democratic nominee.

    The number of people known to be at the meeting also changed over time. As recently as Friday, Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist and former Soviet military officer, confirmed his participation to The Associated Press.

    Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday that he wants everyone who attended the meeting to appear before his committee, one of several in Congress investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and potential coordination with the Trump campaign.

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

    In addition to Trump Jr. others in the Trump Tower meeting included Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, both of whom played major roles in the campaign.

    “I want to hear from everyone in that meeting and get their version of the story, as well as I think we may find out there may have been other meetings as well. We don’t know that yet,” Warner, D-Va., said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

    Sekulow said he was not aware of any other meetings involving Russians. “I represent the president of the United States, but Donald Trump Jr. said not in the context of formal meetings. He said he may have met with Russian people, as a lot of people meet with Russian people, so that’s not unusual,” Sekulow said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

    Trump himself came to the defense of his son, who he said “is being scorned by the Fake News Media.” The president ended a series of Sunday morning tweets by writing: “With all of its phony unnamed sources & highly slanted & even fraudulent reporting, #Fake News is DISTORTING DEMOCRACY in our country!”

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    trump russia

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: A new “Washington-Post”/ABC News poll shows 60 percent of Americans believe Russia tried to influence last year’s election, and 41 percent believe the Trump campaign intentionally aided those efforts. The poll also shows President Trump’s approval rating has dropped to 36 percent. Dig deeper into those numbers, and you’ll see America’s partisan divide.

    To discuss that and more, “NewsHour Weekend’s” Jeff Greenfield is here in the studio.

    Jeff, the conversations that have happened since we had this revelation, Donald Trump Jr. exposing his own email, saying here’s the meeting, et cetera, how does this play with Trump’s base?

    JEFF GREENFIELD, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: It’s as if it didn’t matter and this is a constant. We have been talking about this almost — it feels like almost on a weekly basis. In that poll, fewer than one in 10 Republicans think it was anything bothersome about the Russia-Trump family connections. And what that tells you is that they have accepted Trump’s fundamental argument that if you see or read something about me negative about Russia, it’s fake by definition.

    And I think what that means is as the press has moved further and further to say, you know, there’s something here, what you see is some conservative columnists like Charles Krauthammer say, yes, this is serious. But they never were for Trump in the first place. If you look at Hannity, “Fox and Friends” and “Breitbart” and that poll number, what you see is among Trump’s real supporters, they just aren’t buying that anything happened here.

    SREENIVASAN: Can anything change that?

    GREENFIELD: You know, in a normal world, in normal political world, I’d be kind of confident saying, well, yes, you know, if the Republicans in Congress begin to get really tough on Trump, say, what’s going on here. We really bothered by this. This is a hostile foreign party here, what’s going on, that that would have an impact among the base.

    But one of the curious things we’re seeing is that among Trump’s supporters, they’re not all that happy with the Republicans in Congress anyway. I mean, you’ve seen declining poll numbers about what Republicans think of the Republican congressional leaders, you’ve see some really sharp attacks on the part of Breitbart and some of the radio personalities like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, say, you know, you guys aren’t fighting hard enough. You might want — you might be raising taxes on us. They’re not blaming Trump.

    So, if the Republicans begin to say in Congress, this Russia thing is bothering us, I’m not sure the Trump people are going to take that as an occasion to leave the reservation.

    SREENIVASAN: Well, let’s talk a little bit about health care, which is in the news today. It looks like it’s going to be postponed at least another week. If it doesn’t come up for a vote, or if it comes up for a vote and doesn’t pass, any consequence for the president?

    GREENFIELD: For Trump? See previous answer.

    (LAUGHTER)

    SREENIVASAN: Ibid.

    GREENFIELD: In the non-Trump us universe, if a president runs on a key promise, I’m going to repeal and replace this terrible, and give you something great, and it fails, it would clobber him. And that’s what happened to Clinton when his health care plan failed. A year later, they lost the Congress, the Democrats.

    But once again, and this one I think is really something we’ve never seen before, because Donald Trump is not seen as a legislative master, not keen on the details. In fact, we’ve had Republicans in meetings with him kind of polite in saying, he doesn’t really know much or care much what’s in the bill. He has said, give me something and I’ll sign it.

    So, if it were to fail, who do — who do the Trump folks blame? The president or do they blame the congressional leadership? That’s where I think the fallout will happen.

    SREENIVASAN: All right. Jeff Greenfield, thanks so much.

    GREENFIELD: OK.

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    Students of the University of Puerto Rico protest as a meeting of the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico is taking place at the Convention Center in San Juan

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    By Ivette Feliciano

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Along the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico, graffiti reading “No more abuse” and “Fascism in Puerto Rico” are a window into the unrest sparked by the largest financial crisis in the island’s history. Since January, thousands have protested austerity measures and cuts to public services imposed on this U.S. territory that’s home to 3.4 million U.S. citizens. But Puerto Rico currently owes creditors a massive $72 billion.

    Last year, following a series of defaults on debt payments, Congress passed and President Obama signed the Puerto Rico Oversight Management and Economic Stability Act, or PROMESA, which means “promise” in Spanish. The law gave a financial oversight board veto power over Puerto Rico’s budget and provided a process to restructure the debt.

    Did you realize what you were getting yourself into?

    JOSE CARRION: I did not.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Jose Carrion, who runs a large insurance brokerage in San Juan, chairs the appointed seven member board.

    JOSE CARRION: The budget was unbalanced by around $3 billion. So we had to begin getting our fiscal affairs in order, and that entailed difficult decisions as to, you know, major spending.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Those difficult decisions included cuts to pension payments for retired government workers, reducing spending on healthcare, closing 179 public schools and reducing the government workforce. Since 2013, nearly 30 thousand government workers have lost their jobs.

    Roxana Perez had worked as an administrative assistant for the police department in Carolina, a town outside of San Juan.

    ROXANA PEREZ: I love serving my country.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: She’s now looking for a new job. But it’s not easy. The unemployment rate in Puerto Rico is 11%, two-and-a-half times the U.S. rate. I asked whether she was worried the position could be cut, given the debt crisis.

    ROXANA PEREZ: I had faith that maybe there would be an opportunity to continue. There is a real need for civil employees here at the Puerto Rican police, believe me.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: This spring, students and faculty protested a proposed $450 million budget cut to the university system over the next four years.

    Architecture student Minette Bonilla was part of a delegation that met with the fiscal oversight board.

    MINETTE BONILLA: We asked them point blank, ‘Do you know what the consequences will be of those cuts? Do you know what the consequences will be for students and their accessibility to education?’ ‘We haven’t done those studies.’ So they’re just cutting out of sheer numbers without knowing any implications for the people that are suffering those cuts.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: More broadly, students also want a thorough audit of the island’s public debt by an independent body. But above all, students like Mario Gonzalez Nevares are critical of the Promesa law, which created the board in the first place.

    MARIO GONZALEZ NEVARES: Promesa is the example of colonialism in the 21st century. This law was created unilaterally by the U.S. Congress, and it was imposed over Puerto Rico. And it’s only, only reason to exist is to make sure the bondholders are paid.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Puerto Rico’s $72 billion dollar debt is owed to bondholders, or creditors, who bought bonds that financed the island’s government.
    That includes large investors like mutual funds and hedge funds on the U.S. Mainland, as well as local Puerto Ricans.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: There are those on the island who believe that the board is more closely aligned to the needs of the creditors, how do you respond to those criticisms?

    JOSE CARRION: I don’t consider myself beholden to any particular bondholder class. We’re trying to do the best we can under extremely difficult circumstances but the reality is that we’re taking everything and everybody into consideration and trying to balance all those interests.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: But bondholders are worried. Rafael Rojo is a San Juan real estate developer and chairman of Bonistas Del Patio, a group representing some of the 60 thousand Puerto Rican bondholders. He estimates they’re owed $15 billion.

    RAFAEL ROJO: Behind wall street, there’s a lot of individual people who have their savings in these instruments.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Rojo is alarmed by the Puerto Rican government’s plan to pay back less than a quarter of the debt it owes over the next decade.

    RAFAEL ROJO: It’s quite clear, and it’s scientifically impossible to say otherwise, it is the bondholders who have been targeted as the ones who are going to pay for the crisis. And I think that’s a huge mistake.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: He’d like to see the size of Puerto Rico’s government shrunk even more, and the 78 separate municipalities on the island consolidate their services.

    The oversight board forecasts the island’s economy will continue to shrink through 2021 before starting to grow. Yet outside economists, such as Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, warn the board’s austerity measures will all but guarantee a social as well as an economic catastrophe.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Are there examples of economies elsewhere in the world that have eventually grown under austerity?

    JOSE CARRION: Puerto Rico’s situation is very specific. It is unlike Greece in that it is not a sovereign nation. If folks here do not care for what’s going on, they will move off island. Comparisons are difficult in light of Puerto Rico’s territorial situation.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Puerto Rico has been under U.S. control since the end of the Spanish-American war in 1898 and in 1947 was granted an elected government. But as an unincorporated territory, the U.S. Congress in Washington can override the island’s laws, and Puerto Ricans cannot vote for president and have no voting representation in congress.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: The appointment of a fiscal control board and the effect of austerity measures on the island have reignited a decades-old debate regarding Puerto Rico’s relationship to the united states. Many people here, including the governor, believe a solution to the economic crisis will never be found unless the territory’s political status is resolved once and for all.

    RICARDO ROSELLO: The voice of the Puerto Rican people was loud and clear.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Last month, 97% of Puerto Ricans voted for the territory to become the 51st U.S. State in a referendum organized by the island’s pro-statehood governor. Yet only 23% of eligible voters turned out.

    The vote was heavily boycotted by those favoring independence and the status quo of remaining a commonwealth. It’s up to Congress to ratify statehood, but previous referenda have been ignored…And the current movement has scant support on capitol hill.

    KENNETH McCLINTOCK: If we’re American citizens, we should strive to have first class treatment in Puerto Rico.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Former Puerto Rican Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock is president of “Equality for Puerto Rico,” a pro-statehood lobby group.

    KENNETH McCLINTOCK: Once we move to Orlando, or New York, or Texas, or North Carolina, we’re treated as first class citizens. We have the right to vote, we have the right to congressional representation, we have the right to participate in every federal program.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: McClintock believes Puerto Rico’s territory status led to the crisis, in part, because past governments were forced to borrow for essential services like roads and health care. For example, Puerto Rico receives much less federal funding for Medicaid than U.S. states do.

    KENNETH McCLINTOCK: The truth is that there will not be a stable fiscal situation, economic situation in Puerto Rico, until there’s economic growth. And there will not be a healthy economic growth rate until there is equality.

    MANUEL NATAL: I’m one of the people that believe that we should definitely attend to the issue of status. But it’s not a magic wand that will resolve all of our problems.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Manuel Natal, a representative in Puerto Rico’s own legislature, favors remaining a commonwealth with more economic sovereignty. For example, he’d like Congress to repeal the century old law that requires all imports to arrive on American made and manned ships, which makes all food and goods more expensive.

    MANUEL NATAL: The tools that we have to achieve economic development in Puerto Rico, one Congress might give it to you, another congress might take it away.

    But for some on the island, the solution for Puerto Rico is separating from the U.S. And becoming a sovereign nation.

    JUAN DELMAU: Puerto Rico is a Latin American, Caribbean nationality with its own identity.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Puerto Rican senator Juan Delmau leads the Puerto Rican Independence Party, the third largest on the island.

    JUAN DELMAU: An independent Puerto Rico would have political and legal authority to join the global community and open markets while at the same time maintaining friendship and cooperation with the U.S. But on an equal footing, not in political subordination.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: While challenges to the status quo persist, last month, the federally appointed financial oversight board approved deep spending cuts to Puerto Rico’s budget.

    JOSE CARRION: Regardless of how anyone feels about status in Puerto Rico, you need a balanced budget.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: This graffiti on one San Juan street reads “Down with his majesty Jose Carrion”

    JOSE CARRION: It makes me sad, and you know, I’m not a politician, so I’m learning to deal with criticism of that nature.

    IVETTE FELICIANO: Yet Carrion says he understands the criticism that his board is not accountable to the island’s residents.

    JOSE CARRION: There’s no way anybody could conceivably think that this is a democratic process. But, how about looking at the positive sides. The law, it provides us the opportunity to procure a way forward, and to restructure, you know, $72 billion worth of debt. We need to take this opportunity that congress has provided us and move our people and our island forward.

    The post After Congress steps in, Puerto Rico reignites statehood debate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Curlfest1

    Belania Daley, 26, came to Curlfest in Brooklyn, New York, on July 15, 2017. “I never knew what my texture was until I started growing locs and I absolutely love it,” she said. “I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’m learning about all these different hair brands that are specifically black-owned and I’m shocked. I didn’t know that there were this many.” Photo by Jenna Gray

    Heads adorned by curls, kinky hair, locs and braids bob in laughter. People dressed in bright, multicolored African prints pose for photos while friends and strangers alike act like these momentary models’ biggest fans, cheering “Yes!” and “Work!”

    For many members of the natural hair community, this scene is dreamlike. While beauty standards have evolved throughout the years, black scholars and activists point out that pop culture has often depicted white people as setting the standard of beauty, leading some people of color to alter or conceal their features. Enter Curlfest, an annual celebration of multicultural beauty in Brooklyn, New York, which took place July 15.

    “For decades and years we as people of color have … never felt or been made to feel that we are beautiful the way that we were. We are conditioned to want to have lighter skin or have straighter hair or have lighter eyes,” said Charisse Higgins, director of public relations for the Curly Girl Collective, which organized the event. “I think now we’re just at a place where we’re like, ‘You know what? The kinkier my hair is, the more interesting and beautiful that it is.’”

    “It’s okay to wear your hair crazy and wild. Curly hair is beautiful.” — Jadira Hiraldo, Curlfest attendee

    The Curly Girl Collective formed after a friend of the collective’s five directors did “the big chop,” a ritual of cutting one’s chemically treated or damaged hair and beginning to grow hair naturally. She was looking for advice on styling her natural hair texture with its shorter length, so she created an online group dedicated to the discussion of hair that grew to nearly 100 members.

    One of the members, Tracey Coleman, who would later become the collective’s director of events, hosted some of the group members at her home, where they swapped their favorite hair products, watched a demonstration by a professional hairstylist and styled one another’s hair.

    Coleman and four other women — Higgins, Melody Henderson, Simone Mair and Gia Lowe — decided to host events for the public, calling themselves the Curly Girl Collective. They organized live big chops, a discussion with black-owned hair brand creators and more product swaps.

    In 2014, they hosted the first annual Curlfest, which became the collective’s signature event.

    This year’s festival, which organizers said was the largest ever, drew thousands of people from around the world who bought hair products, exchanged beauty advice and above all, served looks.

    PBS NewsHour Weekend spoke with festival attendees to find out why they celebrated their hair at Curlfest.

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    Mominatu Boog, 23. Photo by Jenna Gray

    Mominatu Boog, 23

    My hair means everything to me. I love it. I like to play around with different styles. I wear it natural. It makes me feel confident, it gives me my look. It’s almost like I don’t want to have my identity in my hair, but it makes me feel like a bad b*tch. I love my natural hair.

    I think [this festival is] important because it allows other women to embrace their hair. And when you have that platform in the media for something that’s so huge as Curlfest, like rock your natural hair, it gives the women who may feel like “Oh, my hair isn’t pretty, my hair isn’t good” the confidence to walk outside and be like “You know what? My sh*t is cute.”

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    Cheyenne Sookoo, 17. Photo by Jenna Gray

    Cheyenne Sookoo, 17

    It’s like a community here. Everybody is coming here with the same mindset: to enjoy themselves because everyone has natural hair. It’s something they’ve been taught to suppress because of certain white standards. Now everybody’s just loving themselves and I love it. I love the energy and the vibes and free stuff too.

    People, especially a lot of young ones, need to understand to love themselves because they’re taught to suppress these things. Growing up in a world like this, you need to love what you have growing out of your hair. It’s a hard world out there for people of color so they need to learn to love themselves.

    Kennedy Horn, 7. Photo by Jenna Gray

    Kennedy Horn, 7. Photo by Jenna Gray

    Candice Horn, 32, and daughter Kennedy Horn, 7

    Candice: This is our second year coming, my first year bringing my daughter Kennedy, because last year when I came everybody asked about her so I thought might as well as bring her. I just love the festival, the black girl magic, it just feels it’s like a feeling you can’t really put into words.

    Kennedy: I feel good about [my hair]. It’s my style … I like the colors because it goes with Curlfest. I’m excited to meet all the bloggers.

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    Nyja Richardson, 23. Photo by Jenna Gray

    Nyja Richardson, 23

    My hair is my crown. It’s pretty much the first thing that you see. My hair exudes so much energy. I love my hair. It’s definitely part of who I am as a person. … I like to show that you can do versatility with our hair. The amazing thing about our texture is that it can be straight, it can be curly, it has superpowers, it literally can do whatever. It can defy gravity.

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    Jhazly Troncoso, 9. Photo by Jenna Gray

    Jadira Hiraldo, 32, and daughter Jhazly Troncoso, 9

    Jadira: A lot of girls, in my culture — I’m from the Dominican Republic — we tend to perm our hair. When we’re pregnant, the first thing they say to us is “Oh, I hope she doesn’t come out with bad hair.” Like curly hair is a bad thing. She came out with extremely curly hair and they were like, “Oh, well, you can blow dry it.” I’m like, “Leave my daughter with her hair like that!”

    So she noticed right away at an early age that we don’t have the same texture. I tend to embrace it. Say like, “We don’t have the same texture, but you have to go all out for your hair.” … I want little girls her age to know it’s okay to have curly hair. It’s okay to wear your hair crazy and wild. Curly hair is beautiful.

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    Marshall Roach, 25. Photo by Jenna Gray

    Marshall Roach, 25

    I’ve had my locs for a decade this year. It was something I knew I always wanted and grew into my own. I love locs because they’re very personal, no two sets are alike. It’s really an extension of you, your energy, your vibe. I love them. They’re a huge part of who I am and have been for the last decade.

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    Breielle Chandler, 8, left, Khayriyyah Chandler, 34, center, and Kaiyah Chandler, 5, right. Photo by Jenna Gray

    Khayriyyah Chandler, 34

    [I’m here] to check things out and for my little ones see the large gathering of black women, particularly so they can identify with their hair and give them some encouragement.

    It’s a simple identification. Obviously my skin is dark but my hair is also who I am. It’s an appendage of its own.

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    Ayla Espinal, 27, left, and Nicole Vasquez, 32, right. Photo by Jenna Gray

    Nicole Vasquez, 32, and Ayla Espinal, 27

    Espinal: [My hair] just identifies me. People remember me by it. I’m the only one in my job that has huge hair, so everybody is always like, “her with the curly hair.” It’s what I think about. If I have a bad hair day, I’m gonna have a bad day and if I have a good hair day, I’m gonna have an amazing day.

    Vasquez: Especially I think nowadays and in our communities where natural hair is still in some parts not so much as taboo but still coming into acceptance, I think it’s important to have a space where you can not have that judgement or that concern and really just the appreciation of natural hair no matter what culture you are.

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    Jazzmene Ford, 27. Photo by Jenna Gray

    Jazzmene Ford, 27

    I have a love-hate relationship with my hair. I have very thick hair and I love that my hair is very thick and healthy. I have a lot of freedom to do a range of styles. I have a hate relationship because it’s so thick. Because it’s so thick and it’s so hard to manage I often use protective styles. So now is why I have the faux locs in, to protect it and give me a break from doing my hair all the time.

    My hair is an extension of myself, so it’s an extension of my personality. I’m able to express myself depending on however I feel or whatever type of mood I’m in able to convey that mood or whatever I’m trying to express through my hair.

    The post ‘It makes me feel confident, it gives me my look’ — Festival celebrates natural hair appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    governors health care

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: The Affordable Care Act has added 21 million Americans to insurance rolls, two-thirds of them through Medicaid, and 20 Republican senators represent states that expanded Medicaid through Obamacare. Governors, of course, don’t get to vote on any congressional legislation, but they do have a big voice and stake in health care.

    At this week’s national governors association in Providence, Rhode Island, there was bipartisan skepticism and even resistance to the Republican plan.

    “Washington Post” reporter Sean Sullivan was at the governors’ gathering and joins me now from Washington.

    The governor’s association summer meeting not usually something that we care much about. But right now, why are the spotlights so tuned in on this conversation?

    SEAN SULLIVAN, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, this is usually a really low key affair that doesn’t generate a lot of news. But this time, it was a closely watched gathering and the reason was health care.

    A lot of Republican senators who are on the fence right now about voting for this Senate bill are looking to their home state governors, they’re looking to them for guidance. They’re looking to see how they respond to this bill because in the end, it’s going to be the governors that are going to bear a lot of the responsibility for some of the coverage losses that may come about as a result of this bill, some of the cuts to Medicaid that may come about as a result of this bill.

    And so, they are watching these governors very closely before they ultimately say, am I going to vote yes? Am I going to vote no? And there are a lot of skeptical governors.

    SREENIVASAN: And Brian Sandoval, the governor from Nevada, seems to be the belle of the ball here. He seems to have a lot of sway.

    SULLIVAN: Yes. If you’re going to watch one Republican and you want to figure out how this whole thing is going to shake out, whether this bill is going to pass or not, you should watch Brian Sandoval. He is very, very popular in the state of Nevada. He was the first Republican governor to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. And he said he is really, really worried about the cuts to Medicaid, the long term federal spending cuts to Medicaid that this Senate bill would impose.

    He met individually with Vice President Pence, with other administration officials. He listened as Pence gave a long detailed speech. He listened during a breakfast where administration officials explained he should get behind this. But even after 48 hours of that hard sell, he was still skeptical. He still has his worries.

    SREENIVASAN: Something else that’s concerning a lot of governors seems the amount of money dedicated for opioid addiction, opioid addiction relief and how these states are going to have to deal with this significant crisis that they have on their hands.

    SULLIVAN: Yes, this was something that was added to the latest version of the bill at the request of a couple of Republicans from Ohio and West Virginia. They added a dedicated $45 billion fund to treat opioid addiction, you know, in these states across the country. And the governors we talked to were pleased, and they said, look, this is a step in the right direction. But a lot of skeptics say, look, $45 billion, you know, given pretty big cuts that we’re seeing to federal funding of Medicaid in the long term, you know, that’s not a lot.

    SREENIVASAN: All right. Sean Sullivan of “The Washington Post”, thanks so much.

    SULLIVAN: Thanks, Hari.

    The post Governors from both parties wary of GOP health care plan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Labor activists listen during a Seattle City Council meeting in which the council voted on raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour in Seattle, Washington June 2, 2014. The Seattle city council voted unanimously on Monday to approve a sharp increase in the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next seven years, marking the first time a major U.S. city has committed to such a high base level of pay. REUTERS/David Ryder (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT) - RTR3RWZO

    Trickle-down economics claims that if wages go up, jobs must come down. A controversial new study from the University of Washington has inadvertently fallen prey to that antiquated narrative, writes venture capitalist and minimum wage advocate Nick Hanauer. Photo by David Ryder/Reuters

    Editor’s note: In June, a working paper by University of Washington economic researchers on the negative effects of Seattle’s minimum wage increase set off a flurry of dire headlines. “Seattle’s Minimum Wage Hike May Have Gone Too Far,” FiveThirtyEight’s headline read. “A ‘very credible’ new study on Seattle’s $15 minimum wage has bad news for liberals,” the Washington Post wrote. Conservatives pointed to the study as proof that raising the minimum wage hurts low-wage workers, while economic thinkers on the left rushed to discredit it.

    Making Sen$e has long covered the minimum wage debate, from a 1996 interview with Princeton professor and Obama economic adviser Alan Krueger to the series from Seattle in 2013 when a minimum wage hike first appeared on the ballot there. Economists like Diana Furchtgott-Roth, who served as chief of staff of President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, Veronique de Rugy of the conservative Mercatus Center and John Komlos, a liberal professor emeritus of economics at the University of Munich, have debated the pros and cons of raising the minimum wage on this page.

    For this latest study, we asked venture capitalist, minimum wage advocate and Seattle native Nick Hanauer to weigh in. Hanauer has been one of Making Sen$e’s most popular columnists. His post, “This is why the middle class can’t get ahead,” drew 94,000 likes on Facebook. Hanauer has defended a minimum wage hike on this page before, with Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute arguing vigorously against him.

    Below, Hanauer argues that the study by the University of Washington is a product of trickle-down economic theory and that workers in Seattle, contrary to the study’s findings, are doing just fine. You can read Texas A&M economist Jonathan Meer’s column on why we should take the University of Washington study seriously here.

    — Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e editor


    Trickle-down economics is best known as the claim that when the rich get richer, that’s good for the economy. But the real perniciousness of the idea is its inverse: If the poor get richer, that’s bad for the economy. And the anchoring concept of that claim — that if wages go up, jobs must come down — is the narrative that has enabled the suppression of wages for poor and middle-class workers for a generation. A controversial new study from my alma mater, the University of Washington, has inadvertently fallen prey to that antiquated narrative.

    As you may know, Seattle was the first major city in the nation to adopt a $15 minimum wage — an increase that began in 2015 and unfolds through 2021, depending on the size of the employer and benefits provided. (Full disclosure: I was on the 24-member committee that advised the mayor on this policy.) Pundits on the left and the right have looked to my city as the bellwether for wage increases nationwide, and every shred of data coming out of Seattle has been intensely scrutinized.

    Over the last month, two university study teams have released two very different reports on Seattle’s minimum wage, and now everyone’s trying to discern the signal from a whole lot of noise. Let me help.

    A report released by the University of California at Berkeley on June 20 was full of good news for Seattle’s workers. The Berkeley research team investigated seven years of food-service wages and found increased pay had no negative impact on employment. Or, in their own words: “Employment in food service … was not affected, even among the limited-service restaurants, many of them franchisees, for whom the policy was most binding.”

    Low-wages are disappearing in Seattle, but jobs are not, exactly as we expected. What is happening is those low wages are being replaced with more livable wages for the same work — also exactly as we expected.

    On June 26, a working paper from a study team at the University of Washington backed up those claims. A study from the same team last year found that workers’ wages increased, low-wage employment increased and the number of hours worked increased after Seattle raised the minimum wage. The latest study agreed with the Berkeley team’s paper that “analysis focusing on restaurant employment at all wage levels, analogous to many prior studies, yields minimum wage employment impact estimates near zero.”

    Back in June of 2013, when I published an editorial in Bloomberg titled “The Capitalist’s Case for a $15 Minimum Wage,” I argued that raising the minimum wage would be good for everyone. In June of 2014, a Forbes blogger called my proposal “Near Insane.”

    And now, three years after that, two independent study groups from two respected universities confirm that raising the minimum wage hasn’t negatively affected wages or hours worked in restaurants. This is great news that confirms our original thesis — the novel concept that when restaurant workers can afford to eat in restaurants, it works out better for everyone. Low-wages are disappearing in Seattle, but jobs are not, exactly as we expected. What is happening is those low wages are being replaced with more livable wages for the same work — also exactly as we expected.

    But the University of Washington working paper abstract sounds a lot more damning. The study team claims that the latest round of wage increases — in which some large employers went all the way to $15 — saw a 9 percent decrease in hours worked. The paper also implies that the increase cut low-wage worker pay by $125 a month.

    Before you go sharing some doom and gloom headline on Facebook, you should bear in mind that the University of Washington working paper arrives with at least three major caveats.

    1. The working paper defines low-wage as anyone who earns between the legal minimum wage all the way up to $19 per hour — a weird number which seems to redefine the idea of “low-wage labor.”
    2. Due to state labor data restrictions, the study excludes multilocation establishments. This is kind of a big deal, particularly since these locations employ nearly 40 percent of all workers in Seattle and since they raised the minimum wage higher and faster than single-location businesses. That means if you worked for a single-store establishment, but quit to go work across the street at a multistore establishment doing the same job for more money, the working paper counts that as a “lost job.”
    3. Much of the University of Washington working paper compares Seattle’s tremendous growth (more on this later) with that of “Synthetic Seattle,” a control group frankensteined out of Washington state ZIP codes in which the minimum wage didn’t increase. But given that Washington ZIP codes outside of Seattle tend to be nothing like Seattle, this is highly suspect.

    READ MORE: Column: Why a $15 minimum wage should scare us

    READ MORE: Column: Why a $15 minimum wage shouldn’t scare us

    Synthetic Seattle, we’re told, created a few more jobs, and faster, with no minimum wage increase. Slightly fewer businesses supposedly closed and slightly more businesses supposedly opened. A few workers in Synthetic Seattle worked a few more hours than workers in real Seattle. But of course, you and I can’t work in Synthetic Seattle, because Synthetic Seattle doesn’t exist. It’s a model made up of parts of Washington state that didn’t see a minimum wage increase, but which did see similar rates of economic growth. I can’t tell you which parts of Washington state they are exactly — my office asked the University of Washington team to share their model and their data and, tellingly, they refused — but if you’ve spent any time in this state, you understand how truly bizarre this type of modeling is.

    Most economists use synthetic models to measure effects of minimum wage increases. The Berkeley team used a Synthetic Seattle to reach their findings, and they calibrated their synthetic model so it tracks perfectly with real Seattle for six years before the wage increase. Importantly, they used ZIP codes from around the country that were from cities similar to Seattle in every way save the minimum wage increase.

    Why do low-wage workers in the University of Washington working paper’s Synthetic Seattle outperform low-wage workers in real Seattle? It’s hard to say without access to the model, but because their Synthetic Seattle’s results match up with conventional wisdom — that fallacious claim made by generations of trickle-down proponents arguing that if you raise wages, you get fewer jobs — partisans on social media and credulous reporters in the conservative bubble are eager to repeat them. Confirmation bias is a hell of a drug.

    Labor activists celebrate during a rally at Seattle City Hall after a Seattle City Council meeting in which the council voted on raising the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour in Seattle, Washington June 2, 2014. The Seattle city council voted unanimously on Monday to approve a sharp increase in the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next seven years, marking the first time a major U.S. city has committed to such a high base level of pay. REUTERS/David Ryder (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT) - RTR3RX17

    Labor activists celebrate during a rally at Seattle City Hall after a Seattle City Council meeting in which the council voted on raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour in Seattle, Washington on June 2, 2014. Photo by David Ryder/Reuters

    Once you set aside their synthetic models, the supposed “smoking gun” in the University of Washington working paper is a table that displays wage rates over the span of the increase to date. The total number of jobs beneath $13 per hour keeps declining. This is to be expected; it’s what happens when you raise the minimum wage to more than $13.

    The table also shows a decline, to the tune of about 6,000 jobs, in the number of non-restaurant jobs paying between $13 and $19. (There’s virtually no decline at all on the restaurant side.) Are those jobs just disappearing into nothingness? The University of Washington working paper can’t say for sure, but the study’s team sure seems to think so.

    During the same time period, however, workers in Seattle earning over $19 per hour increased by almost 44,000. If a worker left a janitorial position that paid $13 an hour and got hired by another firm for $21 per hour, so far as the University of Washington study team is concerned, she would transform from a low-wage, low-skill worker into a high-wage, high-skill worker, even if the new and old jobs both required the exact same skill set. Meanwhile, around the corner from my office, a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop posted a sign in their window offering employment at $20 per hour. Same job, higher pay — but for the University of Washington study team, once it went over $19, it counted as a low-wage job loss.

    Jimmy John's

    A Jimmy John’s sandwich shop in Seattle is offering employment at $20 per hour. Photo courtesy Nick Hanauer

    Here’s what’s clear to me: Those disappearing jobs from the working paper haven’t gone anywhere; they just got better. We haven’t lost jobs. We just lost a poverty wage and replaced it with a living wage. (Hell, the fact that this paper has to define low wages as $19 per hour tells you how much the wage window has shifted in Seattle in just a few short years.) We have more jobs and more workers in Seattle; it’s just that fewer traditionally low-wage jobs still pay low wages. That’s terrific news  —  and it’s exactly why we implemented the $15 wage in the first place.

    It’s quite possible that a highly competitive job market is driving Seattle’s wages even higher than the minimum. Right before the two papers were published, the Seattle Times published a story titled “Heated local economy has employers working hard to fill jobs,” which quoted a Washington state labor economist as saying that “Job seekers are finding it easier to secure employment, and employers are in a position of needing to compete with other employers for qualified candidates.”

    The story even quoted one local restaurateur — someone, coincidentally, who agitated against the $15 minimum wage — making that same argument on Facebook in more colorful language: “I’d give my right pinkie up for an awesome dishwasher,” she wrote. “Where did they all go?”

    So, uh, where did they all go?

    When Seattle enacted the $15 minimum wage two years ago, unemployment sat at 4.5 percent. Over the last two years, our unemployment fell to 2.6 percent — the lowest ever recorded in our city and a number that comes alarmingly close to full employment. For two years running, Seattle has more construction cranes in its skyline than any other American city by far.

    We have more hotels in Seattle than when we passed the $15 minimum wage. We added more restaurants — the most this city has ever seen. Businesses keep moving here. And it seems very unlikely that all those delivery driver and parking lot attendant and window washer positions are now being staffed by highly skilled middle managers.

    King County, which surrounds Seattle, saw the largest year-over-year increase in employment in the country — in fact, it is the only large county in the entire United States to see an increase in average weekly wages. Employment is up in almost every low-wage industry. If there is a band of thousands of low-wage janitors and baristas roaming the streets in desperate search of employment, I have yet to encounter them.

    Seattle metro hotel and restaurant job growth continues to outpace the nation.

    Hotel and restaurant job growth in the Seattle metro area continues to outpace the nation, writes Nick Hanauer.

    Here’s the thing: We didn’t just set out to raise a few paychecks when we raised the minimum wage in Seattle — though of course that was a goal too. What we wanted to do was inspire a civic conversation about the meaning and value of work, to redefine low wages and to examine the pivotal question of who gets what and why.

    The dirty little secret behind the modern economy is that low wages are low not because some invisible hand dictated that they stay low. They’re low because rich people like me prefer not to pay more. The claims that employment will go down if wages go up is an intimidation tactic masquerading as economic theory. The truth is that people are not paid what they are worth — they are paid what they can negotiate.

    There is a vast and growing body of evidence, which proves that minimum wage increases have little to no effect on employment. And while study teams on the right and the left continue to issue working papers arguing over whether Seattle is booming or doomed, I witness a city all around me every day that has enjoyed tremendous, almost unprecedented, growth.

    Seattle is booming not in spite of the $15 minimum wage, but because of it.

    Finally, let me share one last thing that I’ve noticed every working paper finds agreement on with regard to Seattle. It’s difficult to separate the effects of the increased minimum wage, every researcher cautions, from the city’s tremendous growth.

    Amazon is expanding at enormous rates, they point out. Google and Facebook are investing in the city. High-wage, high-value employers are moving to town and setting up shop, and critics argue that these numbers are skewing the results of the minimum wage experiment.

    I’d argue that these researchers have cause and effect exactly wrong. Seattle is booming not in spite of the $15 minimum wage, but because of it. Our growth comes because we have declared ourselves a high-wage, high-value city. Judged solely on the bottom line, it would make more sense for Amazon to set up shop in Topeka or Oklahoma City, but Amazon keeps investing in Seattle. Why?

    Because we all do better when we all do better. Because when even dishwashers can afford to shop from Amazon and drink at bars alongside Amazon employees, that’s good for everyone, even the owners of the restaurants paying higher wages. That’s the choice we’re making every day in Seattle, and you can see the positive results everywhere you look.

    The post Column: Fighting trickle-down economics in Seattle appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Behnam Partopour, a Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) student from Iran, is greeted by his sister Bahar (L) at Logan Airport after he cleared U.S. customs and immigration on an F1 student visa in Boston, Massachusetts, in February. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    Behnam Partopour, a Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) student from Iran, is greeted by his sister at Logan Airport after he cleared U.S. customs and immigration in February in Boston. The State Department on Monday expanded its definition of “close family” to include grandparents and other relatives that constitute a bona fide U.S. relationship for visa applicants and refugees from six mainly Muslim nations. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The State Department on Monday expanded its definition of “close family” to include grandparents and other relatives that constitute a bona fide U.S. relationship for visa applicants and refugees from six mainly Muslim nations.

    In response to a Hawaii federal judge’s order last week, the department instructed U.S. diplomats to consider grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces and first cousins to meet the criteria for applicants from the six countries to receive a U.S. visa.

    They had been omitted by the department after the Supreme Court partially upheld the Trump administration’s travel ban in June. Initially, it had included only parents, spouses, fiancés, children, adult sons or daughters, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law and siblings. Monday’s instructions change that.

    “The ruling is effective immediately and we have issued instructions to our embassies and consulates to use the expanded definition when adjudicating visa cases,” the department said. Under the rules, applicants from the six countries — Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen — have to prove a bona fide relationship with a person or entity, including a “close familial relationship” in the U.S. to be exempt from the ban.

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

    U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson had ruled on Thursday that excluding grandparents and others defied common sense.

    “Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents,” he wrote. “Indeed grandparents are the epitome of close family members.”

    The Trump administration has appealed the Hawaii order to the Supreme Court saying that Watson’s interpretation of the Supreme Court’s ruling on what family relationships qualify refugees and visitors from the six Muslim-majority countries to enter the U.S. “empties the court’s decision of meaning, as it encompasses not just ‘close’ family members, but virtually all family members. Treating all of these relationships as ‘close familial relationship(s)’ reads the term ‘close’ out of the Court’s decision.”

    The post State Department expands definition of ‘close family’ for visa applicants, refugees appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, remembering filmmaker George Romero, the master of the zombie movie and a man whose influence in the business went further than many moviegoers realize.

    Jeffrey Brown has our look.

    ACTOR: Medical examination of victims bodies show conclusively that the killers are eating the flesh of the people they kill.

    JEFFREY BROWN: With a $100,000 in 1968, George Romero brought the undead back to life in American culture. His “Night of the Living Dead” became a cult classic, and launched a modern zombie industry of soulless ghouls with a taste for human flesh popping up everywhere today.

    For Romero, his films were about more than just blood and graphic violence.

    GEORGE ROMERO, Director: This series of films have been sort of my platform. It’s ripe for metaphor. And the zombies, to me, have always represented the people that are just unwilling to stand up. And, you know, there are a lot of living dead in America.

    JEFFREY BROWN: “Night of the Living Dead,” starring an African-American actor, was seen as a kind of social commentary on racism and the paranoid mood of its time.

    A decade later, Romero’s first sequel, “Dawn of the Dead,” played on the excesses of American consumerism. Roger Ebert dubbed it one of the best horror films ever made, savagely merciless in its satiric view.

    Romero followed up with many other films, including four more in the “Dead” series, with varying degrees of box office success.

    But the zombie world he unleashed took on a massive multibillion-dollar life of its own in blockbuster films like “World War Z,” video games, and AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”

    That, in turn, led Romero to sour a bit on the genre he helped popularize.

    He spoke on NPR in 2014.

    GEORGE ROMERO: It’s, all of a sudden, you can’t make a little zombie film anymore. Has to be special effects and big budget. And I’m not — I’m just not interested in that.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Later in life, he shifted to different media, including teaming up with Marvel to publish a comic book series.

    George Romero died Sunday in Toronto from lung cancer. He was 77 years old.

    And for more on George Romero and his impact, I’m joined by Justin Chang, film critic for The Los Angeles Times.

    Welcome to you, Justin.

    Zombies, who would have thought? What explains the impact of those early films?

    JUSTIN CHANG, The Los Angeles Times: Well, I think when you have a film like “Night of the Living Dead,” which is, I think, one of the great debut films that any director in or outside the horror genre has ever given us, you have to look at the context, you know, Vietnam, Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, the recent assassinations of the Kennedy brothers.

    It was a time of, obviously, great social unrest. And George Romero found, unwittingly or not, a perfect metaphor for that unrest. And I think it was about the primitiveness of the filmmaking, the very raw technique. It was shot on a $114,000 budget, which is about $800,000 today, still a very small budget.

    And he achieved this kind of — a film that was almost like a documentary nightmare. And it really captured, I think, a sense of rage and of pointlessness, a kind of senseless, arbitrary killing that was really unsettling for audiences at the time, and is still enormously unsettling today.

    JEFFREY BROWN: His films, of course, largely done on the cheap, but somehow a cult thing grew into a very large cultural phenomenon.

    He wasn’t so crazy — as we heard, he wasn’t so crazy about what followed?

    JUSTIN CHANG: Absolutely.

    I mean, we live in a culture where zombies are proliferating on screens, whether it’s “World War Z” or “The Walking Dead,” which is still hugely popular, or the remake of “Dawn of the Dead” about 13 years ago, and terrific spoofs like “Shaun of the Dead,” which I think is one of the few that George Romero has professed to actually liking.

    So, in a way, he was, I think, understandably disenchanted with the way that Hollywood really mainstreamed the zombie film and the zombie TV show, and in some ways took out that edginess, that political subtext that he was so good at putting in there.

    And I think he especially resented things like “The Walking Dead,” because it made it very difficult for him to get his own zombie movies financed on an independent level. And he was a consummate independent filmmaker, and something of a Hollywood outsider and skeptic, I think, all his career, which makes his success all the more remarkable.

    JEFFREY BROWN: For a lot of people, this stuff goes way too far, right, the graphic violence that’s part of our society and that’s really part of our entertainment culture.

    Did he help create that, for better or for worse?

    JUSTIN CHANG: I don’t think it’s entirely fair to lay that as George Romero’s doorstep. And I say that as someone who’s on the more squeamish side of the spectrum as far as horror movie viewers goes.

    But I think you have to look at his films, a film like “Dawn of the Dead,” which is, I think, as great a masterpiece as “Night of the Living Dead” is. There is always something more going on beneath the violence.

    If you’re just there for the splatter and the viscera, you will get that. But he gives you — he’s always asking you to look a little closer, see what’s going on, see who these zombies represent, see who the real monsters are in a way.

    And so I don’t think it’s entirely fair to say that he’s responsible for the fetishization and exploitation of violence in our culture. He’s using it — I mean, he’s exploiting violence in his own way, to very brilliant and very provocative ends.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Just briefly, I do want to mention the passing of another movie figure, the actor Martin Landau. He was known early on, on television, in “Mission: Impossible,” later in films, including “Ed Wood,” for which he won an Oscar for best supporting actor.

    Let’s take a look at a short scene from Woody Allen’s 1989 film “Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

    MARTIN LANDAU, Actor: This is what you plan on doing. You’re going to hold on to me with threats, right, stupid threats and slander? This is your idea of love, right?

    ACTRESS: I will not be tossed out. I want to speak to Miriam.

    MARTIN LANDAU: Think. For Christ’s sake, think what the hell you are doing to me, will you? Please.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Justin Chang, a brief thought on Martin Landau?

    JUSTIN CHANG: Martin Landau was such a wonderful actor.

    And that scene you play sort of, I think, captures his elegance and gravitas, his ability to play a silken villain that we feel for. In that film, he’s an adulterous husband who contemplates the murder of his lover.

    And it’s — you know, I’m reminded, too, of his great performance many decades earlier in Alfred Hitchcock’s “North By Northwest,” where he took the role of a villain’s number two and made it something really memorable and really incisive out of that.

    And so it’s not that he could only play villains, certainly not, but he had, I think, a real talent for playing morally ambiguous characters, and doing it superbly.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Justin Chang of The Los Angeles Times, thank you very much.

    JUSTIN CHANG: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And we thank you, Jeff.

    And I was covering my eyes until we got to Martin Landau.

    The post Remembering George Romero, 77, filmmaker who brought the undead to life appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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