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

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

    U.S. President Donald Trump reacts as he attends a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on July 13, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

    President Donald Trump will reach the six-month mark of his presidency Thursday without having signed a single major piece of legislation into law. His controversial travel ban has been partially blocked by the courts, and Republicans in Congress have struggled, and so far failed, to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The Russia story won’t go away.

    Just 36 percent of Americans approve of Mr. Trump’s job performance, according to a recent ABC/Washington Post poll.

    But like many things in the age of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” Trump’s approval rating is up for debate. Trump questioned the accuracy of the ABC/Washington Post poll over the weekend, noting in a tweet that “almost 40% is not bad at this time.”

    The comment was a classic Trumpism, at once untruthful and, as it pertains to his base, politically astute. In the history of modern polling, which began with the widespread adoption of the home telephone in the United States after World War II and Harry Truman’s presidency, no other president has held such a low approval rating through their first six months in office.

    And yet, as Trump’s tweet suggested, things could be worse. Nearly four in 10 Americans still support him, despite his early stumbles on immigration and health care, his caustic social media presence and his uneven performance on the world stage. As Trump moves into the second half of his first year in office, it has become clear that his base isn’t budging, at least not yet.

    When candidate Trump claimed at a campaign rally in January 2016 that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York City and not lose voters, “he was speaking with a good understanding of what his base is about,” said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. Eighteen months later, little has changed.

    “His base isn’t deserting him,” Miringoff said.

    Trump’s popularity could continue to slide, slowly, in the months to come. Polling shows that moderate Republicans and independents have started breaking with Trump over health care, the investigations into Russia’s ties to the Trump campaign, and his leadership abroad. Still, there are several factors working in Trump’s favor that could keep his approval rating from slipping much further.

    There are several factors working in Trump’s favor that could keep his approval rating from slipping much further.

    Trump’s approval rating will hinge on the economy more than any other issue, Miringoff said. When it comes to a president’s popularity, it “does all come back to the economy.”

    At a press conference in February, soon after taking office, Trump claimed that he “inherited a mess at home.” Two weeks later, he painted a dire picture of the economy in his first address to a joint session of Congress.

    But in fact Trump, who ran on a platform of reviving the U.S. economy, inherited a relatively stable economy from his predecessor. The unemployment rate the month Trump was sworn in was 4.8 percent, three points lower than it was when Barack Obama entered the White House in 2009. The unemployment rate has since dropped to 4.4 percent, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    In June, the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate for the fourth time since late 2015, the latest sign of the central bank’s confidence that the economy has recovered from the Great Recession.

    The White House’s proposed budget, which was released earlier this year, projected that the economy would grow at an annual rate of three percent over the next decade.

    Most economists do not share that view; the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated in a March report that the economy would grow by 1.9 percent annually over the next 10 years.

    But barring an unforeseen downturn, voters could enter next year’s midterm elections feeling confident about their economic future, said Robert Shapiro, a political science professor and polling expert at Columbia University. “The economy is basically holding steady and improving in a lot of respects,” Shapiro said.

    President Donald Trump leads a rally marking his first 100 days in office in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, U.S. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    President Donald Trump leads a rally marking his first 100 days in office in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, U.S. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    Trump can only benefit from Obama’s economy for so long, however. At some point, Shapiro said, voters will judge him based on his own record, and whether he delivered on his campaign promise to create jobs and bring back the manufacturing and coal industries.

    “The big question is, will Trump’s supporters be disappointed if he can’t point to tangible things he promised to do,” Shapiro said.

    In addition to creating new jobs, said Barbara Perry, the director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, Trump’s supporters will also expect him to cut taxes, build new infrastructure, and successfully roll back Obama’s signature health care law.

    As a candidate, Trump tapped into voter anger with Washington, claiming often that he would use the business acumen he honed in the private sector to run government more efficiently. But now that Trump is in office, “I think it is possible that if that anger continues, at some point it gets directed at him,” Perry said.

    Trump is skilled at both dodging responsibility for his actions, and taking credit for other people’s achievements.

    But Trump is skilled at both dodging responsibility for his actions, and taking credit for other people’s achievements, Perry added.

    Trump displayed those skills on Tuesday, after Senate Republicans conceded that they don’t have enough votes to pass the GOP leadership’s health care bill. In a series of tweets, Trump blamed the breakdown on “all of the Democrats and a few Republicans,” and argued that the parties would “come together and do a great healthcare plan” in the future.

    The statements stand in sharp contrast to the traditional notion in politics, which past presidents largely accepted, that the buck stops with the occupant of the Oval Office. Perry cited President Kennedy, who accepted responsibility for the failed U.S.-backed invasion of Cuba in 1961 during a press conference days after the Bay of Pigs fiasco.

    After Kennedy “accepted responsibility for that disaster, his [favorable] poll ratings jumped” to over 80 percent, Perry said.

    In 1983, after a terrorist attack killed 241 American marines in Lebanon, President Reagan said any blame for the deaths “properly rests here in this office and with this president. And I accept responsibility for the bad as well as the good.”

    Trump, on the other hand, has not “taken responsibility for any of the failures or missteps” of his administration, Perry argued. But Trump has retained his core support so far, she said, because he “is a master of stating why he can’t get things done, and whether he’s stating it accurately or not doesn’t seem to matter to his base.”

    President Bill Clinton throwing out the first pitch at an Orioles game in 1996. Clinton suffered a setback in the midterms but won reelection and left office with high approval ratings. File photo by Scott Wachter//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

    Trump’s hold on a third of the electorate has as much to do with changes in American politics in recent decades — namely, the rise of polarization — as it does with his skills as a communicator, Shapiro said.

    “In the past, when public support dropped off or increased for a president, [every part of the electorate] changed in the same direction at roughly the same rate,” Shapiro said. As public support for the Korean War waned, President Truman’s approval rating dropped among both Democrats and Republicans, Shapiro said.

    “In recent years, you have less of that and you have partisan differences increasing,” he added. When Obama was in office, Democrats and some independents stuck by his side, just as most Republicans rallied around President George W. Bush.

    Today, “Americans are not responding to information in the same way,” Shapiro added. “They have perceptual biases. People see what they want to see.”

    If Trump sticks with his narrative that Democrats are obstructionists and the Russia probes are a political witch hunt, his approval rating a year from now could remain in roughly the same place that it is today.

    And several historians and pollsters said that it could still go up. The most common example they gave was President Clinton, who won reelection two years after suffering a major setback in the 1994 midterm election, when Republicans gained control of the House for the first time in four decades. Clinton’s approval rating remained above 50 percent through his second term in office, even during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

    Danielle Vinson, a political science professor at Furman University, said Clinton benefited from his handling of the Oklahoma City bombing; the 1995 government shutdown, which many voters blamed on Republicans; and Kenneth Starr’s aggressive, years-long investigation into the White House.

    “I remember the news coverage at the time,” Vinson recalled. “After the 1994 midterms, there was a lot of speculation that Clinton was going to be a one-term president. He not only was able to turn it around, but he also survived his own self-inflicted controversy.”

    Two decades later, conventional wisdom holds that Democrats could make big gains in next year’s midterm election. Republicans pulled that feat off in 2010, using the Tea Party movement and the right’s opposition to Obama to win back the House.

    “But will that hold now,” Vinson said, “or are we in this polarized era where it doesn’t matter what people think of the president, Republicans will continue to vote for Republicans, and Democrats will continue to vote for Democrats?”

    Shapiro noted that Obama, like Clinton, managed to overcome a disastrous midterm election to win a second term in the White House. “By 2012, Obama’s popularity picked up, not enormously but enough for him to win reelection,” Shapiro said.

    “It’s possible” that Trump’s approval rating could go up, he added. If Trump’s [favorability rating] “rises into the 40s, a year from now we’ll be having different conversation.”

    The post Can Trump improve his record-low approval rating? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    A picture of the 5,000-year-old Late Neolithic  dog skull from the Cherry Tree Cave near Forcheim, Germany, before it underwent whole genome sequencing. Photo by Amelie Scheu

    A picture of the 5,000-year-old Late Neolithic dog skull from the Cherry Tree Cave near Forcheim, Germany, before it underwent whole genome sequencing. Photo by Amelie Scheu

    Scientists have long been divided over when, where and how many times wolves were domesticated into our beloved dogs.

    Geneticists at Stony Brook University in New York turned the debate back on its head Tuesday with a new theory: Wolves were domesticated just once, between 36,900–41,500 years ago, a discovery that could change the historical record on our loyal canine friends and also helps us pinpoint when the split between European and Asian breeds began.

    Before we get to the latest study, a little background:

    Scientists tend to fall into one of three camps on when and where wolves turned into what we today consider domesticated dogs.

    1. The “great taming” event happened 33,000 years ago in China, where modern dogs are the most diverse but also genetically closest to wolves.
    2. Dogs were tamed closer to Nepal and Mongolia, about 15,000 years ago
    3. The modern pooch can be traced to Europe between 19,000 and 32,000 years ago.

    But all agreed that, at some point, the original domestic canines split into what we now know as Western and Eastern dogs.

    In June 2016, Oxford paleogenomicists Laurent Frantz and Greger Larson threw a bone into the debate with the theory that modern dogs actually had a dual origin — with canine domestication cropping up independently in Asia and in Europe.

    The logical hypothesis was East Asian dogs invaded and wiped out indigenous European dogs — until Veeramah tried to replicate Frantz and Larson’s work.

    Their position hinged upon a 4,800-year-old canine ear bone from Newgrange, Ireland. This Neolithic pooch had a genetic heritage more like modern Western dogs, but with traces of ancient East Asian dogs. The Irish dog’s DNA also showed signs of a genetic bottleneck, suggesting its forebearers had split from East Asian dogs around 6,400 to 14,000 years ago and headed west.

    But there was a catch. The oldest known dog fossils in Western Europe and East Asia date back to around the same time: 15,000 and 12,500 years, respectively. So, domesticated pooches had already existed in Europe before the Irish pup’s parents migrated from Asia. The logical hypothesis was East Asian dogs invaded and wiped out indigenous European dogs — until Krishna R. Veeramah, a population geneticist at Stony Brook, and a team tried to replicate Frantz and Larson’s work.

    “What we found were a few errors that the group made that pushed them towards this suggestion of two domestication events,” Veeramah said. “They accidentally included the same sample twice.”

    Veeramah’s team opted to redo the analysis of the Irish dog’s DNA, but also include newly discovered skulls from Germany — one from the “Cherry Tree Cave” near Forcheim, the other from a site known as the “pit of bones” near Herxheim.

    Inside a burial chamber of Kirschbaum (Cherry Tree) Cave near Forcheim, Germany, showing the original position of the 5,000 year old Late Neolithic dog skull that underwent whole genome sequencing. Photo by Timo Seregely

    Inside a burial chamber of Kirschbaum (Cherry Tree) Cave near Forcheim, Germany, showing the original position of the 5,000 year old Late Neolithic dog skull that underwent whole genome sequencing. Photo by Timo Seregely

    Both of these ancient German dogs had lived during the Neolithic, like the Irish pup, but at the beginning and end of the time period.

    “That’s interesting because it was previously believed the replacement of European dogs happened during the Neolithic,” Veeramah said.

    His team’s analysis of the dogs’ whole genomes suggested otherwise. All three dogs appear to hail from the same European lineage of dogs. Moreover, all of their maternal heritages carried similarities to that of the 15,000-year-old fossil from Western Europe.

    By comparing the DNA from the three Neolithic dogs to that from a collection of ancient and modern canines from Europe and Asia, Veeramah predicted that Eastern and Western dogs likely split ways 20,000 years ago.

    Larson told the Washington Post their 2016 findings were never irrefutable. But, he added, “we didn’t have a smoking gun, and they don’t have a smoking gun,” referring to Veeramah’s study published Tuesday in Nature Communications.

    Frantz and Larson did not respond to multiple requests from the NewsHour for comment.

    Veeramah agreed with Larson, to a certain degree. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if a future study found hard proof for dual domestication, but that current evidence doesn’t support it. He also expects an international collaboration, founded in 2013 by Larson, to find the final answer.

    “I’m pretty sure in a couple of years, his project will have nailed down the timing and geographic origins,” Veeramah said. “Because they’re going to sequence a lot of samples that are much older than what we’re looking at, from East Asia, Central Asia and Europe.”

    The post When did wolves become dogs? New research throws a bone into the debate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A new exhibit, Sunrise, Sunset, by Swiss artist Nicolas Party, recently opened at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C.

    Party, known for his large works of public art, painted directly on 400 feet of the museum’s circular walls.

    We tracked his progress over two weeks.

    Party told the NewsHour he was inspired by the notion that, no matter what happens, the sun will rise in the morning.

    NICOLAS PARTY, Artist: I was aware of the circle shape of the building, and that influenced my decision.

    So I decided to do a show about sunsets and sunrises, which is this kind of end and beginning that happens every day, but also implied this idea of this very, very long timeline that just shows the rotation of every element in the universe.

    And let’s give a perspective of maybe, like, seeing history and things in a much bigger way, and maybe not being always focused on the daily.

    The circle aspect really defines the project. And then, after, I’m trying to kind of build up a rhythm into this space. Every wall is a different color, but also every shape of the paintings that I’m doing on the wall also has a different format to give like a rhythm and an energy to the wall.

    I like to improvise. So there’s an element of freedom when I work on the walls. So I use the wall almost as a piece of paper. Sometimes, of course, I have sketches, but, yes, I work very organically, so there’s an element of surprise.

    It’s really exciting. I mean, yes, it’s really exciting to have all this space. In a matter of seven days, I will do like 30 different paintings. A lot of art that I love, they feel really alive and energetic. And so you need to be in that stage when you’re doing them.

    A lot of landscape painting. I have been obviously painting sunsets and sunrises. It’s the only moment during the day that you can really see, visually, how the entire universe functions. You can really see the rotation of Earth at that moment. Right now, we can’t see it. But during those 30 minutes of a sunset or a sunrise, you can actually feel it, and you can see it very clearly.

    And all those kind of different reasons that the color change the sky, that’s the physical reaction of the light going through different kind of angles and stuff. And I thought that’s fascinating.

    Obviously, the daily life and our little preoccupations that are very important, but so it’s interesting to put them in perspective with this big thing.

    There’s very different stages when I do those murals. There’s like the beginning that is very slow and allow myself a lot of time. Then there’s a moment when it’s — everything is beginning to build up, and I realize, oh, I made mistakes in the placements or the size, colors or whatever. It’s getting very stressful.

    And so then there’s a moment it’s very difficult, usually, because it’s not going how I want to go. Also, just like coming to a space, doing something and this thing will disappear or more or less being covered up, so it will still be here, but it will be covered by a layer of paint.

    It’s like ruins that are underneath. Like the cave painting, you don’t see, but I’m sure there’s a lot of them that we don’t see or we don’t know about, but still they exist. There’s very different steps between the moment you start, to run to the moment it’s extremely difficult, to the end, when you feel totally fine just running through the line.

    And it’s all those moments that are very exciting, yes, to look forward to do.

    You don’t need to change the world. You can just change your few meters around you. And so I did change the circle.

    That’s what I did.

    The post Artist puts time in perspective by painting sun’s rise and fall appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The United Nations has called it the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945, and, just today, the lead editorial in The Washington Post called it the worst crisis you have never heard of.

    Drought and famine threaten 20 million people in the war-torn countries of Yemen, South Sudan, and Somalia, as well as drought-stricken neighbors, such as Ethiopia.

    This week, for the first time, eight of the leading U.S.-based international relief organizations are launching the Global Emergency Response Coalition. It’s a joint fund-raising appeal to the American public due to the hunger crisis, which will use social media to amplify its message.

    Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports from the breakaway region of Somalia known as Somaliland.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: A glimpse from our airplane window showed the stark moonscape of drought stretching for miles on end, where many regions in East Africa are at risk of famine for the third time in 25 years.

    More than 360,000 children are malnourished in Somalia; 70,000 of them are in critical condition, according to the World Health Organization. We traveled to Somaliland, a region that declared itself independent of Somalia more than two decades ago.

    Its capital, Hargeisa, has seen an influx of mostly nomadic livestock herders fleeing the drought and in some cases fighting in the vast surrounding region. They now live in temporary camps.

    Thirty-old-Year-old Hamda Abdilahi Dhamac is the mother of five children. She came here after all of her livestock, some 30 goats and 50 sheep, died from the drought.

    HAMDA ABDILAHI DHAMAC, Displaced Livestock Farmer (through interpreter): I used to be part of a family of livestock herders. But now I have been forced to come to this camp, where I don’t have enough money to buy food and water. I am really suffering.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: She gets some money from relatives, but says it’s just enough to buy rice and perhaps an onion or tomato. She can’t afford beans or meat.

    Like Dhamac, a majority of Somalis make their living by grazing animals. But the drought has wiped out 70 percent of all livestock. Dhamac says she doesn’t know how she will survive in the future.

    HAMDA ABDILAHI DHAMAC (through interpreter): I don’t have any hope now. I don’t have a plan for my future.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Humanitarian organizations are distributing emergency food to ease the crisis in the short-term.

    Jeremiah Kibanya coordinates relief efforts for World Vision.

    JEREMIAH KIBANYA, World Vision: We are providing food commodities to the people who right now not having anything to eat. We will need money to help people get more animals into their family and begin their livelihood.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: How much do you need, and what percentage are you getting?

    JEREMIAH KIBANYA: World Vision has requested for about $37 million be able to respond. And, so far, we have received $11 million.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Most of that money, $10 million, has come from the U.S. government. The Seattle-based agency is helping deliver medical care for those most vulnerable to drought: pregnant women and children.

    At this clinic in the village of Gabiley, babies are measured and weighed. A simple test with an armband determines their level of nutrition. Yellow means moderate malnutrition. Red means severe. If there’s malnourishment, the mothers are given packets of peanut paste, along with guidance to administer it only to the sickest children, says clinic director Asha Abdi Ali.

    It’s very difficult for a mother if she has other children who are hungry to not share it?

    ASHA ABDI ALI, Clinic Director: We tell them for the same reason. It’s that these other children are not in need. It is only for this child.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: But it’s still difficult?

    ASHA ABDI ALI: It’s still difficult.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Keeping people healthy is now made even more difficult, ironically, by rain. Some rains have arrived this year, and that’s been enough to green up the landscape.

    But the effects of the drought are going to linger for a much longer time. In fact, more immediately, the threat to public health is even greater. That’s because there are millions of livestock carcasses strewn all over the landscape, and what the rains do is wash contaminants into sources of drinking water.

    On a hillside just outside Dilla, a village about an hour’s drive from the capital, carcasses have become an unmanageable problem for Mayor Ibrahim Abdi Haji.

    MAYOR IBRAHIM ABDI HAJI, Dilla, Somaliland (through interpreter): It is a bigger problem than we can handle alone. We have asked the government for help to burn those dead animals. But we haven’t received help yet. We’re afraid the community will get waterborne diseases from the animals. We are very scared.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Water which has collected at a nearby earthen dam, has been completely contaminated by both dead and diseased animals.

    JEREMIAH KIBANYA: And if people use that water because of desperation, and they don’t have any other water to drink, that poses another threat again to outbreak of waterborne diseases to the communities. That can lead to outbreaks of diseases like acute water diarrhea or cholera.

    MAN: I want to show you the best way of making your water clean and safe.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: As a short-term solution, World Vision has distributed some 75,000 filters and chlorine tablets, so people can purify their water.

    But World Vision’s Kibanya says the other issues, food shortages, limited medical services and lack of jobs, are tougher ones to tackle. There’s a tradition in this region, where droughts are localized, that communities welcome people temporarily displaced by the dry conditions.

    But one of Dilla’s newcomers, Roda Yusaf, a mother of seven, isn’t sure she can return to her former livelihood without animals. She plans to stay in Dilla indefinitely.

    RODA YUSAF, Displaced Livestock Farmer (through interpreter): When you come from another area, it’s difficult to get a job here. But the community has been very supportive.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Six years ago, Dilla was in a similar position of hosting displaced persons from a severe famine which ended up killing 260,000 people in Somalia. Mayor Haji hopes that doesn’t happen again.

    It seems to be a tradition here for sharing and helping people who are in distress in the tribe. After some time, does that become difficult?

    IBRAHIM ABDI HAJI (through interpreter): We are starting to reach that point. The last time we supported displaced people who had come here, everybody ended up suffering.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The repeated cycles of drought over the past 25 years is constantly on the minds of aid workers and political leaders.

    Saad Ali Shire is Somaliland’s foreign minister.

    SAAD ALI SHIRE, Foreign Minister, Somaliland: We need to look into the future and build resilience, so when the drought comes next time — and it will come, because these are now more severe and more frequent, because of the climate change.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: He says much greater long-term investment must be made to improve the region’s viability.

    SAAD ALI SHIRE: We need to change the way we raise livestock in this country. We very much follow — we raise livestock as we raised it 200 years ago. It’s a nomadic way.

    I think we need to settle and grow food for livestock. But we also need, I think, to orient part of our population towards fishing and other activities, industry, services.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO: However, that seems unlikely, at least in the short term, given that urgent appeals to deal with the immediate needs have fallen far short of what the U.N. and aid agencies have requested.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Fred de Sam Lazaro reporting from Dilla, Somaliland.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Fred’s reporting is a partnership with the Under-Told Stories Project at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

    The post Drought and famine threaten life for nomadic Somali herders appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: An all-girls team from Afghanistan finally made it to the U.S. this week to participate in a robotics competition.

    Their visas were denied twice by American officials, until criticism prompted President Donald Trump to intervene and reverse the decision. The girls joined high school students from more than 150 other countries, many of whom had never seen or made a robot before.

    Jeffrey Brown will look at some of the immigration policy issues this is raising once again.

    But we start with special correspondent Kavitha Cardoza of our partner Education Week. She spoke to some of the Afghan girls and other international students in Washington, D.C.

    It’s part of our weekly series Making the Grade.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: Hundreds of high school students arrived in Washington from across the globe, robotics teams from Jamaica to Jordan, Canada to Australia. There was even one representing refugees.

    But none of the students had a more unlikely journey, perhaps, than the crowd favorite.

    MAN: Team Afghanistan.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: Sixteen-year-old Kawsar Roshan, one of the six girls, says this was her proudest moment.

    KAWSAR ROSHAN, Team Afghanistan (through interpreter): I was very happy, and I was proud when the people supported us. I’m happy when people feel that Afghans can do something.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: This robotics competition is part of an effort to get more young people, particularly from underrepresented countries, to enter STEM fields. It’s a term used to include science, technology, engineering and math.

    A few months ago, all teams received boxes containing hundreds of identical parts, and the students had to figure out how to take the wheels and gears, sensors and sprockets, and create a robot.

    FATEMAH QADERYAN, Team Afghanistan (through interpreter): We have an old computer, but often it doesn’t work.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: Fatemah Qaderyan is from the Herat province. Almost 40 percent of school-age children don’t have access to education. Even when they do, there’s often a shortage of teachers and textbooks.

    For many Afghan girls, Fatemah says even getting to school can be a challenge, because they need a man’s permission.

    FATEMAH QADERYAN, Team Afghanistan (through interpreter): We can’t go alone. And we need someone to support us, like a man, to get us to the school, or other places we want to go.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: Their coach, Alireza Mehraban, says technology is hard to come by.

    ALIREZA MEHRABAN, Coach, Team Afghanistan: We don’t have equipment of robotic. We don’t have it.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: He says even though these girls were chosen from more than 150 students, because the team has no experience in robotics, some doubted their abilities.

    ALIREZA MEHRABAN: They say you can’t, because it’s impossible. For girls in Afghanistan, can’t do this, really. It’s too hard for us.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: And what did you say when they said that?

    ALIREZA MEHRABAN: We say, we can do it. Just we say, we can do it. Just give us a chance.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: Then, after they built their robot, their visas were denied twice. They were not given any explanation.

    FATEMAH QADERYAN (through interpreter): When we applied and were rejected, we are so disappointed. We are crying a lot for six or seven hours.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: Mehraban can hardly believe they’re here.

    WOMAN: How do you feel when everyone cheers team Afghanistan?

    ALIREZA MEHRABAN: What I have to say, because the feeling like I’m so happy, so happy. I can’t describe it best. Really, I can’t describe it best, because a feeling like I can’t control myself.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: Eighty percent of these teams are made up of boys, a gender gap that is reflected in STEM fields worldwide. But the inequality in education is far bigger than just STEM subjects and Afghanistan.

    Around the world, more than 60 million girls don’t have access to any education. The reasons vary, from wars, to cultural mores, to something as simple as distance.

    Melissa Lemus is with team Honduras.

    MELISSA LEMUS, Team Honduras (through interpreter): Some of my friends live about two hours from the high school, or they have to take a bus.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: While Gregine Kumba Natt with team Liberia says often they don’t have electricity during the day.

    GREGINE KUMBA NATT, Team Liberia: We need to charge the robots, but in our country, we have poor electricity. We couldn’t charge our phones either, and because of that, usually, we don’t practice at day. We practice in the night hour.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: And like many countries here, Ruby Balami from team Nepal says her school doesn’t have a science lab, so, initially, she was nervous when she saw teams from developed countries, such as Japan and the U.S.

    RUBY BALAMI, Team Nepal: We think that they are much competitive, and it was a scary thing, but, coming here, making them friends, now we have — feel much more better, and now we are much more confident.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: Some last-minute tinkering and intense discussions, and then it was showtime.

    Each country’s team was paired with two others, often not speaking the same language. Learning to collaborate and communicate is part of the goal, says Dean Kamen, the founder of the competition, FIRST Global Challenge.

    DEAN KAMEN, Founder, FIRST Global 2017 Challenge: You’re the first generation on this planet that could grow up with all of its kids knowing each other, working together, creating value, so that you could all have better lives, we can have a better world. And that’s the important thing here.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: Fatemah loved meeting students from other countries. She says she knows people think of Afghanistan as a place of violence and poverty, but she wants to change that perception.

    FATEMAH QADERYAN, Team Afghanistan (through interpreter): War like a habit for us, because bomb blasting and counterblasting and killing people so normal for us, because we see it a lot.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: She believes the only way that can change is through education. Her mother stopped at grade six, and even now more than three million children, mostly girls, are not enrolled in school.

    But someday, Fatemah wants to get a Ph.D. in computer science.

    FATEMAH QADERYAN (through interpreter): Because I need this, our country needs this, to have women educated, to be new generation in the future. I want to show the world what Afghan girls, or young girls, can do. We can show them, when we have a creative idea, we can do it.

    KAVITHA CARDOZA: For the PBS NewsHour and Education Week, I’m Kavitha Cardoza in Washington, D.C.

    JEFFREY BROWN: As Kavitha said, the visa question for the Afghan girls gained national attention and the direct intervention by President Trump.

    Alan Gomez from USA Today joins me now to talk about that part of the story.

    So, Alan, was this a special case, an outlier? What, if anything, does it tell us about the current situation with visas?

    ALAN GOMEZ, USA Today: Well, absolutely, this was a complete outlier.

    Understand that the Trump administration has made clear throughout its time that it will handle any visa application on a case-by-case basis, exceptions can always be made.

    But this case definitely represents a very sharp departure from what has been a pretty clear strategy from this administration to limit, to restrict, to in some cases completely suspend immigration from terror-prone countries.

    Now, understand that, you know, we’re still dealing with the travel ban that the president has been trying to implement now for months that is directed at six countries that have been labeled as having very close ties to terrorism. He has completely suspended the refugee program, all in the name of national security.

    And Afghanistan has never been on any of those lists of countries, but, you know, I think it would be pretty easy to make a case that Afghanistan has a bit of history with terrorism, so that’s why this case makes it — is so, so surprising that it’s threes girls from Afghanistan that have been allowed into the country.

    JEFFREY BROWN: Well, I wonder, do we even know yet why they were denied visas originally?

    ALAN GOMEZ: No, the State Department generally discuss individual cases and why it makes individual determinations.

    But when you think about the overall posture of this administration to seriously scrutinize any visas, any visa applications that are coming from countries with those ties to terrorism, it follows that trend of denying a lot of those visas from people coming from those countries.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, so this case raises some — plays into some larger confusions and that continuing controversy.

    I want to ask you about one other development in the visa world that came yesterday. The government announced they’re adding 15,000 new H-2B visas. Now, explain what’s going on there.

    ALAN GOMEZ: Yes.

    And that’s just another example of why it’s so difficult to try to figure out sort of what direction this administration is going when it comes to the legal immigration system in the United States.

    Just a couple of months ago, to give you some background, the president ordered a total review of the H-1B visa program. Those are visas dedicated to foreigners who are trained in science, technology, engineering, mathematics. They’re used by technology companies to bring in computer scientists and programmers.

    And the Trump administration ordered a review of the program because they believe that there is too much fraud and that these technology companies are abusing that program to just import cheaper labor.

    So, we had that as the background. They talk about American workers first. And that’s sort of the posture that they have been proceeding under.

    JEFFREY BROWN: That’s H-1. That’s the H-1. Now, this is H-2, which is for temporary workers.

    ALAN GOMEZ: Right.

    And then, all of a sudden, yesterday, we get this announcement that they are going to approve 15,000 additional new visas for H-2B visas, and these are dedicated to lower-skilled workers.

    Think about people who work in fisheries, in hotels, in construction, in resorts, and those are the kind of workers that they’re going to allow in.

    The argument from the Trump administration is that these companies, a lot of them were in very desperate need of the labor, that they couldn’t find American workers to do that job, so they needed to bring in these additional workers to do it.

    But, again, it sort of goes against what the administration has been arguing for all these months, that they are going to limit the immigration system to help American workers and to reduce the competition that they’re facing here in the country.

    JEFFREY BROWN: All right, ever evolving.

    Alan Gomez, USA Today, thanks very much.

    ALAN GOMEZ: Thank you.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: It has been two years since the Iran nuclear deal was struck, a central and controversial part of the Obama administration’s legacy.

    But President Trump has made no secret of his dislike for the agreement, and that is one part of heightened tensions with Iran.

    William Brangham has more.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: My number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.


    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: On the campaign trail, candidate Trump vowed to rip up the international community’s agreement that curbed Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

    But, last night, President Trump took the required step of certifying whether Iran was in fact complying with its end of the deal. And this was the second time the Trump administration certified it was.

    State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, while affirming Iran’s compliance, said they’re not off the hook.

    HEATHER NAUERT, State Department Spokeswoman: There are still a lot of things Iran is doing that are very troubling to this administration. And so we’re going to try and push on the Iranian regime to stop its destabilizing activity.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In fact, the president had to be convinced by his national security team Monday to agree to this step, for now.

    Simultaneously, the administration maintained a tough posture on Iran’s non-nuclear activities, imposing fresh sanctions on its ballistic missile program and its most elite military unit.

    U.S. officials say Iran’s ballistic missile tests, its support for the militant group Hezbollah, and its increasing harassment of other nations’ ships in the Persian Gulf violate the spirit of the nuclear agreement, though they’re not expressly prohibited.

    HEATHER NAUERT: Some of the actions the Iranian government has been involved with undermine that stated goal of regional and international peace and security.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif insists Iran is living up to the nuclear bargain and that the U.S. has run afoul of the deal by adding these new sanctions and discouraging companies from investing in Iran.

    MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF, Foreign Minister, Iran: Iran, in our view, and in the view of the IAEA, built trust by implementing its side of the bargain. The United States didn’t.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Zarif warned that if this keeps up, Iran could choose to pull out of the deal itself.

    Meanwhile, the U.S. says it is reviewing its entire Iran policy, even before the next certification deadline, which is just 90 days away.

    For more on the future of the Iranian nuclear deal, I’m joined now by our own Margaret Warner and Nick Schifrin.

    Welcome to you both.

    Nick, I want to starts with you first.

    I know you have been reporting, and several others have, that President Trump certifying that Iran was in fact in compliance with the deal was no easy matter. Can you sort of explain, what are the divisions within the administration?

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Yes, this was a real struggle.

    This time, we had what is called the interagency process. It took weeks to get to the point where we were about 12:00 yesterday. And that process said the president is ready to recertify that Iran is in compliance. The president said not so fast.

    On one side, you have the president, President Trump, and his chief strategist, Steve Bannon. This is a larger struggle, frankly, vs. — the pragmatic vs. the ideological sides of the administration. So, you have Trump and Bannon on one side, and you have most of the national security establishment on the other side.

    You have Secretary of State Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Mattis, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Joint Chiefs Chairman Joe Dunford. And for the next five or six hours, those two sides were debating.

    The president and Bannon say, we don’t like the deal. It’s not permanent. And the deal is not what Iran is about. Iran is about the things that your piece just mentioned, ballistic weapons, not allowing free access in the Gulf, terrorist support across the region, and that’s the larger problem.

    The other side said, look, you may not like everything that Iran does, but the fact is that those other issues are not part of the deal and that Iran is in compliance, and, until it’s not, you have to recertify.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, Margaret, help us out with that. The argument is that if they’re not violating the letter of the law, perhaps they’re violating the spirit of the law. What’s true and what is not?

    MARGARET WARNER: It’s true that they are complying with the letter of the law. And the State Department spokeswoman said it again today.

    And there was no real spirit of the law. I mean, there’s a phrase about it’s hoped that everyone will be positive in the region or something. But the negotiators made a deliberate decision to corral, to only deal with nuclear, because they knew if they got into ballistic missiles or Iran’s threat on Israel and all the other things you mentioned in your piece, the whole thing would fall apart.

    There were some in the administration who had hoped that a more benign environment would result because they built this working relationship, John Kerry and Javad Sharif, though a very senior official who did a lot with Iran said to me, oh, me, they are going to be actually worse after the deal because they want to prove to the hard-liners that they’re not wimps and they’re not weak.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The schism that Nick is describing within the Trump administration is also reflected in a schism within Iran itself.

    President Rouhani was elected initially to open up negotiations with the West, to deliver on this deal. He was recently reelected, but that is not a unanimous decision and feeling within Iran.

    MARGARET WARNER: No, it wasn’t. It wasn’t certainly at the time.

    He had to really — Rouhani and Supreme Leader Khamenei had supported him, sort of, had to really fight hard-liners. Where I do think there is a lot of unhappiness in Tehran is the point that Zarif made, that the money has not rolled in as they expected, meaning foreign investment.

    I mean, part of it was, as one person who had been very involved said to me, oil was $100 a barrel when they started the negotiations, $40 after. The energy companies aren’t exactly dying to rush in. Their banks are almost, I wouldn’t say insolvent, but a lot of bad loans.

    So, the companies have to be big enough to come in and fund it all themselves. And, finally, of course, there are all these signals, and they have gotten more intense since the Trump administration came in, far from encouraging banks — or at least John Kerry used to travel around with groups of aides saying, look, here is how you can do business, you won’t run afoul up the law — the Trump administration, that all ended.

    And, instead, you have Tillerson saying things that — and Trump saying things that make the Iranians nervous and foreign investors nervous.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, Nick, we have this situation now where the Trump administration says we are going to do a top-to-bottom review of our Iran policy, 90 days until the next certification deadline. What are we likely to see coming up?

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The president doesn’t like this deal. That is very, very clear.

    I had one official tell me today he didn’t think the president would recertify in the future. And that is the perception among a lot of people in this town.

    What’s going to happen now, as you mentioned in your story, the administration is going to look at what it calls the totality of the problem, so not just review the nuclear deal, but review all of Iran’s actions. And that review will produce some kind of paper, some kind of guideline that will presumably include whether they will recertify in the next 90 days.

    And if it comes out that the administration doesn’t want to recertify, that really means the deal is in absolute limbo. If there’s no recertification in 90 days, Congress immediately gets 60 days to either vote it down or to change it.

    Whatever Congress decides, Iran will feel the pressure to respond in kind, and you could get a situation where the deal collapses, we lose, the U.S. loses access to the IAEA information that the deal allows in Iran, Iran restarts its nuclear program, and we’re back to where we were before the deal.

    And that’s a lot of ifs, but those are exactly the ifs that most of the national security establishment is using to try and convince President Trump to stay in the deal.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Nick Schifrin, Margaret Warner, thank you.

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    A truck engine is tested for pollution exiting its exhaust pipe as California Air Resources field representatives (unseen) work a checkpoint set up to inspect heavy-duty trucks traveling near the Mexican-U.S. border in Otay Mesa, California September 10, 2013. California Highway Patrol and the Air Resources Board were inspecting trucks for compliance to California's air pollution laws. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ENVIRONMENT TRANSPORT) - RTX13GMW

    A truck engine is tested for pollution in Otay Mesa, California. The House voted Tuesday to pass a Republican-backed bill delaying implementation of Obama-era reductions in smog-causing air pollutants. Photo by REUTERS/Mike Blake.

    WASHINGTON — The House voted Tuesday to pass a Republican-backed bill delaying implementation of Obama-era reductions in smog-causing air pollutants.

    Congress voted 229 to 199 to approve the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017. The measure delays by eight more years the implementation of 2015 air pollution standards issued by the Environmental Protection Agency under the prior administration.

    The bill also makes key technical changes that environmentalists say will weaken the Clean Air Act, including switching the EPA’s mandated review of air quality standards from every five years to every 10. Ground-level ozone can cause breathing problems among sensitive groups, causing thousands of premature deaths each year.

    The bill also makes key technical changes that environmentalists say will weaken the Clean Air Act, including switching the EPA’s mandated review of air quality standards from every five years to every 10.

    The House voted largely along party lines to approve the bill and defeat a series of Democratic amendments. Similar legislation is advancing in the GOP-controlled Senate.

    House Republicans on Tuesday lauded what they called common-sense legislation to protect American jobs. The GOP bill is supported by groups representing the chemical and the fossil-fuel industries. It is part of a larger push by congressional Republicans and the Trump administration to weaken, block or delay stricter pollution and public health standards approved under President Barack Obama, a Democrat.

    WATCH: President Trump speaks at White House ‘Made in America’ event

    Primary sponsor Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, praised the progress made in cleaning up the nation’s air since the 1970s, when choking blankets of smog regularly blanketed U.S. cities. But he said the stricter standards approved by Obama’s EPA would force American companies to invest billions in new pollution reduction measures.

    “This bill keeps us moving forward toward cleaner air,” said Olson, whose Houston-area district depends on the oil and gas industry. “This bill is about listening to job creators back home.”

    Democrats countered that the GOP bill, which they derided as the “Smoggy Skies Act,” would cost lives through increased rates of asthma and lung disease while endangering decades of hard-won progress in cleaning up the environment.

    “This is a blueprint to Make America Sick Again,” said Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., mocking the Trump campaign slogan.

    Ground-level ozone is created when common pollutants emitted by cars, power plants, oil refineries, chemical plants and other sources react in the atmosphere to sunlight. The National Ambient Air Quality Standards adopted by EPA in 2015 reduced the allowed amount of ground-level ozone from 75 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion.

    READ MORE: What Trump’s budget proposal means for science, health and tech

    EPA estimated at the time that the $1.4 billion it would cost to meet the stricter standards would be far outweighed by billions saved from fewer emergency room visits and other public health gains.

    The agency cited recent studies showing ozone at 72 parts per billion is harmful to healthy adults exercising outdoors. Children are at increased risk because their lungs are still developing and they are more likely to be active outdoors when ozone levels are high, the agency said.

    EPA projected that the “vast majority” of U.S. counties would meet the stricter standards by 2025 under state and federal rules and programs then underway. Many of those clean-air initiatives are now in the crosshairs of regulatory rollbacks and budget cuts championed by the Trump administration.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The collapse of the Republicans’ push on health care raises serious questions about the road ahead for reform, key among them, will the Democrats come to the table?

    To explore that and more, we are joined now by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. He is the ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee.

    Welcome back to the NewsHour, Senator Sanders.

    So, what happened to your Republican colleagues? What went wrong?

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, I-Vt.: Well, what went wrong, Judy, is they brought forth a disastrous health care bill that had the support of all of 12 percent of the American people, that was opposed by the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the AARP.

    And virtually every national health care organization understood that, when you throw 22 million people off of health insurance, when you cut Medicaid by $800 billion, when you raise premiums for older workers, when you defund Planned Parenthood, and you make it almost impossible for people with preexisting conditions to get the health care they need and can afford, you know what? You have got a bill that’s a stinker, it shouldn’t go anyplace.

    And it didn’t go anyplace. And that’s a good thing for the American people. And I thank the millions of people who stood up and fought back and said that that legislation is not what this country is about.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, when the president — he did criticize today the Republicans, but he also blamed Democrats and he said Democrats are obstructionists. They’re only about obstructing.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, if he wants to blame me for helping kill that bill, I accept that responsibility completely.

    This bill was an absolute disaster. Its goal was primarily to give tax breaks to the rich and to large corporations, rather than to address the needs of the American people. If the president wants to blame me and anyone else for preventing 22 million Americans losing their health insurance, I accept that criticism.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, we’re hearing, Senator — our Lisa Desjardins was reporting the plan now is if the vote for a pure repeal goes down, which it’s expected to, the next step is to go to committees, go back to what is called regular order, to work with Democrats.

    Are you and others Democrats prepared to work with Republicans?

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Of course.

    Why not — look, nobody has said, Judy, that the Affordable Care Act is anywhere near perfect. It did add 20 million more people to the ranks of the insured. That’s good. Deductibles, however, are too high. Co-payments are too high. Premiums are too high. And we pay by far the highest in the world for prescription drugs, getting ripped off every day by the pharmaceutical industry.

    So, if the Republicans want to sit down and say how do we improve the Affordable Care Act, not destroy it, how do we improve it, let’s go forward and do that. I have some very specific ideas on that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk about that, because, realistically, you know where many of the Republicans are. We know where the Democrats, you and others, are.

    Where’s the middle ground here? Where do you see a place for compromise?

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I’ll tell you.

    As I just mentioned, the cost of prescription drugs in this country is far, far higher than in any other country. You may recall that Donald Trump as a candidate for president talked about how he was going to take on the pharmaceutical industry and it was going to lower prescription drug costs.

    Well, we have some ideas to do that. Republicans may have other ideas. Let’s talk about lowering prescription drug costs, saving the federal government substantial sums of money. Let’s talk about having Medicare negotiate prices with the pharmaceutical industry.

    That’s number one. Number two, there are areas of this country right now where there are no insurance companies offering the Affordable Care Act. Let us provide a public option in every county in America, so if people don’t like what the private insurance companies are offering or there is no offer, let them have at least a public option.

    Number three, I believe that the American people would very much like to see lowering the eligibility age of Medicare from 65 to 55. And, lastly, in my view — and I speak only for myself — the United States must join the rest of the industrialized world, guarantee health care to all people as a right.

    And that is why I will be introducing a Medicare-for-all single-payer program. It will not be passed, believe me, in this session of Congress. I know that. But we have got to begin the discussion as to why we spend so much more per capita on health care than any other nation, why we pay the highest prices in the world, why we do not guarantee health care to all people, as every other major country does.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you about what is going to happen in the meantime.

    You mentioned prescription drug prices. You mentioned having a public option in different parts of the country. But we know it’s the case that, in many states, there is no insurance company that is providing coverage.

    The Republicans like to say the market, the exchanges are collapsing. What can be done in the short term, Senator Sanders, to shore these up? Is there a way to come up with subsidies that both parties can agree to?


    Well, Judy, I think — it’s not me talking. This is what the insurance companies are saying. What they’re saying is, there’s great instability in the marketplace, precisely because of tweets like the one President — the president sent out today: Let’s see the Obamacare act destroyed.

    Well, that’s not exactly a strong sign of confidence going out to the insurance companies. So, what we have got to do is, number one, we have to enforce the individual mandate. We’re losing a lot of money that is not coming into the system.

    And, number two, we have to deal with cost-sharing, which is something we have been doing many, many years. If you do that, I think you will stabilize the market for the short term.

    But long term, longer term, we have to improve the Affordable Care Act, and longer term than that we have to join the rest of the world and guarantee health care to all people as a right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: How much more money is the federal government going to have to put into health care in order for this to work?

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, that’s a very good question. And I’m sure that there’s absolutely nobody in the world who knows the answer to it.

    All that I can say is that we are spending far more per capita than people in any other country, and our health care outcomes are in many cases worse in terms of life expectancy, infant mortality and so forth.

    So, I think the issue is not necessarily — we may have to spend more money. The issue is to trying to figure out why we end up spending so much more than other countries.

    And one of the reasons, clearly, high cost of prescription drugs. Second reason, we do very, very badly in terms of primary health care. There are millions of people, even those who have insurance, who can not get to a doctor when they are sick. They end up in the emergency room, very expensive. They end up in the hospital, very, very expensive.

    If we greatly expanded primary health care, lower the cost of prescription drugs, we take a giant step forward in lowering health care costs in America.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, very quickly, if you had to name one area where you could see an early agreement between Democrats and Republicans on health care, what would it be?

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Prescription drugs.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All right, we are listening to you, Senator Bernie Sanders. Thank you very much.

    SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Thank you, Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, tomorrow night, we are going to get a Republican perspective, and that will from Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

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

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: And in the day’s other news: It turns out that there was an eighth person present when Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer last summer. The Washington Post and others identify the person as Ike Kaveladze. He works for the Russian real estate developer whose son suggested the meeting.

    The president’s son acknowledges that he accepted because damaging information was promised on Hillary Clinton.

    Reports this evening say that President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin had a second meeting at the G20 summit in Paris earlier this month. That is in addition to the more-than-two-hour session they held that was widely publicized. The second meeting had not been disclosed previously.

    The U.S. Treasury Department slapped new sanctions today on 18 individuals and groups tied to Iran’s ballistic missile program. It came hours after the State Department again certified that Iran is complying with the letter of its nuclear deal, but not with the spirit. We will have a full report later in the program.

    In Eastern Ukraine, Russian-backed separatists have proclaimed the formation of a new state. Rebel leaders said today that the new state will include areas they already control and ultimately the rest of Ukraine. But Ukrainian President Poroshenko, during a visit to Georgia, dismissed the declaration and called the separatists puppets of Russia.

    PRESIDENT PETRO POROSHENKO, Ukraine: They are not political figures. We are confident that we reintegrate the Donbass, we reintegrate the Crimea, and we renew sovereignty and territorial integrity, no matter what Russia said.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: The announcement casts more doubt on the future of the 2015 cease-fire.

    China warned today of an all- out confrontation with India in a growing border dispute in the Himalayas. Each side accuses the other of building up troops along a contested region between China and Bhutan, an ally of India. The confrontation flared recently after Indian troops stopped Chinese workers from building a road in the area.

    Back in this country, officials today dropped two high-profile cases involving shootings by police. A Cincinnati prosecutor announced that he will not retry former university policeman Ray Tensing for a third time. Tensing was accused of murder and manslaughter in the killing of a black motorist, Sam Dubose, during a traffic stop. Two previous trials ended in hung juries.

    JOE DETERS, Prosecutor: After discussing this matter with multiple jurors, both black and white, and they have, to a person, said to us that we will never get a conviction in this case.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Separately, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, federal prosecutors closed the civil rights investigation into the death of James Boyd, a homeless man killed by police in 2014. They cited lack of evidence.

    California’s signature climate initiative will stay in force through at least the year 2030. State lawmakers voted on Monday to extend the cap-and-trade program. It limits carbon emissions and lets polluters trade or buy emissions permits. The program had been set to end in 2020.

    On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 55 points to close at 21574. The Nasdaq rose nearly 30 points, and the S&P 500 added one point.

    And there’s word that China is censoring Winnie the Pooh on social media. It is aimed at comic comparisons of the pudgy bear with President Xi Jinping. The forbidden list now includes widely circulated images of Xi strolling with then-President Obama in 2013 juxtaposed with Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, and, from 2014, Xi shaking hands with Japanese Prime Minister Abe, alongside an image of Pooh and Eeyore.

    Who knew?

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    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters after the weekly policy luncheons on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., in May. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Senate will vote early next week on trying to move ahead on a straight-up repeal of Barack Obama’s health care law.Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Senate will vote early next week on trying to move ahead on a straight-up repeal of Barack Obama’s health care law.

    McConnell made the announcement Tuesday night. He says the vote was at the request of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

    Three Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia — have turned on McConnell’s repeal of Obamacare.

    READ MORE: What’s next for the GOP health care bills?

    McConnell also had delayed action because of Sen. John McCain, who is recuperating in Arizona after having a blood clot removed from above his left eye.

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says President Donald Trump’s declaration that he and the Republican Party won’t take the blame for the health care system’s problems is “small and petty.”

    The New York Democrat made the remarks to The Associated Press after Senate GOP leaders abandoned their effort to rewrite President Barack Obama’s health care law due to Republican opposition. Trump said Republicans won’t own the issue and said he’ll let the statute fail to force Democrats to ask him to fix it.

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

    Schumer says Trump is in charge, but “To hurt millions of people because he’s angry and he didn’t get his way is not being a leader.”

    Schumer says Democrats will work with Republicans to fix problems with the law once the GOP abandons its repeal effort.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: The latest Senate Republican push to replace the Affordable Care Act has come to nothing. Now party leaders say they will try for just repeal.

    Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage of the past tumultuous 24 hours.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky., Majority Leader: I regret that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failures of Obamacare will not be successful.

    LISA DESJARDINS: A remarkable statement and a bitter admission for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, that Republicans still can’t muster the votes on a health care bill. It became clear last night, after Utah’s Mike Lee and Jerry Moran of Kansas said they’d vote against the revised version.

    With that, McConnell changed course, and decided to go for pure repeal.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: A majority of the Senate voted to pass the same repeal legislation back in 2015. President Obama vetoed it then. President Trump — President Trump will sign it now.

    LISA DESJARDINS: McConnell proposed delaying the effective date of repeal for two years, so both parties can work out a replacement. But, almost immediately, three Republicans came out as no’s to McConnell’s idea That’s enough to kill it.

    Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and Susan Collins of Maine all said it is too risky to repeal without an immediate plan for what next.

    SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, R-Maine: I do not think it is going to be constructive to repeal a law that, at this point, is so interwoven in our health care system, and then hope that, over the next two years, we will come up with some kind of replacement.

    LISA DESJARDINS: At the same time, Democrats are flexing their muscles against repeal.

    Minority Leader Chuck Schumer:

    SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y., Minority Leader: Passing repeal now is not a door to bipartisan solutions, as the majority leader suggested this morning. Rather, it is a disaster. The door to bipartisanship is open right now. Not with repeal, but with an effort to improve the existing system.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Even though it seems certain to fail, Republican leaders said they’re going to press forward and hold a vote some time soon.

    SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, I think we will have to see what happens. We will have demonstrated that Republicans by themselves are not prepared at this point to do a replacement.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’re not going own it. I’m not going to own it.

    LISA DESJARDINS: At the White House, President Trump was left lamenting the latest health care failure, and insisting the fault lies elsewhere.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: For seven years, I have been hearing repeal and replace from Congress. And I have been hearing it loud and strong. And then, when we finally get a chance to repeal and replace, they don’t take advantage of it. We will let Obamacare fail, and then the Democrats are going to come to us and they’re going to say, how do we fix it, how do we fix it?

    LISA DESJARDINS: As recently as yesterday, Mr. Trump sounded more confident, in a quick aside to Vice President Pence.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’re getting it together. And it’s going to happen, right, Mike?




    LISA DESJARDINS: Mr. Trump has repeatedly said he’s willing to sign a repeal-only bill. The vice president, who spent much of the day on Capitol Hill, urged lawmakers to do something.

    VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Inaction is not an option. Congress needs to step up. Congress needs to do their job, and Congress needs to do their job now.

    LISA DESJARDINS: House Speaker Paul Ryan sounded a similar note, and also said the House bill, which repeals and replaces Obamacare simultaneously, is still — quote — “the best way to go.”

    REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., Speaker of the House: Well, we’d like to see the Senate move on something.

    LISA DESJARDINS: And House Budget Committee Chair Diane Black joined the chorus urging the Senate to act.

    REP. DIANE BLACK, R-Tenn.: We’re going to be eternally optimistic that the Senate is going to get their work done.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of 11 governors called for the Senate to reject efforts to repeal Obamacare now and replace it later.

    So, when we will see the next votes in the Senate? Senator John Cornyn, the number two Republican in the Senate, told my colleague Ellis Kim and some other reporters tonight he expects that vote this week — Judy.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Lisa, from what you’re reporting, it doesn’t sound like they have the votes to pass repeal, so what are they going to do after that?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Right, it’s fascinating. They’re frantic to take a vote now that likely will fail and looks it like, Judy, after that, they’re ready for a 180-degree turn to move from this closed-door process they have had until now for the past seven months to a more open, public, kind of regular process that, as it’s known here in the Senate, with committee hearings.

    Late tonight, the chairman of the Health Committee here in the Senate, Senator Alexander, announced he does plan to holding open hearings on health care and stabilizing the markets, regardless of the vote.

    And, Judy, it’s worth noting those three senators who are the no votes, who are essentially blocking this latest effort from Mr. McConnell, they’re are all senators who were not included in the closed-door meetings. Those female senators now saying they think it should have been open like this all along.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa, this is a big hit for the Republicans in the Senate and the Congress overall. What are they saying to you? How do they feel about this?

    LISA DESJARDINS: They’re very raw, Judy.

    One of them told me that they’re just exhausted. Another said today’s meeting of all Republican senators was — quote — “robust.” Translation of that, Judy, it was tense.

    There is some real fear about what this means for their elections next year. There are real questions about what it means to hold a vote that is likely to fail. Why are they doing that? Why does Mitch McConnell want to hold the vote?

    Well, the theory is that he wants to show who is to blame for blocking their repeal efforts and to say they gave it their best try, but that idea could, of course, ricochet and harm some of their senators as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what about Majority Leader McConnell? Is his standing secure after all this?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Well, one senator, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, made an extraordinary statement today, saying he doesn’t have confidence in Mitch McConnell anymore and doesn’t trust his leadership.

    But, Judy, he was an exception. Other senators, including Lisa Murkowski, told me they do have confidence in him. She gave a great quote today, Judy, to us. She said that Mitch McConnell is trying to keep the frogs in the wheelbarrow and doing as well as he can.

    Fascinating, because she’s one of the frogs that actually has jumped out of that wheelbarrow, but it looks like for now his leadership will stay and he will stay in power.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I like the metaphor.

    Lisa, what does all this mean for health care? Because the Republicans have run several plans up the flagpole. They haven’t passed. Where do they stand? Where do we stand?

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right.

    This was the fifth draft, maybe the sixth draft, depending on how you count it this year. Let’s just get to some bottom lines for what we’re doling with now as Americans. It looks like now the effort to have massive Medicaid reform, large-scale cuts in the numbers of Medicaid recipients in the future, that effort now seems dead.

    However, the fate of the Medicaid expansion under Medicaid — under the Obamacare, that is not clear. We will have to see what happens in negotiations. But, overall, Medicaid itself will largely stay as it is now.

    Also, the idea of repealing Obamacare wholesale, that seems unlikely to happen. We will see what happens in the next vote but it seems most likely, Judy, that Obamacare will stay largely within the framework it has now and that the discussion will shift to how to fix it and how to stabilize markets within that framework.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And this — you and I were talking earlier, this will have an effect on the larger Republican leadership agenda as well.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Oh, a huge effect.

    They’re hoping that it will not be catastrophic, but now they are jammed up against some very, very limited time on the calendar, Judy. And they have some must-do things like passing spending bills, which, as we know, is never easy, but also a debt ceiling limit that must be raised some time in the next few months.

    And in addition to that, they are trying to still pursue tax reform. That is a once-in-a-generation kind of achievement. They’re trying to do it in this very kind of caustic, sharp environment with health care still waiting. And it’s unclear about what of that will happen or when it can all happen, but Republicans say they’re still going to try.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And in just a few seconds, Lisa, you were also telling us today the Republicans in the House rolled out their budget.


    This is something not to be missed and would be a headline probably in most other weeks, but that’s right. This Republican budget document is just a starting step in spending process, but it’s important, Judy because they’re doing something very new this year.

    They are proposing cutting not just discretionary subjects, which are your usual government agencies we talk about, education and so forth, but they want to cut mandatory programs as well in their budget. Those are things like Social Security, Medicare, food stamps. They want to use those cuts in those mandatory programs to help things like the defense and also for tax cuts, so something to watch.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s a lot to watch.

    Lisa Desjardins, thank you for being our eyes and ears at the Capitol. We thank you.

    The post McConnell aims for full Obamacare repeal after replacement bill withers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump had a second, previously undisclosed conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Germany earlier this month.

    White House spokesman Sean Spicer and National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton confirmed that Trump and Putin spoke privately at a dinner for world leaders and their spouses at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.

    The conversation came hours after their first official meeting on July 7, which was originally scheduled to last just half an hour, but stretched on for more than two.

    Trump and Putin were also captured on video shaking hands and exchanging a few words after they arrived at the G-20 summit of industrialized and developing nations.

    “There was no ‘second meeting’ between President Trump and President Putin, just a brief conversation at the end of a dinner. The insinuation that the White House has tried to ‘hide’ a second meeting is false, malicious and absurd,” The White House said in a statement.

    “It is not merely perfectly normal, it is part of a President’s duties, to interact with world leaders,” the statement continued. “Throughout the G20 and in all his other foreign engagements, President Trump has demonstrated American leadership by representing our interests and values on the world stage.”

    The White House declined to comment on what was discussed during the conversation because no staff was present.

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

    Anton would not specify the duration of the meeting. But he said the discussion was casual and should not be characterized as a “meeting” or even a less formal, but official, “pull-aside.”

    “A conversation over dessert should not be characterized as a meeting,” he said.

    A few leaders had their translators with them, but no other delegates attended the dinner, he said.

    Trump and Putin’s relationship has been under scrutiny since the election campaign, when Trump repeatedly praised the Russian as a strong leader and publicly encouraged him to hack then-rival Hillary Clinton’s emails. Trump aides have since said he was joking.

    U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that the Russian government meddled in the 2016 election in order to help Trump. Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on their findings and dismissed investigations into potential collusion between his campaign and Moscow as a “witch hunt.”

    Ian Bremmer, the president of the Eurasia Group, said in a Monday appearance on Charlie Rose that the conversation between Putin and Trump is similar to the conversations between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 presidential campaign — they were in group settings, rather than one-on-one, and not immediately disclosed. Sessions later recused himself from involvement in the ongoing investigations into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties to Trump’s campaign after outcry about his failure to disclose those discussions.

    “We clearly know that Trump does not care what the media has to say about the desire to have a close personal relationship with the Russian president and what drives it,” Bremmer told Rose on Monday. “Never in my life as a political scientist have I seen two major countries with a constellation of national interests that are [this] dissonante, while the two leaders seem to be doing everything possible to make ‘nice-nice’ and be close with each other. That’s what people don’t understand.”

    From an objective read, the relationship between the two countries is the worst it’s been in recent memory, Bremmer says.

    “You put all those things together, they don’t add up to where Trump is with Putin right now,” Bremmer says.

    The post Trump had second, undisclosed conversation with Putin at G20 summit appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    FILE PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman speaks at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, U.S., January 16, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Keane/File Photo     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX3BZJ8

    President Donald Trump has announced his intention to nominate former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman to be U.S. ambassador to Russia. File photo by REUTERS/Chris Keane/File Photo.

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has announced his intention to nominate former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman to be U.S. ambassador to Russia.

    If confirmed, the former 2012 GOP presidential candidate would take over the post amid ongoing investigations into contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign.

    READ MORE: Trump had second, undisclosed conversation with Putin at G20 summit

    Huntsman has twice served as an ambassador. He was the nation’s top diplomat to Singapore under President George H.W. Bush. He then served in that role in China under President Barack Obama before returning to the U.S. to run for president.

    The White House made the announcement shortly after it confirmed that Trump had a previously undisclosed conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a dinner at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, earlier this month.

    The post Trump to nominate former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman as U.S. ambassador to Russia appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson speaks to employees of the agency in D.C. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson pledged Tuesday to “work toward a time when no family is without a home” — even as the Trump administration seeks sharp budget cuts. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters.

    WASHINGTON — Housing Secretary Ben Carson pledged Tuesday to “work toward a time when no family is without a home” — even as the Trump administration seeks sharp budget cuts that critics say would lead to more people living on the streets.

    “A man will not beat addiction from a gutter, he will not get psychiatric help underneath a bridge, and he will not find a steady job without a steady address,” Carson said, to applause from a packed ballroom at a conference organized by the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

    Consider the enormous costs of emergency room care, the potential danger and money for extra policing, he said. “It actually saves public resources if we first provide housing, and work with people from there.”

    Spokesman Raffi Williams said Carson will make homelessness a top priority at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    Trump’s budget for fiscal year 2018 calls for cutting about $7 billion from the $48 billion HUD budget, including homeless assistance grants and a reduction of nearly $1 billion to Section 8 rental assistance, which helps about 2.2 million low-income families afford housing.

    Carson, a conservative Republican who challenged President Donald Trump for the GOP nomination last year, spoke as Congress considers Trump’s budget for fiscal year 2018 — a plan that calls for cutting about $7 billion from the $48 billion HUD budget.

    That includes cuts to homeless assistance grants and a reduction of nearly $1 billion to Section 8 rental assistance, which helps about 2.2 million low-income families afford housing. The Trump budget also would eliminate funding for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

    While promising to fight homelessness, Carson drew on his own experience as a doctor to suggest that government assistance shouldn’t become a way of life, either — an analogy that drew heckles from one woman in the audience.

    Carson said doctors don’t let people with curable diseases sit in hospitals after months, or years. “They’re not doing their job. In the same way, we cannot be satisfied to throw resources at services that merely subsidize homelessness. We need to cure it … and find a permanent home, and permanent healing,” Carson said.

    “It doesn’t work that way,” shouted one woman, briefly interrupting Carson. She later declined to be interviewed by the AP.

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

    Another woman at the conference, Elaine Williams of Richmond, Virginia, said she was pleased to hear Carson was making homelessness a priority. Williams, 23, grew up poor like Carson, and at times had no permanent roof over her head, living with friends as a teenager.

    “I believe he said things that he wants to deliver on, but I’ll have to see it to believe it,” Williams said after Carson’s remarks.

    Williams is a co-policy chair at Advocates for Richmond Youth, a nonprofit that works to end youth homelessness in the Virginia city.

    Nationally, homelessness has been on the decline in recent years. According to government estimates, there were about 550,000 people who experienced homelessness on a single night in 2016 — a decline of 14 percent since 2010.

    The post Carson pledges to fight homelessness, despite deep proposed budget cuts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Senior woman on smart phone

    What should you do if you can’t find work in your 60s? Journalist Philip Moeller answers this question and others about retirement. Photo by Getty Images.

    Editor’s Note: Journalist Philip Moeller is here to provide the answers you need on aging and retirement. His weekly column, “Ask Phil,” aims to help older Americans and their families by answering their health care and financial questions. Phil is the author of the new book, “Get What’s Yours for Medicare,” and co-author of “Get What’s Yours: The Revised Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security.” Send your questions to Phil.

    George – Washington, D.C.: I’m 64, and I can’t seem to find work in my field. I’m an industrial engineer specializing in lean-based business process improvements. I’ve responded to hundreds of ads for people with my skills. Only two calls and no interviews. I took early retirement in 2005. My younger spouse was making a good living, and I had $1 million in an IRA. I thought I was safely set. Now, my family circumstances have changes, and I need to go back to work for a few years.

    Having the recognition of performing at a high level in my profession is important. I have suffered from anxiety and depression as I began to despair for meaningful employment. I continue to respond to ads for my skills, but it’s tough to keep writing cover letters that explain my strengths, experience and accomplishments. Who knows whether anyone even reads them?

    Phil Moeller: I’m sorry, but unfortunately, I’m not surprised at your experiences. They are shared by millions of others. And as I’m sure you’re aware, there are no easy fixes. Kerry Hannon is the go-to person here for advice, and has become a champion in spotting work opportunities for folks like us. (I hate using the “seniors” label anytime, but particularly when it comes to workplace matters, where major age biases still seem to be the order of the day.)

    For me, giving up the notion of finding an employer was the big change in attitude I needed.

    Depending on how much income you need, you might consider a part-time job. To be successful in such an effort, you may need to steel yourself to say goodbye to recognition from your peers. Another route that might be promising is to explore opportunities for modest-paying jobs that include making things better for others. These “pay it forward” jobs have become known as “encore careers.” Employers in these spaces are looking for experienced people like you whose skills can help them. Again, however, don’t expect these jobs to fill your wallet as much as they may fill your heart.

    I lost a job when I was 60. For me, giving up the notion of finding an employer was the big change in attitude I needed. That, and understanding that a batting average of even just .200 will earn you millions of dollars in baseball! So, I got turned down a whole lot. Then, I finally got a small piece of work. Then, I got another. Now, I am a card-carrying member of the gig economy. I earn enough. I have multiple sources of income, and no single gig is so important that I lose much sleep over it.

    So with all due sympathies, you can get past this and be stronger for the experience. Resilience is marvelous at any age, but few can develop this skill without experiencing some tough setbacks. Buckle up!

    Lee – Colorado: My husband and I are in our 70s, and so far, we are pretty healthy. My mother is 95 and is not doing well. The police recently had to take her to a hospital when a friend asked them to do a well-person check. She always pretends she’s fine even when she’s clearly not. She lives in a different state. I am her only child. She’s never shared any details of her wishes, her insurance or her finances. As far as I know, she may be in deep debt, but does not want me to know anything.

    What is an aged and not well-heeled child responsible for when an even more aged parent gets hospitalized?  Mom never wanted me to live with her, and truth be told, she is a bit abusive. Nor has she ever wanted to live with me, which would be a non starter anyway, because my husband won’t hear of it.

    READ MORE: Seeking a ‘better than bingo’ solution for loneliness in older age

    Phil Moeller: Wow, this just might be an unanswerable question from where I sit. How about: whatever is needed to let you sleep at night.

    I certainly would pitch in, including helping with insurance and related health care issues. I would help find a local caregiving agency to provide occasional help as needed, but this can be expensive. Clearly, you can’t spend money you don’t have.

    Realistically, if your mom’s financial resources are limited, you might want to see if she qualifies for Medicaid, which would provide long-term care for her should she need it later. I would contact the local office of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, and see if they can recommend a pro-bono elder care lawyer to help you with these matters. I realize she may not agree to follow this suggestion. But this is something you may need to try anyway if only to satisfy the sleep “test” requirement mentioned above.

    Jeannie – Arizona: I can find a lot of advice about saving for retirement, but very little about how to withdraw those savings now that I am retired. Do you have any guidelines?

    Phil Moeller: You’re absolutely right. Most retirement financial advice is focused on how you accumulate assets, not on how you will spend them.

    Most retirement financial advice is focused on how you accumulate assets, not on how you will spend them.

    There is an old rule of thumb that says you can spend 4 percent of your assets each year and not run out of money before you die. However, since this “rule” was adopted, life spans have become longer and investment markets more volatile. As a result, many experts now put this “spend down” figure at 3.5 percent or even 3 percent.

    I am of retirement age myself, and my focus is not so much on my spend-down rate as on my spending patterns.

    I try to fund all my necessary spending from Social Security, private pensions and other guaranteed regular payments. These are my “must” spend items.

    My discretionary spending comes next. These are my “nice to have” spending items — entertainment, restaurant meals, travel and the like. Ideally, I would have some guaranteed funds to pay for these items. But I also could liquidate some of my nest-egg funds to help pay for discretionary items.

    Here, I would use that conservative 3 percent spend-down figure. I wouldn’t liquidate more than this, at least during my 70s. However, this figure can be re-evaluated based on your age, financial needs and how investment markets behave. Don’t forget that if you have tax-preferred retirement accounts, you probably will need to take annual required minimum distribution amounts from these accounts anyway.

    My third “bucket” of spending is literally just that — for bucket-list trips and experiences of a lifetime. These funds are only available if spending them will not compromise my necessary and discretionary spending plans.

    READ MORE: Social Security trust fund will be depleted in 17 years, according to trustees report

    To execute this strategy, it really helps to have liquid funds that could pay for some surprise expenses and avoid the need to tap your nest-egg investments. If the stock market took a dive, which it does from time to time, this approach protects me from having to sell investments at poor prices. I can just reduce my discretionary spending. This may be no fun, but I will still have a roof over my head and be able to pay bills for food, utilities, health care and other basics.

    Finally, I view the equity in my home as a big piggy bank to be broken into only in the event of a major spending need. This most likely would be a medical emergency leading to unexpected spending. And it wouldn’t be unusual for this emergency to involve a loved one other than yourself.

    There are a gazillion books out there full of informed advice. And while I’m comfortable with my plan, your situation may differ from mine. So may your attitudes toward investment risk, whether you want to leave money behind for heirs and many other variables. Finally, if you couldn’t tell, I am not a licensed investment adviser, and my remarks should be not be viewed as professional investment advice.

    Tina – California: I’m 60 years old and have been off from work for four months because of carpal tunnel problems. I have doubts that I will ever be able to return to work. I know I can draw Social Security at age 62 at a reduced rate. Would I be better off to go on disability now and draw Social Security at a later age?

    Phil Moeller: It depends on how long you can wait to begin getting benefits.

    Benefits reach their maximum level when you turn 70. If your life expectancy is not adversely affected by your medical problems, the odds are high that you would live into your late 80s or even 90s. Waiting to collect benefits can be a good idea under this scenario, again assuming you can afford to wait. You can open an online Social Security accountto access your earnings record and see estimates of your benefits at different claiming ages.

    READ MORE: Column: For older Americans, the GOP health bills would be nothing short of devastating

    On the other hand, if you apply for Social Security Disability Income payments, and your request is approved, you could begin receiving SSDI benefits right away and wouldn’t even have to wait until you turned 62. Also, you would qualify for Medicare two years after receiving SSDI, and this also might influence your decision.

    The downside of disability benefits is that they are not in place of Social Security, but actually are your Social Security. They automatically convert to “regular” retirement benefits when you reach your full retirement age, and will not receive the delayed retirement credits, which accrue at the rate of 8 percent a year for regular benefits between full retirement age and age 70.

    I don’t know how much your SSDI benefit would change at different claiming ages. I would call Social Security and see if a representative would provide this information.

    The post I was successful and recognized. Now, at 64, I can’t get an interview. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) speaks with reporters about the withdrawn Republican health care bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 18, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RTX3BYOF

    Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) speaks with reporters about the withdrawn Republican health care bill July 18 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. July 18, 2017. A new report says an additional 32 million people would be uninsured if lawmakers repeal Obamacare, as Senate leaders consider a vote next week on legislation getting rid of Obama’s law but not replacing it. Photo by REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein.

    The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Republican bill erasing but not replacing much of President Barack Obama’s health care law would mean an additional 32 million uninsured people by 2026.

    The report from Congress’ nonpartisan budget analyst says the measure would cause average premiums for people buying their own health insurance to double by 2026.

    WATCH: Trump tells GOP senators no recess until Obamacare is repealed

    It also says that by that same year, three-fourths of Americans would live in regions without any insurers selling policies to individuals.

    The report was released as Senate leaders consider a vote next week on legislation repealing Obama’s law, but not replacing it.

    White House officials say they will continue to provide health care “cost sharing” subsidies that help cover deductibles and copayments for low-income consumers this month.

    READ MORE: Americans want lawmakers to revise ‘Obamacare,’ not kill it, poll says

    But White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the subsidies’ status is “undetermined beyond that.”

    Sanders was speaking at a White House briefing Wednesday after President Donald Trump held a lunch with Senate Republicans trying to salvage their stalled “Obamacare” replacement health care bill.

    Trump has repeatedly suggested withholding the money to try to force Democrats to negotiate with Republicans in Congress. But his administration has continued to make subsidy payments to insurers from month to month.

    The post Repealing Obamacare would leave 32 million more uninsured by 2026, report says appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: an inside look at the relationship and the political partnership between President Trump and his controversial adviser Steve Bannon.

    In Joshua Green’s new book, “Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency,” he examines how Bannon became a prominent nationalist conservative voice that helped create one of the biggest upsets in American politics.

    Green is also a senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek, and he joins me now.

    Welcome to the NewsHour.

    JOSHUA GREEN, Author, “Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency”: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Josh Green, you start the book out saying Donald Trump wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for Steve Bannon.

    In a nutshell, who is Steve Bannon?

    JOSHUA GREEN: Bannon is a guy who is very much an outsider like Donald Trump is.

    And although he doesn’t come from money — he was raised in a blue-collar Navy family in Richmond, Virginia — he has the same basic outlook toward life and toward elites that Donald Trump developed.

    Bannon has a very unusual background. He joined the Navy. He went from the Navy to Harvard Business School. He talked his way into a job with Goldman Sachs as an investment banker in the 1980s, and moved from there to Hollywood film financing, and eventually became a conservative documentarian, met the late conservative provocateur Andrew Breitbart, and wound up in charge of Breitbart News, the right-wing news site.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what brings these two men together? Are they the ideological, philosophically similar people some might think? What is the magic that brings them together?

    JOSHUA GREEN: I think the magic that brings them together is that they have the same basic political outlook.

    If you look at Trump and what he said about politics going all the way back to the 1980s, there have been several clear populist themes. He is against free trade. He thinks the U.S. is getting taken advantage of by foreign governments.

    Bannon’s populism is very much the same, but he adds the element of immigration, hostility to immigrants, both legal and illegal. And when Bannon met Trump in 2011 and began tutoring him on politics, that was the idea that he really put forward.

    And if you look at the politician Donald Trump became, it’s very much a reflection of Steve Bannon’s politics.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is this — so, is this something that’s driven by being against outsiders?

    JOSHUA GREEN: It really is.

    It’s driven by the idea that the country is in decline and needs to fundamentally return to an earlier time, when people like Steve Bannon were at the heart of the American economy and American story, so the 1950s, when you had a strong manufacturing base, when there were — it was clear, the forces of good and evil in the world, communism vs. democracy.

    Both Trump and Bannon don’t like the rise of the younger, multiethnic generations of Americans that the Obama coalition reflected, and are doing everything they can to fight against it.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, speaking of that, what we have read about Steve Bannon, Breitbart, elements of racism, the so-called alt-right movement, even anti-Semitism, how much of that is a strain here?

    JOSHUA GREEN: It’s a big strain.

    And one of the effects that Bannon had on politics was to open up a kind of sluice gate of people who existed really only on the fringes of American and far-right talk radio and on Internet boards and try and bring them into the political conversation, the mainstream political conversation, by giving them a voice on places like Breitbart News.

    And what Bannon thought he was doing was marshaling these hidden political forces to go up against not Democrats, but the establishment Republican leaders, people like Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and, before him, House Speaker John Boehner, who was Bannon’s original target and was forced to resign in 2015, in part because of the energies that Bannon and Breitbart News unleashed in Washington politics.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: OK, on just as straight a measurement as you can, how successful has Steve Bannon been in getting his ideas across in this administration?

    JOSHUA GREEN: Well, it would be hard to argue that Bannon hasn’t been shockingly successful overall.

    If you go back three years — and I tell this story in the book — Steve Bannon was very closely allied with Jeff Sessions, who, at the time, was the populist Republican senator from Alabama.

    And Bannon tried to talk Sessions into running for president, not because he thought he could win, but because he thought Sessions could elevate the issues of immigration and antipathy to free trade to the top of the Republican agenda.

    And Sessions ultimately decided not to do that. But by linking up with Donald Trump, Bannon was able to not only get that on top of the Republican agenda, but make it all the way into the White House and have real power to enact some of these policies, in a way that he never did as a conservative publisher.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Is Bannon involved in the Russian probe?

    JOSHUA GREEN: So far, he seems not to be directly implicated.

    I know he hasn’t hired a lawyer, as many people in the Trump family and the Trump administration have to defend them against potential investigation. So, as far as we know, Bannon is not yet implicated in the Russia scandal.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But you have reported, I know, in, I guess, language that we can’t use here, that Bannon is interested in smearing Robert Mueller as much as he can.

    JOSHUA GREEN: Well, if you look at what Steve Bannon really does for Donald Trump, going all the way back to the beginning of their relationship, it isn’t that he’s a Machiavellian figure, as he’s been portrayed.

    It’s that Steve Bannon is the guy who goes out and attacks Trump’s critics and his enemies, whether that’s someone like Megyn Kelly at FOX News, or the mainstream media after Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape was released on the eve of the debates.

    Right now, Trump feels like he needs someone aggressively defending him in the Russia probe. And he wasn’t happy with the way that his own White House spokespeople were doing the job.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: If you look at the polls right now, in — I guess, in large part, Donald Trump seems to be holding on to his base, but there is some evidence of slippage.

    And you have got, what, 40 percent of Americans with a strong opposition to Donald Trump. If it continues this way, does Steve Bannon stay where he is?

    JOSHUA GREEN: I think it does, because Bannon and Trump both seem to believe that it is absolutely vital to keep Trump’s base angry and riled up and active.

    And there is some pretty interesting polling data to indicate that that’s working. The Washington Post/ABC had a poll that came out this week saying that only 9 percent of Republicans thought that the Russia collusion posed any sort of problem.

    And, to me, that’s an indication that Bannon’s methods are working. And while he hasn’t gotten Trump anywhere near a majority of popular support, he has managed to maintain that critical 40 percent base that Trump is going to rely on.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Josh Green, nobody else has gotten this deep a look at Steve Bannon. So, thank you very much.

    “Devil’s Bargain” is the book, “Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency.”

    Thank you very much.

    JOSHUA GREEN: Thanks so much for having me.

    The post How Steve Bannon pulled one of the greatest upsets in American politics appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: Electric cars, are they the ride of the future?

    Their potential to revolutionize the road is once again grabbing headlines, as some companies ramp up production plans.

    William Brangham breaks down the realities of the technology and the market for electric vehicles.

    He recorded this earlier for our weekly segment on the Leading Edge of science and technology.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The knock on electric cars has always been that they’re a pricey, niche product that only a handful of people would want or could afford.

    But that reputation is starting to crumble, and fast. The electric car maker Tesla, which already has a bigger market value than General Motors and Ford, will soon be delivering its mid-priced Model 3 car.

    Volvo just announced that, in two years, all of its cars will be hybrids or electric. And some major U.S. manufacturers have proven electric vehicles available right now.

    So, are electric vehicles ready to go mainstream?

    NPR’s Sonari Glinton has been covering the story. And he joins me now.

    Welcome to the NewsHour.

    SONARI GLINTON, NPR: It’s good to be here.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, electric car advocates have been saying for decades that these cars are the future. Why has it taken them this long to get to where they are today?

    SONARI GLINTON: I would say low gas prices, the pickup truck, and America’s sort of dependency on the status quo.

    When you look at an electric car, if you drive one — I used to have a plug-in hybrid — and I got to a point where I never went to the gas station, and I never thought …

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That’s got to be a great feeling.

    SONARI GLINTON: Yes, and I never — yes, exactly. And I — when I switched — I’m one of the few people to switch, you know, from electric to a gas-powered car.

    When I went to a gas-powered car, it’s a two-seater convertible, so like that’s the reason I did that. But I cannot imagine getting — I can’t imagine not having that convenience.

    You always start the day with a full tank. It’s a simpler drivetrain, so it’s easier to fix. It has fewer problems. It’s quiet like a luxury car.

    The problem is, is that the car companies, right, are building trucks that …

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That the market wants.

    SONARI GLINTON: Desperately wants. And people are buying SUVs way more now than they’re buying cars.

    The tipping point was reached a few years ago. And now we’re at about 60 — depending on what month, about 60/40 SUVs to cars. And that’s partially because we’re all realizing, like, I want to sit up higher. I want to …


    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And if the gas prices aren’t killing you, there’s no reason to go into an electric.


    And, right now, to be clear, there are a lot of hurdles for electric cars. And, mainly, it’s the battery. It’s not necessarily figuring out how to move the car. It’s getting a lighter, cheaper battery is what’s at the crux of this.

    So, the auto industry knows that that’s where it’s going, right? But Wall Street and customers say, well, we like those F-150s, we like those Chevy Silverados and those Dodge Rams, and we’re buying a lot of them. And they’re hugely, hugely profitable, while electric car profits are, A, they’re about 3.5 — the volume of electric cars …

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: A tiny sliver of the market.

    SONARI GLINTON: Tiny, like less than 4 percent.

    And it’s been stagnant for a few years because of those gas prices. So, there’s a lot of things. And, for the most part, in many places in the country — I live in California, where there are many, many charging stations and there’s rebates and things like that that you can get.

    But if you’re in the middle of the country, the word may not have gotten to you. You know, there are so many hurdles.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The incentives just aren’t there.

    SONARI GLINTON: The incentives aren’t there.

    And we haven’t educated the consumer about the difference. If you — when people get into electric cars, they love them. When they use them in their lives, they love them.

    But you look at the marketing and you look at the car companies, and your Super Bowl half-time commercial isn’t necessarily, you know, the latest, lightest, most fuel-sipping vehicle. No, it’s the big trucks and those things.

    And, right now, that’s important in the short term. But every carmaker understands that electrification and autonomy are definitely the future. And they’re not the future like 30 years from now. They’re the future really, really soon.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So there are no Kodaks among the car manufacturers. They get that electric is the future, but they’re still making a lot of money off big, heavy trucks.

    And is there an incompatibility there? Can you make electric cars and design and develop and push them out at the same time that you’re making big, heavy, gas-guzzling trucks?

    SONARI GLINTON: Well, you can make the argument that companies like Ford or Chevy are already doing that.

    Chevy has the Volt, which does what the Tesla Model 3 says it’s going to do. It goes over 200 miles per charge. It’s under $40,000, which is within range of the average American consumer. And then they build — some months, the Silverado is really, really a gangbuster for that company.

    But when we talk to executives, you hear the pressure to keep those trucks going, to pump out those F-150 profits. You know, studies show that, for Ford, the F-150 is as much as 90 percent sometimes of profitability.


    SONARI GLINTON: So, you look at the F-150 …

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That’s a hard thing to argue against.

    SONARI GLINTON: Hard to argue against.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: As I mentioned, Tesla is about to roll out this Model 3, which, obviously, the big question for them is that they have been selling a very small number of very pricey cars.

    And now they want to sell a lot of these cheaper cars to appeal to a bigger audience. What’s the big challenge for Tesla?

    SONARI GLINTON: All the bets. For Tesla, it’s a bet inside of a bet inside of a bet.

    They’re betting that more people are going to buy electric cars. They’re betting on the battery technology, which Tesla has one of the biggest factories in the world making batteries. They also bet on how they’re going to change the way people — how they sell the cars.

    I mean, you look all across the board when it comes to Tesla, there’s this huge bet. Right now, they make 4,400 cars a month or so. And they’re looking to sell 500,000 Model 3’s.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It’s a huge scale-up.

    SONARI GLINTON: And, at the end of the month, Tesla says it is going to deliver 30 cars to the buyers, and then 1,900, you know, later on.

    The key is, how long are those customers going to wait for that car, and how long is it going to take to get there, and they are going to be able to scale up, and can they keep that quality that they were known for when they were selling 4,400?

    I don’t know what the answer to those things are, but I do know that is going to be really hard.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: NPR’s Sonari Glinton, thanks so much.

    SONARI GLINTON: Always a pleasure.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressional Republicans yesterday unveiled a budget that would dramatically curb spending on a host of social welfare programs, including the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, better known as food stamps.

    The president’s budget released earlier this year also included deep cuts to the program.

    To see how those proposals might play out, NewsHour special correspondent Cat Wise recently traveled to Arkansas, a state that voted heavily for Mr. Trump.

    This report is part of Chasing the Dream, our ongoing series on poverty and opportunity in America.

    CAT WISE: In the small town of Thornton, Arkansas, Joannie Cayce fires up her truck twice a month, and drives to a Wal-Mart about 30 miles away to stock up on fruits, vegetables, meat, milk and other products donated by the company.

    When she returns to the local food pantry her family has run since the 1950s, some 200 residents are waiting, and a desperate rush begins.

    WOMAN: We get paid every two weeks, and, by the end of the week, it’s like the cupboards are bare, and we’re ramen noodling, you know?

    WOMAN: I got two kids at the house and stuff that’s hungry that I have to feed.

    CAT WISE: Ms. Cayce, as she’s known here, says the number of people she serves each month has nearly doubled in the past year-and-a-half, from 350 to 650, even as the state’s economy has improved.

    JOANNIE CAYCE, Cayce Charities: We see no employment, no grocery stores, no craft stores. Mostly, the families are generationally poor, and they can’t move. They don’t have the money to move or anywhere to go to move.

    CAT WISE: The day we visited, Brittney Williams came to Ms. Cayce’s with her two young daughters. At mid-month, she’s already run out of the $231 a month she receives in food stamps, or SNAP, the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for the poor.

    BRITTNEY WILLIAMS, SNAP Recipient: I’m out of food stamps within two weeks. And that’s another two weeks week-and-a-half, two weeks, that I’m sitting here, well, how am I going to feed my kids? You know, what am I going to do next? Am I going to have to beg people for food, or go to Ms. Cayce, or what if Ms. Cayce don’t come back to me in time, and I run out?

    CAT WISE: Brittney’s husband, Daryl, works full-time as a security guard at the local sawmill, making $11 an hour. He says the family’s bills have been piling up for months, and that they’re now facing eviction.

    DARYL WILLIAMS, Security Guard: I have got a truck payment outside. I have got all the utilities in here. After buying pull-ups and wipes for them included, I have got maybe $50 to $100 left a month, and that’s got to go in for gas, so I can get back and forth to work for the next two weeks.

    CAT WISE: To qualify for food stamps, a family of four in Arkansas must make less than $32,000 a year. Last year, 14 percent of the state’s population was on SNAP, or about 426,000 people. That percentage mirrors the national picture.

    In 2016, 44 million Americans were on SNAP, receiving an average benefit of $126 per person per month, or about $1.40 a meal. For years, the program has been in the crosshairs of conservative lawmakers, who say the government simply can’t sustain a federal program that last year cost $71 billion, up from $33 billion in 2007, before the recession.

    REP. BRUCE WESTERMAN, R-Ark.: Instead of lifting people out of poverty, many of our welfare programs are actually trapping people in poverty.

    CAT WISE: Bruce Westerman is the Republican U.S. representative of the 4th District in Arkansas, which includes Thornton.

    REP. BRUCE WESTERMAN: We have got to do something to get the debt under control. It’s either do it the easy way now, which may not seem easy to some, or have the whole thing come crashing down and not be able to provide SNAP, or Medicare and Medicaid or anything to anyone because we’re in a financial crisis.

    CAT WISE: Mick Mulvaney is the Trump administration’s director of the Office of Management and Budget.

    MICK MULVANEY, Director, Office of Management and Budget: We’re no longer going to measure compassion by the number of programs or the number of people on those programs, but by the number of people we help get off of those programs.

    CAT WISE: In May, the White House presented its budget, which aimed to slash federal spending by $3.6 trillion over the next decade. If Congress were to pass that budget, SNAP would lose $193 billion, around a quarter of its funding.

    The plan calls for tightening standards on who qualifies for the program, and, for the first time, the budget shifts a large chunk of the cost to states, starting with 10 percent in 2020 and rising to 25 percent in 2023.

    For Arkansas, that would mean $144 million added to its state budget each year.

    KATHY WEBB, Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance: I don’t see where we would make up that $144 million.

    CAT WISE: You don’t think the state can make that up?

    KATHY WEBB: I don’t think the state can make that up.

    CAT WISE: Kathy Webb is a former state Democratic representative who now runs the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, a nonprofit organization connecting and advocating for the state’s food banks. She says private charities could not fill the gap.

    KATHY WEBB: We cannot make up the difference. And all of the charitable food network put together is about a 20th of what the federal safety net is.

    CAT WISE: Webb also worries about the effect a SNAP cut would have on grocery stores in poor communities.

    RANDY LINDSEY, Bottom Dollar Mercantile: It takes everything to make it. There is no slack.

    CAT WISE: Randy Lindsey and his wife, Janice, run the Bottom Dollar Store in Bearden, near Thornton. It’s one of the few stores in the area selling fresh produce and meat, as well as household items, flowers and more. Lindsey, a Trump supporter, says, in a tough economy, every little bit helps.

    RANDY LINDSEY: If I lost 25 percent of SNAP, for me, it would mean cutting 10 to 15 hours a week, or roughly 40 hours a month off payroll.

    CAT WISE: So your employees would be impacted?

    RANDY LINDSEY: Yes. It would impact employees. That’s a pretty good chunk to lose. There’s not much gravy in this operation. We make less money, then something has to be cut.

    CAT WISE: Conservatives often point out that SNAP expanded considerably under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and they are correct. The rise was particularly acute during the recession of 2008, when millions lost work and joined SNAP’s rolls.

    Benefits were also increased as part of the Stimulus Act, the 2009 law that pumped billions in federal spending into communities across the country. Yet, since late 2012, both spending and the number of people on SNAP have fallen, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that, if no changes were made, the share of the population on SNAP would return to pre-recession levels by 2027.

    Still, SNAP remains historically high, as more working families like the Williams, and seniors like 63-year-old James Jackson earn less, thus qualifying for the benefit.

    JAMES JACKSON, SNAP Recipient: Anybody, anyone, at any time can be affected by poverty.

    CAT WISE: Nearly 25 percent of all seniors in Arkansas face the threat of hunger. That leads the nation, according to a recent report.

    Jackson, a trained chef and a professional painter, has struggled to find work since his truck broke down. He now lives in subsidized housing in Little Rock and receives $172 a month in food stamps. He voted for President Trump, but urges him not to make these cuts.

    JAMES JACKSON: Give me a chance to get off the very program that you’re trying to cut. I want to get off. But if you take away my ability to get off, what can I do?

    CAT WISE: In the long run, it’s more economic opportunities, rather than government assistance, that Congressman Westerman says will best help the people of his state.

    REP. BRUCE WESTERMAN, R-Ark.: It’s a shame that we have to have a program that large in this country. We need to provide more opportunities for people that are good-paying jobs, and not just jobs, but careers where they can build homes and communities.

    CAT WISE: Back in Thornton, after the rush has passed, Joannie Cayce listens to the desperate plea of a woman who couldn’t get there today.

    WOMAN: I am a grandmother of four. I live alone. Please, please, help me.

    JOANNIE CAYCE: It’s the people that don’t come in, it’s the people that live 30 miles outside of this little food bank and that I don’t know about or that I can’t reach, it’s those people that keep me awake at night, those children that I know that are out of school that aren’t getting a breakfast and lunch.

    CAT WISE: Some hungry families may not be able to get to her, but Ms. Cayce spends the rest of her day making home deliveries.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Cat Wise in Thornton, Arkansas.

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    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to reporters after the weekly policy luncheons on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S. May 16, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RTX3643W

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has written to the acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy urging him to “consider important initiatives that could help deliver faster relief to millions of Americans.” Photo by REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein.

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s drug commission is drawing new criticism after it missed a second self-imposed deadline.

    Twenty Senate Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, have written to the acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy urging him to “consider important initiatives that could help deliver faster relief to millions of Americans.”

    “As the Commission is taking steps to address drug addiction, we are concerned that essential components, such as action on already existing recommendations, are being delayed,” they wrote.

    The letter to Richard Baum comes after the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which is chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, pushed back its deadline to release an interim report for a second time.

    READ MORE: Prescription opioids tripled between 1999 and 2015, CDC says

    The signees are urging the Trump administration to do more to combat the opioid epidemic, including implementing recommendations put forward by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in a November 2016 report.

    The group is also criticizing an administration budget proposal that would cut nearly $400 million in funding for drug and mental health programs and the Department of Justice’s escalating focus on treating drug addiction as a criminal justice issue.

    “For the millions of Americans currently suffering from addiction or abuse, another day could be a matter of life or death,” they wrote.

    The White House referred questions to the Office of the National Drug Control Policy, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    READ MORE: McCaskill launches investigation of opioid drugmakers

    Christie said earlier this week that he’d asked for an extension because of the outpouring of public comments the commission had received after its first public meeting.

    “I asked for an extension because we got over 8,000 public comments after our first public meeting and I did not think it was appropriate not to review all of those public comments, and to the extent necessary, address some of them in the interim report,” he said.

    The commission was supposed to submit its interim report within 90 days of the March 29 order that established the commission.

    Christie made fighting drug addiction a cornerstone of his 2016 presidential campaign and has dedicated his last year in office to the issue.

    WATCH: Trump’s opioid commission launches new look at health crisis

    “It’s unfortunate there are some who want to make addiction and the nation’s opioid crisis a partisan issue,” said Christie Press Secretary Brian Murray. “This type of rhetoric simply has no place in the important mission we have undertaken.”

    The letter’s signees include Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker.

    The post Democrats want faster action from Trump on opioid epidemic appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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