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

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    Caroline Casey records the vocalizations of the alpha male elephant seal at Ano Nuevo State Park, California. Photo by Ari Friedlaender

    Caroline Casey records the vocalizations of the alpha male elephant seal at Ano Nuevo State Park, California. Photo by Ari Friedlaender

    We recognize friends on the phone by just their voice. Rhythm, inflection and tone clue us in to who is on the other end of the line.

    Humans are not the only mammals with this aptitude. Male elephant seals recognize their rivals by rhythmic patterns in their call, according to a study published Thursday in Current Biology. Elephant seals become the first mammal other than humans to show this behavior, and the discovery may help explain why humans enjoy rhythmic things like music.

    To uncover this behavior, bioacoustician Nicolas Mathevon headed out before sunrise to the Ano Nuevo State Park in California. More than 4,000 elephant seals gather on the beach from December to March to mate and give birth. At the start of the season, male seals battle to establish a pecking order, sometimes fighting to the death. The strongest control the female harem.

    “It is a high stakes environment,” Caroline Casey, a University of California, Santa Cruz doctoral candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology and study co-author, told the NewsHour. “We wanted to know what these animals are saying to each other – what information is embedded in these calls that the seals use to avoid a fight, and which components of the calls are important.”

    Casey had previously shown that elephant seals can identify the calls of their rivals. “Alpha” males sing out to warn low-ranking seals to stay away or fight.

    With ringside seats, Mathevon, Casey and their team observed these animals for five years and became accustomed to recognizing individual animals by the rhythms of their voices. They wondered if the seals could do the same.

    Two male elephant seals battling to earn higher ranking social status in the colony. Footage by C. Reichmuth/UC Santa Cruz/NMFS marine mammal permit 19108

    Two male elephant seals battling to earn higher ranking social status in the colony. Footage by C. Reichmuth/UC Santa Cruz/NMFS marine mammal permit 19108

    So the team recorded the vocalizations of a dominant male elephant seal. Back in the lab, they used a computer program to create two variations of the song, which modified only the rhythm, leaving all other natural qualities of the vocalization

    Armed with the original and modified recordings, one by one, they sounded the alpha male calls to 10 beta males. Upon hearing the original call, the lowly beta males retreated akin to what they do when avoiding a fight. But, when the beta males heard the call with a considerably modified rhythm, they took no notice, leading the researchers to conclude that the rhythm is key to recognition.

    “All social mammals have to recognize members of their network,” said Mathevon who works at the University of Lyon, Saint-Etienne in France. “To navigate in the social network, you have to know who is who. What is special about this study is it’s the first time that we found a mammal that uses a rhythm to support an individual’s unique [vocalization] signature.”

    A musician divides a beat into long and short tones. A seal also subdivides the pulses of their calls. This study modified the tempo, but Mathevon thinks the seals may even decipher rhythms at a finer level, decoding beats that are subdivided into more complex patterns.

    “This research was beautifully designed,” said Andrea Ravignani, a researcher at The Seal Rehabilitation and Research Center in Pieterburen, Netherlands, who wasn’t involved in the study. His research focuses on the evolutionary basis of rhythm and the origins of music.

    Unlike most projects, which use musical recordings to understand how animals make sense of rhythm, this study uses the animal calls, which Ravignani said “is more ecologically relevant.”

    “Everybody loves music. But we don’t understand why,” Ravignani said. Because humans and seals don’t have a known common ancestor with an affinity for rhythm, Ravignani said this study brings us closer to understanding why humans like language and music, simply by having another species for comparison.

    The next step in Mathevon’s research will be to look at the seal rhythms on a finer scale, modifying more than just the overall tempo. He plans to also examine female-to-female conversations, as well as communication between adults and their young.

    The post Elephant seals recognize vocal rhythms to avoid bullies appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Photo by Ulrich Baumgarten via Getty Images.

    An estimated 22 million more people would lose health insurance by 2026 under the latest Republican-led Senate bill to reform health care than if the Affordable Care Act remained in place, according to a report released Thursday by the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation. Photo by Ulrich Baumgarten via Getty Images.

    An estimated 22 million more people would lose health insurance by 2026 under the latest Republican-led Senate bill to reform health care than if the Affordable Care Act remained in place, according to a report released Thursday by the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation.

    The reworked version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act, which failed to earn enough support for a vote this week, would reduce the federal deficit by $420 billion over the next decade, according to the new analysis. The earlier version of the bill would have cut the deficit by only $321 billion.

    Senators were able to make larger cuts to the deficit in their latest version of the bill by preserving certain taxes that Republicans had killed in the older version. They found more savings by reducing and ending certain federal matching funds and capping per-capita-based payments for Medicaid. According to the budget office, the latest Senate bill still cuts deep into Medicaid, eliminating $756 billion from the program over 10 years, compared to the $772 billion the earlier version sought to eliminate.

    Still, the number of uninsured Americans in the latest bill changed little from the first version of the Senate health care bill, which would also leave 22 million more Americans without health insurance, the budget office said in June.

    Axios editor David Nather pointed out the CBO report also says some deductibles would exceed the out of pocket limits set by the ACA, which could violate the law.


    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters after a lunch with President Donald Trump.

    Earlier this week, faced with a lack of support for the latest version of the health care bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would instead push for a full repeal of Obamacare, with a two-year deadline to develop new health care infrastructure. But on Wednesday, President Donald Trump invited McConnell and other Republican senators to a White House lunch to talk about the health care efforts. (The August recess shouldn’t happen unless he has legislation on his desk, Trump told lawmakers.)

    The CBO said 32 million more people would lose insurance by 2026 if the Affordable Care Act was repealed and not replaced. A recent AP-NORC poll showed only 13 percent of Americans support repealing Obamacare without other health care infrastructure in place.

    READ MORE: Trump administration ends Affordable Care Act assistance contracts in 18 cities

    After the Wednesday lunch at the White House, some senators were still trying to save the revised health care legislation, rather than repeal Obamacare altogether. To revive the bill, they will need 50 of the GOP’s 52 votes in the Senate.

    This is the latest installment in a series of budget office reports on the Republican efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

    In March, the budget office said 24 million more people would be uninsured under the plan that emerged from the Republican-led House of Representatives. And in May, the office found the revised House health care bill, which passed on a 217-213 vote, would lower federal deficits by $119 billion but leave 23 million more people than if Obamacare was left in place over the next decade.

    The post Latest Republican health care bill would leave 22 million more Americans without insurance appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Don Ingabire (L), 16 and Audrey Mwamikazi, 17, members of a teenage robotics team from the African nation of Burundi, who were reported missing after taking part in an international competition and later spotted crossing into Canada, are seen in pictures released by the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C. Photo by Metropolitan Police Department via Reuters

    Don Ingabire (L), 16 and Audrey Mwamikazi, 17, members of a teenage robotics team from the African nation of Burundi, who were reported missing after taking part in an international competition and later spotted crossing into Canada, are seen in pictures released by the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C. Photo by Metropolitan Police Department via Reuters

    Two of the six members of the Burundi robotics team, who participated in an international competition this week in Washington, D.C., were seen crossing into Canada and have been reported safe, police confirmed Thursday.

    D.C. police said they believe the two teens, identified as Audrey Mwamikazi, 17, and Don Ingabire, 16, left for Canada on their own accord, adding that there was no evidence of foul play. Authorities have not released any further details, the Washington Post reported.

    The other four members, including two 17-year-old girls and two boys aged 17 and 18, are also believed to be safe, authorities said. Police declined to provide further information, the Post reported.

    Authorities tweeted photos and descriptions of the six teenagers Wednesday. The following day, police identified them as missing persons and asked the public to call with any useful information.

    The teens came to the U.S. on one-year visas to compete in the FIRST Global Challenge, an international competition involving more than 150 nations designed to encourage youth participation in math and science. The competition first received national attention after a team of six Afghan girls were denied visas to participate in the competition, until President Donald Trump intervened.

    The Burundi team were last seen around 5 p.m. local time, about a half hour before the event ended Tuesday night. FIRST Global President Joe Sestak called the police after the teenagers could be not located.

    “Security of the students is of paramount importance to FIRST Global,” the organization’s spokesman Jose Perez Escotto told the NewsHour in an email, adding that representatives are stationed at all times at the dormitories that housed the competition’s participants.

    “FIRST Global hired a private firm to provide security at Constitution Hall and also ensured that all students can get safely to their dormitories before and after the daily competition by providing our own transportation to the students staying at Trinity Washington University,” the statement read.

    Burundi has been engulfed in a violent unrest since 2015, when the country’s president was re-elected to a third term in office. That election sparked massive protests and led to an attempted coup that same year.

    The ongoing civil war in Burundi prompted the State Department to issue a travel warning in late June, warning U.S. citizens of “sporadic violence throughout the country, including frequent gunfire and grenade attacks by armed groups.”

    Hundreds of people have been killed and 220,000 have fled the country since the violence erupted, according to the United Nations.

    The post Missing Burundi robotics team members found safe in Canada, police confirm appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Commuters walk down a sidewalk lit by the rising sun in New York, September 29, 2015.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson  - RTS29TR

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman and Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom discuss existential threats such as nuclear winter and how the biggest threat to humanity may be what we don’t yet know. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

    Editor’s note: Economics correspondent Paul Solman recently traveled to Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute. And yes, there is an institute that studies only that — the future of the human species.

    In PBS NewsHour’s Thursday Making Sen$e report, Paul speaks with the institute’s founding director Nick Bostrom, a Swedish philosopher known for his work on artificial intelligence and existential threats. You can watch Bostrom’s TED talk on “superintelligence” — what happens when computers become smarter than humans — here.

    At the the Future of Humanity Institute, Bostrom leads a team trying to figure out how to best invest in, well, the future of humanity. That means identifying threats to the continuing existence of homo sapiens and figuring out how to reduce the possibility of such events. Tonight’s Making Sen$e report focuses on the need to invest in managing the evolution of artificial intelligence. But Paul and Bostrom discussed much more. Below, we have an excerpt of their conversation on how the institute determines what existential threats to study, and how the biggest threat to humanity may be what we don’t yet know.

    — Kristen Doerer, Making Sen$e editor


    PAUL SOLMAN: If I care about future generations, 100,000 years from now, and there’s some possibility that they won’t exist, what should I invest in to give them the best chance of survival and having a happy life the way I’ve had one?

    NICK BOSTROM: What you should invest in is what we are trying to figure out, and it’s a really difficult question. How can we trace out the links between actions that people take today and really long-term outcomes for humanity — outcomes that stretch out indefinitely into the future?

    PAUL SOLMAN: And that’s why [the institute] is called the Future of Humanity…

    NICK BOSTROM: That’s one of the reasons it’s called that. So I call this effort macrostrategy — that is, to think about the really big strategic situation for having a positive impact on the long-term future. There’s the butterfly effect: A small change in an initial condition could have arbitrarily large consequences. And it’s hard enough to predict the economy two years from now, so how could we even begin to think about how your actions make a difference a million years from now? So there are some ideas that maybe bring the answer a little bit closer. One idea is this concept of existential risk. That helps focus our attention.

    READ MORE: Do labor-saving robots spell doom for American workers?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Nuclear winter — that is, the period of abnormal cold that would follow a nuclear war. That has been, in my lifetime, I think the most common existential threat that people have talked about.

    NICK BOSTROM: Well, if you think that nuclear war poses a threat to the survival of our species or even if you think that it would just be enormous destruction, then obviously we would look for ways to try to reduce the probability that there would be a nuclear war. So here you have to introduce a second consideration, which is how easy it is to actually make a difference to a particular race.

    So it is quite difficult for some individual to reduce the probability of a nuclear war, because there are big nations with big stockpiles and strong incentives and a lot of money and a lot of people who have worked on this for decades. So if you, as an individual, choose to join a disarmament campaign, it might make some difference, but a small difference. So there might be other scenarios that have been more neglected and where maybe one extra person or one extra million dollars of research funding would make a larger, proportional difference. So you want to think, how big is the problem, and how much difference can you, on the margin, make to the degree to which the problem gets solved?

    “So if there are big existential risks, I think they are going to come from our own activities and mostly from our own inventiveness and creativity.”

    PAUL SOLMAN: And one area that you yourself have been working on a lot is artificial intelligence, which you’ve called super intelligence. Is that an existential risk, do you think?

    NICK BOSTROM: When I survey the possible things that could derail humanity’s long-term future, it can roughly distinguish natural risks, such as volcano eruptions, earthquakes and asteroids, and risks that arise somewhere from our own activity. It’s pretty clear that all the really big risks to our survival are of the latter kind, anthropogenic. We’ve survived risks from nature for 100,000 years, right? So, it’s unlikely any of those things would do us in  within the next 100 years. Whereas, in the next century, we will be inventing radical new technologies — machine intelligence, perhaps nanotech, great advances in synthetic biology and other things we haven’t even thought of yet. And those new powers will unlock wonderful opportunities, but they might also bring with them certain risks. And we have no track record of surviving those risks. So if there are big existential risks, I think they are going to come from our own activities and mostly from our own inventiveness and creativity.

    PAUL SOLMAN: What are the greatest of those risks?

    NICK BOSTROM: I think the greatest existential risks over the coming decades or century arise from certain, anticipated technological breakthroughs that we might make in particular, machine super intelligence, nanotechnology and synthetic biology. I think each of these has an enormous potential for improving the human condition by helping cure disease, poverty, etcetera. But one could imagine them being misused, used to create very powerful weapon systems, or even in some cases some kind of accidental destructive scenario, where we suddenly are in possession of some technology that’s far more powerful than we are able to control or use wisely.

    READ MORE: Why humanity is essential to the future of artificial intelligence

    PAUL SOLMAN: How would you rank them in terms of the danger?

    NICK BOSTROM: Biotech, synthetic biology and AI I think are near the top. I would also add the unknown. Suppose you had to ask me this question 100 years ago. What are the biggest existential risks? At that time, nobody would have mentioned AI; they didn’t have computers, and it wasn’t even a concept. Nobody had heard of nanotechnology or synthetic biology or even nuclear weapons, right? A hundred years from now, it’s likely that there might be other things that we haven’t thought of.

    The post How do we invest in the future of humanity? Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom explains appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to another in our Brief But Spectacular series, where we ask people to describe their passions.

    Tonight, we hear from Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras. Her latest film is “Risk,” which looks at WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

    LAURA POITRAS, Documentary Filmmaker: It’s a bit surprising that I do documentaries, because I consider myself to be a really shy person.

    And there’s something about the documentary form that I guess it sort of — it kind of gives you an invitation, maybe, to go places you wouldn’t go otherwise or to take risks you wouldn’t take otherwise.

    My filmmaking is — kind of comes in a tradition of observational cinema or cinema verite. Legendary founders of it is D.A. Pennebaker, Albert Maysles, Frederick Wiseman. They capture human stories. They capture drama, and they capture history as it unfolds.

    When you talk to people and who they tell you who they are is oftentimes different than their actions. And so I’m interested in people’s actions and choices.

    So, for instance, sitting in a hotel room with Edward Snowden, as he’s making this monumental decision to leak this information, is an example of the type of cinema that I’m interested in doing.

    The last two films I have done, “Citizenfour” and “Risk,” I became a participant. There were things that were happening that were happening because of work that I was doing, reporting on the NSA.

    I mean, if you expose the deepest levels of intelligence agencies, they do tend to pay attention to what you’re doing. I was placed on a government terrorist watch list in 2006, and was detained at the U.S. border for — probably 50 times, interrogated. I have had computers confiscated. I have had notebooks photocopied.

    They have subpoenaed my records. They would send FBI agents to my film screenings to see what I said in Q&As.

    MAN: There’s a filmmaker named Laura Poitras. Laura Poitras is known through the defense community as a documentary filmmaker who is anti-U.S.

    LAURA POITRAS: I became really interested in WikiLeaks and Julian Assange in 2010, like a lot of people, first when they published the video of Collateral Murder, the Apache helicopter footage that showed killings of Iraqis, by U.S. military.

    And having made a film about the war in Iraq, I knew that this was the kind of thing that was happening every day there. I reached out to WikiLeaks and Assange during that time and then started filming in 2011.

    And I was interested in how they were changing journalism. I had somewhat of a falling out with him over the film, where he wanted me not to use scenes in the film.

    One of the scenes that Julian wanted removed from the film is the scene where his lawyers are giving him advice about how to speak publicly of — around these allegations of sexual assault.

    JULIAN ASSANGE, Founder, WikiLeaks: It’s just a thoroughly tawdry, radical, feminist, political positioning thing. It’s some stereotype.

    LAURA POITRAS: I still have enormous respect for, like, the project of WikiLeaks and its importance, because I think they have done extraordinary publishing.

    I’m always interested in access. Like — you know, like, I would love to have access to Robert Mueller’s investigation into Donald Trump, or James Comey.

    But I think those are going to be pretty tough to get access to that. But, yes, I’m really looking forward to like the really good documentary that’s capturing what’s happening right now in our politics.

    I hope it’s being documented by someone.

    My name is Laura Poitras, and this is my brief take on documentary filmmaking.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And you can watch additional Brief But Spectacular episodes at pbs.org/newshour/brief.

    The post What it’s like to turn the camera on Snowden and Assange appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now we turn to the grinding civil war in Yemen, which has also become a proxy conflict between neighboring Saudi Arabia and Iran.

    A two-and-a-half-year bombing campaign has killed thousands. Vast swathes of the country lie devastated. Compounding the horror, Yemen is on the brink of famine. There are critical shortages of aid and medical care, and now an outbreak of cholera is spreading.

    The country has been essentially closed to journalists for months, but filmmaker Martin Smith and his team from Frontline were able to gain access to Yemen in May.

    Frontline has a short film on its website documenting what they saw.

    Here is an excerpt, beginning in the capital, Sanaa.

    MARTIN SMITH: It’s not just the jets you hear overhead, or the buildings that are bombed, or the airport that’s demolished. It’s the knock-on effects of the war on infrastructure.

    When we came into town, what struck me right away was the amount of garbage on the streets. The garbage workers hadn’t been paid in eight months. The rains came, washing through the garbage, bacteria carried into the water supply, people drinking bad water. And they were hit by a cholera epidemic.

    Cholera simply dehydrates you quickly, so that anything you ingest, any water you drink or food you eat just completely passes through your system, and you get no nutrients out of it.

    WOMAN: She is very tired because of the exhaustion from the electrolyte imbalance that she has. She can’t control herself now until she gets enough fluid.

    MARTIN SMITH: The World Health Organization is saying that there are over 300,000 cases of cholera; 1,600 people have died, many of them children.

    And the numbers keep going up. The hospital we visited, they were already beyond capacity. The nurses and doctors were suffering from a lack of medicines and equipment. And they were there working, in spite the fact that they hadn’t been paid.

    WOMAN: We don’t get salary. Last salary I got was in September only.

    If I will not work, then they will die. And maybe tomorrow, I will be sick, and nobody will see me because of no salary.

    MARTIN SMITH: People often ask why the Saudis are bombing Yemen. It’s a question for the Saudis. They will tell you they’re fighting against the rebel group that’s trying to take over the country, who are backed by their archrival, Iran.

    Yet, in the time I was there, it was hard to see really what the Iranians were doing. But the impact of the Saudi-led coalition bombing was very clear. Parts of the country have been isolated of bomb strikes on bridges. People on the ground in Yemen are suffering. They’re caught in the crossfire of this war.

    In Hajjah, we went to a hospital. And I met a nurse there who showed me pictures she’d taken a day or two before of a young boy who came in severely malnourished, and died.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): Of course one gets very upset. All of us here do. We do our job, and we love the child. And, in the end, they pass away. It’s hard.

    MARTIN SMITH: She then was called away to go take care of a new severe malnutrition patient. A mother came in with her child. It was a little girl named Aline, a seventh-month-old baby.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): For sure, it’s a consequence of the war. The war is behind the malnourishment. And it is only getting worse. The cases have increased. There is a food shortage.

    How are your living conditions at home?

    WOMAN (through interpreter): Terrible.

    MARTIN SMITH: There were always malnutrition cases in Yemen, but the nurse told us that the number of cases had more than doubled since the war.

    And maybe an hour later, another mother came in with her daughter. Ruqayah her name. It was a 5-year-old girl. Ruqayah had come from an IDP, an internally displaced persons camp. And it’s quite a ways away up near the Saudi border, traveled several hours, because the hospital up near her had been bombed.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): As a result of these catastrophes, they don’t have the means to travel from their areas, which are usually very far from ours. So they wait.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: That was an excerpt of “Inside Yemen,” a Frontline short film by Martin Smith.

    For more on the conflict and the people caught in between, we’re joined from New York by David Miliband. He is president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, a global aid agency, and he served as foreign secretary of the United Kingdom from 2007 to 2010.

    David Miliband, welcome back to the NewsHour.

    That was a horrific film we have just seen an excerpt of. Tell us more about just how bad things are right now in Yemen.

    DAVID MILIBAND, CEO, International Rescue Committee: Well, I think horrific is the right word for the tragedy that’s unfolding in Yemen.

    It is the modern face of humanitarian catastrophe, because Yemen represents a political emergency, as well as a humanitarian emergency. Yemen is one of four countries threatened by famine at the moment. And the numbers in Yemen are absolutely staggering, 20 million people in humanitarian need, over 300,000 diagnosed with cholera already.

    And our teams on the ground — the International Rescue Committee has 150 or 200 staff on the ground in Yemen — and what they report is direct danger to civilians from bombing as part of the war that’s going on, and indirect danger from the consequences of war that are impeding access to — of humanitarian workers and have destroyed about half of the hospitals in the country.

    So it really is complete meltdown in Yemen at the moment.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, if I were to ask you what are people — what are the main needs that people have, it sounds as if you’re saying everything.

    DAVID MILIBAND: Yes, it is everything, but I think one can be specific, first of all, that the war needs to be conducted within the confines of international humanitarian law.

    International humanitarian law, which defends civilians from attack, needs to be observed. Secondly, the bombing of hospitals needs to be arrested and stopped. Thirdly, access for humanitarian aide workers needs to be supported, rather than impeded.

    There’s a threat to the main port in Yemen, the Hodeidah port. There’s a threat to bomb that port. In fact, it needs stronger U.N. presence there to ensure that food is able to enter the country, because, obviously, the agriculture has been completely ruined over the last few years of war.

    And, fourthly, and critically, there needs to be support from the whole international diplomatic and political, as well as humanitarian community for some kind of political settlement that can put ahold to the fighting.

    Nearly two years ago at the United Nations, I attended a meeting of foreign nations of Gulf countries who said they were committed to finding a political settlement, but, frankly, it’s no nearer now than it was then. And civilians in Yemen are paying the price.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Why has it gotten to this point? You describe a situation that, by stages, has gotten to a point, as you’re describing, it’s going to be very difficult to put this back together again.

    DAVID MILIBAND: You’re absolutely right.

    I mean, there are two main reasons, I think. First of all, the war itself has seen a significant upping of the ante, first of all, by the Saudi-led coalition, the U.S. supporting that, then the Iranians getting involved, then retaliation against the Iranian involvement.

    And so you see an escalation upon escalation, neither side willing to compromise, for fear of losing face. The second thing that’s been happening is that the humanitarian tragedy and the failure to protect civilians and deliver humanitarian aid has, I’m afraid, fueled the political emergency. It’s provided fuel for radicalism. It’s entrenched both sides.

    The bloodletting has meant that both the Houthi rebels and the government who have the support of the Saudis and the American side have got further and further apart. A million refugees have left the country, including some fleeing to Somalia. You have got a situation where Somalia is safer for them than Yemen.

    And those are the two main reasons. There is one other thing, just to further enlighten your audience. Yemen is a country that is suffering terribly from climate change. Sanaa is predicted to be the first capital city in the world to run out of water.

    So you have got chronic long-term problems and acute problems in the short term as well.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: A number of guilty parties you’re talking about, including the United States.

    What, politically, can be done? I mean, you said a moment ago, David Miliband, this is even more a political crisis than a humanitarian, as bad as it is on a humanitarian level. What has to be done?

    DAVID MILIBAND: I think the diplomatic and political muscle needs to be applied to ensure that there is a cease-fire, that that then is built on with a proper negotiated settlement, because the truth is that the current trajectory of the war is in the interests of neither side. No one is winning. But the civilians of Yemen are losing very big time.

    I’m pleased to say that there are some senators speaking up on this. I was in Washington on Monday. And there is growing concern, I think, in the Senate to call on the U.S. administration to persuade the Saudis to call a halt to this bombing campaign, which, as I say, is fueling the insurgency, rather than curbing it, and to give time for humanitarian aid to get in.

    I mean, it tells you something that we in the humanitarian sector are desperately calling on there to be no bombing of the main port through which 90 percent of the food gets into Yemen.

    And Yemen is one of four countries that are threatened by famine. And a unique coalition of eight American-led NGOs have come together to form a global emergency response coalition to call on the American public to support us in trying to staunch the bloodshed, to staunch the humanitarian suffering, even while the war going on.

    But it’s for the diplomats and the politicians to try and bring the war to an end.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: What’s at stake if that doesn’t happen?

    DAVID MILIBAND: Suffering and further fuel for the insurgency. This is a downward spiral to hell that really needs to be arrested.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: David Miliband of the International Rescue Committee, thank you very much.

    DAVID MILIBAND: Thank you very much.

    The post Yemen is in ‘complete meltdown’ and civilians are paying the price appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: the fears around the development of artificial intelligence.

    Computer superintelligence is a long, long way from the stuff of sci-fi movies, but several high-profile leaders and thinkers have been worrying quite publicly about what they see as the risks to come.

    Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman, explores that. It’s part of his weekly series, Making Sense.

    ACTOR: I want to talk to you about the greatest scientific event in the history of man.

    ACTOR: Are you building an A.I.?

    PAUL SOLMAN: A.I., artificial intelligence.

    ACTRESS: Do you think I might be switched off?

    ACTOR: It’s not up to me.

    ACTRESS: Why is it up to anyone?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Some version of this scenario has had prominent tech luminaries and scientists worried for years.

    In 2014, cosmologist Stephen Hawking told the BBC:

    STEPHEN HAWKING, Scientist (through computer voice): I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And just this week, Tesla and SpaceX entrepreneur Elon Musk told the ®MDNM¯National Governors Association:

    ELON MUSK, CEO, Tesla Motors: A.I. is a fundamental existential risk for human civilization. And I don’t think people fully appreciate that.

    PAUL SOLMAN: OK, but what’s the economics angle? Well, at Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute, founding director Nick Bostrom leads a team trying to figure out how best to invest in, well, the future of humanity.

    NICK BOSTROM, Director, Future of Humanity Institute: We are in this very peculiar situation of looking back at the history of our species, 100,000 years old, and now finding ourselves just before the threshold to what looks like it will be this transition to some post-human era of superintelligence that can colonize the universe, and then maybe last for billions of years.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Philosopher Bostrom has been perhaps the most prominent thinker about the benefits and dangers to humanity of what he calls superintelligence for many years.

    NICK BOSTROM: Once there is superintelligence, the fate of humanity may depend on what that superintelligence does.

    PAUL SOLMAN: There are plenty of ways to invest in humanity, he says, giving money to anti-disease charities, for example.

    But Bostrom thinks longer-term, about investing to lessen existential risks, those that threaten to wipe out the human species entirely. Global warming might be one. But plenty of other people are worrying about that, he says. So, he thinks about other risks.

    What are the greatest of those risks?

    NICK BOSTROM: The greatest existential risks arise from certain anticipated technological breakthroughs that we might make, in particular, machine superintelligence, nanotechnology, and synthetic biology, fundamentally because we don’t have the ability to uninvent anything that we invent.

    We don’t, as a human civilization, have the ability to put the genie back into the bottle. Once something has been published, then we are stuck with that knowledge.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So Bostrom wants money invested in how to manage A.I.

    NICK BOSTROM: Specifically on the question, if and when in the future you could build machines that were really smart, maybe superintelligent, smarter than humans, how could you then ensure that you could control what those machines do, that they were beneficial, that they were aligned with human intentions?

    PAUL SOLMAN: How likely is it that machines would develop basically a mind of their own, which is what you’re saying, right?

    NICK BOSTROM: I do think that advanced A.I., including superintelligence, is a sort of portal through which humanity will have passage, assuming we don’t destroy ourselves prematurely in some other way.

    Right now, the human brain is where it’s at. It’s the source of almost all of the technologies we have.

    PAUL SOLMAN: I’m relieved to hear that.

    (LAUGHTER)

    NICK BOSTROM: And the complex social organization we have.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Right.

    NICK BOSTROM: It’s why the modern condition is so different from the way that the chimpanzees live.

    It’s all through the human brain’s ability to discover and communicate. But there is no reason to think that human intelligence is anywhere near the greatest possible level of intelligence that could exist, that we are sort of the smartest possible species.

    I think, rather, that we are the stupidest possible species that is capable of creating technological civilization.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And capable of creating technology that has begun to surpass us, first in chess, then in “Jeopardy,” now in the supposedly impossible game for a machine to win, Go.

    This is just task-oriented software, some have argued, and not really intelligence at all. Moreover, whatever you call it, there will be enormous benefits, says Bostrom.

    On the other hand, if we approach real intelligence, it could also become a threat. Think of “Ex Machina” or “The Matrix” or Elon Musk’s fantasy fear this week about advanced A.I.

    ELON MUSK: Well, it could start a war by create — by doing fake news and spoofing e-mail accounts and fake press releases, and just by, you know, manipulating information. The pen is mightier than the sword.

    PAUL SOLMAN: So, this is going to be a cat-and-mouse game between us and the intelligence?

    NICK BOSTROM: That would be one model. One line of attack is to try to leverage the A.I.’s intelligence to learn what it is that we value and what we want it to do.

    PAUL SOLMAN: In order to protect ourselves from what could be a truly existential risk.

    So, how do you get the greatest good for the greatest number of present and future humans beings? It might be to invest now in controlling the evolution of artificial intelligence.

    For the PBS NewsHour, this is economics correspondent Paul Solman, reporting from Oxford, England.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: We turn back to the Russia investigations and the issue at their core: that government’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

    How Russian officials made it happen is the focus of at least three official probes in Washington, but information about what they did and didn’t do to our voting process and to our confidence in our election system has come in fits and starts.

    A new cover story for TIME magazine takes a deep dive into what we know now, connecting the dots of how, why and how far they went.

    It’s titled “Inside the Secret Plan to Stop Vladimir Putin’s U.S. Election Plot.”

    And the author, TIME magazine’s Massimo Calabresi, is here with me now.

    Welcome to the program, Massimo.

    So, what you have reported in this issue of TIME is what we don’t know before, how far the federal government had gone last year to prevent damage by the Russians.

    MASSIMO CALABRESI, TIME: In the days leading up to the election, the top federal cyber-security officials realized that, for the efforts they had taken throughout the election, our voting system was still vulnerable, not to interference with the actual vote count, but to undermining the credibility of the vote, the integrity of the vote, which is, of course, the purpose of voting to begin with, to reach a consensus that the democratic will of the people has been expressed.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what was it that the government was prepared to do?

    MASSIMO CALABRESI: Well, they enumerated in this 15-page plan some extraordinary steps.

    They stipulated at the beginning that, under most circumstances, the federal government would defer to the states in a cyber-incident, but in a particularly bad one, for example, one that halted voting at a voting place, they would go so far as to send armed law enforcement, federal law enforcement agents to polling places.

    They were prepared to deploy active and reserve military forces in case of a massive incident. And they also prepared for counterpropaganda efforts in the wake of the vote, should false information be spread to try and undermine its credibility.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And what had they seen that caused them to go to this length before election?

    MASSIMO CALABRESI: So, initially, they saw one or two states back in the summer where the Russians had broken into the voter registration rolls and meddled around.

    But the more they looked, the more they found other states had been compromised. And they didn’t quite know what the Russians were doing. Initially, they thought they might be able to swing the vote, but they soon concluded that actual meddling with the vote count wasn’t going to be possible.

    But they decided that what the Russians could do was take certain actions that would call into question whether it had been free and fair, like interfering with the reporting systems on election night, meddling with voter rolls throughout the country in ways that would cause long lines or, in swing states, might cause an extraordinary number of provisional ballots to be cast.

    (CROSSTALK)

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Excuse me, but there were instances where — you have reported, because you have written a number of stories about this, were in California, for example.

    There was an instance where a number of people reported they had trouble voting because of how their identity had been changed in voter registration.

    MASSIMO CALABRESI: That’s absolutely right.

    On primary day in California in June 2016, the local DA started getting a bench of calls from voters saying that they were not being allowed to vote because their voter registration information had been changed in the statewide voter registration database.

    The hackers remain unknown in that case because the state of California doesn’t record the I.P. addresses of computers that make changes. But, looking back, the federal officials who were in charge of defending the vote, in the context of the other Russian intrusions, concluded that this might have been a test run by the Russians to show what kind of disruption they could cause on Election Day.

    And indeed, in this county in California, the voters became quite agitated, and the mystery actually fed the doubt.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I want to press you on this, because you’re saying that the Russians were not able — they weren’t worried that the Russians were going to be able to change the final vote count.

    MASSIMO CALABRESI: That’s right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: But were able to get in, in a remarkable way, into state voter files, into election systems.

    MASSIMO CALABRESI: And this is what’s so important, because the Russians had over time become bolder and bolder about their intrusions, and had not tried to hide the fact that they were breaking into systems.

    The Russians are very skilled cyber-actors, among the best in the world. So the fact they were remaining in the open was a clue to the larger purpose of the operation. And it’s crucial to keep this in mind. The first and primary goal of the Russian operation against the election was to undermine American faith in the democratic process, the first and abiding goal.

    Every secondary goal that came had to first fulfill undermining our faith in the democratic process. And so what the cyber-security officials at the White House and across government at the FBI and intelligence community concluded was that these intrusions were less about the specific effect that they could have than they were on undermining the faith of the Americans in elections generally.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And it appears that they succeeded, at least in part, in doing that.

    And you report that there is every reason to think that they may still be engaged in this. We have an election, governors election coming up, this year.

    MASSIMO CALABRESI: That’s right. That’s right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: All of our congressional elections next year.

    MASSIMO CALABRESI: That’s right. That’s right.

    The crucial thing here is, this is an attack by Russia on America, not on a particular candidate or on a particular party. Their interests are in weakening the U.S. at home and abroad. And that’s why it’s so important now that we take steps to try and secure our election, so that this kind of exercise, propaganda, influence operation designed to undermine our faith in the democratic process here can’t succeed in the future.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And how high up in the Russian government does the direction of this go? We know that at one point President Obama was reportedly telling Vladimir Putin, cut it out.

    MASSIMO CALABRESI: Well, that’s right.

    Obama famously confronted him in that photograph of the two staring at each other icily in China at a meeting and told him to cut it out. The intelligence community reported publicly in their assessment in January that the operation had been approved at the highest level. And my sources tell me that means Putin.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it doesn’t get any higher than that.

    MASSIMO CALABRESI: That’s right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And it’s a remarkable collection of stories.

    Congratulations on all this reporting. And I know you’re continuing to work on it.

    MASSIMO CALABRESI: Thank you.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Massimo Calabresi with TIME, thank you.

    MASSIMO CALABRESI: Thanks for having me.

    The post How Russia hacked American faith in the democratic process appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: A CIA program to aid Syrian rebels fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad will soon be ended by the Trump administration.

    Hari Sreenivasan has that.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: It was a covert program, started in 2013 under President Obama, in the hopes of forcing Assad from power. The news that President Trump would end the operation was first reported by The Washington Post yesterday.

    Joining me now for what impact this will have on the conflict in Syria is Faysal Itani, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

    First, let’s talk about what this means, what the strategy is behind this move.

    FAYSAL ITANI, Atlantic Council: Well, this is something — this is a campaign, a strategy that’s actually been rolled back for a long time.

    Initially, it started as — under the Obama administration as a tool to put pressure on the Assad regime, military pressure, to get them to negotiate. That didn’t work. When the Russians came into Syria in 2015, the stakes became really too high and the risks became too high for the administration to keep on pushing with a proxy war program like this.

    So, this is basically a rollback of that, and an indication that we have entered a whole different phase of the war.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: We have seen the Trump administration repeatedly say, our focus is on defeating ISIS.

    Does this move help in the fight against ISIS?

    FAYSAL ITANI: Not so much.

    It doesn’t have any immediate benefit on the fight against ISIS. But I think what the president was saying and thinking was that we don’t want anything to potentially distract or sort of siphon resources away from the fight against ISIS, so why are we doing this thing? Why do we have this program? We’re fighting Assad. Why should we be fighting Assad?

    So, I think it’s really a question just eliminating other agendas and keeping one agenda alone. And I do think that some of these people who have been on the U.S. payroll for a long time, and they’re armed, they will be deployed against jihadi groups in Southern Syria, not all of them, but some of them.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The rebels that are affected by this particular operation seem to be in the area that is right now holding tentatively under a cease-fire, right?

    FAYSAL ITANI: Yes, absolutely.

    And I think it’s no coincidence that this cease-fire relies on Russian goodwill and Russian intention of actually restraining the regime for breaking that cease-fire. And in return for that, I think you see part of the calculation is that we’re offering this concession.

    We’re showing the Russians that we are serious about no longer escalating militarily against the regime. And this is a sign of our goodwill and our commitment.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Has the strategy of funding, at least in terms of arms, these rebel groups, has that worked?

    FAYSAL ITANI: No, because it was never of a sufficient scale or magnitude or quality that would really present a strategic threat to the regime, sufficient military threat to the regime.

    The regime understood that fairly well, when we got slightly — a couple of years into the conflict, really. And the point is that it was never meant to put so much pressure on the regime that it would collapse. It was meant to sort of put just enough that it would bring Bashar al-Assad to the negotiating table.

    And I think, obviously, that wasn’t going to happen, and it didn’t.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Does this change that equation? Is Bashar al-Assad happier now that there is officially a de-escalation, at least in terms of support of arms against the people that he’s against?

    FAYSAL ITANI: I think this is definitely good news to him.

    It’s something, though, that had been happening for a while. But now that it’s about to become — I think this is why there is a leak — going to become official U.S. policy, then, yes, he certainly knows that he’s in the clear, insofar as there is a U.S. intention to pose a military threat to him.

    And without the United States backing one or more of these groups in Syria, there really isn’t any way to pose a serious threat to the regime, given that Russia and Iran are fighting on his side.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: There’s the political dimension to it. The Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain said, even while he’s recuperating — I want to read part of his quote — “If these reports are true, the administration is playing right into the hands of Vladimir Putin. Making any concession to Russia, absent a broader strategy for Syria, is irresponsible and shortsighted.”

    FAYSAL ITANI: I think what Senator McCain is really saying is, he doesn’t agree with the policy of leaving Bashar al-Assad alone, and focusing only on ISIS, and letting the Russians dictate the way that that plays out in terms of cease-fires.

    If you decided that that’s the course, this is not really a concession. This is actually what our strategy is. It’s only a concession if what our intention is, is actually to wrest some sort of other concession out of the regime or out of Russia.

    And I don’t think that is the case. I think we’re really just kind of hoping that the Russians will deliver on the cease-fire agreements. And, well, let’s see if that happens. I’m very skeptical, but let’s see.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, what about the aggressions that have happened on the parts of the Assad regime and the Russians, in sometimes their indiscriminate bombing of innocent civilians and so forth?

    If we decide to de-escalate this, does this decrease our voice at the table?

    FAYSAL ITANI: Yes, I think our voice at the table started decreasing when we failed to respond to chemical weapons attacks on August 2013, failed to respond to the Russian entry and the subsequent escalation.

    I think all the parties really on the other side have already sort of taken measure of us and understood what our commitments are and what they aren’t, and that we don’t have the stomach for a fight against Bashar al-Assad or even the stomach for sort of stopping these sort of atrocities that you’re talking about.

    So, these will continue until they’re no longer needed. And then you will see one opposition area after the other come under regime control. And, definitely, yes, there is nothing standing in the way anymore in, for example, Southern Syria.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Faysal Itani, thanks so much.

    FAYSAL ITANI: Thank you.

    The post Why the U.S. strategy of arming Syrian rebels didn’t work appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    JUDY WOODRUFF: Back to President Trump’s comments to The New York Times yesterday.

    The broadsides aimed at top officials from the Justice Department raise questions about the president’s relationship with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    We are joined by Walter Dellinger. He served in the Clinton administration as assistant attorney general and acting solicitor general. He’s now in private practice. And former U.S. Ambassador Douglas Kmiec, he served as legal counsel to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He is now a professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University Law School.

    And we welcome you both back to the program.

    Walter Dellinger, to you first.

    How significant are the president’s criticisms of top officials at Justice?

    WALTER DELLINGER, O’Melveny & Myers: Well, I think they’re unprecedented in their inappropriateness.

    A president shouldn’t be commenting on any particular criminal investigation, especially he should not be commenting one that involves people that are close to him, potential family members.

    And yet here the president said that the attorney general shouldn’t have recused himself and shouldn’t have been appointed unless he had sort of committed himself not to recuse, even though departmental rules would call for it.

    He then criticized the deputy attorney general for naming a special counsel, which was clearly appropriate. And, finally, he made it clear that he thought that the special counsel shouldn’t inquire into any financial dealings that are outside of the scope of the Russian campaign.

    All of those seem to be inappropriate for a president, unprecedented, and something that certainly would send a chill through the entire Department of Justice.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Douglas Kmiec, inappropriate and likely to send a chill through the department?

    DOUGLAS KMIEC, Pepperdine University Law School: I think everything Walter said is true.

    We know of two things as a result of that interview, one, that he has a very intelligent and beautiful granddaughter who he’s very proud of. And that, I think, will humanize the president for people who read his interview.

    But we are very troubled by the nature of how he understands his role as president and his ability to intercede into particular investigations. You know, Judy, I think he comes from the business world, where his perception is where lawyers are hired because they’re smart and clever and they can get the best price on property and the best title arrangements and the best closing date, and all these things are subject to negotiation.

    And what he doesn’t realize — and it becomes plain at every turn — is that the Constitution is designed to separate power, to specify limits, to make sure that nobody has the ability to give favoritism to their friends.

    And this is just something he just doesn’t grasp. Instead, he has a very transactional view of the law, and it’s not the view that the Department of Justice has to defend, as a matter of the Constitution.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Walter Dellinger, given if that’s his understanding of the role of the Justice Department, what are the consequences for the department in terms of its ability to do its job?

    WALTER DELLINGER: Well, I think, outside the area of the Russia investigation, the department will go forward.

    I think the president’s reputation has suffered enough that his criticism of Attorney General Sessions is likely only to enhance the attorney general’s standing within the department.

    You know, I think that, in terms of this particular investigation, it will proceed. You know, Robert Mueller, we have to remember, is like James Comey, a lifelong Republican, 12 years as head of the FBI under two presidents of two different political parties.

    Robert Mueller is known to law enforcement throughout the United States and held in the highest possible regard, so that — and I certainly agree with everything Doug Kmiec said.

    If the president were to make a move to try to break through the department and dismiss Robert Mueller, I think the organized bar would find it incumbent upon itself to take whatever actions they could in response to that.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Doug Kmiec, at this point, the president is saying he’s not going to do that.

    But he also seemed to send a shot across the bow in saying that, if it turns out that Mr. Mueller is looking into his own financial dealings, any financial dealings with Russia, which may be the case, that he would give it another thought.

    So, what does that mean for Mr. Mueller and his ability to go forward?

    DOUGLAS KMIEC: Well, I don’t think Mr. Mueller will be intimidated whatsoever.

    As Walter said, he’s a straight shooter, and he is being very careful and very quiet as he gathers his information, as he should. The concern I have is that the president, if he thinks that it’s only a very narrow question of whether there was a contact with Russia, that is just simply not plausible, because the real concern is that the president somehow has gotten himself into a difficult position with a foreign country, where a foreign country has some information, perhaps with this disreputable memo that talks about terrible practices that the president allegedly was involved in, perhaps something else.

    To the extent that there is some undue influence of a foreign nation of his decision-making, it strikes every aspect of his job, foreign policy and domestic policy. And that’s just simply not going to be accepted. And so what is going to be the answer if he objects?

    I think the answer will be a referral to the House of Representatives for removal.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: For removal of the president?

    WALTER DELLINGER: The president, if I could just …

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Of the president?

    WALTER DELLINGER: I think Doug was saying a referral for impeachment proceedings, yes.

    But you know that every step he’s taking are further elements of what might well be an obstruction of justice against the president. The very idea that he would be trying to direct the special counsel not to inquire into certain areas involving the president’s own finances, even though the president has a free speech right to do that and can exercise the power of his presidency, if he does so for a corrupt motive, those can certainly be elements of an obstruction of justice.

    DOUGLAS KMIEC: I think that that is right.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Go ahead.

    DOUGLAS KMIEC: The one thing we might worry about that the president might have helped himself, in an ironic sort of way, in the interview, is how profoundly he misunderstands the law.

    In an obstruction of justice prosecution, an espionage prosecution, all these things in Title 18 require bad intent and specific bad intent. And President Trump’s knowledge of how the law works is so rudimentary and so different than our history, where Harry Truman was told he couldn’t seize the steel mills, where Ronald Reagan was told he couldn’t have a line-item veto unless there was a constitutional amendment, where one administration after another said to the president of the United States, yes, you are our chief executive, but that means you must take care that the laws are faithfully executed, not that you take care that your objectives are accomplished irregardless of the law.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: I just want to come back to both of you again, with less than a minute, and that is to clarify that you believe that the job of the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, these other individuals the president is criticizing, that they can do their jobs as usual, that their authority is not undermined after these criticisms from the president, Walter Dellinger?

    WALTER DELLINGER: You know, Judy, I don’t, because I don’t think people take criticisms by Donald Trump the way they would criticism with any other president.

    I don’t think that affects the attorney general’s standing within the department.

    DOUGLAS KMIEC: I agree.

    I also think that, as Walter said, Jeff Sessions, to the extent that he’s putting his nose down to the grindstone and getting down to work and accomplishing the other — the vast number of other tasks that the department handles, will be admired by those people in the Justice Department, as it should.

    I think Jeff Sessions made a very important …

    (CROSSTALK)

    WALTER DELLINGER: You know, I think he shouldn’t …

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Go ahead.

    DOUGLAS KMIEC: Go ahead, Walter.

    WALTER DELLINGER: I was saying, Doug, I think he shouldn’t resign. I think he shouldn’t resign, because that’s exactly what the president wants him to do, so he can install some non-recused loyalist in the department.

    DOUGLAS KMIEC: Exactly right.

    And Jeff Sessions, however awkward it would be to continue his service, is doing a service to maintain the institution of the Department of Justice. And that is what’s important.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Douglas Kmiec, Walter Dellinger, we thank you both.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day’s other news: Russia’s official RIA news agency reported the U.S. and Russia are talking about creating a cyber-security working group. President Trump had raised a similar idea during the G20 summit, but backed off under heavy criticism. This latest report comes amid multiple U.S. investigations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

    The Congressional Budget Office says that a revised Senate Republican health care bill leaves as many people uninsured as a previous version. The CBO reported today that, under the bill, another 22 million Americans would lose coverage by 2026. The measure would also reduce federal deficits by $420 billion over the coming decade. So far, GOP leaders still lack the votes to debate the bill.

    The health of Senator John McCain dominated this day at the U.S. Capitol. The Arizona Republican has been diagnosed with brain cancer, and doctors removed a tumor, but McCain may need additional treatment. The news stunned lawmakers from both parties, who said they’re hoping for the best for their longtime colleague.

    SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, D-Vt.: He’s a good friend. We agree and we disagree. But he’s one of the oldest — he keeps his word. And I know we will be praying for him at mass this weekend.

    SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: He may outlive us all. I don’t know what — God only knows how this thing ends. I just ask God for one thing, that he has a voice and he can use it as long as possible.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: McCain is 80, having survived seven years in a North Vietnamese prison during the Vietnam War. He was a Republican presidential nominee in 2008 and is serving his sixth term in the Senate.

    Today, he tweeted: “I greatly appreciate the outpouring of support. Unfortunately, for my sparring partners in Congress, I will be back soon, so stand by.”

    For the first time in the global AIDS epidemic, more than half of all those infected with HIV are on drugs to treat the virus. A United Nations report today also finds that overall AIDS deaths have fallen to about half the level of 2005. The disease has killed 35 million people over the past four decades.

    O.J. Simpson was granted parole in Nevada today, after nearly nine years in prison, and could be freed in October. The one-time pro football star had been jailed for an armed robbery in 2007 involving his own sports mementos. Today, in a live-streamed hearing, Simpson, now 70 years old, pleaded his case to the state parole board.

    O.J. SIMPSON: I have done my time. You know, I have done it as well and as respectfully as I think anybody can. I think if you talk to the wardens there, they will tell you I have been — I gave them my word. I believe in the jury system. I have honored their verdict.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Simpson’s defenders said that his 33-year sentence was overly harsh, and that he was really being punished for the murders of his ex-wife and her friend in 1994. He was acquitted of those killings in 1995.

    The U.S. Senate today confirmed a federal appeals judge, despite a series of blog posts that Democrats condemned. Kentucky lawyer John Bush was approved 51-47. In one online posting, under a pseudonym, he called abortion and slavery — quote — “the two greatest tragedies in our country.” He also linked to articles on a far-right conspiracy Web site.

    ExxonMobil was fined $2 million today for violating U.S. sanctions on Russia in 2014. The oil giant said that it will challenge the fine in court. The U.S. Treasury Department says the company showed reckless disregard for sanctions by signing deals with the head of Russia’s state-owned oil company. At the time, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was ExxonMobil’s CEO.

    And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average lost about 29 points to close at 21611. The Nasdaq rose about five, and the S&P 500 slipped a fraction.

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    U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) attends the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on worldwide threats on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 23, 2017. Photo by Yuri Gripas/REUTERS

    U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) attends the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on worldwide threats on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 23, 2017. Photo by Yuri Gripas/REUTERS

    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has been diagnosed with a brain cancer known as a glioblastoma.

    The tumor was discovered when McCain’s doctors removed a blood clot from above his left eye, which speaks to how the disease may have formed in the first place. (More on that later.)

    Though it’s is rare overall, with 12,000 new cases expected this year, glioblastoma is the most lethal type of brain cancer. Glioblastoma is dangerous, as many have reported, because of its “aggressiveness.” But why? What makes the biology of glioblastoma so unique, and why does that translate to poor outcomes? Here are four reasons.

    1. Fast growth

    Glioblastomas arise from astrocytes, a type of glial cell. Glial cells, which could account for 80 percent of the brain, are maintenance workers. Some serve as the brain’s immune system. Other speed up communications between nerve cells.

    Astrocytes are rubbish collectors, cleaning up neurotransmitter chemicals left behind when nerves communicate with each other. They’re also the most common glial cell, which may partially explain why glioblastoma is the most common cancer to develop in the brain.

    Tumors are grouped by their abnormalities. Glioblastoma gets the highest grade in its family — grade IV — in part because of its high growth rate. These cancers can grow 1.4 percent in a single day. The growth is happening on a microscopic level, but a glioblastoma tumor can double in size within seven weeks (median time). The fastest growing lung cancers, by comparison, have a median doubling time of 14 weeks.

    2. Easy spread

    Though McCain’s doctors said they completely removed the “tissue of concern,” the family may still explore chemotherapy and radiation. That’s because even small, newly developed glioblastoma tumors can move quickly.

    One of the disease’s leading traits is a tendency to promote the growth of blood vessels, which supply the tumors with nutrients and oxygen. These cancer-made blood vessels can be poorly built and lead to blood clots.

    But blood vessels are the body’s superhighways, meaning glioblastoma help engineer their paths toward other parts of the brain. (Fewer than two percent of glioblastomas travel — or metastasize — outside the brain). That’s why even if a surgeon catches and removes a glioblastoma tumor, they may want to follow up with chemotherapy or radiation because the tumor may have spread elsewhere.

    3. Resistance

    You may be wondering: If new blood vessels are the root of these problems, why not use chemotherapeutic drugs to curb their growth? The answer is cancer stem cells. Glioblastoma tumors make their own stem cells, with multiple avenues through which they can cultivate blood vessels — like a farmer that grows more than one crop. Shut down one road to making blood vessels, which doctors have done, and the cancer stem cells will simply switch to another.

    Glioblastomas — like all cancers — are spawned by gene mutations, which accumulate naturally over a lifetime. Many chemotherapy treatments target these mutations as a way to identify and kill off cancer cells. But glioblastoma quickly develop ways to reverse the effects of many chemotherapeutic drugs — hence why even when doctors remove a tumor and follow aggressively with chemo, glioblastomas recur 90 percent of the time.

    Dr. John Yu, a cancer specialist at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center, has a theory about the origins of McCain’s glioblastoma and its connection to his multiple former cases of melanoma, a skin cancer. Long before they became cancerous, these skin cells arose from the embryo’s neural crest. This same pool of developing cells splits off to form astrocytes for the brain.

    “Presumably it’s a cell that had a common origin, whether it was a cell in the skin or a cell in the brain,” Yu said. “One would presume a original cell from that area got a mutation — something that was inherited or something that developed over his lifetime” that predisposed him for a cancer.

    Watch the NewsHour’s William Brangham discuss John McCain’s diagnosis, its relationship to the senator’s previous cancer and experimental treatments including immunotherapy.

    4. Late hitter

    While glioblastoma can occur at any age, most cases happen in people 65 and older. Many outlets reported McCain had a 4 percent chance of living at least five years, because he is older than 55. This factoid is misleading, and likely due to people misquoting a figures put out by American Cancer Society for 55 to 64 year olds.

    The long-term survival for people over 65 is closer to 1 percent, as indicated by this 2008 study of more than 4,000 people from that age group. To be honest, five-year survival may not be the greatest readout for those over 65, given 99 percent of patients in that study died within three years.

    A better metric is likely median survival time — how long patients survive in general — which is approximately four months for glioblastoma patient over 65.

    That said, early treatment and early diagnosis can stymie the disease, and odds of survival increase the longer you endure. For instance, Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, who was diagnosed with glioblastoma in May 2008 at the age of 76, lived for more than a year after his diagnosis. Experimental therapies for glioblastoma, many of which are in late-stage clinical trials, may extend survival even further in the future.

    The post Why glioblastoma tumors like John McCain’s are so aggressive appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    JUDY WOODRUFF: President Trump sounding off again. This time, as he observes the first half-year mark of his presidency, he’s vented some very public criticism of his attorney general and of other top Justice Department officials, past and present.

    John Yang begins our coverage.

    JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. Attorney General: Good morning.

    JOHN YANG: Attorney General Jeff Sessions made it clear today he’s not going anywhere for now.

    JEFF SESSIONS: We love this job. We love this department. And I plan to continue to do so, as long as that is appropriate.

    JOHN YANG: That came after President Trump’s sharp rebuke of Sessions in a New York Times interview for disqualifying himself from the Russia investigation.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: How do you take a job, and then recuse yourself?

    If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, thanks, Jeff, but I can’t — you know, I’m not going to take you. It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president.

    JOHN YANG: Mr. Trump also said Sessions gave some bad answers in his Senate confirmation hearing when he failed to disclose meetings with the Russian ambassador.

    While the White House said the president still has confidence in Sessions, Mr. Trump’s comments mark a public break from one of his earliest supporters. It also suggests that Mr. Trump’s anger with Sessions is still fresh more than four months after the attorney general recused himself.

    In the 50-minute interview, Mr. Trump leveled a new allegation about why fired FBI Director James Comey told him about the uncorroborated contents of a salacious dossier before Inauguration Day: “In my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there.”

    He was asked, “As leverage?”

    “Yes, I think so, in retrospect.”

    The president also appeared to warn special counsel Robert Mueller to limit his investigation.

    QUESTION: Mueller was looking at your finances, your family’s finances unrelated to Russia. Is that a red line?

    QUESTION: Well, that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I would say yes. I would say yes.

    JOHN YANG: Could Mueller’s investigation go there?

    Greg Farrell is a Bloomberg News investigative reporter.

    GREG FARRELL, Bloomberg News: That’s what this is all about. They have to look into Trump’s own finances and see if there’s been any unusual benefit beyond the purchase of apartments, if there’s anything unusual about all the business transactions that have taken place over many years between Russian nationals and him.

    JOHN YANG: Although the White House said the president doesn’t intend to fire Mueller, his comments raised red flags for some Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats.

    SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D-Conn.: What we’re watching is an obstruction of justice case unfolding in real time right before our eyes, the president of the United States trying to set limits on a legitimate investigation.

    SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, D-Minn.: Mueller has the right to investigate this, and he was given that authority by the Justice Department, and he reports to the Justice Department and not to the president of the United States.

    JOHN YANG: Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said he wasn’t worried.

    SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY, R-Iowa: As I know Mueller or 13 years or how many years he was head of the FBI, he’s going to do his job. And that’s all that matters.

    JOHN YANG: Grassley said Donald Trump Jr. and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort have not yet responded to his request that they testify next week and that he will subpoena them if necessary.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Yang.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: We will explore some of the implications of the president’s comments after the news summary.

    The post Trump voices regret for picking Sessions, while blasting Comey and Mueller appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    File photo of a Veterans Affairs Medical Center by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    File photo of a Veterans Affairs Medical Center by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — A House committee unveiled a disputed plan Friday to allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to shift $2 billion from other programs to cover a sudden budget shortfall that could threaten medical care for thousands of patients in the coming weeks.

    The proposal by the House Veterans Affairs Committee would provide a six-month funding fix to the department’s Choice program, which offers veterans federally paid medical care outside the VA and is a priority of President Donald Trump. To offset spending, the VA would trim pensions for some veterans and collect fees for housing loans.

    At least six veterans’ organizations, including Veterans of Foreign Wars, immediately announced their opposition to the House plan.

    VA Secretary David Shulkin has warned that without congressional action, the Choice program would run out of money by mid-August.

    The House plan comes after days of closed-door negotiations in which veterans’ groups opposed taking money from VA programs to fill Choice’s budget gap, describing it as an unacceptable step toward privatizing the department. With just a week left before a month-long August recess, House Republicans and Democrats tentatively agreed on a six-month plan to allow more time to debate long-term funding and the VA’s future direction.

    Under the plan, the reduced pensions would affect veterans in nursing homes who are covered by Medicaid, while veterans would continue to pay fees for housing loans guaranteed by the VA. Those provisions were temporarily put in place in the 2014 legislation establishing Choice and agreed to by veterans, who supported other parts of the bill, which provided additional investment in the VA. Originally set to be restored in 2024, the reduced benefits would continue until 2027.

    A House vote was planned next week.

    House Veterans Affairs Chairman Phil Roe of Tennessee and Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota, the panel’s top Democrat, pledged to revisit in the coming months the issue of providing additional investment in the VA, such as boosting recruitment and hiring of VA staff. Also to be considered was a proposal backed by House conservatives that would create a presidentially appointed panel to review whether to close some VA-run medical centers to reduce costs.

    Carlos Fuentes, legislative director of Veterans of Foreign Wars, said the organization would urge members of Congress to vote against the bill.

    Joe Chenelly, executive director of AMVETS, warned that the House plan would set a dangerous precedent by “cannibalizing” VA services to pay for outside care. Veterans’ groups oppose greater privatization as a threat to the viability of VA medical centers, which they see as better-suited to treat battlefield injury.

    “The bottom line here is that Congress is taking money out of the VA to put in Choice. That is a bleed-it-dry tactic that we all oppose,” Chenelly said.

    Also expressing opposition Friday were Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Military Order of the Purple Heart and Wounded Warrior Project.

    In the Senate, the Republican chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, has not indicated whether he will adopt the House proposal. The panel’s top Democrat, Jon Tester of Montana, introduced a bill earlier this month that would provide equal levels of extra funding for Choice and VA programs.

    Shulkin announced the budget shortfall last month, citing unexpected demand from veterans for private care as well as poor budget planning. To slow spending, the department last month instructed VA medical centers to limit the number of veterans it sent to private doctors.

    The VA had previously assured Congress that funding for Choice would last until the end of the year.

    Put in place after a 2014 wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA hospital, the Choice program allows veterans to receive care from outside doctors if they must wait 30 days or more for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility. Last month, Shulkin proposed giving veterans even wider access to private doctors by removing those restrictions. He is asking Congress to approve that plan this fall for implementation in late 2018.

    Currently, more than 30 percent of VA appointments are in the private sector, up from fewer than 20 percent in 2014, as the VA’s more than 1,200 health facilities struggle to meet growing demands for medical care. During the 2016 campaign, Trump criticized the VA for long wait times and mismanagement, pledging to give veterans more options in seeing outside providers.

    The VA has an annual budget of nearly $167 billion.

    The post House unveils plan to fix VA’s budget gap as deadline looms appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Jane Austen House employee Isabel Snowden poses for a photograph in a dress that actress Anne Hathaway wore in the film "Becoming Jane", as she holds first edition of 'Pride and Prejudice', at the Jane Austen House in Chawton, southern England January 24, 2013. The museum is looking forward to the 200th anniversary of the publication of Austen's novel 'Pride and Prejudice', on Monday. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth (BRITAIN - Tags: ANNIVERSARY ENTERTAINMENT SOCIETY) - RTR3CWDG

    Jane Austen House employee Isabel Snowden holds the first edition of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, at the Jane Austen House in Chawton, southern England January 24, 2013. Credit: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

    “It is a truth universally acknowledged … “ that on the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, a reader is in need of a novel to read.

    More than two centuries after Austen penned “Pride and Prejudice,” we still can’t get enough.

    The Bank of England unveiled Jane Austen’s image Tuesday on the new British £10 note; countless other celebrations and events are taking place in her honor this year.

    Fans can reread Austen’s six completed novels, but Devoney Looser, professor of English at Arizona State University and author of “The Making of Jane Austen,” notes that are plenty of lesser-known Austen works to celebrate, including personal letters and novellas.

    We asked Looser to suggest five of Austen’s works to celebrate this anniversary, a process that “was like the Sophie’s Choice of literature assignments,” Looser said. “On a different day, in a different year, I might have recommended five other Austen writings.” Here are Looser’s picks, in her words:

    Credit: Oxford World's Classics

    Credit: Oxford World’s Classics

    1. “Persuasion” (1818)

    “Persuasion,” published the year after Austen died, tends to grow on readers as they age. Perhaps it’s because the novel is darker, slower and more emotionally painstaking than Austen’s other works. It describes the long, aching aftermath of a lost first love. Readers first encounter heroine Anne Elliot in her late 20s, the unmarried daughter of a vain, spendthrift baronet. Her wastrel father and self-important sisters describe Anne as a nothing and a nobody, despite the fact that Anne is that ungrateful family’s steadying influence. Full of poetry, conversations about constancy and death, and one unforgettable love letter, “Persuasion” also engages with war and military life. It includes one of Austen’s most happy and well-suited already-married couples, Admiral and Mrs. Croft. Mrs. Croft’s response to her husband’s careless carriage driving alone makes this novel worth the read, whether or not you’ve ever criticized a spouse’s driving.

    Credit: Dover Publications

    Credit: Dover Publications

    2. “Lady Susan” (1871)

    When you think you’ve got the stereotypical parts of a Jane Austen story down pat — start with star-crossed lovers, defective parents, money problems; then add bonnets, carriages, muslins and stir — then you’ll know that you’re ready to pick up “Lady Susan.” Austen’s short, early novella has those base fictional elements, too, but puts them together in a different, morally risky combination. Lady Susan Vernon, the titular heroine (or is she a villain?), is so deliciously evil that you may find yourself almost rooting for her. A young widow without fortune who unapologetically manipulates others, Lady Susan trades on her sexuality to gain power. It was one of the only ways a woman of her class could exert power. The novella is told in letters, to and from many different people. The benefit is that we see precisely how Lady Susan’s duplicitousness functions, depending on her audience. Lady Susan also contains one of Austen’s best one-liners, delivered when Lady Susan is caught out as an adulteress. Female friend Alicia Johnson declares to Lady Susan in sympathy, “Facts are such horrid things.”

    Credit: Oxford University Press

    Credit: Oxford University Press

    3. Selected Letters

    Austen’s letters deserve a better reputation. Described by unappreciative critics as overfilled with neighborhood fashion and chattering gossip, her letters are also home to amazing flashes of caustic, everyday wit and insight into authorship. Think “little bit (two inches wide) of ivory,” “pictures of perfection . . . make me sick and wicked,” and “I do not write for such dull Elves / As have not a great deal of Ingenuity themselves.” Austen’s irreverence knows no proper bounds. When she learns that an acquaintance had a stillborn child, she speculates on what may have caused it. Perhaps, she writes, the woman’s delivery went poorly “oweing to a fright — I suppose she happened unawares to look at her husband.” There is at least one gem in each of Austen’s 161 letters. Many of her lines deserve to be on bumper stickers, carved in marble, or both. Your results may vary in determining which lines go into which category. To read Austen’s letters, try Deirdre Le Faye’s “Jane Austen’s Letters” (4th ed. 2011), or the more economical “The Selected Letters of Jane Austen,” edited by Vivien Jones.

    Credit: Penguin Books

    Credit: Penguin Books

    4. “Emma” (1816)

    “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like,” declared Austen of her Emma Woodhouse. “Emma” begins by describing its motherless heroine with a trifecta of loaded adjectives: handsome, clever and rich. The novel has an intricate, puzzle-like plot, with a brilliance of language that’s evident line by line. “Emma” goes beyond technical prowess, however, with its provocative characters and scenes, from the heroine’s naïve, malleable protégé Harriet Smith, to the down-on-her-luck garrulous spinster, Miss Bates; from digressions with gypsies and thieves to a famous comparison between hiring a governess and the slave trade. First-time readers of “Emma” owe it to themselves (and to Austen) to finish “Emma” and then to dive back in immediately from the beginning. It’s one of Austen’s — and one of literature’s — most gratifying re-reads.

    Credit: Penguin Classics

    Credit: Penguin Classics

    5. “Pride and Prejudice” (1813)

    “Pride and Prejudice” is Austen’s most beloved and adapted novel for good reason. Its compelling hate-turned-love story features hero Mr. Darcy — believed by many to be Austen’s most alluring male creation — and heroine Elizabeth Bennet, equally celebrated for her rapier wit and independent-mindedness. Austen once worried that this novel might be “rather too light, & bright, & sparkling.” It’s true that Pride and Prejudice may be happily digested by one-dimensional readers as frothy romance. The rest of us soon see a novel rife with social criticism, daring humor and righteous impatience with cant. Pride and Prejudice also has one of the most repeated, multi-layered first lines in all of fiction: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

    This has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

    The post 5 Jane Austen works to read in honor of the 200th anniversary of her death appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    David Apol replaces Walter Shaub, who resigned earlier this month from the agency. Shaub resigned after repeated conflicts with the Trump administration over how it has applied government ethics standards to White House and agency officials. Photo by REUTERS/Carlos Barria

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has named a veteran lawyer to oversee the government’s ethics agency until a new permanent chief is selected.

    The Office of Government Ethics confirmed Friday that Trump designated the agency’s general counsel, David J. Apol, to become its acting director.

    READ MORE: Ethics director, vocal critic of Trump administration, to step down

    Apol worked on ethics programs for several federal agencies before he joined the OGE.

    The agency said he “is honored to continue his 30 years of service to the ethics community.”

    Apol replaces Walter Shaub, who resigned earlier this month from the agency. Shaub resigned after repeated conflicts with the Trump administration over how it has applied government ethics standards to White House and agency officials.

    He now works for a nonprofit group.

    The post Trump names new acting government ethics chief appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The political world will look to the Old Dominion this weekend for a closely watched governor’s race that could signal the electorate’s mood ahead of the 2018 midterm election.

    Virginia’s gubernatorial candidates, Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam, will face each other in the first debate of the race on Saturday, June 22. Virginia is one of two states (the other being New Jersey) that will elect a new governor in November.

    Both Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, are stepping down due to term limits.

    The results of this year’s gubernatorial races will be analyzed for their implications for next year’s midterm election, when Democrats will take aim at the GOP’s majorities in the House and Senate.

    PBS NewsHour will live stream the debate from The Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia. NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff will moderate the debate, which is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. ET and is being sponsored by the Virginia Bar Association. Watch the debate in the player above.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Judy Woodruff to host first Virginia governor’s debate appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Donald Trump reacts as he attends a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, July 13, 2017. Photo by Kevin Lamarque and Reuters

    The presidential pardon is an impressive and unique power: the president can pardon virtually anybody, and he answers neither to Congress nor the courts before issuing these notes. Photo by Kevin Lamarque and Reuters

    An enterprising story from the Washington Post on Thursday suggested President Donald Trump is considering pre-emptively pardoning himself and his campaign aides, as special counsel Bob Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion and obstruction of justice continues.

    It is, at this point, too early to tell whether the president would take such a drastic step. Indeed, a lawyer representing Trump said Friday that “there is nothing going on on pardons, research — nothing,” something White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders echoed in a briefing later that day.

    But the idea alone raised a constitutional curiosity that the Founding Fathers had perhaps not anticipated: can President Trump pardon himself?

    The president’s pardon power is derived from the Constitution’s Article 2, Section 2, Clause 1: “The President shall be Commander in Chief … he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”

    The pardon power is broad and near-absolute. And, for textual purists — nowhere in the body of the Constitution does it say the president cannot pardon himself.

    It’s an impressive and unique power: the president can pardon virtually anybody, and he answers neither to Congress nor the courts before issuing these notes. The president can even pardon individuals for crimes for which they haven’t yet been charged. Consider President Ford’s 1974 pardon of President Nixon, which covered “all” offenses the disgraced president might have committed in office. President Carter, too, in 1977 granted a blanket-pardon for Vietnam War draft-evaders.

    There are limits: the president can only pardon federal crimes, while governors are in charge of the states. And most notably, as the Constitution explicitly states: a pardon does not extend to cases of congressional impeachment. Simply put, the president cannot immunize himself from political removal.

    So, can the president pardon his son, Donald Trump, Jr.? How about aides and devotees like son-in-law Jared Kushner, former campaign manager Paul Manafort, or former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn?

    READ MORE: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigns

    “There’s no question of the president’s power to pardon those other individuals for past crimes,” says Walter Dellinger, who worked for the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel from 1993 to 1996. But, he added, “Whether a pardon could be treated as part of a conspiracy to obstruct justice is an interesting and difficult question.”

    A president’s pardon might be considered improper, for example, if it ran afoul of a different part of the Constitution, or, as Dellinger suggests, if the pardon was itself a conspiracy or bribery. In such a case, the pardon would likely be considered legally-binding, though the act itself would be criminal.

    As for the question on most people’s minds: Can the president pardon himself, for a crime he committed? “The simple fact is, we just don’t know,” says Brian Kalt, a professor at the Michigan State University College of Law, and author of Constitutional Cliffhangers: A Legal Guide for Presidents and Their Enemies. “It’s never been tested, no court has ever weighed in on it, and there are no cases we can analogize from.”

    Again, the pardon power is broad and near-absolute. And, for textual purists — nowhere in the body of the Constitution does it say the president cannot pardon himself.

    But a pardon is, in theory, an act done unto another — and a self-pardon, Kalt suggests, seems contradictory. ” “Inherent in the notion of a pardon is that it’s bilateral,” he says.

    The notion of a president preemptively pardoning himself would also clearly invite questions over a seemingly axiomatic truth in law: one cannot rule on his or her own case. This Watergate-era Justice Department opinion (1974) seems to suggest as much: Presidents cannot pardon themselves, “under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case.”

    It does, however, imagine a more subversive and potentially constitutional roadmap for a president: what if a president temporarily steps down from office, under the 25th Amendment, and the vice president becomes the acting president? Can he then pardon the president, who, now pardoned, returns to office? That seems unlikely.

    A presidential self-pardon, or a pardon of his closest aides, at this point seems to be a mere thought experiment. But Marty Lederman, who worked for the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel from 1994 to 2002 and 2009 to 2011, and now teaches at the Georgetown University Law Center , says “Regardless of who he pardons, I assume Mueller will continue to do his investigation and then, at a minimum, write a report describing in detail the engagements with Russia.”

    After that, it’s in Congress’ hands, Lederman says. “After which it’s in Congress’s hands, even in cases where a pardon precludes any prosecution.”

    The post Can President Trump pardon himself? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Chef Ina Garten, left, and PBS NewsHour's Meredith Garretson cook in the chef's home.

    Chef Ina Garten, left, and PBS NewsHour’s Meredith Garretson cook in the chef’s home.

    The first time I made Ina Garten’s arugula, watermelon, and feta salad, I knew I had discovered my food soul sister. Those simple ingredients sang a close beautiful harmony; the flavors bursting with the essence of summer. I was a freshman in college and working as a nanny — the family owned several of her cookbooks, and a perfect kitchen for trying out new recipes.

    Garten’s recipes have since been a benchmark throughout my cooking journey. She taught me that cinnamon and coffee bring out chocolate’s true flavor. Her party planning tips have made me a more confident hostess. Her calm, approachable demeanor — in her books and on TV — made me feel like I could cook like her and have fun doing it. Her cookbooks read like personal narratives, as if she was telling me about her life from her own kitchen island.

    I’ve turned to cooking too in trying times. A good dinner and a glass of wine soothe a tough day at work. And I credit Ina for helping me regain my footing after the end of my first serious long-term relationship.

    After a breakup, you find yourself trying to locate the person you were before, like untangling a bowl of spaghetti. I began searching for things that had been a part of my single life. Like a long-lost friend, Ina came back into my life. I was desperate to reconnect.

    One of the first things I realized was how much more time I had to myself — and to cook for myself. I fell deeply back in love with indulging my food whims.

    Marinara sauce from scratch? Sure! Butternut squash risotto? Don’t mind if I do! Summer brought beefsteak tomato salad with homemade blue cheese dressing. That fall, I roasted my first whole chicken in a cast iron skillet. More than the food, cooking allowed me to reconnect with my truest self, where I’ve always felt comfortable. The kitchen once again became a place of grounding, a place where I could immerse myself in recipes and ingredients and not think about the residual emotional hurt. I began having friends over for leisurely dinner parties, and Ina always had a starring role at the table. The rushes I would get after successfully executing a new dish reminded me where I started.

    After a breakup, you find yourself trying to locate the person you were before, like untangling a bowl of spaghetti.

    Six months later, I found myself in my first post-breakup relationship. The time soon came for me to cook him dinner for the first time. For days I drafted potential menus featuring ingredients I knew he liked. Just like Ina taught me, I made a game plan. The night of the dinner, I was confident but a bit nervous. I served the main course (pasta with clams) and a salad with Dijon vinaigrette. I waited for his reaction. Nothing. I would have settled for some “mmms.” Nothing. At last, I asked, “How is everything?” Without looking up he said, “Good, but the salad dressing has too much mustard.” We stopped seeing each other soon after that.

    Fast forward a year later, while producing a piece for the PBS NewsHour, I’m standing next to Ina at her kitchen island, talking to her about love, life, her husband Jeffrey and about to make — you guessed it — a Dijon vinaigrette. I told her about my date and his “constructive criticism.” Without missing a beat she said, “If someone ever criticizes a meal you’ve made for them, it’s over.”

    So, for now, I’m enjoying each course as it comes. The next dish I plan to tackle is Ina’s brisket with onions and leeks — that takes more than four hours. But that’s okay. Brisket, like dating, requires time and patience. Thanks to Ina, I’m ready for the challenge.

    Watch the PBS NewsHour on Friday to see Garten’s full interview with William Brangham.

    The post What Ina Garten taught me about food, love, and life appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Palestinians react following tear gas that was shot by Israeli forces after Friday prayer on a street outside Jerusalem’s Old city July 21, 2017. Photo by Ammar Awad and Reuters

    Several are dead and more than 100 wounded after violent clashes Friday in Jerusalem over new security measures at some of the city’s most sacred holy sites.

    Three Palestinians were killed and more than 100 civilians were injured in several street clashes after Friday prayers, Palestinian health officials told CNN. Five Israeli police officers were injured, the Guardian reported. Three people were also killed by a Palestinian after a stabbing spree inside a West Bank Israeli settlement, the Associated Press says.

    Tensions have run high since last week, when three gunmen shot and killed two Israeli policeman near Temple Mount, a hilltop compound near the Western Wall and one of the most important holy sites in Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The attackers were killed by Israeli police.

    The compound, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, was closed after the attack. On Sunday, after it reopened, Israeli security forces placed metal detectors outside, something Palestinian officials told Reuters was a violation of their worship agreements.

    On Friday, Israeli security forces put additional restrictions on entry to the al-Aqsa mosque, the Guardian reported, turning away women and men over the age of 50. NPR’s Daniel Estrin said police “blocked buses of Muslims coming to Jerusalem from around the country.”

    Instead, Muslim worshippers who refused to pass through the detectors held prayers outside in the streets.

    After midday prayers Friday, tensions boiled over, as detailed by a CNN crew on scene:

    In one instance, a CNN team outside Herod’s Gate saw Israeli police start forcefully pushing worshippers back and pointing their weapons at them. The officers then fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse the worshippers and move them back.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had called for security forces to remove the metal detectors in an effort to diffuse the situation, The Guardian says. The Jordanian government, which controls the holy sites, has also criticized the use of metal detectors.

    Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced earlier Friday it would freeze contact with Israel at “all levels until it cancel the steps taken against our people in Al-Aqsa and in Jerusalem,” the Times of Israel reported. It’s not clear how this will affect security.

    The Associated Press said including Friday’s violence, “Palestinians have killed 47 Israelis, two visiting Americans and a British tourist in stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks against civilians and soldiers. During that period, Israeli forces have killed more than 255 Palestinians, most of them said by Israel to be attackers.”

    The post Violent clashes in Jerusalem leave several dead, more than 100 wounded appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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